• Published 21st Dec 2019
  • 686 Views, 60 Comments

This Time for Good - iisaw



Just before her crowning moment, Twilight Sparkle's life is derailed by a message from the future.

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6 Pop Quiz

The next challenge came as Twilight and Windfall returned to the main room a little before sunset—or at least before the time the sky went dark.

Finding their way back was easier with all the tunnels leading into it marked. So far as Twilight had noted, one end of each was fixed to that one room. "And these three connect to one of those tunnels 27.8% of the time," she told her companion, tapping her notebook. "My sample size is admittedly far too small to be considered accurate, but it's better than nothing. Oh, and with this new traverse added in, that brings the average for this tunnel up to 31.1%! See, we're making progress."

"That's great, Princess," said Windfall. She said it without sarcasm, because Twilight had let her catch two more trout and had roasted them to perfection for her. Also because the prospect of sleeping on a nice bit of turf under the stars, rather than the bare rock of a random tunnel, had put her in a relatively mellow mood.

They settled in, and Twilight began reading and revising her notes on the day's explorations. Windfall stared silently at the ground in front of her muzzle.

Twilight looked up from her book and watched Windfall for a moment, then put away her notes. "So… Trotankamun's treasure, huh? What made you think your friend's map was real? The Everfree is a long way from the southwestern deserts. Odd place for a pharaoh to be buried."

Windfall gave a slight start when Twilight spoke and blinked at bit, as if trying to change mental gears. "Huh? Oh, the map? Yeah, what's the cursed forest got to do with it?"

"That's where the cave entrance is... Ah—or at least it was for me. I take it your cave was elsewhere?"

"Yeah, in the Red Rock Spires of the San Palomino, south of Somnambula a ways. You came in through the Everfree? Damn magical crap!" Windfall wasn't just annoyed; Twilight's question had started her thinking hard about… something.

Twilight gave her a couple of moments before speaking again. "So… different entrances and different lures to get us here. I wonder if they're different for everypony?"

Windfall shrugged. "As far as I know. What difference does it make once they're trapped… ah crap!" She snapped her gaze to Twilight's face, hoping that she hadn't noticed the slip. But of course, she had. "You set me up, Princess."

Twilight ignored the sneer twisting Windfall's face and her sudden tense posture. "We're trapped here together, Windfall. We need to trust each other if we're going to escape from this place."

"Yeah, well maybe we aren't gonna escape from this blighted maze! You ever consider that?" Windfall snarled at Twilight. "Maybe we're gonna die down here!"

"I'm not going to let that happen, Windfall. I promise you," Twilight said, slowly and softly. "Nopony goes to all this trouble—" She waved a wing in a sweeping gesture, indicating the whole of their surroundings. "—to build a simple deathtrap. I will figure it out, and I will—"

Windfall jumped to her hooves, eyes going wide. "Fly!"

Twilight leaped from a seated position into full forward flight. Windfall was a terrible liar and could never have falsely put the full conviction of sincerity into that suddenly shouted warning. Whatever the pegasus had seen behind her was something the merited all her effort to avoid.

Not that Twilight consciously thought about it. If she had spared even an instant to think before reacting, she would have been speared on the rock spines of the monster that leaped out of the sloping tunnel in the cavern floor.

"Up!" Windfall shouted, and rose as high as she could manage.

Twilight followed her and they hovered together as high as the limiting magic would let them. Fortunately, that let them easily stay out of the monster's reach. It hissed and its spines sliced through the air below their hooves. It looked like a giant gray mole covered in porcupine quills the size of a pony's foreleg.

"If I had to bet, I'd bet that thing can't be affected by your magic, Princess," Windfall said.

"I won't take that bet, but let me check, just in case…" She fired off a brief blast from her horn that bounced off the stone spikes and blew a small divot in the cave wall. "Didn't think so. Hmn… let me try something."

Her horn glowed and she lifted a large ball of water out of the brook running through the middle of the cavern, then floated it over to enclose the front of the monster's body where its head ought to have been. The two ponies hovered and waited to see if there was any effect, but after a minute or two Twilight released the water and let it splash onto the floor. "Doesn't seem to need to breathe. Maybe we should try to lose it in the tunnels?"

Windfall shook her head. "No, if this place wants us to deal with it, running away won't do any good. The tunnels might shift into dead ends, and then we'd be clipped for good." She studied the thing for a moment and then began circling it. "Stay there, Princess," she called out to Twilight.

The monster turned to follow her, ignoring Twilight. Windfall made a complete circuit of the room and then retreated to a position close to the wall and circled again. This time the creature remained focussed on Twilight. "Yeah, that's what I thought," Windfall said when she rejoined Twilight. "It's dumb as the rock it's made out of. Only reacts to the nearest pony. That help?"

Twilight nodded thinking hard. "Let's lead it over to that end of the chamber, and then you turn it around again. See if it can tell I'm closer when I'm behind it."

"Wilco, Your Highness," Windfall said, snapping off a clearly sarcastic salute with her right wing.

How does she do that while flying? Twilight wondered. Maybe I'll get as good with my wings in a couple of decades… When the monster was facing directly away from her, she swooped down close behind it. It didn't react until it had turned nearly another 45 degrees, and then it suddenly twisted and lunged at Twilight with frightening speed. She flapped like mad to get away from it, but still nearly got hit by one of the razor-sharp spines.

"Damn!" Windfall said. "Nothing that big ought to be that fast! That pass tell you anything?"

Twilight nodded grimly. "Yes, but you're not going to like it."

Windfall grimaced. "I've been pretty much not liking anything for the last few months, so just spit it out."

"Okay, then. It looks like there's a soft spot under its tail—or where its tail ought to be, at any rate. No anti-magic crystalline coating there, so a good penetrating blast should wreck the thing."

"And why is that a bad… Oh, I get it. You need me to be the bait, and I need to be pretty much on the ground to give you the best shot at its unprotected ass, right?"

"Crude, but correct," Twilight said. "And even if you can attract it from half the room away, it moves so fast that I'll only get a second to make my shot."

"Right. So." Windfall grimaced. "Any other ideas?"

Twilight shrugged. "We can lead it into a tunnel and I can turn the ceiling molten to try and entomb the thing. The only problem with that is that it'll take every bit of my energy and I won't have the strength to get away if it fails." She considered for another moment and added, "And if the tunnel turns out to be a dead end, as you suggested, the excess heat will roast us both alive."

"Oh, this just gets better and better!"

"I'm open to suggestions."

Windfall sighed and shook her head. "Okay, Princess, let's go with Plan A. If we screw it up, at least this will all be over."

Twilight looked askance at the pegasus, but refrained from commenting. Later, she told herself.

Windfall suggested the exact maneuvers to put the monster into the correct position and the two of them made a couple of practice runs to make sure the thing's reactions were consistent. When they couldn't think of any reason to delay any longer, they took their places and counted down out loud.

"Three… two… one… now!"

The spikey monster tracked Windfall as she circled, and it leaped forward as soon as the pegasus was within striking distance. Windfall hit the ground with all four hooves and stared, unflinching, straight into the thing's tiny beady eyes as it hurtled toward her.

It was less than a pony length away when it erupted into a spray of broken pieces of rock. The flash of the detonation was blinding. By the time Windfall had blinked away the pulsing black spots in her vision, Twilight was standing beside her, asking if she was all right.

"Y-yeah, I guess I am," she said. "Though I'm kinda surprised I didn't get cut to ribbons by the
fragments."

"Oh, I shaped the blast so it went mainly up and to the sides," Twilight told her.

Windfall stared at her for a couple of seconds. "Because, of course you can do that. Tell me, do you get a lot of call for that sort of magic in the princess business?"

Twilight gave her a sheepish grin. "Honestly? A lot more than I'd like."

"Okay, then. I'm going to sleep." The pegasus stepped around Twilight and walked over to the comfortable patch of ground she had been lying on before the attack. "Wake me up if anything else tries to kill us."

Twilight sighed and returned to her own spot. "I'm tired, too, but I haven't forgotten what we were talking about. Think about it and decide what you're going to share with me, will you?"

Windfall opened one eye and glared at her. "You're going to keep bugging me about it, aren't you?"

"Decisions made on bad or incomplete information will only make it more difficult for us to get out of here. I need to know everything I can to beat this place." Twilight curled up, tented the leading edge of one wing over her face, and said no more.

Windfall cast a glance at the other end of the clearing where the fragments of rubble were still smoking slightly. "Maybe you can…" she whispered to herself.

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