• Published 8th Apr 2021
  • 3,612 Views, 147 Comments

The Schools of Stalliongrad - Nadir

Commoners are given nothing, only having what they take. Twilight, lowborn that she is, won't settle for nothing. She'd rather have it all.

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Welcome to Stalliongrad

The world burned. Stalliongrad burned. The great schools of the North fell in flames and Luna could do nothing to stop it.

Luna’s city. Luna’s people fell to the fire. Yet, she could hardly will herself to move. Her balcony offered the perfect view to watch the destruction, an overview of her school, her castle, her everything. The flames rose all the more, threatening to engulf her even in her tower. The fire already consumed most of the castle, the great hall had fallen, as had her court chambers. Her tower would inevitably be next. She could picture it so clearly in her head, the way the carpet on each stair would burn, all her lovely tapestries, her paintings, everything that had reminded her of her loved ones.

Somehow, she could hear her citizens.

Please, sompony, help me!

Get the fillies! We have to go back in and get the fillies!

Keep your eyes closed, dear. Just a bit longer, just a bit-

Luna could hear their pleas, their screams, and their ends. There, another tower crumpled. The great library fell in on itself with a cacophony of crunches and desperate yells. Decades of knowledge, centuries of literature all lost at once, with a single crash. An entire row of homes burnt to a crisp in mere seconds, their thatch roofs and wooden siding kindle to the flame. The wall that once protected her city lay ruined already, holes wide enough for an entire army to march through left in its wake. Ash, like snow in the worst of blizzards, gave her the only reprieve, shadowing away the worst parts of the ruination.

The acrid smoke burned Luna’s nostrils, choking the air from her lungs. Tears stained her cheeks, threatening to spill over from her eyes once more. The mare’s ears pushed back against her head, desperately trying to stop the cries from reaching her, but it didn’t stop a single one. Somehow, she managed to close her eyes, but with each second that passed, another of her ponies passed.

Behind her, Luna heard a laugh, a cruel thing, borne from the depths of hell itself. Just out of her sight, somepony—nay, something lurked. The presence itself somehow rivaled the horrific sight before her. The thing moved, clopping against the floor with each step, closer and closer to a Luna that couldn’t move no matter how hard she struggled.

“Watch it burn,” the voice spat out. The words were seductive, silken, despite their very nature. Luna swore that she recognized it, every neuron of her brain screaming at her to figure it out, to make sense of it. Magic swirled around her eyes, forcing her eyelids back open, just in time to see the last of her school fall in on itself. A pang of hurt broke her heart, and painful tears threatened to spill over. Luna reached for her magic, desperate to force the power to the surface. Maybe if she could break whatever curse rooted her to the spot, she could do something.

Nothing came. Only now did she feel the pressure on her horn, and while she couldn’t see what it was, she guessed that somepony had slipped an inhibitor ring around it. “You failed them, Luna. You failed every single one of your precious prancing ponies. Reap what you sow.” It ended in a coo, something so out of place, so alien that it sent a shudder up Luna’s spine.

A whimper escaped her, pathetic for a princess but somehow the only thing that could leave her lips. The final tower of her school fell, crashing down into itself in a terrible spout of flame. Somehow, that alone galvanized her. A single word escaped her, echoing through the room and shattering whatever spell had bound her to the spot: “No!”

The word ended it all. Just as quickly as it had come, the vision melted away from around her and Luna found herself floating. The smoke lingered for just a second before that too dissipated away. Cool, crystalline light filtered around her, impossibly calm compared to the monstrosity of before. A single image appeared before her, a tiny mare, purple coated and horned. Find her, a voice whispered into her ear, so discrete, so quiet, she nearly missed it.

And then Luna woke up.

The cold night’s air bit at Twilight with every step that she took. Snow fell like a sheet of white, clouding the air around her and slowly dampening her few clothes and short fur. The wind howled around her, whipping the black cloak against her body. Few traveled this far north, and even fewer still made the journey with as little as the mare did. A cloak, a saddlebag, and her wits, nothing more and nothing less.

And even the saddlebags didn’t hold much. Inside, a photograph rested tucked inside a book, faded and old but still visible. The book itself hadn’t fared much better either, the edges of each page crumpled from weather damage and age, the once ivory color yellowed to something more jaundice. Other than that, a few bits, some food, and a canteen of now mostly frozen water waited inside. Her supplies had dwindled over the long journey, and this far into it, few remained.

Nopony came to Stalliongrad without reason. A massive city, but not one with bustling trade or a vibrant economy. No, Stalliongrad boasted a single export: magic. Magic schools and colleges cropped up here like trees to a forest, each one more impressive, more grandiose than the last. The veil between the more dream-like aether and the world itself thinned here, and magical feats possible nowhere else could be executed with… well, not ease, but as close as you could get to it.

Only here, could a commoner become a mage. Only a single damned magical school allowed commoners in, and it lived here in the frozen reaches of the bitter north. Run by none other than Princess Luna herself, the school took in all sorts from beginner to advanced mages. The path to archmage ran through it, despite what so many claimed otherwise. Twilight had seen pictures of it, the spiraling towers and massive lecture halls were things that occupied every corner of her dreams. She’d studied magic all of her life, but one could only do so much alone and without tutelage.

Twilight had read about the city, all about the different economies supporting the magic colleges, the different schools, and even the governing class. But, nothing she read had prepared her for how bitterly cold the city truly was, or how thick the snow around her hooves would grow. Nothing in her stories had told her of the looming wall in front of her either, a massive thing that had to be fifty feet tall, if not more. Torches dotted the parapets, flickering in the constant flurries of snow and wind. Ponies, townguard they had to be, kept watchful eyes on the darkness around.

Even if she had heard of it, nothing could have prepared her for the size either. Twilight hailed from a small village, one with barely a hundred ponies calling it home. In sharp contrast, Stalliongrad housed nearly a million souls and the wall somehow surrounded all of it. Once the day broke and the weather cleared, she’d have to study it. How had they kept something so massive up, and how long had the construction taken?

But nopony was out here, nopony but Twilight. Ever so slowly, she crept forward. The wind lessened, the guardhouse itself protecting her from the elements. “Halt.” The word accompanied a spear, suddenly leveled at her chest.

It would take Twilight but a moment to clear her eyes. Her horn stopped glowing, letting down the small shield she’d put in front of her face to keep the snow off it. Two stallions stood before her, both in the gleaming silver armor of the night.

Before Twilight could words out, the stallion with the spear leveled it to her chest spoke once more. “State your name and business for traveling this late in the evening, stranger.” A simple order, but one that Twilight actually took a second to process.

She licked her lips, warming up the frozen things as she cleared her throat. “Twilight Sparkle.” Her head tilted upwards, meeting the stallion’s eyes now. “I’m here to become the next archmage.”

A snort broke through the air around them, the other guard breaking down into peals of laughter. The spear retracted, pressed back against the ground once more. Even the formerly dead serious stallion with the spear had trouble keeping a straight face, though his was more conciliatory, pandering. “Oh, are ya now?” he asked, with a quirked up eyebrow. “And how exactly do you intend to do that? The post has been vacant for damned near a century now, and our dear Princess of the Night isn’t exactly going to change that any time soon. Not for a waifish little shit like you.” That broke him, the pair cackling out laughter, one having to even lean on his spear for support.

Twilight frowned. A deep breath calmed her down, enough to stop her from saying anything stupid. “If that’s enough, would you particularly mind letting me through?” she asked. Annoyance leaked in her voice no matter how hard she tried to stop it. Her nostrils flared, a huff leaving her and crystalizing in the air around her.

The laughing abated after an agonizingly frustrating minute or so. “Oh aye, go ahead,” the guard beckoned beyond, into the city proper. “Enjoy your stay in Stalliongrad, archmage.” Derision, derision and more laughter at her expense.

But Twilight ignored it.

She stepped forward, through the gatehouse and into the city. Already, it somehow felt warmer. Perhaps the walls and the city itself sheltered the inhabitants from the gusts of wind. Or perhaps the fires lit in the homes had an ambient heating effect on the streets too, Twilight couldn’t know for sure.

Yet, she’d find out. Nothing drove Twilight more than her insatiable curiosity. Even these little, seemingly unimportant things burned in her head until she found an answer. The Library of Stalliongrad would surely have an answer, because it held the answer to everything, didn’t it?

For now, she’d settle for finding a place to sleep. A wide square greeted her as she walked on, ringed with stalls and shops of all sorts. None of them were open this late, but during the day she could imagine what a busy bazaar this sort of place could be. The scraps of trash and discarded food wrappers gave that away, at least.

Where there was a market, there was an inn. Three streets branched out from the square itself and Twilight chose the middle one. This late at night, nopony braved the streets. Lights flickered inside of buildings, but most lay silent and dark, their denizens long since asleep.

The snow crunched under Twilight’s hooves as she walked, ahead of her she could see the sign for an inn. The Gilded Stallion. She might get a better deal elsewhere, but frankly the chill had set into her bones and she just wanted to be warm.

Twilight opened up the door and let the wave of warmth wash over her. The first floor of the tavern didn’t seem like anything special: a hearth on one side of the room with a smattering of chairs around it, a few tables and yet more chairs, and a bar with a row of casks and a stallion behind it.

It must have been later than Twilight realized because nopony filled the tavern room either, nopony drank or ate or told stories or anything of the sort. Even her tavern back home played host to all sorts of revelry until early in the morning. Or perhaps this tavern simply didn’t open it's doors to that sort of company.

Regardless, Twilight approached the counter, the stallion behind it seemingly half asleep as well. He noticed her after a moment’s time, eyes dragging over the small mare on the other side of the counter. “You missin’ yer parents, kid?” he asked, half leaning over the counter to fully see Twilight.

Twilight wasn’t some child. No, she was a full grown mare, if a bit small for her size, which made those sorts of questions all the more annoying for her. Yet, she did her best to not show it, one ear flicking as a tell-tale sign and nothing more. “No,” she answered, blunt but not cruel. “I need a room. For one.”

The stallion stopped leaning over the counter and gave a small nod. “Aye, we’ve got a couple rooms open. You got the bits for it? It’s twenty for a night, comes with breakfast and dinner too. Shit, you look half frozen to the bone, filly, I’ll give ya dinner now too if ya want it.”

Twilight’s stomach growled just at the thought of food. Her horn glowed, magic rooting around in her bag for the small bag of bits inside. She had just a bit more than twenty, thank the Goddesses, and out they’d come, settling into four even stacks of five on the counter. “There, that should do it. And dinner would be lovely, thanks. Should I just take a seat?” she asked, glancing around at the tables. Plenty of room at least, small victories.

The stallion swept the coins off the counter and into his waiting hoof, tucking them somewhere underneath the counter that she couldn’t see. “Aye, anywhere’s fine. Be right back in a few minutes, little miss.” With that, he clopped his way to a swinging door close by, pushed it open and let it swing back behind him.

Magic closed her saddlebags once more as Twilight took her seat at a table close to the fire. Warmth slowly started to fight the chill set into her bones, and with a grateful sigh, she shrugged off her cloak and saddlebags. They’d been on her so long that the saddlebags had left a divot in her fur and she hadn’t even realized how much of her fur had frozen. Of course, that now meant the vast majority of her fur had gotten wet from the ice melting but at least the fire would dry her up quickly.

With a pleased sigh, Twilight scooted closer to the fire, letting it warm her coat with its crackling heat. “Oh Luna,” she groaned out. The mare rested her head against the table, closing her eyes and letting herself just relax for a few seconds. Her hooves were sore and she had a raging headache, her tail quite literally dripped with melted snow, and she might have just fallen asleep right then and there.

Or she might not have heard the stallion come right back out. The smell of something warm and hearty opened her eyes right back up. Twilight peeked at the bowl left in front of her and sniffed at it, the scent of all sorts of veggies and delicious spices. She directed a thankful nod towards the stallion, grasping at the provided food with her magic. “Thanks. It's super late, so really appreciate you helping me out,” she smiled, the first time she had in who knew how long.

That got her a smile back from the tired stallion. “Don’t mention it, lass. This place here’s my pride and joy, I’ve spent more time getting this place in shape than… well, anything else in my damned life, that’s for sure. What brings ya to town, lass? We don’t get many mares yer age comin’ up alone. Er, how old are ya anyways?”

Twilight rolled her eyes, even as she sipped at the soup. It warmed her up from the inside out, and between it and the fire, she actually felt life breathed back into her. The cold had numbed her, and now that it had retreated, the soreness set in. “Nineteen,” she answered. She paused, considering her words before going on. “And I’m here to be a student at Princess Luna’s academy.” Without the cloak hiding it away, her cutie mark for magic shone bright against her flank.

“They started takin’ more students then, dinnit they?” he asked, with a low whistle. “Last I heard, they had closed up their doors for er, what was it, two years? Maybe three?” he mused.

Twilight stopped eating. The words had frozen her in place - stopped taking students? She couldn’t have come all this way for nothing. She’d given up her home, the only life she’d had to come here. Nothing else here existed for her but the school, and if it had stopped taking students, why had she even bothered to come? Tears welled up in her eyes, and the mare did her best to start mechanically scooping soup into her muzzle once more.

She didn’t even notice the way her tail and ears both drooped. Obviously, she realized that she slumped against the chair, and it apparently only took the stallion but a moment to pick it up too. “Err, lass?” he asked, tapping a hoof in the most delicate way possible against her shoulder. “Y’all right there?”

The sadness dissipated as quick as it came, replaced with sheer determination. No, Twilight hadn’t come this far just to fail. The journey alone had been hard enough, this was just another hurdle that she could overcome. “I’m fine,” she answered, though it took her an embarrassingly long time to get out. “It’s fine, I just… didn’t really expect to hear that. Do you know why?” she asked. At least she could look at him again, no more tears threatening to spill over.

“I can’t tell ya the details, lass. But I heard they had too many students. Luna didn’t have the time to devote to the school no more so she cut back. Only allowin’ ten per class now and the classes take damned near years to finish. Sorry to tell ya that, but I thought that you already knew and had been accepted anyways.” It was his turn to look awkward and uncomfortable, shifting back and forth where he stood. “Might wanna finish yer stew. Don’t want it to get cold.”

Twilight did look back towards her soup, seeing the steam still rise off the top. “It’s good stew. Thank you again. And uh, thanks for the information. Even if I didn’t wanna hear it. I’ll just have to think of a new way to get into the school,” Twilight resolved with a nod that mostly seemed directed to herself. Magic picked up the spoon again and she started to eat once more. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the stallion give a nod and head back to the counter, leaving her in peace once more.

Okay. So Twilight would have to re-do some of her plans. That was fine, she could do that. First step, find a new way into the academy. Or perhaps fake papers and claim that she had noble blood.

Or not, the last time somepony had done that, they’d been executed. As much as Twilight loved magic and wanted to study it, she loved her head being attached to her neck even more. Her hoof had unknowingly started to tap against the ground, idly eating her soup as she thought.

Princess Luna ran the school. She also held court visits daily. Well, nightly from what Twilight had read. In fact, that meant she probably held court right now, right? What stopped here from simply marching up there and declaring her goal? Well for one, guards. Also, it probably would end up with her laughed out of town.

Quite honestly, she didn’t have the supplies to make the trip back. The school provided room and board to all of its students and Twilight had banked on that. If she had to take the same journey back, she’d probably perish. But there wasn’t a reason to stay here if she didn’t get into the school. No future.

No future anywhere, actually. Her spoon clinked against the bottom of the bowl, giving away that she’d run out of it entirely. She frowned, looking at the empty bowl as her mind kept working on overdrive. It’s not like she had many chances here. And by the princesses, she felt tired, so very tired, and sore.

Only one idea and a damned stupid idea. “Why can’t I think of anything?” she blurted out, smashing her forehooves against the table. It clattered the bowl and the spoon, the porcelain and silver making quite the noise against the wood.

“Oi!” The barkeep called, a swear under his breath that she barely heard. “I get yer frustrated but watch the goods, aye? That stuff cost me a damned fortune…” he complained, trailing off with a light growl.

Fair enough. With a sigh, Twilight stood once more, levitating the bowl and the spoon with her. She’d drop them at the counter with a muttered thanks. “Sir, thank you so much for the hospitality. I have to make one more stop before I rest for the night, will my room still be ready?” she asked, trying to affix the smile back on her face. Time to do a stupid plan.

“Aye,” he answered. “Be safe, y’here? I’d hate to hear ya froze to death in some damned alleyway. Keep your wits about ya, filly.”

A nod answered his words, and levitation brought Twilight’s things back to her side. “Can you give me directions to the castle?” she asked. Quite a bit easier than wandering around hopelessly.

“Aye, lass. It’s up the hills. Keep going up and ya can’t miss it. Normally, you’d see it, but with this damned weather it’ll probably be blotted out,” he explained. “Jes follow the hills.” A single gold bit left as a tip and Twilight had gone.

Out into the cold air she’d go once more, the blistering cold slamming into her like a wall. Fiery determination filled her up, keeping the worst of it at bay. Eyes looked up, scanning the horizon. The snow blurred most of it away from her view, hiding away the buildings as the city stretched on and on. It sloped upwards, the city built on some kind of massive hill. From what Twilight remembered, it had been purposefully built that way as a method to protect the city.

That did, however, make it all the more of a pain to traverse. The cloak wrapped back around herself once more, horn lighting up as a shield covered her eyes from the worst of the snow. Even as she just started to walk, she could already see great buildings looming in the distance. They had to be a dozen stories, perhaps more. Twilight didn’t even know that things could get that tall. Sure, she’d read about them in books, but that didn’t mean she’d fully believed the tales. Now that she’d seen them in person, she might just be able to believe anything.

And yet, she trekked on past all of them. On a normal day, her curiosity may have gotten the better of her, but not today. Going up the hills took the last energy out of her that she could, but Twilight preserved. The wind howled around her the higher up she went, fewer and fewer buildings providing cover.

She could recognize the different districts she passed through. This one was a merchants district, this a crafters, and this one a housing district. Each had their obvious signs: stalls in one, looms through the window in another, and fancy walls hiding away gardens in the last.

Yet, with her cloak wrapped around her, Twilight paid her no mind. The rest of the world faded away as one thought stayed in her head. She needed to be in Luna’s school. She had to be in Luna’s school. She hadn’t come this far just to fail, and no amount of bureaucracy or slowdowns could stop her.

The journey would at least give her time to make something of a plan. Teleportation? Maybe. That used to get the ponies back in her village excited. But for a princess, it probably didn’t have the same ‘kick’. Thaumaturgy? No, basic. Alchemical re-arrangement? Too complex and without the required materials. Battle spells? Oh, who did she kid? She didn’t know any!

Finally, she could see the castle looming ahead of her. Another wall surrounded it, this one not quite as tall as the earlier one, but thicker all the same. The castle rose still higher than it, just as high as the other buildings she’d seen on the way up. This gatehouse had twice as many ponies guarding it, but none of them even spared an eye for the poor mare stepping through.

No, Twilight recognized these guards. Silver armor, crested helmets, black coats all of them. Only members of the elite night guard regiment ‘The Silver Dragoons’ wore such extravagant equipment. They were heroes, they were legends, and Twilight felt just a touch of awe go through her from the sight of them alone.

Thoughts of her favorite stories filled her head as she entered a courtyard. It was nice enough, she supposed. Marble bricks with a fountain in the middle, Princess Luna set in stone, poised to strike down an enemy that no one could see. The Victorious Moon, of course. Benches and different outcroppings of flora surrounded the square, flowers somehow still blooming amidst the downpour of snow and constant cold.

It didn’t compare to all the stories she’d heard, though. Stories of Golden Lance, the pegasus who had slain three dragons in the battle of Stalliongrad. Or Lunar Wisp, the unicorn mage who could move an entire battalion alone with her magic. And who could forget Starlight Glimmer? The renowned Captain of the Guard who’s horn could turn the tide of any battle. Some even claimed she was an alicorn in disguise.

Preposterous, of course. Twilight still wanted to be like her more than she could ever admit. Starlight would have something amazing here, some grand plan that would turn the world on its head. Twilight, however, did not. As she approached the stairs leading up into the castle proper, that thought dominated her mind.

The great double doors on top were propped open, light spilling from within. Twilight found herself in the great hall, the very first room within the confines of the massive stone blocks. A small, orderly line had settled into their place, with one pony making their case already.

Twilight had never seen such finery. The inner walls and stone were carved from a brilliant marble, sparkling in the light in a pearlescent way, somehow reflecting all the colors of the night. Chandeliers, mammoth in size, dangled from the ceiling, the multi layered things a masterwork of glass and gems. Tapestries hung from the walls, spaced between stained glass windows depicting all sorts of scenes. Twilight recognized a few: that one depicted the Battle of Stalliongrad, another the invention of the teleportation spell, and another the rising of the moon.

Displays were interspersed against the ground, some showing vases intricately made, other pieces of armor, or jewels. One even seemed to be in the shape of Luna’s cutie mark, the silver a perfect representation of the Moon Goddess’s mark. A silver carpet embroidered with lilac ran down the center, towards the thrones.

But none of that mattered. What mattered sat on the throne. Luna’s radiance had been described before, but nothing did it justice. Her mane, lustrous as the night sky, flowed around her, hugging her neck tight. It sparkled with such colors, each of the stars contained within her mane. Her features, oh Goddesses, her features were seemingly chiseled from marble, the picture perfect visage of pony perfection. It almost made Twilight’s heart stop.

A white robe covered most of her body, dark blue tabard straight down the middle of it - the same color as the mare’s radiant fur. In the center of it, the full moon shone, somehow glittering despite being nothing but cloth. A pendant hung from her horn, wrapped around it with a silver chain and dangling down to a half moon between her eyes. Her tail curled around her, nice and tight but still flowing like a river in the winter. Despite the derisive, almost bored look on her face, Twilight had never seen anything more amazing in her life.

Twilight wanted to touch her. Was that weird? Probably. She just seemed like one of those things that shouldn’t exist in real life, something too perfect to last. The mare took a step forward, mesmerized by what was in front of her.

And found herself roughly shoved back by another guard in the finery of the Silver Dragoons. “Get in line, miss,” he grunted out. The scarred stallion nodded his head towards the line of ponies.

Oh. Right. Yes, princesses couldn’t just get approached, there were rules and decorum that needed to be followed. With a nod, Twilight got into line, antsy as could be. She watched the proceedings, but some sort of bubble stopped sound from leaking out. The princesses lips moved and the other pony shifted when they talked, but Twilight couldn’t hear anything no matter how much she tried.

On a whim, the girl reached out with her magic. She probed against the air around her, eyes closing as she focused in on her magic. Slowly, her consciousness spread, filling up the space around her and exuding outwards. She found what she was looking for nearly instantly, her own power touching against something hard, something strong, something… blue?

It only took Twilight a moment more to realize where the bubble radiated out from. Luna herself had cast the spell, somehow doing it without her horn glowing. But, that should be impossible - the laws of magic stated that that couldn’t happen! Then again, what made her think that the princesses had to follow the laws of the world?

Suddenly, Twilight found herself getting hurried forward, eyes opening as she caught up to the events surrounding her. The line had moved up several ponies and a gap waited between Twilight and them. She hurried herself forward, watching as the most recent petitioner left with a dejected look on their face.

Before the assembly could go on, however, Luna raised up a hoof. The disappearance of the barrier around her resounded magically through the room, enough to make Twilight wince when the veritable shockwave of magic hit against her horn. “Who dared to probe my spellwork?” she called, harsh words filling the room and echoing through the hall.

For a second, nopony spoke. Twilight didn’t, Luna didn’t, the guards didn’t, nopony. Yet, out of the corner of her eye, she did see the two Silver Dragoons go over to guard the entrance, spears crossing together and hiding the entrance away. A lump formed in Twilight’s throat, sudden worry blossoming through her.

Without even realizing it, a blue glow had started to surround Twilight’s body. “Found you!” the same, regal voice called, this time with a laugh. “Seize the unicorn, guards!”

Twilight only noticed it when she saw the dragoons beelining towards her. A squeak escaped her, and Twilight did her best to run. She shoved through the ponies still lined up in front of her, horn starting to glow as her mind focused on something, anything.

With a ‘pop’ of magic, the mare teleported. She didn’t go far, just clear of the crowd, out into the center of the room. She skidded to a stop a dozen or so feet in front of the throne. Frantically, she looked towards the princess, eyes meeting hers for the first time.

The world stopped. Their eyes had met and so much happened, Twilight’s mind nearly couldn’t take it. She saw smoldering anger, she saw fury. But that’s not all she saw - no, worry nestled deep in the depths, and… recognition? Twilight’s own eyes reflected so many emotions back too, desperation, fear, and hope, above all, hope.

Just like that, the spell broke. Twilight’s gaze dragged back towards the guards, panic flaring through her. One had seemingly appeared before her, horn sparkling with a cyan glow. A scythe of magic cut through the air, Twilight belatedly realizing that it was directed towards her horn. A shield of her own amethyst magic flared into being, the scythe bouncing right off of it, somehow.

“How!?” The guard barked out, a surprisingly feminine voice filling the air.

Twilight wasn’t the only surprised one. The feedback of magic on magic didn’t hurt nearly as bad as she thought it would, especially from a silver dragoon. Still, she tried to scramble her way back, keeping her shield up as she moved.

It didn’t last. From above, where she couldn’t see, somepony dive bombed her, hooves striking against her shield hard enough for it to pop. The amethyst thing shattered around her, pieces falling to the ground as feedback slammed into her horn. That time, it was enough to make her scream, a frantic cry combined with a ‘thud’ as the hooves slammed into her body too.

Twilight tried to get off the floor, but she couldn’t manage it. Hooves scrambled, pushing something around her horn. An inhibitor ring, cool and cruel. Like that, her connection to the magical world disappeared entirely, poofing out of existence and leaving her blind in the mystical sense.

At the same time, magical manacles closed around her hooves, forcing them together. Behind her, Twilight could hear hooves clacking against the ground.

Her breath came short and quick, panicked as tears stung at the edges of her eyes. She hadn’t meant to do anything wrong, it had all been an accident! The mare even spoke up to say as much, only to find magic keeping her mouth shut.

She’d found herself face to face with Princess Luna. The Princess inspected her quizzically, the pegasus pony still staying perched on Twilight’s back, keeping her from moving. Between the pegasus’ armor and their body weight, Twilight felt like she was being crushed. “How curious you are,” Luna mused. Her voice, oh goddesses, her voice made something shudder inside of Twilight Sparkle. It was full, honeyed, so sweet and so terrible at the same time. The voice of a Goddess. ”Take her to the dungeons. I’ll deal with her later.” An unimpassioned order, jerking her head towards a side door.

“Mmmm!! Mmmph!” It was the only thing that Twilight could say, words muffled by her muzzle getting stuck tight. Stupid magic, stupid inhibitor ring! The glow from the magic around her muzzle had even started to grow more intense, forcing the girl to shut her eyes.

With a quiet whimper, Twilight relented. “Up,” the order came out from that feminine voice, manacles slackening enough for the girl to walk at least. “Follow me, no sudden moves. Silent Knight, keep an eye out for her." A grunt from behind her, Twilight was just able to see the white fur coat and blue mane of the stallion behind her.

They led her quickly through halls that darkened with each step, down a winding staircase into the darkness below. Torches lit up the stone walls occasionally, but all the finery had disappeared. Twilight could hear moans and groans, as well as idle chatter from quite a few ponies. And most of all, it stank. It smelled to the high heavens, all sorts of terrible stenches swirling together into something all the worse.

At the end of the hall, the unicorn nudged Twilight into a cell. It didn’t have much to it, straw bedding, a bucket in a corner, and no light permeating through. Total darkness. The door clanged shut behind her, the magic fading away and leaving her at least somewhat free.

“Might wanna get some rest,” the unicorn spoke once more. “The Princess said she’ll be by soon, so she will. Breakfast is in three hours. I’ll uh… see about getting you a light down here too. Sorry about this.”

Twilight swallowed hard, giving a silent nod and only belatedly realizing the other mare couldn’t see her. “I-it’s okay,” she whispered, even though it was definitely not.

The clopping of hooves down the hall announced the departure of the two guards, leaving Twilight all by her lonesome.

Alone, neutered, and terrified, Twilight was left with one thought:

This was a terrible idea.

Author's Note:

Enjoy your stay.