Pony Horror Anthology

by LoreLove

First published

A collection of short horror stories featuring ponies you may or may not know well. See what encounters each one experiences. Can they handle the fear?

Deep in Equestria resides plenty of the unknown. Things and beings ponies could barely fathom to think of. Journey with them to discover hidden horrors and mind-breaking madness. Will a pony be able to handle the fear? The crushing anxiety? There's only one way to find out. Curiosity begs to be sated with this collection of tales.

Cover image by: Duop-qoub

A Voice in the Night

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The planning for the trip had been set in motion weeks ahead before setting out. Applejack was thankful that Rainbow Dash and Rarity seemed more inclined to have plans ready instead of making it spur of the moment. It certainly helped with whatever Rarity was wanting to drag along and make her decisions a bit more final.

If it would be anything like the last trip, they could probably find a nice spot relatively easy. Applejack enjoyed spending time with her little sister, probably as much as Rarity did with Sweetie Belle and Dash with Scootaloo. It was a great feeling bringing family together and just making it a girl’s night out in the woods. Roughing it and just being able to gossip freely or tell stories. Oh, the stories Applejack had ready to tell!

While in Ponyville, she had decided to stop by Rarity’s boutique to ask if she had things ready. Of course, the seamstress was rather busy as usual but did seem to have a bit of a skip in her step. Every trot carried her gracefully around while she spoke and worked on her outfits.

“Oh yes! I haven’t been able to stop thinking of the trip!” she exclaimed with a slightly forced smile.

“Uh-huh,” Applejack replied simply and eyed Sweetie Belle giggling quietly. The filly probably hadn’t let up on reminding her older sister all about it every day.

“Don’t you worry! We’ll be ready to set out be the evening!” Rarity said while giving an affirmative nod.

“Well, all right. Just don’t go dilly dallying when Dash and I are ready,” the orange pony remarked before giving a coy grin. It was always fun to give the seamstress pony a tease to urge her along.

There shouldn’t be nearly as much for Rarity to do since the Canterlot wedding had happened not long ago. Everything went smoothly and all the dresses made were amazing. How she did it, Applejack couldn’t say. Although, she did admire the hard work plenty.

Upon leaving the boutique, there was little else to do other than wait. Rainbow Dash would be ready quicker than any of them and Scootaloo not far behind. Apple Bloom was packing her own things while Applejack had gone to remind Rarity not to hold them up. It did seem like things were all set and only time was the last factor. Nothing wrong with taking a moment to relax and stroll around.

Applejack found the fact she didn’t have to worry about bucking apples or tending to the farm for the next couple of days rather rewarding. Nopony to remind her when it was her shift to start on what side of the farm. No deadline looming over her head. She could just walk around Ponyville for the next couple of hours before heading home to give Apple Bloom the okay.

She knew Dash would be around before then which would give Apple Bloom another filly to talk to with and hang out with. Perhaps her little sister was already hanging out with Scootaloo at their clubhouse. It wouldn’t surprise her and it would honestly be nice not to have Apple Bloom rechecking their gear as Twilight has taught. Applejack was a bit stubborn in that sense, knowing they had what they needed and there was no sense in constantly looking it over again and again.

As she was walking, the country pony passed by the flower stand to see Roseluck and Lilly Valley selling their bouquets. As much as she wasn’t for the prettier side of things, those mares did know how to set up their stand to draw attention. It was something to be admired and possibly take notes on for her next cider sale.

“Hello, Applejack!” Roseluck called, waving a hoof.

“Howdy,” Applejack replied with a nod, walking over and giving the display a closer look.

“Did you have a special somepony you wanted to buy some flowers for?” Lily inquired with a playful bat of her eyelashes.

The ponies all giggled and laughed before AJ shook her head. “Nah, I ain’t got somepony like that yet. I was just admiring your stand while I wait for Rare to get ready.”

“Oh! What’s she getting ready for?” the rose-maned pony asked as she began carefully making another bouquet.

“We’re just going camping for a few days. Kind of a small tradition we wanted to keep going. Dash is coming along with us and the fillies. Going to be a great time!” AJ explained as she nodded.

“That sounds quite relaxing. I wish I could handle camping a bit better though,” Lily said as her eyes drifted down, embarrassed.

“Well, ain’t nothin’ wrong with it not being your thing,” admitted Applejack.

They agreed and continued on before the familiar zip and wind of a speedy, blue pegasus went by. The two flower ponies both gasped and ducked, flowers nearly blowing every which way before the blue streak came back. In a flash, things were set back down and as close to in place as they were before.

“Heh, sorry about that,” Rainbow apologized, hovering in the air and dusting a stray tulip from one of pony’s manes.

“Golly, Dash. Ya late for something?” Applejack asked, holding her hat with a hoof still firmly on her head.

“I’m just so excited! Why can’t we go early?” Dash said as she began spinning in the air, clearly having too much energy to sit still.

“Rarity still has work to do and will meet us before the trail. I told her a couple weeks ago we won’t be waiting on her more than that. Sweetie Belle seems to have been reminding her as well,” the orange pony told her while helping the flower mares adjust some of their display.

The two talked for a while about what plans there were and who was going to have the most boring story. Dash seemed to like making most things a competition when there wasn’t one but it felt nice to humor her. Applejack didn’t see a reason not to egg her on. Perhaps she might come up with something that wasn’t about her for once.

Time passed slowly as they left the stand and began to head back to Sweet Apple Acres. According to Dash, Scootaloo did indeed meet up with little Bloom and they were having their own exciting plans being concocted in the clubhouse. Probably stories they were going to share or try to spook the grown ponies with. The thought made AJ smile a bit.

As they waited and talked, Dash kept up her boasting while claiming she had the best scary story to tell. It was a bit doubtful considering her past attempts at telling some though she seemed quite sure of herself. If it was anywhere near as good as the pegasus kept trying to claim then maybe AJ could get a fun scare out of it too. Nothing wrong with having a spooky tale to make you get a shiver or two.

“I looked it up while trying to find some fun campfire stories in Twi’s library,” the winged pony announced.

The sudden fact made AJ stop in her tracks before looking up to her floating friend. It was one thing for Dash to hear the story herself but entirely another to go reading for them. Other than Daring Do, it was hard to picture the energetic pony interested in reading too much else.

“You don’t say?” the earth pony mentioned, raising a brow.

“Oh, don’t give me that look! I read!” Dash frowned and crossed her forelegs in front of her.

“Yeah, Daring Do. I didn’t take you one for them campfire stories to read but rather hear and tell,” Applejack explained before continuing to move with her.

“I wanted something good and figured Twi might have something I could use. I already told all my other good stories so I needed ideas,” the pegasus told as she flew lazy circles above her friend.

“All right, all right. I can see you’re as excited as Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle over this trip,” AJ said with a snicker. “I guess Rare and I will be the only mature ones to watch the camp.”

Dash nearly gave a nod before she understood what was implied. Other than a simple ‘HEY’ that was called out, the two laughed and made their way along the path to the farm. It was nice to have a friend to joke with and just relax around. A pony AJ could simply rest her hooves around and not worry about things.

Once they got to the house, the few bags that Dash and Scootaloo had brought along were sitting near the front door. They looked perfectly fine with just the necessities for a few days out and probably a couple other items. It was clear that Dash was eager for the camping trip considering how closely she listened to packing only what she needed, and any spare room and what she could carry was free to her use.

The two ponies kept up their talk about various subjects and jokes for an hour until they noticed the time. It did seem to pass by rather quick when Applejack had somepony else to talk to. They gathered up their items and bags before heading to the clubhouse and calling the fillies. The two giggling fillies hopped out and down as they hurried over while talking a million miles an hour.

The plan was to meet Rarity at the trail start rather than go back into Ponyville and then back out again. Saved them all some time. It would take them all only a bit to reach it so they could wait for the other two until time was up.

Lucky for them, Rarity and Sweetie Belle just came around the bend when they had all sat down to rest their legs for the hike. There was no waiting and, for once, Rarity had packed only a quarter of what she usually did. It was an impressive feat and AJ had to congratulate her on it.

“Thank you, dear. It was a bit troublesome figuring out what to and what not to bring,” the unicorn had said while looking at her bags.

“I’m sure it’s all you need,” Applejack said, hoping to not give her second thoughts.

The fillies rejoiced and hopped around while giggling and squeaking. It filled AJ’s heart with glee seeing her little sister getting so happy for something like their trip and even getting to spend it with her close friends. The girls did their filly gossip before hurrying up to get the hike to the campsite started.

Applejack figured it would be closing in on an hour before they made it to their original spot. It would be a slow hike through the woods but they all knew it would be worth it. So began the light hike into the area as they started on their way.


As expected, it did take them the greater part of an hour before finding at least close to their original camping spot. It wasn’t the exact same but it was good enough for sure. They all had agreed it would certainly make do and knew Celestia only had a bit of daylight left to give. Couldn’t find a better time and place to rest.

Tents were pitched as rocks and wood were gathered. From the simple to the extravagant, the tents were all different. Dash had her own cutie mark sewn a bit crudely into the top of hers. Rarity had such special frills and bright colors all over her own tent, decorating it completely. AJ seemed more on the simple side of things with just a plain tent to rest her head in.

While Dash was getting the firewood, the fillies seemed eager to help get rocks as Rarity spruced up the area a little. Even a pea would be too much for her to lay on. The fillies had come trotting back and forth with rocks held in their muzzles or floating outstretched to Applejack. The campfire had a secure area to set up and soon after came the wood to start it.

Rarity had brought along a small book of recipes for outdoor cooking and took it upon herself to make the first meal for them. It was nice to see her take a bit of initiative. Probably ever since last time she wanted to show she wouldn’t be a burden to her sister or the others.

Once the fire got started and roaring, night had come and the sky above the treetops had been poked in its black veil to let the stars shine through. A small stew was cooking over the fire as they waited and sat on some logs Dash had managed to bring over. When the bag of marshmallows came out, the light jokes directed at Rarity came and she giggled them off casually. AJ could only guess she had got used to it.

Sticks with the treats held out near the fire were their snack before the meal. They talked about their days of training, work, and all the things between. Catching up between various crises happening in Equestria was hard to plan but it paid off well enough. Every second was an enjoyable experience for them.

The stew turned out incredibly tasty. They all helped themselves to seconds and a couple even got thirds before the pot was empty. If that didn’t give them something great to help them sleep then Applejack wouldn’t know what could. The only thing to make it better would have been some cornbread if she had brought any along.

The night grew darker the further it went. It seemed as if no signs of life were around at times other than them. They had heard birds and other critters before but maybe they scared them away a little with how loud they got from time to time. Whatever the reason, the country pony saw no reason to think long on it.

“Okay, guys!” Dash spoke up after resting off her food, “Time for some stories!”

All the fillies clopped their little hooves in excitement and cheered. Rarity gave a light sigh and eye roll but smiled. She seemed far more complacent about her outing this time around. The crackling of the fire even sounded like it approved.

“Can I go first?!” Scootaloo asked, one of her hooves waving in the air as if in school trying to be called on.

“Heh, alright then, Scoots. Show us what you got. Anything scary?” Dash asked, settling down and listening.

It was a story of a pony who checked into some hotel and told to avoid a room near their own. At first, it seemed a little strange with how they had been told not to spy on the occupants in the room through the keyhole but the pony did. They saw a pony with a pure white coat sitting on the bed and facing away the first couple nights.

On the third night, they looked through and only saw red in place. Figuring they had put up a sign on other side or something, the pony went to bed. Upon checking out, the hotel clerk asked if he had looked in the keyhole. When he gave his honest answer, the clerk sighed and told him a tragedy had struck in that room but the details are hazy at best. The only detail she could remember was what they looked like.

“They were a pure white pony but had red eyes,” Scootaloo ended her tale.

“Whoa!” Dash said as she was clearly amazed at the disturbing story the filly had. “Where did you hear that one?”

“I can’t remember. Just been kind of saving it for a time like now,” the filly pegasus replied and smiled up at her blue guardian.

Applejack felt she could guess the rest of the group’s reaction judging from their faces. It was a mix of unease with slight interest. It did leave her wanting more but she had no idea a filly could find such stories to tell in the first place. Dash probably had a hoof in getting her to go find such a thing but at least it was a fun few minutes.

“That was great! Though, I got to say, mine might scare you enough to keep you up all night,” the fast flier declared.

Sweetie Belle made a noticeable scoot closer to her sister as Rarity put a foreleg around her. Scootaloo even showed a bit of regret for starting off with her story at that statement. Apple Bloom seemed a bit curious and leaned in a little. If anything, Applejack figured if the earlier gloating Dash had been doing held any weight then now they would see for sure.

“There are these creatures out in the woods, deep like we are. They don’t ever bother ponies unless you venture near them,” Rainbow started, speaking a bit lower than usual. “They have no voice of their own and nopony knows what they really look like. They’re called changelings and they’ll take the form of any lone pony that gets in their path!”

Rarity gave a visible look of confusion. Applejack couldn’t help but copy it.

“Hogwash,” Apple Bloom said as she looked a bit upset. “Ain’t nopony able to do that.”

“That’s why there aren’t many stories about them. Nopony’s sure what all they can and can’t do,” Dash continued. “They feed on you and take your cutie mark to become you! When they do that, they only have to use your voice and blend in. Of course, sometimes they can learn your voice just by what you say if they’re close enough. To try and lure others out for them.”

They all stayed silent as Dash got up and moved around the fire. She seemed to really get into what she was explaining. As disturbing as it was, AJ was curious to hear more about these creatures. In all her life on the farm she had never heard such a thing existing.

“These things, the changelings, take you when you least expect it. Some say they’re thin and tall while others claim they’re the size of a pony, only dark with glowing eyes,” said the pegasus. “You can scream for help but the woods will take your voice away quicker than it can reach your friends. ‘Help!’ you might cry, ‘Help me! My wing is broken!’ Nopony will hear you before it’s too late.”

“Too late?” Sweetie Belle asked, curling her forelegs up to hide behind.

“Yeah, too late for them to save you. If you know a pony that’s a changeling then, well…,” Dash trailed off. Her wing lifted and made a slow, horizontal drag across her neck.

Applejack gave a grunt of disapproval but stayed quiet to let the story finish. It did sound like hogwash with how no other pony had heard of such things. Just to scare the fillies didn’t seem like Dash’s style anyway. She probably thought it would had unsettled Rarity or AJ but both seemed to just wait out the tale.

“So, they’re gone?” Scootaloo asked curious and glanced behind her into the dense woods. “For good?”

“Yeah, for good. Twi had a book that mentioned them. Creatures of Old Equestria, I think it was called,” the blue pegasus said, looking up in thought. “They said that the whole forest is dead quiet when one is around too. You don’t notice it until it’s too late. Only a few stories really talked about encountering them. They had been impervious to most magic and the only real description is what I told you already. Just shows how hidden they are.

“Or how utterly tripe the stories are,” Rarity chimed in then gave a sigh.

“What? They were in a book Twilight had! How is that tripe?” Dash asked, stomping a hoof.

“Just make-believe. It’s a story to scare fillies and I think you’re doing that a bit too much,” the unicorn claimed, looking between all the small ponies.

The two of them argued a bit before finally letting it go. The fillies seemed to be adjusting a bit back to being comfortable. At least that was something. The whole idea behind these changelings did make Applejack a bit uneasy. She didn’t know why but something about them didn’t sit right with her.

“Well, I think that’s enough stories for tonight. Don’t need to be frightening the fillies enough to keep them up all night,” the earth pony stated, giving a grunt as she hopped off the log.

“I agree. We can have a good rest and more stories tomorrow,” Rarity complied while she urged Sweetie Belle to the tent despite the protest of the filly to hear more. Even the other fillies mumbled a bit about the sudden mention of sleep.

“Yeah, yeah. You’re all just spooked!” Dash taunted and held her wings up high near her head while sticking her tongue out.

“Best be putting that back in before I kick it in,” AJ commented without turning around and lifting the tent flap for Apple Bloom

Rainbow promptly sucked her tongue back into her muzzle before she huffed and rolled her eyes. Her wings went back along her sides while she smiled to Scootaloo who looked near the verge of screaming. The filly gave a light gasp when she was nudged before smiling nervously and walking to the tent.

Applejack could only hope Dash didn’t scare the poor girl too much. She guessed she would find out in the morning. With heavy eyes, AJ crawled under the blankets and nestled in as her hat tilted over her head. A good rest would get them ready for the day to come.


Something made Applejack wake up in the middle of the night. Nothing seemed exactly wrong but her body didn’t let her rest. After a moment of laying in the tent she heard a noise. Somepony was walking around outside.

The only thought she could muster was Dash still having energy and trying to walk it off. There was a moment where she thought about telling her to just lay down but waking up the others wouldn’t be worth it. Grunting, AJ turned over and let out a soft breath to relax.

That was when the walking stopped. If that darn pegasus was going to try and scare them in their sleep she would get a face full of hoof. The wait to hear something became painfully long and drawn out. It was so quiet too. Almost every sound was amplified more than usual because it seemed there were no crickets or anything.

After a few more minutes, the earth pony opened her eyes and sat up. Apple Bloom was thankfully sound asleep so no sense in ruining her good night. Scooting over to the entrance of the tent, AJ used a hoof to lightly shift a flap and peek out.


There wasn’t a soul outside. The whole instance made her furrow her brow in thought before she rolled her eyes. Silly pony. It was probably just some critter having smelled their stew from earlier. The campfire was low and almost out so it would be impossible to see much anyway.

With that, she moved back over to her cozy spot and curled back up while tugging her blanket back up with her mouth. Just a silly pony for worrying over nothing. Just before she went back to sleep she could almost swear she heard the flap to the tent shift as if a pony had looked in. Just Dash, she was sure.


The morning came and slowly but surely they all rose near the same time. It seemed as if everypony had slept well. They took the time to clean up a bit more from last night and work on getting things ready for the evening. More wood, some food, and a simple hike seemed to be in order.

As the first few things got supplied and ready, Rarity took a moment to don her ensemble of her casual camping outfit. The group got everything set up and quickly began to head out so as not to waste any daylight Celestia had blessed them with. The idea was to sight see for the most part and just enjoy the scenery.

Each of the fillies bounded around and let out playful giggles as they played. Flowers not seen near Ponyville had caught a few of their eyes. Some of them almost looked exotic. AJ could only think how the flower mares would absolutely love them.

In the far distance they could hear the very faint noise of water. A stream or possibly a waterfall further along. While the trek might be a bit much, they agreed to see how close they could reach it. It was then that the orange pony remembered her midnight wake.

“Dash, next time you got a lot of energy, can you walk around without waking me?” Applejack suggested.

“What?” the pegasus asked, clearly confused.

“I said, if you ain’t tired then don’t be peeping on us sleeping ponies and making noise so much around the camp.

Rainbow Dash floated in place for a bit as her wings flapped. The look on her face was one of bewilderment and slight irritation. For all AJ knew, she had called Dash out on her attempt to set up a scare for them.

“I didn’t do any of that last night. I was asleep,” the pegasus claimed as she shook her head. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

Instead of continually accusing her, Applejack stayed silent as they continued on. Dash would deny being called out on a prank early on just to try and get them later, but something seemed off. It seemed genuine that she had no idea about the noises and all last night. Whatever the case, Applejack was ready for her just in case.

The rest of the day went without complaints as they did find a stream and let the fillies play around it for a while. The sun could hardly pierce the leaves and trees with how dense it was. At least the shade was calming and cool.

One of them had spotted some berries on the way back and they all picked plenty to suffice for some treat or another later. As they tasted them, their tongues turned blue and they joked about having to wash their mouth for a week to get it back to normal. Rarity wasn’t a fan of the tease.

When they got back to the camp they noticed something amiss immediately. The rocks for the fire had been knocked askew and one of the tents, Applejack’s, had one corner pulled up from its grounding and knocked inward. The ponies all stood in place as they surveyed the area a bit to take it in.

Without a word, Applejack moved into the campsite and set down the small satchel of berries before grabbing the tent pole with her mouth. The others quickly went to help and set things back in place, making sure the rocks would keep the fire relatively in control. After a bit, they all began to talk and speculate. It seemed nothing was rummaged through so they could only guess one of them had accidentally knocked a hoof against the rocks without noticing. As for the tent, it just wasn’t set up as well as it could have been was all.

As the rest of the day went on and slowly moved into the night, the ponies did seldom talking. Not much was to be said that hadn’t been already. The camp issue seemed to have set them all on edge a little. While they ate, there was a small mention of stories but none of them agreed on it. Perhaps Dash’s story last night really did unnerve them.

“I mean, if you’re all scaredy cats then that’s fine,” Dash stated but none of them bothered to say otherwise.

“I think it’s best if we just turn in early tonight. We can get a full day of things done tomorrow,” Applejack mentioned while she looked to the pegasus. For a moment, she thought she saw something within the trees behind her but it was gone the moment she blinked.

“What?” Rainbow asked cautiously, giving a glance behind her. “What was it? Is there a bear back there?”

“Nothing,” AJ said while waving a hoof around. “Just tired and seeing things.”

She must have made a strange face while looking past Dash. Her ears gave a flick as she hopped down to all fours and slowly made her way to the tent. Perhaps the story did end up bothering her a little. No shame in that, but she couldn’t help but feel something was off.

“Apple Bloom? You going to stay up a bit or hang out with your friends?” Applejack asked while standing in the opening of the tent.

“Can I stay out here a bit longer?” her little sister asked, the filly about to give puppy dog eyes.

“Sure, but be mindful of Rare and Dash. You hear me?” AJ said with a smile before slipping into the tent and plopping down. She must have been more tired than she let on because within minutes she was out like a light.


AJ stirred from her slumber once again. A look to the side showed Apple Bloom had laid down to rest sometime in the night. There was a strange sound coming from outside that she couldn’t quite make out. Her ears perked up a bit as she inched closer to the entrance.

The second she tried to peer out to the campsite there were a set of hooves swiftly moving away, snapping twigs and hitting brush. Somepony or something had certainly been there. There was a sinking feeling in her stomach but she pushed through and stepped out of the tent to look around.

One of the satchels that had held some berries had been torn open. The colorful fruit lay spilled along the ground in the dwindling firelight as she tried to reason with herself. It was foalish to even consider that something like Dash’s story existed. Just a hungry animal that knew where to find food. Maybe it even knocked the tent down and the rocks around.

A voice called out within the treeline. That was no animal. It was unmistakably a voice but it was hard to make out what was said. Had somepony come out this far and found their camp?

“H… H-heeeelp meee,” the scratchy voice called out from a distance.

For a bit, Applejack stood there, frozen in place from the sudden fear washing over her. It did sit right. There was no reason for another pony to be out where they were. Not to mention the voice sounded vaguely familiar to her.

“Help… m-eee,” the voice trailed on, dragging on each word and doing its best to pronounce them.

AJ didn’t move. Her ears were out to the sides from fear and trying to listen at the same time. They had faced Nightmare Moon but this was something else. It didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until she heard the voice a third time that she could place it.

“Dash… Come on back out here. I ain’t falling for your dang tricks,” the orange pony said, trying not to be too loud to wake the others.

“My win-g… broooke,” the voice almost bellowed. The more it spoke the more it began sounding like Dash.

“I ain’t falling for it. Come on back and just get some sleep,” Applejack said, starting to get a bit irritated now that it actually sounded more like Rainbow.

Silence. Nothing but silence after the last statement. It was almost deafening and starting to make Applejack uneasy again. She could hear her heart beating heavily and found herself staring in the treeline longer than she wished.

Two eyes blinked back at her before swiftly darting behind a tree. They seemed to glow from what she could tell in that split second. Maybe it was just the reflection of the light from the fire. Instead of chasing after her, AJ turned to Dash’s tent. Scootaloo would probably be able to draw her out easier.

A few steps to the tent and AJ poked her head into the flaps. Her hat pushed back as she let her eyes adjust to the darkened interior before speaking.

“Scoots,” Applejack called quietly. “I need your help. Rainbow thinks it’s funny to pull a prank in the middle of the night.”

“What?” came a groggy voice. A voice from the other side of the tent.

“… Dash?” the country pony almost whispered.

“Yeah, what’s going on? I heard my name,” Dash said, using a foreleg to rub her eyes.

There was a moment where they all stayed quiet and she nearly thought the pegasus had gone back to sleep. Somepony was certainly out there if her friend was in her tent. A hoof lightly batted at AJ’s face.

“You there? What’s going on?” the rainbow-maned pony asked, still sounding very tired.

“Hold on. Don’t get out of your tent,” Applejack said and pulled her head back.

The campsite was getting colder while the fire died down more. If there was anything else she could think of then Rarity might have known a spell to alter her voice. The problem with that was she couldn't see her unicorn friend playing such a prank like this.

Running over to the fancy tent, Applejack poked her head in and narrowed her eyes. It took a second to adjust but she saw Sweetie Belle in a cozy swathe of blankets. To her side, Rarity with her sleeping mask on and just as many blankets over herself. It wasn’t the answer she was hoping to get.

“Help,” that voice called out again, much closer to their campsite than before.

Applejack nearly tripped over herself as she stumbled back out. Her hat dropped to the ground as she looked around in a panic while trying to figure out which way the voice had come from. Some strange pony was stalking them and possibly dangerous if they were trying to lure her out alone.

“What the hay is going on?” Dash called from her tent before starting to step out.

“I said get your hide in there and stay!” AJ yelled. “There’s somepony out in the woods messing with us.”

That seemed to wake up her friend fully. Despite the messy bed mane, Dash looked more alert than ever as she ran out of the tent and looked around. Seemed she wouldn’t heed the warning given to her. Not that Applejack was against having a friend look out with her.

“Where are they?” the pegasus asked, flying around their tiny camp and looking in the growing darkness of the trees.

“I don’t know. I didn’t see a thing other than their eyes, I think,” the earth pony answered, looking in all directions at once as best as she could.

The two of them scouted the area without venturing into the woods before sitting down near the dying fire. It was hard to tell where the pony had gone or was. Every sound had them instantly checking again and again.

Eventually, time passed enough to where Applejack started feeling her body fatigue. She had woken up and had a good scare. Not something to just be fine with after such little sleep. It must have shown while she dipped her head once or twice while trying to stay up.

“Hey, you should get some rest,” Dash suggested and nodded her head to the tents. “I can stay on lookout duty here to make sure the creep doesn’t try anything. I can wake you to take over in a few hours. How about it?”

Tempting as it was, AJ didn’t want to take the offer. Sadly, her body refused to let her defy it. Her vision was getting blurry and unfocused as every blink nearly lasted minutes. There was no denying she needed some rest. How long had they been looking for the pony around their camp? Three hours? Four?

“I don’t like it but I can’t argue with you. Be sure and wake me up or call for help if anything happens, ya hear?” Applejack stated before getting a confirming nod from her friend.

Into the tent she went and collapsed quickly onto her now cold spot. Apple Bloom stirred for a second then relaxed back into her slumber. Soon after, Applejack joined her.


Applejack could see the sun through the tent’s fabric shining through. She must have slept pretty hard. When she looked around, she saw Apple Bloom gone from her side and heard soft voices outside the tent. Slowly, she got up and walked outside.

Rarity and the fillies were all talking but being a bit quiet about whatever it was. The moment they saw Applejack they all hushed up and stared before looking between her and Rainbow’s tent. Before she could ask what was going on, they all motioned her over with a hoof.

“What in tarnation is going on?” AJ asked, afraid to raise her voice in case she missed something.

“It’s Rainbow Dash,” Scootaloo said quietly, giving another look to the tent. “She’s…”

“Gone?” Applejack asked, a little skeptical.

“No, she’s been in the tent all night, I guess. Just that she’s been… making noises. Some weird noises that scared me,” the filly said as she lowered her ears. “I woke up to them and she was just sitting in the tent, staring at where the fire is. Or was.”

The statement made them all inch away from the area a bit more before they continued.

“Scootaloo woke me up and I asked why she didn’t get Rainbow to come out,” Apple Bloom mentioned.

“She just sat there and stared. I called her name but she didn’t respond,” the little pegasus told her and lowered her head. “Rainbow Dash is scaring me.”

Applejack sighed in frustration at the idea of Dash playing a prank on Scootaloo of all ponies. It was unlike her to pull such a thing and keep going. Maybe she learned to throw her voice last night. Whatever the case, she was going to get a stern talking to.

“All right. Pack up. We ain’t going to let Dash ruin this trip anymore,” AJ stated before glancing to Scootaloo. “I’ll talk to Rainbow. You just help Apple Bloom, okay?”

The filly nodded and eventually went to help pack up as Applejack moved over to the tent. She waited until they had all moved inside the other tents to pack up the contents before shifting the opening flap over.

Rainbow’s face was immediately before her, blank and unblinking. If she hadn’t prepared herself any she might have yelped. Instead, a stifled grunt escaped the earth pony before she stood there and held the fabric up with a hoof. Slowly, Dash’s eyes moved from straight ahead up to AJ’s face.

Something about them felt different. It didn’t seem like Dash was recognizing her but trying hard to study her. Her wide eyes and small pupils were beyond unsettling.

“Rainbow Dash, you know better than to scare that precious Scootaloo so bad!” Applejack berated the expressionless pegasus. “We’re packing up and you better be happy with yourself for ruining our trip!”

“Dash,” she replied with. It was quiet and almost missed in AJ’s anger.

“What?” the orange earth pony asked, afraid to lean in towards that unblinking face.

“… Dash,” repeated the blue pony. It was clear something was incredibly wrong upon hearing it the second time.

It wouldn’t have startled AJ so bad if it wasn’t that one detail. Applejack’s heart sank and her stomach turned. Slowly, she lowered the fabric back in place to cover up that strange, surreal stare. It took all her might not to let any tears show as she hurried back to her tent and started throwing things together as fast as possible.

“What’s wrong? Why are you going so fast?” Apple Bloom asked, her ears pinned back as she looked around. “What did Rainbow have to say?”

Instead of answering, AJ tugged the fillies out of the tent and stared at Dash’s for a moment before calling to Rarity. Her eyes never left the tent, seeing just the hint of a blue coat here and there in the thin gap. She could even see those staring magenta eyes watching her. She knew.

“RARE! Get your tail out here now!” Applejack yelled, feeling every joint in her legs want to run and move but finding it hard to until she had everypony with her.

“What is all the yelling for? I mean, really,” Rarity called back, magically carrying a half-packed bag with Sweetie Belle trotting behind.

“We’re leaving. Now,” the freckled earth pony stated matter-of-factly. Her Green eyes making sure that tent didn’t open.

“Now? We didn’t pack half our things,” Rarity protested, nearly about to turn back around until Applejack yelled again.

“NOW!” she called, just about to bite the unicorn’s tail and drag her if she had to.

They group exchanged looks all around before looking at their pegasus friend’s tent. She knew what they all wanted to ask. To be fair, she wanted to ask it herself. She didn’t know the answer but she had to make something up.

“What about Rainbow?” Scootaloo asked softly.

“She’s… staying back for a bit,” Applejack answered hesitantly before quickly starting to push them along and in the opposite direction of the pony in question.

Quietly, they all moved along and around the campsite with AJ staying back to make sure and stay between them and whatever she was so afraid of. She wished she had an answer to whatever it was but nothing made sense.

They were nearly out of the campsite when she saw the entrance of the tent lightly press out one of those eyes watching them leave. The sight made her shiver as she urged them to hurry while trying to play it off like a game of sorts. It clearly didn’t work but she kept on, hoping to at least distract her mind from things.

It was almost record time for them making it back from their camp. Almost nearly half the time it took them to get there. Things went in a rush once they got back. Questions of Rainbow Dash became frequent and she had no answers to give.

Things slowly fell apart here and there around Ponyville. Nights became unbearable and days felt empty. Ponies asked where Dash had gone when she didn’t show up anywhere for the next few days. No training or hanging out with Scootaloo. No word on her coming to meet up with the others. She was never even seen at home.

As the nights came and went, Applejack often heard that voice out in the fields. Her hooves would pull the pillow over her head as she tried to keep from hearing it. It cried out in help and asked for her by name. Her tears stained the pillowcase most nights as she grieved.

One night when hearing the voice she had to look out her window. It wasn’t Rainbow in the field but some creature, thin and lanky, stalking along the crops. The details were too far away to make out but it was staying low to the ground and silently trying to move over fences and equipment that it came across. It stopped and looked at the house at one point, surely seeing Applejack staring out the window through the moonlight.

The calling to her never stopped and seemed to always draw closer to her window each night. Nopony would believe her story. She hadn’t believed it when she heard it. It still frightened her to think about that last day at camp. How she had tried to talk sense into Dash and got only a word in reply. Just one word.

In Applejack’s own voice.

Unnatural Embrace

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Studying for days on end weren’t as common as Twilight liked them to be. Saving Equestria and making sure ponies were safe seemed to put a hold on such luxuries as she would call them. Still, it didn’t stop her from trying to catch up on things when the opportunity came. Spike would often tease her if she fell asleep at the desk but it was a familiar ache she sometimes appreciated and almost missed when she woke up.

Being a princess hadn’t allowed her to work on a few things she wanted to. Reading some books on her backlog that was ever growing, writing down notes for various things like spells or reagents to look into, or even brushing up on more history of Equestria. They were all things she wanted to do but the fate of the land did rest in her and her friends’ hooves from time to time.

With a sigh, the alicorn leaned over from her sitting position at the desk. A parchment and dry quill lay before her with the ink well freshly opened. It was tiring just mustering the strength to force herself to do the things she missed. Sometimes it almost felt like a task in itself to achieve.

“Something wrong, Twilight?” Spike asked from the doorway. He must have heard her distressed exhale while passing by.

“No, I’m okay,” Twilight told him, turning her head to give a tired smile. “Just things have been so hectic I’m finding it hard to take time for myself. When I do, I almost feel I’m just forcing myself to enjoy the things I used to.”

The small dragon walked in with a worried expression. He clearly cared about the pony that had raised him and watched out for him since he was born. The scroll in his claws made a light crinkle as he tightened his grip.

“Maybe you just need to get away from things?” Spike suggested while padding over and placing a clawed hand to the purple pony’s back.

“You might be right. I just feel like I can’t take time to do even that. I’m afraid I’ll be called on again if I try,” she said, giving a light shrug and staring down at her bare parchment.

The two stayed silent for a while as they thought over things. If things kept going the way they were then the poor pony might just collapse from stress itself. It wasn’t like she had a lot of options at her disposal. The Princess of Friendship wasn’t something to take lightly and she was happy to do her best.

“How about-” Spike said before hearing the startled cry of Twilight. “Sorry!”

She had been so lost in thought just from those few moments she forgot where she was. The sudden voice of her assistant and friend had startled her more than she was willing to admit. With a light blush, Twilight smiled and gave an embarrassed laugh before looking to him.

“Heh, you’re fine. What were you going to say?” the lavender pony inquired sweetly.

“Oh, I was just wondering if you could maybe ask for a day off or something. I know it’s not as easy as that but maybe Princess Celestia will have a way?” the dragon told her, offering up both his arms in a shrug as if to say, ‘Who knows?’

“I wish I could, Spike,” Twilight said while staring her desk. “I just can’t simply take a day off from such things if it means Equestria could be in danger.”

Spike gave a slow nod as his eyes lowered to the floor. He knew that would be the case but it didn’t hurt to ask. As late as it was, the small dragon would have to get himself some sleep soon. Staying up wouldn’t help Twilight nearly as much as he would like.

While he gave the tired pony his goodnight leave, Twilight stayed seated and looking to the few items before her. She had wanted to write a few notes but after sitting down it seemed as if she just lost all train of thought or motivation to do so. It was hard to place a hoof on why but part of it was clearly the stress and nearly no time to herself. The thing was that it felt as if there was something more.

Writer’s block? A change in the season? Possibly a combination of things and it didn’t help to dwell on such thoughts. Her striped mane swayed with every move of her head as she looked around the room. Perhaps forcing herself to do what she had been wanting to was the wrong way to get rid of this feeling.

Whatever the case, the purple pony knew that sitting in her chair and staring at the lifeless quill would get her nowhere. With that, Twilight corked the ink well and set everything aside carefully. She was weary and going to bed a bit earlier than usual could help her work out some issues a bit better in the morning. Sleep did sound awfully nice.

The thought made her smile to herself as she placed some books back on shelves and levitated a candle nearby. A quick light and the flame brightened most of the area up plenty. It wasn’t too dark yet but she could it would only be moments before the candle would be a necessity.

As she walked out, the halls made a light echo from each step. The castle always made her a bit uneasy in the dark. A foalish thing but she didn’t dare go against her feelings. It reminded her of when she was a filly out for a midnight snack. How the house would be so dark that she could have sworn something lurked in the corners and waited for her.

She had ran back to her room the moment she had her glass of milk to avoid any spooky beings trying to scare a filly in the night. Of course, nothing ever happened. It was all just her mind playing tricks on her but those thoughts and feelings never went away, only seemed less intense at times.

The doors she passed that were closed were no issue to her. It was each opened door into the blackness of the room she couldn’t see that made her uneasy. The sun had set and the flame from the candle guided her way more than ever now but even the light from the wax stick refused to show her any hidden atrocities lurking in those rooms. Twilight decided to walk a bit faster.

Every night she had stayed up and roamed the halls it always seemed to bother her. Whether it was just heading to bed, as was doing so now, or trying to find a misplaced book, the castle was almost haunting in the way it got so quiet and dark. It was downright eerie to her. At least she had comfort in the fact she knew nothing was truly there, despite what the back of her mind wished to say.

Once she arrived in her room, Twilight took a moment to set the candle on the nightstand and stretch. Glancing around, she noticed Spike already curled up in his own bed and embracing sleep like no pony ever could. The thought did manage a quiet giggle from her.

“Goodnight, Spike,” the purple alicorn whispered before giving his sleeping head a light nuzzle. He was like a little brother to her and she appreciate his hard work greatly in every attempt for her.

She had no idea what she would do without him. Her violet eyes scanned the darkened room with the single flame illuminating only a bit. Somehow she still felt that sense of unease in her own room. Especially with Spike nearby. Perhaps the stress of events really were taking a toll and the early rest might help her far more than she let on.

Shaking her head, mostly to clear her thoughts, Twilight magically drew her bed sheets away and crawled up onto the mattress. Her tail gave a little swish as she clambered up before nosing under the covers and pulling them up with her to rest her head on the pillow. The coolness of the sheets was relaxing and had her feel as if she had dropped weights she seemed to be carrying.

Her magic fizzled the flame on the candle out as she yawned and snuggled into the fabrics more. If there were any comfier place, she didn’t know it. The pony let out a deep breath and finally let her body and mind relax as best as they could.


Those violet eyes blinked awake as Twilight looked around from her bed. It was still dark out but she didn’t feel tired any longer. In fact, she felt like finally doing something. Perhaps she just needed a power nap or something to feel better.

Instead of waiting to see if the feeling wore off, the alicorn hopped down silently and quickly trotted her way to the door. A glance back made her smile as she saw Spike still dozing off and even hugging a stuffed doll of his. She almost forgot to grab the candle to help light her way through the halls and turned back to grab it. The sight she saw made her freeze in place.

There, lying in her bed still sound asleep, Twilight saw herself. Twilight’s eyes were fixated on the figure occupying the very spot she had just left. She studied every detail of the figure she could make out in the dim light closely. Its breathing was light and calm, apparently in a deep sleep and one with the dreams. Twilight was scared yet curious about what was happening. The whole instance felt as if time itself had slowed or halted in her stunned state. It slowly dawned on her that she must be having quite the surreal dream.

Slowly, the purple pony made her way around the bed as she examined herself from all angles. It was such a strange thing and made her curious all the more. It was some wild dream. When she lifted a hoof to try and touch her sleeping self’s cheek, she noticed her body was slightly translucent. The feeling of being cold or warm wasn’t present either.

“Interesting,” Twilight mumbled to herself and looked through her foreleg at the candle.

If she were dreaming, she should be able to pick up objects, correct? Her hoof reached out and gently took the candle by the metal base stand before bringing it closer. She could almost feel it but also couldn’t. Did her magic work in the dream world just as well?

The faint glow of her horn lit a small radius around her before she levitated the candle from her hold and smiled. Perfect! She had to be lucid dreaming. A strange but interesting event she had never been able to witness herself. That is, until now.

It was an exciting and new experience for her. The pony gave a silent gallop in a circle in her happiness while mentally noting how she was unable to make noise with her hooves. Her mane danced behind her as she toyed with the idea more and managed to light the candle to brighten the room.

In her glee, she didn’t take in all the details at first. Her thoughts were suddenly clouded with random questions and ideas for testing. Those wings spread as she got ready to fly around and take a tour of her castle, no! Ponyville! To see all sorts of wonders before she woke up. Then something caught her eye.

Something was in the corner of her room. Not Spike, not a friend. Not a pony. The shadowy figure seemed to be hunched over. Tall and thin, there were hardly any features she could make out on it. The flame from the candle hardly shed any light on it at all.

Then its head turned, shifting from her sleeping body to where she was now; her dream self. She couldn’t see the eyes, not exactly, but it was clear it noticed her now. With that, it leaned in slowly and took a creeping step forward.

Twilight gasped and lost concentration on the candle. The light dropped and the stand made a loud clattering along the floor. The candle itself popped free and extinguished in the quick bounce. The room went dark.


In an instant, Twilight shot up from her bed. Her wings fanned out as she tossed the sheets all over the place. The nightstand bumped and made a loud screech against the floor. It all happened so fast she didn’t know what else to do but scream.

“Twilight!” Spike called from the darkness. “Twilight, wake up! It’s just a bad dream!”

Holding her forelegs close to her with sheets bundled up, the alicorn stifled herself. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest and her breath nearly caught in her throat. What had she seen? What kind of dream was that?

“I… I’m okay, Spike,” she called out, barely managing even that. “Everything’s okay. Just a… bad dream.”

Even she didn’t feel like believing herself but it felt better to say it aloud. Her wings gently lowered as she calmed down and took some deep breaths. The only thing she could rationalize was that stress played a big part in her nightmare.

“You going to be okay?” she heard Spike say quietly. He more than likely heard her breaths coming in short gasps for a bit.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be okay. Thank you,” Twilight assured him and slowly tried to lay back down.

It was an odd encounter for sure. One she didn’t understand and would have to talk to Luna when she got the chance. Perhaps the Princess of the Night could tell her what it meant or perhaps why she had it. There was a moment Twilight thought about writing down the ordeal but she knew she wouldn’t forget it so easily.

Slowly, her head laid upon the pillow once again. Her eyes closed and she did her best to get back to sleep. She didn’t know how long it took but eventually she did manage to drift back to sleep. The only problem was that she felt as if she were being watched for some reason.


In the morning, Twilight woke up and stayed laying in bed for a while longer. Even though she had no more dreams after she felt worn out just from the one. Her eyes stared at a window for a while as she contemplated what to say to Luna. There wasn’t any easy way to state it other than she had a nightmare and wanted help in understanding it.

Things felt jumbled in her head. Time sort of ebbed and flowed randomly for her as she tried piecing together what she thought she saw. The pony pulled the covers over herself more as she remembered how it had turned to her and seemed intent on harming her. It may not have shown signs of doing so other than one step but she could feel it.

It didn’t matter now though. The alicorn was awake and no nightmare could hurt her. Luna could protect her from them anyway. The only issue was why didn’t she last night? Was there more to it? Could Luna have just been a bit busy and only managed to pull Twilight from it instead of altering it?

Sitting up, the purple mare grunted and rubbed her eyes with a foreleg. After a yawn, she looked to the corner of her room and shivered. Why did she still feel like she was being watched? It was just a dream.

Hopping down and getting ready for the day ahead, Twilight turned to pull the covers up and froze. Her eyes fixed on the candle and candle holder on the floor. Her body felt ice cold as she saw the wax that had spattered the floor and hardened. The sudden sound of the door opening made her cry out for a moment.

“Twilight, it’s me! It’s Spike!” the dragon said, poking his head into the room with a worried look. “What’s gotten into you? You’ve been jumpy since last night.”

“I’m sorry,” Twilight groaned, leaning against her bed and frowning. “I had a really bad dream last night.”

“I know. You startled me too when you knocked the nightstand and toppled the candle,” he stated while walking in with a tray. He had made her breakfast.

The sight of the tray with a meal made her smile as she stood up and carefully picked up the wax stick and holder. Setting them aside and readjusting her nightstand, Twilight slowly made her bed before sitting down and accepting the meal.

“I guess I did knock it down when moving about from the nightmare,” she agreed, wanting any excuse other than what she had originally thought. “Thank you for the breakfast.”

“Heh, hey, it’s no problem!” Spike said, chuckling a bit. “What did you dream about?”

While munching on some daffodils, Twilight thought about telling him before shaking her head. It took a moment for her to speak. She didn’t wish to frighten him or make him worry any more than he has over her.

“It was nothing. Just a simple bad dream was all. I’ll talk to Luna about it today,” the pony answered and began munching on her meal again.

The small dragon gave a light shrug and crunched on his own gem sandwich nearby. The two ate in near silence other than that. Sounds of a quiet breakfast were all the room carried. It wasn’t until near the end of their meal before Twilight suggested they head downstairs. She didn’t feel comfortable in her room suddenly.

They got the dishes cleaned and the lavender pony brushed her mane to work out any tangles and not look so disheveled. Just from the look in her eyes she could tell she hadn’t slept well. Maybe talking with Luna should be a top priority so it doesn’t happen again. It seemed like a good enough idea.

Twilight got Spike to send a letter ahead of time so her visit wouldn’t be too much of a surprise. No details were added other than she wished to talk with Celestia’s sister about a dream she had recently. That was all. Getting out of the castle and some fresh air might soothe her nerves a bit anyway.

Upon stepping outside, she did feel a bit better. The air was clean and the sky was clear. That alone lifted her spirits greatly. A small train ride would be in order to take in the sights to Canterlot. Hot air balloon sounded good too but she was in a slight hurry.

The time between leaving her castle and boarding the train was all a blur. Twilight hardly even remembered getting her ticket, much less when she sat down in a seat. It wasn’t until she was already near Canterlot that she snapped out of her daze. Getting lost in her thoughts again about last night.

When the train came to a stop at the station, Twilight got up and hurried out. She couldn’t help but be a little eager to get the meeting out of the way. It bothered her to have so many questions and not understand any of them. Princess Luna surely would have something to say about it all.

Moving around Canterlot, the Princess of Friendship slowly made her way to the palace and past the various royal guards. Her eyes wandered to the stained glass windows once she got into the main hall and carefully made her way up to the thrones. It was strange coming here to see the princesses again after she was announced as one herself.

“Twilight Sparkle,” Celestia spoke gently with a warm smile. “I heard you wished to speak to my sister. Is this correct?”

The smaller princess gave a nod in response as she sat before the thrones. Her eyes glanced between both sisters a few times before she spoke up. Her voice was nearly a whisper before she cleared her throat.

“I wanted to talk with Luna, if that was okay. It’s about a dream I had,” Twilight announced and looked sheepishly around. The guards appeared to pay no mind to any conversation going on.

“What dream? When?” Luna asked, leaning forward for a moment and waiting patiently.

“Last night,” Twilight said and opened her mouth to detail it before Luna spoke again.

“Twilight,” the Princess of the Night said slowly, her eyebrows furrowed, “You didn’t have any dreams last night.”


The whole train ride back to Ponyville was spent in anxiety. There was nothing she could think of that could answer any of the questions she had. Luna had seen no dreams from her last night and looked utterly confused at the explanation of her experience. Celestia looked just as troubled over it but Twilight could tell they had a hard time believing her.

It wasn’t the way they spoke but how they looked at her after. She sounded crazy to them and had nothing more to help her side of explaining things. When things were said and done, both sisters waited until they thought she was out the door before raising their wings to whisper to one another. Twilight was no fool and saw it when she turned and thought to ask for a pony who might help her.

Sighing, she stared at the trees and land pass by her window. The light sound of the tracks did seem soothing to her. Her ears did their best to focus on that and let her thoughts drain out instead of trying to worry herself sick. Leaning against the window gently, the purple pony could feel her eyes slowly close and open.

The rough sleep, the stress, and now the lack of answers wore the poor pony out. Maybe it was just a fluke and she just thought she saw something. Instead of actually holding her candle she just thought such a thing happened. It was just a strange phenomena was all.

That’s all.


The jolt awake made Twilight look around the train car to see the few ponies still aboard. She hadn’t missed her stop so that was a relief. From the looked of the land, there seemed to be several more minutes left of the ride before arriving back in Ponyville.

When she sat up straight, her eyes glanced to the window again only to feel a bit of panic wash over her. Twilight Sparkle was still slumbering against the cold pane of glass. Despite not feeling heat or cold she did certainly feel fear and panic. It was happening again and she didn’t know how to wake herself up.

Instead of moving around, the alicorn sat still and stared at her sleeping form for a minute. It could be that it’s the same instance but it might not scare her again. Just like dreams can follow a theme but not be the same. Right? The concern was heavy on her face.

If there was a reason she was having these episodes then she wanted to help cope with them. A psychiatrist might be good but would they give her answers as well? Maybe if she just sat there and waited she would wake up and nothing would happen. No need to get herself in a fit over things she didn’t know.

A double check on her sleeping body showed she was breathing so that was good. The land outside moved by quickly and the train still made its noise along the tracks but there was something off. The sounds seemed slightly muffled, as if she were hearing them through a wall or several of them.

After a couple more minutes, she figured she had chosen the best option. Do nothing and wait. It didn’t sit right with how she wanted to explore the whole thing but it felt best not to tempt things. The only thing left was her worrying if she would wake up in time for her stop.

Looking out the window again and watching the landscape, Twilight noticed something a bit odd. A smudge or something against the glass. The weird thing was it looked like it moved a little here and there. The purple mare stared at the spot for a moment longer before noticing the odd shape of something with it.

It suddenly made her stomach turn when she realized what it was. That creature was in the window. No, not in it. Behind it? In front? Twilight’s brow furrowed as she stayed still before realizing exactly what was off. She had been staring at the light reflection of it in the glass.

In a quick turn to the side, the purple alicorn came nearly face to face with the creature. Its mane was gray and looked to cover most of its features in long rivers. There was little time to take any other details before she started screaming.


Screaming and kicking the seat in front of her, Twilight writhed and squirmed until she opened her eyes. She had nearly pushed herself as far as she could into the corner of her seat with the few ponies in the car looking back at her in surprise and slight irritation. The panicked pony breathed heavily as she glanced around and her face flushed with embarrassment. She uttered a quick and quiet apology as she looked back to the window.

No odd shadow or reflection. Just the station coming into view. What was going on? What was causing her to see the strange being? The only thing left for her would be to book a session with a psychiatrist and hopefully do some research on what she was going through.

The train lurched to a slow stop and the ponies all got up to leave. All but Twilight. Instead of going with them she wished to wait. The disturbance moments ago didn’t need to be highlighted with her making more of a scene or anything.

Once she got out, the winged unicorn took her time to head back to her castle. She would have to look through her library to find out something, anything. Talking to herself in thoughts left her unsure if she was hearing her own name bounce around in her head.

“Twilight!” came a voice to her side.

It took her a moment longer before it registered she had actually heard it. Not only that, she knew that voice. It wasn’t some trick nor was she making it up.

“Twilight! You there?” Applejack asked, trotting up alongside her with a raised brow. “Been calling ya a bit and you seemed lost in your own head.”

“Oh! I’m so sorry, AJ. I was. Just been having a rough day. Bad sleep and stressed out of my mind it feels like,” Twilight told her while trying to keep a smile on her face.

“That so?” the earth pony said rhetorically. Her green eyes studied her friend for a bit before she added, “Why don’t you go on and get some rest? You sound like you need it.”

It was a nice thought but Twilight shook her head slowly. Her mind wasn’t going to rest if she saw that thing again. Her eyes lowered a bit as she tried to understand herself before meeting her friend’s gaze. There was worry there and plenty of it.

“I… should, yeah,” the purple pony admitted but knew she wasn’t being entirely honest with herself. “Guess I must look a bit worse for wear, huh?”

“Well, you ain’t winning any beauty contest if you keep yourself all wound up,” Applejack admitted, giving an apologetic shrug as best she could while walking.

The two of them laughed lightly before talking a bit more. Once they came to the castle, Twilight said her farewell to her friend and they parted ways. As right as Applejack was, there was still the issue with talking to Spike about finding an appointment for a psychiatrist. Just one session might help her cope with it.

The large doors closed behind her as she walked inside, magically pulling them shut and walking down a hall. There was plenty of light out in the day still. Perhaps reading a little bit wouldn’t hurt her. She hoped, anyway.

Traveling along the way, her head poked into a few rooms before finding what she wanted. The books lined the shelves and proudly presented their spines for easy access of finding what she needed. Carefully, almost methodically, Twilight began picking out a book here and there dealing with dreams and a few extra she figured might sound like the odd occurrence she had been through.

Without wasting anymore time, the pony sat herself down and used her magic to draw open a couple of the books while hovering them nearby. The appointment could wait until tomorrow, she decided. For now, she just wanted answers.


Hours later and a few glasses of water, courtesy of Spike, she had narrowed down a few possibilities. One thing was for certain and she was happy to come across it. Her episodes or that odd phenomena was something a few books called an out of body experience. It sounded as if it were a lucid dream and sometimes was, yet she had no dreams.

The sheer knowledge of just that almost had her in tears. She was just happy to finally have at least one thing she understood even if it was loosely so. A couple of the books talked a bit more about it but nothing on how somepony could achieve it without trying consistently. It was strange that it sounded so hard to achieve for most but she was barely able to nap without being thrown into such a thing.

As for the creature, she only had a vague idea at best. If she was honest with herself, she didn’t even think she was close. Other ponies had seen something similar when waking up but only for a moment. Something linked with sleep paralysis, yet Twilight had no idea if she was experiencing that since she was having a different thing occur.

Some said the pony or creature, whatever it was, wore some kind of hat while others mentioned some hag-like being. The idea was spooky enough to know others saw the thing but with the accounts stating one thing or the other it made her wonder if there were more than one of them. It wasn’t a thought the lavender coated pony liked.

With the time of the day drawing close to and end, Twilight knew she would have to sleep soon. Or try to. She was starting to get scared. Why did she have to be the one scared to go to sleep? Why couldn’t she just enjoy her nights like she used to?

Reading further into the strange things yielded nothing. No idea if they wanted something or were just simply there. That seemed to be as far as she could get on any research. At least she wasn’t going crazy. Rather, the idea of being loony was further than it was prior to her reading.

Fresh knowledge and ideas had filled her mind and she was glad to have taken time to read. The purple alicorn didn’t feel nearly as stressed and the thought of sleep was sounding pretty welcoming. Sure, she was worried but maybe it was just a rare chance she had something like that happen twice in a row.

Smiling and giving a nod to herself, Twilight got up and stretched while placing the books down. Her joints ached and she made sure to move a bit before getting ready for bed. The sun would lower beyond the horizon probably by the time she laid down. A good time to try and get some rest.

Her hooves echoed out in the hall once again as she made her way to the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush. A little teeth cleaning and then she could go try to get some proper sleep. Vigorously, she brushed along and used a hoof to pat down some frazzled parts of her mane. Applejack was right, she did look out of it.

There were the beginnings of dark circles under her eyes as well as them looking just a tad red. Twilight Sparkle was one worn out pony. She gave herself a giggle before leaning her head down to rinse before looking back up.

Behind her stood the odd figure, taller than her and staring down at the purple pony. It didn’t move but kept the hollow gaze on the alicorn. Twilight froze in fear as she studied the thin figure, noticing the gray mane dangling down its head obscured most of its facial features. That didn’t stop her from feeling watched.

The thing looked up into the mirror and Twilight could tell it knew. It knew she saw it. She wanted to scream, to call out to Spike or anypony around to hear. Her voice was caught in her throat every time she tried with only a whimper managing to escape. In a last minute thought, she finally turned around, thinking moving might make her find the voice she lost.

It wasn’t there. Nothing and nopony but her. A look back into the mirror showed the same thing. Just empty air behind Twilight. Nothing stalking her or even there.

Twilight finished up in the bathroom as quickly as possible before rushing to her room. She didn’t want to be out in the rest of the castle before dark anymore. Spike would be in shortly and she would feel safer with just another in the same room that she knew. Yes, everything would be okay.

Almost forgetting she had wings, Twilight climbs into bed once again. Her whole body was shaking as she scrambled to get under the blankets and lay there. The window let the last bit of sunlight show as it diminished into the dark.

The alicorn was suddenly aware of how many sounds she kept hearing. Odd creaks or light scrapes rooms away. A thump of something falling. Spike must just be cleaning up and dropping a few things. That was all. Her desire to be rational was as worrying as her fear.

There were more things she heard and she did everything she could to tune them out. Light sounds of the clopping of hooves coming down the hall? No, that was just her mind making things up. A whisper from the corner? No! Stop it.

Her heart was beating a mile a minute as she shut her eyes tight and whimpered. Why did she see this thing? What caused it to happen? Even though questions racked her mind, keeping her eyes closed slowly but surely worked in getting Twilight Sparkle to sleep.


The purple pony awoke again. It was the middle of the night once more and she could hear Spike snoozing soundly. Instead of getting up, Twilight stayed still, hoping whatever it was didn’t know she had woken up. If it was there in the room with her then she didn’t want to see it or know about it.

Several agonizing minutes passed before she couldn’t bear it. The one big question had to be answered and she slowly reached a hoof out from the covers. In the darkness it was hard to tell if she could see through it or not. Maybe a quick look with the candle could help.

Her foreleg stretched out quietly as she did her best to appear asleep. Once she lit the wick then she would have to think of what to do quickly. Scooting closer to the edge of her bed, she reached out further until her hoof lightly smacked the top of the stand. The sound rang out in the silent room and made her freeze in place.

It took a minute before the frightened pony carefully reached out further. She could have used her magic but in her current situation with the panic running strong, poor Twilight had simply forgot. If she had to guess then she was close to getting the candle.

Something grazed over her foreleg. It was as cold as ice and made her gasp. Pulling her leg back in the covers with her, Twilight bit her lip to remain silent and still. Her shaking was getting worse. If she called to Spike would he see it? Did he even know about it?

The silence in the room made her uncomfortable. Instead of getting up, her eyes shut tight as she did the only thing she could think of and tried to will the unpleasantness away. Every second lasted an eternity as she laid in bed, afraid of everything and nothing.

It was probably an hour later when she finally mustered the courage and remembered to use her magic to light the candle. The warm glow was calming and revealed nothing out of the ordinary upon giving a glance around the room. No translucent appearance from what she could see either. Just as she had tried telling herself before. Or maybe she didn’t. In fact, she couldn’t remember. All the alicorn cared about was using the candlelight to maybe get more sleep.

If it meant she had to have every night, so be it. A simple remedy to help her sleep. Twilight nodded to herself and did her best not to shed any tears at her internal plight. Whatever ghoul or strange being her mind was making up seemed to be breaking her down quickly.

Slowly, she began slipping back into a weak sleep the best she could.


Again. Twilight woke up again for the second time that night. Her heart was beating furiously and it felt like there was a dead weight on her. Breathing was hard to come by no matter how much she tried. The sudden panic urged her to get up but her body refused.

Why couldn’t she move?! What was stopping her? Every breath felt like she was using a straw not to suffocate. The only issue was nothing seemed to be blocking her muzzle she laid on her side. Those violet eyes strained and squinted open.

The candle had lost half its former self but still stayed lit. The melted wax was pooled along the nightstand and made drips down the edge. There was a noise in the room. Not Spike. No.

She couldn’t move her head to see where the source had come from. It was near the bottom of her bed, close to her tail under the covers. A sense of dread suddenly came over her, feeling like every sound and sight might just be the last she notices.

Steps. Soft and almost silent. Hooves were coming around the bed to her side. It became a struggle to keep her eyes open as much as she wanted. They closed.

When those tired eyes opened again, Twilight saw the figure. It was slowly swaying and moving over to her. The darkened rags and tatters it wore almost floated with a mind of their own. It gave a look down to where Spike lay before continuing on.

When it was nearly halfway to her, Twilight’s eyes failed again and shut. Her breathing struggled more but she was somehow managing. No limbs moved despite her best efforts. Was this sleep paralysis? Another attempt at opening her eyes succeeded. She wished it didn’t.

Before her stood the creature, rags and all. It swayed slightly as the head was craned down. That face, obscured by the gray, dirty mane was mere inches from her own. She could see the worn coat and pelt beneath. A body that hadn’t been tended to in years. Decades, possibly centuries. Light from the candle flickered. Darkness threatened to consume all.

Twilight wanted to scream. The hag-like being leaned in closer as those hollow eyes stayed on her. The first breath upon her cheek was like ice. What was this stalking her? Why did it want her? The purple pony’s eyes shut again, willingly. Cold washed over her as the flame was snuffed out. She could feel its presence drawing closer.

Then nothing.


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“Okay, Starlight!” Twilight said, looking over the cue cards she had written for her friend. “This should be plenty for your first lecture! I’m so excited you agreed to tell about all you’ve learned and how you moved on from before.”

“Yeah, well, I guess somepony pulling my tail may have helped,” Glimmer teased while glancing at a few the cards.

“Oh, yeah,” the alicorn replied with a blush. “Sorry. I just thought it would be a good idea to get you to talk about it more. Maybe teach that ponies can change and everypony can learn something new.”

It was a pleasant thought to know Twilight had trusted her enough to hold her own lecture in Canterlot. Something that Twilight herself had seldom done. The thought was exciting but also made the unicorn slightly wary. It wasn’t something she saw herself doing much of and possibly messing it up.

“You’ll be fine,” Twilight said lightly. The worry on Glimmer’s face must have shown.

“If you say so. I’m just worried I might mess up or somepony might question me for something I’m not prepared for,” the unicorn admitted. Her lilac eyes giving the floating cue cards an apprehensive look.

“Just follow what you don’t know on the cards and speak from the heart. You probably won’t even need these,” the Princess of Friendship stated while stacking the small assortment of cards together.

If it was so easy then it might not even required any outside help. Glimmer had smiled at the thought and took the stack of small cards with her magic. A quick flip through them yielded a satisfying sound as she barely took any of the words in. Maybe her friend was right and she would get through this without any hassle.

For some reason, Twilight had only given her the written help just minutes prior to the lecture itself. The alicorn’s excuse was that she had gone and looked up a few other items and lost track of time. Glimmer only guessed the princess may have slept in a little.

“I wish I could be there but I rather not make you uneasy,” Twilight said. “I also have to go and run several errands since Spike is out for the day.”

“That’s fine,” the unicorn replied and hugged her friend. “You’ll be with me in spirit!”

“Be sure and tell me all about it when you get back,” Twilight said, turning to head out the doors.

With that, the alicorn was out the door and off to do whatever it was she needed to. Glimmer waited a moment and let out a sigh of relief. She didn’t want to admit it but her friend had made her more anxious than relaxed about the whole thing. It wasn’t a hard thing to talk about but the cards might still help a little bit if she ever needed them.

The auditorium was full of ponies getting in place and talking among themselves. All the voices and sounds were muffled through the walls near Glimmer. It would have been comforting if she hadn’t been rattled just moments prior.

“You’ll be fine,” she told herself in a mocking tone, looking to the hall.

All she had to do was go down there, come out behind the curtain, and use the podium to talk about, well, herself. Easy, right? Why did it feel like it was going to be one of the hardest things she’s done? Stage fright in front of other ponies could be a possibility. She also guessed it could be something else entirely.

“No time like the present,” the unicorn said under her breath as she headed down the hallway.

The voices grew louder the closer she got. Just standing behind the curtain before the seats had her picking up a few phrases here and there. Ponies greeting and curious about what she had to say. A few even wondering when it was about to start. They made her smile.

Feeling more comfortable about it, Glimmer slowly walked out from the hanging fabric and made her way to the podium. The ponies all hushed quickly and whispered a few last things until silence fell over the auditorium. None of them seemed upset it was her standing before them. They had understood a general idea of what she had gone through and was accepted.

It was a nice thought and one that warmed her heart. If she had asked herself a while back if things would ever settle down for her and to not be shunned she would have said she was crazy. The idea that she was one of them and not forcing any pony around her to do anything felt great. A part of the community.

“Hello,” she began, standing at the podium and in the main light. “My name is Starlight Glimmer. I’m sure plenty of you know me and my past… incidents.”

There were no names being called or disapproval voiced. They did seem genuinely interested in what she had to tell. Looking around, she saw many faces eager to know what was going to be told.

“Like you, I always wanted to do more with my life and be somepony that meant something. Instead of finding proper ways do that, I turned to forcing others into situations that they didn’t deserve,” the unicorn spoke. “I was blinded by many things and didn’t think clearly enough. If I could go back to change things, I would.”

The last statement made her ears droop. It was an idea she had of how to fix things she’s done by just using the altered spell again but it would be too risky. Also, she liked where she was now and the ponies she had conformed forgave her.

“I’m here to tell you that change isn’t easy but it’s worth it. The idea of having your own castle or town sounds good at first, sure. It’s the matter of knowing how much harm you might be doing to get those things,” she said, looking down to the cards she set atop the podium. “I… I do my best to keep up hard work and ponies happy now. It’s a small thing but it’s enough for me.”

A few nods and smiles. She felt like she was starting to reach to them. It was a little silly but she did feel most of her words were just filler to hit that time limit for the next hour. Why did she agree to this?

“With the guidance of Princess Celestia’s pupil, I’ve managed to make things better. Through friendship,” Glimmer mentioned. Her mind was quickly running out of fluff to say but she was at least being honest. “As much as we ponies worship the great light and night given to us by Celestia and Luna, we sometimes need to take time to-”

A noise caused her to lose her thought. Not just any noise but a muffled cough. One that sounded an awful lot as if they were mocking her.

“Is there an issue?” she asked, looking around as she wasn’t quite sure where it came from.

“None,” a pony in a yellow coat called back.

“Very well,” Glimmer said slowly, looking down at her cue cards and clearing her throat. “As I was saying, Celestia and Luna, the most powerful of-”

Another cough. It sounded as if there was more behind it too. A laugh? Perhaps just the sound of them disapproving her? It didn’t exactly boost her confidence.

“Do you need some water, sir?” the unicorn asked to the pony in the audience.

“Neigh,” came the short reply. “Just truth.”

“Truth?” Glimmer repeated back to him. “I’ve been telling you the truth the whole time. If there is some problem with me, I’ll gladly ste-”

“Hah, not you,” the pony called out. Other ponies in the audience were turning their heads by now. “About what you were trying to preach.”

“I don’t follow…,” she said, wearing the confusion on her face.

“Clearly,” said the pony in yellow. “You hardly know of truly who are the most powerful. Be thankful the Great Old Ones hadn’t done any harm with your blasphemy!”

The whole auditorium of ponies let out a light gasp before shifting their view to Glimmer. Even without the light above, she felt the spotlight on her. If she ignored him then he might keep interrupting. If she let him go on then ponies might think she meant nothing she said to allow another to talk over her.

Another option of calling the guards to take him out or ask him to leave politely did cross her mind. The only problem with that is she felt ponies might not take her words to heart. If they had a question or different view, how would it be to treat them as if they were not welcome?

“What do you mean?” Glimmer asked finally. Deep inside, she knew it wasn’t what she wanted to ask but if it would help him calm down then maybe it would be for the best.

“How could a pony attempting to talk sense not know of the ones keeping our world just barely manageable?” the stallion in the crowd said.

“If you mean to imply Celestia and Luna are not two of the most powerful alicorns, then whom do you speak of?” the mare asked, frowning slightly.

To think, it was a nice day out and she was already getting into an argument with a pony. A look to her left revealed the sun still shining outside. Nothing had put a dampening mood on that at least.

“You mean to say you’ve never heard of those that make up the elements? The deities we’ve been blessed from the great above?” the pony called out, nearly shouting.

“Wha… I don’t understand. What are you implying?” the unicorn asked, a little interested in hearing this out.

“Should the Celestial Sea rise and cause calamity on our land then we know who’s responsible!” yelled the stallion, stamping a hoof on the seat.

“Look,” Glimmer started, taking a deep breath, “I don’t know what these Great Old Ones are nor do I really think it impacts what I was talking about a moment ago. I have no quarrels with your own… beliefs. I would appreciate it if you would kindly be quiet for the remainder of the session.”

“Do not speak so easily of Azathoth and the others,” the pony said in a snide remark.

If the silence in the auditorium had gone any further, Glimmer thought she would lose her mind. For once, the pony bellowing insults and confusing praise went quiet. His eyes never left the unicorn’s as he sat still and just waited.

“Okay, sorry for that interruption,” Glimmer said slowly, taking a chance to look around at the rest of her audience. “As I was saying…”

The rest of the lecture went on without incident. Her talks of the two sisters was met with a narrowed gaze from the stallion in yellow but he seemed to not wish to speak anymore. Fine by her. It was easier to continue and soon it was over before she knew it.

Hooves stamped and clopped to applaud her time and some even thanked her. It felt nice to receive kind words. Perhaps she did make a slight difference for some pony’s views. Then her mind went back to the stallion who had made such a scene. The weird titles and name her spoke of somehow wouldn’t leave her thoughts.

What kind of deities was he even speaking of? Celestia and Luna had been there for all ponies for over a thousand years, if not more. Nothing else could come close. Right?

The thought seemed to dig itself deeper like a worm. Just thinking of a pony being around for over a thousand years was a bit odd sounding itself. Then again, alicorns were different, were they not? What of those that have been a unicorn prior? Were they different? The questions seem to stack faster than she was keeping track of them.

Leaving the auditorium and heading out, Glimmer bumped into a pony and nearly got knocked to her flanks. The whole ordeal had clouded her mind so much she wasn’t watching the way. What a silly thing to do. She didn’t even know why it was bothering her so much.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized while steadying herself. “I was just lost in my own thoughts. I didn-”

It was the same stallion that had acted so weird a bit ago. He didn’t speak but just leaned in and seemed to study her a bit. There was a brief silence before he pulled his head back and gave a slow nod.

“You’ll come around,” he said simply and walked on by.

She would have made a comment had she not been searching for a meaning of his statement. The whole thing just went over her head. Sadly, it wouldn’t leave her mind. Residing to the fact that maybe she was merely curious about it all, Glimmer continued on and made sure she would talk with Twilight about it later.


The time it took Twilight to calm down from what Starlight had told her felt like hours. Glimmer had assured her that the stallion was in the wrong but didn’t want to step on their hooves to be impolite. Thankfully, the alicorn did stop her ranting and agreed to help her friend in looking up what any of the nonsense meant.

“Thank you for helping me, Twilight,” Glimmer said with a smile as they both floated books down from shelves to give the contents a look.

“It’s the least I can do, especially to put your own mind at ease. I’m sorry you had to endure that,” Twilight mentioned as she tossed another book aside and magically grabbed one more.

“Honestly, it wasn’t too bad. Just that one pony that made it really awkward,” the unicorn stated as she kept looking.

The two of them had been skimming through books for the past few hours. Spike had even brought in some refreshments so they didn’t have to leave the library in the castle. Every book had zero information as to what the pony had talked about. Not even a hint.

There had been no other deities seen as such and the closest sounding any of it ever was just made it appear as if the stallion was being confused about Discord. Then again, Glimmer had no idea if a draconequus was even that ‘old’ or could be one of those Great Old Ones. Either way, Fluttershy seemed to make sure he didn’t cause any seas to rise or whatever talk the stallion conjured up.

It was a long search and neither of them seemed to turn up any leads. Hours seeped into one another and time itself blurred as night came upon them. As much as they both wanted to find something it would have to wait until the next day. A thing such as this didn’t need to keep them awake at night.

Staying up just for an answer seemed like a silly idea. Eventually, they decided it was best to call it a night and get some rest. There would be plenty of time to find something to satisfy their minds. Specifically, Glimmer’s.

Letting Twilight head to bed first, the unicorn passed a few books around to glimpse at. From all the books on various beliefs and even the history of Equestria, nothing even hinted at other beings or deities. She had even gone back to try and read as early as possible in the beginnings of the land. Still devoid of answers she yearned for.

Why was she even wanting to find them so much? Was it to spite the stallion? To assure herself such things were preposterous? Maybe just to reaffirm her own beliefs she had grown up with?

There were so many books and none seemed to touch a subject so odd. Other worldly? The thought made Glimmer’s stomach turn as she shook her head. If things didn’t turn up then she might just check the Canterlot archives for anything. Perhaps even ask Celestia and Luna herself just to make certain.

With a sigh, she placed yet another book to the side while getting up to stretch. Her muscles were stiff from such little activity and her eyes were heavy from the sleep calling to her. The whole thing had taken up her evening and all because some pony dared to speak against what was known to all ponies across Equestria.

Shoving a book back on a shelf, Glimmer grunted and browsed the assortment of lined spines facing her. Her eyes glanced from one to the other before she decided to relax with a bit of fiction. Nothing wrong with suspending her own disbelief with a little story before bed.

Picking one at random, the unicorn used her magic to take a book off the shelf and carried it with her down the hall. May as well get comfy to read. The thought of a cozy bed and some nice reading material put a smile on her muzzle as she trotted all the way to her room. It might even help ease her over the constant effort of wanting to prove somepony wrong.

In her room, Glimmer closed the door behind her before hopping up on her bed and laying back. It felt so good to not be sitting on the hard floor. Her wavy bang drifted to the side as she stayed still and stared at the ceiling before levitating the book in front of her and opening it up. Just a short story to read and then she would blow out the candle Spike had kindly left.

After looking through the contents, the unicorn began to read a random story held within. Her eyes took in what little she could as she began to feel herself grow more tired by the second. It didn’t take long for the book to drop and smack her face, waking her up instantly. She nearly put it away until she saw a phrase.

“The Great Old Ones,” she said quietly to herself.

In a haste, she began flipping pages and sitting up. Her mind was sparking with desire to know more. Was it really right in front of her on whim? Just a random book she had grabbed?

Several minutes passed before she slowly lowered the novel and sighed. It seemed like she had found something but it was just a work of fiction. Talking about some elder ‘gods’ that had travel the cosmos and things beyond her own comprehension. She had no more to go on than before.

“Unless,” Glimmer whispered, looking through the book a bit more. “He couldn’t be this delusional.”

Was that pony really taking a work of fiction as a belief? Something he honestly thought true? It was utter nonsense and provided no substantial evidence such a thing or things even existed. The disgusted look on Glimmer turned to one of boredom as she dropped the book the side of her bed and rolled onto her side.

Maybe she’ll find more on it in the Canterlot archives when she goes to visit again. Perhaps she’ll even see if she can call another lecture just to show such a silly thing. It did fill her with an odd sense of glee to know how silly it all sounded. At least she had the week ahead to really do some research.


The next few days and nights were mostly spent in the archives. Tomes, scrolls, and plenty of other parchment were free for Glimmer to browse. Her time she spent constantly trying to find more clues only seemed to frustrate her further. For some reason, the whole idea almost mocked her.

The only source she even had that referenced the things were from the fictional works of an author she didn’t know. Try as she might, she couldn’t find another copy of the book she had read nor could she find out what author had written the outlandish pieces. At least she knew it was still nothing more than a story or two.

It wasn’t until a couple of days after her long hours in Canterlot that she finally found something else. It appeared as if it were another work of fiction until she began looking over it more. It told of various names that she found hard to pronounce and spoke even further about how things had come to be. Some names claimed to hold power or invoke fear while others were said to be downright blasphemous to even speak.

Nothing really made much sense to her but she could feel a few things start to come together. She had read a little on the Azathoth character that the pony had mentioned. How they were the first, or sounded as if they were, of the numerous deities in the tome. It did seem to unsettle her that she read of the god or creature rising from the center of their world in a time of chaos.

Discord did come to her mind but she knew better than that. If her friends and the elements could stop him once then they could do so again. It was just that this other being sounded far more threatening. Something foreboding about it and the way it seemed to be worded.

Regardless, she didn’t seem to find too much else. A few phrases about the offspring and their own horrors she barely could comprehend. Most of the tome seemed full of either babbling lines or things that didn’t even start to make sense. It began making her feel like the book just didn’t belong. Not in Canterlot and not even in reality.

The one thing that it did give a clue on and where she had decided to start looking next was the mention of another tome. One that had more information available. She had to know more. To be certain and show other ponies such a thing was fake, of course. No need to have the good names of Celestia and Luna thrown aside because of some stubborn pony who had their own views.

An issue about the other tome was that it didn’t sound familiar to her either. As much as the odd names of the creatures or deities didn’t make sense, the name of the book hadn’t rung any bells. Perhaps it was a rare one. Seeing as the Canterlot archives didn’t have it, Glimmer decided she might have to check a few other stores or towns.

She didn’t mind. Traveling instead of being cooped up in the castle was nice. It was also starting to turn into a fun test for herself. See if she could hunt down this elusive book and then really stick it to that pony. Her only worry was how long it might take to do so.


Two weeks had passed since Starlight Glimmer had gone in search of a hidden tome. Her absence at the castle was worrisome but she did resurface. Looking as if she had been through Tartarus itself, Glimmer returned back one day on a train. Her mane was disheveled and she looked more tired than any pony ever had.

Upon opening the castle doors she was met with her friends all crowding around her and asking various questions. Most of them she didn’t feel like answering. The saddlebags held not only one but a few new books she had found along the way. The most she wanted was some proper sleep after all the nights she stayed up.

Were they nights of her reading? Mostly. Though, plenty of them were also nights she couldn’t rest even if she wanted to. Some of the things she had read didn’t seem right. Not only did they not sit well with her but they also implied more to things going on than she wished.

It wasn’t real. That was what she told herself repeatedly and helped her catch a few hours of rest here and there. There was no conceivable way that any of it was real. She could even ask the princesses in Canterlot if they were and they would say the same thing. Wouldn’t they?

“Starlight!” Twilight called, walking with her through the castle. “We were so worried! Didn’t hear anything from you for days. Weeks!”

“I’m fine,” Glimmer replied simply and continued on her way. “I just need some sleep. That’s all.”

“Are you sure? Maybe I can get some cookies from Pinkie for you,” the alicorn said while looking her friend over.

“No. I’m good. Just do me a small favor,” the unicorn said, opening the door to her room and throwing her saddlebags inside.

“Of course. Anything,” Twilight replied to her, her eyes wide and waiting.

“Can you set up another lecture for me by the end of next week?” Glimmer asked, waiting patiently for the answer.

“I… Uh, yes, I think I can do that,” was the replied after a few seconds. “Can I ask why?”

“I have proof,” the tired pony said, walking into her room and slowly closing the door.

“Proof of what? Where did you go?” Twilight inquired as she kept her friend in eyesight.

“That stupid belief,” Glimmer said and attempted to shut the door but a hoof blocked it.

“Are you still going on about that? Glimmer, let it go. It was just one pony. We both overreacted from it the first night,” Twilight explained and winced as the door pressed more.

“Just be sure and get the auditorium for me, okay? Then I’ll let it go,” said the unicorn before managing to finally close her door.

A long, drawn out sigh escaped her as she lowered her head and stared across her room at the bags. She could tell that pony off for good. All the other ponies will know for certain that no such things exist. It’s all just written garbage. She couldn’t wait for the next chance she got. She only hoped that the stallion in yellow would be there.


Sleep didn’t come easy as much as she wished. Glimmer had no peaceful nights after peeking in the tomes and hated it. The week was slow and the days felt drawn out far more than necessary. Thing only thing that mattered to her was that she did get her scheduled time in the auditorium as requested. It was something she was driven to do.

The unicorn stood behind the curtain with only a single piece of parchment and her few books. Visions in her dreams bothered her and felt as if they done so specifically because of her lack faith. No, not a lack of it, just the horribly imagery within them. It was messing with her enough that she couldn’t wait to get the whole thing over with and be done.

Her mane had been brushed but still looked unkempt. It would have to do. Her eyes never alleviated those dark bags under them. Still, she was determined and if the lack of sleep was of any help it at least kept her awake to do her new session.

Sounds of ponies had been going on for the past half hour. Most of them sounding as if they were happy to be there. The idea that one of them might be in there to get the last laugh made her smile. It was a twisted smile that quickly faded as she tried to keep herself under control.

After a few more minutes, Glimmer took a deep breath and slowly walked around the curtain as she had done before. Whether it was due to her looks or the pony’s eager attention, the audience quickly hushed and watched. The unicorn carefully placed the parchment on the podium then levitated the stack of books near it as well.

Her eyes surveyed the ponies closely as she tried to spot the one who had caused her such sleepless nights. She nearly gave up until she saw him near the back with a light smirk. The only thing she did was return the smile before pulling open one of the tomes. Her throat cleared and she began.

“As you know, the last time I was here there had been a bit of a heated discussion over beliefs and such,” Glimmer said, looking through a few pages. “Things were said and it might have left some of you doubting yourselves. I’m here to clarify a few instances and show that some beliefs are simply absurd, but nothing is to prevent you from indulging in them.”

There were murmurs along the rows of ponies, most of them looking a bit uneasy. She had to guess that it would be a strange subject to come out with yet she didn’t see a reason not to let them know. It could help keep their minds steady and favor the princesses properly.

“First, we’ll start with the simple things. Many names are thrown around in some instances and claimed to have lived eons ago up to this very day. As we all know, only Celestia and Luna possess such a feat and are not to be feared but loved,” the unicorn spoke as her eyes kept leaving the book to see the reaction of the stallion in the back.

“Things as ones who create other ever-living creatures of some abyss. Oh, sorry, I mean to say ‘Great Old Ones’ there,” Glimmer mocked. Something made her frown. A feeling deep down in the pit of her soul.

“Uh, yes. These ‘Great Old Ones’ are nothing more than fables and tales of yore. Having looked into it myself, you can only find any references to them under the fiction genre,” she continued. “However, most are just obscure notes or odd ramblings that mean nothing at all. There are no other deities running around that any of you should ever be concerned with.”

A look to the window showed the slight overcast of the day still going on. Yet, something still bothered her more than she had started her session. She just couldn’t put a hoof on it.

“I have a list of these names to let you all know just how ridiculous they sound and even that speaking them invokes nothing, as they’ll try to tell you otherwise when looking them up,” Glimmer mentioned with a nod to herself.

The stallion in yellow gave an uneasy look. She got him! Things probably sounded a lot better in your head than out loud. Now ponies would hear how odd and silly some of the names were. It almost made Glimmer happy, if it wasn’t for the feeling in her stomach still turning and making her feel a bit unstable.

“There are names that look as strange as they sound. We have Azathoth, some being supposedly as a ruler of something called Outer Gods. From there, we have such travesty names as Nyarlathotep, Cthulhu, Dagon, Hastur, Shub-N-” she began rambling off before a loud gasp came from the audience.

“You shouldn’t speak his name!” the stallion called, standing up and looking quite upset.

“Oh, yes. Hastur. Him Who is Not to be Named. Quite the oddity for having a name, yet you can’t be allowed to speak it,” Glimmer said, smirking before giving a light jump from the thunderclap.

The overcast outside had become darker. She couldn’t remember if the pegasi had called in for rain today. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t doing her lesson outside anyway.

“You speak blasphemy to utter his name!” the stallion in yellow shouted.

“I don’t see why. If Hastur really is some omnipotent deity, maybe he could give us all some insight on why this following, this cult of sorts, is so secretive about him,” she snipped and levitated a book up to flip through some pages.

“If you wish to call upon the eldritch through mock, do it away from us, blasphemer!” cried the pony.

“Hastur,” she began before ducking lightly from the louder clap of thunder, “is merely a figment of imagination. He isn’t a real thing!”

The stallion stayed quiet but looked worried and seemed to be staring down Glimmer from his stand above the sitting ponies in the audience.

“Why, if he really did curse or harm ponies who uttered his name then why haven’t I be-” she started and stopped as the clouds almost sounded as if they were against her.

Other ponies in the auditorium murmured to each other and looked out the window before giving a cautious glance back to Starlight at the podium. There was another loud roar of thunder which caused them to all gasp and cower. Even the unicorn mocking deities yelped and dropped her book.

“If you truly know so much then why don’t you believe? If you had the forbidden tome tha-” the stallion said and stopped as Glimmer floated a book up.

“Oh, yes. This one? It was such a hard thing to track down and with only a couple copies in the world I wasn’t sure it even existed,” the unicorn mentioned, looking over the centuries old book that had cost her more than she liked.

She remembered finding it in a shop of the occult of all things. The pony behind the counter had been hesitant to even say he had it despite having what looked like dangerous artifacts on shelves right behind him. It had nearly cost her every bit but she somehow had to have it. She had the Necronomicon.

“It was a lot trouble tracking down but I managed. There are passages in here that detail some very disturbing things. I do wonder why you would ever worship or believe the despicable things said in this,” Glimmer claimed, unlatching the leather belt around it and opening it carefully. The yellow symbol inside the cover was as vibrant as ever. It looked like a simple design of a triskelion but it was certainly different.

“If you mock them any further then you’ll doom us all!” the stallion said sternly and glanced around. The ponies looked unsure who to believe when another rumble happened overhead.

“If I may, I shall read you a section in here,” the unicorn said and flipped a few pages before frowning at the howling winds outside. “’The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be,’ it states. This seems to imply that these beings have been around forever. Of course, none of the ponies in here have probably ever heard of such things. Why would there be a following for something clearly and deliberately fake?”

“The book states-” said the stallion before being cut off by the unicorn’s own voice.

“There is nothing to state as fact! There were no horrors at Red Hoof! Red Hoof doesn’t even exist! No Red Hoof, No Innsmuzzle, nothing!” Glimmer yelled.

The stallion made a face before quickly hopping down the steps and making his way to the door. There seemed to be no other discussion he wished to take part in. His yellow coat stayed around him as he pressed the door open with a hoof and looked back. “I was wrong.”

Before Glimmer could ask him what he meant, the pony was gone. The door shut and the thunder rumbled more. Now that she had chased off the culprit trying to spread lies, she didn’t quite know where to take her lesson. Her eyes stared out the window a moment long, almost afraid to head back home in such a storm starting up.

A few minutes of silence washed over the auditorium while the wind bellowed and the thunder rolled. Despite showing that pony how dumb things sounded and scaring him off, she didn’t feel much better. Her body ached and her mind was numb. She could only guess it was the lack of sleep.

“I guess we can cut things short for this session. No need to worry, ponies. Perhaps we’ll laugh about this tomorrow,” Glimmer joked and forced a smile.

The other ponies gave uneasy chuckles before nodding and lightly applauding. It was almost hard to hear them over the sounds outside. Instead of watching them all leave, the purple unicorn packed up her things and decided to head out before it too bad. If she made it to the train in time then she could be back at the castle before things got bad.

The rain was coming down hard and felt freezing against her body. If she didn’t care for the books and grimoire she would have used them as a makeshift umbrella. Quickly, her hooves galloped down the road, kicking up pooling water here and there as she tried to make it to the station. Another clap of thunder sounded as if it were directly above her and cause the mare to almost topple over herself.

She had nearly made it until she heard somepony speaking over the winds in a shout. At first, she wasn’t sure what she heard and it caused her to take her eyes off where she was headed. Colliding with the nearest post sent her on her flanks as she groaned and looked around.

Ponies were all looking in one direction, fearful and pointing with hooves. A branch from a nearby tree fell and would landed on Glimmer if she hadn’t scooted away. Her heart was racing but it felt cold. Her whole body was freezing but it didn’t feel like it was from the rain.

“What are you all…,” Glimmer began to ask before looking with them.

Was she dreaming? No, that couldn’t be it. It was real, but how? Nothing made sense about it. Her mind tried its best to piece it together, to keep her sanity intact. There was something there, in the distance. Wasn’t there? Or was there? It could be a trick her eyes were playing. The cloud and the light.

Any excuse kept failing to keep her in check as she shivered and tried scooting away from it. Her hind legs kicked at the wet road while she moved until her back hit the post she had stumbled into. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. Nothing like that existed and nothing ever should. Her mind shook, unstable and unrelenting.

Then she broke.

Looking Glass

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Image by the talented TenTinyThimbles. His derpi.

Being a pony scared of so many things was far from a life of luxury. Lily Valley still didn’t mind the fact though. Her heart was in the right place and she always enjoyed making ponies smile. With her friends Daisy and Roseluck she would be happy just to sell flowers till the end of time. It was a pleasing thought.

During terrible events or Nightmare Night itself she would cower in fear or hide. Scary things just didn’t mix well with the earth pony. Her heart was more into the beautiful things rather than the spooky or the dark. Despite it all, she still found a way to smile through it and do her best to cheer other ponies up.

“Hello, Lily!” Roseluck called to her from the flower stand.

The pink pony blinked in confusion as she stood in place. She must have been lost in her thoughts for a while as she was heading to stand. Her yellow mane swayed as she tilted her head and smiled.

“Hi! I guess I just got lost in my thoughts,” Lily said as she walked over and took her spot nearby.

“Oh? Got a stallion on your mind?” her rose-maned friend teased before giggling.

The two of them couldn’t stifle their laughing for long as they let it get the better of them. Lily gave a playful shove with a hoof before rolling her eyes. Roseluck was easy to get along with and always friendly to her. She couldn’t ask for a better friend.

“If only,” the pink pony replied and smiled. “Any good customers lately? Flowers stocked for the day?”

“Mhm~” Roseluck said softly before humming as she began working on a bouquet. “Everything’s been really slow but relaxed today.”

Lily gave a nod and picked a few flowers with her mouth as she began getting to work. Rarity had been a big help at one point to have certain colors fit with their customers. They had all taken a note and did their best to replicate such a thing from then on. It was incredibly useful and ponies seemed to love the complimenting flowers for what they needed.

Not long after Lily arrived, Daisy came to help and the three mares began light gossip as they worked. What ponies had been doing lately, what they had heard, even small rumors that made them giggle together. Lily loved every moment of it and was obviously comfortable around them. She felt as if she could tell them anything at all.

“I also heard,” Daisy chimed in during their talk, “that one of our element bearers has a crush on the prince of the Crystal Empire.”

“Oh, hush! You did not!” Roseluck replied but smiled wide.

“Did so,” Daisy said and nodded to herself. “I also know that… Lily? Are you okay?”

Lily looked up from her hooves on the stand before glancing around. Her eyes darted from one of her friends to the other and back. The mild curiosity on their faces had her worried before she looked back and saw the flowers she had been working on were just wadded up instead of making another bouquet.

“I… I’m sorry. I guess I lost my thoughts for a second,” Lily responded, laughing it off and gently trying to salvage what she could.

“Are you sure? You looked upset for a second,” Roseluck mentioned and scooted closer.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I think my mind just went off in the clouds there. Started thinking of baking and I guess got too into it with the dough,” the pink mare replied with a forced giggle. It was a lie and she knew it but it was better than having her friends worry.

“Well, okay. You can always talk to us, you know,” the rose pony assured her before leaning over to give a hug.

Lily hugged back and smiled before getting back to work. Her eyes took in all the colorful petals and assorted them carefully as she had done for years. The truth was that something kept bothering her deep down. It rattled her core lightly and it got a bit distracting. The only problem with it was that she had no idea what it could be.

It started just the other week when she had been looking through her house for a simple item. She had misplaced a cup of all things and couldn’t find it. Checking under tables and chairs didn’t come up with anything. Though, as she moved through her house she began feeling a bit more uneasy. Something made her feel a little faint and cold.

Perhaps the changing seasons had been causing her to feel a little off. It was possible and other ponies had endured such a thing before. Not like it was anything new, right? Only it was something new for her. She ended up having to get out of the house and take a tour of Ponyville to calm down.

Since then, Lily had been feeling ill or just not herself when at home. Nothing that would put the poor pony in the hospital but it was always best to just stay on the safe side. At least the walks around town had seemed to help greatly and even given her a little more to do during days she went out. All in all, it wasn’t too bad.

“What do you think?” Daisy asked lifting her hooves to show off a new arrangement she made.

“Oh! It’s pretty!” Roseluck praised while looking it over. “Don’t you think, Lily?”

“It is! Very lovely, Daisy,” Lily agreed and nodded politely.

The three of them talked and passed the time throughout the day with little to no incident. Though, a pony looking for a flower arrangement for his wife that took half an hour was hardly an incident at all. The three of them found it awfully cute.

As the sun began to set, Lily’s friends started to pack things away and make sure everything was secured. Taking the rest of the flowers back, Roseluck wished them a good evening and trotted away. Daisy soon followed by example and let Lily do whatever she needed before heading home.

It was only Lily left. Her golden eyes watched ponies closing shops or hanging up signs as she sat by and let the minutes tick by. Anything to keep from going home early if she could help it. A few shop owners let her help in closing things, mostly by just flipping a sign or letting her chat a few minutes.

Eventually, there was nothing more to do but head home. Lily’s ears lowered as she accepted the fact and slowly made her way through town. The sunlight diminished more by each minute as she walked along. It wasn’t until she got to her house that she needed to light a lantern to navigate her way inside.

The metal ring in her mouth let the lantern dangle below as she walked into her home and closed the door. The light was enough to easily keep her from bumping hooves on furniture but not hardly helpful for making the shadows in the corners appear more friendly. She could feel her heart picking up pace while gently moving through the rooms and doing her best to clean up quickly for bed.

As much as she should eat a little something since having only one meal during her work, Lily just wasn’t feeling up to it. Her appetite wasn’t exactly craving food and she figured sleep might help her better. Besides, she could eat when she woke up and make it a big breakfast.

The mare finished any usual routine before bed as she kept her lantern close. Every minute she wasn’t in bed started to get to her. Somehow, she couldn’t shake the feeling of something just simply not right when she was home. Not even when she was in bed.

It had been weeks since she felt even remotely welcome in her own home. There was something that caused it but she couldn’t figure out what it could be. The first few days she ignored it to the best of her ability. Soon after, she ended up looking around and exploring her house several times but came back with no results.

When she hopped into the bed, her hind legs kicked lightly as she tried getting comfortable. Her hooves tugged the several covers over and hugged them to her quickly. She still felt oddly cold even after adding more layers last week. Perhaps it was just a nasty draft she hadn’t found yet.

The thoughts and reasoning continued in her head as she lay on her mattress trying to sleep. The lantern nearby gave the faintest of glows while she let her mind wander and drift through various excuses. Lily would have kept thinking about such things too. Yet, the pony was weak against resisting the call to slumber.


Lily sat at the kitchen table and sighed. Her golden eyes stared down at the empty plate before her until she pushed away from the table. It wasn’t hunger that beckoned her. She couldn’t place it, but something else warranted her attention.

The pink mare hopped down from her seat and walked out of the kitchen. Her head turned as she looked around her house, almost as if it were her first time in it. The living room held the usual decorations and furniture. Coffee table positioned before the fireplace, the bookcase against the wall, sofa on the other side of the table. Everything as it always was.

No. Something was different. Lily walked around the living room and quietly studied each item. The scrutiny for observing each thing was like a pony in a foreign land. She knew of all these things but there was something in the room making it all feel out of place.

She could hardly keep her heart calm while she walked around. Circling the room, the pony kept looking from one item to another until she found herself constantly nearing one of the walls. Whatever it was seemed to be in that area, though she hardly felt like she wanted to find out the reason behind her terrible anxiety. Curiosity overrode any desire to get out of the room.

Lily moved along one of the walls and tried finding any crack or hole that may have happened and she didn’t notice. Some kind of fault had to be the source of the uncomfortable nights in her bed, cold and having a hard time sleeping. It was just that every nook and cranny looked to be just fine. Why did it give her such a bad feeling?

It wasn’t until she paced around near the bookcase a few more times that she stopped. It seemed to call to her in a way. Something was wanting her to look closer. Maybe it was her own subconscious wanting to know.

Carefully and as slowly as she could, Lily stepped forward to look over the shelves and see if any of her books or decorations were possibly out of place. Perhaps something was missing and that was the cause of all this upset nature. She never took herself as one for noticing such a small thing before. Her look over each and every little knick knack seemed to yield nothing quite out of place, but she could feel it.

There was a moment of thought as she looked from one shelf to the next until it dawned on her. It wasn’t the bookcase itself. She felt a chill run down her back at the realization and lowered her ears. What had her so worried? So stressed?

Leaning slowly to the side, Lily looked at the wall the bookcase was set against. It was there. Something was there. Her body leaned a tiny bit more before she pulled back and shook her head. What did she see? Was that a frame?

Another wave of a fear caused her body to shudder. The poor pony took a step back and stared at the area. A sense of foreboding seemed to be overtaking her as she moved further away. It only got stronger the more she tried to get away from it.

Then came a heavy knock.


Lily gasped as she sat up in bed and found herself panting. A cold sweat had broken out as she put her head in her hooves. Daylight spilled in through her window doing its best to offer the comforting warmth it brought. Her body still felt cold despite the blankets she had been under through the night.

Another knock made her jump and almost cry out. Somepony was at her door. She was getting herself upset over nothing. It was just a strange dream and she got a little spooked. Her heart hammered her chest as she tried to calm down and eventually hopped out of bed.

She could have taken the time to fix her mane but the desire to just speak to another pony seemed far more important. Something social to take her mind off things, even just for a bit. In a hurry, the earth pony ran out of the room and down the hall. If there was anything that could take her mind off things it would be the comfort of another pony to speak with.

There was a brief moment where she slowed down and felt herself cowering as she trotted to the door. Going into the living room had her panic slightly until she reached the front door. What exactly had she seen a glimpse of behind her bookcase? The small glance back to it made her shiver before opening the door.

“Hi, Lily!” Roseluck said cheerfully. Her smile was something Lily always cherished. “I was wondering if-Oh! I didn’t wake you, did I?”

The confusion was visible but quickly dissipated as Lily looked up to see a few stray hairs of her mane poking out before her. She smiled and gave it a soft pat with a hoof before giggling. The two ended up have a small laugh together before Lily lightly nodded.

“Yeah, I guess I was more tired than I thought. Hope I didn’t sleep in too much,” the bed-maned pony replied.

“Oh, it’s not too far in the day,” Roseluck told her and looked back out at the sky. “I was curious if you wanted to come with me to collect some flowers today. I was thinking of heading just a bit off Sweet Apple Acres.”

The thought was sincere and Lily appreciated it. The issue was that she didn’t feel like doing too much after having such an odd dream. When she looked back behind her, possibly to feign a time check, the sight of the bookcase made her instantly agree with the offer.

“Of course!” Lily answered, turning back to face her friend. “I’d love to! Just let me get something to eat and tidy up. I’ll meet you out there, okay?”

Roseluck smiled wide and nodded before waving a hoof. They parted and Lily shut the door slowly then stood in place. She didn’t want to turn around. Things didn’t feel right when she looked at the bookcase.

Instead, she backed away from the door and kept her head down while walking out of the room and quickly back down the hall. Making her bed and grabbing her lantern, she chose not to eat breakfast at home. She would grab something along the way to meet her friend. There was no reason to stay at home any longer than necessary.

In a haste, she brushed her mane and tail before taking her lantern to the front door. A usual but quick routine of hers. It was good to have some light when she came back after dark. She almost gave her house a second look over to see if she had missed anything before leaving then thought better of it. The faster she was out, the better.


The door creaked open as Lily sighed and nudged it with her brow. The whole day had been so nice and she felt good being able to forget about things. Now it was dark and she needed to be back. She had been tempted to ask Roseluck if she could sleep over but hardly had an excuse other than she wasn’t feeling comfortable in her own house.

Light from the lantern slowly poured into the house as she held it with her mouth, dangling below her chin. Giving a light creak, the door gave way fully to allow her entrance before she stepped in and stood still. She didn’t want to be here but she didn’t exactly have anywhere else to go.

Ponies would tell her she was being silly or just scared of her own shadow. They wouldn’t understand and it wasn’t like she did either. Something was amiss but it didn’t make sense. A quick look to her bookcase made her almost whine before she closed the door and hurried by.

Thankfully, her time outside had worn her out fairly well. The only thing she really needed to do was lay down and sleep so her thoughts and worries would go away. It was strange to knowingly come home to a lack of welcome in her own house. No ponies made her feel shunned and she had lived here for years before. The sudden happening of it is what made her so cautious in her own house.

Setting the lantern aside, Lily did her usual bedtime preparations while trying to just ignore most of her thoughts. Every time she started thinking of looking more at the bookcase she would either hum loudly or force her mind on other subjects like what Daisy might be trying to gossip about next. Usually it succeeded.

The light guided her way as she moved to the bedroom and set it nearby before looking at her bed. Another night of unnatural cold she couldn’t stave off. Her hooves pulled away the blankets and sheets before she crawled in and pulled them up. Staring at the ceiling, Lily wondered if this is how she was meant to live from now on. If she was supposed to endure these chilling nights and unwelcome feelings.

It wasn’t a pleasant thought to rest her head with but it was the most prominent one. There were plenty of other things she would have liked be thinking of yet nothing seemed to rise at the front of her mind but worry. Another sigh escaped the pony’s mouth as she closed her eyes and pulled the blankets tighter. She just wanted to feel like things were normal again.


Getting up and out of bed was always easy. Lily moved off the mattress and stretched as usual before humming to herself and fixing the sheets. Her mind seemed mostly blank with thoughts as she just followed her own guideline from day to day. It seemed simple enough and far easier to just not think about things.

Taking the lantern, she trotted out of the bedroom and down the hall. The light from the still glowing lantern illuminated the surrounding area as she walked along. A sudden thought did come up as she noticed how dark her house was. The pink pony must have woken up just before sunrise. Rare but she had managed to do so before.

It wasn’t until she stepped into the living room that she stopped and familiar feelings began to rise up again. Her body felt weak as she saw the shelves of books and items from the light. It wasn’t right. Lily knew it and yet it called to her.

Slowly, the mare approached the tall bookcase and set her lantern aside. It could easily be she feared only what she didn’t know. Maybe there was a nasty draft behind it and finally seeing it would help her cope with things once again. It would also be such an easy fix that she would end up laughing at herself for getting so worked up over nothing.

Lily carefully moved to the side and looked at the gap between it and the wall. There was something there. It was hard to distinguish but she did see something. Pulling the lantern over showed a wooden frame inlaid in the wall. A window? Had she been so daft as to put a bookcase blocking a window in her house?

No, not a window. Perhaps just something she never noticed before. A certain design she covered up early on. Curiosity was beginning to get the better of her and before she knew it Lily was using her hooves to tug on the side of the case. Her forelegs pulled as her hind legs pressed to the wall, doing their best to at least move it aside.

It almost didn’t seem like it would budge until the floorboards groaned from the shifting weight. The bookcase shifted a bit before finally giving way. The items shook and rattled but thankfully stayed on their respective shelves. Now she could get a better look.

Moving the lantern up, Lily looked at the source of what had been causing her so much grief. The bookcase had been hiding a frame in which laid an oak door. The worn look made her wonder just how long it had been there compared to the rest of her house. Why hadn’t she ever noticed it? Did she just overlook it or have things placed in front of it without ever noticing?

It seemed settled against the frame firmly looking like it had been for years, possibly longer than she could guess. The handle had faded any luster it originally had before, somehow still letting her bookcase settle against for however long it had been there. There was no draft coming from it but Lily felt an overwhelming sense of fear now that she saw it. What purpose had it served?

Her hoof raised to reach at the handle before she pulled back and hugged her foreleg to her chest. Did she need to open it? She had found the source of her unease yet it had made nothing better. In fact, she felt far worse than before. The door didn’t belong. It wasn’t supposed to be there.

The pink earth pony scooted away from the oak barrier before looking around. Her house still had the vacant feel of anxiety floating around. Lily’s eyes shifted back to the hidden door as she sat there and waited. Why did it frighten her so badly?

A crash startled her and the light from her lantern went out.


Lily woke up screaming. Her legs kicked at the sheets as she fussed and turned until finally springing up in a panicked sweat. The pony looked around and noticed the first sign of light trying to peek in through her window. It was comforting but not by much.

When she nearly got out of bed, her eyes saw the glint of something along the floor. Her lantern had been smashed on the floor with glass littering the area. She was thankful Celestia’s sun managed to show the pieces in time before her hooves landed painfully. Idly, she wondered why Luna let her have such a recurring dream.

Slipping out the other side of the bed, Lily went and got herself a dustpan to clean up the mess. The lantern itself had been knocked over in her night terror. She didn’t want to admit it but it had happened once before, but not while being so startled. Just an accidental kick a few years back.

The glass was swept up and dumped away while she carried the remains of the lantern out of the room. It looked like she would have to buy a new one today. At least it gave her another reason to go out. A small blessing?

When she crossed into her living room, Lily slowed her pace and looked over at the obelisk called her bookcase. The structure stood as it always had and looked as if it had never been moved. The fright came flooding back quickly and she ran into the kitchen to make herself some food. Her idea was to just keep busy so she wouldn’t have to think about it.

Bread, some oats, milk. It didn’t seem like much but her stomach accepted it gratefully. Her hooves seemed to knead at the tabletop, almost as if she were trying to keep herself busy even while finishing her breakfast. The pony rocked lightly back and forth before looking over at the open doorway to the next room.

The door in her dream couldn’t lead anywhere. If it did, wouldn’t she see the other side of it from the kitchen? The way the half-wall separated the two rooms left little to the imagination in terms of what could be between. There was no backside of a large and worn oak door from the kitchen.

Lily would have taken that as a bit of assurance to herself but her house still felt strange to her. Instead of dwelling on the thought any longer, the pink pony hurried out of the kitchen and grabbed her saddlebags. The small amount of bits jingled inside as she rushed to the front door and left without skipping a beat.

Once again, the fresh air and warm sun were more than welcomed to her. It was like stepping into a new world again. Her hooves carried her along as she ran rather than walked. Running from her home? From the thing that should not be? Whatever it was, she ran her little heart out until she had come across the store.

The bell gave its familiar ring when she opened the door and the clerk greeted her with a friendly smile. She replied back with a nod and slightly out of breath before taking her time to just look around. It was the smell of oil, aged wood, and some various spices that made her feel relaxed. Perhaps because her own home seemed to have no real smell to it. A nothing scent, if she had to guess.

The store smelled like it belonged. It was a part of the world and Equestria. There was an essence to it and she could feel it. Lily could almost cry at the thought, feeling like she had been trapped in her own house overnight. Maybe her dreams weren’t putting her in any real danger is why Luna never stepped in. That was the closest she could guess since she was still here and breathing.

“You alright, miss?” the store owner called from the desk. His face looked a bit concerned as he was glancing to Lily.

“Oh, yes,” she replied, looking down in her embarrassment. The thoughts had made her well up with emotions and probably appeared as if she were on the verge of giving some waterworks. “Just thinking is all.”

There was a nod from the owner before he smile sincerely and resumed whatever he had paused doing. Lily took a deep breath and let her nerves calm down before she smiled. It was a door in her dream. That was all. What a silly thing to get worked up over.

Having a new view on her position, the mare nearly giggled at just how much of a foal she was. Her eyes browsed the items in the shop while she made sure to look out for a good lantern. There were plenty to choose from in the back and she was quick to find a replacement. It almost looked the exact same as her old one.

With her purchase done, Lily made her way back home, lantern in tow. Her walk a bit of a skip in it as she hummed softly with the handle in her muzzle. Swaying below her chin, the lantern tilted back and forth from the trotting, almost in beat with her soft voice giving a little, humming melody. It felt nice to enjoy things again.

It wasn’t until she was shy of another gallop to her front door that her heart felt the icy grip of fear once again. She hadn’t even opened the entrance to her home and it was starting to affect her. Lily stared at her door for a while, contemplating entering before taking a deep breath and continuing.

Right away, it felt as if Lily was leaving Ponyville and Equestria entirely. Once the door was shut behind her, things seemed disconnected from the outside world with a click in the latch. Her golden eyes looked to the shelves before she furrowed her brow and set her new light down near the doorway.

Pulling the saddlebags from her, she tossed them onto a hangar nearby and stayed still. No matter what she did, things weren’t as they seemed in her home. Routine or not, there was something not letting it all sit well. There was also something else bothering her.

She had never looked behind the bookcase in years. After her dream, the urge to do was rising and it was filling her with a fear she wasn’t she could handle. Should she? At best, there would be nothing and she would probably ease back into a somewhat relatively normal life again. At worst? There might actually be something there.

Walking over to the shelves, Lily fought the urge to pass it by and glance at the gap behind it. Instead, she stood in front of it and willed herself to stay put. There were hundreds of questions running through her mind and thousands of ideas. She still only stood in place.

Her eyes almost felt like they were trying to look through the piece of furniture to see behind it. Of course, it was never going to happen that way. The only way she would ever see behind it would be to look herself. Maybe she could get another pony to check for her. No, she wouldn’t want to put any other pony through what she’s endured.

Quietly, the mare turned around and sighed in defeat. She lacked the strength and willpower to confirm the false nature of her dreams. Her mind, no matter how rational, still suggested such an oddity might exist. Yet she still wanted to know.

The rest of the day was spent with her pacing her house. From room to room, Lily traversed back and forth as she thought about looking behind her bookcase. The urge was strong but she was not. Her mind wouldn’t let it rest.

Daylight grew weak and cold, much like she felt. The night approached quicker than she expected and still she was staring in the same area of her house. Her new lantern worked well with no wind to blow the candle out, thanks to the glass sidings. From one room to the next, Lily wandered about in worry.

Soon enough, fatigue and exhaustion worked their way through her body and the pony found herself tired. It wouldn’t be a calm rest and she knew it, but it was something she needed either way. If she collapsed on the floor then she might end up hurting herself. Avoiding the risk, the pink mare slowly made her way to the bedroom and got ready to sleep.

Setting the lantern on the far side of the room assured her she wouldn’t be breaking another one anytime soon. Her body slipped under the covers and curled up as she shivered lightly. Not from the cold but for what she feared awaited her when her eyes closed. Lily took a deep breath and counted silently to try and ease her mind enough to let sleep finally take effect.


Lily awoke in another episode of cold sweat and anxiety. Her body lay still in the bed as she considered getting up or not. The sky outside was still dark and possibly would be for another hour. Her lantern had remained glowing through the night with the candle a quarter gone inside.

The question still pounded at the back of her mind no matter she thought. Was there really a door there? It was bothersome enough that she eventually sat up and looked around her room. The unease within her was still there but she had to know. There would be no more putting it off.

Lily hopped down and ran over to grab her light. Through the hall and into the room in question, she looked at the out of place area of the room. Her head lowered as she set the lantern aside and walked up to the bookcase. It was now or never.

Her forelegs held onto the edge of the tall case as her hind legs pressed to the wall. A good pull and she felt it give but only slightly. Another pull and it began to wobble, unstable on its own foundation. One more tug and she scrambled out of the way the bookcase came crashing down with a loud sound against the floor. The books and other items scattered around or stayed trapped under the heavy furniture.

There was a moment where she had to collect herself, seeing as the loud noise had startled her even though she expected it. Would other ponies have heard that? She didn’t know but it wasn’t like it mattered. Her eyes slowly moved from the toppled shelves and over to the place it had once stood.

Her heart sank. The worn door stood proud and prominent. It appeared like a tumor on her wall, acting as a horrible eyesight. So it was there. The purpose of it seemed to serve no purpose from the looks. It wouldn’t lead to anywhere other than the kitchen on the other side or a blank wall.

Then why did it upset her so much? Lily had no answer but needed to know what lay beyond. Her hooves pushed the defeated piece of furniture away to make room before she grabbed the lantern and stood in front of the door. Her eyes took in every detail they could in the yellow-orange glow of the flame.

Slowly, a foreleg raised as she let her hoof touch the handle. Ice. It was colder than anything she could think of but ice seemed to be the closest. Still, it did not hurt. A pull and the latch released from within as the heavy started to give way. It took more effort than she expected, pulling harder at the handle and hearing the groaning creak of the hinges and old wood.

The door swung slowly toward her and she pressed it fully open. Her lantern swayed with every movement while she let out a light huff and turned. When she moved forward, the door frame lit up in the light. Then she saw what awaited her.

A stairway led down into what looked like an abyss. There wasn’t any clear sight of an end but Lily could hardly see much before her other than the gray steps that went about as far as the light could reach. The darkness that it went into was not natural. She could feel it.

Her hooves stepped up the edge of the portal-like doorway. The pink pony knew she should be staring into a wall or even the other room instead of the blackened stairwell. Her body was shaking and the lantern acted accordingly from the motions. The first step would be the hardest.

A hoof went out into the surrounding darkness as she placed it down lightly. The step was cold and felt like stone beneath her. There were no walls to lean against down the way and she wasn’t sure if there was an end to the darkness below. Her breath was short and panicky.

Another step. The sound echoed out into the pitch black beyond. She wasn’t sure why she was doing this but she felt compelled to keep going. More steps in, each one sounding out as she walked, and she suddenly sensed an overwhelming dread overcome her.

Those pink ears lowered as she continued on, heart hammering her chest and begging her to stop. The steps continued further into the dark. Her lantern lit barely several ahead and a few behind as she took each one carefully. The dread and terror never left but got strong the further she followed the descent.

A bit of time had passed since her departure from Ponyville but she had no real idea how long. The steps all looked the same and she was sure she would pass out from fright at any moment. Further, the stairwell took her deep into nothing. She was sure it would never end. This was her fault for needing to know.

Glancing back, she couldn’t see the doorway any longer. Either she had signed away her fate upon entering or her lantern just didn’t reach it with the light. Something kept calling her from beyond. Her mind was going in all directions by her body only traveled one.

It almost seemed like a miracle when she saw something ahead. How much time had she been down here? Was there even time where she was? Her hooves moved a little faster as she slowly approached the object down the way.

Another door. This one looked familiar though. She had seen it plenty of times. The whole instance unsettled her either way. What was her front door doing down here?

Lily looked around and saw nothing else. The stairs ended only at her door. Her heart beat frantically as she stared at the handle before reaching a hoof towards it. It did the same unlatching noise she had heard countless times before. Pressing it open with her head, she peeked around at what lay behind it.

Her living room stood as it always did. The bookcase was even righted by in place and all its contents where they normally were. She stepped inside and looked around the normal setting in confusion and slight worry. Why did the path lead here?

Upon closer inspection, she noticed something new. On her coffee table lay a freshly made bouquet of lilies. They looked inviting and so very pretty to her. It seemed like an odd comfort in such a place but she hurried over to the table looked them over.

As she placed the lantern down, her hooves reached out to the floral arrangement until she was mere inches away. Something felt off. Her body grew cold immediately and the cozy item seemed unwelcome and wrong.

There was hardly much time to react as Lily pulled her hooves away quickly. It all happened in an instant. A deep fear took hold in her that refused to leave and the bouquet of flowers exploded. Petals flew out in every direction in a soft noise but the terror seemed real. They had been meant to harm her.

Lily screamed.


Screaming, the mare sat up in bed and quickly covered her face. She sobbed and shook, unnerved by the dream and her experience. It all seemed so real. That thought alone scared her more than anything.

The start of a new day had begun outside. The window nearby showed the sun rising as it always did. Her mind instantly told her it never rose in that stairwell. It took a while for her to stop crying, mostly hugging a pillow and trying to keep a grip with herself.

Once she had calmed down, Lily carefully got out of bed and stood still. Her contemplation of doing her routine ran through her head before she took a deep breath and decided to keep with tradition. Making the bed, her hooves carefully tucked and smoothed the blankets and sheets as she silently went through the motions.

Walking over and taking her lantern, she extinguished the flame and carried it with her down the hall. There was a fear that was rising quickly inside her. She hated that it had become more familiar than the comfort she once knew.

Her head purposely turned away from the far end of her living room before she walked over to the front door. Setting down the lamp, she stayed in the same spot for a moment, debating the next course of action. Either she did or she didn’t. It was all up to her.

Slowly, Lily turned herself around and scanned the room. There were no exploding flowers, no overturned bookcase, and no looming darkness she saw. The sense of dread was still heavy in the air but not as suffocating as it had been in her dream.

Confidence was something Lily Valley never had much of. The pony was scared of her own shadow if it caught her at the wrong time. Yet she still found herself walking towards the bookcase and looking it over. There was nothing she could note that was out of place just from glancing it over.

Her hooves reached over and held onto the edge of the furniture. Those hind legs placed against the wall. It took some effort but she felt the object move and slowly begin to give way. A few more pulls and she managed to move her bookcase askew plenty.

Panting, the pink mare caught her breath and sat up. The shadow cast from the moved furniture made it hard to see, especially with the sun only barely starting to rise. Her eyes watched as she waited, not about to use a hoof to see. The light and shadows adjusted quickly enough as the mare looked at what lay behind her bookcase. Her mind took in the reality and tossed away anything else. Finally, she knew.

The mare hardly had to let the fact set in and soon found herself grabbing the bookcase once again. Her legs pushed as her body leaned into it until the shelves moved back to their original spot. She knew. She finally knew.

Lily stayed quiet as she decided to begin her morning routine. Breakfast was sat in silence as her thoughts seemed further away than ever before. Slowly, her vision blurred. The drip of water nearby caused her to blink her own world back in focus. She had no leaking faucet. Odd.

Hushed Sky

View Online

With the long nights and short days of winter fast approaching, Twilight had found herself settled in her room and making small notes on various items and topics that came to mind. Being a princess hardly gave her much time to just put aside a moment for herself and she was relieved to have it at any point she could manage. Lucky for her, she had just learned of a meteor shower to arrive within a few months.

Twilight, obviously enthralled at the idea of setting plans to see it, had started writing her notes on the occasion. It was a rough estimate on the actual day but she did think it could be close enough with her predictions. As the weeks would go on she could more accurately judge the arrival. The whole idea had made her giddy with excitement.

“The girls probably aren’t as interested as I am in this,” she muttered to herself but smiled all the same.

It was true that they wouldn’t be as invested as the dear purple alicorn in the situation but spending time together was certainly something they all loved. Any reason to do so would have them eager to meet up. It just so happened that it involved something Twilight herself had a piqued interest in. Nothing but coincidence is what she excused herself with.

Several times she had to check and make sure things were written down properly. She would have called on Spike but at the hour it was would mean she had to wake him. It was best not to disturb him after a long week. He earned his rest.

With a small hoot and light tilt of the head, Owlicious watched as the pony enjoyed her little hobby. Perched on the balcony railing, the owl stood mostly quiet in the cool night air. The window was open to bring the refreshing air inside and reminded Twilight how sorely she missed the relaxing autumn weather.

Perhaps the picnic could be turned in a small camping night out on the hills instead. The idea perked up those purple ears as the magically floating quill scribbled down a few more notes. How cozy that sounded already made the lavender horse smile and wiggle in her seat. Even though it still seemed months off, planning ahead certainly was the best course of action for it. There was a small moment Twilight gave herself a pat on the back within her mind, priding how productive she felt even outside of her princess duties.

Scooting over, she peeked into the eyepiece and let her tongue slip out between her lips. It was hard to pinpoint the exact location for every light nudge sent her trying to position it again. Her magic shifted the cylinder ever so slightly as she tried finding the meteors once more. A little magical enhancement to increase her focus should help.

There was a brief moment where she inched the telescope over, and suddenly startled looked up quickly. Her eyes glanced around the room before she tilted her head and looked to Owlicious. The owl seemed to be perfectly fine and taking no heed of anything going on around him.

A small shrug and the pony went back to looking through the lens. Her focus returned from the small disturbance as she began following constellations and trying to remind herself where things were and would be eventually. Another shift of the view and slight adjustments here and there. She felt she almost had it, but then abruptly jerked her head up again.

“What?” she asked aloud causing the owl to stir and look at her.

With a somewhat comedic ‘who’ phrased back at her, Twilight smiled and shook her head. She could have sworn she heard somepony saying something. Of course, it was rather late and it could easily be her mind being slightly overworked or just simply her own tired mind being silly.

Her look back to her bed was what sealed the deal. Pushing away from her desk and setting down her quill in the inkwell, Twilight gave a small grunt and yawned widely. Her owl fluffed slightly and stayed where he was as she closed the window and trotted over to bed. It wouldn’t be hard to pick things back up the next night and continue.

It felt all too welcoming as she slipped on her pajamas, blue with purple polka dots and a matching cap all given by Pinkie Pie, and quickly crawled up into her bed. Spike stayed slumbering in his own bed nearby, hardly making a noise. There came another yawn as tears nearly formed in the corners of her eyes before the Princess of Friendship giggled quietly to herself. Oh yes, she was indeed more tired than she realized.

Without any fuss, her body scooted under the covers and she cuddled up snugly beneath. A small flick with her magic extinguished the lamp and she was out like the light itself.


The next few days and nights had been spent of Twilight telling the idea to her friends and doing her best to make sure they could try to make it. Of course it was a bit off to be certain if they could but at least they agreed to do their best and that’s more than she could ask. Spike had even asked if he was invited to which they all had a small giggle over.

“Of course you are!” Twilight told him and rubbed the top of his scaled head with her hoof. “It wouldn’t be the same without you.”

The blush rising through those purple scales was a clear sign he admired being thought of. There was a light kick of the dirt with his foot as she stared at the ground and smiled, thanking them. It could be like old times, before Twilight had become a princess with so many things she had to do.

When she couldn’t take time to study the stars or jot notes or even read in her personal time, the lavender alicorn was plenty busy doing her royal duties as was expected of her. She was thankful that Celestia and Luna didn’t drown her in so much work but it was still more than she expected a lot of times. Being weary after a tiring day would often have her pass out in bed without so much as saying goodnight to Spike, if she was lucky.

The little dragon understood though. He had been there by her side for years and planned to be there for many more, should she still need him. There was plenty of joy to get out of seeing her happy from the small things he did for her.

“I should probably be going,” Twilight mentioned to her friends, glancing at the sun’s position. “I would love to take a break more often.”

The other mares giggled and bid their farewells as they usually did. It did help Twilight liven her spirit more just taking time out of her day to talk with them however short the stay might be. Spike tagging along just made it feel like a big family getting together. Sadly, she knew she would be extremely tired when night fell but her own mind insisted she enjoy her hobby just a bit before bed. A small nod to herself and it was set as she walked along to her next meeting.

As the day slowly drifted by and the sun began to set, the purple pony indeed found herself rather tired soon enough. Her steps carried her along as she walked back to castle, not in the mood to teleport her and her assistant instantaneously. The less effort, the better, she thought.

It seemed as if Luna could almost read her mind as the sun set and the moon stood within the sky shortly after she arrived at her castle. The stars began appearing soon after while Twilight made her way up to her room and gave Starlight Glimmer a smile and a nod as they passed in the halls. The skies were clear which meant she could settle in and stay to scour around with her telescope for a while.

Perhaps the fact she could stare up in the sky uninterrupted renewed her energy, or maybe just that she now had the time to at all. Whatever the case, the pony quickly trotted across her room and sat herself down in the chair at the desk. It had been a few nights since she last had a chance to read the stars so surely she would have to find her floating rocks again. As she pulled over some parchment and an inkwell, her mind stopped worrying about anything else and relaxed as she lost herself within the speckled darkness above.

Minutes turned to hours as time seemed to blur and was lost. Twilight couldn’t remember when Spike had told her he was going to sleep but he was already curled up in his bed when she glanced back. The stars shone as lovely as they ever did while she made small adjustments to the eyepiece and telescope as a whole. Despite losing track of the spectacle to be it was rather nice to simply gaze among stars without too much thought behind it once in a while.

It wasn’t until she nudged the telescope that something else caught her attention. Twilight’s ear flicked as she turned back to her room with a confused look. Her eyes scanned the room slowly before she looked to Spike laying on his back and mouth open as he snoozed. The confusion changed to humor as she smiled and shook her head.

“Little guy must make odd noises in his sleep,” she said quietly as she shifted her focus back to her telescope.

A small but noticeable magic enhancement on the lens let her see a bit farther as she tilted it this way and that. Brief lapses in the tiny noises she heard were when she passed it off as Spike’s slumbered nonsense or light snores. It was pretty funny as she thought about it a little more. Then something happened.

Her hoof gave the slightest press to the metal cylinder and changed the view when her eyes slowly grew wide. Twilight sat upright and stared down at the eyepiece before glancing up at the sky. The dark blanket seemed uncaring of any discoveries made within it, continuing as it always had been. It took a moment for her look back to Spike and quietly whisper his name.

“Spike,” she called hardly audible to herself. “Spike, are you awake?”

Nothing. The small dragon was not part of her world currently. His body shifted as he turned over and faced away from her and the lantern on her desk. As she watched, he made no more than a few muffled grunts as he got comfy which only brought Twilight to ponder her possible discovery.

There was a brief moment of almost feeling excited over the fact she had maybe found something extraordinary and could even bring it to the attention of scholars and the like. That was until she peered into the eyepiece once more. Her brow furrowed before she jolted up and took in a deep breath.

She was tired. That was all. The Princess of Friendship had been worn out and just simply needed her rest. Twilight kept her perturbed look about her as she levitated the lamp over to her nightstand and got ready for bed.

In her mind, she repeated to herself how there was no such thing and that she was far too out of it to think properly. Her mind was just being a little silly and some rest would cure it all right up. Little nods reassured her things were fine as she hopped into bed and lifted the glass of the lantern to blow the flame out. It was late anyway and she was staying up far past when she should have gone to bed.

Excuses and small moments of reasoning filled her head that night. Uncomfortable as she was, the pony did manage to find herself capable of going to sleep. After all, there was no way it made sense, so it had to be something silly. Right?


During her day, Twilight had gone through her various routines and lists as usual. It was about midday, when she found her scaled assistant munching on gems, that she remembered the night before. Her eyes shifted away for a moment before she trotted herself forward and made an awkward smile.

“You sleep well?” she asked the small dragon.

Spike merely gave a nod and continued his snacking before looking up questioningly.

“Hm,” Twilight replied to his silent answer, giving a nod. “You make funny noises when you sleep. What were you dreaming of?”

“Huh?” Spike asked, finally swallowing the last bit of his gleaming food. “I thought you said I was a quiet sleeper once. I don’t remember any dreams I had, actually. Did I talk?”

“Uh, no, not words,” the purple pony said, suddenly a bit uneasy about the topic. Perhaps she had just been too tired and imagined things.

“Well, like what? Was I screaming? Yelling?” the little dragon asked before glancing around cautiously. “Did I cry?” he added in a whisper.

“What?” she asked in disbelief, “Oh, gosh no! I’m sorry, Spike. I think I was just really tired last night is all. Could have been the wind or something.”

Even though she knew there was hardly a gust during the night she was awake it was at least something she could pin the explanation on. The whole matter almost seemed like if she had kept quiet then there wouldn’t be a need to worry as much. Perhaps she just needed to get it off her chest and it would help her relax later. The nagging at the back of her mind might just be at ease from doing so.

While the day continued, Twilight found herself at peace for a good bit of it. It didn’t seem as if anything were any different until the sun began to set once more as it always did with Celestia’s guidance. Soon, the pony found herself becoming more tense at the time drawing near.

What if something akin to last night happened again? What if it was linked the few nights or so before? Her mind was almost toying with her stress and causing it to rise as she did her best to appear calm and collected. Despite her best efforts, Spike had begun to inquire if she did need to head home early. Clearly something was amiss.

During their trek home, Twilight was torn between wanting to hurry and trying to drag out the walk as long as possible. She was curious as to what it all was but afraid at what she might uncover if just the smallest bit had disturbed her so. It could have easily just been due to her not expecting such a thing, she tried to reason with herself.

The thought did almost brighten her mood. Knowing about something that could happen could probably have her not be as shaken from it. The only issue that still pressed her was why it shook her at all. It was just a noise. A simple noise at that, from what brief instances she heard it.

Before she knew it, the doors to the castle were upon them as she sighed inwardly and opened them. Spike scurried in quickly and made his way up to their room, possibly to read his comics and nod off peacefully. Twilight smiled at the thought while she walked in and magically shut the doors.

There came another passing greeting with Glimmer as Twilight moved along. Though she didn’t see, Starlight did give a slight glance back at noticing her friend’s slightly worn look but eventually continued on. Twilight just wasn’t as good at hiding her feelings or emotions it appeared. The peek into her room showed her dragon doing exactly as she anticipated with his blanket around him and comic in claws.

Moving to the desk near the window, Twilight let out a light sigh as she sat down and stared at the notes neatly set before her. She found herself strangely weary of using her telescope. Maybe reading over her plans would help set her mind at ease.

The nightly twilight hours curled past as the lavender pony read her own writing and admired her work. Everything was tailored just right to account for timing in areas and what days certain plans were to be set in motion. It wasn’t until she got to the last few pages of parchment that she found herself lightly biting her bottom lip.

To make sure of what hours the meteor shower could possibly occur she would have to check again. Closing distance and time passed would clearly narrow down things easier and easier. Before long she could probably tell what date down to the minute, should she study it close enough. It would make any sudden changes to their outing far more manageable.

A glance to her telescope made her frown. She was overreacting. It was nothing other than her tired mind playing tricks. Other ponies have had instances of mishearing things or just being too tired to work, why wouldn’t the same happen to her? Twilight shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“This is ridiculous,” she said to herself then looked back to Spike.

The dragon was resting comfortably in his bed, sleeping soundly with his discarded comic to the side. She almost felt jealous of him. Before long, her head turned back and she scooted near the metal object as her magic opened the window. Just long enough to gauge the position and adjust the date accordingly, she tried thinking.

It took several long and tense minutes to find out where the hurling rocks were. So many beautiful constellations were drawing her eye more. It was peaceful to see the vastness of space and the splendor it offered. In fact, she found it relaxing after a while.

Then those slowly moving rocks came into view after a small adjustment. She tried not to focus long and moved away to scribble down some notes. Catching the objects between two constellations prior to being in one did seem odd at their trajectory plus the speed. Would they be arriving sooner than she thought?

Another look into the glass piece to make certain of the space around them and she froze. It was louder. She could hear it again but this time almost make out something. Those purple ears drooped as she stared into the eyepiece and listened to the distant wailing. That was what it sounded like. A cry or wail far off but ever so close when viewed.

What was she viewing to cause it? The meteors to be? The space before or after it? Her heart sank as she tried to come up with an excuse or explanation on what was going on. How could she hear something that far off when viewed but not otherwise? At first she tried blaming her magic but she hadn’t used it to focus then.

The thought of waking Spike to having him listen crossed her mind but she didn’t want to frighten him either. It would be best to let him keep his peaceful rest. Thoughts came and went as fast as their could in her mind as she continued thinking. Starlight? It did seem that she might be able to help should she ask.

Twilight pulled herself away from the viewer breathing deeply. She had been holding her breath during a large bit of her checking. Quickly, she hopped off her seat and ran out of the room to the halls. It wasn’t long before she managed to find Starlight’s room and peeked inside.

“Starlight?” Twilight called out softly, hoping that she wasn’t asleep.

“Mm?” came a mumbled response from the bed, stirring slightly.

“Starlight, I need you to come see something. It’s important,” the purple princess said as she lit a candle.

“Twi?” Glimmer asked in her waking state. “What time is it?”

“Late. I’ll let you get back to sleep after I show you, okay?” Twilight urged, trying to get her friend to come look. It would help immensely if she could have just one other pony to talk to about it.

There was a small groan as Starlight sat up and rubbed her eyes with a foreleg then nearly tumbled out of bed. Twilight did her best to help as she almost started tugging her along the hall. There a small bit of fuss as they encroached the still lit bedroom of Twilight’s before the two came to the desk.

“What did you want?” Glimmer asked as she had already forgotten why she was awoken.

“Just look through the telescope and tell me what you hear,” Twilight said simply in her eager wait.

The bed maned head of her friend looked to the object then back and sighed. It was obvious she wasn’t in the mood to do much especially after being woken up and nearly dragged along the floors to the room. It also didn’t make sense to her.

“Twi,” Starlight began, “this is a telescope. Not an ear trumpet.”

“Huh? Oh, I know! I meant just look. Please? It’ll help me,” the princess pleaded and did her best to smile.

There was a moment of silence before Glimmer rolled her eyes and tilted her head. Her eye peered into the offered piece of glass and metal while she stared for several long and agonizing seconds. Twilight was almost feeling her heart hammer away as she waited for a response until finally her friend looked back to her.

“This it?” Starlight asked in a confused tone.

“I… What? What do you hea-I mean, see?” Twilight asked, inching closer.

“Your lack of focus on a constellation. What did you want?” her friend responded before turning around. “I appreciate wanting to stargaze but I really need my rest, Twilight. Don’t you too? Please don’t drag me out of bed again unless it’s an emergency.”

With that, Glimmer turned tail and began to trot away albeit a bit clumsily in her foggy view of the world. Twilight was at a loss for words, darting her head between the telescope and her friend until the latter had left the room. Was she going crazy?

Moving over, the alicorn looked into the eyepiece and tensed up but found it was for naught. There were no moving rocks through the blackness above. No wailing or screaming. Did she actually imagine it all for a few days? Her hoof touched the cold metal of the instrument while she tried to adjust things properly.

It wasn’t long at all before she found them again. The rocks did seem closer than moments before. She would have written it off simply brushing against the telescope in her haste to get her friend but the focus was wrong too. She could hear it too. Faint but droning as if muffled. Then they came into focus and with them the wailing.

Her whole body tensed as she sat nearly petrified of the unknown screaming from beyond. How she was able to hear it or how it was possible to hear in such specific ways she knew not. There wasn’t much more she could do other than try and adjust her log of their position once more. Somehow they seemed closer.

She almost thought the more she listened the close they got. Crazy talk. It was peculiar but there had to be a reasonable explanation to it all. Maybe she could write a letter to Celestia detailing her findings and then.. And then, what? Be admitted to her own personal padded room?

Nopony would believe her if she tried telling them. Would none be interested in actually waiting to see themselves? Sitting in silence, Twilight waited and stared into the abyss. The only company being herself and the terrifying screams from above.


The two weeks the passed were filled of nothing but stress and terror for the pony who knew not what lurked above. She knew something resided there and it was making itself known but nopony else could seem to understand or cared to listen long. Twilight had quickly learned to shut herself in her room for days on end with only partial breaks between stargazing and ruining her sleep schedule.

Various notes were given to her through Spike to which she never replied. Spike himself had to make up excuses or write back. The small dragon could do little other than watch his friend scribble down hastily notes and references that only confused him. The purple pony was clearly driven by something but any and all were at a loss as to what it could be.

“Twilight, you should really think of getting some rest,” Spike told her one day. “You’re going to mess up your whole routine even worse and possibly miss hanging out with your friends.”

The pony uttered some response but whether it was acknowledgment or disinterest Spike couldn’t guess. He sighed and looked over what she had written recently only to become lost. It looked as if she was trying to constantly correct a mistake over and over again. Something appearing closer or perhaps further away. Considering the structure and the way it was done in such quick lashes of the quill it made it hard to distinguish.

“I guess just watch yourself, okay? You’ve been acting strange for a week or so now. Besides,” Spike added, “you said yourself during one of those days the meteor shower was coming this week. Right?”

The sudden stop of all frantic scribbling and checking set the dragon on edge. Twilight had gone completely motionless as she sat there and dropped the quill from her magic grip. The silence was unsettling until she turned her head just enough to peer at him through the corner of her eye.

“The meteor shower?” Twilight asked in almost a whisper.

“Yeah, you know? The one you were making plans for weeks ago?” her scaled assistant mentioned, taking a step back from how uneasy things were feeling.

There was long and uncomfortable silence between them as Twilight stared at the small dragon. Her eyes didn’t blink but did seem to lose focus and shift for a bit. The mare made a small noise as her eyes with their sunken look and dark circles beneath traveled around her desk through the mess of parchment and scrolls. A hoof wiped away a large portion of the clutter onto the floor, accidentally tipping the inkwell with them.

Spike automatically began to hurry and pick them up to avoid the staining on anything important she might need. There was a muttering beneath Twilight’s breath as she scoured over the notes until finding the needed piece at the very bottom of it all. In neat and almost foreign writing compared to her recent notes was her own penmanship about the event.

“No,” she said softly and shifted herself to the telescope. Her face made a grimace as she peered into it and seemed to be forcing herself to keep looking.

“Twilight, what’s wrong?” Spike tried asking as he tidied the floor up the best he could. “Why are you-”

“I can hear them,” she answered simply. “I can hear them so close now. It’s too soon.”

“What? What’s too soon?” the little dragon inquired but was ignored.

The pony breathed deeply and pulled away from the telescope as she looked out the window of evening. How she could see anything with the sun so close to the horizon was anypony’s guess. Spike didn’t question it and just waited with a worried look.

There was a quick motion before Twilight was soon writing things down once more. Her face wore something akin to dread. The little dragon held his tongue for a bit longer before slowly slinking away and backing out of the room. The last few words he heard as he closed the door were something about her hearing ‘them’ without it.

As much as he worried and tried getting her to get away from her desk, Spike knew it was useless. The only thing he could do was wait and hope her friends could help once he let them know.


As the girls readied themselves for the streaks of light above, many ponies around the hillside were also interested in seeing the spectacle. Spike had informed them of the shower coming much sooner than later and they had taken to making the whole week a fun nightly picnic each night just to anticipate it. Word must have traveled to have the other ponies waiting and looking up at the darkening sky, some even making multiple appearances through the nights.

It didn’t take as many days as they had thought while they waited. Twilight had refused to come to any gathering as much they had wished to enjoy her company. Starlight had taken her own place along with her friend Trixie as they all settled in for the night. Applejack and Pinkie Pie brought their refreshments and some food as they gossiped and talked waiting for the first streak to appear in the night sky.

Considering the past coupled nights, it was quite a surprise to see and hear Twilight galloping her way in their direction. Her eyes looked as if she hadn’t had a proper sleep in ages and her mane was frazzled mess. Though they could easily distinguish the fear plastered upon her face as she hurried over.

“Twi, what in the hay is going on?” Applejack asked, trying to get her to calm down.

“It’s here!” Twilight yelled, tears threatening to flow down her cheeks. “It’s here! You have to go inside! You can’t be out!”

Fluttershy looked immediately uneasy as Rainbow Dash and Rarity began asking questions. The two tried hard to make sense of what the purple princess was rambling about but it just sounded insane. Twilight took in choked breaths as she begged and pleaded for them all to go inside and not come out until daybreak. The confusion left them sitting there trying to pry answers from their friend.

“I can’t stop it,” Twilight cried as her tears finally fell. “I don’t know how to! It’s coming! It’s out there and it’ll come!”

“Twilight, dear, please calm down. You’re beginning to startle me,” Rarity admitted with a face of worry.

“Please, don’t stand around and just go! I can hear them without it! I can always hear them now!” Twilight nearly yelled.

They were about to attempt to understand more until a pony nearby called out they could see them meteors coming in. All other ponies looked to them and followed their outstretched foreleg to the sky. Indeed, there was a glint that shone brightly and slowly moving at first.

“No! No, no, no! Go inside!” Twilight cried out, shoving one of her friends aside. “Everypony needs to go inside!”

The commotion brought the pony’s attention around them from the starting show to the panicked princess raising her voice. None of them knew. None of them could have known. The first shooting star moved slowly before flying overhead. The screaming of Twilight was profusely loud.

“IT’S HERE!” she shrieked.

With that, the rest of the sky lit up in a beautiful array of horror. The ponies could no longer hear the incessant screams of Twilight over the ones they knew no origin from. The sky wailed and shrieked with them all.

Twilight cried, broken and lost as she laid down and covered her head listening to the screams of her friends and abhorrent nature of the unknown.


As Time Flies

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It wasn’t too surprising for Fluttershy to receive yet another invitation to a party from her dear friend Pinkie Pie. Things seemed to follow quite a routine with her though she hardly fought against it. She even loved meeting up with her friends and being able to relax. Taking care of animals wasn’t exactly an easy thing but she loved each and every one of them dearly.

The party coming up for the yellow pegasus only seemed to state it was getting time for Pinkie’s favorite month or at least one of them. The winged mare gave a light roll of her eyes and smiled. It was pretty typical but it did mean she could go and enjoy some treats and catch up again with all of her friends.

A small pat at her hind leg had the mare turn and see her rabbit, Angel, trying to get her attention. His paws gave a few more pats before noticing her gaze and gestured over to his water dish. She had just refilled his water only minutes ago, had she not?

Walking over, Fluttershy peered into the still full dish of liquid before looking back to the bunny. The fact she didn’t seem to notice the issue almost looked like it stressed the poor rabbit out. He scampered over quick and pointed into the water.

Looking again, the pegasus tried understanding what might have been wrong until she spotted it. There near the edge sat a floating hair. A pink one at that. Fluttershy tried to hide her blush before leaning down and taking the strand out carefully. A small trot over to the nearby trash can and she spit it lightly in.

“There you go, Angel,” Fluttershy said lightly. “Now, drink your wa-wa, okay?”

The rabbit looked all around his water dish once more, inspecting every angle, before he glanced up and gave an approving nod. Once he began to drink, Fluttershy smiled and went back to the table to look over the invitation card once more.

Of course, the pink mare had decorated the whole thing in various stickers, markers, and more. The small note made specifically for Fluttershy at the bottom did warm her heart. It only mentioned that Pinkie had refrained from using the popping confetti envelope for her just because she didn’t want to surprise her too much. Though, the note hanging from the front door arch startled her a small bit.

With the party only a couple of days away, it did leave little room to bring much. At least she could head over to Sugar Cube Corner and help out Pinkie and the Cakes making treats for it. The idea sounded quite fun to her. The pegasus couldn’t remember when she last helped make food or candies for others but it sounded great to go for.

Fluttershy kept her smile bright as she nodded to herself and turned around only to let out a small yelp. If it wasn’t for the familiar colors and tall stature, she was sure she might have screamed louder.

Discord stood just a few feet away hunched over and using an overly complicated pair of glasses to try and read the card. His face didn’t change until he had finished and popped the eye wear out of existence. When his arms crossed and he began tapping a foot then Fluttershy knew what he was going to say.

“Well?” Discord asked in a slightly upset tone.

“It’s just a small get together, Discord,” Fluttershy tried explaining. “Pinkie does this all the time. You know that.”

“Yeah,” he replied, the draconequus clearly hurt by the sound of his voice. “Well, why wasn’t I invited too?”

It seemed to be a thing at times where Discord would want to be a part of almost anything she did. Even if it was making a list for the market. She did love his company but there were times she needed her own space. Or at least time with her and her friends.

“It’s just for the girls,” the pegasus told him, placing a hoof to his long belly. “I’m sure it won’t last long anyway.”

“Hmph!” came the reply while he closed his eyes and turned his head away.

“I’ll bring you back a piece of cake,” Fluttershy said lightly then added, “Or maybe two pieces if you’re good.”

That seemed to change his mood instantly. The draconequus leaned down and clapped his hands together with a big smile.

“You’d do that for me?” he asked, his eyes twinkling quite literally.

“Of course! You’re my friend. I know you want to be included but I don’t think even Spike will be there,” the mare said and rubbed at his stomach playfully.

There was a bit more of her having to confirm she would bring him exactly two and a third pieces of cake for some reason but she agreed. She knew Twilight would bring something home to Spike as well.

With her avoiding a small fight, Fluttershy felt rather good about herself. She may still get a little skittish or worried about things but she can still maintain her own ground if she has to. Avoiding conflict was also a good thing.

Moving past her tall friend, the pegasus trotted through her living room in thought. Having done most of the daily duties already she was mostly free to do as she pleased until bed. It did help with Discord pitching a hand or several to chip in once in a while too. At least she managed to clear up some time and plan out the next couple of days on what her and Pinkie might make.

The anticipation would only rise until the small party. She felt excited though her small shimmy as she sat probably didn’t read as well as she thought. Rainbow Dash might have new stories to tell of how wonderful she is, Rarity might show off a new hat or dress, Twilight could lecture about new stuff she’s learned, and Pinkie and Applejack would have plenty to share in regards to their food their both bring.

It did sound like quite a comfy time to spend with her friends. The sound of nearby quarreling sadly broke the quiet pony’s thoughts. Discord and Angel were arguing over where the seating pillow should be placed again.

Sighing softly, Fluttershy turned to walk over and assess the situation herself. If only the party was right then.


Pinkie was exceptionally happy to hear that Fluttershy wanted to bake treats with her for the party. Even if she didn’t say it, her body language showed just how giddy she was. The pink mare had nearly shoved her pegasus friend into the kitchen upon hearing the words, clearly eager to start.

“We got so much to bake!” Pinkie exclaimed as she started rummaging through various pans and trays.

“Oh, well, I just hope I don’t slow you down any,” Fluttershy mentioned as she stepped back to let her friend find what was needed.

The two of them went over the whole list of two dozen different snacks to make. It occurred to Fluttershy that maybe there was a little too much to be made. After all, it was just a fun get together even if it was being called a party. She idly wondered if her friend went through so much for all the small meet-ups.

It took a little convincing to get her to trim the list down at least a small portion. She didn’t see a reason to have her dear earth pony friend overwork herself so much. If she had known the day before then she could have at least helped with the list earlier.

“Think two dozen cookies and four cakes will be enough?” Pinkie asked, looking at only a small bit of the list.

“I think it’ll be fine, Pinkie. We can still make the rest tomorrow since you set the date for after,” Fluttershy said with a nod. “That’s if we finish the smaller part of the list first.”

The two of them had a laugh as they started gathering ingredients. Things were mostly quiet while they measured and added as needed. Small gossip did manage to seep from their muzzles soon after the trays were slipped into the ovens and they had a moment to calm down.

Various topics came up such as what pony liked what other, Zecora’s possible rhyming book, and even if there were things they couldn’t see but always around. The latter topic gave Fluttershy a light shiver. Of course, Pinkie quickly told her that there was nothing to worry about and made up several excuses to try and ease her friend. Thankfully, it worked.

The day almost crawled by when Fluttershy glanced out the window. The sun had barely made it to noon and they were only partway through their batch of cookies. In a small bought of boredom, the yellow pegasus sighed to herself and unfastened her apron. Giving it a quick toss with her muzzle, she headed to the door.

“I’m going to get a little air for a moment. Maybe stretch my legs. Okay?” Fluttershy spoke, nudging the door open with a light press of her hoof.

“Okie dokie!” Pinkie acknowledged and gave a comical salute before staring into the mixing bowl.

Passing the Cakes doing their routine at the front counter, Fluttershy moved along the room and gave them a friendly wave of her hoof. It was nice to spend time with her friend and not worry about much. Just that staying in one spot too long got her a bit restless. Her hoof pulled the door to the bakery open and out she stepped while taking a deep breath.

Her head suddenly grew foggy. The pegasus could almost feel her mind spinning for a short moment as she closed her eyes for a second. It almost felt like she might faint with how quickly it happened. Whatever kind of episode had struck her luckily passed as fast as it had hit.

Slowly, she opened her eyes and let her breath, not realizing she had held it the moment the dizziness came. While she let herself calm down she slowly turned back to the bakery. Perhaps she should tell Pinkie what happened just in case it might appear again and actually have her pass out.

When she pushed the door open she saw only Mrs. Cake at the counter and looking a bit surprised at her. There was a glance back to the kitchen door before the blue earth pony tapped her chin with a hoof.

“Oh, Fluttershy? Um, I thought you had gone home?” Mrs. Cake said in confusion. “You’ve been out a while.”

“What?” seemed to be all the pegasus could muster as she still tried getting a handle on herself.

“Well, you’ve been gone for hours,” Mrs. Cake explained and nodded back to the kitchen. “Pinkie thought you had gone home as well and when you didn’t come back after two hours she finished up the rest of the baking and went to go see Applejack.”

Hours? The whole idea sounded utterly strange to Fluttershy. She hadn’t been outside but for a mere minute or two at best. It didn’t make sense to claim she had left them for so long. Then a small idea sprung.

Pinkie had probably wanted to play a small joke on her to get her to hurry on back to baking. It seemed plausible especially for Pinkie’s standards. A small joke. She happened to get Mrs. Cake to play along with her is all.

Without asking anything else, Fluttershy hurried over to the kitchen door and tugged it open. Her head poked into the room with a smile that slowly faded. The prank was going a bit too far, she thought.

All the ovens were off and the smell of freshly baked goods hung in the air like an edible perfume. Her ears flicked lightly to try and pick up the sound of stifled laughing yet she found nothing. On the counter sat a plethora of treats all wrapped and covered. The list nearby had a number of things crossed off as well.

Lowering her head, Fluttershy pulled back from the doorway and slowly shut it as she turned away. Had she really been out so long? The thought of fainting seemed to be more probable than she initially thought. It didn’t sit well with her.

“Don’t worry, dear! I’m sure she didn’t take it the wrong way. You know how Pinkie gets,” Mrs. Cake chimed to her with a smile.

“Yeah,” the winged pony replied quietly as she slowly made her way to the front door again. “If you see her before I do, can you tell her I’m sorry? I… I think I just lost track of time or something.”

“You know I will. Now, hurry along before it gets dark, dear. Gotta close up shop!” the kind earth pony said and gestured with a hoof to the door, giving a warm smile.

It did seem to help that at least her message would get through to her friend in some manner. She just wished she knew what had happened. One moment she stepped outside and the next she had suddenly skipped nearly the whole time with Pinkie. It scared her as much as it made her feel bad she may look like she ditched her friend when it was far from the truth.

The door shutting behind her gave her a start as she looked up and noticed the orange sky. The sun was getting close to setting. She really had lost time. Things were making less and less sense and only had her start worrying more.

If there was anypony who knew what to do or what it might mean then it would be Twilight. The thought did comfort her especially when she agreed with herself to check in with her magical friend should something like her incident happen once more. Otherwise, she didn’t want to worry others, unless it did seem to be something wrong.

“I can wait until the day after tomorrow,” Fluttershy whispered to herself. “I can explain it to Twilight and maybe she’ll have an idea.”

It did sound like a better solution than running in panic at the first instance of unease. She was trying to better herself about such things. Worrying so much didn’t help and she could have easily just fainted from a little heat stroke or something. Though it begged the question how when in autumn.

The only thing that didn’t make sense was why nopony tried to wake her up or take her to the hospital. She felt rather okay seldom the scare itself. The lightheaded feeling had gone prior to her going back inside as well. Her mind kept going over different reasons as to why things happened the way they did but none of them really helped calm her much.

The only thing she could think of doing on her walk home was to try and put in the back of her mind. Her ears stayed down as she attempted to think of other things to fill her head instead. Soft and cuddly bunnies, precious kittens that were purring. Just something else.

She hardly noticed crossing the arch over the small creek since nearly all the birds were ready for the night. The sky had darkened steadily on her way to the cottage. Some sleep did sound nice and could probably help clear her head easier.

If she wasn’t so worried already then the appearance of her draconequus friend mere feet before her might have startled her. He was holding a teapot that was conveniently shaped in the letter ‘T’ as he gave an exaggerated bow.

“Welcome home, Fluttershy! I have tea ready and a couple of light snacks. You can tell me all about your day with Pinkie Pie!” Discord exclaimed and shook his hands excitedly.

“I kind of just want to lay down if that’s okay,” the pegasus said. Her eyes barely lifted to meet his own.

The tall beast of a friend looked a bit downtrodden at the news but quickly bounced back and vanished the T-pot away. He dusted his hands and gave a nod as he guided the pony inside, opening doors and magically altering a pathway just for her.

“Of course! It must be very tiring baking all day! I’ll let you get some rest, Fluttershy,” Discord announced as he stood back and let her slowly make her way inside and to her room. His random attire of a nanny he donned would have otherwise lifted the poor pony’s spirit had she not been so shaken.

Once she closed her door there was a brief moment where she felt like when she did during the first time she met her friends. She wanted to hide and cry. It wouldn’t solve anything but it somehow just felt like something she should do.

Instead, the winged pony drew in a deep breath and slowly exhaled before climbing up into her bed. She could be strong too. Some rest was all she needed. Tomorrow would be much better for her and she could explain everything. Pinkie was an understanding mare.

There was a lot of tossing back and forth in her head for a while. The sheets stirred and fumbled with her each time as she tried getting comfortable. There was no telling how long she fussed with her bed until finally sleep came.


Mornings were usually spent in song with a cheery mood. Fluttershy felt neither as she tried to get out of bed and figure out how she would explain things to her friend. She only hoped that Pinkie wasn’t upset with her. The slight overcast of the day looked to be the only thing that could recognize her feelings.

She couldn’t remember what the forecast called for with the worry still eating at her. Rainbow Dash would probably remind her if there was something she needed help with. At least, she hoped so. Pinkie wouldn’t have made her friends turn on Fluttershy, would she? No, that was a horrible thought!

Fluttershy shook her head and sighed. The plans to continue baking with Pinkie were still on as far as she knew. The only issue would be forcing herself out of the house and summoning enough courage to explain what happened.

Wobbling on her four legs, the yellow coated mare eventually found her way to the bathroom and began getting ready for her day. With a bad case of bed mane it took several minutes alone to brush it right. The whole time she still couldn’t shake that something felt wrong. Something was out of place. Or maybe somepony.

The thought made her frown before she set her brush aside and finished up the rest of her morning routine. It wasn’t until she made her was into the den that she saw Angel’s water dish nearly empty. Poor thing drank so much, she couldn’t have him dehydrated.

Into the kitchen she went. A small pitcher was filled and she carefully carried it back over to the rabbit’s water bowl. It sounded soothing to hear the water flow into it and comforted the mare for a brief second. Making sure there were no hairs added to it, Fluttershy returned the pitcher and sighed as she tried to think of what to eat.

There were a few minutes of looking in the cupboard for something quick when she felt that familiar nauseating sensation wash over. She almost felt like her whole world had shifted and she was left behind to tumble and toss through the throes of it all. It was worse than the day before. Every second was grueling despite how short it lasted. The whole moment was over in just seconds but it still lingered heavily with the mare.

Her head dipped and those ears folded back as she let out a soft breath. She was sure she didn’t faint. Her head would have clipped the counter had she fallen. Instead, she stood on weak legs with a coiled stomach. The lightheaded feeling was persistent for a while more before she finally sat on the kitchen floor and tried to gather herself.

What was happening to her? Why was she having such odd episodes of uneasiness? Nothing had been wrong to cause the first instance, had it? Nothing exactly seemed wrong for the current moment either. That is if her own feelings of some sort weren’t taken into account.

A small tug at her tail slowly drew her attention. Fluttershy tried her best to appear strong as she sniffed and rubbed at her face with a foreleg in an attempt to focus. Angel was looking up at her with little paws full of her pink tail. The tugging continued for a moment until he let go.

“What is it, Angel Bunny?” Fluttershy asked lightly with a weak smile.

The rabbit sat up and pointed back then tugged on her tail again. Confusion set in before she finally understood. Angel was requesting his water dish filled once more. Though, she had just filled it before stepping into the kitchen for herself.

“Momma filled it just a minute ago,” said Fluttershy, trying to assure herself as much her pet bunny.

The white rabbit shook his head and thumped the ground a bit while looking at his arm. He point around the room and shrugged with a small shake of his head. Once he pointed at her it slowly dawned on the mare what he was attempting to convey.

He had not seen her anywhere for some time. The problem was she had been in the kitchen for only a moment so she couldn’t understand how he couldn’t find her. Another issue was how he already needed his water refilled. She could feel her gut sinking like a rock.

“O-okay. Just let Mommy get some more,” she replied while hoping she wouldn’t find what she feared.

Fluttershy drew more water into the nearby pitcher before taking it in her mouth and slowly walking around the corner. She hoped and prayed it was just a small joke or maybe Angel was being fussy with how warm or cold it was. The shy mare waited before looking down, silently trying to strengthen herself.

It took effort not to mix her silent tears into the empty dish with the water. Her vision blurred as she finished up and walked over to the kitchen counter to set the pitcher upon it once again. Something was certainly wrong and she had no idea what was causing it.

“Oh, Fluttershy! Fluttershy?” Discord’s voice came ringing out from another room. “I’ve been looking for you all day! Did you leave early for Sugar Cube Corner?”

All day. Her episode had lasted the whole day and she had nothing to help her. Looking out the kitchen window showed the slowly darkening sky as if time had been hastened until then. She hardly moved when her tall, chaotic friend entered the kitchen with her.

“There you are! I hope you had a wonderful day! I was thinking, if you bring me back maybe a little more cake tomor-” Discord stopped. His focus set on the damp cheeks that shone on the pony’s face.

Silence filled the room as she felt him kneel awkwardly next her and rest a hand, or rather a paw, on her back. The gentle touch was kind and felt much needed. It seemed to help mend her mentally from the fracture that had happened.

“Fluttershy? What’s wrong?” he asked in a quiet tone, something he wasn’t quite known for.

“I,” Fluttershy tried to start before nearly breaking into a sob. Her shoulders shook as she forced herself to start again. “I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”

It was rough to try and explain an event that was nigh impossible to really tell much of. Discord sat and listened while keeping his mouth shut until she was done. She thanked him dearly for lending an ear to which he nearly attempted his humor at.

“Well, I may be known for causing chaos but I don’t really understand this all,” he admitted and pet her head lightly. “I’m clearly not the smart one of your friends but perhaps that Twilight Sparkle might know something? You should see her.”

“You’re not pulling a really mean trick on me, are you?” Fluttershy asked. The thought only just rose once he mentioned his relation with chaos. It did feel like she was descending into something chaotic, slowly but surely.

“Why, I’m hurt!” Discord retorted before smiling and lightly hugging her. “Of course not. If I had been doing so I would stop seeing how hurt you are now. I honestly have no idea what’s going on.”

The words did slightly comfort her but they also worried her more. If Discord wasn’t causing mischief to create her panic and stress than she had no idea what was. Her head turned to face him as she thought about her issue.

“I wish I knew what it was, dear Fluttershy. I feel a bit powerless though,” the draconequus mentioned before looking away. It was almost as though he was ashamed to admit he couldn’t change something with a snap of his fingers.

If what was happening really did seem out of Discord’s control then her confidence in Twilight wavered even if but a bit. Her head lowered as she tried to tell herself everything would be fine. Those mended fractures unraveled once more as she clung to her friend and shook, fearing what she didn’t know. It would be a long night for her or a short and sanity breaking one.


Waking up, curled on her bed, Fluttershy opened her eyes to the early dawn with light barely peeking over the horizon. The night had been filled with far too much crying and worry. No dreams came though sleep must have happened for her to wake from such slumber.

The coolness of autumn was already happening and a natural chill made the pony hug her sheets tighter. With the sky looking overcast once more she couldn’t help but wonder if rain was called for at least a little. Something still didn’t seem right and there was no way to put a hoof on it for her.

Routines were followed eventually though very slowly. She didn’t wish to stir any unknown circumstances to cause another episode. Showering, brushing, and all the other mundane parts of her morning were acted out as if she were merely a set piece being moved from one point to another. The lingering fear in the back of her mind continued every step of the way.

Breakfast was spent in silence and her food was barely remembered. Angel’s dish was refilled as well as a bundle of new carrots to make up for the day prior. She did feel bad about what happened despite having no way or knowing or countering it. The only thing left for her was to wait and hope.

Their small party was set to take place at Twilight’s castle in the evening. With how things had been going she wasn’t sure she could last the long wait. A small panic-induced thought ran through her as she considered her sleep possibly overlapping into another day instead.

Her eyes and ears took in Angel waking and checking his water then seeing the small gift with a happy squeak. When he ran over and hugged her leg she lightly pat his head with a hoof and assured him it was all his to enjoy. There wasn’t any reason to worry all around her for a problem she had. Let them be happy.

Hours came and went as she sat on her couch and stared out the window. Discord had come by at some point to try and cheer her up while offering to teleport her to Twilight’s doorstep. She refused and merely wanted to take things at her own pace. The two sat quietly for a bit after that which felt almost surreal to her.

There she was, sitting with a friend who cared about her but was helpless against the cause. Neither of them spoke of it beyond the initial suggestion. It was an hour later until Discord declared he had to attend to various things and for her to tell him how things go.

“Oh, and Fluttershy?” Discord added, “Forget the cake. Just come back, okay?”

The words weighed heavy on the poor pony’s mind as she watched him teleport with a pop and was left alone again. She hoped she would be able to come back. If there were no other incidents to happen she just might. Too many ‘what ifs’ ran through her head as she sat still and waited.

It did eventually come to her time to depart. No scary instances nor any lightheaded feelings occurred. That did help make her feel better. If whatever it was had come to pass then she might be better. It was good to focus on the positives of the situation as best she could.

The yellow pegasus gave her rabbit a small kiss goodbye and opened the door to head out. The sky kept its dreary mood above as if taunting her while she walked along the path and over the small stream. As much as she wanted to look happy it was a chore in itself to achieve.

Every step with her hooves had her closer to Twilight’s castle but also felt as if they were in a motion all on their own. Soon enough buildings began to pass by as well as other ponies. Everything felt off. From the places to the ponies it felt like something didn’t belong. It wasn’t until she was nearly at Twilight’s place that she started feeling like maybe it was her that didn’t belong.

Carefully, her hoof rapped at the door while she waited outside. There were a few noises that were muffled behind the entrance of the castle but her knocking did get answered. One of the doors creaked as it opened with a friendly purple face of Twilight poking through the opening. She seemed to be all smiles and happy to see her yellow friend.

“Hey, Fluttershy! Welcome! You’re just in time. The party is nearly underway, though between you and me it feels more like Pinkie wanted an excuse for a girl’s night,” the alicorn mentioned with a snicker.

Inside there were the typical decorations from the pink party pony. Streamers and balloons adorned the high walls and the main chamber had a rather colorful cloth covering the table where they often checked the map of Equestria. In each seat lay a comfortable looking pillow, possibly Rarity’s choice on the matter.

The other mares smiled and welcomed Fluttershy as she came into view. She had apparently been the last to arrive but that didn’t bother her. Pinkie showed no sign of holding anything against for the past two days and nearly pounced her with a hug. The others laughed and pried the pink mare away as they started agreeing it was time to start.

With the delicious food and comfortable seating it made it easy for Fluttershy to lose herself a little and not worry. Cakes were given and plenty of talks happened among them all. If it hadn’t been for the focus shifting to the winged pony in yellow then Fluttershy wouldn’t have had those scary thoughts return so fast.

“So, what’s been going on with you, Shy?” Applejack asked while pulling a plate of baked treats closer to herself.

“Not a whole lot,” Fluttershy lied while resorting to nibbling on some food. It began to eat at her again, though much more than before. “Do you mind if I wash my face real quick?”

“Go ahead. Just head into the other room and it should be on the left,” Twilight answered with a friendly nod.

A quick thanks was offered before Fluttershy hopped down from her chair and walked over to the indicated area. Some cold water could help set her straight, she thought. It was a good idea so she didn’t look so down if they began to worry. She would explain it all once she got back, she just needed to prepare herself.

When her hooves touch the floor as she passed the archway into the next room her fears became reality. The tossing and turning of her stomach and the dizzying spell that seemed to overcome her were brought back in full force. Her legs wobbled before she toppled down with a grunt and slowly started pushing herself back up while breathing heavily.

“Fluttershy?” came a voice from the doorway. Twilight poked her head in and raised her brow, “Oh, thank Celestia, there you are!”

“Wh-what?” was the only response the lightheaded pony could muster while attempting to recuperate.

“Well, you said you wanted to wash up but you were gone for a while. We all decided to go look for you,” Twilight told her and walked closer. “Are you feeling okay? You were gone for hours and we got a bit worried.”

“Hours?” Fluttershy asked knowing it was true. “I’m sorry…”

“It’s all right, just wanted make sure you were okay. We started worrying went you weren’t back and some of the girls had to go home,” the lavender pony explained as she helped her friend stand. “What’s wrong? It’s not like you to run off and hide.”

“I wasn’t hiding,” said Fluttershy simply.

“Then what were you doing?” Twilight inquired, obviously confused.

“Twilight,” came the small voice from Fluttershy’s throat, “I need help.”

There was little else to do but pour her heart out to the only friend there at the moment. Fluttershy did her best to give any and all details to her friend between sobs and wiping away her tears. She was guided back into the main chamber and set at the table once more while Rarity went to grab a damp cloth. It did help some to feel the cold and wet cloth pressed to her brow but the real damage was deeper.

Her recount of the events were listened to thoroughly and anything asked was answered as best as she could. Twilight had magically produced a quill and parchment to take notes as she listened while Rarity tried her best to care for her friend nearby. The three of them tried their hardest to understand the strange phenomenon but it still seemed hopeless.

“I’ll try to read up more on this tonight. For now, maybe you should head home,” Twilight told her and rolled the parchment up while levitating it near.

“I’m scared,” Fluttershy admitted verbally. It was the first time she had said it and it felt good to get it off her chest fully. Discord knew but she had tried to be strong for him.

The fresh tears that rolled down her face only made the two other ponies give saddened looks to each other. There was little else they could do for her currently. Twilight did promise to look into it further and do her best to remedy what might be causing such strange events. Rarity agreed to relay the message to the others as well as check up on her once in a while.

All she could do was wait. The routine of being unable to change something so dire in her life was to wait it out until there was an answer. How many days or weeks would she have to endure such a thing?

It took her a bit to calm down, trying to stifle her cries as she wiped her eyes with the embroidered cloth Rarity offered. They did agree to walk home with her at the very least. There was no sense in having her walk home alone after learning of such a thing.

Rarity stayed close and did her best to talk to Fluttershy trying to keep her mind off the matter. Twilight stayed silent most of the walk as she lagged behind to read the notes she had jotted down. The evening of the party had turned to night and many ponies had moved inside to their comfortable beds and little to no worries.

The walk was far too short for Fluttershy’s liking. She loved the company and wanted them to stay but hadn’t the heart to request it. They needed to do their own things and tend to their own lives. With a final cry into Rarity’s neck they hugged and slowly parted ways while promising to stop by the next day. At least she had something to look forward to.

Stepping inside only when her friends were completely out of sight, Fluttershy entered her cottage and took deep but shaky breaths. Her mind was reeling from having to deal with the possibility of the terrifying happening again. Rarity had lent her cloth to keep and wipe away any tears which she greatly appreciated.

Discord was waiting and gave her a careful hug when she was within reach. She thanked him quietly and mentioned wanting to lay down to which he swiftly moved out of the way. He called to her and wished her a goodnight though she knew it wouldn’t be good. Dreams or not her night wasn’t going to include something nice.

Her wings stayed tucked against her tightly as she entered her room and climbed up into the bed. Setting the carefully stitched cloth on her nightstand, Fluttershy rolled over and stared out her window.

The stars were hidden from the thick veil of clouds. Luna’s moon could hardly penetrate through either. The night would be a cold and dark one for her. She only hoped Twilight could find a remedy quick. Feeling nauseous, that night Fluttershy cried herself to sleep.


Morning had come and with it the bright sun of Celestia shining in through the window. Fluttershy hadn’t noticed when she nodded off but was happy to have a new day ahead of her. It wasn’t a proper happiness but she accepted it and took any she got.

Her mind felt fatigued and her body slightly sore. The whole night had been like a living nightmare for her. She wanted and yearned for another party to just be near all her friends again. Perhaps Pinkie could surprise them with another one soon enough. It was a nice thought.

Brushing and the other mundane activities consumed her waking hour. The whole day at least felt somewhat fresh, though it could just be due to having some rest and seeing the sun on a clear day. She knew not what the cause was but didn’t look for an excuse. Instead, she wished to just be done with her whole ordeal and get back to her normal life.

Passing the frayed cloth on her nightstand, Fluttershy headed out to the kitchen and grabbed the pitcher from the cupboard. As she filled it she felt her home unusually quiet. The sound of the water seemed to be louder than anything else.

Once filled, she did her careful walk with it and moved to the dish on the floor, lightly pouring the contents in. Angel would need a new bowl soon. She couldn’t remember when she bought him the current one but it had been some time. He deserved a lovely one, she thought.

There was something bothering her but she couldn’t place it. When she finished putting the pitcher away and went to go get her mail is when she noticed her birds seemed to be rather quiet. Maybe it stormed the night before and they were still resting. She hadn’t noticed but her mind had been elsewhere.

Her mailbox seemed to have quite a few letters in it. More than usual. Half of them were from Pinkie and card shaped. She smiled and could only guess they were hastily done Get Well cards the party mare made and sent out immediately. A few others were odd with three from Twilight and another from each of the other girls.

Tucking the small pile of letters beneath her wing, Fluttershy walked back to her doorstep. A small and strained whistle sounded from her lips to stir her feathered friends but no reply came. She slowly started getting an uneasy feeling but pushed her thoughts as far back as she could. What she wanted to know was if Twilight found a fix for her problem.

Stepping inside and closing the door, the winged pony walked over to her couch and sat down comfortably upon the cushions. Her eyes focused on the various letters before taking the top one of Twilight’s and carefully opening it. That small heart beat frantically despite her best efforts to calm it. Then she began to read.

“Fluttershy, I’m sorry.”


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Time and time again it came down to practice. Octavia knew that there would be no way of bettering herself as cellist than to keep working on it. Every note had to be right and perfectly on time. Above all, she had to want it and keep her passion with her while playing. It was taxing at times to say the least.

The gray mare sighed and relaxed herself as she stood on her hind legs. The stringed instrument leaned to her as she held the bow in a hoof and closed her eyes. One more song and she would head home. Her roommate was probably wondering where she was anyway.

Slowly, Octavia began to start a peaceful melody. The hum of the notes turning into wonderful notes made her smile as she played, standing outside the edge of town. Ponyville was too busy to concentrate properly and so she had taken it upon herself to find just the right spot and work.

Several ponies had stopped by during her few hours of tuning and playing. Many stamped their hooves or clopped them together in applause at how beautiful the melodies came out. Even if she still knew there was more to improve it did fill her with joy that ponies in passing enjoyed what they heard. She only wished she could appreciate it as much as they did. After all, she was her own worst critic on the matter.

It may have been only several minutes later but it felt too short to enjoy her peace yet too long on working out the smallest mistakes. With an inward sigh, the gray earth pony gave a gentle bow to her tiny audience before gently putting away her cello. The day would be over soon and it only made her more upset that she had wasted time getting out there to practice so late. Tomorrow would be better.

“Very well played!” exclaimed one of the stallions. “Will you be performing at the Canterlot theater this month?”

“Oh,” Octavia said gently with a smile, “why thank you. I have received an invitation though I haven’t replied.”

“Please do! I love your music,” the stallion told her before bidding her farewell.

Perhaps she should. Many ponies did seem to love her music and it would help with a few things. Getting more bits for performing at the theater would clearly help with the living conditions Vinyl and her were experiencing. Small repairs and new furniture would be an ideal thing.

The only real matter was having her stick to the idea. Vinyl would press her to do but she didn’t like being forced into situations. There was a long pause as she thought about it before nodding to herself. It would only bring good to them, so it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Hoisting the cello case over with the custom harness, Octavia secured the instrument to her side like any saddlebag and began making her way back into town. Her mind was filled with the various notes and songs lightly running along and playing for her to listen to as she walked home.

If she had it her way she would have stayed out far longer and kept going. Though she did need to check up on Vinyl and make sure things were still okay at home. They did live together and split the bills so it would be a bad idea to just not be around for her friend.

When the gray mare was nearly home her ears lightly flicked and tilted back. Her head shook as she blinked and let out an audible sigh. Maybe she had been out a bit longer than she needed or just didn’t have the best day going for her. She felt tired and like something else kept playing in her ears. A foreleg came up and rubbed at the ears before continuing to her home.

Upon reaching the front door she could hear the muffled thumps of heavy bass and feel the reverberations with how close she was. There was a small grimace before she wipe the look off her face and nudged the door open. Of course, the second the door opened at all there was a blast of heavy music to assault her and make her wince.

“Vinyl!” Octavia called out loudly. She felt her voice was being eaten by the music itself. “Vinyl! Turn it down!”

For a moment she thought it might come down to her pulling those headphones off her friend, until the decibels lowered. Finally, she could think again. Her face contorted slightly as she folded her ears back and rubbed at them once more. That loud mash of bass and nonsense must have given her a light ringing sound as an after effect.

“Thank you,” Octavia said softly and smiled to her friend in honest. “You should consider toning it down some days, Vinyl. I know you love your style and the house can contain… most of it. Just that it might damage your ears in the long run.”

The blue maned and white coated unicorn from the other end of the living room gave a nod and smiled. Her shades were on as seemed normal even within the house. Octavia never understood but also never questioned it. Just something she left alone.

“I was thinking about that Canterlot invitation a bit ago,” Octavia said, wanting to keep conversation going so the music didn’t get turned back up. “I might go and perform.”

Hooves sounded out, clambering around before Vinyl had made her way over in a rush and hugged her friend tightly. The gesture was sweet and Octavia knew it been on Vinyl’s mind plenty for such a reaction to come out.

“Okay,” she said with a giggle. “Okay, okay. I’ll do it. Just promise me the house doesn’t get rocked to the foundation while I’m gone next month?”

Vinyl stepped back and nodded, her grin wide and not at all trying to hide it. If she wasn’t mute there would be constant praises being shouted or perhaps how proud of Octavia she was. Instead, only the kind smile and happiness that shone so brightly.

Octavia never had a problem with her roommate having no voice. Communication was rather easy and with the help of music they learned plenty from one another. On the rare occasion, Vinyl did drag out her board and chalk to make some things easier to understand but it had been collecting dust for the past few months.

There must have been an odd look on Octavia’s face with how her friend was looking at her. She was about to brush it off before her eyes lowered and ears wilted.

“I’ve just been tired today. It’s nothing, really. Don’t worry, okay?” Octavia answered and let herself smile a bit. “Now, I need a good deal of rest and maybe some tea in the morning. Think you can play just a little more quiet tonight?”

The unicorn gave a swift nod and crossed a hoof over her chest. It was a small notion but it still made the cellist’s heart warm. The two of them parted as Vinyl went back to her record table setup that Octavia knew little about and the tired earth pony herself made her way to her bedroom.

It was mere second when she got into her room and closed the door that she heard her friend start up once again. There was a small laugh that came from her but she just felt too exhausted to fully give into it. Setting her cello case aside and slipping off her bow tie, the gray mare sighed heavily as she practically collapsed onto the bed.

She had no clue why she was so tired for the day but constant practice for hours at a time with no break could have been a good indication. Her body rolled from one side to the other as she enjoyed the cool sheets against her and closed her eyes. The Canterlot theater would be extravagant and she would be performing for all sorts of famous ponies all over Equestria there. There was a lot going on in her mind as she began to drift to sleep.

If only that light and incessant ringing would stop.


Morning had come rather abruptly for Octavia. The sun shone brightly through the windows with the birds chirping outside. She hadn’t been quite sure what time she passed out but was glad she could wake up with more energy.

Her violet eyes squinted at the window to take in the light until she sat up and yawned wide. The thoughts of what to do for the day began to slowly fill her mind as she stayed in bed a moment longer only to finally force herself up. It would be a waste to rest until midday then decide to practice or take care of things.

Carefully, her teeth took in the covers as she started making her bed and tried to decide on what she wanted for breakfast. Tea sounded much nicer than coffee and maybe even a bit of a honey in it. Just a tiny treat for herself that she enjoyed from time to time.

It would be a good day to head out early and work on her melodies with how clear the sky was. Everything seemed rather perfect for a calming day of music despite how exhausted it might make her if she didn’t take a break a few times from it. Possibly the reason of being so tired the day before.

With a new day ahead, Octavia let her hooves carry her from one part of the house to the next. Her trot was light as she passed the turntables her friend often used for music. She never quite grasped how they worked entirely but Vinyl seemed to have quite a lot of fun with them. A light smile drifted across her muzzle before she continued on into the kitchen to warm the water.

There would be so much time to play her cello that she might be able to help work on a few small fixes around the house. Supposing they had the right tools and made proper attempts. The thought made her scrunch her face slightly before shaking her head. It would be best to leave it to those who knew the craft.

The whistling of the kettle on the stove drew her attention and she was quick to stifle the sound from continuing. If Vinyl was still asleep then she wanted her dear friend to keep getting needed rest. It wasn’t until she started pouring the hot water into a cup that something else caught her ears.

A look back to the stove showed no other appliance or second kettle upon the top. Strange. She was certain she heard a whistling of some sort as if she hadn’t picked it up though much fainter. Her mind quickly went back to making her tea when she heard the noise once more.

It was no whistle she was picking up but rather a slight ringing noise. There was no beginning nor end to the sound either. A constant and droning noise that hindered faintly on the edge within hearing.

“What is that?” Octavia whispered to herself as she glanced around. Her confusion seemed to stay upon her face while she looked for the source yet nothing held any indication of it.

Using a hoof, the gray mare rubbed at an ear in an attempt to sooth the sound but it seemed to do as it pleased. There was something very strange about it that kept her focus. Exactly what it might be seemed to leave her clueless, though she was certain it wasn’t just any noise.

The sound of Vinyl’s door opening almost startled her with how focused she was. It was louder than she could have anticipated but she quickly calmed down. After a minute, Vinyl herself walked around the corner with a yawn and a smile upon seeing her roommate up.

“Good morning,” Octavia greeted to her unicorn friend. “Tea?”

Vinyl still looked incredibly tired but she was probably more awake than Octavia. There was some thought into the question before the white pony nodded and lazily made her way to the nearby table. Her eyes gazed into the already filled cup before looking over to her roommate.

“Go ahead. I can make myself another. You probably need it more than me,” said the cellist as she got another teacup ready with leaves.

Her handling of the kettle with her mouth was as careful as any pony, making sure not a drop spilled, while she filled her own cup. The tea leaves were doused and all that would be left would be a nice dab of honey. Perhaps two dollops instead of one.

The mare smiled to herself as she pulled the amber filled jar over and grabbed the dipper. In her attempt to add two quick drops of honey it appeared she may have doubled it. Well, she deserved a treat to start her day. Once finished, her head turned as she asked her friend if she wanted any.

Those eyebrows raised though the mouth and eyes seemed to show she didn’t understand. A questioning look. Octavia was thankful she could read her expression and moved to show the honey jar. The unicorn’s face quickly changed to one of excitement.

In went four drops, rather generously added by Octavia herself, and the two began their calm morning tea. It was relaxing having somepony there with her to enjoy small moments as such. Conversation might be seldom at times but the company was one she wouldn’t trade the world for.

Upon the setting of a cup, the light clack of ceramic onto the wooden table made the gray mare’s ears flick. Her face went blank for a second before quickly shaking her head. That noise felt like it just needed a small start to get in and begin again.

Vinyl’s head tilted lightly as she noticed the change in body language. Her white hoof rapped the table gently to her friend’s attention before gently shaking her hoof.

“Oh, sorry,” Octavia finally answered, looking up with a forced smile. “Just something bugging me a little is all. Nothing to worry about.”

There was a small motion of white hooves from the unicorn before she looked inquiringly to the cellist seated across from her. It was an obvious sign.

“It’s nothing, really. Just a little ringing noise. Guess I haven’t woken up fully,” the earth pony replied and gently giggled.

The questioning look of Vinyl didn’t exactly make her feel any better about it but she knew it was nothing. Loud concerts or dramatically increased noises could cause it for a moment. Even though there had been nothing like that to cause the couple of instances recently, Octavia saw no need for worry.

“I was playing too loud,” she teased and smiled behind her lifted teacup. The corners of her eyes shifted enough to give Vinyl the notice of such a hidden smile.

The two grinned together with Octavia nearly snorting in her attempt to quiet herself as Vinyl quietly laughed along with her. It was a nice morning to spend with her roommate, she was sure of that. They eventually calmed down and finished their tea before getting ready for the day.

With Vinyl working on her own album to pitch, Octavia had to make sure her own songs were in order for the coming event in Canterlot. Brushing her mane and teeth, the cellist got herself ready and slung her instrument over her back. There was a friendly wave to each other before the unicorn magically started her records and began moving components.

Quickly, Octavia went out the door as the blast of odd beats and heavy bass nearly helped push her out. Once the door was shut she could hear the muffled noises from inside the house continuing. She could also hear that ringing starting up again. Her thoughts were brought to maybe Vinyl’s music causing the issue but she didn’t want to rush to such a drastic conclusion.

It did bother her that the noise didn’t seem to let up as she started walking. The sound felt like it was following her and continued its unyielding droning. Just what was that? Annoying is what it is, she thought.

She had nearly cross the town before it finally stopped. At least, it felt like it stopped. Her mind had shifted into a better place and her focus was suddenly on her music. It stayed that way until she thought about it again.

The ringing persisted.


The day had gone from great to rather disappointing. If Octavia could count the number of times her focus was lost she would have been more productive. Each song had to be repeated or restarted several times over and many notes were wrong or entirely missed somehow. The frustration was mounting.

It was when she finally put down her bow to take her second break of the day that she realized why things were going so bad. Instead of her mind being on music she was becoming more interested on the ringing. The otherwise silent noise no other pony could hear but her. The thing was so distracting for her somehow.

With her mind so unfocused, the cellist mare hardly noticed when one of the ponies had walked up and lightly placed a couple of bits into her case. She had never asked for donations or even had many given since she kept her case closed most of the time.

Looking up from her seated position, Octavia saw a rather pale unicorn in a mauve colored robe. The pony wore no expression but seemed to be watching the frustrated musician closely as she passed by without a word.

“Uh, thank you,” Octavia finally said while her head gave a light shake to clear her mind.

“Don’t give in if you aren’t prepared,” spoke the unicorn while walking away.

“Excuse me?” came the gray mare’s response while shifting to stand up. Though she hardly had time to run after the odd pony before she was lost.

Exactly where she went Octavia couldn’t tell. There looked to be very little for such a pony to run and hide behind but nothing seemed out of place. Baffled at the odd encounter, the cellist sighed and began working herself up to start playing again. The statement lingered on her mind for a moment longer as she tried to understand its meaning.

It wasn’t long before she pushed it out of her mind and did her best to focus on the music she had memorized. Carefully, each movement of her foreleg moved the bow along the strings and began to make the beautiful music she cherished deeply once again. She felt she finally had her muse back and smiled as she played for the loving pony audience.

Things felt at peace within her and it showed greatly through her music. The proper rhythm and notes were all on point as she let the melody take hold of her. Octavia swayed ever so slightly to her own song while she played and closed her eyes. Whatever had gone over her she welcomed to stay.

It was an odd sensation to her to suddenly be feeling her own music in such a manner. Each and every note was perfect and captivating. The sound was bliss as she lost herself to it while she played, working the bow and frets with hooves only a professional could.

As the songs played out for the rest of the day she continued on into the evening. There were no more breaks while she let things take place and just went with it all. The one thing she did come to notice was the absence of the infernal ringing noise while playing. It soothed her and made her far happier to know as well. What had changed, she did not know.

Hours did pass much like the numerous ponies that came to listen and be off later. Octavia still played. Her songs nearly went into the night until she had come to her senses at the end of one. The sky had grown dark overhead and there were naught a single pony around to listen. She had been playing only to herself.

A glance to her cello case yielded a nice lump of bits tossed in during her whole play. It was more money than she had seen in the past two weeks. The sight was something that nearly stole her breath away as she quickly began to pack up and slip the money into a spare saddlebag. Vinyl would be very happy to see the income.

Things got sorted and fastened as Octavia gathered everything and began her trek back home. She had stayed out far later than she wished but didn’t seem as upset about it as she would have been. If the day had been continuing with bad notes and terrible pacing then she might have been far more angry with herself.

About halfway to her home she started thinking of the mysterious mare that had told her some strange statement. Either she was confused with another or it was some odd riddle. The robe looked a little out of place as well with the golden hem around the sleeves and base considering the many other things to be wearing during a sunny day.

Octavia rolled her eyes and sighed to herself. She would sound like the famous Rarity if she started going on about what other ponies wear. The idea was a little humorous but faded quickly for the moment her mind began to relax she started hearing it once more.

“Just stop,” she muttered, the cellist lowering her head and folding her ears back.

Her hooves stumbled over a small lump of dirt and caused her to stagger. The mare tripped and fumbled barely able to cushion her fall with her legs as she felt the jostle of bits shake against her. There was a small rip and several metal coin spilled from the newly torn hole in the saddlebag as she groaned.

She would have blamed the whole thing on it being dark but it was still easy enough to see. The real reason she tripped was that noise distracting her. Every second just having it sound off around her. Of course she would have an accident with something that annoying.

The mood had shifted greatly into a far deeper tone as she grumbled and took the time to pick up all she could while rearranging her bags. It looked like she would have to get her saddlebag repaired soon with a hole that large. It was probably the weight of the bits that caused a weak seam to tear.

Octavia groaned and made sure everything was in proper order all while hearing that incessant sound. Her ears flicked a few times trying to bat away the repetitive nature of it but it was in vain. When she finally began walking again, she tried her best to ignore the ringing as best she could.

Thoughts of what the noise could be began to fill her head as she neared her home. There had been accounts of something similar she heard of. The problem had been called tinnitus but beyond that she couldn’t remember much. It affected others but was she the only pony that had it in such severity? Did it bother anypony else as much?

There would have been more thought on it if she hadn’t nearly ran into her own front door. Even the muffled beats of Vinyl’s own music weren’t heard in the distraction. After listening for it specifically, Octavia did near the distinct sounds of her friend’s loud bass and smiled to herself. Some other distraction she welcomed eagerly.

Opening the door met her with the incredible volume of Vinyl’s own song. It was all so incredibly loud but she didn’t find it annoying. Anything to drown out the haunting drone. The mare stumbled inside and shut the door before any complaints could begin from neighboring ponies.

It was strange to hear the music stop instantly. Usually, Vinyl went on for a while after she came home, even if it was a bit quieter. The silence only seemed to heighten the ringing around the cellist. No, not around her. She could tell it was in her ears. That’s why she couldn’t stop it so easily.

A look up showed her roommate staring back in worry. Those purple tinted glasses were magically raised as she seemed to be either analyzing Octavia’s looks or waiting for a response. What would Octavia say to her? How could she get her to understand such a silly issue?

Vinyl gave a shake of her head and held up her forelegs practically begging for an answer and almost asking what happened. The gesture made the gray mare feel a bit worse knowing she didn’t look that well just from a glance.

“I… It’s nothing,” Octavia said while trying to walk on by and just get something to eat. She wanted to lay down and try to forget about the inconveniences of the day.

A foreleg came around the back of her neck and pulled her in close. Vinyl hugged her dear friend and shook her head. Once she pointed at the torn bag and scuffed hind leg Octavia decided to explain the whole ordeal to her. Though she may have severely downplayed the entire thing to make sure she didn’t cause anymore stress to her roommate.

“So, it’s just a small ringing in my ears. I can’t really explain it,” the cellist pony ended the explanation with. She felt worn out.

Vinyl sat still for a moment while taking in everything before holding up a hoof. She wanted her friend to wait a moment. Octavia obliged and nodded as she sat down and let the instrument case clatter to the floor. It didn’t take long for the unicorn to come back, hovering her small board and chalk before her as she blew on it to dust off the surface.

‘Go see a doctor,’ Vinyl wrote and faced it to her.

“I would but it would cost so much. I know we need to fix this place up as well,” Octavia said and watched her friend wipe the board clean before magically drawing on it again.

‘Tavi, you need to. Please?’ was written on the surface revealed to her then the piece of chalk pointed to the bag of bits.

“Okay, okay. I’ll go in the morning. I was hoping to surprise you with the money,” the defeated mare answered and smiled weakly. It wasn’t easy for Octavia to give up the fight but that noise felt like it might drive her mad if she didn’t take care of it.

The gesture given after did make her feel better about giving in. It was nothing more than a simple ‘Thank you’ Vinyl used with her hooves but it was received wonderfully. Even though Octavia wouldn’t mind her friend starting her music again it seemed Vinyl wished to be considerate and stop playing entirely for the night. The two ate a late dinner and cleaned up before heading their own rooms soon after.

The entire time Octavia was trying her best to ignore the sound. It probably showed on her face more than once or became noticeable when she glanced around at the table a few times. If her music would suffer from such a thing then it would be in her best interest to see a doctor about it. Vinyl was right.

As she got ready for bed, Octavia began almost hearing it a bit louder than usual. It didn’t rise so much in pitch as it did in volume. The ringing became something a bit more. There was something hidden beneath it or within it. Somehow, the knowledge of it gave her chills. Whatever it was it didn’t feel right.

Laying in bed only seemed to worsen the effect. She could hear something else. Her mind couldn’t decipher what it could be but the whole instance was unsettling her more as she tried to ignore it. Nothing helped. Pillows over her ears, humming to herself, trying to think of anything other than that cursed noise, yet it all failed.

Octavia felt she was going to lose her mind to it until she remembered her day out. She had somehow forgotten or at least kept it at bay during a certain moment while playing. It wasn’t a good idea to play so late but she wanted it to go away. Just one song might help.

Slowly, the gray earth pony crept out of bed and went to grab her case. Even though the house was silent her ears were filled with that dreaded sound the entire way. She wasted no time in setting up in her room and sitting in her chair. It only had to be one song to subside it. Just enough to get through the night with.

Closing her eyes, Octavia carefully began to play. The music was hardly quelled within the walls of her room. A slow melody seeped out into the rest of the house as she closed her eyes and let herself get lost once again. Just one song.


Sunrise came and light flooded into the room slowly. Octavia stayed seated with bow in her hoof and her eyes still closed. She had played throughout the night and hadn’t actually slept a wink. It showed easily through the light bags under her eyes and her overall tired look.

It was peaceful. The cellist had been happy and at ease for those hours. The moment her door opened it made her stop suddenly and wait. It would be Vinyl wanting to check up on her and see how things were. Instead of opening her eyes, Octavia merely nodded.

“I’m fine. I’ll go to the doctor soon,” she assured her friend before continuing her playing.

What she didn’t see was probably for the best. Vinyl had more worry on her face and seemed rather close to crying. She had heard the playing through the night and when she woke up. The unicorn knew it wasn’t okay but she had no idea what to do other than have her friend go to the doctor as she promised.

The next few hours were played with no breaks between melodies. Octavia’s foreleg felt sore from the movements through the night but she wouldn’t relent just to keep the noise away. Not until she had to leave as she assured her roommate.

There was a heavy sigh when she finally ended her nearly endless play. The ringing was instant when it came back, persistent and louder than usual. Her ears pinned back as she tried her best to get ready while glancing back behind her every so often. She was certain she heard something else. Somepony else.

If she could have played the whole time she would have, by Celestia. Her mind was being rattled by the ringing and slight noises beyond it. It almost sounded like whispers. Octavia shuddered.

The gray cellist got things sorted and quickly grabbed another bag to deposit the money in. With the coin secured, Octavia took a deep breath and tried to keep her mind busy as she began heading out. The small board hanging near the front door made her give a tired smile as she went out and started on her walk to the nearest otolaryngologist.

It was sweet of Vinyl to tell her to take care before leaving. The unicorn had her heart in the right spot for sure. It was something Octavia grew fond of and one of the big reasons Vinyl stayed such a close friend. She just wished she could do more for her.

“I’m sorry?” Octavia called out as she looked around. She had heard somepony say something nearby, had she not?

The area around her was devoid of ponies other than the couple far across talking to each other. Nothing was seeming right. No pony could have talked that close to her and be gone so quick. The noise increased.

In her fear, Octavia could hear more whispers hidden beneath the thin layer of the ringing. Most of it was impossible to understand but she could hear a word or two once in a while. Things that didn’t make any sense but words nonetheless. Did they mean something?

Her walking slowed as she tried listening closer for once. The ringing was almost a background noise as she could hear the voices a little more though hardly enough to distinguish what was being said entirely. The focus eventually withdrew from walking to listening as she stopped.

With her stress and fatigue she could only hazard a guess at just how worn out she looked. It didn’t help with her sitting in the middle of the area and blankly staring at the grass while trying to hear voices. Was she going crazy?

The sound of her name seemed to instantly bring her back from her distant thoughts and interest as she gasped and looked up. A look around showed no pony near and only leaving her with herself to answer who had spoken. Octavia felt herself breathing heavily as she tried to bring her attention away from it all but the voices only seemed to insist she listen.

“You hear them now. Don’t you?” came a voice behind her.

Octavia almost jumped out of her gray coat before turning to see what pony had decided to strike up conversation. It was the strange mare from the day before. The same robes in mauve adorned the pale unicorn as her straight mane of some dark but faded red was over to one side.

“Who are you?” Octavia inquired as she felt her heart thumping rapidly in her chest.

“Don’t listen to them if you aren’t ready,” came the only response to the question. The curious mare wasn’t one with formalities it appeared.

“What are you talking about?” the cellist pony asked before it slowly began to dawn on her. “Do you hear them?”

“I do. They don’t like it when you listen,” the pony told her and stared blankly, almost as if she was staring into the stressed pony’s soul.

“’They?’” Octavia asked and looked around them both before leaning in closer. “How do you know I hear them?” She felt mad just asking but that noise was already feeling like an attempt to drive her insane.

“They call your name out. They know you can hear them. Don’t listen,” the robed mare said simply and looked off in the distance for a moment. “They’re always here.”

There were so many question that Octavia wanted to ask but she didn’t know where to begin. Was she crazy for listening to the mare or just desperate? Was the mare right? Did the unicorn know something more?

“I don’t even kno-” Octavia began before being interrupted.

“You aren’t ready. You won’t be ready. I can tell it’s taking a toll on you faster than others,” explained the unicorn vaguely. “You won’t be accepted.”

The more she listen the more Octavia began to feel as if she were in actual danger. Nothing seemed to support such a claim but the fact some random pony knew she was hearing things without telling anypony other than her roommate had her interested enough to stay listening.

“What do I do?” the cellist finally asked, hoping for an actual answer.

“Nothing. Go about your life as usual. They will only persist if you give them attention,” replied the mysterious pony.

“Nothing? How do I ignore it then?” Octavia asked almost in a cry. She didn’t want to be pulled around as if the whole thing was a joke. The noises were festering at her as they spoke!

“However you can,” was the answer given. The mare looked back to her and seemed to study her for a moment. “They’ll come for you if you listen.”

It felt like there was a weight pressing down on the gray mare upon hearing those words. Her heart was pounding like crazy as she tried to understand what little was actually told to her. Who or what might be trying to get her specifically made her worry. Why her?

The robed mare turned and began walking away as if the conversation was over. The hood to her robes stayed along her back as Octavia saw a large tome fastened to the side of the pony she hadn’t noticed before. It dawned on her that she didn’t get to ask so many other questions and almost crawled forward.

“Do they go away?” the desperate mare called out to the departing pony.



Octavia sat in her room, cello against her, playing continuously. Her mind was comforted only by the fact she could play. The songs she made helped ease the voices she was hearing. No doctor could fix the problem she had so she decided to return home and just do her best to thwart whatever looming threat might be at a brink of her sanity.

The songs filled the house as she stayed seated and moved only when necessary. With Vinyl out to try and sell her own album it left Octavia with plenty of freedom to just play her heart out. There was no need for time or dates. She knew she was a prisoner of whatever was holding her mental health captive.

The cello sang and Octavia listened. The two were a pair forever destined. A thought or two had passed her mind before she started playing such as if she were suffering from schizophrenia or maybe just paranoia making her lose it from the ringing. Neither of which could be explained how another pony she had never met knew that she could hear it.

All the hours were lost to her. Nothing else mattered as she worked away the bow and frets, doing her best to keep from hearing ‘them’ again. What it or they were she had no real idea but the information she did have only filled her with fear. She had briefly wished she asked if it was possible to see ‘them’ but quickly thanked herself it hadn’t occurred to her.

How many hours had passed until she heard the front door open were unknown to her. Vinyl had come home and most likely seen the dropped saddlebag and scattered bits on the floor. The sounds of the cello moaned out in groaning fashion as the strings were used. There came a quick galloping to the bedroom door before it opened.

Octavia stayed seated, playing for herself as she kept her eyes closed. She knew she wouldn’t hear her friend speak and she couldn’t bear facing her in the state she was in. Her foreleg kept moving the bow as she played.

“I can’t go,” the cellist mentioned. “I can’t let them get me.”

Vinyl stared at her friend in shock and worry before running over to try and pull at her foreleg with the bow. The sudden stop of the melody had Octavia spring her eyes open and glance around frantically. Her leg tugged away from Vinyl as she began breathe a bit heavily.

“Let go! They know!” Octavia screamed in fear, managing to wrestle free and instantly pick up the melody as if it had merely been paused though in a faster rhythm.

The look in her eyes scared the unicorn as she backed away and watched. Something was driving her friend to this madness but she didn’t know what. Instead of disturbing her again, Vinyl slowly backed out of the room and closed the door with her magic.

With only music being her guide, Octavia played through the rest of the day and well into the night. Her mind could not deal with the things lurking beyond her current realm. She didn’t knew who or what they were but they knew she was listening. It was impossible for her to go back to a normal life. She would always have them in the back of her mind and could slip up by listening when she didn’t mean to. It was why she chose to play.

There were lulls in her lone music when she fell unconscious or got too tired. Days began sifting into one another yet she never noticed. Every small break to eat or drink as Vinyl tried offering only ended up with her rushing to play once again and in such a fever she feared she would have to use the rosin too soon.

Every break or stir out of her sleep was met with louder voices. She could hear them clearly. Each and every word sounded as if it were right next to her. Some of them were in another language she had never heard before. Rest came seldom to her if she could help it. They haunted her dreams and Luna was either powerless or knew nothing of it.

She had tried telling Vinyl what she knew but it always came out as nonsense. Just her blabbering on about how ‘they’ would take her way if she stopped. How something might get her because it knows she can’t focus on anything else. The weeks were grueling for them both. Late in the nights there came light cries for help from Octavia’s room with her music.

Things stayed on edge as the weeks continued. It was all a manic cry from the mare. The music had become something almost otherworldly sounding and gave Vinyl nightmares that Luna was effortless in fighting off. Every night was the same thing, hearing such strange music that never sat well with the unicorn. Those soft pleas.

It was one particular night that brought the unicorn out of her sleep though not from the nightmares. Instead she had heard something different. There was no mistaking it. Octavia had cried out. It wasn’t the scream that woke Vinyl but the deafening silence moments before.

The melody didn’t continue.


View Online

A nurse shouldn’t have to transfer. That’s what Nurse Redheart thought anyway. It was one thing to be assigned different rooms and floors but an entirely different district was so sudden. She couldn’t recall the last time she heard a nurse being assigned somewhere else for a transfer rather than a doctor.

The carriage jostled along the way as the medical mare sat within, bored and rather disgruntled. If the opportunity had been present to get a promotion she would have much rather chose that. It didn’t seem all bad, though. With the new place being close to the local hospital and her temporary home within a small, gated community it did sound rather cozy. Just that it didn’t feel right for her.

Ponyville was where her heart was at and possibly where it would stay. The doctor giving her the transfer had mentioned it wasn’t a permanent thing though she had her doubts along the way. Supposedly, she was to train a few nurses at the assigned hospital for several months and then they would reevaluate her position as deemed necessary. To her, that only meant prolonging the whole ordeal.

Sighing deeply, Redheart watched the landscape pass by and merely waited. The thought of her prior patients did make her smile a bit. That loud party pony always causing a scene or having random ponies sneaking around the hospital at night. Sure, it did annoy her at the time but she cherished the moments.

“Almost there, ma’am!” the stallion called to her from the front, still pulling the carriage along.

The only reply she gave was a mumble and nod. She wasn’t prepared to go but had no choice unless she wanted to be out of a job. Her mind drifted away again to pass the time as the white earth pony sat in silence.

Of course, anypony not wanting to transfer so suddenly would probably be thinking the same things or wishing the same wishes. Was she a special case? Not at all, but it didn’t keep her from hoping to come back to Ponyville sooner rather than later. Things would work out. They had to.

The carriage stopped quicker than the nurse was ready for as she almost slipped out of her seat. Her eyes took in the sight outside the window before seeing the iron gates and blinking. Her mind must have wandered far off for her not to see them coming up on the place. Instead of wasting time, the pink maned mare nudged the door open and stepped out, stretching her legs a bit.

“This is it, huh?” she asked, looking up at the tall gates and then to the sides along the high stone walls.

“Mhm, sure is a nice looking place,” the stallion said as he also took in the sight. “A bit strange they want to be a gated community this far out.”

Redheart turned to her driver and raised a brow. Now that he had mentioned it, it did seem a little odd for a place of possibly thirty houses to be secured so much and out of the way. It wasn’t even that close to the city to warrant such a thing. Those stone walls looked far too slick to even climb.

The white mare sighed to herself and shook her head. She was just looking for excuses to send a letter back and have them bring her back to Ponyville. Never had she thought she would get this homesick before.

“It’s probably nothing. Just ponies out here choose to live differently,” the nurse explained, mostly to herself.

“Probably,” the stallion agreed simply and shrugged. “I was told that you’ll be getting a new driver to bring from here to your work. He’s got set times so there’s no need for emergency letters.”

“Thank you. You’ve been real kind,” Redheart said as she hopped into the carriage and began tugging out her three suitcases full of clothing, supplies, and mementos.

“Need any help, miss?” the driver asked as he watched.

“I’m all right. I just wish I knew how to get their attention to open the gates,” she spoke while smiling warmly.

“HEY!” the stallion shouted with a hoof to his muzzle.

Oh, Celestia, that was loud! Redheart had nearly cowered from the sudden shout with how out of the blue it was. To her surprise, the gates rattled and seemed to clunk open from the lock as a pony from the side came into view. Their hooves pulled the metal poles to slide them open just barely enough for a pony to fit through.

“Well, thank you again,” Redheart mentioned and giggled lightly to the stallion.

“No worries. Oh, and your new driver will be coming to pick you up around nine in the morning and then drop you off back here about five in the evening. Unless you specify otherwise to him, that is.”

At least she got that bit of information before they parted ways. Who knows how many days she would miss or stand around waiting otherwise. The pony on the other side of the gate watched in silence at the exchange and giving a small glance back to the housing as they waited.

“I’ll be seeing you. Take care,” the nurse said as she waved a hoof and let the carriage driver take off.

Once the carriage was off and she could hardly hear his hoofsteps, Redheart pulled along her luggage and worked to getting it as close to the gate as possible. With the opening barely big enough to fit only her, she looked to the pony standing on the other side.

“Little help?” she asked, trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice. He could have at least said a welcome.

A wary glance was cast back to the various houses and down along the road splitting some up the middle. They took a moment before nodding and rushing over to grab each piece of luggage and slip it through the gate before allowing her in. Such odd behavior for a welcome from a pony. When she was fully within the community, the pony quickly pushed the iron gate shut and nearly clipped the pink tail of the nurse with it.

“Hey! Watch it!” Redheart yelled. She was starting to already dislike it in her new hometown, if it could even be called that.

No apology was uttered as the pony took the extra suitcases and walked ahead. After a moment watching him, Redheart followed along with a roll of her eyes. Not the talking type, she guessed. At least he was helping with her stuff getting moved and showing her what house would be hers for the next several months.

As the walked, she noticed various ponies talking among themselves and some offering light waves. She did her best to wave back and smile to not appear unfriendly. Last thing she wanted was to spend the months ahead utterly alone more than she already felt. Making new friends would be a good idea.

It was a bit of a walk but nothing too far. After all, the whole community was rather small in itself. Her house was near the back end of it all. All around the place that tall wall of stone stayed up. It gave just enough room between it and the houses near it to not block the sunlight at least. With the iron gates and the tall wall it almost felt like a prison instead of a home.

Redheart let the pony lead her all the way up to her doorstep before he dropped her case and held out a hoof to show a key. There was a pause before she took it gingerly from him and watched him head back without a word. What a strange fellow.

Unlocking the door and stepping in, she was met with a sight she hardly expected. The house that was being paid for by her job had seemed to net her quite the space. Everything looked so clean and pristine that she thought they were about to tell her to conduct her to work at home. She could hardly believe how lovely it looked.

As she stepped in and pulled in her luggage, the mare spotted a letter laying on the kitchen counter. Guess they figured she would be hungry right away when she got in and go right there. The rumbling in her stomach indicated they were very right.

It took her a bit, but she finally got her suitcases set up to unpack them later. But she came right back to the letter as she grabbed an apple from the welcoming fruit basket set up on the dining room table. Other than spelling her name a little strangely, it seemed to be typical greeting. At least she had somepony wanting to greet and welcome her home.

‘Dear, Nurse Red Heart, we hope you enjoy your stay at our small community for the duration of your time here. Please note we do not condone excessively loud noises during the night, constant gate traffic, or anypony out past curfew. Other than those exceptions, we welcome you with open hearts.

‘Please note that groceries will be taken care of weekly and you only need to bring us your list. Upon your arrival, we will be holding a housewarming dinner down the lane at the overseer’s home. Curfew will be in effect from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. Under no circumstances must you ever be out during those hours.’

That was more than a little strange to her. For somepony to stress there was a curfew for the area seemed off. It could easily be nothing but for them to state it twice while trying to welcome her had her reading more into it than she probably should.

Her mind pushed it aside soon enough as she set the letter down and munched on her snack. At least she would be getting to know the others at a dinner soon. They hadn’t said which house but she could always ask. They probably just forgot and assumed she knew like if they gave letters to the other ponies in the small community.

Not wanting to think about the details, Redheart hurried to her suitcases and began to unpack. Various nurse hats and clothing were packed away in one case alone. She was surprised how many times she had to replace or wash one. The outdoor and relax wear seemed to have their own case as well.

Time was spent for a few hours of her getting to know her new home for the time being and making things comfortable to her liking. The bedroom was larger than anything she would need but having a bed to sprawl out on and pass out wasn’t going to get a complaint from an exhausted nurse after work. Even the clothing cabinet seemed more vast than what she had brought with her.

Hardwood floors covered nearly every inch of the ground. Even though the house was a mere one floor it had more room than her previous one. She wasn’t sure if she would get used to it or eventually have trouble going back. Though, that was going to be a ways off and she didn’t feel like thinking more on the subject.

Before long, she noticed it was getting later than she realized. Curfew would be in a few hours so she did her best to clean up and get ready for the dinner. The mare took a deep breath as she stared in the mirror and nodded. She would make it until she had to head back.

Her pink hair was pulled back into a more relaxed ponytail rather than the bun she preferred while working. As she stepped into the foyer she tried to think of anything that she might be forgetting. There was hardly much she could think of and so the mare opened her door and stepped out.

Surprise took hold as she saw two rows of ponies looking happily to her right outside her house. The mix of mares and stallions seemed to be a little creepy with their stares until they all shouted a welcome. Things felt far more natural after that, thankfully.

“I’m glad we got a doctor here! Your job must be so exciting!” one of the mares exclaimed.

“Oh, I’m just a nurse but it can be hectic,” Redheart replied while wondering if they had been waiting outside the whole time. “How long have you all been out here?”

“We were just about to knock,” announced a stallion further down the rows.

“I see. Well, I had a letter and-” the nurse began to say until she got interrupted.

“The housewarming dinner! Yes! We’ve come to show you the way,” one said and that seemed to signal them all to turn and begin walking down the lane.

Redheart stood still for a moment in confusion before she tagged along and tried making small talk to some of the ponies that actually would speak to her. One of them lived just across from her. The mare’s name eluded her but she figured she could ask again later. They all did seem friendly enough which was a relief after her initial arrival.

Bringing up the gatekeeper stallion made a few of them give her an awkward look but they kept moving. Supposedly, the pony that had met her at the gates was mute. Learning the news made the nurse blush a bit in embarrassment. She felt silly for being wary around them and taking offense in hindsight. At least she planned to apologize if he saw them again.

The ponies all walked along down the area until they gathered before a house a bit larger than most. It did have two stories compared to the others having a mere one though it didn’t look anymore special otherwise. Possibly why she never spotted it right away while coming in.

“This is it! Community overseer said to have a feast inside!” a pony called out.

Almost as if on cue, the door opened and out stepped a rather elderly pony. His stature was tall but nothing above the normal. His eyes were as bright as if he were still young though and his smile was just a tad eerie to Redheart.

“Welcome!” the overseer called out and laughed. The other ponies repeated and began talking to themselves as he walked closer to the nurse. “So you’re our new neighbor. Welcome to your new home, miss. I hope you like it here.”

“It’s very spacious of a home, for sure,” Redheart replied as they began to walk into the larger house. Everything was new to her, including the dinner she was invited to. “Kind of a lot to take in.”

“Oh, you’ll get used to it quickly,” the elderly stallion said while ushering her in. “Come, come. We have plenty to talk about, I’m sure.” His eyes glanced up at the setting sun before he paused in thought and went inside with the rest.

The medical mare gave a light shrug and moved along as she went inside. At least it did feel like she was welcomed. It was just that she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was still off. Those thoughts quickly went away when the scent of food came around and her stomach growled in hunger.


It felt like only yesterday when Redheart was welcomed into the small, enclosed community. The overseer was rather friendly and understood all her questions and weariness. She was thankful he had explained everything carefully for her, especially the time which she needed to be inside during the night. When asked he seemed to look a little uncomfortable but she didn’t press him on the matter. It was easier just to follow the rules instead of ask questions sometimes, and it wasn’t as if she went out during those hours as it stood.

To think, she had been there three weeks and only nearly missed her ride the first day. As routine as it was, the whole thing wasn’t as bad as she thought. The gatekeeper had grown more outgoing in waving to her and a few ponies had invited her to dinners or even lunch on her days off. All in all, things were relaxing if just a bit exhausting from work.

Emergency letters, which were directed straight to Celestia upon sealing, were given to all at the end of each week just in case the overseer couldn’t help in a matter. As hard as it was to believe, he did seem to have quite the knack for helping ponies complete tasks or just finding the perfect item they were missing. Redheart had slipped her letter into the nightstand just to keep them handy if the need arose.

The one thing that mildly worried the nurse was the coming cold weather. With it would bring colds to ponies and she’d likely be called upon for house visits just to tell them the same thing over and over. Heat a cold, cool a fever. Plenty of liquids. She just hoped she could leave work at work was all.

“Redheart!” came a voice from behind her.

Looking around, the medical pony spotted one of the few mares that had taken a liking to just chatting with her. In all honesty, Redheart enjoyed it just as much. It helped her feel like she fit in and that things were somewhat normal, minus the giant gate and walls and being however many miles from her true home.

“Oh, hey there,” Redheart greeted and waved. It was already getting a bit cooler out and many ponies, including her new friend, were dressing for it.

“I was wondering, did you read much?” the mare asked, tugging her beanie down a bit.

“I… do,” the nurse replied hesitantly. She didn’t know if she wanted to admit that one of her suitcases contained a few cheesy romance novels. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, I was kind of bored the other day and thought you might have some recommendations if you did. I’m always up for reading whatever,” said her neighbor.

“Hm, I guess I could lend you a book later. Just promise to give it back,” the medical mare teased and smiled.

The two giggled and agreed for the book exchange at some undisclosed time. Currently, Redheart was busy getting ready for an afternoon jog. She didn’t have much time off but she didn’t want to sit around when there was an opportunity to do something. Reading was mostly for just before bed.

Some visible stretches and lightly trotting in place gave the indication she was ready to move and her neighbor took the hint with grace. It would be nice to discuss the novel with another, Redheart thought. She just had to find a moment when she got home to give it to her since her jog was just starting.

The thought of the curfew came up as she began treading down the lane and let her mind wander. With no carriages to run back and forth she could lose herself a bit during her runs. It still boggled her mind why there was such a strict deadline for being at home. Technically, nopony would know if she decided to sneak out late one night, would they?

Her brow furrowed as she rested on the question for several minutes. It didn’t make sense for the overseer to know since his house was further down. If there were spells in place to tell when a pony left or entered a home then she would like to know, but nothing was ever told during that dinner with the neighborhood. Even so, it didn’t quite sit right each time she thought about it all.

“Just ignore it,” she told herself through huffs as she moved along. It had been three weeks and she could have time zip by if she just played nice and didn’t stick her snout in things.


With the dark night flooding the sky, Redheart laid comfortably in bed. Her eyes focused lightly behind her reading glasses as she held one of her novels in her hooves. She loved getting all cozy and reading about a handsome stallion managing to make a mare swoon effortlessly. The faint hint of a blush rose in her cheeks before she closed the book and set it aside. A small pause in her actions made her sit still before she shut her eyes.

“Shoot!” she cursed, flopping back against her pillows.

She had promised to bring a novel over to her new friend for her to read. The nurse sighed in her bed as she stared up the ceiling and thought to herself. Curfew was a couple of hours in already, so no going out. That is, unless they didn’t know.

It was a strange idea to be wary of disobeying a simple rule that probably no true enforcement. Yet, she still wasn’t sure if there might be more to it than the overseer let on. As much of a conundrum as it appeared, Redheart didn’t want to lose sleep overthinking it.

Instead, the white mare rolled over onto her side and blew out the candle. She could give the book to her in the morning. No sense stressing out over it and it wasn’t like there was a hurry anyway. It was an agreement with herself as Redheart pulled the covers up and wiggled into the mattress a bit to get more comfy.

She had just about let Luna take her into the dreamscape when she heard something. Her eyes stayed closed but an ear tilted to listen. It was an odd noise but she had heard something similar before. It was almost as if there was something tapping or moving against glass.

The nurse opened her eyes and looked up at the window above her bed. No, not from there. Her gaze moved around the room as she tried to pinpoint where it was. Quickly, she found the source of the light noise at her other window to her left. It sounded with the wind as well.

Instead of overreacting, her mind quickly determined there to be a low branch or twig from a tree rubbing against the window on accident. It would have to be a quick fix before work. A yawn broke her train of thought as she let her tired mind rest and finally entered the dreams with the Princess of the night.


“Sorry about yesterday,” Redheart apologized and offered the novel up. “I guess I just forgot about it.”

“That’s quite fine!” her neighbor replied and accepted the offer while giggling at the novel. “Into these often?”

“Just sometimes,” the nurse lied and looked away, trying to hide her smile. “Sorry to cut out meeting short today, just have to be ready for work and take care of a branch.”

“A branch?” asked her friend curiously while raising a brow.

“Yeah, it was rubbing against my window last night and almost annoyed me,” Redheart explained while turning back to look at her house. Odd.

“Dear, there aren’t any trees in your yard,” said her neighbor wearily.

It seemed that Redheart had noticed at the same time she was told that there were in fact no trees near her home. No branches had some unnatural reach over into her yard either. It was a little unnerving but there had to be reason behind it. Nothing just made a sound without a cause.

“Huh, I guess it must have been a pesky bird then,” the nurse casually mentioned before turning to face her now serious faced neighbor.

“Yeah,” her friend said quietly. “Just a bird. Don’t go checking on it, please. It’ll go away on its own.”

Truthfully, Redheart found her neighbor’s reaction far more unsettling than the noise itself. There was something nopony was telling her but she had no idea what. Sadly, she had no time to ask questions. Her ride would be here soon.

“We can talk later! I’ve got to go!” Redheart called out as she off to the gates. There was weak wave given to her before her neighbor slowly stepped back inside and closed her door.

The ride to her work had her pondering all sorts of things. If there was something wrong then why wasn’t anypony doing anything about it? If not, what was there to be afraid of? Her neighbor had seemed so very off when she brought up the possible branch.

It didn’t help that such thoughts clouded her mind all through work. Probably her worst day at the hospital with so many small mishaps, though none that couldn’t be quickly fixed. She just wanted to know what was being hidden from her. It seemed that most or all of the ponies in the community would know if they had been there long.

What was the big deal? Was there something that happened during curfew? Redheart felt herself growing more frustrated than unsettled over the questions she kept coming up with. If it came down to it then maybe she would have a word with the overseer. She could already see it going nowhere though.

At the end of her shift, the nurse had come up with a dozen different questions to ask but all of them felt more accusatory than inquiring anything. She had made a few friends, one in particular seemed to enjoy talking with her, so throwing that out at the expense of knowing that maybe the curfew was just for keeping a proper sleep schedule didn’t seem worth it. Her neighbor may just get spooked easily too. All plausible.

Redheart sighed to herself on the way back home and gave a passive greeting to the mute stallion at the gate. Her mind wanted clarity but her heart knew it wouldn’t be worth causing a scene over, especially if it meant losing a new friend.

When she had walked to her house, the white mare stood still and looked over to her friend’s home. She was probably looking into everything far too deep. It was going to ruin her mind if she persisted. Just drop it.

Without a word, Redheart opened her door and entered her home. She would feel better and think more clearly after a good night’s rest. That’s all. A nice dinner and then off to bed. Sounded like a great idea.


The medical mare opened her eyes groggily as she turned over in her sheets. She knew it wasn’t time to wake up. The sun hadn’t even come out yet. What stirred her from her much needed rest?

As she laid still, the mare tried to let her eyes adjust to the darkness but it wasn’t her eyes that picked up the oddity. Her ears flicked as she heard the familiar noise again. It was a tad bit louder than the night before. Something about it made her stomach turn slightly while she stayed still.

If it wasn’t a branch then it could possibly be a bird but in the middle of the night? The sound persisted as she stared at the curtained window and waited. There was no rhythm to it at all. Just an odd tapping at her window in the middle of a cold and dark night.

The thought made her shiver when it was put like that. Either it was some prankster that was getting to her or just a dumb avian creature that didn’t know any better. At least, she hoped as much. What she didn’t want to admit was how scared it began making her feel.

Against her will, Redheart slowly and quietly got up and out of bed. Her hooves did their best to make as little noise as possible while she cross the room to her window. Everything inside her told her it was a bad idea no matter what. Even her neighbor had mentioned not to check on it, whatever ‘it’ was.

When she finally made it to the curtains, her hoof reached up and hovered against the fabric. She could catch the prankster in the act or scare off the bird. Or probably find something worse. There was a long pause as she stood still and listened to the tapping against her window, feeling chills run down her body.

Quickly, Redheart lowered her hoof and quietly hopped back into bed while curling up under the covers. There wasn’t any reason to disturb whatever was going on. It would go away on its own and leave her alone when there wasn’t a reaction, she was sure. It would have to.

That night was one of the toughest for Redheart to get any rest as the tapping never stopped until the break of dawn.


The tapping had been going on for about two weeks. Each night was spent with Redheart anticipating the noise and staring at her window for hours. She never once drew the curtains back and never touched them when the noise started. Perhaps she just felt to leave well enough alone. Her work was a bit slower and she had contemplated asking to be moved just to have all her questions left behind. Sadly, the higher ups assured her that anything else in the area was more expensive for the company and couldn’t be taken, especially over a month or two in.

She didn’t bother sending any other letters to them and just opted to cope with the strangeness of the community. Not once did she bring the tapping up to any other pony either. After her friend had acted so bizarre she felt it was best to keep it to herself. No reason to stir drama over a noise.

The constant nights of that creeping tap after tap just disturbed her though. It was no branch and clearly no bird with how long it went on at times. All her reasons to explain it again fell flat and she just tried to go on with her life.

It wasn’t until one night that the tapping just suddenly stopped. There was no indication of it about to end or even where it went. Just quiet at night again. The strange thing was how it left Redheart feeling a little more lonely than before. She had grown used to hearing it and just waiting for dawn, but with it gone it felt like there was a chilling and empty void in its place.

More nights had to be adjusted to from the lack of a noise since. Things did slowly start getting back to normal until a particular night. One that brought on far more questions that would not rest until Redheart could get it off her chest.

That night was much like the others with no odd noise but a restless sleep or an attempt at it. Things were quiet and deep into the hours after dark while she did her best to force herself to go to sleep. Nothing worked and in time it came to her conclusion to just get a drink of water and maybe read.

The mare got up and headed off into the kitchen with little more than a candle to light her way. Every creak and groan of the floorboards seemed to just make her think of other noises to fill her ears and let her relax to some strange degree. Her hoof grabbed a glass once she found her way over and quickly filled it with some water as she sipped it and stood in thought.

Her eyes shifted over to the nearby window as she walked over and drank a bit more. Since there was no tapping then it wouldn’t hurt to peek out now, would it? The idea seemed to make sense but she hesitated at opening the curtains in the kitchen. What was there to be wary about anymore?

It was tough for her to continue but she pushed on. Her hoof lightly moved the fabric away just enough to peek outside and get a look in the moonlight. It seemed clear and rather fine. Nothing out of place and all looked well.

“Wait,” Redheart whispered to herself and leaned in, eyes squinting.

Looking out back she could see her other neighbor’s backyard and the house. Though, something was off about their home. The walls looked fine for the most part except one area. There was an odd design against it leading up to their window. It took a moment before she could actually understand what she was seeing, or at least what her mind tried to tell her.

A figure was leaning right up against the wall and standing on what she assumed were hind legs but they looked much too long. The head was barely peeking up into the corner of their window yet no pony ears adorned it. No tail was visible either and they seemed to have long and thin things upon their hooves, if they even had hooves. Almost like a dragon’s claws. The distance and darkness left far too many details out but Redheart could only be slightly thankful.

Her hoof dropped the glass of water in her shock making a rather loud crash. The thing’s head turned instantly in her direction and she closed the curtain again. Panic raced through her body as she tried to think of what to do before rushing back to her bedroom. She couldn’t help but resort to things she did as a filly and slipped under the covers of her bed while pulling the pillows over her.

She shook and closed her eyes tight, hugging the pillows to her head as she waited and assumed the worst. The candle in the kitchen would burn itself out eventually and she had no intention of going back in there, much less out of her bed at all, until morning. A light ease up on the pillows filled her ears with horror and she quickly pressed them back to her head. The poor nurse would hear that in her head until she passed out. If only she could have ignored her curiosity and not had that sound return.

Tap. Tap. Tap.


Redheart nearly screamed herself awake before realizing where she was. The pillows tumbled softly to the floor as she sat up and saw the sunlight hitting her curtains. No despicable noise was taunting her and certainly no creepy pony, if that was what she saw.

Her heart picked up pace before calming back down as she recounted the night and breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe it was just some dumb peeping tom and she had been tired from the restless nights before. It was dark as well so details weren’t the best. Still, it was unsettling to see no matter what. There did seem to be something off about it, but she still chalked it up to slight hallucinations over being tired.

The medical pony nearly had another panic attack over being late for work before she remembered the day. Thank Celestia she had the day off. After everything she wasn’t sure she would be up to par for training or helping out. It would still be best to warn of the creeper about the community though. No sense hiding something like that.

Perhaps they’d congratulate her on informing them then everypony could have a peaceful night’s rest. It would be helping out and the overseer might even mention how nice it is to know so he can keep an eye out for them. The more she played with the idea the more it made her feel better.

It took her a while to wash up and eat some breakfast. Cleaning up the glass and floor was a little painstaking though worth it. Her eyes often darted to the kitchen window, almost expecting to see something there but she never pulled the curtains back. Again, she could only think to leave well enough alone.

By the time she had finally managed to force herself outside it was midday. Her neighbor across the lane greeted her in a cheery tone, obviously past the small hiccup from days ago of mentioning the odd sounds. Or was it weeks? Things were starting to blur a bit for the pink maned nurse.

“You look a little rough,” her neighbor mentioned and smiled. “Hard night sleeping?”

“Something like that,” Redheart replied as she rubbed her head with a hoof. “Say, I have to tell you something. I think there’s some weirdo peeping tom going around the community.”

“What? What makes you say that?” the mare across the lane asked though she shifted uncomfortably.

“Last night I was getting some water and happened to look out my window,” said the nurse as she studied her friend.

“Why would you do that?” asked the neighbor in almost a hushed whisper. Her eyes were wide and staring at Redheart. “Why would you ever do that?”

“What? I just took a peek. The creep was across yard at the other house an-” Redheart tried to explain before the pony got mere inches from her ear.

“Don’t ever tell anypony what you saw. Ever. Don’t look out again. Don’t be out past curfew,” her supposed friend said and quickly turned away. “The overseer looks out for us.”

What had she got herself into? What was even going on? There was some secret that the whole community was keeping under wraps yet they were scared to even hear it mentioned or touched upon. Something was wrong and Redheart knew it. If the overseer really did look out for them all then why keep a secret from newcomers?

She had some questions she wanted answered and her mind almost hounded her to go demand questions from the overseer. It was possibly two steps she took down the lane before her neighbor called back to her. The mare was rushing up to meet her with a panicked face.

“Redheart, please,” she pleaded, tugging the nurse’s leg away from the direction. “Don’t go looking for more answers. It isn’t good for you. Just leave this place.”

“What? Why are you staying if you kno-” Redheart started before her friend spoke.

“I stay because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of leaving,” the neighbor mentioned and glanced around.

“What of? The peeper?” the nurse asked in confusion.

There was a solemn nod and the mare tugged more at Redheart’s foreleg until the nurse moved with her and back to their houses. It sounded like a strange thing to be scared of leaving for. Or even not contacting Celestia about.

“You can get a better place. This isn’t the best anyway,” the medical pony tried to explain.

“It’s not that. I just don’t want it following me,” her friend said as she glanced around.

“Then let’s just write to Celestia and Luna,” Redheart countered. It didn’t make sense to her.

“We have. They found nothing wrong,” the distressed mare said, sniffing a bit and trying to keep it together. “Whatever it is, it knows. It knows you saw it, too.”

The last statement made Redheart’s skin crawl. Some unknown understanding these ponies had of this thing was eerie enough. The fact the princesses couldn’t find it or at least anything wrong just made her think those emergency letters were useless.

She was about to ask more on the topic when the pony stumbled and collapsed right before her. The nurse was shocked at first but quickly began calling for help as she tried checking on the pony. It didn’t appear to be anything serious other than a faint. The stress had got to them and the poor mare just couldn’t take it.

A few other ponies that heard the cries eventually came around and helped her move her neighbor back into their home. Passing glances revealed the house was nearly identical to her own so it was easy enough to find the bedroom and lay her down. As much as she wanted to ask the others to watch over the passed out mare, Redheart couldn’t take the chance and sat by her with a damp cloth to press at her brow.

As soon as they woke up, she would be out of there. No point in staying in a crazy place like this. She just didn’t want to leave a pony in need either. The minutes spent tending to the mare in bed had the nurse constantly peering out the window at the sun.

Minutes passed and then hours were next to go. It was all too soon when the sun began to set and her friend still hadn’t woken up. The nurse stayed only a few more minutes before deciding it was best to let her sleep. It probably wouldn’t help to have her friend wake up in the middle of the night and see a pony in the dark of her room.

Redheart quietly but quickly moved out and shut the doors as she went. Her eyes darted around once she stepped out of the house and rushed across to her own home. By the time she shut her own door, her heart was thumping like crazy. It was too late to try and leave the community for good. As much as she needed the money and the job itself, it wasn’t worth all this.

Moving through the dark house, she told herself that first thing in the morning she would be out. No staying to tend any others if she could help it and certainly no more prying for answers. Just get out and move on seemed like the best idea.

If sleep could come easily after such a talk from earlier than she would have rested, but that was far from her mind. The nurse pony sat at her kitchen table in the dark as she pondered what she would tell her boss and more when she got back. Would she even try to explain things?

It felt terrible to be stuck in a pickle so bad that she felt anything she did was either the wrong thing or just pointless. Writing to the princesses was futile, as said by her recent friend. There was little else she could do now as it were other than sit in the dark. Then it happened.

The tapping came back but this time at her kitchen window. Redheart felt her white coat stand on end as she listened and did her best to stay as quiet as possible. The thing would go away at dawn and she could leave. Whatever it was could just keep tapping because she wasn’t about to check those curtains again.

Just as suddenly as the tapping had started, it stopped. Redheart’s ears perked up as she tried listening for it again. That was rather strange though she wasn’t about to complain. It was extremely quiet until she heard steps around the side of her house. They were slow and deliberate at first but then picked up the pace in an instant.

“NO!” came a scream across the lane.

Redheart recognized the voice. Her friend and neighbor had finally woken up. The nurse hopped over to the front door and leaned over to the window, she hesitated. The sound of those steps had moved all the way across the lane and there was a loud banging until something sounded like it broke.

The screams she heard after made her huddled against the wall and cover her head. Those weren’t just screams of fright and Redheart knew it. Her friend must have looked outside to see if it was dusk. Instead she saw that thing.

With a shaky hoof, the white mare carefully peeled away the curtain to peek across the lane. Her neighbor’s door was busted open with splinters of the wood everywhere. Where was her friend? The house was dark and she couldn’t see anything past the doorway.

Redheart swallowed her breath as she stared a long while before moving to her door. It technically wouldn’t be outside if she just stayed in the doorway, right? She wasn’t even sure this thing followed such dumb rules as that but it gave her a small bit of confidence. Unlatching the lock, she carefully pulled the door open and looked out.

Still quiet and still. Nothing other than the broken door was out of place. Redheart moved the door further open as she leaned out a little to try and see further into the house. As much as she wanted to call out to her friend her own fear ripped away any use of her voice. Her eyes looked along the other houses, none of which had anypony else checking things out nor any lights.

The sound of something across the way made her flinch. Something had dropped in the house with a loud thump. She was about to step out further until she saw a detail within the darkened doorway. It looked to be two shining beads but was hard to make out. It was when a thin leg stretched out into the moonlight that she recognized it.

Redheart stumbled back inside and kicked her door closed before running back to her room. Her own panic felt like she might even pass out from everything. The thing in the door had been staring at her and was stepping out of the house. She had looked into its eyes shining in the darkness.

Her hooves fumbled about her nightstand as she tried to pull it open while she felt tears welling up in her eyes. The mare struggled more than she liked before it slid open and revealed all the special letters for contacting the princesses. Even if it was useless she had to try.

It was a good idea until she heard the creak of her front door opening. The slow open of the wooden door on those metal hinges had them whine out through the house. She forgot to lock it. It took a hoof on the bed to steady herself as she felt as if her breathing might have her drop from hyperventilating.

Stumbling over to her bedroom door, Redheart struggled with the lock there and finally snapped it into place. It did help her feel a lot safer but still not completely. She wanted to go home. It was terrible in the community.

Looking down she saw something that made her cry out. Pale claws or perhaps fingers were sliding beneath the door and gripping the bottom of it. With how flat they looked it appeared there was no skeletal structure at all. It was unsettling in every sense.

Her eyes watched as she backed away, bumping against the bed. The thing almost seemed to pool beneath the door but still had slight form. It was something her mind couldn’t comprehend as well as she wanted. The thing had shape yet none at all. The pale color made it look like moonlight itself was seeping in under her bedroom door.

When one black orb popped up from it she felt her stomach tug hard inside of her. The formless eye stared at her as the rest of it starting pulling itself inside. Redheart panted in her heightened state of awareness before scrambling around the side of her bed and away from the door. She pressed herself into the nook between the bed frame and the wall while she sat in as little silence as she could.

Minutes passed and she could only hear herself breathing rapidly. The crumpled letters in her hooves were useless without a quill and light to write by. Each second felt like agony as she waited. It was inevitable.

Those claw-like appendages slowly moved around the foot end of the bed and curled against the frame. Redheart felt her eyes widen as the head of the thing slowly peeked around the side but only just enough. One of those dark eyes gleamed eerily at her as they both sat motionless and stared at one another. She couldn’t hear it breathing or see it move in the slightest after.

It just stared.

The Statue

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Everypony had been looking forward to the winter weather for the year. With the summer season being so hot it wasn’t surprising, especially for such a rambunctious filly as Scootaloo. Playing with her friends and trying to outdo her own personal times on small events wore her out faster than she thought. It was refreshing to finally feel that cool air stirring and even notice the ponies settling down more.

Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom had been busy with helping a few other ponies in finding their cutie marks so Scootaloo took it upon herself to venture out and try some tricks on her scooter. The handlebars had always felt a bit loose but she was good with steering it. The help of her small wings kept her speeding along to hit plenty of makeshift jumps or ramps around the town.

Every bit of the cooler air seemed to urge her on. She didn’t want to admit she was late for the clubhouse meeting, which is why her friends weren’t there, but she knew. The orange pegasus zipped along the area as she tried thinking of where they may have gone for the day. There had been no note left, though that was hardly unusual. If they could manage without her then it just gave her more time to impress them once they got back.

Hitting a rock and nearly careening off into a wall, Scootaloo grit her teeth and jerked the scooter to the side as she toppled over with it. The fall was harsh but nothing she hadn’t experienced before. A dull thump on her helmet reminded her how thankful she was to be wearing it.

“Ouch,” the filly said simply as she sat up and assessed the situation. Minor scuffs and some grass stains. Nothing too bad.

Her attention turned to the chosen mode of transportation only for her gasp. The handlebars had finally taken they last topple. The metal pole lay separated on the ground from the board though it didn’t seem to be any worse than that. She silently regretted the various refusals of having it looked at by several ponies but the filly knew it could be fixed. It had to.

Struggling to stand up on all fours, Scootaloo grunted and looked at the metal beam before picking it up and laying over the board. Perhaps walking back would be a better idea to lessen any further damage to it and herself. At least it looked like only the screws had come out or popped off.

The clubhouse had a small array of tools for her to work with. If she couldn’t get it fixed herself then she could ask her awesome friend, Rainbow Dash, on how to help. It was a thought that made her smile visibly while walking the scooter along.

“Oh, hey there, Scoots,” called a voice not too far off. It was the owner’s wife from the hardware store. Scootaloo couldn’t recall her name. “I see you took a tumble pretty bad. Needing any help?”

“Oh, nah! I’m okay!” the filly mentioned before stopping. “Actually, do you got any screws to fit my scooter?”

“Hm,” the older mare mumbled in thought. “I don’t quite know. I’d ask my husband but he’s not around right now.”

“It’s cool. Where did he go?” Scootaloo asked, her head turning to try and spot him nearby.

“That’s the thing. I’m not sure he said where. He just mentioned going out and one of his friends wanted to get him to look at something,” the wife explained while looking a bit bored. “I guess whatever it was couldn’t be brought in so easily.”

“Yeah,” the filly replied though not quite certain about the story. “I guess I’ll check back later then.”

“Okay, dear! You be careful now!” the mare told the filly before waving a foreleg goodbye.

“Drats,” Scootaloo grumbled under her breath. She had slightly hoped that she could get her scooter fixed sooner rather than later.

The only thing she could think of doing would be leaving it at the clubhouse and waiting for her friends to return. Nothing else really caught her interest as much. The sudden stop in speed must have also had boredom catch up with her. Great.

Walking back somehow made it feel like the wind was colder than before. Perhaps it was the lack of attention on things, the adrenaline running through her, and even the excitement of riding. Whatever it was it surely made her shiver once or twice. The slight overcast from the rather sunny morning could have also played a part in it.

She couldn’t remember how much time had passed until she finally got back to the wooden tree house set up near Sweet Apple Acres. It felt like hours though she knew better. The lack of speed just had her feel like everything went at a snail’s pace. Idly, she wondered if Dash felt the same way.

Tossing the board and pole into the open door, Scootaloo looked around only to find it still empty. Must have been a big task they had to do. A slight tinge of worry ran through her as she stepped in and closed the door. She felt uneasy at the thought of where they may have gone and whether they needed her help.

Scootaloo was tough, however. Her eyes closed as she furrowed her brow and pushed all the stressful thoughts away. To replace them she thought of the times things were dire and they pulled through easily. Well, somewhat easily.

The attitude of the filly changed as well to keep herself from worrying too much. They should have had her tag along if they wanted it done quickly, she thought. If Scootaloo was there then the cutie marks would be shining in an instant! After all, she was the fastest filly around and that could easily take to helping others acquire their own marks. Couldn’t it?

Instead of thinking more on it, the filly pulled out the small box of various utensils ranging from markers to hammers and began sifting through it. Out of the seven different screwdrivers she had no idea which one to use. A very small assortment of screws were against the bottom corners of the box and also looked to vary from each one.

“Oh, great,” Scootaloo mumbled as she tried figuring out which screws would work.

During her guesswork and light grumbling, the door to the clubhouse slowly began to creak open. The hinges moaned out as the wooden door slowly moved until eventually resting. Scootaloo stayed motionless as she waited to hear a voice or maybe see a pony trot inside. It was the waiting that got her little heart beating harder.

“Scootaloo,” came a familiar voice just outside. “Come with us.”

“Sweetie Belle? Where have you guys been?” the small pegasus asked, feeling relieved she wasn’t going to meet some stranger that wandered on in.

“We need to show you something,” came Apple Bloom’s voice in the same spot.

“Why? What is it?” Scootaloo asked and pushed her work aside. “Are we going to help another pony with their cutie mark?”

“We have to show you something. It’s really neat!” the unicorn squeaked and peered into the room.

Avoiding the question and not answering unsettled Scootaloo a bit. The fact her friends were also acting a little off was already making her uneasy. If they had something to show her then couldn’t they just say what it was?

“Why don’t you bring it here? I got to work on my scooter,” the pegasus mentioned and glanced down at her attempt of repairing it.

“Silly! We can’t do that!” Sweetie told her before motioning with her head to outside. “Come on. It’s too big to carry.”

“Eh, fine!” agreed the orange filly after letting out an exasperated sigh. They had a reason for not bringing it at least.

“You’ll like it!” Bloom said as Scootaloo joined them and they began walking.

“Can’t you just tell me what it is?” the pegasus asked as she walked between her two friends.

“Nope! Ain’t gonna tell ya!” Bloom replied though none of them seemed to hurry to wherever it was.

Instead of pressing for more answers, Scootaloo resigned to staying quiet as she let them lead the way. It had grown increasingly gloomy with the clouds but it didn’t seem like it would be too bad. At least, she hoped it wouldn’t. It had started as such a nice day but everything seemed to have taken a rather weird turn.

The fillies continued on their way, passing a few ponies but otherwise avoiding any other social contact as they crossed the river. From where they were going Scootaloo could tell it was headed in the direction of Everfree Forest. A sinking feeling began to weigh heavy in her stomach.

“Hey, why don’t we go tomorrow?” the pegasus asked, trying to keep her nervous tone somewhat normal.

“Nonsense! We’re almost there anywho!” Bloom said without turning around. “Trust us, you’ll love it when you see it!”

Somehow, that statement felt like the worst lie Scootaloo had ever heard. She felt so cold and it wasn’t from the climate. There was something very wrong but she couldn’t place it. Her friends were acting rather strange and wanting to lure her someplace yet refused to say what. The whole thing raised red flags for her as she knew it was going against all she had been taught and learned.

“Listen, I really don’t think I want to go,” the nervous filly mentioned as she slowed her pace to lag behind. “Maybe I’ll go see it later.”

When both of her friends stopped she felt herself wanting to run. Why was she feeling so afraid of them? They were her best friends and they had gone through thick and thin together. Nothing should be dividing them much less making her scared.

“No. Let’s go see it now and then you’ll understand,” Sweetie Belle said in a lowered tone almost as if trying to restrain from dragging her along.

“Come on, Scoots. Ya know you wanna see it!” Bloom chimed in with a somewhat forced excitement.

Silence grew between the three as two of them waited on Scootaloo to continue. The worry only increased for the filly being brought along as she thought of excuses or attempts to run. None of them seemed to lead to her getting away completely in her mind.

“Okay,” the small pegasus said slowly. “I’ll go. Just to look though. Only looking.”

“Of course!” Bloom said and began to walk with Sweetie in stride.

That seemed to be enough for them to continue on. If push came to shove then Scootaloo felt she could tell them that they agreed in only looking at whatever it was before she left. Her heart was almost thumping so hard she could hear it.

A glance skyward only revealed the dim light trying its hardest to peek through the murky and dark clouds. The cooler air swept by as a reminder that winter was around the corner as well. It looked almost like the clouds had grown even darker than before when she studied them a moment longer. They spanned all across the sky she could see as well. Were they scheduled for heavy rain? Dash had told her nothing of the sort.

As they drew closer to the edge of Everfree, Scootaloo could feel panic rising. Many ponies had told them to stay out before they met Zecora. Even after, they had told them to be wary and always be careful. The treeline looked foreboding with how gnarled some branches were and the twisted trunks that refused to let you get a clear eye within the forest. It never felt like a fun place for Scootaloo.

“Are you sure it’s in there?” she asked, unable to keep the waver out of her voice.

“Of course,” Bloom said simply and moved in closer to the trees. “Come on. We want to see it better while there’s still light.”

The idea of being in the forest after dark was something Scootaloo certainly didn’t want. It was even more odd to see her friends not in the least bit showing any sign of uneasiness. With what little daylight they had left and could peek through the clouds, the pegasus hurried along just to see this important thing and be out right away.

Into the dense forest they went. The fillies all moved closed together and weaved through the numerous bark covered nightmares. Every second was beginning to make the orange filly more nervous. It all seemed like such a bad idea but she was also afraid of her friends for some unknown reason.

The snap of twigs or rustle of some various plant life would cause Scootaloo to pause and look around. It almost felt like they were being followed yet there were no signs of such. The strange part was that the further in they went the more it began to feel as if somepony or something was watching her. It was an idea that she did her best to push out of her mind.

“Look,” said Sweetie in almost a fascinated voice.

Stumbling over a curled root, Scootaloo hobbled forward before glancing up. The trees seemed to suddenly space out and create quite a clearing within the forest. She had never seen the spot before though it was possible she never went this far in or maybe just in the direction they had led her. The three stepped into the murky clearing where a lot more came into focus.

A coil of fog blurred most of the center until they stepped forth. The filly pegasus could make out the shape of other ponies and something else. About a dozen ponies sat on the ground paying no mind to the fillies that had entered the clearing. Instead, their focus was set upon the abomination placed right in the center.

At first, Scootaloo thought she was having a nightmare or maybe even the fog rising and playing tricks on her eyes. It was a statue. Though hardly just any statue. The proportions were off in many areas and in odd ways. The figure or sculpture was impossible to identify other than it clearly not being of equine origin.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” Bloom asked, sitting herself down where she stood and gazing up at the abhorrent horror.

“Are you nuts?” Scootaloo said while having to physically turn her head to look away. “This… This thing is horrible!”

The outburst looked to have caught nopony’s attention. In fact, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom remained silent as they sat and stared as if it were some kind of fascinating play. Just what did the ponies get out of it? Nothing about it looked pleasing to the eye.

It pained her to admit it but the orange filly did have trouble not trying to catch another glimpse of the thing. As horrible as it was there was a part of her that wanted to check again just to see if it really was what she first saw. Doubt weighed heavy in her mind as she looked to both of her friends before finally chancing one more peek.

Her heart hammered that chest rapidly as she looked on with a grimace. The filly could feel herself gritting her teeth more by the second the long she stared. Nothing was right about the statue at all. It almost looked impossible to be made. She could have sworn she could see it shifting or moving in some manner but focusing on one aspect only seemed to make everything outside of her line of focus move more erratically.

“H-How is this possible?” Scootaloo asked in fear. The dread of what the statue might be was starting to crack her sanity.

No reply came. She was by herself despite being near her friends and various others. The filly even noticed the hardware store owner up ahead but she dared not to move closer to that thing they looked upon. Her eyes eventually lowered with her head to finally break the hypnosis or trance she was in.

Breathing heavily, Scootaloo stared at the ground and watched the fog sift mindlessly around her forelegs. Nothing natural came of that statue, if should be called as such. The stone look was apparent, was it not? Or was it? It became harder for her to justify any facts the longer she thought on the thing.

“Okay,” the filly breathed out while trying to calm herself, “I saw it. I’m going to go. You guys need to come back with me.”

“No,” finally came a reply, though not the one she wanted to hear, especially from Sweetie. “Stay with us.”

“Look, this is… something. I need to go and Rarity and Applejack will be worried sick about you two!” Scootaloo yelled. Her foreleg lifted as she avoided one of them trying to hold her there. It was almost surreal seeing her friends nearly attack her.

“Look,” was repeated back but not by just Bloom. Several other ponies spoke it while staring ahead.

That seemed to be enough to get Scootaloo to back up and turn away. Physically facing away from the object somehow made her feel much better. She had to get help. Without looking back, the filly ran back into the wooded area in what she hoped was the same direction they came. Something terrible was going on. Tears streamed from her eyes as she thought of who to ask for help.

Applejack and Rarity would obviously want to get their sisters. Dash could probably help too being how great she is. Twilight maybe could zap the thing away, right? Her mind was whirling as she ran and tried her best not to cry but to no avail. The sudden figure popping up in front of her had the scared filly let out a startled yell.

“Do not fear me, little one. For why is the reason that you run?” Zecora asked calmly, satchel full of various plants poking out from under the flap at her side.

Scootaloo was shocked to find the zebra so abruptly, yet her heart welled with hope. In an instant, words came out of the filly’s muzzle that sounded like a bad dream. Zecora’s expression seemed to remain the same until the attempt at describing what was seen was uttered.

“Come, let us get out of here. There will be nothing more for you to fear,” the zebra rhymed as she walked with the filly and guided them both out of the forest.

“Thank you,” Scootaloo said while sniffing and rubbing at her eyes.

“It is thanks to you that I know what I must do,” the striped equine mentioned before glancing back into the treeline.

There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment until Zecora gave her attention back to the filly. As much as the pegasus didn’t want her to go she knew that the zebra had to work on some concoction or something to help break the spell of the others. It also dawned on her that without her scooter, Scootaloo would have to run the length of getting to Applejack and Rarity to inform them of things as well as Twilight.

The two parted ways with Zecora slipping into the forest quickly and the filly left alone. It wasn’t a run she wanted to do but something was really wrong. The filly gathered herself as best she could before making a mad dash in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres.

Over the river and across the land, Scootaloo ran as fast as those small legs could carry her. Even though she made it back to the farmland in record time it didn’t feel like it. There many things on her mind and every small moment that passed just seemed to drain her hope a little bit more.

“Well, howdy, Scoots!” Applejack welcomed. Her dirty look suggested she had been working hard.

“Applejack!” Scootaloo called, her little legs galloping in a tired effort. “Applejack, help! Apple Bloom! Sweetie Belle!”

It only took those names for the mare to run up and do her best to calm the filly. She tried getting as much information as she could from the gasping breaths though the farm pony only really understood that her little sister and Rarity’s were in danger from something in Everfree. The serious look almost frightened Scootaloo when she told her.

“You stay here,” Applejack ordered with her hoof pressing her hat down upon her head more. “I’ll go get Rare and the others and we’ll head up there to get Bloom and them. Just relax, sugarcube. Everything will be okay!”

Once again, in such a short amount of time, Scootaloo was alone. The feeling didn’t hurt any less the second time but she did have hope that Applejack and the others would get everypony back. She didn’t want to go back home right then. Her room may be comfortable but it would be so lonely with nopony else to talk to on the matter. Instead, she made her way towards the clubhouse to rest a bit and wait.

With such a rush of stress and fright, it wasn’t hard for her to lay down once inside the wooden structure. Her eyes grew heavy but would quickly open for fear of seeing it again. That cursed statue. It almost seemed to be haunting her even though she didn’t look at as long as all the others.

“Everything will be okay,” she told herself and grabbed a tablecloth Sweetie Belle had used for a tea party recently to cover up.

The air was stale and cold. It didn’t help that the clouds blotted out the sun so much that it was hard to tell what time it was and that gentle warmth couldn’t reach the land or the filly. She just wanted her friends to stop acting weird but there was something seriously wrong with that statue. Did it do something to them?

Closing her eyes again seemed to conjure up many moving images of the oddity. Its strange form constantly shifting even if just a bit. It didn’t make sense and only hurt to think about. How they could look at it for so long she had no idea.

Eventually, the filly found some semblance of peace through exhaustion just long enough to let sleep take hold. Dreams were only a distant wish for the nightmares that clouded her mind during her slumber only made her squirm and kick. Scootaloo was just a mere victim to the terrible images.


It was late in the night when the filly awoke. Her eyes opened and the reality of everything came to her all at once. In an instant, she was up and shaking off her tiredness while looking out the windows of the clubhouse into the darkness beyond. The nightmares that plagued her sleep weren’t just in her head. They were real.

The sky was a void of the unknown. Not even the moon could be seen nor almost any light. The temptation to call out for Applejack or her friends was held back at the uncertainty of what lay beyond the lurking dark. Had they come back and just missed her?

A distant roll of thunder made the filly duck slightly. There was a storm coming but she hadn’t heard Dash tell her anything of the sort. They were scheduled for three more days before rain and it was supposed to be gentle.

Waiting any longer seemed out of question. Scootaloo took a deep breath and opened the door to the clubhouse. It was unsettling to see barely a meter ahead. The distant lights of things seemed so foreign and scary. Some looked like hovering eyes peering at her from afar.

In a hurry, the pegasus rushed across the land to the farmhouse and quickly began rapping at the door. Various names were called out numerous times but nopony answered. Like the light outside, her hope seemed to be diminished. It took her a few more minutes before she finally let herself in and tried looking around.

With so little to see by it was a fruitless effort for the most part. Nopony called back from the loud shouts and the only sounds were that of approaching thunder and small creaks along the floorboards. The only luck she seemed to happen by was finding a lantern set aside with a candle ready to be lit.

Scavenging in all the drawers she could reach, Scootaloo found her prize and quickly set alight to the wax pillar before biting the lantern’s grip and carrying it out. The light helped plenty though it also made the whole area seem so much more unsettling to her. Shadows in corners grew far more stark while walls lit up as if they were trying to hide from being seen.

Another roll of the storm brewing overhead made the pegasus tense up slightly. It sounded like it might rain very soon. The urgency seemed to double with the fear of cold rain and a heavy storm looming near. Her fear of thunderstorms didn’t help the situation.

There was another quick pass through the house before she finally decided to head out. Her only issue was trying to figure out where to go. If the Apple family wasn’t home then they probably went to get others for help. That would probably mean Twilight had gone as well, so there would be little meaning to head to her castle.

It wasn’t an easy choice but she knew that the one place she had to check would be the forest. If they had succeeded and destroyed that statue or got everypony out then she wanted to make sure. They obviously weren’t at home.

Scootaloo sighed and took a moment to try and strengthen her will before stepping out of the house and looking out at the town. The small lights still looked like beady little eyes waiting for her. At least it appeared there were ponies still around if those candle lights were anything to go by. The thought did set her mind at ease slightly.

Direction was a little hard to judge in such darkness but listening for the river made it easier. Little Scootaloo followed along it until she met the bridge to cross and slowly tread on in the area she thought Everfree lay. The lantern made finding her hooves easier and at least dispersed the darkness around her some.

Shadows leered and loomed while she walked along scaring her greatly. The nervousness in her gait was apparent as she tried not to keep looking at the flicker of darkness ahead or the vacant void above. It just all seemed to be too much for her. Instead, her hooves and the ground most of what she stared at, only giving occasional glances up to make sure she was still heading the right way.

Minutes passed by though the time was unknown. Scootaloo had seen the sky give partial light here or there from lightning dancing in the heavy clouds. It almost gave the sky itself some unnatural life that shouldn’t exist. She didn’t like it.

The sudden grow of trees by the light caused the filly to pause and look around. She had found Everfree without too much trouble but she didn’t wish to go in. The idea of going back to ask for help again or see if she could find other grown ponies to come with her was sounding like a much better idea.

Her head shook and with it the lantern. The light danced all across the trees and made them almost look like they beckoned her. Scootaloo’s stomach turned while she weighed her options and looked back at Ponyville. While her friends might be in terrible trouble of some unrecognizable entity, she did want company to assure her things would be fine.

A sudden clap of thunder from directly overhead had the pegasus scream out and drop the lantern at her hooves. Her head ducked which she then covered with her forelegs and cowered in fear. It would only get worse the longer she waited, she knew.

Instead of waiting, the filly grabbed the lantern again and hurried into the thicket of trees. Her heart was racing while she stumbled and trudged along. Roots tried bringing her down with their awkward hoops and coils through the ground as she did her best to keep going. It was a hard walk through Everfree at night in the cold dark but Scootaloo didn’t stop.

Every thundering bellow made her whimper and the small flashes of light from above did nothing to help her situation. Bright strikes of lightning illuminated some of the forest though not enough to matter with the dense cluster of trees and branches. The leaves seemed to keep much light from entering or leaving.

Finally, after feeling lost for an hour, Scootaloo could see the strange mist and fog from earlier. Her lantern was hindered greatly and didn’t seem to help more than it hurt in trying to see. The noiseless clearing ahead only made her more unnerved to check on things. With closed eyes, the filly made a few more steps and slipped into the clearing once more.

Hearing nothing caused her to open her eyes carefully only to gasp. The metal cage for the candle nearly dropped again but she held onto it. Before her sat far more ponies that last time. The Cakes, Mayor Mare, almost every pony from Ponyville.

Scootaloo’s heart thumped harder as she looked between them all and tried to find anypony not accounted for just to know there be some other pony to help. Her friends still sat in the same spot, staring up at the terrible thing she knew couldn’t have disappeared now. Beside them were Applejack and Rarity along with most of their friends.

The little pegasus felt numb. Her face grew cold as she took heavy breaths from witnessing the ponies she thought could help only succumb to the very evil. Calling their names did nothing and many of the pushes or shoves barely nudged any of them.

All the while, Scootaloo found herself so tempted to look. The thing that stood within the clearing was there. She could feel it. Should hear it. The whispers were entangling into her thoughts to encourage her.

Her head forcefully looked away as she walked around to account for all the lost. Ms. Cheerilee, Starlight Glimmer, even Trixie. Nopony was safe. It wasn’t until she nearly made it to the other side of the statue that her heart sank and the pit in her stomach grew immensely.

Suddenly, she spotted two other ponies enter the clearing. The first was Lyra with her friend Bon Bon tagging along. Scootaloo sprung up seeing other unaffected ponies and began to make her way towards them. Her momentum quickly came to halt when she saw Lyra gesturing up towards the statue. The two of them never noticed her as their eyes shifted up to the unnatural stone work.

Her eyes glanced away only to notice Rainbow Dash sitting just out of view from when she had first entered. The rainbow maned pegasus was seated on the other side of the statue staring as all the others and with a few of the Wonderbolts at her side. No wonder the weather was going to Tartarus. No ponies were there to keep it manageable.

A hoof on the filly’s back made her cry out and nearly faint. Her body buckled under the sheer fright before a foreleg scooped her up and carried her and the lantern out of the clearing safely. There was a confusing moment of who her captor was until the light from the lantern showed Zecora looking worried.

“Those ponies that you see are none which you can free,” she rhymed grimly.

“What do you mean? We have to save them! Don’t you you have any potions or anything to use and get them out of it? Maybe something to blow up that statue?” Scootaloo cried, trying to hide her tears in the small amount of light they had.

“That… statue is of nothing I can make. Looking at it makes my sanity break,” Zecora told her while setting the filly down and lightly brushing her mane.

“What is it?” Scootaloo asked quietly while being comforted by the gentle brushes.

“Only in tomes have I heard of this thing. It beckons all who hear its ring,” the striped equine tried to explain, then added, “From another plane this thing seems to be. I would vanquish it but I know not such a feat.”

“We have to do something!” the small pegasus called out and hugged the zebra’s foreleg.

“All of my potions did not seem to work, for this entity gets in their heads and wishes to lurk,” Zecora told her with a sigh. “I could not break their spell. I fear this will not end well.”

The silence that followed seemed to fill with the thunder happening overhead and the distant whispers of something unseen. Whispers of a strange language that couldn’t be spoken but was heard in their minds. Each second not trying to look at the statue only increased the voices in frequency. From small words and pauses between to near sentences and fewer breaks.

“I am sorry, little one, for this gloom. Equestria seems to be entering its doom,” was the statement that broke the silence.

Scootaloo was about to ask what Zecora could have meant until she heard the faint flap of wings. It pained her to turn and look into the clearing again but she had to see. She really wished she hadn’t.

Princesses Celestia and Luna glided into the circle, almost as if on purpose, before they both shifted focus from the ponies, to Scootaloo, and slowly to the abomination that demanded them to heed it. It was a horrible feeling to see them look away and give into the statue almost willingly then sit.

With no ponies to manage the sun or moon, things would never be the same. Scootaloo was losing everypony that seemed dear to her and all that could help. The tears streamed silently down her cheeks as she buried her face into Zecora’s neck. The two stayed like that for several minutes as the rain began to finally fall.

Cold and dark was the world. The ponies could not break from the grip that held them. There would be no telling if other ponies across the world would yield to its call or even come.

Scootaloo felt her body tip as Zecora pushed by. The lantern dropped and the candle inside snapped while the light went out much like the filly’s hope. A bit of a confusion came to mind as she sat up and called to the zebra.

“I… must not stand at the border. I must yield to its order,” Zecora spoke back as she too entered the clearing.

For the third and final time, Scootaloo was alone.

It was hard for the filly to pull herself away from the area and head back out of the forest. To think she was scared of entering such a place but now wished to not leave was a strange turn. Her head hung low as she eventually turned and walked out, leaving the ponies to their fate. The thought scared and hurt her more than any other as she barely navigated through the trees without her lantern.

If she hadn’t told Applejack of the issue then they would still be there to help. Scootaloo shut her eyes tight as she thought longer on the subject while exiting the forest. It was her fault that the ponies had been lured by the beacon of a statue, she thought. The filly was responsible for leading Applejack there and even her adored Rainbow Dash despite not meaning to send them to such a fate as she had known.

There would have to be other ponies within Ponyville. Even just one. Her tears were invisible with the rain as she stepped out of the treeline and looked to the town across the river. If there were any other ponies to help she had to find them.

A slight turn of her stomach only indicated her own reluctance of them able to help the issue even if she did find somepony. Things only seemed to get darker and more bleak with her thoughts. Zecora would still be there to help if only Scootaloo hadn’t told her of the statue. That cursed thing from somewhere unknown.

Gradually, the filly moved along and began to cross the bridge. The sound of the rain still couldn’t drown out her own thoughts, much less the hushed whispers at the back of her mind. It was cold and unforgiving with no ponies to care for the weather. How long such a thing would last was something she didn’t want to think about.

Looking up, several lights had winked out of existence from before in the town. Possibly candles left out in the rain or just low in their wax. The few still flickering in the night didn’t bring forth the promise of others not affected but only felt to make it more apparent that they had gone.

Scootaloo was just as lost but in her own mind. Things had gone from bad to worse and there looked to be no way of fixing it. She just wanted to find another pony and keep them safe. Maybe run away from Ponyville and try to ignore what had happened. Anything but still be in or near the empty town only for it to remind her of everything.

Her hooves carried her along through the rain and chilling air as she walked into the town and began to look from window to window. Every building seemed to be empty. Ponyville was devoid of life seldom herself the more she checked. Doors were left open, windows lifted, even various plates set out as if meals were being prepared.

Everypony had got up at the call and left in the middle of whatever they were doing. Some houses just looked normal within the rain with their shut doors and windows, though it was clear none were inside. Scootaloo found herself beginning to run to each and every building in her desperate attempt at finding any kind of pony within.

The rain poured heavily as she went from structure to the next, glancing in windows and knocking on doors. Her hooves were caked with mud as she moved on. House after house was checked, sometimes doubly so. There were a few times she even thought she heard noises within but the rain made it hard to tell.

It wasn’t until those haunting whispers from a voice unseen rose more in her mind that she knew there had been no sounds in the houses. No call from any other pony. The only voice that wished to see her was that of the statue.

Scootaloo shook her head trying to rid herself of the noise and voices. Water sprayed from her wet mane but did little to dry it as the rain continued. She wanted things back to normal. Everything needed to be right again.

Instead of pursuing the rest of the town, the small pegasus found slight shelter at the town center. Her wings fluttered uselessly as she tried to dry off and figure out what houses to check later. Twilight’s castle might be a good idea. Perhaps the alicorn had some books to cure this madness.

It was small but it was at least some idea. She had nearly prepared herself to head to the crystal looking castle when movement caught the corner of her eye. Scootaloo’s head turned swiftly as she waited for another sign, just to be sure. A tail.

“Hey!” the filly called out above the rain as best she could. “Hey! Help!”

The tail whisked away around a corner almost as quickly as she had noticed it. Did they not hear her? The rainfall had been quite loud, so perhaps not. Scootaloo looked around warily as she tried to quickly check windows for any ponies looking out but they were absent.

Instead of waiting any longer, her muddy hooves plopped onto the wet ground as she hurried over to where she last saw the tail of a pony. Lucky for her, it had been just barely within the light of a lantern nearby. Her eyes scanned for anything once she rounded the corner only to find hoof prints walking away from the spot in the mud.

Squinting at the water-filled imprints, her eyes tried their best to make sure the tracks went in a proper line. The lighting would make it impossible to see further out. Slowly, she followed along and tried to keep the prints seen as best as possible. There was at least one other pony out and she had to find them.

Time felt like it had halted but also so very precious. If just one pony was unaffected by the statue then she had to keep them away from it. Where they went became a guessing game about half-way through the town, back the way she came. Her mind was already rattled as she tried to grasp the current situation without breaking down.

It wasn’t until she had nearly reached the edge of Ponyville when a look up showed the silhouette of a pony standing just several yards out. They didn’t move at first but were clearly watching her. The whole scene made Scootaloo feel extremely uneasy but she had to save them.

“Mister? Or, miss?” the filly called out while trying to get a better visual. The rain probably drowned out her voice so she stepped closer.

Seeing more of the pony in a slight bit of detail did come with some relief, even with the lightning. They were aware of her and watching keenly but the staring was still unsettling. Did they just not understand where they others were? Maybe they were just as scared as her.

A few more steps forward and Scootaloo looked around to check for other ponies. The heavy rain was almost freezing but she persisted. Her voice rang out again as she waved a hoof to try and get them to respond in some manner. She suddenly wished they didn’t.

“Follow,” the pony said in a calm voice. “Come see.”

Scootaloo’s heart almost felt like it stopped. The statue had somehow sent yet another pony to lure her back. The whole interaction felt fake and extremely forced. This had to be how other ponies had been pulled away from their homes and jobs. Just lured to a beacon that refused to stop.

The two of them stood still. Scootaloo didn’t want to go but it seemed the other pony wasn’t about to leave. Running sounded like a good idea but the thought of having the pony chase after her was scary enough. There would be no way she could outrun the grown equine without her scooter.

Limited options and a breaking mind only left the filly with little else to do, especially with how insistent those voices were getting. Her head lowered as he stepped forward and waited until the stranger turned and began to walk. Slowly, she followed along always staying behind a bit and letting the pony lead the way.

Even with another pony near her, the whole worlds felt so isolated and cold. Scootaloo felt alone. The winds blew to chill her more as they walked along in the rain. Crossing the bridge showed the river rising slightly from such a storm.

Thunder boomed and lightning struck but Scootaloo didn’t jump. Her mind was far away from the storm and the idle thoughts of what her and her friends would do the next day. There was no pause for them at the treeline to Everfree either. The stranger slipped into the trees with the filly right behind them.

There was no fighting it. She wouldn’t get away from such a thing and she knew it. There were no ponies left to come to her aid. Roots from trees stayed their gnarled mess but hardly got in the way for them. It was almost like everything paved the way for their travel to such an unspeakable object. Not something that sat well with the filly but she couldn’t help but think it.

Once the pony made it to the clearing they went in and sat down almost instantly. Scootaloo stayed back for a moment longer as she thought about her options once again. Her eyes surveyed the area as best they could before seeing so many familiar faces, all of them focused on the one thing. Zecora sat at the edge of the clearing with her mane wet and down along her head from the rain.

The sight of her made Scootaloo look down before peeking up again. The once amazing Rainbow Dash still stayed where she had first been noticed. Nothing had changed. There would be nothing to change. Scootaloo cried as she tried to fight herself, accepting this was all her fault.

Eventually, the small pegasus gave in and walked into the circle. Her eyes stayed down as she moved through the ponies, her friends, and found a spot near Dash then sat down. There was nothing she could do at all. A small shove to the blue pegasus next to her changed not a thing. Rainbow Dash stared up without taking any notice.

“I’m so sorry,” Scootaloo whispered beneath the sound of the storm and leaned against the rainbow maned pegasus.

Slowly, her eyes raised as she yielded to the call.


View Online

Running the Crystal Empire wasn’t nearly as easy as the two royal ponies made it appear. Constant upkeep on the well-being of their ponies, continuing to work on morale, and even simply finding the time just for them to relax. Everything seemed like a chore but it had to be done. They were ever grateful that the ponies did listen well and often followed things without fuss.

Shining Armor let out a deep sigh from the balcony as he watched over the ponies going about their day. It had been exhausting to tend to them as well as his own filly. With how everything just kept piling on it almost seemed like he would never catch a break. He never thought being prince of the land would be tiring.

“Thinking about older days?” Cadance asked, her eyes showing dark circles beneath them while she smiled kindly. “Me too.”

“Heh, just wishing we could kick back a little is all,” Shining admitted and let out another audible sigh. “You look worse than I feel.”

“Thanks,” the pink alicorn said with her smile wilting before giggling. “You sure know how to cheer your wife up.”

“Sorry,” the royal stallion apologized and smiled a bit. “You do look really out of it though. Try getting some rest, honey. I’ll watch over things while you do. Maybe even get a nanny to watch Flurry for a while.”

“Only if you’re sure you can handle things while I take some beauty rest,” Cadance said though she was already turning to head to the bedroom.

“Of course! No problem!” Shining mentioned while he waited for her walk off and then slumped against the railing of the balcony.

As tired as he was his wife came first. There was the comfort of knowing that all the crystal ponies looked to be doing just fine. Unless some catastrophic event happened they probably wouldn’t notice if he took a small nap up there on the balcony of the castle. It would only be for five minutes. Or fifty, if he couldn’t help it.

It felt like he could pass out just standing up with how weary he was. Even the sounds of the many hooves below trotting along and sounding out were beginning to sound like distant rain. It was soothing. A bit too soothing in the fact that Shining Armor eventually began to nod off right where he was.

As he drifted into his own slumber, the unicorn could feel a cold breeze run by that nearly disturbed him. It was almost as if the wind was carried from lands of ice. His body shivered as he stayed leaning over the railing and trying to keep from waking.

There were ponies below talking about something. The words were mere mumbles from his spot above but they were not hushed. With his tired state of mind and attempt to sneak a nap in, Shining could make none of their phrases out either way. Nothing short of a calamity might wake the stallion, yet a calamity there soon was.

Ponies got louder as their voices raised. Mares and stallions alike crowded around one particular pony as they shouted out. They continued on as others began to shout back at them. Questions or accusations were lost in the jumble of sayings and soon the prince awoke.

“Ponies of the Crystal Empire!” shouted Shining from his position on the castle. “Tell me what ails you!”

“I saw it!” a single pony yelled back, waving a foreleg and indicating a northern direction. “I saw it out that way!”

Instead of wasting his energy to shout back and forth, Shining quickly ducked away from the balcony and hurried down the stairs. The movement got his body to kick out the tired feeling resting inside as he rushed to the front doors and out. Before him stood nearly all of the Crystal Empire with the lone crystal pony in front.

“What did you see? Please, keep it down. My wife is needing her rest,” the prince mentioned as he waited to hear what the ruckus was about.

“It’s out there!” the pony said and pointed with a hoof. “We can’t stop it!”

Shining gently pressed the pony’s foreleg down and stepped closer. “Easy now. Can you tell me exactly what it is? You aren’t making much sense.”

“The stone that which no ice can coat and no sun can heat,” said the nearly hysterical pony.

“What stone? Are you talking about the Crystal Heart? That’s nothing to be afra-” Shining tried explaining before the pony let out a screaming denial.

“NO! The Black Stone of the North!” the crystal pony raved before turning in circles. “We have to leave! It’s not safe here!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s just calm down, okay? One step at a time. What’s this Stone of the North?” the annoyed prince asked, glancing around once he saw plenty of the ponies shift uncomfortably.

“You never heard of the legend?” the crystal pony asked, though he seemed to understand quickly. “Oh, that’s right.”

There was another cold breeze, almost like winter was a couple of months early. Shining saw them all shiver and look around cautiously. As worried as they looked he seemed to be the only confused one. Cadance and he had not been lost for years with the ponies during Sombra’s reign nor had they really looked into too much history the empire itself had. Perhaps he should have.

“So, what is it?” Shining asked again. He wasn’t enjoying having to pry answers out.

“It’s a bad omen! It’s the sign of something terrible coming. It’s never detailed what, but that one of from the outer planes will come to change things as they are,” the pony tried to explain while staring down at the grass.

“Where did you find this stone and what does it look like exactly?” the prince inquired and shivered again.

“North. Just barely within sight of the castle. You should be able to see it from your loft,” said the crystal stallion while he did his best to keep composure. “It’s… it’s black on the surface and surrounded by ice. I didn’t dare get any closer to see more. You would know it if you see it. Far different than any other stone in the area.”

“Okay. Well, for all we know, it might just be some rocks you mistook as this thing. I don’t think we should panic over a legend, of all things,” Shining said slowly then looked along the many faces of the ponies. “Everything is just fine. Relax.”

The ponies muttered to one another as they looked around and huddled a bit closer. Whatever the stone was of the vague legend surrounding it, Shining didn’t truly know but he did understand it was making his ponies fearful for seemingly no reason. Old mare’s tales shouldn’t be scaring ponies so easily. He wished Cadance was awake and then maybe she could calm them better.

Instead of wasting more breath, the unicorn prince turned and strode into the castle. It was his duty to make sure they were all safe. If some odd stone was scaring them so bad then maybe he could check it out himself. Sending any other ponies instead would probably be more of a hassle than he wanted, especially if they all knew of this supposed legend.

“Legend,” Shining mocked under his breath. It was barely a tale and yet all the ponies were afraid of it.

His hooves clopped along the slick floors of the castle and echoed out as he made his way through the halls and up the steps. Despite his earlier nap being disturbed so quickly he was particularly wide awake. Every step just made him groan when he looked up to see more in his path. Still, he had to look and see.

While he did eventually make it to the loft, he wasn’t happy about it. Half of him hoped he would find what the pony was raving on about. The other half wanted there to be nothing so he could take a nap after informing them. Whatever the case, he just wanted it to be done with so things could settle down.

Opening the door to the loft had him grit his teeth as an icy breeze swept out and over him. He couldn’t understand the change in climate from just a climb in the castle but pushed his thoughts away while he stepped inside. The room itself held just various boxes and trinkets stored for numerous reasons. It took him a good minute to navigate over to the window while magically moving objects to make a path.

The open window held no glass from the old design arches. He made a mental note to possibly change that later. The wind moved by the window as he gazed out and looked to the north as far as he could. Everything seemed normal but he didn’t want to just glance quickly in case he missed something.

Several minutes passed as he stared out at the grassy field then beyond. Many rocky surfaces were near the mountains, namely Mount Everhoof. It all seemed to look the same the longer he tried searching. Outcrops and cliffs just looked like ordinary stone.

It had been a good several minutes of him standing in the cold winds to the window until he finally spotted something that looked off. In an area before the mountains there was what looked to be a frozen patch of land and a small object in the center. The black dot was hard to make out completely though he was certain it was what the pony had been talking about. Even from the distance something about it didn’t seem quite right but Shining ignored the feelings.

If he had a telescope he could get a closer look without having to make a trek to it. Sadly, it wasn’t something he kept on hoof like his little sister did. In a small grunt, the unicorn turned and walked out of the room before closing the door. It felt a bit warmer being out of the wind though he knew making the walk to the area would be just as bad, if not worse.

His legs worked to carry him throughout the castle until he had found his old scarf that he had brought with him when they first arrived. It should be enough to let him make it there and back so long as he didn’t linger. As much as he wanted to wake his dear wife and tell her what was going on, he instead informed the guard at the bedroom door and insisted he only let her know if she wakes before he’s back. There was no reason to have her worry as well from not knowing what was going on.

The guard looked uneasy as he was told where Shining was going and what he was looking for. The prince could see it in his eyes. There was a fear lurking there but the guard was doing his best to not let it show. At least he was trying.

Wanting to get it over with, Shining Armor made sure the scarf was wrapped snugly around his neck and exited the castle. It would be a little bit of a run but he could make it there and back within reasonable time. His hooves worked as he galloped along and headed north while hoping to dispel any worry among his ponies in the empire.


Perhaps running the entire way wasn’t the best idea. Shining felt his legs ache by the time he got anywhere near the stone. His muscles almost burned but it did give him a good distraction from the growing cold. The one thing he didn’t like was trying to hunt for the odd rock despite it being a stark contrast against the white and blue.

He thanked Celestia when he reached a crest and saw it ahead. It was much larger than he expected it to be. From guessing, he thought it looked about the size of a house. The whole thing seemed off. Its angles were presented so perfectly but it still looked mostly like a chunk of rock to him.

The pointed looking top made it appear as if it were trying to point up to the sky. Had it fallen from there or just been covered by snow the whole time? Was it even anything special? Shining squinted as he tried making out details without stepping any closer.

For some reason, he didn’t feel like getting too close. Maybe the ponies had skewered the legend to some extent but the rock could potentially be dangerous somehow. He had no idea but taking precautions seemed like the better idea. Twilight would probably know far more on such a thing and even love to see it herself.

The thought made him smile. He should ask her opinion the matter. She was always the smart one of them and loved discovering new things. If she could set it in light that it was harmless and point out all the details then it might help calm the crystal ponies.

Shining looked away and rubbed at his eyes with his hooves. They stung a bit though probably from staring in the freezing cold so long. He could even feel a slight headache attempting to happen and turned away entirely to see how far his castle was. The sight was impressive as well as daunting.

He had run for far longer and farther than he thought. A good portion of the castle was still visible but all houses and anything at ground level were obscured. Possibly a hill between them, he assumed.

The discovery wasn’t exactly what he was hoping but it was something. He could at least head back and tell them of the stone and how he found no harm in it himself. Maybe state he’s bringing in another pony to look at it and determine if it’s safe to put their minds to rest. It wouldn’t be hard to write to Twilight and have her take a train to the empire, especially with the finding.

There didn’t seem to be much else he could do from his scouting trip. The rock was obviously there but other than looking a tad odd it didn’t seem to appear dangerous. Shining was a bit upset that he had run all the way out to get a close look and couldn’t do much else. The ponies would want some answer from him and he didn’t exactly want to feed their fears.

At least his wife was sleeping and didn’t have to deal with everything.


“When were you going to tell me?” Cadance asked, keeping herself stern as she walked around her lightly frost covered husband.

“I was honestly going to let you sleep through it if I could clear it up fast,” Shining answered and sighed. “Look, I know they’re scared and all but you’ve been worn out lately. Let me handle this, okay?”

“I don’t know. What if they don’t like hearing that this rock is actually real? You said they’ve heard of some legend, right?” the pink alicorn asked as she moved over to Flurry’s crib and rocked it lightly.

Shining was lost. He wanted to keep things under wraps if he could but Cadance had been waiting for him when he returned. Apparently a two hour long trek to the frozen land and back wasn’t exactly as quick as he had hoped. The unicorn was bombarded with questions upon returning with his wife barely able to tell them to calm down and await any news.

If he lied to them then they may not know the truth and just think one pony was going crazy. Though, if it did happen to be harmful to ponies then he would be to blame for them getting hurt. If did tell them, they might cause a mass panic and be uncooperative. Then again, they listened well so they could just be worried but relax with Cadance and him protecting them.

“Uh, yeah,” Shining mentioned, lost in his own thoughts on what to do.

“Then we can make a statement. Tell them that there is something in the north but don’t say what. Explain we’ll bring ponies in to help determine the origins and whether or not if it might be harmful,” Cadance told him while smiling sweetly to their daughter. “Besides, I rather make sure if it’s anything serious in the first place. It’s not just the crystal ponies we have to worry about anymore.”

“Yeah, I know,” the unicorn replied, lowering his head. “Our girl needs to be just as safe. I’ll write a letter to Twilight and have her come look. That sound good?”

Cadance merely nodded with a small hum while rocking their filly in the crib. Shining was still worried for his wife considering how tired she looked even after her rest. She shouldn’t be up and doing her duties. It pained him to know that he might have to come to her for more guidance if things didn’t work out, but he could only hope for the best.

Instead of asking her any questions, Shining Armor whispered his adoration for her and their filly before leaving the room. There were constant questions and answers running around in his head as he tried to think of just what might be asked so he could have a ready reply. His body shivered as he opened the castle doors and stepped out where the ponies of the Crystal Empire waited with bated breath.

“What did you see?” a voice called out in the back of the crowd. The ponies started to rabble loudly at the question, demanding an answer.

“Hey, hey! Calm down and keep it more manageable. I will answer everything I can if you keep yourselves under control,” Shining told them and moved forward, watching the crowd move back.

“Can you tell us if it’s there?” another crystal pony asked. While the group did nearly start up again they quickly quieted down with the guards ushering them back more.

“I saw an object. I don’t know what it was exactly but it did look to be a black stone of some sort,” the prince answered and watched as they reacted.

There were plenty of panicked phrases uttered and some asking what they should do. The majority, thankfully, seemed to stay mostly silent and waited to hear more. He at least had them listening and nopony was having some mental break.

“Is there a way to stop it?” came a question to his right.

“There is nothing to stop currently. As it stands, the rock is just that: A rock. If there are any other turns of events, I will inform you all with a public announcement. For now, we’ll be asking for ponies specialized in this field to help figure out if this thing is even dangerous,” he told them all. They looks of worry did lessen, but not by much.

“Should we stay inside until you say?” one pony asked, trying to push through the number of others in their way.

“No. There is no reason to change or act any different than usual. Everything is fine,” Shining assured them though he didn’t want to admit he had a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that he was greatly underestimating it all.

A dozen more questions came at him which he successfully managed to answer and calm the general public. Before long, he finally had to say it was enough for everypony to return and try not to think about it. Things would be far better once he got proper knowledge on the thing and could tell them.

Shining glanced back to the north and sighed. Twilight would know more on the rock and it would hopefully comfort the ponies to know about it. He could even write to a few other ponies that studied rocks and get their opinions. His little sister would know the name of their line of work, possibly even the names of some ponies themselves to call on.

The whole ordeal felt a bit messy but he felt he could sort it out. That black stone wasn’t going anywhere, though knowing about it only recently was mildly worrying. If he were to be honest with himself, the whole thing felt eerily surreal. Something felt out of place about it all and he couldn’t figure out what.

If the shape of the rock had disturbed him then he would have not been able to distinguish it properly. The triangular look was simple but it did seem vaguely weird. The color was exactly just a color. Black like the void of space but utterly fine otherwise. Then what was it that kept bugging him?

Shining pondered to himself quietly as he went back into the castle. His body let out a light shake from the cold air as he closed the doors. Why was it getting so cold lately?


It took Twilight Sparkle a couple of days to make the trip to the Crystal Empire. Her own duties and errands often wound up keeping her busy. The second she had a chance, she jumped onto the next train with a packed bag and eagerly awaited her destination.

Shining was waiting at the station with Cadance and Flurry Heart. The three of them were just as eager for Twilight to arrive as the citizens of the Crystal Empire had grown restless and more afraid. Nothing said could seem to calm them unless it involved that stone in the northern ice field. Cadance had barely managed to sleep with all the questions being asked.

Once the train made its stop and that familiar hiss sounded out, the doors opened and the purple alicorn nearly toppled over herself getting out. The suitcase followed along as she steadied herself and was greeted. Hugs were given all around and the ponies began making their walk to the empire.

“It’s kind of chilly, isn’t it?” Twilight asked as she gave a visible shiver.

“Yeah, it’s been like this for a few days. Just feels like it’s getting colder even though winter isn’t due yet,” Shining said as he watched his sister procure a scarf and wrap it around her own neck.

“So, this stone and all, I tried looking into it more when I had the chance but there wasn’t almost anything on it. It’s like your empire here just doesn’t have a lot on it outside of its own library,” the purple alicorn said as she trotted behind the couple.

“Hm, that is strange. Feel free to look through the Crystal Empire’s archives if you got the time. I’d appreciate anything to calm down the ponies,” the prince spoke while looking to his wife.

“I agree. The crystal ponies are getting far more restless. They seem to be so stressed over it,” Cadance replied while cradling Flurry with a wing.

“I’ll see what I can do. Is it pretty far away or have they been in direct contact with it?” Twilight asked, her magic levitating a scroll and quill.

“Only one has seen it. That’s how we know. I don’t really know if he touched it or anything. When I went to look myself I stayed a bit back,” Shining told her.

Twilight thought to herself as they walked and scribbled notes here and there on the parchment. Her focus stayed on the paper until they finally reach the empire itself and walked along one of the main roads to the castle. She could think of nothing that related to what was told to her. No stone she had heard of was known to be supposedly as dangerous as some legend states. Maud would probably figure it out in a heartbeat but Twilight couldn’t get in contact with her in time before leaving.

The group made their way to the castle as the crystal ponies tried asking more questions but were ushered aside by guards on patrol. The whole area had been needing to be kept safe so Shining had ponies put on patrol to keep from things getting out of hoof. As much as she wanted to ask, Twilight knew it wouldn’t help asking questions back to those wanting answers.

“You said you can see it from the loft?” Twilight asked her big brother and looked up along the castle’s spire.

“Mhm, you can probably set up a telescope and see it much better if you did that. Though, we’re going to take a trip to it instead,” he told her and nodded a thanks to his guards.

“You should probably get some geologists on it too,” the purple mare mentioned while watching a guard open the door for them.

“That’s the term,” Shining said to himself and nodded. “Yeah, I’ll look into that for sure. Thanks for coming to help, Twily. I really don’t know how to tell you how much this means to us.”

“Oh, it’s fine! The mystery about all this is certainly interesting enough to draw me in regardless,” Twilight said before giving a little laugh.

The group exchanged thanks a few more times before Cadance finally departed and carried the foal up the stairs while yawning. She had hardly said much during the walk and looked entirely out of it. The question coming to Twilight’s mind was answered before she could even turn her head.

“Cadance hasn’t been sleeping well lately. Between our daughter, the dumb rock, and the ponies in general we just haven’t had time to settle down. She needs her rest far more than I do,” Shining mentioned while he watched his wife ascend the stairway until she disappeared around the corner.

“I feel really bad for her. She looks so worn out,” Twilight said as her ears lowered.

“That’s why you’re here, right?” her big brother asked with a smile.

That smile seemed to infect the purple mare as she too grinned and nodded. It was up to them to put everything to rest and have the Crystal Empire back to normal. The sense of need and the fact she was called upon for her own knowledge on things warmed Twilight’s heart greatly. She would do everything she could to help.

“So, when do we begin?” the purple alicorn asked as she set her suitcase down.

“Right now. Bundle up because it’s only going to get colder farther north we go,” Shining told her and smiled. It was a smile that hid the doubt he still felt that anything would be fixed.


Shining was right, the area was indeed extremely cold. Twilight had bundled herself up a bit and it still felt like the icy wind was cutting through the layers of fabric. She didn’t complain though. Her mind was more set on the small crest ahead that the supposed black stone lay behind.

Once she looked into the frozen valley, her heart almost skipped a beat. The stone wasn’t like anything she had thought. Nothing round or orb-like at all. It almost didn’t look like a rock of any sort until she looked closer. The smoothness of the stone’s face was oddly devoid of any ice entirely though there were small erosion marks all around it.

The pyramid look it gave was something just as strange. If she didn’t know any better, she thought the whole piece looked new. Not only new but there didn’t appear to be any true breaks in the surface itself minus the possible erosion. The whole thing was formed or carved from one entire piece.

“This is amazing,” Twilight whispered to herself as she unfastened her telescope off her side and extended it.

While she tried getting a better look without getting too close the wind began to howl. Freezing gusts whipped around and stirred the snow up and down. It became hard to steady herself enough to focus in on the object but her stomach turned once she did.

Shining must have noticed the sudden change of look upon his sister’s face as he stood nearby. He gently shook her and looked to the stone before turning away. The sight didn’t sit well with him and even less than it had before.

“Twilight, what’s wrong? What do you see? Is everything okay?” the unicorn asked, shaking his sister gently.

“Those marks aren’t from erosion,” Twilight breathed out, her cloudy breath being swept away in the wind. “They’re carvings.”

“What do you mean? Somepony made this?” Shining asked, glancing to the black object and away again.

“I don’t know how else to explain it. There had to be a pony, or a civilization here many years ago that made this,” she tried to explain and looked down at the snow around her hooves.

“Are you feeling okay?” the prince asked while hoping silently he didn’t just put his own sister in danger.

“I’m fine. Just a small headache is all,” she replied and shook her head.

The two continued to study the oddity and the area around it. Is was beyond freezing for every step they took closer to it. No amount of layered clothing would keep away the cold unless they stepped back. Twilight did her best to copy down a few of the bizarre markings. Glyphs, runes, she wasn’t sure what they were entirely.

Once she got close enough to nearly touch it, Twilight felt her heart beating rapidly. The whole experience felt strange. Just being close to it almost gave her a sense that it was otherworldly. Something was wrong with it but she had nowhere near the information to be able and guess what that might be.

“I think we should head back in a bit,” Shining said as he watched his sister write feverishly on the parchment.

“Yeah, that would be a good,” she said back to him before walking backwards as if keeping an eye on the inanimate object.

It took him to shake her a bit before she broke her gaze on the black surface then closed her eyes. She had a pounding migraine and the cold almost seemed to feel like it was trying to freeze it in place. Her head turned to her brother as she was about to tell him her wish to depart when he stepped away quickly.

“What?” Twilight asked, afraid of his reaction.

“Your eyes, Twily,” Shining breathed out. “They’re… so dark.”


Twilight had insisted on setting up a proper telescope in the loft once they were back. Her eyes had taken on a ghastly darker tone at the site but eventually began to clear up some once they had reached the castle. Shining nearly forbade it but eventually gave in under the condition she report to them everything she learns and to check with an optometrist about her eyes.

The crystal ponies luckily missed the detail as they were more focused on asking their prince a number of questions that repeated. He ushered Twilight away while he distracted them and tried answering everything possible. It was hard to properly convey what he was wanting to but he did manage to tell them it was dangerous but only if they went out to it. The topic of the runes on the smooth surface was conveniently left alone.

Inside the castle, Twilight met with Cadance and tried passing the time with a little chatting. She could tell quickly the pink alicorn was in no mood for much idle talking. Those eyes could hardly stay open as she sat with her foal and mostly just watched and listened to Twilight. The stress of the empire was getting to her bad and she had no break from being a new mother either.

The purple mare eventually stopped and let the prince of the Crystal Empire head back to bed. With all the noise outside it was a wonder if anypony could get any rest around there. Twilight moved over to a decorative mirror and checked on her reflection. Nothing too out of the ordinary, though she could see what Shining meant about her darker eyes.

Just that second, the doors opened and Twilight gasped with a jump from the startling noise. Shining Armor walked in and closed them himself with a groan before he rubbed a hoof to his head and leaned against the giant entryway. He was beginning to look just as exhausted as Cadance.

“I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to keep things under control,” he admitted and looked to Twilight.

“We’ll find an answer to it,” she assured him with a smile, though weak.

“Your eyes look a lot better,” Shining told her and stepped forward. “I was real scared for a bit there.”

“There were worse than this?” Twilight asked and went back to the mirror to check. “They would have been on the verge of nearly being black.”

“They nearly were,” said the prince while he looked away. “I don’t want you out there anymore, understand? We’ll call off the geo… gel…”

“Geologists,” Twilight said, her interest still in her eyes.

“Yeah, them. No sense putting other ponies in danger,” he told her while walking over. “Did you learn anything else from being out there? Anything at all?”

“I’ll have to use the telescope and your archives. I don’t even know if I can find anything new but I’ll try,” the lavender pony promised while she finally moved from the mirror. “Just try to let Cadance get the rest she needs. I think this whole thing is wearing thin with her, especially after Flurry.”

“I know. I’ll do what I can. Feel free to clear out the boxes in the loft and don’t be staying in there for hours,” Shining warned her. “That open window was cold the other day. I can only imagine how freezing it might be now.”

Twilight agreed and slowly made her way to the offered room they had given her for her stay. The headache had barely lessened but it was enough for her to think a bit more on the strange landmark. Nothing she knew of came close to being whatever that stone was. It had made her feel so unwelcome and odd when she got near as well.

Facts had been gathered but they merely glossed over the appearance of it and hardly much at that. It was an unknown thing in the center of a field that had possibly no right being there. It somehow had been either carved from a single piece of stone or formed that way yet neither looked entirely plausible currently.

Her magic drew the parchment she had written in and held it before her as she laid in bed. Those runes looked nothing like she had seen. No language or anything that seemed familiar in the slightest. To make matters worse, looking at the drawn figures only made her head hurt worse.

Twilight groaned and dropped the paper to the floor as she rolled over. It felt like the room was spinning. It all came to a dizzying halt only when rest was impossible to avoid and the darkness of her dream matched all too well with the black pyramid.


The next day had been a slow one. Shining had managed to get a telescope and worked on setting it up in the loft himself. The icy wind was almost unbearable when he finally got the stand to sit right. How Twilight was going to take notes or even stay longer than a couple minutes was anypony’s guess.

Curiosity did get the better of him once the instrument was set up accordingly. He had moved plenty of boxes out and had enough room to pace before he peered into the eyepiece. The snow and ice encroaching the outer limits of the empire was where it settled at first before he tilted it and started looking for the strange object.

Several cold and agonizing minutes passed before he finally spotted it. The thing sat exactly where it had been day after day. No ice had formed on it like it was nearly untouchable for everything. He was silently glad that Twilight as well as himself never touched it. Who knew what might happen then.

It only took under a minute for him to start feeling that pressure in his head again. The aching pulse of the headache stirred as he grit his teeth and tried to keep looking. He could have missed something the other two times, right? It would only be a minute.

“Shiny?” came the voice from the closed door. It was Cadance. “Are you in there? You’ve been gone two hours.”

Shining broke away from the telescope and looked back to the door. He hadn’t but looked into the telescope after setting it up. There was no way time flew by that quickly. The stallion rubbed at his eyes and looked around for a mirror but to no avail.

“Uh, yeah, I am. Just took longer to set up the telescope is all,” he lied and covered his face with a foreleg as he opened the door. “I just got this terrible headache though. I’m going to lie down for a bit, okay?”

“Okay, dear. Come on. Let me get you a blanket and you can rest your head,” the pink alicorn suggested as she started to lead him away.

Shining agreed and followed along while making sure she never looked back at him unless his eyes were covered. It wasn’t a complete lie. The burning migraine had been so bad that he thought he might pass out. Laying down to let things clear up would be a good idea in general.

As they passed Twilight’s room, Shining gave a knock to the door and called out to her. Once she replied he told her to be careful when checking the loft. Instead of worrying his wife any further he added that the cold air might be bad. He wanted so badly to get the headache to stop as he stumbled along behind his wife.

It wasn’t until they had made it back to their bedroom that he realized something while looking through the eyepiece. It had been set in a position just barely past the empire’s own limits. He had seen plenty of ice and snow. The cold was coming from the north and overtaking the land.

They wouldn’t have much time to figure things out at the pace it was going.


Twilight had slept most of the day and only awoke once she heard the knocking at the door. Her ears flicked as her head throbbed while she sat up and answered. Her brother had managed to work on setting up the telescope and told her to be careful. She knew he didn’t mean the temperature in the room to be wary of when issuing his warning but she understood. It was best not to worry Cadance any further if they could help it.

She waited a good bit before getting out of bed and getting things ready. Staying up there must be dreadfully cold and she didn’t want to be ill prepared for it. Donning most of the clothing she could, Twilight eventually slipped on her saddlebag and opened the door. Peering out yielded nopony else so she took advantage of having to avoid explaining herself and swiftly ascended the stairway.

There was a knot in her stomach, tightening and twisting with the disturbing feeling she got from getting closer to the room upstairs. Everything was telling her to move and run away but she couldn’t. She knew it wouldn’t solve anything if she ran. The crystal ponies were probably more scared than she was.

Forcing herself to keep moving, Twilight worked her way up the steps until she finally reached the door. Using her magic, the lavender alicorn opened it and felt the immediate cold blast of air. If the climbing didn’t wake her up then that icy gust of wind sure did. Her teeth clenched as she walked inside and shut the door behind her.

The telescope was perched just in front of the window with a small seat behind it. Nearby were a few boxes but plenty of room for her hooves to move around. She didn’t want to keep staring at the thing but she had to figure out what was going on. As much as she liked the mystery of it, the dangerous aspect of it made her want to just blast it apart and be rid of it.

Her quill and several pieces of parchment were pulled from her bag as she sat down and sighed. A trip to the archives would be a good idea but she wanted to make sure she didn’t miss anything vital. It wouldn’t be long. Just look and take notes then leave.

Twilight nodded to herself and thought of how her brother and his wife. They needed her to do this. It was the only way.

Slowly, the purple mare leaned in and swallowed her fear. Her eye peered into the lens as she adjusted the instrument carefully. Hooves kept the telescope steady as her magic pulled up the quill and parchment, ready to take notes. Only a small look.

Daintily, her note began as she tried to keep from looking too long. Only several seconds were needed before pulling back and reading over what was written. It never made her aching head any better but it kept it from getting agonizing too quickly. She did her best to jot down approximated size, location, and even further describing it the best she could.

Looking through the lens again, Twilight froze in place before panning the view to the surrounding area of the object. Her gaze was swapped between the area and the black stone before she pulled back wrote a bit more. How she had missed it when they were out there was a question she wanted to ask herself.

The stone wasn’t just any stone. It wasn’t sitting in a field. It wasn’t just what they saw. Twilight held a hoof to her muzzle as she tried to think clearly. Then it was like a coin dropped for her. A realization hit almost instantly.

What was sitting in the north from the Crystal Empire was a nunatak. Not only that, but it was far from natural. That field of ice was no field at all. It was in a frozen lake bed, just submerged and lurking. There would be no way it could be so new if that was the case. It had been there the whole time, just waiting for them to take notice.

From her position in the loft and the angle of the view, she could see the outline of the whole area and the small crest they went over surrounding the dark piece of unknown rock. Was it from before ponykind? Did ponies even make it? Was it something truly otherworldly?

All the questions filled her mind and her headache felt like it barely gave enough room for them. She hadn’t shivered for a bit as she stared at the thing and wrote off to the side. Her stomach felt like it had plummeted and her world flipped. She had to know more. There had to be more to learn.


Shining stirred awake as he laid in bed. His eyes slowly opened to notice his wife and foal absent from the room. Cadance had probably taken Flurry to another part of the castle as not to disturb him. He could feel his head still hurting but it didn’t seem to be any worse than before. The issue still worried him either way.

It was a task in itself to get up and work himself onto all fours without falling over. He felt a little sick but blamed it on the headache. If he wanted to keep sleeping then he would have just rolled over and tried to continue. Instead, he needed to check on Twilight and see how his sibling had come along in her findings, if any.

As he stepped out of the room, Shining could hear a light commotion from the front doors of the castle. It didn’t sound like a protest or even a demand for answers. It was almost like ponies were nearly screaming. The sound made him change his mind and hurry down to the front doors as fast as he could.

A quick check in the mirror showed he could hide the tiny of darkness in his eyes, though the rings around them might be harder to explain. Once the door opened he could see it was dusk and thought he might not have to bother hiding his odd happening. All thoughts of even worrying about it vanished when Cadance came rushing to him and hugged her forelegs around his neck.

“Whoa, what’s going on? What’s with the yelling outside?” Shining asked, carefully hugging the alicorn back.

“It’s the crystal ponies,” she said, trying to keep herself from crying. “They’ve… They’ve just… lost it. I don’t know. It happened out of nowhere. They’re scrawling on the walls and claiming that something had come.”

“What has?” the unicorn tried to insist but Cadance just shook her head.

The ponies had fallen into their legend completely. He had to snap them out of it but it would take a miracle to get them to come to.

“The Crystal Heart has stopped,” Cadance added quietly and hugged tighter. “They said it can’t protect us any longer.”

“Cadance,” Shining said, feeling his own panic rising until he remembered Twilight. “Hold on. I’ll go get Twi! She might have a way to fix this! She can confirm it’s just a dumb legend!”

Not wanting to pull away, Shining pried himself from his wife’s hold and quickly ran up the stairs. His hooves clopped along as he slammed each hoof down and hurried as fast as he could. The throbbing pain in his head nearly made him lose his step and take a very bad tumble to the base of the stairway. It felt like it was getting worse.

He did thank Celestia that he made it to her room without incident and rapped loudly at the door. His hoof probably sounded out throughout the whole castle with how loud it was trying to get her attention.

“Twilight!” he called. “Twilight, we need your help now!”

No reply came. Shining magically opened the door and looked around. His frantic run went all around the room before he hurried out and began to climb more stairs. The loft seemed like the only place she would be but he was hoping she might not be there. It felt like something wicked lurked in their castle.

“TWILIGHT!” Shining shouted as he ran up and tried to keep himself steady.

It was almost accidental when he reached the top and slammed into the door. The shock of the hit made him wince and nearly knocked the breath out of him with how unprepared he was. He could feel that migraine festering and reaching those tendrils deeper into his mind as he regained himself and looked around.

The loft was almost unrecognizable. Various runes were scribbled or practically carved into the crystal walls. Crude and disturbing, the symbols only hounded his mind relentlessly as he looked at them. Their confusing nature and odd look were nigh impossible to grasp with the state his mental health was in.

Twilight sat upon her seat before the telescope, silent and rocking back and forth. Her head stayed lowered, looking down at the instrument that was aimed directly at the cause of all the madness going on. Her hooves were spattered with ink and taking a look to those cursed symbols revealed to Shining that she had used a hoof to smear some runes.

How long had he been asleep? It was only a few hours, he thought. What all did she do or see? Had she learned more? He needed her help more than ever.

“Twilight, please. We need to go and tell the crystal ponies everything is fine. We need to tell them this is all just some hokey legend,” Shining said while panting and doing his best not to look anywhere but at his sister.

The incredible pain that surrounded him was immense. His mind felt fractured and his body numb. If he had to, he would pull her away himself. He couldn’t even hear himself think with how crippling the migraine was. It took a moment before he reached over to grab the alicorn and attempt to pull her away.

Twilight’s head turned to face him uncannily. Her eyes were as black as that stone with tiny dots of a white glow emanating from them and directed right at him. Those glowing pupils felt like they were boring holes into his mind as she stared and began to speak. The words that came out of her mouth were nothing he had ever heard before and nothing he ever wanted to hear again.

A strange language filled the loft in a slight echo as Shining backed away and held a hoof to his head. The room was spinning and he couldn’t keep his balance. With a stumble, the stallion dropped as he tried to sit up.

“Stop it, Twilight!” Shining yelled above her echoed tone.

“It has come,” she said simply. It was something he could understand. “It has risen and is here.”

“What are you talking about?! Snap out of it!” the prince called out as he tried to stand but his body refused.

“It is not pleased,” Twilight said, looking down at her brother as she spoke. “It wishes to be called its proper name. The name inscribed on it.”

Shining didn’t know what to say. He was scared he had lost his only sister to this thing and had no idea how to fight it off. The look from those eyes grew more uncomfortable by the second and made him look away only to find his head aching even more. Once his eyes looked around again he saw a makeshift book laying on top of the saddlebag.

The book itself was extremely crude. Parchment was layered together with two quills stabbed through the sides and woven in like a needle in fabric. They held the thing together but barely. Twilight reached a hoof over and grabbed it, flipping it open and leaning in closely.

“You will listen to its word,” she said before quickly changing to that unknown and horrific language once more. It sounded like chanting to some extent though the context and all were lost on the unicorn’s ears.

“Stop it!” Shining yelled over the strange sayings. “Just stop! Twilight, listen to me!”

“No,” replied the cursed pony. “You will listen. You will hear all it has to say. Then, you will call it by name.”

“What?” asked the stallion in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

Twilight stayed silent for a moment longer before closing the book. Her head leaned in closer to Shining’s as she looked past him and got just within a breath’s touch to his ear. When she opened her mouth and spoke, Shining Armor screamed. Mental anguish instantly filled his mind and spilled over. The prince’s sanity stood no chance of handling what was uttered to him in a tongue that no pony knew. For what Twilight said went beyond what any pony could comprehend.

She had spoken its name.