• Published 1st Jan 2020
  • 12,999 Views, 179 Comments

Time & a Half, What a Nightmare - Carmine Craft



After a semi-productive day of job hunting and FIM watching, our protagonist takes a nap on their couch. They find themselves in a wonderful dream in the land of Equestira, and it all seems so real! Except, your not supposed to feel pain in dreams...

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Chapter 4: A Dream, This is Not.

Twilight stood at the edge of a clearing, her eyes narrowed at the dim dark blue light emanating from an old hollow tree at its center. She reached out with a hoof, the invisible barrier revealing itself and glowing ominously to cease her from pressing forward.

"Twilight, what the hay!? Nightmare Moon is right over there and-- what are you doing?" Rainbow Dash looked on in confusion as Twilight fired a beam into the air, only to have it blocked by the barrier. "Woah, can you break it?"

"Not directly," twilight lit her horn again, this time, the light flowed out in gentle, sweeping bands. The spell settled in on the surface of the shield, the barrier lighting up underneath her magic. Her magic grew like a plant's roots, spreading and probing for weaknesses, relaying information. The shield was brimming with about ten times as much power as it needed, and was still getting a constant supply from the caster at its center, Nightmare Moon.

Suddenly, all at once, she felt her spell freeze, and then be pushed back from the barrier. She gasped as the barrier shoved her back, her magic forced away and broken down. "But, how? The spell’s core isn't even protected!"

"Twilight! Are you okay?" Rainbow Dash hovered over the prone mare worriedly.

"Relax, Dash, after everything we've been through, I’m a bit more durable than that."

"If you say so. So, if we can't bust are way in, and you can't unravel it or whatever, what do we do?"

Twilight "hmm,"ed in thought, lighting her horn and sending out a much gentler probing spell. "Well, from what I can see, it's not warded against teleportation, but I didn't see anything about its anti-tampering charms either; actually I still can't. I can add a few safety net measures to my teleport, and try to take it down from the inside."

"I'm going with you."

"What? Rainbow no! Teleporting is dangerous, especially when multiple ponies are involved!" Twilight stomped.

"So is going in there alone! What if this is what she wants, split us up? Remember how bad it went last time you and her were in a room alone together?"

"It won't be like last time, you know that."

"I don't care, I'm not letting you take that risk alone! Either take me with you, or you're not going."

"Rainbow, this is important! She's putting a lot of magic into this spell! If I can take it down, she will be too weak to stop us from using the elements." At some point, the rest of their friends had arrived. Applejack was running an appraising hoof over the shield’s shimmering surface, Pinkie was diving in and out of bushes near it( though still intently listening to the conversation), and Rarity and Fluttershy were both looking between the bickering friends with a look of discomfort.

"Um, I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt…" Fluttershy began, in an all too hushed voice for them to hear.

"I must say I agree with Rainbow, darling. We can't have you risk going in there alone." Rarity lay a supporting hoof over Twilight's withers, looking her dead in the eye. "You have to have a better plan than that."

Applejack bucked the barrier for all she was worth, sending to bowing inward and cracking, but it quickly repaired and flung her into a bed of bushes.

"Can I just say something?" The shy pegasus said again, slightly louder. "I'm sorry for shouting, but, uhm, Pinkie is trying to say something." She pointed with a wingtip towards the barrier. Pinkie Pie had somehow gotten inside the dome, and was waving frantically to catch the attention of her friends.

"Pinkie!? How did you get in there?" Twilight shouted, to which the party pony pointed to her ear and shook her head.

Once she had everypony's attention, she reached into her mane, and pulled out a lot lightbulb, while pointing at the center of the spell. Then she fished around in her mane again, pulling out a picture and a stamp. She pressed the stamp into the picture's surface and slapped it to the inside of the spell. The picture was of Nightmare Moon, the first time they had all seen her, back at the thousandth Summer Sun Celebration, and it had a massive red "X" over it.

"..."

"..."

"... She's not here?" Twilight asked. Pinkie nodded enthusiastically.

"Well if she isn't here, and she isn't at that other one, where is she?"

"Something tells me we're going to need help, I'll pop on over to Ponyville and have Spike send a letter right away."

▪=//=▪

"Uuuhm…" Nightmare stared nervously into the gym from the doorway. "Maybeee… I should have checked the math on how much distilled magic setting of this size would make… or used a bigger jar…" A bright blue puddle of viscus sparkling goo had long since spilled over the edge of the container, staining the stone that it touched. "Maybe a barrel." From the way the puddle was still creeping outward, she could tell that it was still condensing the magic in the room.

"This could be a problem…" Nightmare removed a jar from her inventory, and slowly edging closer. She placed the jar near the edge of this spill. She gingerly poked a hoof into the substance. It sent tingles up her arm, and caused the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. "Woah, this stuff is-- energizing? Weird." She stepped back and shook her hoof clean, the liquid sizzling and burning when it struck the ground.

"So, it's reactive, great." She hissed as she ducked back around the edge of the door way. Thinking for a moment, she began wrapping heavy blankets and coats around herself. Once she deemed herself sufficiently bundled, she wrapped a shield around the gym, and wove a protection charm onto her layers. Her horn lit up with the gentlest of lights, as she prepared to transfer the spill into the first of many containers, frowning all the while.

This was supposed to be fun!

▪=//=▪

Spike was in the library, quickly scratching a quill over the parchment in front of him. When Twilight came back asking him to deliver a letter to the princess, he was hoping that they had taken care of the problem. This was not the case. Instead he was trying to write down all of Twilight's theories on what Nightmare Moon could be planning.

Then, the windows rattled, the ground shook, and an earth shattering BOOM! rang out through town. Ponies were in a panic. Some screaming about the end of the world. Some were shouting about "the horror" of the situation, and then fainting.

In his surprise, Spike knocked over the inkwell, rendering much of the four page letter unreadable. While Twilight sped over to the windows to watch the massive dust cloud rise above the Everfree forest, Spike found the cleanest corner of the page and quickly scribbled down the important bits.

Nightmare Moon
Explosion
Hurry!!

He sealed the letter with a length of purple ribbon and lit the scroll. The cloud of magical smoke flew out the window in the direction of Canterlot. By the time Spike had turned back around, Twilight was already gone.

Galloping away from Ponyville, Twilight charged a shield spell and used it to plow through the Everfree, running to the last place she saw her friends.

▪=//=▪

Luna, using all of her strength, teleported directly above her old castle. She’d fallen to the Nightmare, so she’d use all of her strength to find her other as quickly as possible, then alert ‘Tia and the element bearers to her location, so that they could get there at full strength. However, she still had the whole forest to search, and if she disguised the explosion site at all….

...Or it could be right in the old castle, gaping and unprotected, with a seriously-ruffled Nightmare in the hole.

She grinned. This was going to be fun!

▪=//=▪

Nightmare was sitting in a wall, wearing nothing but her natural coat and a layer of soot and dust. She was staring at the crater that was left behind by the strangely-unstable material. She looked to her left. The doorway was about three times larger than she remembered. She turned her gaze to the roof, or rather, what was left of it. Because of the shield she had in place, and the structurally compromised state of the cavern, the majority of the blast had traveled upwards, leaving the majority of her home intact. Hopefully.

She coughed twice, producing a cloud of smoke with each exhalation. With that out of the way, it seemed as if a switch was flipped. Her entire body felt numb and tingly, her ears rang, and her eyes watered. She stumbled backward into the main chamber, and aside from the large black stain on the wall opposite the door, everything appeared fine, more or less.

As she waited for her body to sort itself out, she summoned up a book and skimmed the fine print. "'Concentrated magic is extremely reactive to spells, under no circumstances should an untrained individual be allowed to handle the material, be it in liquid, crystal, or otherwise.' I should probably read these things through more thoroughly…" she gave a sigh that devolved into a sputtering cough. "Ugh, this dream can't get any worse…"

Her ears twitched, and a steady, high pitched whistle slowly got louder, until it stopped with a crash. The wall behind her exploded into rubble, and standing in the new hole to the outside, was an incensed Lunar Alicorn, a scythe hovered behind her, wrapped in a dark blue, a few shades lighter than her own, and matching the glow originating from the princesses horn.

"Foul demon!" The words shook the air and caused the stones scattered about the floor to jump.

"I was wrong…" the nightmare spoke in conversational volume, more to herself than the mare before her. "It would appear that it can most definitely get worse."

"Thine wicked blight on our fair country shall be no more! We shall permit thee to harm our ponies NO LONGER!!" The scythe was brought before her and placed in her hooves as she raised it threateningly, her wings spread out behind her to allow for her to rest up into a bipedal stance and glare at Nightmare.

Nightmare felt the sweat begin to accumulate on her brow as she looked at the blade pointing in the sunlight. "U-um… I--" she began, raising her hooves in what she saw as a gesture of peace. The princess of the night must have seen it as something else, as the scythe swung, catching Nightmares right hoof. She felt as her skin was split and muscle was divided. Blood vessels cut open, the blade dug into the bone, sending vibrations up her arm as metal slid against osseous matter.

Nightmare jerked away, leaving the cut a little less clean. She wanted to scream, her nerves were screaming all along her foreleg in pain. Instead, she watched in shock as rivulets of blood, her blood, dripped down the edge of the weapon. Her vision grew shakey as she looked down at her injured hoof. "I-I felt that…" she murmured, barely audible. "I-it h-h-hurts… oh god, this is real?..." She cradled her injured limb against her chest, her breaths quickening. She looked up at the mare, those eyes held no compassion, no mercy, for her anyway.

She felt a lump form in her throat and her eyes watered, she began to shake her wings twitched in anticipation of fleeing, but how could she get away, the Lunar Diarch stood before her and the cave entrance. Luna brought the blade up above her head, and Nightmare cringed, shuffling back against the far wall.

▪=//=▪

Luna felt a hint of confusion enter her features as she looked upon her most hated shadow. The Nightmare was always confident, cunning, insulting, and she had prepared for the inevitable fight. But this Nightmare, was cowering before her, it was terrified of her. 'As it should be.' the thought echoed through her mind, banishing her doubts. Her expression hardening, she took on step forward, she brought the scythe to her side and her horn lit up, preparing for anything the dark Alicorn might try. It raised its hooves, slower this time, Luna tensed her stance, ready for it to pounce. She was momentarily surprised as the Nightmare vanished. Staring back at her now was an exact copy of herself, wearing the same surprised expression.

Luna was not ready for the full body mirror that got thrown at her in the following moment.

▪=//=▪

The Nightmare scrabbled away towards the exit tunnel. She heard the surprised yelp and subsequent crash as the mirror shattered on the cave floor. Too scared to think straight enough to summon a proper spell, she discharged a destructive beam of light into the tunnel ceiling, causing it to rumble. She didn't wait for it to start having in before running as far down its length. Every so often she would send up another blast, destabilizing the corridor further. Her mind barely registered the pain from her hoof anymore, likely due to adrenalin. Once she was halfway down the path, she stopped bringing it down behind her and slowed to a limp.

Nightmare gasped for breath, leaning against the wall. She looked down at her leg, blinking away pained tears. The bleeding had slowed considerably, but she still left a trail of red hoof prints behind her. Now that she had a moment to think, the pain was starting to catch up to her, but was still distant enough for her to form a plan. Reaching into her storage pocket, she brought out a clean scarf, and wrapped it tight around her cut, wincing and choking back a sob as the flesh was bound.

"D-Don't know what's going on, but ap-parently it's all real, and hurts, ss-so, gotta get outa here." She slowly walked down the tunnel, struggling with her damaged hoof.

▪=//=▪

The Nightmare limped out of the tunnel on three legs. She leaned against a tree as she gathered her bearings.making sure her horn was set to "sneak" mode, she powered up the magic sight spell. She looked back at the rumbling cave she came from, and watched as a thick beam extended from a bright blue sphere farther back. 'So, Luna is making short work of my cave-in strategy, got it. Time to move'

A rainbow streak flashed through the canopy above her, causing her to drop to her belly. "Shit…" she swore quietly. "Rainbow is here? Of course she is, she can probably make the fly between the old castle and Ponyville in thirty seconds. I'm boned if she spots me… or if anyone spots me, really." She crawled away into the woods on her belly, every few steps she would raise her head to keep an eye on the magical signatures around her.

She froze every time a twig snapped or a bush rustled, even though the auras showed that it wasn't one of her pursuers, her paranoia mounting with every passing moment. She was sweating as she skimmed along the forest floor; whether it was her nerves or because of the sun bearing down on her, she couldn't tell. She snaked farther and farther away from the seven lights, with no real plan other than to put as much distance between her and them as she could.

She was suddenly stopped as she smashed the back of her head into something large and unyielding. Her head whipped around in fear, only to find she had run into an old hollow tree. She scrambled inside, thankful that it was big enough for her to squeeze into. With a quick application of magic, she seized hold of a stone buried in the earth below herself, and brought it up to the surface, blocking off the entrance.

Taking a momentary respite, she flashed away the scarf to get a look at her injury. She was surprised to find that the wound had almost completely healed, the skin had fully closed and a peach fuzz layer of hair was growing in to cover it. It was still a little sore, but since she had nearly lost the hoof altogether she couldn't find a reason to complain. "Thank God go Alicorn healing factor." She sighed in relief. "Now then, planning time."

Before she could get a cohesive idea together, muffled voices slowly grew in volume.

▪=//=▪

"I'm telling you, I saw her coming this way!" The Technicolour maned pegasus said.

"I believe ya, that mare has no idea how to hide a trail!we've got feathers, bits of fur, hoofprints, an-" Applejack stopped cold, staring at the ground.

"AJ?"

"Whatever is the matter, darling?"

Twilight was the first to follow the farm mare's eyes to the point of the ground she was fixated on. "Is that, blood?"

Everypony froze, and exchanged glances, before bolting down the path.

▪=//=▪

Celestia was perched upon a cloud, using her heavenly body to scan the entirety of the greater Ponyville area. It had been some time since her sister had acted so impulsively, but given the nature of the letter they had gotten not too long ago, coupled with the explosion that they heard all the way in canterlot, she could hardly blame her.

The Solar Diarch had already pinpointed the location of her student, as well as the rest of the element bearers; however, she had yet to locate her sister. Based off of the amount of lunar magic in the air, she knew Luna was still in the area, she just didn't know exactly where.

▪=//=▪

Suddenly a chunk of the forest floor erupted with a dark blue aura, the beam persisted for two seconds before being cut off. An incensed Alicorn rocketed out of the hole, the atmosphere resisting her momentarily before the air gave out a mighty Boom!
A ring of the night sky expanded in her wake, stripping the trees around her bare. The words that followed rendered the earlier blasts of the day mild shouts by comparison.


"Where hast thee fled to, thou vile whorse!?"

The greater Ponyville population ran to a traveling merchant that had just pulled up in town, selling noise cancelling headphones.

▪=//=▪

Where hast thee fled to, thou vile whorse!?

'Oh, there she is.' the solar alicorn thought, unfolding her wings to hold herself aloft as the resulting wave of night obliterated the cloud she was resting on.

▪=//=▪

Where hast thou fled to, thou vile whorse!?

Applejack had to hold a hoof to her hat to keep it from being blown away. "What'n tarnation? Was that the princess? What's she hollerin' about?"

"Holy hay, was that a sonic…" Rainbow trailed off.

"I wasn't expecting the princesses to get here so quickly." Twilight admitted, her gaze drifting skyward to the lunar princess.

"Did that tree just squeak in unbridled terror?" Pinkie asked, pointing a hoof at an older specimen that was in the process of shaking off the last of its leaves a couple months early.

▪=//=▪

Nightmare's ears were ringing. For whatever confounded reason, Luna's RCV shout bounced around the inside of the tree like a gunshot on a tank. She was hyperventilating again, but she hardly noticed, as she was currently pawing at the ground through ordinary and magical means, trying to bury herself within the earth. She didn't stop until the aged wood began to glow purple. To her horror, the entire tree was uprooted and lifted away.

▪=//=▪

The bearers of the Elements expressions shifted from determination to confusion as they laid eyes on a bug-eyed, dirt covered nightmare moon. She had a red stained cloth about her left foreleg, and many a twig, leaf, and rock had found their home within her mane and tail. In short, she looked terrible, and a far-cry from the would-be bringer of eternal night.

Remembering just who they were dealing with, and how clever she had been with illusions in the past, the group of mares shrugged off their surprise, and their respective elements began to glow.

The slits of nightmare's eyes shank further to the point of it being a valid question as to whether or not she could even see. She stood, spread her wings, and sucked in a breath. Her horn lit up, encompassing her hooves in a dark blue hue.

"No," She stated simply, like one would when offered a glass of water in a fancy restaurant. With her piece said, she tensed her muscles and jumped. The ground compressed under the might of her alicorn strength, and she was propelled into the air at subsonic speeds, with her body straight as an arrow facing directly upwards. With a single flap of her powerful, but disheveled wings, her trajectory changed by ninety degrees, launching her in the opposite direction of the bearers.

▪=//=▪

"Okay, so, today has not gone to plan, like I had one to begin with…" Nightmare fumbled as the wind whistled by. Using her magic, she turned herself around, so that she could see just where it was she had thrown herself. She opened her wings for an easy glide, intent on using the arcane arts to fill in for her lack of experience in the air.

For the third time that day, a loud boom filled the air, followed by a ring of night sky for the second. Nightmare risked a glance over her shoulder, and regretted it. Luna was swiftly catching up mouthing words that caught up to her ears a second "Thou shalt not escape thy rightful punishment, foul witch!"

"Oh for the love of all that is sacred, So Much Nope!" Nightmare shouted back in comparatively conversational tones. She closed her wings and wrapped a shield around her body. She dropped into the forest below, where with another quick application of magic, she ground to a sudden halt and let the barrier roll through the forest without her. She saw the streak of Luna go after the distraction, turned one hundred and thirty five degrees and booked it as fast as her legs could carry her.

She tried to rein in her reeling mind to get together a sound escape plan, but was unable to do so before skidding to a halt in a clearing. A flicker of shade passed over her vision. She looked up and felt her heart stop for a few beats. The alabaster alicorn with the ethereal mane and tail floated gently and gracefully above the ground before her. The horn on the head of the solar Diarch was doing it's best imitation of the celestial body it guided.

Nightmare regained enough of her wits to realize that she should try to either dodge or block, but not fast enough for it to matter. A mote of what she could only think to describe as solar fire erupted from the larger mare's horn, hitting her square in the chest and sending her flying back the way she came.

▪=//=▪

Luna internally seethed when she finally caught up to what she thought was the Nightmare, only to find an empty shell of magic embedded in the ground.

In a fit, she tore apart the construct with her blade, and turned around to seek the object of her wrath. It was at this moment that something large, black, and smoking came screaming out of the brush. Luna was too surprised to attempt a block or dodge, and felt the object slam bodily into her. The two tumbled through the forest at high speeds, collecting cuts and bruises on the occasional rock or particularly sturdy tree.

▪=//=▪

Nightmare groaned internally as she came too. She could feel all the little nicks and dents she had picked up In between bouts of consciousness, and winced at the stabbing, tingly pain that had nestled into her chest and throat. She opened her eyes, noting that one of them was starting to swell, and took stock of her surroundings. Directly behind her was a moss covered, stone brick wall, sporting a new hole. A quick look around confirmed her suspicions: she was in the courtyard of the old castle. Further observation revealed the groaning form below her. She shot off the Lunar Princess like a rocket, opening her mouth to gasp. No sound escaped her lips; in its stead, a long tongue of smoke wound away from her own open jaws.

She watched the trail of dark smoke continue to stretch away from her with wide, unblinking eyes. that… that can not be healthy… she thought, letting her mouth hang open as she continued to vent the foul smelling substance like a chimney.

Getting back to what was hopefully the more important matter, she turned her attention to Luna. The alicorn had seen better days, or nights, as she would likely prefer. Her entire body was covered in thin red cuts, and bruises that were rather well hidden within her blue coat. One wing was laying limply at the mare's side, dislocated from its socket, and her horn had a shallow crack around it's end.

Glancing up at her own horn, she found it-- somehow-- to be no worse for wear, which was a good thing. One of her wings seemed broken, but her leg injuries weren’t exacerbated by her flight through the forest, though she was still losing blood. Still, she wasn’t much worse for wear.

Without further thought, she summoned up a pile of clean, white cloth, and began wrapping the Lunar mare's injuries. Once she had the majority of the cuts bound, she pulled out a quill and pen, and began considering the kind of message she should leave behind.

▪=//=▪

Luna's eyes slowly fluttered open, and she rubbed a hoof to her temple with a wince. She took stock of her surroundings while she tried to remember what happened.

She remembered chasing after the Nightmare, and the flight over the forest, and…

Her train of thought was derailed as she laid eyes on the mare lying across from her. The dark Alicorn was looking down on her, it's cyan draconian eyes holding no expression. A dark cloud wafted from its open fanged jaws as it's horn lit up with the glow of magic.

Had Luna not been so experienced in dealing with the horrors that the mind throws at young dreamers, she would have screamed at the sight of one such as this in the waking world. She nearly did, but succeeded in holding her voice back to nothing more than a strangled whimper.

The Nightmare's eyes flicked up to meet her own, to scared to look away. The Nightmare lifted a hoof, and Luna tensed, bringing her wings up to-- pain!

Luna threw her gaze back over her shoulder, ignoring the stinging cuts objecting to sudden movement. She stared in horror at her wings. Her left was up in the air, ready to follow her command and take her high into the sky and away from the monster of her past, the right, however, was still lying on the flagstone, flaring in pain as her muscles refused to work with the injured limb.

'She grounded me!' came her panicked thoughts.

Her pegasus side failing her, she readied a teleport spell, only to wince as another stab of pain landed through her skull. Luna focused her eyes on, her horn, and the pit in her stomach deepened. Magic filled uselessly through the crack in her horn. The lunar alicorn felt tears welling up in her eyes as the gravity of the situation started to settle in.

She felt the Icey needles of fear dance over her skin as the sound of hooves against stone reached her ears. She leveled a disdainful glare at the Nightmare, whom was gently tapping a hoof to the ground in an attempt to get her attention. Once the black alicorn saw she had her attention, the mare offered a small, toothless smile, though, the gesture was ruined by the smoke wafting from her nostrils as she breathed. She nosed a length of parchment between Luna's hooves, and was quick to duck back under the skeptic scowl the princess leveled at her.

Luna looked between the paper and her dark side warily. Once she was semi-certain that the mare opposite her wasn't about to rip out her throat, she looked down to the missive, never letting the Nightmare leave her sight.

Sorry--

Luna snapped her focus back to the dark Alicorn after the first word, staring incredulously at the writer.

The Nightmare rubbed a hoof on the back of her neck nervously with a wince, pulling back the appendage and squinting her eyes at the line of blood it had picked up. The Nightmare shook her head a bit and gestured to the scroll with a nod.

Luna let her glare linger for a moment linger, before returning to the paper.

Sorry about the crash, your sister packs quite a punch.

She gave the Nightmare a quizzical look, who just motioned with a hoof for her to keep reading, then went back to writing on another piece of paper.

From What I could tell, you weren't too badly hurt. I bandaged up the majority of the damage with all the clean cloth I had. Most notable injuries would be your wing and horn, sorry I couldn't do anything about those, but I don't know any healing spells, or how to make a sling for a wing.
Based on how quickly the smaller cuts were closing, I'm guessing you should be mostly fine in about twenty minutes, although I don't know how quickly horns repair themselves, alicorn or otherwise. Hopefully the next time we meet, you won't try and take my leg off on sight.

Luna looked up from the note with genuine confusion. ' The Nightmare helped me?' Glancing at her hooves revealed that she was indeed covered in strips of cloth, how she hadn't noticed before she wasn't sure. Another roll of paper was slipped between her hooves, and after a quick glance at the mare, she unrolled it.

To clarify, I was supposed to already be gone when you woke up.

"Err, why aren't thou… aren't you talking?" Luna asked, having a hard time connecting the thing in front of her to the Nightmare she was familiar with.

The Nightmare rubbed a hoof on her throat and blew a long plume of smoke to the side. When Luna didn't seem to understand what this was supposed to mean, she summoned another piece of paper from nowhere, and scribbled a message onto its surface quickly.

Celly hit me with a beam of solar magic stuff, I think it burned out my vocal cords, hoping those grow back.

--side note, I think my lungs are on fire.

Another note was shoved under her nose before she could even look up.

I'm gonna get outta here before your sister or anyone shows up.

Best wishes!

The princess snapped her head back up, just in time to see a shaky Nightmare getting to her hooves, a weak telekinetic field enveloping the mare's barrel. Before the mare could get more than a hoofful of steps away, however, the form of Celestia landed before her, hard enough to crack the flagstone.

The solar Diarch took one look at her sister's less than ideal condition, and her face bore a concerned frown, before tuning it to a scowl for the Nightmare.

Nightmare glanced between the exit she had been walking towards, and the angry goddess of the sun standing in the way. She mouthed an "Oh," and sighed heavily to the side, expelling another black cloud, before dropping to the ground. She rested her head between her forelimbs and raised her hooves into the air by her elbows in surrender.

▪=//=▪

"Would you stop that?" Celestia asked in a commanding tone, clearly annoyed.

Nightmare shook her head, and continued to hold her mouth open, taking deep breaths, and expelling foul smelling smoke. It was one of the few things she could do at the moment, breathing that is. A golden arc of magic around her barrel held her wings to her sides and her body to the floor. They hadn't bothered to restrict her magic, but she didn't feel stupid enough to try any magic when the embodiment of the sun had a good firm grip on her.

"I must say, sister, fair Twilight should have been here by no-oww!" Luna squeaked as her wing was put back into its socket. She rolled the joint to make sure everything was in order, and nuzzled her sister with a quiet "Thank thee."

"Patience sister, Twilight will arrive in but a moment, and we can take care of this problem." Celestia said, giving the Nightmare a pointed glare as she said the last word.

Nightmare rolled her eyes, and tried to hum. She had been doing so to check and see if her voice had healed yet every few minutes, since most of her external injuries had closed by this point, it was safe to assume that particular facet of her biology wouldn't be far behind.

"Princess!" Came the call through the great hole in the wall. Celestia turned to great her faithful student, and they exchanged a brief nuzzle, before Twilight's eyes landed on Luna. She gasped, and began to fret over every single healing cut and fading bruise. When she caught sight of the Lunar princess' horn, she cast a glare in the nightmares direction. Nightmare responded by pointing a hoof at herself and shaking her head in a 'Don't look at me!' Gesture, before pointing emphatically at a nearby pile of discarded papers.

Her pleas were ignored, again, and she sighed animatedly, tracing circles on her forehead with her hooves. When she looked up again, a sea of pink, with two blue pools filled her field of view. "What's got ya down, Black Snooty?" Pinkie Pie asked.

Nightmare snorted, twin trails of soot blowing away as she pointed at her throat.

"Can't talk?" She nodded. "Why?" Nightmare pointed at her throat again, then at the smog she exhaled again. "Are you a…" Nightmare did not like the mirthful gleam in the pink mare's eye. "Little horse?"

'So, this is what my life has become, the butt end of a lame joke…' she thought while smiling good naturedly at the pony who had once again disregarded her personal space, her face centimeters from her own, probably waiting for a laugh that wouldn't come. Nightmare simply pointed at her neck again and tried to hum in thought. Pinkie sagged slightly before bouncing away to the group of huddled ponies that were decidedly out of her range of hearing.

Knowing that she wouldn't be able to contribute to the conversation, even if she could talk, she went about what had become her second favourite pass time while immobile, playing with her mane. From her brief experiments with it, she knew it had to have some physical hair in there somewhere, but when it was dry, it acted very much like an intangible object, or one that had no mass, she didn't know, she flunked highschool physics. That all was beside the point anyway, the point was that it flowed like water around her hooves, no matter where she poked it, and she liked watching the stars swim around in it.

▪=//=▪

Celestia, Luna, and the Element Bearers sat in a circle, discussing the fate of one of Equestria's oldest enemies.

"Well, what are we waiting for? The Princess is even holding her still, let's turn on the rainbow lasers and blast her!" Rainbow puffed out her chest to draw attention to the Element of Loyalty. Most of the group agreed with this idea.

Luna bowed her head in thought, drawing the attention of the elder alicorn. "Luna, what's the matter?"

The lunar alicorn bit her cheek before speaking. "'Tia, we- no, I, am uncertain if we should simply 'blast them' as Dame Rainbow put it."

Celestia let worry enter her features. "Luna, what are you talking about, that creature there is the one responsible for tearing our family apart!" The princess of the sun readied a spell to cleanse her sister of any mental influences. The Nightmare had gotten to her before, perhaps it left behind something so it could do so again more easily.

"I know sister, I have more reason to despise them than anypony else, but just look at her." She waved a hoof, directing the group's attention to a positively bored Nightmare Moon, who was ripping up grass and weaving it together. "At the very least, she seems greatly--, subdued."

"Perhaps she simply knows when she is beaten?" Celestia supplied.

"'Tia, we shared a headspace with the Nightmare. The one we knew never would have done this," she gestured to the multitude of makeshift bandages covering her body. "For another over herself, especially since she knew of how quickly Alicorns regenerate. Furthermore, she cared for mine injuries before tending to her own! The selfish entity we knew would never do that. She doesn't even have the same hoof writing!"

"You got a look at her hoof writing? When?" Twilight inquired.

Luna pointed to the nearby pile of scrolls. "When we were on the moon, we had little to do, so the Nightmare and I took turns writing stories upon the grey sands. Her script took much after my own, as she likely drew from my memories on how to write. This new Nightmare, however, her writing is scratchy, inelegant, and she writes as if she is not used to a quill."

"I highly doubt a change in writing should earn her amnesty for her crimes." Celestia replied with the barest hint of an edge in her tone.

A gentle tune filled the air, drawing everypony's attention back to Nightmare, whom had begun whistling as she continued to weave grass into a shapes. So far she had all ready made three "paper" sailboats, and was in the process of trying to make some form of quadruped. The smoke she produced had lightened in colour considerably, and was starting to reduce in volume as well.

It was odd to see the villain doing something so… mundane. Twilight was the first to snap out of it. "Well, also, a mare matching her description did allegedly escort Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo out of the forest." She supplied lamely, the scrolls floating beside her as she continued to stare at the Nightmare with the rest of them.

"How do we know she didn't make up that whole story, and brainwash them to trick us?" Rainbow Dash asked, ever the skeptic.

"Why don't we just ask her?" All eyes looked to Pinkie. "What?"

"Pinkie darling, how would we know if she was telling the truth?"

"Duh." The baker crawled atop Applejack's back, and pointed at her new seat, as if that made sense.

"Dame Applejack does bear Honesty…" Luna agreed. "She should be able to tell the truth from lies while it is equipped."

"Ah' can what now?"

▪=//=▪

Nightmare was almost done with the neck, just a little more time and a little more plant matter, and the head would be done. Weaving grass dolls was considerably harder using hooves and her mouth instead of hands, but she was somehow making due.

A purple beam of energy zapped Nightmare in the throat, giving her a vicious coughing fit. Her latest attempt at forging a grass pony dropped to the ground, scattering completely. "Aw man, I almost ha-- oh?" She hummed and rubbed her sore throat. She looked up to the ponies that had now gathered in a semi circle around her. She locked eyes with the sole purple one of the group and nodded. "Thanks for that." She croaked, smacking her tongue at the foul of ash, her mouth pulled into a grimace as she did her best to ignore it.

"Uhh, no problem?"

"Speak Nightmare, and speak honest, for we shall know if you lie." Celestia slightly scowled down at her.

"Huh? You got a polygraph or-- oh, fancy lie detector spell, got it." She nodded amiably. "Alright, what's the first question?"

Twilight seemed to have realized something, and a stack of notecards flashed into Existence beside her, along with a quill, and she began organizing her questions.

"Did you do anything to harm my sister or her friends?" Rarity was the first to ask.

"No, I just found them hiding from a swarm flying spiders." She shivered at the memory. "As if regular spiders weren't bad enough."

Everyone looked at Applejack, who simply shrugged in response. "You didn't send send those flyders after 'em?"

Nightmare mouthed "flyders" and shook her head. "No, I did not."

"Question two: How is it you survived being hit by the Elements of Harmony?" Twilight asked, reading from the notecard in front of her nose.

Nightmare attempted to shrug and made the universal "I don't know" noise. The librarian seemed less than pleased with her response, and threw the slip of paper over her shoulder, and began sifting through the hovering stack for her next question.

"Question 3: How is it you've gained your own body? From what I've researched, you were either a parasitic consciousness that had latched onto Princess Luna at her weakest, dark magic, a separate personality generated by her negative feelings, or a combination of the three."

"Uhh, don't know that either? Oh, while we are on the subject, I am alone in here, right? I'm pretty sure it's just me in here, but you know more about magic than I do." The eight exchanged glances before a purple and gold aura enveloped her head, a tingling sensation developed at the center of her skull, and she made a face.

"Yes, it would appear that you only possess one consciousness and one soul." Twilight informed. "Question four: It has been years since you were defeated, where were you all that time?"

"Um, sorry, couldn't tell ya." The lavender mare's brow knit in annoyance at the lack of answers Nightmare was giving. "I can tell you that I, woke up would be the most fitting term, in the castle in the middle of the night last night."

"Okay, question five: What is the last thing you remember before 'waking up'?"

"The Last, last thing I remember would be lookin' up at the moon." A pink hoof waved back and forth in the air, like one would do when trying to get the teachers attention. "Uhh, Pinkie?" Nightmare called on her, wondering if this was still an interrogation or not.

"Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla, lemon or raspberry. Maple or frosting, butterscotch or cinnamon?"

"Wait, what? What's that have to do with--"

"Just answer the question Snooty." Pinkie cut her off.

"Oookay? Uhm, chocolate, lemon I guess, and… butterscotch? I dunno, I've never had anything with the last two in it."

Everyone looked at the pink mare like she had a second head as she scribbled down the information on a notepad before stuffing it back into her mane. "Okie dokie!"

Rainbow Dash was the next one with a question, getting within inches of her face. "What are you planning, huh? What secret evil stuff are you gonna do to Equestria?"

Nightmare reared her head back as far as she could, but the pegasus kept the distance close. "I... don't have any plans right now? Honestly I was gonna be content to sit at home and read for a while, catch up on the goings on in the world."

She relaxed slightly when Applejack dragged the hovering antagonistic mare away by the tail. The disgruntled Rainbow was deposited next to Twilight, who kept the pegasus from advancing again with an outstretched wing--

"What the--" nightmare recoiled in surprise, biting her tongue in the process. She moaned in pain as she held her snout in her hooves against the ground. "Thun of a bith…" she grumbled. "I ha'e thethe teeth, tho muth…" blood dribbled from her lips onto the grass.

"Are you… alright?" Fluttershy asked from twenty feet away, surprising everyone.

"I bit my 'ongue, gimme a thecond…" she said into the ground, waving a placating outstretched hoof in the general direction the voice came from. She waited for the majority of the stabbing pain to subside before voicing her question. "When di' you ge' wingth? Thinth when ith th'ee an Ali'orn?"

"Umm, about a week ago?" Twilight supplied, tilting her hoof side to side in a "give or take" motion.

"That's not important right now. Why did you… blow up a chunk of the mountain over there?" Celestia waved a hoof in the direction of the distant location, a cloud of dust could still be seen rising from the hole in her home.

"Tha' wath a clean up acthiden', levi'athion and condenthed magic don' mith." Nightmare supplied. Everyone looked at her look she was insane with the revelation. A gilded zap of magic to the mouth followed, and she found the hole in her tongue gone. "Thanks."

"Why do you want to bring about eternal night?" Everyone looked to Luna, whom had locked eyes with Nightmare.

'Here's an important one.' Nightmare swallowed. "I don't?" Wide eyes met her statement, and everyone's attention immediately shot to the farm mare, who looked just as surprised.

"I mean…" she continued, gaining everyone's attention again. "As vastly more beautiful the night sky is, eternal night would just kinda, kill the whole planet. I suppose the argument could be made that you could just use magic to keep everything from freezing and keep crops growing, but that would require massive amounts of power on a constant basis, like, Alicorn exhausting levels of power. And then that would leave the strongest defender of the nation at a fraction of their strength. And that Would just invite hostile forces to attack Equestria, so it's all around a bad idea."

"Besides," the gathered ponies seemed surprised she had more to add still, following her logical argument. "As much as I hate hot, sweaty summer days like this, it makes the night more special, 'cause it's not the only thing in the sky, y'know? Does that make sense?"

"It's… not really all that hot out, though." Twilight said.

"Yeah, it's actually super duper nice out today!" Pinkie added. The rest of the main six nodded in agreement.

"Oh, then I'm gonna blame my dark coat then, absorbs heat a little too well, could we move this to the shade?" She tilted her head towards a freestanding wall. The rest of the structure had long since fallen, but it supplied ample shade from the afternoon sun.

The group exchanged looks before Luna spoke up. "We suppose that would be alright." The golden aura that had been holding her down was replaced with a blue one, and she was dragged through the air to the spot.

Nightmare sighed contentedly as she was laid down on the cool shaded grass, and stretched her body to be in contact with as much of it as possible, she would have laid her wings down as well, had they been free. "Thank you~" They seemed only slightly off-put at her continued usage of proper manners, but she didn't notice, as she had her eyes closed and was enjoying the shade.

"I hope you don't think we shall just let you go now that you've realized your mistake, you still forced me to banish my sister to the moon for one thousand years."

"Uhh, okay, this is going to sound like a lie, but I never thought eternal night would be a good idea."

"D-do you… Dost thou aim to place all the blame upon me!?" Luna shouted, sub RVC, incredulously with a pointed glare. The magic wrapped around her barrel began tightening to the point of discomfort.

"Wait, no! That came out wrong! I meant that… how to explain this… okay, Nightmare Moon wanted to bring about eternal night, but I never did." She spoke quickly, but measured her words.

"Explain." Celestia spoke, and it was not a request.

Nightmare measured her words before speaking, making sure what she said would be the truth, without giving away too much. "Mmokay, so, I don't think I'm the Nightmare… like, I am, appearance wise, but I'm not. When I got here I didn't know what was going on. The only reason I know who I'm supposed to be is cause I match the depiction of a villain in a story I saw." An idea popped into her head and she quickly removed a familiar book from her mane. The cover bore the stylized golden bust of a unicorn with an aquamarine gemstone as an eye. She flipped it open till she came to a picture of Nightmare Moon. "This one, kinda hard to mistake the eyes if nothing else."

"So, you are claiming to have lost your memories, then?"

"My theory is that the elements stripped all the evil out of Nightmare Moon, and what was left was, me, apparently." She expertly dodged the question, and hoped that her idea would suffice as an answer.

"You're saying that the elements gave you a second chance?" Twilight asked, looking up at the crown above her horn.

"Well, they're kinda benevolent things aren't they? They don't kill, so it would make sense for them to purify things and give out second chances to things that aren't pure evil."'please let that make sense, please let that make sense, please let that make sense…'

"I… guess that makes sense."

YES!

Everyone looked to Applejack for confirmation again. After a moment, she sighed. "It don't sound like she's lyin' but I've never done this before, so Ah' don't exactly know what ta look out fer. Nothing she's said feels off, if that means anythin'."

AJ's The lie detector? Oh Honesty, that makes sense.' "So," Nightmare coughed. "What happens now?"

The royal sisters shared a nod, and herded the rest away a small distance. A golden barrier surrounded the group. "Wait here, we shall discuss the matter," Luna said before the noise shield closed fully.

Nightmare looked around, then down at the magic still holding her to the ground. The band had shrank in length, coming to an end right above her wing joints, but would still manage to keep her from going anywhere. 'Could try dispel it,' she thought, stretching her wings out to their limits and resting them on the grass. If I was an idiot, much more skilled magic user I'd be trying to take by surprise.'

She sprawled out on the ground and relaxed with a contented sigh, letting all the tension she had accumulated in her shoulders slowly seep out. 'Time to run inventory.'

▪=//=▪

Nightmare opened an eye when she heard a magical pop. The barrier was down, and everyone was facing her again. "We have come to a decision." Celestia stated.

"Sounds final."

"It is." Luna nodded. "You have two options. The first, is that we, that is Celestia and I, take you back to Canterlot with us, you will be placed in an anti-magic cell until we can prove whether or not you claims hold truth."

"Would I at least get books?" At the nod of both Diarchs, she bowed her head in thought. "I could live with that, but what's the other option?"

Twilight picked up the conversation. "We fit you with a magic suppressor, and set you up in Ponyville under a glamour and a new name." Twilight then nodded to the Solar Diarch.

"You would be closely watched by the Element Bearers, and they would seal you away the moment your lie came to light."

"No magic either way huh? I could live with that, too, plus, with that one I would at least get to stretch my legs though. Do you have the suppressor with you?"

Celestia nodded to her student, who disappeared in a flash of light. "Twilight shall return with a blank momentarily."

"Alright then."

Minutes passed by awkwardly. It would seem the fire of hatred had been taken out of the conversation, but no one knew how to think of Nightmare any other way, so no one said anything. All present breathed a sigh of relief when the purple Alicorn returned.

"Okay, this inhibitor ring--" she held up a simple grey ring, large enough to slip over one's horn. "--has been enchanted to read and lock onto your magical signature, and will block any attempt to light your horn. It will also dispel any active magical effects you have going. Anything we should know about before I slip this on?"

"Will that block my healing factor? If so, I'm pretty sure my lungs combusted at some point, and I only survived 'cause of my alicorn magic, can we make sure I won't expire upon losing my magic?"

"It won't block your basic functions, it will just limit your ability to cast. Are you ready?"

"Yeah, sure go ahead." Nightmare complied, tilting her head forward and presenting her horn. Twilight nodded and slid the metallic ring down to the base of her horn. There was a brief spark, and then nothing, she felt as a part of her was wrapped up and sealed away from her being. She held a hoof to her forehead to steadier herself.

"Well, that's disorienting." She thought aloud, blinking away the spots in her eyes. When she looked back to the world, a curtain of bright pink, split down the middle, greeted her. "Uhh…" she brushed it away from her eyes, and gave it an experimental tug. Her head tilted as the offending fibers rooted in her skull refused to budge. She pushed the mass out of her field of view and looked back over her shoulder. She noted how her personal sea of stars had disappeared, and with increasing worry, gave her tail a flick. A wave of pink rolled out behind her. "It's pink." She said lamely.

"...So It is." Celestia nodded.

"My hair is pink." Nightmare said again, her voice trailing off with a titter.

"Are you okay?" Twilight asked.

"Not just pink, but PINK. The absolute brightest shade imaginable." A hysteric grin spread across her face, showing off her too sharp teeth before she broke out into full bellied laughter. "He-here's Nightmare moon, big bad Alicorn of edgy eternal darkness, and wh-wh-when she's deciding how to present herself to the world, she decides. 'Ah yes, all dark colors and shark teeth, now, what sh-should I make my hair colour, I know!'" She barked out increasingly loud laughs. "I'll make it th-the most bliiindingly bright shade of pink known to the Universe! It's not like anyone will ev-ev-ev~'" She completely broke down before she could finish.

Pinkie and Rainbow laughed openly, one with her and the other pointing a hoof at her in a slightly mocking manor. Rarity was hiding her giggles behind a hoof in a more dignified manner. Fluttershy wasn't laughing, but she did smile from behind her mane with eyes full of mirth. Applejack gave a few unrepressed chuckles, but got over the whole thing quickly enough. Princess Celestia had thousands of years of practice in controlling her emotions, and wore her normal serene smile mask. Luna was staring off into the distance muttering, "We dids't not know she had done that…" quietly enough that it got mostly swallowed up by the gales of laughter.

"I don't get it, what's so funny?" Twilight asked after the amusement began to die down. This, of course set Nightmare off again and the rest quickly joined in, stumping the poor mare as to what the joke she missed was.

▪=//=▪

Author's Note:

AN/ if you don't get the joke, that's fine. It's more of a reference to how me and my brother play games like 'Soul calibur' and games like it that have character customization. We make these really cool looking characters and then ask "What about the underclothes," or "What about the hairstyle?" And our answers is to give them rainbow colored t-shirts and bright purple afro's because we find it funny and "they'll never see it anyway." And then a helmet gets broken, or thresholds break. Revealing the neon pink socks being worn by the high demon of the underworld, etc.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this...nigh 10k chapter, it's the longest chapter I have ever written!