Fallen From Grace

by The Grimm Reaper

First published

Twilight has failed as a princess and her Alicorn status has been stripped away from her.

This Story undergoing Rewrite

A freak accident leaves Princess Twilight Sparkle blind. With magic unable to help her see again she is resigned to her fate as a shadow of her former self.

Sadness and depression strike hard and fast nearly every day. But luckily for the disable princess, she may stumble across an organisation that could help her to see again. But miracles don't come freely, fortunately, she may have a guardian watching over her.


1. Just Take A Fall

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Disaster still flooded the headlines of 'Equestria News'. An incident that could have been prevented occurred the previous day; a team of Gryphons had struck the peaceful city of Manehattan. Twilight Sparkle had been left in charge of Royal duties in the absence of both Princesses Celestia and Luna, who went off to delegate between other Pony nations. Having had a bad day already, a request to visit Canterlot from the Gryphon King himself had reached Twilight's ears. She was less than hospitable.

"Twilight, how could you think to deny the Gryphon King?!" Celestia fumed at her apprentice, struggling not to use the Royal Canterlot voice on her. "You know how Gryphons act when they don't get their own way!"

"I'm sorry, Celestia. I didn't think they'd react that way. It was a simple request to visit, nothing majorly political about it, certainly nothing to attack a city over." Twilight tried to coax her way out of the situation, but it didn't work.

"You never decline the Gryphon King unless his decisions or requests endanger Equestria or us if acted upon." Luna explained, sounding less annoyed than her older sibling.

"Once again, I'm sorry. I'll do better next time." Twilight said. There was a stagnant pause in the air that unnerved Twilight.

"I'm sorry, Twilight, but Equestria knows you're responsible for this mess. Your decision to ignore the Gryphon King has cost lives. Ponies are beginning to believe that we are no longer capable of protecting them. They're even talking about a democracy. I hate to do this, but it's for the good of Equestria." Celestia leaned towards Twilight and took her crown in her mouth. Twilight gasped as she realised what was happening.

"Celestia... Luna?!" Luna seemed more saddened than Celestia about her sister's action.

"Democracy cannot help Equestria, it will only serve to bring it to ruin as the greed of the common pony can corrupt organisations such as those. To continue protecting everypony, we must save face. Unfortunately, this means disowning you as our fellow sister." Luna said. Her throat began to choke up after she spoke. While she was certain Celestia was more so devastated by this outcome, Luna owed her life to Twilight, and this was heart-breaking for her.

"I'm... disowned?" Twilight asked, her own throat locking up.

"You're still a part of the family through Shining Armour's bloodline, but you are no longer a Princess, Twilight." Celestia said with as much neutrality as she would have had she been speaking to Blueblood instead.

"You're kicking me out? After one mistake?" Twilight tried to argue. She'd spent months trying to come to terms with being a Princess, she wasn't about to let it end just like that.

"Lives, Twilight. Lives were the price of your mistake. Ponies died for no real reason. This could have been prevented had you just accepted the Gryphon King's request. Declining him simply because you're having a bad day is no excuse. The media knows this. Emotions cannot be allowed to control our decisions." Celestia said. Her voice was still neutral, but the sadness at having to do this began to seep through on her usually flawless poker face. That argument forced Twilight to abandon hope of redeeming herself. She would not get a second chance. She lowered her head, her mane falling over her eyes.

"I guess blood is thicker than wine." she muttered so low both Princesses only heard ramblings.

"Sorry?" Celestia asked.

"I GUESS BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WINE!" Twilight screamed, startling both Princesses.

"I don't under-." Celestia began with a calm expression.

"NIGHTMARE MOON!" Twilight explained. Celestia and Luna froze in place. She wouldn't go there, would she?


The princesses both went slack-jawed. Twilight's crown dropped out of Celestia's mouth with a loud clang on the polished granite floor, tumbling around before coming to a rest just beside Celestia's hooves. There was an arid pause between the three of them. Deep in Luna's heart, she knew Twilight was right. This wasn't fair, but to say such a thing about the deceased just wasn't her. Celestia had to be careful, otherwise they'd be dealing with another Nightmare Moon.

"Get out." Celestia whispered, loud enough for them both to hear. Immediately, Luna knew that was not the right thing to say.

"Uh, Sister, I-." Luna went to say, but was cut off.

"GET OUT!!! AND DON'T YOU EVER COME BACK!!!" the white alicorn boomed, rattling the windows of the throne room. Definitely the wrong thing to say.

Twilight stared at Celestia from behind her mane, hatred and betrayal covering her eyes in the form of tears. "Have it your way." the banished alicorn hissed at her mentor. Twilight compressed her magic into the tip of her horn. With a loud crack, Celestia and Luna were both thrown across the room into their respective thrones. Twilight was nowhere to be seen. A shimmering ripple of magical residue was all that remained of the once respectable young Alicorn.

Celestia stood up from her throne and brushed herself off. The anger in her face kept Luna quiet as the white Alicorn brushed herself off and stormed out of the room. Luna became sluggish in her throne, her muscles uncurling all at once. A hoof swung haphazardly along the side of the throne.

"Celestia, you foolish mare. Not only have you destroyed the relationship with your best friend through that last comment, but you've left the Elements of Harmony virtually useless until a new generation arrives. Or worse off, should Twilight sway her friends, they could be used against us." Luna said to an empty room.

...Six months later...

Twilight lay curled up into a ball in her bed. Since her wings had deteriorated like a statue in a hurricane after leaving the castle, she found it easier to get comfortable when sleeping. The only problem now was the sleeping. She couldn't sleep, she barely ate, even less so left the room.

Spike had become the unfortunate victim of Twilight's night terrors. They'd change every time, but they all involved Celestia and a Gryphon (sometimes with a crown). Nine times out of ten, the young dragon would manage to get a peaceful night's rest. Six times out of ten, it would be half a night's rest. The Library suffered as a result of this. Spike's lack of sleep reflected on his work. Books were misplaced, some alphabetically, others by genre and numerical placement. Daring Do had become Sci-Fi and the Gods the Gryphons worshipped had become fiction (though Twilight may have done that intentionally).

Most recently, books weren't even being placed into shelves any more. It was beginning to look like something out of 'Black Books'. Creatures even started living in the woodworks.

"What am I gonna do, Applejack? You understand Twilight better than anypony. You've got that special... bond thing your family seems to do with those close to them. What can I do to cheer her up?" Spike asked, his baggy eyes showing the strain as well as the depth of the situation to Applejack. The orange Earth Pony turned to their friend who sat in the middle of the apple orchard like a zombie with no brains to eat.

"Maybe if we all act like nothin' happened. She'll come around quicker than the dogs looking for Winona in matin' season." she replied, fixing her Stetson as she thought.

"I guess it's worth a shot." Spike said, motioning for Applejack to demonstrate. The Earth Pony obliged and turned to call over to the still Twilight.

"Hey Twi, if yer feelin' a little glum, why not write a letter to the Princess?" she suggested.

"Bad idea." Spike commented, swallowing as the Unicorn stirred slightly. There was a moment's silence before hysterical laughter erupted from the Lavender mare, frightening both Pony and dragon alike. She turned to the pair with a crazed look in her eye.

"Mention her again, and I will RIP UP THIS ORCHARD!!!" she screamed, turning back around and returning to her zombie-like state.

"Very bad idea." Spike added, feeling Applejack squeezing the life out of him in fright.

"Ah forgot how scary she can be when she's... nuts to that, she's never been like this." AJ said, shaking slightly. An idea came to Spike.

"Something you said earlier just registered with me." he began, drawing AJ's attention. "When you mentioned the dogs coming to Winona during mating season. Maybe we should try and find Twilight a special somepony. 'Hearts and Hooves' is nearing the corner, you know." he said. Applejack liked the idea. It wasn't until she began thinking about finding a special somepony of her own that she realised who she was holding. The pony and dragon quickly separated and took a moment to clear the awkwardness.

"Ah like the idea, Spike. But who in Equestria could handle... that?" AJ asked, motioning to Twilight who had stopped staying still and had begun rolling around in the grass, kicking at the air. It reminded Applejack of Winona during a lovely Spring afternoon.

"I don't suppose Big Mac's on the table?" Spike suggested.

"Sugarcube, a minute ago, Ah might have thought about it, but after hearin' that orchard comment from her. Ah want her as far from here as possible until she resolves things. Datin' Big Mac ain't gonna do nothin' but give him another choker." she replied. "What about that Flash Sentry fellah? Weren't she and him gettin' friendly?" Applejack asked.

"Are you kidding? The guy works for Cele-." Spike cut himself off as he saw Twilight give him the same look Owlicious gave him whenever he was being dramatic.

"Ah... You-know-who," Twilight turned away slowly, giving him a cautious glance before she returned to rolling around. The pair shuddered. "She hasn't spoken to him since that day she returned to Ponyville." Spike concluded.

"Well Ponyville ain't exactly teemin' with colts. And the colts that are here are either taken, married or... too young... where'd she go?" AJ asked. Spike turned to see nothing but a matted patch of grass where Twilight was just a moment ago.

"Son of a mule!" Spike said, standing up.

Twilight found herself wandering the edge of the Everfree Forest. She'd been within hearing distance of Spike and Applejack and had grown tired of their plans to make her feel better. Neither finding a special somepony, nor acting like nothing was wrong would fix the void in her heart.

For six months, she'd been struggling to return her state of mind to the way things used to be. She'd strived for happy, but instead she could only go from outraged to sad. The battle for the two emotions had been going on ever since. Right now, she was sad. She knew it would have been better if she'd left on better terms with Celestia. That way, she might have had another chance after the fuss over Manehattan had died down. But then again, she'd made the point of mentioning how this land owed her. Celestia had been cruel and unfair. Most of all, she was selfish; abdicating Twilight to save face with the public. What a bitch! And there was the outraged side again.

Her thoughts blinded her to the path she'd taken. She didn't see the cloaked figure standing in front of her. She bumped into him, the solidity of his form, like a stone wall. She fell onto her haunches, shaking her head free of... everything. Looking up, she saw a tall pony, like Big Macintosh, wearing a dark brown cloak over his body, a hood covering his head. Through the shadow within his hood, a pair of Lime Green eyes stared down at her.

"I-I'm sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going." the unicorn said, unable to move under the gaze of this pony.

"You're Twilight Sparkle, are you not?" the pony asked. It was definitely a Stallion... a big one. His voice didn't seem to fit his seemingly gruff posture and size. He actually sounded rather... wheezy. At the same time, he sounded kind.

"Um... Yes, that's me. Do I know you?" she asked.

"No," he extended his hoof which she took graciously and helped her to her hooves. "But I am aware of your... tragic predicament. You are a former Alicorn." he said. Immediately, Twilight felt discomfort return to her. For a moment, she thought she might be able to forget everything for at least a few minutes.

"Yes. The attack on Manehattan was my fault. Did you have family or friends there?" she asked with a touch of venom in her voice. She'd received hate-mail and death threats shortly after having been banished from Canterlot Castle.

"I did not have family there, and I do not have friends in general, much to my comrades' displeasure." he replied. Twilight found this pony to be rather interesting.

"You have comrades, but no friends? How does that work?" she asked.

"They're more like co-workers." he said.

"What do you do?" she asked.

"It's a secret, meant for the ears of select ponies." he replied. Twilight seemed disheartened by this information. "Fortunately, you are one of those select ponies." the stranger added, bringing a smile to her face. It felt strange to her. Nothing had made her smile since that day, yet this complete stranger had managed to do it by satisfying her curiosity.

"Are you going to tell me?" she asked, looking eager. The pony seemed hesitant for a moment.

"Why don't I show you instead?" he offered. Twilight had read stories about this as a filly. Creepy strangers offering mysterious gifts to unsuspecting foals and taking them away to a place they can't escape, where they would do unspeakable things. But as she thought about it. Perhaps this was what she wanted. It would be a form of stress relief if nothing else.

"Alright, lead the way." she said, a serious look on her face.

...Canterlot Castle...

Luna was unable to sleep. That had happened a lot lately, and she knew why. Dusk was approaching and the Sun was beginning to set. The dark Alicorn made her trek from her room to her sister's, knocking gently on the door. When no response came, she opened it slightly. She knew what was happening even before she caught sight of it. She heard Celestia crying silently, then saw her by the window, her head lowered. Every few seconds, those silent sobs would be heard and her body would heave in time to them.

"Sister, please stop crying. You know what you must do in order to rectify the mistake made." Luna said. In truth, she held no sympathy towards her sister. It was a mistake the Sun princess herself had made and instead of taking the chance to fix it, she chose to spend her days in her chambers, sobbing like a helpless filly.

"This can't be fixed with a few words, Luna! I yelled at her. I've never yelled at her before, never! She's angry with me. I know it. I haven't received a single letter from her since then." Celestia said.

"She no doubt believes it to be a waste of paper. You believe she is still mad at you, and she in turn believes the same of you." Luna stated.

"So what is there to do about it, go to her and find out which of us is angry at who?" Celestia argued like a foal.

"Send for her, go to her, either one. At least try to mend this broken fence. You owe her that much." Luna replied calmly.

"When, Luna? After six months of this, when do you think would be a good time to just show up and do that?" Celestia demanded.

"That is for you to figure out. But I recommend it be sooner rather than later. I fear your window of opportunity is closing fast." Luna replied. Celestia turned to look at Luna, a cautious curiosity in her eyes.

"What do you mean by that?" she asked.

"Look to the Horizon, sister. A shadow lies within the sunset." she replied. Celestia did as commanded and looked towards the setting sun. Sure enough, like a mirage in the distance, a stream of amorphous black swivelled and wobbled around just above the surface of the horizon. Very few understood that this was a sign of dark things to come.

...Everfree Forest...

Twilight followed the stranger into the Everfree Forest. She knew of Zecora's hut as well as the old castle of the sisters. What else lay hidden within the thickness of the forest?

"So, where exactly are we going?" Twilight asked.

"A secret place only those like us know about." he replied, pressing on.

"What do you mean by 'those like us'?" she asked.

"You'll find out soon enough." that was all he said. A further ten minutes of traversing the forest led them to a beautiful sight within the seemingly dark and ugly forest. A waterfall existed at the foot of a cliff, where the spray created a cloud-like atmosphere near where the water hit the river that flowed across the area. Fireflies lit up the open air and seemed to dance like fairies. Certain fungi and fauna glowed in the darkness of the trees, adding more beauty to the scenery. Twilight followed the stranger to the base of the waterfall, where a cave behind it was revealed. It was a small thing, perhaps big enough to fit Fluttershy's cottage.

"So, where's the rest of the gang?" Twilight asked, grabbing her attention.

"Behind the back of the cave. There's a hidden doorway." he replied.

"Can I at least get the name of my guide?" she asked. The stranger hesitated for a moment before replying.

"It's Zero." he said, placing a hoof against the back of the cave. Two lines of light emerged from the ground and came together in a rectangle. The stone within it disappeared like a mirage, revealing a passageway.

"Follow me." Zero said, stepping in. Twilight obeyed and stepped in. The doorway closed behind her. With no choice but to press forward, she followed Zero to a large cavern spanning at least a mile in every direction. There were other ponies residing within this cavern, Twilight counted twelve in all, including Zero.

2. NĂºmeros

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"What is this, a Unicorn elitist group? I'm not into that stuff." Twilight said. Zero shook his head, flipping his hood back. He too was a Unicorn, a dull grey one with a fiery red mane.

"It's not like that. Come with me." he held out his hoof, seeming gentler than before. Twilight took it and she was lead to what appeared to be a makeshift stage.

"Everypony, gather round! Zero shouted. The Eleven ponies did as he commanded and gathered around the stone slab of a stage.

"This is Twilight Sparkle, Former Princess of Equestria and Student of Princess Celestia, now one of the Fallen." Zero said. The unicorns began to chatter amongst themselves, some seeming happy to see her, others not so happy, and then some who were somewhat impartial to her arrival.

"I still don't understand, Zero. What's this all about?" Twilight asked. Zero looked to her with a blank expression.

"As you know, Equestria is not the only land that houses ponies. These ponies have come from around the world to live here, in the safety of the Everfree Forest." Zero said.

"I've never heard the Everfree be called safe before." Twilight interrupted.

"As such, Celestia and Luna are not the only Alicorns in this world. There are others who control aspects of nature, space and time." he said.

"I still don't know why you brought me here." Twilight said. Another pony, around her height, male, long blonde mane with a white coat, rather suave answered.

"Like you, some of us became Alicorns, but were stripped of our power because of events in our lives that changed us. Others were on the brink of becoming Alicorns but became like us instead." he replied.

"Twilight, this is Pavonearse, founder and leader of this organisation." Zero said.

"A pleasure to meet you, Pavonearse." Twilight said, bowing slightly.

"The pleasure is mine, Twilight. I have heard of your successes. Riveting stuff indeed." Pavonearse had an accent to him that could only be described as... Sponysh. Pavonearse was a white pony with a bleach blonde mane and golden eyes. To Twilight he seemed a cross between her brother and Prince Blueblood.

"Thank you, but I still don't quite understand everything. This organisation is for those who failed to become Alicorns or succeeded but lost that status?" Twilight asked.

"Si, yes. We call ourselves 'The Fallen'. A formality of course. What we became afterward is something new. Twilight, you are no longer an Alicorn, but you are not a Unicorn either. You have become something just as powerful as an Alicorn." Pavonearse said.

"What have I become?" she asked. Pavonearse went to explain, but Zero cut him off.

"Think of your transformation from Unicorn to Alicorn as an evolutionary line." he began. Twilight nodded, confirming she understood where he was going with this. "Now, imagine that line actually lead to two possible stages of evolution. Alicorn, and Fallen. Like a Caterpillar can either turn into a Butterfly or a Moth. Alicorns are the Butterflies, and we are the Moths." he said. Twilight's eyes showed recognition.

"I understand. So what redeeming feats do we possess that make us different from Unicorns?" she asked.

"Our magic is more precise and we can expand it into many different fields. Zero, would you be so kind as to demonstrate, please?" Pavonearse asked. Zero nodded, stepping away from Twilight for a moment. The Fallen removed his cloak to reveal the number 'zero' on his flank. Without warning, his body lurched and a pair of metal, silver wings shot out from his back, glistening in the light. It looked painful. Where there would have been feathers, there were now sharp blades that looked like they could cut you just by looking at them. The wing joints were metalic domes around his shoulders that rolled around in every direction, giving the wings great mobility. For intents and purposes, those wings were sharp, metal and flexible.

"Th-that's... amazing!" Twilight said. Zero released the magic and the wings retracted back into his body. Oddly enough, there were no scars or cuts on his shoulder blades. Twilight then noticed another thing. Pavonearse had the letter 'I' for a Cutie Mark. Another pony had two 'I's and another had three. The rest were covered by their cloaks, but she definitely saw a pattern. "I'm curious though; what's with the strange lettering?" she asked, looking to Pavonearse.

"You're quick to catch on. Let me explain; the Fallen are powerful but few. What you see here is the extent of our kind. We know we are few because we have the rare ability to sense each other. I'd imagine you yourself felt something strange about Zero, other than his... shady presence." the white stallion said. Twilight recalled seeing him and she realised she had felt something akin to recognition towards Zero.

"Yes, I did." she replied. "But what does this have to do with the letters?" she asked.

"Because we are so few, we begin to feel lonely. Knowing what we are, we distance ourselves from our friends and descend into a maddening depression. No doubt you felt this too before Zero came along. This is why the Organisation was formed. We become a family to each other. You could say it's an orphanage where the orphans can adopt each other." he explained. Twilight waited for him to explain the significance of the letters.

"She wants you to get to the point, Pavonearse." Zero interrupted. Twilight hid a guilty blush from the ivory unicorn, dropping eye contact as well.

"I was just getting to that, Zero. You see Twilight, this isn't some community that was concocted willy-nilly. This is a kingdom in and of itself." Pavonearse began to trail off. Zero sighed and cut in.

"What he's working up to saying is this; Those in your predicament must choose whether or not to join us. However, joining has a price all must pay." he began. Twilight swallowed as she began to comprehend where he was getting at.

"What's the price?" she asked, feeling she already knew the answer.

"We sacrifice our cutie marks, exchange them for these numbers." he said. She was right, she did know the price already. So each and every one of these ponies had given up their cutie marks to join this organisation?

"Of course, that does not mean you sacrifice your special talent, just the mark that symbolises it. You would still be proficient at the arcane arts, and it will show in your wings." Pavonearse added. This got Twilight's curiosity peaked.

"My wings? I'll get them back?" she asked.

"In a sense. You'll be able to form wings of your very own. Pavonearse was a doctor where he came from before he became an Alicorn. When he fell, he gained the ability to make useable wings out of blood." Zero said.

"Yes, put it this way. A blacksmith can make his wings out of metal, a florist can make their wings out of flowers or vines. Your wings take on the aspects of your special talent. For example, you my dear would have wings made out of pure unaltered magic." Pavonearse added, smiling to the shocked lavender mare between them.

Twilight wondered what to ask next. So many impossibilities were being displayed and mentioned at once, she couldn't take it all in.

"Are you a threat to any of the kingdoms?" she asked, feeling rather exhausted.

"Not unless one of our own is pursued by them. You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us." Zero replied. That response sat well with Twilight. Aside from losing her cutie mark, she saw no reason not to join The Fallen. Why shouldn't I? she thought. I may lose my cutie mark, but not what it represents, that will be evident in my wings. This is a great opportunity for me to learn something that I doubt even the Princesses understand. Granted, my cutie mark is important to me. It's been with me since I met Princess Celestia. Twilight's mind turned dark for a moment. But that's all in the past. My association with her has run its course.

"I'll join." she said, looking at Pavonearse with determination in her eyes.

Princess Celestia landed unaccompanied at the front door to Twilight's Library. The night had grown old and nopony was in the streets. The lights inside the tree were on, indicating to Celestia that Twilight was home. She gave the door a couple gentle taps and began to rehearse what she was going to say to her old friend. The door opened.

"Twilight, I-." Celestia paused as she saw Fluttershy looking at her instead of the mare she came to see. "Fluttershy? Where's Twilight?" she asked.

"N-nopony knows. She was due home hours ago. Spike got worried and went to Rarity, we're all here. Personally, I'm at my wits' end." Fluttershy replied, opening the door wider for the princess to step through. Celestia accepted the invitation and walked in. She saw the familiar faces of Twilight's friends, and in extension, her own. Sad and worried expressions painted their faces.

"No sign of her?" Celestia asked. All the ponies, as well as the baby dragon sitting between Rarity's legs shook their heads.

"Why are you here, Princess?" Spike asked, all the energy taken out of him from worrying. Celestia faltered. Should she tell them she was here to try and make amends? Was it their business to know this?

"I wanted to see Twilight. We have some things to talk about." she replied, sitting in the circle with the others. "How long has she been missing?" she asked.

"Hours. Seven at least. Spike last saw her when she left to do her shopping." Rainbow Dash replied.

"You don't think she's abandoned us, do you?" Pinkie asked, her mane straighter than the postures of Celestia's royal guards.

"Don't even think that, Pinkie. Twilight would never abandon her friends, least of all Spike. He's like her little brother." Rarity replied.

There was an hour of dead silence among all of the ponies present. That hour was interrupted by the opening of the front door. All faces turned to see the calm and collected figure of Twilight Sparkle entering her Library with a new cloak and hood. As the lavender mare flipped her hood back, she was tackled by a multitude of ponies, save Celestia who stood awkwardly away from the group.

"Twilight, we were so worried! Where have you been?!" Rarity demanded, letting go of her friend first to let her breathe. The others did the same and Twilight just brushed herself off.

"Out." was all she said before walking further into her home. The girls were shell-shocked by the display of passivity from the tardy-allergic mare they'd come to know and love.

"Out? Out where?" Applejack asked, sensing something was very wrong with the unicorn.

"Out making life-changing decisions." Twilight replied. She removed her cloak and levitated it over to the coat hanger. That's when the girls gasped as they spotted her cutie mark. It wasn't the six-pointed star they remembered. It was now a quadrilogy of letters; 'XIII'.

"Twilight... what happened to your cutie mark?" Rarity asked, sounding mortified. Even Celestia who seemed to go unnoticed by Twilight was shocked by the change.

"Discarded it." Twilight said nonchalantly.

"Discarded... it?!" The white unicorn practically cried. She was on the verge of fainting.

"Why, Twilight? Why did you discard your cutie mark? More to the point, how did you?" Rainbow Dash asked.

"I told you already. I was making life-changing decisions. As for how... that's a secret." she replied. Twilight walked over to her fireplace, staring down at the fire burning away happily. "Speaking of discarding things..." she said, turning around to face her friends, Celestia and all. "I've decided I've had enough." she said. Confusion painted the faces of all in her line of sight.

"Twilight, Ah don't understand." Applejack said.

"Let me rephrase. I've had enough of all of you." Twilight said, earning hurt gasps from each and every pony in the tree.

"Twilight... you don't really mean that, do you?" Celestia finally spoke up.

"I do, Princess. You see, the decisions I've made today help me to eliminate the most painful moment of my life. I believe you know what that would be." she replied.

"Twilight... you promised me you wouldn't leave me!" Spike interrupted.

"I promised I wouldn't leave you alone. That's why I'm leaving you in the care of Rarity. You can devote your time fully to her now." she said. Spike had nothing left to say. "As of now, my friendship with you... is terminated."

With everypony, including Spike gone from the Library, that left Twilight alone with Celestia who looked mortified. Twilight turned to her former mentor and faced her expression with a calm and collected one.

"Twilight..." Celestia began, but couldn't think of what to say.

"You're disappointed in me." the Fallen said, looking at Celestia with dead and emotionless eyes.

"No... I'm confused. Why end your relationship with them, when you've clearly got a grudge against me?" she asked.

"What makes you think I have a grudge against you? A grudge requires hate or a general dislike. I hold neither. I'm simply moving on. I'm over you." Twilight said. Those words hurt Celestia more than she cared to admit.

"So why them?" she asked.

"My friendship with them was founded on a task you set me. You gave birth to the relationship I formed with them, including Spike, who's egg you provided me. I'm severing all ties. Simple as that." the coldness in Twilight's voice hurt Celestia's ears.

"Twilight, I came here tonight to try and make amends with you. I want to start over again." the alicorn said. Twilight observed the way in which Celestia crumbled in on herself every time she spoke to her.

"You want to be friends?" she asked, curiously. Celestia nodded.

"Yes, I want us to be friends again." Celestia said, feeling no coldness from Twilight's question.

Twilight thought about the request for a moment. "No, I don't think so. It would kind of defeat the purpose of why I'm doing all this. Maybe another time, when I've... done what needs to be done, then I'll come to you and offer the same opportunity. Until then... so long, Princess Celestia." With a flash of light, Twilight teleported out of the Library to where, not even Celestia could guess.

3. Resolve

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Twilight's new home gave her a sense of tranquillity. It was quiet, the perfect place for an indoor pony like herself. The only light were the lanterns hinged to the rocky walls on either side of her chamber. Upon becoming a member of The Fallen, she was given a room as spacious as her old Library. In the wall furthest from the doorway, shelves had been carved out to house her own collection of books. These consisted of scientific studies from Starswirl the Bearded, mythological studies from the same pony and a few of her own works, including a few volumes of diary entries dating back to when she first joined Celestia's school for gifted Unicorns. In essence, she was in her element. Nothing could be heard, nothing besides what was hers could be seen. Her space represented her magic, both were new, raw but organised and completely under her control.

She never believed such solitude existed. It was exactly what she wanted, or what she would have wanted years back before she made friends. A knock on the door interrupted her journal entry writing.

"Come in." she said to the intruder. The door opened to reveal Zero standing there in all his glory. Twilight learned quickly that Zero was a perculiar pony, even by the Fallen's standards. He was like she used to be, primarily a loner, but not unwise to the names of those around him. Another fact that she learned was that Zero liked wearing his cloak, covering his cutie mark. She still hadn't managed to get him to reveal why.

"Am I interrupting anything?" he asked, stepping through.

"Not at all, Zero. What can I do for you?" Twilight asked, closing her journal. Zero approached the lavender mare, looking puzzled.

"It's your approach to your friends. I know you've explained it to me, but I just can't seem to wrap my head around it. If you bare no grudge against Celestia, why make them suffer?" he asked. Twilight understood his confusion. She saw a hint of herself in the way he approached social activities.

"It's an experiment, Zero. By discarding them as my friends, I eliminate the element of Celestia in the relationship. Now, if they refuse to give up on me and fight for my friendship, it will be on their terms. Celestia's orders were the basis of our friendship, now by starting anew with them, Celestia will have had no part in it." she said.

"So if they pursue you as you hope they will, you will essentially be severing the role Celestia had in the formation of the friendship as well as strengthening the bond altogether?" he asked.

"Exactly." she replied. "Of course, whether or not they will pursue the relationship is a gamble I've decided to take. This is me putting my faith into my friends." she said. Observing Zero, he seemed to understand most of the plan. No doubt the 'faith' end of the statement befuddled him. "Now, might you answer a question I've been yearning for an answer to?" she asked. Zero dropped his confused expression and focused all his attention onto her.

"What would you like to know?" he asked.

"Something Pavonearse said before I joined only struck me as odd after I became a Fallen. He said that we were powerful but few in number." she began. Zero nodded, affirming that he too remembered what he'd said. "I'm wondering if Pavonearse has an underlying goal that he failed to mention to me. Something in the back of my mind is telling me that despite how few we are, we could be perceived as a threat. I'm wondering if we have any plans to go to war with anypony any time soon." she said.

Zero contemplated her words carefully. "The Fallen are not a family striving to make our mark in the world by decimating other nations or races. We simply wish to be together. It is true that we are powerful and few, but so are Alicorns. By that method of thinking, they too could be perceived as a threat, the only difference then would be that they have already taken over the individual species of pony and built their way into society as a royal family." he said. Twilight understood where he was going with this.

"But what if there are those within The Fallen that wish to make their mark in the world?" she asked.

"Then let them. We will not tame the direction in which we take our lives unless they do something wrong in the name of the family as a whole. The only ones who reserve that right are Pavonearse and myself. We are the fathers of this family." he replied.

Twilight didn't feel better with the answers she was given. "Zero, I know it's not my place to question him, but I feel it in my gut that there's something not quite right with Pavonearse." she said.

"You're right. It isn't your place to question him." Zero said with a coldness that suggested she was treading on thin ice with his patience. She folded her ears back and looked away in shame. Zero took a deep breath and let it out slowly through his nose. "But... Should I find a change in him, I'll let you know." he said. Twilight looked back to him with a smile on her face.

"Thank you, Zero. I'm sorry to burden you with such a disturbing notion on my second day as a part of the family. I'd imagine you and Pavonearse have quite a history together." she said.

Zero nodded, looking up to one of the lanterns lighting Twilight's room. "Ours is a strange relationship. I first met Pavonearse in my home of Saddle Arabia. He seemed like any other Unicorn to me, until he showed me what he truly was. I was under the delusion that I was the only one. He explained to me his story and how he became what he was through a gift from one of his patients. She was an archaeologist who found a spell that would turn any pony into an Alicorn so long as the words were spoken. Pavonearse became an Alicorn while the archaeologist's transformation failed. She died soon after due to a cave-in at an archaeological dig.

Pavonearse became interested in what would happen if he'd failed to become an Alicorn and sacrificed the form just to know. The rest you experienced for yourself. Pavonearse was and still is rich. He founded The Fallen and named me his partner because he found me exceptionally interesting." he said.

"And how did you become one of us?" Twilight asked.

"I didn't." he replied. Twilight looked at him in confusion. "I was born a Fallen. My cutie mark was born with me. I was believed to have been an omen in my country after they witnessed my silver wings, which appeared a minute after my birth. I am a pure Fallen. A Pseudo-Alicorn." he said.

Twilight was gob-smacked. She understood why Pavonearse had taken an interest in him. To him, Zero would be the only true Fallen in the family, the rest, including himself would be cheap knock-offs. She then noticed the indifference in his expression. "And this family you both built doesn't seem to bring you much joy." she replied.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"You just seem as if you're going through the motions, like The Fallen doesn't even matter to you." she said.

"The Fallen are Parvonearse's children, not mine. I am family in name only. Truthfully, I am simply the Guardian, a friend to Pavonearse whom he can confide in and trust. I'm not one of you, my cutie mark is a testament to that. It didn't change like the others' did." he replied.

Twilight understood him better now. Zero felt that because he did not possess a number in the same style as those of The Fallen, he was not one of them. "Zero, yours is a unique cutie mark. Nopony has ever been born with one before. I believe your cutie mark didn't need to change, because you are what we all should strive to be like. Even Pavonearse lost his cutie mark and gained the Number 1. I believe that makes you the best of us, you are the heart and soul of The Fallen." she said, trying to put some happiness in his seemingly sad and bleak life.

"What good does that do me?" he asked.

"You're special, just like Princess Celestia and Luna, who control the sun and the moon. You are a unique being." she said. "And I'd be happy to introduce you to my friends when they reach me."

"You truly believe they won't take your word for it and give up on you?" he asked.

Twilight smiled at him. "They're all very stubborn in their own way, Applejack and Rainbow Dash most of all. Trust me, Zero; my friends will turn your life upside down and change it for the better. Look what they did for me." she gestured to herself. Zero seemed slightly uncomfortable.

"Do you... really think they'll like me?" he asked. Twilight smiled and leaned forward in her seat. She gave him a soft kiss on the cheek.

"Of course. I already do." she replied, earning a light blush from Zero in return. A knock on the door interrupted them and a Fallen with a blue mane and light lime coat, like a key lime pie entered.

"Sorry for the interruption, Sir, Madam; Pavonearse wanted me to inform you that five ponies have entered close to the Borders of Timber Wolf territory. He believes they may be Twilight's friends." the fallen said.

Twilight's eyes widened and a grin appeared in her face. "Told you they'd come for me. Come and say hello." she said, hopping off the seat. Zero followed her lead, nodding to the Fallen who nodded back and went about his business.

"Ah can't believe she'd be hidin' here in the Everfree Forest. Our Twilight's smart as a whip. She wouldn't endanger herself by livin' here. Ah'm tellin' y'all, she's gone to another town or city." Applejack argued with the others as they traipsed through the forest, careful not to trip over the roots of the trees that surrounded them.

"And I'm telling you, Twilight must have come here. She's into magic and all that stuff, so she must be living with Zecora! Besides, when we asked around, somepony said they saw her going into the Everfree with a hooded figure. Who else but Zecora wears a hooded cloak like the one we saw Twilight with?" Rainbow Dash retorted.

"Anypony could wear those, Dash; they're cloaks! They ain't some special Zebra garment." Applejack snapped back.

"I agree with Applejack on this one, Rainbow Dash. Zecora's cloak was very tatty, while Twilight's was almost professionally made." Rarity added. Applejack gave Rainbow Dash a smug grin while the chromatic pegasus just growled at her.

"So Twilight's better at stitching than Zecora, big whoop! Who else would take her into the Everfree?" Dash argued.

"Trixie might, in the hopes that she loses her in the forest and gets eaten by something." Pinkie Pie said. Everypony stopped in their tracks and looked at Pinkie angrily. "Heheh, sorry." she added.

As they continued their trek together, they began to feel the sensation of being watched. Deep within the shadows of the forest, golden eyes followed the movements of the five ponies with hunger in their hearts and food on their minds. The Timber wolves those eyes belonged to were truly blessed to have had prey wandering into their territory.

4. Find Me

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The Everfree Forest practically thrived on the oncoming massacre that was about to happen. The trees seemed thicker, and even closer together than they were before. The girls hadn't felt this familiar feeling of impending doom within the Everfree since the Nightmare Moon incident. Having grown up near the forest, Fluttershy and Applejack both felt the disturbance closing in on them. They were being watched, what was worse, they were being followed.

This knowledge did them little good as they found themselves trapped in a line of trees. "I don't believe this! Why did Twilight have to come here of all places? It's hard enough finding Zecora's hut in here, but this?" Rainbow shouted to nopony in particular.

"You wouldn't be saying that if you weren't hurt by what she said to us last time, darling." Rarity replied with a hint of indifference to the situation. Rainbow Dash's ears folded back at the statement. She was hurt, in her mind maybe irreparably so. Dash didn't like to admit it, but her mental well-being depended greatly on her friends' opinion of her, and to have Twilight of all ponies just drop her like a rock was agonizing.

"How do we even know that she'll give us answers? She was pretty clear she was done with us." the Pegasus asked, slumping to the ground.

"Cause that filly owes us answers. We've done a lot for her since the day we met, an' I'll be darned if we're not gonna collect on answers from her." AJ replied with a fiery determination in her eyes. Like Rainbow Dash, she was hurt by Twilight's words in a way unique to her personality. Being the Element of Honesty, she just couldn't bring herself to believe that what Twilight said was the truth. She had to be lying, and AJ wouldn't rest until she found out the truth.

"But is that all we want from her, answers?" Fluttershy asked, drawing in a silence that was deafening. Cruelty wasn't alien to Fluttershy. She'd been surrounded by variations of it throughout most of her life, but she was never the true victim of cruelty until Twilight. Gilda was mean, but Twilight was cruel. It broke her heart.

"What do you mean, Fluttershy?" Pinkie Pie asked. Normally, she'd be bouncing around as giddy as ever, but the situation did not call for such actions. Never in her entire life had Pinkie lost a friend. She would remember that day as the worst day of her life. Even in death, friendships can last forever, but when somepony severs the ties of friendship, it's different. Pinkie was left wondering what she did wrong.

"She means are we also trying to get her back." Rarity replied. Rarity's pain was perhaps the most devastating of them all. Unlike the others, the Fashionista reserved a small amount of hatred for Twilight. She'd spent the last day seeing what Twilight had done destroy her Spike from the inside out. The pain plastered on that dragon's face tore Rarity's insides apart. She would not forgive Twilight so easily as the others.

"Are we?" Pinkie asked. There was a pause amongst the group once more.

Rainbow Dash was the first to respond. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't imagine life without her. We have to at least try to get her back." she replied. There was a chorus of agreements from everypony, save Rarity who remained silent. Nopony among them noticed.

The conversation was broken by a low growling noise, one Applejack was all to familiar with. "Oh no. We strayed too far West. We're in the Timberwolves' territory!" she cried, earning panicked cries from the others. As if to prove her point, several Timberwolves emerged from the shadows.

"We're trapped. The trees are too thick for Fluttershy and me to fly out, let alone carry another pony." Dash said.

"We shoulda gone sooner!" Applejack said as the Timberwolves closed in for the kill. Everypony prepared to fight their way out of there.

Then a voice reached their ears, a voice that froze the Timberwolves in their tracks. They hadn't smelled, nor sensed another presence beyond those five ponies, yet something had made itself aware to them. "I'm afraid even then you would've wound up in a similar situation. You've been in their territory for half an hour now. You're lucky they didn't attack earlier." Everypony recognised the voice to be hers. The pony they were out looking for. Twilight emerged from between the trees behind them, walking to the front of the group. She wore her cloak with the hood down. They couldn't quite pinpoint it, but she seemed different, less emotionless than before. She actually had a smirk on her face.

"Twilight?!" the mares said in unison.

"So, seven Timberwolves and Six ponies... Care to even the odds, Zero?" Twilight called out. AJ and the others wondered who she was talking to when another pony clad in a cloak identical to her own dropped from the treetops onto a Timberwolf, killing it instantaneously. "Six on six... better." she continued.

"How did you find us?" Fluttershy asked.

"Wasn't that hard, actually. Kinda got a network going through here. Eyes and ears and all that." she replied.

Zero, after having dispatched the first Timberwolf went on to the next. He took it out with ease. It wasn't until the third was gone, the remaining four even noticed he was there. They charged him all at once. Over the snarling, he heart Twilight mutter something about the six on six being null and void.

In a motion quicker than the eye could follow, he used his metal magic to take down all four Timberwolves before they even touched him. They fell to the ground before him. It had been a while since Zero had felt a sense of accomplishment. He figured that having saved Twilight's friends would put him in their good books. He retreated into the shadows after hearing two words followed by a sound he knew all too well.

Twilight was caught off guard as she turned to face her friends. Rarity was the first to reach her, but instead of an embrace, like she expected, she heard two words come from her mouth. "You bitch!" the declaration was followed by a hard smack to the face.