• Published 11th Nov 2012
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The Wrong Place at the Right Time - Little Jackie Papercut



Why weren't the Elements of Harmony in a museum after a thousand years? What if they HAD been?

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Act 3: Friendship is Magic

Once more they were in a lit area, perhaps a bit brighter than the last. There was no telling how long it would remain lit, though, and that thought spurred them on a little faster, down a few different corridors, until they were spilling into the room Daring had shown Twilight earlier that day.

"Alright, so where are they?" Twilight asked, looking around for the array of gems the books had shown. Nothing of the sort was visible, to her dismay. They must have been deeper in the museum.

"Right here," Daring Do declared, picking up a rock and tossing it to Twilight.

Twilight caught it with a bemused expression. "A rock?" she questioned, staring straight at it. "The Elements of Harmony are a rock?!"

Daring shrugged. "Based on every record we could find, yeah, we concluded that these are definitely the Elements of Harmony. Take a closer look." She picked up the rest of the rocks and set them down in front of Twilight. Examining them, Twilight realized three things she had completely overlooked.

First, these weren't just lumps of rock, they were almost completely spherical, and perfectly smooth to the touch.

Second, the only interruption to their uncannily precise shape was an impression in each, perfectly in the shape of the gems shown in the books.

Third, there were five of them.

"Five?" Sherbet observed, raising an eyebrow. "I thought you said there were six."

"So where's the last one?" Blossomforth asked, looking to Daring.

Twilight shook her head. "The book said: When the five are present, a spark will cause the sixth Element to be revealed," she stated simply.

"...Trixie doesn't understand," said Trixie.

"Neither do I, but I think I've got an idea. Stand back, I don't know what will happen."

With a few gentle taps, Octavia drew the attention of the group. "'Remember what peace there may be in silence.' Let Twilight concentrate," she said, ushering the other four back into the corridor.

Twilight gave a grateful nod and began focusing her magic through the stones. Though they rustled and rolled under the exerted force, there wasn't much effect.

Suddenly, just as the other five had disappeared from sight, a glittering darkness began to rise from the floor around the Elements. It flickered, then began to swirl, sweeping them up. Twilight let out a cry of alarm.

The rest turned around and came charging back, just in time to see Twilight lower her head and jump into the dark vortex. The vortex then seemed to collapse into itself like a dying star. For a moment, everything was sucked toward it, and then it was gone, leaving behind a large orb of darkness, like a hole in nothing. Within, distant points of light twinkled.

"Oh Celestia," Octavia gasped, "it's full of stars!"

~#~#~#~

Twilight opened her eyes and stood up, rubbing her head. "Where am I...?" she asked nopony in particular. She was outside, she could see that. A cold wind whipped through her mane and she crouched down against it as best she could, though it was little use on the cold stone surface below her.

Glancing around, she saw that this surface came to an abrupt end not far behind her. To her left was a wall, to her right was nothing. She turned to stare down at the ground below, but before she could look, her attention was drawn to the sound of hoofbeats close by.

"I didn't want to do that," Nightmare Moon growled, "but there was nowhere else to go."

"What have you done?" Twilight snapped as she glowered at the once-Princess. "Where are we?"

"Curious, are you?" Nightmare Moon smirked. "I'm afraid that's none of your business. Unless you would like me to teach you. Forget your frivolous quest, and I will be your mentor just like Celestia was."

Twilight dropped into her best fighting stance. Nightmare Moon merely laughed at this, and stomped with one hoof, causing the surface beneath Twilight to tremble, unbalancing her. "There's no point in fighting," she said calmly. "Your effort to restore the sun is a lost cause. I'll dispose of you, and when your allies arrive, I'll simply leave them trapped here forever with the Elements they sought so desperately." Slowly, the look on her face took on a new, sinister sort of mirth. "Last chance. Join me and I'll spare them, too. What do you say?"

Twilight trembled as she picked herself up. "I say..." She snorted. "Never. I won't give up, not until I've put a stop to your schemes once and for all!"

"So be it," the dark mare declared, stepping forward. Behind her, Twilight glimpsed the Elements, so close, almost within reach.

In the next instant, Twilight realized she was being lifted into the air, seized in a deep blue magical aura.

~#~#~#~

Blossomforth reached out with a hoof to touch the orb, cautiously. The leg passed easily into it, as though there was nothing there. There was a slight but noticeable chill to it, an eerily natural sensation.

"I guess we're going in," she said, stepping back and bracing herself. With a murmur of agreement, the rest stood at her side, Octavia pausing to lay her cello against a display. As one, they lowered their heads and charged straight for the sphere.

Their progress was not so much as hindered, and in less than a second they had reached the other end, or rather, they should have. Passing through the near side of the sphere, however, proved to be very disorienting, and all five stumbled.

"It can't be," Sherbet gasped.

They had found themselves in the streets of Manehattan, sky still as dark as when they left. The twinkling of stars now seemed to be reflected by the streets beneath them. All around them, buildings appeared to have been broken and ruined. Impossibly, dead trees, seeming centuries old, rose through the cracks and holes in the buildings.

"What is this?" Auntie asked, gaping in horror.

Daring shook her head. "Nothing," she said. "It's an illusion, a trick... it can't be real."

Trixie tapped at the ground with a hoof. "It feels real," she announced. "But then, that's to be expected, isn't it?"

Blossomforth nodded. "Yeah. Well, whatever is happening, we've got bigger problems. Spread out, girls, the search is on."

~#~#~#~

Twilight struggled against the magical hold, then squeezed her eyes shut as she began casting a spell of her own. Nightmare Moon loosened her grip, only slightly, enough for Twilight to know she was bracing for an attack, but Twilight had something else in mind. She placed a thin magical aura under Nightmare's, allowing her to slip free and land on her hooves, ready to fight back.

"Oh my, that was clever of you," Nightmare commented. "I see I'm going to have to be more direct. And why not? Celestia's playthings are mine now, so it's time to play." She stepped slowly forward, and a series of magical orbs began to take form above her as she did. Twilight unconsciously backed away, until her hoof hit the edge. She tensed up, watching as the enormous mare slowly bore down on her.

Then, halfway across the space between them, Nightmare Moon stopped. She raised her wings as high above her as they would stretch, then swept them down again in a great flourish. As she did so, the orbs streaked toward Twilight, one by one, elongating into an arrow shape as they moved.

Twilight leapt over the first arrow, and the second aimed itself at her, passing over her as gravity pulled her out of its path. She hit the ground and rolled to the wall, getting out of the way of the third and fourth.

As they passed, she sprang to her feet, only to see the fifth arrow bearing down on her. She cringed, trying to recall a shield spell, an absorption spell, or something, anything to save her from the impending strike.

There was a flash of light, and Nightmare Moon drew back in shock as the arrow passed through nothing at all. Behind her, a confused Twilight Sparkle had appeared beside the Elements. The dark mare turned to see her shake off her disorientation and begin casting a spell on the stones.

At once, Nightmare took shadow form again and flowed back to the Elements, reforming over them. Twilight ceased casting to gaze up at her, arcs of electricity bouncing from sphere to sphere. Without warning, a spark leapt to the distracted Twilight, blasting her with the force of her own magic. The unicorn was sent flying backwards, skidding across the surface below her until she felt herself leave the edge. Desperately, she reached out with her hooves and clung to it, barely pulling herself back up.

"No, no!" Nightmare Moon commanded as the electricity continued to flow. Twilight grinned in triumph.

That grin faded a second later as the sparks flickered pathetically out.

"But... where's the sixth Element?!" she protested.

Cackling, Nightmare reared back up onto her hooves and stamped amid the Elements. Twilight watched in horror, clinging to the ledge, as the five stones shattered, sending a cascade of shards tumbling to the street below.

"You little foal!" gloated the shadowy mare. "Thinking you could defeat me! Now you will never see your princess, or your sun! The night will last forever!"

Twilight couldn't respond. She couldn't even speak. Those stones were the last hope for ponykind, and now they were gone. Nightmare Moon was right. No matter what she did now, it was over.

Before she could bow her head in defeat, however, a sound behind her drew her attention.

~#~#~#~

"She's not over here!" called Daring Do, sweeping over a building complex, eyes scanning the streets.

Blossomforth ascended along a skyscraper, peering in every window as she passed. "Not here, either!"

A blast of magic cleared away a plant that was blocking the roof access of a university building. "Trixie has nothing to report," Trixie reported, stepping out onto the roof.

"Nor I," added Sherbet, standing atop the library.

Octavia shook her head in frustration at her fruitless trek through the streets. Cutting through Central Park, she arrived at a great statue of Beethooven, and without a thought, hopped up onto it, searching the skyline. She drew in a deep breath, as much as her lungs could hold, and bellowed at the top of her voice...

~#~#~#~

"Twilight! Where are you?"

Twilight's head turned automatically, seeking the source of the voice. She saw them all, frantically looking for her. For an instant, she wanted to call out to them to turn back, to give up, to save themselves, though of course they never would. If there was any hope of that, they wouldn't have come this far, wouldn't have stood by her side through the dangers they had already faced together. As soon as she had thought of that, she gasped, her eyes widening as she finally understood what it had all meant.

In spite of the victorious alicorn in front of her, Twilight grinned. "You just lost," she stated.

The dark one froze in place, fixing Twilight with a look of absolute uncertainty regarding whether it should be amused or enraged. "Oh?" she asked, strutting forward. "And tell me, how do you propose to make good on that outrageous claim? The Elements are gone, and you're barely holding on. I've beaten Celestia in every way."

"The Elements aren't gone," Twilight explained simply, emulating a shrug as well as she could in her position.

"What do you mean?" Nightmare Moon hissed, tendrils of the darkness that was her mane lashing out, stopping just short of Twilight. "I've destroyed them. You don't know how to repair them. Nopony alive does."

Twilight shook her head, and then raised her voice as loud as she could. "You think you can destroy the Elements of Harmony just like that? Well, you're wrong, because the spirits of the Elements of Harmony are right here!" she yelled.

~#~#~#~

Her voice carried through the still air to the searching ears, and the heads below all turned to her location.

"Is that her?"

"She's on top of the Equine's Gait Building!"

"Hold on, Twilight!"

~#~#~#~

In the next second, five beacons of colored light shot up through the city. Nightmare Moon's pupils shrank as she stepped back, away from the display. "What?!"

Twilight only smirked and nodded. "Honey Do, who gave up her biggest secret to help her friends, represents the spirit of... Honesty!" she declared. From the street, a stream of stone shards swirled up to surround the pegasus, who gazed in awe as she hovered amid them.

"I told you," she called back, "you can call me Daring!"

"Trixie," Twilight continued, "who used comedy and humor to illuminate the shadow of terror, represents the spirit of... Laughter!" On cue, a second stream flowed to the proud-looking blue unicorn, who flipped her mane in response.

"If you think that was funny, you should be there for one of Trixie's tours," she remarked.

"Blossomforth, who risked everything because she had faith in me, represents the spirit of... Loyalty!" Twilight stated confidently. The third stream reached Blossomforth, and she smiled up at the unicorn.

"And you pulled it off," Blossomforth answered. "I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Twilight had heaved her torso onto the roof by now, and gestured with a hoof. "Octavia, who helped and calmed the helpless and scared, represents the spirit of... Kindness!" The fourth stream collected around Octavia, who took a simple bow.

"And Auntie, who gave up something irreplaceable to give us all some hope, represents the spirit of... Generosity!" Twilight finished, beaming as the fifth stream quickly swept to Orange Sherbet.

"I... could never give less than my all," said the earth pony humbly, lowering her head with a smile.

Twilight pointed a hoof at Nightmare Moon. "The spirits of these five ponies got us through every challenge you threw at us. And that's why you lost!"

Nightmare Moon gaped. "No!" she cried. "It can't be! I... I..." Her look of horror quickly melted away, though, and she laughed loudly again. "I still won! You don't have the sixth Element! Your spark didn't work!"

Before Twilight had a chance to respond, Nightmare rushed forward and swatted her with a forehoof. She was knocked clear of the roof, with nothing left to grab onto, only able to hear the cackling of the mare above her as she fell.

As the others gaped in horror, Daring Do and Blossomforth both darted toward Twilight, but they knew it was no use. They were too far away to have any hope of catching the unicorn.

Suddenly, a sixth beacon erupted from Twilight's position. The falling mare slowed to a stop a few stories above street level, and then her direction began to reverse. The earthbound ponies also found themselves lifted into the air, and the pegasi felt a pleasant stillness overtake them as all six were drawn toward the same point in the sky.

"Would you please let me finish? Now, as I was saying, it did work. A different kind of spark," Twilight patiently explained to the stunned Nightmare, then glanced back at the group. "I felt it when I realized how happy I was to hear you, to see you, and how much I cared about you. The spark ignited inside me when I realized you all are my friends." Now she returned her attention to the mare below them. "You see, Nightmare Moon, when those elements are ignited by the... well, the spark, that resides in the heart of us all, it creates the sixth element. And that element is... Magic!"

As if they had been waiting for those words, the shards spiraled faster around each of the ponies, each stone producing a flash of light as they became five golden necklaces. A sixth stream streaked into the air to circle Twilight's head, where it took the shape of a headdress.

The individual beacons of light that surrounded the ponies now came together and focused themselves into what could only be called a living rainbow. It rose from the six, then came crashing down on Nightmare Moon, who was still too shocked to so much as speak until she realized it was far too late. It swiftly wrapped around her, eliciting one last booming "Nooo!" from the mare.

The sound echoed off into the distance. Slowly, the glow of the Elements faded, the last of the rainbow running its course and streaking off into the sky as the ponies gently alit on the rooftop. For a moment, everything was calm and silent.

Lying amid her scattered trappings was Nightmare Moon, but she had changed considerably. She was now only about a head taller than Twilight herself, and her coat had faded from black to a softer blue. Her mane and tail were now composed of normal hair, instead of wisps of living night. Slowly, she opened her eyes.

"What...?" She pushed herself to her hooves, then looked down at herself in awe. Seeing the change that had come over her, her head whipped up to the ponies before her. "You!" she hissed, moving haltingly forward, wrath etched into her face, but as she took another step, and then another, that look of hatred began to dissolve. First she looked puzzled, then, impossibly, calm. "I'm... not angry anymore," she observed. "That hasn't happened for... longer than I can remember..."

Twilight nodded, moving forward to meet her. "That's what harmony means," she said, smiling. "It's peace. You don't need to be angry, you see?"

Nightmare didn't answer right away. Instead, she bowed her head for a moment, then sank to her knees, shuddering. Twilight reached out to her, but stopped when she felt the world around her shake.

Everypony braced themselves, except for Nightmare, who shot to her hooves, looking around wildly. "Oh no," she gasped. "We... we need to go, now!"

"Now? What's happening?!" Twilight asked, barely audible over the roar.

"This pocket dimension was sustained by the power of Nightmare Moon," the alicorn explained. "Now that that power is gone, it will collapse. If we don't leave now, we'll all be trapped in the space between spaces—forever!"

All six of the ponies listening gasped. Twilight stood and whirled to face the rest. "Blossomforth, Daring, you two take Auntie and Octavia and go," she said quickly. "Trixie and I will figure out a way to—"

Twilight found that thought cut off as a hoof grabbed her around the waist. Nightmare pulled her close to her body, and with her other forehoof, did the same to Trixie. "I will see to your safety," she said, immediately before plunging from the roof, spreading her wings halfway down to take flight.

Daring Do grabbed Octavia, and Blossomforth snatched Orange Sherbet. They took off, diving to fly as quickly as their burdens would allow. In moments, they had passed the much more weighed-down alicorn. A falling skyscraper narrowly missed them, and Nightmare barely had time to dodge backward.

"I can't make it!" she cried, straining to get clear of another collapsing building. "With both of you, I don't have the speed to avoid them all!"

Twilight squinted at the boundary, a spot where the city was cut off by a barrier with the appearance of the night sky. She followed the line up, up...

"I've got it!" Twilight exclaimed, pointing. "You won't have to dodge... if you fly up!"

Nightmare seemed caught entirely off guard by this idea. She nodded. "Alright... it's our best bet," she said, angling herself straight up and flapping her wings frantically to pick up speed.

They climbed higher in a desperate bid to outrun the collapse. Glancing back down, Twilight could see that the street was being overtaken by an inky, starless blackness. She bit her lip and looked up instead. Every moment they drew closer to where she assumed the boundary was, but the blackness was approaching from below even faster, and Nightmare's breathing had become heavy and ragged. Twilight squeezed her eyes shut and let out a scream of terror; beside her, Trixie was doing much the same.

Then, the rumbling stopped. Twilight opened her eyes, and was greeted by the light of the museum. The alicorn carrying her arced slowly over the heads of the ponies who had arrived before them, and they landed near the corridor with a soft thud. A second later, the orb of darkness folded in on itself with a disastrous crashing sound and disappeared.

As Nightmare released the unicorns and staggered to the wall, leaning against it in exhaustion, the ponies checked themselves over, making sure they were in one piece, then pausing to admire each other's new necklaces. Trixie adjusted her hat and cape, then adopted a casual posture as though nothing at all had happened. Octavia reclaimed her cello, seeming comforted by the feel of it in her hooves.

Orange Sherbet hesitated for a second, then reached up to feel her mane. It was done up exactly as it had been before they entered the museum. Her eyes went wide, and a silent plea crossed her mouth as she continued to feel until her hoof hit something. She didn't need to see it to know what it was, and she sank to the ground, whispering something to herself and smiling.

Outside, the faint red-orange tinge of sunrise was visible through a window. Slowly this fact dawned on Daring. "My museum!" she shouted, racing to the window and throwing it open. She leaned out, looking around the city with awe, feeling the mild breeze of the summer morning.

"Indeed," said a voice behind her, "that is the power of the Elements of Harmony."

Slowly, all six turned to the door. There, almost in silhouette against the brighter light of the corridor, was a great white alicorn, of regal bearing, wearing a golden crown and a proud smile.

"Princess Celestia!" Twilight rushed to her mentor, pressing herself to the larger mare's chest.

"Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student," Celestia greeted her, nuzzling her tenderly. "I knew you could do it."

"But," Twilight protested, looking at her, "you told me it was an old pony tale!"

"I told you you needed to make some friends, nothing more," Celestia replied with a serene smile. "I saw the signs of Nightmare Moon's return and I knew it was you who had the magic inside to defeat her, but you could not unleash it until you let true friendship into your heart. Speaking of which..." Her gaze slowly shifted across the group, to rest on the seventh. "Princess Luna!"

The alicorn in the corner flinched and slowly turned around. Celestia approached her, regal bearing seeming to soften slightly as she did.

"It has been a thousand years since I have seen you like this. Time to put our differences behind us."

Nightmare, or Luna, seemed to cower a bit, but stopped as she felt Celestia's hoof on her shoulder. "After... everything... you would really be so quick to forgive...?"

Celestia nodded gently. "I forgave you long ago. And tonight you've proven I was correct to do so. I saw you help them escape, Luna. You showed the true nobility and compassion of the sister I've always known. Please, return to my side, so we can rule together as we were always meant to."

"I..." Luna looked away for a moment, before abruptly rushing closer and pressing her face into Celestia's coat. "I'm so sorry!" she cried out.

Celestia didn't say anything. She held her little sister close, comfortingly, as if to assure her that the past thousand years were only some bad dream. A happy silence descended over them.

That silence was broken a few seconds later by the sound of Trixie clearing her throat.

"Does this mean we're heroes now?"

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