Equestria has been at war for forty years now. So much had changed in such little time. Towns vanished and new ones were founded, so many friends splitting paths, only to meet once more in battle. Sister fought sister, daughter fought mother... friend fought friend.
Twilight by all intents and purposes was an old mare now, and war had changed her. She was no longer a mere unicorn, her body now transcending that of a mortal shell. Her mortal life forfeit a long long time ago*, under the servitude of the eternal sun. Her body was strong and built tall and powerful. Her short stub of a horn, was now a mighty lance on her brow. Barring only a pair of wings, she was the very image of her empress now, albeit slightly more lavender than her ivory goddess.
It was the year 40 after the Day of Coronation Twilight stood a quiet vigil, contemplating the loss of a true and loyal friend. War was still raging somewhere in the world but in the vast expanse of the plains that laid just on the edge of the Everfree, stood a monument to one of the greatest ponies to have ever fought for the empire.
The silver white light of the evening sun burned across the land, purging all colour into monochromatic scenes. In the distance Twilight could hear the faint rumbling of thunder, and the eerie, lonely whistling of the wind. The sky was a regal evening purple, as if stuck in perpetual twilight, never to make way for night. The earth was patchy with grass, no doubt caused by eons of hoof steps trampling what little vegetation there was into pulp. Only to die, brown and dry. A husk of it's former greenery.
"Hello Rainbow Dash." Twilight said before a faceless gravestone. It was scribed simply with long faded dates and a name. The countless medals that use to adorn it, either stolen or lost to the sands of time.
No one gave tribute to her anymore, no more flowers of all seven colours to mark her grave. Just a half buried stone upon land that use to hold so much life.
Above that very spot Rainbow Dash's quaint little cloud house use to reside there. No place was fitting for the great hero than having her body returned to its rightful home. A place of so many happy memories.
Out of respect Twilight put a hoof to the faceless stone, tapping just hard enough so that her hard hoof would bump against it in a solid clip. After letting the sound resound into silence, the princess let the hard truth pour from her mouth. The harsh reality becoming so much more potent when spoken out with such factuality.
"Rarity died today." Each word hurt, but a necessary pain. Acceptance is the first step to moving on.
"The church is going to name her a martyr and make her the matron saint of the order of harmony." Tears were falling upon the earth.
"She'd lived such a good life, saving so many lives while I... we..." It hurt too much to say it out loud. To think that taking the life of another came so easily now, in a mere forty years.
And she did it with every action she took, from a flaring of her horn, to a breath out of her mouth, ponies died by the hundreds. Twilight flared her horn with magic and the leather holster on her flank undid its bindings to unsheathe a rusty and bloody dagger. On her right flank, her new commander's sword remained where it was.
"I'm getting sick of this. There are no more friendships in the world. Harmony is dead and it isn't coming back." Twilight floated the dagger towards her throat and she raised her head so that her neck could be seen to more easily. She was afraid to look death in the face despite her bravery to meet it, and so she closed her eyes.
"I want to meet everyone again. I want to go where everyone is right now!" Twilight's magic willed the rusty blade to her throat and it moved rapidly towards her.
Twilight's magic was so powerful that it was known throughout the land. Her feats in the battlefield were forever immortalised in the histories of all of Equestria.
Her telekinesis alone had such potent force as to carve clean holes right through pony bodies with a mere throwing of pebbles. If she willed it, she could rip ponies apart with it or obliterate a volley of a hundred arrows. It was even known to hold magic itself, during some legendary battles against the former Lunar general Trixie the great and powerful.
And it all came so easily with such little effort. Just a single will and she too would die. Another death in an endless war.
With mockingly equal epicness, if not overwhelming strength, another magic had stopped her dead from becoming dead. Laughter filled the air, seemingly carried by the wind. The blade in question, had fallen down to the earth, only it's hilt visible as the earth greedily devoured the killing edge. Twilight was covered in streamers and confetti and blood, all the while the sun turning blood red and the sky a cloudy pink.
It was raining brown liquid, the stench of chocolate choking Twilight's nostrils.
Instinctively a bubble enveloped Twilight's form with a single will into her horn. The princess attempted to brandish the blade upon the ground with her magic, but any attempts were easily repelled as if her invisible hands of magic were being slapped away, the stinging pangs of repulsion pulsating in her mind with the sound of giggling echoing somewhere in the recesses and niches within.
And as if, none of it ever was, the skies returned to its twilight, the sun to it's white light, the grass was still a patch of grey and brown. And Rainbow dash's gravestone stood ever unassuming.
Pinkie Pie, exactly the young mare she remembered her as, stood beside the war princess. The princess's dagger in her pink hoof, licking it like a lollipop. There was a disquiet, savouring appreciation the pink mare showed as the iron tang tickled her taste buds.
Twilight shook her head, causing more confetti to fall over her eyes. She stared aghast, her mouth wide open and her eyes in surprise.
"Pinkie Pie?" In reaction to Twilight saying her name, the pink mare lost interest in the blade. As if tasting the bitter tang of iron in the blood, and the gut wrenching disgust the rust induced, to her taste buds for the very first time. Her tongue stopped licking, her face contorting into disgust. To Twilight herself, she paid her no mind at all.
"Was it fun Twilight?" Pinkie said as if talking to herself, the blade in her hoof thrown from the foot of the grave and dead center of the gravestone opposite. she did it so effortlessly. She did it as if she'd been long well-practiced in killing other ponies with such things and in such ways. She could feel than see in the pink pony, a killer's arrogance. And Pinkie's killing intent was exuding out of the mare as if intending to ensnare her in it's almost humid miasmic invisible shadow. But Twilight didn't care, fear took a backseat as other more positive feelings flooded her heart.
"Pinkie where have you been...?" Twilight's tears streamed down with such joy. She was so happy to not be so alone anymore. In her fit of desperate relief the largely built mare hugged her little pony friend. Pinkie didn't pay her any mind.
"Was it fun, when you stabbed that dagger into Rarity's gut?" Pinkie said, still as if she was speaking to no one at all. As if she were talking before Twilight's grave.
The joy inside Twilight died, as fear and dread came over her finally a totally.
Then her side hurt, exploding in a sharp concentrated bloom of pain.
The princess looking to the source of the pain found the dagger embedded into her chest, into her heart. Her eyes looked to the gravestone, and didn't find the dagger there.
It was exhausting work checking defensive lines, hearing reports, issuing orders and debating strategies. Usually matters would be discussed through a series of letters and messengers and runners. And then the orders would then subsequently follow a chain of command through more letters, runners and messengers. But Twilight was not the kind of leader to stand within the confines of a war room in a comfy, impenetrably safe city capital of Celestia screaming her head off. She was a mare of action, never content to believe she had done enough. Ever ready to be in the forefront to bring harmony into the chaos of battle.
And with Trixie as her opponent, of course she would have reason to believe her actions would never be enough.
After all, for every tactic and stratagem Twilight would concoct, Trixie would have her own countering hers or distracting her objectives and forcing her to split her resources. And then somehow in all that mess Twilight would need to come up with a countering tactic or stratagem to have the same disabling effects on the Lunar forces. As such, Twilight needed the empire to run with maximum efficiency so that it would always be slightly ahead of Trixie.
With the mastery of her teleportation, Twilight could take in reports in person and issue orders in person rapidly. Skipping the bureaucracy of the chain of command and move her forces with a greater efficiency than any military force in the world. Trixie may have had her smoke and mirror tactics and some ridiculous intuition against her attempts to beat her. But Twilight had an army that moved as naturally as her own limbs.
When a fight between the two forces was all said and done. The empire has always been the more prepared for a long battle, with reinforcements constantly nearby to support each other.
And one day, all that effort won out.
With the death of the Great and Powerful Trixie the momentum for the retaking of Canterlot was well underway. The Lunar republic had been in full retreat and had been soundly routed by the forces Twilight lead across the empire simultaneously. Their usual raid and guerilla tactics made useless by the united might under the command of Twilight Sparkle. A princess general now renamed in honour of her recent accolade, the Great and Powerful Twilight Sparkle.
Twilight had respectfully declined to attend any celebrations in her honour. She seemed content to revel in some private issue. A trauma she refused to show all that worshipped her, for fear of seeing her weakness.
"Trixie... you are a horrible pony." Twilight stood alone at the foot of Canterlot mountain. Glowing with a wan pink light, Trixie's magic protected the city, barring her enemies from their goal even after her death. Twilight's foothold was assured but If Trixie were alive, it would've already been taken from her at this point.
Victories between the two generals were numerous, but only because of their minute sizes. Tiny victories that kept the already tired and overextended forces of both sides going beyond what they could do under any other pony's command.
It would've been a blessing to know that Trixie died, leaving the republic one less of their greatest generals. But another would rise to the challenge. This victory only bought Twilight time and it was nowhere near enough.
"Darling... everypony is getting worried." It was Rarity. Her voice bringing Twilight back to the reality she was truly in, like it always did. The voice of reason Twilight liked to think of her as, the voice of moderation. The voice that kept her from becoming a monster.
Like how Trixie had become. Her atrocities, her "tactics and stratagems" nothing more than a life long obsession to win at any cost, at anypony's expense. A demented mind who's only accolades were war crimes endlessly numbering over her years.
"I'm so tired Rarity... I just want this to stop. Canterlot is right there Rarity... It's right bucking there... I need to... I need..." Twilight horn flickered weakly but only weak sparks flew. Her impotency bringing tears to the great her to the empire.
"You need to rest dear. You've been teleporting and spelling casting non-stop for a full week. I don't even think you've slept or eaten properly." Rarity held a hoof to Twilight's face and looked her straight into her bloodshot black bagged eyes.
"You've done enough. You're a hero time and time again. Come on, I'll take you to your cot. Sleep and I'll have a breakfast ready for you in the morning." Twilight grinned grimly at Rarity's sweet nothings. She already knew the food stock was already being rationed. A new shipment of oats wouldn't arrive until the next week.
"Never leave me Rarity. You're my only friend in the world."
"What a nice and heartwarming story." Pinkie said as she took a sip of her tea. Her tone was so uncharacteristically calm and serene, as to give Rarity's natural grace something to rival.
The great hero, Twilight Sparkle, knew fear. A horrid terrifying fear of so many layers as it left her speechless.
She feared the truth she knew that she was going to be faced with. She feared the reaction of her oldest friends shifting from this calm cordiality to a look of anger filled betrayal. The great hero feared the shadow of death upon her as she conversed with one of her few friends in the world. And she feared the mystery of the things this friend of clear supernatural ability, if not demonic ability would do to her.
This room. This tiny tea room of pealing pink wall paper, with moist pulsating bloody bleeding through the tiny breaks of pink wall skin. The lack of windows or door and the maddening blinking glow of a pink light illuminating a room darkened and deafened by buzzing flies. And the various seats where the flies gathered, swarming over hidden figures concealed by various coloured blankets, staining by the clear decomposing flesh behind them.
This room, was a room of death and madness. If the eyes couldn't betray to the blind, then the smell certainly would. Pinkie did not bring her here for a nice little chat. She was going to die here, the moment that smile on her face vanished from that pink face she would be subject to the worst things this pony could think of, and by how clear this pony has fallen from harmony, Twilight knew Pinkie was far more capable of thinking up horrible things than a murderer of a thousand ponies like her.
A hero like her, was facing the judgement of the villain.
Twilight inhaled to calm her terrified heart. But her breath was shakey and quivering. And she could taste the blood and death in the air, it was so bitter with the iron tang of blood but there was also a sickening sweetness too, mixing with the taste of rotten flesh that would forces anyone to gag and vomit by its sheer potency.
"Why did you stop?" Pinkie remarked ever so calmly. It sounded like a question. But Twilight knew it wasn't, she had to continue. Pinkie was ordering her too.
Willing as much defiance as she could, building up all her fear and courage in a sickening mind bending collaboration, Twilight attempted to look Pinkie straight in the eyes, sealing her mouth shut as to almost bite them closed.
There was madness in those pink eyes that felt so contagious, but she knew that if she didn't defy Pinkie now, she would never do so. Go mad, if she has to, she doesn't want to continue the story no matter what.
"I see..." Slowly Pinkie's smile faded into a very slow and deliberate look of displeasure. "Is that how it's going to be..." Twilight almost broke from the fear the moment, her expressed turned back into a smile. A smile of intent, malicious and sadistic. A smile pleased to be presented with the justifiability to do what she was about to do.
Suddenly the room went dark and distinctly Twilight her four hooves hit the wooden floors. For a few seconds there was nothing but silence. Not even the buzzing of the flies broke the eerie quiet.
"It's a nice room isn't it." The room flickered again into light as Pinkie's voice purred into Twilight's ears. There was no more buzzing. The flies that were everywhere now lie dead in a black carpet across every surface.
"Where do you suppose this is Twilight? Some cellar in an imperial winery or public house? Maybe a basement of some bakery? Maybe even a whole dimension all of its own?"
"There's no escaping here Twilight. Your magic won't help you here even if this room is right next to your god empress."
"No one can hear you. No one will save you. Ponies that find themselves here never find their way out again. Not even their souls."
"Look around the room Twilight. Tell me what you see. Tell me if you can guess who are behind these little blankets."
Twilight was in tears while Pinkie was laughing. It was so unnatural. It was as if Pinkie laughed with the voice of several ponies, all of them pained laughter barring only a few. Dominating her voice was a sound not unlike the Pinkie she had always known, intermixed with a low reverberating laugh that was still in her voice but holding a sadistic, almost furious joy as opposed to the innocent glee Twilight knew her laughter for.
It was hopeless. Pinkie was just torturing her with a glimpse of her old friend while the demon intentionally mocked her for it. This wasn't some surviving part of Pinkie or some fairy tale cliche like that. This was the demon reminding her what she had lost when Twilight had left Pinkie Pie in that tiny village to join the war so many years ago.
It was a sad parting for everypony. But never did anyone imagine that it would be so fatal for Pinkie Pie.
"We only wanted you to be safe. For you to stay out of the horrors of war. We wanted you to be out of all of us, right to the very end, to be the most innocent of us all." Twilight cried at how cruel the irony of fate was. If there was anything of any dignity left in her, it was the sorrow of loss towards all of her friends. It transcended all of her fears and worries. The knowledge that things could never be as good as those times ever again. That was what hit home.
And Pinkie drove the knife even deeper even as she laughed at all their mutual misery.
"Heroes don't cry little bitch tears, Twilight. Heroes face forward and take the task head-on." Twilight managed a tiny almost hysterical smirk through her sobbing at those words. The sweetness of the voice, so cruel a reminder.
And the fear returned like a wave.
"Now tell me what you see..." Pinkie purred with that, now trademark sadism.
What was before her was self explanatory. The tea party table had eight seats with her at the head of one side as the guest and Pinkie at the other side as the host. Beside them were six seats. Three ponies, ponies, for that she was certain, were to her left and one pony was to her right. The cloth that hid them even through the glow of the pink light was clear. Their symbolizing colour and their meaning was apparent even to a child.
The pony draped in pale orange was right next to her. The pony right next to her was green in the pink light but Twilight knew it was blue. The pony that would be next to Pinkie was a darker orange, meaning in the pink light the pony next to her was yellow. Directly opposite of green one was clearly white by the lighter shade of pink it creates.
"I see our friends Pinkie." Twilight said. Her eyes looked to the right at the right of Rarity. Her place was there by her side, also right next to Pinkie.
Her last friend.
"Our party." Pinkie said.
"The eternal Party. Twilight."
"Now please, my bestest friend in the whole of Equestria. The guests are getting bored. Won't you tell the whole of your story?"