• 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 6 - Recovery

Book Five: Crash Down

Chapter Six - Recovery

I was so young, I barely even remember much about my mom – just a sweet smile and a beautiful dark blue mane, never really styled, it just fell all around her face and would tickle my nose when she leaned down to kiss me. Sure, I know what she looked like from seeing her in photographs, but her voice? Her personality? Her cooking, which I am assured was great? I have no memories of any of those things. She was a nurse at a sports clinic, which is how dad met her in the first place. I am told she loved me a lot and was a good mother, but things took a pretty grim turn.

I remember being sad, but I just didn’t know how to deal with it. I guess dad had his own ways of dealing with it. Thinking back, I remember one night over a year after mom died. I heard dad crying and was worried, so I went out to the living room. I found him slouched over on the couch, a big, empty glass bottle lying next to him, his face buried in his forelegs.

“Daddy? Why are you crying?”

Rainbow Blaze quickly wiped his face against his forelegs and looked over at his daughter. He smiled as best he could and then took in a deep breath. “Because I miss mommy,” he said, and then turned to look at the empty bottle beside him. “Sheesh… daddy’s had a little too much, squirt.”

“Too much what?” Dash questioned as she slowly made her way to the couch and started to climb up onto it.

Blaze quickly grabbed the bottle and set it on the floor on the other side of the couch. He burped and tapped a hoof against his chest. “Bad medicine.”

“You said mommy took too much medicine, and that’s why she went away. You’re not going away, are you?”

Blaze grabbed his little girl and squeezed her close to him. “No, squirt, I’ll be okay. I’m not going anywhere.”

Dash pushed her front hooves against her dad’s side and scrunched up her nose. “Ewwww, let me go,” she said, but then giggled slightly.

Blaze smiled, genuinely this time, and loosened his hug. “Okay, okay,” he said, and then leaned against the cushioned back of the couch. The two of them fell asleep together.

“Mommy had a bad habit, and daddy didn’t notice until it was too late.” That’s what dad always told me. When I got older, he sat me down and told me the truth.

“She got hooked on ponium at some party with her coworkers. Funny, they were all medical professionals… You’d think they would know better.”

Rainbow Dash stared at her father, her jaw wide open. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

Rainbow Blaze leaned back in his seat and sighed. “Yes, and you’re old enough to know the truth, now. I found her,” he started, but then sniffled and closed his eyes, rubbing a foreleg against them. They opened back up a second later, staring blankly upward and tears falling from them. “I found her in the bathtub. She tried to talk, but nothing came out that I could understand. She had a needle still stuck in her foreleg… just dangling there…”

“Dad, you don’t have to--”

“I tried to save her, Dash. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t,” he said and shook his head. “I flew her as fast as I could to the hospital, but just as we were arriving, I felt… I felt her…” He leaned forward, pressing his forehead against the kitchen table. Dash got up from her seat across from him and ran around, grabbing ahold of him, tears now streaming down her own cheeks. She squeezed him tightly, burying her face in his shoulder.

“Dad! You don’t have to tell me. It’s okay.”

“I felt her die. She just went limp. She was gone, Dashie… just gone. They said her heart had given up.”

We spent that night together. I knew he would be okay, he had been for years, but I wanted to be there for him. He slept on the couch and I slept on the floor next to it. I just couldn’t believe his story, but I knew it was true. We’d already learned about drugs at school, the teachers made us all take an oath to stay clean, but I knew some kids who secretly smoked zebra lotus. That stuff stank so bad, I couldn’t even go near it. Not sure how they could stand it.

Go forward a few years, and I found myself standing in Gilda’s room at the Roost, staring into a suitcase that was jam-packed with the very stuff that killed my mom and caused my dad so much misery. To say I was pissed would be an understatement, but it only got worse from there on out.

“Ponium?” I asked, my jaw beginning to shake.

“Yeah, and really quality stuff, too!” Gilda responded as if nothing was wrong. “It can only be made in Equestria, so it’s in high demand over here. Check this out!” Gilda grabbed another bag, straining slightly, and dropped it onto the floor beside Dash. She zipped it open and bits practically poured out of it.

Dash stared at the money, and then up at Gilda’s face. “You’re selling ponium!”

Gilda put a talon to her beak. “Shh! Keep it down. Look, if we can move all this stuff out, we can make a small fortune. And then next time, we can bring even more, expand to other cities.”

Dash was practically seeing red. She swung her hoof forward without even thinking about it, gripped at Gilda’s feathers as best she could, and threw her down onto the bed. She pressed her hoof against Gilda’s chest and leaned over her. “I thought you wanted to come here to get away from Cloudsdale! I thought we were friends! Maybe more than that! But apparently you had other plans!”

“Dash, relax, I had planned on telling you all along!”

“I don’t care!” Dash screamed, turning her head to look at all of Gilda’s luggage. “All those bags I helped you carry? You were just using me to help you smuggle drugs? And now you want me to help you? This stuff kills people, Gilda! Ruins lives!”

“Dude, chill out!” Gilda shouted back, pushing up against Dash. “It’s not like you even known any of these griffons! You just have to sell it to them. They want it, and we’re giving them what they want. I never heard of anyone dying from it.”

Dash pulled her hoof up just long enough to swing it back down across Gilda’s face. “This stuff killed my mom! Let me tell you what I want! I want my dad to have never stayed up all night crying into a bottle of whiskey! I want my mom to have been able to see me growing up!” she screamed, and then kicked the table that the suitcase of ponium was sitting on, knocking it onto the ground. “If you think a few bits can bring her back, think again!”

Gilda stared up at Dash, unable to speak, her whole body shaking.

Dash gave her one last shove and then stormed out of the room. “Don’t ever let me see your face again!”

I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I felt hurt, betrayed, and most of all, angry. I found myself tearing through the Roost’s upper walkway which eventually came to a spiral staircase I had never gone up. I went up it without much though and found myself in a room with a couch at the far wall. I threw myself down onto it, buried my face in a small, square pillow that was at one end of it, and screamed as loud as I could. I smashed my right hoof into the couch’s back cushions. After a moment, I took a break to breathe and heard a chair creak behind me.

Rainbow Dash flipped over on the couch and jerked her head up to look at the source of the creaking sound. Gerulf was there, sitting on a stool with a pair of thick goggles pulled over his eyes, which made them look huge. He blinked his eyes and shook his head.

“I… didn’t know anyone was up here,” Dash said, her voice hoarse and scratchy.

“That’s okay,” Gerulf replied and then removed the goggles. “I come here to get away, too.”

“I’m not sure this is far enough away, yet.”

Gerulf breathed in deeply and let out a sigh as he wheeled his stool over to the couch. “Ya found out, did ya? At first, I thought you were in on it from the start.”

Dash shot up from the couch and could feel her anger bubbling back up. She gritted her teeth and stared at the old griffon. “You knew? Were you in on it?”

Gerulf raised one of his claws and gently motioned downward, shaking his head again. “No, no, I don’t do that kind of business, and I can’t have it being done out of my home. I think she knew she was out of time and had to get rid of it all,” he said, lowering his head. “I can’t say I’m not partly responsible for this, though. Ya see, I used to be into some real shady business; it earned me quite the reputation around this town. I wish she’d taken after my current self rather than my old self.”

“So… what do I do now?” Dash asked, slumping back down onto the couch, a look of despair draping across her face. “I… I left everything behind to come here and…”

Gerulf shrugged. “Hard ta say. Do ya have anyone you can go back to?”

“My dad… and Fluttershy. They probably both hate me now, though.”

“Now, listen here. You’re young still, you have a lot more ahead of you than behind you. Surely there is time to make amends with them. I’m sure your dad is thinking about you.”

“Maybe… but not Fluttershy. She was so close to me, I was the only friend she had, and then I just… I said such terrible things to her before leaving,” Dash said, her eyes becoming wide and staring across the room at nothing in particular, the image of Fluttershy’s face forming in her mind. She lifted her hooves up in front of her face, and they began to shake. “She’ll never… She’ll never forgive me. She shouldn’t. Not ever.”

Dash pressed her face against her hooves and lurched forward, her eyes finally releasing the tears she’d been holding in. Her back heaved as she began to sob. Gerulf carefully stepped over to the couch, sat down beside her, and wrapped one of his wings around her.

“That’s good. Let it all out. We all need that sometimes. I’ll hold onto you until you’re done.”

I don’t remember how long I cried. The sun had been going down, but by the time I’d finished, it was dark. Gerulf, true to his word, held onto me until I was ready to lie down. He still stayed with me, although I think he’d planned on being up there all night, anyway. He had his eye pressed into a big telescope, but I think he noticed that I was watching him.

Gerulf turned to look at Dash again and smiled softly.

“What is that thing?”

Gerulf cocked his head a bit. “What sort of schools do they have in Equestria? It’s a telescope. It lets you look up at the stars.”

Dash flopped back onto the couch again. “Wow, talk about boring.”

“Hmm. Maybe so, but I find it incredible. To think you can look up at the stars in the sky here and know that someone many miles away can be looking up at the very same stars. It’s sort of romantic, don’t you think?”

Dash scrunched up her brow and gazed at the telescope. “Can I see?” she asked timidly. Gerulf simply smiled and waved her over. Dash pressed her eye up to the telescope’s lens and was immediately greeted with a vast ocean of lights, many more than she had ever imagined were in the sky. “Wow… I take it back. This. Is. Awesome!”

Gerulf laughed. “It is, isn’t it? Each light you see up there is a star, or a planet, or some other celestial body. We have not even begun to discover everything that’s up there! There are infinite possibilities.”

“And if someone back in Cloudsdale were to look up, they would see the same thing. Wow,” Dash said, imagining Fluttershy sitting beside her, gazing up at the sky together. She pulled her eyes away from the lens and wiped a tear away.

“So… have you decided what you’re going to do?” Gerulf asked.

“I know what I want to do, but it’s going to be hard.”

“Your father, your friend back home… they both love you, girl. I’m sure they’ll accept you back, forgive you for the past. Maybe someday…” Gerulf started, and then turned his head to look toward the stairwell. “Maybe someday she’ll be worthy of forgiveness, as well. That is my wish.”

Dash sighed. “I don’t… I don’t hate Gilda. I just can’t believe she used me like that. How can I trust her, now?”

“You can’t! Nor should you! Not yet,” Gerulf said, and then glanced at the clock. “Look, we should both get some sleep. Why don’t you stay up here tonight? I know from experience that couch is mighty comfy. Tomorrow morning, I’ll help you decide your next step.”

I accepted his offer. I was exhausted, anyway, and he was so right about that couch. The next morning, Gilda was already gone, not so much as a word to me. I guess she didn’t want to see me as much as I didn’t want to see her. Gerulf arranged for me to fly back to Cloudsdale. I said my goodbyes, gathered up my belongings, which basically amounted to a single picture of Fluttershy and a pair of goggles, and left Avenport.

Before I knew it, I was back in Cloudsdale, standing in front of my home. As if he could sense me standing there, Dad opened the door and smiled down at me.

“I’m back,” Dash said, looking down at the cloudy ground.

Rainbow Blaze nodded his head. “It’s cold. Come inside, squirt.”

It was too easy. Not just with him, but with Fluttershy. I barely had time to say “Look, about that stuff I said,” before she threw herself onto me, hugging me tighter than I thought she had the strength for, and crying, of course.

I was, too, because I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t deserve her.

Dash found herself back in the burning bedroom again, but felt a cool breeze blowing in through her open window. She pressed her hooves against the sill and poked her head up. Outside the window, Ponyville spread out before her. With a bit of hesitation, she slid out the window and then kicked off into the sky. She found herself gliding over the town, looking down at the various places she had come to know in her most recent home.

I ended up following Fluttershy to Ponyville after she graduated. I’d heard they were looking for weather ponies, and that was a job I could manage to get, even without a diploma. Maybe I wanted to follow her there, or maybe I just wanted to escape my dad. I’m sure I was nothing but a constant reminder of how I’d let him down. Even after coming back from Avenport, I never did go back to school for very long. I somehow preferred doing odd jobs and getting experience that way, even though they weren’t getting me any closer to my dreams.

Dash flew a full circuit around the town, and then found herself back at her own cloud home in the sky above Ponyville. She paused to sit on a cloud just a few yards away and spotted movement near her front door. She knew exactly what she was looking at. It was another memory, this time of the day that Gilda came back out of the blue.

“Look, Dash, I know we’ve had some rough moments…” Gilda started, her voice full of hesitation.

“What are you doing here?” Dash’s own voice came from the inside of the house. “I told you I don’t ever want to see your face again.”

“I know, and I totally deserved that. I’ here to—“

“To sell drugs? I’d make an exception and see your face again to punch it if you are.”

“No, Dash! Let me finish, damn it!” Gilda shouted, slamming her fist into the cloudy ground beneath her. “I’m here to apologize. I just…” She took a deep breath, and then silence hung in the air for a moment.

“Go away, Gilda.”

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Rainbow Dash,” Gilda finally said. She curled forward, letting her forehead press up against the door. “After you left, I got caught. It happened so fast. Before I knew it, I was locked up. At first, I was angry, I tried my hardest to blame Uncle Gerulf or you or one of the griffons I had sold to, but I knew the truth. I had no one to blame but myself. I was so humiliated, so full of regret for everything. Not just for selling that stuff, but… for betraying you. I missed you. I missed you more than anything.”

I didn’t know what to even say. I had so many mixed up emotions swirling around inside.

“Look, you don’t have to forgive me. You don’t even have to accept this apology. I just wanted to say it… to hear your voice one more time.”

I guess I’d wanted to hear hers, too. Somewhere deep inside, hidden away behind all the anger and resentment was still this idealized image of my old racing buddy, my wingmate, my shoulder when I needed one. In that moment, I thought about everything that had happened to me just recently. I remembered how I was now the bearer of the Element of Loyalty. I remembered Princess Celestia and Nightmare Moon, even after what they had been through, reuniting happily. Surely if Princess Celestia could forgive Princess Luna, then I could give Gilda one more chance.

That was a mistake.

I did it anyway. I let her back into my life. We tried to kick things off again like nothing had even happened. In the end, she was a total jerk to all my new friends. I even found out later on that she’d made Fluttershy cry, stolen from a fruit cart, and bullied Pinkie Pie! I guess it’s true that some ponies – or griffons in this case – are just bad apples.

Dash’s memories faded and she found herself standing in the middle of a dark void.

“But even after all of that, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d failed her somehow,” Dash said aloud, looking around the darkness nervously.

You worry too much! Her own voice responded from somewhere.

“Probably, I mean, look at what’s been happening lately! After Daring and I defeated Umbross at the Battle of Dark Mountain, Gilda called out for us to help the Griffon Kingdom. She’d changed!”

That’s all just a dream, Fluttershy’s voice echoed across the empty space.

Dash inhaled slowly, deeply, and closed her eyes. She remembered Fluttershy sitting with her on her bed, talking about the old days, her hooves pressed to her back. She felt the softness of her lips pressing against her own.

That wasn’t a dream. I can feel it. She needs me. They all need me!

Twilight appeared before Rainbow Dash and nodded her head. “That’s right, Rainbow. Everypony messes up sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set things right.”

The rest of her friends appeared in a flash.

“Don’t worry so much about the past, Sugarcube. Focus on the here and now!” Applejack said as she pressed her hoof to the underside of her hat’s brim.

“But, what if I fail again? What if I can’t take the pressure? What if I end up running away?”

“You won’t,” Rarity said. “Why, I’d be nothing more than a splat on the ground if not for you! Just look deep down inside, you know you can do this!”

“That’s right! We’re all your friends, and we’re gonna help you! There’s no way we can lose!” Pinkie shouted as she bounced in place.

“I’ve always believed in you, Dashie,” Fluttershy said with a smile. “You’re the hero who always came to my rescue, after all.”

Dash’s mind filled the memories of the past again, but this time it was not her failures, but all the times she’d succeeded. She saw herself coming to Fluttershy’s aid at flight camp, and again when she first moved into Ponyville and found Fluttershy hiding away in her cottage. She saw their quest to find the Elements of Harmony and the competition where she performed the Sonic Rainboom and saved Rarity and the Wonderbolts. She beamed with a big smile and opened her eyes to find that her body was glowing with pure white light.

“Now, please,” Fluttershy said, stepping even closer to Dash. “Come back to us.”

Flames suddenly erupted all around Dash, and her friends vanished. The room of her underground safehouse reappeared, and she could see the fire and light pouring out from her body in slow motion.

“I’m back,” she said calmly. The fire froze in place. Fluttershy, who had been leaping through the air towards her, landed gently upon the floor. Rainbow raised her hoof in the air and the flames changed from yellow and orange to a deep blue. They sparkled like ice crystals and then slowly began to crack and dissolve into the air.

Fluttershy looked around with confusion for a moment, and then back to Dash.

Rainbow Dash shook her head and patted Fluttershy on her shoulder. “Thank you.”

Fluttershy blinked several times. “What did I do?”

Dash smiled. “You brought me back. Now, I have things to take care of,” she said as she walked past Fluttershy and over to Daring Do, who was now in changeling form and lying on the floor, staring up at her.

“Daring, I owe you an apology. If this is all my dream, then I made you the way you are without any thought as to how you felt.”

Mulcibar managed to pull himself to his hooves against the doorframe and gave Dash a questioning look. “How she felt? She’s just a—“

“Yeah, I know. Maybe it seems silly, but now that I’ve got my head clear, I think I might have gone a bit far. Making her a changeling in disguise was—“

“Surprisingly realistic,” Mulcibar re-interrupted.

Daring Do laughed and shook her head. “Hey, at least you didn’t do it to any of your friends.”

Dash smiled down at her. “No hard feelings, huh?”

Daring pressed against the wall and pushed herself up to a standing position. “Nah. It is what it is.” She sighed. “So this is it for me, eh?”

“It… it doesn’t have to be. Come with us! Come fight with me again just like old times!”

Daring picked up her pith helmet and slapped it on her head. “Sheesh, this is so weird. A couple minutes ago, I thought I had to kill you, and even almost did, and now you’re inviting me on an adventure.”

“Yeah, that’s a bit—“ Mulcibar started, but was cut off once again.

“Hey, why not? If you’re just a part of me, then you have to want some action! One more time! Let’s do it!”

Daring grinned at Dash as green fire washed over her body, changing her back into her pegasus form. “Guess you know best. Let’s go save Equestria! One more time!”

“Is anyone going to tell me what’s going on?” Gilda’s voice came from the hallway behind Mulcibar. “What’s going on with all these changelings? What happened in here?”

Dash looked up at Gilda and gulped. “Gilda, hey, yeah…” she said and then looked back to Mulcibar. “Aren’t they supposed to just, like, poof! Just know, now?”

“Do I look like I am the one in control here? Your dream griffon, you tell her.” He stepped to the side and gave them room.

Dash breathed in deeply once more. “Look, Gilda, okay, how do I explain? So, Daring was a changeling all along, sheesh that sounds cheesy when I say it out loud, and these two other changelings came here with Fluttershy from the real world.”

“The real world?” Gilda cocked her head.

“Yeah, so…”

“Oh, just spit it out, already!” Linnai shouted as she entered the room, rubbing a hoof against the back of her head. “This is all Rainbow Dash’s dream, nothing is real, and now we have to go find the two others who came here with us and get Rainbow out of here.”

Gilda blinked and turned back to look at Dash. “Jeez, dude, why didn’t you just say that?”

Dash fell to her haunches. “It was that easy? Come on!” she shouted, and then raised a hoof to her mouth, unable to hold in a bout of laughter. Gilda, Daring, and Fluttershy all laughed as well.

Mulcibar cleared his throat. “Sorry to interrupt again, but Rainbow Dash, where are Twilight and Luna?”

Dash suddenly stopped laughing and her face drooped as a nervous expression took the place of the happy one from a second before. “Oh, uh… why?”

“What do you mean ‘why?’ Where are they?”

Dash rubbed one of her hooves around on the ground nervously. “They’re in Equestria. Probably. Definitely. Twilight is definitely in Equestria.”

Fluttershy fidgeted a bit. “And Luna? What happened? I don’t have any memories about anything strange. Luna is with Celestia, right?”

Dash laughed again. “Yeah, that’s right. Of course. Why wouldn’t she be? They’re all together, standing up against the changelings!”

Mulcibar raised an eyebrow and grimaced. “Okay, so let’s get moving.”

“Right!” Dash shot up to her feet. “Let’s get moving!”

As she shouted those words, there was a popping sound, a flash of light, and then Dash was gone, similar to a teleport spell.

“Where’d she go?” Fluttershy asked, looking around the room frantically.

Linnai sighed. “I assume Equestria. Nice of her to bring us with her.”

Gilda shook her head. “Daaaaaash… You’re not making this easy. Alright, you all, let’s head back to the Roost real quick. There’s some… items there I need to get my claws on before we head out. We’ll take the fastest airship out after that. We’ll be in Equestria before you know it.”

“Alright, let’s go,” Mulcibar said and turned to head out. He noticed Linnai shrinking back a bit. “Come on, sister.”

“The Roost? I, uh, think I’ll pass.”

Mulcibar grabbed Linnai’s foreleg and pulled. “Come on. We don’t have time for this.”

Linnai groaned and reluctantly followed him along with Fluttershy and Daring Do. Once they were all outside, they all took to the sky. “Hey, at least we can all fly. I remember last time I was traveling with somepony, they were just baggage,” she said, and then sighed. She looked down at her hooves and smiled slightly. “Hold on tight, Prudicorn,” she whispered to herself.

The five of them glided through the air toward the roost. Fluttershy turned to look at Mulcibar, who had already been looking over at her. As their eyes met, they both nervously turned their gazes forward again. Fluttershy sighed and remembered the time she had spent taken over by the dream version of herself. The vision of the cell door smashing against Mulcibar’s leg flashed in her mind, and she could hear the sound of him crying out in pain. She frowned and nervously glanced over at him again, and at his leg. It was so hard to tell if he was hurt or not since his leg already had holes and indentations.

I have to apologize… make sure he’s alright, Fluttershy thought, and glided closer and closer to him with caution.

Mulcibar noticed her approaching and turned his head toward her. He could feel his heart rate speeding up with every inch closer she came. By the time she was alongside him, his wings were shaking slightly. I’m still not used to this. Calm down, calm down.

“Hi,” Fluttershy started nervously.

Mulcibar smiled in response. “Hi.”

Fluttershy trained her eyes down toward the ground below. “How is… your leg?”

“My leg?” Mulcibar asked, and then remembered what had happened. “Oh, my leg! Right! It’s fine! Don’t even worry about it!”

“I just feel awful about it.”

“It wasn’t your fault. Look, I’d already forgotten about it.”

“Oh, good.”

They flew in silence for a moment, both just staring as straight forward as they could.

Gilda broke the silence. “Gimme a break,” She said with a laugh and then rubbed a claw against her face. “You two are like a couple of hormonal teenagers on a first date.”

“Technically it’s their second,” Linnai chimed in. Mulcibar and Fluttershy both blushed uncontrollably.

“I could cut the tension with a knife,” Gilda said.

“I could vomit,” Linnai cackled.

“Are you two done?” Mulcibar asked. Fluttershy remained silent, her bangs somehow pulling themselves over her face on their own.

“I hope so. We’ve arrived,” Daring called out from the front of the pack. One by one, they landed in front of the main entrance to the Roost. “So what are we here to get, Gilda?”

“Some equipment for me, specifically. We’re following Dash into a war zone. Dash has super powers, Daring is on par with her and apparently also a changeling, and you two bizzarro changelings have magic. Where does that leave me?”

Fluttershy raised her hoof. “Um, I don’t have magic either, and…”

“Yeah yeah, sure, maybe we’ll find something for you in here, too. I just have to figure out where they stash ‘em all.”

“Stash all of what?” Mulcibar asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Guns, I bet,” Linnai said, rolling her eyes. “I’m sure the old bird is packing one as we speak.”

Gilda grinned. “Exactly! You must have seen him on the sauce, eh?”

“Don’t remind me.”

“Come on, then. We’ll get through this faster if we work together.”

Gilda pushed the door open and nearly fell backwards as Rainbow Dash popped back into existence in front of her.

“Dash! You have got to stop doing that!”

“Sorry!” Dash said sheepishly. “I guess I kind of forgot to bring you along. I appeared over there for a second, though, and it’s not good. We have to hurry.”

“Well then come inside and help me find my uncle’s gun stash. We go over there, we’re going prepared. He’s gotta have a case somewhere.”

Dash nodded and grabbed Gilda by the shoulder, pulling her into the Roost. Mulcibar shrugged and followed, along with Daring Do. Fluttershy went in next, then glanced over her shoulder at Linnai.

“Linnai? Are you coming in?”

“I, uh… I’m going to fly up to the top and keep watch.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Fluttershy went inside, leaving Linnai alone, staring up at the window to the attic with the telescope aimed out of it. With a leap and several wing flaps, she was at the window, peeking inside.

Linnai pulled the window to the attic of The Roost open and carefully stepped inside. A floorboard creaked underhoof, and across the room, she heard the sound of a bottle clunking against a table and a chair squeaking. She quickly ducked behind the couch.

“So, was she right?” Gerulf’s voice came from across the room. The sound of a revolver’s hammer being pulled back was followed by a laugh. “Prove ya ain’t a changeling, now, lass.”

Linnai sighed. “Sorry, geezer. Can’t,” she responded. A second later she heard the gun being placed on a table and the bottle being picked up and pulled back against the old bird’s beak as he chugged from it, a bubbly, slushing sound.

“It ain’t loaded, anyway,” he said.

Linnai laughed. “I’ve heard that before.”

Gerulf laughed as well. “Come out from there, I ain’t ‘customed ta’ talkin’ ta furniture. Lemme get a look at ya.”

Linnai nervously brushed her hair away from her face and slowly stood up from behind the couch. She looked over at Gerulf. Surrounding him on the floor were several empty wine and liquor bottles, and the one that was on the table in front of him was mostly empty as well. He eyed her from hoof to horntip, his eyes locking onto the gem that was socketed into her horn’s base.

“We were definitely right. Ya sure are somethin’ special,” he said with a grin. “So, what’ll ya do now? Go find yer brother? Help the ponies, as ya said before?”

Linnai shook her head. “I already found him, and… hey, how did you know about that?”

“You got a bad habit of talkin’ out loud when ya think folks ain’t listenin’! Walls are thin in here, and I was only just a couple steps down when ya had yer little outburst earlier.”

Linnai could feel herself almost blushing. “Nosy old vulture!” she grumbled.

“Hah! Ya bug-eyed lizard!” he responded, and the both of them laughed. “I’m kidding. But seriously, yer brother sounds like a good chap.”

“Yeah,” Linnai said, gazing at the floor. “My stupid, love-struck brother. He’s… always been good to me.”

“Rare in these dark times to have someone like him there for ya. And you were there fer him, too, weren’t ya?”

“Dark times… You don’t even know the half of it. We’re the ones causing most of the problems. I wish I could just run away… leave it all behind.”

“You can run, but ya can’t hide. Not from what’s happening, and not from yerself,” Gerulf said, shifting in his chair. “Someday you’ll have to face them… face the consequences, and yerself.”

Linnai shook her head and looked back up at Gerulf. “What do you even know? You’re just some hollow marionette! A plaything of the mind dancing to some pony’s whim!”

Gerulf laughed. “Aye, I’ve known that for years now. Most don’t seem to catch on, but Frida and I, we’re well aware this place isn’t even real. May as well enjoy it while it lasts.”

Linnai’s jaw dropped. “What? But… how?”

Gerulf shrugged. “Just dawned on us one day. That’s why when you showed up, we both knew you were important. We both knew you weren’t from here. Maybe, just maybe, you were here to save this world.”

Linnai laughed. “You couldn’t have been more wrong.”

“Couldn’t we?”

Linnai swallowed, her eyes still locked with his. “If we succeed in what we came here to do, then this world will end. We came here to find the one who created this place and wake her up, and now we have. Everything here, unbelievable as it may sound, is her dream.”

“A dream, eh? That would explain a lot. I’d played around with that theory several months ago, but I couldn’t imagine who would dream up such a place.”

Linnai laughed. “Of course. It’s probably impossible for you to figure out. Everything unnatural that happens here seems as normal as anything to you. That’s just how it works.”

“Hey! You up there, old timer?” Gilda’s voice came screeching up the stairs.

Gerulf smiled and nodded his head to Linnai. “Looks like it’s time ta’ say goodbye, but I’ve got a little present for you all before ya ship off. Come on.”

The two of them went down the stairs and met Gilda and Rainbow Dash at the bottom. Gerulf walked right past them and waved them to follow. “Come on, girl. Yer as transparent as ever. I know what ya want,” he said, pulling a pistol from his side and twirling it on a claw. “Yer goin’ to go save the world, and now’s the right time for it, let me tell ya. I can feel the air getting’ thicker an’ thicker.” He walked down the second flight of stairs back to the front bar area. With a flick of his wrist, he flipped one of the mirrors behind the bar around, revealing a big lever. He pulled it and the back of the bar split down the middle, separating and revealing a set of stairs downward.

“Whoa…” Rainbow Dash stared, a giant smile spreading across her face. “That was AWESOME!”

Gerulf laughed. “Ya think that’s awesome, wait til ya see what’s down there.”

By this time, the rest of the group had converged at the bar. They all descended down the stairs into the hidden basement. It was dark and smelled of oil and gunpowder.

“Now, I must insist, no magic down ‘ere except levitation, understood?” Gerulf said, and then flicked a switch. Long overhead lights came on one by one with loud popping noises, revealing shelf after shelf after shelf, loaded with every sort of weapon imaginable. Gilda and Dash both let out a gasp.

“That… is way more than a case,” Gilda said, wide-eyed.

“He had this hidden under here the whole time?” Dash asked, turning to Gilda.

Gilda shrugged. “How am I supposed to know, bird brain? This is your dream. You probably just made this up because it’s awesome.”

Dash, barely able to contain her excitement, stared down the row of weapon racks. “I know! I know! It’s too awesome!”

Linnai shrugged. “Yeah, too bad almost none of these are of any use to ponies.”

Dash scoffed. “A unicorn could totally levitate a gun!”

Linnai shook her head and waved a hoof in the air. “Why in the world would a unicorn use a gun, though?”

Dash grumbled and began to walk down the corridor. “Cuz it’s cool. Shut up.”

Linnai smirked. “Well, anyway, I suppose I could find a use for an edged weapon,” she said, levitating a long, curved dagger up in front of her.

“Alright. Gather up what you can carry. We leave for Equestria in ten minutes,” Gilda said. “Dash! Think you can teleport all of us?”

“Pretty sure!” Dash shouted back as she was gawking at a cannon-like object a ways down the hall. “Can we bring a cannon?”

“Can you carry a cannon?”

“Just strap it to my back! It’ll be amazing!”

“It’ll be ridiculous,” Gerulf said with a laugh. “That thing would send ya flying backwards as soon as ya fired it!”

Dash let out a frustrated growl. “Fine! I’ll leave it!”

The party gathered up what they wanted and then met back upstairs. Gerulf and Frida stood at the doorway. The now fully equipped party stepped out of the tavern and towards the thicket forest.

“Thanks again, uncle!” Gilda shouted.

Linnai approached Gerulf and Frida. She looked at them and then down at the ground. “Look, so, this is a little weird for me. I have to admit, I don’t even… I don’t even know what I’m feeling, or why, or how. I just want to thank you two, I guess. For everything.”

Gerulf grabbed ahold of Linnai and pulled her into a hug. Linnai’s head went over the old griffon’s shoulder, and she pressed her chin down against him. Her eyes went wide, tears suddenly forming at their edges.

“We have you to thank, too, lass.”

Linnai reluctantly wrapped one of her forelegs up and around Gerulf’s back. “Thank me for what?” she asked, her voice shaking.

“Fer giving us hope. Like I told ya, we knew you were special, and we hoped you were here ta’ save this world. Now we’re sure of it.”

Linnai squeezed her hoof around him even tighter, tears now flowing down her cheeks. Someday, I’ll figure out this whole ‘feelings and emotions’ thing. I hope.

She gently pulled away from him, turned, and was greeted by Mulcibar’s big, grinning face.

“Are you… crying?” he asked, his grin becoming ever wider and toothier.

Linnai wiped her face and stomped past him. “Of course I’m not! Don’t be ridiculous! Let’s go!”

“So, how do we do this?” Gilda asked.

“Is it okay for me to be nervous? Maybe one of us should stay here to make sure—“ Fluttershy started, but was interrupted by Mulcibar scooping one of her hooves up in his. She looked up at him, her face still full of worry.

“It’ll be okay. I’m here with you, just like when we came into this dream world.”

Rainbow Dash stared at their hooves and raised an eyebrow. “Uh, yeah, no worries. I totally have this,” she said. “You can count on me!” She clumsily reached out and scooped up Fluttershy’s other foreleg.

The yellow pegasus looked back and forth between Dash and Mulcibar and the worried look on her face only intensified. “Uh, you two… I’m going to lose my balance.”

“Sorry!” Dash and Mulcibar both said at the same time, awkwardly letting go of Fluttershy’s hooves.

Linnai smirked. “Yeah, will end well...”

Gilda cleared her throat. “Okay, Dash, focus. How do we do this?”

“Do what?”

“Teleport to Equestria.”

“Oh yeah. It’s like--”

There was a flash of light and the group suddenly found themselves standing at the edge of a camp. The light from a campfire could be seen toward the camp’s center, and the sound of hooves stomping against the ground came closer and closer.

Linnai quickly burst into green flames and transformed into her pegasus form. She glanced over at Mulcibar who was still looking at Fluttershy and blushing. “Mulci! Head in the game!”

“Ah! Right!” he said with a gasp as if he had just been startled to waking. With a flash, he transformed into a unicorn whose features were all basically the same as his, just with no leg holes, fangs, or socketed horn.

“It came from over here! Don’t lose it again!” a voice shouted from inside the camp. Linnai’s lips curled upward into a big grin.

Dash waved the group forward. “Come on, looks like we’re at Celestia’s northern camp. We’re just north of Ponyville… what’s left of it, anyway.”

Dash moved forward, but before she could react, Twilight came bowling around a tent and ran straight into her, tackling her to the ground. She pressed both her front hooves into Rainbow’s chest, her eyes tightly closed, and lit her horn up with magic. “I knew a sensed a teleport! Come quietly and--”

“Twilight! It’s just me.”

Twilight opened her eyes and looked down at Dash. “Rainbow? Oh, thank the stars, we’re saved!” she exclaimed, and then leapt to her hooves. She stood at attention at saluted Dash, which caused Fluttershy to tilt her head slightly. “High Awesome Commander, we have been awaiting your return! There have been terrible complications since you left! My suspicions were correct, sir. Princess Luna has gone rogue.”

Fluttershy, Mulcibar, and Linnai all gasped at the same time. “What!?”

Celestia’s voice came from the other side of the tent. The princess emerged, which brought forth yet another gasp from everypony. Her face was scarred and one of her ears had a piece cut out of it. “It’s true. Princess Luna - no, Nightmare Moon - has betrayed us. She has joined forces with Chrysalis and they have threatened to attack any day now. Your Awesomeness, your return is quite fortuitous.”

“How could this have happened?” Fluttershy asked, shooting Dash a look of distress.

“You got me!” Dash said, and then sighed. “Okay, so maybe I might have thought just a teeny tiny bit one time a long while ago about how awesome it would be if Luna were to secretly still be evil and I’d have to face her in one-on-one combat…”

Celestia raised an eyebrow. “Looks like you will have your chance, then. She wants to fight you more than anypony else. Follow me to the camp’s center, I will explain more as we walk.”

Fluttershy hurried to Dash’s side as they walked and leaned towards Dash’s head. “How could you think that? Luna is our friend!” she whispered into Dash’s ear.

“Sorry! I totally also thought that after we fought, she’d turn good again! Honest! I can’t help it! Whenever I bust clouds, I have to pass the time somehow! So I make up stories!” she whispered back.

Fluttershy sighed. “Who else did you make up stories about? Any about me?”

Dash’s face turned red faster than should be possible. Fluttershy could practically see steam coming off of her cheeks. “No,” she replied casually.

Fluttershy’s eyebrows drooped. “Sure…”

Meanwhile, at the front of the group, Celestia was still talking, Twilight walking by her side and gazing up at her. “After Chrysalis joined forced with Nightmare Moon, it’s been quiet other than a few random changeling attacks. I don’t think there’s much to worry about from them, but if the queen comes here with Luna, there could be big trouble.”

“Don’t worry, princess!” Twilight said, her face beaming. “With me here, and now Rainbow Dash as well, there is nothing to fear! I would fight a hundred changeling queens if it meant defending you and Equestria! Why, I would--”

Twilight fell to the ground face-first. A flash of magic appeared briefly and a saddlebag materialized on her back. Celestia turned her head down to Twilight.

“Are you okay, my faithful student?”

Twilight shook her head and slowly stood back up. “I think so… I just can’t quite remember what I was just… doing…”

Celestia glanced at Twilight’s back. “Did you always have that saddlebag on?”

Several members of the group behind them answered in unison.

“Yes! She totally did!”

“Yep, I remember that!”



Twilight sighed. “Nevermind. I remember now,” she said, and then turned to Rainbow Dash, her face now becoming as flush red as Dash’s had been a moment earlier. “We are going to have to have a little talk about that overactive imagination of yours later, Rainbow Dash!” she said, barely over a whisper.

“Huh?” Rainbow gawked.

“Don’t ‘Huh?’ me!” Twilight whispered, pointing a hoof back at Celestia. “Mentor! Teacher! Friend! Nothing more!”

A look of disappointment filled Dash’s face. “Fine, whatever. Sorry. Am I going to be apologizing for my ‘overactive imagination’ all night?”

Twilight cleared her throat and turned back to Celestia. “Sorry about that, Princess. You were talking about… Princess Luna, right? How she… became evil again and joined forces with Chrysalis!?” she said, her vocal tone becoming more frustrated as she continued the sentence, her eyes curving around toward Rainbow Dash again. She took a deep breath. “Please… continue.”

I am never going to hear the end of this. I just hope we don’t run into Rarity and Applejack, Dash thought to herself.

Princess Luna opened her eyes. She found herself in her own bedroom in Canterlot Castle. She pushed the blanket off of herself and stretched her legs. “Well, we seem to have arrived no worse for wear. Now, where has Twilight gotten off to?”

“So you’re ready to deliver the final blow, at last!” a voice called out from behind her closed door. It opened and Chrysalis stepped in, her eyes glowing with bright red magic. “Tonight shall be the night!”

Luna leapt up from bed. “Chrysalis!” she shouted, assuming a defensive stance. What is she doing here? And what is she talking about?

Luna turned her head slightly and caught sight of herself in the mirror across the bedroom. She sighed, seeing her wicked form. She turned her head more and saw her nightmare armor sitting upon a rack near the mirror. She pressed a hoof against her forehead and groaned.

Rainbow Dash… Just what sort of dream are you having?

Author's Note:

There could be a few errors this time. Well, more than there usually are, anyway!

Okay! That was quite refreshing! It's been a while since I did anything funny just for the sake of being funny. We can't get too serious all the time! Dash shipping her friends was a silly idea I had a while back when I was first thinking of what to do with her dream. I decided that if her dream was going to be full-on wish-fulfillment, then I was going to fill it with every cliche trope and fanfic faux pas I could! Self-insert into Daring Do? Done! Character X was a changeling all along? Done! Good character turns evil? Check! Whiny angsty protagonist? Got ya covered! Shipping your friends? Yep! Other characters fawning over the big hero? Yes!

We got all that and a bag of chips!

Tune in next time for the over-the-top conclusion of Crash Down!

Support me on Patreon - With this release, I am starting to consider upping the word count for payout to 10,000. We'll see if I can maintain this pace.

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