• Published 1st May 2019
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Empty Horizons: The Lost Student - Psyonicg



The last time Twilight awoke, alone and in the dark, she wanted nothing more than to break free and find the light. This time, she'd rather let that darkness take her. Unfortunately, that decision is no longer just hers to make.

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Chapter III: The Anger of Two

“Why?”

Twilight cried out into the darkness, clutching at her head in pain. If there was an answer, Twilight didn’t hear it; her ears were ringing with enough force to make her feel nauseous. How could she even feel nauseous when she was… whatever she was? The thought made her shudder, the urge to look down at her translucent body growing until she couldn’t take it anymore.

Opening her eyes didn’t help. “What’s happening? Why can’t I see?!”

Panic rose in the pit of her stomach as she desperately strained to try and see something. Anything. Calm down. Relax. Breathe.

The voice of The Other, as unnerving as it was, pierced through her frantic thoughts, and Twilight forced herself to take one, two, three deep breaths. With each one, she felt the panic receding and her vision slowly returning.

That’s it. In… Out. The spell must have overwhelmed the limits of that form’s magic. Not pleasant, is it?

Twilight groaned, blinking rapidly to clear away the blurry afterimages that clung to the edge of her vision. “How would you know?” she tried to say, but the ringing in her ears made it impossible to tell if she’d made any noise at all.

How would you know? she repeated mentally.

A destabilised spell and a mana starved spell are very similar.

The answer did little to assuage Twilight’s confusion, her brow furrowing as she tried to make sense of it. What do you mean?

The Other shook its head, waving a hoof dismissively as it moved closer. It doesn’t matter. Are you okay?

Twilight narrowed her eyes, pausing for a moment before replying. I’m… getting there. No thanks to you.

A scoff and The Other turned away, shaking her head and leaving Twilight to glance around at the consequences of the spell. The ocean depths glittered with residual magic, sparkling like stars all around them in the darkness, and Twilight found herself remembering the sight of her unconscious. It was eerily similar.

That would be because it is your unconscious. Your projected form collapsed; we’re inside of your mind again. I just didn’t feel like making it all pretty this time. You go back to sleep. I’ll carry on to Canterlot.
Twilight frowned, focusing her attention on the area around them and creating a simple wooden floor to stand on. The sound of her hooves against the wood provided a satisfying sense of weight as she stormed up to The Other with an angry glare. Oh, no. Not happening. I gave you one very specific instruction and the second I left you alone you immediately broke it, killing some poor innocent fish!

The Other frowned, its tone callous. Innocent? They were monsters, it was us or them. Your misguided notions of morality do not apply down here.

Twilight shook her head, huffing in frustration. They weren’t monsters. They were predators! Just because they’re hungry doesn’t make them evil! You could have easily created a shield to ward them off and just ignored them until we got down to the tunnels!

The Other’s smirk twisted into a sneer. Ah yes, that sounds like an excellent way to waste our magical reserves, your genius never fails to astound. How exactly did you become Celestia’s prized pupil again?

Twilight flinched back, her anger momentarily faltering from the sudden insult before surging back with more intensity. And that display wasn’t? How much mana did that spell drain from us? What if it attracted something even larger?

The Other stopped, staring into the distance for a moment before nodding. Very perceptive. We should keep moving. It vanished from the mindscape without warning.

Twilight opened her mouth, an angry retort on her lips, but snapped it shut when she found the target of her ire gone. Quickly she followed The Other out, floating into it’s way with an angry scowl. “You can’t just change the subject when you know you’re wrong! Admit that you don’t have an answer! Admit that you only killed those fish because you wanted to. Because you enjoyed it!

“Because you’re the monster!” she finished, jabbing her hoof into The Other’s chest.

The Other froze, baring its fangs and illuminating its horn. Twilight flinched, instinctively shying away from the murderous look, but no attack came. When she opened her eyes again, The Other was staring off into the ocean with an unreadable expression.

“You can think whatever you want to, little flower. But unlike your sheep friends, I’m not just going to roll over and agree because you throw a tantrum. They were corrupted, and if we hadn’t dealt with them then they’d have hurt somepony else. I did the world a favour.”

Twilight shook her head. “How dare you. Get out of my body. Now.”

“...”

“I said now!”

Twilight flailed in the water as her perspective suddenly shifted, the weight of her body and the drain of her magic from her horn momentarily overwhelming her. She quickly reigned in control of the magic, shuddering at the thought of those spells failing her when she was so deep down. Quickly she pushed the thoughts aside; The Other had done what she asked, and she had to get to Canterlot.

Getting her bearings, Twilight propelled herself down; stewing in her anger and ruminating on what had just happened. She hadn’t said anything untrue. It was a monster. It was evil! But… that didn’t give her the right to be cruel herself.

Her anger slowly seeped away under the relentless chill of the ocean, replaced with a hollow feeling that made her sick. Why had The Other disobeyed her? Why was it so insistent on being cruel at every turn? Why had Twilight let those horrible thoughts make her so angry as well?

Why?


Twilight sunk back into the mindscape, eddies of crimson and black swirling about as her anger manifested in the void. For a brief instant, she turned her gaze towards the library. Flame licked at the edges of her horn as she considered burning it; if her Sister was so eager to call her a monster, why not show her exactly how much of a monster she could be?

But it was her home too.

Twilight tensed up, a horrible mess of feelings rushing inside her. Anger, rage. She knew those. But there were other feelings, ones that made her feel empty and alone. She didn’t understand and it only made her angrier. With a scream, she flung herself into the void, a loosely collected amalgamation of all the things she hated coalescing around her.

The griffon. Plunged to the bottom of the sea where she belonged.

The soldiers. Incinerated as they deserved.

The phoenix. Frozen as a consequence of its own actions.

Her Sister. Imprisoned so that she couldn’t hold them back.

Twilight stopped, the icy grip of fear momentarily rendering her immobile. Is that really what she wanted? She hunched over and shuddered, nausea clutching at her insides painfully.

The mental constructs faded away, replaced with a faint green glow that only seemed to intensify the horrible sensations. “What’s wrong with me? I don’t understand.”

The feeling abated with time, but the effect it left on her wasn’t as kind. Slowly, Twilight got to her hooves, her legs trembling beneath her, before realising that she had no physical body. This was all just a projection of her thoughts. “Why am I…?”

Physical sensation vanished as she furrowed her brow, closing her eyes briefly before opening them back up to the endless void of stars she was used to. Whatever she had felt had gone now, and she never wanted to experience it again. Which meant that whatever had caused it needed to go.

Slowly, methodically, Twilight began to retrace her actions; trying to piece together the chain of events that had resulted in her Sister’s heated anger. But she could only think of one thing that might have caused it, and it was ridiculous.

“Why can’t she just get it? It’s not complicated. These creatures would kill us if given the chance, so it’s only sensible to kill them first; that’s just logical. And yet she seems infuriated every time I try and bring it up.”

Her ranting slowed to an indignant muttering as she aimlessly floated through the mindscape; glancing around at the memories and emotions that flashed up around her. Everything she knew, she knew from her Sister. Which only made her actions more difficult to understand.

“She’s a logical pony. The most logical of all her friends by far. So why can’t she realise the rules of the old world can’t apply anymore?”

Why was her Sister so devoted to a set of beliefs that no longer had meaning in a new world? Why was she so averse to being shown that she was being irrational? Why did she feel like she was being crushed after every argument they had?

Why?


Twilight continued her descent into the ocean, so wrapped up in her own thoughts that, when she finally reached the gaping maw of the Canterlot Tunnel, she almost missed it. It was only when she reached the ocean bed, covered in nought but sand and strange purple algae, that she realised she’d gone too far.

Anger, long since smothered by the oppressive ocean silence, flared up as frustration. Anger bubbled up inside of her, building and building until she could take it no longer.

Rearing up, she slammed her hooves down into the sand and screamed her rage out into the uncaring sea, not stopping until her throat was hoarse and the burning heat in her breast was replaced with a hollow ache. It was only once she’d caught her breath that she noticed what she’d done; the sand all around her turned to glittering glass by her unfiltered release of magic.

“You look like you needed that.”

Twilight turned, glancing to the Other with a tired glare. She opened her mouth to reply, but thought better of it, turning her gaze upward to look for the tunnel entrance she knew must be there.

The Other turned with her, blankly staring up into the darkness as Twilight sent out a ping, her magic echoing out into the darkness. Instead of the small burst of magic she expected to use, however, an almost irresistible tugging sensation overcame her and it was all she could do to cancel the spell before more of her magic was sucked out.

“Be careful. The corruption has affected the mountain; don’t touch it with your magic.”

Twilight turned to glare daggers into The Other’s side, gritting her teeth and forcing herself to remain silent as she started to float upwards towards the entrance. At least her spell had still worked.

Unlike the last time she had made this trip, panicked and confined within the bowels of a submarine; Twilight was able to see the walls within the entrance of the tunnel, and was surprised to find that, unlike the rest of the mountain, the rock here was a glassy, extremely reflective smooth stone.

Keeping The Other’s warning in her mind, she adjusted her course; floating into the centre of the tunnel entrance and marvelling at the way her hornlight reflected off the walls; creating a stunning lavender glow all around them, unlike anything she’d ever seen before.

This is amazing. For the light to be reflected so cleanly these walls must be almost perfectly smooth. Whoever carved this tunnel must have been using incredibly powerful magic.

“Not even we could produce the heat needed to do something like this, let alone control it so skillfully,” The Other responded, gazing at the walls with as much curiosity as Twilight herself.

Twilight paused, momentarily caught unawares. For a moment, their anger was forgotten in mutual curiosity, Twilight narrowing her eyes at the walls suspiciously. I wonder… could it have been..?

“It might have.” The Other nodded in front of her, reaching out as if to brush the rock before retreating back to Twilight.

They lapsed into silence, nothing more to discuss, as they continued deeper into the tunnel, closer and closer to the ruins of Canterlot. And even as their mind became preoccupied with thoughts of what they would discover, challenges they would encounter, and clues they might uncover. The same question still lurked at the back of their minds, their thoughts lining up for the first time since Altalusia.


Why?
“Why?”


Twilight gasped for air as she breached the surface of the water, clambering her way up onto the rocks and coughing up water onto the stone floor. Once she had recovered her breath she turned to the Other with a scowl. “You could have warned me we were running out of air!”

“Aren’t you Celestia’s prized pupil? Surely you could sense that the spell I cast was wearing out?” It responded with a smirk, watching smugly as the water dripped from Twilight’s mane, down across her chest, and then splattered against the rocky floor below.

Twilight rolled her eyes, shaking the water out of her coat before reaching up to push her dripping mane out of her eyes. “Oh, of course, I’ll make sure to double-check that all the spells you cast aren’t secretly designed to kill me. That’s exactly what I need right now.”

The Other opened its mouth to retort, before closing it with a frown. Looking away and snapping back half-heartedly, “We both know that I wouldn’t be that subtle.”

“You’ve made that very clear when you decided to go and use all of your magic slaughtering innocent fish for sport,” Twilight hissed, stomping up towards the cave with a huff.

The Other rolled its eyes, following behind. “Firstly, I don’t have my own secret reserve of magical power that I’m hiding away just to spite you, and second, that’s a funny way of saying ‘saving our life’,” it drawled.

“Just stop. I don’t need to hear any more of your twisted attempts at reasoning.”

Twilight continued upwards, staring at the same glassy walls that had lined the submerged section of the tunnel. Without the water, the reflected light was less dazzling, yet no less beautiful. In fact, the way her horn light bounced around reminded her of the Crystal Caves. She recalled that the spell she had cast back then had reflected off the walls just like her light was reflecting off these ones.

Back when she had been… imprisoned.

Twilight winced as memories she had repressed for weeks suddenly came flooding back. She remembered it all: breaking out with Cadence and finally feeling hope that everything might end up okay, confronting Chrysalis and her cruel speech about enslaving all of Equestria, the battle in the throne room and Celestia’s desperate plea to reach the Elements. But they hadn’t made it in time. They’d failed. Not only had she failed her friends, but also her brother. Her Princess.

All of Equestria had paid for her mistakes. What was she even doing down here? How could she possibly hope to fix something she’d been unable to stop in the first place? She should run, maybe somepo—

Twilight gasped, the sound of The Other’s shouting snapping her out of her panic. When had she fallen over? Why was The Other floating over her with a strange frown? “W-what?”

“I said, are you okay? There isn't any water in your lungs, is there?”

“What? Why would there be…?” Twilight frowned, pushing herself to her hooves and taking a deep breath just in case.

“Well you were on the floor gasping, so I assumed there was something wrong with your breathing,” The Other replied with a deadpan stare.

Twilight flinched. She had collapsed. How was she ever going to fix everything if she couldn’t even keep herself from breaking down over the slightest thing. She may as well just give—no. No she could do this. She just needed rest. A few days to recover. Then she’d be ready.

“So?”

“Oh! Oh, right, yes, there must have been some water.” Twilight replied with a half-hearted attempt at coughing into her hoof.

The Other raised an eyebrow, tilting its head. “Or perhaps it was the panic attack brought on by those memories you were thinking about?”

Twilight winced, lowering her hoof back down to the floor and giving the Other an annoyed look. “Why… why would you think that?”

“We’re bound together by more than just a little magic and we both know it. I know you better than I know myself. You can’t hide anything from me, especially not such strong emotional reactions. Even now, I can sense the anger and frustration you have towards me because I'm ‘reading your mind’.” The Other raised an eyebrow as Twilight’s brow furrowed into a scowl. “Technically it’s my mind as well, you know. Now you’re even angrier because I’m being pedantic and you don’t like it when people get pedantic with you, even though you do it to others all the time. And now –

“I get it!” Twilight snapped, clenching her mouth shut and snorting angrily.

The Other shook her head. “You clearly don’t. You’re just trying to push me away so you don’t have to deal with me anymore.”

Twilight ground her teeth together, angrily pushing a hoof into the floor. “You’re a parasite. Why would I want you anywhere near me?”

“Be careful, some ponies might get the wrong idea. They might think you don’t appreciate the help of a friend. That you would rather have done it all alone. Is that it? Does Princess Celestia’s star pupil want the spotlight all to herself?”

“Wha – you can’t possibly think – ugh!” Twilight stormed off, trying to force the anger that had flared up inside of her down. Why was this thing able to put her on edge so easily? What was wrong with her?

“I’ve told you. But you refuse to listen,” The Other stated with a deadpan stare, appearing in front of Twilight with crossed forelegs.

Twilight stopped and stood up straight, trying her best to look eye to eye with The Other’s floating form. “I’m not listening to anymore of your lies.”

“Lies? You’re coming apart at the seams, you idiot. This –” The Other waved her hooves around as if to gesture to everything around them “– is too much for you, and both of us know it. You’ve pushed yourself too far and it’s catching up with you. Just admit it!”

“N-no! I can do this! I’m going to find out what happened. I’m going to fix it. And it would be a lot easier to do it without you!” Twilight shouted, pausing to catch her breath.

“You wouldn’t have even made it here without me. We both know that.”

Twilight froze at The Other’s firm look. She couldn’t deny it. And if what it had been saying was true, there wasn’t any point to denying it anyway. “Fine… you’re right.”

The Other rolled its eyes. “Yes, I know. Now if I’m right about that, what else might I be right about? Stop being a foal. If we go into Canterlot now, with you being so adamant on rejecting everything that’s happened, you’re going to have a breakdown and it’s going to get us killed.”

“Rejecting—I’m not rejecting anything! What does that even mean?” Twilight scoffed, leaning back with an offended look.

“Do I really have to spell it out for you? What do you think happened… back then?”

For a brief moment there was silence, and then Twilight laughed. “Back then? Well, obviously we failed to get the elements. But clearly Celestia and Luna managed to win the day; they probably made this tunnel!”

The Other stared at her expectantly, causing Twilight to shuffle on the spot.

“What? What are you looking at me like that for? Stop. Stop it. I said stop it!” Twilight stomped her hooves angrily and turned away. Only to run straight into The Other, floating before her with that same stare. Twilight locked eyes with her reflection and grit her teeth, glaring back. But as soon as she met those bloodstained eyes she knew that she wasn’t going to win this particular battle of wills.

“Fine. Okay. I get it! Celestia and Luna ran away. They left me and my friends alone and they never came back for us! Canterlot is infested with changelings and I’m likely going to find everything I ever loved destroyed and turned to dust! Is that what you wanted to hear?!” Twilight shouted, glaring at the Other with teary eyes as her own words echoed back at her.

“No. Not at all.”

“What? Then why did you make me say it? Do you just enjoy watching me suffer?” Twilight felt her back legs give way, her front legs barely managing to keep her sitting.

“I didn’t want to hear it, but you needed to say it. You need to accept that the world isn’t what you want it to be anymore. Horrible things happened, but you can’t keep hiding from it and hoping you’ll find a way to fix it without facing reality. We’re about to step into your past. You need to be ready. Are you?”

Twilight rubbed at her eyes furiously, glaring over her hoof at The Other. “Of course I’m not! How could I be?”

“Well, you don’t have a choice,” The Other stated, shrugging its shoulders. “Either we go in there and try to bring back what we lost, or we give up and leave. Your call.”

“What I lost,” Twilight muttered into her hoof.

“What?”

“What I lost!” she repeated, louder this time.

“Oh, for crying out loud. You lost, we lost. Whatever. Stop being such a foal and get up! Are you Princess Celestia’s pupil or not?”

Twilight winced and nodded. “Yes.”

“And are you, or are you not, the element of magic?”

Twilight took a deep breath, her jaw setting as she realised what was happening. “Yes, I am.”

“And are you going to save Equestria, reunite your friends, and bring back the Princesses. Like you said you would?”

“I…” Twilight hesitated, looking down at the floor when she suddenly felt magic enveloping her entire body; picking her up and throwing her up the tunnel with no time to react. She winced as she hit the floor, her barrel sliding across the stone painfully. “Ahh!”

“I’m sick of trying to motivate you. The answer is yes. Now get up and start moving.”

Twilight pushed herself to her hooves and huffed. “You can’t just—h-hey!” Once again, Twilight was lifted and thrown, her own magic sending her rolling into the dirt a few more feet towards the city.

“If I have to throw you the entire way, I will. Your call.”

With a little angry growl, Twilight got up and locked eyes with The Other. Who merely returned her gaze with a neutral expression.

Huffing, she turned away and started stomping furiously towards Canterlot and, more importantly, away from The Other.

“That’s the spirit! Use the anger!”

Twilight rolled her eyes at the mocking statement, her ears flickering back as she heard The Other mutter something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like “finally”. For a moment she considered stopping and yelling at her, but the thought of being thrown by her own magic kept her moving.

Together, the two of them pushed onwards and upwards through the glassy tunnel. The light from her horn was beautiful in the way it reflected off the walls, but the constant omnipresent glow of lavender made it impossible to distinguish if they were moving at all. Soon the repetitive sound of hoofsteps on stone began to grate against Twilight’s mind and, despite her better judgement, she turned to glance at The Other, who had been silently watching the entire time. “What do you think we’ll find in the city?”

“Monsters and ruins… this city has been buried beneath the waves for hundreds – if not thousands – of years. It’s unlikely that anything except the changelings remains.”

Twilight frowned, immediately regretting the question. “I saw Spike when we fled; he could have protected some of them?”

“What did I just say about avoiding reality?” The Other said with an exasperated look. “Don’t be delusional, you and I both know he’s been corrupted, just like the changelings. I doubt there’s anything left except a monster.”

Twilight turned away, blinking back tears. The Other was right, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. But that was what she was here for, to cleanse the corruption and save Equestria. He may have been corrupted but… perhaps she could save him.

The idea brought a small measure of hope and Twilight renewed her efforts, speeding up as they continued upwards into the tunnel. Eventually, the glassy walls gave way to more a natural series of stone caverns that opened up into a network of passages and connected cave systems. Before she could even begin to wonder where the caves had come from – these weren’t the Crystal Caves after all – The Other whispered. “Changeling tunnels, be careful.”

Twilight paused. It hadn’t spoken at all. Recognising the change, she didn’t respond; giving a curt nod and continuing onwards, dimming her light until it was barely a pinprick. She tried her best to keep going straight, but it seemed the changelings had dug away the original glassy walls since her last journey through, and it was almost impossible for her to be sure if she was following the right path.

It became very clear she wasn’t when she came face to face with a flat wall; blocking her progress forward, two tunnels veering off to the left and the right her only options.

She stared at the rock for a few moments before sighing, glancing around nervously as a familiar tense feeling settled into her legs. “I’m going to get lost down here. Going to make yourself useful for once?”

Not with that attitude, I’m not. The Other said, her flat tone echoing inside of Twilight’s head.


“I told you not to talk to me like that!” Twilight hissed, barely managing to keep her anger in check as she turned to glare at her floating companion.

The Other turned to her and raised an eyebrow, putting a hoof to her chin and humming. “Oh? Would you prefer I speak out loud and attract the attention of every changeling we come across?”

Twilight winced, her anger momentarily overcome by embarrassment. That makes sense. Do you have any ideas?

For a few moments, Twilight heard nothing but silence. Then suddenly, Hide. I’ll look around.

Twilight watched with a dumbfounded expression as The Other floated away, her mind taking a moment to process just what exactly she was looking at.

With a gasp, she realised that she was alone. In a changeling tunnel network. Just standing there! Quickly, Twilight dashed into the nearest entrance and hastily scanned the walls for somewhere to hide. Luckily for her, it only took a few moments of frantic searching before she found a small crevice set into the side of the rock, just large enough for a pony to crawl into.

The idea of getting into such an enclosed space made her shudder but, looking around, she didn’t really have a choice. Changelings could show up at any moment. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to crawl into the hole, and with her eyes tightly squeezed shut, she extinguished her light.

As soon as her light vanished Twilight felt the darkness press down on her, the urge to curl up and cry suddenly rising in her chest. With a shaky gulp she forced the feeling down, taking a few deep breaths to calm herself. She could do this.

The minutes passed with agonising slowness, the slightest sound echoing through the caves and making Twilight twitch in fear. More than once she thought she heard the sound of hoofsteps approaching, only for them to fade into silence instead. The urge to cast another light spell was almost overwhelming, and Twilight felt a horrible sense of claustrophobia starting to settle in.

Had The Other abandoned her? What should she do? Could she make a run for it or would it be better to hide here? Maybe she could teleport all the way to the city?

Just as the idea was starting to sound like a viable option, The Other appeared before her, staring at her from the pitch black and beckoning for Twilight to exit. Once the shock of having it appear so suddenly had worn off, she quickly wormed herself free from the crevice and glanced around the tunnel nervously before turning to look up with a glare. Why did you take so long? And when were you going to tell me that you could just float off by yourself, or that you could just appear in front of me?

Her reflection simply raised an eyebrow and glanced around. Is now really the best time for us to discuss the exact nature of our situation? I’m happy to if you really want; I’m not the one concerned for the lives of monsters.

Twilight winced, wrestling with the frustration of not understanding for a few moments before sighing. Fine. Did you find something?

The Other nodded. Yes. A way out. Keep your horn light extinguished, I’ll lead you.

Twilight watched as it floated away, her eyes widening. Wait, I’m not going to follow you along in the dark! That would – hey! Hey! Wait for me! Twilight stumbled along after the barely perceptible glow of it’s retreating form, every step making her wince and stumble. Stop! I can’t do this!

To her relief, The Other did stop, turning round with a frustrated look. There are changelings ahead. Your light will lead them right to us. We have to do it like this.

No. No, I can’t do this. I can’t see where I’m going! What if I trip and hurt myself? Twilight muttered, frozen in the pitch black.

Why would I lead you somewhere that you would hurt yourself? Just follow me and you’ll be fine.

Twilight shook her head, taking a hesitant step back and casting her spell. The Other growled as the tunnel was illuminated by a soft glow, its ears swivelling back as it floated over to Twilight. Don’t be stupid. Do you really trust me so little that you’d rather take this risk?

Twilight hesitated, the idea of outright saying it suddenly significantly less appealing. Slowly she wilted under The Other’s questioning look, desperately searching for an alternative. Oh! Why don’t you go ahead and keep an eye out for changelings, then let me know when I need to hide. That way we can avoid any of the changelings and I can still see where I’m going.

Do you know how much that’ll slow us down? We can’t The Other stopped, sighing in the face of Twilight’s panicked expression. Alright, fine. But you have to listen to exactly what I say. Got it?

Twilight nodded quickly, gesturing for The Other to float ahead and taking a shaky breath.

Ready?

Ready.

Together the two of them began to make their way through the changeling tunnels once more. Progress was slow, and it seemed like every other minute Twilight found herself huddled up against the wall listening to the shrill calls of changelings from all around her, their chittering cries echoing down the tunnels with alarming frequency.

Couldn’t you have picked a path with less changelings?

Have you seen any changelings?

Well no—

Exactly. This is the path with the least changelings, I cannot stop them from shouting at each other, unless you’d like me to deafen you magically?

Twilight grit her teeth at the condescending tone, her eyes digging holes into the back of The Other’s head as it turned the corner. Obviously not, she thought bitterly, following around the bend before gasping in shock and stumbling backwards as she walked right into The Other’s unimpressed face.

You know, I don’t ‘see’ things like you do. I can tell when you’re glaring at me, and considering I’m currently going along with your asinine little plan, I don’t appreciate it.

With a shaky breath, Twilight pushed herself back to her hooves and frowned. I don’t care.

Oh, is that so? Maybe I should just leave you to figure out your way by yourself if you’re so opposed to me being here. How does that sound? The Other asked, crossing its forelegs and raising an eyebrow.

Twilight could feel her anger flaring up inside her, the urge to let The Other know just how badly she wanted it to leave almost irresistible. And judging by the expectant look she was being given, The Other knew it. For a few moments they remained like that, both on the edge of snapping.

Fine. I’m sorry. I didn’t – Twilight hesitated when The Other opened its mouth. With a huff, she stomped a hoof down and continued more forcefully. Let me finish. I know you’re helping me

Watch out!

Twilight flinched, only noticing The Other’s wide eyes at the last moment. Instinct took over and her horn burst into light; a dome of lavender energy surrounded her moments before a dark mass slammed into the back of it with enough force to send Twilight tumbling into the wall of the tunnel.

Before she could get her bearings, she felt a spike of pain lancing from her horn down into her head as the changeling slammed its own horn into the shield. Twilight cried out, darkness creeping into the edges of her vision as she collapsed to the tunnel floor, gasping for air and writhing in agony. It hurt. It hurt so much she could barely think, could barely move. If she dropped the shield, she would die. If she kept casting, the pain would kill her anyway. She couldn’t –

“Get up!”

Twilight curled up tighter, the voice echoing painfully through her head.

“I said, get up!”

Twilight gasped as she felt The Other grab hold of her, the tingling sensation of magic dulling the pain for just a brief moment. With a pained gasp she forced herself up, staring into The Other’s eyes desperately.

“You’ve got to drop the shield. We can kill it!”

The pain was already returning and even though the idea of killing made her feel sick, desperation was a strong motivator.

“Now!”

Suddenly Twilight knew exactly what she had to do, an idea that was both entirely her own but completely foreign springing forth in her mind. With a ragged cry she tore her horn away from the shield and let the magic fade.

The pain faded instantly and Twilight was only given a brief instant of relief before the changeling landed and began charging forward to finish her off. But she already saw exactly how it would play out, and adrenaline lent her the speed she needed. Diving to the side, Twilight rolled to her hooves and tossed her horn towards the changeling. Her magic struck just at the apex of it’s lunge and it slammed into the wall a moment later with a sickening crunch before collapsing to floor.

Twilight turned away and threw up.

“You’re an embarrassment. We need to run. The sound will attract more.”

Twilight shook her head, gasping for breath and wiping her hoof across her mouth. “I can’t do this.”

“This isn’t optional, you idiot. Either you move or you die, and I’m not giving you the choice.”

Twilight whimpered as she felt her own magic envelop her, forcing her forward. This time, it seemed that The Other wasn’t willing to simply throw her down the passage, instead merely pushing her until she moved herself. And to her surprise, she found that the pain that had been so consuming mere moments ago was fading away, the effects of the changeling’s spell as short-lived as its caster.

Twilight winced at the intrusive thought, shaking her head and forcing herself to start moving as the sound of changeling wings began to buzz behind her. Simply moving forward quickly became trotting, then became galloping as the sound continued to get closer and closer, her horn blazing brightly as it illuminated her path.

“Please tell me you have a plan for when we reach Canterlot. Left!”

Twilight winced as her hooves slid across the stone painfully, slamming into the wall with a gasp before pushing herself forward again. “I have an idea,” she panted out, speeding up even as her muscles screamed at her to slow down.

“An idea?! We need more than an idea. Duck!”

Throwing herself down, Twilight barely managed to avoid the changeling that suddenly leapt out from a nearby passage, fangs bared. Oh, Celestia! Please tell me we’re close!

The Other appeared before her, pointing into a passage that seemed to go back down which Twilight quickly rushed into, the sound of her hooves pounding against the stone doing little to drown out the hissing. “We’re close! Get ready to shield yourself.”

Twilight winced, summoning up the energy for a shield and keeping it ready as she descended back down. “Now!” With a fearful cry, she threw her shield up and barely a moment later she heard two distinct thuds either side of her. Dropping the shield, she continued to run; the sound of two very angry changelings getting up to pursue her echoed from behind.

“You’ve got a jump coming up. Want me to carry you?”

W-what?!

“I said you’ve got a –”

I heard what you said! Twilight mentally shouted, her hooves stumbling as she tried to talk and run at the same time. For a moment she considered the significance of willingly allowing The Other to ponyhandle her, but panic outweighed any sense of dignity and she grit her teeth. Do it.

Without warning, the floor vanished from under her. Twilight winced, her body tensing, but the expected drop never came and a second later she felt her hooves connect with solid stone once again. Any thought of stopping was brushed away when she felt The Other’s magic shove her forward again. “Keep moving, you idiot. They can fly!”

Twilight groaned as she forced herself to keep going, hope blossoming as they began to ascend once again. But they didn’t come out into the city after the first turn, nor the next one, and Twilight felt her legs beginning to give. I thought you said we were close!

No, you asked me to tell you we were close!”

You've got. To be joking. Why? It was becoming hard to even keep her thoughts straight, the pain in her legs and the ache in her horn leaving her vision blurry.

“Just a little farther, you’re almost there! I hope you’ve got a plan now!”

Twilight nodded as best she could. Castle. Protected. I can teleport.

The Other skirted the ground beside her, nodding. “Sounds like a plan to me! I’m gonna need our magic in a second, ready?”

There wasn’t time for discussion. Wordlessly, Twilight opened up her magic up to The Other’s grasp and instantly felt her horn light up, magic glowing brightly at the tip. Three changelings suddenly burst from the darkness ahead of them—and were swiftly crushed down against the ground by The Other’s spell.

Twilight leapt across the bodies, gasping as the landing sent sharp twists of pain up her legs. With a cry she collapsed to the floor, I can’t…

“Get your teleport spell ready!” The Other shouted, floating down into the stone before rising up directly beneath Twilight; lifting her up and racing up the corridor, into the ruined city of Canterlot, and straight into a dozen changelings; all with glowing horns pointed straight at them.

“Cast it. Now!”

Twilight forced the remainder of her magic into her horn as a dozen beams of sickly green light raced towards her and, just as it seemed like she would be ripped apart, she vanished.

A moment later, far above the city in a very familiar tower, a rush of displaced air signalled the other end of Twilight’s teleport spell as her body collapsed unceremoniously to the floor.

One last gasp of pain left her before she succumbed to the darkness.