My Little Kingdom : Hearts is Magic

by Iateacrayon

First published

My Little Kingdom : Hearts is Magic

Friendships are broken. Worlds are disappearing. Hope is fading. Who can change the fate of Equestria when they themselves are already lost?

When even the Elements of Harmony together are not enough to save Equestria, where will our heroes go for help?

Prologue: Myths and Darkness

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Once upon a time, there was once a way to travel to the stars. Pony adventurers discovered a door that allowed them to travel to distant lands in the blink of an eye. Anypony could use it to travel to beautiful exotic lands. But the ponies soon encountered a darkness through these doors. It wormed its way into every heart it encountered, latching onto the darkness in every heart. Eventually two brave ponies managed to seal the connections between each world away, using powerful artifacts they had discovered throughout these worlds. For their heroic accomplishments, they became leaders of Equestria, wielding the lost power of the stars to safeguard their world in case the darkness ever invaded. Thousands of years passed, and ponies slowly forgot the terrors of the sinister forces who would destroy them, until they became a myth of times long ago. Unfortunately, other worlds soon forgot the terrors waiting on the other sides of these doors, and no single being could stand against the darkness without help. Their people would be slowly enveloped in darkness, leading to the annihilation of their world if left unchecked.

Princess Celestia awoke with a start. Her sleep had been interrupted by a terrifying sensation she had wished to never feel again. The feeling was familiar to her long ago, but she could not remember why it alarmed her now. Her eyes snapped open in the hopes of reminding herself she was still in her bedroom in Canterlot.

Pale moonlight spilled through the towering glass windows into her bedroom, but tonight that was not enough to assuage her fears. She scrambled for the light, leaving the comfort of her warm blankets, registering the cold sweat on her skin. She panicked before feeling her way to the switch beside her bed, not remembering the last time she had felt so apprehensive in the safety of her room.

As she flicked the lever, the room was bathed in a white light, driving the encroaching shadows away. Celestia's eyes darted around the illuminated room and let out a relieved sigh, assured that her nightmares were only that: a nightmare.

She scanned the room carefully, intent on forgetting her alarming dreams. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, she thought as she pushed the covers off her sweaty body. Unable to pinpoint the reason for her distress, she slid her hooves down onto the floor, making loud clacking sounds on the tile floor. She froze in realization of what was different from when she had gone to sleep.

The window to the balcony is open, she thought, fixing her eyes on the inviting doors. A light wind pushed at the drapes, ruffling them in motions she might have mistaken for an enemy. She ignored the sense of apprehension she felt, and slowly made her way to the darkness waiting outside.

The light cast twisted shadows of her body as she walked between the lights and the opened window, carefully examining the area for unseen assailants. The cold wind pushed against her body, whispering into her ears as she came closer to the balcony, whistling a mad dangerous tune of warning.

As Celestia stepped through the window onto the balcony, she saw nothing out of the ordinary. She chided herself, thankful nopony had seen their princess frightened by the wind. Only she and Luna had a reason to fear the darkness in these peaceful times, and Luna had been more than happy to watch the night for her after coming back from the moon over seven years ago.

Impulsively, she looked out into the horizon, hoping to see Luna making her nightly rounds before she went back to bed. She would like to ask Luna if she had any dreams of the night terrors they had fought long ago.

She let out a strangled gasp as she caught a glimpse of the dark sky, feeling the strange sense of dread return to her as she gazed upon the heavens. She carefully examined the enveloping scene before her, dreading the implications of what had unknowingly began above Equestria. She ran back into her chambers, all sense of peace and security dispelled by the spectacle she had observed.

Celestia tore her desk apart in a rush, ignoring the creeping feeling that she was already too late. Using magic, she finally located a quill and some parchment, and set to work writing a letter. As she levitated the quill down onto the page, she heard a disturbance behind her. Whirling around, she prepared for battle against the dark enemy, but instead encountered a friend.

"Sister. I have grave news," Princess Luna announced.

She had landed on the balcony, not bothering to knock on the door. Her eyes darted around fearfully, staring into every shadow as if she were looking for something. She had a large bag resting on her back, and watched as Celestia turned away from her.

"I know, Luna. I saw the signs as well."

Celestia continued writing her letter, intent on finishing it before doing anything else. Luna patiently waited, listening to the quick strokes of the quill as her sister resumed writing. Unable to wait any longer, she slammed her hoof down on the floor, cracking the tile ground under the force she exerted.

"Then you know we have no time to lose!" Luna exclaimed as Celestia looked over her shoulder, unsurprised by her outburst.

"We have already run out of time, Luna," Celestia quietly answered her sister after the intruder had left. Turning toward her, she saw Luna's pack contained the symbol of the Six Elements of Harmony.

"Even these six Elements will not be enough for us to safeguard all of Equestria from the darkness."

"Too many have gone missing over the years. We will need to find more," she added as they heard a disturbance on the other side of the door to her chambers.

The doors to her room quickly burst open, revealing Shining Armor. He ran in, hearing the loud crashes Luna had been making since she had arrived. He slowed to a stop as he saw the supposed enemy was only Luna.

"Is everything alright, Princess?" He cautiously asked, seeing two looking at him. He noticed how angry Luna looked, and prepared for any possible attack from her. Celestia quickly rolled the letter up as she finished the message. She floated it towards Shining Armor, ignoring the feeling that it would not be enough.

"Yes. You must send this to Twilight Sparkle at once. She will know what to do."

"Also, double the guards around all large cities, and send half of our army from Canterlot to Ponyville until further notice."

She motioned for him to leave. Shining Armor quickly understood the implications of what she had told him.

"Of course. Will I need to put up a shield as well?" He asked, wondering what could be so powerful that they had to prepare for. There had been no major movements of hostile creatures for years.

Celestia shook her head no. It would barely slow down the darkness that was advancing on them from all sides, but it would not be a good idea to tell him that.

"Save your strength. You will know when that is necessary."

She had a sudden thought of Twilight Sparkle and her friends. She motioned for Luna to give her the chest containing the Elements of Harmony. Luna opened the clasp, allowing the Elements to escape the confines of her bag. As Celestia floated it towards the captain, she took the Elements of Generosity and Magic out from the confines of the box.

"Send these," she motioned to the two Elements floating in the air, "to Twilight Sparkle immediately."

"Bring the others to Princess Cadence, and tell her to keep them safe. She will know what to do with them."

Shining Armor quickly bowed, considering the remainder of forces he would be left with at his disposal.

"Of course, Princess. I will see to it right away."

As he left, Celestia turned to Luna, aware her questioning stare.

"What about our Elements?" She asked, already dreading the answer. Celestia understood her apprehension. They had grown to depend on them too much. To lose them for a period of time meant painful suffering for the both of them. She traced a hoof along the bright violet jewel on her necklace to reassure herself it was still there.

"We will need them for what is to come. I shall take the path in Ponyville..." Luna's eyes followed Celestia's hoof as it pointed downwards, already knowing what she would ask of her.

"And you shall take the path below. We must not stop for anything or anypony." She nodded to Luna before making her way to the balcony. She turned to give one last happy look towards her sister.

"Good Luck."

"Same to you, sister," Luna replied with a tear in her eye. She turned and ran towards the door, hoping they would accomplish their objectives and save Equestria once again.

Celestia felt that she had wasted too much time already. She stepped onto the ledge, pushed herself off and took flight beneath the bright moon.

Above her, the starry sky stretched endlessly. A careful observer would have seen that a large number of stars were fading, and if they watched carefully, they might have even seen one or two fade entirely out of existence.

Slowly, the stars were disappearing one by one, leaving the sky darker than it had ever been before.

Letter of Disaster

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Twilight had never seen a brighter night sky over Ponyville. Tonight was their annual picnic under the starry skies as they stayed up waiting for the sun to rise again. Thankfully, it seemed there would not be an emergency this year. Their picnics always seemed to be interrupted by grave news, and Twilight secretly thought they were cursed. The Elements of Harmony solved their problems every time though, so she wasn't too worried about an impending doom.

Time had slowly passed for them all in the quiet little village these past fifteen years. However, it became apparent that the wielders of the Elements of Harmony were different from everypony. All six of them had changed noticeably, making their friends curious of what the Elements would do if they were used regularly.

As Twilight Sparkle's studies continued, anypony lucky enough to see her in action would have noticed how much more powerful she had gotten over the years. Her exploits spanned all of Equestria. She was rumored to have once stopped a wild group of rampaging Ursa Minors just before they could descend on Fillydelphia unawares. She had grown to Princess Celestia's size, and she could have passed for Celestia's sister if she only had wings.

Twilight's library had expanded over the years. She had read every book several times over, and was Equestria's most knowledgeable unicorn. She had recently considered going to unknown lands in search of more knowledge, but felt she would be more helpful staying in Ponyville.

Applejack had grown taller than Princess Luna, reaching an unbelievable size, second only to Princess Celestia herself. Her formidable strength was known by everypony in Equestria. After placing first in every rodeo competition she entered, Applejack eventually decided it would be wrong for her to compete anymore, feeling she had a dishonest advantage on anypony she competed against.

She spends her days working on the orchard farm without Big Mac, who had recently been married and was still on an extended honeymoon in Manehattan.

Pinkie Pie was more and more energetic as each day passed. She slowly grew to Luna's height, and drove everypony mad from her endless nagging for information about them. Eventually, she had to resort to reading through Twilight's extensive library back in Canterlot after she had started Ponyville's largest known riot of angry ponies. Her knowledge grew and grew until one day she was said to have shouted, "Oh! Now I get it!" and went back to her everyday routine of meeting visitors new to Ponyville.

Pinkie Pie had learned almost as much as Twilight Sparkle by that point, and some say she had secretly discovered several secrets of her Pinkie sense from her time delving into mysterious books. She still knows how to throw the best parties in Ponyville, and the town residents were always quick to accept her invitations after the third riot she had caused with a large rock, a sack of flour, an overripe turnip, and an enormous lint ball the size of a small foal.

Fluttershy had changed the least of them all. She had grown to be slightly taller than the average stallion, and her thin graceful wings were light in the air as butterflies. Her kindness to creatures big and small was known by everypony. Her house had been overrun with all manner of tiny adorable creatures, and her time with them slowly gave her the skills to heal any type of wound she encountered.

Fluttershy also learned many of the weaknesses of the larger creatures in the Evergreen Forest as she went to Zecora for lessons about mysterious plants in the alien forest. Rumors tell of a time when she simply stared down a rampaging Hydra in Ponyville, and gave it a stern talking to.

Rainbow Dash was barely taller than Fluttershy, but could still pack a powerful punch with her agile frame. Her wings were the biggest and strongest anypony had ever seen. She became famous for setting an unbeatable wingpower record with 40.3 wingpower. It still wasn't enough for her, and she continues to train, trying to beat her previous records every month or two.

She was quickly approached with an offer by the Wonderbolts to join their squad, and turned them down. Instead, she started the Thunderbolts, and became their captain. They were situated in Ponyville, and with her skills and leadership they occasionally clashed with her foalhood heroes for the title of best aerial squad in Equestria.

Rarity's size slowly increased until she was barely shorter than Twilight, but that didn't stop her from being able to defend herself. She learned a number of martial arts, including a bit of fencing, as she slowly ran out of patience for her many would-be suitors. Her fame grew along with her body as the years passed, to the surprise of nopony.

After Princess Celestia and Luna wore her dresses to the next Grand Galloping Gala, Rarity was pushed into the center stage of the fashion world. Customers came from all over Equestria for her designer clothing, swamping her boutique with orders. She excelled in creating new fashions, and her boutique was rebuilt on a grander scale for more space to keep up with demand for her designs. Her work caused many sleepless nights, and she had been too busy for any one pony these past five years. Sweetie Bell was more helpful these days, but she still had to find help from another full time assistant.

Spike had changed the most. He had slowly and carefully up a hoard of his very own treasure. With an enormous amount of help from Twilight and their friends, he manages to keep his greed under control, but he had also grown because of it.

For a dragon, he was tiny, but he was now bigger than anypony, even Princess Celestia. His leathery wings were larger than even Rainbow Dash's wings, and all the new weight had taken its toll on him. After a bit of practice, he became used to walking around on all fours when he his heavy wings were tired from carrying him everywhere. He quickly lost the dexterity he once had in his front paws as he walked upright less and less. He took to sleeping outside Twilight's library lately, only going inside the cramped study when bad weather arose.

His large body had trouble helping Twilight except when she went on excursions or emergencies, so he had to find something else to do while Twilight was locked up in her library. After looking around Ponyville for jobs, he had little luck finding somewhere to work until Rarity offered him a job. The horrific workload crushed his dreams of romancing his long-time crush, and he resigned himself to spending each day alone with her, albeit professionally.

Rarity's home improvements were perfectly suited to him considering his current size, and Spike sometimes wondered if she had planned this all along. The endless work helped him get used to his new body, and he slowly regained the ability to hold the most delicate and fragile items in his paws once again. As the arrangement continued, Spike couldn't help but feel at home every day he spent working alongside her, and he thought he noticed her sneak a glance at him more and more as time went on.

As the seven gathered underneath the bright open sky in their favorite field, Twilight thought about how they had all changed since she first met them long ago. Ignoring how her old assistant and Rarity stared at each other when they thought the other wasn't looking, she turned to Rainbow Dash.

"So, how are preparations going for this year's hurricane to bring water to Cloudsdale? Will you have enough wingpower at your disposal?" Twilight questioned her after they sat on a large, warm, comfy blanket. She remembered the fiasco that had almost occurred the last time Ponyville was in charge of sending water to Cloudsdale. After several ponies called in sick, they barely managed to reach the necessary 800 wingpower to create the hurricane to send to Cloudsdale.

"We'll have more than enough this year!" Rainbow Dash haughtily replied. "I'm sure if everypony really tried..." she glanced over at Fluttershy who was staring up into the night sky before continuing, "we could even beat Fillydelphia's record!"

"But didn't they just set a new record of 965 wingpower?" Twilight asked, considering how many ponies they would need for Rainbow Dash's ambitious proposition.

"Of course we can! I bet we could do more than 1000 wingpower! NO! 1100 wingpower if I helped!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed, thinking of the possibilities.

As the other ponies talked, Fluttershy saw a star in the infinite night slowly begin to fade. She watched with fascination as it shrank before her eyes, enjoying the mysterious sight. She was pleasantly surprised as another one beside it began fading, before several more began fading around the missing star. She whimpered quietly as she felt a wave of disquiet wash over, feeling as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Fluttershy knew something terrible was happening.

She turned to the others, hoping they had also seen this phenomenon, but they were busily talking amongst themselves. She crawled over to Twilight so she wouldn't ruin anypony's view, hoping to tell them about what she saw.

"Tw-Twilight?" Fluttershy whispered, worried she might be interrupting her conversation with Rainbow Dash. "There's something I-" she continued before she was cut off.

"Fluttershy! We're going to need your help for the hurricane. We'll need everypony to help this time!" Rainbow Dash asked, unaware of the emergency above her.

"Will you help us out?"

"O-Of course Rainbow Dash," Fluttershy answered. "But the stars-"

"The stars are moving?" Pinkie Pie supplied her best answer. "They're fading? They're disappearing?"

"Don't worry about the stars, they're not going anywhere!" Rainbow Dash laughed at the absurdity of it, while Twilight's wandering eyes noticed several constellations were missing from the sky.

"Everypony! I think we have a problem," she shouted, catching their attention. As they all looked up, they noticed stars fading into black across the entire expanse above them. They were silent for a few moments as they watched random stars blink and fade into nothing, until Spike grabbed onto his stomach as it suddenly rumbled.

Spike let out a large burst of smoke, and the letter that slowly materialized captured everypony's attention. Twilight levitated the scroll over to her, noting the Princess' seal as she broke it open. She unfurled the letter and read it aloud, letting them all know what in Celestia was going on.

To my faithful student, Twilight Sparkle,

As you read this letter, know that time is of the essence. I and my sister Luna have left Equestria. If you look carefully, you might see the stars have begun to disappear, one by one. It is only a matter of time before this darkness reaches Equestria, and we cannot stop it ourselves. We have gone in search of the answer of how to save not only Equestria, but every star above you in the night sky.

Out through a special door in Canterlot is another world. You and Rarity must send the rest of the Elements of Harmony to Canterlot, so they may travel through it. You alone must go through another door located in Ponyville.

Beyond these doors will be somepony with a "key"-- the key to our very survival. It is more powerful than all the Elements of Harmony in the right pony's hands. I need you and the others to find this pony, and protect them. It is our only hope!

Our road is treacherous, and we cannot tell you everything, but know that this power is special.

You will know if they are the right pony by their appearance. Use the Elements. They can help you.

Good luck,

Princess Celestia of Equestria

As Twilight finished the letter, the Elements of Magic and Generosity teleported onto the grass in front of her.

"O Celestia! Whatever shall we do?" Rarity swooned, falling back slowly in a mock faint. Luckily, Spike was prepared for her reaction, and caught her on his leg before she managed to hit the ground. Rarity blushed as she ignored everypony glaring at her antics, feeling safe in the arms of whoever had caught her.

"Ah guess the letter wasn't enough to give you a clue about what she wanted us to do?" Applejack retorted, before turning to Twilight.

"How can we get to Canterlot with your help? It's mighty far away, even for you Twi!"

Twilight prodded the two Elements before her, calculating the magic at her disposal. She glanced to Rarity lying in Spike's arms before answering.

"With these Elements and Rarity, it may be possible for me to send you to Canterlot from here. It might go wrong though," Twilight thought out loud, considering the alternatives. Applejack quickly nodded her head in agreement.

"Ah know you can do it. Just tell us what to do." Rainbow Dash chimed in as well, lending her support.

"Yeah! You can get us all to Canterlot super fast. Even I can't fly us all there myself."

"All right, then. Rarity, put this on," Twilight ordered, floating the Element of Generosity in the shape of a necklace towards Rarity while donning the tiara-like Element of Magic.

"Rarity, you'll focus on where we want to send them, the Element of Generosity will help," Twilight instructed her on how to teleport somepony. "Just think of somewhere you remember vividly in Canterlot, and I'll do the rest." Rarity closed her eyes, and carefully thought of Canterlot. Twilight mentally prepared herself for channeling her magic to Rarity.

"I have it," Rarity said, focusing on her memory. Her horn and the necklace around her glowed in a pale blue light, giving Twilight her cue.

"Now don't think of anything else," Twilight added as her horn glowed pink. The tiara on her forehead responded, enveloping the intended ponies in a bright pink color. She felt her magic slowly drain as the magic took effect.

Her eyes closed as she slumped to the ground, exhausted, and when she opened her eyes, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie had vanished.

"I hope they made it," she muttered, thinking about where the door in Ponyville could be.

"Wow! We made it," Rainbow Dash exclaimed from under the heap of ponies that Twilight and Rarity had teleported, seeing the Canterlot castle outside through a window.

"Now get off me!"

"Sorry, everypony," Fluttershy mumbled as she flapped her wings and lifted herself off the pile. Her apology was greeted by the relieved sighs of those below her.

"Not your fault, sweetie," Applejack calmed her as she rolled off the two ponies below her, looking around for a clue to tell them where they were.

"Now where in tarnation are we?"

Pinkie Pie smiled, glad somepony had asked her. Jumping up off Rainbow Dash, she bounced around the familiar room.

"This is Twilight's brother and Princess Cadence got married, silly!" She laughed as she remembered the crazy party she had thrown in this very room.

"Trust Rarity to remember a place in Canterlot, and all she thinks of is the wedding room..." Rainbow Dash grumbled as she felt the combined weight of her friends finally lift off of her.

As she got up off the stone cold floor, the main door slowly opened, revealing a fully armored Shining Armor. He was as tall as Applejack, and looked strong enough to fight a small army. He didn't look too happy to see them.

"Who was my sister's foal-sitter?" Shining Armor demanded, carefully watching the four of them as his horn glowed a dangerous pink hue beneath his helmet, holding up a large, thick broadsword in his hooves.

"It was your wife, Cadence!" Pinkie Pie answered with glee.

Twilight's brother's magic slowly faded away as he realized who they were.

"You're Twiley's friends!" He let out a relieved sigh as his magic disappeared, and pulled off his large golden helmet. He motioned for them to come with him as he pushed the door open, revealing a small army of ponies preparing for battle.

"I'm sorry about questioning you, I thought we might be fighting changelings again. We've been on high alert since Princess Celestia told us we would be under attack soon."

"She told me you would be coming, but I didn't think you could teleport all the way from Ponyville."

"Twilight did it with Rarity's help and their Elements of Harmony," Rainbow Dash supplied, to Shining Armor's astonishment.

"Wow, that's amazing! She's really gotten powerful in the last few years." He walked into a hall none of them had ever been down, or ever seen before.

"Follow me, I'll take you to Cadence. She has what you came for. Hurry, we don't have much time apparently."

The five walked past many dark and mysterious doors before reaching the end of the hall. Seeing their leader, the two guards pushed on the door to let them pass, watching for unseen enemies as they gripped their halberds nervously.

The doors parted, revealing a brightly lit spiral staircase, leading deeper into the castle. They walked down the narrow steps, and as they reached the bottom, they heard sounds of a large battle echo down towards them from upstairs.

"You'll have to go the rest of the way yourself, girls. Good luck," Shining Armor gravely announced, donning his helmet as he turned and raced up the steps. He left the four a short distance from a magnificent gold and silver-cast door, towering over the four heroines.

Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie took the lead again, with Fluttershy behind them. Applejack walked backwards with her back turned, watching the stairs and listening for any sign of what was going on far above them.

"I think this is door, guys," Rainbow Dash spoke, staring up at the intricate carvings that bordered the enormous door. As she pushed open the door, they prepared themselves for another world.

Princess Cadence stood waiting for them on the other side, standing in a giant cavern that made the door they had just passed through seem small in comparison. She looked happy to see them as they walked towards her, wearing a light pink jewel necklace hanging around her neck. They slowly took in the view before them.

The cavern was light bright as day, with thousands of candles illuminating a wide stone path. On both sides of the path was a steep cliff, and nopony could see how far down the hole went. The lengthy path went to the middle of the empty underground expanse, and there sat an ominous door. It was a plain grey to the eyes at first, but the group suddenly heard whispers of a town going about their business coming from it.

"That is the door, and here is what Celestia left under my safekeeping," Princess Cadence announced, distracting the newcomers from gazing upon the mysterious entrance to another world. She opened the box containing the remaining Elements of Harmony, motioning for them to grab their respective necklaces. After the last piece of the jewellery was taken, they saw a pink bubble ripple down from above, passing around them as it expanded deep into the cavern below. Princess Cadence was alarmed by the appearance of the shield.

"My shining prince needs my help! Go through the door. We will try to hold them off for as long we can. May you accomplish what Celestia sent you to do."

"Of course, princess. You can count on us!" Rainbow Dash answered for all of them, knowing they would do everything they could to save Equestria.

With a final tearful goodbye, Princess Cadence turned away and ran in the direction of the stairs, hoping to help her husband with her powers of Love.

Finally left alone, Rainbow Dash and the others quickly trotted over to the door. Rainbow Dash turned to the others as she laid a hoof on the door handle, checking to see if they were ready.

"Are you ready, everypony?" She asked, listening to the rumbles in the cavern getting louder as the battle above them intensified.

"Of course, Rainbow Dash!" Pinkie Pie shouted and put her hoof on the other handle, making them all momentarily wince as her voice rebounded off the walls around them.

"How about you, Applejack?"

"Ah'm as ready as ah'll ever be." Applejack replied, placing her hoof on the alien door.


Fluttershy quietly stared back to the stairs leading back up to the castle. Eventually, she turned back to her friends.

"Let's do this," she finally answered, pushing on the door together with the others. The entire cavern trembled as the door opened, and the four jumped into the opening, not knowing what adventures awaited them on the other side.

A Door Opens, A World Collapses

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Twilight, Rarity, and Spike quickly set off back to Ponyville to prepare for the adventures ahead. Before they reached the village, Twilight realized she needed to talk to Rarity alone. She slowly thought up an acceptable reason to send Spike away.

"Spike, I need you pack enough supplies for the two of us," she ordered.

"I can carry enough for myself, so please split the supplies into two equal packs. Rarity and I will prepare Ponyville for whatever is coming in the meantime."

"Of course, Twilight!" Spike answered, running off towards Twilight's tree. As her residence came into sight, Spike noticed the unmistakable mane of Princess Celestia stealthily slip into the tree.

What is she doing here, Spike thought to himself. He crept up to the window, and watched the princess push a hoof into the side of an ordinary wooden bookcase standing along the wall. To his surprise, her action caused the entire bookcase to swivel outwards, revealing a dark foreboding passage. As Princess Celestia slipped inside the corridor, the bookcase slowly began closing by itself. Spike saw his chance and ran into the house, slipping into the opening just before the bookcase slid completely shut behind him, leaving him in utter darkness.

Spike waited for his eyes to adjust, before he felt way down the heavily used grey stone path. As he followed the fading sounds of Princess Celestia, he felt the air become cooler on his scales. Minutes after he entered the tunnel, the walls gradually widened into a small oval room. He watched as Princess Celestia stopped before a glowing door that was lit up as if it were daylight inside the small cave, even though there was no source for light down here.

Princess Celestia pushed the door open and walked through, closing it quickly behind her. Spike snuck towards the door, peering around it in the hopes of finding Princess Celestia. She was nowhere to be seen.

The only remarkable thing on the other side of the closed door was a keyhole that looked as if it were cut into the stone. Spike peered into it, tracing a claw around the cavity, expecting to see the other end of it only a few inches into the hole. Instead, he saw it flash a dangerous blood red as he laid a claw upon the top edge of the opening.

He jumped back, bumping into the freezing cold texture of the door he had circled on his way to the carving. He let out a sigh of relief, before he heard light footsteps in the tunnel.

"Who's there!" He demanded, whirling around to encounter a hooded pony. The hooded figure stood motionless, watching Spike. Spike felt as if the robed stranger was staring deep into his eyes, and knew exactly what he was thinking.

The pony cloaked in darkness eventually answered.

"I've come to see the next lucky world."

"What?" Spike questioned, not trusting the mysterious apparition before him. It chuckled at his question before continuing.

"This world has finally been connected. Tied to the darkness, soon to be completely eclipsed by it. It is too late to be stopped." Spike didn't believe that. He couldn't.

"Well whatever you're planning, I'll stop you!" The specter was unworried by Spike's outburst, shrugging the words off as if the being had heard a thousand different ponies all proclaim their determination and fail.

"How did you get into this place?"

"You do not yet know what lies beyond the door. I have seen, and I have learned. There is so very much for you to learn. You understand so little. How could you possibly stop what is coming? Only darkness itself can halt its progress."

"I'll go out there and find another way! Without the darkness, too! You'll see," Spike argued. The figure gestured towards the door behind Spike with their leg shrouded in darkness.

"A meaningless effort. one who knows nothing can understand nothing. How will you save something you do not understand?"

Spike glanced toward the door, thinking about exactly how little he understood what the pony was telling him. By the time his eyes shifted back to where the cloaked pony stood, the pony had vanished. Forgetting all caution, he quickly ran back up the corridor, intent on informing Twilight and Rarity about his discovery.

"Rarity, I need to ask you something," Twilight carefully spoke, watching her friend as they walked toward Rarity's house among the many other ponies returning from stargazing. Everypony else was oblivious to what had occurred above them, ignorantly talking and enjoying the Summer Sun Celebration.

"Of course, dear. Ask away," Rarity answered, watching the large crowd slowly shrink as ponies went back into their houses to sleep.

"I can't take Spike with me on a mission like this. Can you make sure he doesn't get into too much trouble while I'm absent?" Rarity stopped, surprised by Twilight's request.

"You know I would! But more importantly, why aren't you taking Spike?" Rarity demanded, angered by the very idea.

"I know how powerful you have gotten in these past few years, but Spike is no pushover! He is caring and wouldn't hesitate to save you from somepony! Why, he's the most dependable thing I know! I wouldn't trade him for all the diamonds in the world!" Twilight stared at her wide-eyed as she went, and Rarity realized what she had said. Embarrassed, she tried to make up for her lapse in judgement.

"Well I know that's not as impressive as before we knew about all the other worlds out there, but I believe I made my point!" She sputtered, her anger winding down as Twilight continued to stare at her.

"I know all that. But he's still a dragon, and I need to be discrete while I go looking for the somepony who can save us. If anypony saw Spike they would know we're from a different world. We know he's gentle as Fluttershy, but somepony who's never met him could jump to a bad conclusion," Twilight explained.

"Oh. that's why?" Rarity slowly spoke, comprehending the reason behind Twilight's actions. "That's alright then." She quickly began walking again, and Twilight ran to catch up with her.

"Then he should stay. I'll take care of him while you're away, of course. He can stay at my boutique."

"That's not necessary," Twilight replied, thankful Rarity understood her reasoning. "He will continue to stay at the library. There will be plenty of room while I'm gone."

"All by himself? I don't think so," Rarity argued, thinking of how lonely he would be living in the enormous tree, all alone.

"Why Rarity, I think you're in love," Twilight joked, laughing softly. Rarity's face quickly turned a light shade of pink, leaving Twilight flabbergasted.

"O Celestia! You're in love with Spike!" Rarity put a hoof to her face, trying to hide the worst of her blush from her friend. Twilight's mouth formed incoherent words as she unsuccessfully attempted to stop gaping at Rarity.

"Yes, I am," Rarity mumbled around the hoof hiding her face, her blush intensifying at seeing Twilight's stare. Twilight slowly processed her answer, before reaching a conclusion.

"Well, it's about damn time," Twilight smiled, giggling as Rarity turned the deepest shade of red she had ever seen on her.

"I guess I won't have to worry about Spike while I'm gone then," Twilight told herself, smiling. She looked away from Rarity, seeing all the other ponies had turned in for the night, leaving the two alone in the middle of an eerily quiet Ponyville. She turned back to Rarity as she came up with an idea to keep Spike busy while she left without him in the morning.

"Go to your boutique. I'll send Spike to your place to pick up some extra supplies. You can tell him when he gets there why I can't take him with me." Rarity nodded her head, happy with the arrangement.

"O-Of course. Will you leave right away? I wanted to say goodbye before you left," Rarity asked, wondering if Spike would respect Twilight's decision.

"No need," Twilight answered. "I was planning to leave tomorrow morning anyway. I don't even know where this magic door in Ponyville could be. You can come by in the morning to see me off, and Spike can too, if he decides to stay."

"Then I will see you tomorrow." Rarity said.

They parted ways there, with Rarity going home to make room for Spike, and Twilight heading towards the library tree.

As Twilight crossed the threshold of her home, she saw one of the bookcases on the wall suddenly slide open, revealing Spike.

"Twilight! I found the door Princess Celestia was talking about! It's bright and I swear I could hear stuff on the other side of it," Spike proudly announced to Twilight's slack-jawed amazement. He saw her staring at the passage behind him, understanding her surprise.

"Yeah, I didn't know this was here either," he chuckled and stood aside, letting Twilight peer down the long passage. She slowly walked towards the tunnel before remembering Spike.

"There are a few things I need you to get at Rarity's place, Spike. She knows you're on your way right now," Twilight recited, never taking her eyes off the hole in the wall. She felt Spike talking beside her, but all she heard were whispers coming from the opening.

"I better get going, then. I'll be back as soon as I can, Twilight!"

With his announcement, Spike strolled out the door, leaving Twilight alone in the study. She slowly walked down the passage, mesmerized by the sounds ahead of her. As she turned the final corner, she found the door Spike had described.

One of its doors was ajar, and as Twilight watched, darkness flowed out of it towards her. She used her magic and the Element of Magic around her neck to try to push it back, but all her efforts barely slowed the darkness reaching out to her. As it closed in around her, all she could think of was a single question racing through her mind.

Why should I fight it?

Spike slowly made his way to Rarity's house. He had traveled there so many times now he could walk the entire way blindfolded if he wanted. As he stopped in front of the main door, he rapped on the wooden finish with a claw, waiting for permission to enter.

"Come in, Spi-ike," Rarity sang, in a much happier mood than he had seen her in months. He pushed open the door, and slipped inside, closing it behind him as he surveyed the room. Rarity was lounging on her favorite couch in the designing room, admiring the new fashions they had started together.

"Twilight said you had supplies we would need for the trip," Spike stepped closer, admiring the red ruby necklace Rarity had around her throat. With a gasp, he realized it was the very present he had given her on his own birthday almost six years ago. Rarity gazed at him with an expression he'd never seen on her before.

She sat up, and motioned for him to take the vacant space beside her. He took the offered seat, hypnotized by her smile.

"The truth is," she stalled for time, stroking his arm lightly with a hoof. "Twilight decided a dragon would draw too much attention, and thinks you would both be safer if you stayed in Ponyville..." As she continued, she placed a hoof on his chest.

"Here," she emphasized the next two words, "with me."

Realization dawned on Spike as he considered how much trouble he could potentially cause in other worlds the moment Rarity said it. He was a dragon after all, and others wouldn't understand how nice he was, but he still knew she would need somepony to watch Twilight's back. He'd lost count of how many times Twilight had been distracted by something unimportant while in the middle of trouble. Without him there beside her, he didn't think she could survive.

"She's right," he admitted, watching Rarity's smile widen before he moved. He pushed himself off the couch and stood up, worried Twilight may have already left. Rarity held onto him as he stood, her forelegs reaching around the back of his neck as she stared up at him, waiting for his response.

"But I still need to go with her. She's going to get hurt if somepony isn't there to watch out for her. Ponyville is safe for me, but Twilight won't be safe out there, will she?"

To Rarity's dismay, he disentangled himself from her, pulling farther away as he moved, intending to find Twilight before she left without him.

"Wait, Spike!" Rarity pleaded, worried he would leave to never return to Ponyville, and her. She ran up to Spike as he turned, crashing into him, and they fell to the plush carpet lying below them. Seeing her chance, she pushed her head closer to his own as he lay beneath her.

Spike's reasons for leaving died on his lips as they met Rarity's own. He laid there in shock as his crush continued her assault on his mouth, before wrapping his arms around her in a tight embrace. As they broke apart for air, Spike fought to regain his senses.

"You don't actually believe you were the only choice I had for my assistant, did you?" Rarity let out a coy smile as she felt his pulse race. She used her magic to pull Spike's gift from long ago off her neck, before wrapping it around his throat.

"Here. This jewel belongs to you, just like my heart." Spike smiled as he heard those words he'd only dared to dream of, before holding her tightly as he sadly spoke.

"I still need to go after Twilight, Rarity. I told her I found the door under the library! She might leave soon, and she's always been there for me. I would never forgive myself if she got hurt because I wasn't there." Rarity listened to his ramblings, watching his unhappy expression, and knew she couldn't change his mind.

"I understand, Spike. It will be dangerous out there. I can't shake the feeling I will never see you again, if you leave me here." Rarity grabbed his claw, wrapping it around her hoof. "So that's why I'm going with you. We'll leave with Twilight in the morning."

"But that's hours away! And I only packed the bags with enough supplies for the two of us," Spike complained.

"I'm sure we can think of something to do in the meantime," Rarity whispered, watching Spike blush as her tail brushed against his chest.

As Rarity pulled him upstairs towards her bedroom, Spike hoped this wasn't the best dream he had ever imagined.

Spike's dreams were clear and vivid. Looking around, he found himself in a pitch black abyss, standing on a beautiful large mosaic of Rarity surrounded by their friends.

In front of him several small creatures appeared, twisted by hate and anger into dark shells of what they once were, fighting amongst themselves. As Spike watched them from afar, they felt his presence, banding together as they turned to him.

Before they could harm him, they disappeared as a long shining blade of light in the shape of a key swooped in from above. slicing through the grotesque monsters as if they were simple shadows. A quiet voice whispered to him in the back of his skull, soothing to the senses.

Power sleeps within you. If you give it form... it will give you strength.

As the last of the of creatures were defeated, Spike let out a small sigh of relief. The sword of light slowly floated towards him, beckoning to him as if... it wanted him to take it. As his claws closed around around the hilt, the voice echoed louder this time.

The closer you are to the light, the greater your shadow becomes.

Spike felt the back of his neck tingle with fear, and turned his head to check behind himself.

Its shadow was monstrous in size. It stretched the entire length of the floor, and as he looked onwards, a gigantic shadowy hand reached out of it, and slammed into the ground. The hand pushed downwards, lifting the rest of its hulking body from the shadowy depths.

Spike tactfully stepped backwards, hoping to escape its notice, but his movement only drew the monsters attention. There was no indication of intentions, until Spike felt himself thrown from the tower by a hand that had moved faster than the eye could see.

He plummeted downwards, unable to do anything but wait. For the end, or something else, he didn't know. But he didn't want it to end, not like this. The moment the thought crossed his mind, he felt his descent slow. A gentle flapping sound buffeted his ears from behind, and Spike curiously looked over his shoulder.

Two wings of beautiful pure light were slowly propelling him upwards. The voice calmly spoke once more as Spike raised his head and saw the monster looking down at him as he flew closer.

Don't be afraid. You hold the mightiest weapon of all.

Spike held the sword to one side as he flew past the monster, slicing at what he assumed was the creature's neck. He felt no resistance before him as the blade cut into the shadow. The very skin of the abomination seemed to retreat from his glowing weapon as its neck was severed in one clean stroke. As Spike landed on the platform once again, he turned, ready for another attack.

His opponent slowly toppled over into the abyss, motionless. One cut from his weapon had only been necessary to fell the beast.

The floor turned to shadowy quicksand beneath his feet as he wondered what would happen next. Fighting to stay above the dark substance, he slowly sunk into it, wondering what would happen to him as his head plunged below the surface.

Don't forget. You are the one who will open the door.

Spike woke suddenly, feeling the soft covers of Rarity's bed around him once again. He reached for his new sweetheart, only to grasp the warm silk covers of the side she had slept on. His claw grazed a folded piece of parchment, and as he opened his eyes, he wondered why Rarity had left him a note. He slowly dragged the letter closer, being careful not to tear anything with his sharp claws. Unfolding the paper, he read the words Rarity had left for him.

My dearest Spike,

You looked so tired after last night, so I went ahead and packed the supplies I would need to go with you and Twilight today. I'm bringing them to the door underneath her tree. Meet me there once you're ready to go.

With all my love,


Spike grinned at her words, imagining the adventure awaiting them. He couldn't wait to see the new worlds waiting for them beyond the mysterious door below Twilight's library. Spike paused, trying to think about how he could have overlooked the secret passage in all the time he'd spent working there.

Replacing the letter on the pillow beside him, he rolled out of bed, noticing the damage they had caused overnight to Rarity's bedroom. He walked downstairs, stretching his tired muscles while letting out a loud yawn of contentment, looking forward to the new day.

As he exited Rarity's house, he knew something had gone terribly wrong. Instead of a bright sunny day, it was still dark, and nopony was to be seen in the middle of Ponyville. He looked up, wondering why the sun wasn't shining brightly today, and gasped in terror at the sight above him.

Above him the dark sky was broken into many pieces. Bright red cracks spanned the entire skyline, shedding some light for him to see what had to be the source of all this destruction. A giant floating orb of darkness was slowly falling towards them, sucking up clouds and debris that strayed too close.

As he watched the spectacle above him, many comparatively tiny black spheres ejected themselves from their host, and descended towards the ground. As they touched down, the creatures from Spike's dream sprang up from them. They had four limbs like a pony, but walked upright as Spike did when he was smaller. Their front limbs ended in a hand with three fingers, and they crouched low to the ground as they slunk towards him. Two feelers grew out top the of their heads as closed in on their prey.

Spike swiped at the nearest one, only to see his claw pass right through the shadowy creature. He backed away from them, moving in the direction of Twilight's house as two more joined the first monster in its pursuit of seemingly easy prey.

He spat a ball of fire as it got closer, relieved to see it recoil away from him in obvious pain. He turned around to see several more of them slowly surround him. He readied his wings to escape, but decided not to as he felt the light tug of the giant sphere above him, worried he would get sucked in if he flew any closer to it.

Spike ran. Spitting fire, he cleared a meager path through the angry beasts as he made his way to where Twilight and Rarity should have been. I hope they're alright, He thought as Twilight's house came into view. His fire attacks were becoming more and more feeble, almost to the point of not even fazing the creatures anymore. Just as he felt he couldn't shoot another fireball, they quickly backed away from him, vanishing into the ground.

He sat down in relief, catching his breath, before looking around. He had reached Twilight's house! Twilight was standing beside him, looking up in awe of what was happening.

"Twilight," Spike panted, "Where's Rarity? I thought she was with you!"

Twilight ignored him, still looking up at the roaring skies.

"The door.. has opened."

"What are you talking about, Twilight," Spike questioned, worried something had happened to her.

"The door has opened, Spike!" Twilight yelled, turning to face him. "A door to another world! Think of the knowledge waiting for me other side!"

"I know that. We can go through together," Spike assured her.

"But first we need to find Rarity. She could be in trouble." Spike looked around, hoping to see her familiar figure safe and sound.

"If she embraces the darkness, she will be safe forever," Twilight mysteriously replied, examining the great big ball of destruction above them.

Spike remembered the warnings in Princess Celestia's letter.

"Are you kidding me? Princess Celestia said it was dangerous!"

"Then she is a fool," Twilight announced to Spike's shock. "I remember a story of these monsters from a book I read in the library." She recited the story she knew by heart.

"The Heartless Invasion:

In the beginning, when ponies were happy and peaceful, they found two magic doors connected to another world. Some brave ponies went through it, and allowed darkness to spread into everypony's heart. They lost all their love for others, letting the darkness in their hearts grow until they slowly turned into the first of the Heartless. Harmony in Equestria was shattered, and two ponies went through the door again, looking for something to drive away the darkness. They returned, bringing back peace, order, and love to Equestria. They used their newly discovered powers to drive away the darkness in everypony, and hid the doors from anypony foolish enough to look for them. They watch over them, making sure nopony ever tries to bring the darkness to Equestria once again."

"There is darkness in every heart. But the darkness can be used to fight these monsters, maybe even control them." She emphasized her words, pointing a hoof toward their doom in the sky as she looked at him.

"Star Swirl the Bearded wielded magic other ponies were afraid to use when he had no choice. Is this any different?" She asked Spike.

Spike didn't know what to think. Twilight seemed... different. He couldn't place a claw on what it was.

"I thought so," Twilight announced triumphantly, taking Spike's silence as validation of her reasoning.

"Join me, Spike. We can learn how to use this power and save Equestria together!" Twilight held out a hoof towards him as darkness suddenly pooled around her feet, prompting Spike to act.

He reached out towards her with a claw, yelling, "Twilight, look out!"

As his claw approached her offered hoof, he realized he had stepped into in the same large black pit as Twilight. His claw passed within inches of Twilight's hoof, but by then it was too late. He plunged into dark liquid, and saw Twilight smile as they were covered in darkness.

Everything went dark, and as Spike felt his lungs run out of air, a bright light emanated from around his neck.

When Spike came to, the darkness, along with Twilight, had disappeared. He moved a claw to his neck, wondering what had created such a wonderful bright light. Looking down, he was terrified to see Rarity's gift had disappeared from his neck.

Looking around, he found a long slender sword lying beside him. He inspected it as he picked it up in his claws, realizing the hilt had an identical, smaller replica of Rarity's gift. It was attached by a chain to the pommel of the sword.

A disembodied voice whispered in the back of his head as he examined it.


The grip molded itself around his claws as he held it carefully, and it was painted a deep blue, reminding him of somepony's eyes. The milky white guard formed a protective barrier between his claw and the purple blade. The blade slowly tapered towards the tip, where three lime green, sharp triangles protruded from the end, forming the same shape as a key.

Spike swung the blade a few times experimentally, enjoying how swiftly it cut through the air. The weight was negligible, and the entire weapon felt like an extension of his arm as he waved it back and forth. Feeling like he was being watched, he looked up from his inspection.

The strange creatures had returned in greater numbers than before, and were all staring at him. He slowly edged away, until his tail collided with the wooden wall behind. The voice whispered with greater urgency as his limbs froze in fear.


Knowing he had no choice, he sprang into action, remembering his dream. He thrust his weapon into the nearest monster, watching in fascination as it disappeared in a cloud of smoke the moment it came into contact with the blade.

Cutting his way through the others in his way with ease, he made a beeline for the door to Twilight's house. As he shut it behind him, the critters lost interest and crawled away as he watched through the window, until there were none to be seen. The voice spoke one last time, fading away as the danger passed.


Spike walked towards the entrance to the tunnel, and made his way down to the door, wondering if Rarity was hiding down there. Each step downwards brought him closer to the door, and each step raised his hopes that she was alive and unharmed.

As he entered the alcove, he found Rarity silently staring towards the ominous door. He broke the fragile silence around them, hoping for an answer.

"Rarity, are you okay?"

Rarity turned to him, wearing a dazed expression as she slowly spoke his name, extending a hoof towards him.


He lunged forward as the door opened, releasing a wave of darkness that pushed against him ever harder as got closer. He now fought to stand his ground, watching helplessly as a shadow whipped out and lashed itself around Rarity's leg, dragging her screaming into the closing door. Spike flapped his wings in a useless gesture as the wind pushed him out of the chamber, and out into Twilight's library.

Spike pulled himself up with the help of a fallen chair, before he felt the entirety of the tree shudder and groan beneath him. He raced outside to discover the cause, checking to see how much closer the orb of darkness had come.

The pitch-black ball was frightfully close now. He looked around, and saw he was on a large section of earth that had actually been ripped from the ground, and was flying in the middle of a tornado. As he made his way down the front steps, Twilight's tree was pulled from the ground, roots snapping into splinters. Spike shielded his face from pieces the size of his arm, as the tree flew into the center of the cyclone.

Looking for an avenue of escape from his current predicament, he watched as a large patch of darkness violently slammed itself into what was left of the earth. The shadow rose up, forming the enormous monster from his dreams. It let out an incoherent roar as it brought its head close towards the ground, giving Spike a golden opportunity.

He ran towards it, dodging a flailing arm as he gripped his sword tightly in his two claws. Closing in on the creature's head, he smashed his weapon as hard as he could into it, feeling the impact jar his arms. His attack made a noticeable scar on the shadowy thing, and Spike repeated his actions, emboldened by the thunderous bellow of pain his attacker let out.

As the monster pulled away for a brief respite, several smaller versions detached themselves from its legs. While Spike was distracted by them, the beast plunged its hand into the ground, gathering more darkness to replenish itself and heal its wounds.

Spike had seen enough. He finally risked using his wings, flying towards the head barely out of his reach. Burying his claws in its shadowy skin, he buried the blade up to the hilt in shadow, where he guessed the brain would be.

The monster let out a roar, and toppled over, felled by Spike's magical weapon. He jumped off the decaying shadow as it rose into the air, and watched it get sucked into raging inferno above.

Spike felt the tugging sensation from the orb intensify, and he scrambled to find something to hold onto. Too late, he thought as he felt his body become weightless. Flapping his wings, he unsuccessfully pushed himself away from the source of Equestria's demise.

As his body was pulled into the sphere, Spike's senses slowly faded, until he could feel nothing at all.

The Good Samurai

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The only sign that they had done something extraordinary was the tingling sensation they felt as Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy walked through the mysterious doors leading to another world.

"It doesn't seem so bad here," Rainbow Dash added as she looked around, seeing where the door had deposited them.

The door was located in a large crater, surrounded on all sides by brown walls. The only way out of the crater was a grey stone path cut into the ground under their feet, worn down by the ponies who had traveled here before them.

"Ah wonder where we are. Let's see what's up there," Applejack thought aloud as she pointed to the ridge of the deep gulch. The four set off up the sloped pathway, while Fluttershy looked around nervously for signs of life, fighting the sensation that they weren't alone.

"Do you feel like somepony is watching us," she whispered as they carefully walked up the narrow path. The edges of the path were becoming more broken, and the ground no longer rose with it. Pinkie Pie and Appledash were forced to walk in single file, with Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy flying beside them.

"Oooh, I can't wait to meet more ponies! They better have birthdays here too," Pinkie Pie added as she bounced up and down in anticipation. Pieces of the walkway crumbled and broke away, falling down the steep cliffs beside them.

"Pinkie Pie! cut that out," Applejack worriedly warned her as more and more of the path fell away.

"I'm sorry but the anticipation is killing me-eeeeeeeee," Pinkie Pie suddenly shouted as the ground gave way beneath her, falling towards her death.

Rainbow Dash flew down at a breakneck speed, trying to reach Pinkie Pie before she turned into a big messy splat, catching her only a few feet above the ground. Rainbow Dash pulled her up with some effort, settling her on the top of the canyon wall.

Fluttershy took the hint and did the same with Applejack, placing her next to Pinkie Pie. She looked over to make sure she hadn't sustained any injuries on the way down.

"All you alright, sugarcube?"

"That was AWESOME," Pinkine giggled in delight. "Let's do that again!"

"Quiet, guys," Rainbow Dash whispered as she heard the sounds of fighting ahead of them.

The four edged their way closer to the loud shouts of battle and occasional clang of steel. They looked down a long sloped hill to the canyon lying in front of them as the noise reached a crescendo. Applejack let out a gasp in amazement as they saw what was unfolding before them.

"Now what in the hay are those things?"

Hundreds of small shadowy creatures were arrayed in a large circle around a solitary figure, killing everything that came within his reach. The hero stood on his two back legs and was garbed in a white robe, with short black hair. He held a powerful large sword in his two hands that looked as if it could slice through anything it touched. While he fought on, the ponies thought he would soon be overwhelmed by the mass of enemies, as a big laughing demon watched safely from afar.

"This is the end for you, Samurai Jack! Demongo shall present your heart to the great Aku himself, " the black demon gloated, happy to finally accomplish his mission. His face was formed by a black mask, covering a blue flame that flashed as he continued to laugh.

"We have to help him!" Rainbow Dash yelled above the tumultuous fighting, before flying towards the hero. Fluttershy flew a short ways behind her as Pinkie Pie and Applejack quickly ran along with them.

"We're here to help," Rainbow Dash told the swordsman as she landed beside him. The other ponies quickly joined the two in the center of the circle of dark creatures with Fluttershy's assistance. Rainbow Dash smashed her hooves into the nearest monster, but was surprised to see them pass right through their intended target. She felt a weathered hand grasp her tail as she realized her mistake.

"Get back!" The grizzled fighter shouted as the entire mass of creatures rushed forwards, sensing weakness.

The robed warrior pulled her away towards the center of the circle, throwing her to safety as a monster's claw tore into his back while he was distracted.

As the enemies closed in, a large flash was heard in between the huddled heroes, and an oddly clothed pony appeared out of nowhere, blue light coming out from underneath its hood.

The creatures were flung back by a powerful wall of blue light, and Demongo screamed in anger as his chance to finally kill the intrepid heroes passed before his eyes.

"How dare you interfere," he raged, before summoning more creatures with a snap of his fingers.

"You look strong as well, I must add you to my collection." Demongo laughed before the cloaked pony's horn glowed again, and destroyed the small army without a second thought.

"Go back to your master and tell him he will have to try a little harder," the cloaked pony roared, as Demongo backed away from his magical attack.

"This isn't the last you'll see of the great Demongo!" he screamed as he ran towards a mountain looming in the distance.

As the threat passed, the mysterious pony pulled down his hood to reveal the wizardly hat sitting atop his head. It had pictures of the moon and stars, and small bells were attached to the tip and bottom. His cloak had the same pattern and was clasped around his neck by a sizable blue jewel, but what was most prominent about him was the giant flowing beard running down his face.

"I believe our stay here is overdue," he added. His horn glowed blue once more, teleporting them to a small wooden house. Fluttershy looked behind her and saw they were high up a mountain, overlooking most of the area around them, including the crater with the door they had traveled through.

"Get inside, we can talk there," he ordered them inside, inspecting the wound on the samurai. They filed in, looking around their rescuer's home. rainbow Dash found it... spartan, to say the least. There were only the essentials one needed to live in this room. A bed large enough to fit this pony who was almost as tall as them, and a well worn wooden table with shaky looking chairs in the middle of the room were all that was inside the house.

"Sit down, I'm sure you all have questions," their host said, removing his robes and and placing them on the wall, to reveal the wings hidden beneath. The other ponies gasped as they saw them while he helped the injured samurai onto the bed. He turned back towards his guests, coming face to face with Pinkie Pie.

"Yes, we do! But first, I'm Pinkie Pie!" She exclaimed. "These are my friends, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash," she rapidly pointed to each one as she named them. "Do you want to be my friend?"

"I am honored to be your friend. As for who I am..." he continued on, ignoring their stares as he sat beside Jack.

"Oh, that's easy, you're Star Swirl the Bearded," Pinkie Pie announced excitedly as she mentally added him to her enormous list. of friends "Twilight gave me all the books she had about him," she answered after seeing the questioning looks on Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Applejack's faces.

"Then who in tarnation is he?" Applejack pointed a hoof over the person they had found.

"He is a resident of this world called Jack, as you found out before. Ponies do not live in every world, for your information," Star Swirl patiently explained.

"Then what is this world like, and how did you know we were here?" Fluttershy quietly asked, the first to sit at the table.

"I have magic that informs me when any door to this world is activated. And about this world, I will explain that later. But first, I need to know why you have come through the door," Star Swirl gravely spoke.

"Well, Princess Celestia asked us to go through it," Rainbow Dash answered, grabbing a seat.

"Princess Celestia? Of course," Their host muttered, glancing briefly towards the door as he stood up, pacing back and forth.

"Go on."

"She sent us a letter saying she was leaving Equestria! She told something us about the stars disappearing, some kind of darkness coming, and sent us to find somepony with a key! It's an adventure," Pinkie Pie rapidly said, bouncing up and down until Applejack pulled her into a chair beside her.

Star Swirl's features turned pale at her explanation. "Have the Heartless already invaded Equestria?" he questioned them, collapsing into the nearest chair.

"We-ell, we did hear someponies fighting while we went through the door, but ah think they're fine," Applejack thoughtfully added. "So what are these here Heartless?" Star Swirl bowed his head, collecting his thoughts.

"Those without hearts. They are mindless creatures who feed on the strong hearts of others. I'll get to that later." He cleared his throat before continuing.

"Thousands of years ago, when Canterlot Castle was only just finished being built, we discovered the very same cavern as you did, and those unusual doors. We ignored them, thinking they were simply pieces of art, until I realized their true purpose. I was the already the most accomplished head conjurer of Canterlot in our entire history by that point, but I was as reckless as I was young."

"I suggested we discover what wonders awaited beyond them, and was quickly appointed leader of the first ponies through the doors."

"In the beginning, we found beautiful worlds waiting for us in every door we traveled through, discovering artifacts of unimaginable power that we called Elements. I soon became complacent, and ignoring the warnings of many ponies, sent somepony through every door we could find in the hopes of discovering more power."

"Soon, ponies returned with news of a worlds that had suffered an unknown disaster. The unlucky ponies spoke of worlds falling into darkness, and creatures who preyed on the darkness in their hearts. Eventually, my entire team turned into creatures identical to the ones you fought today. I had only been able to save one other pony before I went myself to find this darkness."

Star Swirl paused, uncomfortably remembering the next part of his story.

"The darkness was unlike anything I had ever seen before. In my arrogance, I believed it would never corrupt me as it had the others, but there is darkness in every heart. I returned to Equestria, leading them right to our doorstep when I forgot the horrors I had seen, thinking it was possible to control them for the powers of good."

"As I became more and more famous with my newly found powers, I was informed that the darkness had almost reached our world. I quickly went through the door, but was unable to stop it by myself. Two ponies named Luna and Celestia were sent to help me, using the Elements I had discovered but lost interest in shortly after finding them. With their help, I banished the darkness that had slowly taken over my heart."

"With the Elements, we drove the darkness back together. I realized after a time that using the Elements slowly turned us into what you know of as Alicorns. We became more powerful than even I could have imagined, and were gifted with everlasting life."

"We drove back the Heartless as well as we could, but we were only three ponies. We alone could not safeguard every world untouched by their evil. So we destroyed every door we could find in the hopes of severing the connection between worlds still infected, and thought ourselves safe forever.

"The two ponies went back to Equestria, and I stayed here, with the Element of Wisdom, to watch over the door to our world."

"So then what's this key Princess Celestia told us about?" Rainbow Dash asked.

Star Swirl traced a hoof into the table, thinking of what she could have possibly meant.

"Among those with the strongest of hearts, there is somepony with the ability to do what we never could. She meant the Elements, of course. I may call them that, but others prefer a more barbaric term: Keyblade. They have the ability to turn the Elements into a weapon should their user desire it."

He demonstrated this fact, tearing the sky blue necklace away with his magic and placing it upon the table. He laid his hoof on top concentrating on the jewel as if it were alive. Suddenly, there was a blinding light, and as everypony looked down they saw the gem had transformed.

The hilt was a brilliant golden yellow, looking as if the stars themselves had helped form it. The blade slowly tapered until it reached five deep blue teeth, gleaming with the color of a cloudless sky. It was a formidable weapon to even the untrained eye. The warrior watched the new weapon with slight interest, readying his sword if need be.

"That will not be necessary, friend," Star Swirl assuaged his guest. The weapon quickly disappeared, turning back into the same recognizable bauble as before.

"This Element is mine. It has been bound to me for millennia, and I have slowly learned its secrets. The true reason they have been called Keyblades is their ability to lock or unlock anything. But when Luna, Celestia and myself fought through worlds engulfed in darkness, we always found a keyhole that would never lock. I believe that it was the heart of the world itself.

"I thought we were simply too late to save the world from its cruel fate, but the others believed that we were simply not truly masters of the Elements. A real Keyblade master would have been able to seal any heart away from darkness, and Harmony was shattered when Luna and Celestia finally saved me from my darkness."

"Mine own Element is comparatively weak, but," he glanced at the other ponies' necklaces, "yours are part of something truly great. Harmony was the most powerful of all Elements we ever found. The pieces apart are strong, but the true power of Harmony would reveal itself if it were somehow fixed. Using the combined power of Harmony, and maybe two other Elements, you could accomplish wonders beyond thinking."

"Celestia must believe the Elements choose their master. If she is right, you should find this pony where the darkness is greatest, in the evil king Aku's stronghold."

"Then let's go there and find this pony!" Rainbow Dash said. Star Swirl shook his head no.

"Not so fast," he warned them. "You must first learn about your Keyblades." His horn slowed a deep blue, making each of their necklaces resonate with many different beautiful colors. Each turned into a Keyblade with a brilliant flash of light. Each pony inspected their new keepsake.

Fluttershy's Element was completely pink. Many kinds of little adorable creatures were painted onto the shaft. The hilt was in the shape of a butterfly flapping it's wings, and the tip of the blade closely resembled a pair of angry rabbit teeth. She cautiously prodded her new Keyblade, knowing she would have to use it if her friends ran into danger. The chain attached to the hilt was made of a soft metal, and had a small pink heart hanging on it.

Applejack stared at the brown weapon that lay before her, the hilt pointing towards her invitingly. The deep red metal formed an enormous apple she had once found as a child. Green leaves spanned the brown length of the sword, resembling the picture of a perfectly healthy tree. She pulled on the chain holding a bauble in the shape of three small apples, and found that the chain was very elastic. She could stretch it farther than she could pull the length apart with her hooves.

Pinkie Pie loved how scrumptious her necklace had suddenly become. It had a tiny cupcake attached to the chain, which was flowing out of the strawberry shaped guard. The long juicy blade was shaded orange just like a carrot. Little pieces in the shape of pink confetti and streamers were stuck to the edge in random spots, forming a complex pattern of cuts and grooves in the general shape of a key.

Rainbow Dash thought her new Keyblade was easily the best one of them all. It had the coolest pair of white wings she had ever seen placed in between the grip and the blade. The blade itself reflected all manner of colors as she inspected it, turning around in her hooves. Jagged yellow edges arced out from the tip in a pattern reminiscent of her lightning cutie mark.

"Even in this form, they have the ability to channel your very thoughts into magic. But! I don't know what your particular gifts will be," Star Swirl cautioned them as they gazed at their new weapons. "They will slowly manifest as you use them during your journey. It is up to you to discover them."

He walked over to the bewildered warrior, examining the deep cut he had sustained. The wound had stopped bleeding, but Jack still had a long road to recovery ahead of him. Fluttershy watched him struggle to sit up, and slowly edged her way towards him.

"I-I can help, if you'd like," she quietly said, thinking of the materials she'd need to repair his injury. Fluttershy's Keyblade shone brightly as she thought over the steps she would take to heal him. The ponies gasped in amazement as Jack's skin stretched, closing over the wound. His skin knitted together until a faint scar was the only proof that he had been injured in the first place. Jack experimentally flexed his back, delighted to feel no pain.

"I believe you have already begun your discovery, Fluttershy," he thanked his healer as he jumped off the bed, with a noticeable spring in his step. Star Swirl regarded his guests wearily.

"Now, you must follow Celestia's orders. Equestria could fall at any time, with or without your help. Only the pony who controls the Elements can accomplish the impossible." He motioned towards Jack.

"He can help you reach the doors inside the evil monster Aku's stronghold. If you are lucky, you will find the one you are looking for there."

As he finished, they heard a crash outside the house. The four newly instructed ponies and Jack rushed out, to meet the foe they had fought before. Demongo was back.

"Kneel before your new master!" Demongo roared, throwing his arms apart in a victorious pose. "Aku has given me the power of darkness! Cower in fear of my new power!" Demongo gloated, feeling the rush of energy through his blackened veins as he summoned more Heartless minions to do his bidding.

Jack unsheathed his magic blessed sword as the ponies gripped their Keyblades uncomfortably for the first time. The first Heartless to rush towards them vanished as their new weapons did their work. Jack saw his chance as Demongo ignored his friends new powers.

"If you can clear the way towards their leader, I can finish him with one swing of my sword," he told the others. Rainbow Dash and Applejack quickly took the lead, with Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy swatting away any creatures trying to sneak up on them. The Keyblades made short work of the Heartless, and as Jack neared his target, Demongo felt the first sense of apprehension he had felt in years.

"I-Impossible! Y-you can't stop me, Samurai Jack," Demongo threw more and more Heartless at the group as they closed in, watching them easily beat back what had defeated them only a short time ago.

"Tell that to Aku," Jack said, preparing for a single powerful strike as nothing lay between him and Demongo.

"Your master will be seeing you soon!"

Demongo formed a ball with his hands and began pulling more Heartless from a black sphere of darkness that suddenly appeared there. It was too late, however, and Jack made his move, slicing his magical blade through his target as he slowly came to a stop behind Demongo.

"No! How could you," Demongo screamed as hundreds of shapeless spirits flew from between his fingers. As they escaped, he slowly shrank, dwindling away until he was the same size as the small creatures he had once commanded.

The Heartless host melted away as his powers lessened, allowing the ponies to stand beside Jack as they watched Demongo. His floating form quickly made its way towards Aku's stronghold, escaping any further punishment Jack might have given him.

"I will be back! Aku will not forgive you for this," Demongo's tiny form screeched, floating away out of their sight. Star Swirl made his way towards the group, applauding their efforts.

"Well done. There is nothing like a more practical exercise in my opinion," he sagely spoke, turning towards the direction Demongo had fled.

"But you must hurry to Aku's stronghold. The other door from Equestria is in his control, and I have sensed that it was used recently."

"Well, a friend of ours was supposed to go through the other door we found," Fluttershy informed him. Star Swirl turned to the group.

"Then it is imperative that you find this pony before they are captured by Aku or somepony worse. I wish you luck."

"Yeah! Let's go, everypony," Rainbow Dash announced, before the group went off to save the unfortunate pony.

A magical stone table projected the heroes into the air above the ground. Several figures shrouded in darkness were gathered around it, watching the group as they made their way towards Aku's stronghold lying deep in a dormant volcano. Demongo burst in as they watched, his petite form floating towards them.

"Master Aku! They were too strong! I need more power," Demongo whined towards the figures as they turned to observe his meager form. Aku let out an evil laugh at his subordinate's words.

"I already gave you the power of darkness, you fool. You have failed me for the last time," Aku bellowed, taking Demongo's body into his claws and snuffed him out with barely a thought. He turned to the others as Demongo vanished.

"Those stupid ponies and Samurai Jack managed to take down Demongo, even with the powers I gave him." One of the hidden figures let out an angry roar, before chuckling deeply. His giant protective shell rumbled as he spoke.

"Those Keyblades are powerful! But they won't get through all my castles! Should we turn them into more Heartless?"

"My mechanical creatures can take care of them in a jiffy," a high-pitched fat voice boomed out, and the rest quickly started arguing amongst themselves.


The villains arguments quickly subsided as their leader stepped forward. She pointed towards Aku, ignoring the wary gazes of the rest assembled together.

"Aku. You will kill Samurai Jack, but capture the rest. Not one of them is the chosen one, but we still have some purpose for them. You will go to your world, and find the real Keyblade Master. Bring him here before he becomes more powerful than any of us. The Keyblade will choose him. Will he conquer the darkness, or will the darkness swallow him?"

Aku backed away fearfully from their dark leader, moving towards the world door leading to his stronghold.

"By your order, Queen Chrysalis."

Last of Their Kind

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He slowly floated, enveloped in total darkness. He felt nothing, heard nothing, smelled nothing. After failing to remember how he had ended up here, he was slowly lulled back to sleep by the soundless expanse, drifting aimlessly. Time passed slowly here, but he no longer felt the urgency he once had. He didn't even remember why he had felt so rushed anymore.

"With all my love, ______"

He felt the vast emptiness shake apart as a loud voiced boomed out towards him, pushing against him with the force of its shout. His will to live fought its way to the forefront of his mind upon remembering those few words. Something was lightly shaking him.

"Hey! Wake up!"

His body was on fire. His own skin felt alien to him as it prickled uncomfortably, his nerves tingling as he moved. He raised a hoof to ward off his attackers, feeling them back away as he finally moved by his own volition.

"All you all right?"

He looked up towards the questioner, before slamming his eyes shut with a groan as he felt light enter his eyes for what seemed to be the first time. Carefully cracking his eyes open, he let them adjust as the fellow in front of him continued his questioning.

"What's your name?"

Searching his memories, he only remembered the darkness that had once surrounded him. His eyes darted around, before alighting on his deep purple flank, where he saw a mark in the shape of a thorny rose. He latched onto the familiar name before opening his mouth, his dry throat cracking as he finally answered.

"T-Thorn," he croaked, as he took in the appearances of the three who had found him.

"Who are you?" He asked, inspecting the group who had woken him.

There was an angry duck in a blue and hat to one side of him. A slightly confused person in a green shirt and yellow pants was on the other. He reminded him of a dog for some reason. The person who had woken him had bright red clothes and seemed to be in charge. He smiled at Thorn's response.

"I'm Sora, and this is Donald and Goofy," the boy replied, pointing to each one as they were introduced.

"What happened?" Thorn slowly looked around, only seeing makeshift walls that were connected together from smaller pieces. He felt his wings pushing on the cold wall behind him, and turned to examine the foreign appendages.

They were light on his hooves, the same vibrant purple as Thorn's skin, and longer than his legs could stretch. He felt his mane shift after he turned, and was mystified by its bright green color. His examinations stopped as he realized the wall he was leaning against was in reality a giant window. The sight beyond left him speechless.

Beyond the window were ships unlike any sort he had seen before. They were all floating freely in the sky, and Thorn slowly began to comprehend he was no longer in Equestria. As he leaned closer towards the view, his long horn bumped into the glass with a soft clink.

"Where am I?" Nothing was familiar here. Hundreds of different kinds of creatures made their way back and forth before him on the lower decks.

"Take it easy," Sora said. "You're not on your world anymore." He gestured towards the ships outside.

"This is all that remains of hundreds of different worlds that have been destroyed by the darkness, just like your world. Bits and pieces can sometimes escape the destruction, and show up here out of nowhere. Luckily for you, we saw you while we were landing."

"Ya know, you just can't travel to other worlds without a ship," Goofy added knowingly.

Thorn slid down the wall as the new information sank in. Something they had said didn't sound right to him. He turned them and asked the question he'd been afraid to ask.

"Did any other ponies survive? And what's this darkness?" Sora glanced at his friends sadly, before Donald pulled Goofy away, heading towards the nearby shop.

"Come on, Goofy," he squawked. "I need help carrying the supplies we need." As he waddled away with Goofy in tow, Sora slid down beside Thorn. Thorn only stared blankly at Donald and Goofy's retreating forms.

"I'm sure some other... ponies made it here," he slowly reassured Thorn. Thorn looked away from him, staring towards the other ships floating beside theirs. After a short period of silence had passed, he abruptly turned to Sora.

"Tell me about this darkness." Sora stretched an arm behind his head and rubbed the back of his neck, looking away from Thorn awkwardly.

"Well... It's sorta complicated. It'd be safer for if you stayed here anyway." Sora looked up a as he saw Thorn move in the corner of his eye.

"No!" Thorn shouted, smashing his hoof into the glass wall of the ship, much to Sora's alarm.

"My friends are out there! And I won't rest until I find them."

Thorn's chest was on fire. His heart ached from the pain of what he thought he had lost. Worst of all, he couldn't even remember what it was. His thoughts were interrupted by a strange glow.

Thorn looked down to see a necklace hanging around his chest. He examined it as it pulsed with red light, confused by how he had come by such a beautiful jewel. When he touched it with his hoof, a spark was ignited deep within the center of the ruby. Light washed over Thorn, and Sora had to shield his eyes from its brightness.

When Sora dared to look again, Thorn was holding a Keyblade. His hoof covered most of the deep blue color of the grip. The white hilt helped Thorn hold it safely without getting too close to the razor sharp violet blade. Three green spikes jutted out from the tip of the Keyblade in the shape that reminded Sora of his own weapon. Thorn looked at the sword in awe, confused by how it had appeared.

"Where... did you get that?" Sora asked, before taking out his Keyblade to compare the two. His Keyblade had a simple yellow hilt in the shape of a crown, and a grey blade shaped like a key. Thorn was silent while he compared the two.

"...I don't know. But it's still important to me," Thorn said. He held it closely, feeling that it was the only reminder of who he was looking for. Sora looked intensely at the new Keyblade, as if he were deciding whether it was real or not. His eyes darted between the two Keyblades, carefully considering the possibilities. After satisfying himself that it was indeed a real Keyblade, he nodded to Thorn.

"Well... this changes everything. I guess you'll find out sooner or later with that thing," he sighed, pointing towards the object of his careful inspection.

"The darkness is just a sign of the Heartless. They're made of it. Their sole purpose of existence is to find and devour hearts. Using that thing," he gestured to Thorn's weapon, "attracts the Heartless. It's called a Keyblade. I don't know how, but they can track you through it."

Thorn felt lightheaded for a moment, then had a vision of hundreds of small black creatures. His Keyblade had protected him, but for every creature he struck down, four more took its place. When he focused again on the present, he noticed Sora, looking at him with concerned frown.

"Are you okay? You zoned out for a bit there."

"I'm fine. I just remembered something that happened. But why would they want the Keyblade?"

Sora considered his question, before coming up with the simplest explanation.

"The Keyblade isn't the only reason they look for you. The Heartless swarm every world they find, taking the hearts of anyone they meet. The stronger the heart, the more they want it. And only the strongest of hearts can use the Keyblade."

"Every world has its own heart, and if the Heartless get to it... you've seen what happens. The Keyblades can lock away the hearts and keep the world safe from the Heartless. It's the only way to stop them."

Any further questions Thorn had were cut short as the lights above them flickered and dimmed. The hubbub of all the visitors died down as everyone wondered what was going on, before some began screaming in panic. Donald and Goofy were seen running towards them in the faint light as the shadows grew behind them.

"Sora! I think we might have a problem," Goofy exclaimed as he detached a large circular shield hanging from his back. Donald pulled out an impressive staff decorated with runes. Sora and Thorn readied their weapons as the shadows solidified into the creatures Thorn remembered fighting before. Thorn held his Keyblade tightly as the Heartless closed in on the four heroes. The deformed mass of monsters pulsed with an unseen need to feed, writhing and crawling around them, before rushing in for the kill.

Thorn swung his weapon at the nearest Heartless, and saw the Keyblade cut deeply into anything its razor edge came into contact with. The monster was sliced in two from its bug-like head down to its feet, and disappeared in a puff of intangible smoke, fading away into the air. Thorn heard his new friends hold their ground as a large part of the group focused its attention on him.

Five of the small twisted creatures rushed him all at once, hoping to overwhelm him. Time seemed to pass slowly for him as they neared, and the Keyblade came alive in his hands. He moved without thought, reacting only on instinct as they closed in on him. The monster to his left lost its head and the creature beside it was chopped in two as the blade passed through it. He avoided the sharp claws of the three remaining creatures as they lunged towards him. He managed to slip between them and, in their confusion, cut again, leaving one critter on either side of him. Now there were two.

Seizing the initiative, Thorn whirled to his right, slicing the beast as it jumped towards him. He blocked a weak swipe from his left, using his momentum to turn his sword around and hack off the offender's arms. He watched the final Heartless staring silently at the cut on its arm. The injury quickly spread like an infection until the creature vanished in a puff of smoke like the others. As the final monster disappeared, Thorn felt his surroundings come back to him in a heady rush.

Sora and the others were busy with a pack of Heartless by the ship's windows. His actions had cleared the immediate threat before him, but now more Heartless were spilling out onto the street from a dark passage. In a few minutes they'd swarm the others until, exhausted from fighting, they'd be too tired to put up a fight.

Thorn ran towards the group, trying to catch their attention as he moved.

"Hey! I'm over here," he yelled, as the group turned away from their unsuspecting prey. He ducked into the nearby alley, and the Heartless quickly followed. The corridor twisted this way and that, getting more and more narrow as he led the creatures away from the street. His Keyblade stopped the first one to catch up to him, and as he backed away from the mass of creatures, he felt his tail bump into the wall behind. He looked away from the danger in front of him to see his foolish mistake. The alley was a dead end.

During his momentary distraction, the horde of angry monsters had caught up to him. There were too many for him to count this time. As they closed in, Thorn flapped his wings, trying to fly above. His hopes died when he realized the alley was too narrow for his wings to extend. He gripped the Keyblade tightly, and hoped the others had been luckier than him.

As the Heartless closed in around him, a bright purple light emanated from around his body as he closed his eyes. Moments before the black monsters enveloped him, he felt a light tug on his body. When his eyes opened, he was staring at a wide-eyed purple pony. Her flank had a mark shaped like a trio of beautiful purple mystical stars.


"It's alright, you're safe now," the pony reassured him. "I happened to see you being chased by those despicable creatures, and teleported you out of there." Thorn looked around and saw they were indeed safe. He was lying above the alleyway he had been cornered in, overlooking an empty street.

"My name is Twilight. It is an honor to meet you," she continued with a respectful deference to him, for some unknown reason. He'd never seen her before.

"Are you working with Princess Celestia? I didn't know she had an apprentice apart from myself. I suppose I wasn't that special the last time she saw me." Thorn looked at her in confusion as he pulled himself upright. Twilight missed his questioning gaze, opting instead to walk down the nearby steps to the wide paved street. Why did she think he was working with this Celestia?

"Why do you think I know this Princess?" He wondered aloud, as he followed Twilight. She rounded on him quickly, pushing her hoof towards his wings and horn.

"Because you're an Alicorn, of course! She must have hidden you from everypony so she could prepare you to rule Equestria in her stead." Twilight angrily turned away, pacing before him as she went on with whatever she was talking about.

"And if you were going to rule after she got bored of listening to everypony's problems, then I would never get to be in charge of anything! Even worse, I can only conclude that she would send me away through the door as an ambassador of some sort to other worlds!" a small, noticeable aura of darkness began growing around her body as she continued her talking.

"How dare she think that I am weaker than you, or anypony! I only ever wanted to help her, and she decides that she doesn't even need me! Well guess what? I'll prove just how powerful I am when I save Equestria without her!" Twilight shouted as she stared down at her hooves. Darkness was slowly gathering around them, and it scared Thorn more than the creatures that had attacked him. He grabbed her before she could continue, hoping to deny her insane conjectures.

"Twilight! I don't know her. I don't even remember how I got here to begin with! Calm down," he pleaded as Twilight huffed in a rage beside him. As his words slowly calmed her, he heard a loud stomp behind him. He was afraid of what he would see as he heard the sound again. It was slowly getting closer and louder. He chanced a peek over his shoulder as the noise stopped.

An enormous monster was standing by the steps they had walked down only moments before. It stood tall on its hind legs, towering above the unfortunate ponies standing before it. More and more Heartless spilled from the shadows to gather around the creature, until the shadows themselves seemed empty. The new monster had steadily grown to the size of a street building. Only two bright yellow eyes could be seen below the protective helm it wore. Its body rippled in waves as an opal cannon formed around the alien's right arm. A black light gathered around the end as it was pointed at them.

"Watch out!" Thorn exclaimed, jumping in front of Twilight as the cannon went off. It arced towards them, before colliding with Thorn's Keyblade. Thorn felt the sheer power of it blast him back into Twilight, who pushed him off her quickly. Her horn shone a deep purple, and shot a pale beam of light towards the monster. It smashed into the creature's face, only to create a small crack from the forehead down towards its neck.

"I'm too far away to do any damage," Twilight warned as the alien cannon went off again, narrowly missing both of them. "Distract it so I can teleport closer!"

"All right," Thorn agreed. He braced himself in front of Twilight as the monster roared in anger, and the cannon charged even longer this time. As it fired, Twilight saw her chance. Teleporting above her target, she aimed her horn at the crack created before, and sent out a deep black wave of light that resonated with her Element.

The creature's head crumbled under her dark magical attack, and toppled over, defeated. It was silent for a short time, until the body began to hum. The crippled head slumped forward, revealing a shining heart hiding underneath. The heart slowly floated free, escaping the confines of its original host. After losing the source of its power, the body began to fade. She lost sight of it when she looked back towards Thorn, expecting to see him admiring her undeniable power.

He was lying face down on the ground, completely still.

He was having another vision just like before. "Here," he looked down through a blue haze, and saw the sparkling ruby in his hoof. "This jewel belongs to you now."

"Where... did you get that?" Thorn opened his eyes. Twilight was staring at his chest. He moved a hoof towards it, and felt the reassuring weight of his keepsake.

"That's the second time somepony's asked me that today," he mused aloud as Twilight stared dangerously at him, waiting for an answer.

"I think it's mine. A... friend gave it to me before the Heartless appeared. I don't remember what happened before I ended up here, or even who I am," he quietly explained. He looked around for the monster while Twilight stood there solemnly.

"I'm glad that's over," Thorn said as he caught his breath. He saw Sora, Donald and Goofy making their way over to them from the end of the street. They quickly ran over to him when they saw the rapidly decaying body. It had almost been completely reduced to shadow.

"Remember who you are," Twilight finally spoke, surprising Thorn. She walked down the street in the opposite direction of the new spectators, before turning the corner without another word. He got up to follow her, but was stopped by the arrival of Sora and his friends.

"Hey, Thorn! You're okay!" Goofy happily exclaimed as he passed what was left of the giant Heartless.

"That looked like a tough fight," Sora added approvingly. "You should totally come along with us. We've got this awesome rocket!" Donald nodded along, before actually hearing what Sora had said.

"No! He can't come with us," Donald spluttered. "We have to find the King!"

"But Donald, you saw that thing," Sora argued as he rounded on the duck. "We could use another fighter like that. I thought I saw two ponies though..."

"It's fine," Thorn reassured him. He glanced over towards where Twilight had disappeared.

"I think I found someone who can help me." Sora looked over to where Thorn was looking, and remembered the pony he had seen with him before.

"Well... good luck then," Sora finally answered, smiling as he did so. "Maybe we'll see each other out there."

"Come on, Sora!" Donald shouted. Sora nodded one more time to Thorn, before running to catch up with Donald and Goofy.

As soon as they had left, Thorn moved towards the corner Twilight had vanished around. The soft clack of his hooves echoing off the barren walls was the only thing staving off the silence. As he reached the corner, he poked his head around, hoping to see where the pony had gone. He only found a mystery.

The street ended abruptly, tapering towards a mysterious white door. Thorn looked around, hoping to see Twilight standing on one of the roofs above him. He found nothing. He quietly trotted over to the only option left to him. He pushed open the door with his hoof, hopeful that more connections to his past were on the other side.

The two ponies hovered above the magical stone table, their triumph over the Heartless on display for the malevolent watchers.

"There's two of 'em! Twice the fun!" A shadow cackled with mad glee.

"The Keyblade is indeed powerful," a smug voice came from a man with a green eye. "But I believe I know a dog more powerful than both of them combined."

"Who shall we send after him, then? Kronk would not fail," an old woman's voice replied.

"Methinks the boy will be more than a nuisance," an eight-legged creature spoke from above them.

"Enough! Our leader has already said she will handle the purple one," the first voice chuckled. "Let's just let the witch deal with them."

"Fine. And remind her to watch out for flying houses too."

Creeping Shadows

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Jack and the four ponies journeyed in the direction Demongo had fled in his hasty retreat. Their path led them down to the rocky terrain, and it wasn't long before they lost sight of Star Swirl's meager house on the cliff. The earth itself seemed to fight their advance, the way forward twisting this way and that, but they quickly broke free of the crushing walls.

Finally escaping the maze of rock behind them, an ominous mountain was in sight by the edge of the canyon. Only a small barren plain separated them from their destination. Jack and the ponies were happy to be free of the quieting area behind them, and leisurely made their way to their true target.

The land itself seemed to gradually darken and become more sinister. The ground was pitch black in some areas, and the group carefully avoided what they could. As they made their way through the empty plains, even the dirt faded to a lifeless grey, and the air was still, devoid of any sign of life. Fluttershy was slowly becoming more and more apprehensive. Pinkie Pie picked up on her friends unease, and searched her mind for something to pass the time.

"So-oooo, Jack, was it? What's your story?" Pinkie Pie asked, focusing on the new member of their expedition.

Jack distractedly slid a hand down to the hilt of his magical sword, remembering the events that had brought him to this point in time. He looked ahead for a time, watching for any alien movement, before finally speaking as if in a trance.

"I... I am not from this time," he solemnly announced. The ponies stared at him in awe as he began his tale.

"Aku was a great evil plaguing my father's kingdom. His great army of evil swept across the land like a plague, and the shadows themselves spread his nefarious lies. With the help of this sword given to him by the gods themselves, my father drove back Aku's armies until there was peace once again."

"What happened next?" Rainbow Dash demanded as he paused. Fluttershy slowly forgot the terrors around them as Jack continued his life's story.

"After I was born, Aku wormed his way back into the kingdom by shape-shifting. He captured my father and renewed his reign of terror. I spent years practicing with the sword before going out to finish what my father had started." He balled his hand into a tight fist as he recounted the intense battle.

"With my father's magical sword I was able to defeat Aku, but before I could end his tyranny, he used something I had never seen or heard of before. Somehow, he used a spell to send me forward in time. Without me to stop him, he created his perfect world." He looked up, surprised they had almost reached their destination.

"Aku had destroyed my father's kingdom. Then he had gathered many minions together in preparation for the day I would return." He thought back to his latest encounter with his henchmen.

"Thankfully, Demongo was the last of them. With your help, Aku should fall quickly."

"Ah dunno, Jack," Applejack said. "Ah'm not used to this here Element yet."

The brave heroes had finally found the entrance to Aku's volcanic lair. A silence came over the group as they saw it. Etched in stone, the gate towered above them all, standing six ponies high, and ten across. Two large hoops were placed on either side of the solid barrier.

Applejack ran a hoof over the worn jagged edges, and felt a sense of apprehension wash over her. She didn't want the others to know, but she suddenly wondered if they were all going to get out of this alive.

"Applejack," Fluttershy whispered. The pony turned to look at her friend as she heard her name.

"Will we be okay in there?" Her apprehension spiked at her question. She was right. This was reckless. But they had no choice.

"We'll be fine, sugar-cube," Applejack comforted her worried friend with a hoof on her shoulder. "Trust me." Fluttershy quietly stared at her. She smiled reassuringly.

"Pinkie promise?" She nodded, going through the motions. Fluttershy felt much better from the simple gesture.

Applejack always kept her promises.

Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were busy examining the door with Jack, wondering how they would get inside. Rainbow Dash was pushing as hard as she could on the heavy doors without success. Pinkie Pie bounced around her shouting words of encouragement.

"Any minute now! I'm sure you can do it!" She said, while Jack stared down at the ground. He knelt to touch the groove cut deep into the floor in a circular arc.

"It won't budge," Rainbow Dash exclaimed as she slumped down, taking a rest away from the door. "What now? Is there another way in?" She moved closer to the door, hoping to find some secret lever like the ones in her favorite books.

Jack gripped one of the knockers, and lightly pulled.The gate opened quickly under his efforts. A rush of hot air blew towards Jack as he pulled, and he felt a quiet whisper of maniacal laughter from deep within.

"Guys! It's open!" Pinkie Pie shouted, bouncing excitedly.

"Something's happening," Jack murmured as the gate shuddered. The ponies watched as shadows began cascading out from the blackened walls around the gate. The darkness fell to the ground in small clumps, before slowly coalescing together. The nearest puddle grew to Jack's height before a distinct outline was formed.

The monster was impossible to see, hidden behind a wall of jagged armor. A rugged helmet in the shape of a roaring flame shielded its head, and long jagged spikes adorned the thick suit. It held a thick broadsword as wide as Applejack's leg, and looked ready to be used by its owner.

"Inside. Now!" Jack barked out as he knocked away a heavy swing from the creature. The ponies rushed inside as more of the new monsters emerged from the ground. Jack jumped back, barely avoiding the edge of his adversary's weapon, landing inside the brightly lit tunnel.

The Heartless made no move to follow him. Instead of pursuing him, it only walked away from the opening, and out of sight. Rainbow Dash could still see more of them standing outside, waiting. It was as if they were only keeping them from escaping.

"Come on, guys," she said, motioning down the tunnel. "We're here for Aku, right?"

The group followed closely behind Rainbow Dash as she led the way, apart from a curious pony. As Fluttershy looked back towards the inviting exit, she saw the monsters silently standing there. She could feel its evil eyes boring into her, before it let out a wheezing sound that eerily reminded her of laughter. The doors slowly closed as it stood there, reveling in their inevitable demise, until the gate closed with a resounding snap, sealing behind the group. Fluttershy whimpered before running to catch up to her friends.

When she found them again, they were standing some way down the sparsely lit tunnel. They were gathered around something, but Fluttershy couldn't see what it was. As she neared them, Pinkie Pie turned to with a large grin plastered across her face.

"Fluttershy! I made another friend," she said as she grabbed hold of Fluttershy. She was dragged forward forcefully until this new friend was only steps away from her. "Hey, new buddy! meet Fluttershy!"

A short old hermit stood weakly in front of her. Fluttershy couldn't hold back a yelp of fright as she saw him. His shadow was enormous in the dimly lit cave. She had the strangest feeling that the shadow itself had eyes and was watching her as the hermit spoke.

"Nice to meet you, friend of Pinkie Pie," he muttered as the ponies stared at him with wide-eyed gazes. Only Jack was ignoring the hermit, opting instead to watch carefully for any more of the Heartless they had run into.

"Now. I can lead you to Aku if you'd like." Jack turned away from the unexplored tunnel as he heard the generous offer.

"Really? That's awesome! Take us there right away," Rainbow Dash exclaimed, as the others quickly agreed with her. Only Fluttershy was unsure about the hermit's true intentions.

"Wait." The group stopped their celebrations as she spoke. They were giving her confused looks, but Fluttershy only had eyes for the mysterious hermit. Something about his offer seemed false, but she didn't know why.

"Umm, how did you get in here?" She quietly asked. The hermit wave a hand dismissively at her, as if the question were only to sate her curiosity.

"That's simple," he replied carefully. "I got trapped in here just like you, by those big evil ninjas. I've been stuck down here for ages with no way out. I'm nowhere near as strong as you, so I couldn't fight them either." He quickly made his way down the spooky tunnel, away from his interrogator's questioning eyes.

"See, Fluttershy? Nothing sinister about a hermit who shows up to help us. After all, we're on adventure!" Rainbow Dash said, her doubts eased by the hermit's simple explanation.

"Aku will be waiting at the end of this tunnel. Now do you want to get out of here of not? I don't know how much longer could go without seeing my family. I went on a long journey myself, but I was just on my way back to them when I got trapped in here." They followed the deceptively fast hermit, unaware of Fluttershy's worried glances at the shadow dancing across the walls as they went.

Fluttershy slowly went over his explanation in her head, wondering what seemed so wrong about it. As the tunnel opened up into a deep cavern, a thought raced through her mind.

How did he know we were attacked?

"Ah," the hermit said as he walked forwards toward some unseen spot the others couldn't see. "We're here." Fluttershy heard the others gasp in amazement at where they were.

They had emerged at the bottom of the volcano. High above them they see the ridge of the mountain they were under, sheltering them from the sun. No light shone down on them, and Fluttershy noticed the only source of light cascading from below the wide path they were on. She curiously made to the edge of the walkway formed by one smooth wavy rock, and jumped back in fright.

The volcano was still active. She could see magma flowing far below her in a slow whirlpool around the tall mountain of cooled down lava they were standing upon. Fluttershy could feel the roaring heat from even this distance, and moved back to the group. Her feelings of security faded with the discovery of the source of meager light.

"Spread out, you guys," Rainbow Dash ordered her friends as she walked towards the only thing in the room.

Her attention had been spiked by the familiar door standing in the middle of the cavern. It looked exactly like the door they had passed through. She laid her hoof on the handle, but thought better of opening the door. They could see what was on the other side after they had dealt with Aku.

The hermit sidled up to Applejack as the ponies began looking for Aku. Only Jack had not moved. He was staring at the shadow creeping up on Applejack in fascination.

"So, Aku should be somewhere around 'ere, right?" Applejack asked the smiling hermit.

"Oh, I'm sure he's right beside you," he chuckled menacingly. Jack finally recognized what the old hermit's shadow looked like as the light from the magma cast it onto the wall behind him.


"Applejack! Get away from him!" Jack shouted as the other ponies whirled around.

"He's Aku!"

"What in the hay? Why do you think-" As Applejack turned around, the innocent old man grab her, holding her high above his head. He let out an evil laugh as the others rushed towards him. She felt his hands shift into menacing claws that dug painfully into her legs as he shifted into his true form.

"This could not have been easier, Jack," Aku taunted his archenemy. Jack and the ponies quickly rushed over to Aku, and Rainbow Dash flew toward him, hoping to free Applejack from his deadly grip. Aku watched her as she dove towards him, chuckling as she closed in on him.

As Rainbow Dash neared Aku, he opened his mouth and roared. Black fire with deadly green edges spat out at the unsuspecting pegasus. The rainbow pony swiftly dropped towards the ground, avoiding the brunt of the attack. A few stray flames slammed into her body, throwing her in the direction of Fluttershy and the others. She fell to the ground and lay there, unmoving. Pinkie Pie and Jack jumped in front of Aku as Fluttershy knelt to check on the weary pony.

"Don't worry about me," Rainbow Dash muttered, wincing as she felt her singed wings grow back under the healer's tender care. "Save Applejack!"

"Fooling you has always been a pleasure!" Aku roared as he towered over Pinkie Pie and Jack. He savagely kicked at Pinkie Pie and she hopped around him, trying to somehow reach her captured friend.


She was launched backwards by the force he had put into his kick, landing beside the other ponies. Finally, only Jack stood against him.

"The darkness has made me more powerful than you can possibly imagine!" Aku gloated. Applejack let out a painful cry as his razor sharp claws clenched tightly around her. Jack swung his sword quickly as he saw an opening, dodging Aku's quickly aimed burst of fire. His sword sunk into the nearest leg, leaving a noticeable scar as he pulled away. Aku let out a grunt, mollified by the injury.

"Your father's magic sword is still a hassle, Samurai Jack," he said as he lowered his arms from above him. He grinned mischievously at Applejack.

"It looks like I must require the use of my hands to deal with you, after all. You shall receive my full attention as I finish what your father started."

He threw Applejack with his formidable strength over his shoulder. All eyes were on Applejack as she soared through the air, bouncing along the tough ground, until there was no where to go but down. Aku reveled in the ponies' screams as she plummeted over the edge. One voice was louder than the others.

"No!" Fluttershy cried as Applejack disappeared from sight.

"You promised me! You Pinkie promised me!" she shouted to the spot her friend had fallen. Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash could only stare in shock to where Applejack had been thrown down towards the deadly lava below.

She couldn't, she thought desperately. Not Applejack.

Aku only laughed at that terror running through her eyes. He held up a claw to his misshapen ear as they lay still, hoping against all hope that she had survived. They heard a quiet sound echo up from far below, and Fluttershy quickly devolved into tears. Her two remaining friends exchanged helpless glances before looking at Jack.

He shook his head slowly. Nothing could be said to comfort the yellow pony. Only time would help her now.

Jack ran towards Aku in the hopes of avenging his fallen comrade. Aku stood there patiently, laughing maniacally as his victory was almost at hand. He pulled his arm back in preparation for the solitary soldier.

"So this is how you end, Samurai Jack," he laughed as his sworn enemy closed in on him.

"Not so fast!" A voice boomed out from behind him. He felt a a rope wrap around his outstretched arm and tighten until it dug painfully into his shadowy form.

"Ah don't think ah'll just let you do as you like." The familiar voice confidently spoke out as Aku frantically clawed at the lasso that had ensnared his arm. No matter how hard he pulled, the rope wouldn't snap or unravel.

"Hurry Jack, ah can't hold him forever," Applejack spoke through clenched teeth. Aku was trying to wrench her lasso out of her hooves. She flapped her wings in an effort to keep the rope from escaping in a tug of war.

Wings? She remembered a flash of light and flying away from the lava, but what happened? She examined her Element. The chain had stretched to exactly the length she had needed to catch Aku's hand. Her hooves were clasped tightly around the grooves in the hilt giving her extra leverage in her efforts to hold Aku.

"Applejack. Focus!" Jack shouted as Aku's efforts to wrest his arm free proved somewhat successful, slowly swinging the captured arm at Jack to keep him at bay as he pulled on the unbreakable chain.

"Right! Mah bad."

Jack still had difficulty getting close enough to deal a crippling blow between the blasts of fire and swaying limbs. An idea popped into his head as he saw Aku's arm straining against the chain bound around it. He only needed an opening. He asked for her help again, as he maneuvered close enough for one more chance.

"Can you stop his arms again?"

"Ah'm on it!" Applejack yelled. She tugged sharply on her Element with the help of her new wings. Aku's arm noticeably bulged as he fought for the use of his arm. Applejack felt a slight ripple along the chain, and gave it her all.

Her horn glowed a dazzling orange as her Element responded in kind. The chain shone bright orange as she pulled as hard as she could. Applejack shouted as she felt Aku topple over in her direction, felled by her efforts.


Jack jumped at her signal. Sword in hand, he landed on Aku's chest and stabbed his weapon downwards as hard as he could, yelling at the top of his lungs.

"For my world!"

The sword plunged deep into Aku's chest, only stopping when the entire length of the blade was buried. Aku wheezed as Jack pulled it out, and tried to cover his wound with a shaking claw. Jack watched in fascination as the wound slowly spread along his body, leaving his face unharmed for now.

Aku coughed as the wound on his body broke down any part of him it came into contact with. He smiled at Jack as he mocked him one last time.

"Enjoy your 'beautiful' world, Samurai Jack," he spat as the wound finished its work on his body, and began eating away at his head.

"And may you never find your own time."

With that last taunt on his lips, Aku finally faded away. Only his last laugh remained, quietly echoing around the silent cavern. Jack stood there quietly considering the villain's final words, as the long quest he had been on for most of his adult life was at last over.

Applejack ran over to the other ponies, happy to see Fluttershy had healed most of their wounds. Only scratches and scrapes remained where there were broken ribs and bruises.

"Sorry about the scare," Applejack said in apology to her friends. "But ah knew Pinkie would haunt me forever if ah broke a Pinkie promise."

"That was awesome!" Rainbow Dash shouted. Applejack only chuckled before she felt her friend poking at her wings. "And how did you suddenly get wings AND a horn? My wings are only a little bit bigger!"

"Ah don't know," Applejack replied, confused. "Ah just remember falling towards the lava, and -- whoa, Nelly!"

She felt her head swim as she stood there, to be caught by Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. They carefully lowered her to the ground as the room spun around her. The ponies shielded their eyes as her Element went haywire, glowing too brightly for them to look at directly.

The light slowly faded, leaving a regular wingless, hornless Applejack below them. She tried to pull herself up on shaky hooves, but fell back down in exhaustion.

"Oof. Ah'm a little tuckered out all of a sudden." Pinkie Pie bounced up and down excitedly beside her.

"That's alright!" she said. "We're happy just to have you back to normal." Jack walked over to the ponies, quietly contemplating the ground.

"Hey, Jack," Pinkie Pie greeted him. "What are you going to do now that Aku is gone?"

"... He's not gone," Jack slowly muttered. The ponies all stared at him, confused by his words. Hadn't he just finished Aku himself? He saw their bewildered looks as he distractedly traced a hand along the edge of his sword.

"He sent me forwards in time, remember? I still need to find a way to get back there and end him there." He smiled at them reassuringly as their triumphant smiles faded.

"But today is still a good day." He gave each of them a long look, before bowing to them.

"Thank you for your help." Pinkie Pie jumped in before he could say another word.

"No problem! We'd love to help you again, of course! That's what friends are for!"

"Yeah," Applejack readily agreed. She pointed to the door that stood undisturbed, out of the way of their fighting.

"That's our way out of here. Ah don't suppose you could see us off?" The samurai chuckled.

"It would be my honor."

He helped up Applejack, and the group slowly made their way to the entrance of another world. As they arrived at the door, Fluttershy laid a hoof on the door handle.

"Everypony ready?" she asked. The ponies nodded their heads as Jack stood back, watching with interest the light that streamed from the doorway.

"On to the next adventure!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed, before pushing them all through the door.

The results of the ponies' latest triumph was projected onto the familiar stone table. Only two dark figures stood beside it, watching as events unfolded.

"Hmph. That big oaf was too arrogant to begin with. I'm not surprised he lost." A blue pony stood at the table, closely watching them defeat Aku.

"They'll be in for a surprise if they think they can beat the great and-"

"Enough, my apprentice." The second voice lashed across the table, as the first cowered in fear.

"I-I did not mean any-"

"And I do not care. You are too weak to fight them directly," the second voice interrupted. It was quiet as the figures watched Applejack transform.

"You will send them after the witch. They are not ready." The figure pointed towards Applejack. "But take her if you see the opportunity."