• Published 19th Feb 2018
  • 9,598 Views, 512 Comments

The Fairy Tale Fiasco - LaWombat

Trapped in a magical storybook with King Sombra, Twilight must escape by finishing a collection of fairy tales. All they have to do is reach the ending. But not all heroes get a happily ever after...

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Chapter 1: The Lost Foals

Twilight’s head pounded painfully, and the ringing in her ears made it nearly impossible to straighten out her thoughts. She might have blamed the disorientation on her trip through a multicolored vortex of swirling darkness and light, but it had most likely been due to her sudden impact against a very hard surface. The vibrant and blinding hues of the tunnel had spun around at a dizzying speed and simply tossed her into the open air of a strange new place. She didn’t have a chance to get a look at her surroundings before tumbling in confusion and crashing to the ground.

It took her a moment to deal with the headache and blink away the brightness stuck in her vision. The white splotches before her faded into a dull, dismal surrounding with dark and spindly shadows. As she lay on her back, cushioned by a thin layer of crackling leaves, she gazed up at the large and unfocused shapes scattered around her. Drooping forms and misshapen shadows filled her with a sense of unease.

“Spike?” She rubbed the sore spot behind her ears and eased herself onto her hooves, stumbling when she felt the tug of fabric draped around her. Twilight looked at herself to see that she was wearing a dress that hadn’t been there before. Perplexed at where it came from, she wondered how it had ended up on her. She hadn’t been wearing anything before getting thrown through that tunnel and landing in this dark forest.

Her ears twitched at the rustle of dry foliage and with a jolt, her gaze shot around the clearing. Seeing nothing in the endless darkness of the surrounding forest, she appeared to be all alone, but she still called out anyway. “Flurry Heart!?”

Her shout was answered by a snap of twigs and the thud of hooves galloping over the barren dirt. She experienced a brief moment of joy at the possibility of reuniting with her niece... a hope that was snuffed out when a large form barreled through the bushes and slammed her to the ground. The assailant knocked the breath out of her and she gasped for air while strong legs pinned her against the dirt. She kicked and squirmed, not needing to see clearly to know that the dark wisps of mane and fierce red eyes glaring down at her belonged to Sombra.

“What is this prison!?” His deep voice growled, and he leaned over her, a hoof stomping heavily against her chest to keep her pressed into the soil. Dark spheres of magic sparked around his horn with the threat of a spell.

Twilight grit her teeth and lit her horn in a bright flash that teleported her out from beneath him. She re-appeared above the tree line, flapping her wings to hover unsteadily. She didn’t question the struggle to fly and quickly swung her head back to ready another spell before he could try anything. Much to Twilight’s surprise, her magic only responded with a startling pop and fizzled out.

Confused about the magical-short, she pedaled her legs in the open air and realized it had become difficult to keep herself aloft. She pumped her wings frantically to remain in flight, but despite her best efforts, Twilight simply dropped like a rock.

Trying to concentrate on keeping herself from crashing, she didn’t notice the branches until it was too late. She dropped into the dead leaves, twigs tangling in her mane and poking against her fur. Even though they broke her fall, she didn’t consider it very lucky when she bounced through the tree before landing flat on her stomach atop the dusty ground below.

“It appears you have discovered what I already know.” A shadow fell over her and she opened her eyes to see the villainous scowl of Sombra above her. “Magic does not work here.”

Her hooves scrambled at the dirt, and she stumbled beneath the cover of a nearby tree. She gave a grunt when she tried to light her horn with a spell to defend against him, but as before, it only let off small sparks before going out completely.

“So neither does yours.” Sombra’s frown shifted into a sneer when he trotted closer.

Twilight’s gaze shot around the immediate area to try and formulate an effective plan of attack. He had a size advantage, so keeping her distance appeared to be the best idea, but she didn’t have any magic to throw at him. A quick scan of the ground revealed a few boulders that she immediately ran to and planted her hooves near. With a few swift kicks, she launched the rocks through the air, aimed right at Sombra.

He hid beneath a leg as they thudded around him, a few plowing harmlessly into the dirt, while others hit their mark. Sombra growled, knocking some of them away with his hoof and stomping with an angry snarl. “Answer me, wench! What prison is this!?”

“Prison?” Twilight ducked behind a tree as he charged at her. “This is your spell! You tell me!”

“Yours was the aura from that book! This space is your doing!” Sombra shouted, jumping around the trunk and chasing after her when she bolted. While his hooves pounded into the dirt behind her, Twilight couldn’t help but notice how solid he appeared to be here. It was a reassuring change from the shifting shadows of his form back home.

Twilight suddenly skidded to a stop, yelping when he collided into her and tackled her to the ground again. They grappled with one another, Sombra trying to force her down, but she rolled onto her back and kicked out with her hind legs. Her hooves smashed into his stomach, and she heard a satisfying “oof!” before he toppled over, choking for air.

“The storybook?” Twilight remembered how it had pulled them all in. “Your spell must have changed it!” She jumped up and scrambled out of his range, keeping her front facing him. “It wasn’t anything like this before!”

“Story… book!?” He coughed out while slowly struggling to stand upright before settling against his side when he slipped. “You’ve... trapped me in some... children’s fantasy!?”

“You attacked us!” Twilight shouted, flattening her ears when she realized she was arguing with an enemy. “And I wasn’t trying to trap you here!”

“I doubt that,” Sombra rasped, grunting when he planted his feet into the dirt and finally lifted himself on unsteady legs. “Either way… you were trying to keep me from my empire.” His eyes moved up to her forehead where he watched a tiny spark of magic float uselessly to the ground. “Though the way you are now, you wouldn’t be able to stop me regardless.” He laughed before gritting his teeth and leaning forward, stretching up on his legs almost like he was trying to balance on the very tip of his hooves.

Twilight backed away uneasily, not sure of what he was trying to do. With his eyes squeezed shut and the position he was in, he looked completely unthreatening, not to mention outright ridiculous. “What… are you doing?” she asked in a disturbed tone.

Sombra released a heavy grunt and stumbled back, appearing frustrated while tapping his own solid chest. He picked up each of his hooves and briefly looked at them before checking out various points of his own body. Not accomplishing anything with that, he grumbled softly in answer, “Trying to unleash my wrath upon you.”

“I don’t think either of us are able to unleash anything right now,” Twilight pointed out, warily keeping an eye on him while making quick glances into the surrounding forest. She didn’t recognize the location, but she had a feeling about the dreary landscape that tickled the memory she had of a story from the fairy tale book. “If you promise not to attack, I may be able to figure out how to fix this spell, but you have to answer my questions.”

Sombra gave her a furious frown, but didn’t voice any sort of objection. From a pony like him, that might have been the closest they would come to an agreement, so she started with the obvious question. “What kind of spell did you cast?”

Sombra sneered and turned his head while one of his hooves tugged at the fabric over his chest. “I was attempting to trap your minds in an endless nightmare… much like the one I used to guard the entry to where I hid the crystal heart. Only this one would be stronger. I wanted to ensure it couldn’t be broken.” His snout wrinkled in a sinister grin while he glared at her.

Twilight shot him a stern frown, but inside she was trying to calm down the anger that rose up at the thought of him using a spell like that against Spike or Flurry. Instead, she forced those thoughts away and tried to keep her mind rational to focus on the main problem. “I think your magic may have mixed with the spell I used. The two obviously corrupted one another, so instead of getting trapped in our minds… we’re stuck in the storybook.”

“Well?” Sombra snorted. “Simply undo your spell so I can return to getting my revenge and reclaiming my kingdom.”

“As if I’d let you do that!” Twilight jumped up with a yell, opening her mouth to shout at him again before settling down and taking a deep, calming breath. “Look… we both can’t use magic, so I won't be able to counteract anything. I need to find Flurry Heart and Spike, so you can do whatever you want.”

She heard a deep chuckle and spun to see Sombra watching her again. He was several feet away, but still too close for comfort. “Worried about your charges?”

Twilight froze with a fearful look before rounding on him, finding his amusement suspicious. “What did you do with them!?”

“I did nothing.” He looked disappointed by that. “I simply woke up in this forest, same as you, wearing these ridiculous clothes.” He gestured a hoof to her dress, as well as the vest he had on.

Distracted by their situation, Twilight hadn’t taken any time to pay her clothing much attention after landing in the forest. Drawn back to it at his mention, she finally noticed that Sombra’s armor and cape were gone and had been replaced with a green vest and white undershirt, while she wore a simple blue dress with white fringe. She didn’t have to have Rarity’s fashion sense to see that the similar styles made them appear like a matching couple.

Even though she was in a dangerous position, the absurdity of their outfits almost made her burst out laughing. She probably would have if Sombra hadn’t been standing so close by... although she had to cover her mouth to stifle the sound she tried holding back. Sombra narrowed his gaze at her and scowled darkly.

“It’s a part of the spell,” Twilight explained between quieted giggling, getting some control over herself. “We’re dressed up as characters from the story.”

“What characters and story would that be, then?” Sombra wrinkled his snout at the simple fabric. “And how do I escape this nightmare?”

Twilight frowned, not at all surprised by his lack of empathy. He was, after all, a villain and the Empire’s greatest tyrant. “Well, we’re a pair of ponies lost in a forest. It’s either specifically blocking our magic or that’s just something the storybook is doing overall.” She turned to pace around the edge of the clearing, once again taking in the dark atmosphere. “We could be starting late in Sleeping Beauty, or lost in Snow White.”

“Neither of which I am familiar with,” Sombra grumbled in complaint. “Is there a way out?”

“If we make it to the end,” Twilight mumbled, thinking back to the magical comic book that had once pulled her and her friends in. “I think we should be able to escape.”

“Excellent,” Sombra grunted with dissatisfaction. “What or where is the end of the story?”

“I need to find Spike and Flurry first.” Twilight frowned at him. “I don’t want to take the chance of leaving them behind.”

Sombra snorted with an air of annoyance that was pretty much the reaction she had expected from him. “I’m not wasting my time looking for a pair of brats.”

“I’m looking for my family,” She stressed the word and turned around with a huff, leaving it at that. As she trotted into the dense forest, she heard a low snarl from Sombra, but didn’t catch any other sounds of him attempting to follow after her. It appeared as though she would be on her own, which was fine by her as long as she found Flurry and Spike as quickly as possible.

After only a few steps into the thick woods, she was plunged into dense shadows. The trees grew closer together and nearly blocked out what little light shone down from the dark sky. Spooked a bit by the sudden stillness, Twilight broke into a gallop and her surroundings turned into nothing more than a grey blur. If Spike or Flurry were anywhere in this dull scenery, their bright colors would pop out like daisies in the snow. Twilight called out into the gloom, “Spike! Flurry Heart!”

She hadn’t been running for very long when a clearing came into view ahead. With as dark as it was, she only spotted the lone figure when they were right in her path. Slamming her hooves into the dirt, she tried to stop, but slipped and crashed into another pony. They both tumbled in a tangle of wings and limbs, and her innocent victim let out a furious growl that caused Twilight to immediately realize she had run right back into Sombra.

“Away from me, worm!” Sombra roared while he flipped her over his shoulder and tossed her to the ground.

Twilight landed in the grass with a heavy thud and a pained grunt. She lay still on her back, panting from the frantic exertion and staring up at the bleak sky while trying to figure out where she had gone wrong. She hadn’t made any twists or turns, but managed to wind up right back where she started. “How am I…?” She began with a confused look. “Did you… move?”

Sombra gave her a flat glare and eventually snorted at her perplexed expression. “I haven’t moved. I was attempting to rip a hole in this pathetic fabric of a fantasy.” He brushed the dust off his leg nonchalantly and shook out his bare body. “At the very least that stupid outfit…” He grumbled while his eyes flicked over to the discarded vest.

Twilight followed his gaze and blinked at the tattered pile of shredded cloth and thread. Instead of just removing it, he had purposefully destroyed it in spite, like a young foal having a temper tantrum. At that thought, she blinked up at him. “Have you ever heard of The Lost Foals?”

“I don’t indulge in pathetic children’s fairy tales.” Sombra gave her a heated glare, as if that was stating the obvious.

Twilight huffed and rolled onto her stomach to straighten herself up, flicking the dead leaves off her wings. “We must be stuck in the roles from that story. From the look of our clothes, we’re probably-” she paused to keep control of the nauseous feeling rising from her stomach “-the brother and... sister that got lost in the woods. I think we might have to stick together in order to finish the story.”

The expression on Sombra’s face was one of pure disgust. “Together?” He scoffed with a harsh laugh. “And to even suggest I am related to filth such as you!

“Listen!” Twilight grit her teeth and stomped right up to him. She prodded a hoof against his chest, and he scowled at her but didn’t back away. “We need to get to the ending in order to escape, and if the story won't let us abandon each other because of the script, then we're stuck together. So, like it or not, we need to help one another in order to get out of here!”

Sombra was silent, his expression appearing almost calm as he seemed to be weighing his options… not that he had many. After a time, Twilight narrowed her eyes into slits and growled impatiently at him, “Well?”

“Fine,” his low voice finally rumbled and Twilight sighed… though not entirely in relief. “If only to sooner bring you and that pet lizard of yours to your demise.”

Twilight brought her head up so quickly that Sombra found his snout wrinkled at the presence of hers pressed against it. His eyes crossed in surprise at their sudden closeness and Twilight shouted, “Spike. Is not. A PET!!!” She then pulled away with a furious huff and stomped past him, muttering a string of complaints under her breath. When she didn’t hear any sound of footsteps, she paused, turning back while waiting for him to follow.

“Coming?” She asked with a sour tone.

Sombra simply made a face before trudging after her, mumbling something incoherent that most likely contained nefarious ways to bring about her unfortunate and painful demise.

The dreary forest stretched on endlessly. Each length of trees looked exactly the same no matter how far they traveled. Spindly branches silhouetted against the dark sky reached up around them like a cage of bony claws as if to suggest that they would never escape.

Their only guide through the shadows came from the faint hint of stars that twinkled above their heads, but it did little to brighten up the heavy silence of the woods as it pressed in around them. Twilight found herself jumping more than once at the echoes of creaking limbs and hooting owls over the distance.

A dark chuckle made her pause when Sombra spoke, “Whatever lies in these woods is nothing compared to what lurks behind you.” Twilight turned her head to meet Sombra’s sneer, glaring at the entertainment he appeared to be delighting in from her terror.

“I know exactly what’s in the forest,” Twilight said with an edge to her voice. “I’m just worried about my niece.”

“The alicorn brat?” Sombra frowned. “If these woods are any indication, she has already been eaten.”

Twilight simply stomped on ahead, ready and willing to leave him if the storybook would allow her. Unfortunately, he continued to follow. She was certain that even if he could abandon her, he wouldn’t have the slightest clue where to go—not that she knew exactly where they were either.

Normally, she wouldn’t go wandering off into the woods without some form of direction, but her knowledge of The Lost Foals kept her moving with at least some confidence. If they really were living the actual fairy tale from her foalhood, then these terrifyingly vast woods were only the precursor to their eventual destination. True to the title of the story, they appeared to be lost in an endless expanse of forest where magic could not aide them. The foals from the original tale had kept on until they found—

Twilight’s head perked up at a shift in the scenery ahead. She could see more of the night sky beyond the darkness of the trees, which suggested an end. She just hoped it wasn't the same clearing as before.

“This way,” Twilight urged and sprinted ahead, not waiting to see if Sombra kept up. She was rewarded when the trees opened to a short field, while on the opposite stood the sight of a large, craggy cliffside. Beneath the shadow of hanging boulders was a dark opening where a thin trail of smoke lazily drifted out.

Twilight could hear Sombra sniffing when he stepped up behind her. It was no wonder, as when they approached, a heavenly smell of spiced fruit and cooked vegetables greeted them and pulled at the pits of their empty stomachs, enticing them inside. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was until the scent hit her.

“This is obviously where the beast in this tale lies,” Sombra grumbled in disappointment. Twilight felt a similar sentiment, since that meant the food wouldn’t be an easy meal.

“How do you know about the dragon?” She looked back at him and raised an eyebrow. “I thought you didn’t read ‘children’s fairy tales?’

Sombra snorted. “An idiot could foresee this. It is a common trope and the obvious path of this story.” He paused and squinted, trying to see into the dark cave. “What happens now?”

Twilight rolled her eyes, but explained what she knew. “The lost foals come across a cave where the dragon lives. It wants to eat them, but they are able to trick and defeat it.”

“Hmmm…” Sombra mused. “This tale might be worth some merit.”

“The dragon will want to eat us,” Twilight repeated with a frown.

Before Sombra could reply, a rattle of dry, raspy scales dragging across the stones caught their attention. What sounded like sharp claws scratching over the rock moved towards them beyond the entrance of the cave. They both instinctively took a tentative step back.

When a familiar form stepped out of the shadows, Twilight’s unease washed away instantly. Spike strolled toward them, his claws nervously wringing together even as he stopped in the dim glow of starlight. His eyes widened at the sight of Twilight, before flicking over to Sombra’s dark shape standing next to her. “T-Twilight?” he whispered in a surprised hush.

“Spike!?” Twilight cried out in relief and practically skipped toward him. “You’re the dragon?”

Spike lifted his claws and shook his head in a panic, stepping back while trying to get across a quiet warning, but his words were heard too late when the thundering steps of a much bigger creature echoed from the cavern’s darkness. Twilight and Sombra only had time to register a large shadow emerging into the moonlight before a claw struck out and scooped them both into the steel bars of a cage.

“Haha! Excellent!” The door of their prison slammed shut with a wild swing, and a loud, deep voice laughed while lifting them high above the ground. “What a great treat I’ve come across!” Twilight managed to steady herself and stared up into the black, beady gaze of a dragon whose eyeballs were as big as her entire body… and oddly familiar looking.

“Garble! Wait!” Spike ran up to a foot with claws as large as him. “You can’t eat her! She’s my friend!”

Garble waved his claw with a dismissive snort. “Dragons don’t have friends! Now, get some vegetables cooking, Spike! Ponies are tasty, but they need a stew.”

“Stew!?” Sombra shouted with a growl. “I will not be—oof!” Garble swung the cage about and interrupted Sombra’s complaint when the force flung him against the side. An off-tune and piercing whistle came from above while Garble happily belted out a simple melody and stomped into the darkness.

Stepping carefully over the tilting surface, Twilight stuck her head through the bars and peered down at Spike with an incredulous expression. “You’re his cook?” she whispered in surprise as Spike ran to keep up with Garble’s longer strides.

He shrugged helplessly. “I just woke up here, and this gigantic Garble was treating me like… well, not a friend, but it’s weird! Twilight, what’s going on?”

She was about to explain before the cage jerked with a force that tested her grip on the bars and threw Sombra next to her with a metal clang. After shaking his head, he roared with fury, “I will crush you into ash, you flame-brained lizard!”

Garble only laughed at the threat, flicking his claws into the spaces and causing them both to jump away or be speared by the sharp points. “You’re just a tiny pony. You can’t even do anything about this cage!”He roughly jerked them again, and Twilight’s hooves slipped over the floor, tossing and slamming her right into Sombra’s back. With a deep grunt, he toppled over, legs splayed out from his vain attempt to keep from getting thrown about.

“Don’t antagonize him!” Twilight shouted, unwillingly holding on to his leg for support and feeling her stomach begin to flip-flop from all the motion. The darkness of the cavern slowly brightened with a soft and surprisingly warm light, while the smell of cooking grew stronger.

The torture finally ceased when Garble lifted them high into the air and attached the cage to a chain on the ceiling. Their prison slowed to a gentle swaying, giving both of them a moment to recover, as well as an aerial view of the cavern. It looked like a typical dragon’s den with a few homely touches, with small piles of gemstones strewn about. There was a large one towards the back, located by a glittering hearth of crystals that housed a black cauldron. It hung on a hook from one of the stones and bubbled with the smell from before as it cooked over the glittering light of a roaring fire.

“Ponies are food, not friends!”

Twilight stepped gingerly to the bars and kept her eyes on Garble, his loud voice booming throughout the cavern as he argued with Spike. They were standing over by the cooking pot, and she couldn’t hear his softer voice over the distance, but she could easily guess the topic of conversation based on Garble’s responses.

“He should bash his head in.” Sombra’s voice from close behind startled her, and she visibly jumped, giving him an annoyed look when she turned to face him. “Or stab him in the heart. I think I can see a sword in that treasure pile.”

“Spike would never do anything like that.” Twilight frowned, but kept it to herself that she didn’t think having a weapon to defend himself would be such a bad idea. Her gaze swept over the collection of gemstones, picking out the odd item or two, such as an iron scepter or a golden harp, but she didn’t spot the blade that Sombra had—

Her eyes snapped back to the last object, ignoring the voice behind her that complained about the uselessness of keeping dragons if you couldn't command them to destroy your enemies. She thought it had been a trick of the firelight, but the musical instrument was definitely moving. In fact, it was waving...

“Flurry!?” Twilight jumped in surprise, pushing her head through the bars for a closer look at the small form of her niece far below. Her fur shimmered in an unnatural golden tint, so she had blended in with the surrounding treasures. “She’s the magic harp!?” The air vibrated with heavy steps, shortly before Garble stomped over with smoke puffing from his nostrils.

“No talking to my harp!” Garble snapped and flicked his claws at the bottom of the cage, causing it to sway wildly again. While Twilight and Sombra tried to keep their balance and stomachs in order, Garble let them be and proceeded to stride over to the cauldron. He bent over and mumbled in a low tone at its contents, appearing to be discussing with himself what type of vegetables to add to his pony soup.

“Are we to swing here uselessly until we are eaten?” Sombra growled while tapping against his own horn, looking frustrated by the feeble pops and sparks of darkness that simply fizzled out altogether.

“We’ll be fine,” Twilight said with confidence, running through the story in her own head. “We just need to follow the cues from the original fairy tale and we’ll all get out of this safely. The siblings eventually outsmart the dragon and manage to escape, but first they—”

“If you already know,” Sombra snorted, “then shouldn’t you just get about to doing it?”

Twilight gave him an annoyed glare for the interruption, but ended up turning her head with a grumble and facing the edge of the cage. Her eyes moved over to where Garble was stirring the soup while his other claw easily held off an angry Spike. He had obviously gotten fed up with arguing and was now trying to swing at his larger companion, effortlessly kept at a distance by Garble’s long reach.

As she watched, Garble leaned over the pot and asked the inanimate object to add something to the brew. Her ears perked and she couldn’t help but feel a bit giddy at practically living one of the fairy tales she had grown up with as a filly, even if there was that slight threat of being eaten.

“Why are you talking to a pot?” Twilight asked in an obnoxiously loud tone, ensuring that Garble would hear her. His eyes slid her way, and he simply stared across the cavern in silence, making her wonder if he was going to ignore her. She tried again. “Is there somepony already cooking in it?”

“Are you a child!?” Sombra hissed with appall, but Garble’s sudden bark of laughter drowned him out as the dragon straightened up and turned to the cage. He posed with an air of superiority and a large, confident smirk.

“Nothing but vegetables in there, but I was talking to it because it understands certain requests.” He pointed to the broth in the pot, which now bubbled with chunks of peeled potatoes and carrots. “It’s an enchanted cauldron that can cook up anything I ask for without needing to gather ingredients.”

“Ooooh!” Twilight pretended to be in awe and leaned forward with feigned interest. “That’s amazing! But if it can cook anything you want, why would you need ponies like us for your stew?”

Garble faltered a little at that, scratching his head while grumbling loudly, “It doesn’t do meat… and I’m not a vegetarian.” He pointed a claw through the bars and poked at her stomach lightly, which contained enough force to knock her on her back. “So you’re here for a little variety in my soup. Now stay quiet, silly pony. I want to eat soon and need to prepare.”

As Garble stomped away, she heard Sombra’s scoff from close behind and looked up at him from her position on the floor. “Well, that was a wealth of information.”

“That was only the beginning.” She gave a sly grin and rolled onto her hooves, moving past Sombra to get a better view of the treasure piles deeper in the cave. “In the original story, the siblings befriend the magic harp and get it to lull the dragon to sleep.” She squeezed her head through the bars and waved to the golden Flurry Harp laying atop the pile of treasure. Flurry gave a squeal of delight and waved back. “But we don’t have to befriend her, because she’s already on our side!”

With Flurry’s attention on her, Twilight glanced back at Garble to make sure he wasn't looking their way. She was proud to see that Spike had caught onto her plan… or at least knew how the story went, because he was making exaggerated gestures while explaining something to Garble. The bigger dragon was plainly interested… and currently distracted.

With his focus elsewhere, Twilight turned back to Flurry and mimed out the actions of strumming a harp by running her hooves quietly over the bars of the cage, hoping she would get the message as well as a baby alicorn could possibly understand. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as easy as she initially thought.

Despite Twilight's doubts, Flurry Heart clapped her hooves against the golden frame and giggled with excitement, waving her legs wildly toward the strings and striking them with the finesse one would expect of a newborn foal.

The strum of obnoxious noise was the equivalent of beating against the instrument with a mallet and a far cry from the lullaby that would put a dragon to sleep. Twilight’s hooves flew up to her ears, and she grimaced while turning to watch Garble’s reaction. He was already staring in Flurry’s direction with a blank expression and Twilight’s heart dropped at their failure… before Garble suddenly let out an un-dragon like squeal. He slapped his claws together and immediately strolled over to the pile of treasure, bending over to marvel at the sound of strings being mashed together.

“How precious! You’re so good at playing, aren’t you?” Garble cooed down at Flurry, who was spurred on by the compliment. She giggled and banged her hooves more forcefully against the cords.

“Wow! I’m pretty sure that’s not the real Garble, but I’m really glad I got to see this.” Twilight turned at the sound of Spike’s voice. He waved to her from the cavern wall while wearing a wide grin.

“Spike!” Twilight nearly knocked Sombra over when she shot past, greeting Spike while he carefully scaled the last few feet and leaped away from the rock to land against one of the cage bars. She reached out and supported him with her hooves, afraid he might slip on the metal. “You remembered the story?”

“Sure did!” Spike puffed out his chest. “But, if we’re trapped in some kind of fairy tale, I don’t remember this part… or Garble being in the book at all.” Spike then leaned through the bars and asked in a whisper, “By the way, what’s with dark and shadowy over there? Is he a character too?”

“I’m afraid so, but he’s not like Garble.” Twilight shook her head and replied in a low voice, “This Sombra is the real one.” She glanced back at him and frowned at the wickedly toothy sneer he was giving her. She wondered what he was doing when she felt Spike shiver beneath her hooves.

“I think I’ll just get you out, and you can explain the details later.” Spike shook himself with an unsettled grin before taking a deep breath and exhaling gently to create a thin trail of flame. He aimed it away from Twilight, at the top of the cage. In a few seconds, the metal had melted and dripped molten streams that pooled onto the floor below. Twilight was quick to step out of range, leaving Spike to bend one of the softened bars and create a gap for them to escape through.

“Not exactly what I remember from the story, but at least we’re making progress,” Twilight said while Spike hopped through the opening and onto her back. With him settled in, she turned to Sombra and gave him a frown as she offered her hoof.

“You’re expecting to carry me?” Sombra frowned at her leg.

“I don’t see any wings on your back,” Twilight pointed out.

“We don’t have to bring him, do we, Twilight?” Spike narrowed his eyes at Sombra. “I don’t trust him.”

“It seems we agree on something, lizard,” Sombra hissed and pressed closer in a threatening manner.

Twilight fluffed her wings and stepped back, putting herself between Sombra and Spike. “The story won’t let us abandon him, so we have to stick together.” She ignored their matching growls in response. “Just let me carry you.”

“As much as I would… appreciate the lift, I was there when you took a dive in that clearing,” Sombra said with an air of arrogance. “Your magic is gone, and so is your ability to fly.”

“I can still glide at least, and it will be better than dropping down to… well, that.” She motioned to the view beyond the bars, where the cavern floor was a steep distance away. To attempt a fall like that would certainly ensure at least a broken leg, if not sudden death.

“I’ll take my chances.” Sombra didn’t show any fear as he gazed below. “Besides, you are too puny to lift me.”

Sombra had a point, but not about her being puny. He was a good head taller and certainly much heavier. Without the magic that aided in her flight, they might as well have been jumping off a cliff without wings.

“We can find a way to lower the cage…” Twilight rubbed her chin, trying to organize a mental list of their options. “Or look for something to catch you…” Her eyes slid to the side and caught Sombra’s doubtful expression. “We’re not leaving you behind!” she said sternly while tapping her hoof against his chest. Not that she cared what he thought of her, but she didn’t like the fact that he appeared so obviously skeptical of her abilities.

Sombra’s expression was unreadable, but she noticed his eyes twitch in possible surprise. She didn’t wait to see if he had an actual response and turned to the opening, fluttering her wings and looking out over the cavern below. Flurry Heart was still strumming away while Garble bobbed his head to the broken tune and added his own baritone to the mix. Twilight was surprised to hear that he had a decent voice, but it wasn’t enough to make the music sound any more appealing.

With Garble distracted, she gulped down her nervousness and shifted her legs. A moment later and she had jumped out into the open air.

She kept her calm this time, making sure that she and Spike remained safe while gliding down in a carefully controlled spiral. She was also quiet, fluttering her wings almost noiselessly when she landed and scrambled as silently as she could behind one of the crystals of the fireplace. They both immediately peeked around the corner, but Garble was still intently focused on Flurry.

“What are we gonna do, Twilight?” Spike whispered in her ear, “He’s not leaving her alone! How are we supposed to get her?”

“I don’t know…” Twilight whispered in reply. “We’re not exactly following the original story anymore. Garble’s not asleep, and Sombra’s still in the cage, but we need to get to Flurry.” She looked around the room for something that might help. She needed a book—no, maybe a weapon. Or what they really needed was a—


Sombra’s furious shout shot through the unmelodic sound of voice and music, cutting off Garble’s serenade as his head whipped towards the cage. His eyes narrowed in anger when he noticed the hole in the bars.

“I want to make good on my promise!” Sombra taunted as Garble surged up in a hurry, smoke trailing from his nostrils in response to the threat while Sombra just continued. “I will turn you into ash!”

“What’s he doing!?” Twilight hissed quietly and ducked as Garble tromped past, roaring with a fury as soon as he realized there was only one pony still in his cage.

“That doesn’t matter, Twilight! Look!” Spike pointed to the mountain of treasure, where Flurry’s golden form glittered in the firelight. “She’s unguarded!”

While Twilight bolted forward at the opportunity, she couldn’t help but glance back to see how Sombra was faring… only to skid to a stop at the sight of him dangling by his hooves from the floor of the cage. Garble wildly swung his claws out, trying to recapture him.


Spike’s voice reached her, but she hesitated with a hoof in the air, looking towards Flurry Heart giggling at the top of the treasure horde. She was laughing at Garble, thinking nothing dangerous about it in her childish delight.

A heavy clang drew her attention back to the fighting pair, right as the cage smashed into Garble’s face. He let out a furious roar, stumbling back with a clamor and falling right into the fireplace. The crystal barrier shattered, and embers flew up in a spray of sparks. Garble’s stumble knocked the enchanted cauldron off its stand, spilling soup, potatoes and carrots all over the floor.

“Look out!” Spike shouted belatedly as a wave splashed over them. Twilight flapped her wings in a frantic attempt to take off, but she was already soaked and couldn’t get any lift without her magic. She tried to paddle against the current and spit out hot soup between sputtered yelps, only to be carried across the floor and tossed about when it pulled her under.

She thought she would end up drowning until she felt a tug on her wings that helped her break the surface. Splashing up with a gasp, she saw Spike holding onto a gigantic potato as he pulled her closer. With his assistance, Twilight managed to kick her way over and hold on as the torrent quieted down to a mild flow. The stew eventually thinned, and she finally felt her hooves touch solid ground.

Lowering herself to the floor, Twilight’s attention was drawn up by a sudden shout. She turned just in time to see Sombra lose his grip and fall away from the cage hanging above.

Spike covered his eyes while Sombra tumbled through the air and Twilight scrambled in a panic, running right into the potato that had saved them. Glancing at it, she only hesitated a moment to do a quick calculation before spinning around and bucking the mass, causing it to bounce across the stones. Sombra’s dark shape landed with a muted thump right on top, squashing it into a flattened mush.

Twilight galloped over to the lumpy pile and called out with a slight tone of worry. “Sombra?” While she wasn’t so much concerned for his well-being, she wasn’t looking forward to seeing him turned into a pancake.

“Of all possible things—” his muffled voice came from the center of the smashed vegetable before he climbed into view “—you used a spud!?”

“She saved you!” Spike yelled at him, running up beside Twilight.

“And I slayed the dragon.” Sombra smirked proudly while scraping mashed potato off of his horn.

“You didn’t slay him! Dragons-” Twilight froze when a furious roar erupted from the fireplace as bits of charcoal scattered into the air and flew in every direction “-are immune to fire...” Her ears flattened as they all gaped at a furious Garble hulking over the dwindling flames. His beady eyes landed on them, and he bared his fangs in a snarl.

“Et tu, Spike!?” he growled while sprinting through the haze of smoke and embers. The heart-wrenching wail of a baby split through the chaos and Garble paused only a moment before his scowl returned, his jaws gnashing fiercely. “What have you done!?!”

“Twilight!” Spike sprinted in the opposite direction as she and Sombra galloped away from the large claw that slammed into the floor where they had just been standing. “Go get Flurry!” he yelled to her while running towards Garble, grabbing his attention by waving his arms and shouting.

Twilight resisted the urge to follow after him, but she needed to get to Flurry and she wouldn’t let his distraction go to waste. She did stumble, however, when she felt the heat of crackling flame from behind as Garble launched a jet of fire from his mouth.

“You will bow before me, stupid worm!”

She glanced back to see that Sombra had gone with Spike, running around Garble’s feet and avoiding his fiery breath. Garble swung his claws wildly with his head switching in confusion between the two. He was clearly at a loss as to which of them to go after first. “Stop running around! It’ll be quicker if I can squash you now!”

Twilight faced forward and tried her best to ignore them while jumping onto the pile of treasure, slipping and sliding while she struggled to reach the top as quickly as she could. She could still hear Flurry Heart’s terrified crying, and Twilight was desperate to reach her, both to save her as well as to comfort her.

“It’s alright, Flurry,” Twilight said in a quiet tone as loudly as she could while leaping over gold coins and gemstones as big as her head. “Auntie Twilight’s on her way.” It felt like the distance was closing too slowly, but she was close enough to see Flurry Heart’s place atop the treasure pile. A giant diamond was the only thing between her and her niece. There was a loud crash from behind, but she tried not to glance back for fear of losing progress.

“Almost there!” Twilight cried out when she climbed higher and Flurry’s wails lowered into a soft sniffling. Her niece reached out with tiny legs, and Twilight stumbled when she tried to move faster. “Don’t worry, I’ve got—”

Something large slammed into her back and crushed the breath out of her lungs. Her words turned into a sharp gasp of pain as she looked up to see the dark shadow of Garble’s claw pressing her into the pointed jewels and uncut gems. Some of the jagged edges cut into her fur, and Flurry Heart echoed her pained cry with a terrified sob. Twilight felt the pressure closing around her when a shrill shriek split through the air, causing Garble to drop her back into the treasure so he could cover his ears.

Flurry’s frightened wail rose in pitch and echoed around the cavern, bounced around by the smooth stone as it appeared to grow louder from the reverberation. The cauldron laying on the floor below started to shake, and the enhanced cry was so intense that the iron actually cracked. Magical sparks began to emanate from the pot, and a noise rumbled from deep within. While Garble still had his claws in his ears, Twilight limped the last few steps and grabbed Flurry Heart, her crying quickly subdued as she snuggled into Twilight’s leg.

Flaring her wings, Twilight quickly took to the air, gliding down the mountain of treasure while yelling a warning to Spike and Sombra. Garble only realized the screams had stopped when he saw their tiny forms run past him.

“Hey! THAT’S MY HARP!!!” Garble roared, even as the cauldron bounced and banged against the floor. He looked back with curiosity, and there was a split second of confusion before his expression shifted to terror.

“Run! Run! Run! RUN!!!” Twilight chanted, even before her hooves hit the floor. She fell into a gallop beside Sombra and Spike as the cavern behind them erupted into chaos. The mouth of the cauldron exploded in a haze of orange and white, shooting out an endless stream of carrots and potatoes and creating a fountain that hit Garble like a missile. He was knocked to his stomach and quickly buried under an avalanche of vegetables that continued to fill the cave.

“Don’t look back! Just RUN!!!” Twilight shouted, frantically flapping her wings in a panic to gain some extra speed and stay ahead of the wave of produce threatening to cover them. She heard an alarmed shout from Spike.

“Twilight! I looked ba-ha-haaaaack!” he cried out and fell to all fours in an attempt to sprint faster. Sombra simply snorted alongside them with his hooves pounding over the ground and wearing a stern expression.

The three of them managed to make it to the entrance just as the menacing wave tumbled up behind. Peeled produce slammed against them and launched them all out through the cave entrance. They soared into the air, Twilight managing to tuck herself around Flurry before they all hit the ground near the tree line with heavy thuds. The thumps of sparse vegetables rained around them while a gigantic mountain of potatoes and carrots piled up inside the cavern opening.

Twilight scrambled to her hooves, but the loud rumble had ceased and what was left appeared to be settling down. It looked as though the cauldron had quickly exhausted its magical energy.

They all sat quietly, a bit stunned by their ordeal. Twilight hugged Flurry Heart tightly and soothed her by rubbing her mane. She was shaking, but her quiet crying was only punctuated by soft hiccups as she tried to bury her face into Twilight’s chest. Spike stood up on shaking legs and stumbled over to Twilight, while Sombra simply remained on the ground with his chest heaving.

All three of them tensed when a small section of vegetables shifted and tumbled down the gigantic pile, revealing an exhausted-looking Garble. They immediately sprang up and rushed into the forest, not even stopping when they heard Garble’s miserable roar. “Aaaaghh! What am I gonna cook with all these vegetables!?”

Twilight skidded to a halt for a brief moment to yell back at him, “Try tofu!”

As she turned and sprinted off into the trees after Sombra and Spike, she barely heard Garble’s genuinely happy response. “Huh, good idea!”

Despite her fatigue, she caught up quickly and they all continued to run until a reasonable distance had been put between themselves and the cave. Twilight, Spike and Sombra, all collapsed onto the ground, coughing and breathing heavily from their narrow escape. After a moment to catch their breath, Sombra finally broke the quiet.

“Well…” he huffed, “What now?”

Twilight snuggled a worn out Flurry Heart and gave him a tired smile. “Now maybe we get out—” Before she could finish, the world around them appeared to grow fuzzy and faint. The scenery darkened, and Twilight only had the briefest of time to wonder if they were returning home before her mind drifted into a state that felt like falling into a dream.