• 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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Intermezzo 3

The Conquering of Love

Chapter Forty-One - Intermezzo 3

Canterlot, Reality, Present Time

Mulcibar? Why would he…?

Vitra backed away from the table in shock, stepping back slowly until her rear end bumped into the wall behind her. She stared wide-eyed into the rift that was open before her, before them all, as Mulcibar and Linnai declared their intentions to disobey the queen.

“You two traitors have just sentenced yourselves to death! Prepare the reset swarm!”

What about them, then? Vitra thought, turning her eyes to Mulcibar and Linnai’s unconscious bodies. A sound coming from the rift drew her attention. She stared through it as Luna shot a beam of magic toward the top of it. As the tear was zipping shut, she caught a glimpse, just the tiniest peek, at Mulcibar as he turned his head and looked at one of the ponies inside the dream world. Vitra’s vision briefly lost focus, and a jolt of pain shot through the front of her mind, a name drifting into her consciousness.

Fluttershy! She stared at Mulcibar’s eyes for that split second before the portal closed. She saw softness there that she’d not seen before. The image of his eyes burned into her mind, along with Fluttershy’s name, as she fell to her haunches, pressing back against the wall. What was that, Mulcibar? Is that what the queen was talking about? Is that what she never thought could happen?

Chrysalis’ voice rang out in Vitra’s memory. Tell me, Vitra, how was it that I could feel your energy? How could you possibly have produced love energy?

“I didn’t. I couldn’t have,” Vitra whispered to herself. With those words, memories of the eyes of the multitudes of ponies she’d deceived to feed upon flashed before her, with Mulcibar’s eyes appearing last. That look in his eyes… that gentle feeling… it must be the same! He’s done it, too!

She stared at his unconscious body, blood still dripping from his mouth from when Chrysalis had smashed his face into the table. But, why? Why did she react so differently? What’s changed?

“Luzon! Come with me! We’ll unleash the swarm in the throne room!” Chrysalis shouted, making her way to the door. She turned her head to the back of the room. “We need to make this quick.” She slammed a hoof into the door, swinging it open and trotting through it with speed. Luzon followed her lead.

Vitra stood up slowly and stepped toward the door as well. A voice called to her from the other side of the table. “Where are you going, Vitra?” She turned her head and looked back.

“Zanzir, sorry, I…” she started, not knowing what she was even going to say, herself.

“It’s a bit much to take in, isn’t it?” the one she’d called Zanzir responded. “Of all the ones to go rogue, why’d it have to be Mulcibar? He was the most reliable. It’s a bad omen.”

“Shut yer trap, Zanzir!” another changeling barked from the back of the room. “Mulci’s never let us down. It’s obviously a trick. Why do ya think the queen’s goin’ through so much trouble ta’ get him back? Must be a reason he ain’t come back yet. Somethin’ he couldn’t say.”

“You’re a little too optimistic, Kamber. Remember who protested the loudest when we were planning this invasion,” Zanzir responded.

Kamber laughed. “Ya never did like ‘im, didja? That’s the real problem ya got, ain’t it?”

“What’d you say!?” Zanzir shouted.

“Boys!” A third, female voice interrupted. “Now’s not the time to get into an argument! Let’s just hope you’re right, Kamber.”

“’Course I’m right.”

Vitra snuck out of the room quietly. “I’ll be back. I need a moment,” she said softly as she left, shutting the door behind her.

Her head was still swirling, and pain was shooting through it continuously. Fluttershy. I know her. I was in her dream. A quiet, demure little thing. I remember something about the forest, and… she thought, and then pressed a hoof against her left eye. I… I lost my eye trying to save her.

Her heart beat heavily, the sound of it shooting up into her ears. She turned her head and saw Princess Cadence hanging on the wall. Slowly, she approached the prisoner, whose head was drooped down. She barely looked conscious.

The nightmare, Vitra recalled having said to Cadence earlier. Everyone dying, a lurking danger in the forest, a constant and terrible heat… The memories are fading. The names of my... friends... falling out of my mind.


That word spun around her head with great force as she reached Cadence and placed a hoof against the princess’ chin. “Friends,” Vitra said out loud, her body starting to shake slightly. “What… are they? Why can’t I stop thinking about that word?”

Rainbow Dash’s face flashed in her memory, followed by Fluttershy again, and then Twilight, Princess Celestia, Pinkie Pie, and lastly Applejack.

“I was Applejack,” she said aloud. Cadence opened one eye and lazily trained it on the changeling. “I was in Fluttershy’s dream playing the role of Applejack. That should have been it, but… the memories are coming back. These feelings I am starting to feel, I don’t understand. Tell me, princess of love… what does it mean to be friends?”

“What do you care?” Cadence uttered weakly. “Leave me alone.”

Vitra fell to the ground and tears started to slowly streak down her cheeks. Cadence’s eye became a bit wider as this happened.

“I don’t know,” Vitra said. “Why else would I be asking?”

Inside the throne room, Chrysalis sat upon the throne with Luzon standing beside her. She turned and looked at him. “Activate it now,” she said, her horn flashing with green magic. Luzon’s horn did the same, and they both shot large beams of energy into the already flowing green stream of magic. As they cast the spell, their magic went from their standard green to a hazy orange. The field of energy did the same until the entire room had a pale, orange glow.

“I’m going back to collecting energy while I can. I’ll be feeling for anything unusual within the stream. Go tell Kamber to rally volunteers to enter dreams. We need a lot, so get to it!”

“At once!” Luzon said and then made his way out of the throne room. As he was about to exit, Chrysalis’ voice called to him again, this time softer and more relaxed.


“Highness?” he asked, turning to look at her. She was staring down at him, her eyes glazed over with white magic.

“If you see Vitra, tell her I’m expecting much from her. She’ll know what I mean.”


Chrysalis smiled. “Yes. Tell her there’s not much time left. Oh, and have her restrain Mulcibar and Linnai’s bodies in a cell. Nopony is to touch them but her, understood?”


“Tell her that once they’re in the cell, it may be a good time to do as I commanded her earlier.”

“My apologies, highness, but if you could tell me more about what you’d commanded her to do, then I could—“

“Don’t worry, Luzon. I would ask you to help if you could. I’m sorry, it’s nothing personal, it’s all about efficiency. We all have things we can and cannot do. This is something that only she can do. I hope you understand.”

“Of course, your highness,” he said, tilting an eyebrow. “I’ll go at once.”

“Stay safe, Luzon. These are dangerous times.”

Luzon left the throne room and made his way down to the lower chamber where he found Vitra crouched next to Cadence. He squinted at her suspiciously. “Vitra! What are you doing?”

Vitra stood up suddenly and wiped her face. She looked down at Cadence and nodded her head. Cadence weakly smiled at the changeling and then closed her eyes again.

“Sorry, sir, I was just taking a moment. I thought she’d passed out again, but I was mistaken.”

“Well, good. You’ve got a special mission from the queen. She said I should tell you she’s expecting much from you.”

Vitra’s eyes went wide. “How much… did she tell you?”

Luzon shook his head. “Not much. She said you are to move Linnai and Mulcibar’s bodies to a holding cell. She also said that once you have them in that cell, you should carry out the command she gave you earlier.”

“Command?” Vitra asked. Her mind flashed with another memory.

“I can’t… possibly explain it, your majesty,” Vitra said, her voice shaking.

“Ah, but I expect you to, eventually,” Chrysalis said, her burning white eyes locked onto Vitra. “But you must tell no one of what happened in that dream, nor of this conversation. Continue with the plan, and whenever you can, try to remember how you may have accomplished this freak feat. I expect great things, and I expect you to tell no one, particularly not Luzon or any others in The Order.”

Vitra placed a hoof to her chin. Of course, she means that. To find out how I managed to feel love. How do I do that?

Mulcibar’s eyes from just before the rift closed appeared in her mind once more. That’s it. That’s it, isn’t it, you majesty? I have to… I have to go in and confront Mulcibar before the reset happens!

“Get a move on, Vitra! Queen’s orders!” Luzon shouted. “You’re zoning out! Keep your head together, this isn’t a game!”

Vitra jumped and ran back to the room where Luna’s cocoon was, shouting “Yes sir!” as she went.

Luzon eyed Cadence. “What was she talking to you about, prisoner?”

Cadence opened one eye and glanced up at Luzon. “Foolishness,” she said.

Luzon scoffed and walked away, back into The Order’s chamber.

Cloudsdale, Reality, Approximately Half An Hour Ago.

“Hooo, what a pain in the ass.”

Flickering candlelight scarcely lit a dim room, dropping long shadows across everything. A pegasus wearing a cloak reached up to the ceiling, wrapping one of his forehooves around a spear’s handle. With a quick pull, he yanked the spearhead out of the ceiling and it came tumbling down to the ground along with the body that was speared onto the end of it.

The pegasus twisted the spear slightly and pushed a hoof down against the dark chest of the pony-like body that had just dropped to the floor. A puff of air shot across the room from the sudden movement, causing the candle to flare up, revealing the wide-eyed expression of a changeling that was staring up at the pegasus.

“Where’d all of you scary fellas come from, eh?” the pegasus asked, his tone of voice calm and somewhat whimsical.

The changeling hissed in return and spat a colorful mixture of saliva and blood up at the pony, who tilted his head to the side and let the liquid fly right past him.

“Not that talkative, are ya?” the pegasus asked, glancing down at the changeling’s chest cavity where the spear was impaled into. “Did I poke yer lungs? That’s not going to do if I want to interrogate ya. No good, no good.” He pulled the spear up out of the changeling’s chest, causing it to writhe in pain.

“Admiral!” a female voice came from the next room over. “Are you okay in there?” A mare entered and stepped toward the candle. She had a gray mantle draped over herself. Her medium-length blonde mane hung sloppily down over her face, which was splattered with blood.

The pony with the spear glanced over at her. “Eh? Who’s that?”

The mare closed her eyes and tightened her jaw in frustration. “Nimblewing,” she finally said from between her tightly clenched teeth. “Major Nimblewing.”

“Oh! Major! How have you been? It’s been a while!”

“It’s been two minutes!”

“Really? Time flies, I tell ya. No good, no good.”

“I swear, admiral, if you don’t get your act together…” she started, and then was interrupted.

“Major, have you seen? We’re being invaded by these bug-like things!” he said, turning back to the changeling, which had gotten back to its hooves and was lunging its head toward him. He dodged to the side and drove his spear into its chest from the side.

“Changelings! We already established that!”

The stallion turned toward her and slapped his hoof over his eyes. “I know. I know. Sweet Celestia, how many times do I have to tell you that? No good, no good.”

The stallion stared at the mare for a moment and then squinted. “These changelings could look like any of us. They could even be disguised as you. They could even be disguised as me.”

“I doubt they’d be able to pull off your stupidity,” the major mumbled.

“What was that? Changeling scum!” the admiral shouted and leapt through the air. His face was quickly met by the raised hoof of the major, which slammed into his jaw and knocked him to the ground. He shook his head briefly and then stood back up, dusting himself off.

“Now’s not the time for jokes, admiral,” the major said in monotone.

“Sorry, sorry,” the admiral responded. Now that he was standing closer to the candle, his features were visible. His pale, blue eyes glowed by the flickering light of the flame, which cast shadows across his angular facial features. His snow-white mane was cut neatly and short above his head, and his coat was a plain gray. He looked back at the major. “I suppose we should get out of here and make sure the rest of the team has the situation under control. We need to take as many prisoners as we can. I’ve got a bad feeling about all of this.”

The major nodded her head. “Right.” The admiral retrieved his spear from the now unmoving changeling’s body and the two of them marched out the door and down a hallway made of cloud.

What in Tartarus is going on around here? It had just seemed like another night like any other… until Nimblewing approached me half an hour ago. There was something odd about how she was acting.

30 minutes prior...

“Ah, major, nice night we’re having,” the admiral said, greeting Major Nimblewing as she joined him on a high cloud. He rubbed a hoof against the back of his head and gazed back out across the land towards Canterlot. The brightly shining shield spell had been taken down from the city. “Is it just me, or was there supposed to be a shield over Canterlot?”

“I guess the threat wasn’t a big deal after all,” the major responded. He shot a glance up at her and squinted slightly.

“I suppose. I can’t help but be worried, though. You’d said just a few hours ago that you had a bad feeling about it.”

“Oh, you give me too much credit, sir. It’s not like I can predict the future.”

“True. I suppose nopony can. I can barely keep track of the past.”

“Don’t be so down on yourself. I have an idea… how long has it been since we’ve been over our defenses? Perhaps the threat didn’t just apply to Canterlot. It couldn’t hurt to make sure everything is in order.”

The admiral flashed another suspicious glance at Nimblewing and then stood up. Something’s wrong, he thought. She doesn’t seem like herself, and why would she be worried about the defenses? Nopony is more on top of that stuff than her.

“Sure, that’s not a bad idea. Come with me,” he said, and led the way down from the cloud hill he’d been perched upon, into the streets on the east side of Cloudsdale. They eventually made their way to a house. He pointed toward the door. “After you, major,” he said, and then furrowed his brow further, thinking to himself. She’ll call me out on this. This is my house, not the headquarters.

The major walked up the stairs and reached her hoof out towards the handle. “Of course,” she said. She opened the door and stepped inside. A second later, the admiral stepped in behind her, threw his hooves around her neck, and pulled her into a headlock. She choked and tried to turn her head to look at him. “What are you… doing!?”

He whispered into her ear. “Who are you? Where’s the major?”

“Let me go! I’m the major! Are you out of your mind?”

“That’s not what she’d say. She’d sound way more condescending. Something like ‘Quit playing around, you idiot,” or something even more demeaning, probably along with a threat to my manhood. I’ll ask you again, where’s the major?”

The major didn’t respond.

“Don’t want to talk, huh?” the admiral asked. He squeezed harder against the pony’s neck. “You can feel how strong I am. I could snap you like a twig. This is your last chance. Where’s the major?”

The pony coughed, barely able to get any words out from his grip. “Watch tower… east side… guard house… Now let me breathe!”

“Not a chance,” the admiral said, and pulled back even harder. He held at this level of pressure until the pony’s legs stopped flailing. Once she was unconscious, he dropped her body to the floor. To his shock, her body flashed with green fire and revealed a changeling form underneath.

“Fantastic…” he said. He pulled open the closet door at the other end of the hall and pulled out a spear and a cloak that was hanging inside. He threw the cloak on, readied the spear across his back, and pulled a cigarette from an inner pocket of the cloak. He stared down at the changeling’s body as he exhaled a cloud of smoke into the air. “Looks like you had one thing right, whatever you are. The threat wasn’t just to Canterlot.”

After tying the unconscious changeling up in ropes, the admiral ran out of the house and took to the sky, the image of the creature hanging in his mind. Seems awfully familiar. Where have I seen something like that before? It was so perfectly disguised as the major. Could they impersonate anypony?

With that thought, a memory from the past surfaced. Princess Celestia stood before him just after his promotion to captain of the Cloudsdale guard.

There are some dangers to Equestria that are kept very quiet. As a high-ranking officer in the Equestrian Guardian Corps, you will now be told of the hidden threats to the nation. It is your duty to defend us against such threats.

That was a day where I learned about many things that were literally unspeakable. To let the existence of these threats come to light could cause widespread panic. Which one was this, again? He placed a hoof to his forehead and groaned. Blast it all, I’ll just ask the major! If she’s still alive, that is…

He swooped down to the watch tower, landing in the upper nest. “First thing’s first, we need to be ready,” he said, and then slammed a hoof down against a lever. A bright red light began to shine, swooping in circles above him. Soon, other watch towers around Cloudsdale were doing the same in response, and a siren began to sound. “Now to check on the major. You’d better still be alive!”

Before he could even reach the ground, he heard an explosion in the distance. Smoke billowed up from an area about a mile away, and several pegasi were seen taking to the sky, chasing after two dark flying figures. I knew there’d be more of ‘em, he thought as he pushed the guard house’s door open and poked his head inside.

“Major!” he shouted as he entered the dimly lit building.

“Admiral! Back here!” the major’s voice came. He ran towards it and found the major shackled and locked inside a holding cell. He reached for the keys, but they were nowhere to be found.

“Where’s the keys?” he asked.

“We’re not alone in here,” the major said, pointing her hoof toward the side room just in time for a changeling to leap from it and tackle the admiral to the ground. He quickly rolled and kicked up against the creature’s body, knocking it up and over his head. He flipped to his hooves and charged at the changeling, ramming into it with all his strength and smashing it against the wall. The creature screamed in pain as a loud cracking sound came from its body.

The admiral leapt back with assistance from his wings, grabbing his spear from the ground. He spun the spear forward, bringing its tip to the changeling’s neck. “Keys!” he shouted.

The changeling hissed in response. A second later, the spear's tip met its shoulder, stabbing in deeply. It screeched in pain. “Do ya speak Equestrian? Where’s the damn keys?”

“The keys are on the table, there,” the major said from behind him. The admiral glanced over at the table and blinked.

“Ah, so they are,” he said, turning his gaze back to the changeling. “Sorry ‘bout that. My misunderstanding. No good, no good!” He pulled the spear out of the changeling’s shoulder, causing it to scream again.

“No use apologizing, admiral. Surely you recognize it, right?” the major said with a sigh. The admiral grabbed the keychain and began to unlock the cell door, trying different keys until he found the right one.

“Of course, I do. Do you?”

“It’s a changeling. Please hurry with the door, there might be another one up front, still, and I’m sure all the ruckus got its attention if it is.”

“Ah yes, changelings! Just like Princess Celestia told us! Good job, Major!”

“You didn’t remember, did you?”

“Of course I did!” he said as the cell door slid open. “I was just testing you! And you passed! With flying colors!”

The major rolled her eyes and grabbed her cloak, which had been put on the table near where the keys had been. She donned it and grabbed a spear of her own off the wall. “I’ll scout out the front and side rooms, you check that back room.”

“Hey now, who’s giving the orders here?”

The major rolled her eyes. “You, of course. I just knew what you would say and anticipated it.”

“That’s why I keep you around! Keep up the good work!”

After that, the major went to the front and was attacked by a changeling. As I was running to check on her, the one I’d injured tried to jump me, but got speared to the ceiling. Judging by the explosion from earlier, though, I’d bet it’s getting close to total chaos out there. I wonder how many of these things there are.

The two of them continued down the cloud hallway toward the exit door. “Any response from Canterlot?” the admiral asked.

“Negative,” his companion responded. “We’ve tried hailing on all frequencies, even before the changelings showed up. I can’t rule out that something is jamming our equipment, though. The unicorn who works on the communication equipment is missing.”

“Probably taken out by a changeling, the poor fella,” the admiral said with a sigh. “Let’s hope it really is a problem with the communication spell and not the alternative. If changelings are inside Canterlot, we’re in big trouble.”

The two pegasi emerged from the building they had been in. Bright lights shone from all around them, making the stars in the night sky invisible. The sound of hooves stomping and steel clashing filled the air. Stepping out onto the main road, the admiral turned and gazed toward the town center. He wiped his brow and shook his head. “With the ability to impersonate anypony, you’d think they would have tried a more stealthy entrance.”

“They did. You were the one who noticed them, remember? It wasn’t that long ago!”

The admiral furrowed his brow and concentrated.

“Are you remembering, now? Your eyes have this glassy look to them that I don’t like,” Nimblewing said. “I wonder sometimes, how can your memory be this bad!?”

“Sometimes it’s easier to forget,” the admiral replied, barely audible.

“What was that, sir?”

“Nothing! Let’s get back to headquarters! We’ll decide our next course of action there.”

“Aye, sir!” the major shouted. The two of them took off towards a distant, large palatial structure. A smaller building nearby was their destination, the Cloudsdale Guard HQ. They landed at the front entrance, and two guards keeping watch over the door crossed their spears and tensed their bodies as if they were ready to fight.

“Present identification!” one of the guards barked out.

The major reached into her flight jacket and pulled out an ID badge. The admiral was patting himself down and pulling various items out of his pockets. Several bits of paper, a short length of rope, a yo-yo, a half-eaten sandwich, and two pens later, he gasped and placed his hooves against the sides of his head.

“No! I left it in my office!”

The two guards, along with the major, sighed and placed front hooves against their foreheads. “It’s him…” one of the guards said. They pulled their spears apart and allowed the two entry.

Down the main hall to the end, the two of them arrived at the last corner office. The plaque on the door read “Radiant Thunder”. The admiral pushed the door open, stepped inside, and waved for the major to follow him. He meandered to the desk sitting at the far end of the office. On the desk’s surface was his ID badge, which he quickly grabbed and put in his pocket.

“These changelings aren’t going to last too long. Whatever they’d planned to accomplish has been thwarted when we found them out,” the admiral said as he took a seat in his chair. He gazed quietly at a framed picture on his desk for a moment. He gently placed a hoof against its surface, and then glanced up at the major. “I know we haven’t been able to raise Canterlot yet. Any word from Ponyville?”

“Ponyville, sir? Do you suspect they’ll be moving against Ponyville? It’s not exactly a strategic target,” Major Nimblewing replied.

“Just worried all of the sudden,” Radiant Thunder responded, a soft smile crossing his lips. He turned the picture frame around, showing the major a photograph of a small orange pegasus with a pink mane and a slightly annoyed expression on her face. “My daughter lives there. I can’t help but worry, not that I’ve really been there for…” His voice trailed off. A second later, he rose from his chair and tapped one of his hooves on his desk. “Nevermind about Ponyville. Let’s get to the command room. Someone there is bound to have some intel.”

The major nodded and the two of them left the office, making their way down several more halls before coming to a large double-door. Before he could open it, the admiral heard a screeching sound coming from inside. He pushed the doors open and rushed in. In the center of the room was a table with a changeling held down on it using straps and chains. It was pushing against its restraints and shrieking at the top of its lungs.

“Admiral Thunder! Thank goodness you’re here! We haven’t been able to get it to talk! We’re starting to think they aren’t actually intelligent. Just mindless insects,” one of the marines standing next to the table said. Radiant Thunder calmly approached the changeling. He stood beside the table, reached his forelegs up, and pressed his hooves against the sides of its head. He stared down into its cold blue buglike eyes. The changeling was suddenly silent and still, staring back up at him.

“You want to get out of here alive?” Radiant asked, his gaze burning into the changeling’s eyes. The creature nodded its head one time, still lying completely still. “Good. There’s been enough blood spilled in the last hour to last the rest of the century. I don’t want to kill you, and I don’t want any more of my ponies dying. No one needs to know that you spilled the beans, I won’t even ask your name, if you have such a thing. I just need you to give me some basic information. Do you want to do that for me?”

“Forget it,” the changeling replied. “Here’s the deal. You let me go and you get to live a little longer.”

The admiral laughed loudly, nearly falling over the table, his hooves still firmly pressed against the sides of the changeling’s head. “That won’t do. No good, no good. You sure you won’t reconsider?”

The changeling hissed in response. Before it was even done hissing, Radiant Thunder pulled his hooves apart and then smashed them back into the prisoner’s head, knocking it unconscious. Everypony else around the table flinched back slightly.

“Admiral, was that really—“ the major started to ask.

“No time to waste if he won’t talk. Maybe he’ll reconsider after the headache he’s gonna wake up with. Any word on the communication equipment?”

One of the other pegasi in the room shook his head. “No, sir. We can’t find the technician.”

“Where’s Light? She’s a unicorn. Get her to figure it out.”

“I’m right here, sir,” a dainty voice came from the side of the room. “I’ve been here the whole time. Sorry if I’m unnoticeable. I swear, I might as well be invisible.” Her eyes seemed to almost be tearing up as she spoke. Several of the males in the room quickly leapt toward her, waving their hooves in the air and shaking their heads.

“No, no, no! We noticed you, captain! You’re not invisible!” they all began to insist. The white unicorn with a long blonde mane and a dark cloud for a cutie mark smiled and tilted her head to one side.

“Thank goodness! I thought I’d cast an invisibility spell on myself by accident!” She turned to look at Radiant Thunder and shrugged. “And no, I can’t make heads or tails of the equipment problem. There’s some sort of magic going on in there, I just don’t know how it all works.”

“Blast! What else can anyone in here tell me?” Radiant asked. A second later, a pegasus soldier burst into the room, breathing heavily. Radiant turned to look at him. “What’s going on, private?”

“Dragons!” the pony managed to shout.

“What!?” everyone in the room shouted in response. They all burst out of the room, rushed down the hallway, and threw the entrance doors open. The two guards who had been posted at the doors were now hunched to the ground, trembling. In the sky above Cloudsdale, at least four massive black dragons circled in the air. They were unlike any dragons the soldiers standing and staring had seen before, though. Their legs bore the telltale holes of a changeling, and their mouths burned with glowing, green fire.

Radiant pulled a pair of sunglasses out from his cloak and sighed. “Just what I needed.” He slid the sunglasses over his eyes and lit another cigarette.

Major Nimblewing slapped the back of the admiral’s head, knocking his sunglasses off. “It’s the middle of the night!”

“They’re prescription!” Radiant Thunder protested.

“So wear normal glasses!”

The admiral frowned and tapped his front hooves together, pouting his lips out. “But… they aren’t cool looking…”

“Celestia, help us.”

Princess Luna’s Dream, Present Time.

Luna sat in the middle of the large central chamber of her dream sanctuary with the others sitting in a circle around the front of her. Celestia, Twilight, Fluttershy, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, Mulcibar, Linnai, and an alicorn Pinkie Pie all listened attentively as the princess spoke.

“Time is of the essence since we do not know how long it will take for this swarm reset spell to take effect. It is safe to say that by the time we jump into another dream, the time synchronization between minds will cause a burst of time to pass, and we will be seeing the effects of the swarm.”

“It won’t take long,” Mulcibar responded, explaining. “The swarm reset is part spell, part physical invasion. The spell aspect is already cast. It’s one of the many spells that are weaving around within that stream of magic. The physical aspect involves sending troops into the dreams. While not as magically potent as those of us in the Order, drones and other types of changelings can still enter the dream worlds and will be able to wreak chaos throughout.”

“Sounds delicious… or so I would say if my future wasn’t on the line here, as well,” Discord said with a grin.

“Alright, then my assumption was correct and we have to move quickly. I need to make you aware of some information you may not have known about dreams.” She sat back down and gestured toward one of the portals on the wall. “There are three main types of dreams: Observational, Inclusive, and Exclusive. When a dreamwalker enters a dream, the type of dream, as well as the dreamer’s familiarity to them, determines their point of entry. In an Exclusive dream, a dreamwalker will always enter independently, such as appearing somewhere. When you all entered into my dream world, you just popped in so to speak. This is an Exclusive dream. However, when the dream is Inclusive, things become more difficult. One who is unfamiliar to the dreamer will enter just as in an Exclusive dream, but if the dreamwalker is known to the dreamer, they will be incorporated into the dreamer’s world.”

Celestia raised an eyebrow. “Incorporated? How so?”

“For example, if you were dreaming about Twilight Sparkle, and she entered the dream, then Twilight would take over your dream Twilight’s body. She would also receive all the the memories and influences of the dream Twilight.”

“That actually sounds pretty convenient,” Twilight said. “When entering dreams before, we had wondered what would happen if we ran into ourselves. Taking over a dream inhabitant’s body seems much more simple and would avoid that issue.”

Linnai smirked and glanced over at Twilight. “Sounds like it could be pretty hot, too.”

Luna chose to ignore Linnai’s remark and continue. “Yes, Twilight, It is convenient in that respect, but it is difficult in another. If a dreamwalker’s will is weaker than the dreamer’s, they could be the one taken over by the dream version. It would then take a little time for them to realize they were a dreamwalker once again. We can’t afford to let that happen since we’re trying to move quickly.”

“You can say that all you want, but it’s hard to avoid,” Linnai said, suddenly serious. “The queen found a spell that allows us to always take over a pony’s body inside the dream world, but it can be taxing. We had to do it in order to slip in and out of dreams without disrupting them. When the pony’s persona hits you, it’s really jarring. We had to practice for months.”

Luna shook her head. “We don’t have months to practice. It will be of utmost importance that those of us who stay aware after entering find the others and help them. That said, Rainbow Dash’s dream has one of the most extreme time differences I’ve ever seen, so once we’re inside, time won’t be as crucial. I don’t know if it is due to the magic, or if her mind is just always moving this quickly, but it does seem appropriate. Some dreams don’t behave in a linear fashion, and time can jump around a lot as the dreamer goes into and out of memories. If the dream is linear, though, a large amount of time may have gone past. It could make it even more difficult to awaken her.”

“Oh no. If time is passing so fast, what if the changeling invasion gets there before us? What if we’re too late?” Fluttershy asked, nervously leaning toward the portal.

“Right you are, Fluttershy. We should all enter the dream as soon as possible, so please let me finish.”

Fluttershy blushed and nodded her head.

“Since time is moving so fast in there, we will have as much time as we need to adjust and train our minds once we’re in. We also have our new changeling allies, who will surely not be a part of Rainbow Dash’s dream, so they will enter as if the dream were Exclusive,” she said, and then stood up and walked over to Rainbow Dash’s portal. “A dream with such extreme speed is the perfect sort of training ground. Our priority should be to awaken Rainbow Dash, but after that, we can use her dream to take all the time we need to plan our attack. Ideally, her dream would become a place for us to go when we need extra time.”

Twilight’s eyes lit up and she grinned. “That’s actually brilliant! Rainbow Dash’s dream would give us an extreme time advantage. I hadn’t even thought of that before. It would make the perfect ‘home base’!”

“Indeed, and we should not waste further time here in my dream. Everypony stand in a line near the portal. We will all drive in at once. The mere seconds between our points of entry will translate to longer periods of time on the other side. We can minimize it by staying together as much as possible while entering.”

“We should go first,” Linnai said, stepping to the front of the line. “Mulcibar and I won’t have the problem of getting incorporated, so we can scout for information while the rest of you are phasing in. Or do you not trust us? Can’t say I blame you.” Linnai shrugged her shoulders.

Luna closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “No, it’s not that. I believe I speak for all of us in what I am about to say and do,” she said, opening her eyes and looking over at Linnai and Mulcibar. “It is sometimes in the most unlikely places that one finds their strongest allies. At first, and even recently, I did not want to believe that we could ever come to trust you two. However, in light of your recent actions, as well as the great risk you’ve taken by turning away from your queen despite your bodies being on the other side, I can no longer blind myself to the truth.”

Luna’s horn glowed and two gemstones appeared in front of Mulcibar and Linnai. Luna carefully pushed the gems into the holes at the base of the changelings’ horns, socketing them in with a slight snapping sound. “I believe you lost these here in this dream. You would do well to be more careful with them from now on.”

The red gem that had socketed into Linnai's horn glowed slightly, and her eyes rolled back a bit for a moment. She let out a pleased sounding moan and then took a deep breath. “Ohhhh yeah, that’s what I’ve been missing.”

Mulcibar nodded his head to Luna. “Thank you. This will help immensely.”

Luna smiled and narrowed her eyes slightly. “I pray none of us will regret anything that has happened.”

“Don’t worry,” Mulcibar said, staring into Luna’s eyes with great intensity. “We’ve come too far to go back, now.”

Twilight tapped Luna on the shoulder. “I have one thing I am worried about, though. I know Linnai has volunteered to go first, but shouldn’t you go in first, princess? Your Lucidity would make things much easier.”

“Actually, Twilight, it would be best if I entered last for several reasons. You know that Rainbow Dash’s dream is moving fast - faster than any dream I’ve seen before, actually. The transition between my dream and hers could be painful, possibly even dangerous to the minds of those who go between them. While you are all passing through the portal, I will use my Lucidity to stabilize the time difference as much as I can. The transition will be smoother, and your times of arrival will be less spaced out. If I do not go last, depending on how fast her dream is really moving, it could be days or weeks between two of you arriving even though you entered the portal only a fraction of a second apart. I can’t even give exact numbers on the time difference. It could have been what seems like years in her dream since we were put under.”

Twilight’s jaw dropped at the thought of experiencing such a long period of time so quickly. “I had no idea it was that bad! If only I’d--”

“There was nothing you could have done, Twilight Sparkle. Do not dwell on the past, just move forward. Also know that once I enter the dream, it is possible that the spell the changelings are using to swarm into it may detect my Lucidity’s presence. It is best to get you all in there first.”

“Then we have no time to waste. Linnai, Mulcibar, let’s get you in there as soon as possible!” Twilight said with newfound urgency.

“I want to go in as soon as possible, too!” Fluttershy said loudly. Everypony looked at her and she shrunk down slightly, her voice becoming quiet again. “I mean… it’s because I want to save Dashie as soon as possible. The last time I thought I was waking her up, it wasn’t her, so I want to try again.”

Twilight smiled and nodded at Fluttershy. “That’s fine, Fluttershy. I was actually going to say the same thing. You and Rainbow Dash are really close. If anypony would be able to get close to her and make her understand what’s going on, it’s you.”

Fluttershy blushed slightly and smiled. Mulcibar gazed at her quizzically and felt a strange nervousness in the back of his mind. Just how close are they, I wonder, he thought, but shook his head and turned to face Linnai. No time to think about that stuff. This is a mission. The objective has to come first. He stood by his sister near the portal.

“Alright, then. Everypony in position,” Luna said. “Twilight shall enter after Fluttershy, then Celestia, then Discord, then me. Is this agreeable?”

Scootaloo jumped up and flapped her wings, hanging in the air for a second. “Hey, what about us? We want to help, too!”

Luna smiled down at Scootaloo. “You three should stay here with Pinkie Pie. She will be remaining here, obviously, and acting as a coordinator. If and when we find the Pinkie in Rainbow Dash’s dream, we can connect her to the Pinkie Network.”

“I’m also going to be doing some other stuff, too!” Pinkie said excitedly as she stared into the pink, pulsating portal. “The real Pinkie Pie is just beyond that portal, so I want to see if us Pinkies can collectively come up with some way to make contact with her!”

“Oh, come on!” Sweetie Belle shouted. “You told us before that we could help save Equestria. Now we have to stay here? I’ll go out of my mind with boredom!”

“Yeah, this ain’t fair. Hey, I know! We should go into my sister’s portal and save her!” Apple Bloom said, glancing over at the orange portal.

“Absolutely not!” Luna shouted. “You three must never go into a portal by yourselves! It’s far too dangerous! We don’t know if your powers from before are still active, and have not the time to test them fully.”

Celestia placed a hoof against Luna’s shoulder and shook her head. “You know, they do bring up an interesting point, though. I’ve been thinking a lot about the prospect of splitting our growing party into two teams. What if I were to stay behind with them as well? Then, once the Pinkie Network is up and running, they could go into Applejack’s dream with me. You did say that it seemed like a fairly stable dream.”

“A stable dream with a changeling invasion about to hit it,” Linnai corrected Celestia. “There’s not going to be such a thing as a stable dream before long.”

Celestia smirked. “You need not worry about me, or these three fillies. What do you say, girls? Does that sound like an acceptable compromise?”

The Cutie Mark Crusaders looked at each other and then back and Celestia. Apple Bloom nodded her head. “Very well. We accept.”

Luna put a hoof to her chin. “Splitting up at this point does seem to make the most sense. Tackling two dreams at a time, with four dreams left to go, means that we’ll be able to awaken the others twice as fast.”

Twilight placed a hoof against Celestia’s shoulder, and the alicorn turned to face her student. “Princess, this is so sudden. I suppose it makes sense to split up somewhat, though. We can get through this faster. But still, you’ve been with me since the very beginning of this. I never thought I’d be setting off without you.”

Celestia wrapped a foreleg around Twilight and pulled her into a hug. “Don’t worry, Twilight. You are strong, and have strong allies with you. You’ll get through this without me, and you know I’ll be just fine. We’ll see each other again before you know it.”

“I know we will,” Twilight said softly, and then pulled away from Celestia. “Stay safe, Princess Celestia.”

“You, too,” Celestia replied. “That goes for all of you. The fate of Equestria is in our hooves.”

Discord flew in a circle around the two of them and smirked. “Don’t worry, Celestia. I’ll stay and keep you company, too.” He laughed, perhaps a bit more deviously than the princess cared for.

“Thank goodness, I was starting to worry,” Celestia responded with a slight roll of her eyes.

Linnai, Mulcibar, Fluttershy, Luna, and Twilight lined up in front of Rainbow Dash’s portal. Linnai looked back at the others and grinned. “You know, I wasn’t so sure about the idea of actually joining up with you at first, but now my blood is pumping! I’m practically wet with excitement,” she said, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically. She shot a wink back at Twilight, who just rolled her eyes. “Hah! See you on the other side, prudicorn!”

Mulcibar turned to Fluttershy and grabbed one of her forelegs, locking it with his own. She gasped slightly and looked up at him. “Hold on to me and don’t let go. We’ll stay together as best we can,” he said.

Fluttershy nodded her head and tightened her grip around his leg. “I don’t think I’m quite as excited as your sister, but we have to do this! For Rainbow Dash!”

Twilight and Luna looked at Mulcibar and Fluttershy and each chuckled slightly. Luna looked down at Twilight and grinned. “Shall we try to stay together as well, then?” she asked.

Twilight responded by locking forelegs with her. “Sounds fine to me. For Rainbow Dash, and all of Equestria!” She levitated the colorscope goggles up over her eyes and took a nervous step forward. “Okay, everypony. As soon as Linnai jumps, we all go as fast as we can after her.”

“Okay! Here I go, then!” Linnai shouted, and then unceremoniously leapt into the portal. Mulcibar quickly stepped after her, pulling Fluttershy with him, and the two of them were sucked into the flashing vortex as well. Luna and Twilight leapt after the two of them, lastly, vanishing from the room.

Celestia, Discord, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and Pinkie Pie stood silently for a moment, staring into the portal.

“They’re gonna be okay, right?” Apple Bloom asked, finally breaking the silence.

“Of course they will, my little pony. Never doubt it.”

Rainbow Dash’s Dream, Moment of Entry: Linnai

Linnai found herself tumbling through thick tree branches. They fortunately broke her fall, and she didn’t hit the ground too roughly. After standing up and dusting herself off, she looked at her surroundings. She was standing on the outskirts of what appeared to be a small town on the edge of a lush, green jungle. The sounds of wild animals and birds echoed out from the forested area behind her. Before her, the small town had a very hoof-made feel to it, with buildings that were made entirely of wood. The architecture was similar to what one would see in a town like Appleloosa, but it felt a bit more wild and unorganized. She gazed up and saw some buildings built into the trees, with large walkways made of wood going between trees. What had at first seemed like a small town was now a large city, all built vertically into the jungle trees.

“Where in Equestria is this, even?” she asked herself. There wasn’t any sign of anypony else. “Well, first thing’s first, I suppose. Looks like wings will come in handy here.” She let loose with a blast of green fire across her body, transforming into a pegasus with light green coat and dark blue mane.

The first building on the edge of the town was clearly labeled by a sign that read ‘Avenport Tavern’. Deciding a Tavern seemed like as good a place as any to start gathering info, she walked right up to the building and then into the front door.

Inside the tavern, she glanced around, immediately noticing something strange about the place. There were a few ponies sitting in chairs or at the bar, but for the most part, everyone inside the front area were griffons. She casually walked up to the bar and sat on a stool next to a dark gray colored griffon who was slowly nursing a glass of caramel colored liquid.

After a moment, the griffon took another drink and turned to look at her. “Ain’t seen you around here before,” the griffon said.

“Yeah, I just flew in,” Linnai responded. “Got a little lost. What is this place?"

The griffon laughed and slapped a claw against the bar. “Really? You expect me to believe you just stumbled upon this place? This is Avenport, sweet cheeks, one of the biggest cities in the region. You hit your head or something?”

“Heh, yeah, maybe,” Linnai responded, blushing slightly.

“So, I’m not gonna lie to ya honey, and it’s nothing personal, but…” the griffon said, and then quickly drew a flintlock up from his waist with his other claw. With a click of the hammer, the gun was pointed at Linnai’s head. The griffon stared at Linnai coldly. “There’s been some problems with newcomers here. Prove you aren’t a changeling. Things have been a bit hectic lately.”

Maybe unicorn would have been a better pick, Linnai thought to herself.

Author's Note:

Eh, that's probably good. *clicks publish*

8k words! Am I incapable of writing a short chapter anymore?

The Conquering of Love is going to be taking a break for the month of November. Possibly the whole month, possibly not. You should probably check out my latest blog post for all the nitty gritty details regarding this break as well as my NaNoWriMo/NaPoWriMo project.

You know, that is, if you want to...

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