• Published 19th Aug 2012
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PonyFall: The Dawning of Twilight - MrBackpack



Twilight Sparkle was more than confident that Discord was going to reset into his stone prison

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Chapter 10: Sleep, Forever Sleep

April 27th, 2012

“Luna’s gone!”

The words echoed in my mind for a scant few moments before my adrenals kicked into overdrive and I leapt to my feet.

“What do you mean gone!?” I all-but shouted. “How can she be gone? Her sleeping bag was on the far side of the tent! The two of you were between her and the flap!”

Twilight was just behind Michelle, looking even paler than usual in the light of the dying campfire. She was wringing her hands and looked lost.

“Are we sure that she just didn’t go off to use the bathroom?” I asked, looking at the two of them.

“I waited for several minutes before waking Michelle,” replied Twilight, not meeting my gaze.

I sighed and pinched the bridge of my nose in frustration, my mind racing as I tried to think.

“Don’t just stand there Matt,” shouted Twilight frantically, shouldering Michelle out of her way and grabbing my shirt with both fists. She tried to give me a shake. “The princess is gone and you’re not doing anything! Princess Celestia will never forgive me if something happened to her little sister while I was around.”

“First of all,” I said, taking her hands in mine and prying her off. “We haven’t lost anyone, not yet. Secondly, you are not exactly in charge here, are you?”

She shook her head, her eyes very wide and fearful.

“No, you’re not. I am. If anyone is going to take the blame of this, its going to be me.” I turned from Twilight to look at my fiance. “Things were just going too well for it to stay peaceful for this long.” I sighed as I walked over to her. “Go grab the flashlights and a couple of water bottles.”

Michelle nodded and crawled back into the tent. The light lit and I saw her shadow moving about the interior and digging into the backpacks.

“Flashlights, water... what do you need those for?” asked Twilight as I knelt to rummage in the first aid kit.

“If you think that I’m going out there without a light…” I snarked back at her, trailing off as I remembered who I was talking to. “Right, I don’t know this country nor our location very well

“Then what’s the water for?”

“Cleaning,” was all that I had time to say before Michelle came out of the tent with three lit flashlights in her hands.

“Got everything?” she asked, handing a light to Twilight and holding mine out for me.

“I think so,” I responded as I slung my kit over one shoulder and took the light. “You ready?”

“Won’t the moon be enough light?” asked Twilight, looking at the flashlight curiously then back up at me.

I looked up at the moon for a moment, the young crescent shown brightly in the sky despite being less than half full.

“On some days,” I said, turning half a face back to my pony-turned-human companion, “I just might agree with you. It’s a clear night and everything.” I stopped and turned all of my attention to her and said, “But right now, there’s a small child running around a forest in one of the strangest places that I have ever been to. We’re going to need all the light that we can get.”

I saw Michelle put a hand on Twilight’s shoulder, and the two of them shared a look.

“Lets go,” I said resolutely before turning and marching off away from the comfort of our dying fire.

.oOo.

The night was just as dark as I imagined that it would be, and I was very glad that I did not give into Twilight’s suggestion of leaving the flashlights behind. I focused all of my attention on my hearing, trying to catch any kind of sign of running or anything that would direct us to where Luna may have gone.

“Matt,” Twilight whispered to me after some unknown time interval.

I didn’t answer her verbally, but I did slow our already-slow pace to little more than a crawl.

“What are we going to do…” she trailed off.

“Don’t even think about that,” Michelle answered in my stead. “You can’t think like that, Twilight. We are going to find the princess. We are.”

I smiled at my fiance, she always had the right words for me when I had none.

Our lights continued to flick and probe the deepest shadows of the dark forest, the moon lost in the canopy of leaves overhead. The silence was as imposing as the darkness. It closed in around us, and not even our breathing or steps did anything to truly dispel its hold on the three of us.

My heart hammered in my chest harder and harder as the minutes ticked by uncounted. I could feel Twilight’s tension and nerves growing right alongside my own, Michelle’s close behind.

I wanted to shout, to call for the lost princess, to make any sort of sound to break silence. Anything to throw the weight of the tension off of my shoulders.

But, before I could do anything, a scream cut through the night.

Two screams.

A full and deep scream from a full grown man and the high pitched scream of a little girl.

Without thinking or warning to the others, I sprinted towards the source of the sound, the others quickly falling in behind me. We dashed through the woods as fast as our legs would carry us.

My mind was racing as fast as I was running. It came up with all kinds of terrible things that would cause a man and a little girl to scream like that.

The trees thinned slightly and we stumbled upon two people laying crumpled on the ground. One was a grown man with a compound bow far too close for comfort, and Luna was nearest the three of us to our left.

I unshouldered the kit and threw it at Twilight and Michelle, keeping my light and eyes trained on the man. Without checking on the others, I strode over to him and promptly kicked the bow out of his reach.

I waited for a few moments to see if he would react before stealing a glance over at Michelle, Twilight, and Luna. From the light of the moon, and Twilight’s flashlight, I couldn’t see anything of immediate concern.

I turned my attention to the man and knelt, putting my hand to his neck and feeling a strong and steady pulse. He was breathing deep, long pulls of air through his nose and, despite my disbelief, seemed to be out cold.

Cradling his head and neck, I rolled him on to his back to get a better look at him, checking for anything that I should be worried about.

He was a large man, around six and a half feet tall, built like a lumberjack, complete with a thick beard. I rubbed my jaw as a phantom ache echoed through the bone, and contemplated binding the man with is own belt and leaving him for the wilderness.

I looked back at the three girls, checking on them, my eyes watching Michelle’s face for anything that should worry me more than I already was. I saw only confusion on her face as she stared at the little girl on the ground in front of her.

“Asleep?” I whispered at them.

“The strangest thing…” mumbled Michelle, not looking up from the princess.

I opened my mouth to say something, but was cut off as I heard running footsteps, then saw a young woman emerge from the far edge of the forest. Her eyes surveyed the area, then widened as they fell upon the girls and I. She let out a little squeak, leapt back, and ducked behind a tree, peeking her head out as if we couldn’t see her.

I looked at my companions and saw that they had noticed the same strange display that I had.

I stood and backed away from the man and the girl behind the tree, towards my fiance and everyone else.

“Grab Luna and let’s get out of here,” I hissed at the two of them.

“What?” Twilight asked, aghast at the suggestion. “And leave that girl alone with that stallion?!”

“Yes,” I again hissed at them. Ignoring her use of Equestrian pronouns for the moment, I took my eyes off of the scene and looked her hard in the eyes.

“We don’t know what happened here, or who he is. Or who she is!” she shouted at me. Michelle nodded her agreement along with her.

“And we don’t need to know, Twilight!” I shouted back at her, finally losing my temper.

“Twilight?” The tree-hugging girl had crept out from behind her hiding spot and was kneeling next to the large man. She had looked up suddenly, as if she were seeing us clearly for the first time.

Our shouting match died immediately and, as one, we all turned to look at her.

She was fair complected with startlingly blue eyes and long, pale-pink hair that shone in the pale light of the moon as bright as it would in the sunlight.

“Is it really you, Twilight?” the girl asked quietly.

I felt a new tension fall over the three of us as we stared at her.

“Um… yes, my name is Twilight...” Twilight uttered before I could say anything. There was something else hanging in the air, like a major chord being played with only two of the three notes. “Do… do I know you?”

The girl blinked and stared at her. “Y-yes… you should know me. I think…” She seemed uncertain of herself and looked down at the man quietly. After a moment, she looked back up, this time with a look of resolve in her eyes. “Yes, Twilight Sparkle, you do, know me. I’m not so sure about what’s going on, but you’re one of my best friends, and always will be!” With that said, the girl jumped up and ran over to Twilight, engulfing her in a hug.

Twilight was caught off-guard and was knocked back a step by the young woman. Her eyes darted back and forth between Michelle and I, her confusion clearly showing, but a second later the young woman had let go and looked up at us apologetically.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude,” she said. She extended her hand towards me. “I’m Fluttershy, and I’d like to know what you did to my friend, please. If that’s okay with you?”

Like with Twilight and Luna before her; images, scenes and sounds of Fluttershy played through my mind and behind my eyes, blocking me from the world.

As the world slowly filtered its way back into my senses, feeling the cold sweat pour down the side of my temple, I watched Twilight return Fluttershy’s embrace just as fiercely as it had been given. She was mumbling and sobbing inconsolably into her friend’s shoulder.

I felt Michelle grip my hand in her own and I pulled my gaze from the two young women in front of me to look at my love. I felt the tremble in her hand and saw the look of awe on her face, the same look that I knew was on my own.

It figures that Fluttershy would be in Australia, the most dangerous place on the dry world, I thought in some corner of my mind.

“What are you doing here?” asked Twilight before I could allow my mind to wander any further. She frowned quizzically at her friend. “And for that matter, how did you get here?”

She took the words right out of my mouth.

“And who is he?” She asked, gesturing with one hand at the man on the ground.

Fluttershy took a step back and, for a moment, looked as if she were going to start asking Twilight questions in much the same way she had been asked. She stopped herself, though, and looked Twilight in the eyes.

“I’m sure we both have a lot of questions we want to ask, but right now there are two humans who look like they aren’t conscious, and one of them is my friend!” she said with an uncharacteristic amount of confidence showing. She ran back over to the man and knelt beside him again. “We need to figure out what happened and what we’re going to do to help them out.”

I took a step forward and put a hand on Twilight’s shoulder, ready to step between the two of them at a moment’s notice.

“I agree with the last part of that statement ma’am,” I said, making a point of not using the name we had been given. “I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with him, or at least not that I could tell. We’ll just take our friend and be heading back to our camp.”

I made to pick Luna up off of the ground, Michelle helping slightly.

“What do you mean ‘our camp’?” asked Twilight, a new fire behind her eyes, one that I had not seen in a few days.

“Yes,” I said resolutely. “Our camp.

“Why would we go back to our camp? Fluttershy’s right here!” she shouted at me, pulling her friend close with one arm.

“Because all of our supplies are back there? The tent? The fire? Everything else?” I snarked back at her. “Are those enough reasons for you?”

“What if Fluttershy’s camp is closer, huh?” She fired back, not backing down.

‘Um…” Fluttershy tried to get a word in.

“Then all the better for her, that means that she won’t have that far to go!”

“And how is she supposed to carry that mountain over there all by herself?”

“Excuse me?” Fluttershy asked, waving a hand for attention.

“Drag him? I don’t know. No offence, ma’am” I shouted back, not looking at the girl in question, my eyes still locked with Twilight’s.

“Drag him?” Twilight shrieked. “Drag him? Do you think that Fluttershy would do something like that to anypony? Especially a friend?”

Fluttershy’s brow lowered in annoyance. “Well, actually… I have dragged…”

“My first priority right now is her,” I returned, doing my best to not jostle the small girl in my arms. “I don’t want to think about what her sister would do to us if she found out that we let the little one get hurt.”

That gave Twilight pause and a heavy silence fell over the six of us.

In the silence, Luna shifted her head ever-so-slightly and gave the smallest of whimpers.

All of our eyes immediately went to the small girl in Michelle’s and my arms and in the darkness, a pale blue light glittered brightly from the center of her forehead, right where her horn should be.

“What the…” I gasped. I gestured to Michelle that we should set the small girl back on the ground.

I felt Twilight’s shoulder press into mine as we all knelt to get a better look at the phenomenon.

“Magic…” Twilight said just over a whisper. “It’s actually magic.” Her eyes lit up in wonder. “This is fantastic!” At the looks she received, she hunched her shoulders and cleared her throat. “Well, the situation isn’t fantastic…”

“What does this mean, Twilight?” I asked her with a quizzical look. “I mean in terms of your magic and whatever is wrong with the princess?”

Fluttershy, having been forgotten in the fuss over Luna, leaned in close to examine the girl. “How can that be?” she asked Twilight. “My friend told us that humans can’t really use magic.”

“We can’t,” Michelle and I deadpanned in unison. It was an old argument that we’d had with Twilight.

“It’s strange I know,” sighed Twilight, shaking her head in disbelief. “They can do the most amazing and terrible things without the slightest hint of magic.”

“So um… if she’s not human, then who is she?” Fluttershy asked.

“Fluttershy,” said Twilight solemnly, putting a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “That’s Princess Luna.”

Fluttershy inhaled sharply and looked at Luna with wide eyes. “Oh, she’s so cute!” she gushed. She looked as if she were going to sweep the princess up in a big hug, but a second later she shook her head slightly and became serious again. “Okay… so this is Princess Luna, and my friend and her are both asleep, but she’s somehow casting a spell…” She looked up at us. “Any ideas, Twilight?”

“Several.” she replied with only a moment’s hesitation and a frown. “But there’s very little that I can do without my own magic.”

As the two former ponies continued talking, Luna’s face scrunched and her brow furrowed as though in deep pain. The light coming from her forehead was brighter and more steady.

“Hey,” I said a little louder than I initially intended. “Magical theory later, more solving now.”

“There’s always time for theory,” Twilight snapped back at me. “And that’s what I’m trying to do! Besides, you never, EVER, interrupt a pony whilst they’re mid-cast. There’s no telling what would happen. To either of you.”

“Then what would you suggest we do?” I said through gritted teeth, barely keeping myself from snarling.

“I don’t know what actually happened here,” Twilight started, looking at our immediate surroundings. “But I would suggest that Luna probably cast a defensive spell when Fluttershy’s friend came out of the woods and scared her.” Twilight pointed at an arrow that I hadn’t seen before. It was embedded into the tree just off to one side. “Judging by their current status, it backfired.” She paused and looked at Michelle and in turn, “Keep in mind, if we don’t wake them up, the two of them will never wake up.”

I reeled, as though the world had been yanked out from underneath my feet. Twilight reached out a gripped my forearm with a reassuring squeeze and turned her attention away from the two of us.

She looked back down at the sleeping princess, and I could see her putting all of her considerable mental power behind the look. She stood suddenly and walked over to look at the man for a few moments and returned.

“I would guess,” she said slowly, taking Luna’s small hand her own. “Only guess, mind you, that this is one of those spells that is affected by the caster’s stress level.” Her face brightened. “Yes, I believe that is the case. If we can calm her, we should be able to break the spell. On both of them.”

Fluttershy looked at Michelle, then to me, and finally at Twilight. “Well, all we need is a little kindness,” she said firmly. She indicated Luna. “The poor thing is terrified! We might not know what she’s dreaming of, but we can try to help soothe her.”

Michelle immediately made to take the small girl up into her arms but was held up short by Twilight.

“Don’t move her,” was all that the former unicorn said in response to the scathing look that Michelle sent her.

With a sigh, Michelle stretched out beside Luna and began to caress and wipe away the tears and grime that caked the small girl’s face all the while whispering small encouragements and calming things into her ears.

Instead of the calming effect that we all expected, Luna continued her downward trend and seemed to sink deeper into her nightmare.

Fluttershy put a hand on Michelle’s shoulder and gave her an apologetic look. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just… well, you’re just not being gentle enough.” Her cheeks grew red, but she kept her resolve. “May I?”

When Michelle made no move to allow Fluttershy room, I put my hand on her arm and gently pulled her out of the way. Fluttershy knelt down beside Luna, but looked up before she got started.

“Could one of you please check on Doug for me?” she asked. “He’s the big guy over there.” She then bent down and began to whisper something into Luna’s ears.

Without a vocal response, I took the kit from the ground near us and walked over to the prone man, keeping an ear trained on the four girls. I knelt next to him and proceeded to give him a more thorough look over.

His face was showing similar distress and fear that was on Luna’s.

“Can I move or touch him?” I called over to Twilight, my hand hesitating over Doug’s face.

Twilight turned with a finger over her lips and shushed me before nodding.

I shrugged as she turned back to watching Luna and Fluttershy, and I proceeded to poke and prod at the man’s neck and arms. His pulse was slightly elevated, but otherwise seemed fine. Ignoring every single bit of my learning and experience, I have his neck a small pivot and sighed with relief as I felt nothing irregular.

Through my examination, I heard the sweet sounds of Fluttershy singing to the little girl, just loud enough for me to strain to understand the words.

Lay your head down and sleep on my shoulder,

A sad dream is ending, a new one begins.

As winter draws near and our hearts all grow colder,

The memory shall cradle you and tuck you in.

Sleep, forever sleep in this dream with no end,

Our love is your blanket to keep out the cold,

Rest with the knowledge that this dream shall mend,

All sorrow unspoken, all heartache untold.

I noted that she had a beautiful singing voice and an excellent sense of rhythm.

“That was beautiful,” gasped Michelle softly, looking at Fluttershy as though seeing her for the first time.

“It was…” said Twilight as she gave Fluttershy a strange look. “But why THAT song?”

Fluttershy was silent as she continued to run her hand gently over the stubble on Luna’s head.

“Why?” asked Michelle warily. “What’s wrong with that song?”

“There’s nothing wrong with the song itself, Michelle,” said Twilight, still looking at Fluttershy oddly. “Its just the timing that I’m questioning. It’s an Equestrian hymn to the dead, meant to ease the passage from life into death.” She looked up. “It’s not really used anymore, though.”

I waited for my rage and anger to boil over, for any surge of emotion to flood into my veins. But I felt only the strangest sense of peace and well-being.

Fluttershy continued to stare silently ahead, and almost looked on the verge of tears. Finally, she mumbled, “It’s the gentlest song I know…”

No one said anything for a few moments, and I returned to the girls. There was nothing wrong with the man.

“She’s very peaceful,” I commented as I knelt down next to her and smiled at Fluttershy.

“But she’s not awake,” pointed out Twilight in puzzlement. “It should have worked, and she should be waking up right about now.”

The light on Luna’s forehead had gone out and she seemed to simply be sleeping.

“Why don’t we just wake her up, then?” I asked, moving as though I would wake the small princess. “The spell’s broken, right?”

Twilight grabbed my hand in a surprisingly strong grip.

“I wouldn't, not until they’re both awake.”

“What about him?” asked Michelle, indicating the man’s unconscious form and looking at Fluttershy. “What should we do about him? Should we try waking him?”

Fluttershy looked to Twilight, who nodded, then she moved beside the man and knelt down again. “Maybe… maybe I should wake him up,” she suggested. “You know… just in case.”

We were left to wonder what she meant by that, but she offered no further explanation. Instead, she bent her face down near the man and whispered loudly, “Doug? It’s time to wake up.”

“If the noise that we’ve been making so far hasn’t worked…” I snarked before both Twilight and Michelle put their elbows into my ribs.

Fluttershy sighed, and the look of resolve we had seen on her returned. She closed her eyes and shouted, “Doug!”

I jumped, her raised voice surprised me.

Tears began to flow beneath Fluttershy’s closed eyelids. “You have to wake up,” she whispered, more to herself than to anyone else. “Please… please.” She opened her eyes and squeezed her hands into fists.

“Doug!”

The man moved. It was slight, and could have easily been missed if you blinked. Beneath his eyelids, the man’s eyes flicked rapidly in REM sleep.

“Doug!” Fluttershy shouted again. “Please wake up. Please!”

I had to forcefully stop myself from going over to the man’s side and checking on him. I had Luna to worry about. If Fluttershy failed, who knew what we were going to do?

“Luna!” the man cried, sitting up suddenly. Fluttershy wiped her eyes and he was immediately caught up in her embrace.

“Oh thank goodness it worked!” she breathed as she sat back, then moved in for another hug. “Are you okay?”

At the same moment that the man - Doug - awoke, Luna jerked in our arms and gasped as her eyes flew open, only to be instantly crushed by Michelle’s squeezing arms. I considered saving the princess from the smothering for a few moments and eventually pried my fiance off of her.

“Let the poor thing breathe,” I sighed. Michelle, Twilight and I were sitting behind Luna, huge smiles on all of our faces, and the relief was palpable in the air.

I turned to thank Fluttershy when suddenly, Luna turned her head and looked squarely into the eyes of the man.

He stared back. “Luna?” he asked, confused.

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