• 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 10 - To Distant Horizons

Book Three: Horizons

Chapter Ten - To Distant Horizons


The pulsating shadow hung in the air above Rainbow Dash, its deafening screeches reverberating across the void. Rainbow’s eyes were glowing bright red, and she put one hoof forward, leaning towards Scootaloo, who was approaching her steadily.

“I know you’re still in there, Rainbow Dash. I know you’re confused and scared,” Scootaloo said as she walked. “It’s my fault, and now I know why.”

“That darkness belongs to Nightmare Moon,” Celestia said, eyeing the shadow. “It can thrive anywhere there’s doubt, fear, anger… any sort of negative emotion is where it can take hold.”

“Your journeys all end here!” the shadow shouted, and a wave of black magic erupted out from it, firing towards the group of ponies. The pendants around the Crusaders’ necks glowed brightly in reaction, and the dark magic crashed against an invisible shield, spraying away and dissipating like a wave hitting a stone wall.

Scootaloo nodded her head. “Those feelings were inside of me. They got to you easily, and it’s all my fault. I know you’re in there somewhere, too, dad,” she said. A burst of magic pulsed out from her pendant, washing over Rainbow Dash and causing the dark energy to fade a little bit.

Rainbow Dash blinked her eyes, and they became wide and round. She stared down at the filly. “What… do you mean?” she managed to ask.

Scootaloo frowned. “When my friends got their cutie marks, I thought I was going to be alone again,” she said, holding back tears, but her voice wavering. “So I guess I dreamed that you and I were friends, but I wanted you to be happy. I know you want to be a Wonderbolt, so I must have just made it happen… but you went back to Cloudsdale. You left, and even when Cloudsdale came here and brought you back, you were never around still. Just like with my dad… it made me think of him a lot… and somehow, the two of you combined in my head.”

Twilight reached a hoof forward. She could feel so much sadness, but also hope, all pouring out from those magical pendants. “Scootaloo…” she said quietly.

Scootaloo was now standing right in front of Rainbow Dash, the dark magic firing up out of her in flame-like waves. She looked up at Rainbow Dash’s face and was greeted by a big, goofy grin that she knew all too well.

“Kiddo… that’s just…” her father’s voice said, coming out from Rainbow Dash’s lips. “You’re a weird kid.”

Scootaloo swiped her hoof against Rainbow Dash’s knee. “Shut up!” she said, but she was smiling.

Rainbow Dash laughed. “Sorry!” Scootaloo’s father’s voice said.

“I miss you,” Scootaloo said quietly, her smile disappearing.

“Sentimental nonsense!” the shadow screeched down at Rainbow Dash, its form returning to the shape of Nightmare Moon. “She’s made you a monster! A freak with some other pony trapped in your mind!” Rainbow Dash’s eyes began to glow once again. She fell back to her haunches and gripped the sides of her head.

“Don’t listen to her, Rainbow Dash!” Scootaloo shouted.

Rainbow Dash shook her head back and forth and screamed, and the dark magic surged outward, completely enveloping Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo.

“Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom shouted.

“We have to help!” Sweetie Belle yelled, and took off running towards the large, pulsating cloud of darkness. Apple Bloom joined her, ignoring Applejack’s attempt to stop her.

“Sweetie!” Rarity shouted, then turnined to look at Princess Celestia, who had placed a hoof on her shoulder.

The princess shook her head. “This is something those three have to do. We are powerless to help.”

Rarity bit her lower lip and stared ahead as her sister pushed into the darkness and out of sight. “Please, come back safely, Sweetie,” she said quietly. Applejack put a foreleg over Rarity’s shoulder as well and nodded her head, not saying anything.

“They have to come back safely,” Twilight said.

“Yes,” Celestia responded. “Or else our journey may really be at an end.”

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle burst through the wall of dark magic and immediately found themselves in the main hall of a castle. They looked around nervously. The walls of the castle were in poor shape, some having large holes. The ceiling was broken, pieces of it lying as rubble on the ground. Ahead of them, a large staircase led up to a huge wooden set of doors.

“Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom called out, her voice echoing off the empty walls. There was no response. “Where are we?” she asked, turning her head to Sweetie Belle.

“I don’t know, but it feels different,” Sweetie replied. “We have to find Scootaloo and get out of here. I don’t like this place, it’s spooky.”

Apple Bloom nodded in agreement. She closed her eyes and concentrated, thinking of Scootaloo. “I wish Scootaloo was here,” she said calmly. Nothing happened. “Great. That lucy-whatever power we had before isn’t working now.”

“You are no longer in your dream! You have no power here!” A loud voice boomed across the hall. “This is the end! You three shall be the catalysts of Celestia’s failure!”

“If we’re not in our dream, then where are we?” Apple Bloom asked.

Sweetie Belle shook her head. “Don’t listen to her,” she said. “Come on, we have to find Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash.”

The two fillies galloped forward, heading up the stairs. They came upon the large wooden double-doors and pushed as hard as they could against one of them. It slowly creaked open until there was enough room for them to pass through. On the other side, they found themselves in a long hallway, lined with statues and doors. Sweetie Belle walked up to the first statue and looked up at it. It was a statue of Rarity, her face frozen in a look of terror.

“Rarity,” Sweetie Belle said, and touched her hoof to the statue. It crumbled into a pile of loose stone and dust. Sweetie Belle jumped back in surprise, and a laugh filled the hallway.

“Everypony you love will fall into ruin! You will be all alone!” the voice, clearly belonging to Nightmare Moon, shouted.

“Shut up, you big bully!” Apple Bloom shouted back. “We’re gonna save our friends, and there’s nothin’ you can do about it!”

“Yeah!” Sweetie Belle chimed in loudly. “You don’t scare us!”

Nightmare Moon’s laughter once again filled the hallway. “You think so?” she asked. The corridor ahead of them began to twist and spin upon itself. Statues of Applejack, Big Macintosh, Twilight, and Fluttershy came to life ahead of them and began to stomp down the hall in their direction.

“Okay, maybe I’m a little bit scared,” Sweetie Belle whispered quietly to Apple Bloom. The statues continued their advance, and the two fillies huddled up together, slowly backing away.

Apple Bloom looked over her shoulder and saw that the door they’d come in from had vanished, and had been replaced by a metal walkway that extended over what appeared to be a pit of molten liquid. The heat from it washed over the two of them, and the statues began to advance even faster.

“This isn’t real,” Apple Bloom said nervously as they backed onto the walkway, their hooves clanging on the metallic structure.

“It seems real enough!” Sweetie Belle shouted nervously. “What do we do?”

The statue of Applejack stepped forward onto the walkway and stared down at the two fillies. “You wake up, little sis,” the statue said, its voice rather gravelly. “Whether ya want to or not.”

Apple Bloom stared up at the statue of her sister and frowned. “No!” she shouted, and the pendant on her chest flashed brightly, pushing the stone pony backwards.

Sweetie Belle’s jaw dropped. “How’d you do that?” she asked, then looked down at her own pendant, which had also begun to glow brightly.

“The power from our dream is cut off, but Princess Celestia said it!” Apple Bloom shouted and rose to her hooves. “These pendants, whatever this other power is, wasn’t from our dream. The pendants are something else! They work here!”

Sweetie Belle leapt to her hooves. “Of course!” she said excitedly, and grinned. “Let’s go, Apple Bloom! Let’s go save Scoot!”

The pendants pulsed outward with magic, and the statues froze in place, small amounts of dark magic being pushed out of them and dissolving in the air. The two fillies charged forward, their pendants shining brightly. With each pulse of magic, the colors of the hallway brightened and the hall itself straightened back out.

“You’ll still never find her!” Nightmare Moon’s voice shot through the air. “This hallway is endless! There’s a million different rooms! You’ll spend an eternity in here searching for her!”

Apple Bloom laughed. “Wrong!” she yelled. “The three of us are connected! Even outside of our dream, the bond between us is unbreakable!” A beam of light fired out from her chest. Sweetie Belle’s chest erupted in light as well, and the two beams converged until they finally met at a point ahead of them.

Laughter filled the hall. “Useless!” Nightmare Moon’s voice shouted. “Your precious link of friendship has led you to nothing!”

Sweetie Belle’s horn glowed. “I don’t think so,” she said, straining as she tried to focus her magic. Apple Bloom stared at Sweetie Belle and smiled widely.

“Sweetie Belle!” Apple Bloom shouted. “Yer usin’ magic! Like, normal magic!”

Sweetie Belle sweated and continued to strain until eventually her horn was aglow with a simple light spell. It sparked and sputtered, but accomplished what she’d hoped. The light reflected off the outline of a small pegasus in front of them.

“Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom shouted. She reached her hoof out and swiped it against the outline of Scootaloo’s foreleg and pulled. Scootaloo appeared in front of them, practically falling forward and bumping her head against Apple Bloom.

“What happened? Where am I?” the orange pegasus asked, catching her breath. “Where’s Rainbow Dash?”

Sweetie Belle shook her head, the glow from her horn fading out. “We don’t know, really. Nightmare Moon trapped us in this strange castle, and there were creepy statues of our friends, and then we finally found you… but now I don’t know what we have to do next,” she explained.

Scootaloo looked around the hallway, with its endless doors and rows of statues. “We have to find Rainbow Dash and then get out of here,” she said.

Apple Bloom tapped the pendant on her chest. “We used these to find you, but I don’t know how we’re gonna find Rainbow Dash. She could be anywhere, and the power we had in our dream doesn’t work in here,’ she said.

Scootaloo shrugged and slid her hoof downward like she’d done in their dream world. The fabric of reality unzipped in front of her just like it had before. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom stared at her, their mouths gaped open.

“How did you…?” Sweetie Belle started to ask.

“What? Can’t you?” Scootaloo asked, puzzled. The two others shook their heads.

“Well, let’s not waste time wonderin’ how, let’s just find Rainbow Dash and get outta here,” Apple Bloom said, patting Scootaloo on the back.

A flash of dark energy shot through the tear that Scootaloo had just opened and hit her, pushing her to the ground. Rainbow Dash stood over her, her eyes glowing red, her body surrounded by an aura of dark magic, and a long, black horn protruding from her forehead. She bared her teeth, now jagged like spikes, down at Scootaloo and hissed.

“Scootaloo!” Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom shouted together.

“You foals think you can challenge me? You think you can actually win inside this nightmare?” Rainbow Dash screeched down at Scootaloo. “Nightmares are my domain! Now I’m going to put an end to you!”

Scootaloo glared up at Rainbow Dash and a flash of energy shot out from her forehead. The possessed pegasus’ body flew up and off of her, slamming into the far wall. Scootaloo jumped to her hooves and charged forward. “You let Rainbow Dash go right now!” she shouted, the pendant on her chest bursting into flame as she spoke.

“Lucidity! We must be in your part of the dream world. However, it won’t make a difference!” Rainbow Dash yelled. “I am Nightmare Moon, a master dreamwalker! Whatever you may have learned in the past few hours can not compete with my power!” She flipped her hoof into the air and raised all three of the fillies into the air and began to levitate them down the hallway towards the pit of lava.

Scootaloo struggled, flailing her hooves in the air. “I can’t shake free!” she screamed. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom looked back towards the pit of bubbling red liquid, their bodies shaking with fear.

“I must admit, it was quite unexpected!” Nightmare Moon said as she marched along behind the floating ponies. “The amount of power in your dream was more than I’ve ever encountered. Is it because there’s three of you? Or because you have those accursed pendants? Not important! What matters is that here, I was able to gain more power than anywhere but my own dream! A fantastic catalyst! I couldn’t have even planned it so perfectly!”

The three fillies came to a stop in the air above the boiling pit. Nightmare Moon stared up at them and laughed. “I couldn’t bring much power with me, you see. I needed to feed upon the energy of others to gain strength. At this level, given just a bit more time, that fraud of a queen won’t be able to stand against me! I’ll burn her mind from the inside out!” Nightmare Moon shouted. “It’s a pity that some of my subjects have to die in order to save the kingdom I so rightfully deserve! Alas, your fates are sealed!” Nightmare Moon said. “Any last words?”

“You want to save Equestria, too?” Sweetie Belle asked, one eyebrow cocked. Her pendant began to glow, its magic pulsing outward faintly.

Nightmare Moon blinked up at the filly. “Of course! Is that not obvious?” She said, puzzled. “It is mine by right!”

“Shouldn’t there be another way, though?” Apple Bloom asked. “Why would you have to defeat anyone but the changelings?” her pendant shone faintly, it’s magic joining with Sweetie Belle’s.

Nightmare Moon chuckled. “You three don’t understand anything,” she said. “Once free, the bearers of the Elements of Harmony will come after me! I can not allow anyone to stand against me!”

Scootaloo’s pendant began to glow as well. She looked down at it, and then up at at Nightmare Moon. The dark energy around her had begun to fade, and Rainbow Dash’s colors were returning to their former brightness.

“We’ll never let you win!” Scootaloo shouted. The three fillies began to float forward, back towards safe ground. They landed safely, and Nightmare Moon began to back away, magic pulsing up through her horn as she tried to regain control over their levitation. “If our dream is what gave you that power, then we’ll take it back!”

Nightmare Moon sneered at Scootaloo. “I knew you’d be trouble,” she said. “The other two were cut off, but we’re inside your part of the dream,” she said. The dark energy flared up from all around her and concentrated at the top of her horn. “Be gone!” A beam of magic, more focused and powerful than any of her previous wider attacks, fired from her horn and blasted Scootaloo backward towards the lava pit. She flew over the edge and plummeted down out of sight.

Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom turned and screamed as their friend was blasted back.

“Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom shouted and leapt towards the ledge.

“No!” Sweetie Belle screamed.

The two fillies slid to a stop and peered down into the pit just in time to see a burst of fire shoot upward along with a splash of the molten liquid.

“No…” Sweetie Belle said, tears running down her face.

“She can’t…” Apple Bloom said, and then stamped her hoof against the ground and turned to face Nightmare Moon. “You!” She gritted her teeth, her face turning red with anger.

“You killed her!” Sweetie Belle shouted, turning towards Nightmare Moon, her horn blazing with magic.

The ground began to shake violently and the walls began to crack and crumble. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle stared at Nightmare Moon, their minds hot with rage. Tears streamed down their cheeks and an aura of dark energy began to swirl around them. The brightly colored pendants around their necks began to dim to dull hues.

On the outside, the others stood and watched the ball of swirling dark magic, waiting for any sign of the Crusaders. Suddenly, the shadowy orb began to pulse outward violently. Everypony began to back away, never taking their eyes off it.

“It’s getting bigger!” Fluttershy said frantically. “What do you think happened in there?”

Celestia grimaced and shook her head. “I don’t know, but it can not be good,” she said.

Pinkie Twi flipped her goggles down over her eyes and squinted. “There’s some sort of stream of energy coming out of the field,” she said, tilting her head to the side as she followed the magical trail. Her head stopped turning as her gaze stopped at Applejack and Rarity, who were standing near one another. Her mouth opened slightly as she let out a slight gasp.

Applejack pointed a hoof at Pinkie Twi. “What was that all about? Whaddya mean some sort of stream of energy?” she asked.

Pinkie Twi shook her head. “It’s nothing,” she responded nervously, turning her eyes back to the ball of dark magic. “Look out, it’s gonna expand again!”

The orb pulsed outward again, having now more than tripled in size.

“Can’t we do something?” Rarity asked, looking at Princess Celestia.

Twilight nodded her head. “Yes, there must be something we can do!”

The princess sighed. “I just don’t know,” she said, a sound of shame in her voice. “This is far beyond my level of knowledge in dream magic.”

Discord chuckled. “What a surprise!” he said. He snapped his fingers and a cone-shaped hat appeared on Celestia’s head.

The princess quickly knocked the cap off of her head and glared up at Discord. “As far as Nightmare Moon’s dark energy goes, I can at least try and contain it,” she said, looking back down at Twilight, “but you all must help me.”

Twilight smiled up at the princess and her horn began to glow. “If that magic is from darkness, let’s try and give it a little light!” she said. Celestia nodded and began to cast a light spell from her horn as well. Pinkie Twi, Rarity, and Rarity’s parents stepped forward as well.

“We shall give it our all!” said Rarity. “Sweetie Belle, please be safe!” Her horn began to glow, and she closed her eyes.

Rarity’s father threw his hat off his head, revealing his horn. “Our little Sweetie and her friends are in there. Never was the best at magic, but I won’t just stand idly if there’s a chance!” Rarity’s mother smiled up at him and nodded, her horn beginning to glow as well.

The void that they had all been standing in began to light up, turning from a dim gray to lighter shades. The combined light from their horns hit the shadowy ball, and its advance ceased.

“I think it’s startin’ to work, y’all! Keep it up!” Applejack yelled, pulling her hat off her head and waving it in the air.

Come on, girls! Twilight thought, staring into the spinning shadows. I don’t know… how long we can keep this up!

Back inside the shadows, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom stood, staring at Rainbow Dash, who was possessed by Nightmare Moon. The ground shook and the walls continued to crumble all around them. Pieces of the ceiling fell and hit the floor, shattering to small pieces. Nightmare Moon stared ahead blankly, her eyes wide, and the dark magic around her flickering like flames.

“You…!” Apple Bloom shouted again from behind her clenched teeth.

The two Crusaders charged towards Nightmare Moon as fast as their hooves could take them. Sweetie Belle’s horn fired sparks out with each hoofstomp. She clenched her eyes shut and let loose with a magic beam from her horn. The blast never made contact with its target.

“No!” Nightmare Moon screamed, her voice cracking from its volume. A blast of magic shot outward from her body, knocking the charging crusaders back and sliding along the ground, almost back to the ledge up against the lava pit again.

“You monster!” Nightmare Moon bellowed, her voice now distorting. She fell to the ground, throwing her hooves against the sides of her head. “I won’t let you!” She rolled onto her side, still clutching her head and screaming.

“What’s happening?” Sweetie Belle asked, taken aback by the sudden change in behavior from Nightmare Moon. She and Apple Bloom began to push themselves back up to their hooves.

Nightmare Moon stretched a foreleg out towards the two fillies and righted herself upon the ground. A spark flashed in her eyes and she slammed her hoof down against the ground. A massive crack shot along the floor towards the ledge above the pit of lava. The entire castle split along the crack, including the lava, spreading apart. What was left of the walls and ceiling shot outward explosively.

Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom stepped away from the crack and stared down towards the lava. There, floating between the two suspended fields of molten liquid, was Scootaloo’s body, encased in light. She floated along the crack and upward, stopping in the air right in front of Nightmare Moon.

The pegasus filly opened her eyes and looked down at the shadowy pony. The face that looked back at her belonged to Rainbow Dash, but the eyes had a certain slant to them, and a big, familiar grin was plastered on her face.

Dad… Scootaloo thought, and sighed, but smiled back.

“Scootaloo!” Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom shouted, and ran towards her.

“Now’s our chance,” Scootaloo’s dad’s voice said. Rainbow Dash’s hoof pointed upward, through the shattered ceiling and into the dark sky. “Your friends are calling out for you.”

Scootaloo looked up. A glowing circle appeared in the sky and shone a beam of white light down onto them. Scootaloo blinked and then turned her head back down. She nodded, and the pendant around her neck began to glow.

“Can you hear them?” Scootaloo asked as she landed gently on the ground. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle had arrived, and stood by her side. They both nodded their heads.

“I hear my sister, and my parents,” Sweetie Belle said, the color returning to her pendant.

“I hear Applejack and Big Mac! And Twilight!” Apple Bloom said with a smile, her pendant also brightening back up.

“Yes,” Scootaloo said. “Plus Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and even Discord. They’re all calling to us. Calling to you, too, Rainbow Dash… Dad…”

The three pendants pulsed out colorful magic, filling the air with sparkling glitter and streams of energy. The shadows around Rainbow Dash began to swirl violently. With each pulse from the pendants, the dark magic was pushed further and further out from the pony. The horn on her head vanished, and Nightmare Moon’s body was ripped out from her. The dark alicorn’s form flew back, landing on the ground and rolling, coming to a stop as it slammed into a pile of rubble.

Rainbow Dash slowly pushed herself up to her hooves and shook her head back and forth. “What happened?” she asked with confusion. She opened her eyes and saw the Cutie Mark Crusaders standing in front of her. She jumped back with a beat of her wings and glared at Scootaloo. “What did you do? Where are we?”

Scootaloo grinned and walked towards Rainbow Dash, who stood her ground. The filly wrapped her forelegs around one of Rainbow Dash’s and squeezed. “A nightmare, and I hope it’s just about over,” she said. Orange light shot out from the two of them, and the castle vanished, leaving them standing in the middle of the dark void once again.

A bright light was shining from behind, and Scootaloo turned her head. She saw everypony else standing and staring at them, all unicorns with their horns glowing brightly. Discord clapped his hands together slowly.

“Bravo! Excellent job, everypony!” he said. With a flash, confetti rained down from above, along with a whizzing whistling sound.

Pinkie Twi grinned up at Discord. “Have I ever told you that I just love your style?” she said, winking from behind her goggles. Discord simply smirked.

Everyone approached the Crusaders and Rainbow Dash.

“We were so worried!” Rarity said, wrapping her little sister up in a hug while her parents looked on, smiling. Applejack and Big Macintosh had done the same with Apple Bloom.

Scootaloo looked up at Rainbow Dash. “I’m sorry, again… about everything,” she said. “I just let my emotions get the best of me. But now that dark magic is gone, we pushed it right out of you.”

Rainbow Dash shook her head. “Don’t think that I’ve forgiven you or anything,” she said. “But there’s some voice deep down inside of me telling me… telling me that I should give you another chance. So we’ll see. Maybe.”

Scootaloo smiled. “That’s all I can ask for. I really want to give him another chance, too,” she said quietly. “Even though I’ve given him so many, already.”

The outlined form of a pegasus stallion stepped sideways out of Rainbow Dash’s body. The outline quickly solidified into a tall, gray-colored pegasus. Cloudsdale armor formed around his body, and a helmet slapped down over his head.

“You sure? You might get hurt again,” he said from behind the helmet’s faceplate.

Scootaloo shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time,” she said. “Shouldn’t you be going back to Cloudsdale? They might need you.”

A chuckle came from under the helmet, and a big, armored foreleg pulled Scootaloo into a hug. “You need me, too, so make sure you really tell the real me when you see him again,” he whispered.

Scootaloo nodded her head. The armored pegasus spread out his massive gray wings and flapped them once, launching himself into the air with ease despite the heavy armor he was wearing. He soared up into the sky, vanishing from sight.

“Oh my, who was that?” Rarity asked, watching the armored stallion disappear. “I do love a stallion in uniform.” She batted her eyes.

Applejack sighed. “It’s armor, not a uniform,” she said. “You couldn’t even see his face.”

“Same difference!” Rarity protested. “Did you see his physique? One hardly needs to see the face!”

Applejack groaned.

“Don’t get too comfortable, ladies,” Discord said, pointing behind Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo. Streams of shadow were pulsing up into the air, and in the distance, Nightmare Moon’s body lie unconscious.

“You’re right, we can’t let our guard down!” Pinkie Twi said seriously. “There’s still one big problem we have to figure out!”

“Right you are,” Celestia said, advancing towards the passed out alicorn carefully. “We have to figure out what to do about her, as well as those changelings.”

“Yes, that’s true, but there’s an even bigger problem. One that’s been bothering me for a long time now,” Pinkie Twi said, turning towards Pinkie Pie. “One that will affect us into the distant future.”

Celestia turned her head and stared at the pink pony, who was now placing a hoof to her ear and nodding her head, deep in thought. “Is there something happening? What are you hearing through your Pinkie Network?” she asked.

“Don’t panic, I think we might just have it figured out,” she said. “The crisis can be solved, surely.”

Everyone stared at Pinkie intensely. Pinkie Twi finally took the hoof away from her ear and slid the goggles up from her eyes and onto her forehead. She pointed at Pinkie Pie and narrowed her eyes.

“You’re from the dream of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, so your name has to be Cutie Pie!” she shouted, her voice seeming to echo through the empty space. “Crisis averted!”

Silence washed over everypony.

A vein bulged out from Twilight’s forehead. “You’re still on that!?” she shouted, and then fell over sideways.

Celestia laughed and continued to walk forward, stopping several feet from Nightmare Moon’s unconscious body. “Dear sister, what’s done this to you again?” she asked.

Nightmare Moon opened one slitted eye and stared up at Princess Celestia. “Again?” she asked. “Is being foolishly blind a prerequisite to being a princess in Equestria? The both of you are so clueless.” The dark alicorn rose to her hooves, and Celestia stepped back another couple of feet. Their horns both glowed with magic, ready to strike at any moment.

“I didn’t want to fight you back then, and I don’t want to now,” Celestia said. “Luna, tell me what is wrong, we can work together to make it right!”

Nightmare Moon smirked and shook her head. “You still don’t get it,” she said. “There is no Luna! It’s just me, so if you think you’re going to talk your way out of this, you’re mistaken!” A flash of magic fired from her horn, but quickly splashed against an invisible forcefield. The blast revealed a sparkling, magical sphere wrapped around her. She gasped, turned her head, and saw where the field was coming from.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders stood to her side, their pendants all glowing brightly. They all stared back at her, looks of determination on their faces.

“We won’t let there be any more fightin’ here. It’s over!” Apple Bloom said, and the other two chimed in their approval with a firm “Mmm-hmm!”

Nightmare Moon growled down at the fillies. “If you hadn’t had those, this would be a very different situation,” she said, sneering. “What in Equestria are they?”

“That’s none of your concern, though I have an idea,” Celestia responded. “In any case, if there can be no compromise, then I must defer to these three brave foals. Tell me, Cutie Mark Crusaders, what shall we do with her? This is your dream, you ultimately make the rules.”

Scootaloo grinned. “I think I know a pretty fitting way to send her off,” she said.

“Don’t you dare!” Nightmare Moon screeched as the pendants around the Crusaders’ necks began to glow brighter and emit a high-pitched sound.

“You came into our dream and ruined it!” Sweetie Belle shouted. “You scared Pinkie Pie, took advantage of Rainbow Dash, and tried to kill Scootaloo!”

“Yep!” Apple Bloom added in. “So now ya gotta go!”

“Then remember this, little ones!” Nightmare Moon spat at the Crusaders. “I’ll be sure to carry this memory with me! When we next meet, you all shall perish!”

“Not today, though!” Scootaloo yelled. The black void split open above them, revealing a star-filled night sky. The darkness zipped downward and away, and the arena at Sweet Apple Acres once again appeared. Everypony found themselves standing at the center of the field. The Crusaders’ pendants all blasted forth with beams of colorful magic, smashing through the forcefield around Nightmare Moon and blasting her skyward. She shot like a comet straight towards the moon.

Twilight blinked. “Wait, you…” She started, then shook her head, trying to keep from chuckling. “You banished her to the moon? Again?”

Celestia sighed and tapped Twilight on the back. “It’s no laughing matter, Twilight Sparkle,” she said, gazing towards the moon as the shape of a unicorn’s head filled the glowing sphere. A single tear escaped her eye, and she quickly wiped it away. “We will surely have to deal with this situation in a more permanent manner later on.” Twilight nodded her head.

“And how about our delightful guests, here?” Discord asked, snapping his fingers. A cage appeared in front of him. The changelings Mulcibar and Linnai glared through the bars out at him.

Fluttershy caught sight of Mulcibar and immediately ducked behind Pinkie Twi. Pinkie Twi flipped her goggles down over her eyes and looked at the changelings, recalling what she’d heard through the Pinkie Network about them. “You were right, Cutie Pie, they do seem strong! I love the butterfly wings, though!” she said, smiling.

Cutie Pie hunched close to the ground. “Do we have to call me that?” she asked, sticking out her tongue.

Pinkie Twi flipped the goggles back up to her forehead and turned to face Cutie Pie. She threw her hooves into the air. “Of course we do! We can’t go back on such a crucial decision! I made it myself!” she shouted, flailing her hooves slightly as she spoke.

Cutie Pie rolled her eyes. “Fine…” she said unenthusiastically.

“In any case, we have to figure out what to do with them,” said Twilight. “Anypony have any ideas?” She looked to Discord and Princess Celestia for guidance.

“Yes, what are you going to do with us?” Linnai said with a sneer. “You can’t just leave us in this dream! I assume you’ll be moving on to the next dream world!”

“Yes, and you two will just follow us, thus the tough decision,” Celestia said, staring back at Linnai, her eyes practically on fire. “Not that your fire magic even tickled. A nuisance at worst.”

Linnai scoffed, and Mulcibar put a hoof on her back. “Don’t let them get to you, sister,” he said.

“Well, I say we run ‘em through! Just like they did ta’ Twilight!” Applejack shouted angrily.

Twilight shook her head. “That’s no good,” Twilight said, turning towards Applejack and the other dream inhabitants. “I know from experience that if you die in a dream, you just wake up. A little woozy, memories fuzzy, but you are otherwise fine.”

“Memories fuzzy, you say?” Rarity asked. “How fuzzy do you mean? Would they even remember anything that happened here? That may honestly be the best way to handle it, darling.”

“No, Rarity. They might remember something. It’s not a chance we should take,” Celestia said.

Mulcibar scoffed. “We would remember everything. We’d be right back in here chasing you down, and the queen and the Order would know exactly what you’re up to in here!” he boasted.

A laugh came from above. Everypony looked up at Discord, who was hovering in the air above the cage, holding his sides and laughing uncontrollably.

“What’s so funny, monster?” Mulcibar asked, shrinking down slightly in the cage.

“Yes, please share, Discord,” Celestia said politely, batting her eyes. Discord froze in the air and stared at her as she asked, then fell back into fits of laughter.

“It’s just… Oh gosh! Oh, I can’t breathe!” he tried to speak. “The tough act! Oh wow, do you really think that’ll work? AHAHAHA! Of all the… BAAA-HAHA!” He wiggled in the air and spun all around the cage while laughing, but then finally stopped in front of Celestia, his face just inches from hers. He suddenly took on a very serious expression.

“It’s ridiculous, Celestia. They think you’re all fools, but I know better,” he said. “I mean, surely you’ve noticed by now that their skill in dream magic is just sad. I almost pity them!” Celestia nodded nervously. Discord pulled the cone-shaped dunce cap from behind himself and placed it gently on Celestia’s head again.

“Don’t worry, Celestia, I do pity you,” Discord said, snickering, then pulled away from Celestia, falling back into more laughing fits. “Here’s the predictions, if you want them! They won’t remember squat, except maybe within the first few seconds of waking up! Then they’ll fall asleep, or pass out as the case may be, from the adjustment of time around them. Going from dream time to real time can be awfully trying on the mind!”

Linnai sneered. “We’ll remember everything! We won’t pass out!” she shouted angrily. Mulcibar jabbed her with his elbow and shook his head.

“Who are you going to believe, Celestia? Them, or me?” Discord asked, batting his eyes back at Celestia.

The princess groaned. “Well, I knew your magical knowledge would come in handy, but I just don’t know. I think you are too confident, Discord,” Celestia said. “Even if there’s only a remote chance, even if all they can do is shout out a few words between when they wake up and when they pass out from the time adjustment, I can’t risk that. Plus, what if they don’t forget? What if they wake up with complete memories after an hour or two? We might not be ready by then!”

“So what are we going to do?” Twilight asked, her voice annoyed. “Take them with us?”

“I vote no on that,” Fluttershy’s voice quietly came from behind Pinkie Twi.

“We have to find the exit first, anyway,” Twilight said. Fluttershy poked her head out and enthusiastically shook it. Twilight levitated the small monocle to her eye. Pinkie Twi leapt towards Twilight and stopped her, pulling the lens away with her own magic.

“Pinkie! What’s the problem?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Problem? Haha! Why would there be a problem? I just, um… we’re all having so much fun here, why end it so quickly?” Pinkie Twi responded with faked laughter. She looked over her shoulder and spotted Sweetie Belle hugging Rarity and their parents. Her heart sank.

“What? You know we don’t have time to hang around!” Twilight said with annoyance. “We have to get to the next dream quickly! Every second we’re not saving Rainbow Dash is a second that Chrysalis is getting super powered up!”

Pinkie Twi hung her head, but levitated the goggles from her head onto Twilight’s. Twilight looked down at Pinkie with concern now, the pink pony practically starting to cry. Twilight nervously slipped the colorscope over her eyes, and Pinkie Pie pointed towards the happily hugging family.

Twilight saw Sweetie Belle wrapping her forelegs around Rarity’s neck, but there was a strange, pulsing dark energy. Right over Rarity’s chest, straight down the middle like someone had stitched up a sloppy surgery job, was the exit from the dream.

Twilight shot her head back down to Pinkie, who just pointed in another direction. Twilight turned and stared at Applejack, who was happily smiling at Apple Bloom, a similar rip in reality going straight down her chest.

“Let me guess…” Twilight said sadly. She turned and looked towards Rainbow Dash. She had a similar rip in her own body. “Three dreamers, three exits, and they all just happen to be part of their focus, as we’d called them.” Twilight flipped the goggles up off her head and returned them to Pinkie Twi, who was slowly nodding her head.

Linnai laughed from the cage, staring at Twilight with wide eyes. “This is too hilarious! Just like that, you’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!” she shouted. “I can tell from the look on your faces! Such compassion for these dream ponies, and they aren’t even real!”

Fluttershy suddenly stood up and marched over to the cage, practically pressing her face against the bars. Linnai pulled her head back instinctively.

“Now look here, you!” Fluttershy shouted. “These ponies may be dreams, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real! They’re all based on our dear friends, and the places they hold in our hearts! I guess it’s nothing you two could ever understand!” She glared at Mulcibar as she said that last part. Linnai flapped her own lips mockingly as Fluttershy spoke. Mulcibar just sat quietly, flinching at bit at the end of her speech.

“Who cares!” Linnai shouted. “Tell them, Twilight Sparkle! Tell them what has to be done in order for you to continue your quest!” She grinned deviously.

Everypony had gathered around the cage by now, and they were all staring at Twilight.

“What’s she talkin’ ‘bout, Twi?” Applejack asked.

“Well, you see…” Twilight said nervously.

“Yes, darling?” Rarity asked, her eyes blinking.

“The exit from this dream world, you see…” Twilight continued slowly, her eyes darting back and forth.

“Did you find it already? Is it nearby?” Scootaloo asked excitedly.

“You might say that,” Twilight said, chuckling nervously. “There are three dreamers, so there are actually three exits.”

“What’s gotten into you, Twilight? What are you so afraid of? What was that changeling talking about?” Celestia asked commandingly. Twilight locked eyes with the princess and lost her nerve entirely.

“Tell them!” Linnai barked out.

“It’s terrible. I hadn’t thought this could happen. I wish there was some way to change it, but the exits…” Twilight said, trailing off.

“Yes?” Everypony said in unison.

Twilight swallowed roughly and breathed in. “The exits are Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash,” she said. “To open them means to tear them open as well. They would…”

“You have to kill one of them if you want to leave! And surely the foal that’s connected to that pony will feel the excruciating pain as they are torn in half by reality itself being ripped!” Linnai yelled. She put on a giant, sharp-toothed grin. “So choose, Twilight Sparkle! Choose who has to die!”

Everypony stared at Twilight in silence. Twilight shrunk down to the ground. “Stop looking at me like that,” she said. “I don’t like it either.”

Rarity stepped towards Twilight and put a hoof on her shoulder. “If somepony has to go, then it should be me! Make it quick, Twilight!” she said, her voice shaking.

“Rarity, no,” Twilight said firmly, pushing her hoof off of her shoulder and standing back up. “I’m not going to kill anypony! Besides, think of poor Sweetie Belle!” She pointed a hoof towards the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who had huddled up together and seemed to be talking amongst themselves.

“Yeah, but it’s true, isn’t it?” Applejack asked. “I can tell just by lookin’ at ya, sugarcube. One of us has ta go.”

“Then it should be me! I’ve caused nothing but trouble for you guys,” Rainbow Dash shouted and then shot a look at Scootaloo. “And if that one has to deal with a little pain, I’d call it even.”

“First of all, no!” Twilight yelled back at Rainbow Dash. “Second of all, listen to yourself! Rainbow Dash would never say such a thing!”

“Fine, I was kidding! Besides, I’m not Rainbow Dash!” Dash retorted. “I’m just some fantasy pony for a filly with daddy issues!”

“That’s enough!” a small voice shouted out. Everypony turned and stared at Apple Bloom, who was staring up at the arguing adults with tears in her eyes. “Twilight’s right! Nopony has to die!”

Twilight took a deep breath and smiled down at the little earth pony.

“We think we know exactly how to do it, too,” Sweetie Belle said, a sly grin on her face.

“Really?” Twilight asked, surprised.

“Really?” Linnai asked from the cage with a sigh.

“When we heard Princess Luna’s voice earlier, it was coming from somewhere else. Nightmare Moon’s energy entered this dream the same way,” Scootaloo said. “We can just go out the same way Luna and Nightmare Moon leaked in.”

Twilight shook her head. “Sorry, Scootaloo, but that’s just not going to work,” she said. “We saw a dream entrance where magic was coming in before, in Fluttershy’s dream. We could see out of it, but we couldn’t leave through it.”

“No no, Twilight,” Sweetie Belle said as politely as she could. “This thing we’re talking about, this feeling we had… it’s not like those creepy cuts on our sisters and Rainbow Dash. We can see those, this isn’t like that.”

Twilight blinked. “Wait…” she started.

“You can see those?” Celestia asked.

Cutie Pie tilted her head. “Now that you mention it, I see them, too,” she said. “What’s with that?”

“You saw the cracks in the world,” Scootaloo said. “Now that the three of us are concentrating with the power we got from these pendants, we’re starting to see more than just those. It’s hard to explain, but we want to try. We want to try and open up another crack in the world, but this time it would be a portal to another dream world.”

“Children, if you can do what you say you can, instant transference… well, that sort of spell is only possible with a high-level dreamwalker such as my sister, Luna,” Celestia said. “I do not wish to cast doubt upon you, but it seems a hopeless task. You have to connect to two dreams at the same time, plus aim the spell correctly. It is quite a feat.”

“Well!” Apple Bloom said with a grin, looking at her two friends. “There’s three of us! One to connect here, one to connect there, and the third to aim it! We’ll do the connectin’ Sweetie Belle. You do the firin’!”

Sweetie Belle nodded.

“Oh my gosh, this is so exciting!” Pinkie Twi shouted. Everyone else shushed her, including the caged changelings. The three fillies stood in a triangle, facing inward and concentrating as hard as they could. Their pendants glowed brightly, and each one of them fired a pillar of light off into the sky above. The arena lit up as if it were daytime, with prismatic colors sparkling everywhere.

You got this, little sis! Applejack’s voice sounded off inside Apple Bloom’s mind.

Who’s there? Show yourself! A voice shouted in Scootaloo’s mind.

“I’m connected!” Scootaloo shouted.

“Fire away, SB!” Apple Bloom called out.

Sweetie Belle nodded and her horn sparked brightly. The spark of magic served as a catalyst, causing the pendants around all three Crusaders’ necks to fire off at the same time, their beams colliding in the middle of them. A giant tear in reality burst open, streaks of magic firing out randomly.

Celestia’s jaw dropped. “I don’t believe it!” she shouted with genuine excitement. “They’ve done it, Twilight! They’ve done it!” Everypony joined in and cheered.

The world on the other side of the portal was clearly visible, and looked nothing like Ponyville at all. Thick foliage, a dark sky, and jagged rocks were waiting for them on the other side.

Twilight gazed through the portal and cringed. “Maybe it’s too early to be celebrating. It looks dangerous over there,” she said. Celestia nodded her head in agreement.

“Well,” Sweetie Belle said, turning to Rarity and her parents. “Looks like this is goodbye.”

Twilight interrupted. “Sweetie, look, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” she said, looking at Rarity. “You don’t have to come with us. You could stay here with your sister, where it will be safer.” Rarity nodded her head and smiled.

“What?!” All three Crusaders said at once.

“No way!” Scootaloo shouted. “Princess Luna said that the fate of Equestria rested firmly in our hooves! We can’t just give up now!”

“Yeah! We even opened that portal for ya!” Apple Bloom said angrily.

“Apple Bloom, look, I’m sure we’ve all been thinkin’ it, and we just don’t want ya to get hurt,” Applejack said, putting a hoof on her sister’s head and kneeling down towards her.

“Eeyup,” Big Macintosh agreed.

“I’m sorry, everypony, but I have to side with the Crusaders,” Princess Celestia said, stepping into the middle of the crowd. “These three fillies have proven themselves to be brave and capable. They have within them a power that we do not yet fully understand. My sister and I first began our own long and arduous crusade against Discord when we were young, so I know what the determination of foals can produce.”

“You were just so adorable back then!” Discord said with a squee. “Never a boring day on the throne with you two running around! Must be why I spared you so many times.” His voice dropped a bit at the end. Celestia rolled her eyes.

“In any event, whatever my sister saw in these three when she reached out to them, I think I am starting to see it as well. Their power and determination will serve us well, and perhaps they will grow up a little bit on our journey,” Celestia finished.

The three crusaders looked at one another and grinned widely at the same time.

“Maybe we’ll get our cutie marks in adventuring!” Scootaloo said.

“Or dreamwalking!” Sweetie Belle squeaked.

“Or plot-buckin’!” Apple Bloom said with a giggle.

Fluttershy gasped and Twilight snorted. “Apple Bloom! That doesn’t mean what you think it does…” Twilight said, her cheeks turning red. Pinkie Twi fell over laughing.

“Ahem!” Celestia loudly cleared her throat, then gestured towards the caged changelings. “What shall we do with them, then? They have to come with us. We’ll need a cart or something.”

“Don’t worry about them, I’ll handle everything,” Discord said, his voice dripping with deviousness. He snapped his fingers, and in a flash, the two changelings shrunk down, even smaller than the Crusaders. “Check it out! Pocket villains!” he said, and pushed them into a pocket that had materialized on his side. Their tiny voices, which had started shouting the moment they had shrunk, were drowned out to nothing.

Celestia shuddered. “I hate to imagine what’s in there,” she said.

“I could show you sometime, if you want,” Discord replied with a wink. Celestia ignored him and turned to Twilight and the others.

“This is it, then,” Twilight said, looking down at the Crusaders. “Say your goodbyes, and remember, you will always be together in your hearts.” The three fillies smiled and nodded their heads.

“Everything should go back to normal once we leave,” Apple Bloom said, looking up at Applejack and Big Macintosh. “You two take care of Granny Smith. Pinkie Pie will be around to keep ya up to date.”

Applejack nodded. “Take care, little sis. When ya finally see her, give the real Applejack a big hug,” she said, a tear escaping her eye.

Apple Bloom leapt up and wrapped her forelegs around Applejack’s neck. “Will do, but not before I give you a big hug, too!” she said, and squeezed. Big Mac put his foreleg over the both of them and joined in.

Sweetie Belle walked over to Rarity. “Did you really mean it before?” she asked. “Were you really gonna… die just so we could go on?”

Rarity nodded her head. “Of course, my dear!” she said without pause. “I’d do anything to help my little sister. After all, you always do anything to help me.” Sweetie Belle smiled.

“But I won’t do long, sappy goodbyes! So, take care, Sweetie Belle,” Rarity said, turning her head to the side and rubbing her eye.

“Aw, come on you all!” Rarity and Sweetie Belle’s father said, and pulled the whole family together into a group hug. “Our little Sweetie’s goin’ off ta save the world!”

Scootaloo cautiously approached Rainbow Dash. “Look, I know you haven’t forgiven me,” she said, not looking up. “I know I messed up, but I swear, I’ll make it up to you somehow… someday.”

Rainbow Dash coughed. “Look, kid, don’t waste your breath,” she said. “I can’t be the coolest pony in the world if I hold a grudge against a kid forever. We’ll see how I feel if we meet again. Maybe next time you go to sleep.”

Scootaloo nodded and smiled up at Rainbow Dash. “It’s a deal,” she said.

Everypony eventually gathered in front of the rift. “Is everypony ready?” Celestia asked. They all nodded their heads.

Pinkie Twi nervously raised her hoof. “Sooooo… I shouldn’t even be here. What’s gonna happen if I go through there?” she asked.

Twilight shrugged in response. “Who knows? Let’s find out.”

Pinkie Twi sighed. “Okay, well then… here we go!” she shouted, and grabbed onto Twilight’s foreleg. She turned her head back towards her double. “Seeya later, Cutie Pie!”

“I’m still not okay with that name!” Cutie Pie yelled back.

Pinkie laughed and leapt into the portal, pulling Twilight with her. Twilight landed on the other side by herself. She looked around for any sign of anypony else. A second later, Celestia and Discord appeared by her side.

“Pinkie?” Twilight called out.

Aw, bummer! Pinkie’s voice rang out in Twilight’s mind. I’m back home! But hey, check your saddlebag!

Fluttershy leapt through the portal, with the Cutie Mark Crusaders trailing behind her in a row. “Whew! We made it!” Fluttershy exclaimed.

“Yay!” The Crusaders cheered, and then looked at their flanks.

“Dang it! No Dreamwalking cutie mark!” Apple Bloom said.

Twilight flipped open her saddlebag and levitated a pair of goggles out of it. “Oooh! Thank you, Pinkie!” she exclaimed and slid the goggles onto her head and over her eyes. This was her first time taking in the environment around them. They were up a massive hill on a rocky path. Twilight gazed across the way and saw another hill of equal size on the other side, curving gently.

“I think we’re in a crater, everypony. Watch your step, who knows how far down it is,” Twilight warned the others. She looked up into the sky. The moon shone down brightly, practically as bright as day. It was easy to see, even though it was night time.

Run! A voice called out in Twilight’s mind.

“Did you hear that?” Celestia asked, looking at Twilight and the others. Everypony nodded their heads. “It was my sister!”

Run! To the bottom of the crater! As fast as you can! She is coming! The voice shouted.

The sound of galloping came from above. Everypony turned their heads upward. Up the crater wall, at the rim, was a barely visible but recognizable figure.

“Nightmare Moon!” Fluttershy screamed. She scooped up the Crusaders in her wings and began to run as best as she could down the path. Everyone else followed suit. Twilight came up alongside Fluttershy and took Scootaloo from her, placing her on her back. Celestia did the same for Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom pulled herself onto Fluttershy’s back.

“Hold on tight!” Twilight shouted.

“You can not escape!” Nightmare Moon’s voice bellowed down at them.

Through the brush, Twilight could see a massive stone building at the bottom of the crater. “That must be where we have to go! Everypony, keep running!”

THE END OF BOOK THREE: HORIZONS

TO BE CONTINUED IN BOOK FOUR: CORRUPTION

Author's Note:

SHORTISH CHAPTER LOL!

It's over! Whew! I'll add more author's notes later. Currently editing on my phone, which Fimfic hates.

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