• Published 20th Jul 2012
  • 16,126 Views, 1,430 Comments

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 3 - Lemon Drop

Author's Note:

How does one come back after so long away? How can one possibly ask for the understanding of those that he led on, believing that he was near delivering something to them when he had nothing but depression and distraction? What can one do when distraction is the only thing keeping him going? For those still in his life, he put on a smiling face and pretended that everything was okay, but it was a mask to hide his tears.

Fully recovered? Those are not the right words. It would be more appropriate to say he was on the path to recovery, and those still in his life helped him get through it.

What about those whom he cut off completely? Their acceptance is not expected, nor should they feel obligated to stand by him again when he did nothing but hide from them. Some of them, however, have come back, or never left, and for that he is grateful. I am grateful.

Here is where I stand now. Right here, you can choose to stand with me if you wish. I will try to be responsive. I will apologize for not asking for help when I needed it. I am just not one to ask for help like that. It’s not that I am afraid of it looking like weakness, it’s just that I don’t wish to trouble anyone.

Instead of asking for help, I worked through it. Was it as fast as it could have been? Perhaps not.

But, here I stand. I’m still me.

I’ve got stories to tell you.

Let’s live them together.

- Littlecolt

Book Six: Pinked

Chapter Three - Lemon Drop

Ponyville, Reality, Present...

Zecora held her gaze steadily toward the ground for a moment in deep thought, then glanced from one pony to another, making a mental count of them. She nodded her head firmly and turned to Trixie. “The two creatures we encountered in town had unique abilities. Set aside their shape changing and recall, Trixie, the magic that they unleashed upon us all.”

Trixie placed a hoof to her chin. “It was elemental magic; Fire and ice,” she recalled, then returned a confused gaze. “What is so unique about that?”

“They were specialists,” Zecora quickly clarified. “One of them used fire and the other used ice. If we can use that against them, it would be quite nice.”

“I’m not following,” Trixie said, and the others simply nodded their heads with her. "And knock off the rhyming, it just makes it harder."

Zecora waved a hoof skyward. “We will need to split them up, that is the first task, and then bring them back together. Build their rage until they attack blindly, and then have them unleash their attacks upon each another. The fire user will be frozen, or the ice user will be burned, or both.”

“Or neither! Have you ever seen what happens when fire and ice magic collide?” Trixie asked, jaw-dropped. “It’s crazy! The explosive heat from the reaction is like a giant bomb!”

Zecora gazed at Trixie, her eyes almost glowing. “That is precisely what we should hope for.” She turned to look at the others, who all wore varying looks of concern. “We need one in the air and one on the ground. We need someone quick on the ground who can handle the assault.”

Silence held the air. Everypony dropped their eyes to the ground. After a minute, Big Mac finally stomped his hoof against the dirt and stiffened his jaw. “I got the ground. You better take the sky, Flitter.”

“Me? But-!” the pegasus protested.

“Who else is gonna do it?” the stallion asked, his eyes locked on her.

With a sigh she nodded her head. “F-f-fine! I can do it! No problem!” She turned and glared at Cloudchaser, who shrugged and shook her head in response.

Zecora nodded her head. “The rest of us have jobs to do as well. We need to make it seem like an organized attack rather than a trap.” She turned her gaze to Big Mac. “As noble as your offer is, Big Mac, I believe we have one even better suited for the task.”

Everypony in the room looked from face to face, a bit confused. Zecora finally raised a hoof and pointed it towards Trixie. The unicorn blinked her eyes and put a hoof to her own chest.

“Me? Why me? Surely he’s quicker on his feet than Trixie!” the blue pony protested, but Zecora quickly interrupted her complaining.

“Your teleportation magic is the key. Our airborne partner will lure one of them into the top floor of a large structure, perhaps Sugarcube Corner, while you bring the other in on the ground level. You'll incur the flying creatures wrath with a blast of magic whilst the Pegasus flies away through a window. You will then use your teleportation to escape as well. The two will both attack where they believe you to be, but their magic will collide and explode, hopefully destroying them in the process.”

Trixie’s jaw was dropped and tears were forming in the corners of her eyes. “I- I can’t! I can’t just teleport on a whim like that!”

“Earlier tonight, you did just that and saved my life. That wasn’t even your first time.” Zecora stepped towards Trixie and placed a hoof on her shoulder. “Come outside with me and practice. You can do this!”

“But what if I can’t?”

“You can!” Zecora said, gazing into Trixie’s eyes. “You are great and powerful! Never forget that!”

Trixie’s lip trembled for a moment, and then she smiled, nodding her head. “Alright! Let’s go practice!” She stood up and bolted to the door, heading outside.

Zecora followed, turning to look at Flitter. “You, too, should practice. Tight turns, evasive maneuvers, whatever you need to do, be prepared. We have not much time.”

Zecora and Trixie exited the house into the yard, leaving everypony else in silent thought.

“C-Come on, Flitter!” Cloudchaser finally said, grabbing ahold of the other pegasus’ hooves and pulling her up. “I’ll help! Let’s get ready!”

“Tch! Lame!” Diamond Tiara scoffed and headed for the door as well. “Come on, Snips. We’ve got better things to do than training in this hillbilly house!” She grabbed ahold of the other foal’s hoof and yanked him toward the exit. He followed her, not that he had much of a choice, outside as well.

Big Mac turned to Granny Smith and sighed. “You think this is gonna work, Granny?”

The older mare shook her head and stared at the floor, unblinking. “We ain’t got no other choice, Big Mac. We have to fight for this town or die tryin’! No more hidin’!”

Big Mac looked out the window at Trixie and Zecora and nodded his head. “Eeyup.”

Meanwhile in Pinkie Pie’s Dream...

Celestia and Linnai slowly emerged from the tunnel, breaking their forward gaze to look at where they had come from. The structure they’d been in was much like the towering slope before them. Stairwells and paths went up and across the slopes at various points, each step a different bright, cheerful color. Arranged in a grid over the entire incline’s surface were clear boxes, almost like large fish tanks, with ponies inside. The ponies were clearly not alive, but were merely three-dimensional images. The two travelers made their way up the stairs and to the first tier, stopping in front of a tank that contained a pink earth pony with a blonde mane and a flower in her hair. Sitting in front of her was a scroll.

Celestia picked up the scroll, opened it, and let her eyes skim the contents. “Her name is Lily. There’s all sort of information about her, here. Birthdate, day of the week it fell on, favorite color, favorite foods, likes, dislikes, how she and Pinkie Pie met and became friends,” she said, and then put the scroll down. She turned her gaze upward along the seemingly endless slope of ponies. “Is this every pony she knows? It’s like a catalogue of her friendships.”

Linnai cringed. “That’s kind of creepy, I guess.”

Celestia shook her head and shrugged. “Pinkie knows a lot of ponies, considering them all her friends. I’d always figured she had some sort of mental filing system to keep track of it all. This must be the physical representation of it. But, why would she be dreaming of it?”

“Okay, but how do we get out of here? I am not climbing to the top.”

“No. I don’t think we need to do that. There must be an exit to the side since the slopes go up in two directions with that small courtyard down there below. We should explore that way. We need to find Pinkie Pie as soon as possible.”

“Yeah, I’m all for getting out of this creepy place as soon as possible,” Linnai said, tapping on the glass of Lily’s tank. The pony’s image turned its head toward her and opened its eyes. Linnai jumped back, startled, and stared back at it. Its eyes were completely black and its mouth began to open.

“Ismara,” Lily said in a flat, droning voice. The eyes of other ponies all started to open and stare down at Linnai and Celestia.

“Ismara. Ismara,” they chanted, not in time, but just randomly, the sound of hundreds of ponies chanting Ismara’s name getting louder and louder.

“Ismara?” Celestia questioned, and turned to look at Linnai. “Why would they be saying her name?”

Linnai began to back away, heading to the staircase, her body shaking slightly. “I have no idea, but let’s get out of here like now. Please.”

“Ismara!” Lily shouted at Linnai. “Ismara!”

“Okay! Ismara! Good!” Linnai responded. “Let’s go.”

Celestia nodded her head. “I agree. We won’t learn anything by staying here,” she said, spreading her wings. “Let us fly. We can talk on the way. I have questions about a few things.”

Celestia’s thought to herself quietly as they flew away from the mountain of ponies. How in Equestria could they have even known the name ‘Ismara’? They only know what Pinkie Pie knows, right? She glanced sideways at Linnai and narrowed her eyes. “What does Ismara mean to you, Linnai? Your order is named after her, so you surely must know some things,” she asked.

Linnai felt the pressure on her from Celestia once again and clenched her teeth for a moment. “I don’t know what’s true and what’s false anymore, to be honest. The Order of Ismara was supposedly founded by Ismara, and was the group that infiltrated Canterlot before you defeated her,” she replied, and then hung her head. “It almost seems like you know more about her than we do.”

Celestia lightened her tone. “Alright, well, then tell me about yourself, Linnai. You and your fellow changelings.” She glanced back at the rapidly vanishing friend database and felt a bit relieved. “If there exist changelings like you and your brother, then surely I can no longer hold a grudge against your entire race.” She sighed, shaking her head at her own foolishness as the memory of her outrage at the sight of Cadence returned to her. The words she’d said to Twilight rang in her ears.

They can never be forgiven.

“Well, I’ll be honest, our lives had been difficult. My brother and I were born to a changeling mare named Tala. We do not have the same father, but both of them were unicorns. When a changeling and a unicorn mate, a changeling that looks like us is often the result… an imperfect blend of our races.”

Celestia bit against the inside of her cheek for a moment. “But, we’re the same race, aren’t we? It’s hard for me to think of it that way, but now we know that—“

“Please, stop,” Linnai interrupted. “I’ve… lived my whole life hating you ponies. I looked down on you, despised you, even envied you. Now that I’ve seen the truth, I just…” She sniffled, tears falling from her eyes.

Celestia swung closer to her and reached a hoof out, touching gently upon her shoulder. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for this to become—“

“How do I live with myself now!?” Linnai shouted, turning to look into Celestia’s eyes. “I believed all the lies about you; I believed that you were just food for us! You were less than worms to me! And now I’m in love with one of those ‘worms’! How can I possibly forgive myself? Look at me… and I told Mulci he was weak because of love.”

Celestia felt her own tears welling up. She gulped and shook her head. “I don’t know, child. If you find the answer, please let me know.”

Linnai sighed and wiped her tears away, nodding her head and facing forward. “We grew up on our own. There were other changelings, and we knew about them, but mother didn’t want us to go anywhere near them. She told us that we would be taken away. When she died, we ran away and were found by Luzon. He brought us back to Chrysalis.”

Celestia wiped her eyes as well and listened. “Why did your mother oppose living with the other changelings? What did she mean by ‘taken away’?”

“To this day, I have no idea. From the moment we were brought to the village, we were treated well. We had ample water and there was never a shortage of love to feed upon. We lived secretly near to ponies, and you’d probably be surprised at how many changelings are out there living among your subjects. In any case, Chrysalis had been ruling for a long time before we came. She was kind. Looking back on her, she almost seemed to love us, though I know that’s not possible.”

“What happened? Why did she attack if things were going well for you?”

Linnai took a deep breath. “Ten months ago, right after the return of Princess Luna, something inside Chrysalis seemed to change. A coincidence, I’m sure, but she suddenly became more militaristic, darker somehow, and power crazed. Just like Mulcibar said, it was as if madness had gripped her. Suddenly, we had ponies attacking us, and she retaliated. Our warriors and mages who had for so long not been deployed for combat were fighting ponies to the death. You may have heard about the terrible riots and fires in the south. That was us. Anypony who knew about us was killed to keep our secret and replaced with a changeling.”

Celestia gasped. “The unrest in Roaneigh; It had been blamed on a distrust of Luna, but was handled quickly. Luna and I even went there to reassure everypony.”

Linnai chuckled lightly. “You were reassuring a bunch of changelings. If there are any ponies left down there, I’d be shocked,” she said blankly. “I’m sorry, but that was the queen’s first act of war against you, and you never knew.”

“How did the attack begin?” Celestia further inquired.

“Nopony knows. They struck first, and we fought back. It was sudden, and Chrysalis called for their utter annihilation. Afterwards, she began to plan her invasion of Canterlot.”

Celestia’s mind was already working, placing pieces of the puzzle together that had been given to her throughout her adventure thus far. “What if the timing wasn’t a coincidence? We’ve all just been assuming it was, but if you take into consideration that Ismara caused Luna’s transformation into Nightmare Moon…”

Linnai cocked an eyebrow. “Didn’t she just cause Luna to doubt herself and cast out her love and such?”

“She turned Luna into a changeling in a completely different way than the others. It’s almost as if she were preparing something,” Celestia continued to ponder aloud. Suddenly, something struck her memory. “There were three holes in Luna’s soul that got filled by her shards, but we found a fourth hole. That was where we saw Chrysalis through a portal.”

“So what is the significance of the fourth hole?” Linnai asked, her eyes darting back and forth.

“Chrysalis spoke as if she knew me, knew Ismara, but that’s impossible.”

“You’re right, she’s not that old.”

“But what if…” Celestia said and then fell silent, her jaw hanging open. “You said she seemed possessed by madness. What if she was possessed by something else?”

“Something else?”

“Ismara. Not literally her, but a piece of her power; her essence. I don’t know how she would have done it, but what if Ismara put something inside of Luna? She failed to usurp the throne, so she needed a backup plan. If Luna managed to kill me, she was basically in her thrall, taking over would be easy. However, if I beat Luna, she must have known I wouldn’t kill her and thus—“

“Her failure to beat you would only be a setback!” Linnai shook her head. “It’s crazy.”

“It’s brilliant. Ismara was mad for power, she’d do anything to take over Equestria. By casting a spell that could entrance someone a thousand years later, her ambition lives on. I still don’t understand all the reasons why, but…”

“Then what happened to Chrysalis? If she’s just possessed by this power…” Linnai pondered and then slapped her hooves together. “Vitra! Vitra said Chrysalis had given her orders to find out more about love! She said she didn’t seem all that different to her! Maybe the real Chrysalis is still in there somewhere!”

“As much a victim as any of us. Damn…” Celestia sighed. “If we’re correct, I don’t see how this can end well. It seems like somepony is destined to suffer.”

“The question is who?” Vitra added as the two of them continued forward.

Vitra gazed into the distance, her wide grin only getting wider as she leapt forward and slid down the embankment that sat on the edge of the forest that she had just come out of. Fluttershy was much less enthusiastic as she hit behind a tree and poked her head out just enough to look down at Vitra, trying to ignore the scenery.

“You know, I think this must be the wrong way. We should turn back and—“ Fluttershy started, but then felt herself being yanked out of the woods by magic. She gasped and hid her eyes behind her hooves as Vitra levitated her down and set her softly onto the muddy bank.

Before the two of them was a vast body of bright red liquid. A dock conveniently jutted out over the lake, and a boat was tied to the end of the dock. Far across the lake could be seen a massive mountain made of multi-colored stone. The cliff face on the side of the mountain facing them had caves in it that made it resemble a pony skull. The caves themselves glowed with golden light, pulsing in brightness.

Vitra dipped her hoof into the lake and let her jaw hang open. “This is amazing! Look at it! First that forest and now this!” She lifted her hoof up to her muzzle and sniffed the red liquid. Her eyes went wide and she licked her hoof and smirked. “It’s fruit punch. The lake is full of fruit punch! How crazy! This Pinkie sure knows how to create atmosphere!”

Fluttershy perked up and sighed, relaxing slightly. “Oh, fruit punch, I should have known. I was worried it was…” She trailed off, gazing across at the skull mountain. “Still, that mountain seems like—“

“Oh come on, I bet that’s where we need to go. Let’s hop in the boat and get across there!” Vitra said with enthusiasm, jumping toward the dock.

Flutershy hesitated for a moment, then followed. “Can’t we just fly?” she asked as she landed on the wooden dock and headed toward the boat.

Vitra tapped a hoof against her forehead. “Oh yeah, duh. Alright then, let’s get moving,” she said, spreading her wings and taking a leap over the water. Fluttershy followed her and the two of them flapped their wings to gain altitude. Once they were gliding, Vitra turned her head towards her pegasus companion. “So, maybe I can help you decide.”

“Decide on what?” Fluttershy asked, raising an eyebrow.

“On Mulcibar, of course! I know him really well, and he’s a super great guy.”

“Is this really the time to be thinking about that kind of stuff?” Fluttershy deflected.

“Now’s the best time! You can’t be indecisive. That’s one thing I always loved about Mulcibar, he made up his mind and did what he said he would do!” Vitra replied, and then shook her head with a chuckle. “Well, I guess I didn’t always love that about him. Before just recently, I couldn’t feel love, so…”

Vitra’s brow raised and she gazed hazily forward as they glided, her mouth hanging open a bit and her eyes seeming to gloss over. “I just said it so naturally. How odd.”

Fluttershy blinked. “What is?”

“I mean, Mulcibar and Linnai had said it before, that they were looking back at old memories and seeing them in a different light, almost as if their past had been recolored. I don’t think that’s quite right, though. I can’t describe it, it’s strange. When I think back about Mulcibar, I somehow remember feeling love, but that isn’t possible.”

“Sometimes I see things differently when I remember them, and I can feel what I should have felt, so that might be—“

“No, that’s not it. I don’t think so, anyway,” Vitra interjected, finally blinking her eyes. “Here’s one thing I remember. So, one morning, I woke up in my room, a fire was burning across the way in a fireplace, but I didn’t remember lighting it. I rubbed my eyes and looked toward the fireplace and saw Mulcibar standing there, stoking the fire. He turned and looked towards me and smiled…”

“Good morning, princess. I hope you don’t mind, it was a bit chilly, so I started a fire,” Mulcibar said, placing the poker against the wall and making his way back to Vitra’s bed. He leaned forward and Vitra brought her face up to meet his, pressing her lips to his and kissing him.

“Mmmm, how lovely… but I would have been fine with just your body warmth,” she replied and tapped a hoof against the bed’s surface. “Come back to bed.”

The stallion crawled onto the bed and pressed up against Vitra, wrapping a foreleg around her. He kissed her neck and sighed. “Why do you prefer me over all the other stallions?” he asked, and quickly got a giggle in response.

“Do you really have to ask? Because you’re so obedient, of course. Not to mention you have a big—“

“Right. Of course, that, but…”

Vitra turned to look at the fire again. “It’s like you know what I’m going to want or need before I do. Little things like that fire. That’s what I prefer you, Mulci.”

“It wasn’t just the fire, though,” Vitra said as she and Fluttershy got closer and closer to the mountain.

“Go on. What about the fire?” Fluttershy questioned, blinking rapidly in confusion.

Vitra tapped her head with her hoof. “Sorry, I was lost in a memory. Fire, yeah, um… He can be quite fiery, can’t he?”

A tad confused, Fluttershy simply nodded her head and brushed her bangs away from her face. “Yes, I suppose he can. It’s a bit intimidating sometimes, but—”

“But alluring, too! My heart throbs sometimes, even though we never were anything special.”

Fluttershy stared at Vitra. “You… don’t sound like you believe that at all,” she stated plainly, then covered her mouth and faced forward again. “You know, I think I was right, this might not be the best time to talk about this.”

“I don’t,” Vitra mumbled back, almost pained sounding. “I don’t believe it. I felt the same back then, and… well, you tell me, pony! How does it feel to truly be in love?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never—”

“Does your face feel warm?”

“I don’t really want to—”

“Does your head swirl like it’s being stirred?”

“I don’t have much experience in—”

“Do you feel like you might cry, but it’s a good thing?” Vitra asked and stared at Fluttershy, her eyes wide, her jaw clenched.

Fluttershy turned to face her as they glided, her bangs falling over one of her eyes. She bashfully nodded her head in response.

“It can’t be a coincidence. It was rare, but…” Vitra’s mind filled with memories as she spoke. Lessons taught to her as a young changeling about love, how it was to be fed upon, how changeling kind couldn’t feel that emotion, and how it was something that made ponies and other creatures weak.

“That’s it, then,” she said, her voice wavering, as she recalled what Chrysalis had said to her before.

Tell me, Vitra, how was it that I could feel your energy? How could you possibly have produced love energy?

“You weren’t asking for an answer, were you? You already knew, didn’t you?” Vitra asked aloud.

“Knew what? What answer?” Fluttershy asked as they approached the mountain’s left eye.

“I can’t… possibly explain it, your majesty,” Vitra recalled herself saying, her voice shaking.

“Ah, but I expect you to, eventually,” Chrysalis replied with a soft grin.

“I do understand now. I understand everything.”

Vitra’s mind filled with memories of time she had spent with her mother as a child. The two of them had never been close, but the more she thought about it, the more she saw her mother, her queen, standing there in her memories, watching from afar, looming in the background, and she always had the same look on her face: A gentle smile. Soft eyes, full of expression, full of hope. A sort of energy, contained and held back, but present all the same.

“That’s the solution. I’ve figured it out, your majesty!” Vitra shouted, as if proclaiming it loudly enough for Chrysalis to hear her.

Fluttershy and Vitra landed in the opening of the cave that made up the mountain skull’s eye socket. Fluttershy, as confused as ever, turned to face Vitra and raised a hoof in the air. “Figured out what?” she said, her voice laced with annoyance.

Vitra placed a hoof calmly on Fluttershy’s shoulder and looked into her eyes. “I’m in love with Mulcibar, and I always have been,” she said, matter-of-factly.

Fluttershy tilted her head slightly and sighed. “Okay… congratulations?” she said nervously.

Vitra laughed. “Don’t worry. No doubt he’ll pick you,” she said, and then walked into the cave, lighting up the tip of her horn.

Fluttershy followed and groaned lightly. “Alright, sure, but do we have to go in here?”

“Of course we do! Come on!”

Rainbow Dash woke up slowly, opening her eyes and yawning. She felt a strange calmness throughout her body. She turned and sunk her face into a pillow, nuzzling against it. Her pillow was warm and a bit fuzzy.

She realized that it was not a pillow. Her eyes opened fully. She was lying with her head resting against a dark gray flank. She rolled her body and jerked her head up, finding herself now staring at Mulcibar’s calm, smiling face.

“You’re awake. Good,” he said. Dash leapt up and away from him, straightening her somewhat mussed mane.

“Yeah! Awake!” she said with a slight rosiness to her cheeks. She remembered that he had fed upon her. It had left her drained and she must have fallen asleep. They were still inside the cave they’d taken shelter in. “We’ll just add this to the list of things we’ll never mention again…”

Mulcibar nodded his head softly. “Fine by me. We should head out. You were out for over an hour, and we need to find the others.”

Rainbow jolted up to her hooves. “Over an hour? That’s bad! Where should we go, though? Stay down here in creepy creature land, or go back up to crazy town?” As she finished her question, the echo of a voice came from deeper inside the cave. Her ears twitched and she turned her head toward the sound. “You hear that?”

“Hear what? Probably just the echo of your own—“ Mulcibar started and then was cut off.

“Shh!” Rainbow turned her head again, tilting it slightly. “It sounded like somepony shouting, but really distant.”

The voice came again, and this time Mulcibar heard it. He took a step towards it and furrowed his brow. “Do you think it’s the others? Maybe they ended up deep in this cave and are lost.”

“We have to go see,” Rainbow said, and then groaned. “Great. It’s not monsterville or creepy town, it’s deeper into this dark cave. N-n-not that I’m scared! At all! In fact, I love caves!”

“I spent a lot of my childhood in a cave. Come on,” Mulcibar said, his voice completely calm and level, as he proceeded forward. He shot a small beam of magic from his horn at the wall, leaving a mark. “I’ll mark our path so we don’t get lost.”

Rainbow grinned and nodded in approval. “Good thinking. Let’s go.”

The tunnel they went down, heading toward the voice, was fairly spacious with a tall ceiling. The sounds of water dripping and wind blowing were mostly what they heard, but they also heard the voice, still distant, but growing ever closer all the time.

Rainbow Dash glanced at Mulcibar, who was staring forward, his face flat and expressionless, lost in his task of listening for the voice. She walked carefully just like he was, trying to not make any noise with hoof falls. Eventually, she gave in to her boredom and started talking to him again.

“So, you grew up in a cave?”

“We hid in caves a lot.”

“That’s cool. I guess you had to hide a lot? Were ponies after you?”

“Not from ponies… from changelings. Mother didn’t like other changelings.”

“Huh,” Rainbow intoned, blinking with confusion. “So, how did you learn how to fight? You were pretty good out there! Quick and decisive!”

“How did you learn to fight?” he asked in response. “I was forced to, I was in a military position. You’re just a civilian.”

“Yeah, but I want to join the Wonderbolts someday. I have to bring my a-game all the time!”

Mulcibar snorted lightly. “I guess we’re similar that way, you and I… except instead of joining some showpony team, I was just trying to avoid being sent to do more menial tasks. Thankfully, Vitra took an interest in me, so I didn’t have much of a problem for long.”

Rainbow Dash laughed. “What kind of interest? She seemed like she was pretty close to you.”

Mulcibar blushed. “She’s the princess, so I had to be if she wanted. She demanded that I be her personal stu… uh… demanded that I fulfill her more primal needs.”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow and stared at him, holding back a louder laugh. “So, your job was literally bang the princess.”

Mulcibar turned, completely red-faced now, and stared at Rainbow Dash. “That wasn’t my only-! I wasn’t just-! I never gave her any foals or anything!”

Rainbow fell sideways against the cave wall and burst into laughter. “Dude, the look on your face! Chill out! You’re killin’ me!” she said, falling to her haunches and clopping a hoof against the cold rock floor.

Mulcibar took a deep breath and exhaled with annoyance. “I’m just trying to be honest. I had no choice, she commanded it!”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make light of…” Rainbow said, her laughter stopping abruptly.

“Don’t worry, it’s not like I didn’t want to. I had needs, as well. It’s just a really confusing time to think about now that I can feel love… the memories feel different.”

Rainbow stood back up and they continued walking. “Yeah, I bet so… I had my own confusing moments in the past with my friend Gilda. I still don’t know what that was, to be honest.”

“But you’re certain about Fluttershy, hmm?” Mulcibar questioned, eyebrow raised.

The blue mare’s head sunk and she stared at the ground as they went. “As certain as I am about wanting to join the Wonderbolts. The chances seem about the same, too, now that you’re in the picture.”

“Look, if you want to take back what you said earlier, I won’t—“

“No way! That was a promise! If she chooses you, I’m not going to be a sore loser! I’m not lame like that!” Rainbow said, raising a hoof up to Mulcibar’s mouth.

“They think they can just come here and push me around!” a voice came from not far away in the cave. The two explorers stopped and their ears turned.

“That was Pinkie Pie. I know it!” Rainbow said, and their pace picked up as they listened to Pinkie’s voice echoing across the walls.

“They want to hurt me more! They love to see me in pain, those sadistic little devils! Does a friend let another friend be hurt like that?” Pinkie’s voice came, louder still.

“No!” several more voices came, shouting after her.

In the distance, Mulcibar and Rainbow saw a light shining dimly, and headed toward it carefully and quietly.

Several minutes earlier…

Pinkie Pie paced back and forth in front of a row of changelings. She glared at them and shook her head with disappointment. The room they were all in was adorned in bright shades of pink. Stuffed animals lined every wall, some of them nailed into the wall, hanging in painful looking ways.

“You all know why I called you here. I’m sure you heard about what happened to Eres,” she said in a commanding tone. “His love wasn’t strong enough, his friendship not pure enough. I think you all are better.”

The walls around them, pink and soft looking, almost seemed to breathe in time with Pinkie. The row of changelings nodded their heads.

“There’s more of my so-called friends here, as well as some of your old friends, too! I’m sure you remember Linnai and Mulcibar! They’re here with them, and they’re working together!

They think they can just come here and push me around!”

Pinkie Pie paced from one end of the row of changelings to the other, holding a sucker in her mouth and flicking it between her teeth all the while. “They want to hurt me more! They love to see me in pain, those sadistic little devils! Does a friend let another friend be hurt like that?”

“No!” the row of changelings barked back.

“Exactly! Eres couldn’t help me, or so he claimed! He didn’t want to help me, that was the truth! He didn’t love me like you all love me! Do you love me?” Pinkie shouted.

“Yes! We love you, Pinkie!” the changelings yelled back, tears falling from some of their eyes.

“So, how are you going to prove that you love me like no other friend you’ve ever had before?”

“Hugs!” One changeling said enthusiastically.

“Playing games?” another said.

The tallest changeling at the end of the row had a horn socketed with a magenta colored gem. She sighed and tilted her head toward Pinkie, her own pink hair flowing down to the ground. “You’re going to have to spell it out, Pinkie. None of these rank and file have much mental capacity.”

“That’s okay!” Pinkie said, grinning and grabbing ahold of a changeling drone’s face, hugging it close and squishing her cheeks against his. “That’s what makes them so very lovable in the first place! I’ll tell you all, then, okay?”

“Okay~!” the changeling replied, blushing and smiling widely.

Pinkie let him go, and he nearly fell to the ground. She walked away and then turned to face them all. “You have to kill my ex-friends! That’s all there is to it!” she said with glee, her voice as bubbly as ever. “You’re my new friends, and I don’t need any of those old friends! They never liked me anyway! Now get out there and make me proud!”

“Right away, Pinkie!” the changelings hollered, and then turned and ran, leaving through a door at the far end of the pink, breathing party room. Only Pinkie Pie and the magenta-gemmed changeling remained. Unseen by them, two pairs of eyes were staring down from an air vent in the corner of the room.

Mulcibar and Rainbow Dash stared in awe, silent, listening and watching the scene below play out. Rainbow fell backwards and her mouth gaped open. “There’s no way…” she whispered carefully.

Mulcibar fell back with her and shook her head. “No way what?”

“I can’t believe Pinkie Pie would say that stuff. That… that can’t be Pinkie Pie.”

“You saw her just before we got pulled into the dream world, Rainbow Dash. She’s not like you remember her. Her subconscious must be… darker, somehow.”

Rainbow laughed, trying to keep her voice down. “It’s terrible, but it’s so Pinkie Pie. Who else would befriend an entire army of changelings that were sent to take her out? They’re all working for her now! That pony really can make friends with anyone,” she said with a sigh as she felt her heart sink. “All the more reason to think that it really is her. She made friends with all those changelings. Who else but Pinkie Pie?”

The two of them sat together quietly as Rainbow just stared at the ceiling.

“Well, what now? She’s your friend,” Mulcibar whispered.

“Something has to be up. It’s either not her, or there’s something wrong, we just have to figure out what.”

“Alright, any ideas?”

“None,” Rainbow said, but her face filled with determination. “Don’t worry, Pinkie Pie, I’m going to save you! Just… as soon as I figure out what I’m saving you from.”

Mulcibar slouched down and sighed. “Let’s hope the others are having better luck than we are.”

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