• 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 7 - Sharp Left Turn

Book Five: Crash Down

Chapter Seven - Sharp Left Turn

Central Haven, Former Location of Sugarcube Corner, Ponyville Ruins

“Twitch…”

“Twitcha-twitch…”

“Ear flop…”

“Which one is that?”

Pinkie Pie eyed the white unicorn across the tent from her strangely. “Have you not been paying attention?”

The unicorn shrugged and pushed her spiky blue bangs to the side. “How can you expect anypony to keep track of what your weird spasming body is doing? Just tell me what it is,” she said as she wiped the sleep away from her eyes.

Pinkie sighed. “You don’t even want to guess?”

The unicorn lay back down on her sleeping bag, resting her head against her pillow. “You’re the one who woke me up.”

“This is serious business, Vinyl. You should give it a guess!”

“You’re just bored,” Vinyl Scratch responded.

“No, that’s not it.”

“That wasn’t a guess.”

“It sure seemed like one, though. You should guess for real!”

“Fine… it means the changelings are coming.”

“Nope! Guess again!”

“Rain?”

“Nope!”

“Somepony is going to die.”

“I don’t think I have one for that, try again!”

“You have to pee!”

“Not really, no.”

“You’re on your period!”

“Ewww, no.”

“You missed your period!”

Pinkie giggled. “Of course not! Who has time for that these days?”

“Pinkie!” Vinyl shouted, sitting back up in her sleeping bag and flinging her hooves forward. “Just tell me!”

Pinkie pouted. “Fine. It means Dashie’s back.”

Vinyl suddenly leapt up to her hooves and ran over to Pinkie Pie. “Really? She’s back?”

“Sure seems that way! She must be at Celestia’s main camp up north.”

“How can you tell?”

“Because of the ear flop, duh.”

“I will never understand you.”

“Not with that attitude!”

Vinyl slapped a hoof over her face and slowly pulled it downward. “Anyway, can we get some sleep, now? We’ll investigate in the morning. Somepony should go down to Sweet Apple Acres and tell them, too.”

“My thoughts exactly! You should head down there in the morning, and I’ll head to Celestia’s.”

“Great. Now get some sleep. Please?”

Pinkie was already snoring. Vinyl shook her head and grinned. “What did I do in my past life to end up tenting with this nutjob?” she asked aloud and then lay back down in her sleeping bag. “I’m gonna lose my marbles, I swear.”

A light brown hoof reached out and wrapped around Vinyl’s waist from the other side. “That’s assuming you had any marbles up there to begin with,” a soft voice spoke from beneath a blanket on the other side of her. “Follow your own advice and get some sleep, Vinyl.”

Vinyl chuckled. “How did you manage to not wake up through all of that, Octy?”

“I’m used to living with you. Loud noises don’t wake me up anymore.”

“Oh, right…”

The sound of magic filled the tent, and a bright rainbow-colored light seemed to light up the skies outside.

“Okay, I know I’m not imagining that,” Vinyl said, sitting back up in bed. She patted her hoof against the bed’s surface beneath her and tilted her head. “Wait, bed? Weren’t we…”

Octavia sat up just enough to grab Vinyl by the shoulders and pull her down onto the bed’s surface. “Yes, Vinyl, we were trying to get some sleep,” she said, her voice taking on that annoyed tone that her bedmate was all too familiar with.

Vinyl wiped a foreleg across her eyes. “Yeah, in a tent? Wasn’t it?”

“A tent? Don’t be ridiculous, you know we’re at the Grand Midway Hotel. It’s one of the last places south of Canterlot that the changelings haven’t laid into, yet.”

“Oh yeah. We’re lucky we’re not in tents, though, that’s what I was thinking. I mean, we’re just one attack away from it.”

“You really need to de-stress. Need any help with that?” Octavia asked, brushing her bangs to the side and winking up at Vinyl.

“I’m still in here,” Pinkie said from across the room. She turned toward the hallway that led to the front of what she surmised was a rather ritzy hotel room. “I can’t imagine why, though. This place is more like a condo or an apartment. It’s got other rooms.” She glanced down at the pink sleeping bag that was lying on the ground, quickly scooped it up, and walked out of the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

“Yeah, why was she in here, again?” Octavia asked, and then shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Now, then.” She grabbed Vinyl and pulled her down onto the bed, flipping the covers up over the both of them.

Pinkie made her way to the front of the main room and pushed the curtains aside from the window. She gazed out at the large, square courtyard on the other side. “I guess this is all connected, then. Dashie is back, we get moved from that shabby camp to a hotel that never existed until just now.” Pinkie rubbed a hoof on the back of her head. “Looks like another sleepless night for me. Time to get to the bottom of this.” She heard her stomach grumble and quickly turned her head back to the hallway. “Just as soon as I see if the kitchen is stocked.”


Northern Haven, North of Ponyville Ruins


Mulcibar, Linnai, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Gilda all sat around a fire outside a small circle of beige canvas tents. A pot of bubbling oatmeal hung over the flames, the sound of air escaping its surface the only sound other than the crackling of the fire beneath. The five unlikely-seeming campmates sat upon logs and stared silently at the gurgling food. The sound of a twig snapping came from one side, and all five of them turned to look. Twilight Sparkle stepped into the light.

“It was good to be cautious,” Twilight said. She reached into her saddlebag and pulled out her rainbow-lensed goggles, the Colorscope Mark 2, and tapped a hoof against it. “After I convinced Celestia to go to bed on her own, I used these to take a peek at her through the tent. She’s not a focus. If she were to find out that this is just a dream, she would probably turn into a changeling, and that would definitely cause a bad chain reaction.”

Mulcibar nodded in agreement. “That would be one of the worst possible scenarios. It’s bad enough we have Dash’s dream changelings to deal with before we can get Princess Luna back. We don’t need the security spell going off all over the place as well.”

“Right. Luckily there seems to be a lot of focuses here. Speaking of which, we haven’t encountered our ‘constant’ yet. Where is Pinkie Pie, Rainbow?”

Rainbow Dash tilted her head slightly. “Down south at Sugarcube Corner. Well, where Sugarcube Corner used to be.”

Twilight sighed and levitated a pink gem out of her saddle bag. “We need to get this to her at some point,” she said, and then pressed the gem into her left ear. “Pinkie, are you there?” She tapped at the gem a couple of times with her hoof.

“Different Pinkie,” Fluttershy explained, placing a hoof on Rainbow Dash’s shoulder. “Lots of them, actually. It’s getting a little hard to tell them apart, apparently, but Twilight is the only one who has been communicating with them.”

“Wait, lots of Pinkie Pies?” Dash said, her expression becoming nervous. “That’s an awful lot of random.”

Fluttershy giggled. “Not as random as teaming up with Discord.”

Dash stuck her tongue out. “You teamed up with that guy? Times are desperate, I guess. I won’t ask how that’s even possible considering we’re sitting inside my head right now having this conversation.”

Twilight continued to tap her hoof against the pink gem. “Pinkie, do you hear me?”

Finally, a familiar voice crackled into her ear. “Twilight? Is that Twilight?”

“Yes, Pinkie! It’s me! We’re inside--”

“Knock knock!”

Twilight groaned and placed a hoof against her forehead. “Pinkie, we don’t have time for this.”

“Knock knock!”

Twilight groaned again. “Fine! Who’s there?”

“Pinkie Pie!”

Twilight’s eyelids lowered and her brow furrowed. “Pinkie Pie who?”

“Exactly! The Pinkie Pie you’re trying to reach is unavailable. Your dream is going too fast. Please insert into the nearest available Pinkie for assistance.”

Twilight blinked. “What?”

“The Pinkie Pie you’re trying to reach is unavailable. Your dream is going too fast. Please insert into the nearest available Pinkie for assistance.”

“Looks like we can’t communicate with Pinkie Pie from inside this dream. It’s going too fast to synch up with any of the others.”

“Hey, Twilight! Twilight!” Pinkie’s voice came from the communicator gem again.

“What now?”

“Knock knock!”

“It’s repeating itself now. Looks like we need to find Pinkie,” Twilight said and reached her hoof up to her ear.

“Wait! This is a new one! Knock knock!”

Twilight sighed, placing her hoof against the gem. “Who’s there?”

“Twilight’s sense of humor!”

“Twilight’s sense of humor who?” Twilight recited automatically.

The pinkie voice coming from the gem giggled. “More like ‘Twilight’s sense of humor where’! Cheer up, Twilight! Smile!”

Twilight’s lips formed the very slightest grin as she pulled the gem out of her ear and dropped it back into her bag. “So, what now?”

“We have to be prepared for the Reset Swarm. It’s coming, make no mistake,” Linnai responded. “I would expect it any day, any hour now, even.”

“Reset Swarm?” Rainbow Dash asked. “What’s that?”

“Yes, do tell us more about it, Linnai. Now that we’re on the same side, surely you’re okay with that,” said Twilight, taking a seat right next to Linnai.

The changeling squirmed and scooted away from Twilight slightly. “I’m really not looking forward to it,” she said with a sigh. “Okay, so here’s the deal. You know the spell that’s mixed into the dream web that causes changelings to take over dream inhabitants if something seems out of the ordinary?”

Twilight and Fluttershy nodded their heads, and Rainbow Dash shrugged and glanced over at Gilda, who just shrugged back.

“Anyway, imagine that, but instead of replacing dream inhabitants, they’re just appearing.”

“As bad as that sounds, we’ve dealt with large groups of the replacer changelings before. They weren’t very tough. Those shades in Luna’s dream were much harder to deal with,” Twilight responded.

“Don’t think that the Reset Swarm is on the same level. They’re not all just mindless spell-created beings. Alongside the standard drone army will be actual changelings like Mulcibar and me. Think about how much of a fight we’ve been able to put up, against and with you. Now imagine facing an army of mindless drones led by four of five changelings of our caliber.”

Twilight’s eyes went wide.

“Now you’re getting it,” Linnai said, and her head sank. “It’s pretty hopeless. Our only advantage is magic. The changelings coming in aren’t in The Order of Ismara. All of us here with magic will outrank the Reset Swarm’s magical abilities by a large amount. Don’t underestimate them, though. Even mid-ranking fighters in the main changeling army are not to be trifled with. They are deadly in close quarters.”

“They’ll be no challenge,” Mulcibar said as he stood up and ladled a scoop of oatmeal into a bowl he was levitating. “I could beat any of them, even the generals. They all know it. Why do you think they respect me?” He quickly shoveled a spoonful of the oats into his mouth and his jaw began to quiver.

Linnai laughed. “It’s the only reason you weren’t put in shackles before the invasion. Though I think they could just bribe you with food,” she said, watching her brother shovel oatmeal into his mouth and nearly fall to the ground. She cocked an eyebrow. “It’s that good, huh?”

“What is she talking about?” Fluttershy asked, glancing up at Mulcibar.

Mulcibar regained his composure and sat back down with his almost empty bowl of oatmeal. “It’s a long story. Not all of us wanted to invade Equestria, let’s put it that way. However, that sort of talk is considered treason,” he said, and turned his gaze down to Fluttershy. He smiled softly at her. “I’ll tell you all about that business someday when this is all over.”

“Anyway, we also have our trump card, here,” Linnai said, pointing a hoof at Rainbow Dash. “Even before waking up, she had dreamed herself into having super powers beyond a normal pegasus. Super strength, super speed, and who knows what else.”

Mulcibar rubbed a hoof against his chest. “Some sort of beams she can shoot from her hooves, too.”

Rainbow smirked. “Yeah, sorry about that.”

“The point is, now that you’re awakened, you have unlimited power in this world, Rainbow. You just have to learn how to control it. It’s not necessarily easy to do at first, but you have a head-start since you already dreamed yourself as being powerful,” Twilight said.

“In my dream world, I was able to change the land, freeze time, teleport things, and fly really fast,” Fluttershy added. “I was even able to bring my dream version of you back from the dead one time. It doesn’t come easily. It’s hard to explain. For me, it was like I had to reach down into my heart and push my feelings outward.”

Rainbow Dash nodded, a serious look forming on her face. “So, anything I want to happen will happen?”

“That’s right, and as an added bonus, anything you do in your own dream, no matter how ridiculous, will seem normal to all the dream inhabitants. They will take it as being an everyday event, so you can really act out all your fantasies as you wish,” said Linnai.

“I’d start small, though. No need to push yourself,” said Twilight.

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes tightly and started making a noise that was somewhere between a hum and a grunt. Twilight stood up and walked over to her. She placed a hoof on Dash’s shoulder and shook her head. “Rainbow, there’s no need to do anything just yet. Remember, starting with something simple would be—“

“Twilight, I’ve got this! Just hang on!” Dash shouted between her grunting. “Maybe I’m channeling Rarity, but if I have to sleep in a tent or a hole in the ground one more night…”

“Don’t hurt yourself, Dashie. Be careful!” Fluttershy said. She stood up as well and started to walk toward Dash. Her hooves made muffled thuds as they trotted against the dirt.

Thud.

Thud.

Thud.

Clack.

Clack.

She looked down at her hooves and blinked. The ground was gone, replaced with shiny wood. She looked back up. Rainbow Dash sat before her upon a soft looking blue cushion. Fluttershy slowly turned her head, taking in what had suddenly appeared before her. The campfire had been replaced by a stone fire pit. The camp all around them had been replaced by a comfortably lit room that reminded her of a fancier version of the Roost’s main floor. The scene was like something you would see in the lobby of an upscale Canterlot hotel. The walls were all polished wood. Paintings and mirrors hung from them. The lighting in the massive hall was provided by a hanging crystal chandelier. Regal, red-carpeted stairs led up to a balcony above.

Ponies were standing around, sitting at tables or in chairs, or otherwise walking around or through the lobby. Many ponies were posted up at the bar having a lively conversation. A record player behind the bar was spinning out music at a low volume.

Everybody blinked and looked around in shock.

“What just happened? Did we teleport again?” Gilda asked, her voice a bit hesitant.

Rainbow Dash opened her eyes, a smile spreading across her lips. “So it worked? Awesome!”

“Rainbow, I can’t believe it! You did this?”

“Heck yeah!” Rainbow shouted. “I thought it would be nice if instead of a camp, we were all in a snazzy hotel with big fluffy beds!”

“Wow…” said Linnai, gazing across the hall at the bar that sat against the far wall. “I am impressed. This level of Lucidity usually takes a catalyst of some sort, or night after night of practice.”

“I guess I’m just a natural. I chalk it up to all the daydreaming I do while I’m flying around on weather patrol,” Rainbow Dash said with a big grin. “If it worked out the way I wanted, everypony is here, too. Every haven combined.”

“That’s great!” Twilight said, clapping her hooves together. “Finding Pinkie Pie will be a snap, now!”

Mulcibar grinned. “Maybe there’s really nothing to worry about with the Reset Swarm. I mean, if you have this level of control here, maybe you could just give them the boot as soon as they show up.”

“Unlikely, but it’s a nice thought,” Linnai replied. “Anyway, you said something about big comfy beds. I think I’ll go find one.”

Twilight nodded. “That’s probably a good idea. I think I want to find Pinkie first, though.”

“Oh come on, she did say big beds. You could always come join me,” Linnai said, shooting Twilight a wink.

Twilight shook her head. “I’ll pass, but I think sleep sounds like a good idea. We should all rest up.”

Fluttershy glanced over at Twilight and then back at Rainbow Dash. “Come on, Dashie. We could stay in the same room with Twilight. It’ll be like a sleepover.”

Dash nodded her head and got up, walking alongside Fluttershy and joining Twilight. “So, I think we should go this way,” she said, pointing her hoof towards a set of double doors. A plaque above the doors read ‘VIP Lodging and Courtyard’. The three of them headed toward the door together.

“VIP Lodging?” Gilda said aloud. “Shoot, that’s where I’m going! I get first dibs on a room, suckers!” She leapt into the air and sped toward the door. Rainbow Dash uncontrollably responded by speeding up her pace, leaving Fluttershy and Twilight behind.

The two ponies looked at each other and laughed. Twilight pressed a hoof against her mouth. “It’s so good to have her back, isn’t it?”

Fluttershy wiped a tear from her eye. “It really is.”

To Twilight’s surprise, Linnai ran past them in a flash as well, dragging Mulcibar behind her. “Come on, brother! We can’t let Team Prudicorn beat us!” She stuck her tongue out as she zipped past Twilight and Fluttershy. Mulcibar rolled his eyes and went along with her.

“Alright, Fluttershy. Find us a place to sleep. I’ll find Pinkie and get her up to speed.”

Gilda and Rainbow Dash blew through the doorway at the same time and stopped for a moment to catch their breath.

Gilda turned her head and grinned at Rainbow Dash. “Beat ya by a beak.”

Dash scoffed. “No way, I pushed the door open with my hoof. That’s the proof!”

“We’ll see who gets a room first, then,” Gilda said. They both lifted their heads and blinked at the place they found themselves in.

The area behind those double doors was regal. The center of the area was a massive courtyard with a garden and a pool. Elegantly carved wooden paneling lined the courtyard, and there were tables with chairs set up all around the pool and throughout the garden. The floor they stood upon was part of a large square that went all around the giant open-air section. It was almost as if they had left the hotel and stepped into some sort of fancy resort. Doors to guest rooms lined the edges of the walkway.

“Wow! This place is amazing!” Dash gawked.

“Stop being so impressed. You made it!”

“Yeah, but how?”

“How else? The same way you made, like, everything else here,” Gilda said and stepped out into the courtyard area. “The same way you made me.”

Dash grimaced and followed behind Gilda through the garden area, towards the pool. They stopped for a moment to admire it, and then heard the doors behind them swing open again. Linnai now burst through the doors, dragging Mulcibar behind her. The two of them stopped for a moment to take the scene before them in. She nodded to the right.

“Come on, brother, let’s find a room. There’s something we need to discuss, anyway,” she said, a frown forming on her face.

Mulcibar raised an eyebrow and began heading to the right. “Alright, let’s get settled, then.”

Dash gazed at the two siblings and her eyebrows lowered. “I don’t trust those two.”

Gilda chuckled. “Why not? Twilight and Fluttershy seem to. Fluttershy seems to particularly like the stallion.”

Dash let out an annoyed groan and turned back toward the pool. “Yeah, that’s pretty high on the list of things I don’t want to think about right now.”

Gilda patted Rainbow on the back. “Sorry. Take a dip, maybe? Could clear your head.”

Rainbow shook her head. “Not right now. Sorry. I didn’t mean to get annoyed.”

“It happens. You know I know that.”

Rainbow Dash turned her head at the sound of the doors opening again. Twilight and Fluttershy stepped through into the courtyard. Both of them gasped slightly, smiles lighting up their faces.

“Wow, this place is beautiful,” Fluttershy said, her eyes darting all around. She caught sight of Rainbow Dash and Gilda and could see the look of concern on Dash’s face.

Rainbow Dash locked eyes with Fluttershy and managed to lighten her expression. No need to get them stressed when we’re supposed to be relaxing, she thought.

“Twilight! Fluttershy! Check out this sweet pool! It’s got a waterslide, too!” Rainbow Dash shouted and waved.

Gilda laughed and waved her arm around. “No it doesn’t. Do you see a waterslide?”

Dash pointed a hoof past Gilda and blinked. “Yeah, that one,” she replied matter-of-factly.

Gilda turned around, spotting the big red waterslide that hadn’t been there a second ago. “You have got to stop doing that.”

Dash walked over to a poolside chair and leaned back on it, “Oh, come on. If I can do anything I want, it might as well be fun.”

Gilda chuckled. “I guess so, but you could at least try to be consistent.”

“I am consistent. Consistently awesome! My dream should be, too!”

Gilda inched closer to the pool and stared down at the water’s surface. “Dash, if this is all just your awesome dream, why did you put me in it?”

Dash sat up and adjusted the seat’s back to a higher position. “What do you mean?”

“I’m part of your dream. I’m not real. You made me up, but why? Don’t you, like, hate me?”

“Hate is an awful strong word.”

“But it’s true! Ever since we were kids, I’ve done terrible things to you!” Gilda shouted, kneeling down and slapping her palm against the water. Her reflection rippled away and she turned to look at Rainbow. “I can even see it from your perspective, now. Why’d you do it? Why’d you give me so many chances?”

Rainbow Dash sighed and turned her gaze to the side. “I failed you, too,” she said. “You did all those bad things, and I just went along with it every time. I never tried to do the right thing, I just ran away. You always wanted to skip class and goof off, you wanted to run away to Avenport, and I just went along with it the whole time. Every chance I had to tell you how I felt, I didn’t, until we somehow ended up in that situation at the Roost, and I blew my top. Gilda, I… I failed you as much as you failed me. We both failed. Failed at being friends.”

Gilda scoffed and turned away from Dash, wiping a tear from her eye. “Oh sure, and now you put me in your dream to try and make up for it? Talk about gullible. Get real, Dash. I’m a bad egg,” she said, but then felt Dash’s hoof on her shoulder.

“But I still care about you,” Dash said, pressing her forehead against Gilda’s back. “I know I shouldn’t just as much as you do, but… remember when you showed up at my door and wanted to patch things up? My first thought was to say no. Maybe I should have, but then I remembered something that made a lot of things in my life, a lot of the guilt I feel, all make sense. I’m the one who bears the Element of Loyalty. I just thought… maybe I should live up to that.”

Gilda shook her head and reached her claw over her shoulder, gripping Dash’s hoof. “Thanks for everything, you gullible idiot. Maybe the real me will come around someday, but I think you probably shouldn’t expect it.”

Dash frowned. “I know,” she said, slowly pulling away from Gilda.

“Sorry for getting all sappy. Even after you said we should be relaxing.”

“Yeah. Maybe Fluttershy and Twilight have a room now. I’ll go check on them,” Dash said, heading away from the pool.

“Dash,” Gilda called out. Rainbow Dash turned her head and looked back. “Do you really love her? Fluttershy, I mean.”

Rainbow nodded her head. “I know who you mean,” she said, pausing to think for a moment. The memory of her kiss with Fluttershy bubbled to the surface and she felt a tingle at the back of her neck. “Yeah. I think I do.”

Gilda grinned and raised her claw, giving a thumbs up. “No thinking. Don’t let her get taken away. I know you know what I’m talking about.”

Dash swallowed and turned her head just in time to see Mulcibar across the courtyard walking along its edge, his gaze turned up to the stars. She gritted her teeth and looked back at Gilda. The look of determination in her eyes grew. No words were necessary for Gilda to know her response.

Several minutes earlier, Linnai and Mulcibar stepped into a room that appeared to be unoccupied. There was a large living area with a hallway in the back that led to a bedroom with two beds, one against the wall on the left and another at the back. The living room area had a couch and some large cushions for sitting. There were even stairs leading up to a second level.

“Wow, this place is pretty posh,” Linnai said as she walked around the base floor.

Mulcibar closed the door. “What was it you needed to talk about?” he asked. Linnai’s face suddenly became serious again. She walked back over to where Mulcibar was and sat down on the couch next to him.

“I don’t even know where to begin. I doubt there’s any point in even bringing it up,” she said, taking a deep breath. “You know I trust you, but I’ve had a lot of time to think in this dream world. Are you still sure you want to do this?”

“Do what? Get some sleep?” Mulcibar asked, his eyes darting upward.

“Don’t dodge the question, Mulci. I mean helping the ponies, of course. It might not be too late, you know. If we can take them by surprise now that we have their trust, we could blast all of them; send them back to their own dreams.”

Mulcibar stared at Linnai, his jaw hanging open slightly. “Are you serious? It’s far too late.”

“You’re only saying that because you’re so in love with that pegasus! We could tell the queen this was our plan all along! Go back to how things were before!”

Mulcibar shook his head. “Then tell me, what’s with that look in your eyes? What’s with that tear going down your cheek?” he asked. “I saw how you looked at Twilight Sparkle earlier. It’s happened to you, too, hasn’t it?”

Linnai rubbed a foreleg against her cheek and stared down at the moisture. Her eyes shaking, she looked back up at Mulcibar. “What’s happening to us?”

Mulcibar sat down beside Linnai and patted her on the back. “You got me, little sister,” he said. “You have to admit, though, it’s not all bad.”

“I’ll reserve judgment until after we’re not executed by the queen.”

“We won’t be. I know it,” Mulcibar said and gently rubbed a hoof against his sister’s head. “I’m going to have a look around outside, walk around and clear my head.”

Linnai sighed and flopped down on the couch.

Mulcibar stood up. “You need to clear your head, too. Clear it of any thoughts like going back to how things used to be.” He walked out of the room and closed the door behind him.

“There goes that idea.” She stared down at her foreleg, which had since dried from the tear she had wiped away from her face. She closed her eyes and remembered the moment that saddle bag had appeared on Twilight’s back. A smile crossed her lips. I couldn’t betray her even if I wanted to. Damn it…

Mulcibar strolled slowly down the boardwalk that surrounded the courtyard, looking up past the garden’s canopy and into the starry sky above. Neither of us know what to do with ourselves, he thought. A sound drew his attention from across the way, and he looked down just in time to spot Twilight Sparkle, who had just collided with Pinkie Pie. The two ponies looked overjoyed to see each other, and Mulcibar smiled as he felt his heart involuntarily filling with what he assumed was happiness. A warm feeling that made his mind relax. He gazed at Twilight, remembering how not long ago, his sister had proclaimed such hate and envy for the unicorn. Now she’s like your rock, isn’t she, Linnai? She’s the reason you are holding on, not me.

Twilight pulled Pinkie into a hug. “Glad to see you again, Pinkie Pie!”

“Yay! Hugs!” Pinkie squeed giddily. “Hang on, Twilight, you seem different somehow.” Pinkie pulled away from Twilight and stared into her eyes with intensity.

“You’re right, Pinkie. I knew you’d have noticed. We have a lot to talk about, but I think I know how to make it a little easier.” She used her magic to flip open the top of her saddlebag.

“Are you the reason we’re in a big hotel thingy instead of little camp thingies?”

“Actually, that wasn’t me, but,” Twilight started, and then levitated the pink communication gem in front of Pinkie’s face. “this might help a bit.”

Pinkie’s eyes lit up. “Wow, that’s a pretty gem!” she said with a gasp, and then tilted her head. “Twilight, I say a lot of weird stuff, but this might just take the cake. I kind of want to shove your pink gem into my ear, and I have no idea why! It just seems like the funnest idea ever!”

Twilight laughed. “Under normal circumstances, I would question your sanity.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time!”

“Or the last,” Twilight said with a grin. “You’re right, though. Weird as it is, just shove it on in there.”

Before Twilight could blink, Pinkie had done just that. Her eyes flashed with magic, and she quickly sprouted a horn and wings.

Hey! I think we’ve got a new Pinkie!

Oh my goodness, are we connected? I was kind of off in la-la land! It’s been over three minutes since Twilight and the others went through the portal, and I was starting to get worried! You have got to tell Twilight about this brilliant idea I have! I can’t explain right now, I’m having trouble keeping Celestia’s power separated from Luna’s! I’m holding back so you don’t get blasted with both all at once!

Oh, I think I can handle it! I’m the most awesome Pinkie ever! You should see all the stuff I’ve been doing here with Dashie! Did you know it’s been over three years in here?

Three years!? all the pinkies shouted internally at once. That’s one fast-moving dream!

Are you all done being impressed? Pinkie Shy asked flatly. Moon Pie, or whatever they’re calling you, let the rest of the magic go. She’ll be fine.

Calling! That’s right! What are we calling you? We have to think of a cool name for you, Rainbow Pie!

Not Rainbow Pie! the rest of the Pinkie’s said in unison. Pinkie Twi sighed.

Pinkie Dash?

Can we do this later? I’m sitting here staring off into space and Twilight looks a little worried. Rainbow’s Pinkie said to the other voices in her head. Wait, how long has it been?

Pinkie shook her head and blinked. “Sorry, spaced out there for a little.”

Twilight smiled and patted Pinkie on the shoulder. “No worries, it’s only been a couple seconds.”

I guess you’re just a fast thinker. One of the other Pinkies said.

Rainbow’s Pinkie turned her head and gazed over at Rainbow Dash and Gilda, then over at Mulcibar. “Where are the others?” she asked.

“Fluttershy has probably found a room to rest in by now, along with Linnai. Princess Celestia, the girls, and Discord stayed behind in Luna’s dream. Princess Luna is, well, it’s complicated.”

“She’s with Chrysalis, I know that. Dashie’s got a wild imagination.”

Twilight sighed. “That she does.”

Pinkie giggled and stuck her tongue out. “At least I didn’t get paired up with anypony! You and Princess Celestia have been a hoot!”

Oh my gosh, that is disgusting! Pinkie Twi said with a bit of a gag inside Pinkie’s mind.

“I’m trying to forget,” Twilight replied, slapping a hoof against her face.

“Speaking of which, there’s Applejack, and she’s not stuck to Rarity like glue,” Pinkie said, pointing across the courtyard.

Twilight glanced over and saw the orange farmpony standing in one of the corners of the walkway, her eyes glancing around until they finally locked onto Mulcibar. She suddenly felt a shiver go down her spine and looked back at Pinkie. “Wait… Applejack and Rarity?”

Pinkie nodded contemplatively. “I’ve always had my suspicions, too, but that’s not the important part,” she said, and then pulled the gem out of her ear. “Here, I don’t need this anymore. The point is, it’s not like AJ to stand there and observe like this, at least not the AJ in this dream. Something is up.”

“You’re… a little more observant than the Pinkie I know.”

“Am I?” Pinkie asked with a grin. “Or were you just never paying attention? Besides, you know a lot of Pinkies. If I’ve gathered anything from their memories in the last couple minutes, I guess you could say I’m sort of a… Thinkie Pie.”

We’re not calling you that.

Nope! It’s not cute at all!

At least it rhymes.

Oh, and Moon Pie rhymes?

That’s not the point!

Quiet! Applejack’s staring at one of Twilight’s changeling friends. Why would she be? She’s never met him, he’s in a unicorn disguise. To her, he should just be some other pony, but she seems awfully interested in him.

“Twilight. Did you bump into Applejack already, or is this the first time?”

“No, we’d heard she was down at Sweet Apple Acres.”

“Exactly,” Pinkie said. She turned to look when the sound of a door opening came from the left. She saw Fluttershy stepping out onto the boardwalk just ahead of Mulcibar. “You go talk to Applejack. Keep it friendly, try and find out what’s going on. I’ll go create a distraction with Mulcibar.”

Without another word, Pinkie zipped ahead, grabbing Fluttershy on the way and sliding to a stop in front of Mulcibar. Fluttershy blinked with confusion and regained her hoofing. She glanced up at Pinkie and noticed the horn.

“Oh, Pinkie! Looks like Twilight found you!”

Pinkie grabbed Fluttershy and Mulcibar from either side and pulled them into a group hug. “Yeah, she sure did! Hey, Fluttershy, are you going to introduce me to your boyfriend?”

Fluttershy blushed and Mulcibar coughed and turned his head.

“Oh, no, he’s not. I mean, we’re not,” Fluttershy started to say, flabbergasted.

“Yeah, I mean… we’re not, right?” Mulcibar managed to say, tripping over his words.

“Oh come on!” Pinkie said loudly, slapping them both on the back. “Wait, did I completely misread that?”

No way, several voices said inside Pinkie’s head.

No, they seemed pretty into each other, Pinkie Twi added.

It was adorable! Cutie Pie squeaked.

I wanted to gouge my eyes out, Pinkie Shy said flatly. Her dream world gets all cheery and gross when she’s with him.

Pinkie let out another loud guffaw. “Oh, you two shy kids!”

“I’m a year older than you…” Fluttershy replied, squeezing out of the hug, which caused her to slip on one hoof and fall forward against Mulcibar. Her face lit up like an apple.

Mulcibar cleared his throat. “Yeah, anyway! Hello, Pinkie Pie. Nice to see you again.”

Pinkie was grinning up at him in response, but her eyes darted to her right. She noticed Applejack and Twilight had met up. “So hey, this is going to sound a little weird, but I think we should all maybe get ready for something, because I do not like the way Applejack’s eyes just flashed green.”

“What!” Mulcibar shouted, turning to look at Applejack and Twilight on the other side of the courtyard.

Seconds earlier…

“Howdy, sugarcube,” Applejack said, raising her hoof to tip her hat downward.

“Applejack!” Twilight said with feigned surprise. “When did you get here?”

“Guess again,” Applejack said, and her eyes flashed with green magic. “Just the five of you? I’d expected more. Where’s Linnai?”

Twilight took a defensive stance. “Who are you?”

Applejack smiled and came closer to Twilight. “Someone you haven’t seen for a while. Not since I took over this same pony’s body in Fluttershy’s dream. That sure was an awesome battle that I had with Rainbow Dash, there. Gotta admit, the desire to see how well I stack up to the real deal is tempting.”

Twilight reached into her saddle bag and grabbed the colorscope just as a door behind her opened. Linnai stepped out of the room and rushed to join Twilight in staring down Applejack. In a flash of green magic, she took the form of a unicorn, identical to her pegasus persona, but with a horn rather than wings.

“There you are, Linnai. It’s been too long.”

“I am not in a good mood, so you’d better get on with whatever you’re doing here or I’ll lose my temper.”

“Pleasure during a mission? You always did find a way, but shacking up with the enemy seems a bit of an odd choice, Lin. Then again, you might as well since you’re dead as soon as you’re out of here.”

“So you’ve come to pull us out, have you? Why can’t the Reset Swarm do it for you?”

Twilight slid her goggles over her eyes and saw the changeling’s true form beneath Applejack’s body. Her blond hair spilled down over her shoulders, and her horn was socketed with a gold colored gem. “She’s from The Order,” she said.

“I know who this bitch is. Little miss perfect herself, the queen’s daughter, Vitra,” Linnai responded with a sneer. Twilight’s eyes went wide with surprise. “Here doing mummy’s dirty work again, little girl? Head back home before I send you there.”

“Before I get to see Mulcibar, again? Not an option. I’ve got some questions for him,” she said, and then waved a hoof in the air. “Mulcibar! Don’t be a stranger! Bring your new girlfriends!”

Linnai laughed. “That what this is all about? One more roll in the hay for old time’s sake? Does Chrysalis even know you’re here? You’re gonna get into trouble.”

“Stop talking down to me! You aren’t so tough!”

“That’s enough!” Mulcibar’s voice shouted from the side. He approached the group with Pinkie behind him. Fluttershy had taken to the air and was flying towards Rainbow Dash and Gilda. “Vitra, you should have kept your head down like I told you!”

Vitra blinked and let out a sigh. “You really like to keep a girl waiting. Two at a time, now? You’re such a beast. You’ll have your own harem before you know it.”

“I said that’s enough. First you jump into that dream without anyone’s approval, get booted out, and now you’re here following me around even though I’m a traitor! You were sent here to pull us out, just admit it and let’s get this over with.”

“Could you really hurt me, Mulci? After all we’ve been through?”

Mulcibar glared at the Applejack doppelganger and bared his teeth. “Try me.”

Vitra pulled her hat off her head and spun it around on her hoof. “Ah, but I know something you don’t! Let me ask you something, Mulci, have you been feeling a little… strange lately? A little warm and fuzzy?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t play games with me, Mulci, I’ve seen the way you looked at that yellow one. She’s quite the beauty, you always did have an eye for the good ones, but that’s not all there is this time, is there?”

Linnai took several steps towards Vitra and lit her horn up. “I’ll shut that mouth of yours if you won’t shut it on your own.”

“You’re in love, aren’t you, Mulci? You feel love, and so much more. I do, too. Ever since I left that one’s dream, I’ve been feeling things I’ve never felt before.”

“What?” Mulcibar asked, his eyebrows rising back up.

“She’s lying!” Linnai shouted. “Don’t listen to her!”

Vitra shook her head. “So untrusting. I don’t blame you. You’re right, the queen did send me here to find you two, but not for extraction. She wants to find out more about how we can all be feeling love,” she said as a horn materialized on her head and began to glow. “So, very specifically, I can’t force you out. I’ve come here to interrogate you.”

A clicking sound came from behind Vitra. “Think again,” Gilda’s voice said. Vitra felt the barrel of a gun press against the back of her skull.

“Do it!” Linnai shouted. She fired a blast of magic from her horn. Gilda pulled the trigger on her flintlock. Mulcibar charged forward, his horn also ablaze. With a sparking of magic, Vitra teleported to the side. The bullet from Gilda’s gun traveled through the air right at Mulcibar’s head. Rainbow Dash swooped in with lightning speed and slapped the bullet out of the air, embedding it into the ground. Mulcibar skidded to a stop, and Linnai let loose with another blast of magic. Vitra returned the favor, the two blasts smashing into each other and crackling out.

“I could do this all night,” said Vitra as she licked her lips.

“Get clear!” Linnai shouted, her eyes burning with rage. Her changeling wings popped up from her back and pulsed with orange magic.

“You should know better!” Vitra shouted, her own wings tearing up through Applejack’s flesh like it was paper. They were similar to Vitra and Mulcibar’s wings, but sported a jagged line pattern that glowed bright white.

A flash of magic pulsed out from both of them. Linnai screamed in pain and jerked toward the ground as if stabbed from above by an unseen force. She struggled to turn her head to look at Mulcibar. “Get everyone out!”

Mulcibar nodded, his own wings tearing up from his back and lighting up blue. He ducked to the side, grabbing Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, and then sliding across the floor to the nearest door.

Linnai turned to face Twilight and let loose a wave of flames from her wings.

“Linnai! What are you doing!?” Twilight shouted.

“I’m not! Get Vitra!”

“Easy!” Gilda shouted, raising her gun up again. Vitra turned her head towards Gilda and her eyes flashed white. Gilda suddenly found her arm turning and pointing the gun at her own head.

“Stop!” Mulcibar shouted, and his wings pulsed out with a blue magical aura. Vitra blinked and found herself in a cold, metallic room. She was strapped to a wooden table and Mulcibar stood across the room from her, staring her down. “Stop, now.”

Vitra grinned. “Is it true, then? Are you in love?”

“What do you want me to say, Vitra? If I say yes, what good does it do you? You think we know why or how this is happening?”

“A girl can hope,” she replied, lowering her eyebrows. “Speaking of which, you’ve really got me in quite a position here. Legs strapped down, rump poised and ready… you’ve really got me turned on. You know I love rough play.”

“Just answer the question.”

“Go back there and get rough, then. I mean, really pound it.”

A metal spike drove up from beneath the table, just grazing past Vitra’s cheek. Mulcibar glared at her and shook his head. “Just… answer the question.”

Vitra stuck her tongue out and licked the spike’s shaft. “The real question is, what’s happening outside your little illusion here? I’ve still got control of your sister and that griffon.”

“Twilight and the others can handle that.”

“I don’t think they can. Has Linnai ever drove all of her magic into her wings before? No release? Do they eventually burst? Let’s take bets on how much of the hotel we can destroy.”

Outside the illusion…

Linnai’s wings were lighting up more and more. Gilda was holding a gun to her head, her arm shaking. Rainbow Dash had her hooves wrapped around Gilda’s arm and was pulling it downward with little effect.

“We have to do something!” Twilight shouted and then pointed a hoof at Mulcibar. “What is he doing? He and Vitra have just been standing there staring at each other for a minute now!”

“He’s got her trapped in an illusion,” Linnai said. “He’s trying to reason with her. Stupid, if you ask me!”

“Rainbow Dash! Can’t you stop this?”

Rainbow grunted and looked back at Twilight. “I’m trying! I’m trying! It’s not working like before!” she shouted, and then turned back to Gilda. “Come on Gilda! Let go of the gun!”

“You’re in a panic! You have to calm down!”

“It might be too late for that,” said Linnai, her eyes shaking. “She’s overloading my wings. I’ve never taken the power to this level before, and it keeps rising. I can’t stop it much longer!”

Twilight gasped and ran over to Linnai. She lit up her horn and grabbed ahold of Linnai’s hooves. “Can you channel any of your magic to your horn? I’ll try to absorb some of it!”

Linnai laughed. “Nice thought, but I’m not in control of my body right now.”

“There has to be something we can do!”

Linnai smiled and stared into Twilight’s eyes. “Yeah. There is,” she said, and then looked over at Rainbow Dash. “Rainbow! You need to grab me and fly me up as far into the sky as you can!”

“And what then?” Rainbow asked.

“Let go. Launch me out towards the mountains or something. I might regain control when I get far enough away from her.”

“And if you don’t?” Twilight asked, grabbing ahold of either side of Linnai’s head. “What then?”

“I blow up. Like a bomb.”

Twilight shook her head. “We can’t do that! You could die!”

“If I stay here, you’re all dead. Rainbow Dash! Now!”

“But, Gilda!”

“Just a dream, Dash. I’m just a dream,” Gilda said.

Suddenly a pink aura wrapped itself around Gilda. Her arm cracked as it bent downward. Gilda and Dash stared over at Pinkie who was standing and staring back, horn aglow.

“Go, Dashie.”

“I’m not okay with this! This is wrong!”

“Prudicorn,” Linnai said with a chuckle. “I’ll be back, and you better be ready to squirm.”

“Wait, just another—“

Rainbow Dash slammed into Linnai and the two of them took flight straight up into the air, becoming dots in the sky in the blink of an eye.

“Linnai!” Twilight screamed into the night sky.

Back in the illusion…

Mulcibar slammed a hoof against the table Vitra was on. “Damn it, Vit! Don’t make me kill you! You know I don’t want to, but I will!”

“My hooves are tied. Literally. But tell you what, I’ll stop on one condition.”

“You can’t just turn this around!”

“I just did. Are you going to listen?”

“Fine! What’s the condition?”

Vitra grinned and licked her lips. “Kiss me.”

Mulcibar blinked. “What?”

“You heard me. I came here to investigate the feelings of love you and I have. Now kiss me.”

Outside the illusion…

Mulcibar stepped towards Vitra, both their eyes still glazed over with magic.

“Oh, you’re back! We’ve got a problem!” Fluttershy shouted, running towards Mulcibar just as his lips pressed against Vitra’s. One of Vitra’s hooves lifted up and wrapped around the back of Mulcibar’s head, pulling him in closer.

Twilight stared at the two of them and blinked. “What on Earth…”

Gilda slumped to the ground and dropped the gun, her chest heaving with deep breaths. “Whatever, it worked.”

Twilight jerked her head back upward. “Linnai and Rainbow Dash?”

Rainbow Dash sped down to the ground and landed with a loud bang. “She told me to let her go. She said she had control again and could fly.”

“But all that magical buildup! She could—“

A loud explosion and blazing ball of flames erupted in the sky above the hotel, lighting up the courtyard as if it were daytime. A wave of heat washed over the area, and everypony ducked to the ground except for Mulcibar and Vitra, who still stood, lips locked, with Fluttershy staring at them intensely.

A second later, the two of them pulled apart. Vitra blinked her eyes and grinned at Mulcibar. She inhaled deeply. “Hmmmm, you smell that? We sure did let off a lot.”

Mulcibar frowned. “All you, I promise. Everypony just stay calm, and Vitra, don’t ever do that again, or—“ he said, and then turned and saw Fluttershy. Her eyes were wide and her jaw was shaking. “Uh… I had to. She made me.”

Fluttershy shook her head and managed to smile. “No, no, it’s okay,” she said and then breathed in deeply. She caught sight of Rainbow Dash out of the corner of her eye and the image of Dash’s face coming toward her and kissing her flashed in her mind. It’s not like I can say anything, anyway.

Twilight was still staring up into the sky. “Where’s Linnai? You don’t think she—“

“Of course not,” Linnai’s voice came from above. She glided down gently, landing right in front of Twilight. Her face was black with soot and scorch marks, but she was smiling. “No worse for wear.” She then turned to Vitra, lifted her hoof, and slapped her right across the face.

“Linnai!” Mulcibar growled. “We don’t need to do that again!”

“No, I deserved that,” Vitra said, rubbing a hoof against her cheek. “It’s the least I deserve, I guess. Still, it’s hard to believe, even now that I’ve confirmed it for myself… three changelings are feeling love, now. Mulcibar proved his own love by doing whatever it took to save his dear sister, and she proved it by taking off and heroically sacrificing herself. The love energy hanging in the air right now is as thick as mud, and most of it is ours.”

“So, answer my question from before,” Mulcibar said. “What now?”

Vitra shrugged. “You got me. The queen didn’t say what to do, just to find out how it happened. I have no idea how to do that, so I guess I’ll just have to tag along on your little adventure for a while.”

Mulcibar frowned. “Out of the question.”

“You act like you have a choice. I promise I won’t get in the way. I’ll even help out when I can. My powers could prove quite handy, you know.”

“Whatever,” Linnai groaned. “I need sleep now more than ever. Vitra, you’re staying with me where I can keep an eye on you.”

“Suits me just fine. You shacking up with your girlfriend, Mulci?”

“Come on,” Mulcibar said, and then tried to turn and move towards Vitra, but found that he couldn’t.

Twilight strained and managed to turn her head to look at Rainbow Dash. My whole body is frozen! Can’t move! What’s going on? she thought.

“What is this?” Linnai asked, turning her head to look at Vitra again.

“Not me this time, I’m afraid.”

A maniacal laugh came from above. Everyone strained to turn their eyes up to the sky. Floating up above them was Queen Chrysalis; her body coursing with red magic, along with Nightmare Moon, whose horn was glowing bright white. “Listen to me now and do well to understand every word. Tonight, this farce of a war ends!”

“That’s right! We’re going to destroy you all, starting with you, Rainbow Dash!” Chrysalis shouted and then laughed, her voice echoing across the walls beneath her.

Nightmare Moon stared down at the group. “Queen Chrysalis has harnessed a dark magic, one that could empower your worst nightmares! If you dare stand against her, you will have to use everything at your disposal!”

Chrysalis turned to look at Nightmare Moon and put a hoof against her mouth. “That’s enough! It almost sounds like you want them to beat us!” she said, barely above a whisper. “Not that they stand a chance, anyway.”

“Worry not! I merely wish for them to give us a glorious battle! Yes! I am sure you recall that even I could not defeat you alone as you are!”

Twilight stared up at Luna, sweat forming on her brow. Luna can’t finish her off! That dark magic, her own magic, has made Rainbow’s dream Chrysalis too powerful! she thought. We have to all attack at once. Maybe then we could overpower her!

“Let us release them, my queen!” Nightmare Moon said, grinning and bearing her fangs. “It is no fun if we just squash them like this!”

“Right you are!” Chrysalis said. With a flash of her horn, everypony below fell to the ground, breathing heavily.

I’m glad your dream villains are stupid! Just like in Daring Do books! Twilight thought, and then turned to look at Rainbow Dash. “Rainbow! They want to fight you, so let’s give them a fight!”

“Indeed!” Chrysalis screeched, her eyes igniting with red magic. “We do this now, Rainbow Dash! You and me!”

Rainbow planted all four hooves firmly on the ground and clenched her jaw. “Alright! This ends now!” she shouted back.

“Rainbow, wait!” Twilight shouted, pushing herself back up to her hooves. “We have to do it together!” She lit up her horn and stared at Chrysalis.

Dash’s body began to glow, her aura cycling through the colors of the rainbow. “Then come on!” she shouted and launched into the air at full speed, her outstretched hooves crashing into Chrysalis, creating a bright, prismatic flash. The force wave from the collision spread out all around, knocking everypony else to the ground.

Meanwhile, in the sky, unnoticed, a crack in the fabric of reality began to form.

In another room attached to the courtyard…

Vinyl Scratch sat up in bed slightly and glanced towards the window at the front of the room. “What was that?” she asked drearily.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Octavia responded from under the covers. “Please, Vinyl, for the last time tonight, go back to sleep.”

Vinyl flopped back down into bed and began to snore.

There was a sudden whooshing noise, as if a strong wind had blown through the room, but just for a split second.

The bed was now empty, but still warm from the bodies that had occupied it a second ago.

A pair of green eyes opened at the foot of the bed, followed by a face being illuminated by a faintly glowing gem.

“Everyone in position. Prepare to move on my mark. This is the one the traitors are hiding in,” A deep, gravelly voice said. “They are locked in a pointless conflict right now. We will take them by surprise.”

“We show no mercy, no matter what you may think of him, understood?” another voice said. “But make it quick and painless. He deserves no less.”

To Be Concluded...

Author's Note:

Yikes!

This chapter went through a lot of revisions! The M-rated scene I spoke of on blog posts has actually been moved to the next chapter. Anway, I hope it was enjoyable. Next chapter is the grand finale! Rainbow Dash vs. Chysalis with her evil red magic! Little do our heroes know, though, the Reset Swarm has arrived!


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