Knowledge is Power

by hydra30

First published

What if Celestia was not the first person to offer Twilight tutelage

Chrysalis sent Twilight deep into the abandoned caves beneath Canterlot to stop her from interfering with her conquest of Equestria, but what if that was not the first time Twilight has been down there. And what if Celestia was not the first individual to take notice of Twilight's potential, nor the most powerful. What happens when the hunger for love clashes with the hunger for knowledge. And which will Twilight choose?

Cover by Santafer

My little pony is owned by Hasbro
Elder scrolls is owned by Bethesda Softworks

1 The Original Offer

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“Don’t you dare do anything to my brother, you...you monster,” shouted Twilight, her horn spiralling with a frantic aura of magic.

“Only way to stop me is to catch me,” mocked the image of her once beloved foalsitter, vanishing from the reflection in the crystal wall, only to reappear in multiple places at once.

“Over here,” said one Cadance, Twilight letting off a powerful magic blast that only ricochet off the crystals reflective surface, bouncing off multiple places before heading strait for Twilight, who just barely dodged.

“No, over here,” said another refection of Cadance.

Over and over this went on, until Twilight fell to the ground with exhaustion. Panting from her face-down position, she waited for the taunting image of the one she had once believed would always care for her. But all she heard was the echo of her last maniacal laugh fade and all was silent.

“How could this happen?” Twilight asked herself, tears budding in her eyes. “How could somepony as caring and loving as Cadance have become someone who would be cruel enough to do this to me?”

Despair began to form in Twilight’s heart as the gravity of the situation finally dawned on her, now that she was alone. She was trapped in a cave beneath Canterlot, that according to the one who put her here, nopony knew existed any more. And none of her friends had been there when Cadance cast that horrible spell that sent her here, having walked away in disgust when she bombarded Cadance with her unwarranted accusations.

But were they so unwarranted now? Did not the scenario that transpired not an hour ago not prove that Cadence was up to something malevolent? Sending a pony you had known for years and practically raised to a deep dark place with no way out wasn’t what most people would consider normal behaviour for an innocent bride to be.

And Twilight wasn’t buying it now either.

There was no denying it now, she had been right all along. They all told her Cadance was just nervous, that it was just pre-wedding stress. That she was worrying over nothing.

Worrying over nothing.’

Had not a month ago did her friend's promise to never take her worries lightly again? Did they not realize then that it only matters that a friend is distressed, regardless of whether you think it was a small problem to begin with? Well where was that new resolve now?

“A wedding,” Twilight whispered to herself. “All it took was the opportunity to show off at a wedding to make them forget me.”

Anger weld in the lavender unicorns breast, her tears drying up over her snarl.

“Well there will be no wedding if I have a say in it,” growled Twilight, finally lifting her head off the stone-cold ground. “And since I have nothing left to lose, I have no reason to hold back. Lets see how much damage little miss love can do after I rip the horn off her head.”

New resolve flooded Twilight’s heart, giving her the will to illuminate her horn again.....

And what the light washed over made her forget everything that had transpired in the last few hours.

“It..it can’t be...!” moaned Twilight, standing up as if she had never been exhausted a few minuets ago.

The light from her horn was illuminating the last hole she had blown in the crystal cavern wall before she dropped from exhaustion. And what stood on the ground before Twilight was a small silver ring. Most people wouldn’t have been so easy to calm from a rage Twilight was in by such a trivial discovery.

Except that Twilight recognized this ring.

She levitated it in her magic, bringing it up to her eye level. It was platinum in color, four amethyst stones decorated its vine engraved band at even intervals. Twilight was certain now.

“My families ancestral ring....” Twilight whispered in shock.

She knew this ring yes, her parents had told her about it all the time in the earliest years of her childhood, even showing it to her. It was one of her favourite stories, of how this ring had been in the family all the way back to the founding of Equestria. It was even rumour to have been owned by Princess Platinum herself.

And it was Twilight’s deepest shame to have lost it. Once while her parents were away, Twilight had given Cadance the slip while she made dinner, and tried the ring on. It was far to big for her then, of course, but she just want to put it on at least once.

But as a very young unicorn, Twilight had little control over her magic, and hers was more potent then most. So at the wrong place, at the wrong time, Twilight teleported randomly. And when she found herself home again she told Cadance a tale so unusual it could not be true. She herself began to doubt the legitimacy of what transpired, for what little memories she retained were so fantastical they could not really have happened.

All she and her family knew to be true that day was no matter how hard they looked they could not find their families ancient ring.

“But wait,” Twilight said taking her eyes of her families long lost keepsake and staring down the long dark tunnel before her. “If this has been here all this time, then could it be...”

The longer she stared down the dark cave before her, the more she felt the old memories of that day rekindling with new clarity. Almost subconsciously, Twilight began to move forward, the darkness echoing around her with her hoof steps. Even the echoes were a perfect match to what she had experienced all those years ago.

“This tunnel,” Twilight whispered, examining her surroundings. “Its exactly like that dream.”

But could what happened back then really have been a dream if this tunnel stood her as real as she was? It was looking less and less likely by the moment, for despite her remembering the cave being a lot bigger, it was exactly how she remembered it. And if she remembered right, at the end of this tunnel....

Twilight let out a gasp of surprise so strong she dropped the ring in her magic grasp. Gasping in panic, she re-gripped the ring and brought it back up. Sighing in relief, she brought her attention to what lay in front of her at the dead end of the cave, illuminated in the light of her horn.

A fancy book stand stood before her, interwoven with vines made of black metal that twisted and spiralled down its cylindrical body that ended in a circular indentation in the floor, filled to the rim with a thick viscous fluid that could only be ink, judging by the smell.

But what held Twilight’s attention was the huge, ornate black book that rested atop it all, and her memories of that day all those years ago flooded her mind like a tidal wave.
----
Mommy,” moaned the tiny unicorn filly, staring around the dark cave she suddenly found herself in. “Its so dark...,I can’t see...mommy I’m scared.”

The little filly fell to the ground and sobbed, never noticing the tinkle of metal as the ring around her horn slipped off and rolled away. She had felt the surge of magic take hold of her horn she did not know how long ago, and when it passed she found herself here. It was so dark she could not see anything, and her magic was so depleted she couldn't light her horn.

I have to get out of here,” whimpered Twilight, gritting her teeth to try and force her magic to work.

And to her great surprise and relief, her surroundings became illuminated by a bright light. She jumped to her hooves, looking around to try to get her bearings, but her tear-filled eyes only noticed one thing. If it was her causing the light it would have been a deep violet in color, but the light washing over the sizeable cavern she was in was a kinda green-yellow color.

Turning her attention forward, she gasped as she beheld the lights true source. A strange ball of light about as big as hoof hovered before her, sparkling and twinkling like a small star. Amazed, Twilight reached a hoof out to touch it.

Come...to...me...”

Twilight gasped at hearing the strange voice. It was so quiet she barely heard it, but it was there, “Who’s there?”

There was no reply, and Twilight was starting to worry she had imagined the voice.

Come...to...me...”

Where are you?” Twilight asked, sure she was not hearing things this time. “I’m lost, please help me.”

Come...to...me...”

This time Twilight knew where the voice originated from, the orb of light in front of her. Suddenly it started floating away from her, drifting further down the cave. Twilight gasped and moved to follow, she was not sure what was going on, but following the ball of light was better then being swallowed up by the darkness it was leaving in it's wake.

She followed it forward for some time, the voice that echoed awhile ago having disappeared once more. On and on she followed the strange light, wondering if this spooky tunnel would ever end.

It did, of course, but what Twilight found there was something she would never have imagined in her life.

Standing in front of her was the most ornate book stand she had ever seen, even more so then the ones she had seen at the Canterlot library. Atop it was the largest book Twilight had ever seen in her life, her jaw dropping in awe. Then an all to familiar sent of ink reached her nose, and she could not help but smile at the many fond memories it brought to her mind.

It is a rare individual who can appreciate knowledge, and take solace in the methods it is recorded.”

Twilight gasped, it was the voice from before.

Such as the smell of ink.”

SPLASH’

Twilight pulled her hoof away from the indentation in the ground under the stand, dripping with ink.

Who are you?” Asked Twilight in a nervous voice. “Where are you?”

Both very good questions,” replied the bodiless voice. “And both have very interesting answers.”

Who are you?” Twilight repeated, her voice trembling in fear.

Calm yourself child,” replied the voice, its deep, oily texture echoing in the cave. “You need not fear, for you and I have many things in common.”

Huh? What do you mean?” Twilight asked, the strange way the voice sounded starting to creep her out.

The thirst for knowledge,” replied the voice. “It burns as intensely in you as it does me, young Twilight Sparkle.”

How do you know my name?” asked Twilight, her confusion growing by the second.

As I said, I thirst for knowledge, same as you child,” said the voice, amusement clear in its slippery tone. “For even now I sense your desire for the contents of my Black Book before you.”

Your book?” Asked Twilight, somehow unfazed by the fact whoever this was knew her name, and her hearts desire now. “That huge book belongs to you?”

Yes child,” replied the voice, Twilight somehow knowing he was gesturing to the book from where ever he was. “It is but one of the many pieces I have collected for my library.”

Library?” Twilight gasped, her fear from before totally forgotten. “You have a library?”

The most exquisite library in all existence.”

Twilight could not believe what she was hearing. Who ever this was was claiming to be just as into knowledge as her, as well as claiming he had a library that was the best in existence. She had to see it, all her life she had loved books.

Can I see it?" Shee asked excitedly, putting on a cute filly face. “Please?”

I expected it would tempt you child,” replied the voice, its tone taking on an unreadable tone. “And that is the reason I have come to you with my offer.”

Offer?” Twilight repeated, her eagerness growing by the second. “What offer?”

I seek a disciple young one,”said the voice. “Someone with whom I may share and exchange knowledge with.”

You mean a student?” asked Twilight.

Precisely, child,” replied the voice, amusement in its tone. “And I see much potential in you. So tell me Twilight, would you like to participate in the pursuit of knowledge the likes of which you never could have imagined?”

Twilight was ecstatic, never before had she been offered so much which she desired. She had always loved learning, it was one of the reasons she wanted to get into Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. If what she was told was true, this was even better than that.

Oh yes,” Twilight said excitedly, bouncing all around the chamber on her hooves. “Oh yes oh yes oh yes.”

Calm yourself child,” said the voice calmly. “It is.. unfortunate, but we cannot start now.”

Awww...” moaned Twilight, dejected. “Why?”

In order to even begin you must first study the book before you,” explained the voice. “And it is sufficient to say you are clearly not ready, for obvious reasons.”

Twilight looked up at the towering book stand before her, barely able to see the huge black binding.

She squinted trying to ignite her horn to lower the book to her, but she failed to even produce a spark. Sighing, she slumped her head in defeat.

Fret not young one,” said the voice almost reassuringly. “You will be ready in time. And knowledge is worth waiting for.”

Twilight just sat slump on the ground, staring up at the book which seemed so close, yet so far.

And besides, are you not forgetting about your current predicament?”

Twilight’s eyes widened as she remembered where she was.

That’s right, I don’t know where I am,” said the small filly, running around in panic. “I’m gonna be stuck down here forever, I’ll never see a library again, I’ll never see my family again....”

"Calm yourself child,” said the voice, the tone somehow making Twilight relax immediately. “I have no intention of leaving such an eager knowledge seeker like you stranded down in this unassuming cave.”

Really?” said Twilight, looking all over, having never found the source of this voice. “Can you get me home?”

Such is simple for me child.”

Twilight watched as the pool of ink began churning, and out of it floated a round flat platform that settled down in front of her. She looked at it in awe, it was bright green in color, and covered in moving runes Twilight had never seen before. She was unable to read them.

Stand here child and I shall send you to your place of origin,” said the voice calmly. “And fear not, for we shall meet again.”

Wait,” said Twilight, not eager to step on the platform. “I never got your name.”

I have many names child,” said the voice. “But if you wish for a title to call me when we meet again, call me....
----
“Hermaeus Mora...” Twilight whispered as she approached the book she last saw all those years ago, seeing the ornate gold image of a mass of waving tendrils stamped on the cover for the first time.

She remembered it vividly now. She had returned home and told everypony what happened. But of course her parents, brother and foalsitter merely thought she had passed out from overusing her magic and had a dream, for they had found her asleep in their back yard.

She was also grounded for a week for losing the prized family ring.

But what made Twilight stop believing it happened herself was she found no references to anyone called Hermaeus Mora in any of the books she read since.

Greeting child, and welcome back,”said a cold, calculating voice that could only be Hermaeus Mora.

2 Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of Knowledge and Memory

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Twilight stood rooted in place as she saw a yellowish green orb of light identical to the one that had led her down here all those years ago drift out of the gold image on the books cover and levatated slowly before her. The voice that had greeted her was undeniably who she had spoken too as a really young filly, and it left her unable to get a grip on herself. It was like she had walked straight into her own past, and she was once again the little pony who had gotten herself lost.

"Have you nothing to say, child?" Hermaeus Mora asked in his cold and slippery tone." We have not spoken in years, after all."

Twilight was still fighting to regain a coherent mind, it was one thing for a filly to encounter a disembodied voice that emanated out of a floating sphere of light, quite another for a fully grown mare to have such an encounter. Her logic driven mind kept going over several logical reasons for this to be happening. But the only thing she could really comprehend was that it must be some form of magic, but she had only seen Discord and Nightmare Moon preform such feats, and the thought was not very reassuring.

"Or maybe it has only been a short while," Hermaeus Mora continued, seemingly unaware of Twilight's vacant expression. "The flow of time has little meaning to me, after all. "

"Yo...you...," Twilight gasped out, finally regaining enough mental capacity to form words. "You're real?"

"Obviously, young child," replied Hermaeus Mora, his tone deepening with amusement. "For am I not speaking to you?"

"They....they all told me it was a dream," Twilight sputtered, watching the sphere of light before her. "E..everypony said it was something that could not have happened. "

"That comes to no surprise, child," said Hermaeus Mora in a voice devoid of feeling. "For it is common for those of simple minds to deny what they can not understand."

Twilight was going over a million thoughts a second. The bodiless voice that all told her was just a figment of her imagination was before her, talking to her same as it did so long ago. And in her more mature adult mind she was now able to comprehend that only a being of great power could be preforming what was happening right in front of her.

And it also reminder of her earlier assessment of how every other being she had encountered thus far have had less than favourable plans for Equestria.

"Alright Hermaeus," Twilight said sternly, her earlier shock replaced by resolve. "Who are you, and what are your plans for Equestria?"

"Equestria?" Hermaeus Mora inquired, curiosity entering his voice for the first time. "Is that the title of the realm in which you reside?"

" Answer the question," snapped Twilight, leaning her glaring face closer to the glowing orb.

"Be still, young child," said Hermaeus Mora, unfazed by Twilight's harsh tone."My motives are the same as the first time we conversed, to offer you the chance to partake in my knowledge."

" LIKELY STORY," shouted Twilight, her horn lighting with her anger. "I am not the gullible little child you spoke to all those years ago, and in my experience, someone who can speak to you without you seeing them is someone who you cannot trust, just like the cruel person who sent me down here in the first place."

"I am aware of your current situation, young child," said Hermaeus Mora, his tone soft and calm.

"What?" Twilight gasped. "How could you.....?"

"I have kept a....certain focus on your development," said Hermaeus Mora, his tone deepening with amusement. "Waiting to see if you would gain the potential I predicted you would achieve."

" You've been watching me?" Asked Twilight, slightly revolted by the thought.

"In a certain way," explained Hermaeus Mora, his voice echoing in the cave. "I have observed your life play out through observation of your realms stars."

"The stars?" Inquired Twilight, tilting her head in confusion. "I don't understand."

"One of my many unique abilities, young Twilight," continued Hermaeus Mora. "I have the ability to glean past and future events through observation of the stars."

Twilight was once again drawn into a state of incomprehension. In all her studying, in all her lessons with Princess Celestia, she had never even remotely heard of the ability just described to her. And that reminder her of how she could never come across a mention of Hermaeus Mora in any history book either.

"Who and what are you, Hermaeus Mora?" repeated Twilight, both out of concern, and curiosity this time. "In all my studying, in all my research, I have never come across any mention of someone with such an amazing ability, nor any reference to anyone called Hermaeus Mora."

"You would not have, child," explained Hermaeus Mora, his voice lowering in volume as to lessen the drama. "I do not hail from your realm."

Twilight fell on her rump in shock, her jaw dropping in awe. She did not fully understand what he meant by not from her realm, but she understood enough to comprehend that Hermaeus Mora could not be from Equestria. The thought was completely overwhelming.

"And as I told you all those years ago, I have many names," explained Hermaeus Mora in a hush voice. " The Woodland Man, or the Gardener of Men to name a few, but most know me as Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of Knowledge and Memory."

"Daedric Prince?" inquired Twilight, the strange title snapping her out of her surprised trance. "Are you the ruler of a kingdom?"

"In a way, that is correct, Twilight," Hermaeus Mora said, his voice taking on a lecturing tone. "Like the creature that calls itself Discord claims to be the Master of Disharmony and Chaos in your world, the Daedric Prince's of Oblivion title themselves similarly, my title being over knowledge."

"Oblivion?" Twilight echoed, pondering on how anything could be named with such a foreboding title. "Your realm?"

"Correct, replied Hermaeus Mora. "The planes of Oblivion are home to the Daedra, each plane ruled by a Daedric Prince, like myself."

"And what is your purpose in Equestria?" Asked Twilight, now more shaken then ever. "How is it that this book, which you claim belongs to you, wound up here."

"As I have told you child, I am the Daedric Prince of knowledge," explained Hermaeus Mora. "And for a time, I even sought the knowledge that might exist beyond my usual sources, so I sent several books like the one before you, through which I can extend a small portion of my influence, through the ether that exisits beyond the realm of Oblivion, to see what I might gleam if they ever were discovered."

"So you lied," accused Twilight, her eyes once again full of suspension. "You told me before that you sought to share knowledge between me and you, and to make me your student."

"For all those who seek knowledge are my servants, such as yourself, " said Hermaeus Mora calmly. "And I sensed such promise in you when we first met, child, even though my original purpose was to just glean what I could at the time. I did not lie, such an act would not benefit me in the slightest. And the offer I made to you so long ago is still available, if you still seek my knowledge."

Twilight stood still, pondering what she had heard. She did not know how, but the more she talked to Hermaeus Mora, the less she believed he had any desire to cause harm to Equestria. He said he sent this book here only so he could glean knowledge of Equestria, an endeavour Twilight could respect.

But she was already the student of Princess Celestia. She could never turn her back on her current teacher, who had always been so kind to her. Plus if Hermaeus Mora could only extend his will through his book slightly, she would have to stay down here, away from her friends, her family, her brother.....

"Shining Armour!" Twilight suddenly shouted, in all that had been happening, she had completely forgotten what was happening in Canterlot. Cadance had something planned for her brother and she had been down here, talking to an echo of her past.
How could she be so distracted?

Without another word, Twilight turned around and began to gallop back down the tunnel, but Hermaeus Mora's orb of light moved in front of her before she had gone two feet.

"I don't have time for this," she complained to the floating light. "My brother is in trouble."

"As I have said, child," started Hermaeus Mora in his tone. "I am aware of your current situation, and it is in my interest to assist you."

Twilight gasped in shock, looking to the orb with new interest, "You will help me confront Cadance?"

"She is not responsible for this, child," said Hermaeus Mora calmly.

"What do you mean?" Asked Twilight with an annoyed tone. "It was her that sent me down here, taunting me, drove me to exhaustion."

"The situation is more... complicated than you realize."
R
"Wha... what do you mean?" Asked Twilight.

"For you to fully understand, child," said Hermaeus Mora. "You will need to...join me...on my plane."

"WHAT?" Twilight shouted, her voice full of disbelief and frustration. "But you said the planes of Oblivion exist outside of this realm."

"Go to my book, it holds the way," said Hermaeus Mora simply.

Twilight turned back the the large black book sitting on the ornate stand.

"I know better than most the value of a book," said Twilight, stepping closer. "But could this really be as simple as that?"

"Open it and read," said Hermaeus Mora. "Unlike the previous time, you are ready."

Twilight still wasn't sure how much she should trust Hermaeus Mora at this point, but what other choice did she have. She had no plans on what she was going to do when she confronted Cadance again, and it was more than likely her friends would not side with her, they had fallen for Cadance's charade already. She needed help, and Hermaeus Mora said he would.

So against her conflicting thoughts, Twilight gripped the cover of the book and flung it open.

At first she stared in awe as her eyes took in the runes that trail across the parchment like insects, but then she realized she couldn't decipher the words. But before she could voice her disappointment, a large black tendril shot out from the pages of the book before her. Before she could so much as scream in terror the tendril wrapped around her chest, her body stiffening up like a statue at the contact.

She watched in horror as it moved up her body, Hermaeus Mora's orb of light extinguishing behind her, allowing her to see that the tendril was shrouded in glowing green runes. Then it moved over her eyes, snatching the ring from her telekinetic grip to slap it over horn, much to her confusion. Then she was dragged into the pool of ink, which shallow depths swallowed her with a splash.

3 Apocrypha

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Slowly, consciousness returned to Twilight's mind, becoming aware of her face down position on the cold, hard floor that felt like stone. She lifted her chin up as best she could, her mind so groggy it took great effort to open her eyes. Her vision was blurred at first, but it slowly return to its normal clarity.

The first thing she noticed was that the floor she lay on was grey in color, the stone tile decorated with multiple intertwining black circular patterns. Catching a glimpse of something moving to her left, Twilight lifted her head a little more and turned to get a better look, gasping in shock and terror as her mind registered what was there. Slowly, she stood, her legs wobbly in her stride.

There before her, the floor she stood upon dropped off in a steep incline, a whole sea of gelatinous black fluid that stretched all the way to blend with the poisonous yellowish green sky, which churned and wiggled with arcs of light of the same color. The movement that had caught Twilight's attention a second ago was a twirling mass of black tendrils that reached down towards the churning black sea from a swirling black vortex that hung in the unusual sky.

The whole scene before her sparked her memories of what had happened to her in the caves beneath Canterlot. The sky, it was the same color as that sphere of light Hermaeus Mora talked to her through. The sea, ink, it could only be ink.

Then the black tendrils sparked the memory of how she obviously got here, of how after she had opened that book, a black tendril shot out of the pool of ink and dragged her into its impossible depths.

Reaching up, Twilight felt the base of her horn, the metal band of her family exactly where the tendril that sent her here had put it.

Slowly, she turned her head to look over her shoulder. She gasped, and spun around quickly, her eyes glazed over in surprise and terror. She saw she was on some kind of rounding island that jutted out of the huge sea of ink, huge stone arches positioned in four spots on all sides. But what really drew her attention was the spiralling vortex of paper that stood in the centre, crackling as they collided, but never being thrown from their place in the spiralling.

Reaching out a hoof, Twilight snatched one of the papers as it came by and held it before her eyes. The parchment was yellow with age, and adorned with the same illegible runes that she had seen in the pages of that mysterious black book. Twilight released the paper, watching as it returned to the vortex among the others.

Then Twilight saw what was on the other side of the vortex, walking around to see the horizon beyond. More portals extruding tendrils dotted the sky, several other land masses beneath them. Unlike the one that Twilight stood on, these were several times larger, great stone structures resting on their surfaces.

"Welcome.....to my abode....child...."

With a start, Twilight looked up, gasping as five black whirlpools the size of her head appeared several feet above her, a sixth one at least eight times bigger formed between them. Several black tendrils reached out of these too, wiggling and thrashing in the air, the sight making disgust mix slightly with Twilight's shock. Never had she seen anything so revolting.

Until a great bulb of black goo rose out of the centre mass of tentacles from the largest portal, splitting open to reveal a large, poison green eye, looking at Twilight with two black pupils bridged to each other by a mass of black.

"What's the matter, Twilight? " Hermaeus Mora asked, amusement in his wet, thick tone. "Do you not believe what you are seeing with your own eyes?"

"Her....Hermaeus Mora?" Whisper Twilight, eyes locked to what lay just before her. "I....is this what you really look like?"

"Corporal form...has little meaning to a Daedric Prince," explained Hermaeus Mora. "However, since knowledge and memory can take many forms, I feel it is appropriate for the same to apply to me."

Deep in Twilight's shocked mind, she could see sense in that. He claimed to be the master of knowledge and memory, and it made sense that a being the likes of which he claimed to be would take on similar traits, same as Discord. She brought her attention to the view before her, still trying to wrap her head around the bizarre appearance of this place.

"Where are we?" Twilight asked quietly.

"This is my plane of Oblivion," explained Hermaeus Mora, his voice taking on a slightly smug tone. "This....is ....Apocrypha, where all knowledge is hoarded."

"Library?" Inquired Twilight, memories of her very first encounter with Hermaeus Mora resurfacing "This....this nightmare is your library? "

"If the knowledge is valuable, should the nature of its origins matter all that much?" asked the mass of tentacles above. "And have you not learned the lesson to not judge a book by its cover multiple times in your life?

That was true, but this situation was a tad different.

And speaking of situations, "Why am I here?" Twilight shook off her feelings of her current location and her current host, forcing herself to remember what had transpired back in Canterlot. To remember who her brother was marrying.

"You said you would help me with what is happening to me, to my family," Twilight's anger was beginning to override her shock and flabbergasted state at what was currently happening to her. "You said you would help me stop my brother from marrying that horrible pony."

"I told you the situation was more dire then you realize," said Hermaeus Mora, still unfazed by Twilight's harsh tone. "More is at stake than just your brother."

"Ugh, we don't have time for this," growled Twilght in frustration. "If that is so, why have you brought me here, why not send me to Canterlot, where I may confront Cadance once and for all?"

"Because without my help, you wouldn't stand a chance," explained Hermaeus Mora to Twilight. "The one you call Cadance is far more dangerous than you know."

"And how do you intend to do this?" asked Twilight angrily. "You have yet to explain to me what you can do which will be of any assistance to me."

"I intend to bestow upon you the knowledge with which you can use to combat your enemy," explained Hermaeus Mora casually. "Within Apocrypha, there is many stores of knowledge, many of which could be used to combat even the mightiest of foes."

"So we are again on the fact that you intend to take me as your student?" Raged Twilight, stomping her hoof in her mounting frustration. "Even if I was still interested in that as I was in the past, I don't have time to just sit here and study books until you think I am ready, you gelatinous blob."

The insult flew from her lips before she could stop it, and her hooves flew to cover her mouth in horror at what she had spoken.

"Hmmm...hmm...hm," chuckled Hermaeus Mora, no anger or annoyance in his cold voice. "Time...time is the one thing you don't have to concern yourself over at the moment...child."

"What do you mean?" asked Twilight, slightly surprised that Hermaeus ws not angered by her gibe a moment ago. "Shining Armour's wedding could be starting any moment."

"Any moment in your realm," replied Hermaeus Mora. "Apocrypha is my domain, and therefore every aspect of it is subject to my will, including the flowing of time."

"Wh..what do you mean? "Asked Twilight once again.

Rather then getting a response, Twilight heard the distinct sound of book page's turning rapidly. Looking down, she gasped at seeing the very book that had sent her here to begin with. But before she could comprehend anything else, another black tendril sprang up from the ground and dragged her into darkness.
----
Twilight ignited her horn to illuminate her surroundings, her eyes once again seeing the caves, the now empty book stand before her. Her first thought was to escape this place while she could, before her mind fully comprehended what her eyes were seeing. The pool of ink bellow was completely still, stark contrast to the churning mass it was before.

To make it even more strange, was the huge, frozen splash that disturbed its surface.

But once again, before she could ponder more, the sound of rattling pages reached her ears, and she was once again dragged into darkness by a black tendril.
----

Twilight's eyes flew open for a third time, once again viewing the stange landscape of the Apocrypha, Hermaeus Mora's grotesque form above her.

"Wha... what have you...?" Twilight stammered, putting a hoof to her chest to try and calm her hyperventilating.

"As I have said before, even the flow of time of Apocrypha is subject to my will," explained Hermaeus Mora. "In this case, I have made it so no matter how much time goes on here, the splash of ink you left will not have had time to even settle in your world. "

Panic took hold in Twilight as she began backing up, her eyes wide. It was hard enough for a unicorn of great calibre to even travel back through time, and the creature before just stopped her world's time flow with seemingly little effort. What kind of horrible monster had she just become associated with?

But that revelation brought a new thought to Twilight's mind. If Hermaeus Mora could do that, then what else was he capable of? He had said he intended to help her, by giving her the knowledge she could use to stop Cadance and her plans for her brother, and for even Equestria, if what Hermaeus Mora a said earlier was true.

"Can you teach me how to do that,?" Asked Twilight as she moved directly under the mass of tentacles above her, an eager smile gracing her face for the first time since being sent under Canterlot.

"There is much I can teach you, child," answered Hermaeus Mora. "Skills and techniques even greater than what I have displayed thus far."

Twilight's face split into a massive grin, her mood becoming eager and excited. And it wasn't just the fact that she had what she would need to confront Cadance, but now that she knew she could spend as much time here without the situation in Equestria getting worse, her studious personality now had a reason to come up past the seriousness, and she once again felt her desire for knowledge that she had always had bubble to the surface. It felt so good after all the heartache she had gone through just that morning.

"Alright Hermaeus Mora," said Twilight, stamping her hoof. "I'm ready, ready to start my studying, so I can defend the ones I love from evil."

"And for that you will need more then the study of a mere student...you will also become my champion."

"Champion?" Twilight asked, tilting her head in confusion.

"For you to face the trials ahead you will need a certain type of knowledge," explained Hermaeus Mora. "Knowledge that I only bestow upon those I have chosen to be my champion."

"Very well," said Twilight, too eager to get started to question the champion thing. "Where do you want me to start?"

"The truth is where we shall begin," stated Hermaeus Mora simply, Twilight backing up in surprise as large objects rose up from the black sea.

To Twilight, they appeared to be large, flower shaped structures made from what appeared to be intertwining wrought iron. Then before her eyes, each structure bloomed like a flower, the two petals on their near and far sides intertwining together. When all was still, Twilight could see that they all formed a ramp like bridge to the nearest islands imposing cliffs, a huge structure resting upon it.

"Follow this path, then make your way to the top of the structure, there you will learn the true reality of the situation you face."

Twilight looked up just in time to see Hermaeus Mora's tendrils recede back into the portals, which then faded. She brought her attention to the long journey ahead, admiring what was before her. It would be a daunting task, but after spending so much time with ponies like Rainbow Dash and Applejack, Twilight had learned to never back down from a challenge.

Eager to start what promised to be the most unique study session of her life, Twilight sprinted down the bizarre path, the sea of ink churning menacingly under it.

4 Test part 1

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Twilight marvelled at the sight before her as she stood upon the edge of the bridge she had just finished traipsing across. When she had first got close to her destination she thought she had surely been seeing things. Now that she stood before the island she had been directed to, her earlier assessment was proven true.

Instead of jagged black rock like she first thought, the island was completely composed of books, stacks and stacks of huge black book. Lifting a hoof, she lightly tapped the first section of books before her, they stood firm, neither wobbling, nor shifting. She leaped off the bridge to land on the mass of books before her.

"Amazing!" said Twilight, reaching out with her magic to pluck a book from the ground(which came free without effort) its fellows staying firm enough to stand on beneath her.

It was just like any other book Twilight had seen in her life, other then the fact that it had no title, and the fact that it was composed of those same runes Twilight couldn't make heads or tails of. Looking left, Twilight stared at the other land masses and now that she was closer, she could tell that other then a few stone platforms, and some wrought iron panelling similar to the platforms that had brought her here, they had to be mostly composed of books as well. Hermaeus Mora had not been kidding, him realm was where knowledge was hoarded.

"I was wrong earlier," said Twilight, floating the book back to its place as part of the ground. "This place is not a nightmare, its a dream come true. "

Under normal circumstances Twilight would be hard pressed not to pour over every book within reach. But she had something more important to focus on now, and despite the fact that Hermaeus Mora was giving her all the time in the universe now, she wanted to end the crisis in Equestria as soon as possible. With a deep breath, Twilight moved forward, passing under an arch that unlike the stone arches she had seen before, was lopsided and made of books.

Despite the structure being made of books as well, its presence was foreboding and menacing before her. She never thought she could ever feel nervous about anything book related before. But she had to do this, for everypony she cared about.

Taking a deep breath, she forged ahead, running up the stone stairs and through the huge entrance.

Inside was a huge hallway, it's walls stretching up several feet above to meet with a ceiling just as composed of books as the walls were. Steeling her nerves, Twilight lit her horn to illuminate her surroundings,and trekked down the corridor. It was a sight Twilight never thought she would see outside of her dreams, she was exploring a building made entirely of books.

Then the hallway exited out into the largest chamber Twilight had ever seen, her breath leaving her as she took in its grandeur.

The floor before her ended in a huge downward plummet, the sea of ink visible in the light of Twilight's horn. Out farther, huge columns rose from the black liquid, composed of stacks and stacks of books that spiraled upward and out of sight. Looking to her left, Twilight noticed a small bridge that extended out to the nearest column and connect with a stone platform attached, which in turn had another bridge that connected to the next column, going on and on, climbing up higher and higher into the dark.

Taking the obvious path, Twilight began crossing the first bridge, thankful to her horn for lighting her way. Onward she travelled, noticing how the churning fluid below got farther away as she ascended. Once the sea below was no longer visible in the gloom Twilight began to feel fatigue, for she had been walking for quite some time.

She stopped at the next column of books to catch her breath, sighing as she sat down on her rump. When she opened her eyes next though she became aware that this column of books was slightly different then the others. Upon it sat a torch scone of some kind, its texture reminding Twilight of the shell of a crustacean.

A glowing green orb of light sat at its top rather than a torch though, and it intrigued Twilight enough to stand up to get a closer look. She was never fond of the color green, but something about this pulsating sphere brought a tranquil smile to her face. Curious, Twilight reached out a hoof to touch it.

And fell on her backside in shock when the light flowed out of the scone and raced up her body, vanishing into her.

But before she could even panic, new energy flowed through her veins. Twilight stood up, too full of energy to stay sitting, every nerve, every muscle eagerly waiting to get on the move again. Never before had she felt so exhilarated.

"What the?" Twilight gasped, looking at the now dark wall scone. "What was that?"

There was no answer, her voice echoed in the dark space.

But since she was feeling energized now, she decided now was the time to continue. With one last glance at the wall scone, Twilight took the next bridge heading up, wondering how much farther it was. Which was apparently not far, for in the next minute her horn illuminate an arched door that led down another hallway that would leave this vast chamber behind.

Twilight wasted no time scurrying up the rest of the final bridge, the chamber behind her plunging into darkness as the glow of her horn left it. This new hallway was no different than what she had seen at the entrance, until for the first time Twilight saw a light that did not originate from her horn since entering this place. Extinguishing her horn to see it better, Twilight saw a shining white light ahead that appeared to be illuminating a room that the hallway exited out into.

Smiling, Twilight hustled the last few paces, entering the first room she encountered that wasn't mind blowing huge. It was made of book, same as everything else, but only about as large as the main room of her library in Ponyville. The light from before originated from a glowing globe that stood on a long arching pole that extended out of the ground, flower pedal like objects surrounding the glowing orb.

Looking around, Twilight quickly noticed that other then how she enter, there was no other way out of this room. Moving forward, she examined every wall, looking for a closed door, or stairs. But came up empty, the room was a dead end.

"Well what now?" Twilight asked herself, turning around to look down the way she came. "Did I make a wrong turn?"

But then Twilight saw something she had not noticed until this vantage point. In the corner to the right of the entrance, there was another book stand, a book laying atop it. Curious to actually see a book actually on display in this place, Twilight approached.

To her surprise, the words on the spine were legible to her.

"Prying Orbs," Twilight read, picking up the book in her magic. "What a creepy title for a book."

Flipping it open to the first page, Twilight read the short phrase there:

What takes the world in lightened sense
Can also seek the outward gleam
They rob the all of essence to
Report the nothing they have seen

Twilight felt a chill pass through her spin as she finished.

"Well that was kinda foreboding," stated Twilight flatly, turning the books pages, only to find the same phrase. "Huh?"

Flipping through it quickly, Twilight found the same words repeated, mounting her confusion.

"What kind of book is this?" asked Twilight irritability, bringing the book close to the strange light. "Its completely unhelpful..."

Twilight jerked her head up after seeing something out of the corner of her eyes. There before her, a door to another deep hallway was visible. Mouth open in shock, she approached the clear path, looking down to see more light down the hall.

"This was not here before," gasped Twilight, remembering that this was a plain wall when she entered. "Were did it come from?"

Still puzzled, Twilight made to move down the new corridor, but then she saw the book still held in her magic. Twilight was a librarian through and through, and though this book made no sense to her, it was not in her nature to take a book and not put it back once done with it. And Hermaeus Mora might not appreciate her messing up his library, as odd of a library as it was.

So she placed it back on the stand and moved to head forward...only to jump back in surprise as the door became filled with books that just appeared out of nowhere, blocking her path.

"What?" Twilight plucked the book up again, watching as the barricade of books lift up and vanish from sight. "So that's how it works."

Placing the book Prying Orbs on the ground before her, much to her dismay, Twilight made to move forward.

But screamed in terror as a horrible monster appeared in her path in a flash of green light. She had never seen anything like it, it was hovering there, unconnected to the floor by no form whatsoever. Its body was a mass of grey tendrils poking out of ragged grey rags, two long skinny arms that ended in spiny limbed claws also visable among the mass.

Twilight lit her horn to prepare to defend herself as she looked into the black beady eyes that adorned the tentacled face.

"Stay back," yelled Twilight, backing up slightly.

The creature before her said nothing, only pointing to the book upon the ground with one of its thin arms.

"You want this?" asked Twilight frantically, once again gripping Prying Orbs in her magic.

She held it out to the floating abomination, but it made no move to claim it. Instead it moved to the side, gestering to the lights visible down the hallway. So this thing wanted Twilight to take the book with her.

She nodded and sprinted forward as fast as she could, leaving the hideous thing as far behind her as fast as possible. Stepping out in a new room, Twilight sat against the wall on her left and fanned herself with the book that she undoubtedly needed to take with her.

"That was terrifying,"whispered Twilight, recalling the creatures features." Was that thing an associate of Hermaeus Mora?"

She looked to the book in her magic. She was unsure what it could mean, but she decided she had better not question. The last thing she needed was for another one of those things to show up.

Deciding to resume her journey to the top of this place, Twilight brought her attention to the room around her. It was very similar to the other, only this one had black grill panelling as a floor, and if Twilight looked she could see a black ink pool big enough to take up the entire room. The smell of ink would be overwhelming if Twilight had not been used to it.

Another thing that set it apart from the previous room was the long stone staircase on the opposite side of the room that led up about a stories worth of height, another book stand illuminated by four of those light poles that let Twilight see a book not unlike the first. Rolling her eyes, Twilight moved to ascend the stairs. The trek was uneventful, and when Twilight was close enough, she read the title on the books spine.

"Delving Pincers," she read out loud, flipping open the book with a hoof this time:

Crushing razors, hollow shells
That snap, that twitch, that crinch and rend
To hold the subject, bodily
'Til mind blows soft and life meets end

This one nearly made Twilight hurl, putting a hoof to her mouth to hold her bile.

"Who wrote these horrible things?" Twilight whispered, picking up the book in her magic to levitate near the first, turning around, expecting to see a new door appear.

But she gasped in shock as the grill floor fell into the ink with a splash. She stared as two huge cylindrical objects made of intertwining back wire slowly rise up out of the ink on thin poles, to begin spinning horizontally before her. When they would briefly meet each other, Twilight saw that they form a path to an open door on the higher part of the opposite wall, directly over her point of entry.

Doing the obvious thing, Twilight leaped onto the closest cylinder when it came by, gripping the floor as she landed. She could have teleported, but it was never a good idea to teleport onto a moving object. Standing as best she could, Twilight moved to the other side of the large cylinder, struggling to stay standing as she watched the room rotating before her.

She waited afew passes, counting the seconds between each times she saw the other cylinder pass by. With a deep breath, Twilight leaped forward, her calculations ringing true as she landed in the other cylinder. Crackling a little at her success, she stood up and wobbly made her way over to the other side, doing the same with the door as she watched it drift by.

She looked down to below her form her new height. With the grill gone, she had no way back. Now she had no choice but to move forward.

Nodding her head to herself, she turned, ascending another flight of stairs.

5 Test part 2

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Twilight kept ascending the stairs at a calm and steady pace, casting looks to the two books she levitated next to her. She was unsure what their significance was, but after letting her mind wander while climbing these stairs, she realized their titles and contents were kinda like riddles. She always found riddles to be a great past time.

But before she could start breaking them down, the image of the two books floating next to her stirred other memories to the surface. Of when she suggested a Daring Do book to a hospitalized Rainbow Dash, who just folded her hooves in irritation. And of her providing Rarity with a book on fashion like she requested.

Extreme loneliness hit Twilight's heart as these memories brought up others related to her friends. She was still slightly upset that none of them believed her when she went to them for help, but now that she had been occupied with a pretty good distraction her aggravation had dimmed. When would she see them again?

With time in Equestria pretty much ground to a halt, how long would she be in this place, studying under Hermaeus Mora? Now that she fully understood what staying here meant, Twilight longed for her friends company more then ever before. If only she had managed to persuade them to her side before she made that scene at the recital, maybe at least they would have been sent beneath Canterlot, same as her, then they would be by her side, here in Apocrypha.

She knew it was pointless, they all had had too many stars in there eyes to fully listen to her. She loved her friends, but she knew how stubborn they were when it came to their individual passions. And this wedding gave them each an opportunity to practice them in a way they never had before.

Tears streamed down Twilight's eyes as she stopped and sat on the stairs.

She now realized she was back to the beginning of her life, studying alone. No, this was worse, for even Spike had been caught up in the wedding. Who would have thought a baby dragon would be chosen to be the ring bearer, that anypony would think to trust him not to eat them?

"Wait," Twilight gasped, lifting her tear stained face up, her logical mind piecing together a new part of what happened. She knew Spike to be a decent, well behaved person, but others would know dragons were notorious for eating gems.

Why would anyone give a baby dragon access to rings with gemstone in them, unless to get him wrapped up in everything that had happened on purpose. When Twilight had confronted Cadance, the repercussions had caused all her relationships to fall to the ground around her, leaving her alone, broken and helpless. Vulnerable to attack.

"That was part of her plan as well," whispered Twilight, new rage flowing through her soul.

She was not letting this fly, that filthy, conniving cur had not only manipulated her brother, but also her friends. Now they were going to be standing next to the bride, as her bridesmaids and ring bearer, while unaware that their friend, whom they were upset with for acting out, was in more trouble than they could imagine. And if Cadance had plans for her brother, she might also be planning something horrible for her friends as well.

"Rarity...Applejack...Pinkie Pie...Fluttershy...Rainbow Dash...Spike," said Twilight, resuming her stride with more conviction
then ever before. "Our last meeting with each other may have been kinda a catastrophe, but I do this for you too."

Twilight remembered that when she saw them again practically no time will have passed for them, so they most likely will still be peeved at her, but that doesn't matter. They were in danger, even if they were unaware. And nopony, nopony threatens her friends.

Another few minutes of climbing brought Twilight to a door that surprisingly led outside. At first she thought she had made it to the top, like Hermaeus Mora told her to, but then she noticed that it was only the roof of a lower part of the building, and a higher roof stood before her. And what an unusual roof this was.

Long walls surrounded the area, stretching up at least fifty feet. The area itself looked like some bizarre stone courtyard, the most noticeable feature being the large pool of ink situated in the middle. Behind that was a wrought iron stairs that lead up to a platform that extended down to the left, Twilight spying another book stand at the end.

With a determined nod, Twilight walked forward, eyes on the staircase to the other side of the pool.

But she had to duck down and cover her head when the pool before her exploded in a shower of ink, covering Twilight head to tail. She stood up, flipping herself like a wet dog to clear her coat, she liked ink, but not like that. Looking before her, Twilight sought what had happened, only for her pupils to shrink as she brought her view up higher.

She thought it was a dragon at first, but then she noticed that wasn't the case. The dark gray creature before her stood on long muscular legs, tipped with huge webbed feet, the torso also muscular, which shoulders extended out into long arms adorned with sharp fins, ending in wicked webbed claws. Twilight stared at it, it stared right back with the beady eyes on its fish-like head.

Then the horrific monster let out a deafening roar, lifting a foot to obviously try to stomp on her. Twilight screamed, vanishing in a flash of purple right before the huge foot impacted the floor where she stood, the impact sending the two books she left behind across the courtyard. Twilight reappeared at the opposite side of the pool that the monster emerged from, her first thought was to teleport to the entrance and try to flee back into the building. But when she looked, she found that the entrance had been sealed by a wall of books.

But the monster spotted her again, and she had to teleport as it lunged for her. But when she reappeared something
wet and slippery wrapped around her throat, gagging her as she was yanked off the ground, into the air. Choking, Twilight gripped the offending limbs around her neck, eyes widening in terror to see that the hulking monster had her by the throat with thin black tendrils extruding from its mouth.

She gasped in pain as the tendrils tightened further, growing disoriented as her air supply was cut off, as well as the flow of blood to her brain. Was this it, was she going to die here? Was she never going to get the chance to save....

NO, it was not going to end like this. She was not going to give in, not with so much riding on her. With the image of her friends appearing in her foggy mind, Twilight cast an angry glare at the monstrosity that dare stand in her way.

She could see that it stood before the stairs, whose sidebar was decorated in wrought iron picket fencing. A devious and vicious plan formed in Twilight's mind for the first time, and she channelled all she had into her horn. In a blinding flash, Twilight vanished, the light blinding the creature. But it stumbled over its feet, Twilight having teleported behind its foot, crouching to catch its heel on her side.

With a shriek, the monster fell backwards on the railings, the spikes piercing its back all the way through and out its chest. Twilight stood up, gazing in terror at what she had done. Now that she was no longer in mortal danger she couldn't believe she did this.

The creature gave one last stutter then lay still, the last shred of life leaving it, black blood flowing from the wounds on both sides of its body. Twilight was reeling, she had just killed a living thing. How could she, how could she be so cruel? What would Fluttershy and the rest of her friends think if they ever found out?

Then Twilight suddenly imagined that it was Cadance there, impaled on the fencing, and her regret vanished in a blink. If it had been Cadance, all this would be over. Her and her friends would be safe.

Glaring at the still corpse, Twilight scooped up the two book from across the roof and began climbing the steps.

"I would prefer any other way," Twilight told herself, her voice full of resolve. "But if it comes down to it, I know what I must do."

Twilight stopped at the top of the stairs, turning to look at the sight behind her one last time. She never thought she could ever do such a thing, and it left her feeling slightly different than before. She had killed, nothing else about it.

Thinking of her friends safety helped numb the pain though, so she pressed on, approaching her third book stand. Just like before, it had a book laying atop it, Twilight reading the title, Boneless Limbs on the spine. With a deep breath, Twilight flipped it open and read:

A writhing mass of heaped appendage
Slipping grasp the squirming slick
Extended the reach to touch the face
Burn the mind, reveal the quick.

Twilight looked down to the slain beast below, to the still tendrils still protruding out of its mouth, the things black blood oozing between them. With a shiver, Twilight wrapped the book up in her magic and turned to see what would happen. While she wasn't expecting a door this time, she did not expect for a large metal grill object to appear on the roof of the structure above her, unravelling from its rolled up look and settling atop of the stairs, flexible as a tongue.

Intrigued, but eager to move on, Twilight climbed the new platform, up to the next roof. Nothing was up here but another book on a stand, but unlike before, this one was at least three feet wide, sprawled open on its stand. Curious, Twilight moved closer, noting how this book had the same moving runes across its pages, like the other Black Book, unlike the readable text in the books she had found.

But when she moved to pick it up in her magic, Twilight felt the world go dark for a second, and when she turned around, she found herself in a new room entirely. It was closed in with the book made walls and ceiling, same as the others, a door to a lit corridor stood before Twilight. Turning back, Twilight examined the book again, and when she tried levitating it again, the process repeated. And she found herself on the roof, the dead monster visible when she looked over her shoulder.

"Amazing," gasped Twilight, gripping the book again to reappear in that new room.

Looking at the interesting book one more time, Twilight exited out the small space and into the next room. This one was just as big as the ballroom where the Grand Galloping Gala was held, Twilight gasping as she beheld the large oval shaped objects drifting around, lighting the room with their glow. One drifted before her, and she couldn't help but touch a hoof to the large leaf shaped object that held the glowing oval orb beneath it.

"This place...," Twilight gasped, watching the object drift away. "Incredible!"

She spied a book stand across from her on the other side of the room, shaking off her interest in the strange light source and moved forward. She approached cautiously this time, nervous if something else might attack. But she reached the book without incident.

"Gnashing Blades, " Twilight read off the spine. "This should be interesting."

She flipped it open:

Bone extrusions gash and grind
In moistened depths of smacking heat
While tearing flesh from averse bone
The body whole prepares to eat

Twilight actually had to lean on the stand to stay up right. This thing pretty much made her flash back to when she, Fluttershy, Applejack, Pinkie Pie and Spike were almost eaten by a hydra. Not one her better adventures.

Still, it was obviously important, so Twilight picked it up.

And screamed as the entire floor fell out from under her, sliding into the wall to leave Twilight to the pull of gravity. Onward she fell, the light vanishing as she left the vicinity of the glowing objects, wind pushing her mane and tail up. She could not see how far her fall was.

But she needed to do something, and she could only think of one thing. She wrapped herself in her telekinetic spell, putting her all into stopping her descent. She took in great gasps of air, trying to calm herself.

She snapped out of it though, when she saw the four books plummeting in the light of her magic, gasping as she tried to catch them. Only to quirk her eye as she heard a thud not a second later. Adding a light to her horn, Twilight was stunned to find she had only been about three feet from the ground when she caught herself, the books splayed out below her.

Calming her breath, Twilight lowered herself to the ground to all fours, scooping up the books once again. She took in her surroundings, she was in a circular room about the size of a basketball court, the walls made of stone actually. But the most distinguishing features were the four book stands evenly spaced from each other.

Walking to and examining each one, Twilight soon noticed all were empty.

" I knew it," Twilight said, looking to the books in her magic.

Grinning, Twilight placed each one on a stand, looking around eagerly. But Twilight saw nothing happen, much to her surprise. Frowning, Twilight picked the books up again and moved to the stand closest to her.

"Was I wrong?" Twilight asked herself, examining the fine wood finish of the book stand. "Is that not what these are for, I was obviously supposed to bring them for something?"

She looked down, tapping her chin. Maybe a certain order? She looked up to the stand again.

"Wait," said Twilight as she noticed the luminescent carving.

It was a depiction of two creepy looking orbs. Pulling Prying Orbs close, Twilight placed it on the stand. It glowed with a green light.

Grinning again, she moved to the next one to find a different carving glowing upon it. It was a depiction of a gaping maw, sharp teeth visible within. Taking Gnashing Blades, Twilight placed it, same results as before.

Getting excited at being halfway there, Twilight moved forward to the next stand. This one depicting a mass of pinching scorpion claws. Taking Delving Pincers, Twilight moved it in place, Twilight extinguishing her horn, for the light of the glowing books was sufficient.

With Boneless Limbs in tow, Twilight approached the final stand, a mass of tentacles carved into it. Looking to the book, Twilight had a feeling something was about to happen. But she had come this far, so with a deep breath, she placed the final book, lighting up like the others.

Twilight backed up as the floor split in half and receded, a cone shaped object popping up and spreading open in eight parts. Stepping up, Twilight saw a large book on a stand in the center, identical to the one that had led her here. Next to it on either side where large pod like objects, mouth like structures at the top.

Approaching slowly, Twilight watched as the objects mouths opened, orbs of different colors popping up above. Twilight recognized the green light as like the one that restored her strength before, but the blue one was a mystery. Twilight approached the book, anticipating at what would happen now.

When she was close, both orbs of light flew into her, and as she expected, her fatigue vanished. But much to her surprise, she felt all the magic she had used till now return to her in a blink. The blue orb had restored her magic to full strength.

Shaking herself out of her marvel at her restored state, Twilight gripped the book in her magic.

And she found herself looking over a similar book, the whole of Apocrypha below her. Squinting, Twilight could see the building she had entered who knows how long ago, intermingled with other land masses far off in the distance. Looking down, she could see that she was on a spiralling tower of books that was so tall it granted her this view.

Turning around, Twilight quickly noticed that other then a low wall of books surrounding the perimeter, nothing was up here except a large wrought iron metal grilled box structure about the size of Applejack's shed in the center, two vortexes of pages framing either side. Twilight approached the object, wondering what to do now.

Well done, my champion," Twilight heard the voice of Hermaeus Mora above her, looking up to see eight black whirlpools of tentacles slip into existence. The same eye as before appearing in the largest, a second eye appearing in one of the smaller ones. "Your valiant efforts have lead you here, as I knew they would."

6 Truth

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Twilight stood rooted in place as she gazed up at Hermaeus Mora, his tentacles weaving through the air. She did not know what to expect now, but something told her things were going to move forward from here. And seeing Hermaeus Mora appear made her certain of that fact.

"Forgive the trek, child, said Hermaeus Mora quietly. "I wanted to test your skill."

" Test? All that was a test?" asked Twilight, slightly surprised.

"Yes," said Hermaeus Mora. "It was say, a demonstration for what lies a heads and a way for me to determine where we should begin."

Twilight almost buckled at that moment, images of that creature impaled coming to her mind. But she steeled her nerves, thinking about the wellbeing of her friends. Taking a deep breath, Twilight sat down and glared at the sky.

"I am ready, ready for whatever lies ahead," said Twilight with conviction. " And I'm ready to take on the role as your champion, as long as I can protect my friends with what you offer."

"Fret not, child," said Hermaeus Mora. "In time you will have all that you need to achieve what you desire."

"I must ask something first," said Twilight, her expression becoming slightly desperate. "Please."

"By all means, child," replied Hermaeus Mora. "I am always eager to share knowledge."

"Can I do it?" asked Twilight. "Even if the lessons ahead are as dangerous as the trials you just put me through, will it be enough?"

"Very intuitive, child," complemented Hermaeus Mora. "Yes, be wary of any possibility of any unfavourable outcomes."

"Please," moaned Twilight, despair creeping into her voice. "Will I be strong enough?"

"I'm afraid I can not fully answer, child," replied Hermaeus Mora, Twilight throwing him a look of misunderstanding. "Its true, I can see into the future, but in your world I don't have enough influences to get a clear reading of the stars. Truth is, my influence in your realm is rather weak. As I told you, that black book is my only link to your world...and it is insufficient at best. "

Twilight cast her head down, disappointed that her new teacher could not give her any insight on what was to come.

"Have faith in knowledge, child," continued Hermaeus Mora. "The outcome of the upcoming events maybe shrouded even from me, but I can perceive that with my guidance, you will have a chance."

"Very well, " said Twilight, her resolve to defend those whom she loves still burning strong within her. "And when the time come, I will face Cadance with whatever I need to."

"Turn your sight forward, young Twilight," said Hermaeus Mora. "The time has come for you to be enlightened to the truth of what is really transpiring."

Twilight did as instructed, looking forward to see the large square object's front sink into the floor and out of sight, exposing it's hollow interior. And her face contorted in rage as she saw the form of Cadance within. Screaming madly, Twilight rushed forward, but was intercepted when one of Hermaeus Mora's tendrils yanked her up by the waist.

"Let go of me," yelled Twilight, flailing her legs in an attempt to get loose. "I'm going to beat her smug muzzle into the ground."

"Calm yourself, and look,"instructed Hermaeus Mora. "All is not as it seems."

Taking his advice,Twilight calmed herself, but still looked at Cadence with a glare. She was suspended in what appeared to be a round blue force field within the metal cube, and unlike the last time Twilight had seen her, she looked terrible. Multiple scrapes and bruises marred her prestigious pink coat.

"What your angle?" asked Twilight, looking up to Hermaeus Mora's writhing mass of tendrils above her. "You bring me here, tell me you seek to help me confront Cadance, only to beat her senseless yourself?"

"As I have said before, young Twilight, things are not as they seem," said Hermaeus Mora as he touched a tendril to Cadance's head under her horn, then extended one to Twilight as well.

"What are you doing? asked Twilight, eyeing the approaching tendril warily.

"Revealing the truth," replied Hermaeus Mora, his tendril touching Twilight under her horn, her mind getting flooded with memories not her own.
---
Cadance sat in her favourite café, sipping a cup of her favourite tea, chamomile, with a pinch of mint and stirred with a cinnamon stick, her heart giddy with excitement. last night, her beloved boyfriend Shining Armour finally proposed. Her heart felt light as a feather when she remembers finding the ring in her wine glass on their date last night.

A bit cliche, but Cadance was a sucker for the classics.

She did not know how either of them were going to put together the wedding, they were both so busy. Shining Armour had to lead the royal guard, and she had been busy with her duties as Princess of Love. Especially since that fiasco that went down during Hearts and Hooves day, when that elderly florist had botched all those bouquet orders by putting the wrong names on them.

If the early stages of cataracts start setting in, its probably time to consider retiring.

But it would seem things had finally settled back to normal in Canterlot, for she no longer saw a fighting couple every time she turned a corner. Eager to at least start the preparation's, Cadance finished her tea, left a tip, and headed out the door, holding it open for a trio of elderly mares before her. Walking down the busy Canterlot street, Cadance marvelled over her upcoming engagement.

She was almost just as eager to break the news to Twilight, as she was at the wedding itself. She had so many fond memories of that little filly when she would foalsit her, and even though they had not been seeing much of each other lately, she could not wait to be an official part of her family. They were practically sisters already.

"Who is Happy Flower? " Cadance heard someone shout from across the street, looking to see a red earth pony mare with a pink mane and tail, plus a mathematics cutie mark pressing a hoof to the chest of a black pegasus stallion with a red mane and fancy shoe cutie mark. "The card said Happy Flower, Shoe Sole."

"I don't know why it said that, Calculated Formula, but those flowers were for you, " argued Shoe Sole.

"You're lying," accused Calculated Formula, turning around and walking down a nearby ally, flicking her tail. "You stallions are all the same, out to get as much rump as you can."

"You're one to talk," shouted Shoe Sole, chasing after her. "You're never happy unless someone is kissing your rump."

Cadance rolled her eyes with a smile as she changed direction to follow the arguing couple down the ally, it seems like their were still some breeches she needs to patch. The couple was only a few feet from her when Cadance prepared her spell. Once it was ready, she cast the small heart forward.

Only to see Calculated Formula lunge and snap up her spell in a fang filled mouth and chew on it like candy.

Cadance gasped in terror, backing up from the horrible scene, only to notice three shadow's being cast from behind her. Turning around to see the three elderly mares she had held the door for at the café blocking her way, Cadance stiffened up in terror. What was going on?

"So it is true, " Cadance heard someone say behind her, turning around to see Calculated Formula approach, licking her lips with a barbed tongue. " You are the Princess of Love."

"What is this? " Cadance asked, shaking in terror. "What are you doing?"

Cadance saw a flash of green flames, Shoe Sole and the elderly mares turned into chitin encased pony shaped creatures, gossamer wings buzzing on their backs. They hissed before scraping the ground with their hole riddled hooves. Cadance stiffened up as they glared at her with large pupiless eyes, flashing their fangs.

She knew these creatures.

As the Princess of Love, Cadance had to know every aspect of it, including its enemies. And there was no greater enemy to love than the creatures that sucked it from others like leeches suck blood. And then Calculated Formula changed, becoming a creature that stood at least two heads taller than her.

"Who are you?" asked Cadence, shaking in terror.

"The last being you will ever see," said the tall abomination, then turning into the spitting image of Cadance. "Other than yourself."

Before Cadance could react, a ring of green flames circled around her, the ground climbing up her terrified eyes as she sank below the surface. The next thing she knew she was sliding down a steep incline, her body screaming in pain as rocks and debris struck her from multiple angles. Then she landed on steady ground, rolling forward to come to rest on an even surface.

Her vision was blurred as she struggled to stand up, but she was in so much pain that she quickly lost her strength, falling back to the floor, never noticing the black tendrils reaching towards her from a black pool sitting under a book stand.

---

Twilight snapped back to reality as the tendril on her forehead retracted, the one on Cadance doing the same. She slumped, her breath leaving her as she tried to calm down. She looked up at Cadance, suspended in the blue force field a few feet from her, realization crossing her features.

" Sh...she's was...?" Twilight stammered, unable to find her voice.

"She was imprisoned," Hermaeus Mora said. "Same as you."

" Then...the Cadance that sent me beneath Canterlot...,"Twilight gasped, unable to fully grasp what had happened.

"Was an imposter," said Hermaeus Mora, his tone soft and calm.

Guilt wormed its way into Twilight's conscious as she recalled all she had planned to do to Cadance up to this point, when in truth, she was just as big as a victim as Twilight. More so actually, it was her wedding that creature had ruined, and at least Twilight wasn't hurt so bad. Tears fell from Twilight's eyes as she realized that she had blamed the wrong person.

"Oh Cadance," sobbed Twilight, burying her face in her hooves. "How could I have doubted you?"

Twilight felt a warm body press against her, looking up to see that Hermaeus Mora had moved her up against Cadance. Looking back to the swirling mass of tentacles, Twilight nodded her head in thanks and buried her head in her old foalsitters chest, wetting the fur with her tears. After gaining some mental strength, Twilight lifted her head and stared into Cadance's face, watching her as she slumbered peacefully.

"Is she okay? " Twilight asked quietly.

"She is not in pain at the moment, child said Hermaeus Mora.

"Can I speak with her?" asked Twilight quietly.

"That would be unwise, " said Hermaeus Mora, Twilight throwing him a look of misunderstanding. "I have placed her in a special sleep that will protect her psyche from the influence of Apocrypha."

"Influence? " Twilight inquired, slightly surprised. "What influence?"

"It is a matter you need not be concerned about, young Twilight," Hermaeus Mora said. "Unless someone has a deep intimacy with the way of knowledge, my realm can have...an averse effect on the mind. If she were to wake, she would only last a few days... before going mad."

" She is hurt though," pointed out Twilight, looking over Cadance's frazzled mane. "Why didn't you take her to the hospital?"

"It would be...unwise, as well," stated Hermaeus Mora simply. "With the imposter still out there."

Twilight snapped out of her misery upon hearing that. The imposter was still out there, planning who knows what. And she was the only one who knew the truth now.

"Hermaeus Mora," said Twilight, teleporting out of the force field with Cadance to under the writhing mass of tentacles and eyes behind her. " Tell me everything, everything you know about that imposter and her plans."

"My information is incomplete, due to my weak influence in your realm, but I have managed to get a basis, through information I could decipher from your realms stars as well as the knowledge I gained from Cadance as well."

" I understand," said Twilight, guessing that Hermaeus Mora had probably read Cadance's mind more time than when he showed her. "Cadance seems to know they are called Changeling, but I have never heard of them."

"From what I can see, Cadance is one of the only people who knows they exist," explained Hermaeus Mora. "And she also makes sure to keep it that way, for she fears that love would be more vulnerable if they ever became known to ponies. They are a sub-Equestrian species from the distant bad lands, struck with an appetite for love."

"Appetite for love?" inquired Twilight, tilting her head in confusion.

"I find it most intriguing, they somehow have an inherent ability to convert the emotion of love into a nourishing substance that they can ingest."

Twilight cast her head down, pondering on what she had learned. So these things feed on love. It would make sense that thy would target Cadance in that regard, but why now?

"And their purpose in Equestria?" Twilight asked, dreading the answer.

"Conquest," Hermaeus Mora stated. "They intend to drain all the love from Equestria, and after the wedding, they will be stronger than ever before."

Twilight pupils shrunk in terror, "And my brother?"

"The one who took Princess Cadance's place was their leader, Queen Chrysalis. And she plans to feed on Shining Armour's love for Cadance until she is strong enough to break his force field, letting her minions conquer Canterlot, and from their, spread to every corner of your realm."

Twilight now understood what Hermaeus Mora had meant about the situation being more pressing then she realized. This was not just about a wedding any more, this was about all of Equestria. Now Twilight, new what she had to do, whatever it takes.

"I'm ready Hermaeus Mora."

---
They had begun immediately.

Twilight was expecting she would need to learn how to read the books first, but that was not the case. Hermaeus Mora could choose who could read what within Apocrypha, it was why she could read those four books and no others at first. Now she was resting in a room Hermaeus Mora had provided for her, saying she needed to rest as well as focus on her studying.

But alone in a strange room, even though it was a lavish, fully equipped room with regular looking furniture, Twilight was once again plagued with loneliness without her friends. Her friends meant everything to her, and though she was dedicated to obtaining the power Hermaeus Mora said she would need to defend them, without their comforting presence, she was to cry face down in her pillow on the bed. Movement caught her eye, and Twilight looked up just in time to see a black tendril place a picture frame on her night stand, before sinking back into its black portal.


"Thank you," she whispered, her tear stained face reflecting the photo of her, her friends surrounding her.

7 Nothing is Perfect

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Twilight stood upon the menacing tower of books, her muzzle buried in a book she held in her magic. Nodding in understanding, she snapped it closed, admiring the depiction of a soaring bird on the cover. The magic spells it contained were unlike any she had come across. And she knew what needed to be done using them.

"Sorry this took so long, Cadance," said Twilight to the levitating form of Cadance within the square structure before her. "Restoration was at the bottom of my to do list, unfortunately.

It was unfortunate that Cadance had to stay here with her in Apocrypha, but Hermaeus Mora was right, she was safe here. But she wished she could have healed her sooner, she had just succeeded her restoration training today. She hoped this worked, the force field Hermaeus Mora put Cadance in to protect her also halted her bodies healing.

She focused her magic through her horn, which she aimed at Cadance's body. The spell she was weaving felt so strange and different, having never used its like before. And that could be said for a lot of the things Twilight had been dealing with as of late.

The spell burst into existence at the end of her horn, but rather then her usual purple aura, a bright gold star formed at the tip, it's light washing over Cadance's bruised coat. As the spell produced a tinkling sound, Twilight watched as Cadance's injuries faded, her coat returning to the perfect sheen Twilight always remembered in a matter of seconds.

"Much better," said Twilight, ending the spell. "After all, a bride needs to look her best at her wedding."

Smiling at seeing her old foalsitters restored to prime condition, Twilight looked up, taking in the sight of the sky above

She had been busting her rump for who knew how long, having lost track of time what felt like eons ago, and since the sky in Apocrypha never changed, it did nothing to try using it to tell time. But she had studied hard under Hermaeus Mora, and as a result, she had attained magical prowess she could never have imagined before. And she knew that the time was approaching when she would use it.

"Yes," Twilight said sternly, her face getting a serious look. "I am ready, it is time."

Looking back to Cadance, Twilight made a silent promise that she would be home soon, then took off at a run, vanishing in a flash of purple just before reaching the wall that surrounded the perimeter of the tower of books roof.

---

"Are you certain you are ready, child?" Said the wiggling mass of tentacles above Twilight. "There is still much more you can learn."

" I am aware of that, Lord Hermaeus," Twilight said, bowing low.

Having spent so much time here, Twilight had gained a new understanding of Hermaeus Mora, and the kind of being he is, and it was good idea to show respect.

"But Equestria cannot be held still in time forever, " said Twilight, her resolve to defend those whom she loves still burning strong within her.

"Very well," said Hermaeus Mora. "Though if you study longer, you may even gain the potential to bend the world to your will."

"No thanks," Twilight said with a shutter. " That would make me too much like Discord."

"True," said Hermaeus Mora plainly, a tendril extending from one of his portals to drop a black book at Twilight's hooves. "The way is open to you, my champion."

Twilight looked down to the book with trepidation. This was it, she was finally going to confront the one responsible for all her heartache. Doubt briefly gripped her, for she had spent so long preparing for this moment. But she had to do this, for everypony she cared about.

Taking a deep breath, Twilight sat down and scooped up the book in her magic.

"But remember our agreement," Hermaeus Mora said, his tone somewhat stern.

Twilight shivered as she recalled what he was talking about, but she nodded, opening the Black Book and being dragged into the ground by a black tendril.

---

Twilight reappeared before the book stand from ealier, blinking as she saw a still frozen splash in the pool of ink situated under it. She had never one hundred percent believed until now, but it looked like Hermaeus Mora was telling the truth. Even though she had spent so long in Apocrypha, not even a moment had passed here in Equestria.

' Splash '

Twilight started as the small wave of ink fell back into the pool, turning and rippling normally.

"I guess it's finally undone," Twilight said seriously, watching the ink settle. " Which means that I haven't missed the wedding. "

But before proceeding, Twilight had a few things left to do.

" I hope I'm right, " she whispered sadly, a Black Book appearing before her as she summoned it, placing it on the empty book stand.

Next she summoned another object to her, and in a flash an ornate gold chain appear around her neck, a pendant of a crystal ball hanging from it. Hermaeus Mora had given it to her, but it was no gift. It had more strings attached then a fishing net.

Twilight was a little weirded out when she remembered when she received it.

---
"What does it do?" Asked Twilight, watching as a black substance turned within the crystal ball on the chain she held.

"When you confront the imposter, put it on," explained Hermaeus Mora, his form before her. "A piece of my essence is contained within, and once you cross back over to your realm, it will allow me to see with much more clarity then my books can provide."

"For what purpose?" Asked Twilight, not liking the idea of carrying around a piece of Hermaeus Mora around with her.

"The confrontation between you and the false bride is surely to be intriguing," explained Hermaeus Mora, intrest in his voice. "I shall observe through that amulet, and add your conflict to my library."

" Is that realy necessary?" Asked Twilight.

She always knew this would lead to fight, but she didn't want it recorded down like some grand moment.

"It will be the first time one of my champions does battle in your realm," said Hermaeus Mora. "The tale will be the first of its kind."

Twilight wanted to argue, but Hermaeus Mora was giving her the means to protect her home, she figured this would be a small price to pay

---
"I hope you're watching, " said Twilight to the small orb around her neck.

Then she turned to the tunnel behind her and started forward.

---

The fake Cadance brushed her mane in front of a mirror in her room, a smug grin upon her lips.

It had been so easy too orchestrate everything in her favor, starting with setting up this wedding. Everypony was too distracted with the preparation's to notice what was really happening, just as she planned. It was also very easy to divide the Elements of Harmony.

Even she had not expected the ponies responsible for defeating Nightmare Moon and Discord to crumble so easily, but when push came to shove, the rest chose a wedding rather than one of their own.

"Today is going to be perfect, the kind of day of which I've dreamed since I was small!" she sang, levitating a rose from the bouquet on her vanity in her magic.

"Everypony will gather 'round, say I look lovely in my gown," she walked with a smug gait, making the ponyquuins bow to her. "What they don't know is that I have fooled them all!"
---

"She thinks her plan is so perfect, that her intelligence lifts her above us all," Twilight sang, the magic of Equestria linking her to another song elsewhere.

"But she underestimated me, a mistake she will see, " Twilight turned a corner, her eyes a cold glare. "Has brought about her fall. "

---

"I could care less about the dress, I won't partake in any cake," sang the false Cadance, kicking over a table with a basket of apples upon it. " Vows? I'll be lying when I say."

"That through any kind of weather I'll want us to be together," her verse echoed while she sang, a top hat disintegrating in her magic. "The truth is, I don't care for him at all."

"No I do not love the groom, In my heart there is no room! But I still want him to be all miiiiiine!"

---

"This is a chance I must not waste, I must get there with all haste," sang Twilight as she followed a trail of glowing blue smoke that she projected with her horn. "To do so would mean annihilation for us allllll."

"I know that I stand alone, but Equestria is still my home," tears flew from her eyes as she ran.

"And to protect it I will put my life on the liiiine."

---

"Finally, the moment has arrived," sang the fake Cadance, walking up to the large double doors. "For me to be one lucky bride!"

---

"I must get there on time, to halt this terrible crime!" sang Twilight. "Or my brother will be...."
---

"Mine, all mine! Ahahahahahaha!"

---
Twilight dove behind the cavern wall when she spotted pony figures up a head, the trail of mist fading away.

"I knew she did something with them," said Twilight, looking around to spot Cadance's bridesmaids that her friends replaced.

Minuet, Twinkleshine, and Lyra were all guarding under the hole in the cave ceiling that her clairvoyance spell had led her to, their eyes glistening with green magic. She knew mind control when she saw it, despite what other people might think, and it was more than likely the imposter put them here to keep her prisoners from escaping. Twilight knew things were going to get ugly, but she didn't want it to involve innocent ponies.

"Wait," said Twilight, smirking as an idea formed in her mind.

Taking a deep breath, Twilight built up some of her new knowledge, and when she opened her mouth, she expelled a cloud of white mist: 'ZUL MEY GUT'

"HEY, UGLY," echoed through out the chamber.

" What was that? " droned all three ponies, walking off to see where the voice was coming from.

Twilight smirked, her learnings were already coming in handy. And this was just a lesser spell, shouts is what Hermaeus Mora said they were called. But before she could feel anymore pride, them brainwashed bouquet chasers came back to their post.

Cursing herself, she tried again: 'ZUL MEY GUT'

"HEY, CHEESE BRAIN."

"HUH?" the three droned, but this time they just looked around in random directions.

Twilight bit back a growl of frustration: 'ZUL MEY GUT'

"HEY, MELON NOSE."

This time they did go to investigate, except Lyra, who was rubbing her muzzle.

" Its not that big, is it? " she droned, before two hooves grabbed her shoulders and yanked her away.

Twilight smiled, and left her hiding place, making her way under the hole....

Only to barely avoid a magic beam that flew past her head.

"You're not going anywhere," droned the three bridesmaids as they approached, Lyra's horn still smoking.

Twilight was not sure what to do. She had not wanted to hurt them but what else could she do? She saw a bouquet lying on the ground near her(how had that gotten there)and came up with something, but they were brainwashed, they would not fall for that.

Wait, brainwash, that wasn't a bad idea, actually .

"Sorry about this," said Twilight before she opened her mouth : 'GOL HAH DOV'

A wave of multiple colored mist washed over the trio of bridesmaids. The green light in ther eyes shattered, their pupils becoming dilated. They walked up to Twilight and bowed.

"We are at your comand," they said together.

Twilight smiled. She felt guilty for doing this, but she had too. It was not just so they would not attack her, she had an idea they would be crucial for.

8 Reveal

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"Fillies and gentle Colts," Princess Celestia announced in her motherly tone to the group behind the loving couple before her. "We are gathered here today to witness the union of Princess Mia Mora Cadenza and Shining Armour."

This was always one of her favourite rolls as Princess of this land, the union of two hearts forever in the bonds of love. And this one was extra special, the uniting of her fellow Alicorn Princess Cadenza to her captain of her royal guard Shining Armour. The ceremony was even more complete with the lovely crowd that had shown up.

She felt her joy lessen though, when she beheld that her student was not among the other Elements of Harmony. She had no idea why Twilight reacted like that, and she did not blame Shining Armour for banning her from attending, but it was still heart breaking to see her absence. When this was over, she intended to give her pupil a stern lecture, as well as see if she could console her in any way.

Misbehaving or not, nopony should have to go through such misery without any reassurances of some form.

But she could dwell on that later, Spike was approaching with the rings.

---

Two royal guards stood sentry at the door to the reception hall. They of course thought they wouldn't see anything, who would want to cause trouble at wedding, and the wedding of a Princess no less. So, it came as a shock when they heard approaching hoofsteps.

" Halt," one called, extending his wing.

"Who goes there," called the other, crossing his wing with the others.

Then three mare's walked around the corner down the hall, approaching them slowly.

" Aren't those the Princesses old bridesmaids? " asked the one on the left.

"I think so?" said the other, looking to his partner. "But didn't she dismiss them because they were only using their titles to meet royalty?"

"That's what she told us," said the one on the left, right as the three mares arrived in front of them.

" Sorry ladies," said the right guard to the trio. " The Princess has new bridesmai...,"

He never had the chance to finish, as Minuet and Lyra both slapped the left and right guard across the muzzle, Twinkleshine having then turned around and bucked them both in the chests with her hind legs. They hit the wall hard, grunting as they fell to the ground with their eyes rolling in their heads. They both looked up, shocked at the mares that just looked down at them, mean little smiles on their faces.

" WHAT WAS THAT FOR?" They both yelled.

The only answer they got was for Lyra, Minuet, and Twinkleshine to blow wet raspberries in their faces, then turning around and running away, laughing tauntingly.

" COME BACK HERE, YOU LITTLE BRATS," both enraged guards yelled, leaving their posts to give chase.

Now that they were gone, Twilight appeared in the corner of the hallway in a flash of white light, throwing away a pearl-white vial.

"Your not the only one who can utilize bridesmaids, miss bride," she whispered, walking up to the doors.

Putting her ear to the crack between them, Twilight heard Celestia start the ceremony. If she was going to act, it had to be now, but she couldn't just barge in, they would most likely remove her if the bride hid behind her crocodile tears again. She need to do something to prevent the ceremony from progressing all together.

Using extremely sophisticated magic control, Twilight pulled a very small part of the door about the size of a bit. Peaking through she was almost overwhelmed at seeing all her friends in the room, so close. But she was able to quash the urge to just barge in and hug them all as she spied the pillow in Spikes claws, two glistening bands sitting upon it.

"Perfect," she hissed, a plan forming in her mind.

---

" Princess Cadence, Shining Armour it is my great pleasure to..."

"AAAAAAAAHHHHH."

Celestia was interrupted when Spikes scream tore through the room, all in attendance turning to him. Everypony gasped to find the baby dragon tugging on the pillow in his claws, struggling against a thin, black tendril that was trying to yank it from his grasp. Everypony gasped at seeing the horrible appendage that all could see originated from under the doors, Celestia lighting her horn in an attempt to intervene.

'RIIIIIPPPPPP.'

The ornate pillow split at the seams, cotton and fabric scattering across the floor. Spike looked on in shock as the rings he was charged with were carried toward the doors, dropping the remains of the pillow he had been left with. When the tendril reached the doors, everypony could only watch as it disappeared under them, taking the rings with them.

For several seconds all in attendance could just stare with open mouthed shock.

Then the doors opened slowly, wrapped in a purple aura, revealing Twilight in the hallway, a menacing scowl upon her features. Everypony gasped to see the wedding rings held in the black tendril that extended from her horn, her friends roiling their eyes or facehoofing at her antics. Celestia stared at her with an annoyed expression.

"What is the meaning of this, Twilight Sparkle?" she shouted at her student, her eyes glaring with aggravation. "Give those ba..."

"I won't let this happen," said Twilight angerly, the sound of twisting metal tearing through the room as the tendril squeezed the rings to the point that they were smashed into dust.

Gasps filled the rooms as they watched the remains of the rings sprinkle to the ground in a shower of sparkling dust, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rarity and Rainbow Dash, staring in disbelief at the cruelty their friend just displayed in front of them."

"How could she do such a thing?" Whimpered Rarity, tears forming in her sapphire eyes.

"Twilight, have you lost your mind?" Yelled Applejack, her eyes a light with anger.

" So uncool," said Rainbow Dash, scowling.

"How could she do this to her brother?" Asked Fluttershy, an uncharacteristic glare on her face.

"Twilight's not a meany pants, why did she do that?" Said Pinkie Pie, her usually smiling face twisted into a glare.

Twilight did not want to do it, but she had to do something that would make this thing grind to a halt, she just hoped they could find replacements for the real wedding. She had not seen her friends in so long except in that one little photograph, and now here they were. Staring at her with angry glares.

Her emotions were turning inside her like a storm. All this time she had missed them desperately, wishing she could be with them. But seeing them stare at her like this stirred up the almost forgotten memories of how each and every one of them had been to wrapped up in their own section of the wedding to listen to her, how she went to them for help and was blown off.

Anger towards them blossomed in her heart, here they were, dressed up all pretty for a wedding they had no grasp of, were she had been isolated and alone. Training for this moment, learning great magic, but magic she never dreamed she would use. And associating with a being of horrific nature.

But then she saw the imitation Cadance up with Celestia and her brother. For a brief moment, she recalled the horrible accusations Shining had thrown at her the last time she saw him, but she forced her attention back to the bride next to him. This was not about that, they were all her friends and that creature was threatening them.

" TWILIGHT SPARKLE, " shouted Celestia from her place before the bride and groom. "What is the meaning of this. How did you even get in, I told the guards to bar your way if you showed up?"

A high pitch laughter echoed beyond the doors, Twilight and the others turning to see Lyra, Minuet, and Twinkleshine run past, throwing raspberries over their shoulders.

" COME BACK HERE," came a chorus of voices, a dozen royal guards chasing the bridesmaids down the hall.

" What are they doing, they were supposed to.....?" The fake Cadance put a hoof to her mouth before she could draw attention to herself. "I mean...why is she ruining my wedding...why doesn't she want me to marry her brother?"

"Because my brother is meant to marry Cadance," growled Twilight staring forward with a look that could kill. "And you are not her!"

"Twilight, this has gone far enough," said Celestia sternly. " You have acted irrational throught everything, and now you make an accusation that can't possibly be true."

Twilight knew this would be put before her, that her claim would not be believed with a pony who was the spitting image of Cadance right their for all to see. And Hermaeus Mora gave her exactly what she would need to counter it. It was a spell she could only use once, and it was for just for this moment.

Channelling her horn, Twilight cast her spell.

Everypony gasped in shock as a fountain of thick black liquid erupted to Twilight's right, viscous and thick but somehow not spreading. Princess Celestia and everypony at the front looked on in revolution at this strange substance, having never seen anything like it before. But if they thought that was something, what happened next....

A black tendril identical to the one that Twilight used to destroy the rings, only several times bigger emerged, slowly rose from the pool, a pony identical to the bride gripped gently in its coils. Once again, surprised gasps filled the chamber as the tendril gently deposited the unconscious Alicorn Princess on the ground before Twilight. Everypony looked between the two doppelgängers, incomprehension in their eyes.

"Its okay now Cadance," said Twilight reassuringly in a choked voice, stroking her old foalsitters mane. "You're home now, and I will make sure your happiness is never put in jeopardy again."

"I don't understand,"said Applejack among the gawking group of bridesmaids. "How are there two of them."

" Why don't I show you, Applejack," said Twilight, walking around the Cadance on the floor to approach the one up at the Isle, all prettied up in her wedding dress.

" I don't know how you found her," she said with a scowl. " But its too......"

She was interrupted when a stream of sparkling lightning slammed into her chest, originating from Twilight's horn. All attending screamed in terror, Twilight's friends and Princess Celestia dodging out of the way as the pony struck the wall between the large windows that decorated the back wall, Shining Armour having not moved, his expression turning blank. She screamed as the lightning kept flowing into her through her chest, her skeleton visible in the arcs of electricity that danced over her body.

Twilight's friends and Princess Celestia watched the scene with opened mouthed shock, taking in the image of Twilight striking Cadance with lightning. They did not know what was going on, but they had never seen Twilight like this. Her expression was aggressive and concentrated, no remorse for what she was doing.

Then they notice the Cadance up on the wall voice change. It was now lower, and with a slight echoing quality. They looked just in time to see the image of Cadance shatter like a stain glass window, and in her place was something they never imagined. It was tall, like Princess Celestia, a shiny black carapace visible in the electricity that danced over its gossamer wings, hole riddled hooves, fanged muzzle, and the crooked horn atop her green maned head.

Her eyes flew open, revealing slitted green pupils, her screams of pain vanishing behind an enraged snarl. Her horn glowed, a bright green force field surrounding her, protecting her from the lightning. Twilight ceased her assault, scowling as the giant creature lowered herself back to the floor with a buzz of her wings, her shield vanishing.

"Behold your precious bride," said Twilight, pointing a hoof at the horrible monster before everypony.

" Wha...what is that thing?" Whimpered Fluttershy, cowering as her friends surrounding her put up defensive stances.

"A changeling," answered Twilight." A metamorphic creature that imitates loved ones and gets stronger by feeding on that love."

"BWAH AHAHAHAHAHAHA, oh how right you are, " laughed the abominable image, all the wedding guests minus the groom, the Princesses, the bridesmaids, Spike, and Twilight fleeing the room as her laughter snapped them out of their shock and induced panic. " And as...."

"SHUT UP," shouted Twilight, her voice harsh and angry. "You are Chrysalis, Queen of the Changelings, and you have imitated Cadance so you can slowly drain the love from my brother, then his shield won't be able to protect us when your legions arrive to conquer Canterlot, then all of Equestria.

The other ponies gasped at hearin this news, the now named Chrysalis looking at Twilight with irritation.

"I don't know how you found out," she said before smirking. " But its too late, any moment my..."

"You won't succeed," Chrysalis heard a stern voice approach, turning in time to press her horn to Princess Celestia's. "You may have compromised Shining Armour's shield, but now that you have revealed your true self....I can protect my subjects...from you!"

She took flight with her mighty wings, her horn letting out a bright beam of yellow sun energy. Chrysalis countered with a beam of her own, gritting her teeth in concentration. Twilight watched it all with a look of anticipation.

To everyone's surprise, Chrysalis began to gain the upper hoof, her beam overpowering Celestia and approaching her. Then the green beam slammed into her horn, blasting the Princess across the floor, her crown flying off her head. Chrysalis looked at her hooves in amusement.

"Shining Armour's love is even stronger than I thought,"she said smugly. " Devouring it has made me even stronger than Celestia!"

"Princess!" Twilight's friends shouted, galloping up to their fallen leader.

"The Elements of Harmony," she moaned to them. "Use their power to defeat the queen."

" RIGHT!" Shouted Applejack and Rainbow Dash....

"I did not want it to be true...." whispered Twilight as she approached the group surrounding the fallen Alicorn.

"But it is," she said, her face awash with tears. "You are a coward."

9 I Won't

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"I have no intention of continuing my studying with you once the crisis in Equestria has been averted," Twilight said to the mass of tendrils and eyes in front of her. "Not after what I have learned."

It had only been a short time since Twilight began her studying with Hermaeus Mora within Apocrypha, but just that was enough for her to get a brief inkling of what could be found here, and it was incredible. There were secrets and knowledge here that would give one a new way to see all of existence in a whole new light. The possibilities were endless.

Until Twilight came across her first history book, a book on the Daedric Prince's.

" Your influence in Equestria may be weak, but that is not true for all realms," Twilight continued, the eye in front of her saying nothing, in fact, if she did not know any better, she would say he was interested in what she had to say. "This other realm, this Nirn, you and your brethren have done unspeakable acts there, throughout its history."

She had thought Discord had been cruel when she and her friends faced him, but the deeds of the Daedric Prince's made him look like a playground bully. The very truth of what she was dealing with gave her a new outlook on her situation, and it terrified her. She was just grateful to have learned that Hermaeus Mora was one of the more reasonable Daedric Prince's compared with the rest of his kin, but he still had done horrible acts to get his way.

And as for his champions...

"It cannot be said that the information I have already attained from you will be invaluable for the conflict with the Changelings," continued Twilight, not talking her eyes of Hermaeus. " But you have not been above turning on your subordinates in the past. Miraak..."

"Do you honestly see yourself ever attempting what Miraak tried?" Hermaeus Mora asked in his usual cold voice.

"Well...no," replied Twilight honestly, having read that Hermaeus Mora had Miraak eliminated not only for rebellion, but also because he planned to use what had been taught to him for his own gain, despite what Hermaeus Mora had already done for him.

"I would never betray my teacher."

"Which makes you a more worthy successor to him already," said Hermaeus Mora."It is true...I punish disloyalty very harshly, but I also richly reward my faithful servant's."

Twilight had to admit he was right, even though his 'punishments' were some of the most appalling acts she had ever heard of.

"But I would still just be your pawn," said Twilight, pointing her hoof forward.

"A situation... you are content with," said Hermaeus Mora, his tone taking a slight dark and mischievous tone. "Under your Princess Celestia's guidance."

Twilight's jaw dropped at what she had just heard.

"What are you saying?"Twilight asked, a look of total shock on her face. " Princess Celestia has done so much for me. She has tutored me since I was just a little filly, and has..."

"And has pitted you and your friends against mighty foes," Hermaeus Mora said bluntly. "Putting all of you in grave danger in the process."

"That was different," Twilight snapped back. "She knew me and my friends were destined to wield the Elements of Harmony against Equestria's most powerful villans, so she had..."

"Her options have never been limited, child," said the turning mass of tentacles. "She may not have had...access to these 'Elements of Harmony' you speak of anymore, but sending you and your companions into those situations...unprepared...was never her only choice."

"What are you talking about?" Twilight asked, great puffs of irritated steam billowing from her nostrils. "The Princess had no choice but to send us into those situations. Nightmare Moon and Discord were too grave a danger for her to..."

"Celestia is a millennium old matriarch, with a plentiful store of knowledge," said Hermaeus Mora. "Knowledge that could have been a great asset to you and your friends, if she had not but...accompanied you through those dire situations."

"What are you even getting at?" Twilight asked, irritated at all the slander being directed at her mentor. " What do you have against our beloved Princess?"

"I hold no ire against her," explained Hermaeus Mora calmly. "However...none can hide the truth from me...even if they are hiding it...from themselves."

Twilight sat on her hunches, her mouth open in shock.

"The affection between the two of you is genuine,"stated Hermaeus Mora simply, somehow knowing what Twilight was about to rebuttal with. "But there's a truth she has been hiding from for so many long years, she is not even aware she hides from it anymore."

"Princess Celestia isn't scared of anything," snapped Twilight.

"Except herself," stated Hermaeus Mora. "She has been riddled with guilt since she had to...banish her younger sibling...guilt...that has crushed her will to fight."

"She did not have a choice," argued Twilight. "Princess Luna became Nightmare Moon, who was about to bring about eternal night..."

"And Celestia has let that deed cripple her," explained Hermaeus Mora, his cold voice echoing in Apocrypha, despite his low tone. "For a millennium worth of days...she has blamed herself for what happened...on that day...so long ago."

"Luna was jealous," said Twilight irritability. " All the ponies back then ignored her night and..."

"And Celestia believes that if she had not just admired her sisters night more often herself, rather then focusing solely on her duties as Princess, it may not have happened. She believes that if she could not protect her sister, she cannot protect anything. "

" How would you even know?" Twilight asked, glaring. "You don't even know her..."

"My influence in Equestria is weak...yes, " said Hermaeus Mora, shocking Twilight that he would say that himself. "But Celestia and her sibling are so unique, even with my limited perspective...I have still gleaned much of their past. And if you need proof of her fears, let her face Chrysalis...when you go to confront her. "

"I have every belief she will fight along with me," said Twilight confidently.

"And if Chrysalis were to best her?"

" Then it would mean Chrysalis has grown to strong, and I will face her myself," Twilight said without fear.

Suddenly, a tendril passed through Twilight. Not simply passing under or over her head, but through her, passing through her face from one cheek to the next. Her eyes dilated as something strange washed over her.

It was an indescribable sensation, but from what she could comprehend, she was feeling through another's body. It was faint and hazy, the best way to describe it was looking at something through dirty reading glasses, but it was distinct. She felt a great power surging through her, warm and welcoming, but also burning and intense.

She did not know how, but Twilight knew she was feeling Princess Celestia's strength.

Then the sensation vanished and another took its place. This one was strong too, but it felt vile and repulsive, Twilight’s stomach rolling in revolution as it was as assaulted with this horrible sensation. She felt like she had swallowed a gallon of pond scum.

This had to be the power of Queen Chrysalis.

The sensations passed in less than a blink, and Twilight felt her body return to its normal sensations without change.

"Wa...was that...? Twilight stammered to Hermaeus Mora's writhing mass.

"Princess Celestia and Queen Chrysalis," Hermaeus Mora said, answering Twilight's broken question "Their strength."

Twilight felt a whole new perspective of her mentor emerging in her heart. She knew Celestia was strong, but she made a normal unicorn look pathetic. Queen Chrysalis was not weak either, but she would be hard pressed to out do Celestia's. The two were almost evenly matched, with Celestia being slightly more than Chrysalis.

" When I am done here, we will face her together," said Twilight, her resolve spiking.

"And if Celestia were to challenge first and fail...? said Hermaeus Mora.

" That will not happen," said Twilight. " Even if she did lose the first strike, it would take more than one lucky hit for something like Chrysalis to beat the Princess."

"Unless she were to throw the fight,"

" That will not happen," said Twilight sternly.

" Believe what you will, child," said Hermaeus Mora. "But truth is still truth."

" This conversation does not effect my decision," Twilight suddenly said. "Once Equestria is safe, we are done."

"If you wish to pursue knowledge through your own way, it is your choice, young Twilight," said Hermaeus Mora, calmly. "However, you may find that it is not so easy to turn your back on Apocrypha."

---

"Twilight," gasped Rarity, her mouth open in shock, same as the rest. "How can you say that."

"Because I know she had more fight in her than that," said Twilight. " I knew it would have taken more than what was thrown at her to just breach her defence so easily."

"That's not true Twilight," moaned the injured Princess, Twilight's friends looking at her with a open mouthed gaze. "I gave it my best..."

"And I know that is what you believe," interrupted Twilight, tears still streaming from her angry eyes. " You have been weighed down by your guilt for so long you do not even realize it anymore. Of how unworthy you feel to protect what you care about."

Twilight's friends all gasped at what she said.

"Well I won't do it anymore," said Twilight. " I won't be your weapon, I won't be your escape from..."

" Did you forget about me?" Chrysalis asked, grabbing Twilight, Spike, Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and the downed Princess in her magic, great green goop suddenly gluing their hooves to the floor.

"What the...?" Rainbow Dash flapped her wings in an attempt to escape, but the substance held firm.

"MY SHOES!" yelled Rarity, staring in horror as the glop stained the surface of her fancy slippers.

" What in tarnation?" Applejack tried to rip her hooves free, but even her earth pony strength was no match for the goop.

" EEEEWWW," said Pinkie Pie as she examined the stuff that rooted her hooves in place.

Fluttershy, Spike, and Princess Celestia remained silent, Spike and Fluttershy whimpering in fear. Celestia was too shocked by what Twilight had said to her for her to even comprehend what was happening anymore. But then everypony was drawn to Twilight, who had just teleported out of the goo that held her, now standing about twenty feet from Queen Chrysalis.

"Forgot you?" Twilight asked, her face taking a stern, dedicated look. "You have been my main focus for so long, I will never forget you. And I will stop you."

"And how do you plan to do that, little pony?" sneered the Changeling Queen, smug confidence in her voice. "Whether you believe it or not, I still defeated your precious Princess, and even now my legions chip away at Canterlot's shield."

"And you're the head honcho, right?" Twilight asked, her tears finally drying up, replaced by a mean smile. " The one with all the smarts, who makes all the decisions."

"Flattery will get you nothing," said Chrysalis, her face split with a grin. "But yes, I am the one they...."

" So if I kill you, they won't know what to do next," Twilight said, levitating herself up above all in the room in her own magic. "Without you, this invasion of yours falls apart."

Pony, dragon, and changeling alike dropped their jaws at the claim and how easily it flew from her lips. Twilight's friends had never heard her say something like that before, and their brains were having difficulty registering that they had even heard it. Princess Celestia was even more shaken upon hearing it.

Chrysalis was the first to snap out of her surprised state.

"You dare challenge me?" She growled, rising up to the same hight as Twilight with a buzz of her wings. " Unicorn whelp."

" Hit me with your best shot," said Twilight bravely, her eyes narrowing above her smirking mouth.

" Twilight, no," Fluttershy said in a distraught voice.

" She'll hurt you, partner," said Applejack, struggling to get free. "Don't do this."

"Twilight, please no," moaned Spike, tears forming in his eyes as he watched the pony he had known his whole life face off against this monster.

"NO," Rainbow yelled, her wings beating like a hummingbirds, trying to get loose.

Chrysalis sneered, her horn lighting up with her green magic. Twilight stood firm, levitating in her own purple aura. Then the changeling reared up in the air, flailing her front legs in aggression.

" TWILIGHT," screamed Rarity, tears streaming her mascara. "GET OUT OF THE WAY, DARLING."

The Queen fired a magical blast even larger than what she took down Celestia with.

"TWILIGHT!" All her friends screamed as the beam of green death tore towards their friend.

'FUS RO DAH'

Queen Chrysalis gasped as her target suddenly opened her mouth and spoke those words, which echoed throughout the room. She watched in shock as a luminous blew mist flew from Twilight's mouth, her beam not even slowing it down, being torn to ribbons as it travelled closer. She had no time to get out of the way, the bizarre cloud closing in on her no matter how much effort she put in her own spell.

The windows and walls in the back of the room exploded, showering the streets of Canterlot in debris, Queen Chrysalis among it.

10 It Begins

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Twilight's companions all stared, dumb struck by what they had just seen her do. They had watched as Chrysalis' s beam of magic was torn to shreds by a huge cloud of blue mist that Twilight had produced from her mouth, pushing the Changeling Queen out through the back wall, completely pulverizing it, the dust still settling around Shining Armour were he stood, his eyes completely blank as he stared forward. Then she lowered herself back to the floor, looking forward with a deep glare.

" Twilight," gasped Princess Celestia, gazing at her pupil with shock and disbelief. "What... was that?"

" What will save us," said Twilight, looking at the bound group with only one eye.

" Girls! " Fluttershy suddenly spoke up, her eyes bugging out of her head in surprise. "Her Cutie Mark!"

They all looked to Twilight's flank, and gasped at what they saw. Her purple six point star orbited by smaller white ones was still present, but it was a tenth of its original size. Below it was what appeared to be a black silhouette of a mass of tentacles that reached and stretched across her flank, weaving through the points of her stars. A large yellow eye with a strange pupil sat in the centre of the mass.

How had they missed it?

"My student?" Celestia gasped, horror in her millennium old eyes. " What has happened to you?"

"What needed to happen," said Twilight, looking down at her altered Cutie Mark. "To protect Equestria."

Twilight remembered when this had happened, so long ago.

---

"Your progress has been rapid, my champion," complemented Hermaeus Mora as Twilight pored over multiple books held in her magic.

"Thanks Hermaeus," Twilight answered, engrossed in the book in front of her, admiring its details on certain potions.

"Interesting," said Hermaeus Mora, his tone somewhat mystified. "You said the mark upon your hunches represents an individuals skill set, correct?"

" Right," answered Twilight. "A ponies Cutie Mark is a visible manifestations of a ponies special talent."

"And how often do they change?"

" What do you mean?"Twilight asked, finally looking up from her book. "A ponies Cutie Mark is never supposed to change."

"Have you not noticed?" the mass of tendrils beside Twilight made a small gesture.

Twilight looked down to her flank and jumped up from her sitting position in shock. Her mark had shrunk dramatically, a great black spot forming bellow it. The spot then began to grow tendrils that wiggled and slithered over her coat, reaching for the now smaller star. A great eye opened in the center of the mass and all was still.

"What just happened?" Twilight asked quietly, horrified and yet mystified by what had transpired.

"Has this not happened before?" Hermaeus Mora asked curiously.

" Never," answered Twilight, still staring at her flank. " Never in all of Equestria's history."

"Very interesting."

---

"It is one of the changes I had to accept," said Twilight, walking towards the blown out wall.

"WHERE ARE YOU GOING?" Pinkie yelled from where she was bound.

Twilight cringed at hearing her voice. She wanted to get this over with as soon as possible, but she couldn't leave her friends like this without saying something. After all, she might not get another chance.

" To finish what that jerk started," Twilight said, turning to face her friends for the first time in who knows how long, tears brimming her eyes as she saw them. "To be sure she never hurts us again."

"Twilight, you can't be serious," said Princess Celestia, her eyes wide. "We can solve this without using violence. Free your friends, use the Elements of Harmony...."

" I won't let this be solved that way, Princess," Twilight snapped back, but without aggression. " The Elements of Harmony are powerful, but they have never out right destroyed a threat. They turned Discord to stone, but that was because he was bad from the start, unlike Princess Luna."

They all stared open mouthed at her arguing her right to actually kill.

"And Chrysalis is no better than Discord, she delights in the suffering of others," Twilight continued, tears streaming her face. " But she doesn't operate alone like him, and if the Elements turn her to stone, it is more then likely one of her minions could slip by us and liberate her. But that won't be the case if she is no longer around."

" Twilight, please...no," Fluttershy begged, tears in her eyes.

"Don't any of you understand?" Twilight said. "If I don't stop her, her and her hive will drain all the love from Equestria."

"Twilight is right, y'all,"

"APPLEJACK!" shouted four mares and one dragon.

" Well, think about it," said Applejack, turning to the others. "If all the the love in Equestria is stolen, what will that mean for our families, what will that mean for Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and, Scootaloo."

The others gasped at hearing what might happen to those little fillies. They had been so excited to be the flowerfillies for this wedding, but had run away with everypony else when Chrysalis was unmasked. Now they were stuck in Canterlot, a huge aggressive army knocking at the door.

"No one will hurt Scootaloo on my watch," said Rainbow Dash sternly.

" Those meanie mech-mean pants will have to go through me," said Pinkie Pie, great puffs billowing from her nostrils.

" I don't like it," whimpered Fluttershy, tears still in her eyes. "But I know now those three are in danger. No all the foals of Equestria are in danger."

" Those ruffians won't lay a hoof on my sister," said Rarity, great anger in voice.

" What she said," said Spike.

" Alright Twilight, we're with you," said Applejack confidently.

Joy flooded Twilight as each of her friends sided with her. After what had happened at the recital, she never thought she would see them look at her like this again. It was so reassuring to have a latest memory of them that was not them flashing her an annoyed or disappointed look.

But it was not meant to be.

"I'm sorry girls," Twilight said, more tears flowing down her face. "But I cannot allow you to join me on this endeavour."

" WHAT," they all shouted together.

"I faced her alone to start with," said Twilight, closing her eyes. " That is how it will end."

"Oh Twilight," said Rarity sadly. "Is this about how we didn't believe you?"

"We're so super sorry," said Pinkie Pie, her mane deflating slightly.

" Ya Twilight," said Rainbow Dash, looking down sadly. " We wouldn't have if we had known."

"And we shouldn't have to begin with,"said Applejack, looking to the still unmoved Princess Cadance, but who's breathing was noticeable from there. "You knew that mare longer than any of us, we should have believed you when you said that something was up."

"I'm sorry, Twilight," said Spike, lowering his head in shame.

" This is not about that," said Twilight, looking up at all of them with love filled eyes. " No matter what happens, you are all my friends, and I still love you."

That line tugged on their very heartstrings.

" And that is why I can't let you follow me into this fight," said Twilight, turning to the blown out wall. "Only I need to have blood on my hooves, no one else."

All her friends began rebutting so loud they could not be heard over the other.

"Princess Celestia," said Twilight, the others quieting down when she addressed the so far silent Princess.

" I go out to fight for Equestria's safety," looking over her shoulder, over her altered Cutie Mark. "Because I need to. But as the ruler of this land, you need to be more than our benevolent leader, you need to be our guardian, when we need you to be."

She stole one last look to Cadance, on the floor at the front of the room. According to Hermaeus Mora, the induced sleep he put on her should wear off after a few days. Hopefully, at least one section of Equestria will still be in the condition for a wedding by then.

Then before any more could be said, Twilight turned back forward:

'WULD NAH KEST'

And she was gone, zipping forward in a purple blur.

" We can't let her do this alone," said Rainbow Dash, the others voicing their approval.

Celestia just hung her head.

---
Outside in the hallway, Lyra, Minuet, and Twinkleshine all ran by, still giggling and throwing raspberries over their shoulders.

" COME BACK HERE," shouted the mob of both night and day guard chasing them.

---

Chrysalis landed on the streets of Canterlot hard, rolling along the pavement. Her carapace was hard enough to protect her, but she was still left dissy at the sensation. Her trip ended at the flower shop.

"Huh, is someone there?" Asked the age old florist as he stuck his head out and looked at Chrysalis lying on the sidewalk in front of his door. "Guess not."

And he walked back inside, slamming his door.

The noise roused Chrysalis to her senses, shaking her head to stop her pupils from spinning. She stood up and looked to Canterlot Castle in the distance, her hole still smoking. She had been thrown quite a distance by whatever that spell was and it made her cringe slightly.

Concentrating her magic, she linked up to her hive mind.

---

"Pharynx!"

"Greetings my Queen," replied her most loyal warrior. "The assault on the shield goes...

"Double your efforts," snapped Chrysalis sternly.

"My Queen?" Pharynx inquired, sounding confused.

"Double your efforts," Chrysalis snapped again, growing aggravated. "Triple your efforts...get the hive in as fast as you can..."

She was interrupted when a fireball exploded before her.

---

Twilight had been following Chrysalis' s trail from the air, hovering in her own magic. She spotted her near that old flower shop her grandmother would by flowers for her from, standing as still as a statue. She appeared to be distracted, so she decided to take advantage.

Rather then resuming the rest the way or teleporting, Twilight let graviy do the work for her. She plummeted toward the ground, picking up speed as she went. From an slanted angle, Twilight fired a Fire storm spell. She missed, the flames scattering in the street, all the bystander ponies who somehow did not notice Chrysalis ran in fear.

Her missed attack alerted Chrysalis to her presence, the Changeling Queen looking up with anger in her eyes. Twilight’s horn fired an Ice storm spell, and it looked like it would hit home. But Chrysalis just dodged to the side, ice scattering up the wall of the florist shop behind her, lighting up her horn. Twilight readied a Lightning storm spell and fired.

Chrysalis fired her spell to, hers shattering Twilight into acres of electricity.

Twilight saw the spell coming for her at a high speed as she remained at the mercy of gravity. She could dodge it or blow it away with her shout, but Twilight had something different in mind. Something that could turn this to her advantage in a good good way.

She took a deep breath before Chrysalis's beam washed over her: 'ZEIM FII GORN'

Chrysalis sneered in victory as the little pony was engulfed in her magic.

'SU GRAH DUN'

Chrysalis gasped as Twilight emerged unharmed from the end of her magic, her left foreleg reared back. Time slowed, Chrysalis noticing Twilight's now transparent form becoming solid again, her body being shrouded by a white swirl of light. The strike landed on Chrysalis's jaw.

She screamed in pain, her carapace fracturing at the point where her jaws meet her skull as she was sent across the sidewalk.

"Where did this come from?" Chrysalis asked, green blood flowing out of her cheeks and down her neck. "My spies never reported you having this kind of power."

"You think you're so special," said Twilight as she landed harmlessly on the ground. " You think feeding on love will make you unstoppable."

She stomped her hoof, puffing through her nostrils.

"Well I've got news for you, your majesty," Twilight said, looking livid. "Yours is not the only hunger that provides great power, like the hunger for knowledge."

She stroked the ground with her hoof, a menacing small smile on her face.

" And lets see which provides the most prominent rewards," Twilight whispered dangerously. "Shall we."

---
The florist stuck his head out of his shop, staring at the two individuals down the road.

"Still nopony," he said while going back inside, the ice on the wall shattering. "If nopony cares about a good bouquet any
more, maybe it is time to retire."

11 Best Served Cold

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Chrysalis stared down the small lavender unicorn before her, the street around them deserted. The spells being thrown at her were unlike anything she had ever seen, and she had been having her minions gathering intel on Equestria for months. She could still feel her blood oozing through the stinging cracks in her carapace along her jawline

But she had come to far, was to close to her goal to back down now.

" YOU WON'T STOP ME!" she screamed hysterically, rearing up on her hind legs. " YOU WON'T STOP US."

She let out a barrage of small green orbs that flew at Twilight. Her largest attacks seemed to be insufficient against the small unicorn, but maybe a swifter attack will do the trick. She predicted that maybe she could land at least one hit with her smaller spell.

She was wrong.

A swirling mass of white light originated from Twilight's horn, surrounding around her body. Chrysalis's orbs of magic halted at the bizarre shield, hovering where they impacted. Twilight had an un-amused look in her eyes.

Chrysalis's jaw dropped as her own spells suddenly sped off the shield and towards her. She dodged the first couple, leaping to the side. She crouched low, the next couple of orbs sailing over her head. All she could do to avoid the rest was tilt her to the left, the last set of orbs singing her mane as they sailed passed.

Then she felt a small body tackle her.

Twilight and Chrysalis rolled over the ground, exchanging blows with their hooves. Chrysalis tried to bite at Twilight's face with her fangs, but she dodged, landing a blow on Chrysalis whenever she missed. Then Chrysalis found herself pinned to the ground by Twilight's hooves.

She gasped in fear when she saw Twilight deeply inhale: 'YOL TOOR SHUL'

Twilight teleported before her shout engulfed the spot she had been standing in mere moments ago in flames. She watched carefully, expecting to see Chrysalis either burned to a crisp, or having survived somehow. She felt conflicted at those thoughts, having never want to harm anyone in her entire life until now.

But it would seem that it was not the time yet.

Twilight saw Chrysalis teleport a ways to her right, flashing a look of terror to the intense flames consuming the spot where she had recently been. She flashed another look of terror when she noticed that Twilight had spotted her, lifting up with a buzz of her wings and racing off down the street. Twilight snarled and gave chase, her mane and tail flowing in the gentle breeze as ran with all her speed.

" I will not let you get away," she said, following the Changeling Queen around a corner.

But the street ahead was completely deserted, the civilians having fled when they heard Twilight's explosion. Twilight was no fool, Chrysalis was most likely lying in wait for her. She slowly made her way forward, her eyes trailing for anything suspicious.

"This is a cowardly trick," Twilight said to herself. "But I should not be surprised."

Then the street lamp she just walked past was engulfed in green flames, Chrysalis emerging. She was lunging with her fore hooves outstretched, fanged mouth open with small ropes of saliva connecting her upper and lower fangs. She was too close, Twilight could not dodge her.

But she did not need to: 'TIID KLO UL'

Chrysalis froze in place, the breath leaving her nostrils billowing out with all the speed of toothpaste from a tube. Hermaeus Mora had said he could teach her how to manipulate time and he had kept his word. He may be a terrifying Daedric Prince but he was not a liar.

From Chrysalis's vantage point, Twilight was only a second from being impaled on her fangs when she suddenly flashed out of her reach. She had only just begun turning her head to see her opponent when Twilight zipped back in and tackled her again. Her movement was so fast she had no hope of dodging the blows thrown at her.

After a couple of seconds, Chrysalis finally regained regained enough mental strength to retaliate. She let out a hiss passed the flashing blows landing over her, her horn charging up with magic. She let off a burst, throwing Twilight off her at last.

This time she did get up and flee.

Twilight landed painfully on her back, having received her first good blow from her opponent. So Queen Chrysalis did have powerful magic, that blast had packed the force of a train. She shook her head, glaring as Chrysalis took off down the street again, getting up to pursue.

---

"Pharynx, what is taking so long?" asked Chrysalis into the hivemind.

" We are almost through, the shield is starting to crack," replied Pharynx, noticing his queens slightly on edge tone. "What is wrong, my Queen?"

"That little upstart of the sun princess has gone berserk,"explained Chrysalis, trying to ignore the pain radiating from her bruises and the cracks in her carapace. " Something slipped through our intel, I can't fend her off!"

"WHAT?" Pharynx yelled, his voice full of shock. "But her majesty has been feeding..."

" I don't have time to explain," growled Chrysalis in frustration. " Come to your Queens aid as soon as...."

She was interrupted when a immense pain shot through her left hind leg.

---

Chrysalis lost her concentration on the hivemind, falling to the ground as her leg stiffened up, going freezing cold, with a severe pain radiating from above her knee. When she slid to a stop, she looked down to find a light blue shard the size of her horn lodged in her leg, the seething cold telling her it was ice. She stared at her injured leg, unable to comprehend what had happened.

"That was for Cadance," shouted Twilight as she teleported atop Queen Chrysalis and putting her front legs around her throat, making her gag as her air was cut off.

---

"MY QUEEN!" shouted Pharynx, having seen the whole thing happen below. "No!"

When his connection with Chrysalis was interrupted, she had happened to be below were he was pounding on the force field. He had watched as she dropped to the ground when a blue spike impacted her leg, he had watched as a purple unicorn teleported on top of her. He was watching as said unicorn began choking her.

" NOOOO!"

Baring his fangs, Pharynx bit into the force field surrounding Canterlot. Blood seeped out his gums as the force knocked his teeth slightly loose, but his fangs managed to pierce the shield. Thinking fast, Pharynx transformed into a gnat and sped through one of the holes he made with his fangs, changing back once he was through, racing to his queens side.

---

" You wil never have Equestria," sneered Twilight to the creature under her, who was gagging for breath. "You will never..."

She was interrupted when a smaller changeling tackled her, throwing her off of Chrysalis and over the ground. The changeling hissed in her face, the red fin atop its head flaring in rage. Twilight reacted by casting a spell, but all that happened was a bright flash of red light.

"How dare you," it hissed. " How dare you hurt my..."

Twilight was freed from the weight pinning her down when another changeling tackled the one on top of her. Getting up, Twilight saw her attacker get dragged off by a perfect copy of itself, what spell did she cast? But Twilight looked in time to see Chrysalis stand on three legs and transform into a blue unicorn mare, who was then swallowed up by a mob of fleeing ponies.

" NO!" She yelled, moving to pursue.

But then the reason for the panicking ponies became apparent as a huge cracking sound rent the air. Twilight looked up, her eyes bugging in terror as the shield around Canterlot shattered like glass, raining down in purple shards. Chrysalis's Changelings swooped down in great hordes, several shrouded in green flames that made them impact the ground like meteors.

Twilight had planned to eliminate Chrysalis before they broke through, but it would seem things didn't go the way she had hoped. She gasped when more than a few came right at her, green energy engulfing their forms. She instinctively threw up her purple force field, gritting her teeth as they impacted her on all sides.

Her shield started wavering almost instantly, cracking under the relentless assault. She peeked one eye open, her vision blurred by the sweat pouring down her face, but she still saw her situation was not good. Quickly, she started pondering her options.

'MUL QAH DIIV'

Her shield shattered, the charging Changelings making contact with a huge explosion, and when the dust cleared, Twilight was gone.

---

"How could she just leave us here like this?" Rarity whined, her mascara still streaking her cheeks. "Is she mad at us for choosing the fake Cadance over her?"

"I don't think so, Rares," said Applejack, looking at her fashionista friend. "She sounded sincere when she told us she wasn't mad."

"But how can she believe she can take on those...things without us?" Rainbow Dash asked, having given up trying to escape the goo gluing her to the floor. " We could have helped her."

"Did you see what she did?" Spike asked, looking out the huge hole Twilight had left out of not a minute ago. "She just tore apart this whole place by just shouting."

"What even was that?" Pinkie asked, also admiring the devastation. "I've never seen her do anything like that before."

"And what was up with her cutie mark?" Fluttershy asked, shivering as she remembered the eye adorning Twilight’s flank.

" This is my fault."

Everypony and dragon looked to Princess Celestia, who had remained silent till now.

"How could I not have noticed that I was hiding from my own responsibilities?" she whispered.

"Come now, Princess," said Applejack. " I am sure Twilight did no..."

" No Applejack, she was right," said the alabaster Alicorn that towered above all before her. "I was blind to my own shortcomings."

" Come on, don't say that," said Fluttershy reassuringly.

" But it is true, Fluttershy," said Celestia. "All this time, I believed what I was doing what was for the good of my pupil and Equestria. I did not even realize that I had been hiding from my own consciousness, till she said it out loud."

"What do you mean? " Pinkie asked. "What did Twilight mean by weighed down by guilt?"

"Part of what I just mentioned," replied Celestia. " After what I had to do to my sister, the guilt I felt was crippling. And all this time, I never noticed it has been holding me back."

"Well, now is as good a time as any to quash it," said Rainbow Dash, conviction in her eyes.

" Ya," said Applejack. "Twilight left us like this to keep us out of danger, but she needs us, right now."

"But how...?"

Pinkie Pie was interrupted by a giant flash of blue light, Princess Luna appearing in the center of the room. She took in the devastation with a shocked glance, the wind coming in through the blown out wall ruffling her already waving mane. Then she turned around to behold the bound group.

"Sister?" she gasped, coming closer. "What has happened here?"

"Luna?" Celestia gasped. " Not that I'm not relieved to see you, but why are you awake? "

'YOL TOOR SHUL '

" That is why," replied Luna, pointing out to the sound that had echoed through Canterlot. "It or something similar echoed through the castle not long ago."

"You have been awake since then?" Celestia asked. " What took you so long to get here?"

" I was trying to assemble the guard," explained Luna, slight annoyance in her voice. "But I have been unable to find anypony from either of our guard."

---

Deep in Canterlot Castles impressive wine cellar, Twinkleshine, Minuet, and Lyra raced through the collection of barrels like a maze, laughing as each one was chased by a mob of guards.

" We got you now," said one guard part of the group chasing Minuet, spotting a dead end a head.

But he was wrong, for up a head Lyra and Twinkleshine ran passed them from the right, Minuet turning to join them, her mob crashing into the other two groups with a painful crunch.

---

"Changelings, here?" Luna gasped after hearing the story from her sister. "And young Twilight has engaged the queen?"

"Yes," said Celestia, the others knodding.

"And what of the bride and groom?" Luna asked, looking to the sleeping Cadance and unmoving Shining Armour.

" I don't know what has befell Cadance, but the Changeling Queen has drained Shining Armour of most of his love," explained Celestia.

" Then we must wake Cadance, " said Luna, walking up to the slumbering Princess and lifting her head into her forelegs. "Only she can replenish what has been stolen."

She placed her horn to Cadance's, her horn alight, till she drew back with a frightened gasp.

" What is it, sister?" Celestia asked, surprised at her sisters reaction. " Is it the Changeling Queens doing.?"

"No... no way," gasped Luna, looking down at Cadance in her grasp. "I have never seen a sleep like this, she is not even dreaming. "

All in the room gasped.

" What could do something like that?" Fluttershy asked, shivering.

" I do not know, " replied Luna, " I have never seen this before."

" Can you wake her?" Celestia asked eagerly.

" I will try," said Luna.

She placed her horn to Cadance's again, blue magic arced through it. Luna grit her teeth, her horn pulsating with her strained task. Then her horn let out a zap, separating her from Cadance.

" Are you ok, sister?" Celestia asked, concerned.

"Ugh," Cadance moaned, lifting her head up.

Then she gasped and stood up.

"Were am I?" She asked in a panic, spotting her fiancée across the room. "Shining Armour!"

She spread her wings and raced to him, embracing his neck.

" She did this to you," she sobbed, looking into his eyes as her horn releasing her trademark heart. "Come back to me, my love."

He blinked once, his eyes focusing.

"Ugh," moaned Shining Armour, looking to his bride who held him. "Is the wedding over?"

" We will explain while you release us," said Celestia, Cadance and Shining Armour gasping when they saw the state of the others, racing over to try breaking them loose, along with Princess Luna.

---

Twilight crashed through the roof of a house in Canterlot, into someone's bedroom, on her back on the floor. She sat up, looking herself over. She was covered completely in blue transparent scales, her shadow showing transparent orange horns above her head.

"I'm okay," said Twilight, relieved to find no wounds on her body.

Then her resolve surfaced again. Chrysalis had escaped her, but she will not rest till she found her. She was going to pay for what she had done.

"I will not let her escape," said Twilight sternly. "She will..."

Twilight turned to her left when what she was seeing out of the corner of her eye registered in her mind. In the room with her was a bat pegasus stallion, the people favoured by Princess Luna for her guard because of their ferocious appearance...had this one not been sitting at a makeup vanity, wearing a red dress, a blond wig, and had been applying red lipstick.

"Ugh," he stammered in a deep voice, blushing under his blush. "I can explain."

12 Hostages

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Chrysalis lay on her side in one of the back alleys of Canterlot, keeping her injured leg off the ground as best she could. The wound seeped green changeling blood, the ice spike that made it lay not far away, also covered in her blood. One would think pulling it out would cause massive hemorrhaging, but changelings, especially the queen, had ways to patch such wounds.

Unfortunately, it required the feeding of a massive amount of love, which Chrysalis was currently draining from the three of her own changelings that she held in her magic. With the invasion still in progress, Chrysalis had no access to pony victims yet, so was resorting to draining what she could from the small group of expendable minions that she had been able to bring to her makeshift hiding place. It meant weakening her forces, but she was not about to risk facing Twilight in her current condition, not after seeing what she could do.

"Next," she commanded after the last wisp of pink energy flowed into her mouth from her soldiers, the wounds on her face and leg slowly closing.

The next group walked hesitantly forward, watching as the previous three staggered away. But they dare not defy their Queen. Chrysalis seized them in her magic, pink energy flowing into her mouth. Her wounds were mending, but she was very vulnerable here.

She delved into the hivemind.

---

"Pharynx."

"My Queen, are you alright?" Pharynx asked worriedly.

"I have escaped harm, for now," replied Chrysalis, "What of Twilight Sparkle?"

"She is no longer a threat, your majesty," explained Pharynx happily. "After I got her off of you some of our warriors overpowered and destroyed her."

"You saw her corpse?" Chrysalis asked, suspicion in her voice.

"It was a huge explosion," explained Pharynx, "Nothing is left."

"I do not believe she is dead," said Chrysalis, fear tinging her voice.

"But my Queen, no mere pony could..."

"Twilight is not a normal unicorn anymore," said Chrysalis, "Something has changed. "

"If she is alive what should we do? Pharynx asked, his own voice worried.

"It would be unwise to confront her," said Chrysalis, her mind hatching a scheme. "At least not without some leverage."

"Leverage?"

"Come to my side with all haste, Pharynx, " said Chrysalis quickly. "And send some guards to..."

---

Twilight stood backed against a wall in the Canterlot marketplace, several changelings surrounding her at all sides. They hissed threateningly, approaching her slowly with their fangs bared. It would be concerning for Twilight, being so outnumbered.

However, she had a solution.

---

"So these are Seekers?" Asked Twilight, pointing to the creature before her that looked like the thing that had gave Twilight the hint about the book during her first day in Apocrypha.

"Yes," replied Hermaeus Mora from one of his portals. "They are my cartographers, it is their duty to organize and maintain my library.

"And the Lurkers?" Twilight inquired, shivering at the huge mass of muscle before her.

"My guardians, " explained Hermaeus Mora, "It is their responsibility to protect my library from invaders. "

Twilight looked at the massive arena which was populated by at least a dozen of these creatures.

She was here to test what would be the best strategy for a situation where she was facing multiple foes.

---

'FAAS RU MAAR'

All the Changelings before Twilight were swept over by a luminous red mist, their eyes glistening with the same color. They blinked once. Then took to the air, screaming in terror as they scattered.

Twilight immediately resumed her search for her foe, Queen Chrysalis, running down the road with all her might. She needed to take Chrysalis down, but she had no desire to harm her minions. They had served Queen Chrysalis their entire lives and knew no other way but hers. And Twilight had a feeling that once she was no longer around, they might consider a new understanding of life.

"Oh horseapples," whispered Twilight, diving between two buildings, looking out to the outside street.

A group of changelings even bigger than before was swarming the area. Twilight had seen this all over, changelings spreading, chasing and binding the population in green ropes of changeling goo. She wanted to help, but she knew that the sooner she took out Chrysalis, the sooner this would be over.

Suddenly, she heard a rustling noise from behind her.

She turned around to see a lone changeling emerging from the shadows of the alley she was hiding in. She stiffened up and let out a challenging huff. She stared at it, it stared back.

"You won't stop me," whispered Twilight, glaring at the changeling before her. "Chrysalis must pay for what she has done. "

To Twilight's surprise, the changeling looked down with a sad sigh, a single tear rolling down its face.

"I know, " it whimpered in a soft male voice.

Before Twilight could react, the changeling morphed into her visage, then sped past her down the street.

"It's her," said one of the other changelings. "The one who attacked our Queen."

Twilight watched as the changeling led its own brethren away from her. Why had it done that? It was no secret that she was bent on destroying their Queen.

---

Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo, the renowned Cutie Mark Crusaders, had hidden under a random bed in a random room when they had fled the wedding. They had never been so scared in their life when that monster emerged, its grotesque eyes and scary appearance burnt into their minds. Now they did not know what to do.

"Stay calm, girls, " whispered Scootaloo, "Everything's going to be okay. "

"How do you know that?" Sweetie Belle shot back, shaking with fear. "You saw that thing."

"Scootaloo is right, Sweetie," said Apple Bloom, her face slightly less panicked than Sweetie's. "Our sisters have fought monsters before, they can beat this one too."

They heard the door to the bedroom suddenly open.

"Something is coming," Sweetie whispered in terror.

"Stay calm," repeated Scootaloo.

"No noises," whispered Apple Bloom.

"Is anypony in here?" A deep masculine voice asked. "This is the royal guard, we have come to evacuate everypony from the castle until the crisis is over. "

"Oh, thank goodness," said Sweetie Belle, rushing out from under the bed, followed by her two friends.

"Follow me," said the lone pegasus guard that awaited them.

They took off down the hall, the girls' formal dresses billowing behind them. They ran through the palace halls, but the girls never saw any other groups being led to safety. In fact, they saw no other ponies at all, the castle was deserted.

"Where is everypony?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"We've already evacuated the castle, I was just doing a final sweep when I found you," answered the guard.

"Stop worrying, Sweetie," said Scootaloo. "We're safe now."

Their eyes widened when they entered the next room. It was a large room with a window at the end, but no other way out but where they came in. But what really drew their attention was that the room had at least half a dozen black, pony shaped creatures similar to what they had seen at the wedding.

A flash of green lit up the room behind them, and the girls turned to see that the guard had transformed into another one of those monsters.

---

"HELP!"

Twilight spun around, looking to the distant castle. From her vantage point she saw a party of changelings about seven strong smash out of one of the castle windows, three of them carrying tiny thrashing figures. They dropped down, flying low between the buildings and Twilight teleported to the roof of the tallest nearby structure to get better look.

She has only heard it faintly, but she recognized the voices calling out for help. And sure enough, she soon made out that it was the CMC struggling in the changelings' clutches, kicking and screaming against the grasp of their captors. With a ferocious snarl, Twilight began galloping after them, teleporting from roof to roof as she ran.

"I don't think so, Chrysalis, " snapped Twilight, guessing what the changeling queen was planning. "I won't be subdued by dirty, underhoof tricks."

To her dismay, the changelings that held the CMC captive disappeared into the alleyways behind the Canterlot buildings before she could get close enough to see which direction they were going. She tried to listen for the fillies' screams again, but the chase had brought her closer to the rampaging changeling swarm again, and she couldn't hear anything through all the noise. But she was not defeated, she had other ways of finding out which way they went.

Focusing on a set of words, Twilight open her mouth: 'LAAS YAH NIR'

Instantly, Twilight's vision filled with glowing red clouds in the shape of ponies. Below she could see the changeling army rampaging through Canterlot, those inside buildings showing on the outside of the wall. Looking down the alley she had lost track of the CMC in, Twilight was relieved to see very few things were visible, most too small to be ponies or changelings.

"There they are," she whispered, spotting a shifting mass of red about a block or two down the alleyways.

Lighting up her horn, Twilight cast a teleport and was relieved to find herself in the path of the fillynapping changelings.

"This as far as you go," said Twilight, stomping her hoof for emphasis. "Let the foals go free."

"TWILIGHT, HELP US...PLE..."

Sweetie Belle's plea for help was cut short when she and her friends were seized by green changeling magic, and lifted into the air. Unable to even move a muscle, the three innocent fillies were pushed before the group of changelings and left to hover between them and Twilight. Her stomach twisted once she realized they were being used as shields.

"Our Queen has a proposition for you, pony," said the changeling who was holding the fillies in his magic. "Surrender, and give yourself up, or these three die."

Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and, Scootaloo's eyes all widened in terror at what was just said, filling with fearful tears.

Twilight glared at them with a face of barely restrained rage, itching to show this jerk why it was a huge mistake to threaten foals in front of her. But one look into the CMC's eyes made her reel in her anger. They were right in the line of fire if she used anything at the moment.

They were so young, they deserved better than this. Images of Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash appeared in her mind's eye and she knew she would never forgive herself if she let anything happen to the little fillies that her friends loved so much. She could not risk their lives.

But if she gave up now, what would become of Equestria. If Chrysalis had the gall to threaten foals like this, what would she do if Twilight did surrender? She was a greedy, egotistical tyrant and she would probably drain every drop of love from even the foals of Equestria if she claimed victory.

Twilight was the only hope for Equestria now.

But she could not endanger the lives of these three, she had grown close to them too. They looked up to her, she could never let them come to harm. She needed a plan.

If only they were not between her and the changelings, then she could use her shout. Maybe if she teleported somewhere for an angle she could use and not harm the fillies. Going over them was to dangerous, the shout could hurt them...

But what if it couldn't. What if the CMC were unable to be harmed. A plan formed in her mind as she jumbled the words in her head.

"Girls," said Twilight, her eyes fixated on the three fillies before her." Do you trust me? "

They were quivering in terror, but nodded yes.

"Very well," said Twilight, looking to the changelings in front of her. "I surrender. "

"Good, " hissed the lead changeling. "Now just...."

'FEIM ZII HII'

The shout raced from Twilight's mouth, engulfing the fillies in a blue cloud of light.

"KILL THEM!" shouted the changeling.

The group moved to pounce on the fillies hovering in the air, but much to their surprise, they passed through them like they weren't there at all. They impacted the ground with a crunch, the changeling that held the young trio lost his grip on them, letting them fall to the ground, miraculously unharmed. All seven looked up at Twilight before them, horrified at how vulnerable they were now.

Twilight still did not want to hurt the drones, but these seven had just threatened her friends sister's.

'FRO KRAH DIIN'

The shout raced over the seven changelings in a dark blue mist, encasing them in ice. They then flew backwards, over the startled CMC, whose bodies were now transparent. When they hit the far wall, they all shattered like brittle glass, chunks of red debris tinted with green flying all over the ally.

Twilight looked on with conflicting feelings. She had just ended seven lives in less than a blink. Yet she felt nothing.

All she could focus on right there was the fact that the CMC were safe now, and that was all her heart would focus on. The three fillies had their eyes glued to the horrible scene before them, never noticing their bodies return to normal. Twilight wished they had not had to see that, but at least they were not hurt.

"You need to leave," Twilight said, gaining the stunned fillies' attention. "Find a place out of sight and remain there, and do not come out for anyone. Got it?"

Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo just nodded, running down the ally in a direction that didn't have the sound of destruction coming from it. Twilight watched them with her still active Detect Life, and sighed with relief when she saw them take shelter under something and remain still. Then she got an idea, she could use this to track down Chrysalis.

---

The next trio of changelings dropped from Chrysalis's magic, barely conscious. But her wounds were fully recovered, and that was all that mattered now. But she still needed leverage if she were to take down Twilight, that she knew for certain.

"My Queen." Chrysalis turned to see Pharynx fly up to her.

"Pharynx, " said Chrysalis, "Finally, you've arrived, have your scouts procured the hostages? "

Pharynx looked down, unable to meet her gaze.

"What is it?" Chrysalis asked impatiently.

"They've failed, my Queen, " said Pharynx nervously. "Twilight Sparkle liberated the hostages before they could be delivered to you."

Chrysalis just stared at that. How had Twilight even intercepted so fast? Changeling warriors were masters of stealth.

She must have tracked them somehow, and if she could do that, how long until she was discovered? She needed a plan, fleeing was not an option. She had come too far to back down now.

She looked at Pharynx, and the changelings she had been feeding on.

She may not have hostages, but she still might be able to use Twilight's heart against her.

13 Lure

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"Rainbow Dash, would you stop that already?" Applejack scolded the pegasus that was pounding on the door that was currently held shut by a blue aura.

Shortly after Shining Armour, Princess Luna, and Cadance released their restrained comrades, Chrysalis's army had broken down Shining's shield and stormed the city. Thinking fast, Luna had shut the doors to the room and held them closed with her magic, telling Cadance to throw up a magic barrier over the wall Twilight had blown out with her strange new power. Luna wasn't one to back down from a challenge, but against such odds it was common sense to have a plan.

"We can't stay hunkered down in here forever, Applejack," Rainbow yelled, fluttering over to her earth pony friend. "Twilight is out there, probably fighting these bugs all on her own. We've gotta help her!"

"I want to help her too. We all do," said the quiet voice of Fluttershy as she approached. "But the Princesses are right, we can't rush in. We need a plan"

"How is that whole planning thingy going, by the way?" Pinkie asked Princess Celestia. "I'm getting super worried about Twilight."

The plan so far was for Princess Celestia to summon the Elements of Harmony directly to their location from their place in the vault. But doing so from a distance had never been attempted before, and she was having trouble bypassing her protection spell that surrounded the vault. It was like reaching out to pick up a cinder block with a plastic straw

"All of my attempts so far have been unsuccessful," answered Celestia, standing in the middle of the room, her horn pulsating with her gold magic, while Luna and Cadance did their best to keep out enemies.

"Be careful, your majesty," said Rarity, as she was folding up everypony's wedding attire and lying them neatly in the corner of the room. "You don't look fully recovered from what that beastly queen did to you."

'Something that was entirely my own fault, ' thought Celestia bitterly, her charred horn still aching as she channeled her magic. 'How could I not have noticed that I was hiding from my own responsibilities? How could I hold back? I must make this right, I must get to Twilight and fight by her side.'

“I still have no idea why we are even doing this," said Rainbow Dash, huffing and folding her legs across her chest. "The Elements of Harmony won't work without Twilight, and she made it clear she does not intend to use them with us."

"Hopefully she will see reason when she hears my plan for what we will do after using them," said Celestia, her eyes taking a steely look.

"Aren't we just going to rainbowy blast that horrible bug lady into stone?" asked Pinkie Pie, waving her hooves for emphasis.

"That will be the first step," explained Celestia, "After that, I will blast her into rubble."

"WHAT!?" shouted Pinkie and Rarity, almost in unison, disbelief clear on their faces. Fluttershy didn't speak up, but she looked equally shocked by the prospect

"We already agreed to this before, y'all, " said Applejack, approaching the three of them. "That creature is a danger to everyone we love, and the only surefire way to keep them safe is to make it so she can never harm anypony again."

"I realize that, darling," said Rarity sadly. "I just never thought I would hear it from the Princess. "

"It just feels wrong," bemoaned Fluttershy, tears brimming in her eyes.

"It is what must be done," said Celestia, "Twilight was right, as Princess, I must do what is necessary for the sake of Equestria."

"I just hope we get there in time," said Spike, looking to the blown out back wall. "Who knows what Twilight and that monster are throwing at each other."

---

Shining Armour stood next to Cadance as she held up her barrier over the huge hole, straining to light his horn.

"Please stop, Shiny," said Cadance, her own horn shrouded in blue. "You're still too weak."

"I have to do something," said Shining, looking out at Canterlot, snarling as he watched changelings run rampant through the capital. "It's my duty as captain of the royal guard to defend Canterlot. And besides, my little sister is out there."

"I know dear, I am worried about her as well," said Cadance, looking over the wall she was covering in her shield. "But I never would have thought that she could have done something like this."

"I still don't know what to think," said Shining Armour, also bringing his attention to the devastation. "And according to the Princess and Twilight's friends, it was a type of magic they've never seen before."

"Where would magic even the Princess has never seen even come from?" Cadance asked worriedly.

Shining did not know, just like he did not know what would drive his innocent little sister to commit to taking another person's life, like he had been told.

---

Everypony present jumped when a loud pounding echoed from the doors luna held shut.

"Applejack," said a small voice with a southern twang similar to Applejack's sounded from the other side. "Are you in there?"

"Apple Bloom?" said Applejack worriedly.

"Wait," said Luna, glaring at the door and increasing her magic hold on it. "This could very well be a trick."

"RARITY! " shouted a scared little voice. "Please, you have to let us in."

"Sweetie Belle? " said Rarity frantically, running up to approach the door, only for Princess Celestia to intercept her.

"Don't, " she said cooly.

"Rainbow Dash," yelled a curt, tomboyish voice from the other side of the door. " You have to help us, there are monsters everywhere. "

"Don't worry kid, " said Rainbow Dash, "I'm coming."

"Stop," said Shining Armour, approaching the group behind his fiance. "This could very easily be a trap."

"Those are our little sisters out there," said Applejack, getting up in Shining's face. "We can't just leave them out there."

"Yes, what would you do if it was Twilight out there?" Rarity asked sternly, Rainbow fluttering up and fixing Shining Armor with a glare.

Shining had to admit, they were right. If it had been his little sister he would do anything to ensure her safety. But with all the Princesses in one room he just couldn't risk it, even for innocent young foals like the little sisters of Twilight's friends.

"We can't risk them being changelings in disguise," he said simply, much pain in his voice.

"Ooh I know," said Pinkie Pie energetically, bouncing towards the doors. " Let ask them something only the real Cutie Mark Crusaders would know."

"Pinkie wait," squeaked Fluttershy, but Pinkie had already arrived at the doors.

"You there girls? " she called, putting her ear to the crack between the two doors

"Pinkie Pie? " asked three little voices. "Let us in, plea..."

"What did you do for the Ponyville talent show?" asked Pinkie Pie, slightly serious. " And what award did you win?"

"Pinkie please, " said the voice of Apple Bloom. "This is no time..."

"Just answer, sugar cube," said Applejack reassuringly. "It'll be alright."

There was a slight pause.

"We did a song," said Apple Bloom.

"While wearing spooky outfits," continued Sweetie Belle.

"And we won the award for best comedy act," finished Scootaloo.

Rainbow Dash, Rarity , and Applejack sported relieved smiles.

"That's them alright," said Applejack, walking up to a smiling Pinkie Pie.

"Yeah, that is exactly what happened," agreed Rainbow, also approaching.

"I concur," said Rarity. "Now if you would please open the door, your majesty."

Luna still looked unsure, but she reluctantly obliged. With a flash of her horn, she let the three eager mares open the two large doors, who opened it immediately, three small very familiar fillies pouring into the room. She shut it with a snap and reasserted her hold, the three little ones quickly embraced by their older sibling's.

"You okay?" asked Applejack.

"We're fine," said Apple Bloom, her eyes flashing green. "Just fine."

Everypony gasped as the three fillies turned into changelings right before their eyes. Before they could react, the red frilled one who had been Apple Bloom struck Princess Cadance with a green blast from his horn, her spell over the hole faltering, just in time for a massive swarm of changelings to flood through the room, leaving nopony any time to react.

---

Twilight hid under the wall that fenced in the roof of the building she was on top of, taking small peeks over. She had finally located the image in her detect life spell that matched Chrysalis' lanky figure. Said Changeling queen was below in the alley, surprisingly alone. Twilight was so sure she would have called somepony to her side after she escaped the first time.

She had fully recovered from her wounds, much to Twilight's surprise, and that could be reinvigorating her pride that Twilight had punctured when she made her first move on Chrysalis that day. And if so, she was making a deadly mistake right now.

Taking a deep breath, Twilight readied herself for what was about to happen. She had a plan, but she hoped to pull it off before Chrysalis could involve her minions. Twilight was not going to delude herself into believing she could win if she was outnumbered, only an egotistical fool would believe that.

Looking over the edge, Twilight took in Chrysalis' position. She was laying low in one of the corners of her alley, obviously trying to stay hidden. The first step would be to try and force her out into the open, which would be easy enough, though deep down, Twilight wished she could do this another way.

But one look to the rampaging changeling swarms reminded her as to what this creature had wrought.

With a thought, Twilight cast two wall of storm spells, then seized them in her Equestrian magic, making them float before her as orbs of pulsating electricity. She was planning on flushing Chrysalis out with these, but she couldn't just launch them randomly. Chrysalis needed to be unaware of where they were originating from.

Looking over the wall and levitating the two electronic orbs down to different ends of the ally, Twilight set her plan in motion.

With a scowl, Twilight deployed the first wall of storm spell. She heard Chrysalis give a startled hiss as the path to her right erupted into a flashing wall of lightning. She hissed at it threateningly, lifting off with a buzz of her wings and taking off in the opposite direction. Right toward Twilight's other wall of storm spell.

Chrysalis hissed again as her path was blocked by more lightning.

While her target was still occupied, Twilight summoned another small white vial and downed its contents in one gulp. Her body became transparent as the magic of the potion took effect. Now all she needed was for Chrysalis to take the path she had laid out.

Unsurprisingly, she did. With both ends of the alley blocked with pulsating electricity, Chrysalis took flight and head for the sky. Right towards Twilight's location.

Positioning herself just right, Twilight leaped forward of the roof, grabbing Chrysalis around the neck from behind.

Chrysalis tried to shake free, but her jaw dropped when Twilight appeared in a flash of white light, gripping her from behind. It was time to end this. The chaos of this invasion was going to stop.

Gritting her teeth, Twilight's horn flashed a deep purple, and both she and her enemy vanished.

---

Twilight and Chrysalis reappeared in the crystal cavern beneath Canterlot, Twilight kicking her in the small of her back and sending her sprawling forward. She struggled to stand up, facing Twilight as she lit her horn in her sickly green magic. Twilight stared at her, bracing her legs into a defensive stance.

"What have you done? " Chrysalis hissed.

"Brought us somewhere with no crowds," said Twilight, her horn alight now as well. "And is it not ironic that it's the same place you imprisoned me and Cadance."

Chrysalis gave a vicious snarl and fired a green beam from her repulsively crooked horn. Twilight retaliated with a purple beam of her own, both attacks collided with a bang that shook the cavern. An orb of both green and purple formed between them, growing in size as both combatants increased their efforts.

Twilight’s time in Apocrypha had increased her own magic fortitude as well as granting her access to spells never before seen in Equestria, so she was able to match Chrysalis in raw strength, despite the power boost the changeling had gained from all that stolen love. However, it was going to take more than that to win this, especially since they had reached a stalemate. This situation was taking a turn she had not anticipated.

The orb of magic between their attacks was growing, cracks spreading across the crystal floor. If this kept up, the tunnel might collapse, and not only would that be disastrous for both Twilight and Chrysalis, but what about Canterlot? If the caverns beneath the city caved in, it could be devastating.

Changing her strategy, Twilight’s spell shifted from a purple beam to a constant spray of gelatinous black fluid, splashing everywhere as Chrysalis's beam scattered it all over the room. There was a small shriek that was soon silenced, Twilight seeing Chrysalis's beam disappear from their standoff.

Ending her spell as well, her horn dripping slightly as it ejected the last of the substance.

Chrysalis was lying prone on the floor, black tendrils that originated from black puddles wrapping around her, pinning her to the ground on her belly. Twilight was not about to hesitate even for a moment. This was her chance to end this threat once and for all.

Steeling herself, a pain in her heart, Twilight's horn flashed a blue light, a large curved sword made of transparent blue flames appeared before her. Not fast, but not slow, Twilight approached her downed opponent.

"It will be quick," said Twilight as much to herself as to anybody else.

"TWILIGHT."

"Please stop, my student."

Twilight turned just in time to see her friends and Princess Celestia come running up to her. She had not noticed them, too focused on defeating Chrysalis.

"What are you doing here? " Asked Twilight, not taking a step away from her prey.

"We came to help, darling," said Rarity, eyeing at the sword Twilight held with fear.

"Yeah, we couldn't let you do this alone. What kind of friends would that make us?" said Pinkie Pie.

"Please, Twilight, " said Princess Celestia, still looking horrified, "She is beaten, let us take her into custody. "

Twilight looked to the bound Chrysalis who was snarling up at her.

"No," said Twilight sternly. "If she is not eliminated, she will always..."

Twilight was interrupted when Chrysalis suddenly ripped her head from the dark tendrils and shot a green blast from her horn. It struck the crystal roof of the cave, her heart stopping as debris fell over her friends and teacher. She needed to take action, fast.

Teleporting, her transparent sword vanishing, Twilight appeared among her cowering friends, who were screaming and holding each other. Thinking fast, Twilight seized all the falling rocks in her magic, for Chrysalis had only blasted the ceiling hard enough to knock a few rocks loose, rather than cause a cave in. With the same spell she used to repair the dam during the Mare-do-well incident, she put the cave back together, saving her friends from being crushed.

Then multiple green flashes filled the cave.

Twilight was tackled to the ground by multiple changelings, who bound her mouth shut with their green glop before she could react. She tried to cast a spell, but her horn was then covered in a green substance, halting her ability to use magic. Next they bound her forehooves in the icky slime, immobilizing her.

Chrysalis shook from her bindings as Twilight became too preoccupied to maintain them, smiling at how well everything had worked.

---

"Remember," Chrysalis told the seven changelings disguised as parasprites hiding in her mane." When she shows up, wait for an opportunity to distract her with the visage of her loved ones, then when the moment is right, immobilize her as swiftly as possible. "

---

Chrysalis looked down on her tormentor, bound and gagged, but she was still fighting, her eyes lit up with rage and irritation as she kicked her hind legs frantically to escape her current position. Chrysalis was going to enjoying getting payback for all of the pain this foolish little unicorn had caused her today and from what Pharynx told her through the hivemind, the second part was complete too. Things just kept getting better and better.

With an impressive flash of green magic, Twilight, Chrysalis, and the changelings holding the unicorn down vanished.

14 No more

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Twilight winced as she was thrown to the ground by Queen Chrysalis, searing pain coursing through her chest as a few of her ribs cracked. Moaning in pain through a gag, Twilight lifted her head to take in her surroundings, finding that she had been brought to the edge of one of the huge bowl shaped structures that made up the base of Canterlot. All of Equestria was visible below in the afternoon sun.

"TWILIGHT!"

Turn over onto her back, Twilight saw that all her friends and her mentor had all been brought here too, their legs bound to the ground by changeling goo.

"Let her go!" said Rainbow Dash, her wings buzzing.

"Yeah, you brutes, " said Rarity, " Don't you dare harm her."

"SILENCE!" shouted Queen Chrysalis, her horn pulsating with her green magic.

Twilight could only watch as Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Cadance, Shining Armour, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Spike's mouths were sealed shut with more changeling goo, silencing them. Shining, AJ, Rainbow all struggled with their bindings, while Spike and Fluttershy both shook with fear, tears streaming from Fluttershy's terrified eyes.

"My Queen."

Twilight turned her attention to the voice that spoke up, and saw that it was the red frilled changeling that had tackled her before. Her eyes grew wide as she saw that he was accompanied by legions and legions of channeling soldiers, surrounding and spreading across the area in the hundreds. For the first time since her return to Equestria, Twilight felt true fear.

"Ah, Pharynx, " said Chrysalis, flying over to her best warrior. "How goes the siege?"

"We have swept the city," replied Pharynx, "It is unlikely that any civilians have evaded capture."

"Excellent," said Chrysalis, looking to her minions. "Are all my changelings present?"

"Affirmative, my Queen," replied Pharynx, "They are by your side, now that the city's defenses have fallen, just as you ordered."

"Perfect," hissed Chrysalis with malice. She approached the incapacitated ponies, the purple unicorn that had caused her the most grief lying a few feet ahead, still struggling with the binds that held her. "I want all of my subjects to savor this revenge just as much as I will."

Twilight watched as Chrysalis gestured to her, two changelings buzzing over and grabbing her by her shoulders and lifting her up. She squirmed and kicked, but her bindings were still too strong. Eventually she was brought before the Changeling Queen, who sneered down at her with smug victory.

"You're about to learn what happens to those who cross me."

She turned around and approached the ponies that Twilight cared for most in this world.

"You will watch," Chrysalis continued, ripping the terrified Fluttershy from the binding goo and pulling the pegasus towards herself, relishing in the resulting sobs of fear. "As I drain the love from each of your friends, starting with this yellow one."

Twilight could only stare as Fluttershy was dragged closer to the horror before her, her teal eyes streaming tears of fear as she shivered. Twilight’s heart became overcome with fear, dread, and worry. Tears fell from her own eyes as she took in Fluttershy's terrified expression.

She could not let this happen, she had to stop this. The love she held for her friends screamed at her to save Fluttershy, save all of them. It could not end like this, she had come so far, done to much, only to watch helplessly as her friends and family suffered.

But even if she could get free, Chrysalis's army was right here.

Something inside Twilight snapped at that moment. If it was going to come down to Chrysalis's minions or her friends, then she would pick her friends in a heartbeat. She had tried to end it with only Chrysalis being a casualty, but all those she loved were here and in danger. So she was going to do what she had to.

She needed to get free first.

Looking forward, Twilight saw that Spike was the one closest to her, his scaly feet glued to the concrete. A plan formed in her mind, a plan that made her shake with fear, but she was going to do it, for her friends, for Equestria, and for everypony she loved.

Chrysalis jumped, dropping Fluttershy to the ground as a horrible shriek of pain tore through the air. Quickly restraining the trembling pegasus to the ground, she turned to see what was the cause. And what she saw made her almost vomit.

Green changeling blood showered the ground as Twilight ripped her horn from the eye socket of the changeling holding her on the right, the pupiless orb flying through the air, its stringy optic nerve wiggling as it slid to a halt on the ground. The other changeling released his hold on Twilight as well, the shriek of his comrade stunning him. All present, pony, dragon, and changeling alike watched in open mouth horror at what Twilight had just done.

After hitting the ground, Twilight rolled herself over multiple times, wiggling to keep herself moving. Soon she lay before Spike, her little baby dragon flashing her a stunned look. Her hind legs facing him as she lay on her back, Twilight took a deep breath and lifted her left hind leg.

'I am sorry Spike,' thought Twilight as she thrusted her leg out.

She kicked him in the stomach as hard as she could, time slowing for her as she watched dragon fire burn past the goo that held his lips shut, approaching her slowly.

Her world erupted in pain.

They all watched, abhorred as the purple unicorn was set ablaze. Chrysalis couldn't even understand what was happening, having never expected this kind of thing from ponies. Twilight’s companions could only watch in horror as she wriggled on the ground, flames engulfing her entire being.

"TWILIGHT!" screamed Spike hysterically now that his mouth was free. "What are you doing!?"

Then Twilight vanished in her signature flash of purple light, her bindings left behind, bubbling in flames.

She reappeared only a few feet away, revealing the damage she had caused to herself to get free. Her mane and tail were completely burned away, her dock limp behind her. Only trace patches of her coat remained, the rest of her body covered with blistering red flesh. Her face was a horror to behold, with the left side her mouth burned off, exposing her teeth and gums, and her right eye socket exposed, her eyelids gone.

Tears fell from Celestia's eyes at seeing her faithful student mutilated so horribly, barely recognizing her now. Her friends, plus her brother all looked on in terror as a pony they cared for deeply stood before them, wounded and shaking in obvious agony. Spike was too horrified to even speak now.

Chrysalis was just as much repulsed.

But they all jumped when a gold star of light formed at the tip of her horn. It tinkled and glistened, its light washing over Twilight. Then they all gasped(even through their gags) as Twilight was restored to her pristine lavender form. When the light vanished, Twilight stood before them undamaged.

"No more," she whispered, then levitated herself in her telekinetic spell, shouting to the sky as loud as she could. "NO MORE!"

"STOP HER!" shouted Chrysalis, shaking herself to focus.

Several of her minions moved to carry out her orders, but not before Twilight shouted, 'STRUN BAH QO'

But nothing happened.

Chrysalis sneered as her minions closed in on Twilight, who had lowered herself back to the ground. She assumed whatever Twilight had been trying to do had failed. All that was left was for her to be taken prisoner again, and this would really be over.

She did not notice the raging storm that was spiraling into existence above her.

There was a small pause in time, then the dozen or so changelings about to pile on Twilight opened their mouths in shock, for a fork of lightning had struck through each of their chests, arcing from one to another. And Chrysalis could only watch as they all dissolved into sparkling motes of dust, which were soon swept away in a building wind. Then she brought her view up, seeing the sky turn cloudy and violent, rain pouring down, drenching them all.

"What is this? " Chrysalis snapped, looking at Twilight who only fixed her with a glare. "What have you done?"

A flash of lightning to her left caught her attention, and she looked to see utter chaos unfolding.

Streaks of lightning were descending from the sky, striking at least a dozen of her minions with each hit. They tried to scatter, but could only stare ahead open mouth as lightning passed through them, their very bodies dissolving before their eyes. She could tell that already more than a quarter of her forces had fallen to this.

She heard thunder, and looked up just in time to see a fork of lightning striking towards her.

Twilight's friends could only watch this happen from were they stood. With each strike of lightning, over a dozen changeling minions fell. They had seen Twilight shout before this happened, it had to have been her. Even everypony who had seen her shout Chrysalis out of the wedding hall were completely overwhelmed by the damage that was now wrought before them.

"TWILIGHT!" screamed Spike, looking to her, abhorred. "What have you done?"

"What I had to, Spike," answered Twilight, a tear flowing over her cheek.

She had not wanted to hurt them, but they were going to hurt everypony she loved. Her brother, Cadance, the Princesses, her friends. She looked to them, noticing their looks of terror as swarms and swarms of changelings were struck down by the lightning. She hoped they would forgive her for this, she did not want to have gone through all this only to lose them.

A smashing noise drew her attention, and she looked up to see the tower suite Rarity had stayed in go flying off the mountain, flames burning as it disappeared below. Hermaeus Mora had warned her that this shout was kinda a loose cannon. It would strike at friend and foe alike.

Twilight could not see any more changelings around, the large group dissolving after that last strike seemed to have hit the bulk of what remained. But whether any of them survived now was irrelevant. A good portion had to have fallen by now, so now she needed to get rid of the storm before anyone else was hurt.

Breathing deep, Twilight looked up: 'LOK VAH KOOR'

In seconds the deadly storm faded, leaving a clear sunny day. Twilight almost fell over, now realizing she was exhausted. But she looked to her still trapped companions, who stared at her with large eyes, their muzzles still sealed shut.

Slowly, she stood, intending to free them

"TWILIGHT! " screamed Spike, pointing behind her. "LOOK OUT!"

Twilight turned, finding Chrysalis and about a dozen changelings behind her. Before she could react, she was seized in green magic, and dragged forward. She tried to struggle, but her energy was spent, she was barely strong enough to stay awake now.

"NO! " Spike screamed, Chrysalis hissing and resealing his mouth with a green blast from her horn.

"How dare you," she hissed, bringing her attention to Twilight in her magic. "How dare you decimate my forces. How dare you devastate my armies."

Twilight flashed her an enraged snarl.

"How dare I?" She asked. "You come into our kingdom, my home and impersonate my own brother's fiance at their wedding. You drive a wedge between me and the ones I love."

Despite all that happened, Twilight's friends all lowered their heads in shame.

"You attack us," continued Twilight. "Without provocation or reason, solely to feed on our love. You act as if you are so mighty, Chrysalis, but you're just a parasite. You and all your kind have all the value of a tapeworm. "

As Twilight ranted, Chrysalis began to adopt a psychotic look. It was not as if she was insulted by her, she could care less what this insignificant pony thought of her. She had just seen this little cretin strike over half her forces down with one single move, one single word and now she was down to less than half her strength.

All because of Twilight's intervention.

"You will never rule Equestria," sneered Twilight.

15 Unobscured

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"Is that what you think, little one?" sneered Chrysalis, squeezing Twilight in her magic, the unicorn yelping in pain.

"You may have thinned down my forces to a mere fraction of what they were," Chrysalis smiled to the few changelings that buzzed behind her. "But after we drain all the love from Canterlot, even this small force will be powerful enough to conquer Equestria. Each village and city we destroy will only make us stronger. "

A glint of sadistic glee sparked in her mad look, and then her attention fell on the necklace around Twilight's neck. She had never seen her wear it before, and she had not had that strange shouting ability before it showed up. It had to be the source of Twilight's new powers.

Twilight’s hateful glare transformed into a look of panic as the small orb containing swirling black tendrils was ripped off of her neck, hovering before Chrysalis's eyes.

"I should have known that this was what was granting you those powers," whispered Chrysalis, licking her lips as she stared at the simple pendant. "So without it, you become the simple unicorn you were."

Twilight open her mouth to try to stop her, to warn Chrysalis of what she really held. But then she saw her friends and family, still bound to the ground, watching her with helpless expressions. She closed her mouth, bringing her attention back to Chrysalis, dread spreading through her heart.

"I am tempted to use it myself," stated Chrysalis, "But I think it would be better if it just wasn't a problem anymore. "

Twilight gasped as the necklace shattered in Chrysalis's magic, the changeling Queen sneering as she dropped the shards, the swirling black that was within the orb fading away. Tears flowed down Twilight's face as she stared at the demolish amulet. How could this happen, how could it have come to this?

"That's right, you pathetic worm, weep at your failure," said Chrysalis cheerfully, revelling in Twilight's misery. "It would seem the hunger for love has conquered the hunger for knowledge."

Twilight sniffled in her restraint. But then a giggle pushed passed her tears. It grew louder and louder, until Twilight was laughing at the top of her lungs, tears still streaming from her eyes.

"What are you laughing at?" Chrysalis hissed angrily, her eye twitching in annoyance. "I have won, the master of love has conquered the master of knowledge."

Twilight stopped her laughter, fixing Chrysalis with a grim smile.

"It cannot be said that I am not studious, book savvy, and smart, " said Twilight, looking into Chrysalis's sneering face. "But I am only a servant in the pursuit of knowledge. I am a minion."

She fixed her friends a worried look, hoping that what was about to happen would not put them at risk.

"Just as you rule over those that hunger for love," Twilight explained, bringing her attention back to Chrysalis. "There is one who lords over all who seek knowledge."

Twilight looked down to the shards of the amulet, tears spilling from her eyes as she remembered what she had been told before she left Apocrypha.

---

"If all else fails, my champion, and you find yourself in a situation where victory is no longer possible,"explained Hermaeus Mora. Twilight was before him, examining the amulet she had been given, "Destroy my amulet."

"Why?" Asked Twilight, confusion evident on her face.

"Doing so will release the small fraction of my essence within," said Hermaeus Mora."And through it, I will be able to penetrate the ether that separates your realm from me, and will allow me to aid you."

"It would also allow you entrance to Equestria," snapped Twilight, glaring at the mass of tendrils before her. "I won't let that come to pass, Hermaeus. I won't let you spread throughout my home, like you have in Nirn."

"Ask yourself, my champion, " stated Hermaeus Mora calmly. "If against all odds, you fail to defeat Chrysalis, would her reign be preferable?"

---

"And in destroying that amulet," said Twilight, looking up to Chrysalis. "You have opened the path for him. Because of what you have done, the Lord of Knowledge may enter Equestria at last."

Twilight's friends were all sharing the same thoughts as this went on. None of them had ever heard of an individual that was supposedly the master of knowledge, not even any of the Princesses. Even Celestia had never heard of such a thing, even in her long life, a life she had dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.

But they were brought out of their wondering when Twilight was thrown to the ground by Queen Chrysalis.

"It matters not if someone rules over knowledge seekers, even if your master has superior power to yours," said Chrysalis, walking up to stand over Twilight, who was too exhausted to even stand up. "I am Queen Chrysalis. I bow to nopony. "

Everypony except for Twilight gasped through their gags as Chrysalis summoned a black knife into her magic and held it over Twilight, who only glared up at her.

"It's time to put you out of my misery."

"You're right, Chrysalis, " whispered Twilight, unafraid as the knife slowly approached her. "You won't be bowing to a pony."

Chrysalis had had enough, lifting up her knife and aiming to Twilight's neck. But before she could drive it down she felt something grip her horn and squeeze it so tight her whole head erupted in pain. She hissed, dropping her knife to the ground with a sharp clatter, she turned her head to see who would dare interfere.

Her reproach caught in her throat.

A black tendril identical to the one that Twilight had grabbed and destroyed the wedding rings with had coiled around her horn. But this one did not originate from Twilight's horn, no it was slithering out of a large black whirlpool that hung a few feet above her, hanging in the air. Then, before her very eyes more tendrils emerged from the vortex, coiling around her wings and legs an hoisting her up above the people below.

"What is this?" She snapped at Twilight below her, the unicorn only flashing her a glare.

"You will bow," said Twilight, closing her eyes, then flashing them open again. "TO A DAEDRIC PRINCE!"

Twilight grit her teeth and concentrated as Chrysalis struggled with the tendrils that held her, her minions to stunned by what they were seeing to aid her. With the last of her strength, Twilight banished the changeling goo that bound her friends with her magic. They all almost fell off their hooves, all of the sudden regaining their mobility.

"RUN!" shouted Twilight, her head falling to the ground with the rest of her. "GET OUT OF HERE NOW, GIRLS!"

"TWILIGHT!" all of them shouted, rushing over to her side.

"Please," moaned Twilight as Cadance swept her up into her hooves, dragging her away from the struggling Chrysalis, the rest surrounding her protectively. "You must flee."

"Nothing doin', sugarcube," said Applejack, whipping out her lasso. "We ain't gonna let you fight alone anymore."

"That's right," said Rainbow Dash, fluttering overhead. "You're obviously out of steam, so we're going to help you."

"Yeah," said Pinkie Pie, arching her back like a cat. "These meanies hurt you, we're not going to let them hurt you anymore."

"I agree with them, darling," said Rarity, flashing Chrysalis a hateful glare. "These uncouth brutes tried to destroy our friendship with you. We won't let them get away with it."

"We have to face them together, as friends," said Fluttershy, an uncharacteristic glare of hate in her eyes. "These... these creatures threatened everything we love, we won't let them succeed with their evil plan."

"I once sought to rob Equestria of happiness," said Princess Luna, lighting her horn threateningly, "It is only fair that I defend my kingdom from a monster that is no better than I once was."

"You were correct, my student," said Princess Celestia, looking down at Twilight with regret. "Subconsciously, I have avoided my role as guardian of Equestria. I will not hide anymore."

"You're my baby sister, Twily," said Shining Armour, looking down at her as she was surrounded by all her loved ones. "It's my responsibility to protect you, as well as my responsibility to protect Canterlot, as captain of the guard."

"I don't know much about what has been happening," said Cadance, looking down at the frail pony she held to her chest with a loving smile. "But you obviously found where ever that horrible queen sent me and rescued me. Now it is my turn to protect you."

"We're with you to the end, Twilight, " growled Spike, sparks flying from his mouth.

Twilight was overwhelmed with emotions as love surrounded her from all sides. They were by her side again, willing to fight with her. It was as if what had happened that morning never really happened at all. After so long in Apocrypha, Twilight had her friends back and she couldn't help but sob with joy.

"STOP THEM!" screamed Chrysalis from above. "DON'T LET THEM ESCAPE!"

Chrysalis's few remaining minions snapped out of their surprised state, buzzing up and lunging for the group of ponies. They all bounced off of a purple shield, Shining Armour growling at them under his ignited horn. He may not be strong enough to surround Canterlot anymore, but he could surround the immediate area around them.

But as the changeling swarm stood back up, Pinkie suddenly let out a scream of pain, falling to the ground and clutching her leg.

"Pinkie, darling, what's wrong?" Rarity asked, helping her stand up.

"Pinchy knee, pinchy knee," answered Pinkie, looking around frantically.

All of Twilight's friends gasped.

"Pinchy knee?" Inquired Shining Armour.

"One of Pinkie's senses," explained Applejack.

"This one means something scary is about to happen, " said Rainbow frantically.

"Oh no," said Fluttershy fearfully. "Is the changeling queen going to get free of Twilight's spell?"

"It's not me holding her, girls," said Twilight, more tears spilling from her eyes, "I'm so sorry."

Before anyone could ask what she meant, both Princess Celestia and Princess Luna flashed a yellowish green color, gasping as they suddenly fell off their legs.

" What is wrong, your majesties?" Shining asked, still focusing on his shield.

"This cannot be," said Princess Celestia, standing to reveal her now blank flank.

"Something..." said Princess Luna, everyone gasping at her blank flank as well. "Something has wrestled the control of the sun and the moon from us!"

And another surprised gasp left all present, Twilight closing her eyes in shame.

"What could do something like that? " asked Rarity.

The answer came in the form of a mighty wind that suddenly picked up. Looking skyward, everypony gasped as the moon lifted over the horizon, a black orb making its way to the bright sun in the middle of the sky. The two celestial bodies met, plunging the land not into darkness, but in an erie crimson light that dimmed everything.

"Stop them," repeated Chrysalis from her bound place above. "They are trying to pull something, don't let..."

She was interrupted when a low rumbling laugh whipped through the air. It was deep, foreboding, the tone that of the pure insanity. It came from everywhere and nowhere all at once, the pitch growing louder with each passing second, all who heard it felt the marrow in their bones turn to ice.

Princess Celestia and Princess Luna felt a shiver as it passed through their ears, for unlike most, they heard an intelligence under this insane tone, a dark, foreboding intelligence that spoke of ill will. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie locked up with fear as the laughing went on, Fluttershy shaking as she recoiled in on herself. Rarity gazed at the red world she now saw, her heart skipping a beat with each set of laughter she heard.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash moved into a back to back position, lifting their hooves for a fight. Whoever it was who was laughing, the duo could tell he was bad news. Cadance and Shining Armour both exchanged worried looks, Cadance looking back down to Twilight, who averted her eyes in shame.

"Twilight?" asked Cadance, looking down at the unicorn in fear. "What is happening?"

"Something is coming," answered Twilight, looking to all her friends that still surrounded her protectively."...Something even worse than the changelings."

All present could only gasp.

"AT LAST!" the laughing halted to be replaced by a voice.

Every pony, changeling, and dragon looked ahead to watch with horror as another black whirlpool opened up in the distance. However, this was not like the one that held Chrysalis. This one was much bigger. From this distance it appeared to be at least the size of the Everfree Forest.

Screams of terror escaped the ponies' throats as large black tendrils lunged out of the horrible hole in the sky, smashing into a nearby mountain and toppling it over like a house of cards, rocky debris scattering across the landscape.

"At last, my vision of this world is unobscured."

16 Submit

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In the offshore city of Manehatten, the local train conductor lay on the roof of the trains caboose, using his hat as a pillow. He was drinking deeply from a large green wine bottle, gulping loudly as the crimson liquid flowed down his throat. Most people would think drinking that much wine would be unhealthy, but that could be said for most enjoyable things.

"Aaahhh," sighed the tan-furred earth pony, popping the bottle from his rosy lips. "A pristine vintage."

He let out a few hiccups as he popped the cork back into the bottle, his face taking a light pink glow. There were few things that he enjoyed more than a good bottle of wine. Even though most of his friends told him it would only lead to trouble.

"Even my wife says I drink too much, " he said to himself, looking to the bottle in his hooves with an almost affectionate gaze. "Well what does she know? She still thinks I'm cheating on her. Boulder Crush doesn't even sound like a mares name anyway."

That was the last time he ordered flowers from Canterlot.

He let out another hiccup, then closed his eyes, content with the warm glow settling over his body. But a huge gust of wind disturbed his rest, opening one eye in aggravation, he snarled. But both his eyes opened when the state of his surroundings registered in his hazy mind.

The entire world around him was bathed in an erie dark red, the sky a foreboding sight as it hung above like a blanket of blood. The wind whipped and turned, sweeping away his hat as he sat up, flabbergasted at the world around him. The sound of panic screams could be heard in the direction of the city.

Then the laughter started, a creepy, wet noise that seemed to issue from both above, and below.

"AT LAST," said a horrible voice, "At last, my view of this world is unobscured."

Movement from above brought the conductors attention, his mouth dropping open in a silent scream as he saw dozens of black tendrils slink out of multiple whirlpools that had appeared in the sky as it shifted to red. He looked at them, looked down to the bottle in his hooves, then looked back up. He swirled his tongue around in his mouth, tasting the lingering wine.

A second later, a green bottle shattered against the train engine's chimney.

---

It was the same all across the country.

In Cloudsdale, the pegasi stared on in shock as a vortex even bigger than their city opened, tentacles as thick as tree trunks slithering and weaving through the cloud pillars that held up the buildings. Panic ensued as ponies young and old scrambled to avoid being grabbed by the foul appendages. But it soon became more difficult as more and more whirlpools appeared all over the city.

"At last," said the voice from before, its presence still making all who heard it tremble."My influence is free to take root in this realm."

---

For the first time in its existence, the debauchery in Las Pegasus ground to a halt as all the denizens looked up at the tentacles that hung above them.

It was a horror that none had ever imagined even in the worst of nightmares. And it was right above them, for all to see. Sure enough, it did not take long for customers and employees alike to drop what they were doing and run away in a panic.

The imposing voice continued, spurring the fleeing ponies on.

"Already, I feel my influence spreading," said the voice, smaller tendrils blooming over the fanciest hotel in the city, weaving through the built-in amusement park. "Nothing can be hidden from me now."

---

In the square of Appleloosa, Sheriff Silver Star and Braeburn looked up as the sky filled with multiple intertwining black circular vortexes, black limbs stretching over the landscape. Ponies screamed and fled as they saw the sight above, having never seen a terror of the like before. And that voice was truly terrifying.

---

Among the teepees of the buffalo, Chief Thunderhoof and Little Strongheart, pawed the ground threateningly along with the rest of the tribe.

It was a scary sight above, but buffalo don't scare easily. These tentacles wiggling out of the holes in the sky were not going to intimidate them. This was their ancestors land, they were going to defend it with their hearts, bodies and souls, no matter what tried to take it.

"After so many long years," continued the menacing voice from before, the buffalo huffing threateningly. "I can finally breach the ether."

---

Back in Canterlot, the group of ponies surrounding Twilight could only watch as another large portal opened up, massive tendrils wiggling out.

This one opened so close to Canterlot, it blocked out all things above their spot on the cities edge. Twilight could only watch in shame, knowing that this was all because of her shortcomings. If she had been strong enough to defend Canterlot, this would not be happening.

Equestria wouldn't have been subjected to an entity it had never contemplated before.

Every pony, changeling, and dragon watched as this new portal revealed a glistening black sphere in the center of its tendrils. They felt their hearts stop as it split open, lazily and slowly blinking to reveal the grotesque yellow green eye with a gelatinous looking pupil beneath. They stared at it in terror, it stared back.

Princess Celestia had never seen such a horrible thing. Discord and Nightmare Moon held no candle to the thing that hovered before her capital, nearly encompassing the entire city. The sky was dark, something had stolen her and her sisters control over the sun and moon, and this was obviously the culprit.

And if it could do all this in a matter of seconds, just what kind of creature was it?

Princess Luna was the first of them to put on a challenging face. She herself had never seen such a monstrosity, but she had dealt with nightmares all her life. This thing was no different then the monster hiding under a fouls bed in the dead of night.

At least, that's what she told herself.

Princess Cadance sat rooted to the spot, holding Twilight closer to her. Her heart raced as what she was seeing became rooted to her soul for all eternity. As the Princess of Love, she had the ability to sense the desires of others, and as horrifying as this thing before Canterlot was, it had desires of its own.

And they were very cold.

Shining Armour could barely keep his shield up as he looked into the eye before them. He was responsible for the protection of Canterlot from all dangers and nothing would ever take first to that. Looking into that bulbous pupil made some primal fear inside him stir.

Looking into that eye was like looking into an endless void that could never be filled.

Rarity sat on her rump in shock, the eye above slowly blinking to the rhythm of her heart. Her whole core of existence locked up as she beheld the sight before her. As a lover of all things beautiful, seeing something so revolting yet terrifying just refused to compute.

How could something like this even exist?

Pinkie Pie looked above to the great eye in the sky, surrounded by weaving black tendrils. For once in her life, she wished her Pinkie sense had been wrong, for this was something so terrifying, she would never have believed it was real, had it not been right in front of her. And that laughter from before had burrowed into her soul.

For the first time in her life, Pinkie had been scared by a laugh.

Applejack stood were she was, totally petrified. Her lasso hung limp from her tail, she could not hope to even try to capture one of those huge tendrils, it would be suicide. However, she had no intention of fleeing, all of her friends were right here, and she was staying with them.

For even against something like this, she would stay by her friends.

Rainbow Dash was trying hard to curb her fears, but it was easier said than done. This sight was downright scary, even for the brash Rainbow Dash. Never before had she seen something so horrible. This thing made the dragon that had nested near Ponyville look like a kitten.

But Rainbow wasn't going to give in, especially with her friends on the line.

Everything Fluttershy knew became numb as she looked into the enormous eye that blinked lazily above. She had always been easier to scare than most ponies, and with such a eldritch horror before her, her whole being fell away. She felt reality weaken, her vision blurred and grew dark.

Then a pair of hooves wrapped around her shoulders.

Fluttershy looked up to see Rainbow Dash pulling her into her hooves, holding tightly. She looked into Fluttershy's eyes, their fear mutual, but also a reassuring presence. As if telling her she was there for her, that as long as she was there, as well as the rest of her friends, everything would be okay.

Fluttershy took a deep breath and sunk into Rainbows supporting hooves, willing to face this with the rest of them.

Twilight could only watch as the one thing she feared almost more than Chrysalis unfolded before her.

Spike stood were he was, shaking with fear as he looked into the huge eye above.

Pharynx and his fellow changeling minions could only watch as the eye drew its attention to their Queen, who herself had a look of unbridled horror on her face.

"What...?" She stammered, the eye she was held before looking at her with a hungry expression she knew all too well. "What...are you?"

A deep rumbling groan echoed through out the air.

"I...am Hermaeus Mora," answered the voice from before, the eyes attention solely on the ensnared Chrysalis now."Daedric Prince of knowledge...and...FATE!"

Below, under Shining Armour's shield, Cadance and Shining both felt a twinge of familiarity when this thing announced its name, but were to focused on what was happening to concentrate on it.

Chrysalis could only stare at the thing above her, terror she had never known flooding her being. She did not know what a Daedric Prince was, but at the moment she did not care. What mattered was she was now realizing the true horror that she was up against now, bound in its tendrils no less.

"Let go," she whispered, but then her eyes erupted in tears of fear as she raised her voice as high as she could. " LET GO OF ME, YOU VILE CREATURE!"

Chrysalis channeled all her remaining power into her horn, lighting it up in her green aura. Twilight and her loved ones watched from below as their hated enemy brought her power to bear in the form of a great green ball of light at the tip of her horn. They watched as it grew from the size of a hoof ball to the size of a tower roof.

With a tear stained snarl, Chrysalis launched her attack at the entity in the sky, pulsating as it drew nearer to its target. But her mouth dropped open in dread as if passed through the tentacled eye as if it was not there at all, everyone present watching as it became visible from the other side and sailed off to the landscape below. Chrysalis stared up at the horror that still held her, no changes in the blinking of its eye, or the twirling of the tendrils.

"GGGGrrrrrooooaaaarrrrr"

But the roar that ripped through the air had such an angry edge it could cut the very wind.

"You dare strike out at me with your insignificant power, MORTAL?" Hermaeus Mora growled, Twilight arching an eye as she heard him use a different tone for the first time ever. "You....will be the first..."

Chrysalis saw another tendril extended out of the smaller vortex before her.

"To...submit your knowledge..."

"NO...!" Shouted Queen Chrysalis, squirming in the black tendrils.

"TO ME!"

A great scream echoed throughout the crimson day of Equestria.

Twilight and company all watched in horror, for silhouetted in the lighter color of the huge eyes sclera, they saw Queen Chrysalis with a tendril plunged through her head. It pierced under her horn and out the back of her head, making sucking, squishy noises as it undulated inside her. Her screaming swept through all who heard it, making them tremble with disgust.

Then all was silent.

Twilight's group looked up in time to see Hermaeus Mora drop Queen Chrysalis, who fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes. They watched as she rolled to a stop before their shield, her eyes half lidded and her breathing slow. There was no mark where the tendril had impaled her.

No blood or wound, she looked completely unharmed.

But then her slow breathing stopped, her slitted pupils lost their color and turned gray.

Then all that could be heard was the wind.

17 Introduction

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"MY QUEEN!" Shouted Pharynx, staring at the unmoving body of Chrysalis.

He brought his attention to the huge mass of tentacles above and sneered.

"Changelings, prepare to attack," He ordered, "We shall avenge our Queen."

Nothing happened, Pharynx stood before the monstrosity alone. Looking over his shoulder, he saw something he never thought possible. The few changelings that had survived that massive storm were all huddled together, looking up at the primordial terror before them, shaking with fear. He had never seen his changeling soldiers express fear before.

Then they all let out a scream and galloped off in the opposite direction, making for the road that led out of Canterlot, too scared to even take flight.

"WHERE ARE YOU GOING? " Screamed Pharynx, the veins on his neck bulging with frustration. "I'll have you all banished for this!"

"Hhhrrrrrr,” Pharynx looked up as the noise pierced the air, the gigantic eye amongst the tendrils watching the changelings flee. "Do you think you can escape from me?"

A big splash of black liquid erupted in the path of the changelings, halting them in their retreat. Then giant muscular creatures emerged from the deluge, bipeds with aquatic features. The small army of Lurkers looked right into the changelings eyes.

Then they all let a ferocious roar skyward and attacked.

The changelings were bored down upon in an instant, either being seized in massive arms or bound head to hoof in black rope like tendrils that protruded from the Lurkers mouths. In less than a second the whole swarm was restrained, trembling under the monstrosities that held them prisoner.

Pharynx let out an enraged hiss and made to lunge at the huge terrors, but another Lurker emerged from the group in front of him and ensnared him in its tendrils.

---

The group of ponies and one dragon watched the whole thing happen under the protection of Shining Armour's shield, their eyes wide in terror, except for Twilight, who felt nothing but shame at what her friends were being exposed to. Chrysalis still lay before them, unmoving and lifeless as a rock. But all anyone had attention for was the huge tendrils that waved and wiggled above the city.

"What...what is that thing?" Asked Fluttershy, surprising everypony, and snapping them out of their unresponsive state.

"I don't know," admitted Celestia, her focus solely on the great vortex above. "I have never seen anything like it."

"But we won't let whatever it intends to do happen," said Luna, glaring. "We will fight it off."

"That will not be necessary," said Twilight, gaining everypony's attention "He won't harm us… not if we don't get in his way."

"Twilight? " said Cadance, holding her closer protectively. "You are acting as if you know this thing."

"I do," said Twilight, her friends all gasping in surprise.

Before anything else could be said a shout came from above.

"PRINCESS!"

They all looked up towards the dark red sky, seeking out the voice. A pegasus pony grew closer, flying in at a hot steep angle. She was obviously flying too fast to have a safe landing, but was making no move to slow her decent in any shape or form, obviously determined to get to Canterlot as quickly as possible.

So Princess Celestia did it for her.

Using her experience and precision, the sun princess caught the pegasus mare in her magic, freezing her in place. She wore the trademark blue jumpsuit of a Wonderbolt, though it was hard to make out in the crimson light washing over everything. But Rainbow recognized her immediately.

"SPITFIRE?" She shouted, looking at that flame style haircut only one pony was known for. "What is she doing here?"

"Captain," inquired Celestia, looking to Shining Armour.

"On it, your majesty," replied the head of defense, shifting his force field to form a hole big enough for Celestia to pull the panting pegasus through, which he closed as soon as she joined them.

"Princess Celestia," said Spitfire when she caught her breath, kneeling before the matriarch.

"What is it, Lady Spitfire?" Asked Celestia, noting the lead pegasus’ panicky look.

"We have a situation in Cloudsdale," answered the Wonderbolt captain, throwing a look to the tentacled eye that watched them from above. " A portal like this one has appeared over the city, as well as multiple smaller ones."

"What?" Gasped Rainbow.

"And that is not all," continued Spitfire, returning her attention to Celestia. "We have had pegasus couriers coming in from all over Equestria, from Vanhoover to Baltimore. They all report the same thing, massive tendrils wiggling out of huge black vortexes. And they also say panic is spreading rapidly."

"These things are appearing all over Equestria?" Squeaked Fluttershy, still held up by Rainbow Dash. "How is that possible?"

"Nopony knows," explained Spitfire, "But the bedlam is only going to get worse if we don't put a lid on this situation soon."

Princess Celestia and Princess Luna exchanged looks before bringing their attention to the massive eye hovering above their city. They were different in many regards but had the same mind set involving some things. They would both like nothing more then to fly up and strike at this thing with everything they had.

They were not oblivious to what had transpired just moments ago.

Chrysalis had struck at this thing with all she had, but her attack just passed through it without doing anything. And as a result, she was now a lifeless husk lying before them, her minions held in the grasp of those huge terrors that had appeared out of nowhere, obviously in league with whatever this thing was. It also did not escape their notice that this thing had not struck out at them since it appeared.

Those things, so far, only held the changelings captive, they had done nothing more. Them, or this monstrosity above could have done immense damage without effort, but had not. That told the Princesses something.

"Spitfire," said Luna, approaching the lead Wonderbolt with authority. " Have any of the courier ponies reported any hostile behavior from these tentacled vortexes."

"Negative, your majesty, " said Spitfire. " So far, only reports of sightings, no casualties or destruction."

"That's a relief, " sighed Pinkie Pie, drawing all their attention. "I was hoping old Hermmy wouldn't be a meanie mac-mean pants, then I would not be able to welcome him to Equestria with a big party."

"Hermmy?" Asked Applejack and Rainbow Dash together.

"Its rude not to pay attention when somepony introduces themselves, girls," said Pinkie Pie, giving them a consenting frown. "He said his name was Hermaeus Mora, right before he gave that mean Queen that bizarre kiss. So I'm going to call him Hermmy, for short."

"I think we were a little distracted, Pinkie," said Fluttershy, looking up and trembling as she saw the single eye, feeling as if it was looking right at her.

"Yes, most distracted, " added Rarity. " Upon seeing that monster suck somepony’s brain out."

"I agree," said Rainbow, looking up with a glare. "Besides, that thing is a monster, why should we care what its name is?

Shining Armour and Cadance still felt they knew the name Hermaeus Mora from somewhere, but still couldn't place it.

Princess Celestia had been coming up with a strategy ever since hearing that these things had not lashed out aggressively towards her kingdom. She did not know what they were, but if they weren't threatening anything or anyone, then she had to address the more important matter. According to Spitfire, all of Equestria was in a state of panic.

"We must round up our guard, sister," said Celestia sternly, Luna walking up next to her. "We must find a way to calm the masses before somepony is hurt."

"Allow me, princesses."

They all looked up, this being the first time this thing had addressed someone, other than Chrysalis.

Twilight braces herself, wondering what the Daedric Prince's intention was.

She did not have to wait, or worry.

'KAAN DREM OV'

The words echoed throughout the whole kingdom, fear, panic and disorder melting away as a blue flash settled over all in Equestria. Twilight and company felt all their terror leave them in a swift blink, even Fluttershy was calmed, lifting out of Rainbows supporting hooves, while she herself felt her fighting spirit calm. The Princesses somehow knew there was nothing to fear.

"Greetings, denizens of this land," said Hermaeus Mora, his voice echoing throughout all of Equestria's cities and towns, whose inhabitants had ceased all panicked behavior and looked up to the portals in the sky, each one now sporting the same bulbous eye in their center. "I… am Hermaeus Mora… knower of the unknown… master of destiny… prince of knowledge.”

There was a small pause.

"Or... in the words of a certain rainbow-maned pegasus, an egghead."

Rainbow Dash gave a slight confused look, she would never have believed this was the kind of being that would have anything to do with knowledge. This thing was hideous, deadly, and obviously ruthless. Yet it had pretty much called itself an egghead, something Rainbow always considered should be mild mannered, and harmless.

"The reason none of you recognize me… is because I hail from a different world. "

Applejack stood out in front of her friends, her stubborn family ties still making her want to defend her friends if things got worse. She was calm, but not enough to drop her guard.

The Princesses all watched it before them, it had been a long time since they had felt so at peace they were almost unsure of what they were feeling.

Twilight looked up at Hermaeus Mora, knowing he was probably talking to all of Equestria, not just them.

"I understand… that my… appearance can be… intimidating, but you need not fear. Malice… destruction… death… these things are of no value to me. "

All across Equestria, ponies could not help but believe the voice, the sound passing through them like a sweet song. The way it sounded led them to believe it was being truthful. A kind of intelligence existed, and everypony could feel it, feel this thing’s desire for knowledge above all else.

"And if those of this world cooperate, I shall share my knowledge with you as well, in exchange for contribution of this worlds knowledge. If you have a thirst for knowledge, you may seek me out, and whet your appetite in the endless stacks of my library."

All across Equestria, scholars, researchers, geologists, scientists, educators...all types of ponies felt something stir inside them. There were those who studied their pursuits for specific reasons, and this thing was claiming to have complete stores of knowledge. Knowledge that would be accessible, if they made contributions to this thing.

Now that did awaken some excitement.

"How to step into my sacred halls will be revealed in time, for soon I shall devise a path," said Hermaeus Mora, "Those of intellectual fortitude should seek me...out...for all who seek knowledge are my servants...even if you all...have been...unaware till now. "

Twilight's group watched as the tendriled vortex that had held Chrysalis move closer to the glowing orb that surrounded them, another eye emerging from within. As it drew closer, the ponies plus one dragon could only watch. They should be fearful of what was happening, but whatever had calmed them allowed them to think clearly, even in the worst of times, like now.

They all watched as it came up to them, its tendrils waving lazily around as it stared.

Even this was not enough to scare them anymore, they all just waited to see what was going to happen next. The whirlpool passed through Shining Armour's shield like it was not there, slowly approaching. It stopped only a few feet from where they all stood by Twilight protectively.

18 Why here?

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"Stay back, you monster," snapped Shining Armour, the rest of the group staring at the wiggling mass of tentacles with varying reactions.

All three Alicorn Princesses watched it with trepidation, but were determined to stand against it should it prove hostile. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and the newly arrived Spitfire glared on with threatening looks, daring this thing to make a move. Rarity, Fluttershy, and Spike looked to the limp Chrysalis, to her captive minions, then to the swirling vortex of black, wavy tendrils, terror in their hearts.

The three of them only had to look at Twilight's panting form in Cadance's hooves to dredge up enough courage to not panic and stay here and help.

Pinkie, however, hopped straight up to the wretched whirlpool and held out a hoof.

"Greetings, Mr. Mora," said Pinkie with a happy grin. "Welcome to Equestria."

Hermaeus Mora actually seemed to blink in surprise this time.

"Interesting, " mumbled the wretched abyss. "Are you not... intimidated by my appearance?"

"Not really," said Pinkie Pie energetically, lowering her hoof to the ground. "Your weaving tendrils are a little unnerving... but if you intended to hurt us, you probably would've already done that already. Plus whatever you did a second ago really helped calm me down, and since it was so similar to the weird shouting Twilight has been doing to battle that meanie changeling, she must have got it from you, and if she got it from you, you must want to protect Equestria too, and if that's the case, you must mean too..."

"Pinkie," snapped Celestia, seizing the party pony in her magic, closing her mouth and dragging her back over to the group. "We do not know a thing about this thing, or what intends to do."

"Pinkie is right about one thing," moaned Twilight, everyone looking to her. "I received the knowledge of the Thu'um from him."

All the ponies and one dragon puzzled as the strange word left her mouth.

"Thu'um?" Asked Rainbow Dash, fluttering over to her friend in Cadance's hooves. "What is that?"

Twilight gave a weak smile and dredged up what strength she could: 'MUL QAH DIIV'

A slight gasp left the throat of the other ponies as Twilight was surrounded by a swirling mixture of blue and orange transparent scales over her body, and shimmering orange horns above her head. Cadance could feel a slight tingling beneath her forehooves that she had wrapped around Twilight's neck and chest, her eyes transfixed like all the others as arcs of light danced around her friend. Twilight fixed them all with a warm smile, surrounded by the light.

"This is the Thu'um," explained Twilight, "an ancient form of magic that utilizes the language of the dragons."

"You mean all those shouting spells we saw you use," began Fluttershy, finally able to get up from Rainbow Dash's hooves."Is some kind of dragon language?"

Twilight gave Fluttershy a gentle smile and nodded.

"I have never seen anything like this," said Celestia, annoyance in her voice. "But I hardly believe it could have anything to do with dragons. Ponies known next to nothing about them, but we do know the kind of magic they can perform, and this is nothing like it."

"HAHAHAHAHAH."

All attention returned to Hermaeus Mora as they heard his laughter.

"The reason for that, your majesty, is because it doesn't originate from the dragons... you are familiar with."

"What are you talking about? " said Luna, glaring at the mass of tendrils before them. "I have yet to even understand what is going on fully."

"What all this is leading to, Princess," said Twilight, still surrounded by her strange dragonic luminance. "Is that Hermaeus Mora, the Thu'um, and the dragons from which it originated... do not come from our world."

A collection of gasps came from all around as they heard this, all of them throwing Hermaeus Mora a new look of trepidation.

"You mean he's an alien?" Asked Rainbow Dash, following Hermaeus Mora's tentacles with a rapt attention.

"Not really, Rainbow Dash," said Twilight, once again the center of attention. "Hermaeus Mora is a Daedric Prince, beings of immense power that hail from a different dimension."

"Hermaeus Mora? " contemplated Shining Armour, "I know that name."

"I do too, but from where?" said Cadance, looking confused, but never taking her eyes off of Hermaeus.

"You should," moaned Twilight, still tired. "This is not the first time I've told you two about him."

With obviously great effort, Twilight lifted her hoof to her horn. Cadance made to tell her to not move so she didn't hurt herself, but then her words died when she saw Twilight pull an object off her horn and hold it up for her to see. It was an object she had not seen for years.

"That ring," said Celestia, looking to the shining band sitting in Twilight's hoof. "It was the heirloom I gifted to the Sparkle family after Princess Platinum passed away."

"Really?" Gasped Rarity, coming closer to get a better look at the ring, then casting Twilight a look. "Twilight, you never told us your family was entrusted with an artifact that dated back to the founding of Equestria."

"Because they haven't, not for several years," said Celestia in a puzzled voice. "Twilight's parents told me it had been lost, during one of the many magic outbursts Twilight had as a young unicorn filly."

That is what ignited the dormant flames of memory within Shining Armour and Cadance. Now they remembered that day clearly, when Twilight vanished in a flash of unrestrained filly magic. Of how they both searched high and low for their little charge, but found no trace.

They remembered finding her asleep in the middle of the backyard of their house hours later, yet were certain they had searched there several times already. As well as scolding Twilight for losing the priceless family heirloom they had seen on her horn before she teleported. They remember digging through the house trying to find it.

Most of all, they remember Twilight telling them she had met a strange person when she found herself wherever she was, and that it had a name.

Hermaeus Mora.

"No...no, it can't be..." mumbled Cadance, staring at the wiggling whirlpool with newfound clarity.

"He...he can't..." whispered Shining Armour, also looking at the vortex with a new look. "He was just a figment of her imagination, he does not exist."

Hermaeus Mora let out a low chuckle of amusement.

"I can assure you both...I am very real."

"Captain, what is the meaning of this?" Questioned Celestia, throwing Shining a questioning look. "Do you know what that thing is?"

"Not at all, your majesty, " said Shining, his professionalism resurfacing when addressed by his Princess. "I only that this confirms that Twilight came into contact with this thing many years ago."

"How is that possible? " asked the sun princess, looking at Twilight, who averted her eyes like she was ashamed.

"When we found Twilight after her magic outburst, she told us about a creature she met," explained Cadence, "a creature that called itself Hermaeus Mora. "

"And when I met him, he offered me studies," said Twilight, a lump in her throat. "And I accepted."

Another chorus of gasps filled the bubble Shining Armour was still maintaining.

"My student?" Inquired Celestia, a deep hurt in her voice, "Do you mean...all this time you have been..."

"Calm yourself, Celestia," said Hermaeus Mora gently, "Up until now, you have been her only mentor, for unlike your studies, Twilight could not begin her interactions with me when we first met, for she was far too young."

"What are you talking about? " Celestia asked, focusing on Hermaeus again.

"If Twilight had started when she first met me, the effort would have drained all of her life force, for her body was to young and frail."

"You mean she would have died?" Gasped Rarity, looking like she was about to faint.

"You monster," snapped Fluttershy, actually flying close to Hermaeus Mora's eye and staring into its unnerving pupil. " Why would you give something that could be life threatening to somepony? Twilight is our friend, and whether or not you have waited until now to bestow upon her these powers, she was still at risk, why I ought to..."

"Fluttershy, stop."

Twilight managed to pull her butter colored friend from the eye amongst the tendrils with her telekinetic grip, panting as she released her back amongst the group.

"I agree with Fluttershy, darling, " said Rarity, flicking her tail in aggravation. "If this thing put you at risk by giving you these strange abilities, it's totally atrocious."

"Yeah," said Rainbow, flapping her wings more aggressively. "Even if you did kick some serious tail with these, shouts, as you call them, it's not cool if you were in danger getting them."

Everypony plus Spike looked ready to start exchanging blows.

"Girls, please don't," said Twilight, everyone noticing the extreme despair in her voice. " You do not want to provoke him, it will only lead to more trouble than we can handle. Hermaeus Mora is far more powerful than Discord."

All eyes widened at that claim.

"What do you mean, young Twilight?" asked Luna, " Discord is the most powerful of entities in our realm."

"Yes, in our realm," stated Twilight, extreme worry in her voice. "But where Hermaeus comes from his power and the power of his kin reigns supreme, with power that makes Discord look like nothing."

"I have had enough of this," said Princess Celestia, flaring her wings and approaching Hermaeus Mora's vortex.

" Your name is Hermaeus Mora, correct? " She asked sternly.

"Indeed it is, princess."

"Who and what are you? " asked Celestia, her tone that of a strict ruler.

"As I have said before, I am Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of knowledge and memory."

"Twilight said that Daedric Princes are beings of great power that hail from another world," said Celestia, all present watching in awe as she held a conversation with this thing. "But I want to know what that entails, what is your purpose?"

"You have a way with knowing what questions to ask, Princess," said Hermaeus Mora, great amusement in his voice. "My purpose is to gather knowledge."

"To what end?" Asked Celestia. "After you sent that wave of calm out, you mentioned you desire knowledge, why?"

"Because that is how it has always been for me," explained Hermaeus Mora. "For all of my existence, I have sought knowledge."

"I am afraid I don't understand," said Celestia, never breaking the stern look she wore.

"A Daedric Prince is not a being that is understood easily, your majesty. Each of us has a different origin that influence our actions. In my case, I seek knowledge... because I was born from it."

"Born from knowledge?" inquired Pinkie, saying her first thing since greeting Hermaeus. "What, did your parents have a cheap thrill in a library, or something?"

"PINKIE!" shouted half the ponies in unison, Rainbow shoving a hoof to her lips.

"Twilight told us not to provoke this thing," she said, Pinkie mumbling past her obscuring hoof.

"In the beginning, when the realm I come from came into being..." continued Hermaeus, unaffected by Pinkie. "A lot of wayward knowledge was discarded. From these rejected scraps...I was spawned. And since then, it has been my goal to gather knowledge."

"Born from the rejected knowledge from the creation of your realm?" Inquired Luna, joining her sister, but wore a intrigued expression. "Does that mean that you are as old as your own world?"

"Very nearly."

Twilight already knew most of this, having gone over every aspect of the Daedric Princes while in Apocrypha, but all others present looked on in shock. Discord, as powerful as he was, was not nearly as old as what Hermaeus Mora claimed to be. Even the Princesses had never heard of something like this.

All at once, they all had their own reasons why they thought what was told them could not be true, yet how it couldn't all be a lie.

The sun and moon were bathing everything in a crimson color, the sky a never ending red overhead. Tendrils jutted out of holes in the sky, several dwarfing whole cities. And this voice... a voice of power that could resonate across the entire kingdom, and quell the fear of all.

"Why here?" Asked Celestia, "Why have you chosen to come to Equestria, as well as why you gave my student these abilities? Why did you stand with us against the Changelings invasion?"

"I have come here for knowledge, as I have said before, and if Chrysalis successfully conquered your kingdom, her rampaging would have destroyed many a researcher," said Hermaeus Mora, Twilight perking her ears up to listen, she had never known what Hermaeus Mora gained, himself, in doing this."If she destroyed everything, it would have been vexing for me to gather information."

"But why did you bestow Twilight with these abilities?" Asked Celestia patiently, everypony watchin with wrapped attention.

"The same reason I choose to interfere with the invasion, to give Twilight what was required to stop her."

"Which I failed, in the end," said Twilight, everyone looking back to her as she looked at Hermaeus Mora. "I am sorry, Lord Hermaeus Mora, you warned me that I might not be ready, but I rushed it and came anyway."

19 Bitterly Grateful

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"Do not despair, my champion," replied Hermaeus Mora, everyone giving him and Twilight confused looks. "While your inability to overcome the changelings was unfortunate, I am not displeased by it."

"But why? " asked Twilight regretfully, Cadance looking down at her in worry. "You warned me before I challenged Chrysalis that I might not be ready to face her, that I might need to be stronger."

"That is true," said Hermaeus Mora, "But in all honesty, which I am sure your earth pony friend here will appreciate..."

Applejack shot an annoyed expression to the hovering form of tentacles.

"Your victory was never my primary concern."

"What?" asked Twilight, a look of great confusion and surprise on her face. "Then why did you bestow upon me the power of the Thu'um in the first place?"

"I am curious as well," said Luna, her look of wonder now a look of confusion. "Why did you assist, if not for Twilight to prevail herself, without intervening like you did?"

"The invasion and threat of the Changeling Queen was something I have only recently been able to become aware of, and when I did, it was the perfect opportunity to perform the first test in the experiment I have been devising since my first encounter with Twilight, so long ago."

"And what experiment would that be?" Questioned Shining Armour, still holding up the force field with the false hope of protecting them all from the larger tendrils that still hung above them.

"If you truly wish to know what my motives are, I shall indulge you."

Twilight was once again intrigued to hear what Hermaeus Mora had to say. Her friends obviously thought the same, for none were making a move to interrupt.

"My sole reason for all I have been doing thus far, has been to see how well magic users of this land take to the magic of my world."

"I don't understand," said Celestia, her and everyone, including Twilight, flabbergasted at the simple reason Hermaeus Mora just gave them. "Does our kingdom mean nothing to you?"

"I have existed for uncountable eons, Princess," said Hermaeus, "In that time I have watched many a kingdom rise up from nothing into a mighty power, only to crumble back into the dust from whence it came for one reason or another. But I have also noticed that the actions of the unique of those empires are told through out history, long after the kingdom they served has ceased to exist. And I would think that the personal student of the ruling power defending her kingdom with foreign magic makes for an unprecedented event in your history."

All present were stunned silent.

"Ya mean ta say, you did all this just to see what a unicorn can do with some bizarre magic?" asked Applejack, her hat bouncing upon her head in her irritation.

"Our kingdom was in peril, invaded by a treacherous race of insects," Rarity was trying hard not to lose her composure. "Yet you were only concerned with how well Twilight used those spells?"

"Come on, everypony," said Pinkie Pie, everyone looking to her. "What happened was kind of cool."

"I'd say it's scary, Pinkie," snapped Fluttershy, gazing up at the sky, "Not only what Twilight did, but what is happening right now. Those tendrils extruding from those portals could hurt someone."

"Yes indeed," said Celestia, her eyes trailing the tendril in front of her.

"He did save the day in the end, though," said Rainbow Dash, though in a torn voice. "That's gotta count for something."

"Everypony please stop," moaned Twilight before Shining, Spike, and Cadance could jump in, though she herself was a little surprised what was said. "If that was his only motivation, we should be grateful, especially since we owe him so much now."

"He may have saved us from Chrysalis's evil plan, "began Luna, her face showing distrust. "But he endangered you for selfish reasons."

"That's right, " said Spike, lowering his head to look at Chrysalis lying just outside of the force field. "And what he did to her was really horrible, sucking out her brains. You wouldn't have done something like that, Twilight."

"Don't be so sure," said Twilight, gaining everypony's attention again. "I was prepared to do anything to ensure you all were safe."

"Which makes you better than that thing already," said Shining Armour, walking up to his sister and his fiance. "You may have gotten these powers from him, but you used them for good."

"Yes Twilight," said Cadance, smiling as her fiance put a loving hoof on her shoulder. "You were the one who found me when Chrysalis imprisoned me."

"How did you know where the real Candace was anyway, darling?" Asked Rarity.

Twilight only lowered her head shamefully.

"I didn't," said Twilight, looking back up at Cadance, who looked confused. "Cadance... it was Hermaeus Mora who saved you, not me."

There was a thick silence that settled over them all.

"Twilight, what do you mean?" Asked Cadance in a hush whisper.

Twilight gave her her undivided attention, her eyes tearing up under her Dragon Aspects.

"After Chrysalis lured you into that trap," began Twilight, her voice heavy with misery. "The cave she sent you to, and later me, was coincidentally the same cave I teleported to randomly all those years ago. The same cave where I encountered Hermaeus Mora for the first time and where he pulled you to safety."

"That can't be true," said Cadance, looking up at the swirling tendrils before her older aunt's."I have never seen that creature before, and the next thing I remember seeing after Chrysalis imprisoned me was waking up in the ceremony hall, which everypony said 'you' brought me."

"But before that..." Twilight explained, looking to Hermaeus Mora with a combination of gratitude and worry. "You were under his care, kept in a sleepless slumber so your injured body wouldn't make you suffer...till I could mount a defense against Chrysalis."

"It was you?" Asked Luna cautiously, looking to Hermaeus. "The spell I lifted from Cadance was unlike any I had seen. You placed it on her?"

"It was... necessary..." said Hermaeus Mora, "Though I must commend you for lifting my enchantment, Luna of the moon, I was not aware anything could interfere with a Daedric Prince's actions as thoroughly as you did."

"But why?" asked Cadance. "If you did indeed save me, why did you put me under that sleep spell."

"Because," said Twilight, gaining attention again. "He hid you in his realm, where Chrysalis could not find you, and without that sleep spell, you would have gone mad."

Everypony and dragon shot her a look of confusion.

"Apocrypha..." explained Hermaeus Mora, all looking to him again, "My realm, my domain, what people who know of Daedric Princes call a Plane of Oblivion, can only be accessed by those of intellectual minds. Anything else will be driven mad shortly after entry."

"Plane of Oblivion?" inquired Applejack, Fluttershy cowering at the words. "Ominous much?"

"So you brought my little sis and my fiance to this place?" Asked Shining Armour with fury, "What kind of monster are you?"

"No Shining," said Twilight, "Don't..."

"I don't care what kind of creature this Hermaeus Mora is," said Princess Celestia, "He did horrible things, taking you and Cadance from us and keeping you in an obviously dangerous place."

"Your student is more than intelligent enough to withstand the effects of my realm, Celestia of the sun," explained Hermaeus Mora, still with a neutral tone. "And my sleep spell kept Cadance safe long enough for Twilight to return her here, as well as heal the injuries she sustained while in imprisonment."

"You healed me?" asked Cadance, looking down to Twilight in her hooves. "I was wondering why I wasn't injured after I fell down that incline in the cave."

Twilight smiled up at her, her first smile in a while, "I used the same spell I used to heal myself after I used Spikes dragon fire to free myself."

Everyone cringed as the brief image of how Twilight looked after that registered in their memories.

"I am sorry about that Spike," said Twilight, giving her assistant an apologetic look. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Twilight," said the small reptile, rubbing his stomach. "I was more concerned about you."

"I gotta say," said Rainbow Dash, flapping over the huddled group. "That took guts, freeing yourself like that."

"Yeah, it did," said Applejack, taking off her ever present hat respectively. "Not sure if I would have gone that far."

"I must thank you for what you did, Twilight," said Fluttershy, leaning in to Twilight's closest cheek, nuzzling her as the purple unicorn felt a dampness that could only be tears. "That evil monster would have done horrible things to me, had you not done what you did."

"I concur," said Rarity, tear's streaming her already ruined mascara. "I shudder to think what that brute would have done had it not been for you."

"Yes indeedily!" Said Pinkie Pie, "I actually almost forgot what went down before Hermy showed up. You really saved our rumps Twilight, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart..."

"Yes, thank you, little sis," said Shining Armour. "We, and all of Equestria owe you our lives.

The princesses rejoined the group, bowing their heads respectively to the exhausted unicorn, her transparent dragon armor glistening in the red daylight.

Twilight felt such gratitude to be before them all, once again having their love, she could not help but shed tear's. The gratitude they had for her was irrelevant, what matters is they all were here, by her side, no anger or hatred. She would gladly spend more time within Apocrypha to have this back.

But one thing needed to be corrected on their parts.

"Everyone," said Twilight, giving them all a tearstained look said Fluttershy stopped nuzzling her to look at her with everyone else. "There is another who deserves recognition for Equestria's safety."

She brought her gaze to Hermaeus Mora again.

"But Twilight, that thing..." Twilight interrupted Applejack.

"He may have done it for himself," started Twilight, looking serious. "That doesn't change the fact that he saved us. I stopped most of Chrysalis' army, but Hermaeus Mora put a stop to her and her plans."

"I have to admit that she is right," said Princess Luna, shocking everyone when she approached Hermaeus Mora again and bowed to him. "On behalf of myself and my kingdom, I thank you, Daedric Prince Hermaeus Mora, for aiding us in our time of need."

Celestia shot her sister a disbelieving look. Luna had always been the one of the two of them least inclined to bow to anything, regardless of what it was. It made no sense to the alabaster alicorn that her sister would do so now, even though what was before them was unlike anything ever encountered.

But her sister gave her a look over her shoulder gesturing her muzzle to her now blank flank.

Celestia silently gasped, looking to her own white unmarked rump. She had nearly forgotten that this thing had taken control of the sun and moon from them without taking it directly from them. She still did not trust this thing, but she had to proceed with caution.

For if Hermaeus Mora could wield the sun and moon, the most advanced form of magic know to all of ponykind, like toys, what else was he capable of? And what Twilight said had a grain of truth to it. Hermaeus Mora had not acted aggressively to them yet, and from the looks of it, if he wants he could destroy them all.

So it was with a bitter taste in her mouth that she joined her sister in bowing respectfully.

"Yes, Hermaeus Mora," she almost moaned. "You saved my kingdom and my subjects. Please forgive our outward hostility to you when we first conversed."

Twilight's friends and brother all dropped their mouths open.

"It is understandable," said Hermaeus Mora, "I am unlike anything you have encountered... It will be awhile before your subjects become... accustomed to my presence."

"Is this necessary?" asked Celestia, "Must you make your presence known in my kingdom?"

"As I have said before," said Hermaeus Mora, a slight serious edge. "It has been my nature to seek knowledge since the moment of my birth. This will be the first time I have ever had access to knowledge from a different world. I intend to take full advantage."

"You won't hurt anyone will you?" asked Cadance worriedly, all present agreeing in their own way, whether be it worry or aggression.

"You need not worry, Princess of Love. I have no need to cause harm...as long as none interfere with my gathering of knowledge, I shall not spread my wrath."

"We are to just hoof it over to you?" said Luna.

"Not entirely," said Hermaeus Mora, "All knowledge has its price, even for me...if you allow me to partake in your knowledge... I will share mine with you...as well."

"And you believe we would be interested in this?" Asked Celestia.

"You saw what your student accomplished with the Thu'um," explained Hermaeus Mora, "That is a mere fraction of what could be gleaned from my library."

"That is hardly the same as knowledge," said Celestia, "You merely bestowed those powers upon her."

There was a moment of silence, then Hermaeus Mora and Twilight both started chuckling.

"Twilight," scolded Rarity to her fellow unicorn. "Why are you laughing at the princess, it is not proper."

"Yeah, Twilight," said Pinkie, looking annoyed for the first time in awhile.

"Oh girls," said Twilight, fixing them a sad smile. "You have no idea..."

All present only looked on in confusion.

"The power of the Thu'um can not be simply handed to anyone...mostly," said Hermaeus Mora, "It can only be obtained through study and dedication."

"What are you talking about?" Asked Celestia. "You only re-met Twilight a few hours ago."

"A few hours...in your world!"

"I don't like the sound of that," said Applejack, her honest nature telling her there was something going on.

"Let me clarify...young one..." said Hermaeus Mora, his eye on Applejack, who could not suppress a shudder. "After that false queen drove her wedge between you all...she sent Twilight to the cave beneath your capital...were she met me... and I brought her to my world... and I provided her with the time she would need to study the Thu'um."

"I don't like where this is going," said Rarity.

"What he means girls," said Twilight in a sad expression. "Hermaeus Mora can control the time flow in his world... So when less than a heartbeat passed in Equestria, enough time elapsed in Apocrypha for me to study the Thu'um."

Celestia gave a panicked looking.

"And, how long was that?" She asked.

"I don't know," said Twilight, looking down in regret.

"If it means so much to all of you, she spent the equivalent of fifteen of your years in Apocrypha."

20 Price

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"Am I missing something here?" Asked Spitfire as she watched the group before her.

The captain of the Wonderbolts had remained silent since delivering the news she had been tasked with to the Princess, and now she was waiting for further instructions about what she should do now. But the ruling matriarch's had yet to pay her much attention since the conversation with one of those strange tendril portals had started. And from the looks of things, it would not be ending anything soon.

So Spitfire decided that it was a good idea to stay out of it for now, it did not involve her anyway.

Besides, she did not want to provoke that strange creature.

---

Twilight's companions all stared at her with overly shocked expressions.

" Twilight," said Applejack, her hat shaking with the rest of her. "Is what that thing said true? "

" How could it be possible?" Asked Rainbow Dash, so stunned she actually had to land.

" Fifteen years? " said Fluttershy, tears of fear and worry budding in her eyes.

" You told us Hermmy could manipulate time in his world," started Pinkie, her happy demeanor changing to one of worry. "Did he really make it so while we were talking dresses and that false Cadance was singing it up in her dressing room, you were spending years and years learning how to make the sky fall with the Thu'um? "

Twilight could only look down and close her eyes.

" I do not know how long I studied under Hermaeus Mora," she said, her voice a mixture of regret and sorrow. " Apocrypha is a world like no other. There's no sun or moon there, nor are there seasons or any method of telling time in general. The only thing that matters in Apocrypha is knowledge."

"But Twilight..." gasped Cadance, looking down at her little pony who still had not opened her eyes. " Fifteen years?"

" Hermaeus Mora is not someone who tells lies," said Twilight, finally looking up at everyone again. " If he says that is how long I was in Apocrypha, it must be true. "

Twilight's companions all stared at her with varying degrees of emotions, mostly concern.

"You all should be proud of her for accomplishing what she did in such a small amount of time," said Hermaeus Mora.

" HOW DARE YOU!" screamed Celestia, taking flight and pressing her muzzle up as close to Hermaeus's eye as she could. "NO ONE DOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS TO ONE OF MY SUBJECTS, LEAST OF ALL MY OWN STUDENT!"

" WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT? Said Luna, flashing over beside her sister. "HOW COULD YOU TAKE SOMEONE FROM THEIR HOME, THEIR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS, AND NOT RETURN THEM FOR FIFTEEN YEARS?"

" Princesses please stop," said Twilight, horrified at how close they were to Hermaeus Mora, and how they were talking to him. "He will..."

" You're a no good stinkin varmint," said Applejack, her face turning red with anger. "Filly-knapping Twilight and forcing her to learn deadly magic. What kind of monster are ya?"

" I agree with AJ," said Fluttershy, looking up at Hermaeus Mora with anger instead of fear. " Twilight said your world has no sun or moon, being trapped in a place like that would be horrible."

" Girls please stop," said Twilight frantically.

" You despicable ruffian," said Rarity, her tears changing to ones of rage. " How could you take our friend from us and keep her for what will be Fifteen years for her."

" Fifteen years of nothing but studying?" Gasped Pinkie Pie, her mane poofing out like a porcupine. " No parties, no singing, nopony around but Hermmy for company. How could something like this even happen, what kind of terrible place is this Apocrypha? What...? What...? What...?"

"Stop," said Twilight, still to weak to even raise her voice.

" You monster, " snapped Shining Armour, walking over to stand under his hovering Princesses. " After today, I will make sure you never come near Twilly ever again."

" Agreed," said Rainbow Dash, hovering over to place herself between Hermaeus Mora and Twilight. "This monster will have to go through me to get to Twilight from now on."

Cadance had said nothing, only tightening her hold on Twilight as she stared at Hermaeus Mora with more hatred than she had ever felt coursing through her soul.

"You had best leave, before things get violent," said Spike angerly, the little dragon blowing smoke out of his nostrils to try and look more intimidating, for all the good it did.

Twilight could only watch as her friends all got defensive towards Hermaeus Mora, terror in her eyes. Hermaeus Mora was a patient individual, not easily provocate, but she was not inclined to test it. Even the most steel class mind could be irritated if one touches the right trigger, and everyone was throwing out plenty of those.

Twilight also knew that there was nothing more dangerous than an irritated Daedric Prince, and with this being the first time Equestria ever encountered one, it would not be good.

With her friends deaf to her pleas, Twilight shot the waving tendrils before them all the most pleading look she could muster. It stared at her, she stared back, hoping to convy her disire through her expression. Her worry increased as nothing happened but her friends constantly threatening Hermaeus Mora for several seconds.

But then a small tendril extended from the ground and before her face, clutching a bright green vial in its coils. Smiling, Twilight opened her mouth, the vial sliding its mouth past her lips. She felt the tasteless liquid slide over her tounge, her throat tissue twinging pleasantly as it made its way to her stomach.

Cadance was drawn to the gulping noise she heard, gasping in terror as she saw Twilight drinking deeply from a small green bottle offered to her by a thin black tendril, " Twilight no, what are you...?"

But Twilight had already swallowed the last of the potion, flashing a bright light for a second before she suddenly disappeared in a flash of her signature purple magic. Placing her now empty forelegs to the ground, Cadance saw Twilight reappear before them and Hermaeus Mora, standing tall and draped in her transparent dragon armor. All present fell silent as they saw her.

" EVERYPONY FREEZE!" She called, her horn lighting up in a purple aura that wrapped everypony and Spike up in her magic, except for Spitfire, who backed up and took flight as Shining Armour's shield finally vanished when his sister grabbed him in her magic, taking refuge behind a nearby tree as to stay out of the way, but still be here should she be needed.

Twilight let out a sigh of relief once they were all secure in her magic, though she feared the damage was already done. And if that was the case all she had fought for, all she had done up to now would be in vain. Taking a deep breath, Twilight turned around and faced Hermaeus Mora, and bowed respectivly.

" Please forgive their impudence, Lord Hermaeus Mora, " said Twilight, fighting to keep her panic under control. She had been around Hermaeus Mora for a while (fifteen years she now found out) but she never allowed herself to get to used to his presence to the point to were she forgot who and what he was. "They are oblivious to what is before them."

Twilight's compatriots could only watch in stunned silence one top of the silence Twilight was enforcing on them.

"Do not fret, my champion," said Hermaeus Mora calmly. "It takes more than this to instill my wrath."

Twilight nodded her head in gratitude, then turned to her friends and gave them a pleading look.

" I know learning that this has happened has upset you all, but please, quell your anger," said Twilight desperately, looking at each of the individuals before her that she loved with all her heart. "Hermaeus Mora did not force this on me, I chose it, of my own free will."

All present could only watch on, unable to do anything within the telekinesis that held them.

" And I was not imprisoned in Apocrypha, " Twilight continued, focusing on Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. "I could leave anytime I wanted, and I chose to do so when I felt I was strong enough to protect all of you." Now that she was outside of her brothers force field, the devastation the changelings had caused to Canterlot was visible, plus the gigantic vortex of black tentacles above. "And now I Know that I wasn't ready."

She once again looked into the eyes of all before her.

" Please don't lash out at Hermaeus Mora anymore," Twilight begged, tears streaming her face. " Equestria could not afford it if we draw the wrath of a Daedric Prince."

"I am afraid you are not getting through to them, my champion," said Hermaeus Mora, Twilight throwing him a look.
"Their love and determination for you is unswayed by your words and my appearance. They will continue to defend you from me, as long as they believe they need to."

" Then what can I do?" said Twilight, twinging a little as her efforts to keep her loved ones restrained began to take a tole on her, "I don't want them to make you angry. "

"It is not what you should do, but what I should do," said Hermaeus Mora, amusement in his wet voice. "Maybe a demonstration will dissuade them from lashing out."

Movement from above brought the attention of Twilight, who gasped as one of Hermaeus Mora's larger tendrils came down towards them. She fought the urge to run as it landed behind her, were her friends could see it lying length wise on the edge of the rounding platform they all stood on. Turning around, Twilight saw the tendril, so close she could see her altered Cutie Mark reflected in its glossy surface.

Then it started bubbling like hot tar, the surface rippling and disturbing the reflections upon it. No heat or waves of fumes were produced from this, none even felt any liquid land on their bodies, despite the shifting surface of liquid that bubbled and turned. Then everyone present beheld the strange creature's that emerged from the bubbling tendril.

Twilight recognized them as Hermaeus Mora's Seekers, but the rest saw them as strange masses of grey tendrils extruding from ripped black cloths, their tentacled faces staring at the group with beady eyes. Fluttershy and Rarity felt their blood turn to ice as they saw these abominations emerge from the tendril that had almost cruched them, these things looking even creepier than the creatures that held the remaining changelings prisoner a few yards away.

Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Shining Armour, and the three Alicorn Princesses were not as terrified, but concern soon formed in their minds as the number of Seekers grew to so many numbers that soon a small army hovered up above them, instantly out numbering the amount of Changelings Chrysalis had unleashed upon them. Spike and Pinkie Pie felt overwhelming fear as well as the red sky above became dotted with Seekers along with the huge tendrils. Though Pinkie also was formulating how much punch one of these dudes could drink if they held a cup in each tendril.

"Lets see if they still have the will to lash out at me now," said Hermaeus Mora, retracting his tentacle.

With a combination of not wanting to hold them against their will anymore, and exhaustion, Twilight released her friends.

As soon as they were free, they took in the mighty army before them. None of them, not even Rainbow Dash would dare think they would stand a chance against such outnumbering odds. For a few minutes all that happened was everypony looking at the army before them with trepidation.

" Please...don't challenge Hermaeus Mora anymore," begged Twilight as she approached Princess Celestia and Princess Luna and bowed to them both. "He is not something we could have a prayer against."

Celestia and Luna could only stare with wide eyed expression' s. This army of bizarre creature's had been brought before them in a matter of seconds, and unlike normally, they had been conjured magically. Again they were given a reason to be cautious.

"Was it really your choice, Twilight? " asked Celestia, giving her a concerned look. " Hermaeus Mora did not force this on you against your will?"

" No, your majesty, " said Twilight, shaking her head.

"And you should be proud of her, Celestia of the sun," said Hermaeus Mora, everyone looking to him again. "Fifteen years is an unpresident amount of time to master the Thu'um. Those who have studied it before her have studied all their lives, and never gained even a fraction of the power she can utilize now."

" All their lives? " said Princess Luna, looking at Twilight with interest. "What kind of magic is this...Thu...uu...uum."

"The most complex," answered Hermaeus Mora, "And since Twilight could adapt to it so well, it leads me to believe that your people have an aptitude for magic much greater than anything creature I have ever encountered..., intriguing.

Everypony and dragon did not like his tone, but none questioned, not with the force above.

" Hey," said Twilight, pointing forward. "I think we have forgotten something."

They all followed her hoof and saw the changelings still held prisoner.

" Hey, I actually forgot all about them," said Applejack, arching her eye.

" Ya," said Rainbow, looking at the changelings with revolution. "They're not much a threat now."

" I thought I had seen the worst when they showed up," said Rarity, looking to the Seekers above. "Not anymore. "

" Maybe we could throw them a nice try taking over Equestria party?" Said Pinkie, scratching her head.

" Oh, we shouldn't hurt them," said Fluttershy, looking at the changeling swarm worriedly. " They aren't a threat anymore. "

"We should throw them in a dungeon," said Spike, clenching his claws. "They ruined the wedding."

"Yes, I agree," said Shining Armour, great anger in his voice. " Months of planing, plus taking my love prisoner, unforgivable."

" WAIT," shouted Twilight, turning to Celestia and Luna. " I have an idea, may I handle this situation?"

Celestia and Luna exchanged looks, then Celestia turned back to look at her student.

"I ignored your judgment when I should have listened," said the alabaster Alicorn, giving an apologetic look. " I won't do it again."

Twilight gave her a grateful smile and walked forward to the captive changelings. Her friends made to stop her but a quick glance from the Princesses made them stop, though Shining Armour had to really reign it in. Before long Twilight stood before the Lurkers that had a hold of the changelings.

It saddened her that so few were left.

" Are any of you the changeling that distracted the others long enough for me to evade capture?" She asked, hoping that one did survive Storm Call.

" What are you badgering about?" Snapped the changeling with the red frilled. " No changeling would ever deceive its own brethren so a potential enemy could esca..."

" It was me," said a soft male voice.

Twilight made her way over to the left of the group, stopping before the changeling that spoke.

"THORAX?" shouted Pharynx, great veins bulging in his neck. " You will pay dearly for this treachery. I will personally rip out your th..."

"You have a serious impulse control problem," said Twilight irritability, her horn pulsating with magic as she sealed Pharynx's mouth shut with some duck tape.

She turned back to the changeling before her.

" So your name is Thorax?" Asked Twilight, the changeling only nodding in response. "Why did you help me?"

" I have never agreed with how Chrysalis ran the hive," answered Thorax, looking over Twilight’s shoulder at her gathered friends. "I noticed long ago that Equestria gives love freely, and it never made sense why Chrysalis would come up with this invasion when she could have just approached you. Till today, when I saw her reviel in the misery she caused you...when she turned all who you loved against you."

Once again blades of guilt stabbed into all of Twilight's friends heart's.

" After that I knew I could not let our so called queen tear apart any more loving relationships, " said Thorax. "And when I saw how quickly you had her on the ropes, I knew you could stop her, once and for all."

Twilight looked to the bound group of changelings then at Thorax." Who will you obey, now that Chrysalis is dead?"

"You defeated her," said Thorax, " You and Hermaeus Mora, whatever he is. We will follow you now."

" And if I tell you all to follow Thorax you will obey?" Twilight asked the whole group, a plan forming in her mind.

There was silence. Then all the changeling survivors nodded their heads, fear in their eyes. Twilight was hoping for that.

"Please release them sirs," she said to the Lurkers, who released them then vanished in a splash of black liquid.

" Go back to were ever you came from," said Twilight to Thorax, who paid close attention. "Recover from your injuries. But I warn you." Twilight gestured up to the waving mass of tentacles above, "If any of you try to pull this again, you see what Equestria is host to now."

All the Changelings looked up at Hermaeus Mora with fear.

"Now is are chance," said Pharynx, dive bombing Twilight.

He was stopped when about six other Changelings dog piled him, dragging him along as the other Changelings made their way out of Canterlot. He screamed and thrashed, his voice echoing with how they were so close to victory, that retreat was not an option. Twilight only sighed at how pathetic that was as the Changeling swarm vanished on the horizon.

" Is it over?" Moaned Fluttershy, watching the changelings vanish.

" No," said Twilight, walking past everypony up to Hermaeus Mora's vortex. " Is it time?"

"I believe so my champion. "

" Twilight?" said Celestia, not liking the sound of Twilight's voice. "Time for what?"

Twilight only gave a sad look to them all.

" Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Cadance, Spike, Shining Armour, Rainbow, Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, I did all of this to protect all of you," said Twilight with a crackly voice, "I made a deal with a Daedric Prince, and they do not offer their services without payment."

Twilight's companions only stared at her with worry.

"Payment?" Whimpered Fluttershy. "What kind of payment?"

Twilight cringed as her memories resurfaced.

---

"This is were we reach a turning point, my champion, "said Hermaeus Mora, the small mass of tentacles he was speaking through holding a large gray book."If you proceed from here, you will owe me...compensation."

Twilight looked at the book before her, the title read Thu'um, or Storm Voice as she had been told. Twilight had been following Hermaeus Mora's instructions for she did not know how long, but the spells she had already learned had more potential than any other she had studied. That morning she had been called to her extravagant room, being told that their was more advanced magic she could learn.

Magic that was within that book.

"What do you mean? " asked Twilight nervously.

"I am willing to let you cease at this point, and allow you to return home, explained Hermaeus Mora, his eye staring at her. But if you wish to continue..., it will cost you."

---

"Now that the threat to Equestria is averted, I must return to Apocrypha and contribute my knowledge to Hermaeus Mora's purpose's."

" WHAT? " echoed through Canterlot in multiple voices.

" You have to return to that place?" Asked Applejack, her face contorted in fear.

" Why would you do that?" Asked Rainbow.

" I had to girls," said Twilight sadly. " I had mastered many spells by the time Hermaeus Mora told me about the Thu'um, but I knew it was not much more powerful than the magic I already had, the Thu'um was something I knew I could use if I needed a last resort."

"Twilight, no," said Rarity, grabbing Twilight by the shoulders. "Look what that monster did to that wretched queen."

" Hermaeus Mora will not harm me," said Twilight, teleporting out of Rarity's hooves.

"You?" Said Celestia, walking up to Hermaeus Mora's writhing eye. "Is it true, did Twilight agree to contribute her knowledge in exchange for your help?"

"All knowledge has its price, your majesty," said Hermaeus Mora. " Your student has knowledge I desire... knowledge that will be essential in aquiring what I...DESIRE...it will be a fitting exchange for the Thu'um."

" Can we not come to some other arrangement?" Asked Celestia, "As Princess, I have access to Equestria's most rare of knowledge, I would gladly gift them to you."

"Tempting, your majesty, However...I do not just seek knowledge...There is something...Else I require...something I am certain your student can obtain for me... "

"And besides, I already promised him I would," said Twilight, remembering when she accepted Hermaeus Mora's offer.

---

"Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my..." a black tendril haulted Twilight's hoof before she could jab it in her eye.

"That would not be wise."

---

"Twilight you can't," said Cadance desperately. " This thing is dangerous, and how long would you be gone? "

"Till my task is complete."

Again, Twilights friends did not like that.

"No, Twilight please don't," begged Cadance, putting her hooves on Twilight's shoulders."Despite all that has happened today, I still need you here. I can't marry Shining without you..."

Twilight let out a choked sob as her horn flashed a light green color. Shining Armour, Twilight's friends,and the alicorns all keeled over, still as as statue's. She didn't want it to come to this, but she had to.

"I would love nothing more than to be at your real wedding, Cadance," said Twilight, Cadance looking up at her in worry. "But I made the deal, and if there is anything stupider than breaking a Pinkie Promise, it's backing out of a deal with a Daedric Prince. Besides...," she cast her brother a look. "It was made very clear to me that I am not welcome at your wedding anymore."

Twilight began to walk towards Hermaeus Mora, but stopped, levitating her family's ancient ring and placing it under Shining's vision, "I think Mom and Dad will want that back."

As she approached she passed her immobile friends.

"I want you to know that I hold no resentment for what happened anymore, I love all of you," she said, giving them all a loving smile. "But if I don't give Hermaeus Mora what I promised he will only take it by force. Most likely the same way he took knowledge from Chrysalis."

She continues on, passing the paraliyzed princesses.

"Princess Celestia," choked Twilight, tear's in her eyes. "I still wish to study under you. I don't know how long I will be gone, but when I do return, I hope we can pick up the pieces and resume my studies."

With that Twilight arrived before Hermaeus Mora, trying not to notice the tear's streaming from Celestia's eyes.

"I'm ready."

"I admire your dedication and loyalty," said Hermaeus Mora, a black book appearing in his tendrils.

Twilight's friends could only watch as she read the book and was dragged under the ground by a black tendril.

Go my Seekers," said Hermaeus Mora, his hovering army scattering. "Seek... and collect."

With that, all visage of Hermaeus Mora receded into his vortexes, the sun and moon returning to their places as there image reappeared on the princesses bodies. The spell Twilight cast on them left them still, unable to move. Help did not come until Lyra, Twinkleshine and Minuet arrived on the scene, laughing hysterically as they were tackled by over a dozen Lunar and Celestial guard.

"Gotcha, we finally got you," said one guard before he noticed the paraliyzed ponies and one dragon. "Ugh... did we miss something?"

21 Harvest

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Sugar Belle watched as her cupcake Cutie Mark joined the several others stored in the Cutie Mark vault, conflicting thoughts ringing in her mind as her new equal sign Cutie Mark spread a stilling feeling through her body.

"Do not despair, my friend," said the light pink unicorn known as Starlight Glimmer, who put a hoof on her new compatriot's shoulder. "It's only natural to miss it at first, but in time, you will find life here among ponies that are just like you, is your ideal home."

"Is that really true?" asked Sugar Belle, looking to the group of ponies who had come to watch the ceremony.

"Oh definitely," said the earth pony, Party Favor. "We all get along here better than any other ponies in Equestria."

"We are all equal here," said Double Diamond, his grin splitting his face. "No conflicts of interest in our little village."

"Come with me," said the dark pegasus, Night Glider. "I'll show you around."

So Sugar Belle joined her new friends in heading back down the mountain, casting one last look at her Cutie Mark among the others. She still felt conflicted about giving it up, but she was so terribly lonely at this point, she would give even more up. Smiling to her new friends, she made her way to the simple village at the foot of the mountains.

"You coming, Starlight?" asked Double Diamond over his shoulder.

" Not yet," replied Starlight, "I need to make sure the Staff of Sameness is still functioning at full capacity."

Double Diamond said his goodbye to Starlight and left the cave, making his way into town as the sun began to set in the distance. Starlight walked up to the pedestal in front of her village's Cutie Mark vault and placed the long, two-pronged staff on it. It sat there, looking regal under the light of the sealed away Cutie Marks.

Despite its uselessness.

It was Starlight Glimmer herself that had the magical aptitude to remove a pony's Cutie Mark, not the 'magic' relic. Turning around to look at her own flank, Starlight saw her left Cutie Mark peeking out under her makeup. It was the real reason she stayed behind.

Starlight had brushed her flank against the pedestal, smearing her makeup and exposing part of her mark.

"Starlight, you clumsy fool," she berated herself.

If word got out she had kept her Cutie Mark, while taking the others, it would not end well. It was not equality like she was trying to spread to others, but she needed her magic to remove the Cutie Marks of her followers. She had a personal mission to accomplish, and she was devoted to it with all her being, even if she had to deceive others to achieve it.

For now she would have to wait until night to return to her house, or somepony might see her exposed flank.

"Greetings mortal."

Starlight let out a gasp as she turned to the source of the voice. And there before her, a gelatinous black fluid swirled into existence, black tendrils and a single eye forming from its spiraling depth. It was barely bigger than her head, but still would be considered intimidating to most ponies.

But Starlight Glimmer was not most ponies.

"You're one of those..." she said in awe, her shocked demeanor vanishing to be replaced by one of intrigue. "...one of those strange vortexes that appeared all over Equestria."

"Indeed, youngling," said the voice of the vortex, "As I have previously announced, I am Hermaeus Mora...Daedric Prince of knowledge and memory."

"Lovely title," complimented Starlight, approaching the vortex and bowing. "What can I do for you?"

"I seek to understand the concept of the marks that adorn the flanks of ponies," explained Hermaeus Mora, a hungry tone to his voice. "I have sensed something of great affinity in that regard is somewhere in this location."

"You must mean the Staff of Sameness," said Starlight, gesturing behind her to the wooden rod. "It alone has the power to manipulate a ponies Cutie Mark."

"Do not take me for a fool, mortal," said Hermaeus Mora, slightly irritated.

"What... what do you mean?" asked Starlight panicky, a bead of sweat running down her face.

"The object before you is a powerless branch," answered Hermaeus Mora, Starlight's face contorted in terror. "I sense that the magic that holds those marks... as well as what recently removed the mark from that mare before... comes from you."

"That... that's not true," rebutted Starlight, panic creeping into her voice. " I am not..."

"You can hide nothing from me, mortal," said Hermaeus Mora, "The truth is my domain... and no matter how convincingly done... it cannot be hidden from me."

"Then I will just have to hide you," snapped Starlight, her horn flarng to life and snapping a large glass jar around the swirling vortex, cramming it into its confining interior. "I HAVE WORKED TOO HARD, BUILT TOO MUCH TO LET AN ABOMINATION LIKE YOU GET IN THE WAY!"

Hermaeus Mora just blinked inside the jar.

"What is it do you think you are doing?"

"Protecting what is mine," said Starlight, pushing her nose to the glass of the jar, then moving to pace before it as she held it in her magic. "Now here is how things are going to work, Hermaeus Mora. If you want me to release you, you will do as I say. Call one of your larger brethren here... now!"

"Larger brethren?"

"One of the larger creatures," explained Starlight, her face contorting into an smile. "And if it wants you back, it will use that ability to speak all across the country to deliver my message."

"YOU MISERABLE, UNKNOWING FOOL!" shouted Hermaeus Mora, Starlight gasping as he disappeared from her jar, a magnitude of bigger and smaller vortexes appearing all across the cave, "THESE MANIFESTATIONS ARE ALL A PART OF ONE WHOLE, NOT A GROUP OF SEPARATE BEINGS."

Starlight could only stare in horror as multiple vortexes began to close in on her, backing her up to the Cutie Mark vault.

"You dare attempt to manipulate me into doing your bidding?"

"Stay back," she whispered, her horn pulsating with magic. "Stay back, you monster."

Starlight unleashed barrage after barrage after barrage of powerful magic beams, the false staff shattering as one of her spells fazed through Hermaeus Mora and struck it. From outside the cave multiple teal lights illuminated the mouth until a female scream echoed for a second, followed by an explosion that shook the mountain.

The next morning, the denizens of the simple little village would wake up in the morning to find that each and every one of them had their Cutie Marks back. When they sought out their founder for answers, they found her missing from her house and the Cutie Mark vault cave totally collapsed, no sign of Starlight anywhere. She was just gone.

Over time it became obvious she had just vanished without a trace.

As time went on, the ponies began to adapt into a life with their Cutie Mark again, and a few bites of delicious baked confections formed the foundation to happy new friendships that were even stronger than with equality.

---

"You won't get away with this, Ahuizotl," said Daring Do from her position draped over a henchpony's back, wrapped from shoulders to hooves in ropes.

"That is where you are wrong, Miss Do," said the feline monkey creature. He, his ever present felines, and his henchponies were walking down the decrepit halls of the huge temple they were in. "Though I must say thank you," he continued, looking at the Sapphire Stone he kept clutched in his tail's hand, "For finding both the key, and the door."

Daring Do let out a frustrated growl. The ancient temple they were descending into was the entrance to the coveted Necromancer's Library, an ancient and extensive hoard of the blackest knowledge magic had to offer, sealed away in this place long before Equestria was even founded. Sealed here by scholarly ponies who feared this knowledge, but had too much respect for books to destroy them.

After procuring the Sapphire Stone, the fabled key to unlocking this trove of evil knowledge, Daring Do had spent months trying to discern the whereabouts of this lost place. And after chasing every rumor, every small indication, she had finally come across this place hidden under a hill several miles south of Saddle Arabia, and had found the legendary door deep within.

But Daring had found herself with a conundrum.

She could not figure out how the small two headed dog statue opened the hidden compartment she had discovered. She had thought and thought, but came up with nothing. Even after spending weeks roughing it out here in the middle of nowhere, all of her experience as an archeologist had been no help.

It was only made worse when her hated nemesis, Ahuizotl, had broken into her tent in the dead of this night, having somehow tracked her, and was now dragging her into the depths of the temple, to what waited within.

"I have been working to open the door for weeks, Ahuizotl," snapped Daring Do as they entered they entered the entry chamber to the library. "Do you really believe you could figure it out?"

The entry chamber differed from the rest of the temple in many ways. It was ornate, the walls decorated with carvings of hooded ponies collecting and gathering books that were surrounded in an ominous aura. The four corners of the spacious square room were adorned with a pillar that stretched up to the ceiling that depicted a pony skull that gazed down to the floor below with its empty sockets.

The most discerning feature of the room that contributed to its beauty, preservation, and connection to the Sapphire Stone was that everything in here was carved from large chunks of sapphire gemstone. The bright blue room was a wonderful sight to behold as the henchponies placed the lanterns they had been carrying for light at even places around, everything sparkling a brilliant blue. Nopony could see this and not be awed.

Except Daring Do, who had spent so many waking hours in here that the extravagance had long worn off, and now all this blue only served to give her a headache.

"Oh... Miss Do, I already have figured it out," said Ahuizotl, wiping off the four foot, rounded sapphire pedestal in the middle of the room, then placing the statue upon it.

"Yeah right," shot back Daring Do, looking up to keep an eye on the pedestal. "I have searched every square inch of this place for weeks, you only got here hours ago."

"You were searching in the wrong temple to begin with," said Ahuizotl smugly. " The clues to the keys functionality was not here, but were the key itself was originally."

Her anger was replaced by uncertainty. "That temple in the jungle?"

"Why yes, Miss Do," said Ahuizotl as he leaned in to observe the Sapphire Stone closer. "For once your assumption was incorrect, the key to the key was hidden with the key, not with the door it opens."

"You're bluffing," said Daring Do, slight panic in her voice. "You're trying to trick me into blurting out the real solution, it won't work."

"Miss Do, I don't need you to blurt out anything," said Ahuizotl, lifting up his arm and pinching his thumb and index finger together. "I know how to use the key, and it is so simple it's no wonder you overlooked it."

Right then and there, Ahuizotl flicked the large faceted gem on the statues chest.

A high pitch whine filled the air as the two heads of the statue vibrated like the prongs of a tuning fork. Daring folded her ears against her head as the whine grew to an almost unbearable level, even Ahuizotl looking uncomfortable with the noise.

Then a low rumbling joined the whining sound, Daring noticing that the four large pillars were shaking, resonating with the sound bouncing off the walls.

Then a cracking sound filled the air, all present looking ahead to see the far wall spider web cracking.

Daring Do could only watch as the wall tumbled to the ground in mighty sapphire shard, simple stone double doors appearing in its place. She could not let this happen. Ahuizotl could not get his sticky claws on the contents of this place. The Necromancer's Library was hid away for a reason.

"You can't do this Ahuizotl," said Daring Do as she was dragged towards the doors on the back of a henchpony. "The books contained within that room are too dangerous."

"Which is precisely why I want them," said Ahuizotl, stroking his house cat with his tail hand as he arrived at the doors and gripped the handles. "With those books, I can really do some damage."

"You won't be able to control it," said Daring Do, looking to the pony she was draped over. "Don't any of you realize the danger these books pose."

But the tribal pony said nothing. What was with henchponies, did they have no brains of their own? They were still ponies, should they not comprehend what was happening here?

"Face it, Daring Do, you have lost," said Ahuizotl triumphantly, swinging the doors open with a flourish. "And after I discover which of these books can provide something painful and lingering, you can be assured that I will..."

But he stopped when he noticed that the room before him was completely illuminated.

Book shelves went on before them in all directions, packed full of books as they extended to the expansive opposite wall. But torches cast a light from wall sconces, everything visible, clear as day. Both Ahuizotl and Daring Do came to the same conclusion at the same time.

Nopony had been in this place for thousands of years, it would not be fully illuminated like this.

Until Ahuizotl, Daring Do, and the dozen or so henchponies saw the tentacled creature up ahead of them, examining a book in its boney hands.

"STOP!" shouted Ahuizotl, pointing forward, his face contorting with rage. "This place is mine."

The Seeker paid them no mind, just continued to examine its book.

"DESTROY THAT THING," Ahuizotl ordered his henchponies.

Without hesitation, the pony warrior tribe hurled the spears they had been holding at the offending creature. It looked up in time for a half a dozen spears to pierce it in multiple places, dropping the book from its grasp, a spear impaling its chest a second later. All was still for a few seconds, then the Seeker crumbled into dust.

"What an insult," said Ahuizotl, walking up and swiping away the dust with his foot. "Who did that thing think it was, reading my books like..."

But he was interrupted when a splash of black liquid erupted from below, pushing him up to the air and landing him on his back before his henchponies. He sputtered a little, then stood up, looking ahead to see what had happened. He joined the henchponies and Daring Do's slack jawed expression.

The hulking form of a Lurker towered over all of them, its fish like qualities sending all their nerves on end.

"Destroy it," said Ahuizotl, pointing to the Lurker frantically. "DESTROY IT QUICKLY."

The henchponies flashed each other a worried look, before carrying out their orders, the one holding Daring Do dropping her to the ground with a painful crunch, then joined the assault.

Daring watched as the dozen henchponies charged the hulking terror, some jumping up to dog pile it, others advancing with spears. The Lurker sidestepped the lunging ponies and lifted its leg and stomped its foot in the direction of the others. A tremor spread from the point of impact, knocking all spear holding ponies up into the air and onto their backs.

Daring Do felt her stomach churning as a welt squelch sounded, one of the henchponies having landed on his own spear. Blood ran from his still body, the spear impaling through his chest and out his back, having gone through his heart. Death was quick.

All the other henchponies stared in shock at their deceased comrade.

"Get your flanks in gear," snapped Ahuizotl.

The other henchponies snapped out of their terror and made to resume the attack, but not before a huge foot landed on the back of another, his spine snapping like a twig. The Lurker roared as it stepped over the dead pony, charging the others with its wibe stride.

They moved to defend themselves, but before they could raise their spears four tendrils extruded from the Lurkers mouth and grabbed four of the henchponies. They were hoisted up as the Lurker drew its head down, slamming them into the ground with a sickening crunch. They lay still, and moved no more.

The remaining henchponies stared at their dead comrades, blood flowing from their gaping mouths...and dropped their spears and made a beeline for the exist, screaming in terror.

"Come back here," said Ahuizotl, his feline guard the only thing around him now. " I demand that you..."

A large foot slammed in front of him. Ahuizotl and his cats slowly followed the leg up to the Lurkers intimidating face, its jaws parting enough to slightly show the tendrils wiggling within. It stared at Ahuizotl, Ahuizotl stared back. Until he and his cats took off as fast as their legs could carry them.

Daring Do struggled in her ropes as the Lurker approached her. She was not deluded, she knew she was no match for this creature, even if she was not bound. The ropes held tight, she had no hope of getting out of them. A foot landed before her face, and Daring Do cringed her eyes, waiting for the end.

She felt herself get flipped over...and the tension of the rope completely vanished.

Opening her eyes, Daring Do saw the creature above holding the rope that had bound her. But before she could question, the monster vanished in a splash of black liquid, the rope falling to the ground. Daring could only lie there, stunned at all that had happened.

"Greetings Daring Do," said a voice, Daring flapping her numb wings to lift up as half a dozen black vortexes sprung up, a single eye and tendrils extruding from them. "...or is it A.K. Yearling?"

"Hermaeus Mora," said Daring Do quietly, recognizing this thing from a week ago. "I...it's you?"

"Indeed I am," said Hermaeus Mora, his tone humorous. "I am honored you recognize me."

"How could I not," said Daring Do, flapping closer, "You made quite a lasting impression."

"That I did."

"So this was your doing?" asked Daring Do, extending a hoof to the slain henchponies still bleeding on the ground.

"Yes," said Hermaeus Mora plainly. "That fool interfered with my study of these ancient tomes... I will tolerate no interruption to my pursuit."

"Did you have to kill them?" asked Daring Do, looking to the still ponies sadly.

"It is unwise to draw a Daedric Prince's ire."

Daring Do wanted to argue further, but then she forced herself to remember who it was she was talking to. Plus, he saved her from Ahuizotl, who would have shown no mercy on his part . Besides, now was not the time, they were in the Necromancer's Library.

"Thank you, Hermaeus Mora," said Daring Do, bowing before his tentacles. "Thanks for saving my life."

"I didn't come here to save you, mortal."

" Even so," said Daring Do, looking around at the multiple dark tomes. "What will you do now?"

"I will continue to study these ancient books," answered Hermaeus Mora. "After I am through with them, you may share your discovery with your kingdom."

"Can you take them away?" Asked Daring Do, looking up at Hermaeus Mora hopefully. "Can you take these books somewhere were nopony can find them?"

Hermaeus Mora paused.

"It is well within my power," Hermaeus Mora said, "But why?"

"The books in this place are too dangerous," said Daring Do. "They contain dark magic that is best left forgotten. The ponies who built this place knew that, but coveted books to much to destroy them. If you are interested in studying them, take them, take them all. Equestria would be better off if they were gone for good."

Daring Do stopped and took a breath.

"You're going to want to leave... mortal."

Daring Do cast Hermaeus Mora a look, one of the eyes in the left portals winking. Smiling, Daring Do raced out of the door as fast as her wings could carry her, grabbing the Sapphire Stone from the pedestal on her way out. It was not until she stopped on a cloud above that she dare look back.

The temple below was sinking into a huge body of black liquid that had appeared below, bubbling as it swallowed the last of the temple. Daring smiled as the liquid below faded, the sand below flawless, as if the temple was never there at all. She had never given much thought to Hermaeus' appearance in Equestria, but was glad he did, from where ever he originally came from.

Though she still wished he had not sent that thing to massacre Ahuizotl's henchponies.

She cast a look at the Sapphire Stone she held and smiled. Ahuizotl did not get his hands on the Necromancer's Library, that was the most important thing. Now this statue could become something other than the key to a store of evil knowledge, it can be a reminder of what happened to her this night.

Daring Do took off into the night, clutching the artifact to her chest.

But she was unsure if she should make this adventure into her next novel.

22 Assessing and Planning

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Princess Celestia and Princess Luna stood before a group of ponies in the Canterlot throne room. It had been about three weeks since the changeling invasion and the arrival of Hermaeus Mora in Equestria and the Princess had sent the individuals before them out to assess the situation. They had just returned from their respective assignments.

"Lieutenant Fleetfoot," said Princess Luna, turning to the baby blue pegasus. "What news have the Wonderbolts gathered?"

"Captain Spitfire is still investigating the far southern settlements," said Fleetfoot, saluting with her wing. "But from what we have learned from the eye witness accounts as well as the accounts from actual Wonderbolts who had encounters themselves, those strange tendril creatures that have appeared have not caused any harm as of yet."

"Is that so?" asked Celestia, rubbing her chin as she remembered Hermaeus Mora scattering his minions to every corner of Equestria while she could do nothing but watch . "Have they done anything at all?"

"Yes, your majesty, and that is the weird part," said Fleetfoot, her voice professional. "Through the accounts of other Wonderbolts as well as my own experience, all they do is hover around establishments such as libraries, schools, newspapers, museums, and town archives, and examine random items such as scrolls and books."

"Just examine?" inquired Luna, arching an eye ridge, "Aren't they taking them?"

"No, your majesty," replied Fleetfoot, "The one I monitored personally at the Cloudsdale flight school, all it did was take books from the library, one by one, and examine them."

"Did it interact with anypony?" asked Celestia, unease in her voice.

"Not intentionally," answered Fleetfoot, "A couple of students, as well as the school librarian approached it before I could stop them, but it paid them no mind and just continued its exploration of the books."

"Is it there at the moment?" asked Celestia.

"No, your majesty," answered Fleetfoot, " After about three days it reached the last book shelve, and after it was finished examining those books, it vanished in a flashed of light green light."

"Just like that?" Asked Luna.

"Yes, your majesty," said Fleetfoot.

The Princesses exchanged a look.

"This is not what I expected," said Celestia.

"Despite his grotesque appearance, I think Hermaeus Mora was sincere," said Luna, "He is only interested in acquiring our knowledge."

Celestia nodded in agreement and turned back to Fleetfoot, "Return to the other Wonderbolts and inform Spitfire to keep monitoring these events, and to get word to us if and when their is any change in this pattern."

Fleetfoot bowed respectively and bolted out the door, ready to carry out what was tasked to her. The next pony in line was a high ranking royal guard named Spear Point, tasked with monitoring the sightings of the tendril portals across the kingdom. Hopefully he did not have worse news

"Your majesty," said Spear Point, bowing respectfully.

"Rise, good soldier," said Celestia, "Have you anything to report? "

"There has only been one incident since that horrible day," said Spear Point, shaking a little as he lifted an envelope with his wing.

Luna grabbed the envelope in her magic, holding the report inside up for her and Celestia to read.

---

In the Appleloosa's town square, something was going down.

"FIFTY THOUSAND BITS?!" shouted Braeburn, his statson falling off his head to be caught by Little Strongheart before it could be swept away in the wind. "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?"

"Quite so, good sir," said the light tan earth pony Flim, gesturing behind him to the motorized vehicle they had brought. "For offering you such a good deal on this exquisite machine."

"And my brother and I guarantee you," said his twin Flam, his mustache flaring with his wide grin. "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 is the machine to increase the amount of cider this city produces by at least one hundred fold."

“But fifty thousand bits? asked Little Strongheart, Braeburn looking faint next to her. "That's more than at least half of the farmers here make combined. Not to mention, it needs a unicorn to run it, and we only have a few here in town."

"But that's the beauty of it," said Flam, a mischievous glint under his salesman persona. "All it takes is one unicorn and they need not be that skilled in magic either."

"The machine does everything else under its own power," finished Flim.

Braeburn grit his teeth slightly as Little Strongheart hooved him back his hat. The machine was without a doubt a faster method of producing cider, but this price was outrageous. No way could he afford this, even if all of Appleloosa pitched in.

"I would make a decision fast," said Flam, his mustache bouncing. "Cherry Jubilee down at Dodge Junction has offered us seventy thousand bits."

"But your little hamlet here looked like it needs it more," said Flim, flashing his brother a wink under his hat. "So we decided to offer it to you first, and for a better deal."

Braeburn looked uncertain, but Little Strongheart gave the twins a glare. Something was off about this and she knew it. The smiles these salesponies wore gave her a bad feeling.

Before she could say anything, a loud crunching noise filled the air, drawing the attention of the Appleloosians and the Flim Flam brothers. They looked to the source of the noise just in time to see the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000's cow plow vanishing into a swirling black vortex that hung in the air, black tendrils gripping it in parts to pull it in.

Just like that, it was gone.

"Huh...?" mumbled Flim, a sweat drop on his temple. "If you want that feature, it will cost you twenty percent extra."

Braeburn cast little Strongheart a look, one she replied to with a nod. She tapped her hoof a few times, and a herd of buffalo stampeded onto the scene, surrounding them. Flim and Flam could only give nervous chuckles as the buffalo around them huffed their nostrils threateningly.

---

“This is it?" Asked Celestia, looking up with a puzzled expression.

"If there are any other incidents, they were either not witnessed, or not reported," said Spear Point.

"Very well," said Princess Luna, returning the envelope to the guard. "You are dismissed, but if you hear about anything else, get word to us immediately."

"Yes, your majesties," said Spear Point, taking his leave.

That left Raven Inkwell, Celestia's personal assistant, left before the Princesses. Unlike the others, she had not been summoned, but had arrived here herself, claiming to have urgent news. She was to go last, as the reports regarding the investigation of Hermaeus Mora took priority.

"Alright Miss Inkwell," said Princess Celestia, looking down to the small bespectacled unicorn. "What is it? Are you sure it cannot wait until later?"

"I do not believe so, your highness," replied Inkwell, her long years of working with the Princess making her better equipped to speak to her better than most. "It involves your school."

"Education is important," said Princess Luna, her gaze strict. "But seeing as how Equestria is dealing with a more than unprecedented situation at the moment, are there not more concerning matters at hoof?"

"I think the situation I have to report may be related," replied Inkwell, a piece of paper appearing in her orange magic. "Take a look at this symbol."

Celestia took the paper in her magic and held it up to were her and her sister could look at the drawing on its surface.

"What is it?" asked Luna, looking up at Inkwell. "I do not recognize this symbol."

"I have never seen anything like it either," said Celestia.

"I don't know myself," said Inkwell, "But a teacher of your school delivered this paper when she came to see me. Apparently it's a Cutie Mark."

"A Cutie Mark?" inquired Celestia, Luna looking back at the paper in wonder. "Who has attained it, and what does it represent?"

"That's the strange part, your majesty, multiple young ponies attained it," explained Inkwell, her look becoming one of worry. "All from the Cutie Case Class of your school."

Celestia and Luna all gasped at hearing that. The Cutie Case Class, or Triple C for short, was a division of Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns that was dedicated to the top students of the school who had yet to earn a Cutie Mark. The classes it provided were extremely advanced, for it was most likely that these unique unicorns had a special talent in something so extraordinary, it could only be involved with the most advanced forms of magic.

For more than one student to get their marks in this class at the same time was unheard of.

"Has the mark's purpose been verified?" asked Celestia.

Inkwell offered the Princesses four photos. They gasped as one photo showed a dark blue unicorn filly playing ball with a large bipedal creature, adorned head to foot in black armour with red highlights, another with a tane chubby unicorn colt riding on the back of a light green raptor like creature covered in spiky metal armour, and one with two ponies, a red filly with a pink mane, and a yellow colt with a blue mane, fencing with transparent blue weapons.

"What are they?" asked Celestia. Luna voiced her own confusion.

"I do not know, Princesses," admitted Inkwell hesitantly. "The children can summon them on a whim, but they have not caused harm, and seem to do the bidding of the child who summoned them without question."

"How many can do this?" asked Celestia.

Inkwell gestured to the final photo, that depicted the four foals, their flanks to the camera, showcasing this new mark.

"They seem to have taken a liking to each other, forming a tight knit group," explained Inkwell, "The weirdest part is that according to accounts from the kids parents, they all got their marks at the same time, when Hermaeus Mora appeared in the sky."

Both Princesses gave her a stunned look.

"We have to contact Hermaeus Mora somehow," said Luna, a look of great worry on her face. "This has something to do with him, I know it."

"And I think we have a way that you can do that," said Cadance, entering the throne room alongside Shining Armor.

"Cadence," said Celestia, approaching her fellow Alicorn, "Did you find what you were looking for?"

Cadence gave her a smile.

---

"Are you certain about this, Cadence?" said Shining Armour. He and Cadence standing in the same ally Chrysalis had lured her too so long ago.

"You don't use dark magic like that and not leave a trail," said Cadance, walking around the ally with her head bowed low, her horn pulsating with magic.

Shortly after the paralysis Twilight cast on them wore off, Cadance and Shining Armour have devoted every waking moment trying to find a way to get her back. They had started by interviewing the witnesses, but that led to nowhere, but then Cadance had an idea. If she could locate the cave Chrysalis had sent them to, they might find some clues there.

"Found it," said Cadance, her horn sputtering as she lifted her head up. "Now all we need is to..."

"I don't like this, Cadence," said Shining, worried. "Hermaeus Mora...we don't know what he is capable of."

"Which is precisely why we need to rescue Twilight from him," said Cadance, give her fiance a look. "Need I remind you of the part you played in her getting exposed to him in the first place."

Shining only lowered his head shamefully, "Okay."

"Good," said Cadance, her horn lighting with a different spell.

She was less than pleased to hear how Shining had treated Twilight when she was fully filled in on what had happened during her incarceration. Twilight’s friends had filled her in before taking their terrified younger sisters home to Ponyville. Those poor kids did not deserve to go through what they did.

She was determined to make it right, and Shining was going to help her, if he still wants to be with her.

With a blue flash, both Cadance and Shining Armour disappeared from the ally to reappear in a dark cave that they both illuminated with their horns. Nodding to each other, the two began their trek, not knowing if this was the right way, but they were going to search the whole cave if they had to.

"Do you have any idea where the right part of the cave might be?" Shining asked.

"I'm afraid not," admitted Cadance, her attention forward. "When Chrysalis sent me here, I fell and hit my head, I must have lost consciousness before Hermaeus Mora found me."

"I am sorry this happened to you, honey," said Shining Armour sadly.

"There is someone who deserves an apology more, Shining," said Cadance sternly. "Not everypony was fooled by Chrysalis's charade."

Shining could only look down in shame. But before anything more could be said, a glistening ahead brought their attention. Looking forward, they both gasped as they beheld an ornate book stand suspended over a pool of ink, a creepy looking black book resting upon it.

---

"When Twilight was young, she said Hermaeus Mora spoke to her through a magic black book," said Shining Armour, holding the object before the Princesses in his magic. "If he talked to her through it, I'm guessing he also transported her to this 'Apocrypha' place, through it as well."

"I have never seen anything so foreboding before," said Luna, examining the book in Shining Armour's magic closely. "I can sense that something about it is truly terrifying."

"You have not opened it, have you?" asked Celestia nervously.

"No," said Cadance, "we do not know anything about it or who it relates to."

"Good," said Celestia' relieved. "Luna and I will do everything we can to figure this evil book out. Then we will mobilize the guard and..."

"I do not think that would be a good idea, your majesty," said the country voice of Applejack.

Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Princess Cadance, Raven Inkwell, and Shining Armour all looked up to see Twilight’s friends enter the throne room.

23 Alternative

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Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Spike all trotted into the throne room with the Princesses, Shining Armour, and Raven Inkwell. They had departed for Ponyville shortly after Twilight left with Hermaeus Mora, having wanted to return their terrified siblings home so they could recover from this traumatic experience, but also because they had wanted to discuss what they should do about the situation with Twilight amongst themselves. Princess Celestia knew how much Twilight meant to them, so before they departed, she had assured them that if they had any insight on how to proceed regarding their missing friend, she would listen.

"So this black book thingy is how Twilight and Hermy first met?" asked Pinkie Pie, back to her ever boisterous self, bouncing up to examine the book held in Shining Armour's magic.

"It is very likely," said Cadance, throwing the book a wary glance. "We found it in the caves beneath Canterlot, so it stands to reason that it is indeed the same book Twilight told us about."Once again, she shuddered as she took in the books foreboding appearance. "And I believe you will all agree, it bears a striking resemblance to the book Hermaeus Mora gave Twilight moments before she vanished."

"I concur," said Rarity, also examining the book. After Twilight paralyzed them all, she had been the closest of their group to see what happened that day, also seeing the book Twilight had with more clarity then the others. "Yes, this book is identical to the one I saw Twilight open moments before she vanished."

"Why have you all come here?" asked Celestia, everyone looking to her.

"You said if we came up with a solution, we should come see you," said Rainbow Dash, hovering over the ground.

"Since you were about to attempt to infiltrate Hermaeus Mora's home, or whatever it is, to try and liberate Twilight, it's a good thing we did," said Applejack, a serious look on her face.

"You disagree with this tactic?" asked Luna, being answered with nods, "Why?"

"As terrible as it sounds, Hermaeus Mora has done nothing to warrant such a response from us," said Fluttershy, the four regal ponies of the room giving her a wide mouthed look.

"He didn't really kidnap Twilight, it was part of their deal that she returned after Equestria was out of danger, " said Rainbow Dash, "Twilight was just upholding her end of the bargain."

"How can you say that?" inquired Cadance, looking distraught. "Twilight is a pony, one who is important to all of us, not goods to be traded."

"We know that, your majesty, but we also know that must be how Hermaeus Mora is viewing this situation," said Rarity, her mane drooping in her sadness,."He didn't demand praise for saving Equestria, after he destroyed Chrysalis, all he wanted afterward was for Twilight to return home with him, and since he has not made any threatening moves against us so far, we believe it is because he has no reason to."

"But he may still become angry with us if we make a wrong move," said Pinkie, an uncharacteristic serious expression on her face. "And I know I would be mad if a bunch of uninvited guests broke into my house, and tried to take something I had pretty much earned away from me."

"What are you all saying?" said Shining Armour, glaring at the group of Ponyvillians. "You're acting as if we have no choice but to leave Twily with that...thing."

"What choice do we have?" asked Applejack, "You saw what that varmint did to Chrysalis, do you really want to kick that hornet's nest?"

"But we can't leave Twilight to his mercy either," said Cadance desperately. "Since she didn't reappear before us in a second when she left, it can only be assumed Hermaeus Mora isn't manipulating time again."

"If it took Hermaeus Mora fifteen years to teach Twilight his magic, who knows how long it will take for Twilight to exchange what he wants to him," added Celestia, her voice a mixture of regret and sorrow. "What if he decides to do to her, what he did to Chrysalis?"

"I don't think that would happen," said Spike, speaking for the first time since he arrived. "Chrysalis provoked him, that's why he sucked her brains out."

"He did more than that, young Spike," said Princess Luna.

"What do you mean, your highness?" asked Fluttershy, wondering how much more could have happened when Hermaeus Mora took down Chrysalis.

"We had our doctors examine Chrysalis' corpse, trying to understand what kind of creature Hermaeus Mora is," said Celestia, everyone looking to her again. "The results were unsettling."

"How so?" asked Rainbow Dash, the rest shivering slightly at the uncomfortable topic regarding a dead person.

"The cause of death was not bodily, but molecular," said Luna, shivering.

"The doctors say that they have never seen anything like it," continued Celestia, getting back on topic. "They said she was perfectly healthy on the surface, but when they looked down further, they discovered all the electrical neurons in her brain were strained almost to the point of bursting."

"As if they had all fired at once," added Luna, "Even beyond what would be the neurons natural limit."

"And from what we know, no force we know of should be able to do that," finished Shining Armour.

Twilight's friends all gasped at hearing that. They had faced several trials so far, but what was being described to them was chilling them to the bone. But their resolve had not faltered.

"All the more reason we should not aggravate Hermaeus Mora," said Applejack.

"What would you suggest we do?" asked Shining Armour desperately. "We can't leave Twilight there, all alone. She has done too much for us for to just abandon her like that."

"You're right," said Fluttershy, a knowing look in her eyes.

" We can't leave Twilight all alone," said Rainbow Dash.

Celestia could tell they had something in mind and turned to Raven Inkwell.

"Please bring us some tea, Miss Inkwell."

"Yes, your majesty," replied Inkwell, leaving immediately.

---

"You're sure you want to do this?" asked Princess Luna, a look of great worry on her face.

"It's not a question of whether we want to do it," said Rainbow Dash, her face the picture of resolve, "We owe it to Twilight."

"I concur," said Rarity.

"Yes indeedy," agreed Pinkie.

"Yep," said Applejack, almost mimicking her brother.

"I know Twilight would do the same," said Fluttershy, looking afraid, but still willing to move forward.

"I have known Twilight my whole life," said Spike, clenching his claws. "I won't abandon her now."

Celestia and Luna exchanged looks, as well as Cadance and Shining Armour. These individuals had just given them an alternative that was in every way contrary to what they had originally planned to do, and they didn't like it. But they also realized they had a sound argument.

What would they do if they provoked Hermaeus Mora?

He had already proven to be more powerful than anything they had a hope of handling. If they drew his ire, it would be Equestria's doom, no doubt. Twilight was the focus here, and if they could not bring her home, at least not yet, there was something they could do that would be the next best thing.

But it still required them to get to Apocrypha.

"Well, what are we waiting for?" asked Pinkie Pie, everyone present gasping as she took the book and opened it.

"PINKIE! NO!"

"OOHH," gasped Pinkie, showing the open pages to all the others. "Look at this."

They all gazed as they beheld the intricate moving runes scurrying across the paper. The Princesses even had no words, the movement of the letters having an almost hypnotic appeal. It was so beautiful, it was hard to believe it was connected to such a revolting creature.

Then a black tendril erupted from outside the book and coiled around them in a lasso like fashion, a yellowish green light washing over all of them.

"What is happening?" gasped Fluttershy, trying to move but unable to.

"Don't panic," said Luna, the floor rising up to meet them. "I believe it is sending us to Hermaeus Mora's realm, Apocrypha."

With that thought in mind they steeled themselves for what was to come. Twilight was somewhere past this point, and they needed to get to her, no matter the cost. They could do no less after all that had happened.

"Rainbow?" said Fluttershy nervously, looking to her oldest friend for support. "Do you think it'll be scary... this, Apocrypha,?"

"Don't worry, Flutters," said Rainbow Dash reassuringly. "Hermaeus Mora might have been a horrible monster, but Apocrypha is a supposed to be a library. How scary can a library be?"
---

The group of ponies plus one dragon stood on a ledge that overlooked a sea of thick, black liquid that stretched as far as the eye could see, black tendrils extruding up from the surface. The sky above was a sickly green yellow color, the black tendrils of Hermaeus Mora extending out of vortexes, just like he had done in Equestria. Multiple islands could be seen, bumpy and misshapen, some even had large structures built on them.

All of them looking on to the horror that was Apocrypha.

"You were saying, Rainbow?" said Applejack, looking to the dumbstruck pegasus above.

"Aaahhh!" said Rainbow in surprise, ducking to avoid the books that had flown by, flapping their pages like bird wings. "I stand corrected," she admitted, watching the books fly around the bend, shivering as her line of sight showed her a spiraling vortex of book pages. "Great Thunder Caps! I never thought it was possible for books to make somepony's skin crawl like this."

"You're not alone in that, Rainbow," said Spike, fanning a fainted Rarity with a claw.

Fluttershy was clinging to Pinkie Pie, tears streaming her face as she took in her surroundings.

"Twilight spent fifteen years here?" moaned Shining Armour, looking around, unable to comprehend what his eyes were telling him.

"A... and... and she..." Cadence was having trouble talking while she fought to keep her crying under control. "And... she... she did it... to protect us?"

"Oh Twilight," said Celestia, lowering her head in shame. "How could I have ever doubted you?"

"Focus on the here and now, sister," said Luna, taking her sister by the hoof. "we are here too..."

"Ahhh!"

They all turned at Fluttershy's scream in time to see her stiffen up and fall on her back.

Before them, in the heart of the island they now found themselves on was a huge castle, foreboding and wicked in it's dark color. Poor Fluttershy must have taken one look, and was literally scared stiff. It was huge, ominous with its spiked fence and dark color.

"How are we supposed to find Twilight?" Asked Rainbow Dash, Fluttering down to her fallen friend. "Look how big this place is."

"It doesn't matter," said Cadance, swallowing her sobs. "We will search for an Eternity, if we need..."

'DUR NEH VIIR'

"TWILIGHT!" shouted Rarity and Fluttershy, snapping out of their individual states, and taking off towards the build in front of them, the noise had come from the roof.

"Come on," said Celestia, racing after the first two, all other ponies and dragon entered through the huge buildings front door.

They did not hear the roar.

They did not see the winged shadow cast over the door the had entered.

24 Stop it, Pinkie

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"This place is unbelievable," said Rainbow Dash, looking to the huge chamber they had entered. "I thought Twilight liked books, but Hermaeus Mora takes the cake."

The group had found themselves in a large circular chamber after entering the building, expansive, and with walls made entirely of books circling up to the distant roof. There were no doors in the chamber, but there was a ramp-like platform to their right, trailing the wall as it spiraled upward and out of sight. The most distinctive feature was to the left of them.

Other than the strip of land they stood on, the ramp was the only standable ground. The rest of the room was dominated by a lake of the same black liquid they had seen outside, great spires of black books lifting up from its depths and extending out of sight. A great vortex of paper spun rapidly in the dead middle of the room, twirling over the liquid without interruption.

"How creepy," said Rarity, approaching the arch of the door to the room and running a hoof across the books that composed the wall. "How could anything be comfortable living in such a dreary place?"

"Hermaeus told us that Daedric Princes are not easy to understand," said Princess Luna, turning around to take in all the room. "Something like this is probably normal to him."

"Then I would hate to see what he would consider abnormal," said Applejack, shaking slightly at her surroundings.

"Hey, look at this," said Spike, clenching one of the books open in his claws. "I've never seen anything like it!"

"Come on, Fluttershy," said Rarity, holding the timid pegasus in her hooves. "Pull yourself together, for Twilight."

Fluttershy had relapsed back into her terrified state upon seeing the inside of this room, and how much closer the foreboding black liquid was in here. She could feel her heartbeat getting faster with every second she had gone through after experiencing the sight of Apocrypha for the first time. She really wanted a bed to hide under right now.

Rarity's words punctured her fear like a hot knife through butter.

It made her remember what Twilight had done to protect all of them from the changeling queen, and how close she was to being the first of her victims, until Twilight came in when all hope seemed lost and saved them just in time. She remembered that in order to attain the powers Twilight had used to defend them all, she made a deal with something as foreboding as Hermaeus Mora, something she admitted, scared her worse than a dragon. She had spent what would be fifteen years to her, before returning to Equestria to save them all.

Mustering up all of her will, and with the memory of Twilight in her mind, Fluttershy forced her face into a glare and joined the group in looking at the book Spike had found.

The book lay open and both of the visible pages were both incomprehensible to the ponies.

The left page was covered in what appeared to be writing in a language none of them had seen before.

The page on the right showed some sort of bipedal creature as well as a hammer, a knife, and a heart.

"What kind of chicken scratch is that?" asked Rainbow, arching an eye ridge at the bizarre etching.

"And that creature, I've never seen anything like it," said Rarity, looking to the strange drawing.

"Is it some kind of diagram for a bizarre greeting card?" asked Pinkie, looking over Spike's shoulder. "If so, I can't tell it's for a birthday or Hearts and Hooves day."

"It is strange," said Princess Luna, looking to her older sister, "I have never seen letters like these."

"Neither have I," admitted Celestia, looking to the book warily. "I would say it further proves that what Hermaeus Mora said is correct."

"What is that?" asked Applejack, trying to remember everything that was said when Hermaeus Mora appeared.

"He must indeed hail from a world alien to our own," said Celestia, everyone looking at her in confusion.

"Did you not believe him when he told us?" asked Fluttershy, giving a confused look.

"Not fully until now," replied Celestia, "Throughout my life I have seen strange things, but all of them were native to our reality."

"Even Discord?" inquired Rarity, slightly surprised.

"Yes," answered Celestia. "Despite his odd mannerisms and appearance, Discord is no alien."

She cast a wary glance at the book Spike held, "I have lived a long time and have had many years to study the strange corners of my realm. This language has nothing in common with any tongue, Equestrian or otherwise."

"But what does it mean?" asked Rainbow Dash, just as confused as the rest. "It sounds important, but how does that affect us?"

"It means we are truly in uncharted territory now," said Shining Armour, a serious look on his face. "It means we must proceed with extreme caution."

"Shining is right," said Cadence, next to her fiance. "We have to be careful."

"This means that you all had the right idea," said Luna, give Twilight’s friends a look of gratitude. "Defying Hermaeus Mora would have been a mistake."

"Well, what did you expect, your majesty?" said Rainbow Dash, a little of her ego resurfacing for the first time since Twilight had disappeared. "We're awesome."

"We can't afford to wait around for too long in this place," said Shining, looking to the ramp platform that led up. "We need to find Twilight."

They all voiced their agreement and began to make their way up the ramp, the black lake below becoming smaller and smaller as they climbed. After a while the light that had illuminated the room before faded to darkness, but all those who had horns lit them to guide the way, the different colored auras combining to make it look like they were surrounded by an aurora borealis. Eventually, they exited into another room.

"Whoa," Applejack said, as they were all taking in the room around them.

It was large and intricate, multiple floating lights illuminated the room. Books flapped around like large birds, coming to rest on a random shelf, or section of wall, only to take off again. At the far end of the room was an ornate book stand atop a small platform, small circular pools of black liquid sat on both sides.

"What do we do now?" asked Fluttershy, looking around the room. "There doesn't seem to be anywhere to go from here."

"That book up ahead looks like the one we used to get here," said Cadance, a thoughtful look on her face. "It is bigger, though."

"Oh! oh! I know," said Pinkie excitedly, bouncing up the platform to the book.

"Pinkie!" gasped Rarity, her and the others watching as their bubbly companion disappeared in a flash of white light.

"We have got to try harder to stop her from doing that," said Luna exasperated, Celestia glaring and nodding her approval. "She is going to get us into trouble."

Pinkie reappeared the same way she disappeared.

"Just as I thought," said Pinkie excitedly. "The book zapped me to some other part of the castle, were another staircases led up and up and up and..."

"PINKIE!" Snapped Fluttershy, speaking before anypony else could and pressing her muzzle to her friends. "We are here for Twilight, if you keep taking chances like that, you could get us all killed."

The others all agreed.

"Please, just be more careful," said Celestia.

"Okie dokie lokie."

With the path clear to them, they started towards the large book. Rainbow stopped to examine one of the pools of black liquid as they progressed.

"What even is that stuff?" She asked, pointing to the pool with a hoof.

Celestia, who was closest to it, dipped her head down a little to examine it.

She inhaled deeply through her nostrils, "I think its ink... AAHHH!"

'SPLASH'

Everyone turned to the source of the splash to see Princess Celestia submerged halfway into the pool of liquid. She had sunk in up to her hips, her hind legs flailing up and down as if struggling to break the hold of something. And to say, the situation got quite the reaction from the rest of the group.

"PRINCESS!"

"SISTER!"

Luna was the first to reach the flailing back end of her sibling, taking to the air and grabbing her prismatic tail in her mouth and pulling hard. But whatever was pulling her in was very strong, Luna unable to gain any ground as she flapped her wings harder. But at this rate, she would be pulled in too.

Pinkie Pie and Applejack, being earth ponies and therefore the strongest of the group, each took hold of one of the Princesses flailing hind legs, pulling with all the strength that they could muster. Slowly, the Princess backed out of the pool, albeit slowly. The rest of the group each grabbed the back of the other, forming two living chains, and pulled with all their might.

Princess Celestia came free with a mighty splash, taking a great gasp of air as she and the rest of the group fell backwards in a pony pile up, poor Spike being squashed at the bottom. They all gasped in terror as a shiny black tendril unwrapped from Celestia's neck, extending a good nine feet in the air. It whipped in a few random directions before plunging back into the pool with a splash.

"Sister!" gasped Luna, crawling out of the pony pile and helping Celestia up. "Are you alright?"

"I think so," said Celestia, ink running down her neck as she tried to catch her breath. "Thank you, all of you."

"What was that thing?" asked a terrified Fluttershy, the last to climb off of Spike.

"Whatever it was," said Applejack, casting a look at the other pool. "I think it's safe to assume it's not alone.

Casting a wary glance to the pools of ink, they all scrambled to the book, vanishing one after the other as they touched it. Cadance hoisted Spike onto her back and touched the book, both vanishing. The book Spike had shown them before lying on the floor were the pony pile had been, the young drake never even noticing he had not ever dropped it.

"Now what?" said Pinkie, the stairs the book had lead them to a three way split.

"Maybe we should split up?" suggested Applejack.

"Not a good idea," said Celestia, her coat still dark in places. "It took all of you to get me out of the grasp of that thing, if someone encounters another one and we aren't all present, they would be done for."

They all agreed that the last thing any of them wanted was to be dragged into a pool of ink to who knows where.

"But whatever shall we do?" said Rarity, a slight flash of drama in her voice. "It'll take forever to find Twilight at this rate."

"If that is what it takes then so be it," said Shining Armour with conviction.

"We heard her here," said Cadance, her resolve unaffected. "So we will search here, and together we can..."

'DUR NEH VIIR'

The loud noise reverberated to the left, drawing all their attention, a flash of slightky purple light being seen at the dstant top of the left staircase.

"Way to go Twilight," said Spike, punching the air as the group headed up the left staircase.

Rainbow Dash fluttered above the ascending group, a determined smile on her face, "If I didn't know better, I would say she was deliberately leading us..."

A ferocious roar ripped through the air, making all of them gasp. It sounded big, it sounded close to were the shouts they were flowing originated from. It did not sound friendly.

"TWILIGHT!" They all shouted, galloping up the stairs, Spike still bouncing on Cadence's back.

As they climbed Apocrypha's yellow sky became visible through an arch up ahead, as well as several towers in the distance.

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The ten newest arrivals in Apocrypha came out onto the roof of the tall structure to an astonishing sight. Twilight stood at the far edge of the roof, her horn glowing in a bright purple aura, spiraling aggressively as the pony attached to the horn trembled. It was unlike any spell they had seen her cast thus far, starting out such a dark purple it looked almost black, extending out in all directions over horn about three feet, fading to a purple tone even lighter than her coat.

What really drew their attention was the spiraling purple sphere hanging above her, the image of a dragon about as big as Spike while under the effects of his greed was thrashing within.

"TWILIGHT!" shouted the Ponyvillians plus Spike, them, Shining and Cadance moving to aid the pony they believed to be in peril.

"WAIT," shouted Luna, stopping them with extended wings.

"We have to help her, Princess!" said Fluttershy frantically, throwing the thrashing dragon a wary look, but determined to get to her friends aid.

"She's facing that dragon all on her own," said Rainbow Dash.

"And from the looks of it, she won't be able to hold it back for much longer," said Shining Armour, trying to force his way past the wings blocking his way.

"If you make her lose concentration now she might be seriously harmed," said Celestia, looking to Twilight with worry.

"What do you mean?" Asked Rainbow Dash.

"The spell she is using, I don't know what it's meant to do, but it's definitely powerful," explained Celestia, "If it is interrupted too soon, the magical feedback it would strike Twilight with could cause a catastrophic failure throughout her entire body."

They all gasped.

"What do we do?" asked Pinkie, looking at Twilight with extreme worry.

"We can only watch," said Celestia, "Twilight can handle whatever it is she is trying to do, at least to where it won't harm her. Her spell will either work or just sputter out if it has failed."

"Besides, I do not believe she is trying to restrain the dragon," said Luna.

All the ponies trying to get past gave her a look.

"Come on," gritted Twilight, unaware she had company, "I'm almost there."

"Cease your efforts, Grah-Zeymahzin," the yet to be noticed group heard the dragon say, Rainbow Dash, Spike and Rarity immediately noticed his tone was full of wisdom, unlike the dragons they had met during the Great Dragon Migration. "You are going to cause harm to yourself again."

“No," moaned Twilight, her unnoticed company growing concerned. " I can free you, I know I can free you."

Suddenly, Twilight's spell was sucked back into her horn, her body flashing between black and purple, her skeleton visible between the magic. She screamed in absolute pain as her own magic coursed through her body, her head flying in all directions as she thrashed. Her friends looked on in horror.

"I thought you said this wouldn't happen if we didn't interrupt her," said Rainbow Dash, still trying to get past the unmoving Princesses.

"I said the magic feedback would be enough to cause irreparable harm if we interrupted her," explained Celestia, watching her student writhing in pain, yet powerless to help her. "As horrifying as this looks, it is not the worst that could have happened. Twilight can push through this."

After a few more seconds of watching Twilight flashing, she then fell to the ground, the sphere surrounding the dragon above slowly fading away, revealing its dark gray scales. The first thing the Princesses and the rest noticed was that this dragon completely lacked fore legs, making it completely incomparable with the dragons of Equestria. Spike looked on, lifting his claws up, wondering what it would be like without them.

But all their attention focused back on Twilight when she weakly lifted her head, giving the dragon before her a sad look.

"I'm sorry, Durnehviir," whimpered Twilight, "I failed."

"Your attempts to liberate me are commendable, Grah-Zeymahzin," said Durnehviir, his tail shimmering in a purple light, then turning transparent and disappearing, followed slowly by the rest of him. "But fear that I am doomed to wander the Soul Cairn for all eternity."

And then he was gone, Twilight lumping to the ground in exhaustion.

"TWILIGHT," shouted Fluttershy, flapping past the Princesses and arriving at her friends side in less than a second.

Gently, she turned her onto her back, supporting her with a hoof to the back of her head, wrapping the other around her middle. She looked dreadful, great dark bags hung under her eyes like she had not slept in a while. Lower lip trembling, Fluttershy put her ear to her friends chest.

"How is she doing?" asked Applejack, her and the rest coming up and surrounding the fallen unicorn.

Seeing her like this collectively drove the scenario before from the forefront of all their minds. It mattered not that a second ago there was a large misshapen dragon before Twilight, speaking in a voice that spoke of years of experience. It mattered not that it had vanished into thin air.

What did matter was that they had found their long lost friend, and she was in dire straights.

Fluttershy gave a soft smile as she felt a gentle heartbeat pounding gently inside the purple breast, "She's fine, I think she is just exhausted is all."

Her, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie,Spike, Rarity, and Applejack all looked at her with budding tears in their eyes. It wasn't so much they were upset over anything, seeing a friend that they had feared they would never see again before them was hitting them straight in their hearts. Deep affection swirled pleasantly within their hearts as seeing Twilight again put their worry at ease.

Princess Cadance and Shining Armour looked down at the beautiful mare that the precious little filly they had both held dear growing up with looks of deep affection. Cadance felt a huge sense of relief and gratitude as she took in Twilight's sleeping face, still feeling that she owed her everything. Shining Armour took in his sleeping sister with love and guilt.

How could he be so blind?

Taking his eyes off of Twilight, Shining took in the expanse that was Apocrypha around him. For him, for all whom she loved, she had spent fifteen years here, training hard to attain the powers she would need to stand up to Chrysalis and her minions. When she first pointed out that there was something wrong, she was left to stand alone, except for an extremely horrible creature that only assisted for selfish reasons.

He had failed in his role as her big brother in every way, he would not let himself fail again.

Celestia looked at Twilight with deep affection and regret. She loved Twilight as if she was her own daughter, that much she was aware of. She still felt such shame to have used her the way she did, and her friends too. Her guilty conscious had grown so strong since she had to banish Luna, it was like a parasite in her mind, subconsciously directing her actions so that she avoided confrontation whenever possible, so she didn't fail anypony else like she had failed her sister.

She was glad Twilight had brought that to her attention, now she could direct herself to overcome it.

Princess Luna looked down at the little pony surrounded by her friends with a look of great relief. Ever since she had been purged of that demon born from her unwarranted jealousy, she had felt a deep gratitude towards Twilight and the other Element bearers. And when Twilight had stuck by her side during the first Nightmare Night of her return, not giving up until she found common ground with which to properly enjoy it among her subjects, her gratitude towards her sisters pupil only increased.

Even that was not the extent to how much she felt she owed Twilight now.

Not long after Twilight left with Hermaeus Mora, her sister had approached her and watched her raise the moon into the night sky for the first time since they had been ruling Equestria. The tough love Twilight had shown Celestia finally brought to the surface how much she regretted not appreciating her sister more, so it was much to Luna's joy that night to learn her sister had modified her royal schedule so that once a week, regardless of which snooty uptight Canterlot nobility wanted her attention, Celestia would be there to watch the night sky with her, and praise her for how beautiful it looked. It was funny, on the first night of the recent three weeks, Blueblood had actually barged in on them and demanded an audience.

Sufficient to say, his excuse for a short tail with a burnt end being an attempt to start a new trend was believed by nopony.

That was not worth the price Twilight had been forced to pay, however. So she, along with Celestia, Shining Armour, and Cadance had agreed to the plan Twilight’s friends had come up with. She did not like it anymore than them, but she agreed that is was the best, if not the only action they could take, especially without upsetting Hermaeus Mora.

Spike looked to the pony who had hatched him with deep affection. Being separated from Twilight these last few weeks had given him a new clarity on how much Twilight meant to him, and without her, he felt... incomplete. Now he was here, in Apocrypha, surrounding Twilight along with the other ponies that matter in her life.

That was where he knew he belonged.

"Ugh... mmm," Twilight squinted her clenched eyes, clearly arousing from her sleep.

"I think she's waking up," said Fluttershy, a hopeful expression on her face.

"Come on, darling," said Rarity, leaning in closer as the Princesses and Shining Armour backed away to give them space. "Come all the way around, you can do it."

"Your one of the toughest gals I know, Twi," said Applejack, her ears folding back. "You can come out of this."

"You're too awesome to be held down by something like this, Twilight," said Rainbow Dash, a hard glare in her face. "You can do it, wake up."

"Come on, Twilight," said Pinkie, somehow concerned, but at the same time looking so excited she might explode. "I don't want have to throw you an 'I ruined a scene in the story because I was busy being exhausted party,' no I don't."

Twilight's eyes cringed as multiple voices echoed through her hazy mind. Slowly, they fluttered open, revealing her slightly bloodshot eyes to take in the assembly of people who were surrounding her. Then her focus centered on the butter colored pegasus that was holding her.

"Fluttershy?" She moaned, lifting up a hoof to her friends chest, feeling the heartbeat pounding gently inside.

"Yes Twilight," answered Fluttershy, nuzzling the hoof pressed to her chest. "It's us, we're here for you."

"Yes darling," said Rarity among the group of ponies plus one dragon surrounding her, "All of us are here."

Twilight could only stare an in disbelief, taking in the sight of all her friends surrounding her, Fluttershy's gentle hooves cradling her in a gentle embrace. She saw Fluttershy, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie and Spike surrounding her. She saw Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Cadance, and her brother Shining Armour not to far from where she was lying, surrounded by her friends.

Tears fell from her eyes as joy flourished in her heart as she threw her front legs around Fluttershy.

"You came for me," whimpered Twilight over Fluttershy's shoulder.

"Of course we did," said Fluttershy softly, shedding tears of joy along with the other ponies and Spike.

They surrounded her in a group hug.

"I... I was so afraid you wouldn't find it," said Twilight weakly.

"Find what, sugar cube?" asked Applejack, shaking slightly, but curious about what Twilight was talking about.

"You used the Black Book beneath Canterlot to come here, didn't you?" asked Twilight, shaking as her pent up loneliness finally eased.

"Indeed, we did, Twilight," said Cadance, breaking off from the other Princesses and her fiance to step closer.

"Cadance!" said Twilight excitedly, leaving her group hug to run up and embrace her old foalsitter.

Cadance only returned the embrace, tears streaming her face as she held onto her little filly she had known since she could barely walk. Ever since she had seen Twilight vanish with that creature, Hermaeus Mora, she had been unable to sit comfortability at all. Every waking moment had been nothing but a conglomeration of worry and unease for the whereabouts of Twilight.

"My student," said Celestia, approaching her fellow alicorn princess who was embracing the small purple unicorn.

Twilight could only let go of Cadance and watch as the tall, regal alicorn approached, her head held low in what appeared to be shame.

"I apologizes," Celestia seemed to be losing her composure. "Had I only seen my mistake sooner, maybe you wouldn't have had to..."

Celestia was cut off when Twilight walked up and nuzzled her long forelegs. In that moment, nothing else mattered to Celestia, who lowered her head to drape her neck over Twilight's back. All that mattered was that Twilight was here, and more importantly, wanted to be close to her.

"I'm not mad anymore, Princess," said Twilight, looking in the direction of her brother, standing by Princess Luna with a wary look on his face. "I can't imagine the pain you must have felt when you were forced to banish Luna, your own sister."

"But you were right, Twilight," added Celestia, lifting herself off Twilight. "It was no excuse for what I have done, and you can be assured that I will not make that mistake again."

"We all have learned a lesson from what has happened, young Twilight," said Luna, walking up to say her piece. " all of us but you were blind to a potential danger, and you were forced to pay a heavy price because of it."

"Yes, Twily," said Shining Armour, also moving closer. "Had it not been for you, Chrysalis would have done horrible things to Equestria. And in the end, you suffered for it."

Twilight looked at Shining Armour, mixed feelings stirring inside of her soul. She hadmissed him just as much as she missed all her loved ones, but at the same time she could not forget how he had yelled at her at the wedding rehearsal. Banning her without any hesitation.

"And it would seem Cadance's assumptions were right," said Princess Luna, drawing everyone's attention. "You did come here through the Black Book you came across all those years ago."

"Yes, and it was because I left it there that you were able to follow me," said Twilight, wanting to get something out so it didn't cause complications.

"What are you talking about?" asked Rainbow, "We just used the same book you did."

"Actually... you didn't," explained Twilight, "The book you found was in the same place as what brought here, but it wasn't the original. The one you used, I enchanted to bring the user directly to my location."

"But why?" asked Pinkie, sharing the same confused look as the others.

"I... I hoped..." said Twilight, almost unable to continue. "I hoped you would use it to find me. I wanted to see you once more, while I was here in Apocrypha alone."

"You don't have to worry about it anymore, sugar cube," said Applejack, coming up and hugging Twilight. "You won't be alone."

"I know why you have come, girls," said Twilight sadly. "But I can not leave Apocrypha, not until I have done what Hermaeus Mora as tasked to me."

"We know," said Celestia, her voice taking a regal tone. "Which is why your friends have come up with an alternative."

"Alternative?" inquired Twilight, not liking where this was going. "What alternative?"

"We will discuss that with Hermaeus Mora himself," said Luna looking around the roof of the tall structure they stood upon. "Is there any way we can get his attention?"

"You already have it...mortals," everyone looked up to see about eight of Hermaeus Mora's tendril portals appear above, two having eyes. "Apocrypha is my realm...nothing can be hidden from me here."

Twilight cast her loved ones a worried look as they looked up at Hermaeus Mora without fear.

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Twilight stood rooted in place as Hermaeus Mora materialized above her friends. She had left that modified Black Book in the crystal caves beneath Canterlot with the desperate hope her friends would find it and use it to come see her. Hermaeus Mora had said that when she accepted the Thu'um, he would have a task for her after Chrysalis and her Changeling hord was vanquished, meaning an indefinite return to Apocrypha.

She had accepted without hesitation, for her friends.

She had not been able to bear the thought of not seeing them at least one more time during her self imposed imprisonment in Apocrypha, so she decided to leave that book as a means for them to come here to perform a rescue attempt she knew that they would be determined to try. Hermaeus Mora had backed her plan fully, which surprised her, she thought he wouldn't be against the idea of so many non-intellectual ponies invading Apocrypha. Now she had a feeling she had been to eager too trust her theory that he simply did not care if they came.

Her original plan was to talk them out of trying to liberate her and to just stay and visit, but when Princess Celestia had said she knew that she could not leave but that her friends had come up with an alternative, she had an inclination that Hermaeus Mora knew something she didn't.

"Lord Hermaeus Mora," said Celestia, "Please forgive our intrusion on your realm."

"I have known about your planned endeavor for some time, Princess..." said Hermaeus Mora, his voice echoing through Apocrypha. "Even before...you finalized it."

"What do you mean?" asked Rarity as she stepped up to stand directly beneath one of Hermaeus Mora's eyes, but then bowed low in respect. "If you don't mind me asking, sir?"

"What is going on?" asked Twilight with confusion, walking up to her assembled friends standing beneath the Daedric Prince of knowledge. "Why are you all not demanding he release me?"

"Because your warning finally sunk in, Twilight," said Spike as he waddled up to Twilight and put a claw on her withers. "You warned us back in Canterlot that this guy is not someone we want to trifle with."

"And besides, you Pinkie Promised him you would help with something," said Pinkie, somehow looking serious and excited at the same time. "And we wouldn't be good friends if we tried to force you to break a Pinkie promise."

"Hermaeus Mora hasn't actually done anything to warrant a violent response from Equestria either," said Luna, her attention on one of the waving tendrils before them. "So far he has kept to his word, his minions have only been exploring our libraries and other such locations of knowledge."

"I...I don't understand..." said Twilight, facing all of them with a perplexed look. "Haven't you come to rescue me?"

"Not in the way that you think, darling," said Rarity, coming up and taking Twilight by the hoof, gazing into her face with a sad smile. "We have something different in mind."

"It is true...my champion," said Hermaeus Mora, everyone looking up at his alien form. "Your companions have come here with an unexpectedly well thought-out objective."

"How do you know what we were planning?" asked Applejack, "We barely decided on it a couple of hours ago."

"Because...I am Hermaeus Mora," he said smugly.

"How does that explain anything," said Rainbow, fluttering up to the nearest portal and crossed her hooves, a half lidded look of annoyance crossing her features.

All present could swear they saw his many eyes roll with annoyance.

"I am the Daedric Prince of knowledge, time and fate," explained Hermaeus Mora in a more neutral tone. "My sphere..."

Everyone but Twilight gave a confused look, Hermaeus Mora rolling his eyes again, "My special talent...my...Cutie Mark, you would say...is divining past and future events through observation of your realms stars."

"Lord Hermaeus," said Fluttershy, surprising everypony by actually hovering up to one of Hermaeus Mora's tentacle vortexes. "Does that mean that you can see into the future?"

"Correct, mortal..." answered Hermaeus Mora, his voice somewhat gentle so it did not scare Fluttershy like it had before. "...but not in any way you could understand...and until that wretched queen unintentionally released my influence...my ability to do so in your realm was very limited."

"Then you do know why we have come," said Celestia, no doubt in her voice.

"Indeed...but you can explain yourselves," said Hermaeus Mora, smug intrigue in his slippery voice "I wish for my champion to hear it from you."

Twilight watched with worry and horror as the Princesses and her brother separated from her friends, moving to stand at the sidelines.

"You have the floor, young ones," said Luna, wearing a supportive smile.

"Yes, this is your task to fulfill," said Celestia, winking to the girls and Spike as she sat between her sister and Cadance.

The group of five ponies and one dragon huddled together under Hermaeus Mora's multiple vortexes, the ponies lowering themselves onto their chest in a respectful bow, Spike doing the same by bending down on one knee.

"Lord Hermaeus Mora," said Rarity, standing up straight while the rest of them stayed kneeling. They had all agreed that she should be the one to speak to Hermaeus Mora, having the most regal voice of all of them, and being the most experienced smooth talker. "My name is Rarity, and this is Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Spike," Rarity gestured to each of them as she spoke.

"As you most already know, we are Twilight's closest and most devoted friends," continued Rarity, wiping her tearing eyes with a handkerchief she conjured with her magic. "...and you must also already know how badly we failed her."

"Rarity, don't do this to yourself," said Twilight, approaching her friends with a worried look. "What happened was beyond your control..."

"No Twilight," said Applejack, still kneeling before Hermaeus Mora. "Not all of it."

"We could have chosen to believe you," said Fluttershy, looking up to Twilight, for she was the one closest to her when she approached. "You came to all of us for help, but we turned you away. We were so caught up in the wedding that we couldn't see what was happening around us."

"That isn't even the worst of it," said Rainbow, also looking up at Twilight. "Not a month before the wedding, another disaster was caused by our negligence."

"Yes, you were so stressed out about your self-imposed deadline for friendship lessons, you went all banana cream pie crazy and caused all of Ponyville to wage war over a doll," said Pinkie, looking up with a slightly deflating mane. "...and if we had payed more attention to you then, the whole disaster could have been avoided."

In the now proclaimed fifteen years Twilight had been in Apocrypha, she had pretty much forgotten about those instances, and the bitter feelings they had once sparked. After a while, all that mattered to her was stopping Chrysalis. Even now Twilight felt no grudge against any of them as they brought up the few times that they fell up short regarding her.

"We failed her then, but we will not fail her now," said Rarity before Hermaeus Mora, her bowing friends behind her. "Which is why me and the others beseech you, Lord Hermaeus Mora, allow the others and I to remain here with her for the duration of whatever duties you have tasked her with."

"What!?" Twilight shouted in surprise, her heart thundering in her chest.

"Twilight and the rest of us are a team," said Spike, looking up at Hermaeus Mora with a determined grin. "You can't have one of us without the rest."

There was a chorus of agreememts from the others.

"Girls! You can't be serious," said Twilight frantically, her mane poking out in random directions. "Apocrypha is no place for you."

"Let us decide that, sugar cube," said Applejack, standing up and taking her hat off before Twilight. "You spent some fifteen years to you here, learning new magic that you could use to defend us from a foe we were too blind to see."

"Not only did you kick serious tail with it," started Rainbow, also standing up and approaching Twilight. "You also went through unimaginable things to insure we were safe."

"Yes," said Fluttershy, now near Twilight. "...and when that awful Chrysalis gained the upper hoof and was going to start her wretched victory with me, you managed to turn the tide, causing great harm to yourself in the process."

"Ooohh, I can't imagine how much that must have hurt," said Pinkie, shivering with the rest of the group as they remembered Twilight’s mutilated form when she released herself from the Changeling goo using Spike's dragon fire.

"I agree," said Rarity, her sad blue eyes locked on her fellow unicorn. "That is why we all agreed that if we could not free you from this place, we would join you here."

Spike patted the stunned Twilight on the back, "We'll keep you company while all this blows over."

Twilight stood before them all, gratitude and happiness flooding her soul. In all the time she had known these fillies, she never once would have believed they would go so far for her. Her sharp mind could see the quick, but uneasy look they all threw to their surroundings, even Rainbow Dash could not suppress all the worry born of the appearance of Apocrypha. Despite all of that, they all declared they were willing to stay here with her.

Unfortunately, she knew that it was impossible.

"Girls...I don't know what to say..." moaned Twilight, tears falling from her eyes. But she shook her head to rid herself of them. "But you can't do this, it is impossible."

"Hey, 'Impossible' is my middle name,"said Rainbow, some of her ego surfacing. "Rainbow Impossible Dash!"

"You don't understand," said Twilight frantically, growing worried. "It is physically impossible for you to do this."

"A little late for that, don't you think," said Pinkie, rolling around Twilight on her hooves. "We're standing right here."

"Remember what Hermaeus Mora had to do to Cadance while he kept her here?" Said Twilight, slightly impatient. "He had to keep her under an enchanted sleep, or she would have lost her mind. And that is because Apocrypha has adverse effects on anypony who enters that is not intellectual."

"You sayin we're stupid?" asked Applejack, raising an eyebrow.

"You're missing the point," said Twilight desperately. "If you all linger in Apocrypha for too long you'll lose your mind, only those with the greatest of minds can withstand the effects."

"Yes, we understand, my student," said Celestia as she approached Hermaeus Mora.

Celestia looked up at the weaving tendrils above, a look of determination on her face. Twilight grew a panicked look and moved to intervene, but one of Hermaeus Mora's eyes looked at her, stopping her in her tracks. It was only a second, but Twilight could tell Hermaeus was warning her not to get involved with what was about to happen.

With all her loved ones present and Hermaeus Mora, a creature that Twilight still knew was a bad idea to anger, hovering just overhead, Twilight reluctantly silenced herself, but sighed a little when her friends pulled her into another group hug.

"Hermaeus Mora," began Celestia, lowering her head to expose the back of her head in a sign of submission. "We have come to your realm, Apocrypha, to reunite Twilight with her friends while she toils on whatever task you seek of her. We do remember what Twilight told us about this place and the effects it can have on all but a set type of minds, which is why I have come here to beg your assistance."

"What is it you propose I do Celestia?"

"Apocrypha is your realm, is it not?" asked Luna, walking up to stand beside her sister, though not taking the same pose. "You said it yourself, you command every aspect of it."

"Yes...It is...I did...and I do."

Luna felt her temper flare at the simplicity of his responses. He had said he already divined their purpose for coming here, why was he forcing them to move forward like this? One glance at the terrified Twilight embraced by her friends stayed the irritated remark that was at the back of her throat.

"Then we humbly ask you," said Celestia, slight desperation entering her voice. "Use that influence to protect Twilight’s friends while they keep her company here."

Twilight was about to give a warning to them for making such a request of a Daedric Prince, but Hermaeus Mora beat her to the response.

"Raise your head, Princess," said the mass of tendrils, one would think a hint of embarrassment was hidden in his cold voice. "It is unbefitting of you."

Celestia raised her head, a little embarrassed at her own display.

Luna arched an eyebrow at her sister before looking up to Hermaeus again. "Will you help us or not?"

There was a short pause.

"Pretty please," said Pinkie among the group hug, her eyes large and moist. "We really want to stay here and keep our dear friend company, but without going all loco in the cocoa."

Twilight looked at them all in shock, but also with split feelings. Studying under Hermaeus Mora had been an unimaginable experience for the scholarly side of her, but during that time she had never felt so alone. And she could not deny that the thought of her friends actually joining her here tempted her.

She knew it could not be.

"It is...most embarrassing for me to admit, but the the effects my realm has on the minds of most mortals is not something I can control."

Everyone gave him a varying reaction, confusion, disappointment, anger, and Twilight shed a tear that was equal parts relief and regret.

"The effect of Apocrypha has nothing to do with my influence over it," explained Hermaeus Mora, "It is due to how fragile mortal minds can be."

"Are you kidding me?" asked Rainbow Dash, flying up to where she actually had her face in one of Hermaeus Mora's eyes "Big bad Diddic Prince, or whatever you are, who can suck the brains out of a super powerful changeling queen, just take control of the sun and moon, and can project a freaky magic scream that calms every single pony in Equestria, and the one thing we need you to do is the one thing you can't do?"

"Some things are even beyond the abilities of a Daedric Prince, mortal."

Rainbow Dash just harrumphed and lowered herself back into the group hug around Twilight along with the rest of her let down friends. Twilight just sunk into it, willing to enjoy this while she could. She had known that it was impossible from the start, Hermaeus Mora having explained to her the rules of Apocrypha some time ago.

"However," said Hermaeus Mora, gaining everypony's attention again. "There may be another way around it."

Twilight's jaw dropped as conflicting thoughts bombarded her again.

"But you just said you have no control over what happens to the minds of those who enter this place," said Shining Armour, saying his first words in a while.

"I don't," continued Hermaeus, his voice telling everyone that he knew something that they didn't. "You do."

Another vortex of black tentacles materialized before anyone could question, this one only a few feet away from them, five familiar necklaces and a tiara gripped in its six tendrils.

"Wait, how did you...?" Celestia gasped, only to facehoof. " Why do I even bother with that ridiculous vault?"

"The Elements of Harmony?" inquired Fluttershy, the group hug breaking up, everypony approaching the magic jewelry. "What have they got to do with this?"

"These objects...are most intriguing. They have a connection to you six in a manner I have never come across before, and if I have predicted properly, that magic could deter Apocrypha's effects on you."

"So if we all wear our elements, we can stay here?" asked Rarity hopefully.

"Correct."

"No," shouted Twilight, everyone looking to her as she shook her head in aggravation. "Even if this works, and you can remain here with me, I can't let you. What about your homes, your responsibilities, your families?" She cast Shining Armour and Cadence a look, "And if you all stay here with me, who will plan their wedding?"

"Twily," said Shining Armour, walking up to his sister with a sad look. "Did you honestly think we would have our wedding without you?"

Twilight could only stare up at him in confusion,"But I..."

"You were right..." said Cadance, walking up next to her fiance. "...about everything and if it had not been for you, there would not even be a chance for another wedding."

"What I said to you that day was wrong, Twily," admitted Shining Armour, "I should have listened, but instead I failed to see the danger that was coming. And I failed as your BBBFF."

"But Chrysalis..." Twilight began to say, but Applejack cut her off.

"Had nothing to do with what your brother said back then, Twi," said the apple farmer. " She did not place him under a brainwashing until after she imprisoned you."

"Isn't that right dear?" said Cadance, poking Shining with a wing.

"Yes," said Shining Armour shamefully, "Chrysalis had nothing to do with it."

Twilight felt a weight fall into her stomach, despite all that had happened, she had held a small hope that Shining Armour had been so nasty to her because of Chrysalis.

"As for our families and responsibilities back home?" asked Fluttershy, Rarity walking up next to her and giving her a wink.

"We have already taken care of that, darling," said Rarity with a smile.

---

"Youngin! What are you jabbering about?" Asked Granny Smith from her porch rocker, Apple Bloom and Big Mac standing in the doorway to the Apple family house. "What do ya mean, ya gotta leave?"

"It's something I just gotta do, Granny," replied Applejack, placing her stetson on her head.

"But what about the farm, Applejack?" asked Apple Bloom, distress in her eyes. "How are we gonna keep things going without you?"

"If it hadn't been for Twilight there wouldn't be a farm anymore," said Applejack, wiping away some tear's that began to form as she thought of her friend. "She risked everything to save us, save all of Equestria. I can't let her face whatever endeavor she is up against now alone. Not this time."

"This time?" asked Granny, arching an eyebrow.

Applejack tilted her head down in shame as she addressed her grandma, "She came to me for help, and I turned her away."

Apple Bloom, Big Mac, and Granny Smith gave her a startled look.

"Why in tarnation would you do that?" asked Granny Smith, a scolding look in her eyes.

"It was kinda an accident," explained Applejack, her look of shame deepening. "Twilight knew something was wrong up in Canterlot, but me and everypony else were to caught up in the wedding to see it."

"Fiddlesticks," said Granny Smith, getting up from her chair and straddling up to her granddaughter as fast as she could and poking her in the chest. "Girl, you are an Apple, and nothing, I repeat, nothing, is more is more important to an Apple than family! And that little mulberry pony is just as much family to you as the rest of us."

"Yep," said Big Mac.

"And a fancy spancy wedding is no excuse," continued Granny.

"Nope," said Big Mac

"That's right," said Apple Bloom, bouncing up and down with a scowl on her little filly face. "When me, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo were abducted by those monsters, she stepped in and saved us."

"And that's another reason why I owe her," said Applejack, finally dropping her look of shame and replacing it with a look of determination.

"Then move your caboose," said Granny Smith, twirling her surprised granddaughter around and giving her a firm swat on her rump. "And don't come back till you have that sweet little filly in tow."

"Oh, I wouldn't have it any other way," said Applejack, starting her trek down the dirt road that led to Ponyville, turning around to wave at her family. "I'll be back as soon as possible."

"Don't you hurry none youngin," replied Granny, "This old gal still has some fire in her furnace, I can step in while you are away."

"We all will," said Apple Bloom, waving to her departing sister. "We can watch the farm while you're gone."

"Yep," said Big Mac as Applejack disappeared over the hill.

---

"Thanks for agreeing to fill in for me at Sugarcube Corner, Maud," said Pinkie Pie, hugging her two tone gray sister from behind.

"It's no problem, Pinkie Pie," said Maud, adjusting the settings of the oven in front of them. "I needed something to do while my Rocktoret studies are on hold anyway."

"How did that happen anyway?" Asked Pinkie, "Did your professor go on vacation?"

"Not really," answered Maud in her drawl, colorless voice. "The day Hermaeus Mora appeared in the sky, he passed out and hasn't woken up yet. They had to close my school entirely because he's also the Dean."

"Aw, how sad," said Pinkie with a droopy face." Hermaeus Mora sure was different looking, but I didn't think he was drop down in fright terrifying."

"I thought he was strange too," said Maud, turning from the oven to face Pinkie. "Is what the Princesses said true, is he really from another dimension?"

"Yes indeedily, and he saved us all from that meanie pants Chrysalis," answered Pinkie with a grin.

"How interesting," said Maud, her face as neutral as always, "I wonder if his dimension has different rocks then ours."

The oven dinged.

"Cake is done," drawled Maud, putting an oven mitt in her mouth, opening the oven and ducking in.

"Are you sure you don't want me to show you some pointers?" Asked Pinkie worriedly. "No offence, but rock study and baking are waaay different..."

Pinkie dropped her jaw when Maud pulled her head out of the oven, a fully frosted eight layered cake in her mouth. It was dark pink with fluffy white frosting around the rims of the layers, bright red Cherry's decorating the white. Pinkie watched as her sister place the huge pastry on the kitchen counter, reaching into a drawer to pull out a cake knife.

"Wow... just wow, Maud," gasped Pinkie, walking closer to admire the cake masterpiece. "You really are best at everything."

"I can't take credit for this," said Maud, pulling out a small rock from her gray dress and stroking it. "I only followed Bolder's instructions."

"Bolder knows how to bake?" Asked Pinkie.

"The University sent me to a volcanic island to study igneous rocks last month," explained Maud, "I thought it was to dangerous for Boulder, so I sent him to cooking school till I returned. He graduated at the top of his class."

"Wow Boulder," said Pinkie, looking at the motionless rock on Maud's hoof. "Every year you get more amazing."

"I just hope he's just as good at babysitting," the Pie sisters turned around to see Cup and Carrot Cake walk into the kitchen, Pound and Pumpkin Cake on their backs.

"Pinkie, Applejack is waiting for you outside," said Cup.

"Then I guess it's time for me to skedaddle," said Pinkie hugging everypony and heading to the door.

"Do you really need to do this, sweetie?" asked Cup Cake worriedly.

"I have to, Mrs. Cake," said Pinkie, giving her employer a sad look. "Wherever Twilight is, she will need smile's, and I intend to bring whole barrel fulls."

"We're going to miss you," said Carrot Cake sadly.

"I know, but I'll be back," said Pinkie, "Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my..."

Cup and Carrot jumped back when Pinkie was stopped from sticking her hoof in her eye by a black tendril.

"What you do that for, Hermmy?" Asked Pinkie as the tendril vanished.

Her interrupted Pinkie promise notwithstanding, Pinkie resumed her departure.

"PINKIE!"

"PIE!"

Pinkie turned around to see Pound and Pumpkin bouncing up and down on their parents back.

"Oh, I'm sorry you two," said Pinkie, nuzzling the foals. "I don't wanna leave you, but Twilight needs me more."

"They will be fine, deary," said Cup, "You had better get going before it gets too hard."

With slight tears, Pinkie left Sugarcube Corner.

And the Cake Twins burst into tears.

Their parents tried to calm them, but they were inconsolable.

Until Maud produced a large, transparent crystal from her dress and held it up above them, the ceiling lights beams flowing into it and casting the room in color. The Cake Twins stopped crying, staring as the multiple colors danced over them from the pretty crystal. Maud gave Mr and Mrs. Cake a small smile.

---

"Do you really need to go, Rarity?" asked Sweetie Belle, as her and Rarity walked to their parents house.

"Yes Sweetie, I must," said Rarity, looking down at her little sister with a sad smile. "I owe Twilight, especially regarding you."

Sweetie trembled as she remembered the scenario were Twilight saved her and her fellow Crusaders from the changelings.

"And besides, would you not do the same for Apple Bloom, or Scootaloo?" asked Rarity.

Sweetie thought about it for a minute, then nodded her head, "Yes, I would do anything for my friends."

Their parents place came into view next to the lake, mom and dad waving from the door.

"I will be back, I promise," said Rarity, hugging her sister.

"Are you sure you don't want me to look after your business while you're gone?" asked Sweetie.

Rarity cringed internally at the thought. She would rather temporarily close Carousel Boutique then let Sweetie do anything with it. She didn't have time to hire a substitute, but that was alright.

If Twilight had not done what she did, there wouldn't be a Carousel Boutique anymore.

"Thanks, but you have your own role to play in this, Sweetie," replied Rarity, her sister giving her a confused look. "Applejack and Rainbow Dash are coming too, which means Apple Bloom and Scootaloo will be without their own sisters too. Do you know what that means?"

"It means we will all need each other more than ever," replied Sweetie with revelation.

"Correct," said Rarity proudly, "Just like you will need them to get you through my absence, they will equally rely on you for the same."

"And I won't let them down," said Sweetie, rushing off to the their parents house. "I'm going to get settled in, then the three of us will get through this together."

Rarity smiled as she watched her sister, praying that she learned from this in the way she should have in the first place.

---

Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Scootaloo stood outside Fluttershy's cottage, Owlowiscious, Gummy, Opal, Winnona, Tank, and Angel before them.

"Can I rely on you to be in charge while I am gone, Angel?" Asked Fluttershy.

The white rabbit put on an army helmet with five vertical stars on it and gave a salute.

"I knew I could count on you," said Fluttershy, hugging the bunny, much to his displeasure. "Now," she said to all the pets. "Dr. Fauna will be looking after you all while you are staying at my cottage, but when she is not around, Angel is in charge, got that."

Winona barked in understanding. She had decided to join them, even though she didn't need a sitter like the other pets. They would need her chipper personality.

"Good, now make yourself at home," said Fluttershy, opening her door and letting them all in.

"Glad that is taken care of," said Rainbow, "We had better get going."

So the three of them headed to Ponyville.

"What do you suppose this adventure of yours will be like?" asked Scootaloo as she walked by them.

"No idea," said Rainbow as she took to the air, "But can we count on you to hold down the fort while we are gone, squirt?"

"Most definitely," said Scootaloo eagerly. "You can count on me and my friends to watch Ponyville."

"Speaking of your friends, you will be there for them, right?" asked Fluttershy, "They might be without their sisters for some time."

"You better believe it," said Scootaloo, looking to Rainbow Dash with admiration. "I'll be loyal to them to a fault."

"That's the spirit," said Rainbow Dash, giving Scootaloo a noogie as the entered Ponyville, Pinkie, Rarity, Applejack, and Spike waiting for them.

"We had best head out," said Fluttershy.

"Alright," said Rainbow, looking to Scootaloo. "Watched things for us, small fry, and take care of your friends."

"You can count on me."

---

"But girls..." Twilight began, but the Element of Magic landed on her head, the other Elements clasping to their respective bearers wrapped in a blue aura.

"Sorry darling, but you can't change our minds," said Rarity, fixing the Element of Generosity to her neck. "We are staying."

"But if the Elements are here how will Equestria defend itself?" asked Twilight, trying to come up with something.

"We could not use them anyway, Twi," said Applejack, "Not without you."

"If anything should threaten Equestria while all of you are here, me and my sister will deal with it," said Celestia with determination, Luna nodding.

"But what about Spike?" asked Twilight desperately. "He doesn't have an Element."

"He was raised by you, my champion," Hermaeus Mora explained, "Because of that...he was immune to Apocrypha from the start."

Twilight flashed Hermaeus Mora an annoyed look. But she didn't have time to answer on it, for a light humming sound filled the air. Twilight looked to her friend's and what she saw made her gasp in fright.

"What is it, sugarcube?" Asked Applejack, following Twilight's line of sight to her flank.

The rest didn't he same, and they all gasped. As the humming continued, their Cutie Marks shrank, stopping when they were one-ten their original sizes. Then black tendrils materialized on their flanks, twisting as they gripped the Cutie Mark above them.

Hermaeus Mora's eye opened inside the imprinted mass of tentacles.

"It would seem..." started Hermaeus Mora, amusement in his voice. "Apocrypha itself, has accepted this proposal."

"Aw ya," said Rainbow, twirling to admire her mark. "Awesome!"

"The black clashes with my coat," complained Rarity.

Fluttershy turned away from her mark and covered her eyes with her wing's, peaking but covering again as she saw the eye on her flank.

"I hope this doesn't give Apple Bloom any ideas," said Applejack worriedly as she stared at the tendrils gripping her Apple's.

"Now I can throw an 'Our Cutie Marks Match' party. Oh, what should I give out for party favors?" Pinkie eyed Hermaeus Mora's tentacles. "Hey Hermy, could I have some of your arms?"

Hermaeus Mora just blinked.

"Looks like it's finalized, my student," said Celestia, walking up and looking down at Twilight with a loving smile on her face.

Twilight gave in, releasing a pent up sigh. She had never anticipated this, and a lot of things told her it was a bad idea. But her heart pined for her friends

She just smiled.

"Thank you," she moaned.

"I wish I could stay as well, but the other Princesses and I have other obligations," said Celestia, Luna and Cadance nodding.

"I have my responsibilities too," said Shining Armour.

"Aren't you forgetting something, Celestia?"

Hermaeus Mora's words jogged Celestia's memory, reminding her why she had come her herself. In a flash of magic, she summoned the pamphlet Raven had given her, and approached the tendrils again.

"Hermaeus Mora, I am sure you are aware of what has happened in Equestria after you appeared," she said.

"I am aware, and I also know what troubles you," replied Hermaeus Mora,"But why don't you ask your student,she could tell you what you want to know, and you can trust her."

"What is he talking about, Princess?" asked Twilight worriedly. "What is happening in Equestria?"

She levitated the stacked papers before Twilight, the drawing of the new Cutie Mark being the first. "This mark appeared on the flanks of four children that attend my school, all of them of the Triple C."

"The Cutie Case Class?" Said Twilight, looking at the symbol in horror. "This symbol?"

"Correct, Twilight, can you tell us what it means?" Asked Celestia almost desperately.

"Yes," said Twilight worriedly, "This is the arcane symbol for conjuration. It is of the realm of Nirn."

"Nirn?" inquired Rarity, "Never heard of it."

"Not surprising," said Twilight, casting Hermaeus Mora a look. "Nirn is where the Daedric Princes hail from."

All of them gasped.

"Was this your doing, Hermaeus?" Asked Twilight irritably.

"Not intentionally," admitted the Daedra, "When I finally infiltrated your realm, some of the magic of my own must have slipped through."

"But why these kids?" Asked Celestia.

"Cutie Marks are tied to your destiny...against all odds, these children were destined to use conjuration spells, and my arrival provided them with the final step they would need to achieve their destiny."

"A DAEDRA?" shouted Twilight as she saw the photo of the filly playing with the bipedal creature.

"Do you know what that thing is Twilight?"asked Celestia.

"It's called a daedra," explained Twilight, everyone giving her their attention. "It is a creature from Oblivion, the realm of the Daedric Princes."

"So this thing is an associate of Hermaeus Mora?" asked Luna.

"Yes and no," answered Twilight, "Like you Alicorns rule over us normal ponies, the Daedric Princes rule over the Daedra. The Daedric Princes are the strongest of the Daedra."

"How many Daedric Princes are there?" asked Shining, everyone looking at Twilight.

"I have not completed my research yet, but I believe there to be sixteen?"

"Will we have to worry about them, like Hermaeus Mora?" asked Luna.

"Only I have a presence in your world, my kin have no inclinations to your existence."

"And what about the children? Should we worry about them?" Asked Cadance.

"Conjuration is just like any other magic skill, and the children have exquisite mastery over it. You have nothing to worry about."

Celestia decided that was good enough.

"I wonder how they can summon Clockwork Variants?" Inquired Twilight, studying the picture of the children riding the reptilian creature.

"A what?" asked Fluttershy, looking at the pictures.

"This is a Clockwork Variant," explained Twilight, showing them the picture. "A creature from the Clockwork City. Nobody has been able to summon them since the orchestrator of the Clockwork City died... centuries ago."

"If that's true, than how?" asked Celestia.

"It proves my theory, you ponies have an aptitude for magic greater than any other species I have encountered."

"Sister," said Luna, "I believe we have idled here long enough."

"Yes," said Celestia sadly turning to Twilight and her friends,"It is time we return."

"Must you?" asked Twilight, hugging her teacher.

"We have accomplished what we came to do," said Celestia, "We have checked on your well being, and addressed the issue with the children, now we need to go back to Equestria."

Everyone turned as the ground rose up in the middle of the roof, revealing a giant gazebo that housed a huge black book.

"The way is open," said Hermaeus Mora right before he vanished.

It was hard for Twilight, but she waved as Shining Armour and the Princesses used the book to return home. After another group hug, Twilight led her friends to the courters Hermaeus Mora provided her, all wanting to stay with her. It was going to be like a long slumber party.

"Twilight," said Cadance gently before she herself left, crouching a little in front of the purple unicorn.

Twilight smiled and did the same.

"Sunshine sunshine, ladybug's awake. Clap your hooves and do a little shake.

With their old ritual complete, Cadance left with her aunt's and her fiance.

"So Twilight," said Spike as he walked into the dark structure they stood upon, "What exactly does Hermaeus Mora need you to do?"

Everypony looked at her expectantly...

"Let me tell you all about the Ideal Masters," started Twilight.



---

Deep in the cave beneath Canterlot, the pudle of ink beneath the once again empty book stand frothed. It increased to a boiling, churning and churning, then the surface broke. Three black orbs surrounded by a red aura rolled on the floor of the cave, doing so weakly at first, then began gathering speed.

They rolled off to parts unknown.

27 Explanation and exploration

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Everyone awed at the sight that they beheld when Twilight opened the door to their temporary home. Unlike the rest of Apocrypha this place was more like Canterlot castle, except for the color coding, which did match Apocrypha. Though Twilight was sure it was not this big before, she suspect Hermaeus Mora had something to do with that.

Actually, make that a certainty, because now there were seven bedrooms, were before there had been but one.

"I must say," said Rarity as they all traversed the extensive halls. "Hermaeus Mora, despite his despicable behavior, really knows how to treat his guests."

"So Twilight," said Applejack as they all settled in what looked to be a sitting room, each taking a couch or a chair. "These 'Ideal Masters' are kinda like con artists like Flim and Flam, but instead of cheating you out of your money, they cheat you out of your soul?"

"Yes, that is a good way to describe them," said Twilight, impressed by how much easier Applejack made her explanation.

"How utterly barbaric," said Rarity, shaking slightly. "What kind of horrible monster would do something like that?"

"That's actually a pretty good question, Rarity," said Twilight, everyone looking at her. "From what I have learned of them, they are basically enigma personified."

"Huh, big words hurt," said Rainbow Dash, leaning back in her chair.

"What I mean," restarted Twilight, slightly annoyed. "There is basically no information on the Ideal Masters other than that they want souls. Their motivation, nature, even their physical appearance are a complete mystery."

"But what type of creature are they? " Asked Fluttershy, slightly unnerved to learn that something exists that could steal souls. "Their not...one of Hermaeus Mora's kind, are they?"

"A Daedric Prince?" Asked Twilight, Fluttershy nodding to her. "No, that much I do know."

"Oh, what a relief," said Pinkie watching them all upside down as she lay on her back in her chair. "I would hate for Hermmy to be associated with such horrible creatures."

Twilight internally gulped. She did not want to imagine what would happen if her friends ever found out what Hermaeus Mora was really capable of. She really did not want to imagine what would happen if they ever learned about the other Daedric Princes.

"So what are these crazy soul stealers, Twilight?" Asked Pinkie, snapping Twilight back to them.

"Much about them is vague at best," said Twilight, trying to word her explanation right, "But I do know that they were once flesh and blood, like us, but began practicing magic so powerful that they shed their mortal coil and became beings of pure spiritual energy, and have remained that way till this very day. In fact, Ideal Masters is the title that those who follow them gave them. If they have a true name, they have not shared it with anyone."

"Spiritual energy?" Inquired Applejack.

"They exist without form," explained Twilight, "And when they do manifest, they take the form of large purple crystals that suck the life out of anyone who gets close."

"Why would anyone follow something so revolting?" Asked Rarity, slightly trembling.

"The Ideal Masters are cunning," explained Twilight, "They have been doing what they have done for a long time, millenniums even. You could say soul collecting is their special talent."

"I am liking this less and less," said Rainbow Dash, an angry look in her eyes. "Is there any chance these soul bullies could find Equestria?"

"I don't think so, Rainbow Dash," said Twilight with a comforting smile.

" How do you know?" Snapped Rainbow, " Hermaeus found us."

" Yes, and that is exactly why I think they won't find Equestria," said Twilight.

Everyone gave her a concerned look.

" The Ideal Masters are completely apathetic to the Daedric Prince's," explained Twilight, "From what I have learned, the two don't get along at all, so even if the Ideal Masters somehow found out about Equestria, the fact that a Daedric Prince found it first would revolt them. They would prefer to stay doing their own thing, rather than meddle with something a Daedric Prince has taken an interest in."

"Are you sure about that Twi?" Asked Applejack, slightly worried. "These Ideal Masters sound something awful."

"I am dead sure, AJ," said Twilight reassuringly. "plus, even if they did try anything, I don't think Hermaeus Mora would ever tolerate it."

"And speaking of which, are you ever going to tell us what task of his you need to do?" said Spike, resting his head on a claw over his arm rest. "I'm guessing it has something to do with these...Ideal Masters."

In all the explanation, they had actually forgot about that.

"Oh, yes, sorry," said Twilight, grimacing at the reminder.

"Just out with it already," said Rainbow impatiently.

Twilight took a deep breath, "Recently, the Ideal Masters sorta...ticked Hermaeus Mora off, you could say...and in retaliation, he wants me to take something from them for him."

They all gasped in shock at that.

"He wants you to meddle with those...brutes?" Asked Rarity, her eye twitching.

"Bad idea, Twi," said Applejack, everyone agreeing.

"It's not what I would consider a good idea either, but I have no choice," said Twilight, submission in her voice. "Besides, I must do it for my own purposes too."

"Purposes?" Inquired Fluttershy nervously. "Twilight, what does Hermaeus Mora even want you to steal."

"A soul," answered Twilight before she could hide the truth. "He wants me to steal the Ideal Masters most prized soul, the crown jewel of their wretched collection."

Twilight's friends could only stare at her in stunned silence.

"And whose soul is that?" Asked Rainbow, being the more tough of them, was able to recover from the shock first.

Taking a deep breath, Twilight sat up and ignited her horn. They all watched as a transparent image appeared between them all, an image of the dragon they had seen earlier. It revolved before them, letting them take in how different he looked compared with Equestrian dragons.

"Durnehviir?" Asked Pinkie, looking at Twilight worriedly. "It's his soul you have to retrieve?"

"How did you know his name?" Asked Twilight, great shock in her voice.

"We arrived here right as you were casting that spell on him, Twi," said Applejack, "We heard you call him Durnehviir."

"We also saw you get hit by your own magic," said Pinkie worriedly. “Please, don't ever scare us like that again."

"You saw that, huh?" Said Twilight sheepishly, slightly blushing. "Not one of my brighter moments, I'll admit."

"Oh, never mind that, darling," said Rarity, "So the scene we arrived on...was that you attempting to fulfill your duty to Hermaeus Mora?"

"Yes," said Twilight, looking at all of them. "Durnehviir is enslaved to the Ideal Masters, and Hermaeus Mora wants me to free him from their influence and into his service."

'Your attempts to liberate me are commendable, Grah-Zeymahzin, But I fear that I am doomed to wander the Soul Cairn for all eternity.'

Fluttershy recalled what she had heard Durnehviir say before he faded away, and despite her fear of dragons, she couldn't help but sense the despair in his voice.

"Twilight," she said timidly, knowing she was going to regret asking this. "What exactly is the Soul Cairn?"

Twilight's mouth hung open, despair in her eyes.

"What is it Twi?" Asked Applejack, looking worried. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

She might as well have. The last three weeks, Twilight had studied the Ideal Masters, and the place they called home. If Apocrypha scared her, she did not want to imagine what the Soul Cairn would do to her if she had ever been there. And that was the only she had not done regarding the Ideal Masters so far, not that anything could make her go to that place.

"Are you sure you wanna know?" Asked Twilight nervously. "You may regret it."

"Hey, I remember that now too," said Pinkie, recalling the dragon's words. "The dragon said he was doomed to wander the Soul Cairn for all eternity, so that must be where the Ideal Masters live."

"Yes, Pinkie is right," said Twilight, figuring she might as well tell them. "The Soul Cairn is the Ideal Masters realm, just like Apocrypha is Hermaeus Mora's, and it is where they keep the souls they have collected."

"And, what is this place like?" Asked Fluttershy.

Twilight knew things were going to go on for a while at this rate but it was necessary, and plus, her friends had a right to know. She light up her horn, and the image of Durnehviir vanished. In its place appeared an apparition of a nightmare that almost made Rainbow wet herself.

The miniature landscape was a horrifying sight to behold, a stormy purple sky with a huge black void at the crest. A barren landscape marked with fissures that extruded eerie light. Giant ruined structures scattered, floating purple crystals above them.

Twilight let the image fade, her friends gasping as the petrified state they were in broke.

"How utterly terrifying," whimpered Fluttershy, her shoulders shaking slightly.

"That's the Soul Cairn?" Asked Rainbow, even she was slightly disturbed by what she had seen.

Twilight only nodded.

Spike scratched his head, still looking at the spot where Twilight had cast the image. Pieces were falling into place in his mind, Hermaeus Mora was right, though he may not be anywhere near as intellectual as her, spending his life with Twilight had given him a sharper wit them most kids his age would have. And he could see a pattern here.

"Hermaeus Mora told us back in Canterlot that the words you used to combat Chrysalis came from dragons, though not the dragons of Equestria, right?" said Spike, looking to Twilight for confirmation.

Twilight gave Spike a proud smile, "Correct, Spike. The Thu'um originally came from the dragons that were from Hermaeus Mora's world, Nirn."

"And I am guessing that Durnehviir is one of those dragons?" Asked Spike, Twilight nodding again.

"That's why he looks so different from the other dragons we've seen," said Rarity, tapping her chin.

"And not just that, did you all hear his voice before. It was deep, and all cunning sounding," said Rainbow, even her being able to feel the wisdom within the dragon's voice. "Those dragons we faced when we followed Spike on the Dragon Migration didn't have even a little bit of brains among the whole lot of them."

"And that is a major difference between Equestria dragons, and the dragons of Nirn," explained Twilight, "whereas Equestria's dragons are dull witted and greedy, the dragons of Nirn are cunning and intellectual."

"If they are so smart how was Durnehviir hoodwinked by the Ideal Masters?" Asked Applejack, having dealt with cons before so was a little skeptical about those who would fall for their charades.

"That is a bit complicated, girls," explained Twilight, "and it might take awhile for me to explain."

"Go ahead, Twilight," said Pinkie, wagging her ears. "We are all ears."

Taking a deep breath, Twilight ignited her horn, a 3D image of a globe appeared.

" For you to fully understand what lead to Durnehviir being incarcerated in the Soul Cairn, I must first help you understand what kind of world Nirn is," said Twilight, pointing to her image. "As Equis is our planet, Nirn is the planet were the dragons who use the Thu'um come from."

" It looks so similar to our planet," said Fluttershy, looking at Nirns oceans and land masses.

" You are not wrong, Fluttershy," said Twilight, giving her friend a kind smile. "Nirn has several traits in common with Equis. There's water there, plants, animals, even people, each with different cultures and cities."

Below the image, a bipedal silhouette appeared. It had an upright poster with legs that ended in feet, arms on the torso that end in digits, kind of like Spike, and a slightly small head atop the shoulders. Everyone looked at it with interest.

"This is the basic structure of most of the people who live on Nirn," explained Twilight, "While there are some differences between species, like ponies and griffins differ from each other, they basically look like this."

"They kind of remind me of a minotaur," said Rarity.

"But back to the subject at hoof," continued Twilight, a smaller image of a dragon appearing over the other demonstration. "Is the role the dragons played on Nirn. For you see, as I have said before, they were not like the dragons we know, the primary differences being not only intelligence, but also," Rippling patterns flowed from the dragon images mouth. "The Thu'um.

"And just as what you saw me do in Canterlot, these dragons possessed the same ability," said Twilight, pondering for a second. "Well actually, if what I have learned of them is true, my abilities are mediocre compared to that of a full seasoned dragon."

"You're joking," said Pinkie, somehow turning her head around in a ninety degree angle so she could look at Twilight right way up. "After all you pulled off fighting Chrysalis."

"There is basically no limit on what the Thu'um can do, Pinkie, and from what I know, even Discord would be hard pressed against someone who has mastered the Thu'um," Twilight adjusted the bipedal image to were it bowed before the dragon. "And it was for that reason that the people of Nirn worshipped the Dragons."

"WORSHIPPED!?" Gasped all of Twilight's friends with slack jawed expressions.

"You all need to remember, they were different then the dragons we know," repeated Twilight, "as they were intellectual beyond comprehension, and could literally do anything with but a word. If a dragon felt it should rain, all it would need to do was tell the sky to do so."

"Wow," said Rainbow, her expression wide eyed as she struggled to comprehend that fact. "That's unbelievable."

"But it makes sense," said Spike, everypony shifting their attention to looking at him. "Twilight did that exact same thing just before Hermaeus Mora appeared."

They all agreed on that, though slightly shaken by the memory of the storm striking down multiple Changelings in but a few seconds. It was not something any of them remembered fondly. But Twilight decided to continue.

"Anyway, as one would expect, the dragons excepted the people's worship, and after a time a mighty organization rose up," they all watched as the single bipedal silhouette became many, all wearing a fancy rode."It was called the Dragon Cult, and for many years they ruled with peace and harmony. But then all of that changed."

"What happened, Twi?” Asked Applejack eagerly, curious despite herself.

"Another difference between these dragons and ours was that they were immortal," explained Twilight, her friends gasping in shock."Though as mighty as our dragons can be, they still follow the mortal rules, they can die of old age. Such was not so for the Nirn Dragons. Several of them were countless years old, and never withered or had a decrease in strength as they aged. If I were to ask you girls what you think would happen if a timeless all powerful dragon spent several years being doted on by countless underlings who gladly devoted their whole life to it, what would you think would happen?"

The group pondered on it for a second.

"They would lose sight of them as people," said Rarity, having seen how rich stuck up types usually acted when they had lived all their lives with servants. "They would see them as unimportant beings that only exists to serve them."

"You hit the nail on the head, Rarity, as that is exactly what happened," said Twilight, all the others gasping in horror. "The exact cause is unknown, but at some point, the dragons and their most devoted followers changed, ruling the populace with an iron hoof and treating them as slaves."

Multiple chained figures appeared beneath the robed figures and the dragon.

"And with each year, the Dragon Cult's cruelty only grew, until the hate and unrest they spread among the population grew so fierce, it overshadowed their reverence of their dragon masters and they rose up in rebellion," they all gasped as the images beneath the globe became a depiction of two armies facing each other, one with the bipedal images wielding swords, bows, and other such weapons, the other side consisting of dragons and the people wearing robes. "This was the start of the Dragon war."

"I don't think I like where this is going," said Fluttershy, trembling as flames enclosed on the two armies.

"Do you want me to stop, Fluttershy? As," said Twilight, looking to her friend in worry. "It only gets worse."

Fluttershy was about to say yes, but then saw Twilight again. This had to do with what Hermaeus Mora wanted from her, and she, and through extension them, couldn't go home till its completion. So with all her willpower, Fluttershy shook her head.

"We need to know what Hermaeus Mora wants," said Fluttershy in a determined tone. "If this will help us understand, so be it."

"Alright," said Twilight, continuing reluctantly. "From what I have read, the beginning of the Dragon war was pretty much one sided, multiple people losing their lives in battle every single day, with the dragons losing no ground."

"Oh how unfair," said Pinkie Pie, crossing her hooves with a small pout. “They finally get the courage to fight against the meanie dragons who always abused them, and it was not even a fair fight."

"The dragons had the Thu'um, Pinkie," explained Twilight, "and as you all saw in Canterlot, it is formidable in battle, and the people of Nirn had no defense against it, at least at first," she continued.

Everyone gave her an expecting look, seeing a plot twist coming.

"When all hope seemed lost, and victory for the the dragons seemed an almost certainty," a few of the dragons in the image moved from the side of the dragons and over to the opposing side, "a hoof full of dragons turned on their brethren and joined those who were trying to break free of their rule."

They all gasped again.

"But why?" Asked Applejack, slightly surprised by this turn.

"I know the dragons are pretty much the villains in this, but why would they do that when they were so close to winning?" Asked Spike, looking at his Nirn counterparts who had switched sides.

"Ya, kind of a stupid move," said Rainbow.

"I'm sorry, but I don't know," said Twilight, looking at her friends apologetically. "A lot of the history of the Dragon war was actually destroyed during it, it is unknown why a select few chose to rebel."

They all looked at each other, slightly disappointed.

"But it was anything but a stupid move, Rainbow, as what those dragons did literally turned the tide," they all watched as the side opposing the dragons began to shout things from their mouths, the side of the dragons steadily decreasing in numbers. "Those dragons taught the people the ways of the Thu'um, and with it they could fight fire with fire."

"Awesome," said Rainbow, grinning as she watched the dragons numbers continued the dwindle.

"Yes, in their pride and arrogance the dragons were ill equipped to adapt when they lost their key advantage, and finally lost the winning edge they had," Twilight said, adjusting the image to where one dragon was apart from the rest. "And when it became clear that defeat was more than likely, Durnehviir had an idea."

"He was part of this travesty?" Asked Rarity, exasperated.

"All dragons took part in the Dragon war, but it was Durnehviir who came up with a different way of fighting off the enemy," explained Twilight, her friends looking quite shocked,"Were as all the other dragons choose to use fire, wind, ice, or lightning, Durnehviir set his sights on a different kind of magic."

They waited for her to continue, but she seemed reluctant.

"Well, what was it Twi?" Asked Applejack, slightly worried.

Twilight took a deep breath, she knew that this would raise questions, "Conjuration."

All her friends looked at her.

"Isn't that the magic those foals at Celestia's School can do now?" Inquired Rarity.

"Yes," Twilight forced out, dreading what she would need to tell them.

"So he decided to conjure an army of those weird armored creature's?" Asked Pinkie.

"Girls," said Twilight, her voice instilling a little worry in them, "I need to tell you something, and no matter what happens, promise me you won't tell anypony."

"What is it, Twilight?" Asked Rainbow, slightly worried.

"Girls," started Twilight, concentrating on getting the word out, "Conjuration is a magic practiced by the Ideal Masters."

Their was a pause as none of the others knew what to say.

"Summoning weapons and creature's are not the only uses of Conjuration," Twilight continued before her cowardness forced the words back in. "You can also use it to steal souls...and raise the dead."

"Twilight...you," started Rarity, on the verge of fainting. "You have to be kidding."

Twilight only shook her head.

"Sweet Celestia," moaned Rainbow Dash, slightly pale. "Raise the dead?"

"That's...," started Fluttershy, tears streaming her face. "That's horrible!"

"Zombies?" Asked Pinkie, trembling as she trembled so much her mane squeaked. "It makes zombies?"

"Applerot," whispered Applejack, shaking like a leaf herself.

"Hey wait," said Spike, looking worried. "Conjuration is the new magic that those kids can use, so that must mean..."

"Yes, Spike," confirmed Twilight, not wanting to hide anything. "If they wanted, they could resurrect the dead."

All of them looked panicked at hearing that. The very thought of what they had learned was enough to send them all into a panic. What if those children did learn how to raise the dead, what would happen if...?

'KAAN DREM OV'

The shout echoed through the living quarters, all present feeling a comforting sensation settle in their souls. Taking deep breaths, each of Twilight's friends looked to her, seeing her wearing a reassuring smile. Slowly, their racing hearts slowed to a normal pace.

"Better?" She asked in concern.

They all nodded, but even with the fear gone the concern still remained.

"Twilight, why didn't you tell the Princess about this?" Asked Rarity, all the others nodding in agreement.

"If I did, what would happen to those children?" Answered Twilight, looking at all of them. "She already has concerns about Hermaeus Mora, what would she do if she found out that such a formidable magic was in the hooves of four young spell casters?"

"But Twilight..." started Rainbow, giving her friend a worried look. "What if something happens... what if those kids suddenly start reanimating dead things by accident."

"They won't," said Twilight calmly.

"How do you even know that, Twilight?" Asked Applejack.

"I admit, the formidable spell that reanimates dead things to do the casters will is common in Nirn..." Explained Twilight, her friends shocked to learn this as well. "But that would not have been the case if not for the Ideal Masters."

"You mentioned that Conjuration was their magic," said Fluttershy, her face dryer now thanks to Twilight's assistance. "Do they have something to do with this horrible spell that can bring back the dead?"

"Something to do with it?" Twilight said, looking to all of them with a look that was equal parts fascinated, and terrified. "Girls... the Ideal Masters invented it."

Another round of gasps filled the room.

"And that is how they have kept luring people to them for so long," explained Twilight, "As morbid as it sounds, there are magic users on Nirn that practice this, but the only way to truly master it is to contact the Ideal Masters."

"How does that prevent those kids from practicing it?" Asked Applejack frantically.

"Because the only way for them to even start is for the Ideal Masters to teach them this spell," explained Twilight, flashing them a knowing smile. "And they have absolutely no influence in Equestria."

"But Twilight, thode kids can already summon those strange creatures," countered Rarity.

"Summoning is a branch of conjuration that has nothing to do with the Ideal Masters," explained Twilight, "Trust me girls, they only have influence in the type of magic that reanimates, and steals souls."

If one listened they would swear they heard gears turning inside the heads of Twilight's friends.

"So... there is no possible way for them to learn it?" Asked Spike.

Twilight nodded to all of them.

"Are you sure, Twilight?" Inquired Fluttershy.

"Rest assured, girls, without the Ideal Masters to get them started on it, they will never even be aware of it," said Twilight.

A few minutes passed, but in the end, they decided to believe her. Twilight knew magic, so if she said that thing's were okay, it was true. So eventually they went back to the subject of Durnehviir.

"Sooo..." Started Rainbow, "I'm guessing Durnehviir wanted to learn how to raise the dead, which is why he sought out the Ideal Masters."

"Correct, Rainbow," confirmed Twilight, giving Rainbow a proud smile, which in turn, gave Rainbow a proud grin. "No dragon had ever learned such magic before, and it was his belief that if he could accomplish it, he could turn the war back in the dragons favor, rising fallen warriors from both sides to do his bidding."

"Did it work?" Asked Pinkie, leaning forward in her chair as far as she could.

Twilight just shook her head, slight pity in her face.

"Did something happen?" Asked Rarity, still somewhat uncomfortable with the fact that a part of her wanted to know how things ended.

"You could say everything happened and nothing happened at the same time," said Twilight, her voice somewhere between sad and sympathy. "Durnehviir successfully contacted the Ideal Masters, and they agreed to assist him. But they demanded something in return."

"From the experience we had with Flim and Flam, I am guessing it was a trap," said Applejack.

"Yes," said Twilight, "The Ideal Masters brought Durnehviir into the Soul Cairn and tasked him with retrieving a certain soul for them, whom was hiding in the Soul Cairn, but had not been claimed by them, in exchange for their power. But they didn't tell him the consequences."

"Consequences?" They all inquired.

Twilight tapped the Element of magic with a hoof.

"Like Apocrypha has an effect on those who enter it, so to does the Soul Cairn," explained Twilight, all of them giving her a concerned look. "The effects being, if a living being enters the Soul Cairn and stays too long, they will be bound to it for all eternity."

Again, they gasped.

"I think you can guess what happened," said Twilight simply.

"While he was trying to retrieve that persons soul, he remained too long and became trapped," said Rarity, almost in tears.

"But why would they do that?" Asked Applejack, "I know they are pretty much supernatural cons, but don't they usually give you what you ask for first?"

"The Ideal Masters are unpredictable, AJ. Sometimes they keep their word, sometimes not," Twilight looked out a nearby window to Apocrypha outside. "And when Durnehviir approached them, he gave them an opportunity to claim something they never could before."

"What?" Asked Pinkie, inexplicably eating popcorn.

"The soul of a dragon," said Twilight, "That was a temptation they could not pass up, and as a result Durnehviir became the crown Jewel of their collection, and has remained so to this very day."

"But what happened with the war?" Asked Rainbow excitedly. "If Durnehviir wound up hoodwinked by the Ideal Masters, it stands to reason he never aided them with this resurrection plan he had."

"Correct, Rainbow," said Twilight, looking sad. "And I think because of that, the dragons eventually lost the war, defeated by the lowly mortals they once looked down on."

"Aw ya," said Rainbow, lifting off the ground and punching the air. "Big bad dragons thought they were so cool, but we're driven off by those they once thought beneath them."

"Not driven off, Rainbow...," said Twilight, her ears lowering, drawing worry from her friends. "...Wiped out."

Rainbow landed back in her seat, the others sharing her open mouth shock.

"Wiped out?" Asked Fluttershy quietly.

"That is another thing that is different about our world's dragon's," said Twilight, closing her eyes. "They are still around, were as the dragons of Nirn are pretty much extinct."

Tear's budded in Fluttershy's eyes as she covered her mouth. Despite all the terrible things she had learned about these dragons, she would never wish full blown extinction on anything. And it would seem the others thought the same thing.

"Why in Equestria would they wipe out all of them?" Asked Pinkie, the thought of an entire species being lost caused her mane to deflate.

"The dragons would not relent," explained Twilight, "They were prideful and foreboding right down to the last, so the people had no choice but to slay all of them. They wouldn't let go of their pride...and in the end...it destroyed them."

Twilight actually broke down into tears at this point. Her friends moved in for a group hug, also shedding a few tear's themselves. A villainous as these dragon's sounded, the thought of an entire species being wiped from existence in a war was a thought that they did not know how to comprehend.

No one noticed Twilight's magic diagram disappear.

"Why would the Ideal Masters let that happen?" Asked Applejack as they all returned to their seats.

"Even a war on such a scale like that is unimportant to them, AJ," Answered Twilight, "It mattered not what would happen if they kept Durnehviir for themselves, as long as they could claim a dragon’s soul."

Thankfully, this is where the conversation about the Dragon war ended, Twilight seeing no reason to continue.

"So, Durnehviir is trapped in the Soul Cairn, Hermaeus Mora wants you to free him," summed up Applejack as she tapped her chin. "That about right?"

"Correct, Applejack," confirmed Twilight.

"Not to be a wet blanket, but why?" Asked Rarity, "It sounds to me like he got when he deserves, going to those ruffians, despite their dangerous reputation."

"It's not about whether he deserves it or not," said Twilight, "This is what Hermaeus Mora wants from me, and I already agreed to it. And besides, I kinda owe this to Durnehviir."

"What do mean?" Asked Fluttershy as the others gave Twilight an expecting look.

"Durnehviir helped me me learn the Thu'um," stated Twilight simply.

"HUH?" said all of them.

"I thought Hermmy tutored you in that bizarro magical voice?" Inquired Pinkie, slightly confused.

"Hermaeus Mora taught me the words of power, but even a Daedric Prince cannot teach the Thu'um better than those who originally instigated it," explained Twilight.

"But how?" Asked Rarity, "He is trapped within the Soul Cairn."

Smiling, Twilight stood up at walked out of the room, the others followed when she motioned for them to come. Where she lead them put the Starswirl the Bearded wing in Canterlot to shame. Long circular walls stretching around the spacious room, piled with books that sat on ornate shelves.

"It has something to do with how I plan to free him," said Twilight as she lead them inside.

In the center sat a small research area, four tables littered with papers that had diagrams and formulas written all over their surface. Then Twilight lead them to a chalkboard that sat slightly to the right of the research area, sketches of the dragon Durnehviir etched in multiple positions covering it's surface, accompanied by multiple glyphs that they all recognized as magic runes. Below all of it, Durnehviir's name was broken down into three sections, but written far larger than the runes.

' DUR NEH VIIR '

"I already know how I can free him," said Twilight, extending her hoof over the board. "The data involved is probably more than you can understand...uh, no offense."

"Don't sweat it Twilight," replied Rainbow, the others giving her a nod that said they weren't offended. "You are the egghead, after all."

"Uh, thanks," said Twilight, not know if she should be offended at that. "but anyway, to put it simply, I plan to use Durnehviir's name to release him from the Soul Cairn, and have partially been able to do so already."

The rest gave a confused look.

"Uh, darling...I think you might have lost us," said Rarity, scratching her head.

"Ya Twi," said Applejack, sharing all their confused looks. “How is this feller's name gonna get him out of that awful place."

"Because to the dragons of Nirn, names are everything," explained Twilight, all of them sitting down, waiting for another lesson. "You see, their names are more to them than our names ever could be to us."

"Hey, I am very attached to my name," said Pinkie, looking slightly annoyed.

"What I meant is that unlike us, dragons have what could best be described as an intimate relationship with their names," said Twilight, hopefully this would help them understand.

But when they still looked confused, Twilight put a hoof to her chin in contemplation. There had to be a way to get them to understand. Then she smiled as she thought of something.

"Do you all remember when I made that storm appear?" She asked.

They all jumped slightly at the memory, but nodded, though it was with disturbed frowns.

"Well the same thing applies to my theory," said Twilight, conjuring images of letters with her magic that said 'STRUN BAH QO'. "It all has to do with the Thu'um, which is..."

"Ya ya, we know," said Rainbow Dash impatiently. "It's the all powerful language the dragons used to spread misery."

"Well," said Twilight, slight irritated at being interrupted. "As with any language, it can be translated. The Thu'um, or shout as they are more commonly called, that I used to bring that storm translates into 'storm' 'wrath' 'lightning' ."

"On my," said Fluttershy, covering her mouth in shock.

"That's kinda morbid," said Rainbow.

"It's the same for the names of the dragons," continued Twilight, picking up a classroom pointer from nearby and pointing to Durnehviir's name, "Each of these is actually a word, they say Curse, Never, Dying."

"Oh, how utterly revolting," said Rarity in a shrill voice.

"Ya, what kinda name is that?" Said Rainbow Dash.

Everyone seemed to take awhile to get over how they felt after hearing Durnehviir's name.

"I still don't understand, Twilight," said Fluttershy softly. "What does this have to do with freeing Durnehviir, or how he could teach you while trapped in the Soul Cairn?"

"To a dragon, a name is more than just a name," continued Twilight, now that they have calmed down, "It is a summons; if someone were to learn a dragon's name and call it out, that dragon has no choice but to heed that call."

"Wait, wait, wait," said Pinkie, shaking her head in a fast motion. "Let me see if I understand, your saying that I was one of these other-wordly dragons, and some random pony shouted 'PINKIE PIE' I would have no choice but to go that pony, even if it means I have to leave a cake in the oven."

"That...is actually a good way to put it," said Twilight, impressed.

"Well I'll be," said Applejack, rolling what she had learned around in her mind, trying to imagine what that would be like.

"For a name to have that kind of power," said Fluttershy in an awed voice. "It's unimaginable."

"You have no idea, girls," said Twilight, "It is so powerful even the bindings of the Soul Cairn cannot override it."

"So if you say his name, he'll be set free?" Asked Rarity tilting her head and arching an eye.

"Basically," said Twilight, looking up at her formula. "Saying his name, as of now, only frees him from the Soul Cairn temporarily. The Soul Cairn cannot stop him from heeding the call, but it can drag him back after awhile."

"Hey, don't you guys remember?" Started Fluttershy, all present looking to her. "Durnehviir was what we heard Twilight call from that towers roof when we arrived."

They all gave confirmation at that.

"That was how I have been summoning him so he could teach me the Thu'um," added Twilight, "And as of now, it's how I intend to free him permanently. Basically I just have to summon him, then free him from the Soul Cairn's dark embrace."

"Hey, I just thought of something," said Rainbow, tapping her chin, "As fantastic as all this sounds, if Hermaeus Mora is so powerful, why doesn't he do it himself."

" As he told you before, Rainbow, there are some things that even a Daedric Prince cannot do," answered Twilight, looking at all of them with a knowing look. " Nothing, and I mean literally nothing on Nirn can break a soul free from the Soul Cairn. But I am not from Nirn, and that is what Hermaeus Mora has been counting on, since he met me in the cave beneath Canterlot."

" After Chrysalis imprisoned you? " Asked Fluttershy.

"No," said Twilight, shaking her head her expression becoming sad, " unfortunately, it was before that."

They all let out a synced gasp once more.

"You mean when he first met you? When you accidentally teleported into the cave as a filly?" Asked Applejack in total shock, Twilight confirming with a nod.

" That...that's repulsive," said Rarity, wrinkling her nose. "You where only a child."

" What kind of monster sets out a horrific plot for a filly a few moments after meeting her?" Asked Rainbow Dash, her eye livid.

" And to think, he only saved Equestria from Chrysalis just so he could go all googly eyes over our books, but now we also find out he only helped Twilight get stronger just so he could lord it over her head and use her to accomplish a task he couldn't do. I mean, it's not like the fact that Twilight isn't from Nirn will guarantee she can actually successfully freeing poor Durnehviir from....."

Pinkie was silenced when Twilight sealed her mouth with magic.

" I know girls, its appalling," said Twilight, looking to all her friends with a worried look. " But thats one of the reasons why us, why all of Equestria should be cautious. Hermaeus Mora is more than capable of doing terrible things to get what he desires."

Thankfully, Twilight was able to talk her friends down after awhile. She had to remind them just what Hermaeus Mora was capable of, as well as the fact that he did save them, no doubt about it. So it was with relief that they returned to the subject of Durnehviir, which Applejack still had something to say about.

"I still don't understand why you would free him willingly, Twilight," she said with slight anger. "He may have helped you learn this dragon speak or whatever, but he did horrible things, like all the other dragons of that other world."

"The Dragon war ended long ago, AJ," said Twilight, placing a hoof on her apple farming friends shoulder. "For the people who live on Nirn, it has pretty much faded into myth, the dragons and the Dragon cult long being dismissed as mere legend."

"But Twilight, he is still one of them," said Rarity, "What if he tries to rebuild the Dragon cult, and worse, what if he brings it to Equestria? "

"There is no pride left in him, girls, " explained Twilight, giving her friend a look that begged them to try to understand. "Countless years in a barren landscape like the Soul Cairn can do that to a person. Plus, I am not really releasing him, I am just moving him into a new cage."

"What do you mean?" Asked Pinkie, the curl in her poofy mane forming a question mark symbol.

"Hermaeus Mora wants me to remove Durnehviir from the Ideal Masters control and into his," explained Twilight, "If I succeed, Durnehviir will be trapped here in Apocrypha, just as he was in the Soul Cairn."

"And he agreed to this?" asked Applejack, "Why would he trade one imprisonment for another?"

"For the books," answered Twilight, the others sharing a confused look. "As I have said, they were different. They were just as much scholars as they were fighters."

"I still don't like this," said Fluttershy, shivering as she hugged herself with her tail.

"Girls, I know this all this sounds bad, but you're forgetting one thing," said Twilight, bitter regret on her face. "This is what Hermaeus Mora demands of me in return for what he has done for me, for all of us. And until it is complete, I can't return to Equestria, and through extension, neither can any of you."

Twilight's friends all looked at each other for a moment, looking like they were having a private conversation.

"So be it," said Applejack with resignation.

"I still don't like it, but you raise a good point," said Rarity, "until you free that wretched dragon, we are stuck here."

"And sure this place looks kinda entertaining at first, but I think I would rather return to Sugarcube Corner at some time," said Pinkie excitedly. "Plus, I don't think I could stand only celebrating seven birthdays a year for long...hey, does Hermmy have a birthday?"

"Yeah, if this is the only road home, bring it," said Rainbow Dash standing up, the others doing the same.

"We will get through it together," said Fluttershy, an uncharacteristic determined look in her eyes.

"What can we do to help, Twilight?" Asked Spike, eyeing the board behind Twilight.

Tears of gratitude fell from Twilight's eyes as overwhelming joy found it way into her heart. It was still so new to her to have them back in her life after so long. They had even put aside their lives just to keep her company here in Apocrypha while she finished her task.

But unfortunately, it looked like company was all they could do for her now.

"It's so wonderful to have you all here," said Twilight as she looked up at the board behind her. "But I fear the fundamentals of this situation are beyond your comprehension, and will rest solely on my hunches."

"Awww," said all of them.

"Then what are we supposed to do then?" Asked Rainbow.

" Well?" Said Twilight, looking up at the glass dome ceiling the room had and to the expanse of Apocrypha. "Why don't you explore Apocrypha?"

They all gave her a look that asked if she was serious.

"Uh, darling," said Rarity, shaking slightly. "No offense, to you or Hermaeus Mora, heaven forbid, but this place is positively dreadful."

"Yeah," said Rainbow, fluttering up to the dome and looking out to Apocrypha, the many towers of books dotting the horizon. "And besides, not everypony enjoys books as much as you do, Twilight."

The rest nodded in agreement.

And too their annoyance, Twilight started giggling.

"Girls," said Twilight after she calmed down. "Apocrypha is a realm of knowledge, and there's more to knowledge than books. In fact each of your passions and hobbies fall under a certain type of knowledge."

"Oh really," said Rainbow Dash as she fluttered back down, "Can anything here keep up with my awesomeness?"

"Why don't we find out?" Said Twilight, closing her eyes to concentrate, and before their eyes, four Black Books on stands appeared in the room in a splash of black liquid.

" Wow," said Pinkie, sniffing one of the books like a dog would.

" What in tarnation, Twilight what did you do?" Asked Applejack worriedly.

"I just asked Apocrypha to provide you with something that could entertain all of you," said Twilight, "These books will send each of you to place in Apocrypha that will interest you."

"Asked Apocrypha?" Inquired Rarity.

"Nothing is impossible here, Rarity, " answered Twilight, giving her friend a kind wink.

"But there are only four," said Fluttershy, looking at Twilight with a confused expression.

"Well, I figured you would like to stay with me, Fluttershy, " said Twilight, looking at her butter colored friend with a look of gratitude. "Apocrypha must be more terrible for you than most."

Fluttershy looked up at the weaving tendrils in the sky above the dome ceiling and trembled, "You're right, thanks Twilight."

"Not a problem," said Twilight, looking at Spike "And I figured you would like to accompany Rarity."

Spike gave her a horrified look.

"You know, because wherever Rarity goes, she is bound to need help," continued Twilight, giving him a wink.

"Oh? Oh yeah, good idea Twilight," said Spike, looking at Rarity and getting little heart shaped bubbles in his vision. "Really good idea."

After some more coaxing, Twilight managed to convince her friends to try the Black Books, telling them that to return, all they need to do is read the books again. Alone, but with company now, Twilight picked up the chalk up in her magic and began to work on the diagram. The sooner she finished this the better.

But then the soft clearing of a throat drew her attention.

"Uh, Twilight?" Inquired Fluttershy nervously, scraping the floor with a hoof shyly. "What should I do?"

Twilight grinned and pulled a book off the shelf near her.

"Here, Fluttershy," said Twilight, giving her friend the book, who then gave her a questioning look. "This book has information about the animals that live on Nirn."

"They have animals there?" Said Fluttershy excitedly, opening the book to the first page. "A scrib? Oh look at that, ain't it adorable?"

Twilight smiled as Fluttershy dove muzzle first into the book, turning around to resume that would lead them home upon completion.
---
Far of in a mostly empty part of Apocrypha a tower of oxidized copper jutted out of the sea of ink. It had no features, except the roofed structure that housed a circular entrance door at its head, making it look like a giant degraded thermometer that sat in the edding liquid. It was quite a sight to see.

And that was what Rainbow Dash thought when she appeared on the platform before the door in a splash of black liquid.

"Wow," she gasped when she saw her surroundings, placing her Black Book beyond her withers(where ponies can store things for some reason) then flying up to examine the Tower from a distance.

"Huh, kinda looks like a cross between a boiler and a lighthouse," she commented, landing back before the door and noticing the rusted handle installed on the wall to her left. "Well...? Twilight has never steered me wrong before."

With slight caution, she pulled the lever.

The door opened with a creepy grating sound.

Inside the floor dropped down in a ramp-like fashion, a vertical crevice splitting it down the middle. It looked as if nopony had set foot in here for centuries, the metal walls were rusted, dust and cobwebs were everywhere. Rainbow knew Rarity would be absolutely miserable here.

"Hey, this is kind like the ruins in the Daring Do books," said Rainbow as she descended down the ramp, admiring how formidable this place looked. "Except it's all made out of metal instead of..."

She was cut off when she suddenly felt the tile she stepped on sink down, and like she had been saying, she knew Daring Do books, so she could guess what it meant. She saw a pipe shaped object jerk out at the end of the ramp from the end of the split down the middle, two rectangular objects attached, and then it spread open, the rectangles horizontal. It began spinning rapidly, giving it the appearance of a propeller.

And after the second in which all this happen, the spinning blade lunged up the ramp, following the path of the split.

"Aaahhh," said Rainbow in startled surprise, taking to the air just in time to dodge the blades, but felt the tips of her tail hairs get sliced off as they passed.

But she did not have time to dwell on it, for the weird propeller contraption changed its direction when it reached the top of the ramp and headed straight for her again. Letting out another surprised gasp, Rainbow made for the bottom of the ramp, turning to the left and down a hallway. She suddenly found herself heading for a large pipe stretched across the ceiling, landing on the floor to avoid it and skidding to a stop on her hooves.

Which sank into the ground as the tile she stopped on descended beneath her.

A rushing sound filled the air, and Rainbow turned to see a wall of flames coming right at her, holes in the floor spewing molten death. No time for taking off, Rainbow scampered on her hooves, fleeing to an ornate bronze door at the end of the hall. She could feel flames licking at her tail.

She threw the door open as she reached it, diving in and slamming it shut, propping her back against it as she panted in exertion.

Adrenaline pumped through her body as she ran over the last few seconds in her mind. That propeller had almost sliced her in half. She was almost slammed into a huge pipe, then almost roasted alive by multiple flames spewing from the floor.

"That...was," mumbled Rainbow, closing her eyes. "AWESOME."

Rainbow took to the air and punched around with her forehooves. The excitement, the danger, the near brushes with certain doom...Rainbow had never felt so alive in all her life.

"Now this is what I'm talking about," said Rainbow Dash excitedly. "A dangerous old building filled with booby traps. Gotta hand it to ya egghead, you were right."

She turned to the open room she was now in, eager for more, then gasped in awe. There before her was a large misshapen mechanical device covered in moving gears stretched up what would easily several stories, for the room was gigantic. Racks of random metal parts were scattered throughout the room, none even remotely familiar to Rainbow.

"Who built this place?" Awed Rainbow as she proceeded passed the large machine, coming to a hallway that stretched out to another room, three large disk shaped plates surrounded by gear teeth lined each wall.

" Cool," said Rainbow as she proceeded.

Suddenly the disks on the walls opened, huge metallic spheres rolling out onto the floor and blocking Rainbows path. And before her eyes they split open, revealing bipedal metal bodies that rolled on the two halves of the sphere like wheels. Rainbow Dash watch as each produced a blade arcing with electricity from one of their arms, a crossbow from the other.

Most ponies would panic, but Rainbow only got excited.

"YOU'RE KIDDING ME, ROBOTS?!" Exclaimed Rainbow, punching her hooves together as the mechanical warriors advanced on her, watching her with the gleaming copper eyes on their elongated heads. "This just gets better and better, give me your best you overgrown soda cans!"

---

"Who could it be?" Asked Spike as he and Rarity examined the statue of a mare they had found upon using the Black Book.

"No clue Spike,"answered Rarity as she took in the statues face, which wore a look of shock for some reason. "There isn't a name."

"Hey, what is this?" Said Spike as he waddled up to the side of the statue and touched the flank.

"Now Spike," scolded Rarity as she walked up to him. "Statue or not, that is an inappropriate place to touch..."

She stopped when she saw the pink mark Spike was examining on the statues flank, a black equal sign in the middle.

"Oh, fillies these days," said Rarity in disapproval. "This poor mare probably accomplished many great deeds in her life to be remembered through this statue. So disrespectful for them to just smear graffiti all over it."

"Why an equal sign?" Asked Spike.

"No idea," answered Rarity, looking to the marked statue with disapproval. "But let's move on, Spikey Wikey. I am eager to see what Apocrypha can offer an elite fashion designer like myself."

So the duo moved on, never noticing the thin, thread-like tendril drilling into the statues skull.

"Oh, how horrid," complained Rarity as she and Spike ascended a staircase made of books. "While I do enjoy a good mystery or romance novel here and there, books don't make for good decor. I seriously doubt anything here would be even the slightest bit interesting..."

Both Spike and Rarity gasped at the room the stairs lead to. It was a circular room with a grated ceiling, exposing the room to Apocrypha. It was lined with multiple shelves, the contents making Rarity's eyes sparkle and causing Spike to drool at the mouth like a dog for a treat.

Gems, gems all around.

There were the rare but known, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds, but also stones neither recognized. Some were pure white and glistened in the light, others were dark, and gleamed like polished metal. Some of the larger ones had a blue like color over their brilliant gleaming white, multiple points grew up from the base.

But the unique amongst the shelves glowed with brilliant light that came from within. Cone shaped stones gave of a brilliant light blue glow that shone through the copper housing at their base. Brilliant white light originated from crystals that were pointed at both ends, brilliant gold fitting trailing from one end of the crystal to the next.

And then there were the round black stones surrounded by an ominous but beautiful red glow.

"Ugh...da..buh...di..di...," Rarity looked like she might have a stroke, but a semblance of comprehension appeared in her eyes and she pulled her mane with a broad grin. "THERE ARE NO WORDS."

She ran up to the nearest shelf and plucked up one of the glowing white stones in her magic and admired the gold wiring that decorated it.

"I have never seen anything like it!" Said Rarity, looking into the beautiful glowing depths of the crystal. "ITS FLAWLESS...COMPLETELY FLAWLESS!" She shouted as she ran her prestigious eyes over the gems surface.

"And they look delicious," said Spike as he picked up one of the multi-pointed crystals and took a bite.

He stilled as he swallowed. A taste more delicious than any other jewel danced on his tongue. Without another word he picked up another one and shoved the whole thing in his mouth, chewing with bliss.

"So...so delicious," moaned Spike as he picked up an oval shaped black stone and drooled as it danced around in his eyes.
"What are you beautiful things?"

"Spike, get over here," called Rarity before Spike could eat the black stone, shoving it in his pocket as he sought out the summons of his crush.

How does he have pockets on his bare scales?

He found her in an elongated room conjoined to the one with all the jewels, this one filled with rolls of fabric and gleaming pieces of gold armor.

"This fabric is just lovely," said Rarity as she nuzzled a light blue fabric roll with her cheek. "So soft, feel it Spike."

Before he could protest, he found a length of fabric placed over his head. He suppressed a grumble, he may have a crush on her, but he could still get annoyed at her antics. Who likes having a sheet thrown over one's head, especially without their consent?

Then Spike realized he did.

The fabric was so soft if it wasn't obscuring his vision he would not have known it was there at all. Yet it kept him warm, it did not hinder his breathing, he felt like it could be part of him. He hoped his favorite blanket back home did not get jealous.

"Amazing," sighed Spike as he cupped the fabric to his cheek.

"Oh I know," said Rarity, rolling up the fabric, much to Spikes disappointment. "I've had so much inspiration in the past few seconds alone, I should have brought my equipment along..."

A slight thud echoed through the room with the gems, the two turning to look. They both gasped as they saw some of Hermaeus Mora's tendrils settings up a sewing machine, as well as a vanity filled with sewing supplies. Below her shock Rarity hoped these actually weren't her things.

"Ugh," said Rarity, staring flabbergasted at the retracting tendrils. "Thank you?"
---

" Hmm?" Said Pinkie Pie as she examined the prongy flower in front of her.

It was the only thing she found in this small dark room she found herself in.

"Twilght said the book would take me somewhere interesting," said Pinkie as she began prodding the flower with a hoof. "I thought I liked a lot of things, but deep down am I only interested in studying ugly flowers?"

Suddenly the flowers protruding limb sunk within the pedals, which then closed, and Pinkie watched as the far wall 'did something'. Then she realized the wall was backing away from her, exposing a long hall that was only growing longer. It was similar to the optical illusions of a fun house, and boy did Pinkie like fun.

"Ooooooooo," moaned Pinkie as she followed the new path, her eyes wide with wonder.

Then something landed on her head.

"Huh?" Said Pinkie rubbing her forehead and glancing down at the simple scroll that had landed on her.

She picked it up in one of her mane curls and rolled it open.

"Put on a flowing garment," she read on the first line. "Okie dokie," she said, pulling the dress she wore at the Grand Galloping Gala from her mane and jumping into it. Then she brought her attention back to the scroll.

"Hullabaloo, and howdy doo! Musty prawns, and Timbuktu!" On Pinkie read, her eyebrow raising with each line. "Yeltsy-by, and hibbety-hoo! Kick 'em in the dishpan! Hoo hoo hoo!

" Kick' em in the dishpan hoo hoo hoo?" Inquired Pinkie, looking up with a confused expression.

"I love it, it sounds so silly," she said, dropping the scroll and bounced out of her dress, continuing to bounce down the hall.

"Kick em in the dishpan hoo hoo hoo, kick em in the dishpan hoo hoo hoo," Pinkie sang to herself, leaving her discarded dress behind.
---
On a nearby table, a gleaming black stone suddenly shattered, a transparent bipedal image with reptilian quality emerging.

"I am free," the argonian said in a wispy male voice. "At last I am free."

Then it disappeared.
---
" I wonder where this will take me?" Pinkie asked herself as she road a floating platform that was approaching a nearby building's roof.

Pinkie jumped to the ground when her ride stopped, looking around with wonder. The roof had multiple shelves around, and were stocked with multiple ingredients for cooking. In the center sat a large spit with a cauldron hanging over an open fire.

"I would have preferred an oven, but I have always wanted to try baking the rustic way," said Pinkie as she stared at the cauldron. "I bet this is how my fore-pie's made cake."

She noticed a book on a nearby counter and studied it.

" Uncommon Taste, by the Gourmet," read Pinkie, opening the book and reading a random recipe "Let's see what we got. Oh the Potage le Magnifique sound magnificent."

---

" I don't know what a simple country gal like me could hope to find here," said Applejack as she climbed to the top of a tower on an outside staircase. "If there is anything I feel more than useless at, it would be..."

Applejack found herself entering a room at the top of the tower, the contents surprising her. Bottles, bottles used to carry drinks like cider, or heaven forbid, stronger drinks, lined the shelves in the room, coming in all shapes and sizes. Since she was just a simple farmer, Applejack was very familiar with this.

Be she was personally familiar with what rested in the center of the room.

" The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000?" She inquired, turning around and looking to the nearest portal of tentacles in the sky. "NICE ONE HERMAEUS MORA, YEE HAW."

Laughing as she walked past the machine that was the the bane of her family, Applejack approached the nearest shelf and examined the closest bottle. It was a bland brown color Applejack was sure Rarity would never tolerate, but she was drawn to it. It was like she somehow had a connection to it.

"Sujamma," she read from the label, picking up the bottle.

Popping off the lid, AJ took a sip.

"Oh wow," said Applejack, smacking her lips.

It was obviously an alcoholic beverage, and most ponies would have been overwhelmed by this brew. But Apples made all kinds of apple products, including the fun kind. And over time, Applejack had grown accustomed to the dropping effects of certain drinks.

"Not bad, not bad at all, but it needs something," said Applejack, looking to the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000, fresh ciber in its round glass chambers and a clean spigot on the side.

---

'Oh, Silt Striders sound so interesting,' thought Fluttershy as she examined the sketches of a large flea shaped animal, 'if I am reading the dimensions right, they are most as big as an Ursa minor, but docile and gentle. Becoming emotionally attached to the person who raised it.'

"Hmm?"

Fluttershy looked up from the book at Twilight's hum of concentration. Her purple friend was hard at work at the research station, multiple papers and quills floating around, dancing on multiple papers simultaneously. Then she stopped and focused on one paper, tapping her chin with a quill.

Smiling, Fluttershy watched Twilight work for a while.

'I have never noticed, but Twilight is kinda cute when she is working on something,' thought Fluttershy, admiring how her friends eyes shone as she studied her notes. 'Maybe it's because I actually have never seen her studying before.'

Thinking on this made Fluttershy think about when Chrysalis had her in her evil magic. She had never been so scared in all her timid life then she was at that moment, and it wasn't just Chrysalis. Her friends had been helplessly restrained around her, unable to help her or get themselves to safety.

But then, out of nowhere, Twilight managed to get free and retaliate against the monster who held her, her burned features restoring like a Phoenix. And with her new powers, called a storm to do battle for them like a mighty champion. Even though the incident was less than benign, it still lead to their salvation.

Then there was the image of Twilight facing Hermaeus Mora on their behalf.

'She is also a very beautiful mare,' thought Fluttershy, admiring the sheen of sweat Twilight had worked up over her coat, not to mention Fluttershy loved the color purple. It was her favorite color.

These thoughts brought forth the memory of holding her in her hooves once they finally tracked her down, and she dropped from exhaustion. She had seen Twilight fight so viciously in Canterlot, but when she was resting in Fluttershy's hooves she looked so frail, so vulnerable. And in that moment Fluttershy had felt more guilty about how she treated her at the wedding then ever.

'Wait, what am I doing?' thought Fluttershy, placing her hoof over heart, which was beating like it never had before.

"Gah, flawed!" Moaned Twilight, crumpling up her notes and turning to the board, unaware she had just indirectly pointed her flank in Fluttershy's direction.

Ponies hardly wore clothing, so seeing their hindquarters was nothing new, but for some reason this time was different for Fluttershy. She could not stop staring at how round it looked, the altered Cutie Mark somehow adding to the allure. Her flowing tail looking most inviting.

Shaking her head, Fluttershy returned to her book, her face the color of a grapefruit.

---

'Huh, this is impossible,' thought Twilight, looking over her diagram. "I have to face it, it's not possible to increase the power of my liberation spell, its as powerful as I can make it."

Her aggravation was only increasing. She had devised this spell to shatter any binding magic it came into contact with, and according to Durnehviir, it was working. He claims he could feel the Soul Cairn's hold slipping as he was exposed her spells effects.

But the problem was that the longer Durnehviir was out of the Soul Cairn, the stronger the pull back became.

'Maybe the problem is not my spell," thought Twilight as she focused on the dissected name on the board. 'If I could somehow keep the pull of the Soul Cairn at bay, allowing Durnehviir to be exposed to my magic longer, that may work. But I would have to use the Thu'um and my magic at the same time.'

Twilight tapped her head. She was able to use some spells in tangent with the Thu'um, but her liberation spell was far to powerful and advanced.

'The easiest solution would be for another pony trained in the Thu'um to say Durnehviir's name while I cast the spell,'thought Twilight, 'But I am the only...,'

Twilight's train of thought derailed as she looked over at Fluttershy nearby.

Her friends were here with her, they bore Hermaeus Mora's image on their flanks like her.

'No...I couldn't....

Twilight's vision started swimming, and her mind went blank. She could not remember the last time she rested, having spent every waking moment trying to complete her task so she could go home. It would seem her efforts were finally starting to exceed her limit, and now she could no longer ignore her body's demands for rest.

She did not feel the hooves grab her in a warm embrace before she could fall to the ground.
---
" Oh Twilight," said Fluttershy, looking at her friend in worry. "When was the last time you slept?"

Gently, Fluttershy carried Twilight to the bedrooms, laying her in the bed that had photo of all of them on the nightstand.

28 Temptation

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It was several hours before the girls began to return to the living quarters set up in Apocrypha, Applejack and Rainbow Dash being the first. They appeared in the room where Twilight had been doing her research with a splash of black liquid, their books returning to their stands on their own. They both looked tired.

But they also looked as if they had had a good time.

"Nice hat ya got there, Rainbow,” complimented Applejack, admiring the brass helm with the metal frill on top. “Where'd ya get it?”

“In the tower I found myself in when I used that book,” answered Rainbow, her magenta eyes flashing with excitement through the eye holes of the face imprinted on the helmet, “It was awesome, the whole place was filled with traps and treasures.”

“I take it you enjoyed yourself?” asked Applejack as they sat down to wait for the others.

“Hay ya!” answered Rainbow, barely restrained excitement in her voice, “I hate to admit it, but I saw things in that old building I explored that looked even more dangerous than what is described in the Daring Do books.”

“That so?” Asked Applejack, arching her eye. “What exactly did you bump into?”

“Robots!” answered Rainbow excitedly.

“Your joking!” said Applejack, stunned.

“Totally true,” assured Rainbow, “First, I ran into these big metal balls that transformed into these weird creatures with weapons for arms, then I ran into these metal spiders that shot lightning from their legs.”

Applejack listened with wrapped attention as Rainbow continued.

“But the best part was the big one,” said Rainbow, smiling under her helmet as she remembered her encounter with the largest robot she had seen in that bizarre place.

---

Rainbow watched as several pipes connecting the large bipedal monster to a huge arch disengaged. It stared at her for a moment before it lifted its arms in a combative stance, one arm tipped with a hammer, the other tipped in a retractable axe that then jutted out of its covering.

" You think I'm scared of you?" Asked Rainbow Dash, taking to the air just in time to dodge the hammer arm that struck the ground where she had been mere moments ago. " I have fought scarier things than you."

Rainbow dodged to the left as the axe came down for her, breaking through the one of the many pipes that crisscrossed the large room and producing a blast of steam. The sudden rise in temperature made Rainbow sweat suddenly, her eyes blurring as some of her own sweat pouring over her lids. She had no choice but to blink.

And a hammer arm slammed into her before she could open them again.

The Dwemer Centurion bore down on the downed pegasus as she fell to the ground, panting as she rubbed her sore stomach. It raised its hammer over its quarry, not hesitating in the slightest to finish its task. It would only take a second.

A second Rainbow wasn't about to let it have.

She bolted through the Centurion's legs as fast as possible, the impact of the hammer felt just millimeters from her tail. Before it could realize what had happened, Rainbow speed towards the bronze monster's exposed back, meeting it with all her strength as she impacted pure metal skin. Her velocity was enough to send the things sprawling onto its chest with a crunch.

" Ha," said Rainbow as she did a little victory dance in the air over her fallen opponent. "That'll teach you to mess with the fastest pegasus in..."

Rainbow barely had enough time to see the hammer coming from her left, her wing skimming the flat surface of the head. But she landed in line with the Centurion's head which then lifted up to reveal the blank face as it spewed hot steam from the mouth. Rainbow Dash felt sweat form on her body again as she tried to avoid the scalding hot air, but found herself backed up against the wall...

The axe arm of the Centurion pinning her helplessly to it.

Rainbow could only stare as the expressionless face stared at her, and for a moment she contemplated getting out her book so she could retreat. But then she noticed that a section of the mechanical monster's chest was badly cracked. It must have happened when she toppled it with her body slam.

It was glowing within.

Instinctively, Rainbow push as much of her upper body out from under the arm as she could and plunged her hoof into the damaged breast plate. She felt something warm within and with as much strength as she could muster, pulled on the object. Her hoof tingled as the object she struggled with vibrated like the heart of a living being.

It popped free.

Rainbow felt the arm pinning her to the wall go limp, dropping to the floor with the rest of the Dwemer Centurion as it let out one last hiss of steam before all was silent. After watching the unmoving machine for a couple of more seconds Rainbow brought her attention to the item she had pulled from its chest. It was a brass orb with glowing red circles, rotating within a frame work of brass rings.

Smirking, Rainbow tossed the orb onto the machine with a clatter and laughed.

" That will teach you to mess with me, slow poke."

---

" I found this helmet in a chest afterwards," said Rainbow, a blissful smile under her helmet.

" Gotta hand it to ya, you give a whole new meaning to the fraise daredevil, Rainbow," said Applejack, shaking her head with a small smile.

" So what about you, Applejack?" Asked Rainbow, giving her friend an expecting look. " What kind of adventure did you have?"

" Oh, I wasn't sent to some crazy dangerous ruins," explained Applejack, " I found a very interesting store of beverages though."

Rainbow gave an arched eye.

" I'm a simple girl with simple interests," said Appleejack with a look. "Besides, I did enjoy myself."

" Drinking fruit juice?" Inquired Rainbow.

" Oh no, Rainbow, these drinks...," Applejack wiggled her eyebrows, "where the special kind.

Rainbow grew an excited expression.

" Well Applejack, this is unexpected," said Rainbow, "You usually aren't easy to impress when it comes to drinks of a certain caliber."

" And don't you forget it," said Applejack, taking off her hat and pulling a brown jug from it. "Want some?"

" Sure," said Rainbow, taking the jug in her hoof and using the other to lift her helmet up enough to expose her lips.

"Just don't drink to much," warned Applejack, watching Rainbow carefully. "It's quite strong."

" Hey, who comes second only to you buring the Ponyville hard cider contest?" replied Rainbow smugly, taking a slight gulp from the jug.

Applejack had to catch it when Rainbow dropped it.

Rainbow was experiencing a sensation like no other, her helmet sliding back over her head. Her taste buds danced as the alcoholic taste traveled to her stomach, fresh energy pouring into her muscles as her body absorbed the liquid. The taste was unlike anything she had sampled before, a slight pinching sensation a fresh reminder of the alcoholic nature of the drink.

All of it revitalized with the taste of apples.

" Wow," whispered Rainbow, looking at Applejack with a wispy smile. "What is that?"

" The label says it is called Sujamma," explained Applejack, " I have never seen anything like it, so I am guessing it's from that other world."

" It's incredible," said Rainbow, "And the under taste of apples made it perfect."

" That was actually my own add in," said Applejack proudly.

" You added the apples?" Asked Rainbow.

" And I got to say, it's kept me busy," said Applejack, looking at her jug proudly. "I have never seen a drink more challenging to mix with apple cider. I must have mixed over a dozen batches before I got the right amount of each mixed in the proper proportions."

"Where did you get the cider?" Asked Rainbow curiously. " Does this place have its own supply?"

" Sorta," said Applejack, chuckling slightly. "Hermaeus stole the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 and has it stored here."

Both Applejack and Rainbow looked at each other for a moment, then burst into fits of laughter.

Stopping when they noticed a third voice.

" I know it's not polite to laugh at somepony’s getting robbed," said Pinkie, "But it's just so amusing to learn that the trouble twins have lost their prized machine."

Applejack and Rainbow Dash looked at Pinkie Pie with gasps of shock. She must have returned sometime during their exchange of their experiences and she had come back with souvenirs too. A giant pyramid of styrofoam food carrier's stood perfectly balanced on her back.

"Pinkie?" Inquired Applejack, surprised still at the sight. "What is all that?"

" Oh, after I used my book, I found my way to an old style kitchen," explained Pinkie, walking up to them without dropping a single food carrier, " I also found a cook book by this guy called the Gourmet, and I have to admit, he really gave me a run for my bits."

" So you spent all this time baking?" Inquired Rainbow.

" Yes indeedy," said Pinkie.

" That's Pinkie," said Applejack, shaking her head.

" Oh, but it was baking like I have never baked before," said Pinkie, looking at her store of food on her back. "All of these were made the old fashioned way."

" What do you mean?" Asked Applejack, intrigued.

" I used a cauldron and a cooking spit over cooking fire. No ovens at all," said Pinkie with a grin.

" Really?" Inquired Applejack with interest. "Maybe I could come with you next time, I have always wanted to try baking the way Granny..."

They were interrupted by a curtain of black liquid that sprung up near the book stands, the final book appearing among its fellows. Unlike when they returned, a bright light swept the room, all present covering their eyes to block against the binding glare, Rarity and Spike stepping forward, returning from their own exploration. Only Rarity was not unclothed anymore.

And Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie could only stare in awe at her new outfit.

She wore a flamboyant dress done out in extravagant color. The skirt was a powder blue color with the hemline decorated in gold thread, small blue stones that gave off a slight blue glow inlaid with the thread. The bodice was a slight darker blue with the sleeves going down her forelegs ending in opalescent cuffs inlaid with small dark sapphires. Gold shoulder pads decorated Rarity's shoulders, each one fitted with a sizable glowing white crystal, elegantly pointed at both ends.

Her collar met in a magnificent gold broach, a small black orb glowing a slight red housed in the center.

But her glistening golden headpiece was what really drew their attention. It was ornate with several patterns depicting flames, gold extensions framing her face in carved fire that almost looked alive, her forehead and the bridge of her nose also decorated with a similar extension. From the top of the head piece two prongs extended in opposite directions, carved into the shape of bird wings.

" Wow, Rarity," gasped Rainbow Dash, the others still speechless. " When did you pack that?"

"Pack it?," inquired Rarity, her eyes swimming with delight as she struck a pose. "This girls is my most stunning achievement as of a few hours ago."

" I take it you made that... wherever your book sent you?" Asked Applejack, shaking her head slightly.

" That's an understatement," said Rarity, walking up to them with Spike following, trying really hard not to drool at the luminous gems decorating Rarity. "The quality of the gems and fabric I found are unlike anything I have ever seen."

" Really?" Inquired Rainbow Dash sarcastically. "Miss prissy pants is actually impressed? What was it you said 'this place is positively dreadful'."

She said the last part with an overly high pitch voice.

" Rainbow, darling," gasped Rarity as she saw what her pegasus friend was wearing. "Where on earth did you get that ghastly helmet?"

" Hey, I went through a lot to get this," said Rainbow, tapping her Dwemer helm with pride.

From there, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Pinkie shared their own experiences with Rarity and Spike, Applejack passing her jug for the others to sample.

"This is simply divine," said Rarity, levitating over the brown jug back to Applejack, smacking her lips. "I have tasted the most extravagant wines in all of Canterlot, but none could compete with this."

"I don't know how you adults stand it," said Spike, unpinching his nose as the jug was corked.

" How about you, Spike?" Asked Pinkie taking the jug from Applejack and offering it to the little dragon.

Spike only gave her a cross clawed glare.

" Come on, no one would know," tempted Rainbow Dash.

" I would rather not," said Spike, "I'm underage for one and I have seen what stuff like that does to people."

" You have?" Asked Applejack, slightly worried.

" One time, years ago, me and Twilight were awoken in the dead of night by somepony screaming 'LOOK AT ME, I'M A PUFFY PINK CLOUD'," explained Spike, trembling slightly at the memory. "When we looked outside, we saw Prince Blue Blood running around in circles on our front lawn covered in cotton candy and being chased by multiple dogs owned by the local neighborhood. When the guards dragged him off, they told us he had just been dipping into the wine again."

All was silent.

Then Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie fell over, overcome with laughter. Rarity was laughing too, but stayed standing to keep her new dress off the floor. Rainbow began pounding the floor with her hooves, her hysterics only increasing as she fought to keep the image in her mind at bay.

" That obnoxious brat, such behavior," said Rarity, wiping her tearing eyes with a handkerchief. "He acted so classy, yet he indulges in such antics?"

" I know," said Rainbow, looking up from on her back. "Even me and Applejack don't act like that on the off occasion we decide to get drunk."

" Hey, even Pinkie Pie would be hard pressed to do something so goofy," said Applejack, her hat bouncing with her laugh.

" Me and Twilight didn't think it was funny," grumble Spike with lidded eyes.

" Oh, but just think about it, Spike," said Pinkie, fighting to talk through her laughter. "A pony prince running around in a cotton candy suit. Hey, why didn't I ever think of that, that would be a great gag for a birthday party, or even a fair. Though I would need to find a color other than pink, you wouldn't be able to tell when Pinkie Pie ended and the cotton candy start..."

"Sssssshhhhhh!"

The shush was quiet yet demanding all at once, and everyone looked up to see Fluttershy hovering above. Her soft features were twisted in a scowl of disapproval, her crossed forelegs adding to her demeanor. Even Pinkie was silenced by the look in her eyes.

Slowly, she fluttered down to stand before them.

" Keep it down," she quietly demanded with a scowl. "Twilight is sleeping."

" Is she alright, darling?" Asked Rarity, her and the others growing a concerned look.

" I think she just overwhelmed herself," said Fluttershy, her face softening when they started whispering.

" Thought so," said Spike with a shake of his head, everypony looking at him. " When you have lived with her as long as I have you recognize the signs."

" Why didn't you tell us?" Asked Applejack, slightly worried.

" Wouldn't have mattered," explained Spike, shaking his head again. "When Twilight has her mind set on something, she will usually keep at it until her batteries run out. I have learned it's best just to let her fall asleep at some point, then make her comfortable."

" Wow," said Rainbow, facehoofing. "Kinda dramatic for studying."

Afterwards, the girls retired to the resting room where Twilight did the brief(according to her) explanation of what it was Hermaeus Mora wanted from her. From here they shared with Fluttershy each of their experiences in Apocrypha, and Rarity explained the strange texture of the fabric she had discovered. Though Fluttershy scolded Rainbow for picking a fight with innocent robots, and told them all how wrong it is to encourage youth to drink.

Though she cheered up when they asked her what she had done while they went exploring.

" I learned so much about the animals on Nirn," said Fluttershy, holding up the book she had been studying. " Like the Bull and Betty Netchs. Huge creatures that float in the air like balloons, but are docile. Completely gentle despite their great size."

"Hey, I just realized something," said Pinkie, setting her food containers in the corner of the room. "We all have discovered things from this 'Nirn' place that sound super fun."

" I'll say," said Spike, taking a white stone from his pocket and eating it.

" What you getting at, Pinks?" Inquired Rainbow with an expecting look.

Pinkie jumped up and down, an excited expression on her face.

" Do you think if we ask really nice, Hermmy will let us visit his home?" Asked Pinkie as she sat next to Fluttershy.

" Hey, that's not a bad idea," said Rarity, nuzzling the sleeve of her dress. "I would absolutely love to meet whoever made this fabric. We could exchange ideas."

" I would love to see where those delicious gemstones come from," said Spike, trembling as he looked Rarity's dress over.

"And I would like to meet the guy who wrote that cook book," said Pinkie excitedly as she delved into her own fantasy. “Hello Mr. Gourmet, I'm Pinkie Pie, a fellow baker."

" And I would like to meet whoever built that temple," said Rainbow, her wings twitching as she recalled all she had experienced in that final chamber. " If I ask, do you think they would be up to building me my own temple filled with high tech booby traps in Equestria?"

" I highly doubt something like that would be in your budget, Rainbow," said Applejack sarcastically. "Though I wouldn't mind meeting with the fellows who made that drink. I bet if we put our heads together, we could make something that would make an Alicorn tipsy."

They all spent a bit of time speculating how nice it would be to visit Nirn themselves, having found interesting things here in Apocrypha that relate to that other world. They even talked about how Equestria should open trade route there, for it would be beneficial to all. The possibilities in discovering another world where endless.

" Yyaawwn."

The soft yawn brought all their attention as Twilight entered the room, looking at them in surprise at first, but smiling softly afterwards.

" Hey girls," yawned Twilight as she approached them. " I had...almost forgotten you...were here."

" Twilight, darling," said Rarity, slightly worried. "Did we wake you up?"

"No worries, girls," said Twilight, waking up a little bit as her stomach rumbled. "My fault for not eating in awhile, and something in here smells delicious."

" No no no no, that won't do," said Pinkie with a scolding voice, going over to her mountain of food then shoving a sweet roll into Twilight's hoof, which was exactly what she was smelling, much to Twilight's surprise. "You need to keep up your strength, Twilight. Not stopping your super important studying to at least to eat will do nopony any good."

" And if that is the case, it's more than a good thing we decided to join you here," said Applejack, the rest nodding in agreement.

" Yes, a proper lady must take care of herself," said Rarity in a posh voice.

" Thank you, girls," said Twilight, looking at all of them with gratitude. "Did you find anything interesting in Apocrypha?"

"Oh yes, darling," said Rarity, looking to her dress with admiration again.

" You were right," said Rainbow, her helmet still on her head. "That ruin was awsome."

" I thought you would enjoy the Dwemer division," stated Twilight simply to Rainbow, sliding the sweetrole into her mouth and began chewing.

" Dwemer huh, that was who bilt the temple?" Inquired Rainbow as she slipped off and looking at it as Twilight nodded an answer. "I wonder if they will be impressed with my sonic rainboom?"

"Oh, I can't wait to get to Nirn myself and meet the unique individuals who made the supplies I made this dress from," continued Rarity, still mesmerized by her outfit.

Suddenly, the room was filled with the sound of somepony choking. They all turned to see Twilight coughing on the floor, her face turning slightly blue. As one would expect, they reacted like any good friends should.

They freaked the tartarus the out.

" TWILIGHT!" They all shouted, all of them by her side in a matter of seconds.

"What happened?" asked Rainbow, reaching out to support her coughing friend.

Without a word, Fluttershy gripped Twilight around her middle from behind and squeezed. Twilight heaved, and her partially chewed sweet roll expelled from her mouth, much to their disgust. But Twilight finally began to breathe normally once again.

" Twilight, what happened?" Asked Applejack, looking at her studious friend as she caught her breath in concern.

"I'm okay," said Twilight, clearing her throat as she brought her attention to Rarity. "Did you just say you want to visit Nirn?"

" Well...yes dear," answered Rarity, looking at Twilight worriedly.

" We all wouldn't mind visiting that new world," said Pinkie Pie energetically. "I would not mind trying more of those recipes."

" I would love to meet some of those adorable animals," said Fluttershy, looking to her book she as she picked it up off the floor.

"And it pains me to admit, but some of the heavy drinks from that world go great mixed with apple cider," said Applejack, both irritated and enthralled.

"And I would not mind tasting more of those gems," said Spike, placing a claw between his vision and the gemstones on Rarity's dress to try and reel in his temptation.

" And I wouldn't mind meeting some of these Dwemer dude's," said Rainbow, " Anyone who could build booby traps so dangerous are okay with me."

Twilight had a look of pure panic on her face. She had not counted on her friends actually adopting the idea of visiting Nirn itself physically. Just like she never would have thought they would drop everything just to keep her company here.

She swept through multiple excuses she could throw at them at a mile a minute, but all felt half-hearted and forced. She wanted to divert them from this course anyway possible. Any way other than telling them the true reason why they, why all of Equestria should avoid contact with Nirn by any means possible.

"Girls...sure it would be exciting to see Nirn..." began Twilight, an all to force smile on her face. "But would it really be worth it? I mean, the travel miles would be horrible."

The others gave each other an unconvinced look.

" Fifteen years studying under a monster made of eye balls and tentacles," began Rainbow Dash, shaking her head at Twilight's pathetic excuse. "And she still can't tell a decent lie."

"Twilight, Sugarcube," said Applejack, placing her hoof on Twilight's shoulder. "If something is bothering you, just tell us."

"We're your friends, Twilight," said Fluttershy reassuringly, "If you need to tell us something, please, just tell us."

"Is there something about Nirn you need to tell us?" Asked Rarity.

"You did get all freaky deaky when we mentioned we had an interest in visiting Nirn," said Pinkie, getting up into Twilight's face and looking he in the eyes, "Is there something super dangerous there?"

Twilight pushed Pinkie away with her magic with a sigh of resignation. They were right, if she knew something they should know about, she had to tell them. She had dreaded it the moment she learned the information herself, but maybe it was for the best, and maybe they could help her protect Equestria.

"Girls, Spike, thank you," she said, giving a grateful smile as they all watched her expectedly. "And your right, I have a reason to be against us... in fact, I am against Equestria as a whole, having any encounter with Nirn."

They all gave her a puzzled look.

"Why is that, darling?" Asked Rarity, concerned. "I can understand you being against us going there by ourselves, something about that place has obviously scared you. But why all of Equestria?"

"Ya Twi," said Applejack, arching her eye. "The magic you used to protect Equestria came from Nirn. And not only that but if we could set up a trade agreement with the local folks there, it could be beneficial for both worlds."

"Nothing of benefit would be worth linking Equestria to Nirn," said Twilight, shaking slightly with fear. "Not with the risk involved."

"And what risk is that, Twilight?" Asked Spike as he tried to calm down the pony who had raised him by putting a claw on her withers.

"Girls..." Started Twilight, her fear trying to silence her voice...to protect her friends from a truth she would forever hate herself for revealing to them. But they had a right to know...to be prepared. "We cannot let the other Daedric Princes learn about Equestria!"

29 Religion 101

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The others looked at each other in confusion. They had learned recently that Hermaeus Mora wasn't the only Daedric Prince(not like they even grasped the concept of a Daedric Prince anyway) but they could not see the significance of what the others had. Hermaeus Mora was already in Equestria, what was so bad about the others?

"Why should that matter, Twi?" Asked Applejack, " Hermaeus said they don't know about us."

"And besides, how much worse could they be?" Asked Rainbow. "Hermaeus Mora is a living blob of tentacles that can appear in multiple places at once."

Twilight grew a serious look as she made here way back to the sitting area.

"Gather around girls," said Twilight gently, her friends sitting in a circle around her as she levitated a large red book over to her. "Do you want me to tell you about the other Daedra?"

They all were puzzled by Twilight's look, but all gave their consent.

"The first thing you all need know..." Began Twilight, her friends slightly nervous as she shed a single tear. "The truth is... Hermaeus Mora is by far one of the most reasonable of all the Daedric Prince's."

Silence filled the room.

"You cannot be serious Twilight!" Said Rarity, her heckles rising slightly. " That brute killed Chrysalis without a moment's hesitation."

"He spread his ugly portal things all over the kingdom," said Rainbow Dash.

"And he stole the sun and moon from the Princesses without even saying please," said Pinkie, her eyes slightly squinting in anger. "Not to mention plunging us all in that spooky red light."

"And most of all, he's keeping you here," said Fluttershy, her usually kind face scowling.

" He put your life in danger when he taught you that weird voice," said Applejack, adding in her two bits.

Spike just remained silent. He knew Twilight had to know all of this already, and yet she still said they should avoid contact with Nirn so not to draw the attention of the other Daedric Prince's. If thats the case, he had a pretty good idea of why Twilight was so against it.

"Hermaeus Mora is capable of doing horrible acts, and probably has the most grotesque appearance of any Daedric Prince," explained Twilight, looking at all of them with a look that told them not to rebuttal. "But the truth is that the other Daedra have done much more terrible things then what we already have seen Hermaeus Mora do...they are so much worse."

They all looked at Twilight as she stared at the book in her hooves.

"Twilight...who are these other 'Prince' fellows?" Asked Applejack, the others agreeing, wanting to know as well.

"You must listen to everything that I tell you, girls," said Twilight, looking at each of them around her with a look of worry. "What I must tell you will probably be the most terrible things you will ever hear."

Twilight did not have to wait long for confirmation. Her friends wanted to know what the other Daedra were like, so as to both know what threat Equestria would face if one ever found their home, and to know how much worse then Hermaeus Mora they really are. And Twilight was both relieved to be able to share her burden, and fearful for how they would react.

Slowly, Twilight open the book.

"There are about sixteen Daedric Prince's in total," began Twilight, everyone giving her their undivided attention, "And like the dragons of Nirn we discussed before, the people that live on Nirn worship them."

" That again?" Inquired Rainbow in irritation, " How gullible are these people?"

"The Daedric Prince's don't lure people with just power and reverence alone," explained Twilight, " Each one has different aspects and personalities. You all know by now that Hermaeus Mora is the Daedric Prince of knowledge and memory right?"

They all nodded, though Rainbow still seemed slightly annoyed at the mention of how intellectual the blob of tentacles was.

Seriously, how could something so abominable be based on knowledge and intelligence?

"He may be new to Equestria, but on Nirn he has legions of followers, all of them researchers of some form. In
fact, all seekers of any knowledge are as his servants. Pretty much his motto, " said Twilight. " Its the same for the other Daedric Prince's, people follow them not only because of how powerful they are, but because that Daedric Prince is in some way kindred with that person."

" That person?" Inquired Fluttershy, tapping her chin. " Wait, your talking like not everypony on Nirn worships all the Daedric Prince's at once."

"That is exactly right," said Twilight, "The worship of the Daedra is divided, unlike the Dragon cult. Each person is loyal to only the respected group of followers loyal to a certain Daedra. In fact, the different divisions of followers are usually mortal enemies. "

" Well, other then Hermmy, who is all into books as well as the people in his club, what are the others like?" Asked Pinkie Pie, "Are they really as bad as your making them out to be?"

Gritting her teeth, Twilight flipped the book around and showed them the page, " This book was written by a scholar who lived on Nirn, who spent his whole life researching the all Daedric Prince's as much as possible."

The picture she was showing was that of a bipedal silhouette adorned with a hooded robe, crows sat oh her shoulders as she spread her arms gratefully.

" Oh, this person, despite her unfamiliar appearance, is most graceful," said Rarity, admiring the depictions feminine beauty and her face which seemed to glow with radiance.

" Looks can be deceiving," continued Twilight, "This is Nocturnal, Daedric Prince of the night and shadows, and ruler of the Evergloam Plane Plane of Oblivion."

" Ever...gloam?" Inquired Pinkie, slightly confused. " She has a weirdo pocket dimension too?"

" That is the one thing all Daedric Prince's have in common, girls, they all rule their own Plane of Oblivion. Each one a reflection of that Prince's personality," explained Twilight, also including a small briefing of what constitutes a Plane of Oblivion, and successfully getting her friends to at least understand the basic principles.

" Prince? " Inquired Applejack, looking to the picture again. " Beg pardon Twilight, but this feller's obviously a girl."

" Like Hermaeus Mora said back in Equestria, a Daedric Prince cannot be understood easily," explained Twilight. " Despite their look or their genders, all the Daedra like Hermaeus Mora are called Prince's. But if you boil it down tho the simplic, a Daedric Prince doesn't even have a gender."

" WHAT?" Asked all of them at once, Twilight giggling slightly at their expressions.

" Its true, a Daedric Prince is actually not a boy or a girl, but can choose between either one at any given time."

"That...that's slightly freaky," said Applejack, a flabbergasted look on her face.

" I know," said Pinkie, "Can you imagine how much easier it would be to shop for clothes if you could just change sex's on a whim!"

"Pinkie, how crude," said Rarity with a look of disapproval, "but I do admit, it is quite the puzzling thought."

"You said it," said Spike, putting a claw on his chin in contemplation. "Despite how big of a weirdo he was, even Discord was a boy."

" I agree," said Fluttershy, "I have worked with animals for all my life, and gender has always been an absolute."

" Such is not the case for the Daedric Prince's," continued Twilight, bring attention to herself once again.

Rarity tilted her head at the open book in Twilight's,magic, once again admiring Nocturnal's beauty. " You said she is the Daedric Prince of shadows and the night. I take it she is kinda like a counter part to Princess Luna? "

" Well...sorta," said Twilight, looking at the picture of Nocturnal with a look of slight disgust. "Her sphere is the night, just like divining past and future events is Hermaeus Mora's, but her interactions with her people are less then admirable."

" Ya, you mentioned that the Daedric Prince's have fan clubs," said Rainbow, her intuition telling her their was something wrong with Nocturnal. " If the eggheads follow tall dark and stretchy, who likes to run with Mrs. Nighttime?"

" Thieves," said Twilight simply.

The room grew silent.

"Uh? Come again Twilight? " requested Applejack, certain she had heard wrong.

"Nocturnal's followers," began Twilight, her face hardening with a serious expression. "Are the thieves and petty criminals of Nirn. She is often times depicted as the lady of luck, or the patron of thieves, for it is her that influence how successful their scams or heist is."

" How...how dreadful," said Rarity in a slight mortified voice, looking to Nocturnal's picture again, "A lady of such pristine beauty should not indulge in such lowly behavior."

" Remember Rarity, the Daedric Prince's have no gender in truth," said Twilight, " In fact, I am ferly certain that is why Nocturnal chooses this particular form. No one would think such a graceful creature would be associated with the lowest of criminals."

" Hold on a minute," said Applejack, looking slightly worried. " You're saying one of these Daedric Prince whatever actually encourages thievery?"

" More like instigates it," said Twilight, her demeanor grim. " For thousands of years, Nocturnal has been the driving force behind several crimes on Nirn. She even played a role in the theft of a renowned national treasure."

" That's horrible," said Fluttershy, everyone nodding in agreement. "How could anypony condone such vile acts?"

" Nocturnal does not just condone thievery, she rewards it," continued Twilight, everyone giving her a look that asked for an explanation. " Her most devoted and most accomplished followers are granted unique powers by Nocturnal. They are known as the Nightingale's, and they're so elusive that it is believed that Nocturnal has bestowed upon them the power of the night and shadows themselves, allowing them to call upon them to aid them in their endeavors."

" How vulgar," said Rarity, the others giving their agreement. "Why would the lawkeepers of Nirn allow such a despicable group to exist."

" Because of Nocturnal, Rarity," explained Twilight, " Crime or not, if you have the favor of a Daedric Prince, virtually nothing can stand in your way."

" I am beginning to see your caution, egghead," said Rainbow, looking at her purple friend with a look of understanding. "Mora hasn't exactly remained idle in Equestria, but he hasn't committed any horrible crimes. If Nocturnal found out about Equestria, I don't think it would be good."

" And she is not the worst case," stated Twilight as she she turned the page of the book to a new section.

This one was depicting a short and pudgy being with horns growing out of the forehead. One hand held a full head mask that had similar horns, the other rested on the head of a large dog that sat at his side. Like Nocturnal, he was bipedal, but had clear facial features with a boys resemblance.

" This is Clavicus Vile, the next Daedric Prince I would like to discuss."

"Oh, what a cute dog," said Fluttershy, looking at the dog in the picture with fondness.

"Hey, I didn't take Daedric Prince's as the pet type," said Pinkie Pie, looking at the picture curiously.

" Their not," said Twilight, everyone looking at her with budding confusion. " This is Barbus, Clavicus Vile's companion, and he is not a dog."

" Uh, what do you mean, sugar cube?" Asked Applejack, looking to the picture, trying to see if she could see what Twilight was talking about.

"Barbus takes the physical appearance of a dog, true, but the truth is he and Clavicus Vile were once one being until he was severed from Clavicus's body and cast out, manifesting into a separate individual," explained Twilight, revulsion appearing on all her friends faces when she finished.

" Eeww," said Pinkie, turning slightly green. "That dog is actually a piece of the guy next to him?"

" So horrid," complained Rarity, looking at the picture as if it smelled revolting, "Who would do something like that?"

" Yeah," agreed Fluttershy, "Who would pull a piece of somepony out, then make it manifest as a cute little dog?"

Spike, Applejack, and Rainbow also gave their statement of agreement.

"Clavicus Vile pulled Barbus from his body himself," explained Twilight, her friends gasping in shock. " Barbus, for lack of a better term, is the physical embodiment of Clavicus's conscious, willing torn out and separated from him."

"HIS CONSCIOUS?" Inquired everyone.

"Yes," confirmed Twilight, "Clavicus Vile removed what little bit of consciousness from his being so that nothing would interfere with his self imposed tasks, which then manifested into the creature known as Barbus."

" And...what tasks would those be?" Asked Spike nervously, the others mirroring his look of dread

"Clavicus Vile," began Twilight, her face contorting into a sour look, "is the Daedric Prince of Trickery, Wishes, Serenity and Bargains, his sphere is sphere is the granting of power and wishes through ritual invocations and pacts."

" Trickery?" Inquired Applejack, surprised.

" In Nirn, his followers are those who seek something that they disire," explained Twilight, " He is known for granting the wishes of any who have the misfortune to cross his path, unwittingly, willingly, or otherwise."

" That doesn't sound so bad," said Pinkie excitedly, "I definitely know I wouldn't mind having my wishes granted."

"Me too," said Rarity, flipping her mane with a look of desire, " if he could tell me what fashion trends would be big in the future, that would definitely be something."

" Now hold your horses y'all, I smell something funny," said Applejack. " Wishs was just part of his fancy title, and if that was all he did, why did he tear out his conscious?"

"You have good institution, Applejack, never change that about yourself," said Twilight, admiring her friends good instinct, but then brought her attention to the others. "Another thing Clavicus Vile is known for is his twisted hobby. Its true he grants the disires of the people he meets, but for his own amusement, he often sets up scenarios that make those granted disires backfire."

" Backfire?" Inquired Rarity, all the others giving a confused look.

" Let me give you an example," started Twilight, concentrating on getting the wording in her head. " Say someone wants to start a mighty organization of trading, and goes to Clavicus Vile for the funds and the skill to accomplish it. Clavicus grants his wish, and for several years it flourished. But then at the hight of his power, when it seems everything could not get any better, that individual who sought out Clavicus suddenly find everything he has built crumbling faster than he can repair it, and also finds himself without the talent he used to build all he had in the first place.

" And all this happened because Clavicus Vile redacted the wish he granted."

Everyone had a look of pure shock.

" Why...why would he do that?" Asked Rarity sadly. " Why would he suddenly destroy something he himself had a hoof in building?"

"Because it amuses him," said Twilight, everyone growing a look of horror. " Clavicus Vile, nothing gives him greater pleasure than watching the people whose wishes he granted suffer as their own desires lead to their demise."

" That...sounds so mean," said Pinkie, her mane drooping a little.

"What kind of terrible person would be amused by such morbidity?" Inquired Rarity.

" What a varmint," said Applejack, her face going red.

" Ya," said Rainbow, looking generally peeved, " What kind of monster gets their kicks from such things?"

"Such a horrifying thought," said Spike, looking at Clavicus Vile's picture with caution. " Something that grants wishes, only to pull strings and turn that wish into something awful."

"He loves causing regret," stated Twilight simply, "That is the basic fact about Clavicus Vile, in fact, his Plane of Oblivion is called The Fields of Regret."

It took some time for the atmosphere of the room to calm, but Twilight let take as long as needed. They had a lot to discuss, and this subject need them all to have a calm state of mind. And they had even worse ahead, and Twilight could only hope her friends could push past it.

" We have onky learned about two of these other Prince things and already my skin crawls," said Applejack, shaking her head.

"How many more are there Twilight?" Asked Rainbow.

" There are fourteen Daedric Prince's left, " said Twilight, her friends gasping at the number. "And I am sorry to say, but I think it is imperative we discuss all of them. I know its a lot, but I feel we will need to be aware of all that they are capable of. It will help us, help all of Equestria better our relationship with Hermaeus Mora."

" Its not the amount of what we have to cover still that bothers me," said Rainbow, surprising everypony because she was the one who hated studying the most of all of them. "Its just shocking to learn how many of these things there are, and the what we already have seen has been horrible."

" But I think we all agree, we need to know what these varmints are capable of," said Applejack, the others agreeing, though Fluttershy had some reluctance.

" We have yet to get to the worst,"explained Twilight, looking nervous, " Do you all think you can deal with things even worse than what we already have gone over?"

Twilight's friends all agreed, so she turned the page to another section.

"This is Sanguine, Daedric Prince of debauchery," said Twilight, her friends looking at the picture of a bipedal creature in red and black armor holding a mug. " His Plane of Oblivion is the Myriad Realms of Revelry, a collection of multiple pocket dimensions that can become any kind of party one can imagine that the followers of Sanguine can visit at any time, and is known for being extremely fond of every kind of celebration there is himself, his sphere is hedonistic revelry, debauchery, and passionate indulgences of darker natures."

" Hey, that doesn't sound so bad," said Pinkie, looking at Sanguine with interest, " In fact, Sanguine sounds like my kinda guy."

"I'll admit, as the patron of celebration, Sanguine hasn't got quite the reputation the other Daedra have. In fact he is a prankster and joker too," said Twilight, Rainbow and Pinkie adopting looks of intrigue. "But he has his unpleasant vices too."

"What could be unpleasant about somepo...someone who loves partying?" Asked Pinkie, correcting herself when she remembered they weren't talking about ponies.

With a flash of magic, Twilight plugged Spikes ears with cotton, the baby dragon folding his arms in irritation. Twilight usually did this to him when she needed to discuss 'adult topics' and had done so for years. He never understood, but Twilight insisted it was for his own good.

From here Twilight explained the darker of Sanguine's darker hobbies. Lust, sin, sloth, gluttony, and greed, she explained how Sanguine nourished these traits in people and amplified them, most of the time so he could set them up for a cruel prank. She also explained his habits of crashing parties he found to be drab.

" How mean," said Pinkie, looking at the picture Sanguine with new found irritation, "Some people like quiet parties. That is no reason to ruin them because they bore you."

"Its so petty," said Rarity, the others agreeing.

"And even I think those pranks are cruel and distasteful," said Rainbow with a scowl.

"Can someone explain to me what was so bad, you had to block me out?" Asked Spike now that his ears were unobstructed.

" All you need to know, Precious Scales, is that this guy is horrible, despite being into parties," said Rarity, Spike blushing as the others laught at the nickname.

Twilight flipped the book pages to another section, this picture depicting a tall biped wearing a mask adorned with deer antlers.

" Next we have Hiricine," said Twilight, her friends gasping slightly at the large spear the person in the picture wielded. "His sphere is hunting, and his Plane of Oblivion is an endless hunting ground that thrives with every type of prey a hunter could ever hope to pursue. It is his followers ambition to be allowed passage to this place, to hunt even the most challenging of beasts."

" That doesn't sound so bad," said Fluttershy, the others looking at her with confusion forming over their look of horror that had appeared while listening to Twilight's explanation.

" What?" Inquired Fluttershy when she noticed the looks she was getting. " Hunting is a natural occurrence, all of my animal friends that are predators hunt."

" Yes, and that is how it is for the people who live one Nirn," explained Twilight, all looking to her again. "They are omnivores, unlike us, so they have to eat meat. Hunting is common on Nirn and those who are really passionate in the hunt worship Hircine."

"I guess that would make sense," said Applejack, contemplating. "If you are really interested in something, even if it is hunting, it's only natural you would want to be backed by those who share the interest."

" Yes, but Hiricine takes hunting to the extreme," explained Twilight, her friends giving her a concerned look. " To him everyone is prey...even his own followers."

" WHAT?" they all shouted, almost falling out of their seats.

" One of Hiricine's favorite hobbies is hunting the most accomplished of his own followers himself," continued Twilight, scraping at her seat uncomfortably. " From what I have read, when one of his followers gain a certain reputation as a hunter, it can be expected Hiricine will bring them into his own hunting ground and hunt them himself. Most never were seen again."

"Granny Smiths pie," swore Applejack, her look mirroring the others, "Why would anyone follow such a horrible person?"

" To them, being hunted by Hiricine himself is considered an honor," explained Twilight, trembling, her friends looked shocked. " And that isn't the worst of Hiricine's horrible acts."

They all looked like they were unwilling to hear more, but persevered.

"Hiricine inflicted a cures onto the people of Nirn," said Twilight, " The curse of the Werewolf."

They all asked what a werewolf was all at once.

" Fluttershy, you said you know predators hunt, right?" Asked Twilight, the timid pegasus nodding. " Have they ever told you about their desire to kill and eat."

" Naturally," replied Fluttershy, everyone giving her a look again, much to her annoyance. " You all now not every creature is vegetarian like ponies, predators eat meat. Its their nature."

" And that is what the curse of the werewolf is," said Twilight, bracing herself for what she was about to say. " Those inflicted by this curse...once every full moon, they are transformed into a creature that resembles a wolf, only bigger and meaner. And until the sun rises on that night, they are doomed to wonder in this form, consumed with such an overwhelming desire for flesh and blood that they lose all sense of self. Those cursed to be werewolves would even kill and eat their own best friends if they crossed paths when they are like this."

All of Twilight's friends looked at her as if she had grown a second head.

" Why...why would he do that?" Asked Fluttershy tears leaking her face.

" Hiricine wanted to create the ultimate predators," said Twilight, " And the worst part is that if anyone has an encounter with a werewolf and survives, but is bitten, the curse is transfered to them and they become werewolves too."

Once again, Twilight had to calm her friends. They seemed to take this one very hard, and Twilight could not blame them. It was not everyday you learn of someone who inflicted a cures that turns people into mindless monster's that cra lolve the flesh of others.

But she was able to bring them into moving forward with the conversation.

" The next one is Peryite," said Twilight, turning the page again and showing them a picture of a dragon. " Daedric Prince of pestilence. Hi sphere includes tasks, natural order and pestilence."

"Pestilence?" Inquired Applejack, her face contorting into a look of dread, "isn't that when...?"

"Disease, yes," said Twilight, looking slightly worried. " Whenever a disease or sickness strikes Nirn, it is more than guaranteed to be Peryite's doing"

" How....what... you...," staggered Rarity, turning eve more white somehow. "Disease!"

"One of...these things... deliberately makes people sick?" Asked Fluttershy, Twilight only answering with a nod.

" That is so mean," restarted Pinkie, looking more angry then she had, "Its bad enough when I catch a cold, leaving me unable to party...but someone from this Nirn place actually makes people sick on purpose?"

" Now I can see why you should worry about the other Daedra finding Equestria," said Rainbow, pounding her hooves together. "We would be in real trouble if Peryite found Equestria."

" Now don't get to worried," said Twilight, smiling slightly, "Peryite is possibily the Daedric Prince we have to worry about the least."

" What do you mean?" Asked Spike worriedly as he stared at the picture of the book, " He's a dragon!"

" Daedric Prince's can choose their form at will, remember," explained Twilight, " And Peryite chooses to take the form of a dragon to hide the fact that he is one of the weakest Daedric Prince's."

They all gave her a look that asked for more information.

"Its funny actually, he is actually totally nothing compared with Daedra like Hermaeus Mora," explained Twilight. "His Plane of Oblivion is the Pits, a place were everything the other Daedric Prince's consider unimportant is kept."

It took considerably less time to steer the conversation back on track, once she impressed on them how weak Peryite is, and how it was least likely he could come to Equestria.

" Moving on," said Twilight, flipping pages again.

" How much worse is this gonna get?" Asked Rainbow.

" All I can say is brace yourselves, girls," said Twilight, showing the next picture, that of another beautiful woman holding a pronged staff. "This is Vaermina, and she is basically the Daedric Prince of the mind. Her sphere includes nightmares, psychological terror and torment, dreams, bringing evil omens, and stealing memories."

" Oh, you mean she can go all psychic and read minds," said Pinkie excitedly as she twirled her hooves around her head, the others giving her a quizzical look.

"Sort of, I guess," said Twilight, lining up her next explanation in her head as simply as possible. " Vaermina is the cause of nightmares, psychological terror and torment, dreams, evil omens, and lost memories on Nirn. All things fear related originated from her."

"Originates from her?" Inquired Twilight's friends.

"Vaermina instills fear in people," explained Twilight. "And from what I can understand, she is kind like a mind predator, she infects dreams, turning them into nightmares so she can feed on the fear they cause. She also feeds on memories, if someone on Nirn wakes up one morning and finds they are forgetting something, or had a nightmare, it is believed because Vaermina visited in the night."

Everyone looked horrified.

"You... Your not even safe from these things in your sleep?" Asked Fluttershy sheeply.

"No," answered Twilight simply. "Vaermina is known as the Dreamweaver, ruler of Quagmire, also called the Dreamstride, the realm of Nightmares, the plane where every time lightning strikes, reality shifts to another horrifying vision. People who have visited this place usually leave mortified...if they leave at all."

Fluttershy stiffened up and fell out of her seat.

"And this... monster has her own followers?" Asked Rarity, helping Fluttershy back into her seat.

"For the most part, the people of Nirn just ask her for a peaceful night," explained Twilight. " And those that do worship her do so for themselves."

"What could something so revolting have to offer anypony?" Asked Rarity.

"Those that worship Vaermina seek to conquer their fear," continued Twilight. " And it is said that if you make contact with Vaermina, the terror you experience will make anything you feared before seem like nothing, so Vaermina' s followers do so to purge themselves of fear."

They all had to admit, it made sense. Sometimes you must scare what your fear right out of yourself.

But Fluttershy suddenly had a thought.

She had faced Discord, Nightmare Moon, and recently a changeling hell bent on conquest, but NEVER had she heard of creature's the like of which they have spent the better part of a few hours talking about. Hermaeus Mora was able to manifest himself as multiple swirling black vortex of tentacles and eyes, as she had seen, and the other Daedric Prince's seemed to be capable of their own extraordinary feats.

The power in which she had learned they had was inconceivable, especially since it was instigated that they do all this on a world wide scale. Also, the fact that they play with people's lives like toys was something she could not bare to understand. This could only lead to one possible conclusion.

A conclusion she had to knowo was true or false.

" Twilight...can I ask you something?" She asked timidly.

" Of course Fluttershy," replied Twilight, glancing at her friend with a smile.

" We...all that we have learned so far..." began Fluttershy, her tongue trembling so much with the rest of her she could barely speak. " All that you have told us...these...Daedric Prince's...?"

Twilight flashed her friend a worried look, itbwas not uncommon for Fluttershy to tremble over her words like this, but it still made her concerned. " What is wrong, Fluttershy? Whatever it is, I would more than like to help."

" Its just..." the rest of her friends began to feel concerned as well when Fluttershy still could not bring herself to say what she needed to.

"Come on, darling," said Rarity comfortingly, placing her hoof on Fluttershy's shoulder for she was sharing a couch with her. " If you are so concerned about something, please tell us."

" Ya," agreed Rainbow from the chair next to Twilight. " I know we usually aren't on the same page as you when it comes to concerns, but if it has something to do with these Daedric guys, it can't be minor."

" Yes indeedy," said Pinkie, on another couch with Applejack. " If you need to know something about these creepy creatures, we should all know what it is. So don't afraid to ask, nothing you say could be unimportant."

" I agree," said Applejack, "Anything regarding these manipulating swines we have been talking about is important."

" I agree as well," said Spike from the little chair he sat in. "Go ahead and spill."

Fluttershy looked at all of them in gratitude. She could never hope to have a better group of friends to be with. They were supporting her when she could not support herself.

It gave her the courage to finally get it out.

" Are the Daedric Prince's gods?" Asked Fluttershy quickly. "And if so, couldn't they charge Equestria in any way they want."

That paused everyone.

" Hey, that's a good point," said Applejack, shaking slightly as she proceded what Fluttershy had brought to the fore front. "I ain't never heard of such beings like this, could it be possible that they are gods?"

" They act similar to those deities Daring Do runs into whenever she stumbled across a lost poy tribe in some unexplored jungle," said Rainbow, looking slightly worried.

" Oh, what a terrible idea," said Rarity, her eyes wide with horror. " If these brutes are gods, what does that mean for us, or for Equestria? Hermaeus Mora is already there, what if he decides to use his power to recreate our world to his own purposes"

" I don't know..." said Pinkie, tapping her chin. " They all sound powerful, but do they really sound like the all knowing, world creating, gody god types?"

" Pinkie is right," said Twilight, bring attention to herself with how calm her voice is. You know what constitutes a god, is the creation of the world of which they are known. The very fact that who we are talking about is the Daedric Prince's virtually means we are not talking about gods."

" What do you mean?" Asked Fluttershy, everyone sharing the same look of confusion.

" The Daedra may have followers on Nirn, but they didn't create it," explained Twilight. " That was the doing of the real gods of Nirn."

" Real gods? Who are they? " Asked Rainbow.

" It's slightly complicated, do you really want me to explain."

Her friends all agreed, they would like to know more about these 'gods'.

" Well, the first thing you must be aware of is that the Daedric Prince's are not the only group of powerful beings on Nirn," explained Twilight. " Their is another type, they are called the Aedra"

"AEDRA?" Repeated all of Twilight's friends.

" Thats kind of unimaginative," stated Pinkie, "Theres just no D."

" There is more to it," continued Twilight, her demeanor that of somepony giving a lesson, " You see...their names are similar because the Aedra and the Daedra are the same race."

" What?" Said Rainbow, shaking along with the other ponies and Spike. " But you said the Daedric Prince's weren't gods."

" I am getting to that," snapped Twilight, slightly annoyed, "Explaining this will take time, so please hold all questions or out bursts until I am finished."

They all agreed, though reluctantly.

" Now," started Twilight again, " The Aedra and the Daedra, together they are part of a race of highly powerful beings known as the Et'Ada. No difference between the two groups...except for their deeds."

Twilight light up her horn and projected twenty four black orbs that hovered in the air.

"The Et'Ada existed before Nirn was created, and then they were equal to one another for the most part, until they decided to do something with their existance," Twilight adjusted the orbs to were sixteen were on one side and eight on the other. "The Daedric Prince's wanted to create their own little pocket universe," Each of the sixteen orbs grew a wide aura around them, each with different colors, "The Aedra want to create one huge world." The eight other orbs became surrounded by a huge green aura.

" Wait a minute," said Spike, running this through his head, though Twilight was slightly annoyed by being interrupted. He may not be the intellectual type, but all this had reminded him of Ogers and Oubliettes, plus the comics he loved from the start. "Their own small pocket universes...Each of the Daedric Prince's plane of Oblivion!"

" Spike, that is right," said Twilight, looking extremely proud of her little number one assistant. " The Et'Ada were divided into the Aedra and the Daedra because the Aedra created Nirn, while the Daedra created their own plain of Oblivion."

" Well A'll be," said Applejack, mystified.

" That still doesn't assuage the concern," said Fluttershy nervously. "It means that the Daedric Prince's are related to the ones who created Nirn and COULD do the same in Equestria."

"No, they couldn't," said Twilight.

Everyone just gave her a blank look of incomprehension.

" The real reason the Aedra and Daedra were separated into different groups of the Et'Ada..." began Twilight, her eyes taking on a look of intrigue. " Is because they decided to create their planes of Oblivion, instead of assisting The Aedra...because the creation of Nirn came at a great price."

" What price is that?" Asked Rarity, her eyes swimming with wonder.

"Ya, I can't imagine how many bits creating a word would cost," said Pinkie.

" I don't think she means that kind of cost, sugar cube," said Applejack.

"The Aedra...actually gave up their power, or at least most of it, to create Nirn."

"Gave up?" Inquired Rarity.

"The people of Nirn refer to the Aedra as the Eight Divine," explained Twilight, still looking intrigued. "And they have worshipers like the Daedra... but they do so of gratitude. The Aedra created Nirn, so they owe their very existance to the Aedra... especially since the Aedra pretty much gave their lives to give them life."

The others grew looks of pure horror.

"Gave... gave their lives?" Inquired Fluttershy gently, the rest mirroring her look.

Twilight plucked a large rolled up piece of paper from a nearby shelf and unfurled it between them. They all oohed at the artist depiction of a night sky skillfully crafted, looking like a snapshot photograph. What was most eye catching was the multiple moons in the sky.

"This is the night sky on Nirn," explained Twilight.

"Ooh, look at all the moons," commented Pinkie.

"Those are not moons, girls," said Twilight, her friends looking at her with confusion. "The planets that orbit Nirn...that are visible in the sky...are actually the inert bodies of the Aedra."

They all dropped their mouths open as they looked at the picture with new clarity.

"Creating Nirn required so much power, the Aedra were reduced to this," explained Twilight, looking at the picture with slight pity. "They gave so much of themselves that they were reduced to a partial existance. From what I have learned, they aren't even coherent enough to be considered conscious."

"Sweet Celestia!" Gasped Rarity.

"That...I don't even know...". Rainbow was at a complete loss for words.

"Now that is sacrifice," stated Applejack.

"Got to say, that is something I can respect," said Spike as he watched Twilight roll up the night sky portrait and put it away. "Giving up their power to create a planet and all the people on it and at such cost."

"Oh, how horrible," said Fluttershy, slight tear's in her eyes. "Giving up their lives so people on Nirn could exist...so Nirn could exist!"

"I know," said Pinkie, looking a little upset, "Can you imagine how boring it would be to orbit the sky as a huge planet, oversleeping in every way possible? How would you party? How would you burst into random musical numbers. Heck, even if you could wake up, how would you go to a party when you are so big?"

"You couldn't," stated Twilight, "And that is why we don't have to worry about the Daedra in regards to them remaking Equestria. They didn't assist in the creation of one world, so it would not happen now. The Daedra would be rendered inert just like the Aedra."

"Are you sure?" Asked Rarity, the conversation from before returning to the forefront of the others minds.

"Despite all of their power, the Daedra are not God's, and have limitations. Even if they did want to remake our world, only Hermaeus Mora has presence in Equestria, and it took more than one Et'Ada to create a new world."

After that, Twilight steered the topic back to the Daedric Prince's. The others wanted to know more about the Aedra individually, but Twilight reminded them that this conversation was about why it was a bad idea to make contact with Nirn. Besides, the Aedra had been pretty much out of the picture regarding Nirn for millennia, it was doubted they would play any part in what was happening in Equestria.

So Twilight flipped through the pages of the book of Daedra.

"How about we start with a Daedric Prince that is actually decent," said Twilight, her friends giving her a look of confusion again. "This one's name is Meridia."

They all looked at the picture on the page, this one depicting another bipedal woman with a physical appearance similar to Nocturnal. But we're as Nocturnal had dark but graceful presence, this woman extruded light from every portion of her body. Even rainbow could feel reverence of light from the picture.

The women had long silvery blonde hair that waved in the air like their princesses, her sleek white skin blending perfectly, both giving her brilliant blue eyes and attracted accent. She wore a flowing robe that if they didn't know better, seemed to be crafted out of light itself, flowing and so beautiful. She had a pare of white feathered wings sprouting out her back, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash examining them and through their Pegasus heritage, could tell they were powerful.

But the most noticable fear was the ball of bright light she held above her head in her cupped hands.

"Meridia is the Daedric Prince of life," explained Twilight, "She is known as the "Lady of Light" or the "Prismatic Lady" by her followers, her Plane of Oblivion is the colored rooms and is one of the only Daedra I wish found Equestria other than Hermaeus Mora."

"I must say, she looks simply Divine," said Rarity, eyeing the depiction of Meridia with interest.

"You would really rather she be in Equestria?" Asked Rainbow, "Hermaeus is into books, just like you."

"He also manipulated the circumstances in Equestria to forward his own ambition," said Twilight with a scowl. "Our whole kingdom was in danger, he help yes, but he didn't do it to save anypony."

"Huh, Twilight, isn't that what all the Daedra would do?" Asked Fluttershy gently. From what you have told us, they do seem to be a malevolent bunch."

"Some of the Daedra aren't as bad as others," said Twilight, looking back to her book. "And Meridia is by far, one of the more compassionate of the Daedric Prince's."

"How so, Twi?" Asked Applejack.

"Her sphere of influence is over life energy," explained Twilight, her smile widening. "She is responsible for the health and physical strength for the people of Nirn, and takes her responsibilities very seriously. Is because of her that the citizens of Nirn have energy to till their fields, as well as build their homes."

"Well, that sounds mighty pleasant," said Applejack, tilting her hat to the book in respect. "I guess not all of them dude's are no good, rotten varmints."

"I agree," said Pinkie, also looking at the photo in reverence. "If she is the source of one's bodily energy, she must be why anyone there could party. You can't party without energy, believe me, I've tried."

"And that isn't the only thing," continued Twilight eagerly. "Meridia is the mortal enemy of the Ideal Masters."

"What do you mean, Twilight?" Asked Rarity, shivering along with all the others as she recalled the uncomfortable conversation earlier.

"Meridia is the Daedric Prince of life, so there for, she has an unruly hatred for everything undead," explained Twilight.

"You said the Ideal Masters are the source of the dark magic that can awaken people who are supposed to be pushing up daisies." Said Pinkie.

"And that sort of action revolts Meridia to her core," said Twilight, her friends paying her all of their attention. "She has made it her mission to eradicate the people who resurrect dead bodies for their own purpose."

"Sounds like my kind of Daedra," said Rainbow with a tough look. "Sticking it to those rotten grave robbers."

"It's the same for her followers too," continued Twilight. "They share Meridia's hatred for the undead, and have made it their mission to destroy anything related to the undead, like ghosts, zombies, necromancy and most of all, vampires."

"Nirn has necromancy?"asked Spike, him and the other ponies shivering as they recalled the ancient dark magic users of Equestria that adopted the title of necromancer, until Princess Luna and Celestia band the dark magic and disbanded the practitioners.

"What is a vampire?" Asked Fluttershy.

Twilight mentally kicked herself in the rump for letting that slip, she had not been paying attention to what she was saying. But she shared the details anyway, about how a vampire was someone who had contracted the disease native to Nirn, Sanguinare Vampires, and as a result, became a vicious creature of Shadow that was neither living nor dead. She also explained the unquenchable thirst for blood that plagued them.

"Light is their enemy," concluded Twilight, "And Meridia's light is exceedingly dangerous to them."

"Sweet Celestia!" Gasped Rarity, a look of pure horror on her face. "A disease that makes you want to drink blood?"

"I thought vampire fruit bat's were bad," said Applejack, her green pupils shrunk in her terror. "But this..."

"A disease that makes you need to drink blood?" Contemplated Spike, looking like he was going to crawl out of his scales.

"I know, by the Nine Divine," said Pinkie in a flabbergasted look.

"What did you say, Pinkie," asked Rainbow Dash, looking slightly green herself.

"Why would Meridia want to hurt them? " Asked Fluttershy before Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie could continue. " She should help them. Those poor people are suffering from a terrible disease, its not their fault."

" That is not entirely true, Fluttershy, " said Twilight, her pegasus friend gasping in shock. " In fact, most people on Nirn became vampires of their own free will."

" Why would they do that?" Asked Rainbow, almost to the point of trembling.

" Power," explained Twilight simply. " To become a vampire comes at the price of blood, but those who follow this path willingly can obtain great power, for vampires have strength and magical prowess that can go beyond the norm. And above all else...vampires can't die."

" WHAT?!" Shouted the whole group.

"A vampire will never age, being that they are already dead, technically," said Twilight, her eyes squinting in depression atbtge morbid subject. " The only way they can die is if someone slays them."

They discussed the subject of vampires for only a little bit longer, see is how they had to go over more of the Daedra. Twilight was wondering which one she should do next though. She had been trying to avoid the really terrible subjects for even after so long herself, Twilight was still disturbed by what she had learned about the remaining Daedric Prince's.

But it would seem fate made the decision for her, as she was turning the pages she suddenly sneezed unexpectedly and dropped the book.

" Oh, another girl Daedric Prince," said Rarity.

Twilight heaved when she saw what Daedric Prince the book was opened to and scooped it up and slammed it shut.

" Let's resume with a different one girls," said Twilight nervously, her forehead covered in sweat.

" Now Twilight, don't be getting all protective on us," said Applejack, shaking her hoof shamefully.

" Ya, you said we need to know what the other Daedra are like," said Rainbow, her voice scolding, but also supportive. "Even if it is very terrible."

" Come on, Twilight, lay it on us," agreed Spike, the rest nodding in agreement, supporting looks on their faces.

Twilight felt her anxiety drain at their comforting words. She need to just push forward, she needed her friends to know this. She also needed to trust tge fact that they could handle the facts.

But why did the book land on this one?

"Her name is Narmia," explained Twilight, opening the book to the page again. " Her sphere is ancient darkness, and is the rulers of the Plane of Oblivion the Scuttling Void. Her passion is revulsion."

"Revulsion?" Inquired Rarity.

" You mean like spoiled food and bugs and stuff? " Asked Pinkie.

" Hey, I resent that Pinkie," said Fluttershy, slightly livid. " My bug friends are not repulsive."

" But they are right," continued Twilight, her eyes downcast. " Namira is associated with bugs and decay...but her and her followers are about more than just whts visually repulsive."

" What is that, darling?" Asked Rarity, concerned.

" They don't eat mud or something, do they?" Asked Applejack, slightly convulsing at just the thought.

" They eat something," explained Twilight, her friends looking at her expectedly. " Girls...Narmia and her followers...are cannibals."

The room became as still as the grave.

" Darling...?" Whispered Rarity, her eyes about to pop out of her skull. " You mean they...?"

" Namira and her followers will lure some random person to their sanctuary for one reason or another," said Twilight, forcing each word out with all her strength. " And when they get there..."

Twilight could not continue with words, she feared she would be sick if she opened her mouth for to long. So she finished by slicing her hoof across her neck, then opened her mouth and pointed within. She made a chewing imitation then pretended to swallow.

Her friends all turned green.

"OH, I THINK I AM GONNA BE SICK!" Shouted Rarity, standing up but having to put a hoof to her mouth to keep from throwing up in a very unladylike fashion.

" Me to..." Spike wretched as smock billowed out his nostrils above his clenched mouth.

" MY CUPCAKES!" Screamed Pinkie Pie, leaning over the back of her chair on her stomach. " I'M GOING TO TOSS MY CUPCAKES."

" THE CIDER...THAT DRINK!" Shouted Applejack, her hat falling off as she doubled over.

" I...I have no problem, I can handle any..." Rainbow doubled over too as a squelching sound echoed through her gut. "I ADMIT IT...I NEED A BATHROOM."

" HORRIBLE...SO HORRIBLE!" Shouted Futtershy, her pale yellow coat going green to the root.

In a flash of magic, Twilight teleported her friends away, and multiple wretching sounds originated from the direction of the living quarters. She should thank Hermaeus Mora for providing them all with their own washrooms. She wondered if that was on purpose.

Her ears folded against her head as all fell silent, and she teleported them all back into their seats.

" Better? " She asked worriedly.

" Barely," said Rarity.

They made a point to drop the subject of Namira then. They definitely did not want her to find Equestria. But Twilight still had a hard time picking the next.

"I guess we could talk about Malacath," said Twilight, flipping pages again, showing them a picture of a bipedal muscular creature. " He is the Daedric Prince of the spurned, the ostracized, and oaths."

" He, looks rather brutish," commented Rarity.

" That is a good way to describe him," continued Twilight, " Malacath is by far one of the most aggressive of the Daedric Prince's. He has a fondness for battle and will often times pit people against each other. Usually to fight to the death."

Their was a sudden collection of gasps.

" If their is anything good about him though, its that he does have a sense of honor," explained Twilight, looking slightly put out. "Those who have been wronged in some way can come to Malacath for aid. He absolutely dispises people who break promises or ostrisize people, that is why he is the Daedric Prince of the spurned and the betrayed."

" And let me guess," said Rainbow with a scowl. " He helps them by helping them get back at or outright kill the one who betrayed that individual in the first place?"

Twilight could only nod.

" How mean," said Pinkie, looking really withdrawn. " I don't like it when someone breaks a Pinkie promise, but that is no reason to hurt someone."

" Let alone kill," said Fluttershy.

They all agree that their were other ways to deal with situations like that without violence, though Twilight was glad they did not bring up what happened at the wedding just a few weeks ago. Twilight was sure Malacath would have greatly approved what had happened. He would probably have instigated she get revenge on her friends for turning their backs on her too.

Not that she ever would.

" So what is his Plane of Oblivion?" Asked Spike.

" It is called the Ashpit."

They discussed this for only a little bit longer. The Ashpit was a place where very little excists so ther was not much to talk about. Though they were getting to the Daedric Prince's Twilight feared most.

" Girls...we are about to get to the worst of them," warned Twilight, giving her friend a worried look. " What we are about to discuss is pretty much the very reason we don't want the other Daedra to have any incline of Equestria."

" What could be worse than what we already have discussed?" Inquired Rarity.

" Hold on, Y'all," said Applejack as tge rest of them were about to voice their own objections. " We agreed to this, and not just to know what the other Daedra are like. Twilight is obviously having trouble with this, we owe it to her to share her burden."

" Yes, that is right, " agreed Fluttershy, her face contorting into a look of pure determination. " We will get through it together."

" Alright, count me in as well," said Rainbow, also looking ready to move forward. " I won't let Twilight carry this one on her own."

" Me neither," said Pinkie excitedly. “ whatever horrible things these other Prince guys are capable of, Twilight already knows and would need someone to help her deal with it."

" And I have known Twilight my whole life, " said Spike, "She is not easy to scare, so whatever has her spooked now, I will share her burden."

" It would be unfair if I back out now," said Rarity, flipping her mane gracefully. " I am a lady of tact, so I am in to."

Twilight could only shed grateful tears as she opened her book to the next Daedric Prince.

" This is Boethiah," started Twilight feeling as if she was about to swallow her tongue. "He is...he is the Daedric Prince of deceit, conspiracy, treachery and whose sphere is the unlawful overthrow of authority."

Twilight's friends could only stare at the picture of the larger biped that held a large gold double axe on the page, speechless.

" Twilight, care to run that by us again," moaned Applejack.

" Treachery, rebellion, Boethiah is the Daedric Prince that influences these actions," explained Twilight, her face contorting into a look of pure horror. " He also encourages revolution, motivating the people who live on Nirn to rebel against their ruling government and sparking wars. He also has a fondness for violence. More than once he has gathered his followers into a single location and instigated a free for all tournament, in which only one may be left standing."

"Twilight..." gasped Rainbow, looking on edge for the first time since they had started. "One of these Daedric whatevers...his role is to actually cause deception and overthrowing?"

" Yes," said Twilight, "Boethiah, when put simply, is all about violence. His realm of Oblivion, Attribution's Share, is actually nothing but a winding labyrinth that is just as treacherous as Boethiah. For amusement...he sends some of his own followers there to fight till death, the victor at the end being given the Title of Boethiah's champion."

" Like how you are Hermaeus Mora's champion? Inquired Fluttershy, Twilight nodding her head.

" Now do you see what I meant by one of the more reasonable Daedric Prince's?"

It took some time for Twilight to get to the next subject. She had to instill on them how dangerous Boethiah was. He was ruthless, cunning, and he watched people kill themselves for his own amusement.

He kind of reminded Twilight's friends of how Chrysalis had acted, but much worse.

" Let's move to the next," said Fluttershy timidly. "Worse or not...I do not want to think about this 'Boethiah' anymore."

They all agreed, better or worse, they needed to move past Boethiah.

"Next I guess we should do Molag Bal," said Twilight, her book showing a bipedal creature silhouetted against a wall of ice. "And the reason for that is because he and Boethiah are arch enemies."

" Oh, does that mean he is all about peace and harmony among people?" Asked Pinkie excitedly.

" Unfortunately no," said Twilight, shaking her head sadly. " In my opinion, Molag Bal is worse than Boethiah."

" What do you mean?" Asked Applejack, slightly surprised. " That varmint has people kill each other."

" Because, for all his violent tendencies, Boethiah is about freedom," explained Twilight, " Molag Bal...he is the Daedric Prince of Domination and Enslavement."

" ENSLAVEMENT!" Exclaimed everyone.

" Since the creation of Nirn, Molag Bal has sought to enslave all who dwell there," explained Twilight simply. "He is overly fond of luring people into the frozen wasteland Coldharbour, his Plane of Oblivion, were he can consume their souls."

" By my...oh sweet rock farm!" Said Pinkie.

" These two...Boethiah and Molag Bal...said Applejack, unable to continue.

" These two, they cancel each other out," said Twilight, looking at each of them. " They are both thoroughly evil, but if they weren't constantly trying to out do the other, ther deeds and acts would be even more numerous."

They discussed the subject for a while longer. Twilight explained how Molag Bal was also known as the Schemer Prince, how he lured his victims to him with revolting schemes. She also explained that he was the origin of Vampirism, same as werewolves originated from Hiricine.

" We're almost done," said Twilight, smiling slightly. " Only a few left, and truth is, only one is really horrible. Do you want to get it over with, or would you like to discuss the more pleasant ones?"

" Lets get the nastiness over with, " said Pinkie, the rest agreeing.

"Very well," said Twilight, flipping the page again. " Mephlala the webspinner, Her sphere is lies, sex, murder, secrets, and plots; she enjoys seducing and interfering in mortal affairs for her own amusement."

Rarity flashed her an annoyed looking, taking her hooves off of Spike after she put them there when se realized Twilight was about to say sex.

" Really Twilight?" Inquired Rarity.

" Moving on," gritted Twilight, irritated at herself. " Mephlala's realm of Oblivion is called Spiral Skein, a world of infinite spiderweb."

" Makes sense," said Pinkie, looking at the picture of Mephlala. " She is all spidery."

" Why does she look like that?" Asked Rarity, sticking out her tongue in discust.

" I never liked spiders," said Applejack.

" Come on, Fuzzylegs is nice," said Fluttershy.

" Come on, she is not that creepy," said Rainbow.

" Thats a matter of opinion," said Spike.

" The reason she looks like a spider is because she spins webs of lies," explained Twilight. "Her game is she likes to instill discord among people, her plots interwoven with each other so integrated the literally resemblance webs."

They discussed Mephlala a while longer. Going over how manipulations cause such strife, even there Discord wasn't comparable with this woman. She even caused strife in tight knit families, something that made Applejack see complete red.

"Azura is the next Daedric Prince," continued Twilight, showing them a picture of another bipedal woman holding a star and a moon in her hands. "She is the Daedric Prince of Dusk and Dawn, the magic between Day and Night, also given titles such as Mother of the Rose,Queen of the Night Sky. Her sphere is the period of transition and change. Her realm of Oblivion is called Moonshadow, a place of such beauty, its said to make people blind. "

" Hey, she actually does not sound half bad," said Fluttershy.

" Azura is by far, the most benevolent of the Daedra," explained Twilight. " She is gentle, loving, and cares about people. But she isn't completely docile, if you somehow do get on her bad side, her wrath can burn like the sun."

"You said she is the Daedric Prince of the dusk and dawn?" Inquired Rainbow.

"She is pretty much the equivalent of both Princess Luna and Celestia rolled into one," explained Twilight happily.

" She sounds divine," said Rarity, looking at the picture fondly. "I wish we could meet her."

" Lets not get ahead of ourselves," said Fluttershy, "She is still a Daedric Prince."

" And speaking of which, lets get to the last two," said Pinkie, looking slightly eager. " I want to know who the last of these badies."

" I actually saved this for last," said Twilight, opening the book to two pages. "And that is because these two really interest me."

Twilight showed them the two pages.

On the right was a bipedal creature in a purple dress suit with white hair and a beard, and on the left was an exceedingly tall biped covered from head to toe in silver armor and wielding a silver great sword.

" You have not gone over two at once yet," said Fluttershy.

" You'll understand in a minute," said Twilight. " The guy with the beard is Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of madness."

" Oh great, one of these creeps instills insanity now," complained Rainbow.

"Sheogorath does instill madness, that much is true, " said Twilight. "He shelters them, gives them homes in his Plane of Oblivion, the Shivering Isles. A place where they can live in peace."

"That... actually sounds kinda nice," said Applejack, the others agreeing. "Taking mentally handicap people somewhere safe."

"Well, he kinda has a soft spot for them, considering he is completely bonkers himself," said Twilight, her company looking at her in shock."It's true, Sheogorath is totally out of his mind. His realm, the Shivering Isles are completely unpredictable. And that is in complete contrast to the other Daedra you see on the other page."

They all looked to the other picture, the one wearing armor.

"That is Jyggalag, Daedric Prince of order."

"Order huh?" Inquired Rainbow, scratching her head. "Sounds like the opposite of madness."

"True, Rainbow," complimented Twilight, "Sheogorath and Jyggalag are polar opposites to each other."

"Why are you showing us them both at the same time?" Asked Rarity.

"Are they enemies, like those other two horrible people?" Asked Fluttershy, trembling slightly.

"Only from a certain point of view," stated Twilight, "You see girls, Sheogorath and Jyggalag are one in the same."

All they could do was stare at her.

"You see girls, the truth is Jyggalag is the most powerful of all the Daedra, even among the Daedric Prince's," explained Twilight, her audience going slack jawed. "And so powerful her was, he could even instill order among even the other Daedra."

"This guy sounds like a complete opposite of Discord," stated Applejack, her head spinning. "And he could even make those unruly varmints behave to?"

Twilight nodded.

"And at the same time, he is this Sheo-whatsit that is Lord of the loco in the coco?" Asked Pinkie.

"In a way," said Twilight, straightening up in her chair, Spike telling the others to get ready for a long explanation. "You see girls, in the beginning there was no Sheogorath or the Shivering Isles. There was only Jyggalag and his Plane of Oblivion. A plane of complete order."

"Wait wait wait, then we're did Sheogorath even come from?" Asked Rainbow impatiently.

"Jyggalag became him afterwards," explained Twilight, looking to the book with interest. "You see, it all began with something that had never been before, Jyggalag made the Daedric Prince's feel something they never felt before."

"Ohh, was it a party...oh no, I bet he got them presents they never even asked for...or maybe."

"Fear," said Twilight, looking slightly annoyed at Pinkies antics. "Jyggalag was so powerful that even the other Daedra feared him."

"They all were?" Asked Rarity, thinking about the huge tenticles Hermaeus Mora could create anywhere.

"Yes, and because of that something happened that never happened before and has yet to happen again," Twilight paused to take a breath. "The other Daedra joined forces!"

"Your kidding," moaned Applejack, the others asking threw the look in there eyes. "These Daedra don't sound like the team up type."

" You're not wrong, Applejack," said Twilight, her face serious. "But the other Daedra feared Jyggalag, feared him so much that they put aside their differences and worked together, pooling their magic and casting a curse on Jyggalag. A curse that shattered his mind, and reduced him to the Daedric Prince of insanity, Sheogorath, his realm of order becoming the chaotic land known as the Shivering Isles."

The others looked on with a look of pure incomprehension.

" That sounds kinda mean," said Pinkie, her mane drooping a little. " He didn't do anything to deserve that."

"But he was powerful enough to control even the other Daedra," explained Twilight simply. "And if there is one thing the Daedric Prince's fear, its control."

"It was still wrong," said Rainbow angerly. "He was the most powerful of all the Daedric Prince's, so they decided to do that to him? Well you know what, we ought to go to Nirn and help Jyggalag."

" I agree," said Fluttershy, her voice laced with anger. " We have the Elements of Harmony right here with us, we could use them for free Jyggalag from the cures."

" GIRLS!" Shouted Twilight before any more could be said. "I agree with you, but it won't be necessary. Jyggalag is already free of the curse."

From here, but began an explanation.

" Despite their efforts, the other fifteen Daedric Prince's could not put an indefinite cures on Jyggalag. During his time trapped within Sheogorath, Jyggalag could break free and take his true form once every era, and reclaim the Shivering Isles and restore them back into his kindom of order. The followers of Sheogorath called it the Greymarch."

"'Once' every era?" Inquired Rarity. " You mean it was temporary."

" Yes," confirmed Twilight. " As soon as Jyggalag was finished restoring his home the curse would take effect again and he would turn back into Sheogorath."

" Thats even worse," said Applejack angerly. "The curse only lifting for long enough for him to put everything right, then taking effect again."

" That was how it was," explained Twilight, her face splitting in a smile. " Until Sheogorath found a way to break the cycle for good.

" The last Greymarch was a couple hundred years ago, and when it began, a plan was put into place. Sheogorath had bestowed a mighty warrior with some of his power, to face Jyggalag when he emerged. After a fierce battle, Jyggalag was struck down."

They all gasped in horror.

" You mean...he was killed?" Asked Rarity sadly.

" You cannot kill a Daedric Prince," explained Twilight, " But Jyggalag submitted victory over to the warrior who challenged him, and in doing so, broke the curse of Sheogorath forever."

" How?" Asked Rainbow, the others sharing her confusion.

" It turned out the Greymarch was what was reconstituted the curse," continued Twilight. " But when Jyggalag was stopped from completing it for the first time, the curse could not renew itself, allowing him to return to his original form."

"Does that mean Sheogorath no longer exists?" Asked Spike excitedly.

“ He actually is still around," said Twilight, much to her friends confusion. " Sheogorath had existed for so long it actually was necessary for him to continue to exist. When Jyggalag was defeated in battle, he bestowed the Title of Madness onto the warrior who took him down. He is the new Daedric Prince of madness, and has remained so to this very day."

" Hey, wait a minute," said Spike, tapping his chin. " Back up on that building, you said there are sixteen Daedric Prince's right?"

" Yes," confirmed Twilight with slight confusion.

" You said fifteen of them joined forces to turn the strongest of them into a pshyco, then someone freed him and turned into a new all powerful king of the craziness himself, " Spike contemplated, looking like he was thinking hard. "Wouldn't that have added one more to the number of Daedra?"

"When did you get so smart?" Asked Rainbow with an arched brow.

" Hey, I have my talents," said Spike smugly.

Twilight was contemplating what Spike had said. He was right, with Sheogorath and Jyggalag becoming separate beings it would bring the number of Daedric Prince's up to seventeen. How had she missed it? And she had already said that they were to the end of the list.

But then it hit her.

"Girls, I am afraid I forgot to mention one of the Daedra," said Twilight, embarrassed.

" Thought so," said Spike.

Twilight flipped through the book as her friends waited. How could she forget this one, he was the Daedric Prince she feared most of all? Even now, the thought of him him made her spine tingle with fear.

" You may want to pace yourselves," warned Twilight as she showed them the book for the final time.

" Come on, Twilight, we can take whatever..." Rainbow halted so she could gasp in fear along with the rest of her friends.

The picture depicted another biped, but this one carried the very aura of malevolence just in this simple depiction. It stood before a burning landscape, the trees around showing it was several stories tall. Is skin was crimson red, great horns protruding from its balled head, its slitted yellow eyes caring a look of pure murder, its tusked mouth in a snarl.

It had four arms, two of which held weapons. One had a clawed gauntlet strapped to the wrist, the other held a huge double bladed axe that was held parallel against the ash stricken sky above. Need less to say, this...thing held an image that left the ponies and one dragon in a speechless state.

"This is Merhunes Dagon," Twilight explained to her silent friends. " Daedric Prince of Destruction, Revolution, Energy, Change, and Ambition."

Her friends said nothing, only continued to stare at the creature.

" And he is the main reason why we should keep Nirn and Equestria separate," continued Twilight.

" Twilight, we have been talking about creatures of both revolting and dangerous power this whole time," said Applejack, shaking slightly as she looked up. "Are you saying that this one is the worst?"

" Yes," answered Twilight, shaking too. "For he has done things far worse than any of the others."

" We have learned about these guys who eat people, turn people against each other, make people sick, and support stealing," stated Pinkie with an arched brow. " What could old four arms here do to top all that?"

" He wants to destroy the world," said Twilight quickly.

They all stared at her.

" You care to run that by us again," moaned Applejack.

" Merhunes Dagon's sphere of influence is destruction and renewal," explained Twilight grimly. " He believes that it his his duty as a Daedric Prince to destroy Nirn and rebuild it anew, in his own image."

" Twilight, darling, you can't be serious," gasped Rarity, her sapphire eyes wide. " You're saying that one day this thing...will try to destroy the world of Nirn? "

" He already has tried," explained Twilight, her friends gasping in terror. " Multiple times."

" Wait, are you saying...?"

" He has never succeeded," said Twilight, cutting Spike off. "Time and again Merhunes Dagon has tried to destroy Nirn, time and again the mortal citizens resisted and vanquished him."

There was a slight pause as they processed this.

" Hey, that sounds kind of awesome," said Rainbow Dash excitedly. “I didn't think anyone from this world Nirn had it in them to stand up to these weird bullies."

" They weren't going to let Merhunes Dagon destroy their world without a fight, even if he is a Daedric Prince, " explained Twilight. "But it was anything but awesome Rainbow."

"We stood up to Discord when he tried to turn Equestria into a land of chaos," argued Rainbow, the others agreeing. " How was this any less awesome than that?"

" Our encounter with Discord was nothing compared to the Oblivion Crisis," said Twilight, looking at her friends apologetically. " The last Merhunes Dagon tried to destroy Nirn he caused absolute bedlam, his Plane of Oblivion, The Deadlands, crashing into Nirn like two trains crashing together, allowing hords of his minions to invade.

" Thousands of people died in the following slaughter, and when it seemed like Merhunes Dagon would win, the mortal people of Nirn banded together and were able to severe Merhunes Dagon from their world, casting him back into his own kingdom of death. From that day forward, that event was known as Oblivion Crisis to the people of Nirn. And even though it was centuries ago, Nirn is still recovering from all the destruction Merhunes Dagon wrought that day."

Stunned silence filled the room as everyone stared at Twilight.

" Now do you understand?" Asked Twilight desperately. " The Daedra are extremely dangerous, if any of them find Equestria like Hermaeus Mora did...if Merhunes Dagon..."

" You need not say anymore, sugar cube, we get it," said Applejack gently.

" Yes...if any of these things find our home..." said Rarity, her heart pounding like a drum.

" This Dagon character...he wants to destroy the world!" Whispered Rainbow, unnerved. " We definitely need to keep him away from Equestria. What if he...?"

"Our friends, families, my animal friends..." began Fluttershy, her face wetting with tears. "He.., would destroy all of them?"

Twilight only nodded.

" Nightmare Moon wanted to bring night forever," commented Pinkie, also looking scared. " But this four armed monster wants to destroy the world? How mean."

" I think we can all agree," said Spike, looking at all of them. " We all need to have no contact with Nirn at all."

All of them agreed, it was best if they don't visit Nirn. If just one of the more violent Daedric Prince's found out about Equestria, it would only end in disaster. They had an incline about what they were capable of, it was for the extreme best that Nirn and Equestria stay separate.

With all the Daedric Prince's discussed, the girls retired to the dining room to try some of the recipes Pinkie had come up with, to say they were hungry was an understatement.

" Hey I have just the thing to raise our spirits after so many morbid subjects," said Pinkie excitedly after they finished dinner.

"A PARTY!"

And she reached of screen and pulled up her party cannon, letting her trademark weapon of with a blast of confetti, the dining room becoming decorated in balloons, refreshments, and other such party supplies.

"Hhhhhhmmmmrrrr!"

That is when Hermaeus Mora appeared above, multiple eyes staring at Pinkie Pie and her cannon.

30 Party

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"What is this contraption, how did you smuggle it into Apocrypha?"

Twilight, Spike, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie looked on as Hermaeus Mora appeared above the now decorated dining room, slightly surprised by his sudden entry.

"Oh, it's my party cannon," answered Pinkie, stroking the barrel affectionately.

"Party cannon?" Inquired Hermaeus Mora, his tendrils twitching.

"Ya," said Pinkie excitedly, "Dimension jumping or not, I never leave home without it."

Tilting it up, Pinkie let off another blast, Hermaeus Mora suddenly becoming covered in confetti, with a party hat upon his eye. "Mortal, you are by far the most unusual creature I have ever encountered."

" Thank you," said Pinkie obliviously.

That said, Hermaeus Mora began to recede back into his vortexes.

"WAIT HERMMY!" Shouted Pinkie, running under the disappearing Daedra. " We're about to have a party, come join us."

"Uh, Pinkie..." began Twilight, but Hermaeus Mora began talking again.

"Debauchery is Sanguine's sphere, not mine," stated the Daedric Prince as the last part of him vanished along with his vortexes.

"Come on, don't be a wet blanket," said Pinkie, zipping off screen.

"PINKIE, NO!" shouted her friends but it was already to late.

"What do we do?" Asked Fluttershy nervously.

"Pray for Pinkie," said Twilight, looking at her friends grimly. " That's all we can do."

---

Hermaeus Mora appeared above a section of Apocrypha that was nothing but a shapeless mass of books stacked on top of each other.

"Come join us, Hermmy, " said the voice of Pinkie, Hermaeus Mora looking down to find her standing on the stack of books. "Even Daedric Princes are invited to a Pinkie party."

Hermaeus Mora just glared before sinking back into his vortexes.

---

He reappeared in the courtyard of a temple, framework of wrought iron housing several books in neat order.

A book dropped off one of the shelves, revealing a pair of light blue pony eyes.

"How do you know you won't like it if you don't try it?" Asked the voice of Pinkie, muffled by the wall.

Hermaeus Mora glared again and disappeared.

---

He reappeared above a great stone platform sticking out of the sea of ink, great stone arches covered in spikes stood tall on the surface, as well as a huge gazebo that housed a huge book.

"Come on, Hermmy," pleaded Pinkie Pie from besides the gazebo (somehow oblivious to the human skeleton lying next to her). " At least have some cake."

"Mortal, I don't eat!" snapped Hermaeus Mora aggressively.

"Really, aaww," replied Pinkie Pie sadly. "Well how about some party games? With so many arms you could play pin the tail on the pony and pop a pinata at the same time. Though I don't think I brought enough blindfolds for all your eyes. You would have to keep them closed..."

"GGGGRRRRRRRR!"

A tentacle seized Pinkie around the barrel and pulled her into the vortex...

---

And deposited her roughly on the floor in front of her friends.

"PINKIE!" They all gasped, helping Pinkie stand up.

"Are you alright, darling?" Asked Rarity worriedly as Pinkie shook herself like a dog.

"Let me make one thing perfectly clear, Mortal," said Hermaeus Mora, his voice echoing through the room and carrying an edge of irritation. "I am a Daedric Prince, such trivialities as the celebrations you're so fond of hold no value to me."

"Hey now, there is no need to act like that," snapped Applejack, stepping away from the huddle and standing directly before Hermaeus. "Pinkie was only..."

A tendril wrapped around Applejack's jaw, silencing her.

"And know this...never forget this..." continued Hermaeus Mora, his eyes squinting in anger. "The only reason I am tolerating your presence in my realm...is solely for the sake of my champion...she is of no value to me with a broken mind. Other than that...the rest of you are just refuse to me..."

With that, Hermaeus Mora vanished into his vortexes, Pinkie shaking too much to pursue him again.

"That...I..." Pinkie mumbled, tears forming in her eyes.

Slowly, Twilight drew her into a hug and stroked her mane.

"Don't take it to hard," said Twilight gently. "Hermaeus Mora is a Daedric Prince, and they look down on us mortals like we would the dirt."

"That was still so mean," said Fluttershy, joining the hug along with all the others.

“Don't think about it too much girls," said Twilight, smiling slightly as Pinkie started to chipper back up with the hug. "We don't bother him, he won't bother us."

"I hope we don't have to put up with him for too long," said Rainbow, scowling as the hug split up.

"He is probably thinking the same," said Twilight, bringing her attention back to the room. "But enough of this. Do you know how long it has been since I got to attend a Pinkie party."

Pinkie jumped up at that, any traces of unhappiness from before vanishing.

"I didn't even take that into consideration!" Said the excitable pony, scooping them all into her hooves and dragging them into her zone. "Fifteen years!"

The best way to describe it was to say the party literally exploded. They danced in conga lines, played party games, and the cake was thoroughly enjoyed. Needless to say, it became even more apparent to Twilight that her friends being here with her was just what she needed.

"Thank you, girls," said Twilight, once again dancing to a song on the record player. "I actually didn't realize I needed this so much until now."

"We're your friends," said Fluttershy, her smile both reassuring and sad as she danced to. "We will always be there for you."

"And I think we can all agree how ashamed we are of ourselves for being so easily diverted from you," said Applejack, also on the dance floor with a small glum look.

"We won't make that mistake again," said Rainbow, doing a pony version of the robot in the air. "Especially when it caused you to show us up so bad."

"I agree," said Rarity, moving as little as possible in her dress but still looking graceful. "I have never seen you, or anypony fight with such ferocity."

"I know it's not nice, but I can honestly say that I am glad Hermmy brain-sucked Chrysalis to death," said Pinkie, the others giving her a shocked look. "She was nothing but a party pooper, one that wrecked a wedding no less."

"Honestly, I never want to see another wedding as long as I live," said Spike while he did the moonwalk.

"Come on Spike, you still need to be the ring bearer when Shining Armour and Cadance really do get married," said Twilight.

They all remembered that Shining and Cadance had said that they would not have the wedding until Twilight could be there, and nodded in understanding. It may take awhile, for who knows how long it would take for Twilight to finish the task Hermaeus Mora is expecting from her. But they will get through it... together.
---
"I only wish I could meet some of these Dwemer dudes," stated Rainbow as she and the others sat among a pile of pillows to enjoy another helping of cake and punch.

"It will just have to be wishful thinking," said Rarity, lifting up a gem of her dress and looking at it fondly. "Just like how I will never have the pleasure of meeting the people who made this marvelous fabric."

Twilight flashed a look at her two friends who had brought souvenirs from their traveling of Apocrypha (at least inedible ones) over the cup of punch she was sipping. If they only knew what they were talking about. They might not be so excited.

But it would seem like she would be the one talking.

"Oh ho ho, I know that look," said Spike mischievously, elbowing her in the side. "You know something they don't, don't you?"

Twilight struggled to swallow her punch as all her friends looked at her. "I don't know what your talking about, Spike."

"Twilight?" Said Applejack with a slight warning, tapping her hoof.

Twilight exhaled in exasperation.

"One of these days I'll use my magic to erase all the quirks of mine you memorized," Twilight said bitterly to the smirking Spike.

"Come on, egghead, if you know something about the cool things we've found here, tell us," said Rainbow eagerly.

"And considering you were the one who showed them to us, don't hold out," said Rarity kindly. "I don't even know who it was that made this silk."

Twilight had to admit they were right, she showed them this stuff, it would be unfair for her not to tell them about it. She had not specifically told Apocrypha where to send each of them, but had studied enough here to know where they had wound up when they returned. Though now that she thought about it, she should have realized they would want to know more.

"Are you sure?" Asked Twilight, slightly nervous. "They don't exactly have happy stories."

Rainbow Dash and Rarity gave each other a look. This day has been full of unpleasant subjects, the Daedra were some of the foulest beings they had ever had the misfortune of learning about. But Rainbow Dash had thoroughly enjoyed those ruins, and the feel of the fabric had lost none of is allure for Rarity.

Somehow understanding each other, they turned to Twilight and nodded, who sighed.

"You already heard me call the people who built the ruins Rainbow explored as Dwemer, right?" Asked Twilight, all her friends nodding in confirmation. "Well Rarity, the people who designed the things you made that dress from, they were called the Ayleids."

"Al...yi...eds," pronounced Rarity, intrigue in her voice. "My, even their name sounds divine. Why, I might even name this outfit after..."

She suddenly stopped when what Twilight had said fully registered.

"Twilight... you said 'were?'" Said Rarity, her and the others giving her their undivided attention, the cake and punch forgotten for now.

Twilight only nodded her head sadly.

"Twi," gasped Applejack, her eyes wide. "You mean they're..."

"Gone," said Twilight simply. "Every single one."

They all look horrified.

"What happened?" Asked Rarity, looking at the dress she was wearing with extreme pity now.

"The Ayleids were among the races of people who built a kingdom after the Dragon wars," explained Twilight, the others watching with wrapped attention. "They were proud and prosperous, with cities that outshone even Canterlot."

"Wow," gasped Pinkie, staying still for the first time since the party started.

"Awesome," said Rainbow.

"Unbelievable," said Applejack, flabbergasted.

"I would have to see it to believe it!" Said Spike, trying to imagine how anything would even measure up to the city of his birth.

Fluttershy was speechless.

"How is that possible?" Asked Rarity, her eyes sparkling just imagining it.

"An Ayleid city was composed completely of white stone," explained Twilight, though she didn't look like she was enjoying the subject herself. "The biggest were said to appear to be piercing the very sky with daggers of pure white."

Twilight's friends could only marvel at the description.

"What happened to them?" Asked Fluttershy timidly.

"As you may have guess the Ayleids loved beauty, Rarity's dress being a prime example," continued Twilight, look at the ornate dress Rarity wore with mixed feelings. "But the thing they were most known for was what else they thought was beautiful. And what gave them their most known nickname...The Artists of Torture."

Twilight cringed as they all looked at her in horror.

"Artists of Torture?" Inquired Rainbow Dash before anyone else could regain their voices.

"Despite all the beautiful things they crafted, the Ayleids were completely egocentric," explained Twilight, slight disdain in her voice. "Anything that was not an Ayleid too was viewed as inferior to them, something they either tortured for amusement, or enslaved to build their majestic cities."

"By the Princess!" said Fluttershy, her eyes tearing up. "How bad were they?"

"Remember Iron Will?" Asked Twilight, Fluttershy nodding. "Nirn has Minotaurs too, the Ayleids tortured the whole race so much that they devolved into savages that roam the wilderness, as vicious as an Ursa."

They all collectively gasped, Fluttershy sobbing into Rarity's shoulder at the prospect of such cruelty.

"How... how horrible," said Rarity, looking at her dress. "How could something so beautiful be associated with such... evil."

"Now I really want to know what happened," said Rainbow viciously. "What stamped these evil jerks out?"

"Just like the dragons before, they pushed their slaves too far," said Twilight, "A slave by the name of Alessia, she rallied the other slaves into a revolt against their Ayleid masters. Long story short, the Ayleids were wiped out, and today all that is left is the crumbling ruins of their once mighty cities and the Welkynd Stones Rarity wears on her dress."

"I should not be wearing it at all," said Rarity, moving to take her dress off.

"I actually think it's a good idea to keep wearing it," said Twilight, Rarity giving her a look. "By doing something good with it, you undo the evil that was committed by the Ayleids. And besides, Welkynd Stones are beautiful and rare, they suite you."

Rarity blushed with flattery and kept the dress on, though she made a mental note to ask about the Welkynd Stones later. Despite being associated with the now known to be brutal Ayleids, they were still beautiful.

"Why didn't the Daedra do something?" Asked Spike. "Surely some of the people who were being tortured by the Ayleids were their followers."

"The Ayleids bribe the Daedric Princes so as to cut their slaves off from divine help," explained Twilight,"That is one of the reasons I think we should have nothing to do with them."

They all wore a shocked look.

"What about the Dwemer?" Asked Rainbow hurriedly. "We're they as bad?"

"Well...?" Began Twilight contemplating on how she should explain. "They had their vice's, like all people, but not too the extent of the Ayleids. They had allies amongst the other races of Nirn."

The topic changing off of the Ayleids seemed to calm the atmosphere of the room.

"But I am afraid meeting them won't be possible regardless, Rainbow," said Twilight, lowering her ears. "They do have one thing in common with the Ayleids. They are gone too."

"What, seriously?" said Rainbow in disappointment, crossing her hooves. "I take it that they were wiped out by former slaves too?"

"Actually Rainbow," began Twilight, her mood slightly improving. "What caused the Dwemer to disappear is such a fantastic tale, that it continues to baffle the people of Nirn to this very day."

That got their attention.

"They were a race of people like no other on Nirn, capable of doing great things with both magic and technology,"continued Twilight.

"Kinda figured that," stated Rainbow, "I mean, it's not every day you run into a temple filled with mechanical booby traps and robots rather than just plain booby traps."

"Exactly," agreed Twilight, a little excitement creeping into her voice. "Even today, the accomplishments of the Dwemer have not been out done by any of the other races on Nirn."

"If they were so smart, what happened to them?" Asked Applejack, though still engrossed in the tale like all the others.

Twilight prodded her chin in contemplation, the story of the downfall of the Dwemer was shrouded in mystery, she had studied every aspect of the subject. She didn't want to overwhelm her friends with to much detail, and she also didn't want to confuse them. She also was sure they would not understand a good deal.

"Yes, if they were so powerful and smart, what happened to them?" Asked Rarity.

"Well," continued Twilight, figuring she would start with the beginning. "I guess that you could say is that the Dwemer were brought down by the crowning achievement of their entire race."

The rest of them felt their intrigue increase exponentially after hearing that.

"You see after many thousands of years of prosper and success, the Dwemer one day made the ultimate discovery," explained Twilight, summoning a book with a flash of magic and showing them a picture. "This."

"Hey, we've seen this before," said Pinkie.

"You have?" Inquired Twilight with an arched brow.

"Yeah, when we first got here," said Spike, examining the depictions of a heart, a hammer, and a dagger. "It was this book that proved to Princess Celestia Hermaeus Mora really was from another dimension. She could not read the language."

"There are few who can, actually," explained Twilight, holding the book up to show them the page. "This is the language of the Dwemer, and the ability to decipher it was lost when the Dwemer disappeared."

"What does it say?" Asked Rarity.

"It is a written record of the Dwemer discovering something," continued Twilight, looking at the picture herself. "The discovery of the Heart of Lorkhan."

They all stared at her, eager to hear more.

"Sounds mystifying," said Rarity, "was this 'heart' some ancient magical artifact?"

"Oh, it was so much more than that, Rarity," replied Twilight, showing them the pages with the pictures again. "This is the Heart of Lorkhan...and it was literally the heart of someone who's name was Lorkhan."

There was a short pause.

"EEEEWWWWWW!"

"I know, not the most pleasant of thoughts," stated Twilight, rolling her eyes.

"That is truly revolting," exclaimed Rarity, her eyes scowling.

"How was finding the disembodied heart of somepony so important to the Dwemer?" Asked Rainbow Dash, her voice laced with disgust.

"Lorkhan was not just somepony," explained Twilight, her face becoming slightly serious. "You see, Lorkhan was an Aedra."

The girls and Spike gasped.

"You mean that group of powerful guys who made Nirn?" Asked Spike.

"Yes," confirmed Twilight.

"But...I thought you said the Aedra were reduced to planets floating around in the sky above Nirn," said Applejack, confused. "How did this guys heart wind up with these Dwemer people?"

"Lorkhan was not just one of the Aedra that created Nirn, girls," explained Twilight with dedication. "Nirn, the mortal people who live on Nirn, it was all his idea originally. He was the one who instigated it, and convinced the other Aedra to help him."

The others fell silent with amazement.

"And he was punished for it," finished Twilight.

"PUNISHED?" Inquired all of them.

Twilight nodded her head sadly. "In retribution for creating the world of Nirn...Lorkhan's body was sundered in half, his heart cast into the bowels of the world he himself created."

"Sundered...in half?" Inquired Fluttershy, her and the others looking slightly mortified.

Twilight pulled another scroll depicting a night sky out and showed them the picture of two spherical objects that looked slightly closer than the planets in the other picture.

"These are the legitimate moons of Nirn," explained Twilight, the others examining the picture. "Unlike the other Aedra, Lorkhan orbits Nirn as two planets, the red one is called Masser, the white Secunda. Both are separate halves of his body."

"Who would do such a thing?" Asked Fluttershy, the others wanting to know as well. "Who would be so cruel as to split in half someone who gave so much to create something? "

"That is where it gets confusing," said Twilight, looking at each of them to see if they were paying attention. "No one actually knows why Lorkhan was punished for creating Nirn. There are just some theories, one of them being some other powerful creature's found such a sacrifice an insult, and punished Lorkhan for being weak."

"Weak?" Inquired Applejack, looking annoyed. "Him and his partner Aedra make the ultimate sacrifice to give people life and to create a planet and someone thought it was weak?"

"Don't be too quick to congratulate the other Aedra like that, Applejack," said Twilight, Applejack giving her a concerned look. "One of the other theories is that it was the other Aedra who sundered Lorkhan."

"What?" Inquired Fluttershy, slight worry in her voice. "But they helped create Nirn."

"And in some of the legends told on Nirn, they are not aware what would happen if they did," said Twilight, her friends gasping in shock. "In the version of the legend where the other 'Aedra' ripped out Lorkhan's heart, they did so because he tricked them into assisting him without telling them of the great cost it would imply."

"Hey, that's kinda mean," said Pinkie angerly. "Why would he do that?"

"It would be best if we drop the subject, girls," said Twilight simply. "So much lore exists about Lorkhan and the creation of Nirn it would only confuse you."

The others wanted to continue, but decided to take Twilight's word for it. She knew what she was talking about, and if she said that thing's were better off left unsaid, they believed her. Besides, they had drifted off topic.

"So what part did the heart play in why the Dwemer aren't around anymore?" Asked Rainbow Dash excitedly.

“Well, being that it was a virtual part of an Aedra, it housed some of Lorkhan's immense power," explained Twilight, "And when the Dwemer discovered it, they found a way to harness that power for themselves."

"How?" Asked Spike. "If there is one thing I have learned from playing Ogres and Oubliettes, it's that when you deal with powerful magic, it usually is not easy to control."

"Spike, this is not a RP board game," said Rainbow Dash irritably. "These Dwemer guys were awesome enough to build robots, I bet using the magic of this guys heart was no problem."

"Actually, you're both right," said Twilight before the pegasus and dragon could argue. "Despite all their achievement, the power of the Heart of Lorkhan was beyond their control, at least on their own."

"So how did they use the heart?" Asked Rainbow Dash, looking slightly impatient.

"They built these," explained Twilight, pointing to the image of the hammer and dagger. "This book, it's actually the original guide to the method that the Dwemer used to harness the power of an Aedra, through building these special objects."

"What are they?" Asked Rarity, observing the two weapons with scrutiny.

"The Dwemer called them the Tools of Kagrenac, after the Dwemer engineer who built them," explained Twilight, her eyes shining. "And they were the most advanced and impressive feat of magic of all time. The dagger is Keening, the hammer is Sunder."

"Kagrenac?" Inquired Rainbow Dash, scratching her head. "And I thought Derpy's name was funny sounding."

"And with them, the Dwemer could wield the power of the Heart? " Asked Rarity.

"Almost," answered Twilight, "There was still one obstacle the Dwemer needed to overcome."

"Well enough with the suspension Twilight," complained Applejack, looking like she was about to burst from the excitement. "What was it?"

"As intelligent and accomplished as the Dwemer were, they were still mortal," explained Twilight. "To put it simply, people of flesh and blood, like us, are physically incapable of housing the power of something like an Aedra. Our bodies can't handle it, and because of that, even though the Keening and Sunder could harness the power of the Heart, anyone who wielded them died."

Another round of gasps filled the room.

"How terrible," said Fluttershy silently.

"How did they overcome that?" Asked Pinkie Pie.

"With a simple solution, actually," explained Twilight, centering her attention solely on Pinkie. "Basically, when the Dwemer were using the Tools of Kagrenac to try and harnest the power, they were basicly reaching into the oven to pull the cake out 'without protection'. Pinkie, what do you do when you need to pull a cake out of the oven?"

"I use an oven mitt, of course," answered Pinkie, but then flashed a startled look. "An oven mitt!"

"Twi, do you mean to say...?"

"Yes," said Twilight, answering Applejack's unfinished question. "To counteract the deadly effects of the Tools of Kagrenac the Dwemer created an oven mitt.

With her horn, Twilight projected an image of a copper gauntlet, five fingers at one end. "They had Kagrenac forge the Wraithguard, the third Tool of Kagrenac. It, combined with the Keening and Sunder, gave the Dwemer control of the Heart of Lorkhan at last."

Her friends stared on with wonder for a while.

"What did they do with it? " Asked Rainbow, almost drooling with excitement.

"They could have done anything," said Twilight, her enthusiasm from before diminishing. "Like I have said before, beings like Hermaeus Mora are more powerful than Discord, and with the Heart of Lorkhan the Dwemer had this power."

"Darling, you look distressed," said Rarity in concern. "Did the Dwemer do something horrible with this new power?"

"You could say that," began Twilight, her face drooping a little. "The Dwemer decided to use the heart to conquer the world."

A collection of groans filled the room.

"Here we go again!" Said Rainbow Dash in irritation.

"Can't anyone from this Nirn place actually make a benevolent decision with power?" Inquired Applejack.

"Believe me, I asked myself that question a lot," said Twilight. "Would you like me continue?"

"Might as well," said Pinkie, looking annoyed herself.

"Well, as you can imagine, the others kingdoms of Nirn didn't just sit idly by and let the Dwemer threaten them," explained Twilight. "Relationships with the Dwemer were already shaky, do to how much more technologically advanced they were, but now they had a source of unlimited power."

"What did they do with it?" Asked Rainbow again eagerly.

"You remember the robot you fought in the Dwemer ruin?" Asked Twilight, Rainbow nodding. "The Dwemer planned to use the Heart of Lorkhan to power one of those machines, only this one would be the size of a mountain. And basically, the Dwemer also intended to worship this creation as the new deity of their people."

"But, the Daedric Princes?" Started Fluttershy, her voice shaking. "They already were worshipped by the people who live on Nirn, right?"

"After the power of the Heart of Lorkhan became manageable, the Dwemer figured they could build their own idol," said Twilight, her friends looking at her with budding surprise. "And to put it simply, they also thought this one would be better than even the original Daedric Princes."

"They seriously wanted to build their own god out of metal?" Inquired Pinkie Pie, shaking her head pitifully. "I bet that didn't make the fan clubs of the other Daedric guys very happy."

"You are right, Pinkie," said Twilight, resuming her explanation. "And it also didn't help that the Dwemer intended to use this new deity to drive all other races from their home continent, and claim it for themselves."

"How horrible," said Rarity, scowling along with the others. "These Dwemer...they sound just as bad as Queen Chrysalis."

"So what happened next?" asked Rainbow.

"Another group of people who lived in the same country as the Dwemer resisted,“ explained Twilight. "They were called the Chimer, and for several years they and the Dwemer were allies. But once they learned what the Dwemer planned to do, they took up arms and struck back. They were also fearful that the Daedric Princes would take offence of mortals attempting to construct their own god."

"Since the Dwemer are already gone, I'm guessing that they were wiped out," said Rainbow Dash looking disappointed. "Just like the dragons and the Ayleids."

"Not exactly, Rainbow," said Twilight. "Whereas the wars that wiped the Dragons and Ayleids from existence lasted several decades, the war between the Dwemer and the Chimer only lasted two years."

"So short?" Inquired Applejack, surprised. "Rainbow said she fought multiple robots in the old Dwemer building she explored. If the Dwemer had such technology, why didn't their demise take longer?"

"A lot is unclear," started Twilight, her voice instilling her audience to pay more attention. "In the several hundred years since all this happened, a lot of facts were lost. But what I do know is that the Chimer could not let the war go on for to long, for on top of creating their own deity to worship, the Dwemer also intended to use the heart to make their entire race immortal."

"Immortal?" Inquired Spike, shocked like the others. "You mean..."

"Yes...and even more so than the Dragons and vampires are," explained Twilight enthusiastically. "If they succeeded, the Dwemer could not even be killed physically."

The others looked on, trying to wrap their heads around such a notion.

"What happened next?" requested Fluttershy gently.

"The high council of the Chimer sent their forces to the Dwemer laboratory located in Red Mountain, a volcanic mountain that was formed when the Heart of Lorkhan fell to the planet, and where the Dwemer were building their artificial god, Numidium," explained Twilight, her wrapped audience hanging on her every word. "Eventually, the Chimer were able to breach the Dwemer's defense's, and made their way into the inner sanctuary...then the Dwemer vanished."

"You mean they retreated?" Asked Applejack.

"No," answered Twilight simply. " Suddenly, in the very middle of the battle, all the Dwemer just disappeared. In less than a blink, the Chimer found their Dwemer foes just plain gone."

All her friends jaws grew slack.

"What happened to them?" Asked Spike, Rainbow Dash leaning in closer to Twilight.

"No one knows," explained Twilight, her own intrigue increasing. "That is one of the biggest mysteries on Nirn. In less than a second, the Dwemer, the most advanced race on the planet, vanished into thin air, even the fallen Dwemer soldiers on the slopes of Red Mountain had disappeared."

"But how?" Asked Rarity.

"That is not entirely known either," said Twilight, looking at the book shelf and all the books. "What historians on Nirn were able to figure out is that Kagrenac barricaded himself in the chamber where the heart and Numidium were kept during the battle. It's mostly guess work, but they think that he tried to use his tools on the heart and activate their artificial god, and whatever he did lead to the disappearances of his entire race."

"Incredible, but also terrifying," whispered Pinkie Pie, shaking slightly. " An entire race of people, gone like that."

"And like I said, to this day, no one knows what happened to them," said Twilight. "The basic theories are that Kagrenac botched whatever it was he tried to do and it destroyed the Dwemer, or that whatever he did did make the Dwemer immortal, but also moved them off the physical plane, most likely to a void of emptiness."

They all contemplated that for a while longer. It was an amazing fact, but also terrible. A race of prosperous people, gone in less than a second.

"Hey, why was the place I explored in such bad shape?" Asked Rainbow. "If these Chimer guys lived in the same area as the Dwemer, couldn't they have taken all their cool toys for themselves?"

"Rainbow!" Scolded Applejack.

"They couldn't," said Twilight, answering Rainbows less than sensitive question. "The Dwemer shared none of their secrets with anyone, so when they disappeared, they took all the knowledge of their tech and magic with them, leaving no one who knew how to operate them. To this day, even though they are rusting away, Dwemer ruins are dangerous to enter, for the booby traps and machines guard the structure as if their Dwemer masters still roam the halls, even though they are long gone."

Again, they contemplated these facts.

"What happened to the Heart of Lorkhan?" Asked Fluttershy in her quiet voice. "I hope these Chimer people destroyed it."

"That actually isn't possible," answered Twilight, shaking her head. "The Heart of Lorkhan is basically the heart of Nirn itself, since Lorkhan technically created Nirn. Destroying it would mean the destruction of Nirn as well."

Her friends stared on in shock again.

"If they could not destroy it, what did happen to it?" Asked Rainbow.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't done causing trouble," stated Twilight simply.

"What do you mean?" Asked Rarity worriedly. "The Dwemer had vanished."

For the next hour, Twilight explained the darker aspects the heart caused for Nirn next. The Tribunal, Great house Dagoth, Dagoth Ur, the Sixth House, the Nerevarine(the reincarnation of Nevevar, the Chimer general who led the assault on Red Mountain) the destruction of Numidium and Dagoth Ur's recreation attempt, Akulakhan. You could say they were flabbergasted.

" ...using the Tools of Kagrenac, as well as fending off the power mad Dagoth Ur, the Nerevarine was able to break all the enchantments the Dwemer had put on the heart," explained Twilight, slightly winded. "Free of all its binding, the Heart of Lorkhan left Nirn, having been fed up with being sought after so mortals could obtain divine power. And with nothing to power them, Akulakha and Dagoth Ur were both destroyed."

"The Chimer should have stuck to their guns," said a just now calm Applejack. "The Daedra 'were' insulted when someone used that heart."

"Insulted?" Inquired Rarity, tears streaming her makeup. "The graceful Chimer, cursed with ash colored skin and blood red eyes, so tragic."

"You were right, Twilight," said Fluttershy, trembling slightly. "Azura might be a more benign Daedra, but when she gets mad..."

"How stupid of those three," said Pinkie, scowling. "They all knew the Daedra would not be happy if someone used the ticker of old Lorkhan, but they did it anyway."

Twilight nodded her head in agreement.

"So what happened to the Tribunal? " Asked Spike curiously. "With the heart gone, and them losing their power, I'm guessing it wasn't good."

"Vivec disappeared during the Oblivion Crisis," continued Twilight, remembering all she could of what happened next. "Almaxelia, unfortunately, took the loss the hardest. She murdered Sotha Sil and took control of his Clockwork City, the realm where those creatures those four kids can summon come from, intending to use it to cover up the fact that she was no longer immortal from her followers."

They all flashed her a look of pure horror.

"How could she do that?" Asked Pinkie Pie, tears flowing down her face. "Her and Sotha Sil were friends."

"The best answer I can give is that power corrupts," replied Twilight, shaking her head pitifully.

"She didn't succeed, did she?" Asked Rainbow angrily.

"No," answered Twilight, a smile on her face. "The Nerevarine was not done leaving his stamp on history, it would seem. He stepped in and struck Almaxelia down, just like he struck down Dagoth Ur."

"Now that is awesome," said Rainbow Dash, taking flight and punching the air. "This Nerevarine sounds like my kinda guy. Kicking the rump of not one but two baddies bent on world conquest."

"As cool as these tales were, I say we hit the dance floor again," said Pinkie, somehow pushing them all to said floor without knocking any of them down. "There were more than enough depressing topics there to warrant it."

They looked at each other in confusion once but shrugged and went with it. Pinkie will be Pinkie after all. So within a few moments the party kicked back up, Pinkie dancing with a lampshade on her head that had not been present before.

31 You need only ask

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The party continued well into the hours, though none knew how long due to the never changing sky of Apocrypha. But this was more than just a simple Pinkie party (or as simple as a Pinkie party gets) for them. This was healing. After having such a crippling blow to their emotional bond, this helped restore the faith that had in each other.

Though a Pinkie party would not be complete without an unexpected surprise, which came in the form of Spike sitting down and eating some crystals from his pockets.

"Spike!" Said Twilight in a horrified voice, walking up to her number one assistant as he sat reclined on a pillow in the corner of the room. "Where did you find those?"

Spike swallowed his glittering mouthful and flashed her a grateful look. "In the room me and Rarity explored when you sent each of us to different places," answered Spike, pulling another from his pocket and looking at it with a hungry expression."I have never tasted anything so wonderful." He bought it to his mouth.

"SPIKE, NO," Shouted Twilight, her raised voice drawing the attention of the others.

But it was too late; with a tinkling sound, followed by wrapped crunching, Spike to a bite of his gem. He chewed with relish as the magnificent taste danced on his tongue, tear's rimming his eyes, which were closed in ecstasy. With near regret, he swallowed.

"I have no idea what these beauties are, but I can't get enough of them," said Spike to Twilight, oblivious to her look of dread. "Do you think we could find some of these in Equestr...?"

Suddenly, Spike sat dolt up, trembling from head to tail. His eyes flew open wide, his pupils dilated to the point that his whole eyes turned completely black. Then, without warning, he fell onto his back with an unceremonious thump.

"SPIKE!" They all shouted, surrounding the baby dragon as Twilight scooped him into her hooves.

"What's wrong with him?" Asked Fluttershy worriedly.

"I... I don't know," answered Twilight, casting a look at the half eaten gem on the floor.

---

The small white fox hissed as it backed up to a fallen log, glowing slightly purple. A tall biped stood before it, lowering a hand that had been glowing a similar purple. The fox growled as a small glistening dagger was produced from the hemline of the creature's black robe.

It lunged, the dagger posed to strike.

---

Spike snapped out of his unusual state in a second.

"Oh, thank goodness you're okay," said Rarity, nuzzling Spike as Twilight held him.

"Are you alright?" Asked Twilight as she set him back on his feet.

"I...I think so," answered Spike, holding a claw to his head as he wobbled on his feet.

"What happened?" Asked Fluttershy, looking at the crystal wearily.

"I don't know," said Spike, also looking at the crystal. "After I took a bite, suddenly I was a fox. It was being attacked by one of the creature's Twilight showed us when we discussed Nirn."

They all look on in worry.

"And... what happened?" Asked Twilight, though she had a theory.

"It...used a spell that made the fox glow purple," explained Spike, finally over his weariness and was standing straight again. "Then it came forward with a knife...that's when I woke up."

"What was this person wearing?" Asked Twilight seriously.

"Uh...a black rode with a red skull on the front," answered Spike, though he failed to understand why that was important.

"Twilight?" Inquired Rarity, looking at the half eaten crystal on the floor. "What is this thing?"

Twilight only looked at the crystal with slight disgust.

"It's called a soul gem," explained Twilight.

"A soul gem?" Inquired Spike, scratching his head.

"Sound kinda ominous," said Applejack, her intuition telling her something was up. "Does it do something?"

"You could say that," replied Twilight. Her initial instinct was to suppress the truth, but she had learned in the recent hours that she should trust her friends, and no matter how horrible, she should share what she knows. Even something like this.

"The people of Nirn who practice necromancy," explained Twilight, looking at each of them regretfully. "Use these gem to house the souls they collect. The purple spell Spike saw is called soul trap, the spell that draws the soul into the gem, where after the individual who cast the spell is done with it, it becomes the property of the Ideal Masters."

They all look on with a shocked look once again.

"But...I have have eaten a ton of these," said Spike, turning slightly green. "Why didn't it happen till now?"

"They must not have had a soul in them," said Twilight, giving Spike a sympathetic look.

The little dragon wretched, then speed from the room at top speed, likely to the nearest bathroom. It was a slightly awkward talking to him after that, it was also not everyday you find out you can see something’s memories after ingesting their soul. Needless to say, Fluttershy had something to say about that.

"That poor fox," said Fluttershy hysterically. "How could anyone be so cruel?"

But luckily, the atmosphere of the party managed to brighten up, though it wasn't surprising with Pinkie there and all. Though unfortunately, all good things come to an end. And Pinkie decided to call it quits when even she started to get yawns.

"Thank you, girls," said Twilight as she and the others headed to the rooms provided. "I really needed this."

"It's not a problem, darling," said Rarity, giving a comforting smile.

"Heck, it's the least we could do," said Applejack, walking in front. "Especially after what you have been through."

"Getting sucked into a dark cave, where you meet an ageless evil you had met years prior, who then gave you the power needed to defend Equestria from a threat only you could see, but at a cost that took you from your home," listed Pinkie, looking at Twilight worriedly from behind. “And there's also the 'fifteen years' thing"

Twilight could only roll her eyes at Pinkies antics.

"Hey, that's actually a lot, if you consider it," said Rainbow, walking on the floor with the rest of them, too pooped herself to fly.

"I only wish there was more we could do, other than just be here for you," said Fluttershy regretfully.

Twilight cringed inside at that notion, averting her eyes to look down. What Fluttershy caused her to remember what she realized before she collapsed from exhaustion earlier, about how she contemplated that if more ponies could assist her in freeing Durnehviir, it would get done so much faster. Her friends even had Hermaeus Mora's image on their flanks now, same as her.

But how could she burden them with that?

The Thu'um was no Stare, Sonic Rainbow boom, or Party cannon. Learning it had been the most difficult thing she had ever endeavored, and having its power weighed heavily on her conscience. Nothing was impossible with the Thu'um, and trying to restrain herself in Canterlot was incredibly difficult, how could she burden somepony else with such a responsibility?

But her thoughts derailed when her muzzle impacted into another.

"Twilight," said Pinkie, her eyes squinting in mild irritation. " What is it you're keeping from us?"

Twilight fell onto her rump in shock, a nervous grin on her face.

"I...I don't know what your talking about, Pinkie," said Twilight, fat drops of sweat running down her forehead.

"Twilight," said Applejack warningly, her and the others sitting in front of her, forming a wall.

Twilight dropped her fake smile with a huff and flashed Pinkie an annoyed look. "How did you know?"

"My left second rib got tingly," said Pinkie sternly. "That one means a friend knows a solution to a problem but is afraid to ask for help."

"Twilight," said Rainbow, lifting off the ground despite her exhaustion, and giving her purple friend a look. "Is there something you're holding back? Something we could do to help you? You know you need only ask us."

Twilight wanted to hide it, to tell them no, but then remembered all the time she spent here in Apocrypha. How long would it take for her to fulfill Hermaeus Mora's desires on her own? Her friends were right here, and plus, she also knew they would do anything for her.

"I know how to free Durnehviir," said Twilight silently and with resignation. "The method I already have used works, but I have run into a complication."

Her friends gave shocked looks when they heard this news.

"And what is this complication?" Asked Rarity eagerly.

"Yeah, Twilight, spill," said Rainbow Dash, also excited.

Twilight felt her urge to back down surface again, to hide the truth. To protect them. But she beat it back like a lion tamer would a lion.

She was their friend, and they were hers, they would do this together. "Pinkie is right."

The others grew excited looks.

"The spell I have been using works, Durnehviir confirmed that the hold the Soul Cairn has on him grew weaker as I cast it," explained Twilight, her friends all giving her their undivided attention for the umpteenth time that night. "But the problem is, the longer he is out of the Soul Cairn, the stronger the pull back becomes, and I can't seem to get the spell to work any faster. Durnehviir is pulled back to the Soul Cairn before the spell can work."

Twilight could only stare as her friends looked on with confusion.

"Are you sure we can help with something like that?" Asked Rainbow doubtfully.

"Yeah, besides the fact that only one other of us is a unicorn, we don't have near the book smarts you do," exclaimed Applejack.

"And you're leagues ahead of me in that regard, darling," said Rarity sadly.

"Come on, my Pinkie sense has never been wrong before," consoled Pinkie.

"The solution I have in mind doesn't have anything to do with my spell," explained Twilight, her resolve gaining strength the closer she got to her theory. "That spell is as powerful as it can be....but if somepony else were to keep the pull of the Soul Cairn back for a longer period of time, it might work."

"Hold the pull of the Soul Cairn back?" Inquired Fluttershy, her face contorting with confusion. "How?"

"If..." Twilight had a lump form in her throat. "If somepony else used the Thu'um while I used the spell."

The air grew deathly still. Her friends may not be as smart as her, but they were not idiots. They could put two and two together, and even could see the fundamental side of it. It made sense to all of them, but what she was implying, could she really mean...

"Twilight..." began Fluttershy, somehow beating the others to the first word. "Are you saying... if one of us used the Thu'um while you cast the spell...that would work?"

"Not one," stated Twilight with a sad smile. "The more using the Thu'um the better." She focused on Spike, who was just as stunned as the rest. "Pony or otherwise."

Spike stiffened up and pointed to himself in confusion.

"How can this be possible?" Asked Rainbow, obviously very confused. "Most of us are not unicorns, we can't do all that fancy magic mambo jumbo."

"Earth ponies and Pegasi can't do magic unicorns can do," explained Twilight, looking up at the ceiling in contemplation. "The magic that originated from Nirn is a lot different. It is so compatible, any creature can use it."

Their looks of doubt were replaced with a look of excitement again.

"Twilight, does that mean any of us could learn to do shouting that can make rooms explode?" Asked Pinkie, bouncing with excitement.

Twilight only nodded.

"But, it took you fifteen years to learn all this fancy stuff," complained Applejack, the others agreeing with a nod, even Pinkie was slightly let down.

"I have a solution to that as well," said Twilight, her look growing slightly prideful. "The magic I learned while here in Apocrypha was unlike anything I have ever seen, but I am sorry to say, the method the people of Nirn use to harness it is completely obsolete."

"Twilight, it's not like you to talk down on others who study magic," said Spike, looking surprised.

"But it's true," said Twilight, shaking her head. "All the processes documented in those spell books I have studied were full of flaws and unnecessary steps. Equestrian magic may not be on par with Nirn, but ponies corrected these types of things long ago. My best guess would be the people of Nirn have yet to fully grasp what magic generally is."

"As interesting as all that sounds, what does that have to do with the fifteen years you spent here studying?" Asked Rainbow impatiently. "And how does it help us now?"

"I didn't just study, Rainbow," answered Twilight. "While I was at it, I corrected all the flaws and replaced some of the equations with less obsolete ones. In doing so, what I had to do to learn the Thu'um, plus the more common magic of Nirn, will be reduced to a mere fraction of what it was."

Their look of excitement only grew.

"Are you serious, Twilight? " Asked Applejack.

"Yes," said Twilight simply. "But only if you're willing to..."

"You better believe it, we are," said Pinkie, slamming into Twilight with a fierce hug.

"Yes darling, of course we'll do this," said Rarity, also joining the hug.

"You did it, so can we," said Rainbow Dash, hugging Twilight from behind. "Plus, if I can control the weather with but a word, that would be awesome."

"I agree, we are all with you," said Fluttershy, hugging Twilight's neck. "And if I could calm animals the way Hermaeus Mora calmed all of Equestria, I think I'd like that."

"I am in," was all Applejack said as she joined the group hug.

"Hey, I have always wanted to be able to do magic the way Twilight can," said Spike, last to join the hug.

Twilight fell into a world of bliss. Why did she ever think it was a good idea to exclude her friends from the prospects of learning magic from Nirn, especially now that they were here, in Apocrypha with her? She needed to stop playing the role of guardian with them, they were her equal.

And now that they were on board with her, she now had a door to several more possibilities.

With reluctance, Twilight separated from the group hug and head in the opposite direction of the sleeping area.

"Twilight, where are you going?" Asked Applejack worriedly.

"Girls, go get some sleep," said Twilight with conviction, looking at them over her shoulder before she left out the door. "We have a big day tomorrow, but before I can go to bed I need to see a Daedric Prince about a book."

The others could only stare as she left, but knew better than to try and stop her. And if all she said was true, tomorrow was going to be a big day. In fact, it was likely to change their lives forever.

Taking their friends advice, they all turned in.



---

"HERMAEUS MORA," called the weary Twilight as she stood upon the gazebo that housed a huge book. "I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME, I REQUEST YOUR ASSISTANCE."

"Such gall, my champion," said Hermaeus Mora as he materialized above, multiple eyes staring at Twilight. "You would do well to remember who you are speaking to."

"Don't act like you don't know why I am here," said Twilight sternly. "I should have guessed you knew this would happen, with how willingly you let my friends stay here, and how out of your way you went to insure they could without harm."

"Indeed," said Hermaeus Mora, multiple books covering subjects from magic (including the book on the Thu'um) and history floating forward and merging with the book resting on the stand beneath Twilight.

32 Centurion conundrum

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Fluttershy tossed and turned in her sleep, crying as her dreams were plagued by horrible images.

---

"Twilight, its okay," said Fluttershy as she stood before the purple unicorn lying prone on the floor, nothing around but pure darkness as Twilight sobbed into her hooves. "I'm here, I will help you get through...

Fluttershy gasped as something coiled around the hoof she was reaching out to Twilight. It was an ornate ribbons, violet in color, and when she followed it she gasped in fear. Hovering behind her was her ornate bridesmaid dress, the ribbons that make up the neck wiggling like tendrils.

"NO!" Shouted Fluttershy, reaching her other hoof to Twilight, only to have it wrapped in a ribbon to. "I won't...Twilight needs me...NO!"

She squirmed and flapped, but was ultimately powerless to stop herself from being drawn into her Bridesmaid dress, which molded around her like liquid as she made contact. Then the ribbon tendrils began dragging her backwards, and when she looked, she saw her friends and Princess Celestia standing upon an ornate altar, where Cadance and Shining Armour stood with an expecting smile.

"NO! I WON'T DO THIS AGAIN!" Shouted Fluttershy as she tried to crawl against the floor to return to her friends side. "TWILIGHT! "

"Twilight can join us when she is ready to apologies for her uncouth behavior," said the apparition of Rarity as Fluttershy was dragged next to her, being anchored in place as the ribbons dug themselves deep into the unseen ground next to her. "Come now darling, surely you don't want to miss the wedding."

"THE WEDDING DOES NOT MATTER!" Shouted Fluttershy frantically, still struggling to return to her friend who she had not taken her eyes off of. "TWILIGHT NEEDS US, WE CAN'T JUST..."

"HAHAHAHAHAAA."

Fluttershy was struck silent with fear as two huge black tendrils sprang up besides Twilight, who didn't even lift her head. She watched on, for despite the lack of light, the tendrils cast a shadow over Twilight, masking all but her silhouette. The unicorn still remained unmoving.

Then a mighty silhouette of membranous wings flapped open above Twilight, a mighty roar sounding throughout the area.

"Rise, my champion. Rise, and show them your power."

Twilight finally stood up, her silent sobs ceasing. She stood, steady as a rock, her posture carrying none of the distress she was extruding mere moments ago. Then eyes open in the dark, blood red eyes that glowed sinisterly in the great darkness.

Fluttershy was speechless.

Then Twilight let out a fierce battle cry, leaping forward and over the stunned Fluttershy, who now stood alone on the steps of the altar, other than Cadance. Twilight tackled her to the ground, the purple unicorn and the pink Alicorn rolling across the unseen floor, wrestling viciously.

"TWILIGHT," screamed Fluttershy, still struggling with the dress that kept her rooted in place.

Then Twilight and Cadance separated, leaping to their hooves and facing each other with angry sneers. From this point, Fluttershy could see Twilight had tendrils covering her flank, the eye in the middle looking into her very soul. Then, without warning, Twilight let loose a blast of sound from her mouth, a blue mist striking Cadance and pushing her back.

Leaving the image of Cadance behind.

Fluttershy watched in horror as Queen Chrysalis landed in the embrace of a mass of tendrils, letting out one unnatural scream as they wrapped her up. Then a vortex of tentacles opened above, and Fluttershy screamed as they plunged into Chrysalis's skull, her scream of fear morphing into a scream of pain.Then she was dropped to the floor, unmoving.

"Hmhmhmhm...hahahaha," Fluttershy turned from the prone Changeling to see Twilight hovering in the air, laughing sinisterly at the still queen.

Then her laughter changed in pitch, becoming deeper until it didn't sound pony at all. Then horrible realization struck Fluttershy as the laughter changed another pitch. She knew who this laughter belongs too and it did nothing but elevate her fear.

"Hahahahahahahaaa" the laughter of Hermaeus Mora echoed through the air as his tendrils extruded out on either side of Twilight.

"TWILIGHT, NO!"

---

Fluttershy awoke with a scream that was quickly muffled when her thrashing got her tangled in her blanket. Cut off from seeing, the frantic pegasus took to the air Instinctively, her wings having enough room to flap. She crashed through the door of her room and down the hall to where Twilight was doing her research, getting caught on the chalkboard and flipped end over end in the rotating frame.

"WOAH...WOAH...WOAH!"

Fluttershy slipped out of her blanket like the contents of a squeezed burrito.

She landed on a bookstand with a black book on it.

A book that grabbed her in a black tendril when it accidentally opened, and dragged her inside.

---

"And your certain this will work?" asked Hermaeus Mora, uncharacteristic wonder in his voice.

"Definitely," replied Twilight, firing up her horn. "A little assistance from you, and some Equestrian knowledge, courtesy of the brilliant pony Hay Cart, I am certain it will work."

"Intriguing..., I must find out more about this 'Hay Cart'," stated Hermaeus Mora.

"Later, for now..." Twilight let loose a blue beam from her horn that impacted the huge book Hermaeus Mora had been merging other books into before. As soon as it made contact, Hermaeus Mora extended his tendrils and grasped the edges of the open books cover. A Daedric Prince and a powerful unicorn, together their magic amplified each other and made the spell that much stronger.

"With each passing moment, I learn something incredible about this new world," said Hermaeus Mora, the book pages flying back and forth as magic from two world's was infused with it. "Such integrity to this spell."

All fell silent as Twilight discontinued her magic, the pages of the book falling still. With great excitement, plus a little suspension, Twilight stretched her hoof. As soon as it made contact with the paper(which glowed blue) her hoof sank into the book like she was stepping into water.

"It worked," said Twilight, clapping her hooves in excitement. "With this my friends will have no trouble learning the Thu'um and more."

"Congratulations, my champion, you have succeeded in your endeavors once again," said Hermaeus Mora, Twilight bowing to him respectfully. "Although, regarding your companions...you may want to act before one is lost."

"LOST!?" Gasped Twilight, her demeanor changing to one of concern."What do you mean?"

"The timid pegasus...she has found herself in a bit of a situation."

"FLUTTERSHY!?" Inquired Twilight frantically, losing her composure in her fear. "What happened? "

"Your friend has not the time for me to explain," said Hermaeus Mora, a tendril extending a black book to Twilight. "You had best hurry...my champion."

---

Fluttershy could only stare on with dread as the huge metal creature bore down on her in the corner she was huddled into. The first thing she noticed when she found herself here was the strange metal spiders that were scurrying all over what she thought was a fallen brass statue. She had approached them hoping to get directions out of here.

But then, one of the metal spiders put a spinning orb into the statues chest, and it stood up.

It didn't take long for it to notice her, brandishing the axe and hammer it had for arms. Now she was trapped in a place with no escape, a horrific mechanical monster blocking her in this small space. And it looked at her without pity or mercy, clearly going to end her without hesitation.

Fluttershy cringed as the Dwemer Centurion raised its hammer, tears streaming her eyes, to scared to even scream.

'VEN GAAR NOS'

Fluttershy looked up at the strange noise in time to see the huge monster get carried away by a small tornado, spinning and spinning as it was deposited on the ground about half a yard away. It stood up, looking in all directions, seeking its assailant. Fluttershy was still to scared to move, so she stayed hunkered down and watched.

"Hey, Cheese brain."

The echoing voice sounded to the Dwemer Centurion's left, drawing its attention, Fluttershy noticing a purple flash in the distance.

" Hey, Skeever butt."

Another echo brought the Dwemer Centurion's attention to another direction, holding its weapons posed as it stepped forward, unaware of the next purple flash.

" Hey, slug breath."

Another echo brought the Dwemer Centurion close to the wall opposite of Fluttershy.

"Hey, you overgrown toaster!" Said a familiar voice.

Fluttershy looked up to see Twilight standing on a ledge a couple feet up. The Dwemer Centurion looked at her as she stared at it with an unamused look. Then, without much fanfare, Twilight pulled a lever that was up on the ledge with her that Fluttershy hadn't noticed.

There was a loud twang, and Fluttershy watch as a huge crossbow that was just above Twilight’s head let loose its projectiles. Three pointed cylinders raced through the air at a slant, speeding towards the Dwemer Centurion at a blinding speed. There was the sound of metal tearing through metal.

Fluttershy watched as the machine that threatened her fell to the ground, three huge darts protruding from its chest as it threw out arches of electricity.

"FLUTTERSHY!" In a flash of purple, Twilight appeared on the floor, racing up to her cowering friend. "Fluttershy, are you alright?"

Raging fear from her brush with that horrible mechanical monster, plus the fresh trauma from her nightmare slammed into Fluttershy like a falling boulder, and her tears returned. She sobbed openly in front of her friend, who only felt her worry increase. Slowly, she reached out a hoof...

Only to have the sobbing pegasus leap up and tackle her to the ground, sobbing loudly into her chest.

"I'm sorry," mumbled Fluttershy, rubbing her tear stained face into Twilight's purple chest.

Twilight was at a loss for words, for she knew Fluttershy was sensitive when it came to danger, but she had never seen her break down this hard, especially now that the danger had past. But something deep inside her told her words of comfort would only make things worse. So she wrapped her pegasus friend up into her own embrace and nuzzled her mane with her nose. She actually smelled quite nice.

But hearing Fluttershy repeatedly say she was sorry brought her back to reality.

Channeling her magic, Twilight made both herself and Fluttershy vanish, reappearing on a soft surface. Fluttershy looked up in time to see Twilight roll them both over onto their sides, covering them both with a blanket. The group photo of them, yellowing with age, told her this was Twilight's room.

"Twilight...what?" Fluttershy was cut off when Twilight put a hoof over her mouth.

"Shhh," she cooed gently, pulling Fluttershy to her chest. "Just rest...I will stay with you until you wake."

Tear's budded in Fluttershy's eyes again as her emotions boiled to the surface again, crying silently into Twilight's chest. Twilight stayed as she said she would, stroking her friends mane, relief to have gotten to her in time flooding her, making her shed some tears as well. That was close, too close.

She would need to thank Hermaeus for this later.

After a while, Fluttershy ceased crying and just begun breathing calmly, fast asleep at last. But Twilight was still awake, captivated by how soft Fluttershy felt in her arms. The gentle heartbeat of the pegasus lulling her into a sense of tranquility she never knew of before.

Other thoughts began to form in her mind as Twilight herself began transcending the waking world as well. After such a horrible experience, she could not just thrust Fluttershy into the knowledge required for the task ahead. Her pegasus friend was so fragile, she needed something to counteract what had happened just moments ago.

She had an idea, she just hoped Hermaeus Mora agreed, as well as hoped that her friends could wait a little bit longer before they really started on the road home.

33 Bond

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As soon as everyone was awake(no mornings in Apocrypha) Twilight explained what had happened regarding her and Fluttershy before they went to bed. As expected, they all were so relieved she had not been harmed, and grateful to Twilight for saving her feathers. Especially Rainbow Dash, of course.

It came to quite the surprise when Twilight announced they would not be starting the education immediately though.

She insisted she needed to do something with Fluttershy first, despite the pegasus insisting she was alright. But Twilight would not be swayed, so in the end, the others decided to do something else while Twilight was with Fluttershy. When she made up her mind, it was not worth trying to talk her out of it.

"This really isn't necessary, Twilight," said Fluttershy as she walked beside said unicorn, keeping pace as they walked down a hallway made of books. "I'm fine, really."

"I know, Fluttershy," said Twilight, flashing a gentle smile. "But I want to do this."

She had talked to Hermaeus Mora after breakfast, and after much persuasion, she convinced the Daedric Prince to cooperate.

"But if we do this, it means I'm holding us up," countered Fluttershy, slight concern in her voice."You said you can't leave until Durnehviir is free of the Ideal Masters, so the the longer we take even getting around to obtaining the power we need to assist you, the longer we will need to stay here."

"Believe it or not, I think this is absolutely critical to our endeavors," said Twilight happily.

"How?" Asked Fluttershy, growing slightly irritated. "You and me are pretty much lollygagging."

"That may be true," said Twilight, walking in front of Fluttershy and placing a hoof on her chest, halting her. "But, this is for you, Fluttershy. And not only because of what happened before, but also so you can give your best when we do start on the Thu'um."

"How is you doing something nice for me gonna help with that?" Asked Fluttershy, slightly doubtful.

"It's not so much me," explained Twilight, her smile turning slightly sad. "Fluttershy, for you to be able to do this, I think it's imperative that you have something positive you can relate to Apocrypha with. If you can have a good experience here, I believe it will make things so much easier for you. "

Fluttershy's mouth dropped as she heard what Twilight said. It was true, she was probably the least comfortable here compared to the others. She had never gone so long without being able to care for little creatures, and the only thing here in Apocrypha were books on animals

But that brought a question to her mind.

"What about the others?" Asked Fluttershy. " They may not have had such a horrible experience like we did last night, but what could they have seen in Apocrypha that would be considered good? Or you, for that matter?"

"You know I have always found solace around books, Fluttershy," said Twilight, shaking her head at the hoof pointed at her. "But Spike and Rarity got to experience the beauty of those gems, Applejack got to use her cider skills on something new, Rainbow got to explore ancient ruins like Daring Do, and Pinkie Pie got to bake new things, and she got to be the first pony... no person to ever throw a part in Apocrypha. Each of our friends, no matter how small, have experienced something enjoyable here in Apocrypha. That is way you need one of your own."

Fluttershy fell silent as she contemplated this. Now that she thought about it, she was the only one of them to not have found something good about this place. Oh, who was she kidding, she absolutely hated it here, what with the yellow green sky dotted with Hermaeus Mora's tendriled vortexes, and the churning black sea of ink.

Maybe Twilight was right...

"Come on, Fluttershy," said Twilight, lifting her friends head up with a hoof on her chin. "Serious part aside, let me give you an experience you will never forget."

Smiling, Fluttershy nodded in both acceptance and resignation, falling back into pace beside Twilight. Now that she knew that this was actually important to a degree, she couldn't help but grow a little excited. She knew Twilight knew what she likes, and wondered what it was she had planned.

Even thinking like this was already easing the stress she had been experiencing since arriving here.

She spotted an exit up ahead, and her excitement only increased as they stepped out into the open. But confusion began to take hold, for all that was out here was a cliff ledge overlooking the sea of ink and a tall pile of books out in the surf. It was not even as extravagant as the first view she had here, even if it this place was the last thing she would think was tranquil.

Hovering a little, Fluttershy looked around, trying to see a staircase or bridge that lead to somewhere else.

'RAAN MIR TAH'

The sudden shout made Fluttershy leap up with a startled squeak, trembling as she clung to the mountain side the hallway they had walked down exited out of.

"Oh, sorry about that, Fluttershy," said Twilight sheepishly, bending her forehoof in embarrassment.

"I don't think I will ever get used to that," said Fluttershy, gliding to the ground and standing next to her friend. "So what does that one do?"

"You'll see," replied Twilight with a mischievous smile.

That did nothing to lessen Fluttershy's anticipation. And not just the good kind, she had seen Twilight perform feats with the Thu'um that she had never even imagined possible in even her most elaborate dreams, and this one appeared to do something that was not immediately noticeable, just like when she called upon that storm. That thought actually made her nervous.

But her answer came when a low pitch call echoed past their ledge.

Looking forward, Fluttershy's jaw dropped as she beheld a massive figure striding out from behind the mass of books sitting a fair distance out, Twilight smiling slightly at her shock. The large creature waddled forward with four long spindly legs striding through the black sea, long enough to still allow the creature to hold its body above the churning liquid with enough length to reveal several feet of leg. Two more legs extended ahead, arched in the fashion of a praying mantis.

And that was not even getting to the body of the majestic juggernaut.

Thick dark brown armor covered every inch of its bulbous body, a slight indentation visible in the middle of its back. The head was featureless, no eyes or mouth to speak of, but somehow it just made sense for them not to be there. And it seemed to be doing just fine without them.

The hulking mass stopped at their ledge, tall enough for it to stand several feet above the two ponies heads, another low call echoing from it, but from where nopony knew.

"I...is that," stammered Fluttershy, tears of awe sliding down her face. "Is...that a Silt Strider!?"

"Yes," confirmed Twilight, nodding as she too shed a few emotional tear's. "I managed to convince Hermaeus Mora to bring one into Apocrypha for you."

"Twilight...I..." Fluttershy couldn't finish as her emotions overwhelmed her, gratitude mixing with her awe.

"Well, go on," said Twilight, nudging Fluttershy on the rear with her head. "Go say hi."

Steeling herself, Fluttershy nodded in understanding and spread her wings, flapping up to hover before the Silt Striders head.

"Hey there, big guy," she cooed gently, reaching out to scratch a hoof over the featureless head. "Aren't you so handsome."

The Silt Strider seemed to preen as Fluttershy's hoof made contact, before producing another low pitch call.

"Oh yes, I can understand the language of any creature," said Fluttershy, continuing to stroke the tough chitin. "And I regret to say, but you're the first Silt Strider I have ever talked to."

Another low wine sounded.

"Nice to meet you, Dusty, my names Fluttershy," said Fluttershy, settling in close to hug Dusty on the head.

Twilight sat down and watched the whole thing. Circumstances aside, she would never get used to how adorable it was when Fluttershy bonded with even the most foreboding of creature's. The Silt Strider was easily a dozen times her size, and yet she was getting along fine with it.

She let Fluttershy fawn over the Silt Strider for a while longer, watching as she fluttered over everything to take in the grandeur, before deciding to move forward.

"As fun as this looks, Dusty here is only the beginning," she said, gaining Fluttershy's attention again.

"You mean there's more?" Asked Fluttershy excitedly as Twilight teleported into the open spot on Dusty's back.

"Just you wait, Fluttershy," said Twilight, putting her hooves on the prongy parts sticking out of Dusty's shell. "I have a lot more to show you."

"Are you sure you should be doing that?" Asked Fluttershy, landing next to Twilight and watching as she fiddled with the prongs with unease. " What if you hurt Dusty?"

"Don't worry, Fluttershy," reassured Twilight as Dusty began heading out to sea with large strides. "This is what Silt Striders are used for on Nirn, it won't hurt him at all."

Dusty let out another groan, and Fluttershy giggled.

"What is so funny?" Asked Twilight as she stared at her friends mild histerics.

"Girl, Twilight, Dusty is a girl," replied Fluttershy, Twilight blushing and grinning as Dusty carried them around the bend.

---

Rarity, Spike, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie all sat in the library in the sleeping quarters, doing random things. Applejack and Pinkie Pie sat at a table with various sized glasses on it, taking careful measures of Sujamma and apple cider and combining them, marveling at how no matter how small the change in mixture, each produced different results. Rarity and Spike were adding new features to the dress made from the Ayleid artifacts, Spike using his fire breath to slightly change the color of the spare strips of fabric so Rarity could cut them into different shapes and sew them into the dress, making integrite patterns along the surface.

Rainbow Dash was miraculously reading a non Daring Do book.

"This Nerevarine guy was awesome," she said, nose in the book. "Did you know that this Dagoth Ur jerk actually cast a horrible storm on the people of Morrowind, a terrible sandstorm that caused anyone caught in it to go insane."

"Seriously?" Asked Applejack, looking up from her tinkering.

"Ya, it was called 'The Blight'," explained Rainbow, engrossed in her book.

"What's a 'Morrowind'," asked Spike as he handed Rarity another altered strip.

"The country all the things about the Nerevarine happened on," explained Rainbow. "The Dwemer called it Dwemereth, but it has changed names multiple times."

The others all voiced confirmation.

"I hope Fluttershy has fun with Twilight," said Rarity with concern as she wielded a sewing needle with magic. "Attacked by a robot, how horrible."

"Too bad I missed it," said Rainbow begrudgingly. "I would have made sure that tinman stayed broken this time."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry too much," said Pinkie, looking at a tiny glass of Sujamma with one eye squinted. "I'm sure Twilight is showing Fluttershy the best time of her life, one that will surely stir dormant emotions deep in both their hearts that will lead to a very awkward moment down the road."

They all stared at her for a second and were about to question, but in the end they decided it was just Pinkie being Pinkie.

---

"Aw, aren't you cute," said Fluttershy, fluttering down on to the small sand and stone island Dusty had brought them to and admiring the small insect like creature she had spotted.

"Squeak, squeak squeak?" Mumbled the scrib as Fluttershy approached.

"Oh, don't be afraid, little guy, I won't hurt you," said Fluttershy, gently picking the scrib up and holding it before her. "You're so adorable."

The scrib squeaked again.

"Oh, I am certain you 'will' be a big strong kwama warrior someday," reassured Fluttershy, stroking it's soft underbelly.

Then a shadow fell over Fluttershy from behind, and when she turned, she beheld a huge jellyfish like creature, dark brown in color, and with weaving tentacles extruding from the pulsating blue belly. Fluttershy gently placed the scrib on the ground(which scurried off with a noticeable blush) and fluttered up to put herself level with the floating creature's front. Her mouth opened and closed a few times as she tried to find her voice.

"H.. hello sir," greeted Fluttershy shyly.

The bobbing creature let off a few sounds akin to a balloon being squeezed.

"Hello Brutus, my name's Fluttershy," her demeanor strengthened as a conversation started. "Excuse me if this is rude but... you wouldn't happen to be a bull netch, would you?"

Another unusual sound reverberated from the hovering mass.

"Oh, how wonderful," squeed Fluttershy, hovering closer to the bull netch. "Look at you, so majestic. I have met many fascinating creatures in my life, but you are definitely one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen."

Brutus gurgled.

"Well, no, I haven't met your mate, I just met you a moment ago," said Fluttershy as Brutus continued to make noise. "Vanessa sounds lovely, I would love to meet her."

Behind Brutus, Fluttershy saw another jellyfish like creature come into view. It was much smaller than Brutus, with the bulbous blue sac that appeared to keep the creature's aloft located at the top rather then on the under side. Smiling, Fluttershy hovered over.

"Hello Vanessa," said Fluttershy in her little voice. "I take it you are a betty netch?

---

Twilight watched from near Dusty as Fluttershy socialized with some of the animals from Nirn. It warmed her heart to see her so happy again, especially after seeing her in such a state as the night before. Such a traumatic experience that nopony should go through.

She only hoped that this would be enough to help.

Twilight smiled as the bull netch and Betty netch both nuzzled Fluttershy, the Pegasus laughing as she was surrounded on all sides. Then she leaped up onto the bull netch and hugged the top, Twilight spontaneously blushing. This new position left Fluttershy with her hindquarters up in the air.

And Twilight could not help but stare.

The image of Hermaeus Mora on her flank made it that much more noticeable, how it clashed with her butter yellow coat. It looked so soft, heat rising to Twilight's cheek's at the thought. She shook her head and slapped her face to the sand, ashamed of her lewd actions.

She could only imagine how Fluttershy would feel if she knew what she had been thinking a moment ago.

---

"Thank you, Twilight," said Fluttershy as she and Twilight made their way back to the living quarters. "I didn't realize how much I needed that."

Fluttershy had talked to the creature's from Nirn for hours, brightening up with each second. Unfortunately, time was limited for them in Apocrypha, so when Hermaeus Mora appeared and told them that he had best return them to their rightful place or they would likely suffer the effects of Apocrypha, Fluttershy had to say goodbye to her new friends. But she wasn't sad, they had a home back in Nirn.

It was where they belong.

"Think nothing of it, Fluttershy," said Twilight, walking slowly so Fluttershy could keep up. "I'm just glad you were able to do something you could enjoy."

But Fluttershy had no choice but to think about it. Twilight's plan had worked, Fluttershy no longer felt like jumping out of her skin by just being here in Apocrypha. And it allowed feelings that Fluttershy had not even been aware of to surface in her heart.

Feeling's she both wanted to go away immediately and stay as close as possible at the same time.

Her terror and shame from the wedding was mixed in with the thunderstorm in her heart, freshly opened by that nightmare she had before. But it was not just that, the warm fuzzy feeling she had got when she had seen Twilight studying was there as well, followed by the rush she had felt when she found herself staring at Twilight's flank. Of how soft it looked.

She bit her tongue to try and suppress her emotions, fighting with all her will.

But that only allowed what had been buried even deeper to rise. She remembered when Twilight struck down the metal monster with precision and ease, coming up to her a minute after to check on her. She remembered the crushing grief she felt when she realized Twilight had saved her again, followed by the overwhelming desire to hug her and cry, which she did.

"Fluttershy, what's wrong?" Asked Twilight worriedly.

Looking up, Fluttershy realized she had not noticed she had stopped until now. She also noticed the wet tears running down her own face. But what she noticed most was how close Twilight was to her face, a look of concern so deep on her muzzle it must seep into her very soul.

She tried, she tried so hard to still her beating heart, to suppress her urge, but it was a losing battle.

---

Twilight's eyes flew open as wide as they could as the soft lips of Fluttershy pressed to hers.

At first she was sure she was just seeing and feeling things, but the gentle breathing washing over her nose was too real to deny. Panic struck her like a tidal wave as the reality of her situation took hold. This was her first kiss, and she was sharing it with Fluttershy, one of her closest friends and another mare to.

Her brain told her to push her away.

But her heart told her to stop and focus more clearly. And when she did, the most indescribable sensation hit her senses. Fluttershy's lips were so soft, yet felt so durable as they remained interlocked with hers. The gentle sweet taste she was experiencing left her unable to fathom how such a sensation could be felt just from the mouth.

And she saw how beautiful Fluttershy's teal eyes looked this close, magnified by the tear's that now washed over Twilight's face to. Twilight felt her heart swell with new feelings as her brain ceased all subconscious complaints. A sensation she knew she could never live without from now on.

But in the few seconds this all happened, Fluttershy separated from Twilight's mouth and covered her face with her wing's.

"I'm sorry," she sobbed, total shame in her voice. "I'm so sorry."

Fluttershy took off passed Twilight at full gallop, sparkling tears sprinkling behind her from under her wings. Twilight felt time slow around her as she brought a hoof to her mouth, the soft sensation fading to a tingle, then vanished. She turned slowly to watch Fluttershy running away, her steps hitting the floor between eons.

Her heart ached at seeing her so distressed, but she had no idea what to do now. Her brain had fizzled, leaving her heart as the only guide she could rely on now. She knew what it was telling her, but she didn't know if she had the guts to do it. Did she have it in her to take the necessary step?

Hearing Fluttershy's hooves strike the ground again made up her mind for her.

Channeling her magic, Twilight teleported into Fluttershy's path and caught her in a huge hug.

"No...," Mumbled the distraught pegasus as she struggled weakly in the purple hooves. "I can't...I can't do this now..."

She was cut off when Twilight lifted her head gently with her hoof and slammed her lips to hers. She struggled a few more times but ultimately gave in, throwing her hooves around Twilight's shoulders as she deepened the kiss. Her despair gave way to bliss as the closeness eased her into a sense of clarity.

Twilight felt similar bliss as Fluttershy stopped her struggling and embraced her. She could not be sure, but if she concentrated, she could swear hers and Fluttershy's heartbeats were in perfect sync as they thumped against each other. Her eyes shut as an even more powerful sensation then before washed over her being.

This was paradise.

"I'm going to go flying up to one of those vortexes, I want to talk to this Mora guy one on..." Rainbow Dash fell silent as she beheld the purple unicorn and yellow pegasus locking lips just outside the living quarters.

34 Figure it out

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"Rainbow, darling, what's wrong?" Asked Rarity, approaching the slack jawed pegasus along with all the rest of her friends. "You look like you've seen a..."

Rarity and the others joined Rainbow in her shock, they had arrived just in time to see Twilight and Fluttershy separate from each other.

Both ponies held their eyes closed for a few seconds, panting as their bodies caught up with them. But it only took a second for them to realize that they had an audience, turning to their friends that sat frozen in the doorframe. A wild blush formed on their faces as they looked to each other, their hooves still entangled, then back to their friends.

Slowly, they let go of each other, dropped back to their hooves and turned to their friends.

"Uhh...this isn't what it looks like," said Twilight nervously, Fluttershy hiding behind her mane beside her.

"Oh really?" Said Applejack, her wide eyes squinting down into slits. "So you weren't smooching with Fluttershy like an excitable school filly a second ago?"

"OH, THIS IS SO WONDERFUL!" shouted Pinkie, appearing between the two blushing ponies and pulling them to her shoulders. "NOT ONLY ARE WE THE FIRST TO EVER THROW A PARTY IN APOCRYPHA, BUT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN RECORDED HISTORY, TRUE LOVE HAS BEEN FOUND IN THE ENDLESS STACKS OF HERMMY'S LIBRARY!"

Rainbow suddenly reached forward and pulled Pinkie away from the two, her eyes livid. She stared at Twilight with a look that could most likely melt all the ice in a hail storm, great huffs of steam billowing from her nostrils. Twilight herself looked like a deer caught in headlights.

"Egghead!" Growled Rainbow, pushing her muzzle to Twilight's. "You better have a good excuse for this."

"Rainbow, no!" Snapped Fluttershy, separating her fellow pegasus from Twilight with a hoof. "Please don't blame Twilight, I kissed her first."

"You, Fluttershy?" Inquired Rainbow, giving her friend a wide eyed look.

That was something she didn't see coming. How could Fluttershy, a pony that would often cower in fright when she saw her own shadow, be bold enough to make the first move on anypony? Heck, until now, Rainbow often entertained the notion that Fluttershy would never have anything more than what she had with her friends and animals.

"Yes," confirmed Fluttershy, closing her eyes with a serious expression.

"But...why?" Asked Applejack, arching her eye.

“Oh, how unladylike to ask such a thing, Applejack," scolded Rarity, stepping up to separate Twilight and Fluttershy from the rest of them. "There should be only one, fairly obvious reason for this."

"But, Twilight and Fluttershy were..." began Spike, only to be halted by a white hoof in his mouth.

"Now, now, that is enough," said Rarity, giving the group opposite the two a disapproving glare. "From all of you."

"But Rarity..." protested Rainbow, but Rarity had turned her attention to the other two behind her.

"Come on, both of you," said Rarity, seizing them in her magic and levitating them into the room. "You're coming with me."

"Rarity!" Protested Twilight, flailing her hooves in the blue aura. "What are you doing?"

"Taking you two somewhere where you won't be interrupted," answered Rarity, her face even more serious than a guardpony.

"But Rarity, why?" Asked Fluttershy, struggling just as much as Twilight.

"You two need some alone time," explained Rarity, walking into Twilight's room and depositing them both on the bed. "However it happened, you two have found something with each other. And until you find out what it is, its best you are not bothered with 'anything' else."

Before either of them could protest, the doors slammed shut, the blue aura around the doorknobs clicking them into the locked position.

They stared at each other awkwardly as all sound from outside was muffled, looking to the side as they contemplated their situation. The heat they had felt after that last kiss was still there, but now that the passion had faded the weight of the entire scenario became apparent. What were they to do now?

'If there was ever a time I wish there was a manual for something, its now,' thought Twilight bitterly as Fluttershy stared at her with her light blue eyes, her heartbeat elevating again.

---

After Rarity closed and locked the door, she turned to the rest of them with a scowl.

"Anypony wanting to interrupt them will have to go through me!" She snapped, pawing the ground threateningly.

"Ugh," moaned Rainbow Dash. "Leave it to the drama queen to take point in a situation like this."

"C'mon girls, this ain't so bad," stated Pinkie, grinning widely. " In fact, this is possibly the best thing that could have happened to those two."

"How can you be so calm, Pinkie?" Asked Rainbow Dash, slightly irritated at her pink friends antics. "Did you actually see this coming?"

"Ha, my Pinkie senses aren't that good, Dashie," replied Pinkie Pie, putting a hoof around her multihued friends shoulder. "But what kind of friends would we be if we only get irritated and ruin it all for them? Don't they deserve our support?"

Now that registered to Applejack.

Why was 'she' making such a big deal of this? Sure, she was surprised to see Twilight and Fluttershy(two of her best friends) kissing, but why was she allowing it to effect her like this? What was so awful about two ponies finding each other?

How could she, as an Apple, think any part of this was wrong?

The Apple family was huge, and all across Equestria, and not all of them 'swung' the same way. Heck, now that she thought about it, she had grown up around this kind of thing all her life. Some of her aunts bring a special somepony mare to the Apple Family Reunion every year, and they were the nicest ponies you could meet.

"Well...I still don't like it," snapped Rainbow, pushing Pinkie away and crossing her hooves with a scowl.

"Rainbow Dash!" Scolded Rarity, crunching her face into an intense glare. "Twilight and Fluttershy are our friends, how can you not find it in your heart to support their decision."

"Hey, wait a minute," said Pinkie, getting up into Rainbow Dash's face, the pegasus exchanging her scowl for a look of shock. "You've known Fluttershy since Cloudsdale Flight School, right?"

Rarity drew their attention when she let out a shocked gasp. "Rainbow, darling, do you have feelings for...?"

"WHAT, NO, OF COURSE NOT!" Shouted Rainbow when she saw what they were getting at.

"You sure about that, sugarcube?" Asked Applejack, looking at Rainbow Dash with a look that was both supportive and questioning. "You're taking this awful hard."

Rainbow just scowled again.

"Come now, sugarcube, talk to us," said Applejack, gently putting a hoof on Rainbow Dash's shoulder that was thankfully not shrugged off.

"If something is bothering you, just tell us," said Rarity, unmoving from her post, but wearing a supportive look.

A look that seemed to break the last chain around whatever Rainbow was hiding as she let out a sigh.

"I don't have 'those' kind of feelings for Fluttershy," explained Rainbow, actually shuddering at the thought. "I don't swing that way, and even if I did, Fluttershy isn't my type. I would want somepony made of 'tougher' stuff."

"Then why the aggressive reaction towards Twilight?" Asked Applejack, slight concern in her voice.

Rainbow lowered her head and let out a depressed sigh, standing up to stand between the friends around her.

"You all remember how we got our cutie marks, how I raced those bullies to defend Fluttershy?" Asked Rainbow, getting a round of nods. "That was not the first time I had to protect her, and...after her and me started to mature from fillies to mare's, it only got worse."

There was a round of terrified gasps.

"You mean...?" Applejack was unable to finish as the thought paralyzed her slightly.

"You can imagine how a timid, shy, and gullible looking pony like Fluttershy looked to a couple of maturing teenage colts," stated Rainbow, shaking her head.

"They...did they...?" Asked Pinkie shakily.

"Oh no, not while I was around," said Rainbow, shaking a hoof aggressively. "Anypony who gave her 'that look' got a treatment much more effective than cold water, if you know what I mean."

Applejack, Pinkie, and Rarity felt both horrified that Rainbow went to such lengths to protect Fluttershy, and gratitude for her protecting her.

"Well, what does that have to do with her being with Twilight?" Asked Rarity, tilting her head. "If you actually don't like her like Twilight does, why...?"

"You saw what Twilight did in Canterlot," said Rainbow sadly, closing her eyes in what appeared to be shame. "She lit herself on fire so she could defeat Chrysalis before she could do something horrible to Fluttershy, to all of us. She stopped that Dwemer contraption from hurting her." Tear's began to form in her eyes as she continued, seemingly unable to stop. "Heck, she made a deal with the ultimate evil from another world so she could protect us from an enemy we were too blind to see..."

"Now hold on there, partner," said Applejack, tightening her hoof over Rainbows shoulder. "That wasn't just you."

"We all blundered that, Fluttershy included," said Pinkie.

"I agree, that was on all of us,"said Rarity gently.

"It's not that," snapped Rainbow, tears flowing from her magenta eyes. "Twilight saved Fluttershy in Canterlot when I couldn't, she saved her from a robot when I couldn't. If Twilight and Fluttershy get together, will Fluttershy even need me anymore?"

The three watched as the tough Rainbow Dash broke down right in front of them, her shoulders shaking as she cried. Immediately they hugged her from all sides, stroking whatever part of her they could reach comfortingly. It was so strange seeing her like this.

They had to do something.

"Fluttershy will never stop needing you," said Rarity, her head on Rainbows right shoulder. "Protection aside, you are her oldest friend."

"But how can I just stop?" Hiccuped Rainbow, her jaw shaking so bad she could barely speak. "I have always looked out for her, but with Twilight's new powers...how can I compete with that?"

Pinkie started laughing from her spot from above Rainbow’s head, much to Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash's disdain.

"How could you have forgotten, Dashie?" Asked Pinkie, noogieing her mane. "Soon 'all' of us will have that power."

Rainbow Dash dropped her jaw in realization when what Pinkie said made her remember what happened after the party.

"That's right, darling," said Rarity happily.

"And think of it this way," suggested Applejack, a smirk on her face. "If you get better at this voice thing then Twilight, you can protect both of them."

Rainbows misery vanished behind a barrier of determination in an instant. She had never been looking forward to the whole studying, having agreed strictly for Twilight's sake. But now she really contemplated what learning the Thu'um would mean, other then helping Twilight with her task.

All the things she saw Twilight do in Canterlot, all that was about to be hers.

"Alright," said Rainbow, stepping out of the hug. "I will definitely do that."

They smiled as their friends demeanor returned to something so like the pegasus they knew and loved.

"Have we had enough drama yet?" Asked Spike, standing a few feet away with his claws crossed, an annoyed look on his face.

Regrettably, they had all forgotten he was there.

"Oh Spike, I am so sorry," said Rarity, surrounding the baby dragon along with the other ponies. "This must be hard for you especially."

"Ya, you have known Twilight the longest," said Applejack, putting a hoof around Spike.

"Seeing her kiss another pony must have been hard," said Rainbow sympathetically.

"Especially another mare," said Pinkie absent mindedly.

"PINKIE!" Shouted the others, glaring daggers at her.

"Hey, it's not a big deal," said Spike, gaining stunned looks all around. "Now that the initial shock has worn off, I'm glad she has found a special somepony. I was starting to worry."

"Wait, wait, wait, so you're not even disturbed by the fact that she kissed another mare?" Asked Rainbow, looking the dragon straight in eyes.

"Huh," mumbled Spike under Rainbow Dash. " I kinda learned mares can have those feelings for other mares long ago."

"Oooo, who was it?" Asked Pinkie Pie excitedly.

"Cadance," answered Spike, his audience gasping in shock. " She...didn't start dating Shining Armour until after she foalsat for us for a while."

"How do you know?" Asked Rarity, looking slightly doubtful. "You had to have been really young then."

"Lets just say I know it wasn't just a good night kiss now," replied Spike, slightly enjoying the wrapped attention from his audience.

"Do you know who this mare who was all shacked up with Cadance was?" Asked Pinkie

Spike put a claw behind his head nervously.

"Oh come on, Spikey-wikey," said Rarity, blinking her eyes seductively. "You can't drop a juicy gossip bomb like this and not indulge us."

"Well," started Spike, crossing his arms with a mean smile. "You know Fancy Pants' s wife, Fleur De Lis..."

---

Twilight and Fluttershy lay on their stomachs on Twilight's bed, hardly noticing the conversation barely heard outside. They had yet to say anything, in fact, they couldn't even make eye contact for more than a few moments before jerking away with a blush that was only growing deeper. But they both knew this was not something they can ignore.

"How long?" Asked Twilight, pushing past her emotions and looking Fluttershy in the face.

Fluttershy looked forward herself, though she needed to pace herself for a little longer. She took in Twilight's face as she watched her expectantly, though obviously not trying to rush her, contemplating the question. When had her feelings for Twilight even started?

"I...I don't know," said Fluttershy, hanging her head in shame.

Twilight scooted closer and put a hoof over Fluttershy's, managing a small reassuring smile. "Then can you at least tell me when you noticed you liked me?"

Fluttershy dove deep into her memory, trying to pinpoint when she had noticed. At first she thought of when she had watched her study while all their other friends were exploring Apocrypha. She tried to hid her blush when she remembered how she focused on Twilight's rear as well.

But she dismissed that memory.

She somehow knew that wasn't the one. It had been before that, she was certain of it. She now realised the seeds been planted long before that.

Twilight herself was contemplating things too. She had actually never once pictured herself with anypony before. Her life had been studying, then her friends after she had met them, and beyond that she had not even contemplated anything more.

It was this thought that made Twilight realize how much had changed since the morning of Shining Armour and Cadance's wedding.

Wait, the wedding! Fluttershy had deserted her along with the others after her outburst, she saved Fluttershy from Chrysalis at the last second in Canterlot, she had saved Fluttershy from a dangerous relic from an era long past, staying with her through a long night of tears, then she had introduced Fluttershy to fantastic creatures from another world. A terrible thought occurred to Twilight then.

Was the kiss even real?

"Fluttershy?" Asked Twilight quietly, the hoof holding Fluttershy's shaking. "Does this... have anything to do with what's happened recently?"

Fluttershy knew what she meant right away.

"No Twilight," she said hurriedly. "This is not guilt, remorse, or regret. I know in my heart, my feelings for you are genuine."

Twilight smiled as a joyful tear slid down her face.

"I only wish I could figure out when," continued Fluttershy weakly.

She gasped in slight surprise when Twilight pulled her to her chest, her jaw resting over her head, the gentle rhythm of her heart in her ear. Whatever stress she was feeling vanished from her mind as a warm sensation emanated from were their skin made contact. It only increased as Twilight's fresh scent reached her nostrils.

"Stop trying to figure it out with your head," cooed Twilight, stroking her mane. "Allow the sensation you feel in your heart to engulf your mind."

Fluttershy followed her advice, the warmth in her chest traveling to her brain and engulfing her entire being. Older memories of Twilight shone with more clarity, what with her new feelings for her. They brought a warm smile to her lips and joyful tears to her eyes.

She remembered her first meeting with Twilight, how she was so shy, like she always was around new ponies.

She remembered how she felt when Twilight pulled her away from Discords ugly embrace, how vulnerable she felt when she came to, but Twilight's upside down smile gave her the strength to face that mismatched monstrosity with the rest of her friends.

She remembered how worried she became when Princess Celestia lead Twilight away, of how she wished she could turn back time and give Twilight the consolation she needed when she needed it.

She remembered how Twilight deduced she was one of the ponies that took a bite out of Pinkies coveted Mascarpone Meringue Madness...

"The National Dessert Competition," said Fluttershy in realization. "I think that's when it happened."

"Really?" Inquired Twilight in confusion. "I... would have thought that would be the last thing you would want to remember. I mean, I busted you."

"It wasn't anything I didn't deserve, Twilight, I should have controlled myself," said Fluttershy, tilting her head up to look into Twilight's eyes. "But seeing you deduce those clues...I realize now I have never been drawn to somepony more than in that moment in all my life."

Twilight smiled as she let Fluttershy back up so they could see each other.

"So know that when I say this, I mean it," said Fluttershy, her lips trembling. "I love you, Twilight."

Twilight trembled herself as she heard Fluttershy say that. The sensation that coursed through her at those words was unlike anything she had ever felt. Not even using the Thu'um that first time could compare to what was flowing through her soul at this very moment.

"I love you too," she said, her emotions running a mile a minute. "From the moment you stood up to that dragon that roosted outside Ponyville and threatened to cover Equestria in smoke."

She had come to that realization when Fluttershy came to hers, and Celestia did it feel good.

They drew themselves into another hug and lied down on their sides, this time with Fluttershy having Twilight to her chest. They lost themselves in the bodily sensations of the other, heartbeats, breathing, soft flesh under their hooves. The wet tears of joy from the other.

"How did you come to know so much about love?" Asked Fluttershy, stroking her hooves over Twilight's body. " Was it in a book?"

"Give me some credit, Fluttershy," said Twilight, looking up with a slight smile. "I was practically raised by Cadance, the Princess of love."

Though, she swore to keep the fact that her first instinct was to consult a book to herself forever.

35 Diving in

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After the drama caused by the scene found outside, Twilight’s friends had once again settled in the library slash work station to continue tinkering with their souvenirs. Rainbow began flying with her helmet on to test how long she could last weighed down, but made a startling discovery. She realized that as she wore the thing, she barely noticed its weight, which was odd, because it definitely felt heavy when she held it.

But thats not all.

She also discovered that while she wore it, she could push herself for longer then she used to be able to (twenty percent longer to be precise). It became apparent why after she really got down and examined the helmet. It had a florescent sheen of green about it, it was enchanted.

And that was just fine for Rainbow Dash...awesome.

Spike was hanging out with Pinkie Pie for a change, charring bits of paper black for her with his fire breath. The pink party pony then dipped them in a bowl filled with a mixture of glue and water (were the glue came from was anyone's guess) making them nice and sticky. What was she doing with all this?

She was crafting a black, wiggly pinata, made in the likeness of Hermaeus Mora.

Applejack had decided to take a nap, her hat over eyes as she reclined on the coach she had sat on while Twilight told them about the Daedra. Applejack wasn't a slacker by any means, but after learning about the atrocities of the Daedra, plus those now extinct people, she needed a break. Plus, she may not be proud of the circumstances, but it was actually refreshing to not be worried about her farm for a change.

Though she would never tell anypony that.

Rarity was sewing more Welkynd Stones into her dress. After the unrest involving Twilight and Fluttershy calmed, she had thrown her self at it again, this time working on smoothing out every minute flaw with her keen eye. But she soon exhausted her magic with such a task, but it also lead to her discovering the best thing here in Apocrypha yet.

One of the Welkynd Stones vanished from her dress once she was out of magic.

At first she was horrified, but less than a second later she found her magic fully restored, and it didn't take a genius to find out how. The Welkynd Stones restore magic, and that fact only made her reverence of them increase, despite their connection with the Alyieds. She had traveled back to that room afterwards and brought back several more, both for their beauty and to take advantage of their unique properties.

But once Twilight and Fluttershy entered the room, they all didn't hesitate to cease what they were doing and lend them all their focus.

" Twilight, Fluttershy," called Rarity, walking up to stand before them like all the others. " Are you alright, darlings?"

" We're better than alright, girls," said Twilight, extending out a hoof that was soom gripped by Fluttershy.

They all looked at the conjoined limbs and felt a peaceful sensation in their hearts. It would appear that the surprise revealing of this relationship was the only reason for their less then admirable first reaction, for now that they were calm, they all felt nothing but support for this. It actually made some sense.

"I'm sorry about what happened before, girls," said Twilight regretfully. " We should have been more discreet."

" Oh Twilight," said Applejack, taking off her hat and putting it over her chest in shame. "I'm the one who should be mighty sorry. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you and Fluttershy getting together."

"I for one, find it adorable," said Rarity, looking at them with a proud smile. "And who would have thought it would be you two. No offense, but you both have often showed the least bit of interest in romance over the years."

Twilight and Fluttershy only smiled in appreciation at her understanding.

" Fluttershy especially," said Pinkie happily, giving the pegasus a surly look. "We should call you Fluttersly from now on."

Fluttershy blushed right down to her hoof holding Twilight's.

" Twilight, Fluttershy," said Rainbow shamefully. "I'm sorry...I shouldn't have acted..."

Rainbow was silenced when Fluttershy and Twilight separated from each other and hugged her on both sides.

" Its okay, Rainbow," cooed Fluttershy comfortingly. "We know it was only because you care."

Before she knew it, Rainbow was surrounded by a pony pile group hug that included one dragon. She could not help but drop her tough girl persona and let the loving friend she was underneath surface. Such happiness should be illegal, when it felt this good.

" So what do we do now?" Asked Spike as the group hug broke up.

"Aren't you going to ask how this happened?" Asked Fluttershy worriedly, concerned about the baby dragons reaction to her and Twilight.

But Twilight put a hoof on her shoulder and shook her head. " He has had just as much experience with Cadance as I have."

Fluttershy smiled and nodded in understanding.

" As for what to do now," said Twilight, walking to where she stood in the center of all of them. "What to you say girls, shall we begin?"

They all knew what she meant simultaneously.

"Darn tooting partner," said Applejack, rearing up on her hindlegs and punching the air, eager to get started.

"If it's what we can do to help you, darling," began Rarity, flipping her mane gracefully. "Then bring it on."

" Oh this is going to be so much fun," said Pinkie, bouncing in place before tapping her chin in thought. "Hey, can I compose a song with words of power?"

" I will definitely do this," said Fluttershy, a look of determination crossing her face. "I have a new reason for Twilight to be free of this place now."

" I say, we quit flapping our mouths and get to it already," said Spike, punching a claw into his palm.

" The dragons right, let's start this thing," said Rainbow, heading to a book shelf along with the others.

Until Twilight appeared in their path with a mischievous smirk. "If we are going to do this, we will need more than whats here."

---

"WOAH..." said Twilight’s friends as they sat before the gazebo that housed a huge book.

" This is what we need," said Twilight, a smug smile on her face.

" I've never seen anything like it!" Gasped Applejack, her face illuminated by the glowing blue pages.

"But how are we going to use it, Twilight?" Asked Pinkie, looking at said unicorn quizzically. "As big as it is, its only one book, and there are seven of us."

The others shared the concern.

" Wait, that color," said Spike looking at Twilight knowingly. "Hay Cart?"

Twilight looked to him and nodded.

Spike smirked and speed off between the group of mare's and made a beeline for the book. When he jumped into the air over it they all expected him to flop face first onto the parchment. Their shock was immeasurable when Spike disappeared into the book, the surface rippling like water.

With a surprised gasp, all but Twilight surrounded the book, a tiny sketch of Spike visible on the page, waving up at them.

" You guys have gotta see this," said Spike, looking around in wonder. "Its absolutely amazing!"

They all flashed Twilight a nervous look, but she gave them a reassuring nod. But was this really what needed to be done? Despite how quickly Spike dove into the book, it was not something you see every day, and a ponies first reaction would be to proceed with caution...

" Cannon Ball," said Pinkie, grabbing her hind legs and jumping in, vanishing with a ripple.

Unless you are Pinkie Pie, of course.

" Well, here I go," said Applejack, leaping into the book front first after her fellow earth pony.

Rarity gave Twilight a worried look, which she returned with a gentle nudge of her muzzle.

" Well, okay," said Rarity, delicately stepping into the pages and sinking from sight.

Suddenly, Rainbow shot up through a gap in the arched ceiling of the gazebo, Twilight and Fluttershy looking up to see her fly almost out of sight. Then she speed back towards them again, gathering speed every second. They saw it coming, a Sonic Rainboom exploxed across Apocrypha like a ripple of color.

"BONZI," she called, diving into the book with a mighty gust of wind.

" That only leaves us," said Twilight after Rainbow's wind died down, reaching a hoof to Fluttershy.

She took it and together the couple approached the huge, enchanted book. Fluttershy fidgeted a little, but Twilight put her hooves on her shoulders and guided her gently. Before to long, purple and pink pony tails slid under the surface of the book page.

Up above, a black tendril extended towards the book, another book in its coils. Carefully, Hermaeus Mora fused this last book with the bigger one, the moving sketches of six ponies and one dragon on the surface looking on in even more wonder than before as whatever the book added only increased their marvel at what they were seeing inside. Slowly, the tendril retracted and closed the book shut.

Hermaeus Mora laughed to himself, wondering what they would do with the knowledge of the Oghma Infinium.

---

Within the confines of the book, Twilight and her friends swam in a virtual epiphany of knowledge, and not just concerning magic and the Thu'um.

They learned several aspects of not just Nirn, but Mundus as well. The realm designed by Magnus under Lorkhan's guidelines, and the role of magic its creation plays. When Magnus fled Mundus to escape the cost Nirns creation was taking on the Aedra, his departure and that of his smaller kin ripping holes in Mundus, allowing magic to bleed through, as well as creating the sun and stars.

The difference between this and Equestrian magic must have something to do with why ponies can grasp magic better than the people on Nirn.

And speaking of which, Twilight and her friends learned about these people with more clarity.

They learned of the Altmer, a graceful elven race native to Summerset isle.

They learned of the Argonians, a humanoid reptilian race that live in the marshes known Black Marsh.

They learned of the Bosmer, an elvish race highly in tune with nature, living in the forest of Valenwood.

They learned of the Bretons, a partial elf, partial human race that live in the fertile country High Rock.

They learned of the Dunmer, formly the Chimer, who live in the volcanic country Morrowind.

They learned of the Imperials, who live in the lush Cyrodiil.

They learned of the feline like Khajiit and their homeland of Elsweyer, famed for the addictive drug skooma.

They learned of the Nords of Skyrim, tough and courageous because of the harsh cold of their homeland.

They learned of the Orcs, favorite race of the Daedric Prince Malacath, and native to Orsinium for the most part.

They learned of the Redguard, the people native to the mountainous region Hammerfell.

They also learned of Tamriel, the super continent that houses all the fore mentioned regions. The Daedra and the Aedra were more thoroughly viewed to, as well as the different types of people who worship them and in what way. And to top it off, they learned the Aedra's names and titles.

Unsurprisingly, Rainbow was drawn to Akatosh, The Dragon God of Time and father of all the Dragons of Nirn.

They also learned of Alduin and the Dragonborn. To learn that their was someone who thought it was their destiny to devour the world was a concept they could not fathom to say the least. It was especially hard for Fluttershy, Alduin being a dragon and all. But it was also tranquil in a way, for as sinister as Alduins actions were, the dragons of Nirn were no longer extinct and seemed to be learning from their past misdeeds.

All this and more helped Twilight’s friends progress even faster than she did during her time in Apocrypha, and with each success, they felt that they were that much closer to accomplishing their goal, and that much closer to going home.

---
Outside in Apocrypha, the gazebo sunk into the pool of black ink beneath it, masking its presence to anyone who happened upon this place in the future.