• Published 14th Sep 2011
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The Eternal Storm - TDarkchylde



The Nightmare returns, now using an Element Bearer as a host.

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Reverie

The Eternal Storm - Chapter 9 - Reverie

"This is bad," Fluttershy said as she backed away from the factory fearfully.

"Agreed," Twilight Sparkle said, "but we may have no other options." She looked over to the Princesses.

They were both trying their hardest to magically punch through the shield, but its power soon lashed back upon them and sent them both stumbling backward. With a look of pained regret, Princess Celestia simply shook her head. "We can't break it. I'm afraid the only way for you six to reach her is to beat her at her own sick game."

"Let's do it, then," Scootaloo said, undeterred. "We'll be okay."

"I... I don't think this is a good idea," Fluttershy weakly said.

Applejack put a hoof over Fluttershy's shoulder. "Scootaloo's right," she said. "We ain't gotta be next to each other to be there for one another. Right?"

"Yes!" Pinkie Pie said as she stood defiantly before the door. "We've been connected since the day we met."

"Exactly," Princess Celestia said. "When friendship is true, each pony is always with the other, even if only in spirit. They're always there for one another."

It all started to make sense for Twilight Sparkle. "It was like when I was in the hospital," she said. "When the rest of you were so concerned about me, I could also feel Dash's spirit with me, telling me what she'd be thinking. I think she's still with us."

"There's no way we can give up now," Rarity stated. "We have come way too far to let a minor inconvenience like this deter us."

"We did the impossible once, an' ain't no way we can't do it again!" Applejack shouted.

"We're at our best now!" Pinkie exclaimed happily. "Nothing can stop us, not even a meanie like this Nightmare!"

"Friends always stand together," Scootaloo said, determination filling her voice.

"Okay," Fluttershy said softly as she stood tall. "I believe in you as I know you believe in me. We won't fail."

"No matter what happens, we stand together - friends forever," Twilight said. "Now let's go get our friend back!"

"I'm so proud of all of you," Princess Celestia said, smiling. "You six need to get inside. There are six different ways into the factory. I believe that's how she intends to separate you."

"First, the visitor's entrance, where we are now," Luna said, pointing to the shielded door.

"Ah'll take it," Applejack said as she walked to the entrance.

Celestia led the remaining five to the next entrance. "This is the employees' entrance."

"My stop!" Pinkie said excitedly as she bounced to that door.

Celestia led the other four a little farther, then pointed up. "Up there on the second floor is the executive entrance. Fluttershy, since you're the only one in the group who can fly, would you please take that one?"

"Okay..." Fluttershy said as she flew up. "Be careful, girls."

They walked some more before coming upon a small vent. "This is the intake for the water vapor needed to make the clouds," Celestia stated. "I almost didn't consider it because it was so small, but..."

"Say no more, Princess." Scootaloo said. "I can fit in there, no problem!"

Twilight, Rarity and Princess Celestia continued onward a short distance. "This is the emergency exit. It's rarely been used."

"Well, hopefully it's clean," Rarity said as she moved toward it.

Finally, Celestia led Twilight Sparkle to the last entrance. "The loading dock is all that remains," the Princess said.

"Guess that's my stop," Twilight said, looking inside at the darkened factory through the shield.

"Princess Luna and I will fly to the roof and wait for the shields to go down," Celestia said. "If we can make it to you in time, we may be able to help. Until then, good luck and remember to keep your friends in your heart."

"I will," Twilight said. Her horn glowed as she activated her thought projection spell to the others. "Ready?"

"Yep," Applejack replied.

"All set, Twilight!" Pinkie responded.

"I'm as ready as I'll ever be," Fluttershy hesitantly thought.

"Ready," Rarity echoed.

"Let's do this already!" Scootaloo enthusiastically relayed.

"Right, then," Twilight projected. "Everypony in!"

As each of the Element Bearers breached the magical shields blocking their paths, they soon found their spaces being filled with a noxious cloud.

"Let the tests begin," each could hear as they lost consciousness.

..:://=||=\\::..

Fluttershy awoke in her cottage to somepony frantically knocking on her door.

"Wake up, Miss Fluttershy! We've got a problem out here!" a stallion she didn't know pleaded.

"What hit me?" she sighed as she got to her hooves. "I wasn't here before I fell asleep...."

"Please, you've got to hurry," the stallion begged. "It's really bad. It's the animals, they're..."

Fluttershy shot to the door. "The animals? Oh no, what happened?" she asked frantically.

"They've been getting sick," the stallion said, seen crying as Fluttershy opened the door. "It's horrible. We haven't been able to find a cure, and they're going out of their minds with pain."

"Oh, no... this is terrible," Fluttershy softly murmured.

Some of the sick animals followed the stallion to her cottage, and they were coughing between fits of agony. "That's not the worst of it," he said sadly. "They're contagious also. If we don't do something, every small animal in Ponyville will get sick and die. Worse, every animal in Equestria may suffer the same fate."

Fluttershy's heart shattered. "No... no... there's got to be something we can do..." she cried.

"There's only one thing I can think of to do that'd be kind to them, ma'am..." the stallion said as he looked towards the animals with his serpentine eyes...

..:://=||=\\::..

Pinkie Pie came to back at her family's rock farm.

"About time the little harlot woke up," an old stallion spat.

"Don't mind your father, Pinkamena," an aged mare said. "He's just sore because business has been poor lately."

Pinkie opened her eyes to discover herself back in the silo on her family's rock farm. "Mom? Dad? What's going on?"

"You've been dishonoring yourself and your whole family in the modern world," her father said angrily.

"He doesn't mean it, dear," her mother said, reassuringly. "All he wants is for you to come home. It's all I want too, and so do your sisters."

Pinkie tried to get back to her hooves, but her body felt foreign to her. She had to look up at her parents, and as she got herself upright, she took a wild guess. "Why'd I shrink?"

Her father laughed angrily. "Shrink? Don't you know when this is?"

Pinkie reached into her memory. "This can't be," she said, shocked. This was her Rond Gallopen, the time when ponies in her community who reached a certain age were sent into the more modern Equestrian world, then left with a choice - the amenities of the modern world, or remaining with their communities and shunning modern conveniences. "This isn't right," she tried to reason. "I remember this happening before, but you were both supportive of my choice even though you didn't agree with it."

"Oh dear," her mother said. "Do you think they poisoned her out there?"

"I wouldn't put it past those friends of hers," her father said. "They're bad ponies."

"Now hold on just a minute," Pinkie said. "They'd never do something like that. They love me, like you two are supposed to!"

"We do love you," her father said. "That's why we're trying to make sure you make the right choice. I mean, look at your mark. You don't belong out there, you belong here!"

"You belong with your family, Pinkamena. Can't you see that?" her mother pleaded.

Pinkie looked back at her cutie mark. It was different. The balloons were gone, replaced by a pile of rocks...

..:://=||=\\::..

Twilight Sparkle woke up in her hospital bed. She felt like a piano had fallen on her head.

A nurse who had been changing her IV saw her stirring. She ran to the door. "Doctor? Doctor, come quick! She's waking up!"

"Wha... I'm not supposed to be here..." Twilight said weakly. "I'm supposed to be helping my friends..."

As she tried to get out of bed, the nurse held a foreleg over her, blocking her progress. "You shouldn't try to get up yet. You've been through a lot," she pleaded.

The doctor walked into her hospital room. "Ah, Miss Sparkle, you're finally awake. Nurse, please go get her parents from the waiting room..."

"Right away, Doctor," the nurse said as she departed.

"Please, Doctor... this isn't right," Twilight pleaded. "I remember all this... I got better. I was let out of here."

"Oh, dear..." the doctor said.

"Rainbow Dash needs my help. I need to get out of here and back to Cloudsdayle..." she said.

Twilight's parents walked into the room. "Oh, Twilight!" her mother cried. "You're awake! We were so worried..."

"I'm so glad we didn't lose our little filly," her father said.

"It's not all good news, I'm afraid," the doctor said. "Apparently the combination of being comatose for a year and losing her magic has damaged her mind. She's going to need you two more than ever while she adjusts..."

Twilight interrupted the doctor. "What? I didn't lose my magic! I..." She stopped as she reached up to her head.

Her horn was gone. Her heart sank.

"It's going to take some time for her to get back to reality fully," the doctor continued. "She's having moderate delusions right now, possibly being brought on by her guilt over not being able to save her friend."

"...But... but I saved Rainbow Dash!" Twilight protested. "This is all wrong!"

"Honey," her mother said as she hugged Twilight, "you didn't save her. You tried... you gave it your all, but you failed. Your magic wasn't up to the task."

"Yes... when the Princess found you, she said you broke emotionally over it," her father continued. "You were in the middle of a magical outburst worse than the one when you entered Celestia's academy, so... we had no choice but to have your horn removed. Even when they put you into the coma, your magic was out of control."

"You... what?" Twilight angrily asked.

"We're sorry... there was just no other way..." her mother said.

Twilight's head fell into her forehooves and she began to cry...

..:://=||=\\::..

As Applejack came to, she was bound in a police wagon. "What the hay?" she cried. "What's goin' on here?"

"Sounds like the perp's awake," one of the policeponies said.

"You know why you're back there, scumbag," the other one said.

"Ah ain't got the slightest idea what you're talkin' about!" Applejack cried, panicked. "Ah'm not even s'posed to be here! Last Ah remember, Ah was up in Cloudsdayle! Ah ain't done nothing..."

"As if I haven't heard that before," the second policepony said before laughing.

"They all say that, don't they? the first one asked his partner. "Perhaps you should read her her rights again so she doesn't try to weasel her way out on a technicality."

"Yeah, we sure wouldn't want that," the second one said. "Applejack, you are under arrest for the murder of Granny Smith. You have the right to remain silent..."

Applejack was too shocked to hear the rest of it.

Within minutes, the policeponies brought her to the station in Ponyville, a fairly small building. Just because there was almost never any crime in Ponyville, though, that didn't mean there wasn't a need for police. This was the first murder in the town's history.

She was soon led into an interrogation room. All she could do was wait.

Eventually, a grizzled old earth pony stallion with a badge walked in. He shut the door behind him and tossed a folder up onto the table. "Let's see what we have here," he began. "Applejack. Heiress to Sweet Apple Acres, overall dependable pony, and the Element of Honesty to boot. We shouldn't be here that long, then."

Applejack looked up at him. "Well, what do y'all need, then?" she asked.

The old stallion smiled. "Just give us your confession to murdering Granny Smith, and we can all go home. Except you, that is. You'll go to a dungeon for the rest of your life."

"See, there's just one teensy lil' problem with that," Applejack said. "Ah don't remember doin' nothin' of the sort."

"Don't you?" he asked. "We have witnesses. Big Macintosh and Applebloom both saw you standing over her body with a pillow. I bet when we get the autopsy report, we'll find she was suffocated. Try to remember."

Applejack refused to back down. She was being honest. She remembered nothing like that. "Ah ain't sayin' nothin' else til y'all get my lawyer up in here..."

"Suit yourself," the old stallion said as he got up. "Just remember," he began as he removed his sunglasses, revealing his serpentine eyes, "you're going away no matter what. Whether you spend your life in a dungeon or get hanged is up to you."

..:://=||=\\::..

The first thing Rarity noticed was the smell. She woke up quickly once it registered in her brain. "Ewwwwww! Has Spike been taking out my garbage again?"

She took a look around. She was in an alleyway in a big city. It was raining, and she had nowhere to escape to except a damp box.

"What is this?"

She looked down into a puddle of grimy water and saw herself. She was a complete and utter wreck. Her mane looked like it hadn't been anywhere near a brush in months, and her face was puffy from what seemed like days of crying. What few articles of clothing she was wearing were torn to shreds and could probably never be improvised into something presentable.

"What happened? Why am I here?"

A mare just down the alley coughed. "Wow, filly, you must have found some good stuff to not even remember how you ended up here," she said. "Lucky for you, I'm the sharing sort. I'll tell you."

"Please, then," Rarity pleaded. "From the beginning, if you wouldn't be so kind."

"Ain't much to tell," the mare said. "You used to be some big hot-shot fashion designer, but you ran your business into the ground by giving everything to your friends and expecting nothing in return. When the tax man came a'calling, you lost everything but the dress on your back. You came here to Manehattan hoping to rebuild your name, but you just couldn't find your calling again. You ended up here. Now your dress is in tatters, your precious mane is practically destroyed, and you smell like old garbage mixed with dragon sweat. But, look on the bright side. You may have a way out of this yet."

"Really?" Rarity asked.

"Yep, here he comes now," the street mare said as she started waving. "Hey Big Stone!"

"Doesn't matter how much you butter me up, Cider, you burned me too many times," Stone said as he came closer to Cider and Rarity. "Actually, I was hearing that the famous Rarity was holed up in my alleyway. Came to offer her a way out of the rain."

"R-Really?" Rarity asked. She had no clue how she ended up in this predicament, even after hearing the story of her apparent life, but the offer of a chance to get out of the rain was worth a shot. "What will I have to do?"

"Oh, I just need something to sell," Stone said.

"Well, I think if I could start designing again, I could easily get out of here," Rarity said. "I'd be willing to share the profits, of course."

Stone laughed. "Designs? After you were laughed out of your last fashion show? I think not. I want something else."

Rarity was puzzled. "I apparently have nothing, then, so what could you possibly want?" she asked.

"The last thing you've got to give," Stone said, locking his serpentine eyes with Rarity's own. "Your body."

..:://=||=\\::..

Scootaloo awoke in a dark place. There were no walls. There was no sky. It was just darkness.

Twilight Sparkle and the others came walking in from the distance. "There she is! Scootaloo! Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Scootaloo lied as she rubbed her head. "What happened?"

"Apparently this Nightmare Spectrum was trying to pull a fast one on us," Rarity said.

"Yeah, that meanie Miss-Snooty-Pants was just trying to scare us," Pinkie said, bouncing happily.

"We just had to find you," Fluttershy said. "Now we can go get Rainbow Dash back."

"Yep. Still with us, Scootaloo?" Applejack asked.

"Yeah!" Scootaloo cried excitedly. "We better hurry!"

"Scootaloo! Wait! What about us?" asked a young filly from the other direction.

"Yeah, don't forget us!" another filly said.

Scootaloo turned around. Sweetie Belle and Applebloom were standing there looking at her. "Don't worry, I didn't forget about you," she said, smiling.

"But where'd you go?" Applebloom asked. "You was s'posed to help us find our cutie marks today..."

"Yeah!" Sweetie Belle said. "Why'd you leave us behind?"

"Awwww... guys... it's complicated, okay?" Scootaloo said.

"Ain't you gonna help us get Dash back?" Applejack asked.

Scootaloo turned around. "Yeah, I was supposed to help Dash... Guys, I can't just leave them hanging..."

"So you're going to abandon us for them?" Sweetie Belle asked accusingly.

"Yes, go on, Scootaloo. Go with them and play your childish games while the world drowns," Rarity said. "Get serious. We should be on our way."

Scootaloo was placed in the worst position she could ever be in. She was entrusted with the power of the Element of Loyalty, but to prove her worth, she had to abandon one group of her friends...

..:://=||=\\::..

"Popcorn? I do believe you're fond of it." Nightmare Spectrum mockingly thought as she tossed a kernel into her mouth.

"This is low, even for you," Dash's voice said. "They can't win!"

"That's the point, you stupid little filly!"

"Come on guys, you've got to find a way out of this... If only I could be there..."

"Good thing for me you can't, then."

..:://=||=\\::..

"You can't... there's no way I could do that," Fluttershy said. "It's wrong..."

"It's the only way," the stallion pleaded. "If you don't kill them now, they'll infect every animal in town. Besides, they're in pain. Isn't letting them hurt just as unkind?"

"But... I can't do any harm..." Fluttershy squeaked.

"Problem, Fluttershy?" a familiar voice asked.

"Rainbow Dash?" Fluttershy said as she looked up at her friend, in the flesh. "I thought you were..."

"Always with you?" Dash said, smiling. "You know it. So what's wrong here?"

"This stallion brought these sick animals here, but there's no way to cure them," Fluttershy said softly. "He says killing them is the only way to save the others, but it's wrong to kill..."

"Shy... look at the big picture. You've had another option the whole time," Dash said. "They're going to die anyway... and they're in pain. Think."

Fluttershy looked around. Suddenly, it clicked. Across the path from her was a vacant lot and her covered wagon. "I know exactly what to do," she said as she ran inside to grab her medicine bag.

When she emerged, she coaxed all the sick animals over to the vacant lot... then she pulled out some medicine and started to give it to them. Within moments, they stopped convulsing in pain. A few moments after that, they were starting to rest. She started placing their resting bodies into her wagon.

"I knew you'd figure it out," Dash said as she flew off. "Later!"

"Wait... they're still alive?" the stallion asked, puzzled. "What did you do?"

"They're resting comfortably," Fluttershy said in a stern tone. "I was panicking so badly, I almost forgot my oath. First, do no harm. You were right, I couldn't cure them... so I did the kindest thing I could. I'm making them comfortable so that when their little bodies finally do give up, they can go in peace."

"But... what about the other animals?" the stallion asked, now panicking.

"Oh, they know to stay out of this field," she said. "Little poison berries grow in the grass. The healthy animals won't come over here, and these poor little things can barely move so they can't get to the poison themselves."

"No! You were supposed to... AAAAAAAHHHHHH!" the stallion screamed as he twisted and warped out of existence. Soon, everything went black for Fluttershy...

..:://=||=\\::..

Pinkie Pie was resigned to her fate, as she was working on the rock farm. She sighed, sadly. Her hair was in its straightened, depressed state. Still, she had nothing left to look forward to, she thought.

She looked in the direction of Ponyville, at all that which could have been.

Suddenly, she saw a rainbow streak flying from there towards her. She became frightened, screamed, and lost her balance, falling on her flanks.

"Hey, Pinkie Pie," Dash casually said from overhead. "Why are you back on the rock farm? Shouldn't you be putting together a big victory party back at Sugarcube?"

"I can't," Pinkie said softly. "There's no fun here, no parties... I shouldn't even be talking to you."

"That doesn't sound like the Pinkie Pie I know," Dash said as she landed. She pushed at a rock. "Boring. Come on, your friends are waiting for you."

"Pinkamena, get away from that... that heathen," Pinkie's father said as he came storming out of the barn. "She's going to lead you down the wrong path again."

"Pinkie, look," Dash said. "I'm not gonna tell you which way is the right one here, because I can't. Neither can he. Neither can anypony else in this big, wide world except you. Follow your heart, you'll know what's right. Whichever way you choose, I'll respect that, and I'll still call you friend. Sorry, Mr. Pie, I didn't mean to keep your daughter from her work. I should be getting back to clearing the skies over Ponyville. Later!"

With that, Dash took off back toward Ponyville.

"Good riddance," Mr. Pie said. "The less you're around ponies like that, the better."

"Ponies like what, Father?" Pinkie asked. "Ponies who are the greatest friends anyone could have? All this time, you've been telling me what you think is right for me. What you think my path in life should be. Dash was right. It's my choice!"

"What?" Mr. Pie asked, furious.

"Just look at her," Pinkie said. "She didn't agree with what you told me, but she was still friendly and polite to you. I know what my heart's telling me. I need to go back home and be with my friends." Her cutie mark returned to its normal state and her hair puffed back out. "I'm sorry, Father, but I know which way I should be going now." She turned to leave.

"If you go back to that place, you can never go home again!" Mr. Pie screamed.

"Silly," Pinkie said as she looked back at her father. "You said I could come back anytime I wanted. No takebacks!" With that, she bounced on her merry way, humming a delightful tune.

Then everything went dark. Pinkie swore she heard a scream back at the farm...

..:://=||=\\::..

"Quick! Sedate her!" the doctor cried.

It was too much for Twilight Sparkle to take, and she was lashing out against everything she could. The loss of her magic, her friends, having to cope with her parents' betrayal... she couldn't help but snap after learning all of that.

As the doctor tried to inject her with a sedative, she bucked him away. "No! I want to go back to the real world now! This isn't happening!"

"Twilight."

Twilight froze. "What was that?" she asked.

"Twilight! Snap out of it! You're okay!" Rainbow Dash shouted.

"Rainbow Dash?" Twilight said, looking around. Indeed, Dash was standing there right in front of her. "I knew it! I knew they were lying when they said you were dead!"

"You think I'd let something like that separate us?" Dash asked.

As the doctor tried to get his bearings, Twilight swiftly smashed the syringe under her hoof.

"I knew you'd never leave me," Twilight said.

"Stop, Miss Sparkle! If you keep indulging those delusions of yours, you'll never get better!" the doctor cried.

"I'm guessing he can't see me," Dash said.

"Wait, does that make you a delusion?" Twilight asked, backing away.

"Nope. Just the world around you," Dash said, smiling. "Let's clear the air in here. Get one of those fancy spells of yours going."

"But..." Twilight stammered, "but... my horn's gone... I can't do magic..."

"Sure you can," Dash stated. "It's still inside you. It's here. It's between us. All you have to do is believe in it."

Twilight started to focus her mind on the task. Without her horn present, it was almost impossible for her to control the magic.

"Don't try so hard," Dash said. "Just let it happen."

And so Twilight did. Soon, the world itself was starting to fade away, along with Rainbow Dash. As it did, her horn was returning to its rightful place. She opened her eyes just as Dash was almost gone. "Dash, wait!" she cried.

"I'll still be here," Dash said as she faded away. "We'll be back together soon. Remember, the magic's inside you. It's inside all of us..."

..:://=||=\\::..

Applejack simply sat and waited as the police pony stared daggers into her.

Suddenly, the door opened, and whistling could be heard.

A rather overworked young mare stepped into the room, judging by the stack of briefcases she was somehow managing to balance on one hoof. She was singing softly, "If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear..."

The police pony cleared his throat. "I suppose you're Miss Applejack's lawyer?" he asked.

"Mmph," the lawyer confirmed. She slung all of the briefcases on the table, revealing her distinct mane. Only one pony Applejack knew had a mane like that. "That's better," she said. "Yes. Ms. Rainbow Dash, Esquire, at your service. I'm here to represent Applejack."

"Dash? What're you doin' here?" Applejack asked, bewildered.

"Duh! I'm gonna get you out of here," Dash said, smiling. "I know what I'm doing!"

"Right," the policepony said, not believing a word Dash was saying. "Miss Applejack here is facing some very serious charges. Perhaps you'd like to take a minute to talk to her in private so she'll make the right choice for herself?"

"I'd tell her the same thing whether you were in the room or not," Dash said. "Applejack, you know what's been happening lately. Remember. The truth shall set you free."

Applejack felt a surge of confidence now that one of her friends was here to help her. There was no need to say anything other than the truth, now that she could think clearly enough. "Ah was helpin' Granny Smith out before bed, like Ah've been havin' to do for the last few months," she began. "She's been really sick, on account of bein' old an' all. One'a the things I do every night is fluff her pillows, since she can't hardly do it herself anymore. So Ah grabbed her pillow an' fluffed it, but..."

Suddenly a surge of memories came flooding into her mind. She remembered everything that led up to the so-called "incident."

"...When Ah went to put the pillow back, Ah looked down," Applejack continued. "She wasn't breathin'. Applebloom came in and got scared when she saw us like that. Ah guess she got Big Macintosh, an' he must'a went an' called y'all. She went on her own, an' that's the honest truth."

"A likely story," the policepony said. "It's too bad the facts don't support your story. You're going down for this, and you're going to be hanged."

A younger policepony ran into the interrogation room and placed an open folder in his superior's line of sight.

"It's a pity," the old policepony rambled as his eyes drifted down. "You could have saved your life by telling... the... truth?" Something he saw in the folder had him slack-jawed.

Dash looked over at the folder. "...Well, she did tell the truth. It's right there in front of your face!" she cried triumphantly. "See that? 'Natural. Causes.' We'll be going now..."

"No!" the old policepony yelled. "No!!!"

The illusion shattered around Applejack and Rainbow Dash. "See? The truth shall set you free."

"Looks like it did," Applejack said. "Thanks for bein' there for me."

"Anytime," Dash said as she started to fade away. "You get ready to do the same..."

..:://=||=\\::..

Rarity was appalled at Stone's "offer." "You must be joking," she said, defiantly. "That's a disgusting enough proposition on its face, doubly so when coming from someone as repulsive as you."

"Your call," Big Stone said as Cider ran off into hiding. "Of course, I'll be getting what I want anyway. Asking was just a formality. Boys?"

Several of Big Stone's flunkies dashed into the alleyway. One, a unicorn, subdued Rarity with his magic.

"Stop it!" Rarity cried. "You can't do this!" She tried to fend off her attackers, but days without food had left her too weak to use any magic.

"Hold her up nice and good so I can check the merchandise," Stone said as an evil grin crept onto his face.

"I don't think I like where this is going," a familiar voice said. "Put her down before I kick your teeth in!"

Rarity looked over at her would-be savior. The young cyan pegasus was wearing a hoodie sweater and grasping a pipe in her teeth. "Quick, help me!" she yelled.

"Get her. We'll add another one to the stable," Stone said.

As the two earth pony flunkies ran towards the pegasus filly, she dashed toward them in turn. She was faster than them, though... much faster. In a brilliant display of skill, she had knocked both of them to the ground in around ten seconds. Her hood had flipped open during the quick struggle, though, revealing her rainbow mane.

"Dash?" Rarity asked, shocked. "Why... how are you here?"

"You shouldn't be staying in a place like this, Rare," Dash said while clutching the pipe. "I've been trying to find you. You've given us so much in the time we've known you... let us give back. Please."

"Anything! Just get them to stop!" Rarity cried.

Stone scoffed at Dash. He signaled the unicorn to go after her.

The young unicorn telekinetically grabbed a garbage can lid and a broken bottle. He held the lid over his face while he ran in brandishing the bottle.

Leaving only a rainbow trail where she had been, Dash quickly flew up and over the unicorn, before headbutting him in his back from above. He fell quickly.

"H-how?" Rarity asked, still too scared to try to run.

"You tell me Rare, it's your nightmare," Dash quipped as she turned to Stone. "Leave my friend alone, and don't let me catch you doing this to another mare again! You understand?!"

Stone gritted his teeth and ran off.

Dash walked over and held out a hoof to Rarity. "Come on. I've got somewhere you can stay for the night, then we can figure the rest out later."

"I can't," Rarity said quietly. "It wouldn't be right..."

"Rarity," Dash pleaded. "You've given us all so much. If you ever get in this kind of spot again, don't be ashamed when we offer you something in return. You're my friend, and the gifts go both ways."

"I... I think I get it now," Rarity said as she took Dash's hoof and pulled herself back up. "Let us be off, then. I don't want to ever end up in a disgusting place like this again."

"I promise, you never will," Dash said as she and the surroundings faded to black.

..:://=||=\\::..

The bearers of the Elements of Harmony and the Cutie Mark Crusaders were arguing with each other and Scootaloo was trapped in the middle by her conflicting loyalties. Every time she came close to a decision, the other side would shout her down enough to change her mind. There was no sign it would ever end.

It was reaching the point for Scootaloo where it was all blending together. "Stop!" she cried. "I can't choose!"

That exclamation was enough to turn everyone's arguing toward Scootaloo.

She curled up in a ball beneath the perpetual verbal assault.

"Stop it already!" a voice cried from above. "Can't a girl get a nap?"

Scootaloo looked up. "Rainbow Dash? Is that really you? Please help me... I can't decide..."

"Geez!" Dash cried as she flew down to the floor. "Why are you trying to choose in the first place?"

"Huh?" Applejack asked as the arguing between the Bearers and the Crusaders ceased. "She's choosin' because we need her to save you!" she shouted at Dash.

"Yeah, but we need her to help us find our cutie marks," Sweetie Belle pleaded.

"Oh, this old thing," Dash sighed. She looked down at Scootaloo. "It feels like no matter which way you go, you're going to lose, right?"

Scootaloo looked up at Dash and simply nodded, on the verge of breaking down into tears.

"Lemme give you a little piece of advice, kid," Dash said as she knelt down to Scootaloo's level. "Don't. Don't even try to choose."

"What?" Scootaloo asked, confused.

"You'll be able to get back to the Crusaders when this is all over," Dash said. "It's all about what you can help right now. Right now, you're with my friends, and they need you. Helping them now doesn't make you disloyal to the Crusaders."

"...But..." Scootaloo started.

"Do what you can right now," Dash clarified. "The Crusaders will still be waiting for you when this is over, and they won't think any less of you because you helped your other friends. In fact, they'll probably think you're awesome for helping to save the world."

"Really?" Scootaloo said between sniffles.

"Really. Now get ready, things are about to get real heavy in a hurry. I'll see you in a few minutes," Dash said as she, the Element Bearers and the Cutie Mark Crusaders all faded away.

..:://=||=\\::..

The Element Bearers came to, all laying in one of the rainbow rooms.

"What hit me?" Applejack asked.

"I don't know, but I think it hit all of us," Fluttershy said as she got to her hooves.

"It was weird," Scootaloo said. "It all felt real..."

"It probably was, at least from our perspective," Twilight said as she felt the top of her head. Her horn was intact, and she sighed, relieved.

"Just a nightmare," Rarity mused.

"It's not over yet!" Pinkie Pie said. "Come on, we've got to get to the top!"

"Yeah, let's go," Twilight said, wishing to waste no more time.

They ascended the stairs quickly and worked their way to the Severe Storm Room. They had both a world and a friend to save.