• Published 1st Sep 2021
  • 2,248 Views, 118 Comments

Glimpses 2 - Pen Stroke



The power of "what if" tempts once again, but are the little ponies really ready for the answers?

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Variance 1 - Depths

Based of request by Caligari87 - What if Past Sins and Into The Depths occurred in the same AU?


Winter Wisp watched as the unicorn carefully unpacked his suitcase, laying out materials in clear and concise positions upon the kitchen table. It was so strange for him to be in this position. To have to reach out and trust a total stranger with something so important and so… nerve-wracking, terrifying, personal. There were so many words and not a single one seemed capable of encapsulating the situation.

A set of neatly stacked pages tapped into perfect alignment against the table. An inkwell and quill with a pristine white feather. These items the unicorn brought were normal, but then odd things began to appear. He placed a compass, the needle jiggling and quickly aligning itself to the north. A tiny bell on a tiny stand, like something you’d purchase to go with a tiny toy town. A medallion with six tiny gems along the border and the image of a craggy tree emblazoned upon the upright face.

“Mr. Wisp,”

Winter Wisp flinched and looked up. The stallion had finished unpacking his bag, and Wisp had been so lost in examining the unicorn's strange items he hadn’t noticed. The unicorn himself was as average as any other. He was a dull red tone, like a smoldering ember in a fireplace, and was of average height and build. “I’m sorry, Mr. Hearth. Just… distracted.”

“Understandable. From your letter, it sounds like you’ve been having a difficult time recently. Please, just so I can hear it from you, can you tell me what's been happening?”

Wisp nodded, his eyes wandering once more to the little compass. It was fairly new, the exterior metal still polished and reflective. He could glimpse a bit of himself in it, his winter colors suitable for a pegasus with his name. Compared to Mr. Hearth, their colors were like fire and ice.

“An uncle of mine used to live in this home before he passed. There was a big family dispute over who would get to inherit it. My uncle’s ex-wife and her family expected to get it. When they divorced, my… aunt-in-law really tried to get more than her fair share. She succeeded too, but uncle held onto this house and swore she’d never get it. Well, he carried that threat to the grave. That was the one hard rule when distributing the will. His ex-wife and that part of the family couldn’t have this house no matter who received it.”

Wisp’s eyes wandered to the nearby window. “Eventually, it was decided I would get the house. I was ecstatic. A home like this in Canterlot? It was a dream come true for my family. My wife’s been able to get a better job. She’s a chef and is trying to work her way up on Saddle Row. And the schools here in Canterlot are so good. My little filly, Spring Step, has been doing so well. She’s made new friends and loves her teacher.”

“But…” Mr. Hearth said.

That tone… yes, Wisp knew he was beating around the bush, trying to not say what sounded so crazy. He swallowed, gathered his courage, and turned away from the window to look back at his guest. “But strange things have been occurring recently. It all started when my uncle’s ex-wife came by. She brought a housewarming gift. I was so surprised. It was a nice gesture. I thought she was trying to mend bridges.

“There was a doll in the gift basket, and Spring Step fell in love with it immediately. She named it Mrs. Teacup and started talking to it. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. All little ponies play pretend with their toys. I know I did when I was that age. She was just playing her games and everything was just… normal.”

“Until it wasn’t,” Mr. Hearth said, using his magic to write out some notes on the paper in front of him, though he never disturbed the stack. The pages remained neatly aligned.

“Suddenly, Spring Step got sent home from school for hitting another student. She’s never been like that, and it was over such a little thing. She’s been angrier and throwing tantrums. She hasn't thrown a tantrum since she was a foal. I get that things sometimes change as little fillies and colts grow up. They go through phases, but like I said in the letter, one day I’m trying to send Spring Step to her room and she just looked at me. She looked at me with eyes that felt… hollow.

“No… hollow isn’t the right word. They just… it was like someone else was looking at me, studying me. It was the way I’ve seen my wife look at tomatoes when she’s trying to pick the best one at the grocer. It was like I was below her. That I was something to be judged.

Wisp swallowed a little. The memory of that moment made him tense and relax his wings, trying to dispel the uncomfortable feeling from that situation. "After a long silence, Spring Step said ‘Mrs. Teacup is going to make you sorry.’” Wisp shuddered, repeating the words sent a chill down his spine. "It was more the way she said it, the timber in her voice. She was threatening me that her doll, the doll from her aunt, was going to make me sorry… and I believed her. I honestly felt like it was a real threat… from my little filly.”

“And then the occurrences began?”

“I just thought I was clumsy. Something fell off a counter in the kitchen. I was sure I had just not put it down right. Then my wife cut herself while cooking. As I said, she’s an experienced chef. Maybe she’d knick herself, but this was a deep gash. She’d never make that kind of mistake. She needed five stitches, a healing potion, and had to take two days off work to recover because the cut was so deep. Then the noises at night began.

“I just thought it was Spring Step going to the bathroom, but it was too loud. The hoofsteps were too heavy. I was sure someone had broken in, but my wife and I searched the whole house and couldn’t find anything. And now it’s happening once a week at least. Some nights I feel like I just have to be dreaming about it. That my brain is making things up because I'm just worried about Spring Step. But the other night the door to our room opened on its own.”

Mr. Hearth nodded, still writing notes. “And that happened after you had spoken to the police and reached out to the MBI?”

Wisp nodded firmly. “Yes yes. We spoke to the police after the first night. They looked and couldn’t find signs someone had broken in, but of course, we’re in Equestria. There’s magic and teleportation, so they told me to file a report with the Magical Bureau of Investigations. And thank you again for coming out to investigate, Mr. Hearth.”

“It’s part of the job, Sir, though I will admit, I haven’t been able to find any signs that someone has been teleporting in and out of your home. The magical field around the home is fairly stable and within expected tolerances.”

Wisp felt his heart sink. “So… you can’t do anything?”

“I didn’t say that. This situation, which I believe is caused by more eccentric magic, is well within the MBI’s jurisdiction.”

“Eccentric magic?” Wisp asked, having never heard that exact turn of phrase before. It was a phrase that seemed to only aggravate the anxiety that was gripping his heart.

“Equestrians know a great deal about unicorn magic and the sorts of relics that can be created with it. Equestria is also a frontrunner in potion magic as well. But there are many kinds of magic in the world, Sir. I do believe something is happening in your house, but I’m going to need to investigate a little more to be sure of its nature.”

“P-please, just let me know what I can do.”

Mr. Hearth jotted down a few more notes before reaching to tap his quill in the inkwell. “I don’t suppose I could see this doll, this Mrs. Teacup?”

Wisp nodded, standing up from his seat at the table. “Y-yes, of course. Just a moment.” Wisp quickly trotted out of the room and found his way upstairs. Opening the door to Spring Step’s room was easy since it didn’t have a lock. Mrs. Teacup was sitting where she always was, right in the center of Spring Step’s bed. Spring Step always placed the doll very carefully in the same spot every day before going to school.

Wisp grabbed the doll, holding it in a feathered wing as he trotted back downstairs. The doll was pretty cute, Wisp had to admit it. A little pink pony doll with yellow yarn mane and smile. It looked like something that had been hoof made, but as cute as it looked, a strange odor always hit Wisp’s nose whenever he touched it. It was like Spring Step had dropped the doll in something nasty, and the odor remained no matter how many times the toy was washed.

And that same odor just barely teased Wisp’s nose as he reached the bottom of the stairs. He moved back to the kitchen and placed the doll on the table. “Here it is,” he said as he looked up at Mr. Hearth.

Mr. Hearth nodded and silently observed the doll for a moment. Wisp saw his nose crinkle. Did he smell the same thing? Wisp was grateful to know he wasn’t the only one that could smell it. He didn’t know how his daughter never complained about it.

The unicorn stallion observed the doll a few moments more, scratching out notes that Wisp couldn’t quite read from where he was standing. Then Mr. Hearth picked up the compass and held it close to the doll. The needle of the compass continued to point north, no matter how the stallion positioned it. Was he expecting something to happen? Was he expecting there to be a magnet in the doll?

Then the stallion rang the little bell, using a hoof to gently tap it while his magic kept the compass held close to the doll. The little bell had a very pretty sound. Despite its small size, it reminded Wisp of the bells shops had above the doors sometimes. A nice, clean, sharp sound that was easy to hear.

Ring… ring… ring… Mr. Hearth rang the bell in regular intervals and did so for a good while. Wisp, without even meaning to, was starting to count how many times the bell had been rung. Eight… nine… ten… he was starting to feel anxious. This behavior was odd. What could possibly… but then his eyes saw something, a flicker of movement. Winter Wisp focused his vision and had to wonder if he was seeing things.

Every time Mr. Hearth rang the bell, the needle in the compass twitched, being pulled towards the doll briefly before point back to the north.

Finally, after ringing the bell a few dozen times, Mr. Hearth put the compass back down and scribbled out several additional notes. As he wrote, he levitated the medallion. It was attached to a thin string, and Mr. Hearth let it dangle by the string as he brought it close to the doll. The medallion spun lazily, rocking back and forth as any slight twist worked itself out of the string.

And yet, Wisp noticed that the gems on the medallion were glowing a little bit. Each one was at a slightly different intensity, except for one gem that stayed unlit. Mr. Hearth seemed to take notice of this as well, as he had doodled a diagram of the medallion in his notes and was writing details next to each of the gems in the doodle.

Mr. Hearth then took the medallion away and began to pack up his supplies, including his notes, inkwell, and quill.

Wisp glanced between the doll and Mr. Hearth a few times. “W-wait, that’s it? I mean… okay, I had my suspicions about the doll, but do you know what’s going on? Is something going on? Did somepony do something to it?”

Mr. Hearth finished packing everything into his saddlebags and placed them over his back. He then levitated and placed his hat on his head, his unicorn horn quickly finding the snug-fitting hole in the fabric. “My early indications are that something of magical nature has been done to this doll and, by extension, your daughter. And while I would normally stay and pursue this further, the early indication is that this situation will require a specialist.”

Mr. Hearth was turning to leave, and in his panic, Wisp quickly trotted after him. “B-but what about Spring Step? Will my daughter be okay?”

“I promise you, Sir, your daughter will be fine.” Mr. Hearth stopped at the door. His magic pulled on the handle and opened the door as he turned to look back at Winter Wisp. “The department will be sending someone out this evening to assist with your daughter. Expect her promptly one hour after sundown. Please let your wife know, but for your daughter, try to keep up appearances. It’s best if she believes everything is normal.”

“And this pony… they’ll be able to help?”

“If it’s who I think it will be, I promise you, Sir, she’s the best pony for the job.”

~~~

Wisp looked at the clock later that evening, watching the minute hoof crawl ever closer to the time when the MBI agent was supposed to arrive. He glanced at his wife, Green Garnish. They were sitting together on the couch. He held a book in one wing while Green Garnish, as an earth pony, held her book with her hooves. They, as a couple, would normally spend evenings talking and reading books together while Spring Step played in the living room.

Spring Step was keeping as if everything was normal. She was playing some game that involved Mrs. Teacup and a few of her other toys. From the arrangement of the toys, Wisp couldn’t be exactly sure what was going on, but Mrs. Teacup was the center focus as usual.

But while their daughter played normally, neither Wisp nor Garnish were able to keep their focus. They were barely talking. Wisp himself had been stuck on the same page for the past half hour, and he was pretty sure Garnish wasn’t doing much better.

Another glance at the clock, and the minute hoof ticked forward. It was time, and as if on cue, a polite knock came at the door.

Wisp nearly jumped out of his fur. Yes, he had been expecting it. He had been waiting anxiously for it, but the suddenness of the knock had startled him. Spring Step and Green Garnish had also been caught off guard, and now the whole family was looking at the door.

“I’ll get it,” Wisp said, trying to find his voice as he got up from the couch and used his wings to fly over to the door. He placed a hoof on the door and took a moment to steady himself. He tried to shake out his nerves, as a dog would shake off water, before he pulled open the door. He looked straight ahead.

Where he expected to see a pony’s face he instead saw a white collar and a royal purple necktie.

“Winter Wisp I presume,”

Wisp’s eyes moved upward. He had to take a step back to keep himself from craning his neck to an uncomfortable angle. The mare on his porch was as tall as a princess and black as night. Besides the collar and necktie, she was also wearing a pair of square spectacles. Her hair was tied back, and at first blush, Wisp would have believed this mare to be the princess of librarians.

And a princess was perhaps accurate. As Wisp looked at the mare longer, he saw she had both a horn and a pair of wings. This was an alicorn, one of Equestria’s six. Without introduction, Wisp knew who was standing in front of him.

“Y-yes,” he said, finally realizing that he had not responded to the mare’s question.

“Agent Sparkle, MBI. I believe you’re expecting me.”

“Y-yes,” he said again, quickly stepping back as the mare confirmed his suspicions of her identity. The tall mare had to duck to get through their door, and standing at full height, she almost scraped the ceiling with her horn. Yet she stepped gingerly as if entirely used to being in places built only for normal-sized ponies.

Wisp sensed his wife come up beside him, both of them now looking at this giant of a pony. “Sparkle… did she just say Sparkle?” Green Garnish asked in a quiet whisper. “You don’t think…”

“Who else could it be!? How many alicorns do you think there are in Equestria?” Wisp replied as they both kept their eyes on the alicorn. Nyx Sparkle, the reborn and redeemed Nightmare Moon, was in their home. They had seen in the papers that the daughter of their current ruler, Princess Twilight Sparkle, was working for the MBI instead of helping to rule the kingdom. But Wisp would have never imagined she’d be in their home.

Nyx shut the door to the home and gently removed her bags from her back. After a firm swallow, Wisp managed to find his voice again. “Can we offer you anything?”

“No, no thank you?” Nyx replied as she looked around the room and her eyes settled on Spring Step, who was looking up at her with wide eyes. “I presume this is your daughter.”

“Y-yes.”

For a moment, Nyx’s stern and serious demeanor melted away. She gently worked her way down, resting on her belly on the floor. With the length of her neck, her head was still close to Wisp and Garnish’s eye level, but she had still lowered herself as far as she could to address Spring Step.

“Hello, Spring Step. My name is Nyx.”

“You’re tall,” Spring Step said. Wisp felt a little embarrassed that his daughter had forgotten all manners, but really, he couldn’t fault her either. This was a very strange circumstance.

“Yes, I suppose I am, but I hope you don’t find me scary. Looks like you’re having a lot of fun. What are you doing?”

“Princess Teacup is ruling her kingdom and I’m helping her!” Spring Step said, proudly holding out the doll with her forehooves. Spring Step had taken after her mother and was thus an earth pony.

“Well, she seems to have many happy subjects and an impressive kingdom.” Nyx’s horn began to glow and her saddlebags shifted as one of the flaps opened. From the bag, she drew out another doll. This one looked much older and well-worn. It was patched in places, and the gray fabric of the main body looked frayed and faded. “Would Princess Teacup be willing to see a diplomatic visitor from another country, Mrs. Smarty Pants?”

“Of course!” Spring Step said only to quickly bring the doll to her ear. She nodded her head as if intently listening. Wisp watched this all unfold feeling like he was lost in a dream. An alicorn was in his living room playing dolls with his daughter? Had he hit his head earlier?

“Actually, Princess Teacup doesn’t really like Mrs. Smarty Pants,” Spring Step eventually said, moving to hug Mrs. Teacup to her chest.

“Oh, that’s a shame. I’ve always found Smarty Pants to be such a good friend,” Nyx said, looking down at Smarty Pants before focusing back on Spring Step. “Did Princess Teacup say why she doesn’t like Smarty Pants?”

“She just said she doesn’t like her. She says ‘he’s’ a liar.”

“Maybe you’d like to try and play with Smarty Pants yourself, that way you can see how friendly she is. Maybe we could trade, and I could get to know Mrs. Teacup?”

“No!”

Wisp winced, the shout was louder than he had expected to be. Nyx had just asked to see the toy, and yet Spring Step was now guarding it like it was about to be snatched away. It was an escalation that just didn’t make sense. “Spring Step, that’s not—”

Nyx cut him off. “It’s okay,” she said, a wing twitching to stop Wisp from approaching. Nyx then brought Smarty Pants up to her ear, and “listened” to her briefly before lowering her back down to the ground. “My dear Princess Teacup, I do apologize that I may have offended you, but I have come from very far to assure your safety. I have heard terrible news that you may be afflicted by a terrible disease.”

Nyx spoke in a goofy, higher pitch tone than her normal voice, and had used her magic to make Smarty Pants pose and walk on the floor as if she was a living creature. Again, Wisp wondered if he was having just some crazy dream. This couldn’t really be happening.

“No, she’s not sick!” Spring Step shouted back, her voice getting louder. She was mad, and Wisp felt his daughter was on the verge of a proper tantrum.

“Princess Spring Step, I know you care deeply and work closely with Princess Teacup, but I must express my concern,” Nyx continued, still speaking in her goofy Smarty Pants voice and making the Smarty Pants toy walk and pose as she spoke. “My friend here is a very good doll doctor. She just wants to help.”

“Nnnnnnooooo!” Spring Step screamed this, loud and painfully. Wisp had to wince and took a step forward to rush and try to stop his daughter from misbehaving. But Nyx extended a wing to stop him, even as his daughter continued to yell. As the scream went on Wisp thought he heard a small crack, but couldn’t see where it had come from.

Eventually, Spring Step ran out of air. She was forced to take a deep breath as she clung to the doll for dear life. Nyx gently drew Smarty Pants back, levitating it back into her bags before she used her magic to grip one edge of her glasses. She lifted them off her face.

The lenses were cracked in a clear spider web pattern. Winter Wisp had to wonder, had his daughter’s scream done that? He knew that some opera singers could crack the glass, but that involved holding a precise note for a long time. His daughter’s scream had in no way been that perfectly pitched.

“I ruin so many glasses this way,” Nyx said as she looked back at the couple. Wisp felt his heart skip a beat for a moment. The round pupils that the mare had when she came in the door were gone, now replaced with slitted eyes. “Is there someplace I can throw these away?”

Wisp’s brain took a moment to snap back to reality before being able to look away from those piercing eyes and point into the kitchen. “Y-yes, there’s a garbage can right there.”

Nyx didn’t even bother getting up. She just used her magic to levitate the broken glasses into the other room and deposited them in the trash. She then focused back on Spring Step. “It would seem I’m here in time. The entity is still anchored to the doll.”

Wisp glanced at Garnish, and they shared a confused look with one another before Garnish looked at Nyx and spoke. “Entity? What are you saying?”

Nyx climbed back to her hooves, once more towering over everyone and everything in the room. “I can explain more in a moment. For now, I believe you should get Spring Step tucked into bed.”

“Mrs. Teacup says that’s a good idea. She doesn’t want to be around you or your stinky old Smarty Pants,” Spring Step said firmly. she quickly scampered over to Wisp and clinging to his leg. Wisp reflexively tried to reassure her daughter. He put a hoof on her shoulder and felt how tense she was. She wasn’t scared. She wasn’t shaking. Spring Step was coiled up and anxious. She was like a snake ready to strike.

“Then… okay, let’s… get to bed, Honey.” Wisp and Garnish led Spring Step upstairs while Nyx followed a few steps behind. It was a little creepy, but Wisp couldn’t bring himself to say anything. He just went about tucking Spring Step into bed while Garnish filled a glass of water from the bathroom sink. Everything was normal. Wishes of good night and lots of kisses, but it was all awkwardly watched by Nyx, who loomed in the doorway.

Soon all that was left to do was to turn off the lamp and shut the door, but at that point, Nyx extended a wing and gently tapped Wisp on the shoulder. She gestured to him and Garnish to join her in the hallway, even as Spring Step was laying in bed and closing her eyes.

“Do not let her leave the room.”

Wisp blinked, glancing at Garnish, then to Spring Step, and then back to Nyx as he tried to process the words that had just come from her mouth. “What?”

Nyx repeated herself, her words firm, carrying with it an undeniable authority that came with her being an agent of the MBI. “I am about to help your daughter. I can help her, but only if you do not let her leave the room until I say so. You must promise me this.”

“But what are you—?”

“Promise me.”

Wisp took an anxious step back, fear stirring in the pit of his stomach. But… he glanced at Garnish, then back at Nyx. His words came out shaky, but he nodded his head. “W-we promise.”

Nyx nodded, and her horn glowed. The next few things happened in such rapid succession, it was difficult for Wisp to process it all. In a single swift movement, Nyx had reached out with her magic and grabbed Mrs. Teacup. She then pulled the doll out of the room. Spring Step was awake the moment she felt Mrs. Teacup being taken away. The small filly sat up and screamed. She was trying to scramble out of bed, trying to pursue her now stolen doll, but Nyx pulled the door to the bedroom closed firmly.

“Do not let her leave,” Nyx said again. Her magic wrapped around Garnish, bringing the sturdy earth pony mare and putting her hooves on the door handle. Already, Wisp could hear his daughter pounding on the door and pulling on the handle, trying to get out. Yet, for the moment, Nyx's magic ensured the door did not budge.

“But!?” Garnish tried to protest, but Nyx was already moving away, heading back downstairs.

“Do not let her leave!” Nyx was gone, out of sight as Wisp looked back at Garnish, who was now using her strength and weight to pull on the door handle and keep the door shut. Their daughter was screaming from the other side of the door, pounding on it and wailing. It was a full-blown tantrum.

“What is she doing!?” Garnish asked in utter bewilderment.

Wisp looked to the staircase then back to his wife. He could tell, Garnish was starting to get fed up with the situation. And honestly, Wisp was too. Did Nyx just steal their daughter’s toy!? “I… I just… I’ll go ask just… keep holding her in.”

“You’re siding with her!?”

“She has to have a reason, just give me a minute.” With that Wisp got to his wings and flew downstairs. In that short amount of time Nyx had pushed aside furniture and rugs to clear up a place on the floor, She was now drawing on the hardwood with chalk. Wisp landed, speechless for a moment as he could only watch as an alicorn was… graffiting his floor!

“You have questions, Mr. Wisp?” Nyx said, not looking up from her work but acknowledging his presence. She was continuing with her chalk drawing. It was a mixture of shapes and symbols, and she was drawing them around the doll.

Or rather the dolls. Mrs. Teacup was being kept in a chokehold by Nyx’s doll, Smarty Pants. Neither doll was moving. It was like they had been posed that way, but at the same time Wisp couldn’t understand how all-fabric dolls were able to stay posed like that.

“Several, but the first should be obvious. Why did you steal my daughter’s doll!?”

“Because it’s possessed.”

Possessed? That word gummed up Wisp’s mind for a moment. His daughter’s screams were filling the house, and his parental instincts to just snatch the dolls back were fighting with his logical brain’s desire to understand what was going on. Possessed… possessed… to hear that word in this context… his brain jumped to the only thing it could.

“What, like a ghost?”

“Perceptive of you, Mr. Wisp,” Nyx said as she continued about her work. She had finished drawing the strange doodles on the floor and had now brought from her bag wooden bowls and a corked glass bottle. She placed the bowls around the diagram and began pouring out the contents of the bottle into each bowl, which seemed to be some sort of strange, glittering powder.

“You’re saying we’re being haunted by a ghost!? Are you crazy?” He stepped forward, but he felt Nyx’s magic gently push him back.

“Do not cross the circle,” she said as a few sparks of fire leaped from her horn. The bowls of powder caught fire, glowing with blue flames that began to fill the air with pungent smoke. It smelled like a mixture of lavender and burnt hayfries. “And no, not a ghost, but by an entity.”

“A what!?”

“I shouldn’t have to remind you, Mr. Wisp, there are many magics in this world. Most of those magics come from the natural world and natural order. But some magics, which abide by their own eccentric rules, draw their power from spirits. Discord himself is a prime example. And though he is and will always be chaotically unique, he is not the only spirit capable of influencing the world in unconventional ways.”

“A thousand years ago, Princess Luna used a book to reach out to such entities to gain the power to be Nightmare Moon. Not so long ago, those entities tried not once but twice to collect on their bargain, to try and enter our world. And now we’re at war, Mr. Wisp, a silent war in the shadows and dark.”

Wisp coughed. The room was starting to get hazy with the smoke from the burning powders, but he could still see that the chalk pattern on the floor was glowing. “And I’m afraid your ex-aunt-in-law got caught up by the other side," Nyx continued. "I imagine she was so angry about this house she was willing to do just about anything to get it. Thus, here we are.”

Spring Step’s screams were getting louder and angrier. The thrashing on the door was more violent. They began to hear slams and crashes, like she was tearing up her room. Wisp could hear Garnish trying to calm their daughter, but she raised her voice to shout a moment later. “Wisp, what is going on down there!?”

“Just… keep holding the door! I’m… we’re… working on it!”

“Work faster!”

Wisp winced at the anger in his wife's voice, and he took it in and redirected to Nyx. “Are we working faster?”

“Fast as I can, Mr. Wisp. These entities abide by their own strange rules, but one of the most common and clear-cut is they must be anchored to this plane. This entity anchored itself to this doll and, in time, would have anchored itself in your daughter. I must dredge up that anchor so I can destroy it.”

The haze in the room was lifting, but only because the smoke was condensing itself into a single, thick cloud that hovered above the two dolls. Nyx then stepped forward, raised a hoof, and sank it into the cloud… and it did not pass through to the other side. Instead, her leg sank deeper and deeper into the cloud, like there was just suddenly a hole in thin air.

Wisp was so bewildered, he almost didn’t notice the house go quiet. Then… crying. He turned his head and looked to the staircase, his heart aching. It sounded like Spring Step had worn herself out and was now just begging for her toy back.

“Honey, it’s okay.” Wisp heard Garnish say from upstairs.

“Mr. Wisp, do not let her open that door!” Nyx snapped, her foreleg now sunk entirely into the cloud.

Wisp had to shake his head, brought back to the strangeness from the situation as he looked to Nyx and then back to the stairs. “W-what?”

“The entity is fighting back. It’s trying to trick your wife. Do not let her open that door!”

Wisp’s mind finally began to catch up. Spring Step stopped throwing her tantrum. She was now crying. A parent’s first instinct was to comfort a crying child. That had been his first instinct. That would be his wife’s first instinct. And if that was the case…

“Go!”

Nyx’s shout finally got Wisp to pick up his hooves. He flew back up the stairs, trying to rush to the door. He reached the top of the steps and turned to look down the hallway. Garnish had just turned the door handle and was now pushing open the door.

What erupted from that room was a roar, deep and primal. The door was yanked inward with such force that it ripped itself off its hinges. Garnish was yanked forward along with it, slamming her forehead against the door frame and left sprawling on the floor.

They had not shut off the lights in Spring Step’s room, and yet beyond the door frame was nothing but inky black. Wisp felt a shift in the air pressure. Air flowed past him, like the door to his daughter’s room was the maw of a great beast breathing in. It was a single long inhale, and as the wind whipped past him, he could smell the aroma of the burning powder.

Then it stopped. All was still for a moment. The house, the air, everything was still as the grave. Then the roar came like a chorus of animal screams. The blankness spilled out of his daughter’s room. Wisp’s mind struggled to comprehend what he was seeing. It was like a torrent of water suddenly crashing towards him, yet he swore he saw the glint of teeth. It slammed into him, washing over him, yet he felt pain. He was being trampled by some carnivorous beast, being scratched by claws he could not see.

The blackness flowed over him. It tumbled down the stairs and crashed into a potted plant at the bottom. Then it gave another roar as somehow the blob of water stood up. Teeth and claws protruded from the darkness, grisly and stained. Yet, before the murderous mass could make another move, a sudden bright light came from the living room from where Wisp knew Nyx was standing.

Then came the sound of something breaking, like a pane of glass being shattered. The mass of black roared. This one was so loud and painful that Wisp was forced to shut his eyes and cover his ears. Then… it ended abruptly. It was like someone had lifted a needle off a record. The house was still, silent. All he could hear was the distinct ticking of the living room clock.

Then crying. His daughter was crying. Wisp opened his eyes and looked down the hall. He saw Garnish was picking herself off the ground, and he saw Spring Step was clinging to her mother’s neck, crying into her mane and blubbering words he couldn’t understand.

Wisp felt relief. His heart grew lighter. He clamored to his hooves and took a few steps down the stairs. He saw Nyx standing in the living room and her mane was flowing. What had once been a tight bun of purple behind her head was now a swirling mass of magic, like a dim, starry night. Nyx was putting herself back together, the mane bundling itself back into a bun behind her head before she stuck a long, silver hair needle into place. The moment the silver needle made contact, the mane once more looked like regular hair.

It was then Nyx looked up at him and gave a reassuring smile. “It’s over now.”

Wisp did not linger a moment more. He should have said thank you, but all he could do was scramble back up the stairs and quickly rush to join Garnish and Spring Step. He hugged his daughter, tears in his eyes. It was over. Whatever this was, it was over.

~~~

Nyx straightened her tie as she walked down the path that led back to the street, leaving the house behind her. As she walked, her saddlebags shifted, part of the flap lifting up before Smarty Pants poked her head out. The doll clapped her two little arms together, and a snapping sound occurred.

In a poof of magic, Discord appeared next to her in a snappy suit of his own. “That was a close one, wasn’t it?”

“Not the closest it’s been,” Nyx said as she drew out some papers from her saddlebag. “But I do wish they would listen to instructions. Could have turned into an all-out fight if I hadn’t found the anchor when I did.”

“Well, I think it’s a shame you don’t let your hair down more often,” Discord said. “Still, how did such a nasty thing get into that cute little doll?”

“Mr. Hearth confirmed our suspicions. The aunt had a copy of the Lesser Key of Harmony.”

“That makes the second this month, doesn’t it?” Discord said as they continued down the dark street. “That Spell Nexus really did cause a lot of trouble, didn’t he?”

Nyx sighed as she nodded her head. “Yes, but it wasn’t like he wasn’t possessed as well at the time.”

“You are always so quick to defend him,” Discord said with a shrug. “Then again, I know who you feel is really responsible for all this, but I know better than to beat that old horse. Instead, I’m going to pop off to bed. See you tomorrow, Partner.”

At that Discord did just that, popping like a balloon and leaving weird stringy bits of himself behind.

Nyx had to stop and stare at those bits. Whenever something involved young ponies… her mind seemed all too eager to flick back over how she found herself here. How Luna’s bargain with the entities of Tartarus a thousand years ago resulted in all this.

Equestria was being invaded by Tartarus. What had started as a few incidents, one in the old castle catacombs and another at the Canterlot Castle Nightmare Night party, was but a prelude. Once Spell Nexus found, copied, and distributed the Lesser Key of Harmony to numerous members of The Children of Nightmare, the war was started in earnest.

Now all across Equestria, creatures were tempted and whispered too. They were opening the doors. The darkness was getting in.

Nyx shivered a moment, moving her eyes from Discord’s balloon bits to the street ahead. There was a street lamp a block away, one struggling to stay lit. Nyx kept her gaze fixed on the light of that lamp, feeling something staring back from there whenever the lamp flickered out.

She didn't know if she really saw it tonight. It could have easily been her own paranoia and memories, playing back. Even if it was there, it would slip away before she could get close. Still, her mind believed what it saw, if only for a moment. An inky blackness. A thing with her stature, her eyes, and a mouth overflowing with fangs.

“I’ll get you someday Blessing,” Nyx whispered. “Only a matter of time until we pin you down. And next time, my lightning will burn all of you away.” Nyx straightened her tie once more and drew a fresh pair of square glasses from her bag. She placed them on her nose and her eyes once more became disguised as kinder, round equine eyes. She then took to her wings and flew into the night, leaving nothing but a quiet street behind her.

Author's Note:

Happy Past Sins 10th Anniversary! As I mentioned in the story description, I want to say thank you to the community for everything. It's been an amazing ten years!

Also, as usual, let me know if you see typoes and I'll correct them as promptly as I can.