• 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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Pinked Ch 1 - Banana Split

Book Six: Pinked

Chapter One – Banana Split

Fluttershy opened her eyes, her body aching as if she had fallen a fair distance. She stood up, wobbly, and looked around to get her bearings.

“Hello again, Fluttershy.”

Fluttershy shrunk down to the ground and jerked her head this way and that, looking for the voice, seeing nothing but dark shadows, which were cast down by big, multi-colored trees. The trees all had big, happy faces carved into them, and their branches bore fruit that looked like different types of giant jelly beans. The grass beneath her hooves seemed to be artificial, somehow, with colorful, speckled rocks here and there. The whole scene would seem too surreal to take seriously if it weren’t for the fact that it was dark and there was a creepy voice calling out to her.

“Do you remember me?”

Fluttershy nervously shook her head. “No. I don’t hear anything. Funny of you to ask such a strange thing, Fluttershy! Why would there be a voice calling out to me in the middle of this totally not scary smiley-face candy forest?”

The voice sighed. “I had warned you, and you forgot? Please, little pony, try and take these things seriously.” A small, shadowy feline leapt out and stared at Fluttershy with its golden, glowing eyes. “I smell death again. What is it with you and death, hmmm? This time it’s stronger than before. It’s lurking around every corner, waiting for anypony to foolishly fall into its trap. My brethren and I are all ready. Canterlot stinks of death and despair, and we are so very hungry.”

Fluttershy lowered her eyebrows, remembering when she had seen this creature in her own dream world...

“I smell death,” a voice whispered from the shadows. “Delicious and alluring... the scent makes me drool.”

Fluttershy turned her head to the side and saw a black cat emerge from the bushes, staring at her with glowing, golden eyes. Fluttershy frowned, knowing exactly what creature she was looking at.

“Stay away from her,” Fluttershy threatened, narrowing her eyes. “She’s not food for the likes of you, cat.”

The cat sat down and licked at the white patch of fur on its chest for a moment, then looked up at the yellow pony. “I’m not talking about your bright-haired friend over there. No, I couldn’t possibly eat her soul--it’s not even there, anymore. Didn’t you notice it? How her soul flew northward with some speed? It’s so diluted, hardly worth the effort, not to mention too fast a meal for my taste.”

Fluttershy felt fear, as she did any time she met with a dangerous creature such as this for the first time, but she also felt confidence since she had better control of her lucidity now. “Well then, what is it that you smell? What drew you here, cat sidhe?”

Fluttershy scowled. “You! But, you were just a part of my dream!”

The cat laughed and licked a front paw, rubbing it over its face a few times. “That’s a silly thought. Of course I wasn’t just part of your dream. You knew that at the time. Perhaps you just didn’t want to accept it?”

Last time, he’d been attracted by my dream’s Rainbow Dash dying. My grief must have brought him. What could it be this time? Fluttershy stood up and took a deep breath. She stepped towards the cat, locking her eyes onto it. “Where are my friends?” she asked, the thought of them having been killed inside this dream world turning her heart cold.

The cat flopped onto the ground and rolled onto its back. It pawed the air and cracked its smiling lips. “I have no idea, and I wouldn’t tell you even if I knew. I will share with you a prediction, though, if you will hear it.”

Fluttershy stared down at the cat, her eyes full of anger and determination. “I’m listening.”

“You’ve entered a very unstable space. My kind have easily taken root here, just as we’ve taken root elsewhere already. I don’t believe there is any way to avoid the outcome I am about to share with you, so listen closely,” the cat said, and then rolled back up to a sitting position. It narrowed its eyes and grinned. “One of you will not make it out of this dream alive. I wonder who it could be.”

“You can’t possibly know that!” Fluttershy snapped. “You’re just trying to intimidate me! Your kind thrives on death and despair, but I won’t let you have any! I’ll find my friends and we’ll make it, you just watch!”

The cat laughed and floated up into the air, shrugging its paws in front of it. “Oh, I’ll be watching! Even if you die here, you just wake up on the other side. Right? That changes nothing, you fool. Somepony will give their life for love, I can taste it! What a waste! But at least it will provide a snack for us! Get us ready for the main course to come.”

The course to come! Fluttershy gasped, remembering what the beast had told her in her own dream world.

“You think a spirit such as I cares if it's just a part of some dream? In any case, I sense much chaos and potential for suffering and death all around you. Rest assured, others of my kind will be drawn to Canterlot,” the cat growled, baring its teeth. “The feast will be quite glorious. You’re all so helpless, tied up in those cocoons!” The cat leapt through the air, a trail of black left in its wake.

And then, when I had asked it to leave, Fluttershy thought, her body trembling.

“You think I can leave? I told you, I’m still just part of your dream! I’ll give you one more warning, though,” it said between laughs. “The mess in Canterlot is already attracting the attention of far greater powers than I! Be on the lookout, even in dreams. Something dark knows what’s happening, and I can not even begin to guess its motive.”

With a sinister laugh, the cat sidhe vanished from sight and Fluttershy was left alone again.

Somepony will give their life for love, I can taste it! The cat’s words echoed in her mind, but she felt a new resolve in her heart, and an urgency to find her friends and keep them safe. She pressed forward into the darkness, walking several yards before bumping into somepony. Both of them fell to the ground.

“Ouch! Sorry! I’m sorry!” Fluttershy said, flailing her hooves in front of her. “Who’s there?”

“Oh! Hey! It’s you!” a voice said with a happy tone. A hoof quickly reached down to help Fluttershy up. A light spell flashed from a horn, and Fluttershy saw the face of Vitra. “So glad to see a friendly face. I was starting to think nopony else was even here! What if everypony else died? Jeez, that would be a real drag.”

Fluttershy shook nervously, but nodded her head. “Thanks! Yeah! It’s better than being alone, I guess,” she said, turning away from the changeling slightly. Vitra galloped around Fluttershy, getting back into her field of vision. “Oh, come on, Fluttershy! It’s me! Remember?” Vitra asked, and her body flashed green briefly. After the flash died down, she stood before Fluttershy as Applejack, but with a patch over her eye. “Remember? Right? Well, I mean, I wasn’t in her body until later, but hey, you know, I got all her memories.”

Fluttershy frowned. “Sorry, I’d rather not remember all of that.” She walked past Vitra, continuing forward through the dark, sweet-smelling forest.

Vitra sighed and flashed her body back to normal. “Sorry. I guess you miss your real friend a lot, huh?” she said, walking behind Fluttershy. “Ya know, I can’t wait to meet her! Applejack, I mean. I have so many questions. Mostly about family, I guess.”

Fluttershy shrugged. “Why ask Applejack? Other ponies here have families. I have a family.”

“Well, you should know, right? I mean, that Applejack was your version of her. She was downright obsessed with family! She took it very seriously, and when I think back about it and try and grip those memories again, I’m… I dunno… I guess I feel happy. Content. Loved.”

Fluttershy turned to look at Vitra and smiled at her briefly. “Well, I’m sure she’d be glad to talk to you. You know, you really aren’t at all what I was expecting. I guess I owe you an apology. Sorry for being so cold just now.”

Vitra blinked. “Oh, that’s okay! What were you expecting?”

“Well, you know,” Fluttershy said nervously, hesitating ever so slightly. “You had fought with my version of Rainbow Dash, plus Linnai said you were a… a bitch.”

Vitra stomped a hoof as she walked. “That little slut really needs to keep her whore mouth shut! I swear, next time I see her, I’m going to shove my hoof so far up her ass, she’ll be able to smell her own excrement!”

Fluttershy’s eyes went wide and she stopped in her tracks, slowly turning her head to Vitra. The changeling smiled sweetly at her. “But I suppose she could have just been joking!” she said, giggling slightly.

“Y-yeah… maybe it was just a joke!” Fluttershy said, feigning laughter. Oh, why did I have to end up alone with her? I wish it had been one of my friends… or Mulcibar. She lowered her head and blushed as they made their way through the woods.

Vitra glanced down at her and smirked. “What are you thinking about, hmm?”

“Oh, uh, nothing. Just thinking about my friends. I hope we can find them soon.”

Vitra placed a hoof against her mouth and laughed. “A special friend? You suddenly got quiet and rosy-cheeked.”

Fluttershy gasped and looked back up at Vitra. “No! No no, nothing like that. He’s just my friend. I mean, I was just thinking about my friends, that’s all!” She slapped a hoof over her own mouth and let out a tiny squeak.

Vitra blew a raspberry and rolled her eyes. “He’s just your friend? You’re as easy to read as a warning sign,” she said, and then dug her elbow into Fluttershy’s ribcage a couple of times. “I saw the way he was looking at you a few times. So, it’s mutual, is it?”

Fluttershy sighed. “It’s… complicated.”

Vitra snorted. “It’s always complicated with him! I’ve known him since we were pretty young. He’s always so serious, but I guess that makes him pretty reliable.”

Fluttershy nodded and smiled. “Yeah, he always seems to come through when he has to,” she said, and then remembered how he had made her think he was dead. “Though he goes a bit too far sometimes!” she pushed the smile off of her face and turned her nose up slightly.

“That’s just another reason why I like him so much. He’s willing to do anything to win, that’s just his way. Believe it or not, he has a pretty fragile ego, even if he likes to play it cool usually.”

Fluttershy nodded, listening intently. “So, you’ve known him for a long time? I guess that makes sense seeing as you were the queen’s daughter.”

Vitra waved a hoof in the air. “Oh yeah, plus he was always one of my favorites,” she said, her grin widening. She leaned in to Fluttershy and put a hoof in front of her mouth. “So hey, have you two, ya know…”

Fluttershy blinked. “Have we… what, now?”

Vitra slapped Fluttershy across the shoulders. “Oh, come on, you know! The horizontal polka, the bedroom boogie, hide the cucumber, knocking horseshoes--”

“No!” Fluttershy cut her off, her face turning bright red. “We have not done any of… of that.”

Vitra blinked, her mouth gaping open slightly. “Wow, it must be pretty serious.”

Fluttershy stared at the ground. “What do you mean by that?”

Vitra shrugged. “Well, I mean, he’s usually a pretty fast operator! He and I have that in common, I guess.”

Fluttershy nodded her head with annoyance. “I see. Well, that’s great,” she said, glancing up at one of the trees. “Oh hey, look, that tree’s face is a little different!”

“Well, let me tell you, it’ll be worth the wait!”

Fluttershy pointed up at the tree’s foliage. “And it has different leaves than those ones back there!”

“Man, I remember the first time he and I did it, whoa! I was not expectin--”

Can we please get off this subject!?” Fluttershy turned her head and shouted at Vitra.

The two of them stopped. Vitra stared down at Fluttershy, eyes wide. The yellow pegasus was breathing heavily and her face had maintained its bright red hues.

Vitra ruffled Fluttershy’s mane with her hoof and turned to continue walking. “Okay, that’s fine, sorry! Just thought you might want to hear about--”

“No thank you, I‘m fine!”

After a few minutes, Vitra shook her head. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m not used to talking with ponies. Changelings talk about that sort of stuff all the time.”

Fluttershy breathed out heavily. “I guess I hadn’t thought much about him being with somepony else before, even though I knew he had been. He’d even told me so. I just… didn’t want to think about it. Sorry I yelled.”

“You’ve got nothing to apologize for.”

“I guess I felt angry… and maybe a little jealous,” Fluttershy said with a sigh.

Vitra reached out and wrapped a hoof around Fluttershy’s shoulders, pulling her closer. “Aw, don’t worry, kid! He’s just a friend. I won’t get in your way.”

Fluttershy smiled and nodded her head. “Thanks, though he and I aren’t really sure about anything just yet,” she said as they started walking again. “Well, he’s sure, but I’m not…”

“Well, you’ll get it all figured out. Come on, I think I see an opening ahead!”

The two of them ran forward, coming to a clearing. They both stared out from the forest, Fluttershy’s face locked in a horrified expression, Vitra’s grinning widely.

“Can we go back into the forest, please?” Fluttershy asked timidly.

“And miss out on this? Are you out of your mind?”

No, Fluttershy thought, her eyes darting back and forth. Just really scared. Scared of you, of that cat sidhe, and now… what in Equestria am I even looking at?

“So, do you think this hallway ever ends?” Linnai asked, making her way down the long stone corridor she found herself in. The walls were carved with what looked like a cross between ancient hieroglyphics and the sort of imagery you’d find on a grade school foal’s art project. The changeling turned her head and looked at her companion, whose eyes were locked straight ahead.

“One can only hope so,” Celestia replied. “We need to find a way out of here and find the others. After what we saw before the portal burst forth, we can assume that Pinkie Pie is not in a right state of mind.”

Linnai laughed. “Assuming this actually is her dream world. Besides, from what I know and have heard of Pinkie Pie, is she ever in a right state of mind?”

Celestia managed to smile. “Yes, well, I suppose not.”

A dull quiet surrounded the two of them as they trotted along, the clacking of their hooves on the stony ground the only sound.

“I hope everypony is okay. It really seemed like we were on the fast-track, and now we get stuck in this place,” Linnai said, breaking the silence.

Celestia glanced at her companion and raised an eyebrow. “Well, you certainly have grown, haven’t you? It wasn’t so long ago that you were cursing my name and trapping me in a blazing inferno, and now you’re actually worrying about others.”

Linnai lowered her gaze, a pained expression forming on her face. “Yeah. Not that long ago, huh?” she said, her voice becoming quiet. “I’m sorry about that.”

Celestia cracked the slightest smile. “I know I went right into threatening boasting after that about how it wasn’t all that hot, but truth be told, I felt it. I was really quite impressed, from a magical standpoint.”

Linnai’s ears fell back against her head. “All I feel from that is shame. Shame that I did it, but also… I guess, shame that I was that weak. It’s weird to look back on something so recent, feel bad about it, and then feel bad that you were so bad at being bad. I really am sorry.”

“You were doing what you believed was right. You had been given orders to complete a mission by your queen, and you were faithfully acting on her behalf. If I had to say anything, it’s that I know the value of someone like you on a mission.”

Linnai laughed. “We weren’t even supposed to attack you, though! I attacked and wouldn’t let Mulcibar talk sense into me! I saw Twilight and just became… enraged.”

“Enraged by the sight of Twilight? Had you met her before?” Celestia asked, her voice engaging in a more curious tone now.

“No, not directly, but I had heard of her and read about her. The genius child who was hoof-picked by the ruler of Equestria to be her personal student? I had to know more,” she explained, her pace slowing to a stop. Celestia came around in front of her and sat down to listen. “I went as far as sneaking into Canterlot disguised as a pony and studying anything I could find out about Twilight Sparkle, which wasn’t much… but still, it was enough for me to see that she was a natural talent, something I always wanted to be, but wasn’t. I guess I was jealous.”

Celestia put a hoof to her mouth and grinned. “Well, actually…”

Linnai perked up, her eyes slowly rising to meet Celestia’s. “Hmm?”

“Oh, nothing, really,” Celestia replied. “Just lost in memories of when Twilight first became my student. She was not the natural talent you might be thinking; she just had a lot of potential.”

“So… what was she like? When she was younger.”

“Oh, you don’t want to hear about that, do you?” Celestia asked teasingly.

Linnai felt herself blushing slightly. She shrugged and stood back up. “Whatever. Nevermind. I don’t really care in the slightest.” She began walking again, leaving Celestia sitting on the ground.

Celestia smirked and turned her head. “So it really has happened to you, as well. And just like your brother, you’re suddenly lovestruck, is that it?”

Linnai turned to face Celestia again, her jaw slightly agape. “What? No! I was just making conversation!” Her cheeks were bright red and her agitation was plain to see.

Celestia rolled her eyes and stood back up, continuing to walk alongside Linnai. “Of course, well, we can just make conversation. Little Twilight, huh? It sure has been a while. I’ve never met a pony who so sincerely wanted to master anything as much as Twilight wanted to master magic. However, when she was young, she was not very good at it. It was really quite adorable.”

Linnai smiled gently. “Her? I can’t imagine it.”

“Oh yes, and of course, I fretted over her constantly. I had been entrusted by her parents to watch over her as she studied; to guide her into being a fine student of the magical arts. When a spell backfired and she got in over her head, she would be so ashamed that she wouldn’t want to face her mother and father. I started letting her spend nights at the castle, which of course, she used to study even more,” Celestia recalled. She glanced over at Linnai and saw her constantly softening expression. “She didn’t just study, though. There were times when she would want me to tell her stories. Having lived for a thousand years, I have a story or two to tell, I can assure you. Oh, how I sometimes yearn for those long nights, leaning over Twilight’s bed at the castle, telling her tales of dragons and heroes and ancient royalty. Her little smile would brighten up everything, like the sun.”

Linnai sighed, her eyes practically glowing, a swirl of emotions she was not altogether familiar with filling her to the brim as she listened to the elder pony speak.

“Eventually, when she was old enough, she moved into the castle permanently. I gave her her own private study so that she could advance at her own pace, which by that point outstripped her peers by a long shot. Unfortunately, she took on her studies so seriously that she didn’t have any friends. She barely had any social connections at all, and I worried about her. When she finally made friends with the girls from Ponyville, I breathed a sigh of relief, and it was in that moment that I realized something that is so very important to me,” Celestia said. She stopped in her tracks and raised a hoof, placing it on Linnai’s chest and stopping her as well. “I had somehow come to feel so strongly for Twilight. Stronger than the bond between a normal teacher and student. Stronger than normal friendship. I loved her as if she were my own daughter. When she had no friends, I felt a sadness in my heart, but I didn’t directly intervene. I felt that that as her teacher it was not my place, even though in my heart I saw her as my daughter slowly turning into a cold, reclusive wizard. It was painful to witness.”

Linnai stared up at Celestia’s eyes and blinked. “Twilight had mentioned that to me, as well. She’d said that she didn’t have any friends before, but she eventually discovered that friendship was the most important thing of all. At the time, I didn’t believe her. I didn’t have the capacity,” she said with a sigh. “Now, I understand what she meant. I look back at my life with my brother, with some of the other changelings I know, and I feel new love in my heart. Love for friends, love for my brother, and… then when I think of Twilight, it’s the same feeling, but it’s somehow, I guess you could say, colored differently. She’s… special to me.”

“Changeling,” Celestia said, her expression becoming serious and stone-like, the smile leaving her lips and her eyes staring down at Linnai’s. Linnai reflexively pulled back an inch, gulping. “Do you wish to court my daughter?”

Linnai stared nervously up at Celestia, sweat forming on her brow, the answer on the tip of her tongue, but somehow her lips unable to say it.

“Twilight is very special to me, too, as I’ve just told you. I am rather perceptive, and it is obvious to me how you feel about her, but you know that your love is a new emotion. You could be awash in an ocean of feelings, not understanding just how deep and different romantic love is. Even still, do you wish to court my daughter and test those waters? Do you wish to seek my blessing?”

“Look, I didn’t mean for this conversation to get onto this subject, and—“

“We have to have this conversation sometime. Why not now? Just between you and I.” Celestia’s face remained unchanged, no sign of emotion, her royal presence projecting out and filling the corridor. The pressure was palpable.

Linnai tightened her jaw and straightened her posture. She stared back into Celestia’s eyes and sighed. “Do we have to do this right now? Let’s go find Twilight and the others and make sure they’re safe, then we can—“

“Do you love her or not? Answer me, child!” Celestia commanded. “Do not keep a princess waiting!”

Linnai gulped and shrunk down, keeping her eyes still locked onto Celestia’s, not because she wanted to, but because she felt as though should couldn’t look away even if she tried to. She could feel Celestia’s will bearing down on her, trapping her. The words escaped her mouth as if the princess had reached down her throat and extracted them. “I love her. More than anything else.”

Celestia smiled and patted Linnai on the head. “You two siblings are both just adorable. I’m glad we got that out of the way.” She turned and continued walking.

After a few seconds, Linnai stood back up and trailed after the princess, her mind spinning around inside her head. “Wait! What was all that about? Weren’t you going to give your blessings or something?”

Celestia continued walking and shook her head. “No,” she said plainly. “Besides, why should you care what I think? I’m not actually her mother.”

Linnai felt her jaw shaking. Why should I care? I’ll just do as I please! She’s the one who brought up the whole ‘giving blessings’ thing in the first place!

After another moment of silence Celestia stopped and spoke again. “Rather, I should say, she may not return your feelings. To be honest, I don’t believe she’s had much of a love life to speak of, so I don’t know what sort of partner she’d choose.”

“That’s fine,” Linnai said, her body relaxing slightly. “I sort of have an idea. It’s probably not going to be good for me, but whatever.”

“Well, you have shown me your resolve, do as you please. You have my blessing for what it’s worth, but Twilight is a grown filly, she’ll do as she pleases as well.” She smiled back at the changeling, a smile so sweet it could rot teeth, a smile so sharp it could cut through bone. “If, however, it comes to pass that you betray her, break her heart, use her, abuse her, or play with her emotions… well, then you’ll have me to answer to.”

Linnai shakily nodded her head, her body’s moment to relax having not lasted long. “I would never. Never again. I’m not like I was before. Twilight told me that love was a strength, that love wasn’t a bad thing. Of course, she also told me she’s not into mares, but that’s come with mixed signals, so… I can’t give up just yet, even if ends up being one-sided.”

“But you will give up if it does. Promise me that, Linnai,” Celestia said, turning her head back in the direction they were walking. “Promise me that if she definitively turns you down that you will give up on your romantic pursuits. I would much rather see the two of you end up being friends than her pushing you away for being too persistent. Think of this as… advice from one who knows from experience.”

Linnai nodded her head and rejoined Celestia, walking side by side. “So, you’re familiar with unrequited love, then?”

“All too,” Celestia responded, and then picked up her pace slightly “Look. I think I see a doorway up there!” The two of them sped up to a gallop, reaching the doorway and turning to look through it. Their eyes went wide and they gasped at what they saw.

Rainbow Dash bolted through the street, weaving between buildings, looking around frantically for something. They were unlike any buildings she’d ever seen, at least outside of a fairy tale. They were all made of gingerbread and candy. The streets were some sort of cookie crumble, and were wet with rainfall, but not just normal rain. It was raining what Rainbow was almost certain was fruit punch. She finally ducked under an awning that protected her from the downpour. She fell to her haunches and lifted a hoof to her face, taking a nervous lick of it.

“Yep. That’s fruit punch,” she said, her eyes lowering. “I’m all sticky. Great. Thanks a lot, Pinkie Pie.” She put a hoof above her eyes and gazed up into the sky. The downpour wasn’t even coming from clouds, there were bits of fruit floating up there, dripping the liquid out like they were being juiced.

Rainbow Dash sighed and leaned against the window of the building, and felt herself starting to sink into it. She pulled away quickly, the sensation not unlike pulling an adhesive bandage off, just bigger. She spun around and squinted at the window. I can’t go up and bust clouds, there aren’t any, it’s all fruit… and these windows are sticky like syrup. She felt her stomach grumble and lurched forward. I think I’m gonna be sick. The sight of an umbrella inside the shop on the other side of the windows caught her eye. She carefully opened the door, jingling the bell that was attached to it as she entered.

“Hello?” she called out. There was no response. She nervously picked up one of the umbrellas from a barrel and spoke again. “Okay, so, I’m just gonna borrow one of these umbrellas. Okay?” She waited for a reply, but there was none.

“Okay,” she said nervously and then quickly left. She flung the umbrella open and breathed a sigh of relief when it was just a normal umbrella. “Okay, good. Nothing weird about that.” She stepped out into the rain of punch and started to hear a gurgling sound coming from above her.

“What the heck?”

“Oh, thank you! I was really quite parched! I must say, this is the most delicious of downpours, wouldn’t you agree?”

Rainbow yanked the umbrella downward and looked at the top of it, finding that it had a happy, smiling face on it. “Are you talking to me, umbrella?”

“Are you talking to me, pony?” the umbrella responded mockingly and then laughed. “I’m joking! Just put me back up into the air, I’m still thirsty.”

Dash gave up on trying to understand anything at that point. She wedged the umbrella between one of her wings and her back and began to walk down the street, keeping her eyes open for anypony she might see, the umbrella happily gurgling and slurping above her.

“Hey, down there! You ever notice how on fruit punch days, there’s way more strawberries up there than usual?” the umbrella asked as Dash was walking along.

Rainbow Dash’s eye twitched. “No. I haven’t.”

“Oh wow, yeah, totally! I mean, when it’s orange juice, sure, it’s almost all oranges, but with fruit punch I really think the strawberries come out way more.”

“That’s very interesting. Please, tell me more,” Dash replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

The umbrella, apparently, was not good at detecting it. “Oh, a skyfruit enthusiast, too? Yes, it’s strange! I mean, it’s fruit punch, so there’s more than just strawberries, right? Right? Let me tell you, when you’re an umbrella, you really get a lot of time to look up at the sky during storms. I guess it just comes naturally! Well, I guess it makes sense, you being a pegasus and all, so anyway, let me tell you about those pesky mangoes…”

Rainbow tuned out the umbrella as she rounded a corner and spotted a familiar sight, Sugarcube Corner. She picked up her pace and ran towards it and up the stairs. She quickly swung the umbrella in front of her, shook it, and folded it.

“Uh, okay! I’ll wait for you out here, then, shall I?” the umbrella asked, its voice partially muffled. Dash ignored it and walked into Sugarcube Corner. The place was empty, no sign that anypony had been there recently.

She slowly walked towards the back of the shop. “Hello? Pinkie Pie?” she called out.

A face peeked down at her from the staircase at the far back wall. “She’s not here,” the owner of the face said.

The owner of the face was someone Dash didn’t really want to see right now. Sure, she’d worked together with him in her dream, but his very existence was starting to really get under her skin. She smiled as best she could and responded. “Mulcibar! Wasn’t expecting to find you here.”

Mulcibar trotted down the stairs and over to Dash. He leaned against the counter that separated the two of them and put his chin against his front hooves, sighing. “Yeah. Me neither. Anyway, the place is abandoned. Look at the dust, it’s been empty for a little bit. Only place I haven’t checked yet is the basement.”

Dash shrugged. “Well, I guess it’s worth looking into. At least we’re not out in the fruit punch storm,” she said as she walked around the counter and towards the door that led to the basement.

“I don’t know, I found it to be rather tasty! I’d never had fruit punch before.” Mulcibar said, following behind her. “I mean, even if it’s not rain. Why is it punch, anyway? What’s up with that?

Dash glanced over her shoulder and rolled her eyes around. “What’s up with Pinkie Pie is the question. Her brain’s already a mystery out in the real world, and now we’re inside it.” She opened the door and slowly made her way down into the darkness below.

Mulcibar lit up gemstone in his horn, shining light out of it like a flashlight. The basement was completely empty, just a rectangular space devoid of anything else.

“Guess this is a dead end, too,” Mulcibar said with a sigh, but then aimed his light down onto the ground. “Wait a second, what’s that?”

What the two of them saw now was a wooden door in the floor. There was no latch or lock on it, just a door with a handle like any you might find in any other room in the house.

Dash felt a nervous shiver run up her spine. “That’s… weird.”

“Maybe there’s a second floor basement.”

“Second floor basement?”

“Right,” Mulcibar replied, and then used his magic to pull the door open. A strong gust of wind blew up into the room from it. Dash cautiously poked her head down through the door. Her jaw dropped.

“What in Equestria?” she managed.

Mulcibar joined her. Below the door was a massive staircase leading down to an outdoor area. They began to descend the staircase, glancing up at where they had come from, which was just a hole in the sky. The sky itself was an ominous brown color. Looking down, the landscape they were descending upon was bleak and barren with nothing but rocks dotting the landscape.

“Okay, great. We’re living a Pinkie Pie mood swing. We’ve gone from happy, random fruit clouds and cookie houses to a field of gray and brown rocks,” Rainbow said with a groan. “I’m going to glide down the rest of the way, maybe swing around that way and see if I see anything.”

Mulcibar unfurled his wings. “I’ll join you. I’ll scout the other way.”

“Alright, meet back here in a few minutes,” Rainbow said, and then launched herself into the air. Mulcibar turned and did the same.

Rocks, dead trees, clump of bushes. Oh, a tumbleweed! Dash thought as she lazily scanned the ground. This place really is bleak. She glanced over her shoulder. Mulcibar was barely visible in the distance. Dash groaned and turned her head forward again.

Why did I have to get stuck with that guy? She sighed and closed her eyes, an image of Mulcibar and Fluttershy kissing forming in her mind. The more she thought about it, the redder a tint it developed until she finally opened her eyes and growled. What does she even see in him? Sure, he’s strong, and dark, and mysterious… sheesh, is that really her type? Is that your type, Fluttershy? She circled around, heading back towards the staircase, memories flashing in her mind.

My sister and I, you don’t know us, but we’re… if you fall now, we’re goners! We’ll be put to death!

Dash clenched her teeth and hugged her front hooves against her chest. And he’s brave. Let’s not forget that, either. She sighed and let her hooves fall back down, hanging freely as she glided. Those two… they’re putting their lives on the line by helping us. What am… what am I doing? I’m gliding around in a dream world brooding over my fillyhood crush and her new guy. I’m pathetic.

Perhaps you should work on your attitude, Luna’s voice shot through Dash’s mind. I don’t think she is beyond your reach, but if you intend to punch walls, that shy one will surely shy away.

Punching walls, heh… Guess I never learn! Dash thought, and then slapped her hooves against her cheeks. He’s here, he loves her, and you’re just going to have to live with that, Dash! No pain, no gain! I just have to be myself, just like Luna said.

Dash landed about halfway up the staircase and scanned the environment for Mulcibar. Did I get back too quick? Flashes of magic from the distance answered her question. Nope! He’s in trouble!

She leaned to take off, spread her wings, and then paused. Sweat suddenly beaded up on her brow, a streak rolling down her face. He’s in trouble. I mean, if he ends up getting zapped...

An image of Fluttershy’s crying face materialized in Dash’s mind.

He’ll wake up on the other side! They’ll kill him! Fluttershy’s voice screamed.

Dash clenched her teeth, swung her body to the left, and smashed one of her hooves into the side of a stair above her. “That’s not you, Dash!” she screamed between her teeth, and then leapt into the air, flying towards the magic flashes. “Don’t ever think anything like that again!!”

Rainbow sped through the sky, the flashes of magic becoming closer by the second. Ahead of her was a jagged, raised cliff with a field of massive boulders at its base. It was from within this field of boulders that the magic was flaring up from. Suddenly, there was movement. Not just from shadows being cast by magical discharges, but something else. Many small, dark somethings were down below, swarming all around, moving like a massive wave.

She spotted Mulcibar. His wings were opened fully and his horn was blazing with blue magic as he blasted the little somethings. She slammed down onto a rock just above him and took in the scene. He was being assaulted by what must have been hundreds of small ponylike creatures with no faces, just wide, gaping mouths full of sharp teeth. They were every imaginable color.

“Hey! What in the heck is going on?” she shouted.

Mulcibar jerked his head up towards her. “Get out of here! Quickly!”

Dash blinked and flapped her wings. “You have wings! Come on!”

Mulcibar blasted two more of the creatures that leapt at him and dashed to the side, around the rock that Rainbow was perched on. “Hurry! Before they notice you! Get airborne!”

Rainbow Dash groaned. “You can fly, dude! Come on!”

“Afraid not!” Mulcibar shouted back. He flapped his wings, leapt into the air, and was quickly seized by numerous tentacle-like tongues that fired out from the creatures’ mouths. They slammed him into the ground, and he blasted the tongues one by one, freeing himself. “Get going! I’ve fought these creatures before! I’m going to lure them all into one place, pop the gem out of my horn, and torch them all with a massive blast! Now go hide!”

Dash flapped her wings and began to take off. She looked down just in time to see Mulcibar tackled to the ground by a large number of the monsters. They dug their sharp teeth into his flesh, and he cried out in pain.

Fluttershy’s crying face, once again, flashed through Dash’s mind. She dove down at Mulcibar and began to kick the beasts off of him. “Sorry, but I can’t leave you! How would I ever explain it to Fluttershy?”

Mulcibar grinned. “Fine! I hear you’re a brave pony, so let’s see what you can do with no lucidity!”

“You’re on!” Dash replied with a grin. “You said you need to round them all up? I may have learned a thing or two about that by watching a certain farmpony. Split up and get as many of them to follow you as you can, then meet back at that far corner!” She pointed a hoof to a spot in the cliff where it made a sharp turn.

The two of them split up. Rainbow Dash ran from rock to rock, mocking and taunting the colorful shades while Mulcibar took a long way around, swerving this way and that, firing his magic up into the air above him. With each step, he felt his wounds aching for relief, but ignored them as best he could. Before long, they both had a big crowd of shades following them. Dash bolted towards the corner from one direction while Mulcibar came from the other.

Dash rounded a corner and saw Mulcibar around another just ahead of her. They ran at each other on a collision course.

“Now jump!” Dash shouted. She and Mulcibar leapt into the air, flapping their wings. A massive hissing sound came from below them as innumerable shades opened their mouths, readying to launch their tongues skyward.

Rainbow grabbed Mulcibar by the hips and launched him to the left, straight at a rocktop, where he landed roughly, falling to his side. He quickly righted himself just in time to see Rainbow get wrapped up in several shade tongues.


“Do it!” Rainbow shouted. “Blast them to Tartarus!” Her body was dragged back down to the ground as soon as one of the shades squeezed her wings shut.

Mulcibar shook his head and unsocketed the gem from his horn. “I can’t! You’ll get caught up in the blast!”

Rainbow’s hooves touched the ground and she grinned. “Who are you saying that to?” She started to buck and knock the tongues off of her until only one had a solid grip. She grabbed it and pulled, the shade it was attached to flying towards her. She let her front hoof meet its face, knocking it to the ground.

“Blast ‘em, I said!”

Mulcibar stared down in awe for a second and then lit up his horn. “Get back! Behind this rock!”

Dash leapt into the air, flinging herself away from the massive mob of shades. Mulcibar’s horn erupted with magic. The blinding light from it lit up the air. The sound of rocks being blown to bits echoed, as did the screams of a hundred shades.

Dash peeked out from behind the rock. There wasn’t a sign of any shade left. The ground had been torn away, leaving a massive hole. The area where the cliff had come to a sharp angle was now a gigantic circular crater. The sound of debris falling to the ground in the distance could still be heard.

Mulcibar fell down atop the rock with a loud grunt. He pushed the gem back into his horn and looked up just in time to see Rainbow Dash smiling down at him.

Then, he saw nothing but darkness as he passed out.

Mulcibar woke up in a cave. He wasn’t sure how he had gotten there, but he smelled fire and felt heat. He rolled over and found that he was lying next to a fire near the cave’s entrance. Beside him was a flat rock with a bunch of small, colorful candies and fruits on it.

He sat up and placed a hoof against his head. “Rainbow Dash?” he called out. A second later, Rainbow Dash’s head peeked into the cave from one side of the entrance. She was shivering and her face was streaked with blood.

He waved to Rainbow Dash to join him. “Come on, it’s cold.”

Dash reluctantly flapped her wings and flew over to him, sitting directly across the flames. “I wasn’t cold, for the record.”

Mulcibar smirked. “Yeah, okay, so you were just shaking from excitement from my voice.”

“No,” Dash said, gripping her side with a forehoof.

Mulcibar peeked at her through the fire. “You’re injured. Come over here, let me take a look.”

“I’m fine!” Dash said, glaring back at him. “Worry about yourself.”

Mulcibar sighed. “Okay, I get it. You don’t like me.”

“You’re right! Can we stop talking now?” Dash snapped, flopping down on the ground and sighing.

Mulcibar shrugged and hovered a piece of fruit up, popping it into his mouth. After chewing and swallowing it, he glanced over at Dash, who was weirdly staring up at him through the flickering flames. “You want some? Come on, we have to work together to survive until we recover.”

“I’m not hungry.”

Mulcibar shrugged again and leaned back against a stalagmite behind him. “You know, this is awfully familiar. Camping out in a cave with a pegasus. Last time she wasn’t so cold, though.”

Dash could feel the hair on the back of her neck standing on end. “You mean Fluttershy, huh? I get it. She’s so in love with you. Do you have to rub it in?”

Mulcibar cocked his head to the side. “Rub it in? She’s not in love with me,” he said plainly, and then sighed. “She said so herself.”

Dash leapt back up to a sitting position. “Wait, what? She did?”

Mulcibar nodded his head solemnly. “Yep. Back in your dream world, the night before we left.”

Dash raised her front hooves, pushing them together as she spoke. “But wait, that night, you two were like…” she said, pouting her lips at the end.

Mulcibar frowned. “Yeah, but that was all me,” he said, his head sinking slightly. “Then she told me to stop. Something about needing time to figure it all out.”

“So you and her aren’t, like…” Dash said, clapping her hooves together again. Mulcibar just shook his head in response, and Dash felt herself smiling widely. She quickly stopped herself when she saw him look back up at her, and cleared her throat. “I mean, yeah. Wow. That’s too bad.”

Mulcibar rolled his eyes. “I may be new to love, but you don’t need to act like that. It’s good news for you. She hasn’t made up her mind. Just my luck, I guess.”

Dash lowered her eyes to the ground. “Luck doesn’t enter into it. Sorry. I shouldn’t be so happy. I mean, it’s not like she’s come to me and said anything. For all I know, she’s decided to pick neither of us.”

After a few moments of nothing but the sound of the crackling fire, Dash scooted around it to sit beside Mulcibar. She grabbed one of the pieces of candy she’d gathered and ate it. “Look, I’m sorry. I mean it. I guess I haven’t really given you a chance. The fact is, Fluttershy likes you enough to consider you her friend. I guess what I’m trying to say is… if she likes you that much, you can’t be all that bad.”

Mulcibar turned his head and smiled at Dash. “Well, if it’s any consolation, I already knew how great you were, even before meeting you. Fluttershy told me all about it while we were journeying through Luna’s dream world.”

“Oh yeah? Did she mention the Sonic Rainboom?” Dash’s eyes practically glowed.

“Of course! And how you used your speed to save your friend Rarity’s life.”

“And the Wonderbolts!”

“Pretty dang cool.”

“Awesome, even!”

“Let’s not get carried away.”

The two of them laughed, their voices echoing through the cave.

“So, when this is all over, if Fluttershy chooses one of us, what then?”

Mulcibar shrugged. “What do ponies do after that? Get married, I guess? Have kids?”

Dash snorted. “Not sure I want to jump straight to kids, but… Fluttershy with kids. Now there’s a scary thought. She’d use The Stare on them to keep them in line, I bet.”

Mulcibar smirked. “What’s The Stare?”

Dash turned her eyes up to Mulcibar’s, making them as wide as she could. “The Staaaaare!” she said, her voice wavering. “It puts you in a trance! You can’t resist The Staaaaaare!”

Mulcibar snorted this time. “Wow, what? Like, some sort of hypnosis?”

“Yeah, but I think it only works on animals. Maybe it works on changelings, too, though! You never knooooowwww!”

They laughed again, took deep breaths, and then fell silent.

Luna’s words echoed in Dash’s mind. You’re you, so just be yourself. That is your true advantage.

You’re right, princess. And it’s not just with Fluttershy, she thought, glancing nervously at Mulcibar and smiling. If I’d never opened up and gave this guy a chance, I would have missed out on becoming his friend. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s also got his eyes on Fluttershy but… we can’t just go on being bitter rivals.

Dash put a hoof on Mulcibar’s back. “You know what? I was wrong about you. You’re a pretty cool guy, and you sure pulled your own out there against those creatures. I don’t know if I could have handled them alone.”

Mulcibar blushed slightly. “Yeah, well, you’re pretty awesome, yourself.”

“Look, this is hard for me to say, but I’m gonna say it,” Dash started and then stared into the flames.

Mulcibar looked at her, letting out a quiet “Hmm?”

“When this is all over… if you and Fluttershy end up, you know, a thing…” she continued, pausing for a long moment in the middle. “I can’t just run away. She’s still my best friend. So, if you and her end up together…”

Mulcibar swallowed, his expression having hardened.

Dash turned and looked directly at him. “I’ll support you. Both of you.”

You were right, Fluttershy. She’s extraordinary.

Mulcibar nodded his head and smiled, a tear forming just barely at the corner of his eye. “The same goes for me.”

“But if you ever break her heart, I will kick your ass so hard you will drop straight into a hospital bed, got it?” Dash finished, pressing her hoof against his back a bit harder.

Mulcibar sighed. “That’s fair.”

“Good!” Dash said, grinning and patting him on the back. “Glad that’s settled!”

Mulcibar nodded his head and then suddenly felt lightheaded. He wobbled slightly and then fell sideways against Rainbow Dash, knocking her down as well.

Dash grunted and raised her hooves up, shaking him. “Hey! Guy! What’s the deal? You okay?”

“That spell took a lot out of me, and…” he started, and then raised a hoof up. It was covered in blood. “I think one of these bites is a lot worse than I thought.”

Dash gasped. “Yeah, you were bleeding pretty bad. Can’t you just, like, heal up with magic?”

Mulcibar chuckled. “Oh, sure, how could I forget?” he asked sarcastically. “Oh wait, no, I can’t. I’m severely weakened. Gotta find something to make a bandage out of.”

Dash sighed. “Not much out there but rocks. I found the fruit and candy growing on a bush, but it was pretty bare, no leaves or vines or anything.”

Mulcibar slumped down further, his head falling against Rainbow Dash’s flank. She repositioned herself, trying to get comfortable, making sure to not let his head fall to the rock floor.

“No, all I can do is rest. I need more strength to cast healing magic, and to regain my strength, I would need to heal.”

Dash stared down at him with concern. “Isn’t there any other way?”

Mulcibar breathed in, his eyes opening and looking up at Dash’s concerned face. “There is, but… no. Not really. I won’t die, I’ll just be in agony for a while, and really weak. I’m applying pressure, it should stop bleeding soon.”

“But what if it doesn’t? What do you mean ‘not really’?” Dash inquired. “Sounded like you had an idea but then decided against it.”

“You don’t want any part of that, trust me.”

“Any part of what?” Dash asked, gulping.

“I’m a changeling. Where do you think we normally get our strength?”

Dash’s eyes slowly widened. Love! He’s talking about feeding on me to get his strength back faster!

“I see you get it. Not an option, as you clearly already deduced.”

Dash let her eyes dart away from him. “Well, it’s not like I hate you. Surely there’s a little bit you could just… you know, take,” she said with a frown. “Just make it quick!”

“No. No. You don’t get it. If I feed from you, you’re going to feel it, deep inside. You’re not going to even be able to comprehend how or why, but you’re going to very suddenly have a rather sharp change of heart about me. It’s only temporary, but I just… I have strong feelings about not wanting to do it anymore, I’ll put it that way.”

Dash blinked and looked back at him, an eyebrow cocked. “Strong change of heart? What’s that even mean?”

Mulcibar laughed. “I admit, the idea is amusing. It means that while I’m feeding on you, you will feel an uncontrollable urge to get to, um… ‘know’ me.”

Dash shook her head. “I don’t follow.”

“You’ll try to jump my bones. Trust me. I start feeding on you, within two seconds you will be diving for my lips. Or maybe some other part of my anatomy. It’ll happen.”

Dash snorted. “Yeah, sure. Betcha I don’t! You gonna feed on me or what? We need to get moving, and we don’t have time for you to feel bad about being what you are!”

Mulcibar stared up at her. “You sure? I did warn you.”

Dash clenched her teeth. “Just do it!”

Mulcibar sighed, took a deep breath, and began to pull Dash’s love energy into him.

Two seconds later, Dash was aggressively attacking his lips.

After a rather uncomfortable minute or so of Mulcibar pushing Dash off of him as she tried desperately to attach her mouth to any part of his body that she could latch onto, he stopped feeding. Another twenty seconds or so passed, and Dash collapsed onto the ground in front of him, her eyes wide and shaking.

Mulcibar’s horn lit up as he began casting a healing spell on the worst of his bite wounds. “I warned you.”

Dash let out a slight warbling sound, somewhere between a giggle and a cry. “That was… I don’t… Why do I…?”

“Use your words.”

“I just… I think I actually enjoyed that, somehow.”

Mulcibar grinned, continuing to cast his healing magic. “Well, most ponies do. Most ponies also feel repulsed by their actions afterwards and hate the one who was feeding on them for it, so I won’t blame you if—“

“Shut up,” Dash interjected. “I told you to do it, you warned me.”

“Fair enough. Very mature.”

“We’ll just never speak of this again,” Dash added.

“Agreed. In fact, I hope I never have to do it again as long as I live.”

Dash relaxed, a smile spreading across her lips as the warm fire in front of her crackled away. He didn’t even take advantage. Okay, Fluttershy, I admit it… he’s not a bad catch.

Mulcibar finished healing up his largest wound and then glanced down at Dash, who was lying in front of the fire, smiling, seemingly unaffected by what had just happened. She didn’t have a second thought. Not about the shades, not about letting me feed on her… Okay, Fluttershy, I admit it… she is truly awesome.

“I was really expecting better,” Discord mumbled to himself. He floated lazily across a drab landscape of dirt, rocks, and gray skies. Well, perhaps I can keep myself entertained some other way. Celestia, are you still there?

There was no response. He groaned and snapped his fingers a few times, changing some of the larger rocks on the ground into random objects. A clock with five hands ticking in different directions, a dog with a giraffe’s neck and an oven for a head, a bunch of balloons that flew up into the sky before popping in an explosion of chocolate ganache. He sighed, none of them bringing him any sort of joy. “Perhaps this dreary atmosphere has made me lose my touch. Pinkie Pie! You were supposed to be—“ he started to shout, but then spotted something on the horizon to his left. Down in a valley, he saw a windmill spinning in a field of carefully ordered rocks. A farmhouse sat near the windmill, plain and made of unpainted wood. He made a beeline to the house.

Upon arrival, he snapped his fingers. In a flash, a set of formal clothes appears on his body, complete with a jacket, tie, and top hat. A big bushy mustache adorned his lips, and he grinned from behind it. Carefully, he knocked on the door. “Hello! Is anypony home?” he called out. There was no response. The name on the mailbox to the door’s side caught his eye, the word ‘Pie’ engraved upon it. “Ah, the Pie household. Well, perhaps there will be some clues, here. Hello, I say! Pies?” He knocked on the door again, more firmly, and it creaked open a crack.

Discord stretched his eye out of its socket and let it push through the crack, peeking inside. The house was a mess inside and a thick layer of dust covered everything. He pushed the door open and walked inside, glancing around at the place. It looked as though the place had been ransacked. Furniture was knocked over, books were scattered everywhere, broken picture frames and glass littered the floor. “Well, nopony has been here for a while. I wonder what happened,” he said to himself as he reached down to pick up one of the broken picture frames. The photograph in the frame was a portrait of the Pie family, two older ponies and four younger mares. He spotted Pinkie Pie immediately, her bright colors popping out from the photo, but her face had been cut out of the image. “How odd.”

He placed the picture on a shelf near the door and picked up another. This one was a picture of just the younger family members, with Pinkie’s face scratched out. He slowly walked through the house, looking at pictures on the walls and various shattered frames, and every one was the same, Pinkie Pie’s face had been scratched out, cut out, or otherwise removed from each one.

Making his way upstairs, he found a hallway of doors. He walked past each, noting the names that hung on signs outside each door. The signs had been cut from rock with the names engraved on them. Discord read the signs as he went. Limestone. Granite. Maud. He eventually came to a door that had its sign thrown on the ground, smashed to pieces, but the name engraved was apparent. “Pinkie,” he said, his voice a bit nervous. “What on earth happened to make you dream this up?” He cautiously opened the door to Pinkie’s room, and was immediately greeted with a dismal interior.

A simple bed with a nightstand was at one side of the room. A table with various books and school supplies sat at the other side. He turned his gaze to the wall over the bed. Written on the wall with ink was a massive, single word: FAILURE.

Discord placed a claw to his chin. What a coincidence. I recall Pinkie Pie in the Crusaders’ dream world also writing on the walls. There’s no way to know this was written by Pinkie, of course, but it is her dream world, he thought, looking around for other writing. There was none. Curious. What, do you suppose, she was a failure at? What is it supposed to mean?

His thoughts were cut off by a scream from outside. The sound of foals crying out in terror made Discord uncontrollably grin, but he quickly shook it off. He snapped his fingers, lifting the roof off of the house and flying up and out. The screaming came again, and he shot off in that direction by materializing a cannon and firing himself out of it.

The source of the screaming quickly came into view. He spotted the three Cutie Mark Crusaders running as fast as they could. Pursuing them was a large, bulky changeling in dark, jagged armor. Discord swooped down towards them and snapped his fingers, teleporting them into his arms. “Calm down, now, children, nothing to worry about,” he said, glaring down at the changeling.

“I’ll give ya somethin’ ta worry about!” the changeling shouted up at Discord. It fired a beam of magic from its horn right at Discord’s face. With a finger snap, the magic was changed into a stream of chocolate milk, and Discord opened his mouth, letting it fly into his mouth.

“Calm down, there,” Discord said, snapping his fingers again. The changeling floated into the air, its limbs wriggling as it tried to wrest control back from the draconequus. “Oh, please don’t struggle, or I’ll have to get creative. You don’t want me to get creative.”

“You’ll get yours,” the changeling responded.

Discord rolled his eyes. “I warn you again, I am rather bored, and you seem like as good a plaything as any. Now, I would like some answers.”

“Oh yeah? What a coincidence, I want some too!”

“Where is Pinkie Pie?”

“Like I’d tell you.”

“So, you know, do you?” Discord asked, and then snapped his fingers. The changelings body snapped into pieces and began spinning in circles.

The three foals in his arms screamed. “You killed him!” Sweetie Belle shouted in terror.

“You didn’t have to—“ Apple Bloom started, but was interrupted by the changeling laughing. “Huh?”

“Oh, he’s not dead,” Discord said with a sigh. “Really, it would be boring to just off him so fast.”

“Is this the best you got?”

Discord’s face tightened and he snapped again. One of the changeling’s disembodied legs vanished. “Whoops! You’re down a leg, now. Don’t worry; I can replace it with another leg. Might not be yours, though.”

The changeling stopped laughing. “So, is this what you have planned for Pinkie?”

Discord shook his head and cocked an eyebrow up into the air over his head, spinning it a couple times as it rose. “Planned for Pinkie? You’re an odd one.”

“You’re one to talk. We’re gonna enjoy ripping you to pieces. No one hurts Pinkie and gets away with it!”

Discord sighed. “You seem a bit confused. Did you not come here to kill Pinkie, yourselves?”

The changeling sighed. “I’d rather not talk about that.”

Discord snapped his fingers and the changeling’s body popped back together, his leg even materializing again. “I think we need to talk about that,” Discord said. “You came here to kill her, now you think you’re avenging her somehow. Your mind is clearly almost as scrambled as mine!”

“He said that to us, too,” Scootaloo said, looking up at Discord’s face. “He said he was gonna use us as bait to lure out the others, but he said he wasn’t going to hurt us.”

“Well, you obviously can’t believe him! What are the chances of—“ Discord started, and then thought for a moment about Mulcibar, Linnai, and even Vitra. “The chances of a changeling telling the truth like that… So, you think we hurt Pinkie Pie.”

“We know you did!”

“Alright, sure, let’s assume we did. Why, exactly, do you care?”

“Because,” The changeling said, blushing slightly and averting his eyes. “Pinkie’s our friend. Friends help each other out and stuff."

“Your friend?” Discord laughed, nearly dropping the changeling from his magical grip. “You changelings never stop breaking your own rules, do you?”

“Shut up! If we don’t kill you all, we’ll lose Pinkie to the Umbra!”

Discord’s eyes went wide, taking over most of his face and popping out a bit. He floated down to the ground, allowing the changeling to do so as well.

“What’s wrong?” Sweetie Belle asked nervously.

Discord stared at the changeling in shock. “Crusaders, this just got a lot weirder and more complicated.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“Oh, I know more than you might think,” he said with a frown. “Umbra… That would definitely explain a thing or two.”

“What’s Umbra?” all three Crusaders asked at the same time.

“Primal magic,” Discord replied, his voice having turned deep and dark. “Primal magic that can rival even my own powers of chaos, and with it shall come the forces of darkness, beyond anything the likes of which any of you could even comprehend.”

Author's Note:

Book six begins! Lots of drama to start things out! Woo, drama!

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