• 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 7 - Awakenings

Book Four: Corruption

Chapter Seven - Awakenings

What happened?

Hey, I think she’s awake!

Does that mean it worked?

How am I supposed to know? You’re the smart one.

Yeah, but I have more important things on my mind.

I have a headache on my mind…

More important things? Like what? What could possibly--

You know, like what to call her! We have to come up with a cool name like we all have!

My name isn’t cool.

Sure it is!

Is that the other Pinkies? What are you talking about? Names?

They named me Cutie Pie.

See? That’s so great! It’s adorable!

It sucks.

Yeah, it kinda does.

Oh, great, so you two are against me?

Guys, I think I hear something moving. It’s dark and there’s a bunch of heavy stuff laying on me…

Look, I’ll just put it out there: Since she’s in Luna’s dream, I thought we should call her Moon Pie! You know, like that one cookie thing with the creamy filling?

Mmmm… Creamy filling…

See? You do like it!

It does sound delectable.

Guys I hear some sort of hissing, and my body aches all over.

Oh! Right! Sorry, Moon Pie!

You’re really gonna call me that?

Yep!

Girls, I just want to point out that if this conversation were written down, it would be utterly confusing to read.

Heck, even just listening to it! I mean, we all sound pretty much the same.

I don’t sound like you two.

That’s because you got all angsty ever since Fluttershy left your dream world!

Seriously, you three… I’m gonna try and get out of here and look around.

Pinkie, now dubbed Moon Pie, pushed up against the solid object that was holding her down, but it didn’t even so much as shift. I think I’m stuck. What do I do? I don’t want to be trapped in here forever!

Use your magic, silly!

Oh yeah… duh! Moon Pie thought. She concentrated her magic on her horn and then tried to levitate the object off of her. A mountain of debris shot up into the sky like a rocket, quickly leaving sight. Pinkie shook her head and rose up to her hooves. As she dusted herself off, she looked around. The scene was like something you’d see at the site of a demolition. Pieces of buildings lay in ruins around her, an entire city block completely leveled and on fire. She slowly made her way out of the pile of rubble she had been trapped under and onto what looked like it used to be a paved road. She slowly turned, taking in the sheer destruction. Did… I do this?

She walked down the road, her head swiveling back and forth. She eventually came to the edge of the blast area and into untouched city. Las Pegasus was a city that boasted the best of both earth pony and pegasus structural innovation. The streets were solid and sturdy, with tall buildings and even skyscrapers reaching into the sky. High above the city were clouds upon which even more pegasus type structures sat, similar to what would be seen in Cloudsdale. She glanced around for signs of life, but none were to be seen. This whole city is abandoned. No sign of anypony anywhere, she thought.

That’s a good thing, Pinkie Twi’s voice said in her mind. Nopony was hurt by that explosion of yours. I gotta admit, I wasn’t sure if you’d be able to handle having the power of two alicorns inside you, even if it’s only partial. It’s still stronger magic than most unicorns would be able to deal with!

Moon Pie nodded her head. It’s a little creepy, though, and sort of lonely. What do you think happened to everypony?

If I had to guess, I’d say that Nightmare Moon or Princess Luna made them all disappear, Pinkie Twi said. Think about it. If there’s the chance that anypony could become a changeling, it’d be better to eliminate the risk.

Makes sense. I guess things are easier because of that, in a way, Moon Pie thought, lifting her eyes skyward. I think I’ll fly up to the top of one of the tall buildings and have a look around. Maybe I’ll be able to spot one of our friends… I hope.

Moon Pie swung her wings downward, propelling herself into the air. She headed straight for a particularly tall skyscraper roughly one block away. As she was approaching the structure, movement caught her eye through a window halfway up the building.

I saw something! Or somepony! she said. I couldn’t tell who or what, though, it was kind of dark.

Dark? Be careful, what if it’s Nightmare Moon? Pinkie Shy asked nervously.

Moon Pie reached up and tapped her forehead. Shoot, it’s weird having all your thoughts floating around. I just realized I could really use a colorscope right about now.

Pinkie landed on a ledge outside the window where she’d seen the movement coming from. Glancing inside, she saw a small office with a hallway leading into the center of the building. The window slid open easily and she nervously stepped inside. She looked all around the room, but didn’t see any sign of what had moved before. Nervously, she cast a light spell at her horn's tip and proceeded into the hallway.

“Hello? Is anypony in here?” The sound of something skittering along the ground came from the end of the hallway. Pinkie proceeded toward a set of double doors and slowly pushed them open. A stairwell leading downward was on the other side. Pinkie nervously pushed up against the railing and looked down between the flights to the ground floor far below. “Hellooooo? Twilight? Fluttershy? Princess?” Her voice echoed against the dark walls of the stairwell, the glow of her horn the only light.

There’s that sound, again, she thought as a hiss came from far below, along with more skittering and the stomping of hooves. Somepony’s down there, and they don’t wanna respond. I’d better be careful.

After several very quiet minutes, Pinkie had made her way to the ground floor without encountering anypony else. She pushed the doors open and found herself in a large lobby area. Light from the moon bled in through the windows at the front of the large room, and Pinkie spotted movement just outside them. She ran toward the glass doors that led to the streets and pushed them open.

“Aha! Found you!” she announced and she slid onto the pavement outside. Her expression quickly soured and a slightly wavering crowd of shadowy ponies seemed to stare back at her, or would if they had any facial features. She backed up toward the doors, pulled them open and chuckled lightly, one hoof behind her head. “Nevermind. Wrong door!” She slammed the door shut and leaned against it, her body starting to shake.

What in the name of pink are those things?

Pinkie Twi’s voice responded in her mind. They’re shades! Hang on, let me find the book that has the info! Ever since Fluttershy said she saw a Cat Sidhe in her dream, I’ve been studying up on mythical creatures since we might encounter them in these dreams!

The shades pressed violently up against the windows and door, banging furiously and hissing as Pinkie pushed back with all her might. Well hurry up and find it! They’re gonna break in any second now!

Run! Pinkie Shy’s voice cried out. Get up a story and jump for it! You can fly, remember?

Moon Pie leapt away from the door and ran toward the stairwell. A swarm of black creatures poured into the room behind her. She bolted as fast as she could and grabbed the door handles, but they didn’t open. “It’s stuck!” she screamed.

Blow it open! Pinkie Twi shouted back. I found the Monstrous Manual, I just have to find the right page!

Pinkie let a beam of magic fly from her horn. The door and most of the wall it was attached to shattered to tiny bits. A massive tunnel was left in the wake of the blast, and the lower flight of stairs had been destroyed as well. “Shoot! I can’t control this magic yet!” she yelled. A hissing sound came from behind her. She turned her head and saw a wall of spear-like tongues flying toward her. She ran through the hole she’d made and leapt into the air, flapping her wings and grabbing ahold of the banister on the second flight of stairs. The tentacles flew past just beneath her as she pulled herself up to the second floor and burst through the door into a hallway. The sound of the shades slamming into one another from the stairwell behind her filled her ears and echoed through the hall. She ran as fast as she could toward a window at the opposite end. With a blast of magic, she blew out not only the window but the entire wall it was attached to. She leapt through, glass and debris flying into the air alongside her. She beat her wings downward powerfully and took to the sky. Looking down, she saw the streets beneath her crawling in black, pulsating shadows. The whole city seemed to be hissing angrily as the all turned their heads up to her and began to fire their tentacles into the air.

“There must be hundreds of them! Maybe thousands!” Pinkie shouted.

Be careful! Pinkie Twi responded. These things have a hive mind! They learn and adapt, maybe even over a long distance. If anypony has fought them with a certain type of magic before, it might not work on them!

How can I tell, though? Moon Pie thought.

I dunno! Trial and error, I guess? Try blasting one of ‘em!

A beam of purple magic shot out from one of the shade’s mouths right at Pinkie. She dodged as quickly as she could, the magic grazing her slightly. “Okay, something tells me they’ve fought Twilight before! That felt like her magic!”

You can try to overpower them! Pinkie Twi shouted back. Give them the biggest blast you can muster, right into the middle of the crowd! Let’s hope the power of two alicorns is too much for them to handle!

What if our friends are down there? I can’t!

The sound of a giant magic beam came from below. Pinkie looked toward the sound and saw the magical blast cutting straight across a skyscraper just ahead of her. The whole building began to fall down toward her. She shot through the air to the side, barely escaping the structure’s collapse. It hit the street with an ear-shattering crash right on top of a huge group of shades. Mere seconds later, the shades that had been smashed pushed up through the rubble and began to lose their pony forms, merging together like puddles of dark water floating in the air. Immense magical pressure began to push outward from the congealing mass of shadow. It nearly pushed Pinkie out of the air. She flapped her wings as hard as she could just to retain her balance.

“Guess there’s no time to think! I’ll just have to be careful!” Pinkie said, stiffening her lower lip. She flew through the air toward the shadows, her horn glowing with swirling purple and pink.

At the city limits, Discord soared through the sky like an arrow with Luna just behind him, Apple Bloom clinging for her life to the princess’ back. Discord spotted the plummeting skyscraper ahead of him and narrowed his eyes. A second later, the wave of magic swept through, nearly dropping the three of them to the ground. Movement caught the corner of his eye and he turned to look, spotting a massive number of shades flying through the air toward the apparent scene of battle a few miles ahead.

Discord gasped for breath and shook his head. Well hurry up and decide! he thought, communicating telepathically with Celestia. But for what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s much hope over here. Las Pegasus is absolutely overrun by those creatures and more are swarming in from the east! This doesn’t look good!

“Discord! Watch out!” Luna called out from behind. She and Discord both dove downward between a pair of tall buildings, narrowly avoiding a sweeping beam of dark purple magic. Luna’s eyes went wide. Apple Bloom held on for dear life, her body shaking. “That power was similar to my own! There’s only two ponies here that can do that! Let’s hope that’s Pinkie Pie up ahead and not Nightmare Moon!”

Discord nodded his head and continued to push forward as fast as he could. He started to teleport mid-flight to speed his approach even more. Luna followed suit, and Apple Bloom felt her stomach starting to bottom out.

As they approached, a massive shade came into view. It was as tall as a skyscraper and flailing a front hoof through the air at a pink blur that flew around it like an insect. Luna squinted her eyes and followed the pink object for a second.

“It’s Pinkie Pie!” She shouted.

Pinkie stopped in mid-air and looked toward Luna and Discord. She flailed her hooves for a second. “Hey guys!” she yelled. A second later, a barrage of magic projectiles sped towards Pinkie. She narrowly dodged the attack. The shade swung a shadowy hoof at her, which missed and then crashed into a building, smashing it to rubble. Pinkie stopped in mid-air again and fired a counter-attack. A massive blast of magic was unleashed from her horn and slammed into the shade’s head, knocking it sideways. It crashed into yet another building, reducing it to crumbling pieces.

Luna levitated Apple Bloom to Discord’s back and then dove toward Pinkie, teleporting halfway and appearing at her side. “What is that thing? It’s like something we saw earlier, but it’s much bigger!”

“It’s a shade! A big one!” Pinkie replied. “So far, nothing has really worked on it very well, and I’m sort of running out of ideas! I don’t think the city can take much more, either!”

“It could definitely use some spicing up!” Discord said. Luna and Pinkie turned their heads and found that he’d appeared next to them. “Let’s see what I can do about that.” He snapped his fingers and the surface of the shade changed from solid black to a constantly moving rainbow of colors. “There, much better!”

“That’s not helping!” Luna shouted. The shade curled forward into a ball and then exploded outward with multi-colored spikes. The three of them scattered to dodge the assault, but Luna was grazed slightly. She tumbled through the air for a moment before regaining control.

Discord snapped his fingers again and all the spikes exploded into flower petals. “Really! How rude!” he shouted. The shade turned its head up toward him and opened it’s mouth, emitting a deep howl that shook the ground and air alike. A beam of purple magic fired from its maw right at the draconequus.

Discord flashed to the left and laughed as the beam shot past him. “No manners, really! I guess I’ll have to—“

“Look out! Behind you!” Luna screamed. Discord turned his head just in time to see the beam of energy, having looped around, closing in on him. He snapped his fingers, but it was too late. The beam crashed against him, engulfing him and Apple Bloom in a flash of magic. The two of them shot toward the ground like rockets, smashing into the street below.

“Discord! Apple Bloom!” Luna and Pinkie screamed as they shot down through the air after them. The dust cleared, revealing the two of them lying unconscious within a ball of yellow magic, which had apparently cushioned their landing.

“Good, quick thinking, Discord!” Luna said.

It wasn’t him, a voice said inside Luna’s mind. She and Pinkie stopped in mid-air and stared down at the forcefield. Apple Bloom’s eyes had opened and were aglow with bright, white magic.

It is time. Apple Bloom's voice said within Luna and Discord’s minds.


Back towards Canterlot…


“We have to get out of sight, somehow!” Celestia shouted back to Scootaloo, who was gripping her neck with all her might. Celestia swooped down and then swung to the right around a massive boulder and underneath a large, fallen tree that was lying across the top of a gorge. She sped along the gorge, close to the ground.

Scootaloo turned her head back and saw Nightmare Moon diving after them. “She’s still getting closer!”

“We’ll have to hope that we can lose her just ahead! There’s a series of caverns! Hold on!” Celestia turned upward, flying vertically along the steep cliffs of a tall mountain. She spotted the gaping mouth of the caverns just above, and dove into them. The main cavern they arrived in was huge, with many dark tunnel openings in the walls. Celestia picked one and flew into it just as Nightmare Moon entered the cavern and landed, skidding to a stop.

The dark mare swung her head around, looking at all of the possible paths, and smiled. “This is so much fun, sister! Do you honestly think that you can hide from me in my own dream?” she shouted, her voice echoing off the damp cavern walls. “Should I count to ten? No, you’ve had plenty of time! Ready or not, here I come!”

Deep down the tunnel, Celestia heard Nightmare Moon shouting. Scootaloo’s body shook upon her back. The princess lit up the tip of her horn faintly and turned her head back toward the filly. She placed a hoof over her lips and Scootaloo nodded her head, her eyes darting back and forth along the cave.

Once the echoes of Nightmare Moon’s voice died down, the sound of hissing came from all around, reverberating throughout the caverns. Celestia cringed. That’s the same sound we heard in Cloudsdale. It must be those creatures.

Nightmare Moon’s voice shot out once again. “It sounds like I’ve awoken some of my little pets, sister! If I don’t find you, I’m sure they will.”

“Pets?” Scootaloo whispered. Celestia shook her head and put a hoof against her lips again. She stepped along the tunnel as quietly as she could, taking a branch that went off to the right.

So she created those things. I should have known. This place just became dangerous. We have to get out of here and get over to Las Pegasus.

The tunnel exited to a larger chamber. Celestia stared in horror across the rocky domed interior. A massive group of black, faceless shadow ponies stood before her. Scootaloo jumped slightly and let out a gasp. The noise rippled out across the space, and all of the dark ponies’ heads turned toward the two of them.

Celestia frowned and leapt into the air, spreading her wings and flying above the shades. Their mouths shot open with a loud hiss, their red eyes locking onto the flying alicorn. Their tongues fired into the air, and Celestia took evasive maneuvers. She twisted through the air, surrounding Scootaloo with a levitation spell and pressing her firmly against her back.

At this point, it was all too much for Scootaloo to take. The tension in her body overcame her and she screamed at the top of her lungs.

The scream reached Nightmare Moon’s ears, and she grinned and charged down the tunnel she was in, hooking to the right. She laughed loudly as her hooves pounded against the rocky ground. “I’m coming to find you, sister!”

A second later, a scream from Celestia echoed across the caverns and tunnels.

The princess felt one of the sharp tentacles stab into her side. Having been in mid-spin, the tentacle wound around her lower body and she felt herself losing control. Two more of the spear-like tongues plunged into her chest and abdomen. With the last of her strength, she raised Scootaloo into the air and shouted to her. “Get out of here! The tunnel just ahead should take you out! Now go!”

Scootaloo felt herself launch through the air at high speed. She instinctually spread her wings to little effect. As she spun through the air, she saw Princess Celestia’s body falling toward the ground, gaping mouths full of teeth awaiting her and a spray of blood glistening in the air from Celestia’s light spell.

“Princess!” Scootaloo screamed, and then slammed into the ground. She found herself facing a tunnel, just as the princess had said, with just the faintest trace of moonlight shining in from the distance. She turned her head back and saw Celestia hit the ground as well, the shades diving toward her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nightmare Moon leaping out of the tunnel that they had come in from, her horn glowing with purple magic.

The room exploded in yellow light as Celestia let loose with an attack. The force from the spell sent shades flying everywhere. Scootaloo was launched against the wall by the magic, and she felt the wind being knocked out of her. She fell to the ground and grasped her chest.

“Get out of here!” Celestia shouted again, pulling herself up to her hooves and pointing a hoof toward the tunnel. Shadows swirled around the cave as if a tornado had formed inside of it. The pieces of the shades began to collect into a single point, quickly forming into a pair of massive pony shapes.

“Yes! Kill them both!” Nightmare Moon shouted as she dove toward Celestia. One of the giant shades leaned toward Celestia and opened its mouth, growling loudly. To Nightmare Moon’s surprise, the other turned toward her and did the same. She stopped in midair and ducked down to the ground. She glared up at the beast. “Not me! Get her! Her!” She pointed a hoof toward Celestia. The shade responded by raising a hoof and stomping it down towards her. She leapt out of the way, barely evading the attack.

Celestia wrapped one hoof around her chest, gripping it against herself as she strained to stay on her feet. She leapt back toward Scootaloo, evading a stomp from the shade that had growled at her. She saw Nightmare Moon being attacked in the distance, but kept her attention locked onto the beast before her. You’ve lost control of them?

Nightmare Moon fired a beam of magic up at the shade. The creature shrugged the blast off and lunged its head down at her. She leapt out of the way again, sliding across the ground to the side, her eyes glowing.

Celestia saw the shade shrug off the attack and narrowed her eyes. No effect? Let’s try some fire, then. She glanced back toward Scootaloo, who had finally stood back up but was frozen in place with fear. Celestia’s horn lit up with pulsating yellow power. She lobbed a column of fire toward the creature in front of her, and the surface of its body was engulfed in flames. It screeched in pain, its voice deafeningly loud. The princess was wounded badly, but she managed to spread her wings and flap them, diving towards Nightmare Moon, who was diagonal from her now.

“I won’t fight you, and I won’t let you die here!”

“Stay away from me!” Nightmare Moon shouted. The shade she’d been fighting turned its head and opened its mouth, launching its own massive purple beam of magic at her. She dove toward Celestia, but couldn’t avoid the spell. She was knocked backward, the armored boots on her hind legs shattering from the explosive attack. Celestia hit the ground and slid along it, leaving a trail of blood behind her. She came to a stop with Nightmare Moon just out of her reach. Despite that, she lifted a hoof toward the evil mare and coughed.

“Why are you helping me? Get out of here!” Nightmare Moon yelled at her sister.

Celestia smiled. “Why aren’t you trying to kill me? Why tell me to get out of here?” A tear streaked down her cheek. Nightmare Moon stared back at Celestia, eyes shaking. “You’re Luna, and she’s you, and that’s why I can’t possibly fight you. Not like this, not to the death. Let’s fight together, sister!”

The two shades stepped toward the princesses, the ground shaking under their weight and rocks falling from the ceiling.

“Princess!” Scootaloo screamed. She began to run toward the wall they were backed up against.

Nightmare Moon shook her head and bared her teeth. She pushed herself up to her hooves and glared down at Celestia. “Don’t compare me to her! She’s weak! Pathetic!”

Celestia struggled to stand up, another thunderous hoofstep shaking the ground beneath her. “Fine, but at least set us free from danger! Use your lucidity! Banish these creatures, or remove the weight of death from this dream!”

Nightmare Moon shook her head and laughed. “I can’t. Not anymore. My lucidity is gone,” she said, and then pointed a hoof past Celestia at Scootaloo who was charging toward them. “It’s all those fillies’ faults! Ever since they used that weird magic that shot you to the four corners of the land!”

Celestia turned her head and saw the orange pegasus approaching. She reached a hoof out toward her. “Scootaloo, no!” she screamed. The filly slid to a stop in front of her. The shades raised their hooves and lurched forward. Celestia and Nightmare Moon jerked their heads up toward the shades. The two hooves came swinging down, their points of impact covering a huge area of cave floor.

Celestia grabbed Scootaloo and ran back toward the exit. Nightmare Moon dove the other way. The shades adjusted their trajectories and swung their hooves to the side.

“Blast!” Nightmare Moon screeched.

“Just go!” Celestia shouted, throwing Scootaloo toward the tunnel once again.

“No!” Scootaloo shouted in response, and the pendant around her neck erupted in orange light. The magical energy spread outward like a fireball, completely disintegrating the shades as it went, not stopping until the whole cavern was sparkling with orange light.

“What is this?” Nightmare Moon stared at the filly, who was now calmly walking toward her. Scootaloo’s eyes were wide and plain white, her body completely engulfed in swirling magic that was pouring out from her pendant.

“Scootaloo, what are you doing?” Celestia asked, but the pegasus foal just walked right past her, continuing her approach of Nightmare Moon.

“You cast me aside a thousand years ago, but you cannot ever be rid of me,” Scootaloo said, her voice having taken on a distorted sound. “I’ve never given up on you, though. I slept for a millennium, waiting for your return, but our reunion was interrupted.”

“Stay back!” Nightmare Moon said as she backed away from the child, baring her teeth and lighting up her horn. “You foals! What did you do to me?” She fired a blast of magic at Scootaloo, who swung a hoof and batted away the spell as if it were a clod of dirt.

“Scootaloo is sleeping. She’s earned her rest. If it weren’t for those three brave children, all would be lost,” the filly said, getting closer and closer to Nightmare Moon. “Remember, oh lost soul. Remember, now, the depths of your determination.”

The pendant around Scootaloo’s neck burst forth with radiant light, blinding Nightmare Moon and Celestia. They blinked their eyes and suddenly found their bodies floating in the air, looking down at Canterlot as it appeared a thousand years ago, the City of Unicornia.

The sun shone down brightly upon the city, and Celestia and Luna trotted through the streets. Shopkeepers were setting up their store fronts and the scent of fresh baked bread filled the air. Luna turned her head and smiled at her sister.

“It is good to be home again. I must admit, I’ve missed this place,” Luna said.

Celestia nodded and smiled back at her. “Yes, it is wonderful to see the city thriving like this. It is hard to believe it’s been nearly eight years since we defeated Discord. They’ve rebuilt the city wonderfully. You would never know anything had been amiss just looking around.”

A whispering voice could be heard by Celestia and Nightmare Moon as they looked down upon this scene. Luna’s ear twitched in response. Welcome home, Princess of the Night. You are expected.

Luna placed a hoof against her forehead and shut her eyes, stopping. Nightmare Moon gripped the sides of her head at the same time. Celestia glanced at her, her brow furrowed in thought. That voice… what was that? It sounds so familiar, but I can’t place it.

Celestia down below tilted her head. “Does something trouble you?”

Luna shook her head. “Tis nothing. Perhaps I am just not used to being up at this time of day.”

“Well, let’s get to the castle. The sooner this meeting with the mayor is complete, the sooner you’ll be able to rest.” The two of them proceeded to the castle and the scene faded away.

“It’s oddly appropriate that we are seeing a vision of that day. It was the first day we discovered the existence of the changelings, although we didn’t know it was them,” Celestia recalled, looking over at Nightmare Moon, who was staring blankly downward still, her grip on the side of her head having eased up. “The mayor told us of a strange disease that had broken out in Unicornia. Ponies were falling ill, having lost all of their strength, their will to go on having been completely sapped.”

“It is appropriate, but not odd,” Scootaloo’s distorted voice said, though the filly was nowhere to be seen. Her voice seemed to fill the void all around them as it shifted, colors leaking in, and the scene of that night’s moon raising appearing. “With each day spent in Unicornia investigating the strange disease, the darkness took ahold of you, as if you were becoming sick as well. However, as you found out, the disease was not a disease at all.”

“Changelings,” Nightmare Moon said, staring into the abyss.

“You discovered their existence before your sister did, but you did not tell her what you had found,” Scootaloo said as the scene below them changed.

Princess Luna stood atop a building in the middle of the night, staring down at a pair of ponies in an alleyway behind the building. They had, at first, been sharing an intimate moment. Luna had become accustomed to seeing such things, as the night was the time of passions. However, this was different than anything she’d seen before. A magical aura surrounded the two lovers as they kissed. Once they finally pulled apart, the stallion looked as if the color had been pulled right out of him. He was pale and stood with a slight wobble. The mare smiled at him and tapped her hoof against his nose before walking down the alley and into the streets.

Once she was out of sight, Luna leapt down to the alley and approached the stallion.

“Subject! Are you alright?” she asked. The stallion stared blankly at her for a moment and then turned toward a door in the building on the other side of the alley.

“You ignore your princess’ question?” Luna said angrily, and then used a levitation spell to force the unicorn to turn back and face her. “What has that mare done to you?”

“That mare…” the pony said, a huge grin spreading across his face. “Isn’t she wonderful?”

Luna scoffed. “Lovestruck, I see. Very well! Carry on with your night time activities, subject!”

The stallion nodded his head and then went back indoors. Luna looked up the alley to where the mare had disappeared to. “Something’s amiss,” she said aloud. “I must investigate.” She bounded up to the rooftops again and spotted the mare again, now a couple blocks away. Quietly stalking her from above, she saw her come to a park and duck behind a set of tall bushes. A streak of green light came out from behind the bushes, and Luna dove down at them. When she landed, she saw a unicorn stallion standing where the mare should have been. He jumped back in reaction to Luna’s sudden entrance.

“P-P-Princess Luna! You scared me!”

“What art thou doing out at this time of night, subject? Shouldn’t thou be sleeping?”

“Just out for a walk. I couldn’t sleep,” he said, and then gazed up into the sky. Luna eyed him suspiciously.

“Hast thou seen anything suspicious? Didst thou see a gray mare come through here?”

The unicorn shrugged and looked around. “A gray mare? No, I haven’t seen anypony. The park seems to be empty.”

“Yes, as most places are at night,” Luna said, lowering her gaze to the ground. “No matter! Walk with care, sir. Strange happenings are afoot this night.”

The stallion nodded his head and left the park, taking to the streets. Luna walked further into the park, looking around for the mare she’d seen earlier. She couldn’t have gotten far…

As Luna proceeded into the small park, she spotted two ponies sitting upon a park bench, locked in an embrace, their lips pressed firmly together. She squinted to see if she could detect any of the strange magic from before, but the mare on the bench was not the pony she’d seen earlier. She sighed and turned her head away. “Get thyselves a room…” she muttered, and then walked back out of the park the same way she’d come in.

Once having exited, she stopped. “Wait a moment, that stallion told me the park was empty. Perhaps he didn’t want to mention a couple making out, or perhaps…” she said to herself, and then took to the sky, scanning the ground for the stallion she’d spoken to before.

The stallion had met with two other ponies, and the three of them walked together into a small house on the outskirts of town. Luna snuck around and peered into the back window of the house just in time to see a burst of green energy. When it had subsided, the three ponies that stood within were like nothing she’d ever seen before. Their bodies were covered in small holes and indentations, and they had translucent blue wings.

What manner of pony are they? Luna thought, and ducked her head down as one of them turned toward the window. She listened as the three of them spoke.

“Were any of you spotted?”

“Not I.”

“Princess Luna was out and about tonight. She may have been following me, but I gave her the slip.”

“You fool! Were you feeding out in the open?”

“Of… Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous!”

“This is bad. If we’re found out, who knows what they’d do to us?”

“Calm down!”

Silence filled the air for a moment, only to be broken by the sound of one of the ponies within sobbing loudly. “How long must we live like this? What have we become?”

“We just have to be patient until a spell to reverse the change is discovered. Please, crying isn’t going to help anything.”

“I just feel so empty inside. Look at us! Nopony could ever love us. Nopony could ever understand us. I can’t go on!” The sound of glass smashing came from inside, and then pounding hooves and uncontrolled shouting.

“Stop it!”

“I’d sooner die! Unhoof me! It’s my decision! If you won’t let me do it here, I’ll just do it later, by myself!”

A loud smacking sound of a hoof punching against a body could be heard, and then a pony falling to the ground.

“Damned unstable idiot! How did she ever get chosen?”

“Must have been an accident, I swear.”

“I’m sorry…” a pained voice cried out quietly. “I’ll be patient. I promise. Someday… someday we’ll be free of this curse.”

“End your life if you please, but don’t do it here! Now get some sleep!”

Cursed souls in the night, I know not your story, but I swear right now by the light of the moon, I shall somehow find a way to break thy curse! Luna thought.

The scene changed once again to the daytime. Celestia and Luna were once again walking down the streets of Unicornia. However, the atmosphere was less cheerful than the first time. The two of them glanced around suspiciously. Luna eyed each pony they passed, and they reacted with uneasiness.

A group of pegasus schoolchildren crossed the road ahead of the two alicorns, led by their teacher. They all stopped, turned, and bowed towards the princesses. “Good morning, Princess Celestia! Good morning, Princess Luna!” they all said in unison. Their teacher, a pink mare with a white mane, smiled happily as she also bowed toward the royal pair, who stopped and nodded their heads.

“Good morning, children. It’s lovely to see you all. Are you on a school trip?” Celestia asked, her voice full of cheer.

The teacher nodded in response. “That’s right. Can anyone tell the princess where we’re going?” Several hooves rose, but one particularly bouncy child just spoke right up.

“We’re going to see the Sun Shrine!” he nearly shouted.

Celestia grinned and knelt down toward the foal. “You seem really excited about it! I hope you all have a great time.” She patted him on the head.

Another foal raised her hoof in the air and shook it. The teacher nodded toward her and smiled. “Yes, Sky Shear?”

“Is it really hot when you raise the sun, Princess Celestia? Does it hurt?” she asked, her eyes nearly sparkling as she gazed up at the princess.

Celestia laughed and shook her head. “The sun is hot, but it’s also far away. It doesn’t hurt.”

“Do any of you children remember what it was like before the princesses appeared?” the teacher asked with a smile.

The children began to all speak at once. One foal leapt into the air and shouted. “I remember! I was just a baby, but it was scary! It would get dark all a sudden.”

“That sounds so scary!” another little girl responded with a squeak. “Why does night time have to be so dark?” All the children seemed to suddenly gaze up at Princess Luna.

Luna stepped back slightly. “Children, maybe someday when you’re older, you’ll understand that the night—“

“I’m scared of the dark, too,” another child interrupted.

“Yeah, it’s so annoying!” a third child chimed in.

Luna stepped forward again and lowered her head toward the children, her eyes open widely. “VERY WELL, THEN! IF YOU CHILDREN ARE SO SCARED OF THE NIGHT, PERHAPS WE SHALL NOT LOWER THE MOON ONE MORNING AND SEE HOW YOU SQUIRM WHEN YOUR PRECIOUS DAYTIME NEVER COMES!”

“Luna!” Celestia shouted, grabbing her sister and pulling her away from the children, who were now all cowering in fear.

The teacher, who had fallen to the ground as well, stood up and waved the children along. “Now, now, Children, let’s get back to our trip. The princesses have important things to do.”

The procession of foals rose and walked away in a hurry.

Celestia glared at Luna. “Sister! I am shocked! What were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry, I do not know what came over me. I just…” Luna replied, gazing at the children as they walked away. “I must be tired. That has to be it. I haven’t felt like myself lately. I’m sorry.”

Celestia sighed and the two of them continued to walk. “Did you find out anything during the night last night?”

I can’t tell her yet, Luna thought to herself. Not until I am sure of what I saw last night.

Luna shook her head slowly. “Nothing of note as of yet.”

Scootaloo’s voice filled the void again as the scene changed, showing the moon rising into the sky. “Princess Luna tried desperately that night to create something beautiful. A night sky in perfect glory, the moon shining down from above, and the stars twinkling gently.”

Scootaloo suddenly appeared in front of Nightmare Moon and aimed her blank, white eyes at her. “Back then, you never let the fact that your sister’s sun shone more brightly stop you. Every night, you would go out on a mission. Each dusk more glorious than the last, each night carrying something special you’d created just for your subjects, and yet…”

The scene below showed Princess Luna landing upon a balcony above the city. She looked down upon the streets, and the sight of lights going out in windows, darkening them. The sounds of doors shutting and locking filled the air. She hung her head in sadness, no sign of anypony outdoors looking at her creation in the sky. The mysterious voice came again, louder than before.

Why do you even try, night goddess? They have never loved you, and they never shall.

“It’s hopeless,” Luna said quietly.

But hope it not lost! The voice replied. Your energy is far better spent in other ways than this. You need not press forward! Don’t you see? This is an opportunity!

Celestia frowned and strained to think. That voice! Where have I heard it before?

Cast aside your patience! Your determination! There is only one goal you need to be focused on, and that is overcoming the source of your problem! The sun must never rise again! Not until everypony recognizes your glory and might!

Princess Luna fell to a sitting position and her eyes dimmed. A small bead of white light exited her body from her chest, and a swirling shadow formed in its place. The shadow vanished within her, and the bead of light shot off into the sky.

Princess Luna’s voice filled the air all around Celestia and Nightmare Moon. Something is washing over me, I know not what. Like a piece of my soul has been pushed away, and where it once was is now empty.

“That was me,” Scootaloo said, appearing once again and hanging her head. “You rejected me and forced me out. In my final moment as a part of you, I heard your voice—your real voice—calling out to me through the darkness. You implored me to fly away and hide, only to return when your soul could be saved.”

“I don’t remember…” Nightmare Moon said quietly, shaking her head, her hooves still pressed to her temples. “I… can’t remember!” She closed her eyes and groaned with pain.

Scootaloo nodded. “Of course you wouldn’t remember. Neither would your other half. By design, our existence had to remain secret. So, hide I did. I disguised myself in the night sky as a star. When you were sealed away into the moon by your sister, the time was clear. The thousandth Summer Sun Celebration would be our time to return, to save you from the darkness that had claimed you, and yet… even that was not meant to be.”

A scene appeared before them showing Nightmare Moon’s return in Ponyville. The Cutie Mark Crusaders sat together, cowering in a corner as the six eventual bearers of the Elements of Harmony stood before the dark mare.

“We had been reborn within these three foals, chosen them as our final hiding place. We were in the right place at the right time, and yet we could not escape from their bodies.” She pressed a hoof against her chest and looked up at Celestia. “The presence of the Element Bearers, along with the fact that you were still alive somehow, caused us to fall dormant.”

Celestia sighed and shook her head. I was foolish and untrusting, yet again.

The scene changed, showing the six Elements being used against Nightmare Moon in the ancient castle. Scootaloo floated in the air above the scene and waved her hoof, causing it to freeze as the rainbows surrounded their target.

“The mysterious magic of the Elements of Harmony saved Princess Luna, but the method by which they did so was imperfect. Imagine that her soul had empty places, holes if you like. The magic of the Elements filled these hollow spaces, returning to the princess what she had been missing, but it could never truly be a perfect fit. Along with the magic of the Elements, the darkness still remained, fighting within her for dominance. The only way to truly finish this is to cast out the darkness and return us, the Shards of Luna, to their rightful places.”

“I…” Nightmare Moon growled and pushed herself to her hooves. “I WON’T LET YOU!” She lunged at Scootaloo, who raised her hoof and pushed back against the evil pony, a forcefield forming around her and Celestia.

“Princess Celestia!” Scootaloo shouted as she resisted Nightmare Moon’s advance. “You must go! You must reunite these three foals and end this thousand-year battle!” The void that had surrounded them vanished and Celestia found herself standing outside on a mountain top. Scootaloo and Nightmare Moon still stood before her, magic clashing between them. With a deafening shout, Scootaloo pressed forward, a beam of white energy blasting Nightmare Moon and knocking her back. She hit the ground and slid to a stop, lying unconscious.

Scootaloo turned to Celestia, who still had a look of shock on her face. “She will not be asleep for long! Take this foal and go!” she shouted. Her eyes closed and she fell to the ground, appearing to also fall asleep.

Celestia nodded her head, scooped the filly up with a levitation spell, and took off to the west toward Las Pegasus.


Fluttershy raised her previously injured hind leg into the air and swung it in a circular motion a couple of times. There was no pain or stiffness, no sign that it had been so badly injured before. “Thank you, Sweetie Belle, It’s much better, now. I’ll be able to walk again just fine.” She patted the filly on the head, and got a smile and a nod in return.

Sweetie Belle tapped a hoof against the pendant hanging over her chest. “It’s all thanks to this thing. I’d never even used magic before, so it’s kind of strange to think a necklace could make such a big difference.”

“Magic artifacts like that exist, though they’re exceedingly rare. I don’t know if it’s just blind luck, or that we’re inside these dreams, but the fact that all three of you young ones received such powerful accessories is one heck of an occurrence; an unthinkable coincidence.” Mulcibar said as he rose to his hooves and dusted himself off. He stretched his glimmering blue wings out briefly, their full radiance adding a colorful sheen to the flickering glow of the campfire. When extended fully, with all folds straightened out, his wings were quite a sight to behold. Gentle curves encompassed most of their edges, with contrasting sharp points in places. Most of their surface was a deep gray, almost black. The equally deep blue circles that peppered them were almost mesmerizing to look at, and quite a contrast to his plain gray coat and mane.

Fluttershy found herself staring at him, his shape burning itself into her eyes. The alien-seeming holes that were spread evenly along his legs and body had used to be disturbing and frightening to her, but now they were just another feature that came together to make up the whole that was him. As he pushed his forelegs forward and extended his back in a stretch, Fluttershy caught herself and blinked, shaking her head. “So, where are we? Where should we go, now?” she asked, turning her head to look toward the cave entrance.

“It’s hard to say,” Mulcibar responded, striding past Fluttershy and up to the cave’s mouth. “I think it’s safe to say that the sun is never going to rise. We’ll need to get a higher vantage point and look around. If you listen closely out there, you can hear the distant sound of rushing water. I think we’re near a river, probably a sizable waterfall as well. Rather than having one of us scout it out, we should all stick together and go as a group. We’ll be safer that way.”

Sweetie Belle frowned and turned her face away from Mulcibar. Fluttershy looked down at the filly and noticed the look of displeasure. She could feel the tension in the air growing just from seeing her reaction, and she scraped her front right hoof against the ground slightly. “Yeah, you know, because we’ll all be safer if we stick together. Safety in numbers, they say…”

Sweetie Belle was apparently in no mood for beating around the bush. She pointed a hoof straight towards Mulcibar and glared up at Fluttershy. “What makes you feel safe around him, exactly? He’s one of the changelings who came in here to stop us! I healed him because he saved me, but now we’re even!”

“Sweetie, I don’t think we should—“ Fluttershy started, but was cut off by Mulcibar approaching and putting a hoof against her chest.

Mulcibar leaned down toward the small unicorn, locking his eyes to hers. Sweetie furrowed her brow and puffed out her cheeks. “I’m not scared of you!” she said, her legs shaking slightly.

“You should be,” Mulcibar responded, cracking a toothy grin. “I could crush you like a grape under hoof, use my illusion magic to make you live out all your worst nightmares in vivid detail. You’d be begging for it to end before I was done.”

Sweetie Belle shrunk down, unable to maintain her tough face, her legs giving out slightly as his words echoed in her ears. Fluttershy stepped forward and grabbed Mulcibar’s shoulder, her face having gone from calm to angry. Mulcibar swatted Fluttershy’s hoof away and continued to stare down at Sweetie Belle.

“I could do all of that and so much more. You know the kind of monster you’ve checked for in your closet and under your bed before going to sleep? I’m nothing like that because you’d never know I was there. I could look like anypony. Your father, your mother, a friend from school… any of them could have been me at any time, and you never would have been the wiser. No, I’m much worse than any monster you’ve ever imagined. You are wise to fear me, to distrust me, to want to get away from me. I’m a deceiver, a liar, a killer, all of that.” Mulcibar pulled away from Sweetie Belle as he finished speaking, rising up to his full height, and then smiling down at her, his eyes relaxing and his expression softening. He reached his hoof down to her and nodded. “Now imagine having that monster as your ally. Right now, trapped in this world, Nightmare Moon hunting us down and death itself seeking to claim us all, I am exactly the kind of monster you want by your side.”

Sweetie Belle stared up at Mulcibar silently. Fluttershy stepped forward and shook her head, her mouth still curved downward. “I don’t think you’re helping,” she said.

Sweetie Belle sighed. “Alright, fine, I can tell when I’m outvoted. Just for your information, though, Mr. Monster, I meant it when I said you don’t scare me!”

Mulcibar grinned.

“But I’m gonna be keeping my eye on you. One wrong move and I’ll blast you with my pendant, okay?” Sweetie Belle finished, tapping against the necklace.

Mulcibar rolled his eyes. “Sure thing, kid. Seems fair. I’ll take point, then.” He walked out from the cave and waved his hoof forward. Fluttershy picked up Sweetie Belle, put her on her back, and followed after him into the forest.

Fluttershy plodded along, Sweetie Belle riding on her back and Mulcibar walking a few paces ahead of them. The woods were deathly silent, not even the sound of crickets breaking through the still air. Sweetie Belle stared ahead at the changeling, barely even blinking, a serious expression plastered on her face. Fluttershy could almost feel the pressure from Sweetie’s expression pressing down on her.

Mulcibar turned his head back towards them. His almost glowing blue eyes locked onto Fluttershy’s and the moonlight glinted off the metallic gold lining the edges of his facial features. She averted her gaze downward and back, blushing slightly. What had happened between the two of them earlier had still not completely sunk in.

Mulcibar pointed a hoof in the direction they were walking. “I’ll fly up to the top of that tall tree and get a look around. We’ll be able to get our bearings straight, then.” Fluttershy nodded quietly and Sweetie Belle glanced down at her blushing face, raising an eyebrow.

Mulcibar spread his wings and took to the sky, climbing to the top of the tree and perching on the highest branch he could manage. Gazing southwest, he spotted Canterlot Mountain in the distance. After a moment of looking around, he dove back down to the ground and landed in front of the two waiting ponies. “We’re in the northeast, as I thought. The sound of water is coming from Neighagra Falls.”

Fluttershy blinked. “We were shot that far? Goodness!”

Mulcibar nodded. “Yes. You’re lucky you weren’t injured more badly. The magic those fillies used must have shielded us somehow.” He stared at Sweetie Belle quizzically. “What was that, anyway?”

Sweetie Belle shrank down a bit and put her front hooves against the pendant at her chest. “I don’t know. It was Pinkie Pie’s idea. These pendants are connected to Princess Luna somehow, so maybe they’re extra powerful in this dream world.”

Mulcibar nodded his head, closed his wings, and turned. He continued to walk south, Fluttershy following after him. Silence filled the air again.

Fluttershy finally spoke up, nervously. “It sure is quiet.”

Mulcibar nodded his head. “I like it that way.”

Fluttershy lowered her head and let out a slight squeak in response to his answer. Ahead, she heard him let out a sigh. “Sorry, I’ll be quiet.”

Sweetie Belle scoffed. “You don’t have to be so rude about it!”

“I just so rarely get any quiet time. I don’t know if you noticed, but my sister is a little loud, and she’s basically been stuck to me ever since we were little. I’ve never met my father, and my mother died when Linnai and I were young, so it’s just been the two of us for many years now.”

“How terrible,” Fluttershy responded. Images of Linnai flashed through her mind, most of them involving her shouting or fighting. She cringed slightly. “It must have been… difficult. Did you ever think of going to find your father?”

Mulcibar laughed. “If I ever see his face, I’d probably punch it flat. I’m not angry at him or anything, but if he’d been around, mom may not have been killed. Would’ve made my life a lot easier.”

“Killed?” Fluttershy gulped as Mulcibar’s past became darker and darker as he continued to speak. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear any more.

“What happened?” Sweetie Belle asked. Fluttershy jumped slightly in response, unsure if the subject should be so casually delved into.

“She met the same fate many changelings do. She seduced the wrong stallion. He found out she was a changeling.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “And he killed her because of that? What a thing to do.”

Mulcibar laughed. “I don’t know that it was him for sure, could have been his family or his village. You see, they found out she’d given birth to his child. That child was Linnai, and I think they wanted both mother and child. She left that day and told me to watch after Linnai and then never came back.”

Fluttershy and Sweetie Belle both gasped. “She had his child? Is that even possible?” Fluttershy asked.

Mulcibar nodded. “Of course. When we take the form of another creature, it’s not just an illusion, it’s a transformation. Most females don’t stay pregnant after changing back, though. I suppose mother was different since she had two such foals. Unicorns fathered both me and Linnai. Had you not noticed how we look more like unicorns? That’s the origin of all changeling mages, though most are born from pony mares.”

“It had just never crossed my mind,” she said. “I guess I saw those cocoons, and the butterfly wings, and the carapaces on most of the changelings, and I just assumed it was more like, I don’t know…”

“Insects?” Mulcibar asked with a grin. “It’s true, though. That’s how the drones and other shelled changelings are born, but there are those like the order who are pony-like. There are even griffon changelings, dragon changelings… I suppose it doesn’t matter since we can look however we want, though.”

Sweetie Belle nodded her head and put a hoof against her chin. “I see, I see,” she said with a curious tone. “I still don’t get it, though. Rarity said that a mare gets pregnant when she loves a stallion very much, and if you guys can’t feel love, then how—“

“Okay!” Fluttershy interrupted awkwardly. “I’m sure there’s an explanation, but maybe you should ask Rarity about it when this is all over.” Her cheeks turned bright red.

“But, Fluttershy, I already asked her one time, and she said—“ Sweetie Belle started, but was cut off again, this time by Mulcibar turning around and leaning towards the two of them, a huge grin across his face.

“Do you reeeaaaally want to know?” he asked. Fluttershy ducked to the ground and put her hooves over her face. Sweetie Belle stared back into the changeling’s eyes and swallowed hard, nodding her head.

“Well, you see, sometimes a mare and a stallion…”

“Please, can we just not?” Fluttershy begged quietly.

“When they’re all alone…” Mulcibar continued and Sweetie Belle nodded her head anxiously, her eyes wide, her mouth locked in a smile.

“The stallion will bite the mare! Like a bug! Or a vampire!” he shouted, pushing his face closer to the foal, who fell backwards and off of Fluttershy’s back onto the ground. She stared up at Mulcibar, her mouth trembling.

“B-b-b-b-bite?”

“That’s right! The very next day, the mare will have the baby inside of her, like a parasite! It’ll feed, and feed, and feed, until finally, one day…” he said, approaching the filly again, never averting his eyes from her.

“One day?” Sweetie Belle asked nervously, scooting away from the changeling.

“One day…” he repeated, “It’ll BURST OUT OF HER STOMACH!” He lurched his face toward the foal, baring his teeth and roaring.

Sweetie Belle screamed and scuttled across the ground toward Fluttershy, grabbing ahold of one of her back legs and hugging it tightly. “I’m never gonna have a baby! No way!”

Mulcibar fell to the ground, laughing. Beneath her hair and hooves, Fluttershy stifled a giggle, though she hated herself for laughing at such a joke.

The sound of hooves stepping past made her raise her head. Mulcibar was continuing ahead, laughing as he went. Fluttershy quickly scooped up Sweetie Belle and followed after him.

After several yards, though, he stopped and pointed his hoof ahead of them. “There we are! We’re out of the forest. It’s grasslands, now, for a long ways. The mountains off in the distance must be the Foal Mountains, so we should turn right and make our way back toward Canterlot as quickly as we can.”

Fluttershy trotted past him with some exuberance, flapping her wings a little bit. “I’m just so glad to be out of those woods! I usually love forests, but at night they can be sort of scary.” She turned around and looked at Mulcibar, who was staring at her legs, the expression on his face souring. “Something wrong?” she asked, tilting her head down.

The ground beneath her, just below the grass, was a mass of swirling, pulsating shadow, like a shallow swamp, hidden just beneath. Fluttershy jumped and gasped. Sweetie Belle gripped her neck tightly and screamed. The two of them leapt back behind Mulcibar, back to the safer ground of the forest.

Mulcibar shook his head. “Tch! Just when I thought we were in the clear. It’s not like we have a choice, though. We’ll have to tread carefully.” As he finished speaking, the shadowy ground cover began to bubble upward, creating pillar-like shapes throughout the field, even way into the distance. “I don’t like this…” he said.

“What do we do, then?” Fluttershy asked.

“We fly. We fly over it as fast as we can and hope they can’t catch us mid-air,” Mulcibar replied. “Do try to keep up!” He launched himself into the air, his wings unfolding in a split second and his elevation rising rapidly.

Fluttershy looked over her shoulder. “Hang on, Sweetie.” The foal nodded her head and they took off as fast as the yellow mare’s wings could manage. Much to her surprise, she caught up to Mulcibar, and the two of them soared over the grassy field to the southwest, the outline of Canterlot Mountain hanging on the horizon.

The black pillars below began to hiss and hundreds of shadowy spikes shot into the air, as if the field had suddenly turned into a giant field of dark brambles. Mulcibar looked down at the field and swerved to the left, bumping into Fluttershy and pushing her through the air, both of them narrowly avoiding being hit. As they proceeded, the amount of spines flying at them increased, and Fluttershy was falling behind Mulcibar as their speed necessarily decreased with their evasive maneuvers.

A massive, twisted bunch of spikes flew upward at Mulcibar. Fluttershy spotted them first and pushed herself forward as hard as she could, extended her hooves forward and ramming into the changeling. “Look out!” she screamed.

Mulcibar tumbled through the air and flapped his wings to stabilize himself. He looked back at Fluttershy just in time to see her and Sweetie Belle met by the wall of spikes. He reflexively reached his hoof out and shouted. “You idiot!”

A blinding flash of light shot out from the point of impact, accompanied by Fluttershy and Sweetie Belle screaming. Mulcibar pulled his hoof back over his eyes for a moment. When he looked again, the shadows were gone, and all that was left was a glowing pink ball of light. He cautiously approached the magic orb, squinting to see inside of it. Within, Fluttershy lay cowering at the bottom, and Sweetie Belle floated in the center, her eyes wide and glowing along with her horn and the pendant around her neck.

“That pendant again!” Mulcibar said, looking around for any sign of the shadowy attackers, but there were none to be found. “What did you do? How?”

“I can’t let any of you die. You must press on, for the sake of this foal, and for the future,” Sweetie Belle responded, her voice having taken on an even sweeter tone, laced with a magical aura.

Fluttershy opened her eyes and looked up at the filly. “Sweetie Belle! You saved us! Thank goodness.”

“You’re not safe, yet, though,” Sweetie Belle replied. “As long as Nightmare Moon still lives, there can never be true safety. And then there is the issue of your kind.” She turned her gaze directly to Mulcibar, staring into his own wide eyes.

Mulcibar felt a pounding sensation in his head. He reached a hoof and pressed it against his head in response. He found himself unable to look away from Sweetie Belle, and unable to speak.

“Loveless child, you know not your own true purpose. The fact that the two of you were drawn together cannot be a mistake—I know these things, for I am love itself, passion itself,” she continued. “This battle began a thousand years ago in Canterlot, and while you two were not involved in the events of the past, I believe you hold one of the keys to the future.”

“A battle from a thousand years ago? Do you mean the battle against Nightmare Moon?” Fluttershy asked.

Sweetie Belle shook her head. “That was only one part of the larger war. However, that will be your first task.” She looked down at Fluttershy and smiled. “Let me show you. Let me show you both what happened, so that you may know what is at stake.”

Blinding white light burst forth and enveloped everything.

Author's Note:

At long last, here's a new chapter! I am currently on vacation in Florida, and Servant Phoenix is on hiatus. Thanks to Thardoc and Dogman15 for pre-reading this.

I also did my best to do as much editing/proofreading as possible, but if you notice something glaring, by all means let me know.

This chapter went through some big revisions, entire pieces of it getting scrapped. Knowing my luck, I've left in some piece of subplot that makes no sense and I just somehow didn't catch it when reading through it again. So yeah, here's hoping nothing confusing is down below ;P

Til next time...

UPDATE 7/31 - Many small edits, nothing severe. Several severe edits planned, but anyone who has read the chapter already will be fine still.

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