• Published 22nd Mar 2018
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Pound and Pumpkin Tales 2 - Never2muchpinkie



The continuing adventures of the now seven years old Pound and Pumpkin

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6-8: True strength

Flurry felt like her heart was dying. She had let the others down. They were all dead because of her. Without them she couldn’t go home. She was never going to see her family again.

Starlight shook her head. “Hmph. Well, that was a waste. They went so far to save you, but it will amount to nothing. You don’t have the will to fight anymore.”

Flurry saw power building up in Starlight’s horn again, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. At the moment she felt like she’d welcome death, if only to free her from the guilt she felt inside.

“Hmmmm…” The glow from Starlight’s horn faded, and she started walking towards Flurry, stopping in front of her. “You know, I changed my mind. I don’t want to kill you anymore.”

Flurry looked up into Starlight’s eyes, confused.

“I think you could be of much greater use to me alive. The Crystal Empire would be nice, but with you by my side I can set my sights even higher. If I can take down Celestia and Luna then the world will belong to me.”

She put a hoof on Flurry’s cheek like before, gently rubbing it. “You’re a little kid. No one would think anything suspicious of you, little Flurry. And as Cadance’s child it shouldn’t be difficult for you to see Celestia.”

Flurry was shaking again. Surely Starlight wasn’t suggesting… that she murder Celestia and Luna?

A green tinge appeared in the white of Starlight’s eyes, a purple aura coming out the sides. “Don’t be scared, Flurry. I don’t want to kill anyone else. You know about my ability to remove cutie marks and equalize ponies. If you weaken the princesses enough I can come in and remove their great powers, allowing me to come out on top.

“If I can get Canterlot and ascend to the throne then the Crystal Empire will mean nothing to me. I’ll leave it alone completely. Your mother and your father and your dear baby sister will all be safe. Now wouldn’t that be lovely? After all, you don’t want any more bodies on your conscience, do you?”

Flurry couldn’t look away from Starlight’s gaze. “N-no…”

Starlight gave her a tender gaze. “Very good.” She tapped her chin, before putting her hoof out. “Then we have a deal?”

Flurry looked at Starlight’s hoof, uncertainty going through her. If she did this she’d be betraying the whole world. Ultimately, there was no choice to make. Starlight had been living with her and her family long enough out to figure out all she needed to know about their weaknesses. If she didn’t do this then her parents were going to die.

Maybe it was selfish, but she didn’t want to see anyone else get hurt. It was the only way she was going to get out of this world. It was the only way she could guarantee the safety of her family.

They might be disgusted with her later on, but at least they would still be alive.

Her hoof gently rose.

“Thaaaaat’s it,” said Starlight. “Just trust me, Flurry.”

Again she hesitated, but like before she felt a sense of hopelessness outweighing her better judgment. She slowly extended it towards Starlight.

Just before her hoof made contact it stopped, and she felt like something was holding it.

“What’s wrong?” asked Starlight, seeing Flurry’s hoof shaking. “What?” She saw something coming at her out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t have time to shield herself, so she lifted her hoof to block it, sending her flying backwards.

Flurry saw Starlight get knocked into the air, recognizing the stretched out hoof of Peppermint. She glanced downward, seeing a shadow attached to hers.

Flurry squeaked as she felt a jolt, like a strong static shock on her side. The pain, while minor, brought her back to her senses, and she looked to the side, seeing the other children on their knees.

“S-stop… Flurry,” said Pound, putting his hooves down.

Peppermint and Pumpkin assisted Masky by using their levitation to pull Flurry backwards towards the rest of them.

“You… you’re…” Tears came down Flurry’s eyes. “You’re all alive!”

Starlight dusted herself off, annoyed. “I thought you were all dead. How bothersome. Just when I was about to finalize the deal.”

Pound strained himself, managing to stand up for a few seconds before he collapsed back to the ground.

“Hey!” said Flurry. “Stop! You’re too hurt to get up.”

Pound let out a weak laugh. “No. I’m not… too weak… for you.”

Flurry got a confused look on her face.

Once more Pound pushed himself, getting up on his hooves. Though it took everything he had, though it felt like his legs were tap-dancing from shaking so much, he managed to walk in front of Flurry, putting himself between her and Starlight.

“YOU!” Though his body was weakened by the attack, his voice was clear. “You… you’re not… going to touch Flurry.” He felt a wave of dizziness and almost collapsed again, but he moved his four legs out to steady himself. “You… you got that?”

Emboldened by Pound’s words the other four also found their strength, rising up onto their hooves and gathering in front of Flurry. Each of them was panting for breath and looked like they could collapse at any moment.

“Why?” Flurry said quietly, her own legs shaking. “Why are you doing this?”

A part of her felt like they were doing this out of obligation, because of her title or her status as an alicorn.

However, in her heart she knew the reason. Pound had said it to her before. It wasn’t because of what she was or who she was. It was because they considered her a friend.

Friends…

Flurry had thought that friends were useless to her. She didn’t have time for friends when her world could be over any minute. And even when she did try to make friends it always ended badly, so she thought she just wasn’t cut out for friendship.

Twilight, as the Princess of Friendship, had tried to talk to her about things, but she had brushed her aunt off. Her aunt didn’t understand the magnitude of her fears over friendship and her possibly suddenly being responsible for the well-being of the Crystal Empire, and she was too scared to talk about it.

Twilight had tried to tell her that true strength couldn’t be found alone… that it was only through ponies coming together and working with one another could true power be found, just like when she had worked together with her friends to defeat Nightmare Moon. She hadn’t listened to her aunt back then, figuring she knew what was best for herself. Her individual strength was more important than gathering up friends.

Starlight shook her head. “What a waste of my time. You’ll be lucky if you can just stay standing. How are you expecting to keep her from me?”

“I DON’T CARE!” Pound shouted. “I’m not moving from this spot! I don’t care about the danger. I always protect those I care about no matter what.”

“Well said, Pound,” said Pumpkin.

Starlight just rolled her eyes, an amused smile on her face as her horn lit up. “Oh, brother. It’s hardly worth the effort to finish you off.”

Flurry went stiff for a moment, before teleporting in front of Starlight and uppercutting her in the face.

The shocked mare was knocked to the ground, but she quickly got up. “Flurry?” she said angrily. “You…”

“No more!” said Flurry, her voice filling with purpose. “NO… MORE!” Her horn lit up with a bright energy. She wasn’t going to be a spectator anymore. She wasn’t going to just sit back and watch them die. She was going to be where she should have been all along: fighting beside them.

If the Starlight in front of her was just a fake then she had no reason not to attack. And if Starlight was real then she also had no reason not to attack, because it meant Starlight had only been using her throughout her whole life.

Starlight could see that Flurry was furious. She suddenly grabbed her head, letting out a cry of pain. She fell to the ground, spasming.

Flurry kept her distance, but she wondered what was going on.

When Starlight stood up again the green tinge in her eyes had vanished, as well as the purple aura around them.

She was panting, one of her eyes closed. “F-Flurry…” She took a few breaths in before continuing. “Thank you.”

Flurry got into a battle stance, but she didn’t attack. “What are you thanking me for?”

“That thing… that… whatever it is…” She shook her head. “You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? The little thing with the brown coat and the red tail.”

“What about him?” Her body was tense. She kept the buildup of power in her horn, not letting her guard down.

“He approached me a few days ago. He had heard about what I had done in the past, and was sure that I would love the opportunity to get my revenge. If you and your parents suddenly disappeared or died it would surely cause Twilight Sparkle pain, so he thought it would be exactly what I wanted.

“I refused to be a part of his evil plan, and so he attacked me. He told me he would make you suffer for turning him down… but I never thought that he would use me to do it.”

The glow in Flurry’s horn faded slightly. She wished it could be true, but something was off. “Why are you alright now? You… want me to believe that you suddenly broke free right when I was about to attack?”

Starlight got a bright grin on her face. “Why, it was because of you, of course.” Starlight took a step forward.

Flurry immediately hopped backward. “Don’t come near me!”

“Right, right.” Starlight sat down. “As I was saying, it was you that helped to free me. I gave up. I didn’t believe I had the strength to overpower him. His darkness was so strong, infesting me. All I could do was watch from the inside as he used my body to attack you and your friends.

“When you attacked me… it reminded me of the past we shared. I was a strong, influential figure in your life, always watching over you when your parents were busy. I saw that even in this wretched place that you were still willing to fight, and at your age. Yet here I was, a pawn of that despicable creature. I couldn’t let that stand, otherwise how could I ever expect you to look up to me again?

“I’m back in control of my body now, so let’s work together and take that thing out!”

Flurry stared at Starlight for the longest time, and eventually the glow from her horn faded as her eyes clenched shut and she began quietly crying.

“Flurry!” said Pound.

Flurry just shook her head. “Shut up, Pound.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” said Starlight. “I’m so glad you understand the truth.”

Flurry’s body clenched, and she looked up at Starlight. “Aunt Starlight, this is all a little much to take in, but it will be an honor fighting alongside you.

“But first… I could really use a hug. This has all been so scary.”

“Of course,” Starlight said gently. “I understand.”

As the two began walking towards one another Flurry’s movements suddenly stopped.

She looked behind her to see Masky holding her by her shadow. “Stop, Flurry!” he said.

“Come on!” said Pumpkin. “You’re not really going to trust her, are you?”

“After everything she did to us?” said Tree Leaf.

“SHUT UP!” yelled Flurry, and with a gentle burst of magic knocked all of them down. “I’ve lived my whole life with Aunt Starlight. I think I know her better than anyone! So you all just shut your mouths and stop talking about stuff you have no idea about.” She gently sobbed as she turned away from them and continued her walk towards Starlight.

Pound groaned. He was too weak to stand, but he had a bad feeling about this.

The other children felt much the same. Though they wanted to intervene they didn’t have the power. The only thing they could do was hope that Starlight was being genuine, and that Flurry wasn’t walking right into a trap.

By the time she reached Starlight Flurry had gotten herself under control. She sat down, extending her hooves. "I believe you."

“Very good, Flurry. I’m proud of you.” Starlight hugged her, Flurry returning the gesture.

Starlight smirked, a purple aura starting to come out of her eyes again as her horn lit up.

Peppermint was about to cry out to Flurry, but it proved unnecessary.

Starlight’s feeling of triumph was short-lived as Flurry suddenly pulled out of her grip and socked her in the stomach.

In that moment of distraction Flurry blasted her with magic.

Starlight was launched back twenty feet, landing hard on her hooves. She growled. “How dare you?”

Flurry’s warm expression had vanished. “I BELIEVE that you’re a giant phony.”

Starlight shook on her hooves, and the air around them began to shimmer. “D-darn it!” She put a hoof to her head. “C-can’t maintain…”

The shimmering stopped, and all of them gaped as Starlight was gone, replaced with a dark coated unicorn they didn’t know.

“Who is that?” asked Pound.

Flurry stared at the pony, a sudden flash of recognition going through her. The red horn, the royal regalia, the green sclera in the eyes with the purple aura coming out of them...

She had only read about him, but she knew who this was now.

“King Sombra!” she said fearfully.

He laughed. “Enough with these games. It’s time to finish you off.”

Flurry prepared herself as he gathered power, doing the same, but he didn’t aim his attack at her.

She gasped. “He’s after them!” She put herself between the attack, shooting her own magic.

Sombra chuckled. “Your concentration lapsed because of your concern for those brats. It’s over.”

She found it hard to concentrate through her fear. King Sombra had done so many horrible things to her people. Did she even stand a chance against him without the others?

It was the thing she feared the most. She was living her worst nightmare. She didn't think she had the strength to protect them, and if she failed here they were all going to die. She has already experienced their deaths once. The thought of it happening a second time was too much for her.

Too distracted by her thoughts Sombra's attack grew steadily closer to her.

Once more Twilight’s words came to her.

“Flurry Heart,” said Twilight. “A pony’s greatest strength is only found when fighting for others. I don’t consider my greatest power to be being an alicorn or a princess or my knowledge of magic. I consider it to be the trust and love I have for my friends.

“When they’re in danger… I just feel an incredible strength welling up inside me, like I can do anything it takes to protect them. No matter how scary the situation I’m facing is, the feeling of wanting to protect them is greater than any fear I have. It's because of that feeling that I'll never back down from doing what it takes to save them.”

She looked behind her at the other children. She pictured Pound and the others throwing themselves in front of Sombra’s attack. She saw them still finding the strength to get up and defend her despite their injuries.

Tears came down her eyes. She had been so foolish. She should have trusted Twilight from the start.

‘Please, everyone,’ she thought. ‘Please, take some of that courage you’ve gathered up… and give it to me.’

Before she had fighting for mostly selfish reasons: because she wanted to go home, because she was scared, because she was lonely, because she needed them, because it was her duty as a princess…

Things were different now. Now she understood what her aunt was talking about. She felt like she understood why they had been able to keep fighting despite their injuries… why they had come with her to fight Nightmare Moon despite the incredible danger.

This was no longer about duty or obligation or need. This was personal now, and she was going to protect these children no matter the cost to herself, because she knew they would do the same for her.

She turned forward to Sombra’s attack, newfound determination infusing her being. She spun around, breaking off her own magic, and grabbed the others in her wings before hopping off to the side, aided by her magic to get out of the path of Sombra’s attack.

She set them down gently before she began floating in the air, her horn exploding with power as a magic sphere surrounded her. “You! You took the form of someone I really cared about, tried to make me give up, and used my worst fears against me.”

She let out a scream of fury, the power building even further. “But even worse than that, you attacked and almost killed my friends? It’s absolutely UNFORGIVABLE!” Her eyes turned pure white.

King Sombra shook at the amount of power Flurry was generating.

With another yell Flurry fired all the power she had at her command, and with a scream of pain King Sombra was obliterated.

Flurry landed on the ground and collapsed to her knees, panting. She was all used up, but she didn’t care. King Sombra had enslaved her people and sucked them away into another dimension for a thousand years, then came back and nearly killed her parents and Aunt Twilight.

When she felt a little energy she forced herself up and walked to the others. They all looked speechless at the display of power she had just put on.

“A-are you all… alright?” She flopped to the ground on her stomach, unable to stand anymore.

“W-wow…” Tree Leaf shook his head in amazement. “Remind me to never make you mad.”

Flurry let out a little laugh, before looking sad. “I’m sorry, everyone.”

“For what?” asked Masky. “That was awesome!"

“I knew… I knew that Starlight was lying, but I had to make her think that I believed her.”

“How did you know?” asked Pound.

“It’s like I said… I grew up with her, and so I knew her best. He must have taken some of my memories to know what he did, but he didn’t do things I would have expected out of the real Starlight. She never used the nicknames she had for me, and I could just feel that something was off.

“The reason I was crying earlier… it wasn’t because I was relieved to know that she was alright and had fought off that things control. It was because I knew the truth, but I didn’t want to.”

“Didn’t want to?” asked Masky.

“From the moment we woke up in this world it’s been one scary thing after another. I truly wanted Starlight to be real, because it meant an adult I could trust would be in charge. Everything wouldn’t just be reliant on me.

“I heard that King Sombra’s greatest power was forcing a pony to live their greatest fears, and he certainly did that to me. Someone I trusted, turning against me. Being put in a position of power over others, and failing to protect them.”

Her eyes filled with tears. “I had to acknowledge that she was lying, which also meant acknowledging that it was all up to me, after all. I was going to have to remain in charge, for a duty I felt I wasn’t prepared for.”

“Oh, Flurry,” said Pound.

"But you're doing a fantastic job," said Peppermint. "We couldn't have gotten this far without you."

"And you're not alone, Flurry," said Masky. "Just because you're in charge it doesn't mean we're not all with you."

Flurry grinned slightly. "I... I know."

They heard clapping above them, and Flurry felt a chill go down her as she saw Mayhem floating in the air. She was completely exhausted, and the other children were barely able to move.

“Wonderful!” said Mayhem, lifting both his arms. Confetti went raining down upon everyone. “Absolutely spectacular. What a thrilling conclusion to the battle.”

“W-what is that?” asked Peppermint.

“Hey! You know what you all need? A reward for all your hard work.”

He lifted a claw, and the six kids began floating like him. His other arm went out, energy building up inside his hand.

Flurry felt panic going through her. She had nothing left. It couldn’t end here… not after the growth she had just went through.

She closed her eyes tight as beams of energy came out of Mayhem’s fingers.

Confusion went through her. She didn’t feel pain. In fact, quite the opposite. She felt strength returning to her.

She opened her eyes, looking at the other children. As she watched, their injuries vanished and they looked energized as well.

The draconequus set them on the ground. “There you go! All better now, right?”

Flurry eyed him suspiciously. “What are you up to? Why are you healing our wounds?”

Mayhem chuckled. “Well, that’s simple. It would be boring otherwise.”

“Who are you?” asked Pumpkin.

What are you?” asked Pound.

“Oh, so many questions,” said Mayhem. “The name is Mayhem. I’m a draconequus. I’m the one who brought you all here.”

“Mayhem,” said Masky. “Sounds appropriate, considering everything that’s been going on here.”

“How are you doing all this?” asked Peppermint. “Creating a dark version of Ponyville and getting all these old villains to fight for you?”

“That’s simple: because I have the power to. I am not bound to your pitiful magic rules. I do whatever I want, whenever I want.”

He slowly descended to the ground, seeing Flurry giving him a death glare. “Oh, Flurry. You’ve truly come into your own. When last we faced off against each other you were terrified while we fought. Just look at you now.”

“Don’t expect me to be grateful that you restored my energy,” she said coldly. “The only thing you’ve done is hasten your defeat.”

Mayhem smirked. “How cruel. You could at least thank me for healing the wounds of your ‘friends,’ hmm?” Flurry just continued glaring at him. “Ah, well.”

He put his hands to his eyes, pulling them out of their sockets.

All of them looked at him with horror. Even Flurry couldn’t maintain her stoic act at that.

He began juggling his eyes. “So… you’ve finally done it. You did what I asked. You got all six of you together. The final battle is nearly at hand.

“But not here. You have to come to my castle. We’ll fight there.”

His eyes hung in mid-air, and Mayhem pulled off his legs, starting to juggle them along with his eyes. “I had been feeling so bored recently, and this little adventure has been a blast. Watching all of you struggle has been quite the spectacle.”

His tail and his head came off, and he added those to his juggling. “Being bored is a terrible experience. I just want fun, and I want it all the time. That’s the reason I healed all of you. You were all wiped out, and it would have taken you hours to heal up enough to challenge me. That would have been so boring, waiting there with nothing to do.”

He threw all his body parts high into the air, and as they landed they went back in their proper places. “Don’t keep me waiting too long. If I get too bored I might just have your families play this game too.” He winked. “Hope to see you soon, friends.”

With that he put his arms into his mouth, and appeared to eat himself as he vanished.

None of them were sure what to say to that display.

Tree Leaf was the first one to speak. “So that’s… the one who put us through all this.”

“What crazy magic,” said Pumpkin. “It seems like his power goes way beyond unicorn or even alicorn level. I don’t think Twilight could just detach her body like that.”

Pound stomped his hoof. “I don’t care WHAT he can do! We’re taking him down!”

“Sounds good to me,” said Masky. “After coming this far together we can’t back down now.”

“Especially if he’s going to get our families involved,” said Peppermint.

“So who are all of you?” said Tree Leaf.

All of them introduced themselves to each other.

“I wonder… if we can really win,” said Peppermint, hanging her head. “I probably won’t even be any help at all.”

Flurry heard the doubt in the filly’s voice, and stomped her hoof. “Peppermint!”

Her head shot up. “Y-yeah?” She looked into Flurry’s eyes, seeing them fiercely blazing.

“I may have faltered before, but I’m done backing down. Mayhem is right. I was terrified when I first saw him. He easily overcame every spell I cast at him, and after he left I broke down, feeling hopeless.

“But then… then I remembered all of you. All of you… you give me hope. You give me strength. And I know I do the same for you, because you jumped right in with all the others to protect me.”

Holding her head high she said, “So don’t doubt yourself. You are strong!”

A tear came down Peppermint’s eye, Flurry’s words washing her uncertainty away. “Thank you.”

“That goes for the rest of you!” Flurry looked at each of them in turn. “You saved my life, helping me to discover my true strength. You helped to take away my fear.

“Now… now I’m putting my own life on the line. I don’t care what it costs me… I WILL protect all of you. And it has nothing to do with duty, or because I should. I want to protect you because all of you… are my friends.” Grateful tears came down her eyes. “And I know I can’t do this without you.”

That got the rest of them smiling and crying.

“You got it!” said Pound.

“Of course!” said Pumpkin.

“We’ll win this,” said Masky.

“Of course we will,” said Tree Leaf.

“Together… we can win,” said Peppermint.

Flurry could see that they all felt reassured, sharing in her newfound confidence. Now, there was just one thing left to do.

“Let’s go!” said Flurry. “To the castle!”

“Right!” came the replies from the others.

Author's Note:

Mayhem erased their memories to destroy their friendship, but he seems to have overlooked that life threatening situations like these are ideal for forming bonds with others.

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