• 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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Crash Down Ch 1 - Prepare For Liftoff

Author's Note:

2:00 AM is the best time to publish a new chapter that people have been waiting for, right?

Book Five: Crash Down

Chapter One – Prepare For Liftoff

Canterlot, Reality, Ten Minutes Ago

Vitra reentered the room where the rest of the Order were, followed shortly by Luzon, who resumed his place at the head of the long table in the chamber. Vitra quietly made her way to the other side where Mulcibar and Linnai were lying unconscious. Almost effortlessly, she lifted both of their bodies into the air with levitation and began to move them toward the door.

“What’s gonna happen to them?” came a voice from the back of the room. Vitra recognized it as Kamber.

“Don’t worry about it,” Luzon snapped, clenching his eyes shut in annoyance. “She’s following the queen’s orders, whatever they are.”

“She wouldn’t even tell you? Smells fishy to me,” said another voice from the back.

Luzon responded by smacking his hoof against the table and turning to look at Vitra, who was frozen in the doorway. “You have your orders, get moving! And furthermore, the queen had orders for you, too, Kamber. Go rally for the swarm, and make it snappy. I want you back in here in ten minutes or less!”

Kamber, a bulky changeling with a square jaw that hung at an odd angle from his face, stood up and trotted to the doorway. Vitra, Mulcibar, and Linnai had vacated the doorway, and he walked out of the chamber, slamming the door behind him.

“Something’s rotten, here.”

Luzon tensed up. “You’re damn right something’s rotten, Zanzir! Mulcibar and Linnai have lost their minds, Vitra of all of us is running errands for the queen, and we’re about to waste a bunch of time with this reset swarm!” he shouted. “Tell me something I wasn’t already completely aware of!”

“Calm yourself, Luzon, there’s no point in taking it out on me,” Zanzir responded.

“Sorry. You’re right, of course. We were prepared for any situation, including this one,” Luzon replied, taking a deep breath. “In any case, it won’t be long now until our time to feed. Hunger must be getting to me.”

“Isn’t it strange, though, that she’s holding all that energy inside herself?” a soft female voice spoke up. “Why not feed us all?”

“Ours is not to question why,” Zanzir responded. “And you know the rest, Katella.”

“I’d rather do without dying, thanks,” she responded with a chuckle.

“Let’s just hope that this little interruption doesn’t cost us anything more,” Luzon said, softly stroking his beard.

Outside the room, Vitra had made her way out of the royal chambers and across a courtyard. The dark spires of Canterlot hung silently in the air above her, though rain was still falling over the city. Using a shield spell to stay dry, she levitated the two others along with her into a doorway and down a set of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, she found a row of holding cells, keys sitting on a nearby table.

She carefully set Mulcibar and Linnai in a cell together. “I’m sorry about this, you two,” she said as she locked their hooves in shackles. She moved to leave the cell, and then hesitated. She could hear the sound of dozens of hoofsteps in the courtyard above as the changelings gathered to the throne room to enter the dream web.

There’s no time to waste, she thought, and then sat down between the two other changelings. I can feel the dream web even from here. It’s so powerful. I’m going in, now!

Vitra shut the cell door, locked it, and set the keys beside her, locking the key ring to her hip with a spell. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and then slouched forward. A slight trace of green energy shot out from her, traveled up the stairs, and weaved its way back to the throne room.

Within the throne room, Chrysalis smiled widely.

“Be careful in there, Vitra. I can’t buy you a third chance,” she whispered.

Streaks of green magic shot brightly into the dream web from the now sitting rows of changelings and began spreading amongst the cocoons.

Cloudsdale, Reality, 10 Minutes Ago

Major Nimblewing squinted her eyes and stared up into the sky above. Four black dragons with green fire alight in their maws circled overhead, staring down at the city. “Dragons attacking Cloudsdale? This is like some sort of nightmare.”

“Look at their bodies, their wings… those aren’t dragons, they’re changelings. Looks like they never intended to keep the invasion covert,” Radiant Thunder said as he leaned down to pick his sunglasses up off the ground. “They intend to destroy Cloudsdale entirely.”

“Shouldn’t this be visible from Canterlot? Surely they’ve noticed the battle happening by now. There’s been plenty of fires,” one of the other officers asked.

Radiant frowned. “They must not be worried about Canterlot, which either means they’re incredibly stupid, or the whole of Equestria is incredibly in trouble. The shield is down over Canterlot, and now I’m almost certain I know why… Canterlot has fallen.”

Nimblewing turned her head to look toward Canterlot and then back to the Admiral. Her eyes went wide with the realization. “How is that possible? There was a threat made against Canterlot, that’s why they had that shield up!”

Radiant Thunder shook his head. “Who would make a threat like that if they could sneak in and hide? We fell for it. We saw the shield, we thought Canterlot was the target of the threat. Even just a little, we let our guard down. Their goal wasn’t Canterlot, major! They’ve had their sights set on Cloudsdale this whole time!”

“But, why?”

Radiant turned to look at the major, narrowing his eyes. “I can think of a few reasons, but that hardly matters. They’re here now, and we’re going to stop them! Then we’ll deal with Canterlot.”

The major nodded her head and turned to the others. “Mobilize! Ready ballistae and prepare to convert Cloudsdale into full lockdown mode! I expect it done in two minutes or less, now move!”

A voice that shook the very clouds that made the city’s foundation suddenly rumbled down from the dragons.


The major and admiral froze and turned to stare up at the dragons. One of them had its glowing eyes trained on them.


“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Radiant Thunder shouted back. “Leave this place or face the fury of Cloudsdale!”

One of the dragons responded by letting loose a wave of green fire. It blazed down toward a section of the city, igniting everything and evaporating clouds. Buildings fell from the sky and plummeted towards the Earth.


Radiant turned toward the group of ponies left standing near him. He extended a hoof toward the one unicorn among them and nodded his head to her. “Light, give them our response.”

The blonde-haired unicorn fidgeted for a moment and then looked up at the dragons. “We want you to leave!” she shouted feebly. Radiant swung his hoof back to his face and pressed it against his forehead.

“Not that response, Light. Please try to focus.” The others in the group collectively groaned.

“That’s funny coming from you,” Major Nimblewing retorted.

Light’s eyes went wide. “Ohhh! That response! Sure thing!”

The unicorn’s horn lit up and the clouds around headquarters began to swirl. From underneath the cloud surface, several rows of ballistae rose. A second later, the sky began to darken, black clouds began to swirl, and the air became freezing cold.

“Looks like lockdown’s already begun. Just in time,” Radiant said, and then pointed a hoof up to one of the dragons. “Hey! I wouldn’t stick around here, it’s about to get real cold! No good, no good at all! Well, not for you lot, anyway!”

The dragon laughed, letting a streak of fire puff out from its nostrils. “YOUR PEA-SHOOTERS DON’T SCARE US, AND WE KNOW YOU CONTROL THE WEATHER! GIVE US HYPERION BEFORE WE DROP THIS CITY OUT OF THE SKY!”

Radiant sighed. “Wrong answer. No good, no good…” He waved his hoof in the air and a gust of wind bellowed downward, forming a dark cloud between him and the dragons. Five of the siege weapons in front of him all fired at the cloud. The large steel-tipped bolts flew into the cloud and exited the other side completely encased in ice. The ice more than doubled their size. The dragon flapped his wings and reared back, but it was too late. The spears of ice pierced into his chest and belly, and ice began to spread across his scaly body. Within another second, his wings were stiff with ice and he plummeted downward through the clouds below and out of sight. The other dragons shrunk back, but were unable to proceed further. A dome of ice had formed over the entire city.

“Shattering on impact with the surface… what a way to go,” Nimblewing said with a cringe.

“Lockdown fully engaged,” Radiant said, grinning up at the dragons. “This isn’t just to protect the city! It’s to keep invaders in, too!”

More dark clouds began to form throughout the sky. The dragons turned and began to blast the icy shell with green flames.

“Fire at will!”

Rainbow Dash’s Dream, Present Time

Linnai stared down the barrel of the gun at the stone-cold face that sat behind it. The griffon stared right back at her, his narrow, beady eyes almost seeming to see right through her disguise.

Prove you’re not a changeling? Is he serious?

She took a deep breath as her thoughts jumbled up trying to think of how to even satisfy such an absurd request. The fact that she was a changeling aside, how could anyone truly prove such a thing?

Griffons. Never did like them much, or their little toys. If I had a horn right now, this wouldn’t be that much of a problem. Why did I choose pegasus, blast it?

“Gerulf!” a voice came from the other side of the bar. “What have I told you about bringin’ guns in here, you bird brain?” A ceramic mug suddenly flew through the air and crashed down against the dome of the griffon’s head, causing him to fold forward in pain. Another rather angry looking griffon who had been standing behind the bar at the far end stomped towards them, pounding her fist against the wooden surface as she went.

The armed griffon, whose name was apparently Gerulf, twitched as he straightened himself out again and rubbed a claw against the top of his head. “Fer cryin’ out loud, Frida, I was just havin’ some fun! It ain’t loaded!”

Linnai’s eyes went wide. “Some fun?” she shouted, leaning in towards the griffon. “I thought you were going to shoot me! That’s your idea of fun?”

“Oh, relax, sweet-cheeks, like I said, it ain’t loaded!” he said, pointing the flintlock at the ceiling and pulling the trigger. With a loud bang, a bullet shot from the muzzle, hit a metal plate on the roof, ricocheted back down towards the bar, and buried itself in a bottle of golden-colored liquid. The bottle shattered and the booze cascaded across the shelf.

Linnai fell backwards off of her stool and onto the ground. Frida, the bar maid, smashed her fist down over Gerulf’s head in the same spot the mug had hit it a second earlier and then used her other claw to snatch the weapon from him. She grumbled to herself as she opened a cabinet underneath the bar, tossed the gun onto a pile of more guns, knives, and other various weapons, and slammed the cabinet door shut.

The barmaid leaned against the bar and smiled down at Linnai. “I am so sorry about that, honey. The old coot’s a little senile and has no manners to speak of.” The old coot in question grumbled to himself and drank down the rest of his drink. “What can I get for you?”

Linnai hopped back up on her stool and chuckled nervously. “I'm not really thirsty, I was actually looking for—“

“Oh, don’t you worry about that! I think I heard Gerulf say he was gonna buy you a drink, isn’t that right Gerulf?”

“You old hag,” Gerulf mumbled, but nodded his head and slapped a coin down on the bar.

Linnai sighed and shook her head. “Red wine, something dry.” She turned to look at the griffon who had been holding a gun to her head just a moment ago. “Why would you ask me something like that, anyway?”

“For fun?” Gerulf said with a shrug. “I swear I didn’t know it was loaded.”

“How can you forget something like that? And furthermore, why that question? Why changelings?” Linnai asked, her brow furrowing in thought. I wonder if the reset swarm has already been released. Did we wait too long, even with Luna’s dream moving faster than reality?

Gerulf laughed. “It’s topical, of course! Not to worry, though, we haven’t had changelings here for a good month or two. They don’t have any reason to set foot in Avenport, they know we’re not involved in whatever nonsense the Wonderbolts are mixed up in these days.”

“So, there were changelings?”

The griffon blinked, his facial expression suddenly becoming still and flat. “How have you not heard about that? You say you just flew in, but you surely must have been in one of the other havens recently, right?”

Shoot! I need to be careful. I don’t know what’s been going on, and apparently it’s strange to not know. I have to play this really smooth… What would Mulci do?

Linnai coughed and cleared her throat. “Oh yeah, just recently. I guess I’m a bit of a scatterbrain, though. I just forgot for a second is all.”

Gerulf narrowed his eyes. “Well, I lived through it. Let me tell you, there was never a darker day for Griffon-kind. The ponies living here all remember it like it was yesterday, too, but I guess an outsider might have been more concerned with surviving. I’ll never forget, though…”

“Here we go again,” Frida groaned, stepping towards Linnai and leaning in to whisper in her ear. “The old bird loves his war stories. Just smile and nod.”

“It was a day like any other. Sure, we’d heard that Equestria had gotten into a bit of trouble with these changelings, but everyone here figured it was a pony problem, and we’d never even see a changeling here. But on that day, just after noon, there they were: changelings, and not just any changelings, griffon changelings. They made no secret about their presence. Now, I was busy doing what I had always done—“

“Sittin’ in here and getting’ drunk,” Frida added, leaning down against the bar’s surface.

“Let me tell the story, ya old crow!” Gerulf protested, then continued. “I may’ve been here at the bar, but I was workin’ on thinkin’ up my next big invention. Alcohol is like mental lubrication. Anyway, these two griffons kicked the bar door open, made a big ruckus. Griffons the likes of which we’d never seen. Holes in the legs and such, I thought maybe they were veterans like me, but then I saw their beaks. Make no mistake, those beaks weren’t natural. Crooked and sharp, almost fang-like I tell ya. They barged in and immediately started shoutin’, they were lookin’ for a pony named Rainbow Dash.”

Rainbow Dash? They must be in the reset swarm. We were too late! All the chit-chat… and this was two months ago dream time? Sheesh, it was only a few minutes outside. How fast is this place going!?

“Hah! I can tell by the look on your face, you’re as confused as we were. Why would the High Awesome Commander of The Wonderbolts be here in Avenport? Apparently her connection to one of our more infamous citizens made them think she’d be hiding out here. So I walks up to one of them—“

“Stumbled over, more like.”

“Confound it, Frida, let me talk! I walks over to one of them, and I says to him ‘There ain’t no Wonderbolts show goin’ on here. Maybe come back next summer.’”

“And then ya got knocked to the ground.”

Gerulf shot a glare at Frida and grunted. “Aye, that happened. He caught me off guard.”

“And then Gilda came crashing in through the window to save your drunken tail.”

“Yep, and she brought along the genuine article herself, Rainbow Dash. She was here after all! That’s the twist in the story, ya see. Those changelings were right all along. Before ya knew it, more changelings were showing up, popping outta nowhere. Some of the ponies and griffons here at the bar were even flashin’ with magic and changing form. It was real intense! To top it off, more Wonderbolts started showin’ up, and before we knew it, we had ourselves a bonafide bar fight!”

“Sounds exciting. What happened to Rainbow Dash? How did you drive away the changelings?”

Gerulf and Frida both laughed for a moment before Gerulf continued. “Truth be told, we didn’t drive them off, they left on their own once Rainbow and Gilda shot outta town. Those changelings seem to only care about getting at Rainbow Dash. I hear Her Awesomeness, as they call her, went into hiding after that and not a soul’s seen her since. Gilda might know where she went to, but she’s real tight-beaked. The two a’ them go way back, apparently. Some bad blood, I hear, too, but they’re both honorable gals, so ya know neither are rattin’ out the other.”

So I need to find this Gilda. Your drunken rambling was more helpful than you know, old bird.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was a long and bloody battle. It left the bar, ended up raging all across the city. Rainbow Dash and Gilda were commanding the guard here and the Wonderbolts. It looked pretty hopeless. Entire trees had been knocked down, lives ruined, lives lost. I hadn’t seen action like that since the last great war. Due to my flashbacks, I wasn’t able to help much in the battle, but it ended as abruptly as it began. Soon as the ponies flew away, the changelings followed, and we haven’t seen a changeling here since other than one or two spies.”

“Okay, okay, you’ve listened to him ramble long enough. Here’s your wine, honey,” Frida said, sliding a glass across the bar to Linnai. “So what does bring you to Avenport, deary? Long way from Equestria.”

Linnai rubbed the back of her head nervously with one hoof and leaned forward to sip from the glass. “Truth be told, I was a bit lost. Wasn’t sure where I was. This isn’t Equestria, then?”

The two griffons shot each other confused looks and then turned back to Linnai. “Well of course not. Equestria’s across the ocean. Surely you must have crossed it. This is the Griffon Kingdom.”

This makes no sense. Sure, this dream was moving fast, but I’ve never heard of anyone entering a dream this far from the dreamer. Unless Rainbow Dash actually is here. No telling how long until the others show up, either. I’d better dig for some more information.

“Thanks for the wine, and the story,” Linnai said, taking a swig from her glass. “I’m going to need to stay here for a couple of nights, probably. I’m waiting for my brother to show up, and I need to do some research. Is there a library in town?”

“Ahhh, an academic, are you? Not many of those left in this world. Good to see someone carrying the torch of the intellectual,” Gerulf said with a smile. “Why, when I was your age, I went to one of the biggest universities in—“

“Don’t you start, again,” Frida interrupted. “Next thing you know, you’ll be going on about your crazy inventions. Library is to the north in a hollowed-out tree. Ground level. You won’t be able to miss it, trust me. What are you planning on studying?”

“History, mostly. Recent history.”

“Well, don’t forget to stop by now and then. Everyone needs to unwind from time to time, and we’re the unwindingest spot in the city, I tell ya,” Frida responded. “Where ya stayin’ at?”

Linnai lowered her gaze, staring down into the tiny splash of red liquid left in her glass. “I hadn’t thought about it, really. I’ll figure out something. I must admit, I don’t have any money.”

“Oh yeah?” Frida asked, reaching behind the bar and grabbing a piece of paper. “I got a proposition for ya. Sure could use a pony for some delivery work. You’re a pegasus, no less, so getting around here won’t be an issue for ya. We got a room we can let ya stay in if ya take on the position. It’ll have to be on a weekly basis, though. Will ya be in town that long?”

Linnai felt herself groan internally. Deliveries? Like, pulling carts and heavy lifting? I’m regretting my choice of pegasus more every minute…

“Well, you don’t have to decide right now. Take this flyer with you,” Frida said, placing the paper beside Linnai’s wine glass. The words ‘HELP WANTED – PEGASI OR STURDY GRIFFONS’ was written in big letters along the top edge. “Our last delivery boy was a real slacker, and the one before him turned out to be a changeling. At least we know you don’t have either of those problems, seeing as you’re already here for your research. We could really use a driven lass like yourself. Wouldn’t want you to have to stay in any of the refugee camps.”

“Refugee camps?” Linnai asked, then drank down the last of her wine.

“From Equestria. They’ve been streaming in for the last six months ever since the changelings appeared.”

Six months! This dream isn’t just fast, it’s insane!

“Shame, really. Not much we can do, though, right now. Ever since Canterlot was razed, Equestria is the last place on Earth you’d want to be. When did you escape?”

“Escape, yeah, well I don’t really like to talk about it. Things have been pretty… confusing for me and my brother, lately,” she responded, not necessarily lying about her recent confusion. “I hope he’ll be okay.”

“As do I, there’s been plenty of traumatized ponies. So sad, but you seem pretty stable for the most part. That might be why I somehow hope you’ll accept and take the position. Strange as it may seem with all the refugees trying to scrape out a life here, it is hard to find good help nowadays,” Frida said, turning toward Gerulf. “My husband and I own this place, as well as the inn up above it, so don’t feel as if you’d be imposing.”

Gerulf nodded his head. “Aye, just come on back whenever yer studyin’s done fer the night.”

Linnai finished her glass of wine and bowed her head to the two griffins. “Thanks again, for your hospitality. I’ll… consider the offer.”

Frida smiled so sweetly at Linnai, she could practically feel the expression piercing her in some way. “You be off, then, don’t let us keep you. We’ll see you again, deary.”

Linnai nodded, got up from her stool, and walked out the door of the tavern, turning back to wave one last time. Once outside the building, she took a moment to think. She felt as if she were out of breath, and clutched a hoof across her chest as she breathed. That wine must have been stronger than it seemed. Feeling a bit lightheaded. Well, off to the library! Just north, she said?

She took off, flying to the north, until she spotted a mighty tree with windows build right into it. Unlike most of the structures that were built onto trees in this town, this one was actually inside the tree. Furthermore, the tree looked a bit out of place. It had a different shape to it, and different foliage. At the top of the tree, there was a balcony with a telescope.

Interesting, Linnai thought as she landed at the library’s front entrance.

The wooden door at the base of the tree had a panel with the words ‘Golden Oak’ etched across it. Linnai pushed the door open and stepped inside, gasping as she took in the layout of the interior. The walls of the hollowed-out tree had shelves carved directly into them, some shelves going up so tall that a ladder was needed to climb up and browse. A staircase, also chiseled out from the tree’s wood, circled around in the back, leading to an upper floor. Linnai trotted across the spacious center area, glancing at the wood-carved horse head that was the centerpiece of a table in the middle of the room, and made her way to the stairs.

Upon making it to the top of the stairs, Linnai raised her eyebrow in confusion. The top floor of the tree was set up like a bedroom. There were more shelves of books, but also a rather comfy looking bed at one end. At the foot of the bed was a basket that was stuffed with a pillow and a blanket, as well. Linnai shrugged, assuming the basket was some sort of pet bed.

Why would they have a bedroom in the library, of all places? Well, I suppose a bed is a nice enough place to read, Linnai thought. I’ll have to remember this place if I decide to not take up Frida’s offer, assuming nopony lives here. Really, though, who lives in a library?

“Anyway, time to get down to business. It’s a dream, so I doubt many of these books contain anything useful, but almost every dreamer has recent events documented somewhere,” she said aloud as she trotted back down to the central chamber. Scanning the shelves, she finally found a section labeled ‘History’. She glanced across the book spines and sighed. “What the heck? It’s all Daring Do books. Who put Daring Do in the history section?”

Linnai looked back and forth, and then to the door to make sure no one was there, and then levitated the Daring Do books off the shelf. She trotted over to the shelves that were labeled ‘Fiction’. When she got there, she laid the books down on the floor and tilted her head in confusion once again. The fiction shelf was already stocked with Daring Do books. In fact, the entire fiction section was nothing but Daring Do.

“Wait a minute,” Linnai said, her brow furrowing as frustration began to build up inside her. She dashed over to another section, this one labeled ‘Biography’ and found the same thing. The shelf was full of the Daring Do novels, as well as another couple of books that stood out a bit. One of them was an autobiography of Daring Do, and another was a biography of Rainbow Dash. She pulled the Rainbow Dash book out, flipped to a random page, and began to read aloud.

“Let’s see… ‘Rainbow Dash and Daring Do joined forces to fight against the evil forces of the shadowmancer, Umbross. The two heroines very nearly fell victim to his dark magic, but through the power of their sheer awesomeness, they were able to put an end to his reign over the ponies of the Dark Mountain. If you looked the word awesome up in the dictionary, you would find them there. Their faces were carved into the mountain’s face for all to see, and they were made honorary princesses…’ Oh for the love of… this is all self-insertion fanfiction! How big of a Daring Do fan is this pony?”

She slapped the book shut and reshelved it, deciding to try her luck back in the history section. On the way, she passed the reference section and decided to grab the dictionary and flip to the word ‘Awesome’. Sure enough, there was just a picture of Rainbow Dash there, with a note that said ‘See also: Friendship’. Linnai laughed out loud, unsure if she could even take Rainbow seriously anymore, and turned the page to the F’s. She found the word ‘Friendship’ toward the end of the section, defined as ‘The most awesome thing ever. Friends make you feel strong when you thought you were weak; They make you feel good when everything is bad; See also: Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Spike, and even Applejack.’

Linnai shook her head. “See also: Sappy. Blech.” She put the dictionary back and returned to the history section. Skimming past all the various Daring Do books, she finally found a world encyclopedia. “There’s no guarantee that this will have anything useful in it, but it’s worth checking.” She grabbed it, walked over to the table in the middle of the room, and set the book down. A stack of newspapers on the table caught her eye. She grabbed one, unfolded it, and read the headline.

Equestria in Flames! Changeling Invasion Leaves Canterlot in Ruins.

“Huh, this might actually be more useful,” she said, continuing to read the article. “After last night’s surprise raid on Ponyville left the small country village almost nothing but a smoldering wasteland, the changelings have moved north to Canterlot. The mountaintop seat of power for the ponies of Equestria was leveled in a matter of hours, leaving only the central palace standing. Reports are still coming in, but it appears as though Equestria may be falling for good. Is the Griffon Kingdom next? Turn to page 5 for an editorial piece exploring the possibility.”

Linnai shrugged. “That’s what I’d expect with the reset swarm. I’m surprised Rainbow Dash has been able to hold on this long. I should probably be prepared for this dream to shatter at any point,” she said with a sigh, her eyes then going wide. “Of course, that would send me back to my body… and my execution! Shoot, I really can’t let anything happen to Rainbow Dash! Brother, what have you gotten us into this time?” The reality of her situation having sunk in, Linnai continued to read through news articles as quickly as she could, looking for any clues as to Rainbow Dash’s whereabouts.

Before she knew it, the sun had set past the horizon. She glanced out the window at the moon. At least someone is controlling the sun and moon still. The princesses may be hiding out in the havens of the west, she thought. I’ll take the delivery job, as unpleasant as it sounds. I’ll try and find out anything I can from griffons around the city while working. I’d better get back to the tavern and let the two of them know.

Linnai trotted out of the library and took to the sky, flying back toward the side of town where the tavern was located. The whole time she was flying, information from the news articles was spinning around in her head.

Equestria, now a shadow of its former glory, has broken down into several havens, kept safe by ponies who are strong enough to stand up to the changelings. The identities of these ponies are unknown at this time, but it is assumed that they are the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, along with the princesses of Equestria. While the changelings are preoccupied with these havens, the Griffon Kingdom may yet be safe. As we speak, defenses are being set up at our borders, as well as on all seaboards.

Rainbow Dash might be in one of those havens, but I still have my doubts. Why would the dream have put me here if Rainbow Dash isn’t nearby? It doesn’t fit with any other dream world we’d experienced before. She’s in this city, she has to be, and I’m going to find her.

When Linnai returned to the tavern, she found all the lights out and the whole place completely dark. Hanging on the door was a sign that read “Closing early tonight. We will see you tomorrow!”

“What kind of bar closes this early?” Linnai pondered aloud as she pushed the door open and poked her head in, glancing back and forth. “Hello?” she squeaked, barely above a whisper. A slight flickering of light came from off to the left and up a set of stairs, toward the back of the main public area. Linnai carefully stepped across the creaking floorboards and up the wooden stairs. The staircase led up to a second story walkway that made its way to the back of the tavern’s great hall along one side. A single candle had been placed upon a small table there, and just ahead of her, Linnai could make out the light of another candle coming from a door that was ajar just ahead at the end of the path.

“Mr. Gerulf? Mrs. Frida?” Linnai quietly called out as she pushed the door open and peeked beyond it. There was a hallway with several doors, the first of which on the left side was proper open. A piece of paper hung from the door’s handle. Linnai lifted the paper and read it by the dim candlelight.

Sleep well!

Linnai entered the room. It was small, but cozy. A straw mattress sat on a wooden platform at the back, with a table next to it. On the table was a glass of water and a plate of some sort of little red circles and some leafy greens. Linnai lifted one of the reddish objects up and sniffed it. She nearly gagged as the smell entered her nostrils.

Meat! Blech! she thought and dropped the object back onto the plate. She eyed the greens and thoughts of her brother munching on grass entered her mind. She giggled quietly and shrugged. Well, might as well see what all the fuss is about. She shoved one of the leaves into her mouth and chewed. The fibrous, watery texture filled her mouth with a slightly sweet, slightly earthy taste. Raising her eyebrows and rolling her eyes upward, she shrugged once again.

“Eh, it’s not so bad, I guess,” she said, swallowing down the food. “Awfully considerate of them.” A moment later, her stomach rumbled slightly and she found herself quickly stuffing the rest of the vegetation into her mouth and happily munching away.

Lying on the bed and chewing on the last of the lettuce-like substance, she sighed and thought to herself, Brother, what the heck is happening to us? I’m lying here with a belly full of green mash. She gazed out the small window above her bed at the full moon above, which was shining down through the trees of the forest. Confound these ponies… and griffons, too, I suppose. Since when am I so comfortable among them all?

Linnai rolled over onto her other side, closed her eyes, and a vision of Twilight appeared in her mind. Twilight had a confused expression on her face as she stood alongside Linnai and Mulcibar. Linnai felt a strange warmness in her face. Reaching a hoof up, she rubbed her right cheek and smirked. Seemed like Prudicorn was pretty surprised that she was so relaxed around us, too. Another image of Twilight appeared, her eyes closed and her lips puckered, inching closer and closer. Linnai’s eyes shot open and she shook her head, now striking her hoof against her cheek.

“I’ll never get any sleep if I keep having thoughts like that,” she said with a sigh. She pushed the window open a crack, letting in a cool breeze, which gently caressed her warm cheeks as she eventually drifted off to sleep.

Rainbow Dash’s Dream, Equestria, Present Time

Lily ran down a row of tents towards a large campfire in the distance, screaming at the top of her lungs the whole way. “The horror! The horror! Changelings are attacking!”

As she ran, ponies would pop their heads out of tents and look at her, then look to the sky. Eventually, the shape of a tall, white pony with a flowing multi-colored mane came into her field of vision, standing near the campfire with a purple unicorn.

“Princess Celestia! Twilight! They’re coming from west!” Lily shouted. The two ponies by the campfire wasted no time. They fired beams of magic up into the sky, forming a bright purple shield and a ball of yellow light that lit up the sky as if it were daytime.

“Let them come, then! They shall not find what they are looking for, just as they never do!”

A dark figure stopped in the air above the forcefield, just above the campfire. A changeling wearing a suit of spiked armor and a dragon-like helmet shouted down at the camp.

“Give us Rainbow Dash and you will be able to return to your lives!”

Twilight’s eyebrow twitched and she threw her gaze upward. “Even if we knew where she was, we’d never hand her over to the likes of you! You know you can’t break through my shield, so just buzz off!”

“Even if he could, he’d have to face me,” Celestia said, glancing at the cloud of changeling drones that hung in the sky behind the larger one. “How many do you have with you this time? A hundred? Two hundred?” She laughed, covering her mouth with a hoof.

“YOU WOULD NEED A THOUSAND TO EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!! NOW LEAVE THIS PLACE!!” Her voice echoed across the landscape, the very trees and rocks seeming to bend as she shouted.

The changeling swarm flew back several feet in response, and the leader hissed down at Celestia. “If you want a thousand, that can be arranged! Alive or dead, it doesn’t matter, but Rainbow Dash will be ours!”

With that, the swarm flew away. Once they were out of sight, Twilight lowered the shield and fell to the ground. Panting, she looked up at Celestia. “That… really takes it out of me. I don’t know how Shining Armor managed to hold the shield over all of Canterlot for as long as he did.”

Celestia shook her head. “Your brother was something else, that’s for sure… but we should not dwell on that. We need to get in touch with the other havens and tell them we’ve had an attack. I shall send a letter to Spike.”

Twilight nodded her head, wiping a tear away from her eye. “Princess, why do they want Rainbow Dash? Why her?”

Celestia shrugged. “Well, she is the High Awesome Commander of The Wonderbolts, the fastest mare alive, and the only pony who has ever defeated a full-grown titan in single combat. I suppose they fear her. That is the only thing I can think of.”

“I don’t know. It’s strange. It feels like there’s… something else. I can’t put my hoof on it, you know?”

Celestia nodded and lowered her head to Twilight. “I feel the same way,” she whispered, “but until we find out the truth, we have to stand our ground and coordinate between havens.”

The two of them looked toward the sky, staring into the full moon above. “Surely Rainbow Dash will come save us. I just know it,” Twilight said, her voice full of hope.

“Indeed,” Celestia responded. “She is Equestria’s only hope.”

Rainbow Dash’s Dream, Two Days Later, Point of Entry: Fluttershy and Mulcibar

Fluttershy opened her eyes and shook her head, placing a hoof against it. Wha… What happened? My head is pounding all of the sudden.

She wearily trained her eyes around the room she found herself in. There was a table in front of her with a teapot sitting on a tray upon it. Two cups sat next to the pot, upside down, as well as a plate of sugar cubes and a pair of small spoons. Steam rose from the teapot, and Fluttershy instinctively inhaled, taking in the smell of herbal tea. The scent seemed to instantly calm her headache, and she couldn’t help but smile slightly.

Tea… Right, tea. Was I making tea? She thought. She was interrupted by the sound of groaning coming from behind her.

“Rainbow Dash? Is that you?” she said, turning her head to look at where the noise had come from.

“What? No, it’s just me, sorry…” a voice responded. “That was rougher than I thought it would be.”

Fluttershy turned her head downward and saw Mulcibar. She screamed, jumped back, and bumped into the table, nearly knocking the tea set off the other side. “Changeling!” she screeched.

“Wait, wait! It’s just me! Mulcibar!”

“Keep away from me!”

Mulcibar’s eyes went wide as he realized what had happened.

If a dreamwalker’s will is weaker than the dreamer’s, they could be the one taken over by the dream version.

Mulcibar stepped forward and reached a hoof out to Fluttershy. “Think, Fluttershy. You have to concentrate. We’re here to find Rainbow Dash.”

“I know what you’re here for! You won’t lay a hoof on her!” Fluttershy shouted back. “Somepony get in here and help!”

“No! We’re here to find her! You and I! Try to remember! Princess Luna and Twilight will be here, soon! Linnai is out there waiting for us, somewhere, too!”

A memory flashed in Fluttershy’s mind. She saw Mulcibar’s face, up close and weak looking, lit by a flickering fire. She clenched her eyes shut and shook her head. “Stop! Whatever you’re doing, it’s not going to work!”

The door at the far end of the room swung open, and a light blue mare with a rainbow-colored mane came storming into the room. Across her left cheek was a long scar. She wore a blue uniform, streaked with a yellow lightning bolt. Sewn into the uniform’s chest was a gemstone in the shape of a lightning bolt. The mare’s eyes immediately locked onto Mulcibar. “Fluttershy! What’s going on?” she shouted.

“I don’t know how he got in here! He just suddenly appeared!” Fluttershy shouted back at the mare.

Mulcibar took a step back. “Rainbow Dash!”

“We’re infiltrated? This is bad.” Rainbow Dash said, and then raised her hoof, pointing it toward the changeling. “We better move. Looks like lunch will have to wait.”

“Wait--!” Mulcibar started, but was interrupted by a beam of energy firing from Rainbow’s hoof and striking him in the chest. He flew back to the far wall of the room, slamming into it. He felt his head connect with the stone wall, and then lost consciousness.

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