• 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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Corruption Ch 4 - Shadows of the Past

Author's Note:


Littlecolt has finally built that writing cyborg!

If you see any errors, feel free to point them out. I am pretty confident it's good to go, though! Big thanks to Servant Phoenix for coming through in a hurry and getting the major editing complete despite real life stuff!

Book Four: Corruption

Chapter Four - Shadows of the Past

Nightmare Moon stood upon a balcony at the top of a high spire in Canterlot, gazing through a telescope, scanning the landscape of Equestria. She pulled her face away from the lens and closed her eyes, trying to concentrate on the fiber of her dream world.

Why can I no longer sense the world around me? What did those fillies do to me? she thought, images of the magic explosion that sent the intruders in her world flying in all directions flashing in her mind. That power they had, it was the same as ours. Whatever they did, they have stolen our lucidity, dear Luna.

She pressed her eye against the telescope’s lens again, slowing panning her view across the western mountains. Swinging the telescope southward, she locked her gaze onto Ponyville. The town was abandoned, no sign of movement. Stopping to look into an open window in a house, a pair of glowing red eyes peered back out at her.

She pulled away from the telescope again and shook her head. They will surely all head back towards Ponyville. If they manage to survive and make it there, they will not live much longer, she thought. I’ll be waiting for you, precious Luna.

Scootaloo sat up and rubbed her eyes. The feeling of a cloud beneath her was both comforting but also unfamiliar after so long. She turned her head and spotted Princess Celestia across the way, gazing down towards the earth. She stood up and felt the weight of her strange pendant swing out from her chest and then back in. She looked down at the shining, flame-shaped jewel, and then started to move towards the princess.

“Princess, where are we?” she asked. Celestia turned her head back and smiled at the filly.

“Cloudsdale,” the alicorn replied. “It’s not the same as you may remember it, though. It seems to be completely abandoned. Hop on my back, we’ll go take a look around.”

Scootaloo felt her legs beginning to tremble and fell backwards onto her rump. Celestia tilted her head slightly and then lifted the pegasus back to her hooves with her magic.

Scootaloo blinked. “I’m pretty hungry,” she said. “I hadn’t noticed. How long was I asleep?”

Celestia lowered her back towards the cloud ground. “Only a couple of hours. Considering the amount of magic you three let out, I figured you might be hungry.”

Scootaloo hopped up to the princess’ back with help from a little levitation spell from the princess and then wrapped her hooves around her neck. “It had been a while since we’d had anything in our dream, too,” she said. “I just hope the others are doing okay.”

Celestia nodded, spread her wings and leapt down, gliding across the expansive city. Directly ahead of her was a palatial structure. “Since this is Princess Luna’s dream, we will head to Stratocumulus Castle, our home here in Cloudsdale. She would be most familiar with it, so it would be the most detailed aspect of this city,” she said.

Scootaloo glanced down at the row of houses to the west of the castle. She swallowed and began to speak. “Can we go to…” she started, but decided not to finish.

Celestia smiled. “You want to see your old home, is that it?” she asked. “Your father still lives in the same place, but I am not sure it will be as you remember it. I don’t think Luna has ever paid him a visit.”

Scootaloo didn’t respond, but the princess banked left anyway, heading towards the large homes that rested against the thick, white walls that surrounded the palace. She landed in front of one particular house that sat roughly in the middle. Scootaloo hopped off Celestia’s back and made her way slowly up the steps. She pushed the door open, revealing a large foyer which led to a living room. There was nothing inside but very basic furniture, the kind you would imagine most ponies would have in their homes. There was nothing anywhere to indicate that she or her parents had lived there.

Celestia followed the filly around and into the kitchen. Scootaloo pulled open the pantry door, revealing a fully stocked set of shelves containing many different kinds of food inside cans and various other containers.

“Well. I guess it makes sense that she’d assume there would be food,” Celestia said. “I’m sorry it’s not like you were expecting, Scootaloo. Ever since what happened in your dream, you must have your father on your mind an awful lot.”

Scootaloo nodded her head. “Do you think the changelings invaded Cloudsdale, too?” she asked as she pulled a can of sliced peaches from the shelf in front of her.

Celestia shook her head. “I couldn’t say, but I would think so,” she said, looking at the child and seeing her worried expression.

“What if I never get to see him again?” Scootaloo asked. She turned towards a drawer and opened it, rummaging around for a can opener. Princess Celestia lifted the can up with her magic and popped the top off. She patted the filly on her head.

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” the princess said with a gentle smile. “I know your father. He may be a tad… eccentric,” Celestia started.

“A tad?” Scootaloo asked with disbelief, a slight grin forming upon her lips.

Celestia chuckled. “Okay, more than a tad eccentric,” she continued. “But you know as well as I that he wouldn’t ever roll over that easily. I pity the changelings that try to take him down."

Scootaloo tilted her head back and poured a slice of peach into her mouth from the can. She chewed it, chuckling at Celestia’s statement, and then held the can up to her. Celestia lifted a segment of the light-colored fruit up with her magic and slid it into her mouth.

Suddenly, there was a hissing sound, like steam leaking out from a pressurized pipe. Celestia pulled Scootaloo close and jerked her head around towards the stairs on the other side of the living room.

“What was that?” Scootaloo asked, shaking slightly.

“I don’t know, but I think we should leave now,” Celestia said and then lifted the filly up onto her back. “I’ll grab some other items from the cupboard and then we should go.” She levitated several items out from the shelves and placed them in front of Scootaloo, who then wrapped her forelegs around them.

The hissing came again, even louder this time, and Celestia bolted from the kitchen and through the living room. As she passed the staircase, she glanced up it and saw a pair of burning red eyes staring back at her. She burst out of the doorway and took to the skies, flying faster than before, and heading southward. After a minute, Cloudsdale was left behind them.

“What was it?” Scootaloo asked, shaking slightly. “Did you see anything?”

Celestia shook her head. “No, but I don’t think we should stick around any longer to find out. There’s no telling what may be lurking anywhere in this dream world. I hadn’t considered it, but it’s just like Luna said. Nightmare Moon has done things to this world. We have to keep our guard up.”

The pair of red eyes were still vivid in her mind as she flew. Best not to scare the filly any more than she already is. That wasn’t Nightmare Moon, though. It was something else, Celestia thought. She swooped downward and traveled low to the ground, heading towards the forested foothills of the Unicorn Range as fast as she could. The fact that she hasn’t found us yet is troubling. We shouldn’t be able to hide from her in this world, but all the same, we had best stay hidden. We should avoid places where she might expect us, such as Canterlot or Ponyville. I hope the others think of that as well…

Fluttershy heard the crackling of flames and felt the warmth of a fire against her body. The sensation of pain and itching again entered her mind, and she realized that her back right leg felt cold. She opened her eyes and the light from the nearby fire made her blink a few times. She reached her right foreleg down and touched her hind leg just below her flank. Pain shot through her leg, and she could feel some sort fibrous cloth wrapped around it. She grunted slightly at the sensation. She pulled her hoof back up in front of her face and saw it streaked with blood. She gasped slightly, and then heard movement.

She turned her head towards the sound and saw Mulcibar on the other side of the small campfire standing and looking down at her. “You’re awake again,” he said calmly. “Don’t move around too much. Your leg was gashed open. You were bleeding out pretty badly, especially after the first time you woke up and dragged yourself across the cave.”

Fluttershy turned her head as best as she could and looked down at her leg. It was tightly wrapped in white cloth, with blood seeping through, but not to the point where the bandage was soaking in it. Her mind was so full of fear and confusion, she couldn’t bring herself to speak.

“That’s stopped the bleeding for the most part, but you need to rest and stay still,” the changeling continued, walking around towards the frightened pegasus. He stopped a bit behind her and to the side. “We seem to be safe here for now.”

Shivers went up Fluttershy’s back as she remembered how Mulcibar had spoken to her in the last dream world.

Oh yes, I’d definitely show you a good time, my dear.

Fluttershy pulled her left hind leg tightly up against her body and wrapped her tail closely around her rear.

Mulcibar laughed in response. “Your memory seems to be working, Don’t worry, I’m not so desperate to try anything like what you’re thinking,” he said, and then leaned down, speaking softly just behind her ear. “Not with you injured like that. I’d rather you to thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Fluttershy shook again, goosebumps peppering her neck. Mulcibar laughed and stepped away from her, sitting down in front of the fire a few feet to her left. “Besides, now is hardly the time or place,” he finished.

Fluttershy felt only somewhat more at ease and still kept her guard up. She glanced around the cave, spotting the mouth in the distance. She heard Mulcibar tap his hoof against the ground and turned back to him.

“I wouldn’t go out there. There’s something out there. Many somethings. We’re in a cave in the middle of a forest somewhere, and the forest is full of strange, moving shadows. I imagine Nightmare Moon created them, of course, and I’m sure they aren’t too friendly. I’ve put an illusion up at the cave’s mouth. From the outside, it looks like a sheer rock face. Whatever those things are, they don’t seem to be able to see through it.”

“What happened to me?” Fluttershy managed to ask, her voice nearly a whisper.

“You landed on a sharp bit of tree trunk that was sticking up out of the ground. Your leg was cut, and your flank was impaled where your leg meets it,” he said, and then tapped his hoof against the empty socket at the base of his horn. “Without my focusing gem, I couldn’t do much to heal you, and the large outburst of magic drew the attention of those shadow creatures. You’re lucky I found you when I did, and we’re both lucky this cave was nearby.”

Fluttershy looked toward the ground. She saw that she was lying on a bed of grass and hay. She glanced over at Mulcibar, and he was sitting on the stone ground. Maybe… he’s not such a bad guy after all, she thought. He was so menacing and scary before, but now he’s taking care of me… but why?

As she was thinking, her stomach growled. She felt a pang of hunger, and blushed slightly. “Sorry, I just…” she said, not even sure why she was apologizing.

“I couldn’t scrounge up much food,” Mulcibar said. “Hopefully that’s the sort of thing you would eat.” He slid a piece of wood towards Fluttershy. Lying upon it was an assortment of mushrooms, a pair of yellow apples, and some cleaner hay.

Fluttershy glanced down at the assortment. “Those mushrooms are poisonous,” she said, but reached her head forward and took hold of an apple, biting a big piece out of it. She chewed briefly and swallowed, her stomach now ceasing its complaining. She looked back up at Mulcibar, who had turned his gaze back toward the fire. “Why are you helping me?”

Mulcibar looked back at her and shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I?” he asked. “You heard Nightmare Moon, we could die for real here. I can’t just let you bleed to death.”

Fluttershy stared at him in awe for a moment. Maybe he really is a good guy. He’s sort of a weirdo, but maybe he was only acting so mean because he had to for some reason, she thought.

He tilted his head upward and continued. “I’m sure we’ll be able to get plenty of love energy from you, so of course I can’t let you die.” He grinned as he spoke and a bit of drool almost escaped the corner of his mouth.

Steam practically shot out from Fluttershy’s ears. Nevermind! She thought. It was stupid of me to even think such a thing!

Mulcibar looked down at Fluttershy’s now strained, angry expression. “Was it something I said?” he asked. “In any case, do try to relax. We don’t need that wound opening back up again. That ‘bandage’ was just a random piece of cloth I found out there.”

Fluttershy finished eating the apple in silence, and then started on the hay. She glared over at Mulcibar, her face seeming to be stuck in that expression. She began to take note of his various features, though admittedly she had never paid much attention to changelings before. She actually found his folded butterfly-like wings lovely. They were dark and covered in blue circles, which seemed to be glowing ever-so-slightly. He sat with a bit of a slouch, and he had barely visible bags under his eyes. He stared towards the mouth of the cave, paying seemingly no attention to Fluttershy at all.

The yellow pegasus sighed. She pushed the makeshift tray of food back towards him. He looks tired and must be hungry, she thought.

“Why don’t you eat something?” Fluttershy asked, trying to sound as unfriendly as she could while offering the changeling the other apple.

Mulcibar glanced down at the food and shook his head. “Didn’t you say the mushrooms were poisonous?”

“I meant the apple…” she said, and then tried to think of something to tack onto the end of her sentence. “m… jerk!”

Mulcibar laughed. “Of course. Sadly, that’s not something I could eat. Rather, it would not help me, and considering your attitude, I have a feeling my next meal is a long way away.”

Fluttershy blinked and then realized what he was saying. They feed on love. How can they even live like that? she thought, her expression softening a bit.

Mulcibar flashed a toothy grin. “Who knows, maybe I’ll grow on you,” he said. “But I can’t do much but keep that forcefield up for now.”

Fluttershy looked back toward the entrance. “How are you doing that? I thought you said you couldn’t use magic without that jewel.”

Mulcibar tapped a hoof against his back. “My illusion magic channels through my wings,” he replied. Fluttershy nodded her head and looked back at his glowing wings.

A high-pitched scream from outside broke the quiet and Mulcibar shot up to his hooves. “Stay here!” he said, not that Fluttershy could move very well if she wanted at this point. The changeling bolted toward the mouth of the cave and leapt out, vanishing from sight into the darkness.

A moment later, there was a series of bright flashes of magic, the same high-pitched scream again, and then another that Fluttershy knew came from Mulcibar. She pushed herself up to her legs with a grunt, balancing on three legs with the fourth hanging somewhat limply. She hobbled toward the entrance, moving slowly. Flashes of magic and sounds of pain and fear continued to come from the forest. Before she could reach the mouth, something barrelled into the cave, crashing right into her and knocking her to the ground.

Fluttershy lifted her head and pushed against the weight that was now lying atop her. It felt warm and furry. She looked down and saw Sweetie Belle, her eyes wide, staring toward the cave entrance, breathing quickly and heavily and speechless with fear.

Outside the cave, just barely visible through the shimmering surface of the illusion spell, several pairs of glowing red eyes shone in the dark of the woods.

“Mulcibar…” Fluttershy said to herself quietly, reaching a hoof out towards the opening.

Twilight Sparkle had been trudging through the swamp for several hours now. Her legs were wet and cold and she was starting to get hungry. There was no apparent end to the swamp in sight. She glanced behind herself for the first time in several miles and saw Linnai still plodding along behind her.

Twilight could see an island of dry land up ahead, the swamp was full of them, though none were ever very large. We’re both starting to move a bit slow. I’ll have to stop to eat and rest soon, she thought, furrowing her brow a bit. Can I trust her to not try something while I’m asleep?

Twilight climbed up the embankment and scoped out the lay of the small piece of land. There was a large mound of solid dirt and rock on the far end. Twilight decided to use that as a piece of protective cover. She began to gather dry sticks and larger pieces of wood together. At this point, Linnai had climbed up to the small island as well and was watching Twilight work. She leaned against a tree right at the island’s edge.

Twilight had finished setting up her fire pile, complete with a couple of large logs of fallen trees that she’d broken into segments with her magic. The flames caught quickly thanks to a fire spell, and now Twilight was starving. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to be had in the area. A large patch of thick grass and reeds was nearby. Grass was never Twilight’s favorite, but she would have to make do. She toasted the vegetation over the fire briefly and began to force down the bland, fibrous things.

It’s not the greatest, but at least it’s something, Twilight thought. She looked over at Linnai, who was now piling sticks together. The changeling bucked her back hooves against the tree she was near, knocking more sticks and leaves down, and then piled them together. She looked over at Twilight, her face full of frustration.

Twilight quickly looked away from her. What’s her problem? Twilight thought, then glanced back at her briefly, noticing the empty socket in her horn once again. Oh yeah, I guess that would make it a bit harder. Twilight felt her legs almost start to move on their own to go help her, but she stopped herself.

We’re not on some journey together because we’re friends. I can’t just start helping her, Twilight thought and sat back down in front of her fire. She placed a hoof against her chest where Linnai had put a gaping hole in the previous dream. She felt her heart sink in her chest, all the same as she trained her eyes nervously over towards the changeling and the tiny but ever-growing pile of wood. It’s so hard, though… I’m just not used to being cold to anypony anymore.

After a few more minutes, Twilight heard the sound of two sticks rubbing together. She turned her head towards Linnai’s area and saw the changeling ineffectually trying to ignite some leaves as kindling. Twilight sighed. She’s not going to get anywhere without magic. That kindling is so damp.

Twilight laid down and closed her eyes, but didn’t sleep. The crackling of her fire, along with the sound of Linnai shivering as she scraped her sticks together faster and faster filled her ears. She knew she couldn’t fall asleep until she knew Linnai was.

Suddenly, a loud hissing sound came from Linnai’s direction. Twilight opened one eye to look. Did she get it started? she thought. There was no fire, but Linnai had backed against the tree near her and was staring out into the swamp.

Twilight leapt to her hooves, staring out towards the swamp in the same direction. A dozen red shining eyes stared back at her.

Across the continent, aboard a pirate ship, Princess Luna and Discord sailed north along the coast of the Palomino Desert towards Las Pegasus where they had seen a distant explosion. Neither had spoken in some time, and Discord was becoming antsy.

“So,” he finally said after clearing his throat. “I liked the idea of sailing at first, but couldn’t we just fly? Or teleport?” he pulled his patch eye off and hung it off one of the wheel’s handles.

Princess Luna shook her head. “No, I think it’s best if we stay as low-key as possible. I’ve somehow lost my lucidity, and thus my connection to this world,” she said. “I speculate that Nightmare Moon has likely also lost this connection since she has not sought us out yet.”

“Either that or she’s busy dispatching of our other companions,” Discord suggested.

Luna drooped her head. “I shan’t succumb to such thoughts,” she said. “We must stay positive and find a way out of this. I still have my magic, and you have yours. Together, we are a formidable team.”

Discord detached his arms and left them to handle the wheel while he took a few steps towards Luna and sat down in front of her. “So, since we’ll be sailing for a while now, please do tell me more of this Nightmare Moon persona of yours,” he said. “Remember, I was locked away in stone for the entire incident. Come to think of it, the last place I remember being was in the far south where you and your sister faced me down.”

“Yes, you were first moved to our old castle so we could keep an eye on you, and then I suppose sister moved you again to Canterlot,” Luna replied.

“Yes, It was quite a shock to find myself in that garden when those three fillies woke me up,” Discord mused. “Ever wonder how on earth those three managed to free me? Oh, of course you hadn’t, you had more to worry about. Anyway, please do tell about Nightmare Moon.”

Luna blinked in thought for a moment at Discord’s question. How did that happen, anyway? she thought, an odd feeling of cold spreading through her briefly. She shook her head and shivered slightly.

“There is not much to tell,” the princess began. “She came into being not long after we’d defeated you, honestly. In the years after that, my heart began to grow colder and colder rather suddenly. Twas my own foolish thoughts that dragged me into a pit of depression and anger.”

“And you just… transformed into this other mare?” Discord asked, propping his chin against one of his stump arms. “How fascinating, though bizarre.”

“What are you implying?” Luna asked, slightly annoyed, but also perplexed.

“Oh well, I don’t know, I wasn’t there to witness any of this, but,” he said, pausing a moment and turning his eyes skyward. “I’ve just never heard of anypony going through such a transformation just from a little mood swing.”

“A little mood swing?” Luna scoffed. “You can not imagine the depths I fell! The thoughts I had!” Her eyes went wide and she realized Discord was now staring just as wide-eyed back.

“Oh, but I can,” he said, his voice lowering. “Perhaps you underestimate what a mind like mine is capable of. But I didn’t turn into this twisted image you see before you just from having a bout of jealousy and angst. So you tell me, now… what do you think really happened to you?”

Luna blinked, astounded at the question and all it suggested. “What… really happened?” she asked. “Forgive me, weren’t you the one asking me about Nightmare Moon? Dost thou now suggest some greater insight than one who lived through it?”

Discord slowly stood up and turned back to the wheel. “My apologies, I never meant to be so brash. I wouldn’t dream of upsetting you, Princess Luna.”

Luna bit down tightly and held her tongue. This is most unpleasant! I shall be quite pleased when he is but a statue once again! she thought, but then recalled his question. During that time when I became Nightmare Moon, I merely manifest my negativity into that form! That was all that happened… wasn’t it? She shook her head, images of the past now spinning through her mind as Discord slowly steered the boat along the rising and falling waves of the sea.

Look at how they love her, a voice whispered in the back of Luna’s mind. You will never command such respect. You will forever be cast into the shadow of your sister.

Luna blinked. Who…? she thought.

You can have it all, my princess. You can take what should be yours, the voice whispered again. For too long you have sat in the darkness. Your patience has held you back, your attempts to win their hearts have failed, and your affection for your keeper of a sister? Well… misplaced at best.

Luna felt the creeping hand of darkness slowly gripping her mind. Stop! she cried out in her mind. Don’t listen!

The time has come to take what is yours by force! If they will not love you, then you shall teach them to fear you instead! the voice now screamed in her mind.

Luna pushed her hooves against the sides of her head and shut her eyes tightly. No, please! she thought, tears streaming down her cheeks. I don’t want that! I don’t want it! She slowly opened her eyes, her pupils now slitted and her irises glowing. She lifted her face toward Discord and glared at him.

Discord, she thought, rising to her hooves and taking a step towards him. We should have killed you back then. Sealing you away was too merciful for all the pain and suffering you caused! After tonight, you’ll be nothing but a statue!

“Luna, look!” Discord shouted, pointing toward the shore and turning to look at her. “There, on the beach!”

Luna’s eyes snapped back to normal. She blinked her eyes shut and put a hoof against her forehead. What… was I thinking? What was that voice?

Discord waved his claw in the air. “You okay, there?” he asked and held two of his talons up. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Two,” she said, and pushed his hand down as she walked past him to see what he had been shouting about.

Discord pulled his hand back up and the two fingers he’d been holding up split outward. “No, thirty-seven! Anyway, get your sight cleared and look over there!”

Luna slammed her hooves against the railing. Across the water and on the beach, she saw a small pony washed up on the shore, the sand around her visibly red with blood even in the moonlight. Luna didn’t speak a single word. Her horn exploded with magic and she teleported to shore. A second later, Discord joined her with a flash. Luna now recognized the small pony as Apple Bloom. Her head was cut open and she was unconscious, though breathing shallowly.

Luna turned her horn downward and began to cast a healing spell on the filly. “I have to stabilize her as quickly as I can. She’s fading!” Luna said, trying to remain calm. The cut on Apple Bloom’s head slowly closed and the blood began to fade from her fur.

Discord tapped Luna on the shoulder. Luna shrugged his touch away and continued to concentrate on the injured foal. “Not now, please,” she said.

“We’re not alone,” Discord said plainly. “I’m not sure what it is, but it’s kind of creepy. It’s looking at you… I think?”

Luna glanced up briefly. Standing several yards away, at the edge of a rocky outcropping, was a pale white pony with a flowing mane that seemed to glow in the moonlight. It had no face or visible features. It just stood quietly, its nose pointed towards her.

Shivers shot down Luna’s spine. “Well, keep an eye on it. Can you get all three of us back to the ship if we need to go?” she asked.

Discord nodded his head, staring at the faceless creature. A dark line began to form horizontally across the creature’s face just above its snout. The line soon spread all the way from one side of its head to the other. “Um, something is happening. I don’t know what, but…”

“I’m almost done,” Luna said as Apple Bloom’s breathing was becoming more regular. “Just a bit longer.”

The line across the creature’s face began to split open and the two halves of its head began to separate, revealing rows of jagged, pearly white teeth within. From the back of the newly revealed cavity, two red eyes burned brightly.

“I think it wants to say hi,” Discord said. He snapped his fingers and the three of them flashed back to the ship, landing gently against the deck. Luna regained her composure and gazed out at the creature on the shore. Its bright red eyes stared back at her, accompanied by a loud hiss.

Luna forced herself to look away from it and began casting her spell on Apple Bloom again. The ghostly pony eventually faded from sight as the ship sailed northward.

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