• Published 23rd Oct 2012
  • 15,960 Views, 833 Comments

Twilight Sparkle: Night Shift - JawJoe



Twilight Sparkle: librarian by day, monster hunter by night, and irredeemable cynic all throughout. Vampires? Simple. Zombies? Easy. Pretending not to see them every night? Now that is a challenge...

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Rarity's Home for Unspeakable Horrors, part 1

Chapter 2:
Rarity's Home for Unspeakable Horrors, part 1

She let loose a tired moan as she forced her eyelids open. “What is it, dear?” she whispered. Her cords were still stiff, her voice a quiet monotone, yet hearing her comforting words still had a soothing effect on me.

“Could I sleep with you tonight?” I asked sheepishly.

Their bed creaked as Dad turned and lifted his head as much as he could, shaking it slightly to clear it of the remnants of his interrupted dreams. Even in the darkness, I could see his sleepy eyes peeking down at me from behind Mum, showing no anger but hinting at disappointment. At that point, I didn't care.

“I've told you, Twily,” he said. “Nightmares are not real. They're just images in your head. They can't hurt you.”

“Of course you can.” Mum nodded with an exhausted smile in response to my proposal, completely ignoring my father's banter. “Hop up.”

And hop up I did, once again finding the perfect little place in between, like a bookmark at the best chapter. There, between the two loving giants, I felt safe. Pulling their blanket up, I was all but ready to let my dreams engulf me again, confident that this impenetrable fortress would protect me from whatever evil images that may lurk in my head.

“At your age,” my father grumbled quietly, “you really shouldn't—”

“Let her be,” Mum interrupted him. “Just this once more.”

I could hear Dad let out a lengthy sigh. Soon afterwards, a soft thud signalled his hazy head dropping back onto the pillow. “Sleep well, Twily,” he whispered.

“Sleep well, Twily.” I wish I could, Daddy, I do. But you're not here to protect me at night anymore, are you?

I took another glance at our last family photo. The dancing light of the three candles standing by the picture illuminated our smiles. Only a few months before the tragedy, mother, father, Shining Armour and I were secure in our ignorance of what was to come. It would have been easy to think, that night, that the purple mare looking back at me from within the frame was somepony else. Yet I knew all too well that it was not the case. Their departure didn't so much change us as it had helped us realise who we truly were, who we wanted to be. At least that's what I liked to think.

I closed my eyes for a moment, placing the tip of my hoof onto the picture. After a brief pause, I looked my family in the eye again.

Shining, you've been a beacon of light in the darkest times of Canterlot. And Twilight, you're not afraid of the dark anymore. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Dad would be proud.

I turned away from the photo, looking out into the moonlit night instead. Behind me, a fourth candlestick floated up gently, and with a blink of my eyes, a tiny spark set its wick aflame. It then took its place on the desk at my side, joining its shorter counterparts.

From my upstairs room in the Ponyville library, I could see the dark silhouette of Canterlot's spires ornamenting the barren mountainside.

Four years to the night, Shining Armor. I hope you're coping better than I am.


My eyes shut. My horn prickled. Around me, a barrier of blurred multicolour whirled, keeping Spike at a respectable distance. The gentle whipping of the many pages twirling was music to my ears. I took a deep breath.

My eyes burst open, and the whirlwind of books came to a stop in an instant, each one suspended motionlessly mid-air in a perfect circle. Less than a step's distance before my nose, the exact book I was looking for floated. I couldn't help but make a satisfied smile. Admittedly, I was having a little more fun with this than I should have. Spike's enthusiastic clapping also did little to hinder my climbing self-esteem.

“That was amazing,” he said.

“Oh, it's nothing,” I said. “With all the practice I have, it's natural I'd get it right.”

“What book did you need this time, again?” he asked.

I took my book of choice up into my hooves, blowing off what little dust still remained on its cover. All the other books around me began a new flight around the room, dodging one another as they floated back onto their shelves.

“Rarity asked me to bring this to her,” I said, turning the old book towards my draconic assistant. The washed-out deep-blue of its cover was complimented by the equally faded—yet still marvellous—golden lettering of its title: “Standing Upright: The Curious Fashion of the Late Classical Era.”

Spike blinked at the title. “What's this even about?”

“Exactly what it says,” I said, opening the book for myself. I flicked through its yellowish pages, skimming through the many illustrations and descriptions of unusual dresses. “I've never read this myself, but with somepony who knows more about the subject than I do, I bet it's going to be a fascinating read.”

“Spending an entire morning researching old fashion from a dusty old book. Only you would find that fun.” He paused for a moment, rubbing his chin, pondering. “Although, you are going to be with Rarity....”

“It's been a long time since I've done anything like this.” On cue, the innocent brown saddlebag that I use for my daytime activities hopped over to me from the corner of the room. “I'm just excited that I finally get to spend a little time with a friend, doing something I like.” I sighed involuntarily just thinking of it, placing Standing Upright into the bag. “You know how busy I've been with... studying.”

“Tell me about it. With all the nights you've spent locked in your room with a bunch of books, I'm surprised you haven't gone through this one yet. Twice.”

“A-ha, well,” I chortled nervously, “I guess fashion just never interested me as much as other things do. High time to remedy that, right?” With that, I began my escape with a leisurely stroll towards the door.

“Whatever you say, Twilight.” Spike rolled his eyes and shrugged. “Have fun with Rarity. I'll stay here and keep watch over the library.”

“Jealous, are we?” I gave him a cheeky grin before stepping outside.

“What?” he asked in badly feigned surprise. “It's not like that, I just... just go,” I heard him grunt as the door closed behind me.

I skipped down merrily along the roads leading to Rarity's Carousel Boutique. I was enraptured by the thought of an ordinary, quiet day; one with no vampires, no ghosts and no demons. Just a friend, a book, and I, reading and thinking together.

But the world has made it a habit to playing cruel pranks on me; a fact of which I was immediately reminded the moment Rarity opened her door.

She stood before me, beckoning me inside with her gaze. Yet behind the façade of inviting looks and reassuring smiles I could see a crumbling mare. The carefully brushed fur on her face could not completely hide the growing bags under her eyes. Her fetlocks were several days overdue on their trimming. Her mane, expertly styled on any other day, couldn't keep a few stray hairs from poking out where they shouldn't have.

Rarity would never have let herself be caught dead like this.

Yet more worrying than her uncanny uncaring for her looks was one thing I couldn't attribute to a simple bad hair day. In the corner of her eyes, an ever-faint tinge of yellow festered. What could have happened to Rarity? I wondered. Playing around with books could wait. I had to find an answer to this question.

“Aren't you going to come in?” she asked, tilting her head slightly in curiosity.

I snapped out of my sudden analytic episode. “Oh, of course,” I said, stepping inside.

“The book is in the bag, I take it?” she asked, her voice as soft as ever. “Oh, do have a seat.” She pointed towards a small table to my left.

“Why, yes.” I nodded. “The library's only copy of Standing Upright.” I sat down and put my saddlebag on the ground. “It's the one you needed, right?” I posed the question nervously.

“Well, you tell me, Twilight. Is it?” She smiled playfully. “Do excuse me for a moment, dear. It seems I've forgotten to bring out the tea. Let me just remedy that, won't be long.” With that, she turned around and set out for the kitchen.

Her attitude was eerily theatrical. Such a warm welcome! I couldn't tell whether it was really an act, or just Rarity being herself. She either didn't realise the condition she was in, or she hoped that I wouldn't. Or, perhaps, she simply didn't care, in which case, something was definitely wrong.

Her leaving gave me an opportunity to look around. The main room of the shop was wide and brightly lit; the light rushing in from the window just above the table before me played a beautiful symphony of colour with the dark-violet of the walls and the light-pinks of the many curtains inside. There was a dressing room, and displays for various types of clothes. On the surface, at least, everything seemed to be in order at the Carousel Boutique.

At the opposite end of the room, mannequins stood in the air in a very deliberate formation, hoisted onto thin metal poles that lifted them off the ground. I always found it nothing short of amazing, the way Rarity treated the featureless puppets. Often times we would catch her lost in her work, dressing a mannequin, humming or singing as she applied the necessary stitches and fixes to whatever dress she had put on them. Thread by thread, stitching it together....

Yet the mannequins' purpose was much more than to be simple playthings to a bored fashionista. They were always set up to show off Rarity's latest work to anypony who might walk in. At the centre of the current arrangement was the odd one out, elevated above the others and half-dressed with what appeared to be several hoops running down from its waist area to its hind hooves, forming something of a cone around its lower body. Even disregarding the unusual appearance of the thing, I couldn't imagine how a pony was supposed to even walk in such a getup. Lucky that the poor thing wearing it couldn't voice its objections to bearing the odd piece.

Rarity soon returned, bringing in her mouth a silvery plate and a fancy teapot. By her side, two teacups and their matching saucers floated in an envelope of flickering blueish light. She sat down across the table and placed her delivery between the two of us. She levitated a cup and saucer over to my side of the table. They hit the expensive wood with a quiet clack. I felt it best not to mention the—at least for Rarity—inexplicable absence of a tablecloth.

I eyed her up and down; she was all too busy staring at the teapot between us, her brows furrowed in concentration, as if she were trying—and failing—to levitate it. All the while, she masked her clear agitation with that familiar, charming smile which seemed frozen onto her face. Raising an eyebrow, I moved my gaze from her to the pot, lifting it from the plate. The moment the purple radiance engulfed the vessel, Rarity quickly looked away, then at me, as if she had just snapped out of some daydream.

“Is everything alright?” I asked her, pouring myself some tea.

“Yes,” came the answer, perhaps just a little bit too quickly, and with a suspiciously innocent blink of her eyes.

We locked eyes for a moment. I could tell my look was piercing her, but she smiled on.

“Tea?” I asked.

“Oh, if you would.” She nodded.

I poured her some tea as well, opening my bag in the meantime. I put the pot back to its plate and pushed it slightly to the side, making place for the book which came floating up.

“So tell me,” I said. “Why exactly did you need this book?” I looked at the mannequin with the hoops at the far end of the shop. “I assume it has to do with that thing over there?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “The thing it's wearing is just a crinoline. An archaic design, but a crinoline nonetheless.”

“Come again?”

“A crinoline. It's something like...” She paused, thinking. “Scaffolding. Scaffolding for your clothes. A crinoline is designed to support your dress, or in this case, just your skirt, and hold it in a desired shape. It was adopted from ancient high-class diamond dog fashion.”

“Oh? But look at that thing.” I pointed my hoof towards the mannequin in disbelief. “You couldn't possibly walk in that. Of course, diamond dogs are bipedal, I can see how it would work for them. But for a pony? The dress would get ruined the moment your forehooves touch the ground. It would be utterly demolished.”

“What's the title of this book again, Twilight?” Rarity pulled it closer to herself.

And then it hit me. “Standing Upright.”

“That's it,” Rarity said with a clear sense of pride.

She quickly flipped over the many pages until she found the best illustration, and turned the book towards me. A whole page was dedicated to a very detailed drawing of two ponies, a mare and a stallion, both standing on only their hind legs and holding one another's forehooves; a nearly photorealistic depiction of what appeared to be bipedal dancing.

“See?” She pointed at the picture. “This whole standing upright thing was very fashionable at a time.”

“Really?” I asked.

“And it was brilliant, Twilight. For the diamond dogs, all the crinoline did was support the skirt. But for ponies, its purpose was two-fold. It didn't just serve to hold your dress in shape, but, along with the then-popular corsets, it even actually helped you stay upright.”

“How painfully resourceful,” I remarked. “The crinoline would have to be made of some very sturdy material, though, no? One that's relatively lightweight as well.”

“You're entirely correct, Twilight. It's actually...” She looked at the mannequin for a moment, then she turned back towards me. “Actually, you don't want to know.”

I raised an eyebrow at the ominous answer, but ultimately let the question forming at the tip of my tongue go. I wouldn't want to pressure her. Not for the time being, at any rate. As such, I opted for what I thought would be a much simpler question. “And what about the stallion?” I asked. “He's not wearing a corset or a crinoline. How is he standing like that?”

“The stallions needed serious strength in their backs to stay up like that. They would also often actually lean on the mare, as you can see here, putting her strength, as well as the crinoline's, to the test.” She exhaled, rolling her eyes. “The craze was as intense as it was short-lived.”

“Can't imagine why,” I snarked. “But why do you need this book? Why are you making such a dress? I don't know about their history, but I know that today, they are history.”

“Oh, it's nothing, really. I simply received an order for one a few weeks ago. I admit that, ordinarily, I wouldn't have agreed to it, but it was a very high-class unicorn from Canterlot. He said he wanted it to be a gift for his newly found love. As strange as the request seemed, I thought it was just sweet.” She stroked her chin with a hoof, looking away for a moment. “Well, that, and business has been slow these days anyhow.”

That last sentence got my attention.

“Really?” I asked. “How slow?”

She looked surprised by my question. It was rather sudden, that much I admit.

“I'm just curious,” I added carefully, attempting to fix the situation.

“Just a few dresses this month. I've been quite enjoying all the free time, but I was more than happy to rise to the challenge this dress posed.”

“And how long have you been working on it?”

“A couple of days,” she answered, looking down at the picture in the book again. “Getting the support right is a proper nightmare.”

“I hope you haven't been losing sleep over it, though,” I said, eagerly awaiting her reaction.

“What?” She quickly lifted her head, looking at me. “N-no,” she stuttered, “I haven't.”

Gotcha.

She picked her teacup up, holding it clumsily with both hooves as she moved it towards her lips. Her forelegs trembled and the cup shook ever so slightly as she took a careful sip. The strange reluctance to use magic, that borderline creepy smile, her less-than marvellous looks, her reaction to the implication of lost sleep; they all pointed towards one simple thing.

Rarity was tired. I of all ponies knew to recognise the signs of sleep deprivation. She had been missing sleep and we both knew it. It all added up. Well, apart from the most curious thing: the abnormal yellow in her eyes.

I lifted my own cup into the air using simple magic. This would mask my casting of another spell. The fine tea, although definitely helpful for my concentration, was not the reason I closed my eyes. Before my shut eyelids, colours began to fill the darkness. Directly in front of me formed a faint but definite aura which smelled of wonderful flowers; the unique mark of Rarity. Having known her as long as I have, I was certain as I could be that it was indeed her sitting across the table, and not some kind of impostor wearing her skin.

The blue aura was soon blurred out by the sour sounds of a much more subtle entity, or perhaps entities. The yellowish taste of muffled speech pressed down on me, descending upon my mind like a fog. It filled the entire room, and judging by the reverberations, the upper floor as well. Whatever its source was, it was somehow connected to the boutique.

Unsettling as it was, the presence of the mysterious ethereal mist in the air also seemed to explain why Rarity was tired. If her business has been slow, she hadn't been working a lot. I knew her well enough to know that she would never miss out on such a perfect opportunity for beauty sleep. Something was affecting her.

My final conclusion was clear: Rarity could not remain here.

I considered my options. I needed Rarity on my side, but I couldn't risk her stubborn nature getting her into trouble. She knew something was wrong. I knew something was wrong. I only needed to help her realise that. In the end, I decided to tackle the problem head-on.

Finishing my sip of tea, I reached to hold the cup with my hooves and ended my spells. Then I opened my eyes. “Rarity, are you sure everything is fine?”

“I don't know what you mean,” she responded, clearly startled by my question.

“I mean I think you look like you haven't slept in weeks,” I said.

“What? Of course I have. I'm literally drowning in free time, as I've said. Why would you insinuate otherwise?”

“Look.” I got her attention with that simple word. I held out my teacup away from me, beside the table. It was a rare porcelain piece, expertly crafted, probably by hoof. Rarity would never let it get hurt. “I'm going to begin counting,” I continued. “When I count to three, I'm going to drop this.”

“What?” Her smile quickly faded.

“One.”

She gaped. “But that's—”

“Two.”

“Twilight.” She extended a hoof slowly towards me.

“Three.”

“Don't!” she yelped.

I let go of the cup, and it promptly began plummeting towards its doom. In an instant, a small ball of blue light formed around it, slowing its descent. Within another moment, however, the light flickered and died, unable to combat the relentless clutches of gravity. Rarity quickly pulled up her forelegs to cover her eyes and pinned her ears back, surrendering to the inevitable destruction of her fragile child.

“Rarity?” I asked.

The unscathed cup smoothly floated back onto its saucer.

She opened her eyes and looked at me, then at the cup, then back at me. “What's got into you?” She kept herself collected despite the resonance of suppressed anger in her voice.

“What's got into you?” I threw the question back. “You're clearly not well. I want only to help you, but you must talk to me.”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” she said.

“You know,” I went on, ignoring her denial, “you clearly haven't been getting enough rest lately. I was thinking you should take a day off from working on that ridiculous dress. You could stay at the library for a night. Perhaps a change of scenery will help you sleep.”

She let her mouth hang open, trying to form words but interrupting herself at every turn before she made a sound. I was making progress.

“Think of it as a sleepover,” I continued. “Except with less Applejack and more actual sleep this time.”

She covered her eyes with a forehoof, avoiding eye contact and looking down for a short while.

“Well, Twilight...” she finally responded, raising her head and looking at me with a relieved expression. “While I cannot begin to conceive how a sleepover thinks, staying at the library for a few nights does sound nice.”

She smirked with the elegantly calm poise I came to expect from her. Then she paused for a moment, looking slightly to the side. Her eyes kept shifting from left to right as if she was contemplating something. After a few seconds, she looked me in the eye once again.

“I need to get out of here.”


The light of the afternoon Sun created a soothing dimness inside as it passed through the curtains covering the windows.

“It's terrible!” Rarity whined. She writhed in my bed, the sheets crinkling as her body twisted in all kinds of shapes. Her tears soaked my pillow. “Even Opal's ran away! I haven't seen her in weeks!”

“It's okay, Rarity,” I tried to console her.

She coiled into fetal position. Her mouth hung open, gaping, but no sound escaped her lips any more. Even her tears seemed to have dried up. She lay there silently for several minutes before speaking again. When her eyes weren't shut tightly, she just stared straight forward with no focus. As terrible as it was to see such a fine lady so broken, I knew that it was for the best that she let everything out. I've been there.

“I feel like...” She tried to speak, but her voice failed her. “I feel like death.”

“Don't you have any idea what's causing it? You can tell me what's bothering you.” I gave her a tissue with which to clean herself. “I can keep a secret.”

“I don't...” She heaved heavily. “I don't know.” She put the tissue I gave her onto her face and over her eyes, leaving it there. “I can't think. My head is going to burst. It hurts.”

“When did it start?” I asked, hoping to find an answer.

She took a deep breath. “A few weeks ago. I think.” She sighed heavily. “I can't tell,” she mumbled under her nose. “Dear stars, I can't tell.”

Our conversation continued as such. I could see how much she strained herself to form the broken half-sentences she used to answer my questions. Her throat tensed with each word and her mouth moved less and less. A few hours past noon, she had talked herself into hard-earned sleep.

Before dreams overtook her, she told me what little she could about her unnatural illness. She spoke of feeling eyes on her back, of feeling like she was being watched. With her business slowing down this time of year, she couldn't concentrate on work to keep her thoughts occupied. It wasn't long before she could no longer keep up with the passage of days. Even when she slept, she was plagued by nightmares, although she couldn't recall the details of these dreams. She could only tell me about waking up at night, drenched in cold sweat, her mind filled with a primal fear of something that lies beyond the walls of sleep. She could never go back to sleep afterwards.

And all throughout, she was much too proud to ask for help.

Don't worry, my friend. Twilight Sparkle is on the case.

I spent an hour in the room with her, waiting to see whether she would wake up, and watching for any signs of uneasy sleep. Rarity slept like a little baby filly, however, and as such I was confident enough to leave her side. I left the room and closed the door behind myself without making a sound. Spike, who had been waiting outside, was also eager to help, but all I could tell him was not to go inside, so as not to disturb Rarity's rest.

By the time night fell, Rarity was still sound asleep. The town's lights dimmed, and the Moon and the stars shone upon the streets of Ponyville. Spike went to sleep downstairs, and I decided to follow his example.

Well, until he actually fell asleep, anyway.

When I was certain that Spike was no longer awake, I got up and silently left the library. I was already making my way towards the lonely Carousel Boutique by the time I began doubting myself. Perhaps leaving Rarity alone in my room wasn't a keen idea. I wasn't afraid that whatever caused her to lose sleep would find her; I was much more concerned that she would find a certain black bag with several sharp objects within. Explaining the crossbow itself, I could see. But the silver-tipped bolts? That'd take some thinking.

I soon dismissed such nonsense, though. My bag was hidden well enough; a sick and tired unicorn would not find it in the middle of the night.

Arriving at Rarity's shop, I took a look around the dark streets. The town was, expectedly, deserted at this hour. Yet I couldn't shake the uneasiness I felt as I peeked inside through a window. Although the boutique seemed peaceful and empty, I knew I'd have to be careful once inside. There was no telling what I would find.

I tried the front door, and found it promptly locked. Clever girl. Still, if a simple lock could stop me, I wouldn't be working for Night Shift, now would I? A touch of my horn, a few simple incantations, and just a little bit of blunt force applied to the right spot, and voilà. The door slowly creaked open, allowing me inside. I paid special attention not to shut it completely once I walked in; I knew this would be my primary escape route, should my little adventure go sideways.

I looked around cautiously. The shop was just like we had left it. Still, the otherwise warm colours seemed much less welcoming now, lit by what little moonlight found its way inside. In fact, the room itself felt much colder than I'd have expected. Apart from that, however, everything seemed to be as it should be.

I contemplated lighting a glowing spell to guide my way through the darkness. I ultimately decided against it, though. I was hoping that whatever it was that I had set out to find was yet unaware of my presence. Or, better yet, still clueless about the absence of Rarity. Thus, I began my exploration of the abandoned boutique.

On one side, the table by which we talked stood at the window. At the far end, the mannequins, still dressed up, posed in the air on the poles that held them up. I took careful peeks inside the dressing booths and checked every corner. In the kitchen, I opened every last cupboard. The bottom floor seemed clear.

Seemed was the operative word. As I sat down in a cold corner of the empty main room, I couldn't help but feel on edge. Only when the wall pressed against my back could I shake the feeling of something eyeing me from behind. I don’t scare easily, not after everything I'd seen. I knew not whether this was my deadened nerves catching up with me, or if I was being affected by the same thing that drove Rarity to insomnia. As I sat there, pondering, I suddenly began to hear a strange noise. I looked around, but all I saw was the empty room, completely still as it basked in white moonlight. I couldn't put my hoof on it. Only then did I realise that the sound I was hearing was, in fact, that of my teeth chattering.

I couldn't help but smirk at the discovery. Well played, I thought. Well played indeed.

Certain that I'd been discovered, I closed my eyes and cast the sensing spell I had used earlier that day. What was previously a faint mist or fog was now an all-engulfing sick-yellow that flooded the room. It left an uncanny taste in my mouth. During the day, all I could sense was quiet, muffled speech, almost completely lost in the background noise of magical currents that seethed in the airs of Equestria. Now, it was very definite: something like the noise of a stream trickling softly at your side. Except this stream's bed was not filled with water, but the never-ending murmurs of ponies crying in the distance. Most peculiar of all, it was flowing up the stairs.

As I opened my eyes and began my way upstairs, my mind was as clear as could be, set on my goal and purpose. My body, on the other hoof, seemed not to be in agreement. As I laid my first hoof onto the first step of the staircase, I gulped involuntarily. My legs cared not for my confidence; they shook as they flew through the air between my steps, and my hooves shuddered every time they reached the floor.

The stairs creaked as I ascended, almost as if they were trying to scare me themselves. Apart from that cheeky bit of spookiness, however, I found no difficulty in going up. Once I was on the upper floor, I entered Rarity's bedroom.

Before you ask, yes. I did feel a bit guilty. Seeing as how she was spending the night in my bed right at that moment, though, I figured it's only fair.

I created a small globe of light to follow above me as I rummaged through the room. It wasn't just plain untidy, but outright messy. Be it Rarity's trademark organised chaos or a result of countless nights spent awake, it made my job difficult just the same. I tried not to move too many things as I stepped over all the different fabrics, books and other gadgets lying on the ground. I evaded needles, scissors, and even another mannequin.

At the far end of the room was Rarity's bed, set with all the beautiful sheets and covers she owned, but in complete shambles. It had probably been made weeks ago, then left like that all until now. The sheets were messy, even torn in places, and the pillows were scattered around the room. Somepony had spent an awful lot of time wriggling around in this bed, and not in the fun way. Still, apart from more signs confirming what I already knew, there was nothing of value to be found inside. As I sent the orb of magical light into her closet, I half-expected the bogeymare herself to come screaming out. Alas, even that didn't happen.

And—wouldn't you know it—right then, precisely on cue, I heard the door slamming behind me. By the time I turned around, the room was still again. Swiftly hopping over the mess on the floor, I put an ear to the closed door. I heard nothing. That was the worst, as the stairs had creaked when I walked up. Why then, I wondered, do I hear no noise now?

I should have brought my blades. My crossbow! I should have risked it, going into my room to fetch them. Me and my common courtesy, not wanting to wake Rarity up!

...deep breath. You know what you're doing.

I took a few steps back, not taking my eyes off the door. When I was at a respectable distance, I readied a pulling spell, wrapping a purple glow around the doorknob, shining the white glow of the orb on it. I stood there, in complete silence, listening for a sound that wouldn't come. I threw the door open with a bang.

And behind it I found nothing. The hallway was empty. The stairs were quiet. I could almost hear my blood freeze in my veins. I stepped outside cautiously. Then I walked, slowly, to the top of the stairs, looking and listening for anything. Amateur mistake.

First, I felt a cold touch on my back. By the time I even realised, I was already tumbling down the staircase. I wanted to teleport to break my fall, but all my horn produced were a few sparks. I rolled down the stairs helplessly.

For a while, everything was black. I couldn't tell whether my eyes were open or closed. I struggled to stand up, but I could not move my legs. I only remember a quiet, barely audible thud of something landing next to me. And I could hear crying, this time, without the need of a sensing spell. All around me, I could hear sobbing escalating into bawling cries. Then, at once, it all stopped, leaving me in complete silence.

After a moment of terrifying calm, came laughter like thunder. Inside my head, all my thoughts were drowned out by that infernal cackling. I felt their eyes on me. Their cold touches sent shivers down my spine. I could feel my heart pounding at my chest, as though it had been ready to burst.

In that moment, I almost wished it actually had.