• Published 18th Oct 2019
  • 9,382 Views, 535 Comments

Time Enough For Three - Valtyra

Twilight finds herself wanting to know more about Celestia and Luna. So she ends up time travelling!

  • ...

Arc 1: Chapter 11

Author's Note:

Hey peeps!

I know it's been a while and honestly, I've been caught up with coming up with ideas so that my inspiration for this can come back.

I really hope you enjoy this chapter it took a lot of work.

I'd love to hear your theories as to what's gonna happen in the story. I love reading them, so make sure to leave them In the comments! :3

Ruin's full attention was now on Twilight and he stepped forwards, to which she rose to her full size, just barely passing eye to eye with him.

"Who are you?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.

"Moonlight," Twilight replied, ruffling her feathers and pushing her adrenaline down. "We're trying to get to the Gryphon capital."


Twilight glanced over to Sunset, for but a moment, then back to Ruin. "We need the crown that's on Titas's head."

Ruin stared at the Alicorn, then snorted and laughed. He held his stomach as the deep, rumbling laugh echoed throughout the cave.

"Why are you laughing? I'm serious!" Twilight huffed.

Ruin finally let up after a few more seconds of full belly laughter. "That was the most idiotic thing I've heard in quite some time," he chuckled, smirking. Seeing Twilight was serious, he shook his head. "Look, getting across the Badlands is suicidal in and of itself, but to think you can just waltz into Gryphonhold an-"

"We won't waltz in. I know it'll no doubt be filled to the brim with Gryphons loyal to the mad King. I don't care about them. My goal is the crown and I will get it," Twilight declared, wings rustling on her sides as she stood tall. "I'm doing this for the two most important ponies I know. Without it, they will die and that cannot happen."

Ruin held her gaze and his expression slowly changed from amused to knowing, then to acceptance.

"It's also been a long time since I've seen resolve like that," he sighed, shaking his head before turning to Sunset. "Have you changed your mind about what I asked for?"

The mare winced, but nodded. "Yeah," she muttered, ears folding back.

"Then Cloak and Dagger will take you across. Don't expect them to save you if anything happens. I refuse to lose another pony to those damn tunnels."

The ponies sat the table let out a groan, pulled themselves away and wandered out the cave.

"Make sure you're ready to go tomorrow morn. If you're late, it's called off. Sunset will stay here and keep me company either way."

Twilight looked between the two and raised a brow. "What exactly will she do with you?" she asked, confused.

Sunset cleared her throat. "Last time I was here, Ruin wanted me to, uh..."

"I asked for her to carry my foal," Ruin explained, calmly.

"What?! You can't be serious?" Twilight shouted, taking a step back. "This must be a sick joke!"

Sunset shook her head. "It's real, Moonlight. This is the only way that you'll be getting across the Badlands. Nopony else knows the tunnels. Even you will die if you try and go across the surface. The Gryphons will cut you to pieces."

"There's got to be some other way. What about your research? This is barbaric..." Twilight growled, narrowing her eyes at Ruin.

The stallion shrugged. "Take it or leave it, Moonlight," he muttered, smirking.

Twilight's anger had quickly bubbled over and she was merely holding on for Sunset's sake.

"Moonlight, please!" Sunset pleaded, rushing over once she saw Twilight's horn light up. Placing her hooves to Twilight's chest, she sighed. "This is my choice. You know what happens if you don't get the crown."

Twilight stared down at the mare as the glow from her horn dissipated. "It's sick," she whispered, closing her eyes.

"Yes, but if it means saving my friends- your marefriends- I'd gladly do it again..."

"What?" Twilight asked, shooting her eyes open. "We're not-"

"I've seen the way they look at you, Moon. Luna wears her emotions on her coat. Celestia is guarded from her past, but I can see the way she looks at you."

"If... if you are so sure about this... I'll have to tell you why they're so important to me," Twilight said, glancing to Ruin. "Can you give us a moment alone?" she asked. "Please?"

Ruin shrugged. "Fine. Cloak and Dagger will give you the location once you're finished. You won't see me again," he explained, walking out and closing the double doors with a 'thump'.

Twilight gently led Sunset over to the table and sat her down. "I... I haven't been entirely honest with everypony."

"If this is about you being an Alicorn?"

"No," Twilight replied, shaking her head. "It's... with who I am." Moving away, Twilight closed her eyes. "My name's not Moonlight. It's Twilight Sparkle."

"Wait, what? You've been lying about your name? What else?" Sunset asked, looking more confused than angry.

"I'm from Equestria... but two thousand years in the future," she revealed, turning around. "I'm the Princess of Friendship there."

"Princess of- wait, did you say two thousand?! Do you think I was born yesterday?" Sunset scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Making stuff up to get out lying," she huffed, narrowing her eyes at Twilight.

Sighing, the Alicorn lit her horn up and filled the room with images of Celestia and Luna, from her timezone. "These are the Celestia and Luna from my time," she said, looking around the room with a loving smile. "They rule with me."

Looking back at Sunset, she dispelled the images, leaving the mare speechless as she sat there, trying to comprehend what she saw.

"They're why I'm doing this. They're why I'm going across the world for them... They're why I'm prepared to die doing this."

"Dear Elysium, you're telling the truth," Sunset choked, staring at the Alicorn, who only nodded with a calm smile on her face. "Why are you telling me this? You could have just went on... I could tell them!"

"Because, you deserve to know what you're helping with. It's not just to save the sister's lives, it's to save everything that they build and every single pony that comes with it," Twilight replied, moving closer and sitting down in front of Sunset. "You won't tell them for the same reason you won't tell them about your deal."

"Because they can't know..." Sunset whispered, staring into Twilight's eyes. "What's it like, in your time?"

Twilight couldn't help but let out a small chuckle at the question. "It's magical, Sunset. Equestria is at peace. You'd love Canterlot!"

Her horn lit up once again and she projected her memories onto the wall, showing Sunset Canterlot in all it's splendor, before switching to Celestia raising the summer sun, the moment burning itself into Sunset's mind.

Sunset didn't dare blink at she watched those memories. "Can you take me?" she asked, looking over to Twilight with pleading eyes. "Surely you can take more than one pony back?"

Twilight pulled back and looked away. "You know I can't, Sunset. If I take you out, it could affect any amount of the infinite variables that flow through time."

Sunset blinked and winced. "I understand," she mumbled, her ears folding back. "The sisters come first; I get that."

Twilight sighed and shook her head. "If they die, Equestria- Let's just say that there won't be an Equestria to go back to."

Sunset simply nodded and pulled herself out of her chair. "Fine, let's go... we'll need our sleep, Twilight," she hissed, walking past Twilight.

Twilight flopped back down onto her bed and let out a soft groan. She couldn't believe that Sunset would actually agree to do that. While she knew that the mare would most likely be treated adequately, it still didn't help with her growing guilt. Another pony she knew had to suffer because of her actions.

She glanced out the window, saw the early morning sun filter through and groaned. She'd need to patch things up with Celestia if the sister's late night talk was anything to go by. Perhaps she could take her shopping or something and simply hang out, alone?

Only a couple of hours later, Twilight heard a soft knock on her door and looked up from her notebook. She winced at the bright light from outside and slid off her bed, stretched and felt several 'clicks' come from her back, which caused her to let out a happy sigh.

Walking over to the door, she opened it with her magic and smiled upon seeing Celestia standing there alone. Though, an awkward silence began to fill the air.



"No, you go," they both muttered, looking down.

Twilight sighed and decide to start. "Please, come in," she asked, moving aside for Celestia.

Celestia wandered in and stood in the center of the room, her wings ruffling hesitantly.

"I'm sorry," Twilight stated, standing in front of her. "This is me being honest. I'm sorry for not telling you about this," she continued, gesturing to herself. "I've only been an Alicorn for a few years, Celestia. I don't know anything yet and I just... I guess I wanted the two of you to think of me as how everypony back home sees me. Not as somepony with these wings, but just as a mare."

Celestia stood there, listening intently. By the time Twilight had finished, Celestia was looking down at her hooves, conflict evident on her face. "A few years? But you're so..." she cleared her throat and rubbed her leg.

"I went on a training course that helped. That unicorn you met, that's what I actually looked like... I read, a lot," Twilight chuckled. "It lasted seven months, but it's worth it."

Celestia giggled and rolled her eyes. "You still looked lovely as a Unicorn."

"Thanks, but I prefer the whole unkillable aspect and, well, wings." As if to prove her point, she unfurled and flapped a little. Totally not to show off her impressive wingspan.

"I forgive you, Moonlight. But I need to know I can trust you. I don't know anything about you."

Furling her wings back to her sides, Twilight nodded. "I know. How about this. We go, just us two, to gather some supplies and you can ask anything you want. I'll even answer honestly."

Celestia suddenly had a wide smile. "That sounds rather agreeable. Let's go!" she ordered, causing Twilight to roll her eyes.

"Alright, but we'll have to tell the others."

Twilight and Celestia had quickly told Sunset and Luna that they were going out to gather supplies, to which Luna pouted, but didn't protest.

After gathering her saddleback, Twilight met Celestia downstairs and left the Inn.

The streets didn't seem quite as full as the day before, which allowed the pair a little bit of room to wander while taking in the sights.

"How do the buildings not crumble?" Celestia asked, her eyes wide at the towering structures of steel and rock.

"I'm not sure, but it's certainly impressive," Twilight replied. "I've only seen one city that comes close to this. This is... It doesn't have the same sort of charm. "

Celestia's ears perked up upon hearing that. "Oh? Back in your homeland? What's was called?"

Twilight felt a cold wave wash over her, but she knew that this would be coming, especially with Celestia being able to ask anything she wanted.

Looking around, Twilight gestured to a bench and sat down on one side, with Celestia joining her on the other as ponies passed by.

"I said I'd answer honestly, so... I'm not from another country. I'm from Equestria.”

Celestia nodded slowly as she narrowed her eyes, then simply replied with, "I see."

"I was stupid and made something up on the spot. All of those stories- They're of my friends."

"Why were you not in the stories you told?"


"Honestly, please."

Gazing down at the wood under her, Twilight shrugged. "Honestly? I don't think I deserve friends like them. They're the best and they deserve so much more than just the friendship I have with them. I did nothing but fret over insignificant things, go psycho at the drop of a hat and they'd always find a way to calm me down. Even after everything we've been through, I still don't know if I'll ever live up to what they think I am."

"That sounds like normal friendships to me?" Celestia giggled, tilting her head. "Luna does that for me. My last, uh... somepony special did that for me as well. It comes with being friends."

Twilight paused for a second, then nodded. "I know that... but it doesn't do much to remove how I feel about it."

"I'm sure they'd go through it all again in a heartbeat, Moon, if they're as amazing as you made them out to be."

"So would I."

Looking around at the slowly increasing crowds of ponies, Celestia sighed. "I'll miss places like this."

"What do you mean? Surely we'll come back after?" Twilight asked, tilting her head. "We'll succeed. I'd bet on it."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Well, look at us. All of us have something worth fighting for. You and Luna have each other."

"And you, Moonlight; what do you have?" Celestia asked, a smirk appearing on her face.

"M-Me?" Twilight stammered. "Oh, not much," she added, shrugging. "Just two mares that are possibly the only Alicorns in the world and can understand what I'm going through."

Celestia's cheeks darkened and she brushed her mane back with a hoof. "Well, I guess that's a good enough answer as any."

Despite the hustle and bustle of ponies walking by, an awkward silence settled over the pair. Deciding to banish it, Twilight stood up and stretched her wings.

"Shall we go for something to eat?" she asked, jumping off of the bench. "I'm sure there's something worthwhile in this city."

"I think that would be lovely. Please, lead the way," Celestia nodded.

As Twilight, and Celestia, wandered through the crowds, she couldn't help but look over at the mare every so often while keeping an eye out for somewhere to eat or possibly a stall with supplies for their trip.

"Celestia?" Twilight asked after a short while. Receiving a hum, she continued, slightly nervous. "What do you plan on doing after all this is done?"

Celestia raised a curious brow, but shrugged. "Well, assuming we're not dead, or enslaved, I would want foals."

'She wants foals?! Does she still want them in the future?' Twilight thought, her heart rate spiking. "O-Oh? Looking to settle down somewhere?"

With a giggle, Celestia nodded. "Something like that," she replied, smiling wide, though that faltered quickly as she spoke again. "My stallion couldn't give me any before he left for Elysium and I guess my body has been begging me for them for many years."

"Tell me about him?" Twilight asked, her wing unfurling to fold over Celestia's back.

The older Alicorn moved closer to Twilight and let out a tired sigh. "I met him in Stonewall," she began, her smile returning as she reminisced. "It was a small community with a few bridges at the time. Father had gone to war at the time and mother..." she trailed off, her eyes looking old and tired.

"I met Feather Rush at the only Inn in the village. Of course, I was twenty at the time, practically still a filly and so I fell for his good looks and charm."

Celestia chuckled and shook her head. "I was such a stammering mess back then. It didn't help that Luna would tease me about it day and night.

"He worked as the only weather pony for the village, so we'd get to lounge about and enjoy each other most of the time. Being a weather pony meant he was exempt from being drafted, but a lot of our friends weren't."

Twilight spotted a rather cozy looking cafe and led Celestia over to it. Entering, she found a table and sat down, allowing the Alicorn to lean on her as she wrapped Twilight's leg with her own.

"Elysium knows he tried his best to give me foals and for a while we hoped, but after a while I guess we just lost that hope and stopped trying.

"As much as I love him, I regret meeting him that day."

Twilight ran her muzzle through the Alicorn's mane, kissing the top of her head. She didn't know what to say. Even here Celestia had gone through so much more than her. She was still a little filly compared to her.

"He could have been with a pony who would have given him a family. He never said it -he was too kind- but I could see it in his eyes, at the end," she whispered, finding herself choking upon the words and turning to hold close against Twilight.

"Hey... shh," Twilight cooed, wrapping her legs around her and rubbing her back. "I'll admit that I don't know much about love, but I very much doubt that he regretted even a second of being with you.

"If he did, he wouldn't have spent his life with you, Celestia."

Celestia pulled back just enough to wipe her tears away. "What am I doing; acting like such a foal. You were supposed to be honest with me, not this," she half-heartedly chuckled, staring down at the cushion they were sitting on.

"It's not healthy to bottle it up, believe me," Twilight mumbled, brushing a few strands of Celestia's mane back. "You can always talk to me, 'Tia, about anything."

Celestia's lips curled into a weak smile upon hearing her nickname and nodded. "I know, our Moon," she replied, looking off and thinking.

Twilight, despite the mood having been buried six hooves under, kept her smile. Excusing herself for a second, she went off and bought them lunch.

After filling themselves up, the pair lazily wandered around and bought the supplied that they needed, storing what they could in Twilight's saddlebag and then buying a second for Celestia.

All in all, it had basically cut Twilight's amount of bits down by fifty percent by the end. While the weight won't be missed, knowing that she might have to be frugal with her money wasn't a good feeling.

Returning back to the Inn, Twilight and Celestia found Sunset and Luna sitting at one of the tables, drinking. Wandering over, Twilight kept her eyes off of Sunset, still finding her to be cold.

"Did you get everything? You were gone a while," Luna asked, nuzzling Twilight then smiling over to her sister.

"We did, sister," Celestia replied, giving her a quick glare. "We should be all set."

Twilight levitated her saddlebag off and sat down, her own thoughts flooding her head upon seeing a tired Sunset.

'Would it really be so wrong to save her? She is just one pony... Would this have happened if I weren't here?' she thought, examining the mare.

Sunset's mane and tail were frazzled and had lost some of their lustre from the previous night. Her eyes had lost their sparkle and she didn't hold herself as high as she had done earlier.

Twilight turned back to the sisters to find them leaning against each other. She could now see the closeness that only lovers held and it warmed her heart to know that even after she would leave back to her own time, they would still have each other.

'Sunset deserves something like that, surely? A family... A life outside of this city and somepony that actually loves her?'

Twilight knew she had already made up her mind as soon as she saw the changed mare. It was as if all of Sunset's hope had been stripped away.

In that moment, Twilight hated herself for taking that away from her.

"So," Luna spoke up, breaking Twilight from her thoughts. "How do we find a way across the Badlands?"

"I found a way, but it'll be dangerous," Sunset replied, tapping her hoof on the table. "I found some ponies willing to take us. They'll meet you three there at eleven pm."

"Us three? What about you?" Celestia asked, confused.

"I'll have to meet them before to make sure they'll still help us. Don't worry, I'll be there."

Celestia didn't seem to like it, but nodded. "As long as you're sure."

Twilight quietly levitated one half of the heavy, wooden hatch to the cellar open and peered inside. A soft, orange glow illuminated the bottom of the stone stairs, but not a sound could be heard. She turned to the sisters who were keeping an eye out at the end of the alleyway.

"It looks clear," she whisper-shouted, opening the other half of the hatch open to let Luna trot down first, then Celestia. Taking up the rear, she headed down and used her magic to close the hatch behind her, barely a tap sounding out.

The stairs led down to a damp, rather humid tunnel that instantly turned left and ever so slightly downwards. Moss and fungi lined the dirt walls, and a lamp hung from an embedded nail every so often, providing dim light.

"Not as glamorous as you thought it would be, Luna?" Twilight teased, seeing Luna sneer at the mushrooms growing out of the dirt.

"I don't mind the pain, or the constant attacks... but I can't stand mushrooms," she replied, sticking her tongue out and gagging.

Twilight chuckled, moving past the mare and bumping her with her flank. "We should get going, the others will leave otherwise."

The trio trotted through the tunnel, which gradually steepened, before leveling out. As they neared the exit, which was signified with a steel gate, the sound of rushing water could be heard from beyond. Stopping in front of the gate, Twilight tried to open it with her magic, but fount it stuck fast.

From the other side, Cloak slipped into view, a grin on his face. "Oh, it's just you three. It's about time you showed up; Dagger was getting impatient."

Stepping forward, he pulled out a key from one of his pockets and unlocked the gate, pulling it open quickly.

"Come on, we don't want to wait down here for too long. There's worse things than Gryphons within these tunnels."

Twilight moved through and gasped, seeing the tunnel properly. She didn't know how far they had descended, but the ceiling was at least four times as tall as she was. In front of her was a rushing river that entered from one of the many smaller tunnels that looked to be hoof dug by something large, and exited down another, descending deeper into the darkness. The tunnels themselves were lit up by bio-luminescent green goo-sacks that stuck fast to the walls and dripped down onto the rock beneath.

Following Cloak through the tunnels eventually led to Sunset and Dagger standing next to another steel gate, this one looking thicker than the previous. Laid around the gate were sandbags and defensive cover, most of which looked to be unused.

"Tw-" Sunset called out, catching her mistake and going wide-eyed. "Twoo long have we been waiting here, right Dagger?" she laughed, awkwardly.

"I'm really glad you'll be staying with us," Dagger muttered, rolling her eyes. "Are you three ready? We have to dodge Gryphon patrols for the next two days and I'd rather get started sooner rather than later."

"Can you give us a moment to say goodbye, at least?" Luna asked, glaring at the mare.

"Fine, fine. You have five minutes, then we have to go," Dagger allowed, trotting off to talk to Cloak.

"Sunset," Twilight greeted, smiling. "How are you? I hope they haven't hurt you?"

"Of course not. Ruin can be gentle," she began, shivering. "When he wants to be, at least. But, I've been treated well."

"Sunset, whatever do you mean? Treated well?" Celestia asked, glancing between her and Twilight. "Is there something we should know?"

Twilight stole a glance with Sunset, before they both nodded.

"Ruin wasn't just doing it out of the kindness of his own heart, 'Tia. He wanted something," Sunset started to explain, sitting down. "Me, specifically."

Celestia still looked confused. "What do you mean, he wanted you?"

"He wanted," she tried to answer, but looked down in shame.

"He wanted her to have his foals," Twilight answered for her. "Naturally, she would have to stay here."

Luna seethed with anger. "How dare he. Does he not know who you are?!"

"Luna, calm yourself," Twilight asked, placing a hoof on the mare's shoulder.

"How can you say that, our Moon? Surely you jest? Our Sunset is being forced into... ugh, it's horrible!"

"I know!" Sunset shouted, rising up and stomping a hoof, silencing a shocked Luna. "Don't you think we know that? But what else could I do? He's the only one in the city that can get us- you- across the Badlands without being sliced apart."

"But surely there's another way?" Celestia asked, wrapping a wing around the shaking mare. "Couldn't we simply fly around the Badlands?"

"Would you waste a month traveling for something that could take two days?" Sunset whispered, then slowly brought her eyes up to look at the Alicorn. "I know you, neither of you can waste that time anymore."

Celestia nodded solemnly. "You are right, like usual. We don't have that sort of time. But it's horrible... you shouldn't go through with this just for us!"

"Who says it's just for you two, Celestia," Sunset asked, frowning. "Do you think whoever stole your immortality will stop at that? If they can just attack Stonewall, who's to say they won't attack here, or Elysium forbid, Prismhold.

"So no, it's not just for you. It's for them," she said, pointing towards Cloak and Dagger as her eyes watered. "It's for Moonlight, and everything else alive on this planet. So, if I must stay here and bare Ruins foals, so be it. But don't you dare say it's only for you two!"

The two sisters were stunned and Celestia averted her eyes, unable to form a reply.

Luna began to wipe at her own tears, a choked sob leaving her throat. "We'll be back for you," she cried, rushing forwards to wrap the mare up in her warm, midnight wings. "On my honour, this I promise, Sunset."

Sunset leaned into the hug, nuzzling against Luna and wrapping her legs around to tighten it. "I know, Luna," she replied, finding her voice breaking up.

Luna was hesitant to break the hug, but Celestia eventually coerced her off the mare.

"I would ask why you didn't tell us, but I think that's self evident," Celestia said, forcing an awkward laugh. "I assume Moonlight knew?"

Sunset winced, then nodded. "She did. I took her to see Ruin after you went to bed, on the first night we arrived. She tried to convince me as well. But she agreed it was the only way."

Twilight couldn't bare to look at either of the sisters, her ears folding back. "I hate it as much as you do, but Sunset's right."

"I," Luna began, sniffling. "We will miss you greatly, Sunset."

"Don't be silly, Luna. I'm sure you'll meet hundreds of great beings on your way. You are traveling across the world after all."

Luna's lip wobbled and she burst out crying. Celestia wrapped her wings around the mare as she buried her face in her sister's chest to sob. Twilight moved over to Sunset and used a wing to cover her. "Come with me for a minute. It's important," she ordered, looking over at Cloak and Dagger, who seemed bored.

"What is it?" Sunset asked, being led by Twilight's wing. "I won't change my mind on this, if that's what you're-"

"Stop and listen," Twilight hissed, forcing her to go silent. "I... I've thought about what you asked, when we spoke about-," she glanced back at the sisters. "-where I'm from."

"Y-You did?" Sunset asked, perking up tremendously.

"Of course I did. I can't just leave you here to grow old and die while I get to go back to my Princesses."

"I can't believe it..." Sunset gasped, wrapping her legs around Twilight and holding her tight.

"I'll be back for you, I promise. But knowing time-travel, I'll appear as soon as I'm out of detection range of the spell," Twilight chuckled, kissing the top of Sunsets head.

"I can't believe this," Sunset whispered, her chest thumping. She held Twilight tighter as the Alicorn smiled down at her. "Though, you'll have to explain why you weren't here to those two."

The sisters had separated and were standing there, waiting for Twilight and Sunset to finish, Celestia's wing wrapped tight around Luna's back.

The lunar mare had stopped crying, but an occasional sniffle could be heard. "We should go, before I change my mind!"

Twilight released Sunset and caressed her cheek. "I guess I'll see you soon," Twilight cooed, winking.

Turning to the sisters, she walked back and nodded. "We should, indeed. I hate goodbyes."

Sunset wiped her own damp fur, then nodded. "Of course. Please be safe!"

"You know we can't promise that," Twilight replied, giving her own, fake, half hearted smile while Cloak and Dagger walked over.

"Are you fillies done?" Cloak asked, tapping her hoof. Hearing no reply, she smiled. "Good. Dagger, open the door."

The stallion nodded and neared the steel gate. Pulling out a black, slender key, he inserted it into the lock and turned it until a loud 'click' sounded out. Gripping the gate, he pulled and it swung open ever so slowly.

"Alright, go through. It's enchanted to close after a minute and lock for three days," he explained, gesturing to the inky blackness that was the tunnel below.

Twilight gazed into the darkness and felt herself grow just a little nervous. Images of facing King Sombra's leftover dark magic echoing in her head.

Celestia brushed a wing down the mare's back and tried her best to smile while walking into the tunnel with Luna. "Quickly now, Moonlight."

Glancing back one last time to Sunset, she saw the mare wave her off, a warm smile on her face.

Taking a deep breath, she placed one hoof in front of the other and entered the tunnel, ignoring the feeling of dread welling up within her.

Twilight was sure that the tunnels they were traversing stretched in for eternity. The group had walked for several hours and she still wasn't sure how Cloak was able to find his way through.

Each time they reached a junction - a central cavern with numerous tunnels branching off - he'd close his eyes. His ears perked up and he'd pick a tunnel to go down, even if it made no logical sense.

"Do you think he actually knows his way around in here?" Luna whispered, leaning over to Twilight. "Or will he leave us here?"

"I don't know, Lu. I don't think he's that stupid," Twilight replied, brushing up against her side.

Pressing on, they reached another junction and Cloak, once again, stood still with his eyes closed. After a few seconds, they shot open and he turned to the group. "Hide!" he hissed, jumping behind a rocky outcrop.

The others did the same, each finding their own holes to hide in, just as an earsplitting 'crack' echoed through the cave. The ceiling shattered and fell in where they had been standing with light spilling in from above. Twilight peeked out from her hole to see Six Gryphons, four Pegasi, and three Unicorns float down from the surface.

"Spread out and find them!" A tall, well armoured, red Pegasus commanded. He held a confident smirk just below his white mask with Starswirl's time-travel spell etched onto it. "Mistress wants them alive!"

Twilight's eyes widened as she looked over to the sisters to check whether they had seen it too. Receiving nods, she glanced back out and counted three Gryphons and two Pegasi, each of which were covered in metal plate armour. She really didn't want to have to fight again, but all hell would break lose if they let one of them get back to the Gryphons.

Staring over at Cloak, she smiled and mouthed: 'Be ready to run'.

Cloak looked at her like she was crazy, then grumbled under her breath as she ruffled her wings, preparing to bolt it.

The sisters glanced between the pair, confused, until they saw Twilight's horn light up. Realization hit them and their own horns lit up, first to levitate their saddlebags off, then to charge their own spells.

The closest Gryphon stalked closer to Twilight's hiding spot, sniffing the air. His Plate armour clanked together as he lowered himself and wiggled his rear as he prepared to pounce. What he didn't expect was for Twilight's head to pop up and for her to smile.

"Hello. I understand you're here for me?" She asked, grinning as two seperate bolts of magic impacted his armour, throwing him sideways. "Hm, I guess you're not," she muttered watching the Gryphon skid along the floor and roll through some debris, unconscious.

The other Gryphons eyes shot over towards her and she felt the instinctual feeling of dread from being targeted by a predator.

Narrowing her eyes, she pushed herself up out of the hole, galloped forwards towards the Gryphons and flared her horn, a hexagonal shield floating in front of her.

Cloak took off down one of the tunnels as the fighting started, eager to not die, while the sisters stayed in their holes and continued to fire bolts of magic towards the Gryphons, trying to distract them for Twilight.

"Why can't you leave us alone?!" Twilight shouted as she fired a spear of magic at a nearby Gryphon, clipping them through the wing and sending them to the ground screaming as blood gushed out of the wound. As the summoned up swords, spears and warhammers, she felt the rush of battle and finally understood why Luna relished in such a thing; to be the one controlling the chaos of war.

She brought her warhammer down on a Pegasus mare's leg, snapping the bone with a sickening 'crunch', then grunted as the three Unicorns launched salvo after salvo of stun blasts at her, which fizzled across her body with a hiss and forced her back.

"B-Buck," Twilight cried, raising a wing to protect her head.

The blasts pushed her back to just in front of the Alicorn sisters and she felt both of their cooling touch of magic gently spread across her body so she didn't fall back into their hole.

"Moonlight!" Celestia gasped, growling as the ground around her heated up. She jumped out of her hole, a shield appearing in front of her to protect her Twilight. "Moonlight, are you okay?" she asked, placing a hoof on the mare's neck.

Despite the sizzling ground around her hooves, Twilight only felt the warmth of her mentor's care. "O-Of course, 'Tia. I can't handle stun spells very well," she replied, clearing her throat from embarrassment after. "I'm getting rather tired of being hurt."

"So am I, our Moon," Luna added, jumping out and joining them. "Shall we finish this?"

"Yes, let's."

"Yes, launch immediately," the Pegasus commanded, his hoof raised to his ear. "Yes, on my coordinates. They shall all burn." With a grin, he flared his wings and took off out of the hole in the sky, with the other ponies and Gryphons staring up at him in horror.

Soon enough, those that could fly were rushing out of the hole, and those that couldn't were either galloping down one of the many tunnels or trying to crawl away, sobbing hysterically.

Twilight stepped forwards out of the shield and found the pony which she had crippled. Picking her up in her magic, she narrowed her eyes. "What did he do?!" she asked, growing.

The pony whimpered, trying to get away, despite the pain and magic holding her in place. "He called in a bombardment... if you want to live, you should run," she replied, terror in her eyes as she stared up at the open hole.

"Uh, girls... get close," Twilight ordered, feeling them press up against her. Closing her eyes, she summoned a dome around them, the magic burning into the rock and dirt as she strengthened it. Her eyes shot open when Celestia and Luna pressed their tips to Twilight's own, adding their own magic into the mix.

"We're here for you, Moonlight," Luna whispered, staring into her eyes.

It was only a second later that the first shell hit their shield, falling from the sky with a piercing roar of a dragon. The shell exploded, changing the air around them into the surface of the sun. The four ponies covered their eyes from the blinding white light, with Twilight screaming out in pain.

"Moonlight!" Celestia gasped, holding onto her tight as she tried her best to keep the mare conscious.

Falling to her knees, Celestia kept hold of Twilight and felt a second impact explode directly next to the shield. A wave of blistering heat washed over her coat, scaring even her. She wrapped her wings around her Moon, shielding her from the worst of it. "Moon... hold on," she whispered, her fear catching up with her.

The pegasus let out a scream and instinctively neared the three, to which Luna pulled her in and held her close to her barrel. Yet, when another shell impacted the shield, the ground beneath them gave way and crumbled down into darkness.

Twilight's eyes fluttered open slowly and the first thing she felt was a dull ache that ran throughout her entire body. It wasn't painful, but it was enough to shock her fully awake. The second thing she felt was the rush of cold river-water that splashed against her back legs. With a groan, she pushed herself off the gravel and noticed the sisters had been laying beside her, unconscious.

Her own wing dangled down against the floor, dislocated. Most of her mane had been scorched and she had, once again, lost her saddlebag.

Closing the gap she leaned down and gently nuzzled Celestia's cheek.

"Celestia, you have to get up. We have to plan," she grunted. Not seeing the mare move, she brought her magic down on the mare's rump, spanking her, which seemed to work as she sprung up, kicking dirt and gravel about.

"I'm up!" Celestia sputtered, getting up. She kept one leg off the ground and winced. A dark purple bruise covered the majority of her leg and the skin was poking out at an odd angle.

Letting out a hiss of pain, she glared at Twilight, before asking, "Where are we?"

"I don't know, but there's no Gryphons here yet," Twilight answered, leaning down to nuzzle Luna awake.

The Lunar mare was roused easier than her sister and smiled up at Twilight. "Our Moon, what happened?" she asked, pushing herself up and out of the river.

"We must have been swept away by an underground river and ended up here," Twilight theorised, gesturing to the waterfall that was spraying out of a cave on the side of the mountain. "I don't really remember much after the first explosion."

"Neither do I. What was it that hit us?"

"Must have been Dragon Shells," Twilight muttered, as she climbed onto a nearby boulder to get a better vantage point to see the valley they were in.

"Dragon Shells?" Luna asked, confused. "What are they?"

"They're created by capturing a dragon and tearing out its magic. It's a disgusting and barbaric process," she explained. "But, I suppose it would be effective for anypony looking to capture an Alicorn."

"I don't suppose we could have walked it off if they couldn't get us?" Celestia asked, limping over.

"Not at all," Twilight replied, grimacing. "Once any part of a living body touches dragonfire, the fire will consume it and burn until submerged in water, or they die. I assume you can see why it would be bad for us."

"We'd burn for a very long time..."

Luna moved over and let her sister lean against her. "How did the Gryphons capture a dragon? I thought that was impossible?"

"Not all of them are massive and feral. Most of them are young and vulnerable-" Twilight replied, thinking of Spike when she hatched him. "-especially if they just hatched."

With a sigh, she scanned the area around them as her magic levitated her wing back into position. Fortunately for her, the wing was only dislocated and not broken. A 'pop' and a muffled grunt of pain later, she held it folded against her side.

The group had found themselves washed up on the shore of a river at the bottom of a valley. Tall pine trees covered most of the picturesque snow-peaked mountain-sides.

"Alright," she hissed, gesturing with a hoof down river. "Despite our condition, it's still best to head downstream. I don't know much about Gryphons, but I'm sure something would have been built near the river."

Turning to Celestia, she jumped from the boulder and trotted over. "Here," she muttered, turning around and lowering herself. "Get on."

"You have got to be joking?" Celestia asked with an incredulous look.

"No I'm not. You can barely walk and I'm the biggest one here," Twilight replied, glancing back, all hint of humor faded away. "Now, I won't tell you again."

Celestia blinked for a second, then looked away out of embarrassment. "I'm over one hundred years old, Moonlight. I won't be carried like some fo- eep!"

Twilight's horn lit up and her aura covered Celestia, before depositing the Alicorn onto her new seat. "I told you I wouldn't ask again."

Celestia didn't protest this time, only wrapping her unbroken leg around Twilight's neck and holding on as her cheeks darkened considerably.

"Aw, I wanted to ride Moonlight," Luna pouted. "I guess this is good enough though," she continued, giggling as she nuzzled her cheek.

"Don't squirm, okay? You're still heavy," Twilight teased, causing Celestia to narrow her eyes. "I'm joking! If we can't joke now, when can we, right?"

Celestia simply let out a huff and looked away.

With a sigh, Twilight began to trek down the riverbank with Luna by her side, hoping that they'd find some sort of civilization quickly.

Barely twenty minutes later, the valley opened up to reveal a pristine, sparkling lake surrounded by fields upon fields of wheat, barley and various colors of flowers all covering the lightly cresting hills that spread out for miles. Not a single ripple seemed to spread across the surface of the lake, as the three passed by, only further adding to the calm that had suddenly overtaken them.

Passing over the hill, they spotted a single farmstead nestled just off a dense forest. A wooden, gated, fence encompassed the building, and barn.

Nearing the gate, Twilight frowned at the sign that they couldn't read, but they would have to take the chance at seeing if these Gryphon's were friendly.

"Are we going in?" Luna asked, looking around. "I'd rather not get in a fight again."

"We'll just ask if we can sleep in the barn for tonight. I doubt it will take longer than that for us to heal. Besides, you have me to protect you."