• 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 2 - Pressurization

Author's Note:

Double April Foals!

It was a new chapter all along.

Chapter 3 is almost done! Or do you not believe that? :pinkiehappy: :pinkiehappy: :pinkiehappy:

Serious note: 5555 words? Sheesh. Anyway, I decided to make a couple shorter chapters instead of one long one so I'd at least have something for you all.

Short-lived April Fool's joke. It's 5:14 AM but I have no idea when I'll be able to publish tomorrow. I got at least 3 people with the blog post, so good enough for me.

Off to bed with me!

Book Five: Crash Down

Chapter Two – Pressurization

Rainbow Dash’s Dream, Present Time

Linnai’s nostrils flared as she sniffed the air. She moaned slightly and rolled over, pulling a blanket over her face and burying her nose in her pillow. She sniffed again, the same smell still filling her nose. Griffons, she thought as she slowly drifted back towards consciousness. Why did it have to be griffons? The stench of them, ugh… it’s revolting.

“Up and at ‘em!” a voice came from above her.

Linnai felt herself being shaken, and she slowly opened her eyes, flinching slightly as sunlight coming in through a window hit her face. She rolled over and blinked as the face of a griffon came into view. A second later, that same griffon grabbed ahold of the blanket that she was curled up in and tugged it off of her.

“Hey! That’s cold!” she protested. Despite her complaint, she slid her hind legs off the bed and down onto the floor. She slouched forward, her mane falling over her face. A second later, she felt a taloned finger sliding across her forehead and tucking her bangs behind her ear. She gazed drearily up at Frida.

“Come on, let’s get you some breakfast.”

“You didn’t have to yank my covers off,” Linnai complained, snatching the blanket back and hugging it against her chest with a sigh.

“Come on, now. Daylight’s a-burnin’. Starting today, yer a proud employee of The Roost Tavern.”

Linnai shrugged and crawled out of bed. The two of them made their way out onto the walkway and down into the great hall of the tavern. Gerulf was sitting at a table, a pair of glasses over his eyes, a magnifying lens mounted in front of him, as he tinkered with something. His talons moved delicately, twisting a tiny screwdriver. Beside him was a plate upon which sat several fried eggs and slices of toasted bread. The smells that were entering Linnai’s nostrils now were at least not wholly unpleasant, of which she was thankful.

“You have a seat here, I’ll go get some things ready for you. Got a long day ahead of you. Monday is a busy day for us.”

“Great way to start a job. The busiest day, eh?” Linnai said and sat down next to Gerulf. She stared down at the plate of food, uncertain of what she was suddenly feeling deep down inside her gut. She sniffed at the air again and felt herself starting to salivate, an odd sensation for her when love magic wasn’t involved. She looked up at the griffon and pointed down at the plate. “Do you eat this stuff?”

Gerulf laughed and eyed her oddly. “I don’t know, do you?” he asked. “You’re an odd one, alright! Probably why I liked ya immediately.”

Linnai let out a nervous laugh. “Sorry, I’m just not used to this.”

“Used to what?”

Linnai shook her head. “Nevermind,” she said, and then picked up a piece of toast. She nervously bit down on it and then her eyes went wide.

Gerulf grinned at her and shook his head. “You prefer it plain? Got some butter, here.” He scooped up some of the yellow substance onto a knife and held it up in front of the bewildered looking pony. After she lowered the toast down, he spread it on. She stared down at it as he spread it, practically drooling.

She took another bite and her eyes seemed to practically sparkle. She could feel her heart beating. This could be really dangerous if Mulcibar got his hooves on any. He might just keel over, she thought, then took another bite.

“I thought for sure you ponies ate bread, at least,” Gerulf mused and returned to his tinkering.

Linnai jumped slightly as a stack of paper was slapped down onto the table beside her. Frida sat across from Gerulf and tapped a claw against the papers. “These are the delivery orders, along with a map of the city. Along with being a tavern, we also dabble in moving, business deliveries, rides, and security.”

“Security?” Linnai asked before stuffing the last of the toast into her mouth. Gerulf patted the gun that was holstered at his hip.

“Not so much in the security business anymore,” Frida admitted.

“After last night’s incident, I’d hope not,” Linnai said plainly. Gerulf and Frida both burst into laughter.

“Hah! I like you more every minute, new girl! Yer an honest one,” said Gerulf.

Linnai poked curiously at the eggs and then glanced at the stack of papers on the table. “Looks like a lot of work,” she said flatly.

“Oh, I know it seems like it, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it before you know it. Just grab a saddle bag from the rack toward the front of the bar when you’re ready to set out,” Frida responded.

Linnai sighed and stood up. “Might as well get on with it,” she said. “I need to get a better feel for the city, anyway.”

“If ya need anything, ya know where ta find us,” Gerulf said, not even looking up from what he was doing.

Linnai simply nodded, scooped up the stack of papers and a saddle bag from beside the door, and left.

The city of Avenport was a sizable port town with multiple levels. Browns and greens dominated the view as Linnai took it all in. The buildings were made of wood for the most part, attached to trees, though some sported fancier and more intricate construction and shot up from the ground. Many griffons, along with a few pegasi, filled the heart of the city. She glided over what appeared to be the town square, which was situated in a clearing in the center of the clump of tall trees that made up the rest of the city. A giant statue of a griffon wearing armor, standing proudly, was the centerpiece of the plaza. Several streets shot off in all directions from the statue’s location. Linnai looked around, comparing the layout of the city to the map she held. She landed on a sturdy tree branch and studied the delivery itinerary. There were schedule pickup and dropoff times, along with addresses, which specified not only the location relative to the roads on the ground, but also to the walkways and flight zones above.

“I can’t help but be impressed! This is a really detailed city. This dream just keeps getting more and more insane by the minute. Just look at all these griffons… they all seem to be individuals. Those two at the tavern, at first I thought maybe they were a couple that Rainbow knew, but…” Linnai said to herself as she turned her head and looked over at a griffon couple having a conversation while sitting on a park bench.

“Open up, Shnookums, its your favorite: banana brickle!” the large avian said to his demure companion. She opened her beak, closed her eyes, and bit down onto the spoon of ice cream that had been presented to her. There was something so realistic about them, and everyone else in this city that Linnai had flown past, that she had to keep reminding herself that it was a dream world.

“There’s something else, too. Something wrong. I wish I could put my hoof on it. Once Mulci arrives, there shouldn’t be too much trouble. The reset swarm seems to be paying no mind to this town. That seems odd in and of itself, but it’s going to make things much easier.”

Linnai stared down at the griffon couple sitting on the bench below her, observing their every move for reasons beyond her.

“You know what I’d like to gobble up even more, sweetie?” the female asked, staring up into her lover’s eyes.

Linnai felt her cheeks warm slightly as the female griffon suggestively licked at the tip of the spoon and fluttered her eyes up at the male. Linnai made a slight gagging sound. She stuffed the pieces of paper she’d been holding into her bag and took off towards the site of her first pickup.

As she passed the north end of the city center, coming upon the first intersection from it, she heard a loud voice shouting out, and the sound of a crowd. She turned her head and saw a griffon standing atop a crate. He was shaking his fist in the air as she yelled.

“Who do these ponies think they are? They run away from a problem they created and seek refuge in our kingdom! We don’t want them here! The changelings are clearly only interested in ponies, and they’ll only bring them to us again!”

Linnai landed on the sidewalk at the intersection to watch the spectacle. He seems like a real charmer, she thought. Members of the crowd began shouting back.

“They should go back and face the music!”

“But we’re allies! We have a responsibility to help them!”

“Let them fend for themselves! We’ve got enough to worry about!”

“That’s right!” shouted the griffon on the crate. “You all remember when the changelings invaded here! I still have nightmares about those dark creatures! I understand all too well where they came from, too! It’s a pony conspiracy! It had to be the unicorns dabbling in magic they never should have touched! Do the changelings look like griffons?”

“No!” the crowd yelled back. “They look like ponies!”

“That’s right, again!” the griffon shouted. “They’re a pony problem! And now the ponies think they can just come here after they’ve ruined their own kingdom! Take our land! Our jobs! Our way of life! They all just sit in their camp in the slums and wallow in their own self-pity! Worthless, I say! We should drive them out, right here, right now!”

“Yeah!” the crowd roared.

“ENOUGH!” a voice from further down the street shouted. Everyone turned to look. A griffon with pure white feathers and burning eyes stared down the road at the mob. “Disperse this crowd immediately!”

“Oh! Look who’s shown up! It’s pony sympathizer number one! Shouldn’t you be at home making out with your pony marefriend, Gilda?”

So, that’s Gilda! Linnai thought, her eyes locking onto the griffon, taking in her every feature.

“I’m getting real tired of your beak, Garren! You like to think you’re a revolutionary, but you’re just a lame rabble rouser!”

Garren, the griffon who had been up on the box, leapt through the air and glided down towards Gilda, landing in the street right in front of her. “You wanna find out how lame I am? Let’s go right now. I’m not scared of you just because you’re in the security force. Come on!”

Gilda laughed. “If I wanted a real fight, I’d go pick one with old Gerulf at the Roost! You couldn’t knock out a pony foal, Garren! Now get off my streets! The north side is my squad’s territory, and if you don’t want me calling them all here, you’ll get this racist scum out of here!” Gilda shouted, and then flapped her wings a couple times, shouting past the griffon before her. “You hear that? Get lost!”

The crowd nervously began to disperse. A pair of griffons walked past Linnai and flashed her a couple of angry glares as they did. Linnai shook her head and sighed.

“Hey, you! Pegasus!” Gilda’s voice shot out down the road. “That means you, too!”

Garren laughed and took to the sky. “Yes, go back to your slum town, grass-eater!”

Without hesitation, Gilda launched herself into the air, pulled back her fist, and let loose with it, clocking Garren squarely on the side of his head. He dropped back to the ground, but then quickly composed himself and took off flying, leaving the area with great speed. Gilda glided over to Linnai and landed in front of her.

“Look, sorry about that. He’s the worst,” she said. “You need to get going, though. The north side is a rough place. Haven’t seen you before, so you must be new in town, but just trust me, you don’t want to be up here. Sad but true.”

Linnai shook her head. “Weaklings like him don’t scare me. All talk and no substance, I’ve known plenty like him. I am here on business, though, so I don’t have much of a choice. It’s funny, you’d mentioned Gerulf, and that’s just who I’m working for right now.”

Gilda blinked and then grinned. “Ah, you must be the new delivery mare at the Roost. Word travels fast through the security force. Plus, Gerulf and Frida are my aunt and uncle. You’re lucky to have run into them rather than these guys first. But anyway, just be careful here on the north side. If you have anything to do up here, get it done fast and don’t hang around long. Ponies aren’t welcomed too kindly.”

“I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks.”

“Oh, and don’t think that just because you’re working for my uncle’s business that you get a pass up here. If I hear about you doing anything suspicious, I know where to find you now.”

Well that was quite the mood swing. Still, I need to make sure I keep track of this griffon. She’s connected to Rainbow Dash somehow. If my theory is correct, she could lead me right to her.

The remainder of her day was far less eventful, with standard pickups and dropoffs following her confrontation with Gilda and the gang of angry griffons. She plopped down on the same tree branch as before and pulled a piece of paper up from her satchel.

“Just one delivery left,” she said to herself, leaning back against the tree’s trunk and taking a deep breath. “Is this what normal poor pegasi do for a living? This is just awful. I can’t imagine weather duties. Still, after this delivery, I can head back to--”

“Open up, Shnookums, its your favorite. banana brickle!”

Linnai jerked her body forward and stared down to the area beneath her perch. The same couple were sitting on the bench, doing the exact same things they had been doing mid-day.

“You know what I’d like to gobble up even more, sweetie?”

Linnai cocked an eyebrow. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me…” she said aloud. So maybe I gave this dream too much credit. These dream inhabitants are pretty dull, she thought. I suppose it makes sense. Even a mind racing at this speed couldn’t keep up with so much. They probably all do the same things every day for the most part.

Linnai stuffed the paper back into her bag. “Well, it doesn’t matter. One last delivery up north and then I’m home free.”

Gilda’s voice shot through her mind. She warned me not to go to the north side… Linnai thought, but then shook her head. Whatever. These pathetic dream dolls don’t scare me.

She took off towards the north side of the city, leaving the central park behind. She arrived at a run down shop on the north side of town and knocked on the door. A griffon with pure black feathers cracked the door open and scowled at her.

“Delivery mare?” he simply asked, and Linnai nodded her head. A second later, a massive crate was shoved out the door and the griffon pointed to a cart across the road. “It’s heavy, so take that cart with you. Contents fragile! Understand? I know you pegasi can be a little too eager, so to speak, but if you damage these goods…”

Linnai glared back at the griffon through the partially opened door. “What? Get over yourself, old bird. Nothing’s going to happen.”

“Better not, or its your head, weed-eater!”

The door slammed before Linnai could respond. She slammed one of her front hooves against the door and shouted. “I’ll roast you, you old turkey!” There was no response. She looked down at the crate, then over at the cart. A moment later, she had pulled the cart over and strained as she lifted the unbelievably heavy crate on board and then latched the cart’s front around her midsection.

“Mother of… What’s in there, boulders?” She lifted off, the contents of the crate clanking slightly as she struggled to get airborne and flew off to the northwest.

The sun was setting in the sky when she finally arrived at the dock she’d been directed to. She landed upon a ledge overlooking the dock to take a moment and catch her breath. She hadn’t been sitting for a minute when three shady looking griffons came out of a large set of double doors across from her. The doors were the only visible entrance to a massive warehouse that bumped up against the dock and the ocean. One of the griffons waved her over.

“Get over here, seed-brain! You’ll be spotted!”

“Bloody equers…” another griffon groaned aloud.

Linnai practically fumed as she took flight again, hauling the heavy load behind her. “Calm yer egg-holes, I got it!” she grumbled under her breath. A gust of wind from the bay caught her, pushing her to the side. The cart tilted and the crate dropped to the ground, not very far, but enough to crack the wood and spill the contents out onto the ground.

Two of the griffons raced toward Linnai. One of them went straight for the cargo and the other grabbed Linnai by the shoulders, shaking her. “You lame-brained idiot!” he shouted. Linnai turned her head to look at the cargo, and the griffon who was shaking her pulled her away from it, but it was too late. Linnai saw the contents of the crate, spread all across the ground.

A veritable mountain of bullets and small bladed weapons lined the ground. Tightly packed rifles had spilled out and were lying across the ground as well, with the other griffon scrambling to scoop them all back up.

“You didn’t see anything, you hear?” the griffon who was holding Linnai’s shoulder shouted into her face. His breath reeked of griffon stench, and Linnai nearly gagged.

“Didn’t see what? Like I care about your pathetic firearms!”

The third griffon, who was still standing by the door, shouted out to the other two. “She don’t care, eh?” He said with a glare. “It’s too late, though! No one can know what we’re doing here!”

The griffon who had been gripping Linnai’s shoulders now pulled one of his claws away, balled it up into a fist, and slammed it against Linnai’s forehead.

Linnai dropped to the ground and stared up at the griffon who had hit her. “You just made a big mistake!” she growled, and then shot up to her hooves, headbutting the griffon right under his beak.

He reeled back, releasing her from his claws and cupping them under his beak. Blood trickled down from where his beak met the feathers of his face. Linnai didn’t take a second to continue, though, turning in place and swinging a front hoof around into the griffon’s ribcage. As she connected, sending his body bending sideways, she was attacked from behind. The other griffon pounded down against the center of her back with both his fists. She felt her spine buckle slightly, but she pressed up against the attack and turned her head over her shoulder, glaring back at the second assailant.

In the distance, she could see the third griffon ducking into the building. Going to help? She wondered, but had no time to ponder further. She kicked with her hind legs, both her rear hooves slamming against the second griffon’s chest. He was launched into the air and slammed into the ground several feet back, sliding on impact and letting out a scream of pain.

It had only been a matter of seconds, but Linnai heard a metallic clank to her right. She jerked her head around just in time to see the first griffon leaping towards her, clutching a knife in his claws.

Too fast to dodge!

The griffon’s arms sped forward, stabbing the knife into her side. She screamed in pain and stared into the griffon’s eyes, her own full of rage. The outline of a horn blazed upon her forehead, and with a quick blast of fire, she blew the griffon away from her.

Linnai fell to the ground. She was bleeding out from the knife wound and knew if she didn’t do something about it quickly, it could be fatal. The blade had penetrated her between her ribs, though she could feel it had somehow missed any internal organs. Be that as it may, a puddle of blood had already formed beneath her.

“Freak!” Linnai heard a voice shout. She turned and looked toward the warehouse. The third griffon was standing in the open doorway, sitting upon his haunches and aiming a long-barreled rifle right at her.

He pulled the trigger. The gun’s barrel flashed as the bullet sped forth. Linnai closed her eyes, concentrated, and threw up a shield spell as fast as she could manage. The bullet hit the shield, blasted right through it, and lodged itself in her flesh. Luckily, the shield had absorbed nearly all of the bullet’s momentum.

Have to get up! Linnai thought. He’ll fire again! She began to push herself to her hooves when she heard another bang.

This time it was different. Her eyes went wide as she saw Gerulf come down on the rifle-wielding griffon, his fist slamming into the side of its head. As if a speeding train had smashed into him, the griffon went down, his head hitting the ground so hard that bits of rock and dirt flew into the air from the impact.

Linnai’s world went dark.

The next thing she knew, Linnai found herself being cradled in Gerulf’s surprisingly strong arms as they flew through the air away from the warehouse.

“Sorry, I… I must have blacked out for a sec, and—“ Linnai started, but was interrupted.

“Hush, now. We hafta get ya back to the shop. Yer wounded. Don’t worry, though, we’ll get ya patched up in no time.”

“What about all those weapons?”

“The security force will have heard the gunshots. I’m sure they’ll be arriving in no time. You sure did a number on the other two, though. One of ‘em even looked burned.”

Linnai coughed slightly, which sent a shock of pain through her entire body. “Did… did he?”

“Aye,” Gerulf said, slightly laughing. “Musta got gunpowder in his feathers, unlucky bastard.”

From a grove of trees near the warehouse, a pair of glowing eyes stared at the two as they flew away. “Was that magic?” the eyes’ owner pondered. “Interesting ability for a pegasus.”

Rainbow Dash’s Dream, One Day Later

Mulcibar slowly opened his eyes and shook his head slightly. He reached a hoof around to the back of his head and rubbed the bump that had formed there, pulling air between his teeth as the pain shot across his scalp. He blinked a couple of times and came to the realization that he was inside a cage.

Not again, he thought, glancing around at his immediate surroundings. The large rectangular cell that held him had thick metal bars and a single hinged door at one end. The room that the cage sat in the back of was dimly lit with makeshift wooden walls. Through the cracks and spaces between boards, he could make out dirt. A makeshift sub-level of some sort, or a pit. There’s a door at the far end.

He tapped his hoof against the cage door, and it rattled on its hinges. “Shoddy work, and it looks like it’s just been improvised from metal beams and ductwork in places. One little blast to the hinges is all it will take,” he thought aloud, and then remembered the beam of magic firing out of Rainbow’s hoof. “She has a grip on some sort of lucidity, she’s just not awoken. No matter, all I have to do is keep track of her until the others arrive. Finding Linnai should also be a priority.”

Mulcibar shot a beam of magic at one of the cage’s hinges. The blast was absorbed by the bars rather than exploding on impact. A second later, the entire cage seemed to electrify, sending jolts of energy up through the changeling’s legs. He jumped backwards instinctively and clenched his teeth. Anti-magic measures, and really weird, too… It feeds back. Nice deterrent.

“Awake, are you?” a voice called out to him from the other side of the door. It opened and he was met by the gaze of a brown pony who sported a beige pith helmet and a simple green top. “Sorry that Rainbow Dash couldn’t be here to greet you as you woke; you’ll have to make do with me.”

Mulcibar shrugged. “Makes no difference to me. Who are you, again?”

The pony pulled back her head and gasped. “Who am I? Who am I? You’re an odd changeling if you don’t know who I am.”

“Guess I’m out of the loop.”

“The Scourge of the Jungle?”

“Not ringing a bell.”

“The Desert Walker?”

“Sorry, I don’t think any nickname is going to do you any good, here.”

“Honestly, have your superiors even briefed you? The last four changelings we caught all knew who I was immediately. I’m Daring Do!”

“Like… from those pony books?”

Daring pulled her hat down a bit and sighed. “Yeah, that one.”

“Good grief. So the dream isn’t just inclusive, but it’s a fantasy? What a pain in the plot…”

Daring shook her head. “Dream? I assure you, this is no dream, and we’re a bit confused, ourselves. You’re not like any other changeling we’ve seen so far. At a glance, I’d almost think you were a unicorn, but those eyes, and those holes in your legs… you’re a changeling, alright.”

A fantasy dream… that would explain the lucidity that Rainbow has, as well as this cage’s anti-magic. This pony dreams pretty big, he thought. “Where’s Fluttershy?” He stood up and stared the pony down through the cage’s bars.

Daring laughed. “Fluttershy? You really are an oddity. All of your friends are always looking for Rainbow. Where did you come from, changeling?”

“That doesn’t matter. Where’s Fluttershy?”

“I hate to turn the tables on you, here, but I’m going to need you to answer some questions. How did you find us? Do your superiors know where we are?”

Mulcibar groaned. I guess I’d better just feed her some info, any info. He cleared his throat. “No, it’s just me. I just stumbled upon this place.”

Daring squinted and slid her jaw left and right for a moment. “Nah, I’m not buying it. It doesn’t fit in with how you’ve been operating.”

“You also said you’d never seen a changeling like me before. There’s a reason for that, little pony. I am one of a special order of changelings. My mission is different than that of the swarm you’ve encountered thus far, and I am also not to be taken lightly.” He spread his wings, their tips beginning to glow blue.

Daring jumped back a couple of feet. “Don’t try anything! That cage is made of special magic-absorbing alloy! The princesses themselves imbued the metal with the magic, and anything you try in there is going to be nullified.”

“Why’d you jump back, then?” Mulcibar asked, and then stared closely at the bars in front of him.

“Just trained reflexes. What’s your mission, then?”

“Trained reflexes, eh? You’ve seen your fair share of danger, then?” he asked, a grin spreading across his face.

“Plenty more dangerous than you,” Daring scoffed.

“You have to keep on your hooftips. Defense is of utmost importance, I assume,” he responded, his eyes starting to glow a slight blue.

Daring stared back into his eyes. Her facial expression softened. “Of course.”

“That’s why you locked yourself up in that cell, right? Can’t be too careful.”

Daring Do blinked and shook her head. She turned and looked around, finding that she was locked inside the cage and Mulcibar was now on the outside. She stamped her hoof against the ground. “What? What’s going on?”

Mulcibar laughed. “I have no idea, you tell me! It seems backwards to have the prisoner outside the cage and you inside, doesn’t it?”

“What did you do? Let me out!”

Mulcibar chuckled. “You’re the one with the keys,” he said, pointing to the key ring that was latched to her shirt. “I didn’t do anything.”

She looked down at the key ring for a moment and then reached up and grabbed it. Fumbling for a moment, her head shot up at the sound of another voice.

“What are you doing in there? Where’s the prisoner?”

Rainbow Dash was staring at Daring through the cage’s bars. Daring reached clumsily around through the bars, sliding a key into the keyhole. “Sorry, I don’t know what happened! He was just here! I don’t know how he switched us around, but somehow I was locked up and he was free!”

“Well just hurry up and get out of there! We have to go find him!”

Daring nodded her head and twisted the key, swinging the door open. Rainbow Dash grinned, but then a voice came from behind Daring.

“What are you doing?”

Rainbow’s face went from a grin to a frown. Her eyes flashed blue, and the world seemed to spin in a circle for a moment. Magic swept across the room and Rainbow Dash’s appearance melted away, revealing Mulcibar, who was standing inside the cage still. Daring Do stood dumbfounded outside the cage, holding the door open. Standing behind her was Fluttershy, her eyes wide, staring at Mulcibar.

“Fluttershy—“ Mulcibar started, reaching his hoof up.

“Close the door!” Fluttershy managed. Daring shook her head and swung the door inward, but Mulcibar shoved his foreleg out, letting the door slam against it.

“Hey! Stop that!” Daring shouted, pushing up against the door harder. Mulcibar pushed back, slowing easing the door open again. A second later, it slammed against his leg again.

He screamed and turned to look at the door. Fluttershy was now pressed against it. He noticed that she was wearing a Wonderbolts suit, just like Rainbow Dash had been, complete with a pink butterfly-shaped gem set into the chest. He stared into her eyes, and she stared back, her gaze cold and distant.

“Please! You have to let me out! Fluttershy, listen! It’s me! Mulcibar!”

“I don’t know you, monster, and I don’t want to!” Fluttershy shouted back at him and then slammed her body against the door again, even harder this time.

Mulcibar let out a cry of pain once again and pulled his hoof back. The cage door slammed shut and Daring twisted the key, locking the cage. Mulcibar, who had fallen to the floor, looked up at Fluttershy, who was still staring at him coldly. He stood up and flinched slightly as pain shot through his foreleg.

“Please, just listen to me,” he said.

Fluttershy shook her head. “Don’t talk to me like you know me… like you even care about what you’ve put this world through.”

“But that wasn’t me! That was—“

“You think you aren’t guilty just because you didn’t do it yourself? Your kind did it. All of you! All of you will pay!”

“Fluttershy! That isn’t you talking! That’s just how Rainbow Dash made you!”

Daring pulled Fluttershy away from the cage. “Come on, Shy. Let’s get out of here,” she said, glancing down at Mulcibar’s bent and bleeding foreleg. “Hah! Serves you right.”

The two pegasi left the room, leaving Mulcibar to sit in his cell, alone, in pain, and bleeding. He stared down at the blood on the floor, Fluttershy’s face burning in the back of his mind. A teardrop fell to the ground, mixing with the red liquid.

“Please… just look at me like you did before…” he said with a slight sob. “Let me know there’s something of the real you left.”

The candle on the table across the room from him fizzled out, leaving him in total darkness.

“Love is a strength?” he asked himself in the cold, pitch black room. “I’m starting to have my doubts, Princess…”

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