• Published 12th Nov 2011
  • 13,548 Views, 320 Comments

Envy and Arrogance - Mindblower



The Elements are critical to world stability. Twilight and her friends find this out the hard way.

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Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Nineteen

*******

“Verba?”

“Yeah-huh?”

Twilight found herself strolling around an illusionary Ponyville. The one she used to know, full of happy ponies. They were free of sadness, depression, guilt, anger, and any other negative emotion. Verba accompanied her, but she found his light-hearted attitude hard to match under the circumstances. Twilight’s memory was foggy; she remembered everything up to the defeat of the Daymare, but not much else.

“Why do you think the Daymare just... left?” she asked. “She said she was buying time for Deception, but to do what?”

“Dunno, don’t care,” Verba laughed. “All I know is that good ol’ ‘Tia’s back in business, and for good this time. Trust me, you’re a lot better off now.”

Twilight didn’t really have a counter-argument. Her instincts told her something was incredibly wrong, but she didn’t know what, and Verba didn’t seem to think it mattered.

“So, what’re you going to do now?” Verba asked.

“Wait for my broken bones to heal,” Twilight muttered, “and hopefully get some answers. Hopefully.”

Verba laughed. “Yeah, well, they don’t come easy. You know that as well as I do. Still, though, you can’t ever stop trying to find the truth. If you do, well, rest in peace, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a lot easier to outsmart somepony than overpower them. Keep that in mind, because, uh... no offense, but you’re not as smart as you think.”

“None taken. I try not to be,” Twilight said. She paused, thinking for a moment. “How’d you get your name?”

“How’d you get yours? My parents-...” Verba cut himself off, turning away.

“What about them?” Twilight asked. “Is something wrong?”

“Look... I’m just a leftover fragment of magic, right? You know that. I don’t really have a mom or dad. Obsidian gave me this name, ‘cause he says that’s the name of my past self. But... I’ll never really be sure. I’m still searching.”

“Well, if you need any help, I’m available from nine until six a.m.” Twilight smiled, putting a hoof on Verba’s shoulder.

He nodded, but didn’t make eye contact. “Glad to hear it.”

Twilight paused. “You called Obsidian your Submaster, right?”

“That’s just a title. He’s more of a brother,” Verba clarified.

“Well, okay, but who’s your Master, then?” Twilight asked.

“...I’m the shadow of my Master. My Master is my past self reborn,” Verba said. He scratched his forehead, and a few runes were broken into pieces. “I think that’s how he told me to say it.”

“I’m... not sure I get it,” Twilight admitted.

“Well, then, maybe it’s better to show you,” Verba said. His form faded to gray, then to black, as he crumpled to the ground. He was a blob of black energy for a moment before he gradually copied Twilight’s shadow, intersecting with it. Her eyes widened.

I am your shadow, Twilight. The shadow of the original Magic.

=====================================================================

*******

“Twi? Twi? Ya’ll better get over here; she’s wakin’ up!”

“Ugh...” Twilight moaned. She tried to sit up, but it felt like somepony was driving a nail into the back of her neck.

“Stay still,” Luna urged. Twilight felt herself being gently lifted into the air via telekinesis. Luna touched her horn to Twilight’s injury, and the pain ebbed slightly. She set Twilight back down in her bed. “Let us know when you’re ready to speak.”

It took Twilight a few moments, but she gradually came to her senses. She was in a white hospital room, resting in a cozy bed. Various magical wires were hooked to her temples and limbs, transferring energy back and forth to make sure she stayed stable. Her friends were gathered around her, anxiously waiting for Luna’s go-ahead.

“Wh-... What?” Twilight began.

Pinkie leapt toward Twilight to hug her, but Luna’s telekinesis kept her in check. She squirmed in midair, blubbering and struggling not to break down. “Oh, Twilight you gave us all the scariest scare in all of scaryville, and not the good kind!”

“What happened...?” Twilight asked, shielding the light from her unadjusted eyes.

“Some idiot plugged this in the back of your neck just as we were about to leave,” Olly explained, levitating a black dart in front of Twilight. It was two inches long and as shiny as polished china, with illegible writing scribbled along the sides. Twilight detected a faint magical aura on it.

“Who?” she asked.

“It has Envy written all over it,” Dash said.

“How do you know?” Twilight asked, becoming more aware by the second.

“No, uh, it actually does,” Dash said, motioning to the tiny script on the darts, ζήλευαν.

“It means ‘Envy’ in the ancient language,” Luna explained. “It was enchanted to go for your vitals, and would have, had it not veered off at the last second. A different enchantment knocked you unconscious instantly, as well. To all of us, it looked as if you’d just fallen over.”

“We were all so worried,” Fluttershy said, tightly gripping part of her mane with one hoof.

Twilight moaned as fresh pain threatened to overload her once again. “How many times am I going to nearly die?!” she complained.

“You’re the most powerful Element of Harmony, and the one that ties all others together,” Luna explained. “Crosshairs were on your forehead from the beginning. I’m amazed Arrogance let you get so close to realizing your potential; it would have been the end of the war if you had.”

“That’s... a good thing, right?” Twilight breathed, shutting her eyes tight. Her breathing accelerated as Luna tried to heal her once again.

“You shouldn’t keep her awake too long, Princess,” Rarity warned, biting her lip. “She needs her rest.”

“No, it’s because I owe something to her,” Luna said, putting the finishing touches on her spell. “They should be arriving soon.” With Luna’s spell in effect, all of Twilight’s pain faded, and she opened her eyes again to see Spike and her parents rushing into the room.

“Twilight!” Spike exclaimed, rushing to her bedside. He had grown a lot in the past three years, and was now almost as tall as Twilight was while standing upright. “Where have you been?

“Spike...” Twilight trailed off, pulling him close. “Just... Just saving the world a couple times, with the help of my friends.”

“Why couldn’t I come?” he asked, though he didn’t sound angry. “You could have used some help. Friends or not, I’m your friend, too, and I won’t let the Elements of Discord hurt you!”

“You know about that, too, huh?” Twilight asked. I’ll explain it to him later, I guess... She looked up at her parents. “Mom... Dad...!”

Twilight’s mother was nearly in tears, but her father was simply relieved. He went up to Twilight’s bedside, opposite of Spike, and gave her a gentle hug.

“There’s really no way to say how proud of you I am,” he said. “I knew from the moment you started studying magic that you were going to become a superhero. Your mom didn’t believe me, but I said I’d never give up on my little filly,” he added, winking at her.

“I think it was the other way around,” Twilight’s mother said, bemused.

“Shh, she doesn’t know that!” Twilight’s father joked.

Twilight laughed before she abruptly lost consciousness. The back of her neck glowed, as did the iron thorn.

*******

Luna’s eyes widened, and Olly lost his telekinetic grip on the thorn in surprise. It clattered to the floor, where it levitated of its own accord, and started scratching text into the wall at almost blinding speeds.

“What’s happening?” Twilight’s mother asked.

“Twilight? Say something!” Spike pleaded, shaking Twilight.

“It’s in the ancient language...” Luna breathed. She turned to the royal guards that were stationed at the exit of the room. “Take Spike and Mr. and Mrs. Sparkle somewhere safe, and then I want an entire search of the premises for anypony and everypony currently using magic of any kind. Bring anypony suspicious to the hospital immediately and keep them there. Understood?”

The guards nodded, quickly shuffling Spike and the Sparkles to the lobby of the hospital.

“Can ya tell what it says?” Applejack asked.

“I can try. It’s been a while since I’ve read the ancient texts,” Luna admitted, staring intently at the wall, which was now almost covered in ancient scripture. She began to speak, but stopped out of pure shock.

“What’s it say? C’mon, don’t leave us in the dark!” Dash exclaimed.

“It’s... incantations for a spell,” Luna breathed, “and a complex one, at that. I’m not sure if I should attempt it or not, but it appears to be just a simple illusion.”

The thorn clattered to the floor after finishing its writing, but dissolved into dust before anypony could retrieve it.

“What’re you waiting for? Castitcastitcastit!” Pinkie urged.

Luna nodded, and studied the script for a moment before reciting,

"Textus antiquorum ne timeas.
Expecta una visit a me in parum.
Desinet constanti suspicio, licet.
Praesertim vos,
Filia Reginae.
Est talem rem quae overcaution.
Dimittam te paucis verbis tamen.
Supra humerum vestrum, ego apparebit.
Numquam dubitare quod dico.”

“It translates into a wonderful little poem,” a voice behind Luna said.

Icily, she turned and glared at Deception, though he didn’t seem to be fully formed. His visage fizzled and wavered, as if he was made of mist.

“What do you want?” Luna growled.

“Skipping the formalities, are you? Don’t I even receive a ‘how-do-you-do?’” Deception asked. “Very well, then. I’m here to tell you that this war, in fact, isn’t over at all. It begins today, for today is the day when all uncertainties in my plan become naught, and you no longer have any measurable free will. You are all pawns in my magnificent game of chess,” he added with a malicious grin.

“You shut your snout!” Dash snarled, attempting to pounce on Deception. She phased right through him, but she seemed to have expected such a trick, as she landed on all four hooves.

“My apologies. This is a pre-recorded message, Lady Loyalty,” Deception smirked, not turning around to face Dash. “I’m only acting based on previous inferences.” He raised his hoof in a mock attempt to cover his smile. “Though, I suppose there’s really no way you can check. Not that it matters much, in the end.”

“You haven’t answered my question,” Luna said, not seeming to care if Deception was an illusion or not.

“That I haven’t,” Deception began. “However, to me, at least, this war is but a game. Or maybe it isn’t. You’ll become angry if you think I think it is, and angry ponies quickly become frustrated, and frustrated ponies are predictable. Or you could assume I’m lying, but if I lie so often, when am I telling the truth? But what if I say something important, and you pass it off as a fib? You see, war isn’t just a simple game of chess, no... it’s a mind game, Princess. And I’m afraid you’re losing quite badly.”

Luna gritted her teeth. Applejack scratched her head and asked, “Couldja run all that by me again? Ah’m not sure Ah understand.”

Deception snorted, but once again didn’t turn to look at Applejack. “You’re a crude interpretation of the power of Honesty. Maybe that’s why you’re were so easily manipulated, and will be easy to manipulate in the future. I have no respect for you, and therefore I don’t see it fit to answer your questions. Perhaps you should ask your rulers to spell it out for you, but I frankly don’t have the time.”

Applejack bristled, but a warning look from Luna kept her quiet.

“That aside, I will let you know that you will face many a tragedy in your future. You will stare terror in the face. You will take dangerous gambles that, ultimately, do not pay off. The innocent will prove to be your undoing, and the guilty will fight you to your last breath. One of you will simply cease to exist,” Deception forewarned. “I won’t tell you who, though; that makes it all the more suspenseful.”

“Is that all?” Luna asked.

“No. There is a word that is the key to all our suffering, Princess, and it is a word that I have been longing to say ever since the beginning of the Dark Times,” Deception said, his smug grin being replaced by a slightly manic one. “Indicina.

The spell ended, and Deception disappeared.

Luna’s brow furrowed as she contemplated Deception’s words. Twilight rubbed her eyes and sat up, beleaguered. “Wha...?”

“Princess, what was that about, exactly?” Rarity asked. “‘Indicina?’”

“This is a matter I must discuss with Celestia before I discuss it with you,” Luna stated, her tone deathly serious. “Until then, you may do what you wish. Pinkie, if you wish to do your volunteer work, the train to Manehattan boards in two hours, as does the train back to Ponyville for the rest of you.” With that, she charged up a teleport and warped away.

“What now?” Twilight moaned.

“We’re never really gonna git all the answers, are we?” Applejack asked.

Rarity shook her head. “Probably not. ...I have a sinking feeling about this whole ordeal, to be honest. Deception sounds like far mightier a foe than Envy or Arrogance.”

“And we haven’t even seen the others yet,” Applejack added.

“Are you feeling okay, Twilight?” Fluttershy asked her.

Twilight nodded. “I feel... fine, actually.” She used telekinesis to removed her bandages while Fluttershy and Pinkie inspected her wound.

Only there was no longer a wound to be inspected. It had vanished without a trace, save the thin black powder that dusted the back of Twilight’s neck.

=====================================================================

*******

Pinkie had ridden to Manehattan and attended a meeting of the Rebuilder’s Guild, a faction dedicated to repairing Equestria. After getting assigned a home, she was cheerily cleaning it out when she spotted a white alicorn outside. Is that the Princess?

Celestia’s horn glowed as she used powerful magic to sweep up rubble in the street and convert it into beautiful flowers. “Phew,” she sighed.

“Hey!” Pinkie shouted from two stories up. “Princess, is that you?”

Celestia looked up and smiled. “Sure is! How are you, Pinkie?”

Pinkie gaped at her ruler. “You’re helping out, too? Shouldn’t you be in Fillydelphia or something?”

Celestia laughed. “No, my sister handles all the bureaucratic nonsense. I prefer on-site work.”

Pinkie excused herself for a moment and went down to help her ruler. Celestia? Doing actual hooves-on work? I must be dreaming!

Celestia set her flower pots down on the side of the walkway, her horn glowing with vibrant energy. Her fiery mane swayed in the wind as she wiped her brow. “Okay, that’s one street down.”

“It’s just super you’re helping us!” Pinkie smiled. “You’ve never done it before. At least, not that I know of. Of course, there was that one time in Winter Wrap-up where Dash crashed into a tree and got covered with snow. There was a pinecone on her snout, and I wasn’t sure if she was an alicorn or a abominable snowpony!”

“That’s great, Pinkie,” Celestia began, not actually paying too much attention, “but I’m just not the leader you knew. Arrogance’s personality is almost opposite to mine, and she was the one heading Equestria for so long. You’ll see a lot more contrast pretty soon, when I officially train you in a week or two.”

“Train us? How?” Pinkie asked.

“I can teach you and Rainbow Dash what it means to be an Element of Harmony,” Celestia said. “I know it’s a little scary once you find out it’s one year’s worth of effort, but it’s a lot of fun, trust me.”

“A year? I’m so excited!” Pinkie yelled. “I’ll rush home and pack my balloons as soon as I’m done helping out! Thanks, Princess. I like the new you!”

Celestia smiled as the young Humor rushed back into her volunteer work. It’s great to be back.

=====================================================================

“Was there any loss of life in the final battle?” a novice reporter asked Luna.

“No,” Luna said. Mentioning Saphira would make the Elements look bad, and not only that, but it’s just upsetting to think about. “The Elements of Harmony and their friends defeated the Daymare. The battle is over.”

“There are several rumors floating around about a pony named ‘Deception.’ Is he or she as dangerous as the rumors claim?” another reporter asked.

“Deception is the craftiest of the Elements of Discord, but she lacks any supernatural strength. Hopefully we will be able to defeat her when the opportunity arises,” Luna said.

“Do you plan to train the Elements of Harmony and help the others reach their Potential?” one reporter asked.

“Unfortunately, that is out of my control. While my sister and I have intimate experience with the Elements of Harmony and can train them well, an Element of Harmony can only realize his or her potential if Harmony itself is at risk, and I want to avoid that if possible,” Luna explained.

“You said an intimate experience,” a female reporter said. “Just how intimate?”

Luna bit her lip. “We have trained several in the past.”

=====================================================================

Applejack rested in the shade of an apple tree out on the fields. Feels real nice to be back out here again, she remarked to herself, watching the rest of her working family. But there’re so few of us now, I don’t know what I’ll do...

“You okay, honey?” Applejack’s grandmother, Granny Smith, asked the orange mare.

“Who, me? Ah’m fine,” Applejack said.

“Ah’m sorry if this comes a bit out a the blue, dear, but Ah think ya should take the rest a the day off,” Granny stated.

“Why, Granny?” Applejack asked. “Don’t we need all the help we can git out here?”

“But ya’ve just fought a huge battle, sugarcube. Ah’ll be darned if ya don’t git those sore bones a yer’s some rest, an’ that’s final,” Granny insisted. “An’ it’s not just yer health. Ah’m also worried that yer burryin’ yer sadness in yer work, an’ while that may be all fine an’ dandy fer you, Ah don’t think it’s right.”

“Granny, Ah’m not hidin’ anythin’,” Applejack persisted, getting up.

“Ya are,” Granny said. “We all know ya feel guilty for some a the mistakes ya’ve made out there. Well, missy, if ya don’t get them out a yer system right now, they’re just gonna come back and haunt ya later. Mark mah words.”

Applejack took a deep breath. “We need ta stick together, the Apple Family,” she finally said. “Like glue, Granny. And Ah’ll be willin’ to have a therapy session with ya, just after Ah’m finished workin’, ya hear me?”

Granny nodded. “You better hold tight ta that promise,” she said before walking off.

“Sure, Granny,” Applejack mumbled, returning to her work. She nibbled on a piece of straw and sighed. “Sure.”

=====================================================================

Scootaloo sat on her cot in Sweetie Belle’s room. It’s nice of Rarity to let me stay, she thought. She laid down and buried her head in her pillow, sorrow overtaking her thoughts. ...I miss Saphira...

Sweetie Belle walked in, dragging Scootaloo’s suitcase. “That’s about it, Scootaloo. Anything else?”

Scootaloo didn’t answer. She didn’t even turn to face Sweetie Belle.

Sweetie Belle looked at Scootaloo and sighed. Not again, she thought. She just won’t let it go. How close could they have possibly become in that amount of time? She laid down next to Scootaloo. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Scootaloo answered.

“Scootaloo...” Sweetie Belle sighed. “It’s about Saphira, isn’t it?”

Scootaloo pressed her head harder into her pillow.

“This isn’t healthy,” Sweetie Belle said. “It’s been almost a week, and you’re still having episodes. It has to stop.”

“No,” Scootaloo said, angrily turning to face Sweetie Belle. She wiped her eyes. “You have no idea how much pain I’m in right now!”

“I do,” Sweetie Belle said. “You were like this after Apple Bloom d-...” she trailed off.

Scootaloo laughed a bit. “See there? You still don’t even believe she’s dead. Well, where’s Apple Bloom now, Sweetie Belle? Where’s Sa-Saphira...?” her voice cracked, and she buried her head in her pillow. “I was supposed to p-protect h-her...” she cried.

Sweetie Belle gave Scootaloo a hug. “Scootaloo, there was nothing you could do. Don’t blame yourself.”

“Then who am I supposed to blame? Applejack?” Scootaloo asked resentfully.

“No,” Sweetie Belle said. “Blame Deception and all the awful things she’s done to Equestria. She’s the one that made Applejack do what she did.”

Scootaloo once again buried her head in her pillow. “Go away, Sweetie Belle. Leave me alone.”

“Scootaloo, I want to help you,” Sweetie Belle argued.

“I said leave me alone,” Scootaloo insisted.

Sweetie Belle got up. “...Okay, Scootaloo. If that’s what you want.” She exited the room.

=====================================================================

Rainbow Dash! Rainbow Dash!” the crowd cheered as Dash paraded around Fillydelphia.

When they said they were going to throw me a party, I didn’t expect a parade! Dash laughed to herself as a marching band played a song dedicated to her. These ponies are awesome!

After the festivities and some other ceremonies, Dash walked up to the statue built in her name. The inscription read: Rainbow Dash, the Savior of Fillydelphia during the War of Discord.

Dash shook her head. “Jeez, are these ponies... naïve,” she muttered, not loud enough for anypony to hear. “I haven’t saved these ponies. I mean, I will, but I haven’t yet. There’re still things that need to be taken care of. Some loose ends. But,” she said as a filly ran up to her and hugged her leg, “this is the best thank-you ever!”

=====================================================================

Twilight walked into Fluttershy’s home and began helping her clean up the mess. However, just as they were wrapping up, a small white puffball bounded into the room.

“A-Angel?” Fluttershy asked. Angel was her pet bunny, the same one she had been worried about ever since her adventure started. “Oh, I missed you so much!”

Twilight stared in awe at the little companion that was cradled in Fluttershy’s legs. “But that’s not possible...” she said. “There’s no way he could have survived for three years; it goes against all probability!”

Fluttershy softly cried as she hugged the little bunny that she had known for most of her life. “Don’t try to explain it, Twilight,” she said, popping the little bunny onto her head and giggling, joy flooding her system. “Some things are just miracles.”

Twilight was in shock for a moment, but she gradually collected herself and smiled a bit. I guess she’s right.

Spike stepped into the room. “Twilight, you wanted my help?”

“Sure, Spike,” Twilight said with a cheery smile. I raised him from an egg, and he’s almost as tall as I am now... Guess there won’t be any more piggy-back rides. “We’re just cleaning up. Did Luna send you those papers I asked her to?”

“What papers?” Spike asked.

“You’re getting home-schooled, Spike,” Twilight said. “What, you think I’d let you slide by without an education?”

It dawned on Spike. “Um... I’ll look into that,” he said apprehensively. He blinked. “Oh, and Olly asked if he could help run the library.”

“Sure!” Twilight said. “He’ll be a great help, I’m sure.” He’s quite the character, even with his amnesia. Or maybe because of it. Anyway, I’m happy to have him room with us.

Spike suddenly exhaled a burst of green fire. “Hrgh,” he said, rubbing his neck. “That’s the first letter in a while. It’s probably from Luna.”

Twilight read the letter aloud. “The Elements of Harmony and all those that journeyed with them are invited to a celebration on their behalf to commemorate the saving of Equestria. Sounds important, and it begins tomorrow.”

“I’ll start getting ready right away,” Fluttershy said.

=====================================================================

*******

In the now rebuilt throne room, the Elements of Harmony and their friends walked down an honor guard. Hundreds of ponies cheered them on from outside the throne room, and dozens of nobles smiled upon them from inside. Dash was glowing red from all of the energy placed upon her, and she had the widest grin of anypony in the room, her red eyes ablaze with excitement.

“It is here that we honor the Elements of Harmony, their friends, and those past that have helped them,” Luna stated. Her horn glowed.

Four caskets appeared in the center of the room. One had a crescent moon and wand on the top, and was colored blue and purple. One was colored a light blue and had a rubber band on the top. The next was blood-red, and had a sharp blade carved into the top. The last was blue-green, with theatrical masks on the top.

Twilight came up and touched her horn to the first casket, honoring Trixie. “I wish you the best, wherever you are. Without you, we never would have had the courage to stand up to the Daymare. May you rest in peace.”

Scootaloo came up and bowed her head to the deep blue coffin. “You were the closest to a sister I’ll ever get. You helped me through the toughest time in my life, and without you I would probably be dead. I will make sure Deception pays for this. I swear it.”

Dash came up and paid her respects to the red casket. “You fought like a warrior and stayed loyal to your leader. I may not have agreed with you, but you were a real challenge, and although I didn’t know you well, I do know that you battled with pride. Rest in peace, and I hope you’re happy wherever you are.”

Rarity came up to Lorey’s casket. It was empty, but fulfilled a symbolic purpose. “I am sorry for the crimes Discord has committed against you and your daughter. I will not allow your body to be used for selfish means. You fought off Deception for much longer than any of us could have, and I am deeply sorry for your loss.”

Luna stepped forward, using telekinesis to hover a box to Applejack’s hooves. Applejack removed her hat, and took a bright red bow out of it--the same bow she had kept through all of her struggles since its owner had died. Struggling not to cry, Applejack placed the bow in the box, which had the words ‘Apple Bloom’ inscribed in cursive on the top.

“Sorry, sis,” Applejack said quietly to the box. “Ah was too late. But Ah’ll never forget ya. Never, ever.”

Luna nodded. Her horn glowed and the caskets disappeared. “Those who were lost will not be forgotten. The royal mausoleum is open to any of you if you want to pay your respects.”

Celestia motioned for the Elements to line up, with Olly and the two teenagers to the side.

“Here’s my present to you, Rarity,” Celestia said, using telekinesis to open a container filled to the brim with the most expensive and exotic cloth and materials money could buy. “I would have given you a dress, but I think you would prefer making one of your own.”

“Princess,” Rarity gasped, feeling the materials. “Is this... Is this really mine?

“Of course!” Luna chuckled slightly. “This box contains the finest silk, thread, and adornments. Please, craft a dress for yourself; I would hate for such beautiful materials to go to waste on the highest bidder.”

Rarity took the case and hugged it dearly. Blue with red stripes going down the sides, and a sky-blue scarf... Maybe I need less contrast? No, I can make it work. Hmm, should I use yellow instead of red? Maybe if I...

Luna motioned to Applejack. She levitated a seed packet over to the orange earth pony. “These seeds are magically enhanced; they will grow in a day and deliver twice the amount of apples as a normal tree. The trees grown are only enchanted for about a week, but that should be enough to get your business back on its hooves.”

Applejack nodded and put the seeds in her saddlebags. “Thank ya kindly, Princess.”

Dash’s turn. Celestia turned around and whistled. Five goggled pegasi, each wearing blue jumpsuits with a lighting bolt pattern on them, walked up in front of the group. “Meet your new team.”

Dash was starstruck; it was the Wonderbolts, the group she had been trying to get into for the entirety of her life. “For real?!

Their apparent leader, Soarin’, a light blue pegasus with a dark blue mane, stepped forward. “Yep. We lost Spitfire in the attacks,” he said sadly, “but we would be more than willing to make you an honorary member.” He tossed Dash a uniform. “We can start whenever you like.”

Dash stared at the uniform at her feet. Ohmigoshohmigoshohmigoshohmigoshohmigosh… She jumped up in the air and did a triple backflip. “Yes! Yes! Do you even have to ask? Yes!” She was walking on air the rest of the day.

It was Pinkie’s turn. Celestia took out a case of potions. “These potions can make any sweet, like chocolate, last forever. If you put one in your mouth after having applied a potion, you can suck on it all you like, and it will never get smaller, ever. Just be careful not to swallow.”

Pinkie took the potion pack and put it in her saddlebags, already daydreaming about the type of sweets she would use the potions on.

Fluttershy’s reward was next. Luna opened up a cage, and out popped a beautiful red, orange, and yellow bird with smooth feathers that resembled flames. It was Celestia’s, or rather Arrogance’s, pet phoenix, Philomena.

“To be honest with you, I have absolutely no idea what I would do with a phoenix,” Celestia chuckled. “Until I figure it out, you can keep her, Fluttershy. A noble pet for a noble mare.”

Philomena swooped over and set herself on Fluttershy’s shoulder. Fluttershy giggled and brushed her head up against the bird affectionately. “Thank you, Princess.”

Twilight was the last of the Elements, and was eager to get her reward. Luna stepped forward, levitating a book in front of her. Ancient scripture and dark symbols adorned the tome that was rapidly falling apart.

“The dark art of Necromancy is something we never dare teach our students,” Luna said. “I hope you will learn as much as you can about it, because it is the most effective device at getting rid of Discord’s stolen bodies. Be sure never to attempt a spell before you know you’re prepared. Of all magical arts, Necromancy has the most dangerous and irreversible side effects.”

Twilight took the aged book and stared at it with awe. “Are you sure I’m ready, Princess?”

“You don’t have to answer to us anymore,” Luna said. “You are the Element of Magic, supreme law of the land. Nopony is more capable of handling this magic.”

Twilight nodded and extremely carefully placed the book in her saddlebags, making sure it was secure and would not be damaged by anything else she was carrying.

Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were next.

“I think you’ve missed quite enough school.” Celestia raised an eyebrow at the sheepish teens. “I will grant you full amnesty for that alone, and give you our most qualified tutor in order to help you catch up. It will be a lot of work, but if you can pull through, you will finish your entire schooling in about... six months or so. Give or take a week.”

Scootaloo was a bit disappointed, but Sweetie Belle simply nodded. “Thank you, Princess.”

“Oh, I’m not done,” Celestia said, levitating a box toward the teens. “Step forward, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Oliver.” She opened the box, and inside were three exquisite medals with Equestria’s coat-of-arms emblazoned on the front. “Each of you receives a Medal of Valor, Equestria’s highest honor, for outstanding courage, bravery, and spirit in desperate times.”

Celestia stuck the medals to each of their chests with a bit of magic, and they stepped back in line, extremely pleased with what they had accomplished.

“You may return home. The celebration is in a few hours; you may want to prepare,” Luna said.

Thoroughly fulfilled, the Elements of Harmony and their cohorts left the room. All of them, that is, except Twilight.

“Twilight…” Celestia began. “There is something that we have to show you.”

=====================================================================

*******

In Fillydelphia, Twilight was led down the same narrow and ancient corridor that she had before, when she had gone to the Gateway. They were clearly headed to that sacred place under Fillydelphia. However, Luna and Celestia’s demeanor suggested that they were not going there to contact Obsidian, and Twilight soon saw why.

The grass around the Gateway had dried up and died; the room was now dark. The sacred water that had once filled the Gateway fountain had disappeared.

“What…?” Twilight asked. “Why is the water gone?”

Luna pointed to the top of the fountain. “Deception has removed the source of the holy waters.”

“The source?” Twilight asked.

“When the Queen of Harmony was killed, she was split into three pieces,” Luna said. “One of them was the good that was in her heart. It powered the Gateway. The other, the evil side of her heart, the side that was corrupted by darkness, however little, is what fuels the Lock. The third part, her will and consciousness, formed a black diamond called the Willpower. We do not know where it is, though, or what it does, exactly.”

“And Deception stole the source?” Twilight tilted her head to one side. “How do you know it was her?”

“She is the only one that would be able to get this close without anypony noticing,” Celestia scowled. “I hate her so much, you don’t even know. She could be any one of us, and we would have no idea. Even worse is the fact that she has kept Obsidian from teaching you how to realize your Potential.”

Twilight bit her lip. This is bad. “Is there any way to root out Deception?”

“No, not without hurting innocent ponies and wasting our time,” Luna sighed. “I have developed a spell that might help; it will alert you when any of your team members die.”

“How would that help?” Twilight asked.

“Deception often uses the cover of sleep to depart her disguised body and sneak into another,” Luna explained. “However, she will not be able to take out any of your group if she can’t kill any of them without us knowing. At the very least, it might catch her off guard. Be on the lookout for her, though; she has outwitted the smartest of foes.”

“Yes,” Celestia added. “The most paranoid ponies can sometimes trust Deception for the briefest moment before she backstabs them. Never let your guard down, for she is not only a game-changer, but a sadist that will stop at nothing to make your lives miserable. Trust me to the letter when I say that Deception is the single most dangerous Element of Discord in Equestria, and I mean no offense when I say this, Twilight, but she is much smarter than you ever will be.”

Twilight took no offense, but what Celestia said made her that much more frightened. “But what can she do, really?” Twilight asked. “You said that she could stab us in the back, but do you mean that literally?”

Luna sighed. “The Elements of Harmony have a very large weakness which Deception was able to exploit in the Dark Times: She can break ponies’ hearts by having her target fall in love with her and then brutally ending the affair. Loyalty is especially vulnerable to this because the way Deception’s mind works is so foreign to him.”

“And what happens if a pony’s heart is broken?” Twilight asked.

“…They die,” Celestia finally said. “Nopony can survive a broken heart, least of all the Elements of Harmony. It is Deception’s final slap in the face to her victims, and she has humiliated the Elements of Harmony several times using this tactic. Too many times,” she gritted her teeth.

“But what’s her plan now? Why not just kill us?” Twilight asked.

“Deception doesn’t want to kill you because then the Elements of Harmony would be reincarnated into new bodies,” Luna said. “We think that Deception wants to permanently disable the Elements of Harmony by some means, but I honestly don’t know if that is possible. But it must be, otherwise Deception never would have let you live this long.”

“So what do we do now? Why are you allowing life to return to normal if everypony is still in danger?” Twilight asked.

“Because a simple barrier won’t hold back the next wave of Discord,” Luna explained, “Guilt and Hate.”

=====================================================================

[Note]: I do not own anything in this story that already belongs to someone else.
This entire storyline takes place BEFORE season two, but AFTER season one.