• Published 25th Jun 2021
  • 1,046 Views, 17 Comments

Creeping Darkness - Bronyxy

An unexpected visitor crashes Day Court, alerting Twilight to something being seriously wrong in the Crystal Empire ...

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11 The Price of Victory

The pair of alicorns flew upwards from the Royal balcony, apparently alone, but the focus of hundreds of pairs of concerned eyes hovering a hundred yards away in the darkness, all aching with impotent powerlessness as they watched their Princess being escorted by Equestria’s arch-enemy to a fate they could not guess.

Twilight flew in between the balustrades and alighted onto the same platform where the Crystal Heart had waited for her and Spike all those years ago. Closely behind, Nightmare Moon touched down slightly to one side, the sound of her hooves jolting Twilight back to her current reality.

There was nothing there other than the stairs emerging from below. Gone were the jagged black crystals jutting up from the floor that she remembered from her previous visit, and all that now adorned the empty floor was a five pointed star motif.

“Do you want to, or shall I?” asked nightmare Moon.

Twilight didn’t answer, not understanding the question, so in the next instant she jumped back as a stream of light blue aura shot upwards to energise the large crystal above them that formed the apex of the castle. A trail of evil black energy flowed down from above and crept across to a seemingly featureless piece of floor, which then opened up to reveal a stairway spiralling downwards.

“Well?” Nightmare Moon prompted, gesturing to Twilight to lead the way.

Twilight looked into the stairwell which was filled with an impenetrable gloom and lit her horn. Instantly, she was knocked off her hooves by a bolt of energy and skidded across the floor. She raised her head and looked up at Nightmare Moon who was staring down at her imperiously, an angry grimace on her muzzle.

“No funny business” she commanded, “I thought I had told you before.”

“I need … my horn … to see” Twilight protested, gasping in air from where she had been winded.

Nightmare Moon kept her horn aimed directly between Twilight’s eyes.

“Get up!” she ordered.

Twilight tensed her forelegs and began to raise herself up, followed by her hind legs until she was standing, albeit a little shakily. At that moment, she suddenly appreciated the power she was up against and knew she would have to act firmly and decisively to defeat this threat, but also that she was now well beyond anything she had foreseen or planned for.

“I do not have night vision” she stated defiantly, “I need to light my horn.”

Nightmare Moon paused and stared, not allowing her gaze to drift for even a fraction, while she sized up her enemy.

“Very well” she conceded warily, “But point it away from me when you light it. Understand?”

Twilight turned her head, but kept her eye on Nightmare Moon and lit her horn. They both knew that once lit, she could easily fire off a different spell without there being any visual clue that was what she was doing.

Twilight walked submissively over towards the stairwell and began her walk down into the darkness, lit only by the weak light emanating from her horn.

“Oh for the sake of everything …!” Nightmare Moon ranted in her obvious impatience, “We fly! Walking would take way too long!”

Twilight turned her head to see the face of an angry black alicorn well inside her personal space.

It took only a fraction of a second to reach out the short distance and grab the evil pony by her forelegs, pulling her off balance, and beginning a freefall down the centre of the spiral stairwell. While Nightmare Moon was still in shock, Twilight looked her straight back in the eye and forced their horns together, calling on a strength that she had not unleashed in many decades.

“Rainbow Dash, give me courage; Applejack, keep me true; Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rarity, my dear friends, be with me now! We may be separated, but we are never truly apart; help me NOW!”

She squeezed Nightmare Moon tightly and kept their horns forced together despite her enemy’s frantic wriggling and increasingly desperate head movements, straining to break the bond between their horns, but Twilight was determined not to let it happen.

As she held on with every ounce of strength she could muster, she felt a calmness descend upon her and saw her friends as they had been back in the happy days when they had all been together, each one giving her messages of encouragement:

“You got this Twi” said Rainbow Dash.

“We’re all with you darling” said Rarity.

Nightmare Moon’s anger turned swiftly into fear, and she screamed in the shocked realisation that not only had she been outwitted, but she was losing. She fought even harder to free herself as the Magic of Friendship began to take hold, and a rainbow aura swirled into existence.

Twilight allowed herself a brief smile of satisfaction as the rainbow bonds wrapped themselves ever more tightly around the wildly struggling black mare. She knew the spell was working, and released her grip, falling away free while the rainbow energy built up and in a flash had disappeared along with Nightmare Moon.

Finally alone, Twilight quickly unfurled her wings and began to flap, not knowing how much further there was to fall and began her journey back up to the top of the stairs once more, thankful that she had not hit what she assumed must be a solid rock floor at the bottom of the stairs.

She flew back up the core of the stairwell, passing the featureless and seemingly infinite carved steps, looking forward to reaching the top and being reunited with her army, with whom she could finally set things right now Nightmare Moon was gone.

Eventually, the stairs ended in a solid stone ceiling. She pointed her horn at it and fired off some magic, then waited for it to open, but it remained resolutely solid. She fired off spell after spell, but none would work. With each failed spell, she came to realise that it had taken evil crystal magic to open it, and that was a magic she did not possess.

There was no way out for her up here, so she flew down the stairwell until she reached the bottom, a very, very long way down, but there was nothing. Once again, it seemed that any further access would have to be granted by using Sombra’s crystal magic.

She was stuck; entombed in a part of the Crystal Castle that was only accessible by dark magic. She had bought freedom for the crystal ponies and saved Equestria from the rule of Nightmare Moon, but at a high personal cost; she was immortal and destined to spend all of that time magically sealed away; the Princess of Friendship never able to meet anypony ever again. The price was high, but, she thought to herself with a heartfelt sigh, it had been the right thing to do.

Twilight set about making herself comfortable and then with a sad sigh, began to reflect on all the friends she had made in her long life.