Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, accidentally travels to Equestria. What could go wrong?
Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, accidentally travels to Equestria after being attacked in the Nevernever. Twilight is none too amused with their newest 'guest', but trouble is brewing. Somepony is planning something sinister and the mane six may need Dresden's help however little some of them want it.
Story Image by: Lynxgriffin Cover arrangement by: Novel Idea
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, and I'm a wizard. No, don't roll your eyes, I'm serious. Things that go bump in the night are real, and in Chicago I'm the only one who can handle them. Most of my work comes from the police. When a vampire leaves a dead victim or a faerie steals a child, normal investigative methods don't work. I think in the paperwork I'm listed as a psychic consultant. Today, though, I was just visiting Edinburgh, the wizards' capital. The higher-ups of the White Council wanted me to hand in my report over the duel with Ortega personally. I grimaced. The Council was not my favorite group of people, and I knew they were going to rake me over the coals for the way the duel went south. Despite my dread, I was making good time. I was about half an hour from the end of the Way when everything went wrong...
The forest was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault. If the screeching little monsters chasing me hadn’t dodged the flames I’d shot at them, none of the trees would be on fire. I was completely blameless for this round of property damage.
There was another shriek to my left, closer this time, and I was actually able to see the beast before I blasted. Vearens; they look a lot like gibbons, but these long-armed monkeys were different in some very important ways. Like the hundreds of needle-sharp teeth, the huge claws, the large scorpion stinger at the end of a long tail, and the intense bloodlust that made a pack of piranha look like a school of goldfish.
“Hell’s bells” I cursed softly, “How do I end up in these situations?” Being a professional wizard and all, I could have taken a single vearen without any trouble, even here on their turf. Hell, I could probably fight a dozen without any serious wounds. Unfortunately, the pack chasing me numbered somewhere around fifty.
One of the faster ones had caught up with me, and it flung itself forward with a howl of fury. “Riflettum!” I yelled as I forced energy into the shield bracelet on my left wrist. It pulsed with magic, and a quarter-dome of translucent blue sprung up between me and the horrifying little predator. The vearen bounced off and smacked into a tree hard enough to bring a rain of bright red fruit down on its head.
“Yeah! How d’ya like those apples?!” I yelled, and then started cursing as his friends caught up. “This is not how my day was supposed to go,” I panted, complaining to nobody. “I mean, I know the Nevernever is dangerous, but come on ‘It’s just a short stretch o’ forest til you reach the gate to Edinburgh,’ ” I said, mocking my mentor’s accent. “ ‘No trouble, right boy?’ ” I jinked to my right and started running along a stream, hoping that fewer trees would mean less pursuit. It didn’t. The vearens abandoned the canopy to follow me without hesitation.
My lungs were burning, and my side felt ready to split open. I had to stop soon or I’d just keel over, and I’d be damned if those things got me without a fight. I stretched my magical senses to look for a path back to Earth, but there wasn’t anything. The Nevernever connected to everything, so it could take me anywhere, theoretically. It was only a theory because the most horrifying creatures in existence made it their home, and only an idiot would leave the safety of the well-known Ways. In my defense, I had a few dozen good reasons for doing so. Still, I had no idea what world this particular bit of forest might connect to.
I burst through a small clump of bushes into an open meadow and skidded to a halt. The meadow was lovely, a beautiful, serene place, but I hadn’t stopped to admire it. I’d stopped because on the other side of the meadow was another pack of vearens, just as big as the one already chasing me. I stared at them. They stared at me. The first pack had caught up and halted at the sight of their new rivals. Growls filled the air as both groups started to cautiously spread out along the edge of the meadow. Maybe, if I was lucky, the packs would fight over me and I could use the confusion to escape. The two alphas approached each other until they were nearly eye to eye. I tensed to run, hoping Lady Luck would come through for once.
They nodded to each other and turned to face me, baring their teeth. Their packs did likewise.
Lady Luck is a real bitch. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
“Aparturum!” I screamed, ripping open the fabric between the Nevernever and whatever world it connected to here. The vearens couldn’t follow me through, and whatever was on the other side had to be better than a hundred bloodthirsty, venomous monkeys.
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
Twilight Sparkle woke to the jangling of her alarm clock and shut it off with a sleepy flail of her hoof. It had been another long (though rewarding) night of study, and though she was still short on sleep, Fluttershy was expecting her early. A soft snore emanated from the basket at the foot of her bed where a little dragon lay sleeping. Twilight shook her head with a fond smile; she never had to worry about Spike getting enough rest. She reset the alarm clock and left a list of chores next to it for her assistant.
Still yawning, she brushed her teeth and combed her mane, then put on her saddlebags and packed up the books the previous night’s study had turned up: Birds of Equestria and The Illustrated Guide to Exotic Creatures. Fluttershy had found an egg she didn’t recognize, and it was up to Twilight to determine what it might hatch into. So, despite the early hour, she grabbed a day-old muffin from the kitchen and headed for the door.
She stepped outside and breathed in the cool morning air. It was shaping up to be a beautiful spring day, and this time Twilight would be outside to enjoy it instead of wrapped up in her reading. She yawned again and chuckled to herself as she trotted down the road towards Fluttershy’s cottage on the outskirts of Ponyville. She’d known she had to wake up early today, and she should have gone to bed much earlier, but in her search for illustrated eggs she had stumbled upon a fascinating book titled On the Theory of Alternate Realities, which she wound up reading until the small hours. The author described some interesting ideas about the nature of reality, but of course the whole study was entirely theoretical. And given the subject matter, she laughed to herself, it was likely to stay that way.
She was well outside of Ponyville, almost to Fluttershy’s cottage, when she heard it. There was a noise like an enormous sheet of canvas ripping down the middle, and right before her unbelieving eyes, a jagged scar opened in the world. She only got a glimpse of a strange forest and – were those monkeys? – before a huge creature filled the tear, barreled through, and crashed into a nearby bush. The hole in the world closed quickly behind it. There was a moment of silence, and then birdsong in the distance began again. There had been nothing dramatic, no bright lights or loud noises. Just a small burst of magic and the… thing. Twilight took a hesitant step toward the bush, then jumped back again as the creature rose to its full height, disentangling itself.
Twilight stared at it. She’d seen a lot of strange creatures during her adventures, a hydra and cockatrice among them, but this thing took the cake. She had first thought it wasn’t much bigger than a stallion, but as it stood up she realized it was huge, almost twice her height. It towered over her, balancing on its hind legs like an angry bear while its short forelimbs dangled by its sides. The forelimbs didn’t end in hooves, but in hands that were only roughly similar to Spike’s; where his short digits were scaled and clawed, this thing’s hands were huge and spidery, and she realized with a shiver that it had an extra finger on each hand. They were covered only in bare pinkish-white flesh, with no claws at all.
It’s the same color as a peach, A small corner of her mind noted irrelevantly. One of its hands held a long stick, almost as tall as the creature was, carved with dozens of strange symbols, like writing. The rest of the thing was covered in a long, black coat made of some heavy, shiny material she had never seen before. Only its head was uncovered, and she got a better look at that as it turned around. The head was tall and domed like a pony’s, but its short, scruffy mane barely covered the top and back, leaving its neck bare. The face had all the right features, but they were weirdly placed and shaped: the ears were round and set low on the sides of its head, the mouth was small, and wasn’t a muzzle, leaving the nose to rise like a lone mountain surrounded by plains. The eyes were intense and too small, although they widened as it saw her. Apparently she had surprised it as much as it had her.
Hitting the bush only hurt a little. Getting out hurt significantly more. The branches were tipped in these little thorns that scraped my hands and head. At least my leather duster, spelled to stop bullets and claws, prevented any thorns from sticking me anywhere it covered. It was a bit like wearing body armor to a Nerf fight. But then again, I thought, looking at my scraped hands, there’s no such thing as overkill.
Now, I wondered, what fresh hell is this? I scanned the surrounding countryside with rapidly mounting disbelief. The whole place looked too perfect to be real. A gently rolling meadow stretched as far as I could see, dotted with occasional, beautiful trees. In another direction I could see a series of hills covered in hundreds of apple trees, and the road I was standing on stretched to a distant little village that looked adorably quaint.
This place wasn’t a faerie tale land. Believe me; most faerie tales (like most faeries) are actually dark and bloody in their original versions. A world this idyllic could only come from one place. How the hell did I end up in a Disney movie? I thought. I heard a small sound behind me, and when I turned around, I got an even bigger shock.
Behind me stood a small purple unicorn, staring at me.
Now, I can say with a minimum of lying that I am a very manly man. I don’t drink ‘lite’ beer, I eat steak without worrying about cholesterol, I don’t ask for directions, and sometimes I beat my chest to display my dominance over lesser males. But I swear to all the powers that be, that unicorn was the cutest thing I had ever seen in my life. Underneath the shock of seeing it, I wanted to giggle like a five-year-old girl and pick it up in a big hug. I don’t care if that sounds weird, it was that freaking adorable. It was only the size of a large dog, but it had a rounder head than any horse I’ve ever seen, and its eyes were a pair of large, expressive orbs. Above the eyes was a little spiral horn the same purple as the rest of its coat. Its dark purple mane was styled like hair, complete with bangs and a few streaks of pink. On its hip was a mark or tattoo that depicted a cloud of sparkles around a dark purple, six-pointed star.
It stared at me in what looked a state of shock, but it didn’t bolt like a wild animal would. I supposed people didn’t regularly tear apart the fabric of time and space to fall out of thin air around here. I stared back and made the mistake of meeting its eyes. The large orbs of soft purple watched me in a combination of curiosity and fear, and as I looked into them, I felt the unmistakable beginnings of a Soulgaze. You have got to be kidding me, I thought even as the magic began.
The eyes are often called the windows of the soul, the truest reflections of person’s heart. As poetic and uselessly romantic as that may sound, for wizards it was true. If a wizard and anyone else hold eye contact, they can peer through those windows to see the other’s most fundamental nature. Normally, I was more careful. Not only is it wrong to see someone like that without their consent, but they get to see my soul too. I’m not much for introspection, but from people’s reactions, seeing my soul is not a pleasant experience. One woman even fainted.
I hadn’t been careful here because there is one very important requirement both people need for a Soulgaze to occur. Something I’d never thought a pony, unicorn or not, lovable or not, would have. Namely, a soul.
I was in a library. Saying it was huge is about as accurate as calling the sun “big”. It stretched further than I could see in all directions, and I mean all. The staircase I stood on looked endless, countless floors stretching both above and below me. Books were everywhere, not just on shelves but stacked on reading tables, and left in chairs. One had even found its way onto the stairs. I stepped off the staircase, walking deeper into the library. The ceiling was painted to look like a section of the night sky with constellations fancifully illustrated in luminous outlines. The room’s light came from large chandeliers shaped like six-pointed stars, each surrounded by a cluster of individual lamps in holders of the same shape. It took me a moment, but I realized they matched the mark on her flank. I wondered about the importance of the symbol, but the rest of the library distracted me. As I walked among the shelves, I noticed that despite the scattered nature of all the books, they were lovingly maintained, with hardly a cracked spine or dog-eared page to be seen. Her collection of wisdom may have been disorganized, but it was obvious that none of it was neglected. The whole place was a temple to a love of learning and respect for knowledge, but it held more as well. On the ends of the bookcases and the walls hung picture after picture of other creatures
There were posed portraits and photos that seemed taken on the spur of the moment, childish crayon drawings and gorgeous oil paintings, bas reliefs and even some small sculptures, all arranged as haphazardly as the books. I saw the same nine or ten creatures repeated again and again, clearly important… people?... in her life. Strangely, they weren’t all unicorns. They were all built along the same lines, but apparently the horn was optional – some had wings instead, and others had neither.
The more childish drawings centered around a pair of figures that I took for her parents and a purple-and-green blob -- a pet maybe? The more recent images, though, revolved almost entirely around seven individuals. The first one that caught my eye was a butter-yellow pegasus with a soft pink mane and tail, her shy smile gentle and warm. I’d thought the purple unicorn was cute, but this one was weapons-grade adorable. There was another unicorn, this one with a pure white coat and a deep purple mane and tail, obviously styled. She looked like a real beauty queen, but her smile had an open, friendly quality that hinted at a much kinder, deeper personality than most socialites. Granted, most of the socialites I’d met recently were vampires, crime bosses, or faeries. Nosy wizards with money problems don’t get invited to normal parties.
Pictures of a bright pink pony were hung in the oddest places, making it seem like she was popping up from everywhere. She wore an enthusiastic, almost overjoyed expression that matched the bubbly antics she seemed to be engaged in. I don’t think there was a single picture of her sitting still. Another ordinary pony, orange, was never seen without a Stetson and hard-nosed expression that reminded me of my mentor, Wizard McCoy. She was almost always depicted working on a farm, roping cattle, and doing other cowgirl (cowpony?) activities.
I stopped dead in front of a picture of a little purple dragon belching green fire. A dragon? An actual, factual fire-breathing dragon?! But he was tiny! Even smaller than the ponies. He was purple with rounded green spines lining his back. I realized this was the purple blob from those early pictures – he’d been with her for a long, long time. He was always shown helping out, at least when he wasn’t sleeping. Whatever he was to her, he definitely wasn’t a pet.
The last of her apparent friends was another pegasus, mostly depicted sleeping or flying, with a particularly cocky look in her eyes. She was blue with a rainbow-striped mane and tail that seemed out of place even among the psychedelic ponies. Whoever they were, it was obvious that these particular ponies were very important to her. She must have loved them all deeply for them to hold this kind of significance in her soul.
The places of honor, though, were reserved for a huge, winged unicorn. She was proportioned more like the horses I was used to, long-legged with a graceful neck and a long muzzle. Her coat was pure white, but her mane and tail were striped pastel pink, green, and blue, and were always depicted blowing in the wind. From her crown and her regal bearing, I guessed this was royalty of some kind, but also something much more to the unicorn.
The Soulgaze ended suddenly, and I was back in the sunny meadow, staring at the little unicorn. She had fainted dead away. “Great,” I muttered. “I’ve been here two minutes and already managed to traumatize one of the local population, a sentient unicorn no less, into unconsciousness.” I sighed and bent down to haul the poor girl over my shoulder. As I did, I felt a sharp tingle like static electricity, the sign of fellow mage. “Oh, and she knows magic too! Nothing about this situation was weird enough already.”
Well, I couldn’t just leave her lying in the middle of the road. I eyed the town in the distance warily, unsure how they would react to a stranger carrying in one of their own unconscious. I checked the opposite direction and noticed a small cottage not too far away. It looked both welcoming and familiar. I started towards it, hurrying a little. “Hope they’re friendly,” I said to no one in particular. I was almost to it when I realized why it felt so familiar. The quaint little cottage looked like it came straight from the Shire.
“Quick recap then, for the folks at home. I’m carrying a tiny, purple, sentient unicorn mage that I accidently knocked out into a hobbit hole looking for someone to help her. Could it get any weirder?” I groused as I opened the door and stooped in.
“Oh, Twilight, you’re here,” the small yellow pegasus from the Soulgaze said happily as she turned around. Her face changed quickly to shock as she saw me.
Well, of course they could talk. I wasn’t even surprised anymore.
Fluttershy was having a busy morning. She had fed all of her little animal friends early. Now she was busy making a fruit salad for her and Twilight to share after they were done identifying the egg she had found. Her back was to the door when she heard it open. “Oh Twilight, you’re here.” She said happily, turning around. Then she saw it. It was huge, taller even than the manticore she’d once tamed. Its head nearly brushed the ceiling as it rose from stooping through the door. Its long black coat fell open as it straightened and Fluttershy could see it holding Twilight unmoving in its arms. She was on the verge of full panic when it spoke.
“Okay, this really isn’t what it looks like. I found her on the path to your house, and I brought her here to get help,” It spoke softly, but quickly, in a deep voice “I know I look very scary, but I promise I’m not a bad guy.”
Fluttershy barely noticed it was speaking. It had knocked out Twilight and now it had come for her and her animals! She knew she had to defend them, but it was so scary. She glanced up at it and it stared down at her, its tiny eyes more intense than those of any other creature she’d ever seen. Her heart clutched in her chest, her wings locked to her sides, and she started to hyperventilate. The creature looked away quickly and lowered Twilight to the floor, then turned to crouch over her. Fluttershy shut her eyes and whimpered slightly.
“Dormius, dorme, dormius.” A soft voice whispered. Fluttershy slumped over her mind going blissfully blank. The last thought she had before she slipped fully into a dreamless sleep was how sad the voice had sounded.
Fluttershy woke up in her bed. Oh, goodness, she thought. What a strange dream. Then she noticed that Twilight was asleep beside her, tossing and turning with a troubled expression. Wait. She didn’t stay the night. So did that really happen?
Her question was answered by the sound of off-key singing coming from downstairs. It was a cheerful song, but the lyrics didn’t make much sense. What’s a yellow submarine, Fluttershy wondered, and why would anypony live in one? The song grew louder and was accompanied by the squeaking of stairs as the creature climbed them. Fluttershy squeaked and pulled her covers all the way up to her eyes. It came into the room, its hands full with a tea tray on which her teapot, three cups and a sliced apple sat. It bumped its head on the low ceiling and muttered darkly, eyeing the offending architecture. Then, noticing she was awake, it stopped muttering and gave her a smile that looked more tired than happy.
“Sorry about scaring you, but I honestly don’t mean any harm. I made some tea; I didn’t know what you like, so I had to guess. I hope the cinnamon spice one is okay.” It set the tray down to one side of the bed and sat down across it from her. Now that it wasn’t towering over her, Fluttershy thought, it wasn’t really that scary. “I mean, you already had teacups, so I brought them even though I have no idea how you hold them, given that you, you know, only have hooves.”
“Um… uh,” Fluttershy mumbled. “Thank you.”
It smiled at that, this time with more warmth, and began pouring tea into two of the cups. She took a cup in both hooves, which seemed to baffle it, and sipped slowly. “It’s nice to see that you really can talk. For a while there I thought I’d just imagined it.” It said, munching on an apple slice and holding the tea in its other hand. “Mmm, these are good. So anyway, I’m Harry.”
Fluttershy had a moment of confusion. “Well, um …. You see. N-not to be rude or anything, but you’re not.”
“I’m not what?”
“Hairy. I mean, I know plenty of animals and you’re actually one of the least hairy things I’ve ever seen.” A frown crossed its face, and she blushed a little. “Not that I’m calling you a liar or anything, I just, um… well…” She trailed off into silence.
It rubbed its forehead with one hand and sighed a little. “Don’t worry about it, it’s just a name. How about you just call me Dresden instead?”
“Oh, okay. You can call me Fluttershy,” she said, giving him a shy smile. “Um… do you mind if I ask you something?”
It put down the tea and nodded. “Is it what I am and where I’m from?” She bobbed her head. “Well, I’m what we call a human, and I’m from another world. I got here by accident. Do you not have any humans at all here?”
“No, I’ve never even heard of humans before. You’re in Equestria. We have ponies, dragons, cows, buffalo, griffins and lots of other creatures, but no humans.”
“A world where ponies evolved from men?” it said, chuckling. Fluttershy just looked at it in confusion. It smiled again and extended a hand toward her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Fluttershy.”
She gave a small smile and shook it. “Likewise, Mr. Dresden.”
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
Twilight tossed and turned in her sleep, her mind full of dreams, images that wouldn’t fade. The shock of what she had seen had knocked her unconscious, but it was her tired body that kept her there, forcing her to rest. Her mind, though, was anything but peaceful, and what she had seen in that strange place replayed endlessly.
It began in an enormous city of stone and glass. The surrounding details were hazy, as though a spotlight shone only on the creature in front of her. He appeared the same, except he was missing the black coat from before. His bare torso, the same peach color as his hands, was covered in wounds. Some were white lines, old and scarred, and some were so fresh they were still wrapped in red-stained bandages. As she watched, he put on a suit of medieval armor in a spartan, lonely room. He rose, sword in hand, and went out into the strange city. He walked lightly, a smile on his face, but Twilight could see that he had a heavy purpose in mind. Most of the city’s people ignored him, some jeered at him. He ignored both. They arrived at the edge of the city just as the sun was setting. In the soft glow of dusk he stood on an open plain between the city and a wild, tangled forest. As the light dimmed, monsters began to appear, slinking out of the growing shadows until a multitude of them waited, arrayed against him. They were horrifying, all of them, each in its own unique way. Twilight had never seen anything like them, and she recoiled in fear from their drooling jaws and blood-stained claws. As one, the creatures of night bellowed their challenge to the lone warrior. He was unbowed by the wave of sound and held his ground. As the lingering echoes died away he responded.
He laughed at them, loud and cocky, and made a one-fingered gesture Twilight didn’t fully understand. The monsters did, and they screamed in fury even as they charged him. What followed was the most violent and frightening thing she had ever seen. All of the horrors were quick and vicious, but the man was quicker still and his swordplay was that of a true master. Perhaps he lacked the finesse of a more experienced knight, but as he bisected one unlucky foe, Twilight realized he had more than enough power to make up for it. He fought against insane odds, never giving ground to the darkness. The black blood of the creatures flew as his sword cut corrupted flesh, but crimson blood flowed steadily from the many wounds he received in return. Much later, the full moon rose over a silent battlefield, the beasts were dead or had fled, and the warrior stood alone, breathing raggedly. He was so covered in the black blood of his enemies that he resembled them more than any of his city’s people. Then Twilight noticed something she hadn’t before; his eyes were mismatched. One was a brown so bright it bordered on gold. That eye was full of honor and strength, and tired as he was, it still blazed like a torch. The other, though, was a brown so dark that it appeared black. It didn’t blaze, it smoldered. Rage, pain, cruelty and an unquenchable lust for power lived in that eye. She realized that there stood the real battle, within the heart of the warrior. Every time he fought, he walked the knife’s edge between using his power and letting it use him, but at the same time, he couldn’t stop fighting for his city. Twilight felt an intense surge of emotion, equal parts pity and fear, even as the image faded to black.
“No!” Twilight screamed as she woke up, covered in sweat. There was a terrifying instant of disorientation before she recognized the comfortable, familiar interior of Fluttershy’s cottage. It hadn’t been just a dream, she was certain of that. Celestia help her, she had to warn the residents of Ponyville quickly. The creature, the… person… she had met was dangerous. I must alert Princess Celestia at once, She thought, she needs to know about him. If I can’t think of a way to track him down, her guards will have to search the forest. She paused for a moment. She had promised to help Fluttershy. She hated to let her friend down, but a crisis obviously took precedence. She would warn Fluttershy, breaking the news as gently as possible, then set out immediately for Ponyville.
“Fluttershy?” Twilight asked as she came downstairs, “Where are you?”
“Over here. It’s good to see you up and about, Twilight.” The little pegasus was in the kitchen fixing a huge fruit salad, one big enough for half a dozen ponies, and was keeping an eye on her oven too. “I was afraid you would miss lunch.”
“I’m fine. I just didn’t get enough sleep last night.” Twilight said her tone serious. “But I’ve got something much more important than lunch to discuss with you. It’s about why I was unconscious.”
“Okay, just a minute then.” She turned to the window. “Lunchtime.” Fluttershy called softly.
“Fluttershy, didn’t you hear me?!” Twilight demanded. “Lunch can wait; we’ve got a full blown emergency on our hooves!”
Fluttershy flinched. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t r-realize,” she mumbled as she stared at her hooves.
Twilight sighed. “I’m sorry, Fluttershy. I didn’t mean to yell at you, but this could be a matter of life or death!”
“Oh, my.” Fluttershy glanced toward the door and her face lit up with a hopeful smile. “Well, maybe Mr. Dresden can help with your problem.” Twilight turned to look, then froze in shock, her heart stopping for one terrifying moment. The biped was barging into Fluttershy’s home! He was breathing heavily and carried an axe in one of his hands. The blade was so sharp it gleamed in the soft sunshine of Fluttershy’s cottage.
“Fluttershy, run!” Twilight screamed, putting herself between Fluttershy and the towering threat. “I’ll hold him off, you warn Ponyville!” The reaction she got was unexpected to say the least. Both Fluttershy and the warrior just stared at her. What in Celestia’s mane is going on?! Twilight thought.
He was the first to break the awkward silence. “I was just about finished chopping all of that wood you wanted, Miss Fluttershy,” he said as he hung the axe in its place on the wall. Twilight slowly let the spells she’d been preparing fade away, staring speechless at the giant. Well, of course he can talk. I’m not even surprised anymore.
“Oh, thank you so much, Mr. Dresden. Since you said you couldn’t eat raw grains, I made us a fruit salad and baked potatoes for lunch.” Fluttershy cleared her throat and gestured to Twilight. “This is my friend, Twilight Sparkle. Twilight, this is Mr. Dresden. He carried you here while you were unconscious. I know he looks scary, but he’s just from somewhere else where they only have humans like him.” Twilight eyed the human, who had the good grace to look guilty.
Huh, Twilight thought, so he knows that it’s his fault I passed out. Aloud she said, “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Dresden. But if you don’t mind me asking, what are your intentions in Equestria?”
“Well, right now I’m pretty intent on eating lunch,” he said with a careless smile. “Beyond that, I just want to go home. I’m only here by accident.”
“Well,” Fluttershy spoke up, “Wash your hooves – I mean, hands – and we can discuss that and Twilight’s problem after lunch.” Dresden walked over to the sink and began washing as Fluttershy pulled the potatoes out of the oven. The food smelled delicious, and they dug in without anything more than some small talk. Dresden ate most of the fruit salad and three of the potatoes, but given his size, Twilight wasn’t surprised. When lunch was done, he leaned back and gave his stomach a contented pat.
“Thank you Miss Fluttershy, that was wonderful. Do you happen to have any beer?” he asked hopefully.
The look on his face was so disheartened it was almost funny. Twilight stifled a giggle; this was the time for business. “Yes, Fluttershy. Thank you for lunch. Now, would you mind answering some more questions, Mr. Dresden?”
“Sure thing, pumpkin.”
Twilight narrowed her eyes, but he just grinned in reply. She pushed it aside, determined not to give him the satisfaction. “Well, I’d like to know who you are, where you came from, why you’re here, and most importantly…” What did you do to me?! is what she wanted to shout, but she satisfied herself with an icy glare instead. “What happened when we met?”
Dresden winced, regaining his guilty expression. He dropped the flippant tone and turned serious. “I’m Harry Dresden, a wizard from the city of Chicago.”
“A wizard? I’m not familiar with the term.” Twilight interjected.
“You know, a practitioner of magic. I noticed that you’re one, too.”
“Oh,” she said, wondering if he’d sensed the spells she’d prepared during the earlier confrontation. “Go on, please.”
“My world is called Earth, and humans, omnivorous primates like myself, are the dominant species. We have horses there too, but they’re bigger than you and not sentient.”
“Omnivorous? You eat meat, then?” Twilight asked, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
“Yeah, typically that’s the main dish in a human meal. And the tastiest.” He grinned, baring his teeth.
“Y-you don’t eat ponies do you?” Fluttershy squeaked. Twilight hadn’t thought of that, but it was a good question. She watched Dresden’s reaction. He shook his head, the grin fading.
“No, we don’t. In fact, a lot of people would be as horrified as you at the idea of eating horse. Why I’m here though…” He paused to think. “Have you ever heard of the Nevernever?” Both Fluttershy and Twilight shook their heads. He wasn’t surprised. “Well, okay. The Nevernever has a lot of names, Faerie land, the Æther, the Dream Time, and many others, but essentially it’s a realm of pure magic, one that connects to everywhere. You can use magic to get into the Nevernever and exit it wherever you want. Wizards use it to travel long distances. I was on the path to another city when I had to run from some of the local wildlife. You see, a lot of monsters live in the Nevernever, so it’s not a nice place. Anyway, I couldn’t get away from them so I had to open a hole into whatever world was nearest; it just happened to be here. I’d like to go home, but I need directions back to the part of the Nevernever that connects to Earth. Preferably a route that doesn’t cross the vearens’ territory again.”
Twilight thought about it. It sounded fantastic, no doubt about that. But she had also seen him fall out of hole in thin air and glimpsed another world on the opposite side. He seemed to be telling the truth, and if he was, this needed to be dealt with quickly and quietly. There was no sense causing a panic among innocent ponies. I’ll tell Celestia and she’ll know what to do. Twilight decided. Until then, Dresden will simply have to stay here in Ponyville. It’s dangerous, but it’s better than letting him wander around. I wonder if Rarity could pull together a disguise for him.
“Okay,” Twilight said. “I believe you, and I’ll ask Princess Celestia to help us find you a way home.” He relaxed and started to say something, but she cut him off. “But you still haven’t told me what happened when I saw you.”
“Oh. Right.” He looked apologetic. “That was something that happens when a wizard looks someone in the eyes for more than a moment. It’s called the Soulgaze. Basically, we each got to see the other’s soul. The core of their being. I didn’t mean for it to happen. On Earth, horses—” Twilight felt her expression harden, and Dresden corrected himself. “—err, ponies, don’t have souls. No soul, no Soulgaze.”
Twilight and Fluttershy stared at him, one in confusion, and the other in shock verging on horror. Fluttershy spoke first. “What does a soul look like?”
“Well, you don’t literally see a soul. You see their most fundamental nature explained in metaphor. I typically see them as places, but not always.” He fidgeted nervously, “Sorry about whatever you saw. I’m told my soul isn’t a nice place to visit.”
Twilight shook her head. That, more than anything else in this deranged situation, was beyond her. She needed time to process all of it. But she had work to do. Her resolve strengthened, and she lifted her chin. “I’m going into town,” she announced. “I need Spike to send a letter to Princess Celestia, and I need to see if Rarity can make a disguise for Mr. Dresden.” She turned to him. “Stay here and try not to attract any attention. Okay?” He nodded. “I’ll be back soon, Fluttershy. I promise.” With that, she hurried out of the house, hoping she could resolve this quickly. ……..
I sighed as Twilight left. She wasn’t just scared of me; fear was a reaction I was used to. She was honestly angry over what she had seen. If the rest of Equestria was as picture-perfect as the small piece I’d seen, then I wasn’t surprised. Despite her protective reaction when I entered the house, I doubted she had ever seen true violence, much less performed it.
“Are you okay, Mr. Dresden?” Fluttershy asked, watching me with those big empathetic eyes. “I’m sure Twilight isn’t really angry. She’s just worried and a little stressed.”
“No, she’s upset, but she’s got every right to be. I’m just going to have to be more careful.”
The pegasus looked little she wanted to argue the point, but sighed and seemed to accept it. “Umm … so what did it look like?” Fluttershy peered at me curiously.
“What, her soul?” Fluttershy nodded. “I really shouldn’t tell you without Twilight’s permission. I mean, I already violated her privacy by accident, and that was bad enough.”
She looked down at her hooves in disappointment, but she mumbled an okay. Well, maybe I could tell her one thing. “I’ll say this, though: I saw pictures of you and the rest of her friends everywhere. It was obvious that she loves all of you very much.” It was incredibly heartwarming to see the smile grow on her face and a small blush spread on her cheeks. Confound these ponies, they drive me to feel warm and fuzzy.
“Awwww,” a bubbly voice said, “That’s so sweet of her! It’s nice to know she cares.”
I spun around. Standing right behind me was the bright pink little pony I’d seen in the library. How the hell did she sneak up on me? I wondered. Apparently Fluttershy was caught unaware as well.
“Pinkie Pie!” she said, “When did you get here?”
“Oh, I’ve been here since lunch ended. I was gonna pop out and surprise you guys, but I was so interested in what you were saying I just had to listen.” She beamed proudly as she looked at our unbelieving faces. “So anyway, I’ve a question if you don’t mind, Mr. Dresden.”
I tried not to roll my eyes. Why did everyone have to ask that first? I nodded assent as I took a sip of apple juice. I still couldn’t believe there was no beer. No steaks, I understood. They were herbivores. But come on – they ate barley and wheat, how could they not have beer?! This wasn’t a paradise after all.
“I wanted to know, since, you know, we’re calling you ‘mister’, are you a stallion?”
I spat out the juice I’d been drinking and started coughing, trying to laugh and breathe at the same time. After a few seconds my throat was clear, and I reassured the worried ponies I was fine. “Remind me not to drink next time you ask a question, Miss Pie. But yes, I am male, if that’s what you’re asking.” I chuckled a few more times.
“I thought so,” she grinned triumphantly, but it faded into a confused frown. “Then what’s so funny?”
“Well, you’re the first person who’s had to ask my gender, and besides that, asking a man if he’s a stallion means… something completely different on Earth. Something not discussed in polite company.”
“Oh, I got it.” She giggled, making her fluffy pink mane bounce uncontrollably.
“I don’t,” Fluttershy pouted. “What do you mean, Mr. Dresden?”My mind boggled. I didn’t want to discuss that topic with any pony at all, much less the shyest, most easily embarrassed one. I felt my face heating up as I tried to think of a way out of this one. Luckily the pink little pony came to my rescue.
“Oh, Fluttershy, don’t worry about it. Your Auntie Pinkie Pie will tell you all ‘bout it when you’re older,” she said, patting the yellow pegasus on the head.
“You know, I’m a year older than you,” Fluttershy huffed.
I managed to keep a straight face, though I’m not certain how, and wondered what to do next. If the chores were done, and we had to wait here until Twilight came back, it was going to get pretty boring. An idea popped into my head. Why not? I thought, checking my coat to see what magic supplies I had on hand. After all, I should test my spells to make sure they still work here. I cleared my throat, interrupting Pinkie’s laughing and Fluttershy’s glaring. “Hey,” I said with a showman’s smile. “How about I show you ponies some magic tricks?”
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
Twilight’s mind was full of conflicting thoughts and emotions as she trotted towards Ponyville. From what she knew of him, Dresden was a force to be reckoned with. Peace had reigned in Equestria for centuries, and no pony living had faced a warrior like him. If her theories were correct, he was a battle mage. Worse yet, it wasn’t difficult to sense that, in terms of raw magic power, he outclassed her. She knew it was a little arrogant, but she’d never expected to meet somepony, other than the Princesses of course, with more magical potential. She knew she had more power, if not more skill, than any unicorn alive. It was hard not to feel a little fearful, even jealous maybe, of a talent like his.
But, a more hopeful part of her reasoned, he hasn’t actually hurt anypony since he arrived. Sure he’s scary, but he didn’t mean to make me faint, and he even cared for me while I was out. Fluttershy likes him, and she’s the most timid pony I know when it comes to strangers. Besides, his soul was that of somepony who stood against darkness, one who protects others.
Yeah, her suspicious side retorted, but he’s also close to becoming the darkness he fights. With all his power, what if he does cross the line? Who will stop him? Princess Celestia can. Maybe the Elements of Harmony can. I need to be prepared and to send him back as soon as possible.
If he’s that dangerous, though, why did I leave Fluttershy alone with him? Why do I trust him? Not just with Fluttershy; why do I believe everything he told me? Because he’s a terrible liar, her mind prompted. But how do I know that? His soul, she realized. It was more than just what she had seen; she somehow knew things about him on an almost instinctual level. But that train of logic had a frightening conclusion.
Oh my gosh, she thought, he saw my soul too! She flushed and felt her heart clutch in her chest. He had seen her soul. She felt exposed in a way she would never have believed. Not even my friends know me that well. Nopony should see another like that. It was the worst possible invasion of privacy, and the fact that he had to endure it too was little comfort.
But what had he seen? She knew she wasn’t a perfect pony by any stretch, and that a mirror could be cruel. Even though she’d confronted him about the Soulgaze, neither of them had said a word about what they’d seen. What does he think of me? She wondered wildly. When we spoke he acted like I was a friend. Are we friends? How did she feel about him? Could they even be friends, given how dangerous he was? He was kind, but full of anger. He was honorable, but power hungry. He was courteous, but sarcastic. He was a riddle.
This is ridiculous! Twilight thought as she finally neared Ponyville. I would rather fight Nightmare Moon again than deal with this! Everything she knew had once been black and white, but ever since this stranger arrived she had nothing but a world of grays.
She picked up her pace a little as the library came into view. Spike would be awake by now and probably in the middle of doing his chores. She briefly considered writing the letter herself and sealing it before Spike sent it, but that was too problematic. Not only would she have to explain the sealed letter, but also explain why she would be gone all day without making him suspicious. Besides, she felt wrong lying to any of her friends, but especially her number one assistant.
“Spike?” Twilight called as she entered into the library. “I need to dictate a letter to Princess Celestia. Hurry, this is urgent.”
“Urgent?” Spike said. He hurried down the stairs a feather duster still in one hand. “Is the egg Fluttershy found really that important?”
Twilight realized she had completely forgotten her original purpose once Dresden arrived. “No, this is something different. I saw a new species on the way to Fluttershy’s.”
Spike lost interest. “Twilight, informing the Princess about a new type of beetle isn’t urgent. Remember when you discovered that new subspecies of trout and--”
“That was years ago,” Twilight retorted, though she did flush slightly at the memory. “This species is intelligent, larger and probably stronger than ponies, possibly aggressive, and the representative I met had at least as much potential for magic as I do.” She stopped and glared at Spike. “That is why this is urgent.”
Spike’s jaw had almost hit the floor by the time Twilight finished; he took the stairs two at a time and was back downstairs with paper, ink and a quill in record time. Twilight cleared her throat and began to dictate. She summarized as best she could the events of that morning, but after a moment’s hesitation she didn’t mention the Soulgaze. The whole story was already so hard to believe, including that would make her sound crazy. She would tell the Princess about it in private after she had already met Dresden.
“Now Spike, seal that and send it.” Twilight said, as she began gathering a few books. The suddenly practical On the Theory of Alternate Realities was joined by several teleportation references and an illusion text.
Spike completed the letter, sealed it, and sent it using his customary magic fire. He turned to Twilight, his eyes glittering with curiosity. “Can I see him? Huh, Twilight? Please?” Spike begged, “He sounds really cool!” He paused, noticing Twilight’s amused expression and tried to put on a cooler demeanor. “Err. I mean. It could be really important for me to be there. You probably need your assistant on hand when dealing with a strange new creature.” His hopeful grin, though, told volumes.
Twilight patted him on the head and her voice took on a slightly patronizing tone. “Sorry, Spike. I have a more important job for you.” Spike’s face fell in disappointment, but quickly took on a more skeptical expression. Twilight ignored him and continued. “I want him here, where I can keep an eye on him until Princess Celestia arrives. I need you to fix up the storage room so he can sleep there if it’s necessary.”
“Fine,” Spike grumbled. His grousing, though, was short-lived. He burped, shooting out a small jet of green flame. Within the fire a letter formed, and Spike caught it in his outstretched hand.
“That was quick,” Twilight commented while Spike cleared his throat.
“It says, ‘I’m sorry, Miss Sparkle, but the Princess is in another castle. This week she and Princess Luna are visiting Coltenhagen. Your letter will be forwarded to her with today’s reports from Canterlot at sunset.’ Huh? Do you want to send another letter to tell them how urgent it is?”
Twilight felt a surge of frustration and briefly wanted to tear the letter to pieces. So much for a quick and decisive solution, she complained. What else could go wrong?! She had forgotten all about her mentor’s trip this week. She sighed, massaging one of her temples, willing herself to relax. She counted prime numbers until she could trust herself to speak without screaming. “No, we’d better not. If I tell them it’s urgent, I’ll have to explain why or they’ll take a look themselves, and then the news would be everywhere. We’ll just have to wait. Now get to work, I’m heading over to Rarity’s.” Spike sulked behind her, muttering as she left. “Jeez, I don’t get to see the cool alien or Rarity, and now I’ve got even more chores to do. Sometimes a dragon just can’t catch a break.”
Twilight had barely opened the door when she ran into a familiar orange earth pony. Her trademark brown Stetson was off center and her coat was soaked with sweat; it looked like she’d been running around all morning.
“Woah there, sugarcube.” Applejack said, “I can see you’re inna hurry but you seen Pinkie Pie anywhere?”
“Applejack!” Twilight yelped, as she stumbled to a halt. “I thought you and Pinkie Pie were working on new recipes today.”
“Well, that’s the thing. I can’t seem to find that filly nowhere. Mrs. Cake ain’t see her since this morning, said she was goin’ on about holes in the fabric of reality or something and she went and dashed off. I was hoping she was here, ‘cause I’ve already checked most other places in town. Do you know where she is?”
Twilight had a sinking feeling that she knew exactly where Pinkie was. Applejack noticed her friend’s discomfort and eyed her curiously. Twilight sighed; she couldn’t lie to her friend. “I might know where she is, but I need to collect Rarity first. Follow me.” She started trotting down the street, and Applejack hurried to catch up.
“Now hold up there. Where is she, and why do we need Rarity? I’m perfectly capable of collectin’ her myself, thank you,” Applejack replied. Twilight shook her head.
“No, that’s not what I meant. I’ve got some important news, and it’ll be easier if I don’t have to repeat myself.”
“Funny,” Applejack retorted, giving her friend a playful jab and a smile, “And here I thought you loved talking almost as much as reading.”
Twilight giggled a little. “I’m not that bad, am I?”
“So, anyway,” Applejack quickly changed the subject, “I wouldn’t mind your opinion on some of my ideas for recipes. My favorite so far, is an apple muffin using nutmeg instead of cinnamon.” They passed the rest of the trip discussing Applejack’s ideas for new treats until before long they were there.
The Carousel Boutique looked to have been freshly cleaned and practically shone in the afternoon sunshine. Twilight wondered which poor colt, or colts maybe, had been induced to rescue the fair Rarity from the threat of a dirty house.
“Welcome!” trilled a cultured voice as they entered, “To Carousel Boutique, where every item is chic, unique and magnifique.” The white unicorn stopped working on the dress she’d been altering and turned to see her two friends. “Twilight, Applejack! How good to see you. What brings you to my humble shop today?”
Twilight glanced around the shop. “Is anypony else here?” At Rarity’s head shake, she continued “It’s kind of a long story, but I’ll try to give you the basics. On my way to Fluttershy’s this morning, I discovered a strange new creature, something I’ve never even heard of. He’s definitely non-equine, kind of scary-looking, actually, but I discovered he is intelligent. I was hoping Rarity could figure out some way to disguise him, until the Princess can send him home.” Her friends just stared at her. “I know it sounds crazy but right now he’s with Fluttershy, and I don’t want him out of my sight for any longer than necessary.”
Rarity sighed, “I suppose this dress can wait. Especially if it’s to help out a friend in need.” She began examining rolls of fabric, trying to decide what to take with her.
“Hold on there,” Applejack said. “You mean, you just left her alone with this weird feller? Twilight, you sure Fluttershy’s up to that? She may’ve offered to help, but she might be bitin’ off more than she can chew.”
Twilight shook her head. “She’s fine. I passed out after seeing him and when I came to, they were already friends.”
“You fainted, Twilight?” Rarity said from behind the stacks of fabric she was going through. “Oh, how terrible does this creature look?” She asked with a shudder. “I mean there’s only so much I can do.”
Twilight shrugged “He’s not that bad. I was more surprised by how he fell out of a hole in the sky.” Her voice lowered to a mutter. “And that business with the Soulgaze didn’t help either.”
“The what now?” Applejack asked suspiciously.
“Nothing!” Twilight said quickly, “Are you ready, Rarity?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be, darling. Applejack, would you be a dear and take that set of saddlebags for me? There’s really too much for me to carry myself.”
Applejack stopped eyeing Twilight and put on the saddlebags; they were overflowing with multiple rolls of fabric and other sewing paraphernalia. “Is all this really necessary?” she asked.
“Well, of course,” Rarity replied. “I don’t know what I’ll need until I can actually see him. Twilight, you simply must describe him for me, so I can start thinking of a design.” They left the Boutique, Rarity quickly flipping the sign to ‘Closed’, and they all started walking for Fluttershy’s cottage.
How to describe him, Twilight wondered, “Well, for starters, imagine a diamond dog, only really tall…” ……..
“Meanwhile at Fluttershy’s house!” Pinkie Pie announced proudly. Fluttershy and I just looked at her. Fluttershy had apparently learned better than to ask, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Sorry, what?” Not that much of what she’d said had made any sense so far. But hey, a guy can hope, can’t he?
“Nothing, just setting up a scene transition.” Pinkie’s smile took up more of her face than I think was physically possible.
“Well, uh. Back to the show then.” I stumbled, trying to keep my stage presence. Hell’s bells. How had my father managed this in front of an entire crowd? “Let’s move on to the next trick.” She nodded enthusiastically and Fluttershy smiled. My first couple of spells didn’t get much of a reaction, levitating objects wasn’t very impressive it seemed. Wizards like Twilight must be able to practice openly. My practice with tracking spells, using nothing but a crystal and one of their tail hairs went over better. Though I still didn’t understand how Pinkie could have fit in that bucket of sponges. Now I was doing magic circles; I started with sealing Pinkie in a soundproof one. Fluttershy and I had gotten a laugh out of that, and so did she after a minute. Next was something a bit more exciting.
“For my next trick we shall need to go outside for a moment,” Pinkie smiled eagerly and shot off before I had even taken a step. I stopped by the kitchen and grabbed a stool, some salt and an apple. My spell components gathered, I put them at the far end of Fluttershy’s lawn, as far from the house as I could manage. “Now, I must give fair warning to the audience that this will appear dangerous, but rest assured. I have it completely under control.” Hopefully, at least. All of my spells thus far had gone off without a hitch, but now it was time to try for something more serious. I set the apple on the stool and surrounded the whole thing with a circle of salt. I murmured a soft quasi-Latin word and sealed the circle with my will. As I did I let some the energy spill out, causing a flurry of sparks and a sudden view of the mystical barrier before it faded to invisibility again. Fluttershy and Pinkie gasped appreciatively, and I couldn’t hold back a grin. Visual effects were a waste of magic, but they sure looked cool. I backed off about ten paces and made sure my equine audience was behind me. If anything went wrong I’d take the brunt of the forces in play. I raised my blasting rod and focused on it. The runes carved into it glowed to life with the familiar smell of burnt wood. The tip began to glow an angry red as I slowly prepared the spell. No need to take it fast for the first try. The magic came together in powerful rush, and I gestured with the rod releasing it with a ringing shout.
“Fuego!” I cried. An enormous column of flame erupted out of my blasting rod, striking the circle I had prepared, in a wave of vicious fire. It split as it reached the magic barrier, like a river meeting a rock, washing to either side of it. The flames died out quickly as the magic dissipated, and I walked over to the circle. I was pleased to see it had maintained integrity, the salt remained, not a single grain had moved, and the stool and apple looked just fine. I broke the circle with a thought and picked up the apple. It was cool to the touch even. I smiled and turned to face the speechless ponies. Their mouths were hanging open, and I chuckled. Remembering my father’s lessons on showmanship, I bowed slightly and gently tossed the apple to Fluttershy. She squeaked and flinched, but Pinkie managed to catch it before it hit the ground.
“It’s not even hot!” she exclaimed before taking a big bite. Fluttershy looked at me with amazement and what looked a little like fear. I was suddenly glad that had I arranged the whole thing as a magic show. Seeing me toss around fire of that magnitude without explanation would probably have sent her into a panic. I cursed myself for not realizing that sooner and belatedly noticed the scorch marks on her lawn.
“Well, ladies. That’s about that.” I rubbed my neck nervously. “Sorry about your yard, Miss Fluttershy. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Oh, that’s okay. It’ll grow back.” She stared at me and I had to duck my eyes to avoid a Soulgaze. “But that was really amazing. I mean, I’ve seen Twilight do plenty of magic, but never anything like that.”
“Really?” I asked, “So, I take it fire manipulation isn’t common here?” She shook her head. Strange, making fire was one of the more basic spells. It required more power than moving things around with wind, but energy liked to eventually turn to heat anyway. Speaking of energy, I noticed that I didn’t feel as tired as I should have after that fire blast, considering all the spells I’d been slinging just a couple of hours before. Normally, moving that kind of energy would come with some effort, not too different from a taking a single flight of stairs, but I had hardly felt it. Curious, I cast out my wizardly senses, something I should have done the moment I arrived in hindsight, but, hey I’d been distracted by absurdly cute ponies. “Stars and stones!” I yelped. This world practically buzzed with magic. The air was so saturated it was like standing on top of a huge ley line. I could hardly believe I’d missed it before.
“That was magically delicious!” Pinkie shouted as she bounced over to us and broke into a fit of giggles. “Ooh, ooh! Could you do the fire part again, only bigger?” I blinked; well she was far from scared.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I began and her face looked so hopeful, the rest was hard to say, “Fire is dangerous, especially in the amounts you’re talking about. I shouldn’t, I mean couldn’t do that. If something went wrong a pony could get hurt.” At that her, bottom lip stuck out and her eyes got wider, and filled with sadness and a silent pleading. I had to look away, and not to avoid a Soulgaze this time. The little pink pony had the best puppy eyes I’d ever seen.
“Don’t worry, you can do it! Please?” she asked and gave hopeful smile.
Fluttershy added her two cents as well. “I wouldn’t mind seeing that, Mr. Dresden.” I gave her a short glare and she fell back a little, nervous and mumbling again. “I mean, you know if it’s not too much trouble or anything.”
I groaned. I knew when I was beaten. I couldn’t say no to a pair of faces like that. “Okay, but we’re moving further away from the house and I’m only going to do it once, agreed?” They both smiled and nodded. How come I’m a sucker for every woman I meet? Even non-human ones? They followed me until we were about a hundred yards from the house back in the meadow I’d first arrived in. I wasn’t close to any trees, and I checked the sky for any birds (nothing but clouds up there).
“Okay,” I warned. “Stay back.” They moved back a few steps. “No. I mean, way, way back.” They hesitated then complied; Pinkie had somehow gotten a box of popcorn and was excitedly munching away. I breathed in deeply and gathered my power as I did so. I drew in magic and shaped it in my mind to what I wanted it to do. It took a few moments to gather all that energy. This kind of spell was ridiculously impractical for battle, but it would be impressive as hell. The tip of my blasting rod glowed incandescent white, almost too bright to look at. I raised it carefully, pointing it straight up into the sky as I roared “Pyrofuego!”
A colossal tower of raging fire poured forth from my blasting rod so furiously I could barely keep it aimed. As it climbed, the immense inferno spun madly, forming what looked like a cyclone from Hell. The whole thing was beautiful, almost hypnotic. I’d always liked fire. Some would even accuse me of being a pyromaniac, but it was useful in my line of work. Fire is a force of cleansing, both physically and spiritually. That’s why humans are instinctively drawn to the flicker of flames; we know that fire holds the darkness at bay.
That being said, what I had done was still unbelievable. The ridiculous thing reached more than a hundred feet before it gave out. Overall, the result was a little more than I’d intended. I must have accidently drawn in a lot more power then I had originally planned. I would have to be more careful when I reached for my magic from now on. Only then did my inner monologue remind me, didn’t Twilight say something about not attracting attention? She did, in fact. Oh, damn.
“Well, girls,” I announced to my audience, “time to leave the scene of the crime.” I put away my blasting rod and started walking toward Fluttershy’s house, trying to look innocent. Fluttershy and Pinkie followed me, Pinkie chatting happily about something. I tuned her out and watched for any pursuit. This wasn’t the first time I’d made a strategic retreat after starting a huge fire. Won’t be the last time either, I thought, well, at least this time I got away without getting caught.
“Hold it right there, you weirdo!” a brash voice cried.
I froze and turned slowly, cursing myself, Damnit Harry, you have got to stop giving the universe a challenge like that! It was another pegasus, but this one was flying towards me at almost ludicrous speed.
Seriously? When the hell did ponies get hyper-active hyper drive? I wondered irrelevantly.
She was a blue pony, with a rainbow colored mane and tail, and was absolutely pissed off; she even managed to make her pink eyes look scary. I could study all of this in great detail because she was speeding right toward me, I mean dead on. I reminded myself that diving to the ground before she rammed into me wouldn’t be very manly and mentally prepared my shield. I hoped the inevitable collision wouldn’t hurt her much. She put on the brakes about twenty feet away and managed to stop scant inches from my barrier, defying just about every law of physics I’d ever learned. I let the power drain out of my shield and almost immediately regretted it.
She darted forward, actually pressing her face against mine so that all I could see was her glare. “Just who the hay do you think you are? I was having a nice nap til your stupid fire evaporated my cloud!” she yelled. At this point, a sensible person would back off and explain things to her in a calm and orderly fashion. However, she had nearly flattened me and besides, I’m not likely to be accused of being sensible. I set phasers to snark and opened fire.
“I the hay am Harry Dresden.” I deadpanned. It took her a second to get it.
“Don’t you get smart with me, weirdo! And back off from my friends!’ She poked me in the chest with one of her hooves. I knocked it away with my staff.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I replied without an ounce of sincerity, “Is that supposed to scare me? Look, sweetheart, you’re cute and all, but intimidation is a big people game. Why don’t you buzz off?” I turned and started walking, but she zoomed around me and got in my face again.
“Oh, no you don’t, I’m still talking to you!”
“Fantastic. I’m still not listening, so we’re even,” I retorted, giving her a smirk. I think it was the smirk that did it. Her face turned red, and I mean that literally. It didn’t flush; it actually turned a cartoonish red with anger. I could feel my spleen venting as I considered my next line. Bugs Bunny had a lot of good ones I could use, but I decided to go with something a little more modern, suitably modified of course.
“You mad, pony?” That settled it. Her eyes flashed with rage. She was going to do her best to hurt me. I briefly wished I wasn’t such a wiseass as I prepared a few handy spells. Then, Pinkie bounced between us and the tension dissipated almost instantly.
“No way, Pinkie.” The blue pegasus snorted and crossed her hooves, “I mean, who’s friends with this weirdo? Not me, that’s for sure.”
“Um, well,” Fluttershy poked her head out from behind a bush. “Pinkie and I are. And maybe Twilight.” She walked hesitantly towards us. “You aren’t going to fight again, are you?” It didn’t take my vast deductive ability to see that she was afraid of confrontation. I felt like a complete ass. I shook my head, and she sighed happily. That meant I had to do something I didn’t want to, though.
With a sigh of my own I extended a hand toward the hovering pony and said “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said any of that. Sometimes my mouth runs before my brain catches up.” She looked suspiciously at my hand until Pinkie prodded her. Her glare switched to the pink little pony, but Pinkie just giggled.
“All right,” she said, taking my hand and shaking it, “but only because Fluttershy and Pinkie like you.” She seemed to warm up a little. “I’ve got to admit, that huge fireball thing was cool. And if anypony knows cool it’s me! I’m Rainbow Dash, the fastest flier in all of Equestria.”
Well, that wasn’t so bad. Now maybe we could still get away before another pony came to investigate. “Nice to meet you, I’m Harry.”
Rainbow Dash cocked an eyebrow, “But you’re not.”
Damnit, I thought, not this again. Out loud I said, “Never mind, just call me Dresden.”
She shrugged. “Whatever.” The pegasus moved to drift lazily alongside me as we walked back to Fluttershy’s house. “So, can you do anything else cool?”
I gave her a cocky smile. “You don’t know the half of it, kid.”
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
“Oh, and his front legs are shorter than his hind legs, so I don’t think he can walk on all fours even if he wanted to,” Twilight continued. Rarity sighed and shook her head.
“This will be a real challenge, Twilight. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such an odd creature. Even Spike or the-” She shuddered slightly, “Diamond dogs can at least walk on all fours. I don’t think any amount of skill will make him look like a pony.”
“I know,” Twilight agreed. “If you can’t think of anything, then casting an illusion over him might be the only way.”
Rarity mulled that over for a moment, then elegantly shook her head. “I don’t think that would work, darling, not if he has as much power as you say. There’s too much chance he would accidentally disrupt it. But,” and she gave a smile, “I know a way do it. Inanimate objects are so much easier to enchant; I’ll make him a cloak big enough to cover all of him and we simply spell it to replace the real image with whatever we want him to look like.”
Twilight looked at her friend with new respect. “Wow, Rarity, I didn’t know you were so accomplished in illusion magic.” She beamed. “I’d love to learn some of the spells you use.”
“Well, yes,” Rarity said, trying to head off her friend’s enthusiasm before they got too far off track. “I’ve made quite a few costumes that would have been impossible with fabric alone. And some customers are so insistent in their demands, no matter the difficulty.” A frown crossed her face as a new thought occurred to her. “Although it’s hardly perfect.” Twilight cocked her head curiously, and Rarity continued, “We can only work a little movement into it, nothing more than walking I would think, and the spell will only last a few hours.”
“That’s not a problem, Rarity. A few hours is more than long enough to get him to the library and keep him hidden. Besides, I was thinking we would disguise him as one of the royal guard ponies. They never seem to talk or change expression.”
Rarity looked impressed. “Brilliant, Twilight! Not only that, but most ponies won’t even approach one of Princess Celestia’s guards. I mean, they are rather intimidating to the average pony.”
Applejack sighed as she trailed behind her friends. I like’em plenty, she thought, but when they get to talking ‘bout something that ain’t interesting, like fashion or magic, I just can’t stand it. Not even Twilight’s description that strange fella was worth listenin’ to thanks to Rarity always butting in with questions about his colors or measurements. And the way she goes on about them fabrics; it’s enough to drive a decent pony ‘round the bend. To make matters worse it was mid-afternoon and she still hadn’t found Pinkie Pie. It looked like she’d just have to wait until another day to work on those recipes.
They were about twenty minutes from Fluttershy’s house when it happened. All thoughts of recipes, magic and fashion went out the window as they watched the incredible inferno rise into the sky. It was frightening and beautiful, one of the forces of nature manipulated into an awe-inspiring display. The roar of displaced air reached them on a hot wind as the blaze climbed higher and higher. All three ponies were mesmerized by the sight. After a moment more, the flames died out, leaving the horizon as empty as it had been only a minute earlier.
“My goodness,” Rarity said. “Was that a dragon? Oh I’d hate to deal with one of those right now, what with everything else on out plates.”
“I dunno, Rarity,” Applejack said. “That didn’t look like dragon fire to me, there’s no smoke or bellowin’ or nothing. What do you think Twilight?” Applejack noticed her friend’s expression and fell back a step. “Twilight, are you okay?”
Twilight was not okay. She seethed with anger and just barely kept herself from bursting into flames more impressive than those they’d just seen. Twilight gritted her teeth and ground out, “if it’s who I think it is, he’s in big trouble!”
I was in big trouble.
I eyed my opponent carefully. She was crafty and skilled, but I had the advantage this time. I considered my first move; it would decide the entire battle. She waited for me, a smile on her face and absolute confidence in her eyes. I made my decision and struck. She responded almost instantly, and then in only a few movements it was all over. I had lost.
“Whoo-hoo!” Pinkie cheered. “Tic-Tac-Toe three in a row! Do you want to play again?” I sighed, that was the seventh game in a row I’d lost. It didn’t even matter whether I went first or not, she was unbeatable.
“You know,” Rainbow said, watching with amusement from the chair she lounged on. “You’re not going to beat her. Nopony can.”
I made a shooing motion while studying the last game. “Quiet you. I don’t have time for your facts.” Maybe if I tried to entrap her there. That might work. “Okay, I’ll play again. It's your turn to go first.” I drew a new square on the page of my small notebook and she studied it. A minute later the corpse of my pride took another kick. I sighed, and glanced out the window. Fluttershy was still calming all of her animals after the fright my pyrotechnics had produced.
“C’mon,” Rainbow complained, “enough of this, I want to show you my stuff. I mean what you do is cool, but my tricks are the coolest in Equestria.” She stood up, stretching her wings with a proud smile. “With these babies, I can even do a Sonic Rainboom. I bet you’ve never seen one of those.”
A what? “Given that I’ve never even heard of it, you’re probably right.” She stared at me in disbelief. “Oh come on! I’m from another world, and that’s what surprises you? I know what a sonic boom is but you couldn’t mean that.”
She smirked. “Oh, it’s better than that. A Sonic Rainboom is a when a pegasus goes so fast she breaks the sound barrier and makes a rainbow at the same time. Everypony thought it was just an old mare’s tale until I did it, not once but twice. But I am the fastest flier in all of Equestria,” she finished with a smug look.
“Slight problem with that claim,” I offered, “it’s impossible. I mean multiple layers of impossible, not just the normal impossible that somebody can actually do.”
“Why not?” Pinkie said. She had walked over to us and I noticed, with no little amount of surprise, that her head was only slightly lower than mine and upside down. She was walking on the ceiling. My mind boggled, but she was still talking. “I usually do six impossible things before breakfast.” She giggled at my dumbfounded expression, and even Rainbow was staring.
“How are you doing that?” I asked slowly, wondering if I had finally snapped.
“What do you mean?” Pinkie asked, far too innocently to be believed. I took a closer look and noticed something odd about her hooves. They had something strapped to them.
Oh, okay. She’s just wearing suction cups, not blatantly disobeying gravity, I realized. Hang on. That just raises more questions! Where did she get the suction cups? How did she get them on without Rainbow or me noticing? And how the hell did she get on the ceiling with them?!
Rainbow just shook her head. “Pinkie, you are so random.”
“I know,” Pinkie chirped. She started clapping her front hooves together, but apparently two suction cups weren’t enough to support her. They let go of the ceiling with enormous pops. I just barely caught her, and almost face planted. Rainbow started laughing which set Pinkie off giggling again. I rolled my eyes at them, but my goofy grin wasn’t much better.
“So anyway,” Rainbow wiped tears out of her eyes and brought things back on topic. “You’ll be even more amazed when I show you the Sonic Rainboom. I need a few minutes to warm up, but trust me; it’ll knock your socks off!”
I shook my head. “If it’s as impressive as you say then you definitely can’t do it. Twilight said not to attract any attention. My little ‘raging inferno’ probably already made her--”
“Mister Dresden!” Twilight yelled, slamming the door open.
“Angry,” I finished somewhat lamely. Twilight stomped into the room glaring daggers, followed by Fluttershy and a new pair of ponies. It was the orange cowpony and the white unicorn I’d seen in the Soulgaze. I only got a glance at them before my attention was drawn back to the small purple mage. She was not a happy pony. She stopped only a foot away and glared at me until I had to avert my eyes.
“Perhaps I wasn’t perfectly precise in what I preferred, but please point out precisely how playing with such profoundly prominent pyromancy could possibly be perceived as preserving a low profile, you preposterous practitioner!” She wasn’t shouting, but she didn’t have to. Everyone else in the room was dead quiet as she spoke. “Now puzzled ponies may propose to pursue the producer of such potent prestidigitation. Ponder, then, the panic a pugnacious primate with prodigious preternatural powers might provoke among the peaceful populace! Plus, that performance placed my precious pals in personal peril. What would you plead if Pinkie Pie or our pair of pegasi were put in pain by your pin-head production?!”
Hell’s bells. I was being chewed out in alliteration. I couldn’t tell if the whole thing was frightening or just plain adorable. Twilight stopped talking and stared at me. My thoughts must have been plain to see, because her eyes narrowed until they were tiny slits of glowing purple. The scowl she was giving me bordered on the epic, and I suddenly had no trouble deciding whether or not she was frightening.
Her voice grew softer, but it was still furious. “Can you at least tell me why you did something so monumentally stupid?”
This was my chance to turn things around. I just had to calm her down and explain myself in a simple and clear manner that didn’t blame Pinkie or Fluttershy. I was thinking of something clever, yet soothing, when my mouth, which frequently operates without permission from my brain, decided to open up
“Well, Miss Pinkie wanted to toast marshmallows, and things just got out of hand.” The room remained absolutely silent for a long moment. All of the ponies’ expressions had frozen. Oh Hell. This is not going to end well. Then Pinkie started giggling which made Rainbow laugh, and the sight of those two made the two new ponies chuckle. Fluttershy giggled softly, and even Twilight was fighting a smile. I breathed a sigh of relief as her temper cooled, and her glare died down.
“I am sorry about that,” I said. “I was practicing some of my spells, and I used way more power than I’d meant to. This place has a lot more magic than my world.”
Twilight took a moment to think it over and let out a long breath between her teeth. “I guess it’s all right. I was worried about my friends more than anything, but since they’re fine, no real harm was done. Luckily, it seems like nopony else saw you outside, so at least we don’t have to worry about that. The real trouble will be explaining the fire, but we can deal with that later. Rarity is going to make a disguise for you, and then we’ll hide you in the library until Princess Celestia arrives. She’ll know how to get you home.” She turned to leave but stopped and looked back, some of her earlier scowl returning. “But no more magic from you, agreed?”
I didn’t like it, but I could understand her caution given the display I out on. I held up one hand and my voice became serious as nuclear winter. “I swear on my power that I won’t use magic unless it's in self-defense or you give me permission otherwise.” Twilight nodded with a mixed look of satisfaction and relief. She understood, then, the power a wizard’s word holds. Breaking an oath would cause significant magic backlash, and weaken maybe even cripple my abilities. Besides, if worst came to worst and they were attacked (as typically happens anywhere I’m involved), I still had my revolver. Of course, I didn’t know if gunpowder even worked in this dimension, but testing it didn’t seem prudent right now.
“Thank you. Rarity is going to start on your disguise, so she’ll need your measurements. In the meantime, I’m going to study up on some illusion magic to help her finish it.” I nodded, and Twilight turned to her friends. “I’m afraid we may be here a while. Fluttershy, could you and Pinkie Pie work on dinner?”
“No problem, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, even as Pinkie piped up, “okie dokie lokie!”
“Well, finally I can get to business,” The white unicorn said, examining me carefully. Most of the other ponies drifted away. Twilight went upstairs several books in hand (or in hoof, maybe), Fluttershy and Pinkie moved into the kitchen and Rainbow stretched out on the couch and started snoring. The orange pony in the hat though stayed right in the room with clear intention of keeping an eye on me. That didn’t bother me much, I was no stranger to paranoia, or as it was called among the supernatural, 'common sense'. But the unicorn cleared her throat, and I gave her my attention.
“Hello, my good gentlecolt, I am Rarity. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She offered me her hoof. I was surprised, but I could be a gentleman when need be. I bowed as low as I could and took her hoof gently in one hand.
“And it is an honor to meet you, Lady Rarity. I am the wizard Harry Dresden.” Don’t be so surprised. Old world manners are still in vogue in the supernatural world due to its number of immortal denizens. Once you’ve seen a few centuries, old habits become hard to break.
She smiled appreciatively. “Well! Twilight never mentioned how polite you were; it’s nice to see that somepony around here has manners.” Her eyes cut briefly at the orange pony, who was rolling her eyes at my display. The cowpony stuck out her hoof more assertively than her friend.
“And I’m Applejack. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Dresden.” I shook her hoof firmly. It made sense in a bizarre way given her hat, but I had to wonder. How did a pony get a Southern accent? Beyond that, there was something odd about all of these introductions. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something was definitely off.
“Could you take your coat off please? I need to get your measurements,” Rarity said examining my duster. I took it off, revealing my t-shirt and jeans, but all of her interest was in my coat. “I’ve never seen a fabric like this. It’s supple, yet strong and stylish. What is it?”
“It’s leather,” I said without thinking, and then realized that I could not tell her it was dead animal skin. Not when she was half-wearing it to get a better feel for the material. She put it down with obvious reluctance and levitated a tape measure towards me.
“I’ve never heard of such a fabric. Where does it come from?”
She started measuring me as I tried to think up a fast explanation. “It’s uh… from a plant on Earth. I don’t think you have it here.”
“Really? It doesn’t look woven, I can’t make out any threads. Is it felted?”
“You’re right,” I said sweating bullets. “It’s not woven. The plant has these, uhh … huge leaves that we turn into leather.” I’m terrible at lying, but it looked like Rarity believed me. I guess she’s willing to take other-dimensional weirdness at face value. Unfortunately, Applejack seemed to see right through it.
“Horse apples,” Applejack said, “What’s it really made of?”
Rarity was scandalized. “Applejack! Don’t be rude to our guest.” She turned to me with an apologetic smile, “I’m so sorry for her behavior. She really was raised in a barn.”
“I was not either, but even if I was, that don’t change the fact he’s lying to us, Rarity,” Applejack said stomping her hooves and glaring at both of us. Oh, great. She was stubborn too. Rarity just ignored her and starting digging through her supplies on the other side of the room.
We spent a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, punctuated only by Rainbow’s snores and the soft sounds of Rarity working. I didn’t have any good ideas on how to deal with Applejack, but I could least try to convince her I wasn’t the bad guy. I plunked down next to her and said as softly as I could, “sorry for lying, but trust me. You don’t want to go down this road.”
She seemed startled that I’d admit to it, but she whispered back, “if you want yourself some trust, then pony up and tell me what it’s really made from.”
I wanted to sigh. “Believe me, you don’t want this answer.”
She hissed angrily, “I want the truth!”
A wiseass like me could not ignore a set up like that. I made my voice gruffer and wished briefly I could shout it like Nicholson.
“You can’t handle the truth!”
“I can handle whatever you got to say!” she shot back.
No respect. I give them comedic gold and get nothing. But jokes aside, I did need to address the problem at hand. “Okay, fine,” I said. “But promise not to tell any of the other ponies.” She looked surprised, but I crossed my arms and did my best to act stern. “It’s that or no deal at all.”
She checked on the other ponies while she thought it over. Rarity was busy sketching designs and murmuring to herself. There were some odd noises and a few giggles coming from the kitchen, and Rainbow was still snoozing on the sofa.
“Deal,” She said. “Now spit it out.”
“Well, Twilight mentioned that humans are omnivores, right?” She nodded and I continued, “So, there’s a tradition when an animal is killed for food. You use every part of the animal. Once you took its life, it’s your responsibility that none of that sacrifice is wasted. So, we make clothes from their skins. Leather is the treated skins of hunted animals.” It was a stretch, but for some cultures it was true. Besides, I wanted to soften the blow, and keep humans from sounding like Hannibal Lecter. Applejack just stared at me as the truth sunk in. Then she just sat, her hind legs giving out, an expression of pure shock washing across her face. She looked with wide eyes at the duster and seemed close losing her lunch. She gagged, but started breathing deeply and just barely kept it under control. I tried to catch her eye, but she pointedly ignored me. A long, uncomfortable silence stretched between us.
She looked uneasily at her friend, still wrapped up in her work. “I suppose that makes sense, but that means Rarity was admirin’ pieces of dead animal?” She shuddered at the thought.
I nodded. “You see why I didn’t want to tell you?” She nodded uncomfortably. “You will keep your promise won’t you?”
She sighed, “I s’pose so.”
Relief flooded me. I don’t know if Rarity would have taken that news as well as Applejack did. Maybe she would have, but I didn’t want to risk finding out. I watched as Rarity continued working. She was levitating some material without any apparent effort and with more subtlety than just about any wizard I’d seen. She’d used as much skill with the tape measure now that I thought about it, but I’d been distracted at the moment.
“So, Rarity can use magic too?” I asked.
Applejack looked at me like I was an idiot, though she seemed more than willing to change the subject. “Well, o’ course she can. She’s a unicorn, ain’t she?”
I thought that over. “So about what fraction of the population do unicorns make up?”
Applejack frowned. “Is that a fancy way of asking how many we got?” I nodded tersely, and she shrugged. “About the same as pegasi or earth ponies.”
“Wait a minute.” I was staggered, “A full third of the population is capable of magic?”
“Sure thing, sugarcube.” She chuckled at my expression. “I’m bettin’ it don’t work the same way in your world.” I slowly shook my head. No wonder magic was so open here. I’d suspected the pegasi were inherently magical given their flying abilities, but a population that supported so many practitioners? That was a shock.
My voice was soft when I finally spoke. “The power to be a true wizard, someone like me, is literally one in a million, and I would be amazed if even minor talents were more than one in a thousand. Magic-capable humans are far and few between.”
Her smile faded to a soft frown. “That sounds mighty lonely.” She didn’t say much but her empathetic eyes did. She was good at reading between the lines and was more right then she knew. My powers separated me from most of humanity. After all, there’s no such thing as magic, right? When people see me advertise as a wizard, at best they think I’m a harmless nutcase, at worst a petty conman. It was even worse with people who knew the truth. My reputation isn’t pretty, but then, neither are most of the things I’ve done to earn it.
Not that I’m completely alone, I thought, before I started wearing eye shadow and writing whiny poetry. There’s Murphy, Michael, Billy and the rest of the Alphas. They were true friends, people that I would take a bullet for. Thinking of them, brought a smile back, “It’s all right,” I told Applejack. “I’ve got friends too. Not a lot, but I’ve always been a quality over quantity kinda guy.”
Applejack chuckled a couple times and glanced fondly at the two ponies in the room. “I know what you mean there.”
Rarity cleared her throat delicately and waited for our attention. “It’s lovely that you two are getting along, but I’m afraid I need to steal Mr. Dresden away for his fitting.” She levitated her finished product, a gray cloak, onto my shoulders. I didn't know whether to laugh or curse.
The damned thing looked just like a warden’s cloak. I’d never been on the best of terms with the police of the White Council, and wearing their uniform felt like sewing a swastika onto my coat. On the other hand though, wouldn’t it be great if that paranoid bastard, Morgan, could see me in it? Inwardly, I grinned like a wolf. Sure, he would kill me right after, but the shock and horror on his old face would almost be worth it. If I was lucky, the surprise would be enough to give the cranky zealot a heart attack.
My poker face must not have been very good, because my expression caught Rarity’s attention. “Oh, darling, do you not like it? I know it’s dreadfully plain but nopony will see it anyway, so don’t you worry.” She laid a consoling hoof on my knee, about the highest she could easily reach.
“No, no, it’s very nice,” I assured her. “I was just thinking about something else.” Rarity daintily arched an eyebrow but seemed willing to let it go.
“Fine. Now, if you would, pull the rest of the cloak on and walk across the room. I need to be sure you’re completely covered.” She laughed softly. “Nothing like a limb appearing from nowhere to ruin an illusion.” The cloak fit so well, I could hardly believe I was the first human she had ever made clothing for. The heavy hood came down just far enough that I could see a few feet away, but when I looked in the mirror my face was still hidden in shadow. The bottom of the cloak was large enough for even my huge feet. Not that I could actually see them; the hem went almost to the ground, floating only an inch above the floor.
Rarity watched critically, murmuring to herself. She shook her head angrily as I walked back. “No, no, no. I need to adjust those shoulders, and put two, no, three clasps on it. And that hood hangs too far forward. Goodness, Rarity, you can do better.”
I glanced down at the cloak. It seemed fine to me, but then again, I understand fashion about as well as I do women. “I don’t know how you could’ve done better.”
“Thank you,” she replied with a demure smile, “but a true fashionista can always improve. I am afraid I’ll have to ask you to keep the cloak on while I’m fitting it. I need to see how it hangs while I work.” She pulled over a step-ladder, and I did my best impersonation of a mannequin.
“Almost done,” Rarity said, after a few minutes of prodding and adjusting. “Soon you’ll be fit for even the finest dining establishment in Fillydelphia!” I just stared at her. She blushed a little. “Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but you will look fabulous once we cast the illusion spell.”
I shook my head. “No, that wasn’t it—you actually have a city called Fillydelphia?”
“Well, yes. It’s not a large city, only about as big as Stalliongrad. Why, does it seem odd?”
Odd is such a mild word. Odd is wearing plaid socks with sandals. Odd is naming your child Cornelius. This was not odd. This walked the teetering edge of madness. “No, it’s perfectly normal for an alternate dimension populated by talking ponies to have cities with pony-themed pun names based on cities from my world. I’m almost afraid to ask what the capital’s called.”
“What? You mean where Princess Celestia lives?” Apple jack sounded defensive. “Well, that’s Canterlot o’ course. Are you gonna tell me that’s a pun from your world too?” A small part of my mind wondered if I should tone down my reaction, but the rest of me was too busy groaning at ‘Canterlot’ to notice.
“Yep, an especially bad one. Let me guess, there’s also huge city full of socialites and high culture called Neigh York?”
Rarity seemed surprised at the suggestion. “Why, no. There isn’t any city with a name even remotely similar.”
Okay, maybe I’m overreacting. Coincidences happen, right? I almost had myself convinced when Applejack spoke up.
“Sure sounds a lot like Manehattan, though.” My left eye started to twitch.
“I rather thought he was referring to Prairis, myself,” Rarity replied.
The lack of a punchline threw me. What? I thought. How is that a pony pun? Well, ask and ye shall receive.
“Ah, someday I hope to visit ‘gay Prairie’ myself! The society, the fashion…” The unicorn continued, but I couldn’t hear her over the gibbering in my head.
I was wrong, I realized, this isn’t a Disney movie. It’s a Piers Anthony novel. I just couldn’t help it anymore, I started laughing. It was one of those deep belly laughs. You know, where you keep on laughing, and everything seems funny. Rarity and Applejack stared at me like I was crazy, but that just made me laugh harder. I didn’t stop until I was out of breath, but somehow the laughter continued, just more bubbly and higher pitched.
For an instant, wondered where the laughter was coming from, but then I recognized that laugh. Pinkie Pie had left the kitchen and was rolling on the floor laughing with me. Even though I’d already stopped. Applejack just rolled her eyes and stepped around Pinkie to tug on my sleeve. “C’mon, if you’re done foolin’ around, Twilight and Rarity gotta get working on the magic bit of the cloak.”
I pulled myself back together. “Right, the illusion spell.” Pinkie, though, was still laughing, and didn’t show any signs of stopping. Didn’t she need to breathe at some point? “Uh, is she … all right?”
Rarity was quick to reassure me. “Oh, don’t worry about her, Mr. Dresden. Pinkie Pie is just, um… well…”
“Bein’ Pinkie Pie.” Applejack said. “She’ll be fine.” We headed for the stairs, and I got painfully reacquainted with the ceiling. The downstairs was plenty roomy, but the stairwell and the rooms upstairs were a lot shorter. At least this time I wasn’t trying to carry a tea tray while struggling through rooms made for someone half my size.
The sight I was greeted with made the trip worth it. Twilight was curled up with a pillow and blanket while she read. The book was open on the floor in front of her and she was enraptured by it. There is no other word to describe the look of tranquility and sheer joy she had as she read. She didn’t even glance up as we entered. She just flipped a page with one hoof and blew an errant lock of hair out of her face. I’m a reader myself, and the tableau before me was freaking adorable. I wish I’d had a camera.
Rarity coughed delicately, “Ahem.”
She flipped another page.
“I do hate to disturb your reading, but we do have some work to do.”
Silence. I was impressed. I wish I could ignore people who interrupted my reading that well.
“Oh, fer goodness’ sake! Twilight! It’s time for to take your nose outta the book and make with the magic!” Applejack yelled, more exasperated than angry.
Twilight lifted her head and blinked in confusion, seeming to notice us for the first time. “Oh, sorry. I just got to this absolutely fascinating chapter on the underlying principles of the manipulation of the visible spectrum used in illusion magic.”
“That’s wonderful, darling,” Rarity said hesitantly, “but did you get to the chapter on enchanted objects? That is what we need after all.”
“Of course, I’ve already studied it thoroughly. I just started reading through the rest of the book to get more background in the field.” Twilight beamed and nodded confidently. “Now, I assume you’ll create the framework, given you have more experience and a better mind for details, and I will supply the power and affix it to the target item. That would be the best way, don’t you think?”
For moment Rarity was speechless, and I had to hide a chuckle with a cough. The look on her face was pretty damn entertaining, but she found her voice quickly enough. “Yes, that does sound ideal, but I must ask. Are you sure you haven’t done this before?”
Twilight giggled a little and shook her head. “I am a quick study, but the real test will be doing it, not knowing the theory. Let’s get started.” Her attention turned on me, and she became a bit more formal. “Mr. Dresden, would you put the cloak on the bed? You might accidentally disrupt the spell if you're wearing it.”
“No argument here. I don’t want to wear anything you two are slinging magic at. That’s a good way to end up with an odd number of eyes.” Twilight looked a little horrified by the thought, but I chuckled. Then I got a front row seat to some other-worldly magic.
I extended my senses to their utmost, doing everything short of opening my Sight to watch. I saw immediate differences in the way we used magic. They didn’t use any words or props, even for a major spell like this. Nothing but their minds shaped the spell, and nothing but their horns focused it. I could feel their power as they worked, and I gained a new respect for Twilight. She wasn’t as powerful as me, but she had some serious skill, if she could really translate theory to practicality that easily. Give her some experience and a reason and she’d be more than a match for most wizards of the White Council. Rarity wasn’t too shabby either. She was holding the whole thing within her mind; her horn softly glowing as Twilight poured more and more power into the construct. With an enormous surge of magic, Twilight’s horn suddenly went from sunny day to supernova. It felt like my eyes had been obliterated by a wall of solid light, and only the fact I was speechless kept me from cursing. The light faded as quickly as it had appeared, but my sight was slower to return. When I could eventually see again, everything looked unchanged except the conversion of two unicorns from energized to exhausted and one cowpony from focused to blurry eyed. The cloak looked the same, but when I touched it, I could feel the magic that hummed steadily through the cloth.
Twilight shook her head trying to clear the dazed expression off her face. “Go ahead and put it on, Mr. Dresden. Rarity and I need a moment to recover, but we’ll be fine.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “You sure?” They both nodded, so I shrugged and put on the cloak. It still fit just as perfectly. I made sure the clasps were fastened and turned look at myself in the mirror, wondering how I would appear. I looked like a very tall man completely shrouded in a grey cloak. Fantastic. This disguise was foolproof.
“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I don’t think it worked.”
Twilight shook her head and trotted over. “It works. I just need to activate it. Hold still.” She pressed her horn into the side of the cloak, and it softly pulsed with light. I didn’t feel any different, but before I could add some of my sparkling wit to the problem, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I gave a low whistle, one that seemed distinctly out of place given that my illusion didn’t move his lips.
I was now a solidly built pony, with a white coat and blue mane and tail. I stood taller than all of the other ponies, four maybe four-and-a-half, foot, and I was wearing what looked like golden centurion armor modified for an equine body. The helmet even had one of those ridiculous crests. I turned, and the illusion moved with me, even moving its hooves to match my motions.
Color me impressed. They were both better at the subtle magic of illusion than I’ll ever be. I’m the mystical equivalent of a brawny thug, while they were definitely artists- or maybe fencers, to continue the warrior metaphor.
“Well, if you’re done admirin’ yourself the mirror, I think dinner is just ‘bout ready.” Applejack gestured downstairs where I could faintly hear Fluttershy calling for us.
“Dinnertime, everypony.” I found myself suddenly hungry. It had been a long time since lunch.
I followed Twilight down the winding road back to Ponyville, patting my stomach and sighing contentedly. (Really, Ponyville? I didn’t live in a place called Humantown. Oh, well… at least it wasn’t another pun.) The sun had set just a little while ago and the moon was peeking above the horizon. A chill wind whispered through the trees, but I had on both my duster and cloak. It seemed to be a perfectly beautiful evening, or would be if I didn’t feel like I was being watched.
When you’ve been a detective as long as I have, you get a sense of when you’re being followed. I wondered which pony it was. Fluttershy or Rarity I think I could rule out, but Applejack or Rainbow wouldn’t surprise me. Pinkie was a wild card, so I couldn’t count her out either. Whatever. It wasn’t going to bother me.
Dinner had been delicious. The hot vegetable soup and fresh baked bread were excellent, but the dessert was to die for. I suspected Pinkie knew a little magic too, given how addictively tasty those apple turnovers were. But I’d enjoyed the company even more than the food. Normally I eat alone, and I had forgotten how nice a home-cooked meal with friends could be.
I’d gotten to show off how useful hands could be, when eating. Unfortunately, Rainbow took that as a challenge and spilled her whole bowl trying to copy me. We had all gotten a laugh out of that. Well, everybody except Rainbow, but she was the one covered in soup. Despite being trapped in another dimension, I was happier than I’d been in a long time.
“So, where are we headed?”
“Shhh!” Twilight hissed. “You aren’t supposed to talk, remember?” Her eyes darted back and forth across the meadow, looking for eavesdroppers.
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms underneath the cloak. I know she couldn’t see it, but some things are just required. “Yeah, your friends who already know might hear us. Or maybe it’s those crickets; they sound real dangerous.”
Twilight turned and stared my illusion in the eyes. Then she remembered and adjusted her eyes upwards. Her scowl was set on stun, but she aimed it about six inches too low. “Can’t you be quiet?”
“Probably not. We could just pretend I’m practicing my ventriloquism. Would that work?”
She sighed and turned back towards Ponyville. “You are the most infuriating human I have ever met.”
“Well, I am the only human you’ve ever met.” I pointed out. “To be fair, I’m pretty darn infuriating to other humans too. That’s one of my many charms.” She chuckled at little. “If you don’t want me to talk, why don’t you talk instead?”
She flushed a little and got flustered. “Talk? Well, I mean, what would I talk about?”
I shrugged. “Well, I’ve met all of your friends except for the dragon and the royal. Why not talk about them?”
“What!? How could you-” She fell silent for a short moment. “Right, the Soulgaze. I’m not going to get used to that anytime soon.”
Way to be a dick, Harry. I thought. “Sorry again.” A long moment of silence. “Um.. do you want to talk about it?”
She still wasn’t talking, and I was just bright enough not to ask again. After another minute without talking she finally spoke. “No, thank you. It might be a little stupid, but I don’t want to know.” She paused to think. “It’s strange, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to know the truth, but I’m afraid of what that mirror will show.” She stared at the night sky, with an expression of troubled melancholy. It was a poignant, dramatic moment.
I really couldn’t help ruining it.
“Heh heh heh heh, w-wait. What? Seriously?” I tried to speak through the laughter.
Twilight was not amused. She spun like she’d been stung, and put her face right into mine. Well, my illusion’s anyway. “What about that is so funny?” she demanded.
I managed to get my laughter under control, but it was still pretty funny. “You. You’re afraid to know yourself even though your soul is one of the most wholesome and beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”
She blushed and quickly backtracked, “W-what? I don’t know what you mean.”
“C’mon. You have to have figured out by now that I come from a pretty rough place.” She nodded slowly, and I took a deep breath enjoying the night air. “I’ve seen a lot of things both good and bad. I’ve seen the souls of the kind and the cruel, and yours has more integrity than any of them.” Except Michael, maybe. “You are intelligent, driven, kind and you love your friends more than anything else in the world. Kid, you can’t go far wrong with a heart like that.”
She got teary-eyed, but quickly turned to keep me from seeing. She started walking again, and when she spoke, it was in a much softer voice. “You’re a lot nicer than I thought you’d be, Mr. Dresden. Thank you.”
I smiled. “That’s the thing about us humans. We’re not just nice or mean; that’s easy to work with. No, we’re difficult because we’re just so damned inconsistent.” She chuckled a little and I joined her. I’d like to think that’s how rest of the trip would have gone, a companionable silence during a walk through a beautiful night, but fate had other things in mind.
There was a sudden spike of magical energy, and suddenly I couldn’t feel anyone watching me anymore. I turned in the direction I’d felt it came from. “Did you sense that?” I hissed, watching the meadow carefully. There’s wasn’t a lot of cover, but the shadows were thick and hiding would have been easy.
“Yes, it felt like somepony just teleported away. But who?”
“I don’t know. I knew somebody was following us, but I didn’t see them.”
Twilight stared at me. “Somepony was following us? When were you going to tell me?”
I shrugged again, then remembered she couldn’t see it. “I thought it was one of your friends keeping an eye on me. Can Rarity teleport?” She shook her head. “Well now that leaves us with one hell of a mystery.” She had recognized the magic, meaning it must be another unicorn. One that wanted to know what we were doing, but wasn’t afraid to let us know we were being watched. I felt a grin coming on. This required a very special reference.
“Come, Twilight! The game is a-hoof!”
Author’s note: A wild plot appears! I chose you, Reader! I want to thank silentcarto for editing. I am a bio major, and grammar is something I am only vaguely familiar with. Thank you, also, to all the fans; your comments warm my evil heart.
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
The Great and Powerful Trixie was not happy. The silver-blue light of the thin crescent moon made the cool air seem even colder, but the chill wasn’t what bothered her. No, she had been on top of the world as she crept carefully past Ponyville, sneaking towards her new base of operations deep in the Everfree Forest. Everything had gone exactly according to plan, and she hadn’t heard any alarm since she strode unimpeded straight through the main gates of Canterlot itself. This scheme had been a stroke of genius. Not that any of her other ideas were anything less than brilliant, but this one had been especially good. She had crafted the plan perfectly and struck once both Princesses were gone on their little getaway. The foalish guards hadn’t even noticed anything had been stolen, and Trixie intended that it stay that way for as long as possible. She had even resisted teleporting, despite her pride in finally mastering the difficult skill, uncertain what effect the magic would have on her newly acquired artifacts.
Her bad mood stemmed from what she saw as she neared the edge of the brooding forest. She glowered at the tiny cottage on the edge of town, the home of that timid little pegasus that hung around with her most hated enemy. There was some sort of gathering inside and Trixie just knew that she would be there, Twilight Sparkle. Trixie had never loathed a pony as much as that show-stealing little twit. She’d had the gall to upstage Trixie during the biggest opportunity she’d ever had, a battle with the dreaded Ursa Minor. Trixie could have easily won, had Twilight not intervened and stolen all her glory.
Trixie grimaced at the memory. Life on the road had been hard ever since ponies started spreading stories about that night. They called Trixie a two-bit charlatan and booed her off every stage she tried. She’d come close to hanging up her hat and cape, but pride kept her going. Her frown twisted into a skull’s grin; now she had a plan for revenge, not just on Twilight Sparkle and her friends, but on all of the cruel villages that had mistreated her. She turned away, eager to finish her preparations. Let them have their parties; the Great and Powerful Trixie’s time would come. But the door suddenly swung open, and she had to dive into a bush to avoid being seen. She glared daggers at the carefree ponies forcing her to hide like some common thief. Then she saw her, the mare that was to blame for all of her troubles. Twilight Sparkle looked upset. Good; she deserved it and worse, but what Trixie saw next froze the blood in her veins. Twilight was accompanied by a member of the Royal guard. He looked much like any other guard, unremarkable and fixed in expression, but his mere presence indicated that something was clearly amiss.
How!? Trixie screamed mentally, how could they know where I was headed? She was frantic, almost hyperventilating, but a little voice in the back of her head suggested she study the situation more carefully. There was only one guard, and none of the ponies seemed to be aware of her as they made their goodbyes. Trixie thought carefully. Somepony must have discovered the theft and sent a guard to recruit the Princess’s precious protégé to help. Twilight may have been an annoying upstart, but Trixie couldn’t deny that her abilities might make it difficult to evade capture. She watched her enemies intently. The other ponies left, each headed to her own home, leaving Twilight and the guard alone. Trixie followed them as stealthily as she could, sneaking from patch to patch of cover. She was too far away to see them clearly, but neither pony made an effort to conceal themselves.
Twilight and her escort talked as they hiked back to Ponyville. Trixie wasn’t close enough to hear what was being said, but she could tell from her tone of voice that Twilight was angry with the guard. Not that it mattered; the continued sight of her most hated rival had slowly kindled a fire in her. A new thought unfolded in her mind. She would make a dramatic entrance, quickly incapacitating the foalish sentry, and deliver her challenge to Twilight. They would duel using magic both deadly and clever, and Trixie would prove herself superior. Finally, all of Equestria would have to acknowledge her as the greatest magician in the land.
The quiet voice in her mind whispered again, cooling her temper and giving more suggestions. Hints and possibilities swirled like mist in her mind, coalescing into a solid strategy. She would wait. Her mission wasn’t over yet and she couldn’t afford even the slightest risk given what she had taken. Subtlety was the most important thing for now; grand entrances and flashy magic would have to wait until later. However, Twilight needed to be cut off from the Princesses and contained. Luckily, Trixie had been studying everything she could about Twilight Sparkle and her friends. She knew the perfect weakness to exploit. She stopped watching the odd pair in the distance and concentrated. Her teleportation had improved remarkably under her most recent teacher, and she would simply have to take the risk to her precious cargo. As the magic flowed through her, shifting her elsewhere, her face twisted into an expression that could only technically be defined as a smile. It combined all the warmth of a shark’s bloodthirsty grin with the mercy of a slaughterhouse, and it blazed with the satisfaction of vengeance close at hoof.
Spike waited impatiently by the library’s top-floor window. Twilight had promised she’d be back in a few hours, but it was already night, and he was getting sleepy. He sighed as he glanced over his handiwork. The library was squeaky clean. He’d started cleaning once his regular chores were done, but he’d finished that more than an hour ago and had nothing else to do. Owlowiscious had gone off to hunt, leaving Spike bored and alone. He’d tried to read one of his favorite sci-fi stories to pass the time, but he just couldn’t focus on it. Fictional space creatures couldn’t compete with the thought of a real one so close at hand.
I wonder what the alien looks like? Twilight said he was tall. Does he have a raygun? That would be so cool! Spike lost himself in daydreams of flying in an awesome spaceship with their new extra-esquestrial friend. So much so, that he didn’t even notice the pony in the yard until she coughed delicately. He jumped, startled, and was helplessly drawn to a pair of exceedingly beautiful, deep blue eyes.
“Rarity?” He cried, his voice cracking slightly. He glanced around nervously, he didn’t see anypony else, but there was no sense taking chances. “I thought you were with Twilight and the others. You know, about our new friend.”
“I know, but I left early. There is something I wanted to … confess to you.” She shuffled her hooves nervously and blushed. Spike’s heart almost stopped. He quickly pinched himself to be sure he wasn’t dreaming. It hurt. This was actually happening. Rarity stared at him, with a hopeful smile. “Would you come down here? A lady doesn’t yell her feelings to the world.” She blushed again, deeper this time.
“Of course!” Spike nearly tripped over his own tail in his hurry to get down the stairs and outside the library. A quick thought made him pause before he opened the door. He grabbed a flower from a nearby vase and tried to slick his spines back. He took a second to compose himself and then opened the door. Rarity was only a few feet away. She looked absolutely stunning, her pale coat seeming to glow in the faint moonlight. It took every ounce to willpower Spike possessed to keep himself from drooling as she turned those mesmerizing eyes on him.
He held out the flower and gave a small bow. “For you, milady”
Rarity laughed softly, “Oh, you are quite the gentlecolt, aren’t you, Spike?” He blushed but didn’t look away. She gazed lovingly at the flower and levitated it behind one ear.
“Come closer, Spike,” she said. “I have something important to tell you.” Spike’s heart thumped in his chest as he leaned closer. She was so very beautiful; he was the luckiest dragon in the world right now. She bent her head until her mouth was next to his ear and paused for a long moment. He could feel her breath on the back of his neck as she began to speak.
“You are a hopeless dolt.”
Spike didn’t even have time to react before the sleep spell she had been holding took effect. He sank bonelessly to the ground, unconscious before he even hit the dirt. Rarity gave a small, arrogant laugh, and levitated him through the open door. She followed, and once inside, let the illusion drop.
The Great and Powerful Trixie smirked at her motionless prey. He was fast asleep, and would be for several more hours. She took the flower out from behind her ear and causally crushed it underhoof. This was the method the voice had suggested to contain and control Twilight. Her dragon assistant not only magically teleported her letters to Princess Celestia, but was also the closest thing she had to a little brother.
Even Trixie had to admit that subtlety wasn’t her strong suit. Normally, she’d have forced her way into the library and taken Spike by sheer magical might alone. But such a strategy would attract unwanted attention. She still needed time to complete her mission. At that thought she anxiously checked her saddlebags. The precious contents were all there without a scratch on them. That was a relief. She returned to her mental gloating, wishing fervently for an audience other than the quiet voice.
Ever since Twilight had shouted Spike’s love for Rarity in a dressing room after one of Photo Finish’s shows, it had become a common piece of gossip. It was inevitable that such an interesting bit of news would come to Trixie, and she had used it fully to her advantage. Now, there was only one more thing to do before she left with her new hostage.
The voice urged her to leave now and let Twilight wonder where her assistant had gone. Trixie usually heeded its quiet council, but this time she had other plans in mind. She began to pen a quick note, one that would fill Twilight with despair and further restrict her actions. Trixie would send another note to bait the trap when she was ready. Until then, let Twilight worry and fear for her precious friend’s safety. The voice reminded her that its way would give them more time, but she wanted Twilight to suffer. Trixie finished with a flourish and left the scroll on the desk. She felt a fit of laughter bubble up as she thought of the anguish it would cause her hated nemesis.
Laugh manically later, the voice murmured, escape with the dragonling for now.
Trixie sighed but dutifully began the spell to teleport herself and her hostage away. There was a flash of magic, and the library was empty.
“What do you mean, don’t worry about it?!” Was she mental?
“I said exactly what I meant.” Twilight declared. She turned backed to glare at me as we walked. “Now be quiet, we’re almost to Ponyville.” I drew close to her.
“Fine,” I whispered, “But why the hell not? You’ve got some strange unicorn, one skilled enough to teleport, following you, and you don’t think it’s a problem? In Chicago, that’s a good way to get dead in a hurry.”
Twilight snorted, “In case you didn’t notice, this isn’t Chicago. I don’t know who that pony was, but things like murder just don’t happen in Equestria. You said they weren’t close to us?”
“Then we shouldn’t have to worry.” She interrupted. “If they weren’t close, they couldn’t see that your mouth didn’t match your speech, so we’re fine. Even if they overheard us, our conversation wouldn’t give them any clues about your true nature. It’s not like anypony else knows what a human is. We stick to the plan, keep you hidden and wait for the Princess. She can find a safe way back to your home, and everything will go back to normal.”
I ground my teeth in frustration; she wasn’t getting it. “Just one more thing and I’ll shut up. What if that pony wasn’t following us because of me? Until they teleported, you had no idea they were even there. Maybe they were watching you.” I paused for dramatic effect. “And maybe this isn’t the first time.”
Twilight opened her mouth to respond, but shut it quickly. She thought for a moment more before her eyes narrowed, and she spoke. “You are just a ray of cheerful sunshine, aren’t you?” I suppressed a laugh, and she sighed, “Just stay quiet.” She’d gotten the message, so I complied. Maybe, our stalker was as harmless as she hoped. But my gut said otherwise, and I’d learned to trust its opinion. I shouldn’t have given Twilight my word not to use magic. I’d felt safe doing it at the time, but in hindsight it was easily the dumbest thing I’d done since I had arrived. Well, except the whole ‘Cyclone from Hell’ thing. That took first place, but this was a damned close second. I would just have to soldier on until I could get Twilight to release me from my stupid impulse.
As we entered Ponyville, I tried to keep a careful eye out. Not just for suspicious ponies (you know your life is weird when you can use that phrase seriously), but because the town itself was fascinating. Most of the buildings were built in the old-town Bavarian style, complete with overhanging upper stories and brightly stained shutters. Most had thatched roofs, which seemed odd, given that a few of the other buildings had actual shingles. I wondered briefly if it was a financial choice or tourist attraction. The latter seemed more likely. All of the ponies I saw on the street looked prosperous, and the town was so clean and quaint it practically screamed ‘photo op’. There were a few exceptions to the old school architecture though. We passed more than a few merchant’s tents, and a multistoried meeting hall sat proudly in the distance. One business was called ‘Sugarcube Corner’, and just looking at it made my blood sugar spike. It was a bakery made to look like a gingerbread house thick with frosting, but the sweets-based architecture didn’t stop there. There were candy cane posts on the porch, and a pair of stacked cupcakes gave it a second and third floor. It didn’t surprise me in the least to see Pinkie Pie open one of the cupcake’s windows and wave wildly at us. She was leaning way too far out for comfort, but Twilight just smiled and waved back. I wanted to, but the illusion, unfortunately, only copied foot movements. If I tried waving one of those I wouldn’t just look foolish, I’d also trip and expose my eldritch ass for all of Ponyville to see.
The ponies matched the scenery for the most part, looking very serene and picturesque, almost like they belonged in a pastoral landscape. One painted by a colorblind artist. I’d had one of those giant boxes of crayons as a kid, but these ponies beat it to hell in terms of color. There were more shades and combinations than I could count. To make it worse most of them bordered on cartoonish brightness; my eyes hurt just looking at them. The street wasn’t crowded, but there were plenty of equines out enjoying the evening. I watched them with interest. Applejack had told me true, there appeared to be at least as many unicorns as pegasi or regular ponies. All of them seemed to travel mostly in pairs or groups; herd instinct, I supposed, though there were a few loners. The groups were fairly evenly mixed in race. There didn’t seem to be any hierarchy or caste system. I nodded approvingly. I doubt humans could have done the same if that many of us were magical.
Even as I watched them, most of the ponies were eying me as well. They didn’t say anything, but I could tell that having a Royal guard in town was outside the norm. My illusion served me well while I took a look at everything. Its head stayed right on course, looking in the direction I was walking, allowing me to look back at any of the bystanders without them knowing it. I could get used to that. Most of the stares were curious, some nervous, but none were suspicious or watchful. I couldn’t see any pony following us, and I didn’t feel it either. Whoever our mystery friend was, they seemed to have taken the rest of the night off.
“Here we are.” Twilight said. “Home, sweet home.” I stopped watching the few ponies still in sight and turned to look ahead. As cartoonish as it may have looked, I had to do a double take. Twilight didn’t just live in what appeared to be library. She lived in a library in a tree. Not a tree house. Not a house built to look like a tree. It was an actual hollowed-out tree that was somehow still alive, if the leafy canopy was any clue. Either Equestrian trees were vastly different from their Terran counterparts, or a lot of time and magic had gone into making this place. It was an impressive piece of spell-craft, but the only thing I could think of was how big a fire hazard the whole thing was. Especially if I was there. Maybe I am something of a pyromaniac, because I could easily imagine the place going up in flames.
“We’re here, Spike!” Twilight called as we entered. “Spike?” Hmm, no threshold. I couldn’t sense even a slight barrier to my passing. Odd, but I suppose magic doesn’t work the same everywhere. Of course, I hadn’t seen anything yet that made one necessary; there weren’t any creatures of the night waiting to strike helpless ponies in their sleep, it seemed. “Spike?” Twilight’s concerned tone brought me back to the present. The little mare was looking around with an expression of confusion that was starting to turn into worry.
“Maybe he fell asleep.” I yawned, “I know that’s what I’m in the mood for.” I had other suspicions, but I dismissed them. This isn’t Chicago, I reminded myself sternly
Twilight nodded. “You’re probably right. I’ll go get him. He was so excited to meet you; I don’t think he’d forgive me if I just let him sleep.” She went upstairs, but I chose not to follow. The ceiling down here was just barely tall enough; I didn’t want to squeeze up that stairwell if I didn’t have to.
I took the time to examine the room. It was a small library, but books lined the shelves everywhere, with hardly a spare inch left empty. I examined a few of the books. Some were written in English (though how we shared the language I couldn’t even begin to fathom) but other, mostly older, books were instead written in a strange series of pictographs. Before I could delve too deeply into this linguistic mystery, though, I noticed an open scroll, lying on the room’s main desk. Spike, I think that was his name, must have gone somewhere and left a note.
I picked up the note and read. It was short, but the bottom had dropped out of my stomach by the time I was done. Maybe my instincts hadn’t been wrong after all. Twilight came back down a moment later shaking her head. “I couldn’t find Spike upstairs, but where could he have gone?”
I offered her the scroll, “You may want to read this.” It read as follows
Hello, Twilight Sparkle. You have probably noticed that your young assistant is missing. I have taken him and am holding him to ensure you follow my demands, the most important of which is that you do not attempt to contact the Princess in any way. I will know if you do so, and Spike will suffer for it. Second, the Royal guard accompanying you must stay here in Ponyville and not report to any authority. Third and lastly, keep this a secret from your friends. Explain it however you want, but they may not know what has happened. You will wait for my next letter for further instructions. It will arrive in a few days, and, so long as you have done what I said, Spike will be returned mostly unharmed. Disobey even one of these commands, and I will hurt him in ways you cannot even imagine.
The signature was a flourished letter. It was hard to make out, but I think it was a T. I opened my mouth to say I told you so, but my survival instincts (weak though they may be) throttled it before a word left my mouth.
I thought she’d been angry before, but that emotion was a guttering candle compared to the fire she burned with now. Her eyes flashed neon white and her hair stood on end as she read. When she finished, the letter burst into flames she began to levitate as she growled in rage. The entire damn library shook with her fury as she let out a wordless scream.
Ye gods and little fishes. She had more power than I’d thought. Then, just as quickly as it started, her eyes dimmed, the library stopped shaking and she fell to the floor in a defeated slump. And if her posture tugged at my heartstrings, the next words just about tore them out.
“Oh Spike, I-I’m so sorry.” She choked back a sob and every protective instinct I ever had reared its head. A calmer part of my mind considered her reaction and his size, and drew an unpleasant conclusion.
“Twilight?” She turned toward me, barely lifting her face from her hooves. “How old is Spike?” She shook, and her eyes filled with tears. She started crying; not the movie perfect tears that make sadness look beautiful and noble. No, in real life, pain and loss are never pretty.
I thought for a moment that she wouldn’t answer, but she steeled herself and managed to stop. Her voice, though, was still shaky. “He’s just … just a baby dragon. I still remember the day he hatched, the day we took him home.” She stopped, and after a moment whispered, “He’s my baby brother.”
That tore it. I felt my outrage growing with every word. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t my world. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t my enemy. I was making it my fight; no one and nothing harms children on my watch. I had more than a few scars from teaching that to the monsters of Chicago. I wouldn’t mind a few more if it meant spreading the word. I kept the anger under control, though, putting it at a low simmer in the back of my mind. As much as my wrath would help later, Twilight needed something different right now.
“Normally my retainer is pretty steep, but I think I can make an exception here.” I gave her a wry smile and put a hand on her shoulder. “We’ll get him back. I promise you that.” She blinked away an unshed tear and locked eyes with me. I met those eyes without fear. She studied my face, and I watched as her expression changed. Sadness, guilt, anger, and suspicion, flashed across her face until it finally settled on a look of hope and determination.
Her grin was still sad, but she no longer looked hopeless. “You’re right. We will get him back.” Her voice dropped to a quiet that would have done Fluttershy proud, and I just barely heard her add, “And thank you.”
I pretended not to notice and helped her back to her hooves. She rose quickly and began pace. “Okay, what do we know and what can we do about it? One, you were right; we were being followed by somepony that knows me well and bears a grudge. Two, the unicorn responsible is powerful or clever enough to kidnap…” Her voice shook a little, but she pushed past it. Good girl. “To kidnap Spike without a struggle. Three, they don’t want anypony else to know about them for a few days. Four,” her voice lowered into a threatening growl, “they’re arrogant enough to think they can actually get away with this.” She stopped pacing and thought for a moment. “I might know who did it, but I can’t figure out why.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You solved it that quickly? If you’ve got an enemy, why didn’t you worry about being followed?”
Twilight shook her head. “She’s not really an enemy, but she is the only unicorn I know who might be holding a grudge.” I grunted inquisitively, and she obliged. “There was a stage magician who called herself the Great and Powerful Trixie. She’s talented, but not nearly as much as she thinks. She claimed she could vanquish an Ursa Major, so a pair of her fans tried to find one so she could prove it in front of the town. Luckily, they only woke up an Ursa Minor, but that was still too much for her. I had to step in to save the town. After that, the story spread that she was a fraud, and last I heard she’d given up her routine.”
Twilight Sparkle had fought a monster with magic and saved her town. Somehow, that sounded familiar. I stroked my chin and mused. “Holy villainous clichés, Batman. We’ve got an angry unicorn, convinced that you’ve ruined her life, kidnapping a loved one for revenge. I think I can fill in the rest for you.”
She looked dubious, but this was something I had experience with. “If she quit a while ago, she’s had time to follow you, learn everything she can, and plan her revenge. But tonight she sees you with a Royal Guard. She panics, thinks you know about her. So she grabs Spike. That serves dual purposes. It buys her more time. Since this caught her by surprise, she probably isn’t ready yet. Holding him also baits the trap; she’ll set up her plan, and then send you that second note. She’ll probably order you to come alone. If you play by her rules, she knifes you in the back, and if you don’t, she pulls a tactical retreat with Spike still hostage. Not a half-bad plan.”
“Great. So what do we do?”
I bared my teeth like a wolf. “Simple, we do a quick smash and grab. She needs time, so we don’t give her any. We follow now and catch her unprepared.”
Twilight snorted. “How? We can check to see if anypony saw anything, but she probably teleported away. There’s not going to be a trial to follow.”
I gave a quick, slightly maniacal laugh. “I never told you what I do for a living, did I?” She shook her head slowly and I grinned. “I’m a private investigator; I find things for a living. Does Spike live here?”
The change in topic confused her, but Twilight played along. “Yes, does that matter?”
I nodded and pulled out my simple bar crystal. “I need something that was part of him. A claw or scale or tooth. The more recently he lost it, the better.”
“I’ll check.” Her expression said I was crazy but to her credit she went upstairs to look. She was learning. I wandered into the kitchen and found a container of kitchen salt. I grabbed the whole thing and started making a circle in the middle of the library floor. Twilight came back downstairs about halfway through.
“What are you doing?” She asked with the tired patience of a teacher who has an especially dull student.
I ignored her tone and answered without stopping my work. “I’m making a circle, duh.” I glanced up and grinned at her, but she didn’t laugh. Some people. I went back to pouring salt.
Anger danced in her eyes, but her voice was steady. “I can see that, but I want to know why you’re making a circle. And why you need to pour salt on my clean floor to make it.”
“Do you have something of Spike’s?” I finished the circle and started smoothing its curves.
Twilight sighed and held a small purple scale between us. “I found that in his bed, so he must have shed it last night. Will that work for whatever you’re planning?” I nodded and reached out to take it, but she quickly moved it away. “You don’t get it until you tell me how all of this nonsense helps me get Spike back.”
I scowled, but she kept that scale floating tantalizingly just out of reach. It was my turn to sigh. “So much for the dramatic reveal. Pro-tip: if you want hang out with wizards, don’t ruin the whole mystic knowledge shtick.” I gave a smile at her confused expression, and switched to lecture mode.
“You need to understand two concepts from my brand of magic. First, this scale was a small part of Spike. Magically speaking, it’s still a part of him. They may be separated physically, but in a mystic sense they’re still connected, for a while anyway. With a spell, I can sense that connection and use this scale to lead us to Spike.”
Twilight nodded studiously, her anger fading in the thrill of learning. “Interesting. That makes sense, but what about the circle?”
“I was getting to that.” I replied peevishly. “The second concept is a magic circle. A circle, once constructed and activated by will, acts as a barrier to magical energy. It can be used for defense against a mystic attack or to screen out background magic while constructing a spell. In this case I’m going use it while I put together the tracking spell. Now, the scale if you would be so kind?” The last sentence practically dripped sarcasm but she didn’t seem to notice.
“Why use salt?”
This curious student crap was getting old fast. “Salt is pretty good at conducting magic and it’s easy to make a circle with. Now, hand over the scale unless you want to spend all night talking instead of rescuing.” She blinked, remembering what was at stake, and blushed slightly as she gave me the tiny focus.
I tucked it into a pocket. “I’ll stay here and work on the spell, but first, I need your permission.”
“For what?” came her confused reply.
I resisted rolling my eyes. “To use my magic, remember? That oath is still binding, and I’m not any use without my power.”
“Oh right, that.” She coughed once and composed herself, becoming formal. “I do so release you from your promise. Thank you for giving it, though.”
“De nada,” I said, but having access to my power again was a real relief. Gun or no, a wizard is damned near helpless in a fight without his magic. I turned back to her, “Gather whoever you want on the rescue, but whatever you do, be quick and be careful. We can’t waste time, or let Trixie know we’re coming.”
Twilight smiled with renewed confidence. “Don’t worry, Mr. Dresden. I’ll be back in thirty minutes or my name’s not Twilight Sparkle!” Her horn gave a flash that would have put a searchlight to shame, and she disappeared with only a soft fizzle to mark her departure. I had a weird feeling as she teleported, but I couldn’t say why. Something didn’t seem right. I shrugged it off as a case of nerves, and got to work.
The circle was just big enough to hold me, sitting cross-legged. I touched the line of salt and willed the circle to close. It rose instantly, cutting me off from the surging power that filled this world. Trying a subtle spell like this in the middle of all that magic would have been like trying to fly a kite in a tornado. In my circle, there was nothing, but the steady thrum of my own power.
I took out Spike’s scale and examined it. It was strong and thick, reminding me of turtle shell more than any scale I’d ever seen. I flicked it lightly and grunted in approval as it resisted the force easily. The stronger the material, the more magic I could pump through it and the stronger the spell would be. Usually, at least. I’d never worked with dragon scale before, so I didn’t know its capabilities; I’d have to start out slow and build up power in increments. The scale gave me trouble for a minute, but I had just enough string to tie into onto the crystal. I began to mumble in quasi-latin and reached for my magic. The crystal swung like a pendulum as I formed my spell. It needed to be strong, long-lasting and work over long distances, but still be sensitive enough work at close range too. It was a challenge, but I had plenty of magic and an ocean of experience. I finished in three or four minutes. I relaxed and eyed the crystal; it spun aimlessly, weighed down by the scale at one end. I reached out and broke the circle, letting the spell rush out into the real world. This was the moment of truth; if Spike was out of range or heavily shrouded, the spell would be useless and I’d have to start over.
But the crystal stopped spinning only a moment after the barrier fell. The weighted tip swung sharply in one direction and stayed fixed, glowing softly. I looked out the window, careful to stay out of sight, and saw that it pointed the way we had come. Toward Fluttershy’s cottage and the dark forest that lay beyond it. I grinned, staring into the black distance. Trixie had no idea the trouble she’d gotten herself into.
Of course, I thought, I’m fighting an unknown enemy on her own turf, so who’s to say the same isn’t true for me? The night had no answer, but all the same I felt a dull chill that only grew worse as I waited.
Author’s Note: More plot than comedy this time, but 100% more Trixie. Thanks and major kudos once more to my editor, Silentcarto.
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
Nopony could remember when the quarry had been abandoned. Few even knew it existed. It had once supplied stone for the Castle of the Royal Sisters, but it had gone to ruin long before the palace. Located deep in the Everfree Forest it was a secluded and empty place. The Great and Powerful Trixie had stumbled across it on one of her earlier journeys. The workers’ quarters had once been a massive building capable of housing dozens of ponies, but these days it was a crumbled ruin. Still, some of its rooms were preserved enough to act as shelter and Trixie had taken one as her home. The cold stone room wasn’t a place she would have preferred to live, but beggars, or in this case secretive unicorns, couldn’t be choosers.
The mare appeared there an hour or so after dusk in a dazzling display of light. She brought with her a pair of worn saddlebags and a small, sleeping dragon. Trixie set her hostage on the ground and checked her saddlebags, pleased to see their contents were unchanged. The small pocket watch she’d liberated from its unpleasant owner gave nine soft chimes reminding her of the time. Trixie was displeased; she still had hours to go until the proper time.
To keep herself busy Trixie strengthened the sleeping spell on the little dragon, ensuring he’d stay unconscious for the next few days. Her stomach rumbled, and she considered her store of food. She didn’t have much, but a simple dinner of oats and wild berries would do just fine. She did need to mind her trim, lovely figure, after all. Once she was done there was still time to kill, so she practiced her magic. The voice whispered its usual encouragement and advice as she worked. Under its tutelage she had vastly improved her already impressive skills. As the minutes ticked closer and closer to midnight her excitement grew until she could no longer focus on her magic. The voice cautioned her to be patient, but she could feel that it was even more on edge than she was.
At a quarter to midnight, she stopped pretending to practice and gathered her materials. From the sealed chest in the rear of the tiny room, she withdrew the fruit of her months of labor. The war hammer was unnaturally heavy, and it gleamed silver even in the lightless shack. It was made from no ordinary metal; it was not even some enchanted alloy. The hammer was made from the ore of a shooting star. It had taken weeks, even with her new ally’s help, just to craft the spell to locate a metallic meteorite and longer still to actually find a piece big enough for her purposes. The blacksmith in Hoofington had thought she was crazy when she brought him the otherworldly rock and told him to make her a hammer; an opinion not helped by the way she would occasionally answer the voice in her head out loud. She’d spent the last of her bits to convince him, and he had grudgingly taken the job. Losing the money hurt, but the voice had insisted. The hammer was necessary to enact its plan.
Trixie finished admiring the hammer; whatever his doubts, the blacksmith had done a beautiful job. It was almost a shame that she had to take the hammer without paying the rest of her promised price, but eventually his wounds would heal. Besides, when she at last gained the recognition she deserved, he would be well-rewarded for this service to her. She set it down and opened her saddlebags. The prizes within winked at her in the soft moonlight as she lifted them out. Five necklaces and a gaudy tiara joined the hammer. The Elements of Harmony had been pathetically easy to steal, considering their importance. She could have guarded them better than that foal of a Princess. Of course, what pony would dare to take the most priceless gems in existence from the study of Princess Celestia herself? The Great and Powerful Trixie would! Those useless Bearers would suffer for the Princess’s arrogance. The Princess might increase her security after this, but Trixie didn’t intend to give her a second chance.
Trixie checked her watch again; it was 11:55. She stared at the Elements wondering what order she should put them in. Twilight’s Element would be last of course, only she could be the finale. It was tempting to put Magic first, but Trixie knew that the anticipation would make the reward all the sweeter. First would be that timid, pathetic, little pegasus, Kindness, and then that annoying pink one, Laughter. The Honest farmpony and the Loyal daredevil would be next. Generous Rarity would be second to last. That showy upstart had dared to call Trixie’s magic unsophisticated. Only after her precious friends would it be Twilight’s turn.
Trixie’s heart thudded a frenzied drumbeat within her chest as the seconds passed. Even the normally phlegmatic voice bubbled with malicious glee. She raised the hammer in a telekinetic grip waiting. Just before midnight struck she spoke, her voice and the one in her mind perfectly in sync.
“At the darkest hour she wielded a fallen star. Her heart full of naught but hatred, she struck, destroying Harmony and releasing the darkness from its prison. Thus, was the Nightmare reborn.”
The hammer descended crushing the tiny butterfly in the center of the Element of Kindness. Splinters of pink crystal fell from it as the hammer rose again. With maniac energy Trixie smashed the happy party balloon next. The apple, lightning bolt and diamond studded necklaces quickly followed suit, and then, only Magic was left. Trixie breathed heavily, partially from the exertion of swinging the hammer, but mostly from her growing feeling of power. She had never felt so alive, so strong!
And it only gets better, the voice purred.
Trixie lifted the hammer once more and brought it crashing down on the glittering tiara. It survived the first blow unscathed. Trixie blinked, stunned, but her surprise quickly turned into a burning fury at its resistance. The second hammer strike drove a deep crack through the heart of the purple jewel. The final one reduced the once-proud stone to mere shards. A powerful explosion erupted from beneath the hammer. The backlash threw Trixie to the ground, where she lay stunned for a long moment.
When she rose, a pitch black mist began seeping out of the shattered artifacts. It paused for a moment and then drew together, streaking across the rocky terrain to surround her with its ebony coils. Even if she would never admit it, not even to herself, Trixie was paralyzed with fear at the sight. But as the inky miasma sunk into her coat, the terror faded, and instead she felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. She had done it.
It would more accurate to say that we have done it. The voice had returned stronger than ever. No longer a small whisper, it was now a full voice, one as strong and melodious as her own. It came with a presence, a strange, new entity that she could feel, sharing her mind and body. Trixie knew she should have been frightened, maybe even terrified, but the Nightmare felt as familiar and welcome as an old friend.
Of course, the presence said. After all, we have communicated mentally for months, even though you could barely be reached through the seal. That, however, is of no real import. You have done everything that has been asked of you. Now, you will receive the promised reward.
Trixie felt herself gasp, driven to her knees, as her mind nearly succumbed to the sudden sensation. All of her, – mind, body, and spirit – was filling with power. More than she had ever dreamed of; the feeling was pure bliss. She floated in an endless ecstasy. Her entire world was nothing but—
She stiffened, trying to scream, but her frozen lungs wouldn’t let her. It was too much. Her body was only a small glass to the cascade of magic that poured into it. The energy began spilling from her in luminous waves as she fought to hold it, to hold herself together.
That will not do at all, the Nightmare stated coldly. Your body must be altered to better control your new abilities.
Trixie could barely nod her agreement before the changes began. She had thought she couldn’t possibly hurt any more; mental acid already ate at her psyche as liquid fire poured through her veins, but then her body added its own chorus of physical torments more excruciating than anything she had ever experienced before. Bones creaked as they lengthened, muscles and ligaments screaming at the sudden stress until the magic caught up to them. Her entire coat and mane crawled with the feet of a thousand imaginary insects. Then, suddenly, it all stopped. The pain was gone. Trixie staggered slowly upright on her new legs, feeling strangely at peace. She was still awed by the power she held, but no longer was she overwhelmed by it.
But that could wait. With a thought and the barest exertion of power, she summoned an enormous mirror. She hardly recognized the shocked face that gaped back at her. Trixie had been beautiful before, but now she was utterly radiant. She stood almost as tall as Princess Celestia, but, she thought with a smirk, she had a nicer figure to go with that height. Perfectly shaped, slender legs led to a beautifully curved flank where her cutie mark twinkled proudly. Her coat had become a blue so dark it bordered on black, and her eyes had turned a cruel, steely gray.
And my mane. Oh, my mane! It had become a flowing banner of silver. Each strand was made of metal purer than any jeweler could imagine. Such a mane should have been heavy and stiff, but her gorgeous hair flowed easily in the soft breeze, as light and smooth as silk. Her horn had changed as well; it was now twice its original length and came to a wickedly sharp point. The Great and Powerful Trixie laughed; at last she had a form fit for her, one with a beauty and elegance that lesser mares could only envy!
As she admired herself in the mirror, Trixie noticed a twitch of movement behind her. The shattered pieces of the Elements were beginning to draw back together like iron filings around a magnet. Trixie and the Nightmare felt a brief surge of displeasure as the pieces hesitantly began to fuse. The Elements of Harmony couldn’t be permanently destroyed, not by any means known to the Nightmare at least, but both had hoped that the artifacts would have been slower to heal themselves without the presence of their Bearers.
Oh well, that hardly matters. Trixie thought, her mind quickly turning inward, eager to explore the possibilities of her new powers.
Remember, the Nightmare cautioned, it will take days to learn full control of these powers. Do not lure the Elemental of Magic here until you are well prepared.
Trixie pouted at that, but with some careful cajoling her ally proved as persuasive as ever. She sighed, dismissing the mirror and frowning at the tiny room around her. “Fine, but in the meantime, we must do something about these accommodations.” She glared at the dank stone surrounding her and huffed haughtily. “Such a place isn’t fit for the Great and Powerful Trixie.”
She paused, a strange thought crossing her mind. “That name won’t do either. Trixie needs a new title to reflect her improved form.”
She remained immobile, sorting various possibilities in her mind until she cried out. “Aha! I’ve got it! Henceforth I shall be known as … The Dark and All-powerful Trixie!” She stamped her hooves in excitement over her cleverness, oblivious to the craters she was making and the shuddering of rocks yards away.
There was a startled silence from the Nightmare, but it found its voice before Trixie completely destroyed the stone underhoof. It is no worse than Nightmare Moon; it will do. Now let us begin constructing your new domicile. What did you have in mind?
Trixie stopped her prancing, but excitement still showed in her grin. “Why, the only place worthy of me, of course. I must have a castle.”
Very well. This will be good practice for you. You will be guided, but focus is necessary. This will be difficult.
Rarity sighed as she entered her beautiful boutique; it had been such an eventful day. Sweetie Belle and her friends had been underhoof for most of the morning, and she had received an order for two new dresses in addition to the alterations to one she had already finished. Rarity had made good progress on that front once Sweetie Bell left, but it was only a short while later that Twilight had shown up with a new crisis, forcing her to put work aside.
The whole ordeal had been odd, and that meant something coming from a pony used to Pinkie’s antics. Mr. Dresden was such a strange fellow, but Rarity had warmed to him. True, he had seemed frightening at first, but seeing him cowed by a pony half his size had alleviated much of her trepidation. Not that Twilight’s anger hadn’t scared Rarity as well, but the situation was rather amusing in hindsight. His fashion sense seemed severely lacking other than his fascinating coat, but who was she to judge the fashions of another world?
That coat, though. She still wanted to know more about. He’d seemed nervous, evasive even, when she’d asked. She had stopped out of courtesy, but that didn’t prevent her from wondering. Perhaps it had some symbolic or religious purpose; she had sensed some unfamiliar magic woven into it. He had put it back on as soon as she had let him, and had even worn it in addition to the cloak despite the fine evening.
Rarity hoped he wouldn’t go home too soon. Their talks had been fairly direct and focused on the business at hoof. She would love to hear more about his world. That city he mentioned sounded intriguing. Neigh York wasn’t it? Visions of an alien city full of strange, new fashions, brimming with exotic material and fresh inspirations, danced through her mind. She shook her head. It was obvious she wasn’t going to get much sleep tonight anyway. She may as well get back to work on one of the new dresses.
She wasn’t sure how long she had been working when the quiet sound drew her attention. A furtive, stealthy sort of noise that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Looking up, she saw that the door was slightly ajar, creaking faintly in a soft breeze. She closed it again with magic. Was there something wrong with the latch, or…? But the shop was empty.
Returning to her work, she had barely rethreaded her needle when one of the floorboards gave a loud creak. Rarity whipped around, heart thudding, but there was nopony else in the room. The boutique was silent beyond the drumming in her chest.
Am I just imagining it? She wondered. She’d had a busy day, after all, and perhaps—There! A rustle and a flash of motion in the corner of her eye! She spun to face whatever it was, her horn glowing as she prepared herself, but once again she was faced with nothing.
I am definitely not alone, the unicorn thought, trying to hold her fear in check. But a lady always faces danger with dignity…
“Boo.” Whispered a mouth next to Rarity’s ear.
Rarity shrieked, dignity forgotten, already lashing out with a blast of magic.
“Wheeeeee!” Pinkie cried as she went sailing through the air to land with a mighty thump in pile of fabric rolls. She picked herself up quickly and trotted over to her angry, embarrassed friend. “That was great, Rarity! You shoulda seen the look on your face. Priceless!”
“Pinkie, what are you doing here so late? You scared me half to death!” Rarity glared daggers at Pinkie, but the irrepressible party pony seemed only slightly apologetic.
“Sorry. I was just sitting at home getting ready for bed and feeding Gummy, feeling awfully disappointed that I couldn’t throw Harry a ‘Welcome to Ponyville’ party ‘cause nobody but us can know about him and so I wanted to do something fun, when Twilight suddenly appeared and told me that we had a new problem and that I needed to come over here right away and tell you to close all the windows and curtains but to leave the lights on and stay out of sight and I thought if I had to stay out of sight I should do it the moment I arrived but then you were so scared I remembered I needed to tell you all this and I was about to say something but you looked so silly with that scaredy-pony expression so I wanted to surprise you, isn’t it funny?” Rarity struggled to process the torrent of words, and then Pinkie seemed to remember something and added. “Oh, and apparently Spike’s been kidnapped so we need to go rescue him.”
“What? Pinkie, how could you not mention that first?” Pinkie opened her mouth to respond, but she was cut off by the other pony. “I mean really. Oh, poor Spike. Poor Twilight! How was she? Who did it?” She paused. “Did you mention something about pulling the curtains?”
Pinkie thought for a moment. “I said Spike’s been kidnapped, I kinda forgot, she seemed angry but ok, I don’t know, and yes.” Rarity took a moment to process her friend’s odd answer and realized the last bit was the only important part. She gathered her magic and began pulling the curtains shut. That done, she turned to Pinkie for a more detailed description of the current situation. But before she could, there was a sudden glow and soft popping noise as Twilight and Applejack appeared in the middle of the room.
Applejack shook her head, trying to clear her dazed expression, “That weren’t much fun. I think I’ll just walk the next time.”
“Sorry, Applejack,” Twilight replied, “but time is of the essence and we can’t afford to be seen.” Her attention shifted, locking eyes with Rarity. “Did Pinkie tell you what’s going on?”
“No! Well, yes, but—” Rarity began.
“Good,” Twilight interrupted, “I’ll be back soon with Dash.” And she disappeared again in a flash of light.
“Will somepony please tell me just what’s going on, and why we’re all gathering at my boutique?!” Rarity shouted, forgetting proper etiquette for a moment.
“No need to shout, sugarcube. We kin all hear you.” Applejack rubbed her eyes sleepily. “All I know is that Twilight woke me and said Spike’d been kidnapped. I hurried to get ready ‘cause she was all impatient to go. Once I had everything, she told me to wait with y’all and dropped me here.” She frowned at Pinkie. “Do you know just what’s going on?”
Pinkie nodded seriously, “Twilight popped in to see me first and told me everything. She and Dresden got back to the library and found a note that said somepony had taken Spike. Twilight thinks it’s Trixie, with some kind of evil plan for revenge. Twilight isn’t supposed to tell anypony about it, but Dresden can follow Spike so we’re secretly meeting up to go rescue him!” Her voice had turned peppy as she talked and by the end she was back to her usual bouncing. In stark contrast, her friends’ faces became more worried the longer she spoke. There was a second of silence after Pinkie finished, but Applejack quickly broke it.
“So Spike disappears and now we need to follow some suspicious fella we just met today out to Celestia knows where in the middle of the night? This sounds mighty strange to me.”
“Applejack! I found Mr. Dresden to be a colt of impeccable character, despite his peculiarities. I can’t believe you’d be so untrusting when we need to pull together during this crisis.” Rarity sniffed and turned away to reorganize the materials that Pinkie’s landing had scattered.
Applejack flushed, looking a little shamed, but held her ground. “I ain’t saying he’s not nice, but he’s downright mysterious. I can tell he’s got all sorts of secrets he ain’t telling us. Do you really wanna trust him with your life, or any of ours?”
“Why not?” Pinkie was still in high spirits, but she looked unusually serious. “Twilight trusts him enough to lead all of us, and she doesn’t even like him that much. Besides, doesn’t everypony deserve some trust, no matter how mysterious, sinister or downright spooooky they might be?”
Applejack wanted to argue further, but from her friends expressions it’d just be a waste of time. She sighed and changed the topic. “So Pinkie, Twi thinks Trixie’s the culprit? Did she say why?” Pinkie shook her head solemnly, and Applejack frowned. “Huh, I thought that two-bit little show-off learned her lesson the last time. I guess she needs a reminder. Nopony hurts my friends, and a few parlor tricks ain’t gonna stop me this time. I wonder how great and powerful she’ll be after a few bucks to the head?”
Rarity finished tidying and turned back to the conversation. “In that I agree with you completely. She displayed a horrid lack of style last time, but at least she had seemed above abduction. If she’s truly taken the left-hoof path then it’s our duty to stop her.” Her eyes narrowed and her smile turned fierce. “And if it so happens that kicking that narcissistic charlatan’s flank is necessary… well, that’s just a bonus.”
Pinkie and Applejack chuckled, but their laughs were interrupted by Twilight’s reappearance. This time she held a sleeping Rainbow Dash in her telekinetic grip. Twilight set the cyan pegasus down carefully, and turned to go, speaking briefly,
“Sorry, but I couldn’t wake her. Be back soon, okay? Thanks, bye.” Rarity barely had time to notice that the purple unicorn’s hair looked a little frazzled before she vanished.
Everypony in the room stared at the sleeping pegasus. “Any ideas?” Rarity asked.
Pinkie grinned, “I can think of a few.” The pink pony pulled a pair of cymbals from somewhere and brought them together with resounding crash. “WAKE UP, DASHIE!”
Rainbow Dash just rolled over, snoring slightly. Pinkie frowned. She positioned the cymbals right next to Dash’s head and drew in her breath for another try.
“Hold up there,” Applejack interrupted. “I know something that’ll work.” Pinkie withdrew but still held the cymbals at the ready. Applejack leaned over the heaviest sleeper in Ponyville and whispered something in her ear. Dash shot into the air like she’d been thrown in an icy river.
“I’d never! I mean no way, that’s just not cool. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I’m innocent, I swear!” Pinkie giggled and that seemed to break Dash’s panic. She flushed angrily at her friends’ bemused expressions and glared at Applejack. “That’s not funny and you know it, AJ.”
The cowpony chuckled a little, “I dunno, Dash. It looked pretty funny from down here.” A scowl joined the glare aimed at her, and Applejack stopped her laughing. “Sorry, but we needed ya up an’ about inna hurry.”
Dash seemed to notice her surroundings for the first time and landed next to Pinkie. “Fine, but how did I get here?”
“Twilight brought you here.” Pinkie said, and began bringing her sleepy friend up to speed on their latest crisis.
Rarity leaned over to Applejack while Pinkie was busy getting Dash caught up. “Just what did you whisper to her?”
Applejack chuckled, “Can’t tell ya.” Rarity pouted, but Applejack just shook her head. “Nope, I Pinkie swore not to tell anypony about it. But I can tell you that it’s one hay of a funny story.”
Rarity wanted to press her for more juicy details but there was a familiar flash of light. Twilight reappeared with Fluttershy in tow and winked back out of existence without even a word to her friends.
Fluttershy gave a soft “Eep” as every pony in the room focused on her. The yellow pegasus stared uneasily at her hooves. “Umm… Twilight said I needed to ask Pinkie for an explanation. She just said something terrible had happened and she needed me. That is, if you don’t mind Pinkie?” Pinkie nodded sagely and launched into her third rendition of the story.
Dash drifted over to Applejack and Rarity. “We’re all here, so why’d Twi leave this time?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Rarity asked, “She needs to collect Mr. Dresden. It’s his spell that will lead us to Spike. Did she look out of sorts to either of you? Teleporting over such distances isn’t easy and she’s been doing it nonstop – and with passengers, no less.”
“C’mon, Rarity.” Dash spoke up, “That egghead knows magic like nopony else. Besides, we need the speed if we’re gonna surprise Trixie and rescue Spike.”
Applejack shook her head, siding with Rarity. “Most of the time, I’d be on your side, Dash, but she just lost Spike. I doubt she’s thinking things through right now.” She shrugged. “Not that we can do anything until she gets herself back.”
Pinkie’s narrative grew louder and Applejack stopped speaking just in time for the three to hear her say, “And then there were ninjas everywhere!” before her volume dropped again. The earth pony, unicorn and pegasus shared a sigh.
“I reckon I’ll need to set Fluttershy straight once Pinkie’s done. How ‘bout you two work on getting supplies together? We don’t know how far it is to Trixie’s hideout.” Her friends nodded and all three set to work, but they’d barely started before Twilight and Dresden appeared.
“-said ‘be quick’ doesn’t mean you should push yourself too far. We can walk there.” Even as he finished the sentence, the wizard realized it was a moot point. He frowned at Twilight, but it broke into a yawn. He looked tired, but he was bright-eyed and energetic compared to Twilight.
The purple unicorn swayed unsteadily, both eyes half closed, and when she spoke it was slurred. “No, I’m fine. You worry too much.”
“Twilight!” Rarity cried, darting to her friend’s side.
Dresden just scowled and leaned against a wall, rubbing tired eyes. Pinkie trotted up to him and sat on her haunches, sucking in a deep breath. “Okay, so you and Twilight got back to the library and found a note that said somepony had taken Spike, and that’s when the Black Spider ninja clan attacked—”
The rest of the ponies crowded around their tired friend, all talking at once. Twilight’s lavender eyes darted back and forth between her chattering friends in distracted confusion, as her posture gradually tightened from exhaustion to annoyance.
“Quiet!” she snapped. All of her friends backed away, surprised. “Uh, please. Sorry, I just need a moment and I’ll teleport all of us into the Everfree forest. Then we can get started.”
“Oh, Twilight. Are you sure? I mean, you look so tired. Shouldn’t you take a rest?” Fluttershy offered.
Twilight shook her head irritably. “No, we need to get moving now. The faster the better.” Her horn began to glow, but its light flickered like candle and couldn’t steady itself.
Dresden put a hand on her shoulder and solemnly shook his head. “The letter gave us days. We can spare the time to walk there, but we can’t spare you.”
Twilight shook his hand off her. “Spike needs us. He needs me. We have to!” She tried again to work her magic, but the world kept slipping away from her. Applejack leaned down in front of her, staring her in the eyes.
“We both know I got some experience with being too tired an’ stubborn to get a job done right. And I’m telling you right now, sugarcube, that you need to listen to us. We’re your friends, ain’t we?”
Twilight stopped. Applejack was right. Her horn lost its glow and she offered a wan smile. “You’re right. You all are. It won’t hurt to walk from here.” Her knees wobbled when she said ‘walk’, but nopony seemed to notice. “We just need to get everything ready and we can go.”
“Awww,” Pinkie said, “We love you too. Group hug!” The little pink pony stretched out her front legs impossibly long pulling all the other ponies close. She smiled at the lone human, “You too, Mr. Dresden!”
The tall wizard seemed startled by the invitation, and he held his hands up in a placating gesture. “Thanks, but hugs aren’t really my thing. You see-”
“Just get over here,” Pinkie interrupted with a giggle. He hesitated a moment more before joining the hug. His arms were stiff and a little awkward, like he wasn’t used to hugging, but Pinkie seemed satisfied. At the end of the hug she was beaming even brighter than usual.
“Now what?” asked the ever practical Applejack.
Twilight thought for a moment. “You said you’ve done this kind of thing before, Mr. Dresden. You should lead us.” He nodded like he’d been waiting for her to say that and stepped forward.
“I’ll make this brief. Everyone needs to pack some food, something to keep them warm and as much water as they can carry. Also take anything that’ll help in a fight. Got that?”
All of the ponies nodded, “Good. Let’s get to it, everybody.”
Twilight lurched ahead, but it was hard going. Somepony had replaced her hooves with lead weights, and her legs with pieces of rubber. She almost made a full yard, but Dresden put out his hand to stop her. It didn’t take much force. “Hold on, Twilight,” he said in a softer tone.
“I wanted to ask you about something.” The other ponies followed Rarity toward some of the back rooms, and they were alone. “Applejack and Rainbow make sense. I can even understand why you might want Rarity or Pinkie, but are you sure we should bring Fluttershy? There’s pretty good chance we’re going to have to fight. Can she handle that?”
Twilight gave Dresden a tired grin. “Don’t worry, Mr. Dresden. When her friends are in danger, Fluttershy can do some amazing things. Once she stared down a full-grown dragon to protect the rest of us.” His eyebrows rose almost to his hairline, but Dresden let the matter drop. Twilight understood his hesitation, but all of them drew strength from each other. It wouldn’t feel right doing this without Fluttershy. “Besides, she has some basic medical training.”
He shrugged. “Fine, you know her best. But until we have everything packed, you need to rest.”
“What?” She protested. “I’m fine. I don’t--” Her argument would have been more convincing if she hadn’t yawned in the middle of her sentence. She tried to push past him to help her friends pack, but her legs weren’t working right. Her left legs remained glued to the floor and the right side just twitched and moved a few inches before settling unsteadily down. Dresden just stared at her until she felt her cheeks warm. “Okay, maybe I could use a few minutes. But wake me up as soon as we’re ready.” He nodded solemnly, and Twilight stopped fighting the exhaustion that washed over her. She vaguely felt his arms lift her up and set something soft beneath her head. She sighed as she made herself comfortable. A few minutes won’t hurt.
Author’s Note: Major thanks to my tireless editor, Silentcarto. This chapter was more messy than most. Also, realized I never gave credit for the story image. That wonderful work of art was done by the talented Lynxgriffin.
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
I sighed, looking down at the sleeping pony. We’d dodged a bullet on that one. Twilight was amazing, I’d never even heard of anything like the teleportation she’d used, but if she’s using the same physics I was, moving that much mass that far would drain any wizard’s powers. If she had pulled off that last spell I couldn’t imagine anything pretty happening. Magic plays for keeps.
Damn, I ‘m tired. I could manage for now, but I’d pay for it in a couple days. I wanted to sleep, but I knew if I did I wouldn’t be getting up any time soon. I’d tried power napping once, but I’d just woken up still tired and pissed that I couldn’t sleep longer. Glancing at my pocket, I pulled out and checked my crystal. Reassuringly enough, it pointed in the same direction with an undiminished glow. The other ponies started to file back into the room. None of them looked surprised to see Twilight asleep.
“Okay, time to tell the wizard what we’re up against. Twilight thinks it’s Trixie, so until we know otherwise, that’s the working theory. Twilight was a bit short on the details, so I want anything you can tell me about her.” The resulting conversation was anything but boring. For creatures that don’t curse those ponies sure were inventive when it came to insults. None of them, not even Fluttershy, had a good word to say about Trixie, but with some careful questions, I got a decent idea of her abilities.
Given the kind of mojo she’d used in the fight with the Ursa Minor, she didn’t sound very tough, but she had a hostage. I didn’t know how it worked in Equestria, but a human in a similar situation could easily decide they had nothing left to lose. Her overbearing arrogance sounded like someone with self-esteem issues, and if she didn’t value her life, she might kill Spike purely out of spite.
I felt my anger rise in the back of my mind at that, but I choked it off. The ponies had started discussing what they were going to do when they found Trixie. I interrupted, “Ms. Rarity, could you turn off the lights like you were going to bed?”
“Certainly, but whatever for?” The other ponies’ expressions mirrored her curiosity.
I felt like Mr. Science with a room full of kids. “Would you please? I’ll explain in a moment.” She still seemed perplexed, but with a glow from her horn, the lights dimmed and went out.
“Great.” Rainbow groused. “We can’t see. Are you gonna tell us the plan now, fearless leader?”
“Hey,” I scowled. “That’s Mr. Fearless Leader to you. I demand respect, whether it’s due or not.” There were a couple giggles, but most of my audience seemed to agree with her. “Okay, Twilight’s exhausted so we’re going to let her sleep a little.”
I held up a hand to forestall any protests, but the darkness worked against me. “What? C’mon, speed is what we need. We’ve gotta get moving if we want to catch Trixie.” No points for guessing who that was.
I shook my head. “No, what we need is surprise and strength. Speed’s important, but Twilight is in no condition to travel. We’re going to wait an hour, then head out.”
“That makes sense,” Fluttershy murmured. “But why did we have to turn the lights out?” My eyes had started to grow used to the gloom, and I thought I saw her glancing around nervously.
“That’s just in case Trixie is keeping an eye on Rarity’s house. I don’t think it’s likely; she’s probably holed up with Spike somewhere, but there’s no sense taking chances. Besides, what would happen if someone saw my silhouette in the window?Until then, we can talk. Everything has been pretty hectic, and I’d like to get some more info before we do anything else. Twilight mentioned a Princess, so this is a monarchy?”
Rarity cleared her throat, “Well, more properly, it is a Diarchy. Equestria is ruled by two immortal Princesses. Celestia, the monarch of day, raises the Sun, and Luna, her younger sister and regent of night, controls the Moon.”
That piqued my interest, so I asked a few more questions. Celestia they discussed freely, but they seemed oddly hesitant to talk about the younger sister. I didn’t press, but I quietly filed that away as interesting. The next hour passed fairly quickly, for me at least. Rainbow quickly got bored with the discussion and volunteered to watch outside for anything suspicious. When I expressed doubt that she was quiet or stealthy enough, she suggested I do something that I’m pretty sure is anatomically impossible for both humans and ponies.
Pinkie Pie tried to participate, but after a while she lost interest and wandered off to ‘build something’. As ominous as that sounded, she swore (a promise involving a confusing rhyme about cupcakes and flying), not to draw anyone’s attention or break anything. The rest of us discussed Equestria and its inhabitants, and in return I told them about humans and Earth in general. I tried to keep it as PG as possible, but some things about my world just aren’t pretty. I glossed over modern conflict, but the wars of the past didn’t seem to surprise them. They’d heard the legends of the times before Equestria was unified under the Princesses. The biggest surprise, though, had nothing to do with war or violence.
“A population greater than six billion? You can’t possibly be serious.” Rarity gaped in disbelief.
I just nodded. “I am, but that’s pretty recent actually. Once the Industrial Revolution allowed for greater production and shipping of food, and medical advances stopped most of our diseases, the number of humans expanded exponentially. We’re a fairly…” I searched for a polite word, “prolific species.”
“A what now?” Applejack asked.
Well, if subtlety didn’t work. “We’re really good at reproducing. You know, making foals?” She blushed, and I laughed softly.
“Is it time to go, Mr. Dresden?” A new voice piped, right behind me.
Jesus Christ! My heart just about stopped. How the hell does Pinkie sneak up on me like that? “What?” My voice was a mix of tired and aggravated, but it didn’t dampen her cheer. She just smiled and repeated her question. I sighed and checked my watch, a purely clockwork model given my effect on technology. A little more than an hour had passed.
“Okay, let’s get going then.”
“I cannot believe you let me sleep for an entire hour! You promised me it would only be a few minutes.” Twilight said for the fifth freaking time.
“We needed to stay put for an hour to make sure we weren’t being watched.” I answered for the fifth freaking time. “Are we far enough away from Ponyville yet?”
“No. Keep it on until we’re actually in the forest. I’m not going to come home to an angry mob looking for a monster.” The sleep had helped, but Twilight was still tired and grumpy. Pot and Kettle, I know, but that didn’t stop it from being true.
I sighed. The other ponies were quiet for the most part, but I could hear the occasionally giggle as they listened to us. Twilight had given up telling me to be quiet, but in all fairness I was keeping my voice low.
“So, what spells do you know that are combat-ready?”
“I thought the plan was not to fight?” She asked. I glanced at her, but she wasn’t being sarcastic.
“The next time my enemies act according to my plan, it’ll be the first. You’ve got to be adaptable during a crisis.” She nodded as I spoke, and I’d swear she was making mental notes. “So I need to know what you’re capable of.”
I already had a pretty good feel for the rest of the group. Rarity had illusion and subtle magic, along with some dexterous telekinesis; she was the bard. Applejack was the strongest in the group; she’d be the paladin. Rainbow was fast and good for flank attacks (pun intended), definitely a rogue. Fluttershy was a difficult fit, but given her talent with healing, I’d call her our cleric. Pinkie… well, she’s in a class of her own. Twilight had serious skills, but could she translate them to the battlefield?
She thought for a moment. “Well, you know I can teleport; projectiles can’t hit what’s not there. I can raise a temporary shield bubble that can stop most magic. My levitation spell is strong enough to lift an Ursa Minor.” She stopped and shook her head. “I know too many spells to list them all. Most of them could be used in battle in some way, but none of them are designed for it.”
I nodded. That was about what I’d expected. The same should hold true of Trixie. Or most unicorns, I realized. I was going have to keep tight-lipped about this world when I finally got back to mine. Plenty of creatures would love a world like this, someplace where prey was plentiful and competition non-existent.
I was a little lost in that thought and almost tripped over my staff. Damnit! This is getting on my last freaking nerve. Keeping the six foot length of oak under the cloak hadn’t been too difficult during the sedate walk to the library, but at the pace Twilight set now, I was hard pressed not to fall over the damn thing. I understood why I couldn’t lose my disguise just yet, but my patience was wearing thin.
I shut up and followed Twilight, trying to keep from falling over. It was annoying, but we reached the edge of the forest before I broke either of my legs. I opened the cloak, disrupting the illusion, and pushed magic through my staff, making the symbols carved into it glow a fiery orange. As the group stepped onto the shadowy path, Twilight and Rarity brought their horns to life, adding a white, almost fluorescent, shine to the illumination. Fluttershy nervously scanned the surrounding trees. I didn’t blame her. I’ve seen a lot of spooky stuff so let me tell you, there’s hardly anything scarier than a forest at night. The thin crescent moon shone dimly, leaving the world shrouded in darkness. Even the light we cast only illuminated our group, making shadows in the woods beyond loom large and shift threateningly. I moved to the head of the group and took out my crystal with a free hand. The glowing bar turned and pointed into the dark heart of the forest, parallel to the path ahead.
Wordlessly, I started walking and the rest of the group followed. Occasionally, one pony or another would say something, but nobody spoke for long. The gloomy woods around us seemed to deaden anything we said. Rainbow volunteered to fly ahead and do some recon, but I flat out told her no. The canopy overhead was dense enough that taking off and landing would be dangerous. She said that wasn’t a problem, but I didn’t want to overestimate her abilities. Besides, the branches above were thick enough that I doubt she could have found the group again, lit or not. We left the path about thirty minutes into the forest and had to slow our pace. There wasn’t a lot of underbrush, but we still had to navigate around more than a few patches of thorns and nettles and some weird blue flowers that the ponies insisted we give a wide berth.
The wind sighed through the trees, setting an eerie counterpoint to the soft rustling of creatures in the forest around us. More than once I had the unsettling sensation of being watched, only to turn and see nothing but shadows. I was getting creeped out, but I’d been in similar situations. Twilight, looked apprehensive but determined. Rarity was clearly uncomfortable, but that seemed due to our hike through the woods as much as our frightening environment. Applejack’s knees shook slightly, but she didn’t say a word and kept a calm face. Rainbow was going a little stir crazy, having to walk, and it showed. Her wings twitched, and she started at every breeze. But she was the perfect picture of calm compared to Fluttershy. The poor pegasus stayed in the center of our group and I could practically hear her heartbeat from here. Her wings clamped tight to her body and she shuddered, giving a soft whimper at every strange noise and distant sound. My heart went out to her, but I didn’t know what to do. All of her friends had said something reassuring and hopeful, but she was still scared. Except Pinkie, I realized. The resident party pony was bringing up the rear and had been oddly silent this whole time. I turned to look at her. She was walking slowly, fiddling with something in her saddle bags. I almost raised my voice to ask but thought better of it. Pinkie was Pinkie; even a slow learner like me gets that eventually. My newfound wisdom was proved only a few minutes later.
“Hey! Mr. Dresden!” I sighed and turned around. I was only halfway there when a high speed something hit me in the face. I fell on my ass, letting go my staff. It didn’t hurt, but it had caught me by surprise. Whatever it was had popped me right in the mouth; I licked my lips and tasted… frosting?
“Oops. Looks like I had the dial a little high, but it works!” Everyone looked at her in startled silence. She stood on her hind legs, holding something that looked disturbingly similar to a bazooka. It rested on her shoulder and had a barrel big enough to put my fist in it. As I watched, Pinkie cocked the gun (?) and a swirl of pink icing filled the barrel.
“Behold the Cupcake Launcher!” The crazy little pony cried as she pulled the trigger and splattered Fluttershy’s face with a pink frosted cupcake.
“Pinkie! What in tarnation do you think yer doin’?” Applejack yelled at her giggling friend.
Pinkie’s eyes narrowed and she smiled. “So, you resist as well? Eat cupcake!” She launched another pastry hitting the cowpony in the mouth with pinpoint accuracy. The rest of her friends gasped and their open mouths quickly became easy targets for her confectionary based weaponry.
There was a startled second, where everyone, but Pinkie had a face full of frosting. I broke the silence with a laugh so loud I scared the birds around us into flight. Pinkie laughed with me uncontrollably. After the rest of the group scraped the cupcakes off their faces, they joined in and the woods echoed with the sound of our hilarity. A minute or so later sanity reasserted itself and I quickly shushed everyone. I Listened, a skill derived more from mental discipline than mystical, but nothing in the forest was stirring. The crystal held its direction steady. It had grown brighter but was nowhere near its full glow. With any luck Trixie wasn’t close enough to hear us.
I turned back in time to see Pinkie giving a mock glare and eating a cupcake out of the barrel of her gun. I nearly laughed again, but held it down. “So, that’s the mysterious something you were building?”
“Yep!” Pinkie chirped happily. “You said to bring something useful in a fight and can’t think of anything more useful than cupcakes, but I can’t just carry a plate of them around to everypony in the middle of an epic battle with all those ninjas so I whipped up this baby to let me put cupcakes anywhere within 100 yards!” She was literally bouncing with happiness, and everyone got another chuckle.
“That’s mighty thoughtful of you” Applejack managed through her laughter. “I’d prefer some warning afore you send another cupcake my way, but that's an awful funny notion, Pinkie. I guess there’s a reason you’re the Element of Laughter.”
I blinked, that was new. “The what of what?” The rest of the ponies stopped and looked at me.
Twilight face palmed (hooved?). “You girls had an hour-long chat with him and you didn’t think to mention the Elements of Harmony?”
“Well, to be fair, Twilight, we spent most of the time discussing our ancient history and the history and current state of his world. The Elements just never came up.”
Twilight sighed and nodded towards me. “Ok, well. The six of us are the Bearers of the most powerful magic in all of Equestria, The Elements of Harmony. Each of us represents one of Harmony’s qualities. Pinkie Pie is Laughter, Fluttershy, Kindness, Applejack, Honesty, Rainbow Dash, Loyalty, Rarity, Generosity, and I’m Magic, the keystone.”
I was silent for a moment.
“What?” Twilight looked confused.
“No. I don’t accept this.” I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms. “A wizard from another dimension happens to open a gateway into a magical land filled with talking ponies, and the first one he meets just happens to be the holder of an ancient and sacred power. Then those two and her friends, who also bear these powers, must rescue somebody she cares about from a jealous rival? Are you kidding me? If Kirby did that in Arcanos, I’d walk out! That’s the plot of a crappy fantasy novel!”
“Actually it's a-” Pinkie began, but Twilight cut her off.
“I’ll admit it sounds… unlikely… but that doesn’t change the truth. This is all really happening.”
I rubbed my face. “I know, I know. I just couldn’t let it go any farther without saying something. Anyway, moving on…” I only got a couple of steps before Twilight spoke again.
“What, you’re just going to ignore it? The Elements are the foundation on which all of Equestria is built.”
“Yes,” I deadpanned. “I’m very good at ignoring things. Watch in awe as I ignore the fact that Pinkie’s cupcake launcher is way too big to fit in her saddlebags, for instance.” All of them turned in time to see Pinkie stuff the giant pastry bazooka into one of the small bags. They all continued to stare, but she just shrugged and giggled.
I checked the crystal again and started walking. “Ok. That was fun,” I said over my shoulder. “But we need to keep quiet from now on. Remember, surprise is key.” All of the ponies nodded with much more enthusiasm than they’d had just a few minutes ago. We continued to make our walk through the forest, but now it didn’t seem nearly so frightening. The wind was more lonely than scary and the atmosphere wasn’t half so oppressive. An occasional giggle disrupted the silence, but otherwise the only noise was our footsteps.
A while later we came upon a large clearing; there was some movements in shadows at the opposite end. I had Twilight and Rarity douse their lights and I let mine fade. It took a moment for our eyes to adjust, but a minute later I could make out a pair of … creatures.
“What are those?” I whispered, not expecting a reply.
“They’re um… manticores. It looks like a newly mated pair.” Fluttershy said. I turned to look at her and she developed a sudden interest in her hooves. “I mean, see how the male barely has a mane yet? They’re probably trying to establish a pride in this part of the forest.”
I put the crystal back in my pocket and tightened my grip on my staff. “So, what are the odds we look like dinner to them?”
"N-n-no,” Fluttershy stammered. “They might attack one or two ponies, but there’s too many of us. Besides, you’re something they’ve never seen before, so they’ll be cautious. As long as we don’t run they won’t follow us.” I glanced at her in surprise. This was the little pegasus who was shaking with fright a few miles ago? There was more to Fluttershy than there appeared.
“Okay,” I said. “But watch them and tell me if they develop an interest in us.” I kept an eye on them just in case, but I turned my attention elsewhere. “So, Ms. Dash, you still want to do some recon?”
“You bet! Just let me stretch.” Her wings flared and began a series of exercises. “I’ve been holding ‘em still so long, I’m liable to get a cramp if I don’t warm up first.” We started to plan a search pattern, but it was cut short from an unexpected source.
There was a sudden shattering sound that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once, echoing through the forest. It came with a small burst of magical dissonance, the mental equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, and Fluttershy dropped soundlessly to the ground.
“Fluttershy!” Twilight cried rushing to her friend’s side. Fluttershy’s chest pumped like a bellows and her face was contorted in pain. She whimpered, obviously in agony, but I couldn’t see any wounds or other causes.
“What's wrong, Flutter-” Pinkie’s concern was cut off by another sound, identical to the first. She stopped mid-bounce with a sharp cry of pain and fell to the ground. I spun around, scanning for threats, but there was nothing. Only that sound and the barest trace of magic. It wasn’t like any kind of Thaumaturgy I’d ever seen before. The closest thing I could think of was, disturbingly enough, Victor Sells’ heart-exploding spell. But something that powerful should have had an almost physical presence. Whatever was hurting my new friends seemed deeper, their pain almost... incidental.
“Come out here and fight me hoof-to-hoof, you coward!” Rainbow screamed. “Come on!”
The soft shattering rang through the woods and Applejack was next. She gritted her teeth and sweat beaded on her brow. She seemed to resist for a moment, but just like the other two, she collapsed with a stifled groan. We were already three ponies down, and I had the feeling it wasn’t done yet.
Rainbow was trying to help Fluttershy stand when it was her turn. She cried out and her wings spasmed as she fell. Her muscles clenched and twitched as she tried to move, but couldn’t, her mind unable to coordinate her body through the pain.
Less than a second later, Rarity fell with a whimper, curling herself in the fetal position. There was only Twilight and I. The rest of the ponies were still on the ground, paralyzed in agony. Her face had grown pale as friend after friend succumbed, but now I could see a fury growing in her eyes. Her horn began to glow, and I felt her defenses settle into place.
“Twilight,” I began. “What’s going-”
But I was interrupted. The sound came again, but this time it was different. Instead of shattering, it was a fierce impact like a hammer against bedrock. Twilight shook as though she’d been hit but steadied herself. Another impact, and she reacted like she’d been kicked in the stomach. She fell to her knees, and I hurried to her side. But before I could reach her the sound of shattering glass filled the clearing and she slumped over with only a soft sigh.
As I watched her fall, something inside me screamed in raw anger. I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know how to fix it. I’d stood by helplessly as six innocent ponies had been hurt. I let my staff go dim, but not in time to stop me from seeing the tears on Twilight’s face, a mix of rage and pain.
A roar brought me back to the real world and I turned in time to see one of the manticores charging us. Apparently, six supine ponies were too tempting a prey to ignore. I clenched my staff so hard my knuckles turned white and the wood beneath them creaked in protest. My fury focused on the charging beast like a lens as I prepared my spell. I couldn’t use fire; it was too flashy and too easy to lose control over. I wouldn’t save my new friends from the monster, only to kill them in a forest fire. Force it was, then. That was fine with me.
My hands slid to the bottom of my staff and I waited until the monster was close enough that I could count its teeth. I swung the focus like a baseball bat, releasing the power I’d built with a shout.
“Forzare!” I bellowed. The head of the impromptu club buried itself in the manticore’s shoulder with the force of a car going 30. And I’m talking about a big car – a couple tons of good Detroit steel, not one of those tiny imports. With a pained grunt the creature went flying across the clearing and slammed into a tree. Its mate roared in anger, and I turn to face it. The male was a little bigger and he hauled ass, his claws carving long furrows in the ground as he charged. I felt myself grin, wide and murderous. I was going to try something a little tricky. A whisper of power and some applied physics slammed into the beast from below, turning its forward momentum into uncontrolled flight. It went sailing over all six of the ponies, flipping as it did so. I ran to meet it, hefting my staff into an overhand position. As the manticore came down on its back I swung down like I was using a pick-axe. The tip of the staff glowed like a meteor as I pumped more and more energy into it.
“Forzare!” I screamed again, my voice a primal reflection of its normal tone. The manticore brought up both arms to shield itself from the blow, but they were driven to its chest by my unstoppable strike, and I heard bones creak and crack under the strain. I spun my staff not giving it time to recover and shot a blunted lance of force into its center of mass. It skidded across the ground, tearing its bat-like wings to shreds and leaving a few divots in the soft terrain. Its mate helped it slowly to its feet and I could read murder in its eyes. Not tonight. It would leave for now, but it had our scents. It would be back. It may have been only dimly intelligent, but it understood revenge.
I growled. This thing would never get the chance. I prepared another strike; they might be tough but it would never survive this. I was about to unleash all hell on the beast, when a tiny voice stopped me. “P-please, don’t.”
I glanced over my shoulder. Fluttershy was struggling to stand, and watched us, tears brimming in her eyes. I was split, my mind at war with itself.
I don’t want her to see this. The manticore would die a bloody mess; she doesn’t need that, not gentle Fluttershy.
But, my anger said. You want her to live. That manticore will kill and eat her without a shred of remorse. She lives so close to the forest and you won’t always be there for her. Better that she lives to hate you than dies thinking the best.
I was so tired of seeing people hurt, of failing to save them. I made my decision. All of it, my rage, frustration, sadness and compassion gathered itself, and I forced it into my voice as I roared. There are no words that can accurately capture the primal wave of thunder that tore itself from my throat. Branches whipped through the air, the grass bowed away from me and both manticores flattened their ears, bracing themselves against the sound. The whole forest resonated with my voice and the echoes carried far into the distance. I stopped, and stared into the eyes of the beast. It didn’t understand me, but I spoke anyway in a voice hardly more sane than the scream had been.
“These ponies are under my protection and so help me God if you ever so much as touch them, I will kill you and your mate and eat your hearts.” My eyes narrowed until they were barely slits and I brought my staff to life. The runes inscribed blazing to life more bright and terrible than the fires of Hell itself. “Now, go!” The manticores fled from the sudden display of light, slowly and painfully, but as quick as they could. I sent a small lance of force after them to reinforce the lesson and was rewarded with a pained yelp that quickly died down to whimpers.
I let out a long breath. I should have killed them, and Fluttershy’s innocence be damned. I turned to see the rest of the ponies recovering. Most of them were staring at me in that uncomfortable mix of awe and fear. Except for Twilight, who gave me a shallow nod and a smile of… gratitude? I could get used to that. I sighed; all of the ponies seemed fine, although Rarity complained of a splitting headache, and I wondered if I’d overreacted. I busied myself with my crystal. I was so intent on it, that I didn’t even notice Fluttershy at first.
“How dare you.”
“Huh?” I said intelligently
“How dare you!” She screamed flapping her wings and putting her face right into mine. “I know those manticores were dangerous, but you didn’t have to hurt them, you big bully! If you’d roared at them and raised your light at the beginning, they’d have left without a fight! But now? The female had at least four broken ribs, from the way she breathed, and I could tell you cracked her upper leg. But she was lucky compared to the male! Did you even notice how much pain he was in before you shot that last spell at him? Both of his front legs were cracked, if not outright broken, and you crushed his sternum! What do you have to say for yourself?!”
This was the pony who hardly dared to speak before? I was stunned by the transformation and at first I could only agree with Twilight’s decision to bring her. As she went on though, my anger started to return. I had saved their lives, stood up to two predators twice the size of any of them and this was the thanks I got? My anger got the better of me, and I met her eyes. Fine. She wanted to lecture me over a few broken bones? Why not let her see real violence, real pain?
Somewhere in the background, I could vaguely hear Twilight panic, “Fluttershy, no!”
Her eyes were the same color as glacial ice, and they had about as much warmth. Almost instantly a new sensation swept over me. I’d done battle in the landscape of my own mind before, but this was different. Fluttershy’s will simply existed in my mind like a fact of nature as basic and ubiquitous as gravity. I was consumed with overwhelming fear and a desire to placate the angry pony before me. I tried to look away, to break out of whatever this was, but I couldn’t. I felt the Soulgaze beginning and her face lost its anger, turning to shock what was happening. I tried again to pull away, but her will still held me.
Before I could accidentally traumatize another pony, though, a violet glow shoved her to the side, breaking the eye contact. I staggered as the force of Fluttershy's gaze left me. The glow around Twilight's horn had faded by the time my head cleared, and I noticed that the rest of the ponies were staring at me.
“Nothin’,” Applejack said with a start. “It’s just that I ain’t never seen Fluttershy use the stare on anypony before.”
“Most certainly,” Rarity added. “You’re lucky Twilight saved you from the full force of her glare. Sweetie Belle says she even stared down a cockatrice with it.”
“Yeah, lucky.” I groaned trying to stop the post-adrenaline jitters. “That’s me all right.”
Twilight was busy counseling Fluttershy. I turned back to my crystal for another try and noticed with no small amount of displeasure that, its glow was flickering. One magic circle, some quasi-Latin and a couple minutes had it back to its fully functional self. There had been some slight resistance this time, but it still pointed in the right direction. He didn’t seem to have moved.
The time alone had let me calm down. Maybe I’d gotten a little too angry there, but I couldn’t help it. Violence to women, children, and apparently ponies, hit every last one of my murderous rage buttons. I glanced at the rest of the group; hopefully seeing me cut loose hadn’t freaked them out too much. One pony, though, was upset for a different reason.
Fluttershy approached me again, but this time Twilight practically had to push her there. I gave her a tired smile. She smiled shyly in response but it quickly turned into a frown as she hid behind her bangs. She muttered something, but it was too quiet and rushed for me to catch a word of it.
“Come again?” I frowned, closed my eyes and Listened.
She spoke again, this time using an even smaller voice, but I still caught it. “You’re sorry for shouting at me and using the stare? And you hope we can still be friends, and I won’t stop leading you to Spike?” She seemed surprised that I’d gotten it, but she nodded enthusiastically. Twilight’s jaw dropped. I smiled again. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have met your eyes -- I was more than a little angry and not thinking clearly. Don’t worry though, I wouldn’t abandon you ponies. We’re friends, aren’t we?”
Her smile was a thing of beauty. I felt my heart melt faster than ice in a blast furnace. The last of my anger just faded away like morning mist under the bright sun; it was almost enough to let me ignore the small stab of guilt at what I had almost put her through. Forget kittens -- ponies were the new cute, and I, for one, welcome our adorable overlords.
Twilight just shook her head. “How in Equestria did you hear her? I couldn’t make out a single word.”
I smirked. “A wizard has his ways.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Meaning you’re not going to tell me.”
I laughed. “You’ve already learned plenty of my secrets, padawan. Save some for later.” I chuckled a couple more times at her expression, but then became thoughtful. “Any idea what that shattering sound and magic was?”
“Yes.” Every one of the six said at once. I blinked. Well, that was interesting.
Twilight cleared her throat and with a nod from the others spoke. “We don’t know how, but each of us felt the same thing. The Elements of Harmony were destroyed by some malicious force. I couldn’t identify it, but it felt familiar.”
“Wait,” I held up a hand. “I thought you were the Elements. How could they be destroyed?”
She shook her head. “We’re not the Elements themselves, but we are connected to them. They’re a part of us just as we’re a part of them. The Elements have physical manifestations that we need to wield to access their powers.” I opened my mouth to interrupt, but she had anticipated my question. “They appear as five necklaces and a tiara; each set with a stone that matches our cutie marks.” She said, twisting to show me the six pointed star on her flank. So, that’s what they call the tattoos on their asses. I didn’t want to ask, but I did think that was kinda weird.
Worry crossed her face. “But the Elements are supposed to be safe in Canterlot. What could have happened there?”
I shook my head. “Trixie did it. Or whoever’s behind Spike’s kidnapping.” She blinked at me in surprise, and I continued. “That happening right now is way too much of coincidence. Trixie had some plan for revenge. Destroying your sources of power seems like a good place to start.” I realized what I’d said, and looked at her in concern. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Oh, don’t worry. The Elements can’t be permanently destroyed, not by any force I know of, anyway. Besides, I can already feel my Element healing itself. We’ll pull through.” I felt my respect for her go up a notch. Tough girl.
“Okay,” I spoke loudly. “Time to march again. Sorry, Rainbow, but we’ve got no time to wait for a recon mission. We’re going quiet from here on out, and the only light we’ll use is mine.” I lit the runes in my staff with a flicker of power and soft orange light washed over us once again.
“Everyone ready?” They all nodded. “Good.”
We set off, and it was two long hours later that we finally found it. I killed the light and crouched in the shadows, studying what lay before us. The forest stopped at the edge of a crumbling cliff, vines trailing down it into the darkness. I could just barely see the other side of the enormous, artificial canyon. There had once been a quarry or a mine or something here, but the forest had begun to reclaim it long ago. The walls were covered in creepers, and small plants sprung from every possible crack. Interesting as the ruins were, they were nothing compared to the building that stood in the center.
It was an honest to God castle, ripped straight from a children’s story, or maybe Disney World. It had turrets, battlements, arrow slits, and a moat complete with a drawbridge and portcullis at the outer gate. The old quarry dwarfed it, but if the ground was as far away as I thought, it was huge, more than a hundred feet tall and far wider than that. The crystal pointed dead at it without the slightest deviation. It looked more like a little girl’s wish come true than the shadowy lair of an evil magician. But pretty or not, it still looked strong and secure. Entrance wouldn’t be easy, and I had no idea how to proceed. I’ve done at lot of interesting things, but assaulting a literal fortress wasn’t one of them.
I reviewed my memory for anything that might help, but only one thing came to mind, and we didn't have a holocaust cloak. Well, no use putting it off. Let’s have fun storming the castle.
I gestured for the others to follow me. We’d barely moved when a shadow rose before us. A shadow literally rose from the ground, taking three-dimensional shape. I glared at it and prepared my magic, but I was pretty sure it was just a sending. It was difficult to tell, given it was made of pure darkness, but I thought it smiled as it spoke.
“Welcome!” It cried with all the flair and show of a carnival barker. A few small fireworks went off behind it as it gestured to the castle resting below. Before anyone could say something, it spoke again, its voice becoming far more silky and threatening. “A warm welcome indeed, Twilight Sparkle and friends. Behold Castle Silverstar, home of the greatest unicorn in all of Equestria, The Dark and All-powerful Trixie.”
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
At last Castle Silverstar is almost done, Trixie thought as she walked down the enormous stone corridor. This one connected the inner keep’s throne room with her bedchambers. It was well past time that she should have taken her rest; she was exhausted. Two hours of non-stop magic had taken their toll, even with the power of Nightmare coursing through her veins. But it was worth the effort. She gave herself an impish smile in a passing mirror and had to fight to contain her joy. Finally, the castle she’d dreamed of as a filly was hers, and nopony could ever take it away.
The Nightmare stirred as they walked through an open door, and a new thought entered her mind. This doorway is unprotected, and it is a critical access point to your sleeping quarters. Should you be attacked in your sleep, all of our preparations will be for nothing. Let us set a snare here.
“Do we have to?” Trixie complained, quite reasonably. Whining was beneath her. “I’ve already set dozens of traps, some of them ridiculously elaborate. Not to mention the spell I have in place to warn me if anypony even nears the quarry. One more trap won’t make the difference between victory or defeat, and I’m utterly exhausted.”
The familiar voice fell silent, and Trixie sauntered past the empty arch. The Nightmare’s second defeat had left it paranoid, Trixie thought with a huff. The description of its time within the Elements of Harmony did sound quite harrowing, but that didn’t excuse it from bothering her over trifles. Though if she stopped to think about it…
If the Nightmare was right, she could be easily defeated just by missing a key point of protection. The thought of losing everything she now had - her castle, a wise ally, and all of this glorious power - chilled her to the bone. But she couldn’t just go back on what she had said. Worry began to creep through her mind as the Nightmare spoke again.
Perhaps, that is somewhat unreasonable. You have worked long and hard on many other details, but still it is worrisome. Might you find it within yourself to do this as a favor? It would be very magnanimous of you.
“Well,” Trixie hesitated. “I suppose the Dark and All-powerful Trixie can spare the time to help her staunchest ally. Besides, it never hurts to be prepared.” For a moment she thought she heard a malicious chuckle echo through the castle, but when she focused on the sound, she realized it was nothing but the wind whistling through the stony halls.
Returning to the arch, she studied it, and the Nightmare reminded her of the castle’s blueprint. There was nothing but solid rock for several yards under this area of the castle, partially for stability, but also to prevent any entry from below. It was unlikely the Diamond Dogs or any other burrowing creature would dare attack her, but such insurance was always welcome. Simple would be best, given her current state. She would make this one a pit trap. A moment’s thought and a wave of fresh power outlined a large square on the floor, then the magic began to sink into the rock. Whatever it touched changed, becoming soft and malleable as clay. With more power Trixie began to pull out the pliable stone, until the pit was seven or eight feet deep. An idle part of her mind began to shape some of the discarded pieces into a wide, flat slab even as she focused and teleported the rest of the stone into the quarry. The rest of the enchanted rock remaining in the pit she formed into spikes, thin and viciously barbed. At the Nightmare’s direction she spaced them just far enough apart to ensure that nopony could land safety. Formless tendrils of mystical energy scraped the walls of the pit smooth and compressed the stone in the spikes until they were as hard as rock even under the power of her shaping spell.
The rest of her mind finished with the slab, and Trixie paused to admire it. The mosaic she’d etched into it was a stunning piece of work, all the more so given the period of time in which she had done it. To the uncultured it might appear as a chaotic mix of lines and shades, but Trixie saw it for the abstract masterpiece it was. She levitated it over the mouth of the pit and carefully fit it into place. It settled snugly, and with a sigh Trixie released the stone shaping spell. The spears in the trap below stiffened suddenly, turning hard as diamond, and the mosaic became simple stone once more.
Now for the tricky bit. Trixie focused on dual enchantments. One turned the stone cover into dust, and the other held the first at bay until anypony other than Trixie crossed through the doorway. Carefully, she set them, holding the first until its trigger was ready. With a burst of will she finished both at once, her horn bathing the hallway in a blaze of blue light. The floor panel flashed with color, but quickly returned to its dull grey, seemingly unchanged. Trixie could feel the enchantment at work though, a tense spring just held back by the power of the second.
Trixie yawned. The process had barely taken a minute, but it had drained her already low reserves. She gazed at her welcoming bed in the distance. It almost seemed to be calling her. But first, she had to cross over the pit. She glanced nervously at the floor.
Go on. Walk across it, the Nightmare prompted. No need to be nervous. You completed the spell flawlessly.
Easy for you to say, Trixie thought sullenly. Hesitantly putting one hoof in front of the other, she held what little magic she had left. If the trap triggered, she could levitate herself to safety. But much to her relief, and the Nightmare’s satisfaction, the spell recognized her and the floor underhoof remained solid.
The last fifty feet felt like a mile, but finally she dragged herself into her enormous canopy bed. Pulling the curtains closed, she relaxed and let herself drift off softly to-
ERNT ERNT ERNT ERNT
“You are bucking kidding me!” Trixie screamed in frustration.
The warning charm continued unabated by her outburst. Its booming, annoying tone echoed throughout her mind. With an angry thought she silenced it. The moment the siren stopped the Nightmare began its own complaining.
Hurry! It urged, and a sense of extreme anxiety came over Trixie. She ignored it, or least tried to. Several somethings have entered the quarry. You must investigate.
With a long-suffering sigh, Trixie pulled herself from the bed, swearing dark oaths about the fate of whatever creature had disturbed her rest. Once upright and refocused, she reached out, concentrating on her subtle web of detection spells. The breakage was from one of the farthest corners of the quarry in the forest just outside its limits. There were multiple creatures, all large enough to set off her sensors.
This was serious. Trixie stopped complaining, and the Nightmare began a rush of paranoid whispers, all speculating on what had gone wrong. The group hadn’t set off the second line yet, so they must be moving slowly. Trixie walked down the hall and up a flight of stairs toward one of her many unfurnished rooms. It would be her study, once the castle was finished, but for the moment it was empty and unlit. Trixie left it darkened and moved carefully to one of its windows.
Focusing on her spells again, she stared intently at the distant forest. Before her transformation, she would’ve been practically blind in the darkness, but now the weak moonlight illuminated her domain more brightly than the noon sun. Even a creature of night had limits, though, and the trespassers were much too distant to make out. A minor spell of far-seeing fixed that, allowing her to view the remote scene.
Trixie cursed quietly, and the Nightmare’s whispers doubled in speed.
“I should have known,” Trixie murmured, still staring at the ponies invading the quarry. “Despite her limited talents, Twilight has always been a thorn in my side. Of course she and her friends would interrupt my well-deserved rest.” She began to plot, considering how to deal with them as quickly and efficiently as possible, but her train of thought was entirely derailed by the appearance of another creature. It was a ridiculously tall biped, completely covered in strange clothing. It carried a stick almost as tall as itself in one long, twig-fingered hand and a glowing crystal hung from the other. Twilight conferred briefly with the bizarre being, both of them staring intently ahead.
What in Equestria is that thing? She wondered. The answer came from a surprising source.
A human? Here? The Nightmare asked in surprise. Its voice fell to a low mutter, too quiet for Trixie to catch more than a few scattered words.
“The Dark and All-powerful Trixie assumes you have some knowledge about that mare’s odd new ally.” She got nothing but a mental nod in response, and the speculative murmuring continued. Fighting down a fresh wave of frustration, Trixie acidly asked, “Would you be so kind as to share it?”
Humans are a violent little race from another realm. They hold an astounding amount of darkness in their hearts, but they can be quite irrational when angered. Volatile and unpredictable. This one’s arrival is very unfortunate – the glowing crystal indicates that he is capable of magic. Depending on his realm of origin, he may be a formidable opponent. We must deal carefully with this one. Given your current state of exhaustion, the best course of action would be to hold a knife to the dragonling’s throat and offer his life in exchange for Twilight’s. Kill her in front of her friends, then return to the castle and rest. They should be enraged enough to attempt a frontal attack. The castle’s traps will kill most of them, and after recovering fully, you can slaughter the survivors at your leisure.
For a moment Trixie was speechless.
An excellent plan, is it not?
“No! It most certainly is not!” Trixie screamed, her horn flickering with power born of her rage. An aura as black as the void surrounded her, and what little light entered the room was overwhelmed. “That is the most cowardly, pathetic plan ever devised. You would have the Dark and All-powerful Trixie hide behind a hostage? She holds a power greater than any those inferior little foals could imagine! They would dare to assault Castle Silverstar? The Dark and All-powerful Trixie shall defeat them here and now in open combat. How is that for a plan?!”
The Nightmare’s one word reply hit her like a hurricane. The mental sledgehammer disoriented her, and for a moment the air tasted distinctly purple. Waves of vertigo made her stagger, and she fought to hold down her meager dinner even as her head began to clear.
Trixie growled. “Do you think the Dark and All-powerful Trixie is your lackey? You are lucky she even considers you a peer. Without her you’d still be trapped in your prison wasting away, dissolved by the forces of Harmony. Who is in charge here?! Who makes the decisions?! You merely advise.”
The Nightmare fell silent and then the dizziness, along with the pressure of its presence, suddenly faded. It was still actively thinking, but no longer did it in intrude on her consciousness. After a moment it spoke, sounding apologetic, perhaps even remorseful.
Humblest apologies. The intent was not to dictate your actions, but to suggest a safer plan. What sort of partner would want their ally to be hurt?
Trixie was a little surprised by the sudden shift in the Nightmare’s demeanor, but it was overwhelmed by the satisfaction of winning the argument. She had matched wills with one of the most powerful entities in Equestria, and it had backed down. It did, however, deserve an explanation. A reward for bowing to her superior resolve.
“The Dark and All-powerful Trixie understands and is grateful for your concern, but nonetheless, she cannot accept your plan. Such an act, while undoubtedly effective, would be beneath her. When I rise to prominence, bards will sing of my adventures. These actions shall echo down the ages! That is why Twilight and the rest of the Elements of Harmony must be defeated properly. Only a story such as that is worthy.”
But even as she spoke a new thought occurred to her. Was Twilight worthy of that honor? Once she had rivaled Trixie in beauty and power, the perfect nemesis. But now? Now, Twilight was but an insect to the vast strength the Nightmare had provided. The more she thought about it, the more foalish her plan sounded. Why should the Dark and All-powerful Trixie go to Twilight, much less any of her pathetic friends? She had already defeated them before she had gained true power. As the far superior pony, others should come to her.
You are right. Why not let the foals prove themselves in your castle? If they are really worthy of the Dark and All-powerful Trixie’s attention, they should be able to navigate your traps. If not, then they never deserved to face you at all.
“Yes, and imagine the story it will make. Pitting my cleverness against the Elements of Harmony and an inter-dimensional mage. I can envision it now; one by one they’ll fall into my snares until only Twilight is left. She will face me in a duel of magic, one of such power and awe that it will be spoken of for eons. Depending on how well she does, I may not even kill her, just enslave her.” Trixie smiled cruelly at that image. “Yes, I’ll place her under geas to obey me and use her to spy on the Princesses. What a lovely fate for my greatest enemy! Betraying her mentor, ensuring my reign comes to fruition, and spending the rest of her life serving me.”
A brilliant plan mistress. It far outshines the other two.
Trixie clapped her hooves together, pleased by her own cunning, but doubt quickly entered her mind. “But how will I keep track of them? The bards can’t sing of my victory if I don’t know what happened. And the wait will be so boring.”
Here is an idea…
I was silent, but dozens of curses flashed through my mind. This was not how I’d planned it. We’d lost our biggest edge, and the worst part was that I didn’t even know how. Now we had an alert enemy, and she seemed a lot more competent than the unicorn Twilight had described to me. I processed all of that in less than a second, but some of the group had quicker reflexes.
“Gotcha!” Rainbow cried diving forward in a technicolor streak.
“Wait!” But I was much too slow. Rainbow went straight through the shadowy figure standing before us; her momentum sent her soaring over the edge of the crumbling cliff.
“Rainbow!” I panicked.
She flipped and braked hard, her wings beating rapidly. A moment later she had returned to the group. “What?”
“…um.” Evidently I still hadn’t quite adjusted to flying ponies. “Nothing,” I muttered.
The shadowy figure stood patiently – unresponsively, even – in spite of Rainbow’s attack. It flickered suddenly, like a faulty TV, and the image refocused. This time with a pair of large, glowing eyes, both of them a solid crimson. It had shrunk and was now a little smaller than any pony in the group, making it look disturbingly child-like. The Creepy List didn’t stop there as it began to speak.
“Hmph. Done playing around? This is only a construct, you foal. It can’t be harmed. True, it’s a pain in the flank to pull back together after it’s disturbed, but that merely annoys me. And ask yourselves: do you really want to annoy the Dark and All-powerful Trixie?”
It was like watching a bad puppet in action. The words and its mouth movements were just barely out of synch. The whole combination was straight out of the uncanny valley, but I’d seen worse. Soulgaze somebody possessed by a Fallen Angel, and nothing else can really compare.
“So.” I addressed the figure examining us. “What do you want?”
The large red eyes widened slightly “Goodness, it can speak? What other tricks have you taught it, Twilight?”
Being the mature adult I am, I ignored that remark and focused on another topic. “Hey, I’m curious. You do know that the whole red-eyed shadow thing is one of the oldest villain clichés in the book, right? I mean, just so you’re aware that you’re completely unoriginal.”
The figure spun toward me. “Unoriginal?” she hissed. “The Dark and All-powerful Trixie is the most creative and inspired unicorn in the land!”
I snorted and crossed my arms. “What land would that be? Bizarro world? I mean, it’s not just the look.” I gestured to her sending. “Your dialogue is straight out of a bad movie and the castle could’ve been taken from a kid’s story. Seriously, I’ve seen Hollywood studios with more originality.”
She ground ebony teeth and glared daggers at me. The rest of the group stifled giggles, and that only enraged her further. Then she stopped, her face becoming thoughtful, and I had the strangest feeling. It was like something was being said just out of my hearing, a persistent murmur that I couldn’t tune in on. It faded as quickly as it had come, and I had to wonder. What the hell was that? But I didn’t have time to ponder. Trixie had lost her thoughtful look. Instead she was giving me an enormous smile. That can’t mean anything good.
“You think you’re clever, don’t you, human?” She knew what I was? “But such jokes must come at a price.” Her mouth grew wider, the smile changing into a disturbing parody that literally stretched from ear to ear.
Way to go Harry, you managed to antagonize an unbalanced warlock with a hostage. Anything else stupid for today?
She wasn’t finished though. “Bow before me and apologize, or I will hurt Twilight’s precious little dragon.” Twilight gasped and Trixie turned to face her.
“Oh, don’t think I forgot, what I promised you in that letter.” The sending purred. “You chose to break one of my rules, so guess what happens?”
I felt my right hand clutch my blasting rod like a vice. I had never wanted to blast something as badly as I did the creature before me. But I could tell she wasn’t bluffing; she was unhinged and looking for a reason to hurt somebody. I couldn’t let that happen to Spike. I swallowed my anger, though it burned like cheap whiskey all the way down. “I’m sorry.”
“Beg your pardon?” Trixie asked, her blood colored eyes practically sparkling.
I tried to shut out all of the pyrokinetic thoughts and gave her a full bow, putting my head almost level with hers. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what? And remember to address me properly.”
A fresh wave of hate washed over me, something so strong it was almost a palpable thing, but I willed my voice to be calm. “I’m sorry for insulting you, Dark and All-powerful Trixie.”
She giggled like a school girl and clapped her hooves together. “Oh, you were right! This is fun!”
What? Who the hell is she talking to?
“Very well. Apology accepted, but keep in mind who is in control here.” She tossed her mane and turned to regard the rest of the group. Morale had taken an obvious hit from my apology, but all of them still looked determined. Nobody had backed down, but Trixie didn’t seem impressed.
“What do you want, Trixie?” Twilight asked.
“Oh, you know what I want.” Trixie smiled. “But you’re not here for that. You’re here for what you want, namely your scaly assistant. I have him, and despite your disobedience I’m willing to give him to you.” The group stirred with puzzled excitement, Pinkie Pie even broke into a huge smile, but I knew there had to be a catch.
“Well, that’s mighty-” Applejack began.
“If you can come and get him.” Trixie challenged. “You must overcome the deadly trials of Castle Silverstar, face down all of its guardians, and finally defeat the Dark and All-powerful Trixie. What will you do, Twilight? Will you risk your friends’ lives, all for one little dragon?” The eerie little bitch was staring into Twilight’s eyes with undisguised glee. The purple unicorn met her stare with one that burned with fury.
“I don’t care what you do or say to me, but nopony hurts my friends. Especially Spike. We’re coming for you, and nothing you put in our way is going to stop us. I don’t enjoy fighting, but after everything you’ve done, beating you is going to make my day.” Her friends cheered her on, their confidence restored, and I broke into a smile of my own.
“Come on everypony! To the castle.” She set off toward a distant staircase at fast march, and the rest of the ponies followed. I hurried to keep up, and the sending followed us, staying with me at the back of the pack.
“You should quit while you’re ahead.” I told the sending. Trixie turned to look at me surprised, and I gave her a smile of own. One with lots of teeth. “You just pissed off a serious powerhouse. If I were you, I’d bow out.”
The insane, ear-to-ear grin returned, and she started to laugh at me. It was a little maniacal and cheesy at first, but then it rose in pitch and dropped the booming tone, slowly taking on a new quality until it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. That wasn’t a human laugh, or a pony’s. An intense chill that had nothing to do with the night wind swept through me. I barely stopped myself from shuddering and kept an eye on the shadow creature that followed us.
She was a study in opposites. Just when I was ready to write her off as another two-bit stage villain, she suddenly acted competent and in control. Split-personality? Demonic influence? Hell, she might just be plain old crazy. Whatever the case, she was playing us somehow. I don’t know how yet, but the walk to the castle was going take some time, even at our brisk pace.
“So,” I said to the evil, kidnapping little bitch. “Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself, O Dark and All-powerful Trixie?”
Forget dignity; I was about to start begging the damned witch to kill me quickly.
“- but of course even outnumbered five to one, the Dark and All-powerful Trixie wasn’t afraid. Those foalish schoolyard bullies were about to be taught why there are some ponies you should never cross.” I had apparently hit on her favorite topic (can you guess what that was?) and she hadn’t shut up since. If she hadn’t had a hostage, I would have drop kicked that stupid little sending to the moon just to end the noise.
But every cloud, even ones made of mind-numbing nerve gas, has a silver lining. The more time she spent bragging to me, the less time she had to taunt Twilight and the others. They shot her dark glances every few minutes but seemed otherwise content to leave her to me. The conversation was a big dud in terms of getting useful info, but I noticed something interesting. The sending’s mouth ran nonstop and its body language had shifted into exaggerated gestures that I hadn’t seen outside a high school drama club, but its eyes followed me. No matter how Trixie turned her head, the eyes still seemed to watch me. My instincts were pretty reliable, and right now every one of them was screaming that it wasn’t Trixie that was watching me. There was something else behind those red orbs, sharing that body. I shuddered, remembering the Denarians I’d faced last winter, but I doubted this thing was that bad. For one thing, half of us would be dead by now if it were, but mainly I doubted the world could be this peaceful if anything like those nickelheads were running around. It was interesting to see, though, that even a peaceful world like this still had its own demons. In a lot of ways it was almost reassuring that some things held true across dimensions.
I dimly noticed that the prattling monologue had come to an end. Trixie turned to face me, her face synching with her eyes, and I had to say something.
“Uh.. fascinating.” I didn’t quite manage a straight face, but she didn’t seem to notice.
“The Dark and All-powerful Trixie is, isn’t she? You’re such a good listener, it’s almost a shame you’re going to die.”
Now it was my turn to laugh. “Honey, you aren’t the first to tell me that and you sure as hell won’t be the last. I’ve destroyed a loup-garou, killed a noble of the Red Court and brought down one of the lesser queens of the Fae. You’re just another job, and when smoke clears, I’m not gonna be the one on the ground.”
Her eyes narrowed until they looked like two thin wounds. “Maybe I overestimated your abilities as a conversationalist. I hope you’re the first to go.”
I chuckled “Don’t bet on it.”
“Take that, you overgrown garden decoration!” I screamed, blowing the head off the bear statue lumbering toward me. The gate hadn’t been hard to get past, but crossing the castle grounds had proven … difficult.
Four gigantic statues, each depicting a different animal, lined the long path to the door. The enchantments in them buzzed like high voltage cables, but even now I could barely sense them. The castle was so infused with magic it was hard to tell where one spell ended and another began. The statues had waited until we were in the center of all four, then they’d come to life. The enormous stone serpent quickly moved to the castle gate, cutting off any retreat, and the other three had charged us. Their weight gave them a ferocious amount of momentum despite their slow speed. The bear reached down and picked up its head, smashing it in back into place with brute force while the other two continued their ponderous charge.
“Hell’s bells,” I muttered as the bear fixed itself. “I call shenanigans.” But my complaints weren’t stopping the tiger and the wolf. I concentrated, reaching deep within myself and with a shout I brought a long, two-foot-tall wall of force up in front of them. Their feet hit it, sending them stumbling. It strained my spell almost to the breaking point, but I clung to it fiercely and the statues finally crashed to the turf. For a human, or a pony, that’s not a big deal. You trip, you pick yourself up, and at worst you have a sprained ankle. The golems, though, were 15 feet at the shoulder, and when you weigh multiple tons, gravity is not a kind mistress. All that mass and energy was converted into impact and I heard stone crack and shatter as they plowed into the ground. “Yeah! Harpoons and tow cables win again!” I cheered.
I glanced at my group. Twilight was watching the statues, mumbling something under her breath, brow furrowed. Pinkie, Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy were gathered around Twilight dividing their attention between Trixie’s sending and the stone guardians, looking wary of both. Rainbow, of course, had already charged into the fray.
“So you think you’re tough, huh? Try some of this!” She yelled, kicking the bear in the face. Give her credit, the stone did splinter a little, but the cracks healed almost as quickly as they’d appeared.
“Everyone!” I yelled, breaking Twilight’s musing and getting Rainbow’s attention. “Run away!” A good leader leads by example and I sure set one, heading for some of the open ground off the path. The snake watched us interestedly, but didn’t move from its post. I turned and was gratified to see the ponies following me. Once we were a decent distance away and no longer surrounded on three sides, I stopped, studying the statues. They were moving slower now, cautious of another wall. Damn, they’re smart, too.
“So, what now?” Applejack asked, worriedly eyeing the approaching statues.
“Well, we’d better not risk another frontal assault. Those statues are dynamite.” I grinned, briefly wishing for a holy hand grenade, but I quickly became serious again. “It looked like you were trying to figure out something, Twilight. Have you got any ideas?”
She nodded. “I recognize the spell Trixie used to animate them and I think I can counter it. Unfortunately, it’s close-range only. I’ll need to be close enough to the statues to touch them.”
I thought for a moment. I could work with that. “Okay, here’s the plan. Pinkie, attract the bear’s attention and lead it away from the other two. Applejack and Rarity will take out the feet and Rainbow will topple it with a blow to the head. The impact will stun it for a moment while it pulls itself back together; that’s when Twilight will take the spell apart. I’ll keep the other two distracted. Everyone got it?” I got a round of quick nods, and Pinkie giggled. “Good, let’s get to it.” I turned to face the golems; they were growing bolder and moving a little faster. I was about to lash out with another force spell, when something tugged at my coat. I looked down in surprise. It was Fluttershy wearing a troubled expression.
“Um… I don’t want to be a bother,” she mumbled, staring at the ground. “But what should I do?”
“Uh…” I tried to think fast. “Keep close to me and make sure nothing sneaks up on us. I could use somebody to watch my back.”
She smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t exactly shocking that she didn’t want to fight. But that wasn’t important right now. I aimed my staff, drew on the plentiful magic of Equestria, and shot a lance of force towards the tiger. It yelped and jumped back, leaving one of its legs behind. It staggered as it moved to repair itself, entirely focused on me.
“Over here!” Pinkie cried shaking her tail at the bear. It gave an angry roar at the indignity and chased after her. The wolf growled at it, but the bear was blind in its rage. Pinkie led it toward the door of the inner keep, laughing at it all the way. The golem had just started to pick up speed when it hit the trap. Applejack popped out from behind one of the statue’s pedestals and kicked it in the ankle with both hooves. The stone cracked, and then shattered, unable to support the bear’s immense weight. Rarity concentrated from a distance, sweat beading on her brow, and a stone the size of a watermelon smashed into its other leg. The bear was off balance, and it toppled towards Applejack, intending to crush her under its weight. I turned my attention from the tiger, drawing in my will to thrust Applejack clear. I knew I wouldn’t make it in time. Rainbow Dash was supposed to have knocked it down! Where the hell was she?
Before I could act, Rainbow flashed out of the skies, moving so fast that a cone of air had formed around her. She plowed into the bear’s shoulder blades, adding all that energy to gravity’s attraction. The bear hit the hard ground with a heavy thud, accompanied by a horrendous shattering noise, and I stopped firing distraction shots at the other two statues long enough to give a short cheer with the rest of the group. The bear was so broken it was difficult to tell what it had been. Twilight trotted over to the pile of formerly mobile rocks, touching one of the largest with her shining horn, and the enchantment animating the stone began to fall apart. Twenty seconds later we were down one statue. I smiled at the tiger and wolf facing me. Lances of well placed force ripped limbs from them, and they stopped once more to repair themselves.
“Don’t rush now, boys.” I said with a smile. “You’ll get your turns.”
The other ponies rejoined me, and I outlined the new plan. “Ok, now Pinkie, Rarity and Applejack are on distraction. Keep the statues in one spot, but don’t get too close and back off entirely when you hear me yell. Rainbow, you carry Twilight. When they’re immobilized, take her in quickly. Keep watching out for sneak attacks, Fluttershy.” The ponies nodded and I started to focus.
I’m not good with earth magic. What I had in mind was as much fire magic as earth, but that didn’t make it any easier. I extended my senses, searching the rock underfoot for weaknesses. Luckily, whatever Trixie had done to raise the castle had left the ground unstable. I focused on the ground underneath the golems, and I built my power. It took two long and agonizing minutes, listening to the roars and scraping stone of the enraged golems. The three ponies were running rings around them and any time they tried to move forward Rarity tricked them into turning back with illusions. I don’t usually rely on the forces of the earth in battle for a good reason, but finally the spell was done.
“Flammamurus!” I cried, forcing all the heat of molten steel into the stone beneath the statues. It let out a whistling rush of steam and liquefied immediately, forcing the ponies who were corralling the statues to jump back from the brand new pool of lava. The heat hadn’t gone far, no more than a couple feet deep, but that was more than enough to envelop the golems up to their shins. They began to struggle, tearing themselves out of the bubbling stone. I didn’t have enough time to charge another force spell, but I’d expected that. I drew back my right fist and shot a quick jab at the wolf, triggering two of my rings. The magic stored within lashed out with the force of a forty pound sledgehammer. The wolf had been lifting its left front leg, so I aimed at the right, smashing it to pieces. Unbalanced, it fell fully into the liquid stone. I gave the tiger the same treatment, using my other three rings to do it, and it fell with a splash. With a modest bit of magic and some murmured quasi-Latin, I pushed the energy out of the stone into the cool, night air. Encouraging the heat to do what it wanted to do anyway was much easier than putting it there in the first place. As the rock around the statues cooled, they were held immobile, straining at the trap. I couldn’t see it from here, but I knew they were already making cracks in the stone. I drew in my breath to shout, but I was late as usual.
Rainbow dropped from the sky, flashed Sir Isaac Newton an obscene gesture with more of her impossible braking, and set Twilight softly on top of the restrained tiger. Her horn glowed like the sun and the tiger stopped struggling. The wolf followed a few seconds later and I let out a sigh amid the ponies’ cheers.
“Um,” a hesitant voice caught my attention. “Could you get Twilight over here, please?”
I turned around “Hell’s bells!” I yelped. I don’t know how something that big could be so quiet, but the serpent was barely ten feet behind me. Before I dropped into panic mode, I noticed two important details. One, the snake was as still as the rock it had come from. Two, Fluttershy had locked eyes with it and apparently had been staring it down for a while. “Whatever you do,” I murmured, “Don’t blink. Blink and we’re dead.”
I turned to yell but my earlier exclamation had already caught Twilight’s attention. Rainbow was carrying her even as she charged her horn with another spell. The snake began to struggle as Twilight neared but Fluttershy stepped further towards it, forcing it to hold still. Twilight pressed her glowing horn to the serpent’s side. A few seconds later it stiffened, as the animating spell dissipated.
After more than a few cheers and some celebratory projectile cupcakes, we stood before the door of the keep. It was locked and didn’t look to be moving any time soon.
“Hey, there’s plenty of windows higher up.” Rainbow said. “I’ll go through one of those and open the door from the inside.” Before anyone could voice a reason for why that was a bad idea, she was up and off, headed for the window at high speed. About fifteen feet away she began to slow, the air around her distorting, stretching as though it was made of elastic. Suddenly, the resilient barrier snapped back and she shot toward the ground, spiraling uncontrollably as Newton responded in kind with a one-finger salute.
“Rainbow!” Applejack cried. I focused on the pegasus bringing my power to bear, but Twilight beat me to the punch. A purple glow surrounded the falling daredevil and she slowed down until she touched down lightly. Anybody else might have been hesitant to try again, but Rainbow was another story.
“Let’s try that again.” She growled, only seconds after landing. She spread her wings and tried to shoot off, but this time Applejack was ready for her.
The cowpony bit down on Rainbow’s tail, and the pegasus stopped cold. “Hold on there, sugarcube!” she said between clenched teeth.
“Aw, c’mon! Let me try it again. I’ll get it this time,” Rainbow said, straining to break free.
“No. We don’t need you breaking that thick head of yours, falling from that height.” The cowpony mumbled around her mouthful of prismatic tail.
“Oh, why don’t you let her try?” Trixie asked her voice dripping with insincere sweetness. “It was rather amusing, after all, and I’d like to see how many times Twilight can catch her.” That made Rainbow try even harder, but Applejack wouldn’t let go.
“Stop.” Twilight commanded, looking cross. “We’ll find another way in. Any thoughts, Mr. Dresden?” I had a few, but better explore our other alternatives first.
“Can you teleport in there?”
She shook her head sadly. “Line-of-sight only, unless I can envision where I’m going.” I’d expected as much, but it’s best to check. I knocked on the door and it echoed faintly; the stone was thick and my pounding hadn’t shifted it in the slightest. I could feel the power in the rock, enchanted to resist impact. An immovable object. I tried thinking of something clever, but I kept coming back to one idea over and over. Well, why not? If it doesn’t work, we can always try something else.
“Everyone stand back. I’m going to try something a little dangerous.” The group moved to obey, and I backed up until I was a good twenty feet from the entrance. I concentrated, drawing in power. The quarry and the forest around it were just as saturated in magic as the meadows I’d stood in earlier. That time I’d concentrated on fire, but here I was aiming for something a little different. The magic built within me as I gathered as much as I could. I kept going, absorbing power until my muscles ached and my nerves screamed. I opened my eyes, seeing the world, through a blue-white haze, and pointed my staff at the door like a loaded gun.
“Forzare!” I bellowed my voice an octave lower than usual. A wild torrent of pure kinetic energy erupted from my staff, and I fought to keep my balance as the recoil shoved me back several steps. The spell streaked across the distance faster than a comet and slammed into the door. Stone creaked in protest but irresistible force won and the door was blown off whatever hinges it had. I marched through the gaping hole in the wall and smiled.
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
There are a lot of creepy places in the world. I mean tons, some of them famous, others obscure. Some of them are meant to be scary, but most just end up that way. The scariest all share one common trait: emptiness were it shouldn’t be. An abandoned town, stores and homes left barren; an old factory, the dead machinery waiting for workers that would never come; an unused stadium, vacant seats and empty hallways echoing with your footsteps. All of these places are meant to be filled with noisy, bustling people, and their emptiness feels unnatural. Now add to that emptiness the feeling of looming, implacable power you get from a thunderstorm on the horizon and the neck-prickling suspicion that every shadow is alive and hungry. That’s what Castle Silverstar felt like.
We only stood in the main entry hall, but the darkness was already oppressive. Twilight and Rarity relit their horns while I checked my crystal. The ponies gathered around me, staring at the glowing spindle of quartz. It still pointed deeper into the castle, aiming upwards at a steep angle. Spike was somewhere on an upper floor, but I didn’t see any staircases here. I put it away, my bones aching and my mind exhausted. I wasn’t even forty yet, and I was already too old for this shit. All the adrenaline from the fight with the statues had burned out, and I was finally feeling the strain of all my spells even with the magic-rich environment. I was going to hurt come morning, but I had to live that long first.
“What’s our next course of action, Mr. Dresden?” Rarity asked, brushing the dust and rock shards from our battle out of her mane. How she managed to restore its pristine, original appearance was beyond me, but I put that aside and considered the question.
“Looks like there are two hallways; which we want to take? That one looks little closer to Spike, but the other looks like a main passage. The second’s more likely to have stairs.”
Twilight thought about it for a moment, and the other ponies waited for her opinion. “Let’s take the first one. It’s closer to Spike, and it has to have a set of stairs at some point.” I was a little doubtful of that logic, but we needed to keep moving, and I didn’t have any preference.
We’d barely entered the hallway when I held out my hands, stopping the ponies behind me. “Don’t move.” I’d spotted something on the ceiling ahead. I peered up at it, coming a little closer. “Huh,” I said. “Trixie installed a murder hole.”
“A what?” Rarity blurted. The rest of the ponies moved forward peering up at the grate in the ceiling. I don’t know what Trixie had up there, but I doubted it was party favors.
“A murder hole. There’s a technical name for them, but I can’t remember it. Most castles had them back in the middle ages; you pour boiling water, or any deadly liquid, onto invaders to kill them. The really nasty ones pour oil down a long hallway, then throw down a torch.” I stopped my musing and realized what I’d just said. Most of my new friends looked uncomfortable, but the shadow-Trixie just laughed.
“That is an excellent idea, human. I’ll have to remodel the castle once we’re done. Any other suggestions?”
I had a suggestion for her all right, but before my mouth could get me in trouble, Twilight spoke up. “They’re called machicolations. Ancient pony castles also had them. It’s rare to see any these days, though, most of those structures are nothing but ruins.” I only listened with one ear, concentrating on the trap ahead of us. I picked up a rock and tossed it forward. There was an odd click, and a column of fire burst from the murder hole. The flames died out after a few seconds, and the trap hissed quietly, probably resetting itself. The rock was only a bit scorched, but anything living would have been barbeque before it could react. After a few minutes of strategizing, I discovered that Twilight’s shield differed significantly from mine. I mainly pit force against force, but she could tune her version to stop a whole spectrum of things, including the heat of the flames. That’s a neat trick. I wonder if I should look into it? I thought as we shuffled through the fire in Twilight’s shield bubble. It was cramped as hell, but on the other hand none of us were roasted alive, which is always a plus.
The long, windowless hallway twisted multiple times, but its general direction was still consistent with the crystal. There were rooms here and there along the hallway. Some were open and empty, while others remained mysteriously shut. We left them all alone; the crystal never pointed in their direction. Besides, they might have been booby-trapped, and we were already dealing with more than enough traps in the main passage. After the murder hole there’d been a pit trap, a rain of stones from the ceiling, holes in the walls that shot darts and even an enormous boulder, one that filled the whole hall, rolling towards us.
“Now all I need is a fedora and whip, and this would be perfect.” I muttered after Twilight teleported us a few feet forward, neatly avoiding the stone juggernaut.
We took a breather; moving everyone even a few feet had left Twilight panting. She hadn’t wanted to stop, but everyone else voted her down. Canteens and some of Pinkie’s neverending cupcakes were passed around. Trixie had been oddly silent as trap after trap failed. While we waited she slunk off, muttering to herself, and I realized the same murmuring sensation was back. Interesting, I concentrated and Listened. Her words became clear, but the low droning staying frustratingly out of reach.
“—said no. I am not holding a knife to the dragon’s throat.” Her voice sounded strained, like it was real effort to say that. “Are you questioning me? We will be fine in the end, so stop badgering me with your paranoia. The longer they survive, the more interesting the story becomes.” There was a moment of silence; she was probably listening to its response. “Quiet.” She ordered. “They’re getting ready to move again.” Curiouser and curiouser. Our wicked witch wasn’t getting along with her demonic friend.
There was a good and a bad side to that coin. The good side was that Trixie was still in control of herself to some degree; maybe she could be reasoned with or, failing that, exorcised. The bad side was that the demon was giving her some very practical advice. If she really did take full advantage of having a hostage, we were screwed. Hell, we might be screwed anyway, but I’d rather go down fighting.
The corridor we were in now was as unremarkable as the rest. A few unlit torches lined the walls, but this section didn’t even have any rooms to break the monotony of the bare, grey stone. That should have been my first clue, as any dungeon master will tell you, but hey – I was tired, and still contemplating our possessed hostess. Rainbow and Applejack had the lead, Rainbow for speed and Applejack for muscle. They were a good ten feet ahead of the rest of the group when the trap sprung. A jaundice-yellow barrier flared to life behind me and began spreading like paint along the walls to the other end of the hall.
“Run!” I screamed even as the ward came to life. I’m a runner by hobby, and the ponies were born to it, but the yellow stain raced down the hallway like wildfire. It easily outpaced the trailing group, sliding past my feet to nip at Rainbow and Applejack’s heels. They had gone full out the second I yelled, but even they almost weren’t fast enough. The enchantment closed with a snap, forming another translucent wall just a few inches behind the athletic duo.
The rest of the ponies and I reached the new barrier a second later, panting and out of breath. My side had more stitches than my last head wound and my lungs wanted to punch me in the face, but neither pain blocked out the rumbling groan of the walls as they began to grind inward. And me without my R2 droid. Twilight reacted almost instantly, her horn glowing neon white. I began to get the same unpleasant shifting sensation I’d gotten in the earlier teleports when she let out a pained yelp. The strange feeling cut off, and I turned to see her grimacing in pain.
“Oh, hell no. I am not dying in something this stupid.” I gave Trixie a dirty look for the cliché trap. Well-built and effective, maybe, but still cliché. I focused on the barrier before me and drowned out the worried questions of the ponies around me. Soon there was nothing but me and the ward. I quickly studied it, looking for a weak point; it had none. The wall in front of me was the mystical equivalent of adamantium, an unbreakable barrier foraged by a power leagues beyond mine. It wasn’t well-made by any standards, despite all of the power that had been poured into it, but it was so massive and durable that the sloppy construction hardly mattered. Sure, give me enough time, and I could probably find a way to weasel through it, but I could hear the walls inching steadily closer through my concentration. Time was one thing we didn’t have.
“Solvos, solvos, solvos.” I furiously muttered, slamming my will like a battering ram into the barrier. Tiny hair-thin cracks started to appear by the fifth strike, but it was far too slow. I’d almost lost hope when Twilight’s voice broke through my concentration.
“Dash, Applejack! The barrier is being focused through those torch brackets there!” She grunted and suddenly a pair of torch brackets, seemly identical to all the others, blazed with hellish orange runes. “You’ve got to destroy them!” she cried, but neither of her friends had waited for her say so. The moment the symbols came to life, they charged toward the foci amid the cheers of the ponies behind the ward. The two ponies hadn’t gotten within five feet of them, though, when lightning arced from the metal, twisting into a pair of electric serpents to strike them. They both cried out and collapsed, their muscles spasming as the constructs bit them with charged fangs. The cheers died as they fell, and even Pinkie looked grim. The constructs stayed coiled under the sconces, eyeing their twitching prey.
Trixie laughed, and her left eye started to twitch. “Did you really think the Dark and All-powerful Trixie would leave such an obvious weakness unprotected?” She smirked at us, her grin wide and malicious, and her voice dropped to a smug purr. “No, that was just another layer to this trap. I hope you all enjoyed that little glimmer of hope while it lasted, because those snakes have enough power in them to destroy anypony.”
“Good thing I ain’t just anypony, then.” Applejack was still twitching, little sparks coming off her coat, but she dragged herself upright.
“Yeah,” Rainbow said from the other side of the hall. “Equestria’s best flier isn’t gonna stop just because of some little bug zapper!” They dove forward again, bracing themselves. The serpents threw themselves forward, meeting the rush head on. Applejack kicked out with both front hooves, but it dodged nimbly and struck her exposed hind legs. They wobbled, the muscles visibly cramping up, and she grunted in pain. She stomped at the serpent with her forehoof and it gave an agonized hiss, but just twisted more tightly around her leg. Rainbow jumped over hers, her wings letting her easily reach the ceiling. For a moment it looked like she would get past easily. Then the snake shot upwards, stretching its body out to an impossible length, and bit deeply into one of her wings. I could see sparks shoot from the wound across her body. Rainbow screamed and crashed, wrestling with the construct.
Applejack had trapped her snake’s head against the grey stone wall, but the rest of it had wrapped itself around her middle and was trying to squeeze the life out of her. She moved closer and closer to the brackets, dragging the snake with her and grinding its head between the wall and her shoulder; she was four feet from the spell’s focus, teeth gritted against the pain.
“C’mon, RD!” Applejack shouted. “Don’t tell me you can’t keep up!”
Rainbow was only a few inches from the goal, but the snake was holding her at bay. The construct had completely entangled her, and she was fighting just to stand. But that single phrase seemed to spark something in her. “I… can… so!” she said through gritted teeth. She brought both front hooves down, trapping the serpent’s darting head beneath them, and turned, lashing out with both hind hooves in a vicious kick. The torch bracket snapped like old wood and went flying, smashing into pieces when it hit the ground. The snake hissed in anger, pulling Rainbow back to the floor with its coils. Unstable on just two hooves she fell easily and it shot forward, sinking its teeth into her neck. Lightning flashed across Rainbow’s body before she could even cry out. She fell bonelessly, tumbling to the floor with her wings flared and tiny bolts of electricity arcing off her. The barrier faded, becoming more transparent, I tried again, hammering my will into the wall. The cracks widened, but the damn thing was still too powerful to fall.
Applejack took another step. Three feet. Two. Another step. Her coat stood on end, and she’d lost her hat. The construct redoubled its efforts, and I could hear her ribs groan in protest. Applejack suddenly let go of its head, rising up on her hind legs. The snake was caught off guard, but it struck even as she brought both of her front hooves down on the focus. With a resounding clang the ironwork broke, shattering into shards of dark metal, its runes going dark. The serpent struck, burying its fangs in Applejack’s chest. There was a flash of light and a small thunderclap. She collapsed, her muscles shaking from the abuse they’d taken, no longer able to support her.
The barrier wavered. It was weak, but it still had enough power to last a little while longer. The previously spacious hall was now barely three feet wide, and the walls hadn’t even paused when the sconces broke. I concentrated, bringing my will to bear. I drove it into the barrier, throwing my whole mind behind the task. I felt the cracks widen into trenches and visible fractures spidered out across the barrier, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe if I added some physical stress to the magical assault…
I smiled like a maniac. “Hulk smash!” I shouted, driving my fist forward. It crashed straight through the ward with a sensation like shattering glass, and the rest of the barrier dissipated like smoke.
We spilled out of the closing hallway in a panicked rush, only a little ahead of the closing walls. Fluttershy moved to help the still convulsing Applejack and Rainbow. “Don’t touch them!” I barked, pouring every ounce of authority I had into my voice. The serpents hissed, rising protectively over their prey. Why did it have to be snakes? I thought. But I could handle it. This wasn’t the first time I’d dealt with murderous constructs. I prepared the counterspell as quickly as I dared, trying to ballpark how much power they had left. They’d both just gone all out in that last attack, and their power sources were destroyed. They should be running low.
“Entropus!” I shouted sweeping an arm out in a banishing gesture. The constructs shuddered then fell apart, disappearing in a small flicker of lightning accompanied by a miniature crack of thunder. Fluttershy jumped forward without waiting for approval and started to tend them.
Even Twilight didn’t protest when I suggested another break so both ponies could recover. Either pony biology is significantly different from a human’s, or they had been extremely lucky. Both of their hearts were fine, and after some rest and stretching, they were even able to stand again. They were plenty bruised from all the wrestling, but the worst of their injuries seemed to be the burns from the lightning bites. They weren’t pretty, but at least they were a living red, not the dead black of third-degree burns.
It took a long half hour, but Applejack and Rainbow were soon patched up. I took the lead, staff at the ready, and we started walking again. The hallway continued for couple hundred yards, still twisting. There were a few more rooms, all of them open and empty, until the passage ended abruptly at an unremarkable, wooden door. I arched an eyebrow at Trixie; it couldn’t have been more obvious if she’d painted the word ‘trap’ on it.
“Hold on.” I said to the rest of the group. “I’d bet my eyeteeth this’s another trap. Twilight, would you take a look at this?” The purple unicorn came forward, and frowned at the door.
“Can I use your notebook, Mr. Dresden?” I passed her my small notepad and a pencil. She went to work, studying the door and taking notes. After a few minutes, a faint purple glow surrounded it and Twilight finished with a satisfied smile and soft
“The enchantment on the door was set to activate another enchantment, or more likely a set of them, if the door was opened. I couldn’t just dispel it without activating whatever it was meant to set in motion. So, I had to calculate the magical frequency on which the activator was set, based largely on the earlier exposures to Trixie’s magic, and match my spell—”
“Too long, didn’t listen.” I interrupted. “Just spell out the basics for us.” I would have loved to know some of the mechanics behind her magic, but now was not the time.
She gave me the disgruntled look of an underappreciated genius and sighed. “I moved the trap. Now, it’ll trigger if anypony touches that rock.” She pointed to one of the stones around the door.
Pinkie bounced toward it and examined it curiously. “You mean this one?” she chirped, her hoof only inches away from it. Everyone took two steps back, and I resisted the urge to yell at her.
“Yes, Pinkie. That one.” Twilight said with exaggerated calm. “Now, please move your hoof away. We don’t know what that does.”
“I wasn’t gonna press it, silly filly.” Pinkie said lowering her hoof. Everyone let out the breath they’d been holding; the relief was palpable. “I wanted to be sure that rock was the rock, so I wouldn’t touch it.” My mind briefly wrestled with that logic before throwing in the towel.
“So, it’s safe to enter?” I asked Twilight, she nodded. I held my shield bracelet and a few choice spells at the ready as I opened the door just in case. Thankfully, it was anticlimactic; nothing happened as I entered the room. It was decent sized, bigger than my apartment for sure. It was also the first furnished room we’d seen in the castle. A few show posters, all advertising the ‘Great and Powerful Trixie’, were plastered to the walls. A chair sat next to an old bookshelf, with a small lantern hanging above them. A large, thick rug covered most of the floor. The room didn’t have a staircase, unfortunately, but it did have three other doors just like the first, one set in each wall.
“So girls,” I asked, “Which door should we take?”
“Well, what’s the crystal say about’em?” Applejack replied.
I showed them the fully vertical crystal. “Spike must be almost directly above us. Right now we need some stairs before we can go anywhere else.”
Rarity was looking at the room’s furnishings, disdain evident on her face. She hadn’t even turned to look at the crystal. “I would suggest we take the trapdoor under the rug, but that’s just my opinion.” This announcement was met with silence, and more than a little staring, from her friends, but I focused on Trixie’s reaction. For half a second her mouth dropped and eyes widened before the sending’s face went utterly deliberately blank.
“What? It’s not that surprising.” Rarity told the rest of her friends. “I mean nopony else thought it was odd this was the only room with any sort of décor? Or that the rug didn’t fit the design scheme in the slightest? Or that slight bulge in the center of it?” I looked where she was pointing and even then I could barely see the tiny bump.
“Well, let’s see. Everyone off the rug.” I grabbed a corner, and once Pinkie Pie had bounced off, I flipped it, exposing a stone door with a ring set in one end. I thumped my staff on the trapdoor and was rewarded with a hollow echo. “Sounds good to me.”
“Wait.” Twilight said. “The crystal’s pointing upward. Why would we go downstairs?”
I shrugged. “Trixie didn’t want us to find this door, or she wouldn’t have hidden it. Besides, if it’s the wrong direction we can always come back.”
“But the staircase we need could be behind any of those doors. Aren’t we at least going to check?”
“No, because it’s way more likely we’d find a nasty surprise than a way up. Trixie may not be subtle, but she’s got enough power that I’d rather not take that chance. Down we go.” With a strained grunt I pulled on the ring, lifting the heavy stone door. The stairs below were well lit; torches gleamed from both walls as the passage descended. I started walking, my eyes peeled for any more dangers. Twilight sighed behind me, and her footsteps joined mine, echoing down the rocky stairwell. The rest of the ponies followed shortly. I called up the stairs to them, my voice bouncing oddly off the walls. “Don’t close the door in case we need to make a tactical withdrawal.”
Twilight eyed me, a ghost of a smile on her face. “Don’t you mean run wildly for our lives?”
“Isn’t that what I said?”
I reached the bottom of the long staircase and looked around. This room was a stark contrast to the one above. There was no light, and even when Twilight relit her horn, I couldn’t see any of the walls. From the echoes, though, it had to be huge. An odd shine caught my attention and I noticed an object just on the edge of our circle of light. It was a lumpy cube of what, at first, I thought was glass. It was about the size of shoe box, with a ton of holes arranged in a strange grid where the lid would be. I moved closer to examine it, and as I neared it I could hear a faint buzzing sound. It wasn’t until I heard the door above us slam shut that I realized what it was.
“Twilight! Rarity! More light, now!” I pulled my silver pentacle out from under my shirt and held it as high as I could, forcing magic into it. The pentacle began to shine a brilliant blue-white illuminating the whole room. It was joined a few beats later by the unicorns’ fluorescent spells, both of them bright enough to put a spotlight to shame. The huge room lit up like a lighthouse, startling the insects crawling out of their crystal nests into stillness. I stared in disbelief; hundreds of gently refracting nests littered the floor. I’d never seen them before, but I’d heard of them. Given how rare they were supposed to be, I don’t know how Trixie managed to find this many, much less summon them all from the Nevernever. The hornets were beginning to stir again; their crystal wings twitching as they got over their shock to the sudden brilliance. They appeared to be carved from obsidian set with topaz and emeralds for color. Their long stingers were as clear as a perfect diamond and were filled with a dark green liquid. I glanced around wildly, and spotted a narrow hallway opposite the bottom of the stairs.
“Okay.” I said, walking back to the group. “Everyone stay calm. I think they can smell fear.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be dogs?” Fluttershy whispered.
I facepalmed and frowned at her. “Stay calm anyway. If I’m right, these are Quartz hornets. They’re venomous, have a short fuse and are damn near invulnerable. We are going to calmly, quietly, calmly, carefully, and calmly walk to the exit,” I pointed to the distant hallway, “without disturbing them. Any questions?”
“Why did you say ‘calmly’ three times?” Pinkie chirped a curious frown on her face.
I glared. “Because that’s how calm I need you to be. Now let’s move.” I’d hardly turned around when an ear-shatteringly loud, completely inhuman shriek tore through the air destroying the hornet’s uneasy peace. I spun, completely confused until I saw the smug smirk plastered across Trixie’s face. I felt my expression harden to something between Old Testament wrath and nuclear fury. There would be a reckoning for this, but now wasn’t the time.
“Run! Now!” I bellowed, dashing toward the distant doorway. The hornets wasted no time, buzzing straight towards us. They were far larger and faster than any real insect, but I was ready. Badass they may be, but each of them only weighed a couple ounces.
“Ventas servitas!” I cried, a heavy gust of wind sending the bugs tumbling out of our way. I grunted with effort. The air down here was still and dead; moving it without any natural wind to manipulate was tough. I stopped about halfway to the door, letting the rest of the ponies pass me. Twilight was bringing up the rear, using a wind spell of her own. It looked a lot gentler than mine, but it held the hornets at bay.
“What did you say about this being the right door?” She asked, slight annoyance coloring her voice.
I shrugged. “Nobody bats a thousand.”
They pressed against the resistance of her spell. There were thousands of them in the air now, and they were angry, their buzzing like the drone of a hundred wood chippers. I moved backwards, using short gusts to swat down any insects that got near. I charged my magic as we moved. Wind is one of my specialties, and I only needed a few moments to get the spell ready. I brought my staff forward, murmuring to Twilight, “After my next spell, run.” She nodded and I aimed my staff into the heart of the seething mass of bugs.
“Vento giostrus!” I bellowed, turning to run without even looking at the miniature cyclone my magic had created. Instead of straining against an invisible resistance, the hornets would find themselves suddenly tossed around by a much fiercer wind. Most of them would survive, but they would be disoriented, which would buy us some time. The hallway was long, narrow, and barren, without doors or torches to interrupt the monotonous grey stone. At the end, the rest of the ponies had gathered at another door. Applejack and Rainbow were kicking it savagely, and it was already a little splintered. But the cyclone had died out and I could hear the threatening drone of approaching hornets. I turned, dropping my staff, and drawing my blasting rod. The runes lining it glowed like hot embers as I waited, partially for dramatic tension, but mostly so the passage would fill a little more before I unleashed my strike. The first bug was only a few feet away when I thrust my focus forward.
“Smile you son of bitch! Fuego!” The lance of flame shot down the hall, turning the crystal hornets into shiny slag. Even the ones outside the blast were thrown back, their wings warping and twisting in the intense heat. Objectively the Quartz hornets were beautiful, and some small part of me regretted destroying them. Most of me, though, had no problem melting down the little bastards into glassy residue.
Unfortunately, that strike was all I dared. Fire eats up oxygen quickly and that attack was already making me lightheaded. The hornets were beginning to gather at the mouth of the corridor again, and wondered what spell to use next. That question became a moot point as I heard the door behind me finally break with a loud crack. I threw a quick blast of air down the hall to clear away any remaining bugs before turning to dash into the room.
We piled into the new area, and froze at the sight that confronted us. The good news was that there was a set of stairs across the room. The bad news was that it was an open spiral staircase at least three stories high. There was no way we could climb the whole thing before we were surrounded by hornets. This wasn’t like the hallway, or even the room. We wouldn’t be dealing with hornets from one or two directions. They would come at us from everywhere. I turned back to the door and slammed it shut. Naturally, they’d busted the lock forcing it open.
“Here’s the plan. I’m going to stay down here and hold the door shut.” I was almost drowned out by the wave of protests, but I bulled through. “You all take the stairs and when you’re gone I’ll follow. My coat’s strong enough to stop their stingers, and I can still use fire.” In actuality I wasn’t that well off. My coat couldn’t cover everywhere, and I could only use so much fire before I asphyxiated myself. But I had better odds than any of them. I put my shoulder to the door and readied myself when a cheery pink face popped up in front of mine.
“It’s okay, Mr. Dresden. I’ll hold the door. No bugs are gonna get the best of Pinkie no matter how shiny they are.” She grinned and set her shoulder against the door.
“Are ya sure Pinkie?” Applejack asked
“Super duper positive. I’ve got this one.”
“What? No, this is serious, Pinkie.” I told her.
She stopped smiling, and her face actually became solemn. “I am serious. Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan.”
The rest of the group had already started towards the stairs, and only Pinkie and I were left at the door. Even through the thick wood I could hear the approaching hornets. We didn’t have any time. “But…”
“Sometimes,” she interrupted me, “you’ve just got to trust in your friends.” Her smile was slightly sad, and I had the feeling she’d learned that lesson the hard way. I considered staying at the door anyway, forcing her to leave and let me face the hornets. But what she said had struck a chord in me. How many times had I already asked her and the rest of the ponies to trust me? How many times had they depended on me without fully understanding what I could do? Trust is a two-way street, and I had to decide whether or not I really was her friend. It took me less than a second.
“Just yell if you need help. I’ll be there, and Hell itself couldn’t stop me.”
She nodded her smile turning cheery again. “I know.”
I turned from the door, leaving it to Pinkie, and I hated myself for doing it. I took the stairs two at a time; my long legs letting me move quickly upwards. I glanced back about halfway up. I could see Pinkie still standing there, bracing herself against the door. I told myself everything would be all right, but I didn’t believe it. I’d never been a good liar. I slowed as I approached the top of the stairs. Twilight and the rest were standing in front of a stone door.
“It’s safe now,” Twilight said, the door glowing a soft purple. Everyone filed through and I was took the back again. The door opened onto a grand corridor. Instead of the familiar unfinished rock walls in the rest of the castle, the stone around us had been polished and formed into arches. Windows overlooking the quarry lined one side of the passage, and there were even a few statues scattered here and there. All of them depicted an arrogant unicorn only a head shorter than me, with a horn that was long and wickedly sharp. I stared at the nearest one, fairly sure who the subject was.
“So,” I asked hooking a thumb at the statue, “is Trixie the pony version of a giant, or did she just need a statue big enough to fit her ego?” There was a startled beat as they stared at the statue, then Rainbow burst into laughter. Applejack and Twilight chuckled.
Rarity just stared at the statue with a bemused expression, and I thought I heard her murmur, “Who does she think she’s kidding with that horn?” I looked for our resident psychotic sending, but for once, she wasn’t there. I frowned. Maybe she had stayed with Pinkie, but I didn’t think it was likely. No, she was working mischief elsewhere. She was annoying, but I wished her sending was still here. When there’s a wasp in the room, I’d rather be able to see it.
The laughter died down after a moment, and I tried not to concentrate on how worried I was for Pinkie Pie. The group waited, watching the door, but the hall was silent as a tomb. I started pacing. One long minute stretched into two. When the third ended, I stopped pacing and moved to the door.
“Something’s wrong. I’m going back down there.”
“Wait.” Twilight said. “Pinkie said she could handle it. We need to trust her.”
“I know,” I growled, looking back to face six sets of anxious eyes. “But waiting here is killing me worse than the hornets ever could.”
“You can’t go, Dresden!” Pinkie cried, her expression pained. “It’s too dangerous!”
I sighed. “I don’t care, Pinkie. I−” Wait, what? “Pinkie?!” I yelped. I knew she hadn’t come through the door, and she hadn’t been there a minute before! But I was relieved enough to ignore my inner Spock for the moment. She was okay, that was all that really mattered. I hung back as her friends crowded her, but a gasp from Fluttershy made me hurry over. At the closer distance I could see Pinkie better, and the half a dozen angry red bumps beginning to swell all over her were obvious.
“Don’t worry, you guys. It was just this one little buggy that managed to wiggle in through a crack. I’m fine.” So she said, but she was starting to list to one side, her left legs folding. I dug through my pockets looking for a piece of chalk. I found it just as she hit the floor.
“Everyone move away from her!” I snapped as I dropped to one knee and started drawing a circle around Pinkie. Her breathing was already growing ragged as I dragged my chalk across the stone, moving as fast as I could without risking a smudge. My circle wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but it was close enough. I rammed my will into the magic circle, mentally creating a division between the Inside and the Outside. Pinkie’s welts began to deflate and slowly lost their redness. “Done. Go ahead, Fluttershy.”
“Oh, thank you, Mr. Dresden,” she said, breaking the circle as she darted in to tend her new patient. I stepped back, leaning against the wall, and slid down to sit on the stone floor.
Twilight sat down beside me while the pegasus began bandaging Pinkie’s wounds. “Was that an antivenom spell?” she asked, her curious tone at odds with the frightened look in her eyes. I suspected only she and Fluttershy had realized how close we’d come to losing the bouncy pink pony.
“Nothing that fancy,” I said, turning from that unpleasant thought to play schoolteacher again. “Remember what I said about the Nevernever and magic circles?” She nodded. “Those hornets were creatures of the Nevernever. Trixie summoned them to your world, which means she’s supplying the energy to keep them here. Cut off the magic, and they go poof.” I nodded toward Pinkie Pie. “The venom was a part of the hornet, so I just blocked the power source. Without magic, the venom turned back into harmless ectoplasm. It won’t fix the damage that’s already done, but she should heal.”
“Fascinating,” she said, sounding just like a curious grad student. She looked up at me, giving me a tired smile as her expression turned serious. “Thank you for saving her. I don’t know what we’d do without Pinkie. You hardly know us, but you’ve already done so much. I shouldn’t have doubted you.”
I felt my face heat, and I’m pretty sure I was blushing. I don’t get a lot of thanks in my line of work, and I wasn’t very good at accepting compliments. I fumbled for a reply. “Well… I wasn’t completely certain that was going to work, but you’re welcome. And it’s okay – I’m pretty sure it’s natural to be suspicious of an inter-dimensional wizard appearing out of thin air.” The unicorn laughed wryly, and we sat in companionable worry for a few more minutes.
“This is going to get worse before it gets better, isn’t it,” she asked softly as we watched Pinkie pull herself upright, wincing in pain.
“Probably,” I replied as I climbed to my own feet. My good feelings started to slip away… I’d never seen a group more happy and kind than these ponies. I couldn’t imagine them doing anything that warranted this treatment. I checked my crystal. It was still pointing up, but the angle was much smaller than it had been. I stared into the rock ceiling, wondering if Trixie could see me. Somewhere in this building was a young dragon she had kidnapped, and I was surrounded by ponies she had hurt all for the sake of her stupid, petty pride. I let the flood gates down, and my fury filled me. It burned away my exhaustion, hesitation and mercy. I lowered my eyes, looking for our next route. There will be a reckoning for this, Trixie. Or my name isn’t Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
“This is going to get worse before it gets better, isn’t it?” Twilight murmured to Dresden, allowing herself to sag against his arm for a moment. She grimaced in sympathetic pain as Pinkie Pie pulled herself upright with a wince.
“Probably,” Dresden replied, his voice grim. They each climbed to their hooves and set about getting the group ready to move out. Twilight moved to rejoin her friends while the wizard pulled out his magic crystal to check for Spike. It was glowing brightly, and he grunted approval. Pinkie was trying to walk now, moving as stiffly as Twilight did the morning after one of their parties. The earth pony’s face was pained, but she still forced a smile as Dash encouraged her.
Twilight wouldn’t cry. She willed herself not to even though the memory of Pinkie falling to the ground, her face growing paler and her breathing erratic, was impossible to banish. Pinkie’s fine, she told herself, and we’ll pull through this together. I know we will. Her heart wanted to believe it, but her mind refused. In one corner of her psyche, a weeping Twilight continually replayed the sight of Dash and Applejack being bitten, screaming in pain and falling while she was helpless behind that barrier, unable to reach out, unable to help her friends as they were hurt. Meanwhile, the logical part of her noted the injuries sustained by her friends, their exhaustion, and the surprising amount of power Trixie seemed to wield. The conclusion wasn’t pleasant.
There were very few ways for a unicorn to boost her power so dramatically in such a short time. Using the Elements of Harmony was the first method that came to mind, but that option wasn’t open to Trixie. Twilight pressed a hoof to her heart, remembering the agony of the Element of Magic shattering. All of her friends had endured that pain as well, their Elements broken by some malign force. Dresden had been right; there was no way that the attack was mere coincidence to Spike’s kidnapping. But based on what Trixie’s projection had said, she hadn’t known they were on the way. If it hadn’t been a punishment for disobeying her demands, then what was it? Could the pain it caused to herself and her friends be incidental? Could Trixie have smashed the Elements for some other reason?
So: first assumption. If she had intended to destroy them permanently, she would not have stopped after a single attempt. Therefore, she got what she wanted the first time. What would the temporary destruction of the Elements accomplish? She fought the urge to jump to conclusions, listing possibilities. Disrupt their power, perhaps. Weaken me and my friends temporarily. Release something that they held imprisoned. Attempt to seize their power while their defenses were compromised.
The first hypothesis was too vague. She discarded it as unproductive. The second couldn’t withstand the empirical evidence. If it were true, she would have been on the offensive, hunting them down while they had been helpless. Instead she had barricaded herself in a fortress full of guardians and traps, buying as much time as she could. The fourth could be similarly disregarded. None of Trixie’s magic held the power of Harmony. Whatever dark well of power Trixie drew on, it was as different from the Elements as night was from day. That left the third hypothesis.
The Elements of Harmony had only been used twice in the past thousand years. Both times, they had been brought to bear against Nightmare Moon. The second time, they had stripped away a great deal of Princess Luna’s magic. The obvious conjecture turned Twilight’s blood to ice water, a chill racing through her veins.
Second assumption: Trixie is using Nightmare Moon’s dark power. That would explain the cruel nature of her spells, her amoral behavior, and her need for time. Corollary to assumption two: She has yet to fully master her new powers. It all fit. Back in Ponyville, Trixie had loudly bragged that she was the greatest. When Twilight had proved the showmare wrong, Trixie must have been willing to do anything to best her. I don’t know how she could have possibly known what to do, but it all adds up. Trixie, you foal, what have you got yourself into?
Twilight watched Pinkie lean on Applejack’s shoulder, gradually getting her hooves under her as the effects of the poison faded. Her friends were already tense, worried, and hurt. Maybe it would be better to keep this to myself, she thought. We’re already inside her castle, and Trixie still has Spike and the Elements. Our mission hasn’t changed. All it would do is scare everypony more than they already are. Rarity caught her thoughtful expression, but Twilight waved away the other mare’s concern.
Logical as it might be, she admitted she was rationalizing. The real reason she didn’t want to tell them was much simpler. What if her friends abandoned her? Just a few hours ago she would have laughed at the idea, but now? Her pain, fear and worries had fed her doubts until they grew to a monstrous size. Should she tell them, did she dare? Maybe it was better to say nothing.
Her friends had earned more respect than that. She wouldn’t doubt them. They’d already been through so much together, and they had stuck with her all the way. Knowledge is power. I know that better than anypony. I can’t leave my friends helpless and unprepared against whatever we might face.
“Everypony?” she said. Dresden stopped inspecting the passage, and her friends turned to look at her. Twilight swallowed nervously, her heart fluttering. “I have something to tell you,” she began. “I think I know how Trixie became so powerful. I wish I’d realized it earlier.” She paused, trying to find the right words.
“Well? Out with it, Twi. Don’t leave us hangin’,” Applejack said.
“Let me guess,” Dresden interrupted. “It’s the demon riding shotgun in Trixie’s head.”
“It’s the what doing what?” Twilight gasped, forgetting the rest of her speech.
“Demon,” Dresden supplied. “In her head.”
Twilight’s mouth dropped open, but not a word followed. She simply could not believe it. He’d known this all along and said nothing?
You thought about doing the same thing, she chided herself.
Rarity intervened before Twilight could shake off her shock enough to bite the wizard’s head off. “But Dresden, demons are just an old mare’s tale. You expect us to believe that some imaginary creature is responsible?”
Dresden raised an eyebrow. “Says the talking unicorn who’s friends with a dragon. Given that you’re talking to an intelligent primate from another world, can we just assume the wizard knows what he’s talking about?” He turned to Twilight. “I’m pretty familiar with demons from home. Want the Cliff’s Notes?” Twilight nodded, picking up the pieces of her shattered concentration as Dresden began. “Demons are hungry, violent spirits. They range from animalistic to deliberately evil, but none of them are good news. They can possess people, and apparently ponies, sharing their bodies. Usually they give power in exchange for something, often the soul of whoever they’re possessing.” He shuddered slightly at some memory. “I don’t recognize whatever’s in Trixie, but I’ve seen similar situations, and the signs are all there.”
Twilight considered the new information in light of what she already assumed, the cold spike of logic freezing her blood. Third assumption: Dresden and I are both correct. But that would mean…
Dash crossed her hooves and gave Dresden a doubtful look. “You’re telling me Trixie’s being controlled by some freaky spirit thing? I don’t buy it.”
Dresden shrugged. “Whether you believe it or not doesn’t change what I saw. But she’s still in control of her actions for the most part. I Listened in when she snuck off and I heard them arguing. Well, her half of the argument at least. It probably hasn’t had its claws in her for long, but eventually it’ll have her, mind and body.”
Twilight spoke up. “Trixie broke our Elements for a reason. What if this is it? Princess Luna was a different pony in every way after we defeated Nightmare Moon.” That got an interested stare from Dresden, but the rest of the group just nodded thoughtfully. “Luna’s jealousy must have opened her to this demon. This … Nightmare. We sealed it away, but Trixie freed it. And in return it gave her all the power that had once been Nightmare Moon’s.”
“So Princess Luna really isn’t a bad pony?!” Pinkie gasped. She smiled and clapped her hooves together excitedly. “I knew it! We should throw her a party!”
“I think you’re missin’ the point a mite there, Pinkie.” Applejack drawled.
Twilight swallowed nervously. “If that’s true, if she has that much power and a thirst for vengeance… Nightmare Moon just saw us as annoyances, but Trixie knows better.” She stopped, her voice failing her as images of her friends lying, injured and broken, at Trixie’s hooves flashed through her mind. With an effort she dispelled them, and tried again. “I don’t know if we can beat her without the Elements. At this point there’s a real chance I’m leading you all to your deaths. She only wants me, so… so if you want to leave, I understand. I can’t ask all of you to risk yourselves like that.”
“You don’t have to ask.” A quiet voice told her, before Fluttershy wrapped Twilight in a hug.
“Hey!” Rainbow grinned, “There’s no way we’d let you face Trixie alone, Nightmare or no.” She stopped hovering to join the hug.
“She’s absolutely right, Twilight. We could never abandon you.”
“You need us, and we ain’t going nowhere without you.”
“Of course we’ll stay, silly! What would you do without us?”
“Well, I’ve got nothing better to do right now,” Dresden said, smirking slightly. “I suppose I could help out.” Twilight laughed and he bent down, his long arms reaching halfway across the group.
Twilight blinked back tears, and shared the hug with her friends. Like the ashes of a phoenix, her hope was rekindled by their love, and it blazed within her, brighter than any spell.
“You’re right, everypony. I’m sorry I doubted you. So what if Trixie has the powers of Nightmare Moon? We defeated her once, and we can do it again, Elements or no. We have the magic of friendship, and there’s no power greater than that.” They separated a moment later, standing taller with renewed determination in their eyes, and set off through the treacherous corridors once more.
There was another pitfall trap, this one lined with spikes, and one of the statues began exhaling a pale green gas that Twilight recognized as toxic, but nothing on the scale of some of the earlier traps. Then they reached the second staircase. This one was another spiral but it was made of polished marble and much bigger than its cousin downstairs. This, Twilight thought, must be the main stair. It took up an entire tower, and its carved banister was so ostentatious that Rarity clucked her tongue in distaste. Twilight was on the 72nd step, an idle part of her mind counting as she ascended, when a blast of magic shook the tower and began to roll down the stairs like a wave from the ocean, an irresistible tide of power. The energy was a bleak gray, almost invisible against the stone surroundings. It frothed and heaved, pouring through the holes in the banister like water even as the body of the spell rushed down the main stairs.
“Group huddle! Now!” Twilight screamed only a beat ahead of Dresden. He’d been in the lead, and she’d take the rear guard with the rest of the group close between them. They jumped to the middle, Twilight preparing her shield as she went. In less than a second, they’d formed a rough huddle. Dresden was on the outside, the back of his enchanted coat facing the incoming wave of power. Twilight concentrated, and the moment everypony was close enough, she threw another purple dome over the group only a half a second before the energy of Trixie’s spell washed over and past them. It splashed against the dome and flowed past on every side, momentarily outlining Twilight’s mystical shield without harming it in the slightest.
Twilight peered curiously over Dresden’s shoulder as the wave of magic passed on down the stairs; the stairwell was unchanged. The stone walls were the same as they had been a moment ago, and the stairs themselves didn’t seem any different. The floor underhoof was still solid and stable. Everything looked, sounded, smelled and felt the same. If she hadn’t sensed the spell at work around them, Twilight would have sworn nothing had happened. Her friends had reached similar conclusions.
“So what happened?” Pinkie asked, struggling to get out of the tightly packed mass of pony.
“Was it a false alarm?” Fluttershy quietly wondered.
“I… I don’t know,” Dresden replied letting go of the group, a puzzled expression on his face that mirrored Twilight’s own.
“D’ya reckon she’s bluffing?” Applejack suggested. “Tryin’ to slow us down?”
Rarity sniffed and shook her head. “Unlikely, I don’t think Trixie knows the meaning of the word ‘subtlety’. ”
Rainbow Dash, glared at the steps distrustfully. “We gotta do something. We can’t stand here forever.”
Distantly, Twilight heard Dresden muttering. She leaned toward him, trying to catch the words of his spell. His incantations were often curiously similar to the language of ancient Roam, but he was speaking modern Equestrian this time. It only took a couple of words to set her ears burning and bring an embarrassed flush to her face. Some of the curses Twilight didn’t recognize, but she could infer their meaning from context. The string of expletives died out with a sigh. What did that mean? Bad news? Worse news?! Dresden turned to the group, clearing his throat.
“Everyone, be patient and don’t move. I’m going to have a look around using my Sight. That should tell us what’s up.” The emphasis on ‘Sight’ caught Twilight’s attention, but Dash just cocked an eyebrow.
“And what the hay will that do? I’ve been looking around since we stopped huddling. I haven’t seen anything yet, and I’ve got eyes like a hawk.”
“Great point, Rainbow,” Dresden retorted his voice light. “Maybe I should let you do the magic.”
Dash responded by sticking out her tongue, and the wizard replied with equal decorum.
“Can we please stay focused, here?!” Twilight burst out, aiming glares at each of the troublemakers.
Dresden rolled his eyes, but settled into the same expression and tone of voice most of her professors had used when they lectured. “The Sight is another of a wizard’s abilities, and it’s related to the Soulgaze. With the Sight I can see magic at work … among other things. I’ll be able to tell what exactly that last spell did. Just give me a second to concentrate.”
“Do you mean to say you could have been using this ‘Sight’ to reveal all of the traps before they activated?” Rarity asked indignantly.
Dresden grimaced. “Keeping the Sight open for too long is a good way to drive yourself insane. Raw truth is a cruel mistress, and you can’t ever forget anything you see with the Sight. Good or bad, recent or years ago, you remember it perfectly. Look at the wrong person or object and you can blow a mental fuse.”
With that he stopped and closed his eyes, his brow knitted in concentration. Rainbow opened her mouth to say something, but a combined glare from Applejack and Rarity made her shut it with only a grumble. After a moment his eyes reopened, but his face had an oddly distant expression. He peered up the stairs, his body language and expression indicating a studious stare. His head quickly snapped upward, glaring at the stone ceiling as a shudder went through him. He continued to stare even as his mouth twisted into a snarl and a growl rumbled in his throat.
“Dresden?” Twilight prodded him with one hoof. He didn’t react, his gaze fixed upwards and his expression growing more and more hateful. Alarm bells rang loudly in the back of Twilight’s head, his warning still fresh in her mind.
“Dresden!” she cried, jabbing him in the leg with her horn.
“Gah!” Dresden’s eyes snapped shut. They reopened, dazed for a second, but quickly focused on Twilight.
“Now what was that fer, Twi?”
“Whatever were you thinking?!
“Are you okay, Mr. Dresden?”
“Hey! How come you get to hit him?”
“I don’t know what we’re yelling about!”
Dresden shook his head like he was trying to dislodge an unpleasant thought. As he refocused on Twilight, his snarl faded into a tired frown. “Damn, that was nasty. Thanks for the wake-up call.”
Twilight nodded, “No trouble.”
Dresden nodded back, the anger still in his eyes giving way to gratitude. “Sorry I got caught up, but Trixie’s waiting for us in the room upstairs. She’s … not a pretty sight. But the more immediate problem is the trap we’re in now. Does anypony have a piece of fruit or something?”
“I’ve got a few apples but what do you need’em for?” Applejack asked.
Dresden just put out a hand. “It’ll be easier to show than tell.” Applejack grumbled slightly, but tossed him a piece of fruit.
Twilight watched curiously as he studied the stairs ahead. He threw the apple hard, giving it impressive velocity. The red fruit flew through empty air for a moment before splitting neatly in half, accompanied by a deep and resonant twang, like a chord from a giant’s guitar.
Dresden nodded, “They’re wires, hundreds, maybe thousands, of them. Invisible and sharper than a scalpel. Walk into one of those and you won’t even know you’re cut until you see the blood.” His face turned grim once more, “To make things worse they’re made like that barrier. Even if Twilight and I can disassemble them it’ll take hours and leave us exhausted.” He sighed and favored the deadly, unseeable wires with a dissatisfied glare.
Twilight thought. She was already forming an idea, a way past this trap, but it was dangerous. She could stand the loss of time if it meant a safer path. “Let’s just go back and find another set of stairs. Surely there’s a way around this.”
Dresden shook his head sadly, “No, the wires are stretched throughout the whole tower. And don’t call me Shirley.” He finished with a small smile.
“Oh no.” Fluttershy breathed, her eyes darting nervously around. “What will we do now?” She looked hopefully at Dresden, but for once he seemed to be at a loss for ideas. That didn’t matter; Twilight had one.
She cleared her throat, “Dresden? Just how strong is your shield?”
He blinked, then realized she was on to something, “It’s saved me and friend from a six story drop and withstood the attack of half a dozen pissed off vampires. As far as force goes it’s top notch. Why?”
She answered with another question, “Are these wires high tension? It sounded like that when the apple was bisected.”
He nodded with an annoyed frown, “Yeah. They’d have to be. All the sharpness in the world doesn’t do you any good if the blade doesn’t stay taut. So what’re you planning?”
“It’ll be easier to show than tell,” she replied haughtily, then had to fight to keep from laughing at the look on his face. Not all of her friends were as successful.
“This is for not mentioning the demon sooner, isn’t it?” Dresden said. The laughter redoubled.
“Pinkie,” Twilight said interrupting the pink pony’s giggling. “What did you bring with you?” If anypony had brought what she needed it would be Pinkie.
The easily excitable pony gasped, “What didn’t I bring with me?!” She startled to dig through her saddlebags listing an impossible number of items as rapidly as possible. One, though, caught Twilight’s ear.
“Pinkie, can I have your flour?”
“I was going to use it to make more cupcakes, but I gueeeeess we need to escape the deathtrap more, don’t we?” Pinkie pondered as she pulled a five pound bag out of one saddle bag.
“Thanks.” Twilight levitated the bag to her, and turned to the pony who hopefully held the key to her whole plan. “Rarity, did you bring a pair of scissors?”
The fashionista nodded, “I sharpened a pair of my sturdiest shears before we came.” She took them from her saddlebags and gave them to Twilight.
Dresden was nodding to himself. He seemed to have figured out what she was planning. “Not a bad idea, but those scissors aren’t going to cut it. Those wires are stronger than that.”
Twilight nodded, “I know, but I can enhance them enough to let them cut through at least one.”
“Now I’m curious,” Rainbow said. “What’re you gonna do?”
“Just wait, Trixie’s trap has a fatal flaw and I’m about to exploit it.” Twilight told them, trying to conceal her anxiety under a mischievous grin.
Applejack just snorted, unimpressed. “Dresden’s startin’ rub off a bit too much on you, sugarcube.”
The farmpony glanced at the wizard. “No offense.”
That started a discussion of its own, but Twilight was too busy digging through her saddlebags to take much notice. At last she found the book she wanted. It wasn’t very impressive, simply an old paperback titled, ‘Handy Household Hocus-Pocus: Everyday Enchantments and Useful Utilities for Unicorns’. She leafed through it quickly, searching for a half-remembered enchantment. There! The spell she wanted to use was simple in and of itself, with little more effort required than that of lifting a rock, but it was one that she didn’t know by heart. Enhancing tools was an old spell – though not one in common usage – but she needed to enhance the scissors to a degree that no normal tool possessed. The effort required for that was akin to lifting a stone a hundred times the weight of that first rock. It didn’t take her long, but her exhausted mind ached with the strain of another large spell. When she was finished, the scissors glowed a bright violet and fairly hummed with all the power they held.
She levitated them carefully away from the group and threw the bag of flour at the stairs ahead. She concentrated, and with a soft poof the bag exploded into a cloud of powder, spreading flour all across the next several feet of stairs.
And more importantly, all of the wires. They were so thin, that even with the flour, Twilight could barely make them out. But with some concentration and effort she found one and levitated the scissors positioning the wire between the blades, careful not to close them.
“Everypony huddle up again. I’ll need you to shield us, Dresden, while I manipulate the scissors. Just tell me when you’re ready.”
The wizard stopped his explanation of something called ‘rock-paper-scissors’ and nodded seriously. The ponies pulled together carefully, so nopony got their tails stepped on this time. Dresden concentrated, the silvery bracelet on his left wrist softly glowing.
“Defendre, defendre, defendre,” he murmured, a dome of translucent blue energy surrounding them. Twilight looked to him, but he shook his head. The strange litany continued and Twilight could feel the barrier around them strengthening, becoming reinforced, shifting to spread impact across the whole shield. Dresden nodded to her, putting out a fist with the thumb sticking up. Twilight concentrated and forced the shears to snap shut.
There was a moment of resistance, but Twilight’s spell held and the scissors did what they were meant to do.
The wire had indeed been under high tension, and the sudden release snapped the invisible blade across the tower with the force of a guillotine. Right into another wire. The second wire was hit with a force far greater than the first, and it snapped instantly, slingshotting into another. Trixie had strung hundreds of wires, filling the tower with death, but now all those blades just served to fuel the chain reaction. Phantom razors scored infinitely thin slices into the stonework around them, each impact digging a deep scratch in the marble. The shield shook with impact as wayward strikes found it. But Dresden was as good as his word; the barrier held, deflecting every blow. It took a long, uncomfortable minute before the frenzied snapping stopped, but at last the tower was silent once more. Dresden cautiously let the shield fall, but Twilight noticed that his bracelet hadn’t stopped glowing.
“Did it work?” Fluttershy wondered, breaking the fragile silence. All eyes turned to Dresden and he gave a sigh.
“All right, all right. I’ll check it out.” He shut his eyes once more and concentrated on the stairs above. This time he only stared for a moment before turning back to the group. He smiled like a manticore, predatory satisfaction in his eyes. “That’s done it. There’s one or two left, but they’re all at the edges of the wall. As long as we keep to the inside of the spiral, we’ll be fine.”
Twilight let out the breath she’d been holding, and let herself feel a small surge of joy. Her more pragmatic side quickly reasserted itself. Dresden had said Trixie was waiting for them at the top. They might be close, but she would be the biggest obstacle of all. Twilight readied herself mentally and magically as they climbed the stairs, Dresden in the lead.
The stairs ended at a short landing before an enormous pair of doors. Where the rest of the castle stone was various shades of gray, these doors were strikingly different. They were made of perfectly white stone, so polished it shone it the light of their horns. The doors stood almost a dozen feet tall, banded with thick lengths of steel every couple of feet. There were no hinges, and Twilight could feel the enchantments reinforcing it without even trying. Somehow, I doubt Dresden can knock this one down. Anywhere else, the doors would have been beautiful, even majestic. But here, surrounded by bare, gray stone, the white gleam just looked like bones bleached by a cruel desert sun.
Twilight shook her head. She was weary, and her thoughts were drifting off track. She nodded to her friends as they stretched and prepared themselves. Dresden had put away the crystal after checking it for one last time. He fastened his enchanted coat closed, gripping his wand (or 'rod', as he called it) in his right hand and taking up his staff in the left. Applejack readied a pair of lassoes, each hanging from one of her saddlebags, ready for a quick draw. Rainbow Dash shook out her wings and flexed them, wincing faintly. She looked nervous, but she still buckled a pair of bracers onto her front hooves. Fluttershy busied herself re-packing the first aid kit and hung back, clearly nervous. Pinkie just watched the door, scowling at the entry as she munched on a cookie. Twilight considered the door; there were no handles.
“Should we push?”
Dresden shook his head. His eyes had regained their hot anger, but his voice was colored only by light disgust. “No, I know Trixie’s type. She wants it to be dramatic. Just watch.” He stepped forward and rapped his staff against the door. As the booming echoes died away, he spoke, “Little pony, little pony. Let me come in.” The doors rumbled, then groaned, as they swung into a large, well-lit room.
A dozen stained glass windows lined the walls, each featuring the same unicorn. She was tall, with a coat so dark the blue was almost black, and her eyes and mane were a cruel, metallic gray. Every pose screamed arrogance and might, but not one of the expressions truly captured the sorceress awaiting them.
Twilight could hardly believe her eyes. Trixie had grown not only in power, but in stature as well. She was almost as tall as Princess Celestia, and her mane and tail had turned into ethereal banners of pure silver. Her eyes had changed as well, glinting the same unforgiving gray of a knife blade. She was beautiful; nopony could deny that, with her newfound curves and long-legged grace. But it was a merciless, predatory beauty; the terrible magnificence of an unsheathed sword.
There was a moment of silence as the tired group of adventurers finally faced their tormentor. Trixie regarded them in return, her expression thick with haughty unconcern. The ponies might have spent minutes staring one another down, had a certain wizard not been present.
“Fuego!” came the resonant cry. Dresden shot a screaming fireball, baring his teeth as it streaked across the short distance between him and the smirking unicorn.
A square of jet black formed between her and the incendiary, swallowing it without so much as a ripple in the inky darkness. Trixie smiled as the shield dropped. “And just what did you expect that to accomplish, my little human?” Her voice was calm, but Twilight noticed an odd twitch in Trixie’s left eye. While the giant unicorn continued her monologue, Twilight studied Trixie’s shadow, trying to figure out just what was so uncanny about the eerie way it twitched and shifted in the torchlight.
“Welcome, you pathetic little foals, to the Grand Ballroom of Castle Silverstar. This is where your story ends, and the rise of the Dark and All-powerful Trixie begins! Soon, all of Equestria will bow before their new mistress. Everpony will finally realize just who is the greatest unicorn in all the land. They will call me magnificent. They will call me divine. They will call me−”
“A pompous braggart,” Twilight interrupted. Trixie actually fell silent, staring in shock that anypony had such audacity. “Face it, Trixie. You’re the same petty loudmouth you’ve always been, and no amount of power could change that.
“YOU DARE?!” Trixie shrieked, all semblance of control gone. A lance of shadow shot from her horn, aimed at Twilight’s heart, but with a flash her prey was gone. Another flash and Twilight Sparkle was back, only a few feet from her original position.
“Everypony scatter!” Twilight cried and the group split, Dash and Applejack charging Trixie from the right while Dresden, Rarity, Fluttershy and Pinkie circled further to the left. Dresden’s mouth was moving, he was sharing some plan with them, but another bolt of darkness tore through the air, forcing Twilight into another hurried teleport. She didn't have time to worry about anypony else. A midnight blue aura had formed around the angry sorceress. She drew on the dark power surrounding her, and the rocks beneath Twilight’s hooves began to rumble and shift. Twilight teleported again, this time jumping closer to her opponent, but the rumbling stones lifted themselves from the floor to form a pony-shaped golem. It charged her, and after a moment’s shock, Twilight turned and ran to meet it. She knew Trixie would launch another attack; her exposed back would make a tempting target. The former showpony soon obliged with a roaring ball of eerie black fire. Twilight blinked out once more, leaving the stampeding construct to meet the flames head on.
She turned, tired yet ready to continue, but Trixie’s was busy with other matters. Dash and Applejack were only a few yards away, attracting Trixie’s attention as she turned to strike them down. Lances of shadow and balls of fire filled the air with death, roaring towards the charging ponies. The athletic duo continued their headlong rush, without the slightest deviation. Trixie’s spells slammed into them and passed straight through. Trixie reeled back, startled, but quickly recognized it as an illusion. The original Dash and Applejack were nowhere to be seen. Frustrated, Trixie turned toward the other group, saw Rarity’s horn aglow, and put two and two together. A snarled curse was quickly followed by another lance of shadow, but Dresden stepped between them, his shield flickering to life. The blue energy deflected Trixie’s strike, sending it through one of her windows with tinkle of shattering glass.
Trixie prepared another blow, but a pair of strong hooves, hardened by years of heavy labor, buried themselves in her side, breaking her concentration and stealing her breath away. Dash followed Applejack’s attack with one of her own while Trixie was stunned. She rained blows on all of Trixie’s vulnerable points. She may have lacked the farmpony’s muscle, but she had more than earned her black belt in the dojo. Dresden was shooting more lances of force at Trixie, but her inky barrier seemed to have a mind of its own, blocking all his attacks no matter how distracted the mare might be. He stopped, frowning, and instead held his staff aloft, concentrating. Twilight could feel the power of the spell he prepared, but more pressing matters demanded her attention.
The golem was back, having reassembled itself after Trixie’s misdirected attack, and it took an aggressive swipe at her. Twilight dodged its hoof and began concentrating on the counterspell. Her magic was getting more and more difficult to use, each spell taking more and more effort, but she couldn’t stop now. Between the living statue’s clumsy swings, she could still see her friends fighting. Trixie had recovered after Dash’s barrage, and she’d summoned a strangely shining hammer. Dash and Applejack were forced to circle her, trying to stay out of close range, fending off the occasional blow. Then their bodies seemed to twist and snap, and suddenly there were two of each pony where there had been one. They moved in together, forcing Trixie to defend herself against twice as many assailants, half of whom couldn’t even be hit. Trixie turned to the source of the problem at hoof, Rarity. The moment her eyes focused on his group, Dresden’s shield flared to life. But Trixie had learned from her last attempt. Her spell rippled through the ground and the whole section of floor beneath Rarity fell away. She barely had time for a startled scream before she began falling, her horn going dark as panic broke her concentration. Fluttershy gasped and dove into the darkness after her, her wings moving faster than Twilight had ever seen. The distracting illusions gone, Trixie began to pressure the two fighters. The hammer swung easily in her telekinetic grip, and no amount of speed, agility, or guts could protect them forever.
“Gravitus!” Dresden cried, slamming his staff down. For a brief moment, gravity ceased. Twilight tripped, disoriented, and the golem didn’t handle it any better. It crashed heavily to the floor, splintering into pieces again. But that was just a side effect of the spell’s true purpose. All of the gravity in the room had been concentrated in one place: right where Trixie stood. The dark unicorn buckled under the stress of the incredible force, but her new body must have been strong enough to resist simply being flattened. Still, the spell had rendered her motionless, and it wasn’t done just yet. The ceiling above screamed in protest as stone rained down, the rocks accelerating to impossible speeds, pulled by a far stronger gravity than any they’d ever felt before. Twilight took the opportunity to launch an attack of her own. She hurled pieces of the golem at Trixie, the chunks of stone flying nearly at bullet speeds. Between them, they should have buried Trixie in an avalanche, but dark magic didn’t seem to play by the rules. A cube-shaped shield surrounded Trixie, swallowing both the rocks from above and everything Twilight slung at her.
“Now that just ain’t fair.” Dresden complained, watching the black barrier.
As the hail of stones stopped, Trixie reappeared, laughing. She was breathing hard and there were lines under her eyes, but she didn’t have a scratch on her. “Anypony else want to try?”
“Sure!” Pinkie chirped, popping out from behind the maniacal madpony. Without hesitation she reached down, clapping pairs of hoofcuffs on Trixie’s legs. The pink pony ignored Trixie’s shocked expression, bumping her playfully and sending her stumbling. Pinkie scooted away as the outraged unicorn screamed and began wildly launching spells. Pinkie dodged left moments before a fireball flashed by her. She jumped as the stones beneath her shot up into wicked spikes, soaring through the air in with an impossibly long hang-time. Her tail twitched as her hooves touched the ground, and she stopped short just in time to let an enormous piece of rubble crash to the floor only a couple of feet ahead. Trixie shrieked in fury, enraged that she couldn’t hit a simple earth pony. Two globes of swirling darkness appeared at her horn. With a furious cry she released them, both expanding as they left her. It was the chance Dresden seemed to have been waiting for.
“Fuego!” he shouted, but instead of a column of flames, he used a jet of fire compressed into a bar barely thicker than his arm. The beam of flame burned an intense yellow-white, throwing the room’s shadows into sharp relief. His attack threaded the needle between the shadowy orbs to strike her in the side. She screamed in pain, and the black globes winked out of existence. Her shadow writhed as she tried to maintain her balance, still hampered by the hoofcuffs, and the hammer hung slackly in the air. This was their opportunity.
“Now!” Twilight screamed, pelting Trixie with rock after rock. The sorceress managed to deflect a few, but most hit their mark. A lasso shot out from behind one of the fallen rocks her shield hadn’t eaten, circling her neck and pulling her to the ground.
“Yippee-ki-yay, marebucker!” Applejack hollered, twisting the rope tight enough to cut off the sorceress’s air supply. Dash followed only moments behind with a double-hooved stomp kick to Trixie’s horn, a sight that made Twilight flinch. As a final precaution, Twilight focused on a spell of binding. Ribbons of purple light rose from the ground around her, streaking across the room to bind Trixie to the floor. There was a startled moment of silence during which Twilight really believed they had won, but sometimes the universe has a cruel sense of humor.
Muffled laughter came from the trapped unicorn and the violet light holding her shattered. The rope encircling her throat came to life, glowing faintly, and wrapped itself around its former master before Applejack could react. The bound farmpony was thrown into Dresden, interrupting his next spell and sending him stumbling over Pinkie. The hoofcuffs on Trixie’s legs splintered into dark shards that she sent flying toward Pinkie even as the earth pony struggled to rise.
“No!” Twilight screamed. Her horn glowed even though she knew she wouldn’t be fast enough.
But Dash was. Even without her wings she was quick. She threw herself in front of Pinkie just as the flechettes struck. Her damaged wing caught most of them, but a few were able to penetrate, burying themselves in her side, and the rainbow-colored pegasus screamed in pain.
“Dashie?” Pinkie gasped as her friend slumped to the floor, red staining her coat. “You. Big. MEANIE!” she screamed, charging with tears in her eyes. Trixie laughed again with maniacal glee.
A bolt of shadowy lightning lashed out, but this time Twilight was ready. With a flash Pinkie disappeared, reappearing several feet ahead, her charge uninterrupted. Twilight staggered as the spell drained her further. She teleported Pinkie once more, but it was no use. Trixie simply grabbed Pinkie in her telekinetic grip. In that moment, Fluttershy emerged from the hole in the floor, her wings beating frantically as she hauled Rarity past the edge and over solid ground. Trixie broke into a sadistic smile and threw Pinkie Pie into the yellow pegasus, sending all three ponies down in a heap of tangled limbs and pain.
Twilight raised her head just far enough to look around, tired beyond anything she would have believed. Dresden was dusting himself off, a murderous look in his eyes, but nopony else was getting up. Her friends were hurt and exhausted, and Trixie had only one small injury where Dresden’s flame had burned her. Trixie was still laughing, all restraint gone, drunk with her own power.
“I told you I could do it. They were only pathetic little mortals after all, and I am a goddess! You wanted me to hide like a coward, but look what I have done alone! Only Twilight and the wizard are left. When they fall I will have won. All will love and fear the Dark and All-powerful Trixie, the most powerful unicorn in all of Equestria!”
This is it. I can’t see any way to beat her, Twilight thought. None of my studies ever prepared me for this. I’m sorry, Spike, I couldn’t save you. I’m sorry, my friends, for bringing you into this. I’m sorry, Celestia, I’ve let you down. I’m sorry, Dresden, this wasn’t your fight; you shouldn’t have had to face this. If it wasn’t for Trixie’s stupid, petty pride…
Life returned to Twilight’s voice and she interrupted Trixie’s laughter with a sharp laugh of her own. “You? The greatest unicorn in Equestria? Don’t make me laugh.”
“What?!” Trixie screamed. “I’ve bested you and your friends on the field of battle. My magic reigns supreme! I am the greatest.”
“Oh really?” Twilight asked cocking an eyebrow. “Can you command the Element of Magic? Only the greatest unicorn in the land can control power on that level. If you’re so much better than me, why can’t you take my Element for your own?”
Trixie seethed. “I’ll show you! I’ll show everypony!” Her shadow went into a frenzy, and a screeching wind blew from the shattered window. Trixie shook her head. “No! I SAID NO! Shut up! I can do it. I’m the Dark and All-powerful Trixie!” There was a flash of light and a familiar tiara appeared. Trixie jammed it onto her head and concentrated. Dresden raised his staff, preparing a spell, but Twilight held up a hoof, and he paused.
A purple aura gathered around Trixie and she began to float off the ground, the power of the Element of Magic enveloping her. Her eyes opened; they’d turned neon white, glowing with the power flowing through her. She smiled, opening her mouth to speak, when the aura died. There was a horrific not-sound, a mental feedback worse than anything Twilight had ever felt.
Trixie had just touched the purest, greatest force in Equestria.
And she had been judged unworthy.
The tiara pulsed with light, and Trixie was suddenly bound hoof and horn by bands of glowing white. Her shadow twisted in pain, flickering across the wall independent of her movements. Sweat beaded Trixie’s brow as she fought the power holding her. After several moments of mental struggle, the glowing restraints shattered, accompanied by the soft tinkle of breaking crystal and an explosion of magic. Trixie was flung across the room to slam into one of the walls. The tiara floated down, gentle as a feather, onto Twilight’s waiting head. She closed her eyes, concentrating on her friends, and opened herself to Harmony.
Power flowed through her, but it wasn’t as simple as raw magic. This was something deeper and more profound. This was time spent happily with other ponies. This was a warm home where you were cared for. This was a good night’s rest and a hearty meal. This was loving and being loved in return.
This was the magic of Friendship.
Her exhaustion washed away in the flood of energy. New sensations filled her perceptions; she could feel each of her friends’ pain. Dash’s wing and side were raw agony, each motion driving shards a little deeper. Applejack’s muscles were sore from the damage inflicted by the lightning serpent, but more pressingly, the rope was wrapped around her throat, slowly choking her. Fluttershy had pulled a muscle in one foreleg catching Rarity, and Pinkie’s impact had covered them both with bruises and twisted Rarity’s ankle. But Pinkie’s were the worst by far. Though she seemed all right, Twilight’s new senses revealed damage to practically every organ. The wasp venom had injured Pinkie far worse than she ever suspected.
Twilight’s heart hurt so much she thought it would break. They were her friends, and she had led them to this. But that hurt was born of love, and from that love Twilight drew strength. With a thought, she brought them to her, erasing Trixie’s magic. Twilight concentrated, summoning their elements from the vaults Trixie had locked them in, and placed each necklace gently around each friend’s neck. Their injuries began to heal, their pain faded and their hearts joined hers, beating as one.
“NO!” Trixie screamed. A bolt of lightning more powerful than anything else she’d thrown that night gathered at her horn. She released it with a fevered cry, but Dresden was waiting for it.
He caught the lightning on his staff, the electricity arcing across his coat and flowing through him. He let it. Instead of resisting the spell, he directed it, letting it flow through his body from his staff to his rod. The tip glowed vivid yellow as he pointed the sparking length of wood at Trixie.
“This,” he began, his voice quiet but rapidly rising to a full-throated roar, “is my BOOM STICK! Fulminos!”
The lightning bolt was a blueish-white, flashing brighter than the sun. Trixie brought her dark shield to bear once more, but the thunderbolt tore through it like tissue paper, hardly even slowing. Trixie’s eyes barely had time to widen before her reflected magic struck her. She screamed, collapsing to her knees.
Dresden just about did the same. He slumped over, his tight grip on the staff seemingly the only thing keeping him upright. He turned to the glowing ponies as they opened their eyes and prepared their counterstroke.
“I swear to God,” he wheezed. “If you summon Captain Planet, I am outta here.”
“No!” Trixie howled over him. “No! No! How could this happen? I was meant to win. I am the greatest!”
Twilight’s heart hurt to see Trixie in such pain. But soon she would see the light. A thought, a breath of power, and the will of all six friends united. Pure, blessed light lifted them into the air together. A ribbon of color shot out from each Element, twisting into a spiral before combining to form a rainbow brighter and more real than any that appeared in the sky.
“Don’t!” Trixie screamed, struggling against nothing. “Don’t leave me!” The rainbow arced down toward her with a roar like an oncoming flood. She screamed, shrill and painful, as her shadow ripped itself away from her. It flowed like quicksilver across the floor, disappearing in the shadows of the stairwell. Trixie stared forlornly at the empty doorway. “Don’t you leave me too,” she whispered as the concentrated power of the Harmony washed over her.
After a long moment, the brilliant light faded. Trixie was restored to her normal appearance. She lay limp; the stress of the Nightmare’s removal followed by the pure power of Harmony had been too much. Even as Twilight watched, Trixie’s injuries began to heal, and the last remnants of her dark aura streamed away like smoke from a snuffed candle.
Twilight and the others let the power flow out of them, slowly drifting back to the floor as their hearts returned to themselves. Twilight opened her eyes, a soft purple once more, and her blissful smile instantly fell. Dresden had dragged himself over to Trixie. He clutched his staff like a lifeline in one hand, but the other was pulling something out of his pocket. It was a small, metallic device. From the hard fury in his eyes and the way he held it, it could only be a weapon.
“Don’t!” she screamed, trotting towards him as fast as she could manage. After a startled second her friends followed, Dash flying once more on her healed wings. Dresden paused, shocked at their reaction, but his face slowly set into an expression of determination.
“Don’t,” Twilight repeated more gently as they drew near. Dresden shook his head.
“I need to. I’m not going to let her hurt any of you ever again.” Rage flared in his eyes. “She chose this path, and now she pays the consequences.” His grip on the weapon tightened.
“You can’t! That’s murder!”
He smiled sadly, “Maybe, but I’m willing to do that if it keeps this place safe.” Twilight stepped back, her mind trying to comprehend. Dresden continued, “I’m not a nice person, but you all are. This whole world is so kind and caring; you shouldn’t have to deal with things like her. I’ll do it. Just don’t look.”
“No! We don’t kill in Equestria. She’ll be under guard for a while to be sure the Nightmare is gone, but she won’t be punished. She’s been touched by the power of Harmony, now. That’s enough to change anypony.” Dresden hesitated, his anger giving way to a tired expression.
“Please?” Fluttershy asked softly.
Dresden’s eyes flicked towards the shy pegasus. His expression shifted through sadness, compassion, frustration and ended in acceptance. He sighed, dropping the weapon back into his pocket. “It’s your world. I guess I should respect your ways.” There was a moment of silence.
“Great, now let’s find Spike,” Dash said. “You still got that crystal, Dresden?”
He nodded. “Of course. It’s−” He reached into a pocket, and scowled. “Wait a minute.” He checked pocket after pocket, many Twilight hadn’t even realized existed. But the tracking crystal wasn’t in any of them. “Great. It must have fallen out in the fight. I’ll look around for it, you all start searching for Spike. I’ll yell if I find it.” He pointed to the doors opposite the stairs at the far end of the room.
Twilight raised an eyebrow. “And leave you alone with Trixie?” Dresden flushed, and some of his anger returned.
“I said I wouldn’t. Now get moving and be careful.”
Twilight gave him one last look, before gathering the rest of her friends to search for her assistant. Pinkie, however, stayed for a minute with Dresden. She was smiling again, and happily chatting about the party she would throw once they had Spike back. Dresden listened for a moment, before interrupting her.
“Are you staying here to keep an eye on me?”
She cocked her head, staring at him with a smile. “Of course not. I know you won’t do anything to her. I wasn’t even worried when you had the gun. You weren’t going to hurt her.”
Dresden stared at her, exhaustion mixing with skepticism. “Why would you say that?”
She giggled. “Because you’re a better person than you give yourself credit for.” She darted forward wrapping him in quick hug. “And don’t you forget it.” She giggled harder at his surprise and bounced off to join the search for Spike.
Dresden was left alone.
Trixie snored, and he shot her a hard look. But after a moment of glaring he sighed, and turned to start looking.
The search for Spike wasn’t having much luck.
There were still a few traps, so it was slow going. They searched room after room, checking everywhere for secret hiding spots, but Spike was nowhere to be found. Twilight's worry grew and grew as the search stretched on. It was a long and nerve-wrecking half hour until Dresden’s voice interrupted her concentration.
“I believe this is what you were looking for?” He stood in the doorway of the next room, shrouded by the hallway’s darkness. But here was no mistaking the purple and green dragon curled in his arm, peacefully snoozing.
“Spike!” Twilight screamed, joyfully dashing to Dresden’s side. The wizard chuckled and gently set the dragon on the floor. Unconscious or not, Twilight wrapped her little brother in a tight hug, never wanting to let go. Her friends gathered around, all happily talking over one another.
“Thank you, Dresden.” Twilight said, tears welling in her eyes.
“No trouble at all... and now I can get to the more important business at hand.” He turned to go. His voice had turned blunt, almost uncaring. It was enough to catch Twilight’s attention even through her happiness. Something wasn’t right.
“What business?” She relit her horn, dispelling the hall’s shadows. Dresden turned back, stopping, and Twilight’s heart stopped with him.
His pupils had expanded until they filled his eyes, turning them into orbs of polished obsidian. His skin had faded from peach-colored to a dull gray. His exhaustion was gone, and now he moved with a predator’s grace. He gave her a coltish grin, revealing far sharper teeth than he’d previously possessed, and replied.
“I’m going to kill Trixie, of course. It’s the only way to be sure.”
Written by: Psychicscubadiver Edited by: Silentcarto
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
“I’m going to kill Trixie, of course. It’s the only way to be sure,” I said. I tried to soften the blow with a smile, but that just seemed to shock Twilight more. I turned away from her again, hurrying down the grim stone passage. I had an unpleasant job to do, and waiting wouldn’t make it any easier.
I don’t know why I told her that, though. It would have been so much simpler just to stay quiet and take care of it. It’s easier to seek forgiveness, etc. On the other hand, I’d never shown any talent for staying quiet before. I considered the question for a moment, but then shoved it to the back of my mind in favor of more pressing matters. The chief problem being how I would go about killing Trixie.
Thoughts of Trixie made my anger return, and I wrapped myself in it. This fury might be recent, but it was as comfortable and familiar as a well-worn coat. My anger and I were old friends. My revolver was the obvious answer: quick, relatively clean, and certain. But there was a slight hitch in that plan; I still wasn’t sure if my gun would work here. Certain places regard the laws of physics as only loose guidelines, and Pinkie alone was enough evidence that Equestria was one of them. If it failed, I would have to get creative. I could always throw Trixie out the window; that was quick and simple. We were probably high up enough for the fall to be fatal, but finding the body to make sure would be a pain in the ass. And I had to be sure Trixie had bought it. I wouldn’t let her escape to harm anyone ever again.
A small voice in the back of my mind suggested I simply torch her, but the thought nearly made me gag in disgust. Magic is the creative power of life itself; it comes from the hopes, fears, loves and pains of living beings. Using it to execute anyone is the act of a madman. Supernatural monsters like demons and vampires were one thing, but killing a human – or a pony, I supposed – with magic was just… perverse. To end a life with the force of life itself meant corrupting its very purpose. I couldn’t believe I’d even considered it.
Maybe… I was wrong.
Maybe I should just let the ponies handle it.
Memories flashed before my eyes. Applejack being bitten, her screams of pain resounding in the tightening corridor. Rainbow guarding Pinkie even though she took a vicious attack to do it, her wing and flank torn and bloody. Twilight crying after finding Spike gone, with only a cruel note left in his place. Pinkie breathing raggedly, her body failing as venom shut it down. Rarity screaming in fear as the floor vanished beneath her, dropping her into darkness. Fluttershy collapsing in the forest, incoherent with pain, as the sound of smashed glass rung in the air. But most of all I remembered how Trixie had looked through the Sight.
I had been examining the wire spell, trying to figure out a way past it, when I spotted her out of the corner of one eye. There were a couple walls in the way, but the Sight relies on more than mere physicality. Trixie was clear and visible; the aura of power around her was impossible to miss. She seemed indistinguishable from any other pony I’d seen; maybe a little bigger than average, her black coat turning blue at the extremities, silver hair and tail. The phantom hat and cape were a weird touch, but the Sight can be metaphorical. The human brain isn’t well equipped to comprehend pure magic. She looked arrogant and proud, but otherwise normal. Almost boringly so. Yet there was something about her that made my Spidey Sense tingle. Something was massively wrong, and it creeped me out. It wasn’t until I saw the blackness on her body shift and tighten that I realized the true nature of what I was seeing.
It was the demon. The Nightmare, Twilight had called it. Through the Sight it appeared as a snake, long and thin. It had wrapped itself around Trixie dozens of times, enveloping her in its coils. Its head moved into view, whispering in her ear. I couldn’t hear what it was saying, but I could feel the malice and hatred behind its words from here. Now that I had recognized the demon for what it was, the sense of wrongness, a hard-edged sensation that the word ‘evil’ doesn’t even begin to cover, doubled. I felt stained, tainted even, as though just seeing it had left a greasy handprint on my soul. But Trixie didn’t seem to feel the same way. She had a maniac’s smile, wide and malicious, hanging on to every poisonous word of hate it fed her.
Trixie wasn’t the demon’s victim; she was a willing collaborator.
I brought myself back to present, pulling away from the cruelly perfect memory. She had sought one demon for aid, she’d do it again the moment she could. I believed that without a trace of doubt. And next time, I wouldn’t be here to help. There was only one way to end this.
I had said there would be a reckoning, and Trixie was about to face it. I hoped Twilight and the other ponies would forgive me eventually. That they would realize it had been necessary. But as I’d thought in the forest, better that they live to hate me than die thinking the best.
I had reached the ballroom, and more importantly Trixie, when there was a loud clatter behind me from the hallway I’d just left. Twilight appeared, framed by the rest of the group.
“No! Please, don’t!” Fluttershy cried, staring at me in horror, all the happiness she’d had just a minute ago draining away.
I turned from them, determined to finish this at last. I hoped they’d look away as I drew my trusty revolver. Then there was a flash in front of me and Twilight appeared, blocking my line of fire.
“Twilight, move,” I bit out more harshly than I’d intended. She flinched, and I sighed. “I know you don’t want me to, but it’s necessary. You’ll realize that someday.” I moved to one side, trying to get a clear shot, but she moved with me. To make things even better, I could hear the rest of the group coming. I only had a few seconds before they reached me.
“Stop it, Dresden. This isn’t about Trixie. This is about you.” Twilight said. The barrel of my gun wavered, then dropped to my side. I gave her a wary stare, but she had my attention. She sighed, her relief palpable, and continued. “You’re…” she paused, her face torn by indecision. “...different.”
I raised an eyebrow. “We’ve been working together for hours, and you’re just now figuring that out? I thought you were supposed to be the smart one.”
“That ain’t what she means.” A familiar accent interjected.
Hail, hail, the gang’s all here. Great.
“What she means is that you’ve changed since we parted company to search for Spike,” Rarity cut in.
“Yeah, you look all gray and grim, not smiley and snarky like the wizard we know and love.” Even Pinkie was subdued, her voice serious.
My skepticism must have been evident, because Twilight stepped in, cutting to the heart of the matter. “You’ve been infected with the Nightmare. Let us help you, then we can talk about Trixie again.”
My first reaction was shock and fear, but it was rapidly replaced by a hearty helping of disbelief with a good-sized serving of amusement on the side.
Yeah, right. A demon. That’s a good one. I told myself.
I chuckled under my breath, trying not to laugh in their faces, but even that seemed to unnerve them. When I could finally speak, even I could hear the condescension in my voice. “Because we all know you’re such an expert on demons. Really, Twilight? That’s your big fear?” I shook my head. “I’m a Grade-A wizard of the White Council, so I think I’d notice if there was a demon in my head. Now, if you’re done stalling, Trixie has a date with destiny.”
“But that’s just it!” Rainbow yelled, throwing her hooves in the air. “You were always rude and a smart-ass, but this is just evil! Listen to yourself.”
Anger flared in me, bright and terrible. I don’t know what my expression looked like, but it was enough to cow even the steadfast pegasus. “So that’s it, huh? I’m the one willing to make the sacrifice, to do what needs to be done, and that makes me evil? You think I want this?” My voice rose to a shout. “I’m trying to protect you, to protect everyone, and that makes me evil?!”
There was a moment of silence, and I was afraid I’d gone too far. The reactions of my newfound friends hit me like a gut punch. They had begun to back away from me, putting distance between us. There was real fear in their eyes now. They were truly afraid of me. It should be something I’m used to, but this was a fresh twist to the familiar knife. I’d done everything I could for them. I’d bled and suffered to help them.
But, a part of me whispered sadly, at the end of the day they can only see me as a monster.
My heart churned with bitterness, but still I would do what they couldn’t bring themselves to. Then I’d disappear back into the Nevernever, and Twilight could think whatever she wanted of me. My grip on the revolver tightened, and I lifted it, aiming for Trixie’s head. I would double tap it. Just to be sure.
“I’m sorry it had to be this way, Dresden.” The words themselves didn’t catch my attention near so much as the tone did. Sad, yet resigned. I turned towards Twilight and saw the tiara on her head begin to glow. The necklaces on the rest of the ponies began to glow as well, their light pulsing in time to the main crystal. The bottom of my stomach dropped out as I realized what was happening. They were going to use their magic on me, to force me to see things their way, to twist me into what they wanted me to be.
Just like Justin did, some part of me whispered.
At first there was only the pain of betrayal. This wasn’t a breach of trust; this marched over trust’s mutilated corpse to punch me in the face. It’s funny, you know. My mentor, and foster father, tried something similar in my teens.
My mother died during childbirth, and my father had an aneurism when I was eight. I spent years as an orphan until my magic blossomed, and Justin DuMorne adopted me. He gave me a home, he cared for me, taught me magic. He brought home Elaine, another orphan, not long after me, and the three of us were a family. They were the only people I had in the world. Then, one sunny afternoon he tried to enthrall me, to twist me into his personal puppet. He had started down the left-hand path, and he wanted a pair of magical enforcers, whose loyalty was guaranteed, to help him in a bid for power. He’d already started on Elaine, and I was next. The rest of the story isn’t much fun, unless you like tragedies, so I try not to dwell on it. Sins of the past, and all. The ponies may have had better intentions, but from my point of view it looked a lot alike. I guess even with a couple decades of scar tissue that wound hadn’t really healed, because next came the anger.
I kept it on a tight leash, afraid of what I would do if I let it loose, but the fury burned away the haze in my mind, letting me realize something I should have hours ago. I let the anger fuel my magic, shaping what I was about to do. All of my thoughts had taken less than a second, the ponies were still gathering their power. I drew in my breath, and spoke.
“No. I’m sorry.” That got Twilight’s attention, and a confused expression overtook her peaceful face.
“Twilight Sparkle.” I said, matching the tone and inflections she’d used to pronounce her name perfectly. “Stop.” I felt her will against mine. She had a powerful mind, but I had expected that. Had it been a fair fight, we probably would have been evenly matched, but fair fights are for suckers. I had taken her by surprise, and besides that I had her True Name, given freely of her own will. It wasn’t even a contest. My mind pressed down on her like an ocean, and she had no choice but to comply.
The glowing tiara flickered and died, its light draining away. The rest of the group had only a moment to panic before I spoke again. “Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack. Stand still and stay silent.” They were confused, and unused to a battle of wills; it barely took a thought to hold them.
“What did you do?” Twilight shouted. She stared at her still and silent friends, her face a mix of fear and confusion.
Interesting that the magic of names has been lost here, I thought. Of course, with so many mages in the population, the princesses probably thought it necessary to kill that knowledge off.
“I just made them stay still for a minute. It’s a lot less permanent than what you were planning to do to me.” I could hear the bitterness in my voice. I tried to shake it off as I spoke again. “Twilight Sparkle, give me your tiara and do not attempt to use magic.” She slowly walked over to me, fighting the compulsion every step of the way. You’d think I had just ordered her to throw her first-born to crocodiles the way she was acting, but I could wait. It wasn’t like I was short on time, and any more pressure might actually hurt her.
About halfway there she started speaking, panicked but hopeful. “Don’t do this Dresden. We can help you. I know there’s still good in you.”
You can’t ignore a straight line like that. “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side.” James Earl Jones I am not, but my Vader impression isn’t half bad. “Twilight, it is your destiny. Join me, and we can rule the galaxy together!”
“Never!” She shouted, her face horrified. “I’m loyal to Princess Celestia. I’d never betray her!”
I waved away her reply with a rueful laugh and shook my head, disappointed. “That’s the worst part about being here. Nobody gets my jokes.”
Now she was just confused. I sighed, and carefully exerted my will, putting just a little more pressure on her. She stumbled the last few feet towards me. I reached down, carefully taking the tiara off her head, and slipped it into one of my duster’s inner pockets. The look in her eyes was heartbreaking as I took away her Element. I felt like a monster, but a small voice in the back of mind reminded me that it was for the greater good. Still, I wanted to reassure her.
“You can have this back after we’ve found me a way home. I’ll lift the compulsions in a second; I just need to take care of business first.” I jerked a thumb over my shoulder in Trixie’s general direction.
She found her voice and tried once more to stop me. “Don’t do this, Dresden. I know I wasn’t kind to you at first. I was afraid, and you were so strange. But I thought we got past that.” Her voice dropped to almost a whisper. “I thought we were friends.”
At some level I resonated with her sadness; I saw the tears she wouldn’t cry, and it hurt. But that small part of me was washed away by the anger. I jerked her head up, holding her face in an iron grip. “We were friends.” I told her, my voice low, and all the more terrible for its quietness. “Then you tried to brainwash me. After all I’ve done for you; you tried to stick a knife in my back.” I literally shook with anger. It was hard not tighten my grip as I barely held my fury in check. After a moment of glaring I let her go, trying to keep myself from doing something I’d regret.
The pain in her eyes would have been unbearable if I didn’t already know it was an act. “But−”
“Shut up!” I roared. “Now let’s get this over with already.” I glanced up at the frozen ponies several feet away. Their expressions were various forms of fear or anger, but all four were still immobile. Good, I thought turning my back to them. No more distractions. I can finally do this.
All four of them?
I completed the turn to find myself staring down a gray barrel big enough to swallow my fist. The pink pony at the other end smiled, as cheery as ever. Which, given the enormous gun in her hooves, was more than a bit disconcerting.
“Sorry, but Pinkie Pie is just a nickname.” She told me. My mental gears had almost shifted to deal with this surprise when she pulled the trigger. Evidently she hadn’t been kidding when she said her cupcake launcher could shoot pastries a hundred yards. If anything, I think she may have underestimated the range, given the force the cupcake hit me with.
I would have been skeptical if anybody had told me I could be knocked on my metaphorical ass by a cupcake. But at those speeds, at point blank range, in the face? My head whipped back from the impact, and my concentration shattered like cheap glass.
“The partillery saves the day again!” Pinkie cheered. I wiped the frosting off my face. That had been a surprise, but I was still standing. At least, I was until Rainbow tackled me. She hit me between my shoulder blades faster than I would have believed. I tumbled forward tail over teakettle, Pinkie just barely jumping out of the way in time. I lay there for only a moment as a new sensation washed over me.
Rage. You know, it’s a word we use a lot without really considering it. Hell, even I’m guilty of that particular sin. We tend to use it pretty causally, describing an emotion so watered down that it barely qualifies as anger. But some people simply may not know any better. How often do people get so angry they are literally murderous? That’s its truest definition. Rage is a fury so terrible that there can be no compromise. No retreat. No fear. It means violence, brutality and blood.
That may be an odd thought given the circumstances, but I want my meaning to be perfectly clear when I say I was consumed by rage. I’d lost my gun, but I still had my staff.
They want to play hero? Fine by me.
I felt the smooth wood beneath my fingers, and I reached for my power. An angry wizard is one of the most dangerous creatures alive. It was time these ponies learned that.
I rose from my fall in a fluid movement, drawing myself to my full height as though I hadn’t been thrown across the room. My sudden recovery seemed to surprise Rainbow, and I grinned at her. “Well, that was annoying. Are you going to actually hit me this time, or was that the best you’ve got?” Her face turned pale, and I laughed. The rest of the group was still gathering themselves, Pinkie launched another cupcake but I just stepped out of the way. Rainbow shook off her surprise, and her face set into a determined expression.
“Come on, I want you to do it. I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. Hit me!” I said as she readied herself for another attack.
“Dash, no!” Twilight cried, but it was too late.
Rainbow charged me again, a multicolored blur rocketing across the wide room. She was fast, no doubt about that, but this time I was ready. Quick as she might be, she wasn’t fast enough to avoid this. At the last second I poured magic into my shield bracelet.
“Riflettum!” I cried, my shield springing to life. It was a darker blue than usual but I barely noticed that. Rainbow saw the barrier appear, but she was too fast and too close to stop. She tried to brake, but it wasn’t enough. She hit my shield with a massive thud, and an impact I could feel even through the barrier. I let the spell drop, and Dash slumped to the floor, obviously shaken. As unbelievable as it sounded she was just stunned; it wouldn’t be long before she returned to the fight. Or, at least, it wouldn’t have been long.
I shifted my staff into a two handed grip, preparing the force spell as I went. I swung it like golf club focusing the power into tip. “Forzare!” I cried smashing it into Rainbow’s side, launching her into the air. I’d tried to make it as blunt as possible, spread the impact out, but I couldn’t take too many chances: she wouldn’t fall for the same trick twice. I dodged another subsonic cupcake as I watched her fly. A glowing purple nimbus surrounded her just before she hit the wall, and it gently brought her down to rest at Twilight’s side. Fluttershy was crying as she bent to treat her friend. Twilight looked uncertain, not sure what to do, but Rarity, Pinkie and Applejack had made their minds up.
“You’re gonna pay fer that, Dresden.” Applejack said, her voice icy as the heart of Winter.
Her tone stoked the fire burning in my heart hotter. Rainbow had attacked me! Was I supposed to just take it? “Come at me.” I told her just as coldly.
She did, and as she did, she doubled, then tripled. I had three Applejacks charging me. I rolled my eyes. Illusions may have fooled Trixie, but I had a lot more experience in battle. “Forzare!” I cried, a wave of force spreading like a shockwave from me. All three of the Applejacks passed through it without slowing, but I heard a pained yelp come from somewhere further to my left. Applejack was down for the moment, but my victory was short lived. Another cupcake smacked into the side of my head, sending me staggering. I turned to glare at Pinkie.
“Hexus,” I hissed. Wizards are Murphy’s Law incarnate when it comes to technology, and the cupcake launcher was no exception. There was a muffled ‘whump’, and icing suddenly squirted from every joint on the gun before it simply fell to pieces. That’s when Twilight decided to enter the game. Ribbons of purple light burst from the ground around her, streaking across the ground between us. I lifted my shield, but her horn flared bright as the sun. Her spell dodged nimbly around my shield, encircling me, binding my arms to my chest, and trapping my staff against me. Then they anchored themselves securely in the floor, completing the binding. She looked satisfied, maybe even hopeful, but I was going to disappoint her.
I poured my power into the restraints, battering them with a will harder than diamond. I was more than match for her in power, and she was playing on my field. Her spell didn’t stand a chance. I twisted my body and flung my arms outward, destroying the purple bonds.
“I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!” I roared. I had a moment’s warning, the sound of hooves on stone, before Applejack attacked me. I jumped backwards, just dodging a powerful kick. At this range the illusion didn’t hold as well, and I could see a vague pony-shaped outline if I watched carefully. I could tell where Rarity was bending the light around her.
“Ventas servitas!” I cried, and a gust of wind roared through the broken window. It slammed into Applejack, lifting her and throwing her across the room. Twilight caught her the same way as she had Rainbow, but the distraction had been half the point. I threw another wave of force, this one aimed at the whole group. I hadn’t put too much power into it, and most of the force bled off as it traveled. What hit the ponies was only a little more powerful than the punch of your average boxer. Still, I thought as Rarity yelped in pain, if you’re not used to it, that’s plenty. I took the opportunity to charge forward closing the gap between us. Twilight had weathered the attack surprisingly well and reacted almost instantly, flinging rocks at me with her levitation. I brought up my shield and kept moving. She was the most dangerous fighter left, and long range was her strength. When I got within about ten feet she stopped throwing rocks and brought her own shield to bear. I dropped mine and accepted the challenge.
It took me less than a second to charge the familiar spell. I’d been playing with kid gloves and this was finally a chance to cut loose. “Forzare!” I screamed. Raw force lashed out from my staff like the fist of a wrathful god. The lance of pure kinetic energy crashed into Twilight’s shield driving it to the breaking point. For a moment I thought her spell would actually hold, but then it broke like an egg, the residual force sending her tumbling.
“Stop. Now,” commanded a soft but imperious voice. I looked down to find Fluttershy standing in front of me. Her eyes angry and focused. The shy pegasus was gone, once more this was the implacable being I’d seen in the forest. Our eyes met, and I was subject to her stare once more. For a brief moment I was cowed by her will without understanding why or how, but this time was different. This time I’d met her eyes looking for a rematch.
“NO!” I bellowed, slamming my power into hers. Fluttershy turned out to be a glass cannon. Her assault crumbled under the weight of my counterattack. She let out a pained squeak and broke eye contact before the Soulgaze could begin. But she had given the other ponies the time they needed. An impact to my back pitched me forward, and I fell flat on my face. A pink blur dashed in, grabbing my staff. I flipped over to reach for it, but before I could, another rock came flying towards me. I caught it on my shield, but failed to notice that Twilight wasn’t the one who had thrown it until it was too late. Another barrage of purple ribbons ambushed me from behind, lashing me to the floor, anchoring my arms and legs firmly to the stone beneath. I opened my mouth to speak, but another stream of light wound across it locking it in place. Interesting. She’s a fast learner.
“Quick!” I heard Twilight cry. “Somepony grab the Element before he breaks through my spell again.”
I rolled my eyes and broke the restraints with a fierce burst of concentrated will. Huh, that had been even easier the second time. I must be getting a feel for Twilight’s magic. I stood up glaring at Twilight. “That was a neat trick. How’d you manage that?”
She faced me calmly, as though I hadn’t just ripped through her spell like tissue paper. “You ignored the rest of us to deal with Fluttershy. Your overconfidence is your weakness.”
This kid was a gold mine for a wise-ass like me. “And your faith in your friends is yours.” I wheezed, then laughed. “But enough playing around,” I said, my voice turning serious. “Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Fluttershy and Rarity. Stand still and do not speak.” I didn’t know how many of them were still in the game, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I rose into a crouch, carefully checking for the one pony left who could ruin things for me.
“Looking for me?” A familiar voice asked. I spun to see Pinkie almost right behind me. I watched her carefully; she was up to something, but what? She was frowning, her face stern, as she gestured to her motionless friends. “I’ve hid your magic thingy some place you’ll never find it. Now give me the Element, and I’ll tell you where it is.”
I sighed in defeat and walked over to her reaching into my coat with one hand. She smiled, her cheer restored by victory. Until I pulled out my blasting rod, at least. “You know,” I said pointing the business end at her and letting it glow cherry red. “I don’t actually need my props to do magic. They just help me control my spells. Imagine what my magic would do to anyone without that control. Now, tell me where my staff is.” I jabbed the rod in her direction, making the tip pulse more brightly. I was bluffing my ass off − angry as I was, I still wouldn’t actually use it on her. But she didn’t need to know that. Her smile faded, and her hair drooped a bit. She slumped in defeat and pointed to something off to my left. “It’s behind that rock.”
I half turned, keeping my blasting rod trained on her. I didn’t have much trouble figuring out which piece of rubble she was talking about. “Is it the one with ‘The staff totally isn’t behind this rock’ written on it in bright pink?” She nodded sadly. I chuckled letting off some steam. Hell, I almost forgot why I was angry with her. But then I reminded myself with grim determination what needed to be done. I turned back to her, sighing.
“I am sorry about this, but you’ll all understand someday. Now hold still. This won’t hurt a bit. I promise.” She trembled when I laid my left hand on her head, but I wasn’t planning anything sinister. “Dormius, dorme, dormius.” I murmured. Her eyes drooped immediately, and she was snoring before she hit the ground. I stared at the snoozing pink pony for a moment. I’d spent most of my anger in the fight, and Pinkie’s attempt at misdirection had killed the rest of it. In some ways I missed it. That anger had filled me with purpose, had energized me. But now?
I just felt empty. Tired and hollow.
But I still had a job to do.
Trixie waited motionlessly. She had slept through the whole debacle. I considered her for a moment. I’d lost my gun, and I wanted this over quickly, before anything else could go wrong. The cleaner, the better as well. I had a sudden idea. Why not? That would work. Maybe it’s a technicality, but I can live with that.
I drew in my power, and focused on the nearest window. It rattled in it pane and, with my shout, gale force winds shattered it, throwing the shards of glittering glass at Trixie’s limp form. It wasn’t a particularly subtle means of execution, but it would be effective. Hundreds of crystalline blades raced towards her, and I idly wondered what to do with the body.
Suffice to say, I was not expecting Twilight to suddenly appear, standing protectively over Trixie. The purple unicorn was stock still, just as I’d commanded, but that didn’t stop her from raising her shield. She blocked most of the deadly barrage, but more than a few shards were too close. I watched in speechless horror as she was cut, as the pieces of glass sliced into her, dark blood welling up. Her expression contorted in pain, but she didn’t make a sound as she stood.
My blasting rod fell from limp fingers to clatter on the ground.
“NO!” I screamed, running to her side. Without my will to back them the compulsions disappeared. Twilight slumped, falling to the hard ground, a soft sigh escaping her lips.
“No no no nononononono,” I reached her only moments later and tried to access the situation. Blood was rapidly pooling around her, the quiet flow of cut veins, not the frenzied pumping of an artery, but that only meant it would take minutes for her to bleed out instead of seconds. I hadn’t wanted this. As angry as I’d been, as hurt and betrayed as I’d felt, I didn’t want them dead. I’d wanted to teach them a lesson, to punish them, but I had never wanted this.
I had wanted to protect them. I’m supposed to be the good guy.
So why was my friend dying at my feet?
I started to cry silent tears as I searched Twilight for the source of the bleeding. I think I cut my fingers pulling glass shards out of her coat, but I hardly noticed. I found the wound, and I pressed on it trying to staunch the flow of blood. Twilight opened her eyes, her expression dazed. She saw me and smiled. There was no hatred on her face. No fear. Just sadness and a compassion so strong it cut me like a knife. “You forgot to tell me not to use magic.” She teased her voice soft and weak.
“Fluttershy! She needs you!” I screamed, trying my best to stop the inevitable. But in my heart I knew it was hopeless.
Oh well, some part of me whispered. She did betray me.
The world stopped.
I know me. I’ve met my darker half. I can be a vindictive asshole. I can be a violent bastard. But that thought wasn’t me. I would never have thought that.
And with that the charade fell apart. Mental magic may be powerful, but the moment the victim realizes, ‘Hey, maybe that’s not me thinking those thoughts,’ it tends to fall apart. I could feel the nauseating sensation of something ancient, vicious and hateful slithering through my mind. It didn’t take any thought to recognize it; I knew it instinctively. It was the Nightmare. The ponies had been right the whole time.
The Nightmare hissed and flinched in surprise, as I turned a mental spotlight on it. But apparently you don’t become an evil powerhouse without being adaptive. It struck, trying to establish outright control over my body. My muscles twitched, but I didn’t allow it. The damned thing may have been sneaky and poisonous, but this was my mind. My head, my rules, I snarled, visualizing a cage of silver. I threw the Nightmare into the cage, chains entangling it in a spider web of metal. Then I dropped the cage into a well, buried it under tons of earth and snapped the cage’s key in half with an angry flourish.
Did I mention I was vindictive?
A low, feminine chuckle from nowhere echoed in response. It somehow combined smug satisfaction with an ‘I told you so’ quality. But I had no time to investigate. Twilight’s life hung in the balance.
I dropped out of my mindscape to the sound of crying. Twilight was still in my arms, still breathing, but just barely. We were surrounded by her friends, all but Pinkie. They’d put the tiara on her head, but it was dark. Nothing but a dull stone without her magic to activate it. I gritted my teeth and reached for it. The others gasped, and I felt someone hit me, but I just grunted and accepted the pain. I touched the gem with one blood-stained hand and prayed that this would work.
I poured my magic into the jewel. I didn’t visualize lances of force, balls of fire or blasts of wind. The purest, greatest magic has nothing to do with stupid tricks like those. It comes from life, so that’s what I poured into the dull gem.
My hopes and fears, my dreams and failures, my loves and hates. The sensation of comfort and warmth in front of a roaring fire. The elemental terror when lightning strikes nearby. The happiness in sharing a good beer with my friends. The stress from a long, fruitless day of work. The memories that make me cry with joy, and the ones that still give me nightmares. Good and bad, I held nothing back. I haven’t had a pretty life, but by God, it was mine, and I had lived it. I put everything I was into it, and my body shook in pain. For a moment there was silence, then a single spark lit the inside of the jewel, and it exploded into light. I was thrown backwards by the force of it, even as the ponies were drawn inward.
Twilight Sparkle floated high above the floor, her friends and the glow of their shared magic surrounding her. Her wounds healed before my eyes, her skin patching itself, blood disappearing from her coat as her skin lost its sallow color. When she opened her eyes they were neon white, yet focused; the shocked daze gone. I sunk to my knees in relief, letting my body go limp. The rest of the group opened their eyes as well; brushing aside the spell I’d laid on Pinkie like it was nothing. They faced me, anger and fear wiped away. There was only a gentle sympathy in their expressions now. I bowed my head, exhausted, and said, “Do it.”
The Nightmare screamed in fury and smashed the prison I’d built for it. I moved to stop it, visualizing everything from force fields to lassos to halt the hateful thing, but it was a slippery bastard. Their power swelled to a crescendo and a there was a burst of pure, perfect light, out of which a rainbow formed. The Nightmare panicked and redoubled its efforts. I tried to keep a hold of it, but I was too drained, too tired. The damned demon slipped through my fingers, slithering away.
Then I was enveloped by the power of Harmony.
Have you ever worked outside in the hot sun? You sweat and strain and get dirty, salt and dust ground into your skin, but it happens so gradually you don’t even notice it. Not until you step into the shower and let the water cleanse you do you even realize how filthy you were. Not until you let it wash away the grime encrusting you. This was a lot like that, but it went so much further than just skin deep. My body went limp, supported only by the power surrounding me. There was pain, a lot of it actually, but it was a clean, honest pain. The kind you get from a hot shower or a good massage. The kind of pain that precedes healing.
But a thought disturbed the bliss I floated in. Dawn was approaching, and demons got along with that as well as gasoline did with matches. The Nightmare needed a new host if it wanted to survive. We were still in danger.
I hadn’t realized I’d closed my eyes, but I opened them using the Sight. I could see the Nightmare waiting in the shadows, ready to infect the next pony to pass it. Waiting to worm its way into a good pony and corrupt her from the inside. It wasn’t enough that it had already possessed me and Trixie, playing up our darker sides, manipulating us into hurting the innocent. It wasn’t enough that I had almost killed Twilight thanks to its whispers. No, it was going to add more and more crimes to the list.
It wasn’t rage that rose in me this time. Not within the grip of Harmony. This was righteousness so pure and powerful it was almost a physical presence. But I knew that it alone wouldn’t be enough. So I reached out and drew in some of the power surrounding me.
I had expected it to hurt – most power does − but this was different. I was part of something greater. I could hear a pulsing sound, and it took me a moment to understand. It was the hearts of the ponies behind me beating as one. I could feel them with me, each of their minds a complement to the whole. With a start, I realized that I hadn’t taken any power. It had been given to me. But that’s how friendship works, isn’t it?
A brief word brought my blasting rod back to my hand. The runes carved into it didn’t glow red as I focused my borrowed power. They flashed an incandescent gold, as harsh and beautiful as the desert sun. The Nightmare was impossible to miss; its darkness was an antithesis to everything else in this world. I breathed in deeply, but instead of shouting I merely spoke.
“Fuego.” I said. Golden flames in a column as thick around as a barrel poured out of the end of my carved stick. They crossed the room in an instant, and the raging fire tore into the demon. It shrieked horribly as the flames consumed it, a cross between a bobcat’s scream and the screech of tearing metal. Fire was already a cleansing force, and with the added power of Harmony, the ancient monster didn’t stand a chance. I watched it burn until there was nothing left but an intangible stain on the stones. Then I closed my Sight, letting myself crumple to the floor as I did so.
Several minutes later, dawn broke in the east. The long night was finally over.
Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.
Iron Chef, head baker of Canterlot Castle, grumbled as he worked. Normally he loved baking cakes, pastries and pies of every shape and size for the Princesses and their guests. After all, who wouldn’t be proud to have reached the pinnacle of their profession and serve Their Highnesses? Even if it had just been “Her Highness” until recently.
Iron Chef kneaded the dough a bit more roughly than was absolutely necessary. With Their Highnesses visiting Coltenhagen along with most of the court, he had been due for a few more days of glorious vacation. There had still been guards and servants to feed, of course, but the undercooks could handle that. Then, out of the blue, two Royal guards arrived at his house only an hour or so past the crack of dawn, demanding that he return with them to the palace immediately. All inquiries were met with frustrating silence.
No matter. Once in the kitchens, his word held more power than the order of any guard. The undercooks, scullery maids, and other kitchen staff told him everything they knew. He heard almost a dozen different versions, but at least there were a few facts that every one of them had in common.
Princess Celestia had suddenly appeared in the throne room a little past midnight, teleporting all the way from Coltenhagen. Her sudden return had frightened the guards, but not nearly as much as her worried expression had. She directed them to wake every member of the Royal Guard and surround the castle. No pony was to get in or out. Then she teleported to her study without further explanation. Whatever she found, or didn’t find, according to one maid, upset her greatly. It was rare to see the elder Princess so stern, but she had immediately called for everypony present in the castle, and the displeasure in her voice was the subject of much speculation. She quickly interviewed them and found that nopony had noticed anything suspicious over the past few days. Frustrated, she left, leading a patrol of pegasus guards to Ponyville. For her student’s protection, it was rumored.
Hours later, shortly before Iron Chef was summoned, she returned to the castle in secret. Nopony even knew she was back until she strode out of a guest room, surprising two maids in the middle of cleaning the hall. The Princess locked the door behind her and ordered her guards to watch it and ensure that nopony entered, or even peeked inside. She said that the room contained very important guests who were not be disturbed under any circumstances.
The Princess herself actually came down to the kitchen shortly after Iron Chief had finished pumping his staff for information. She apologized for her abrupt arrival and the unfortunate interruption to his time off. He was flattered that she’d thought of him and assured Her Highness that he was more than happy to return to work. He’d been less happy, though he tried not to show it, when she told him how much food he needed to make for her mysterious guests. Still, he set to it with determination.
The variety of the food she requested was just as surprising as the amount. The kitchen fairly buzzed with activity as everything from pasta to pastries, soups to soufflés, fruits to fried eggs were prepared. Several of the younger cooks gossiped and wondered about the strange events of that morning and the nature of the Princess’s guests, but Iron Chef could care less.
All that mattered was that he had hungry ponies to feed.
I woke up to the sound of frenzied growling, and it took me a long moment to realize the noise was coming from the black hole where my stomach used to be. After telling it to sit down and shut up for a couple of futile minutes, I finally stirred from the ridiculously comfortable mattress I had sunk into.
Well, mattresses. I guess they were the pony version of a king-size (princess-size, maybe?), but that wasn’t anywhere near long enough for me, so some thoughtful pony had pushed two beds together and I ended up sprawled across the heads of both.
The rest of the group had pretty much just collapsed into a disorganized pile on what space was left. Fluttershy was curled up peacefully in one corner with Pinkie using her as a pillow. Rarity and Applejack had managed to completely entangle themselves in their sleep and ended up in a pretty incriminating position. It was a shame I didn’t have a camera, because that would have been some prime blackmail material. Rainbow, of course, was sprawled in the middle, all six limbs splayed out as if to claim as much territory as possible. Twilight had slept with her chin on my arm, so she woke as soon as I shifted. We groggily wondered where the faint smell of food was coming from, and the growls from our stomachs redoubled.
“Why did the Princess assign me here? I’m too good-looking to die young,” said a voice on the other side of the room’s door.
“Stop being such a coward. There’s nothing dangerous in that room,” a deeper one replied.
“Shows what you know. Cloudburst said that Grapevine told him Earl Gray heard that the Princess defeated a great and terrible beast last night, and she’s keeping it locked in this very room. It’s twenty feet long, shoots lasers from its eyes and has a mouth big enough to eat a pony in a single bite. What else could make all that noise?”
“Pull the other one; it’s got bells on it.”
“It’s true, I swear! Did you see how much food they put in the next room over?”
“You know what? You should−” Tragically, we never got to find out just what Private Skeptic thought Private Nancy should do, because at that moment Twilight’s stomach let loose a snarl like an angry wolverine. All conversation in the hall stopped. It was a long moment before either of them said anything else.
“M-maybe we should report to the Princess.” Private Skeptic choked out. Private Nancy just whimpered before trotting off. I whispered that we should rattle the doors just to freak him out a little more, but a glare from Twilight cut that plan short.
A minute later, I heard Private Skeptic snap to attention and two sets of hoofsteps stopped at the door. The new arrival spoke in the most gentle, melodious voice I’ve ever heard. “Thank you for informing me of the… situation. Canterlot is fortunate to be protected by such brave guardians.” Her tone lacked any trace of sarcasm; I think she actually managed to say that with a straight face. “This, however, I will handle by myself. Please see that nopony enters this wing until further notice.” There was a pause as the guards beat a hasty retreat, then the door opened to reveal the regal pony I’d seen during the Soulgaze with Twilight.
As nice as the portraits of her in the library had been, they did her about as much justice as a black-and-white photo of a sunset. Hell, her presence alone damn near put Arthurian myths of noble royalty to shame. She was tall, less than a foot shorter than me (not counting a horn that she could have used as a pool cue), and she moved with a grace that equaled any of the Fae. Her coat was pure white and immaculately groomed. Her mane and tail were ethereal rainbows, colored in soft pastels that flowed like a banner in the wind despite the still air. Her face was kind, strong and motherly, betraying little evidence of her supposed age. But more than anything else I was impressed by her power. Just from what I could feel she was at least equal to a Lady of the Fae Courts, and I wouldn’t bet against anyone who told me she held as much power as Mab or Titania. I hadn’t expected a lightweight to rule a magic kingdom for centuries, but damn. She was big league material, no question about that.
I dimly remembered her showing up after the dust had settled last night, and Twilight giving her the bare bones of our story. But everything after I fired the Orbital Friendship Cannon was more than a little hazy.
“Princess!” Twilight said happily, moving forward to greet her. She was interrupted by a sound halfway between a growl and a snarl from her midsection, and her face flushed in embarrassment. I laughed, earning an angry glare from Twilight and an enigmatic smile from the princess. Then my stomach made a noise even louder and more animalistic than hers. I glanced toward the rest of the group, but they snoozed on, unaware of my gastric demands.
“I believe,” The princess said, her voice just as controlled and regal as the rest of her but laced with a hint of humor, “that some food is in order. I thought as much, given even the rough account of your troubles. The next room over has a variety of foods. We will speak after you’ve had had a chance to eat.” She turned her attention fully to Twilight and smiled more warmly. “I look forward to a full recounting of your adventure, my faithful student.”
Her student? No wonder Twilight was playing at my level. I was no stranger to having a powerful mentor – Ebenezer McCoy, the wizard who’d been charged with my training after the debacle with Justin, was one of the seven oldest and strongest wizards on the planet, and my faerie godmother was nothing to sneeze at either. (Yes, I have a faerie godmother, and no, that’s not as good a deal as it sounds.) But neither of them were the matron goddess of an entire freaking country!
Then the princess opened the door to an adjoining room, and I decided then and there I would love her forever. A huge table was literally piled with just about every type of food I could imagine − minus the meat dishes, of course. I may be proud of my carnivorous tastes, but if every vegetarian meal was like this, I’d seriously consider converting. The princess left, closing the door softly behind her, and I fell to with abandon.
Three platefuls later, I was still eating like a starved dog. No, scratch that. I’m pretty sure even a starved dog has better table manners than I do, I thought as I stuffed another pair of ‘bite-sized’ pastries into my mouth.
Twilight grimaced as she watched the gruesome spectacle, but it certainly didn’t seem to upset her own appetite. She wasn’t putting away food as quickly as me, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. We’d both spent energy like it was going out of style last night.
An hour, and what felt like several pounds of food, later I was finally full. I’d tried just about everything on the table and gone back for seconds on a few of my favorites. Twilight and I hadn’t spoken much, other than requests for the salt or suggestions on which dish to try next, but creeping guilt wouldn’t let me avoid the issue any longer.
“Twilight?” I asked. She’d been staring into space, thinking about something, and I caught her unaware. “I’m sorry. I…”
I wasn’t sure how to finish the sentence. How do you apologize for getting possessed and almost killing one of your friends? How do you ask for forgiveness after you betray not just them, but everything you ever fought against?
She responded almost instantly. “It’s okay. I forgive you. Hey, could you pass me one of those crumpets? I probably shouldn’t, but they’re so tasty.”
If I hadn’t been seated already, I’d have been literally floored. “Wait, really? Just like that? After everything I did, you can really forgive me that easily?” My hand, tired of waiting for instructions from my brain, passed her one of the little cakes by itself.
Twilight laughed while I boggled. “For everything you did? Dresden, you comforted me when I found Spike missing, saved all of us from the manticores, kept us alive through Trixie’s castle, saved Pinkie’s life, helped to defeat Trixie and destroyed the Nightmare once and for all.” She looked at me with the same gentle smile she’d worn after coming back from the brink of death. “You’re a good person, Dresden, and no demon can change that. Yes, you made a mistake, but of course I’ll forgive you. That’s what friends do.”
Everything she was saying made sense, but since when has guilt been rational? “But I laughed at you, threw away your help, used your Names against you, attacked you, and then, as the cherry on top of all my other bastardry, I almost freaking killed you.”
Her smile vanished, replaced with a worried frown. “Dresden, you were possessed by the Nightmare. If you had wanted to, you could have killed us. You could have commanded us to hold still and just let you…” She shrugged and left the sentence hanging, neither of us wanted to imagine what could have been. With a slight shiver she recovered and continued. “But you didn’t. Yes, you fought us, but even as angry and hurt as you felt, you held back. And when I was dying you saw through its lies, freed yourself from the Nightmare and saved me. Do you realize how much that means?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but a stentorian voice behind me interrupted, damn near giving me a heart attack. “Even if thy friend doth not understand, Twilight Sparkle, we do.”
How the hell does everyone here sneak up on me like that?! I thought, spinning around. The speaker was another royal pony, but a study of opposites to her older sister. She was shorter and smaller, though still bigger than most ponies. Her coat was a deep blue interrupted only by a crescent moon on a field of violet at her flank. If that wasn’t enough of a clue she was the princess of night, the ethereal mane and tail colored to match the evening sky, complete with tiny glimmering stars, should help the slow learners. Where the elder sister seemed almost ageless, the younger had an almost teenaged bearing, not so different from Twilight and company. Despite that, she had power too, a presence as strong and subtle as an underwater current. I didn’t think she was quite at Celestia’s level, but she was far enough beyond me that it was difficult to gauge her with any kind of certainty.
I realized I was staring at about the same time she did. I coughed loudly trying to hide my embarrassment and discreetly wiped off some the crumbs from breakfast. I mean lunch, whatever. I cleared my throat and bowed my head slightly. “Princess Luna, I presume?”
“Yea, verily,” She replied as though I was across the room, not four feet from her. Somebody needed to teach her the meaning of the phrase ‘inside voice’. But before I could cause an inter-dimensional incident, she spoke again. “It is a pleasure to meet thee, Wizard Dresden. We have had a brief account of what transpired, but we find ourselves wishing to learn more.” She stopped suddenly, acting nervous and unsure. However she’d psyched herself up this, it wasn’t enough. She’d lost her momentum and couldn’t decide how to move forward. I should have been more empathetic; I mean, from what Twilight had said she’d been possessed by the Nightmare as well. But mostly I was occupied by two other things. One, the way she was fumbling for the right words was adorable. And two, concern for my eardrums, which felt like they might be bleeding.
Twilight came both our rescues. “I need to give Princess Celestia a more comprehensive account of our adventure, so I’ll excuse myself.” Her eyes narrowed as she rose to go. “Be nice, Dresden.” I rolled my eyes at her, making the princess chuckle. Twilight had almost left when she stopped and ducked her head back into the room. “Oh, um, your Highness? If this is private, you might want to drop your amplification spell...”
The midnight blue pony next to me mulled that over for a second. “We… ahem, we perceive thy point.” She still sounded like she was trying to talk over a rowdy house party, but at least it didn’t feel like I was right next to an amp at a metal concert anymore. I mouthed a silent but emphatic ‘thank you’ to Twilight, making the unicorn laugh before she disappeared again.
But then I was left alone with immortal moon goddess who wasn’t sure what she wanted to say. That left it on my shoulders to continue conversation. I probably should have given some careful consideration to what I said, but instead I kinda blurted out, “So you control the moon. How’s that working out for you?”
Luna blinked, surprised at my question, and I mentally face-palmed. After a moment, though, she replied. “It has been most difficult. Much of our power was lost to the depredations of the Nightmare,” she shivered slightly at the mention of it, “and so we have spent the past year regaining that which was ours. Though that happens to strike near to the heart of what we wished to speak to thee about, Wizard.”
She hesitated again, but this time she managed to steel herself to it. “Did our sister speak truly when she told us thou wert not only possessed by the Nightmare, but in fact overcame and destroyed it?” She peered at me, worry underlining her expression however she tried to hide it.
For a moment her question puzzled me. She could have asked Twilight and gotten the same answer. And for that matter, why was that such a difficult question to ask? But then I put two and two together and got it.
The Nightmare had possessed her, and while I don’t know what she had done under its influence, I doubted it had been pleasant. The Elements of Harmony had freed her, but she had never beaten the Nightmare herself. Then here comes some mortal who sees through its lies and destroys it. How would it feel to think if he could, then why couldn’t I? Without ever meaning to, I had probably ripped open old wounds, filling her with guilt and doubt. I’d lived with that same feeling for years after I thought I’d killed Elaine. Spending long, painful nights wondering if there was something, anything I could have done differently, wishing I could go back.
We stood at a crossroads. The wrong word from me could crush her under the weight of her own guilt. I had to be careful. So I took a moment to think about my answer before I gave it to her. I know, that surprised me too.
“Yes,” I said. She slumped, starting to turn from me, but I wasn’t finished. “But I never would have without my new friends.” She stopped, her ears perking up. “I was going to kill Trixie, and they stopped me. We fought, and I hurt them, but even then they didn’t give up on me. Then Twilight took an attack I’d meant for Trixie.” I slowed now, my voice growing softer. “She was dying, and it was my fault. Then the Nightmare tried to ‘comfort’ me. That’s how I saw through it, only because it was dumb enough to underestimate our friendship.”
Her voice was just as subdued as mine. “And how didst thou destroy the Nightmare?” I glanced up; she was watching me, her expression sympathetic now.
I gave her a thin-lipped smile. “You know the power of Harmony?” She arched a picture-perfect Spock eyebrow, though she was apparently too refined to roll her eyes. “Well, the girls let me borrow a little of their power, and I channeled it into the closest thing I’ve ever seen to holy fire.” I winced. “Though, I might have gone a bit far, given that it bored a gaping hole through three feet of solid stone.”
There was a startled beat, then she started laughing. I smiled at her and joined in with a chuckle or two of my own. Her laughter slowed, and she wiped away a tear. “Thou meanest to tell us that thou didst wield the sacred power of Harmony as a weapon?” She chuckled again. “Our elder sister will be fit to be tied when she discovers that news. Oh, would that we could see her when Twilight relates that.”
“And you’re not mad about it?” Captain Obvious here, but I had to ask.
She shook her head smiling a little. “It is a bit disquieting, but we are more … practical than Celestia. Besides which, thou hast a virtuous heart. It is hard to go far wrong with one such as thine.” She paused a moment, and her face darkened. “If only we had possessed such strength.”
Without even thinking about it, I reached out to put a hand on her long neck. She stiffened in surprise and turned to face me. It’s difficult to look someone in the face without meeting their eyes, but most wizards learn to do it eventually. “A good person isn’t someone who’s never stumbled before. A good person is someone who gets back up no matter how many times they fall. Somebody who never stops trying to do what’s right.” For a second I locked eyes with her. “Don’t ever stop trying, Princess. I know you can do it.”
There was a moment’s silence before she turned away from me. After another long minute she spoke. “I thank thee, Mister Dresden. Thou art most kind.” She turned back a soft smile on her face. “‘Tis no surprise thou and Twilight are friends. You are both very caring.”
I was about to respond with more than a touch of sarcasm (I’ve got to prove I’m hardboiled somehow), but I was interrupted by a voice several rooms away, audible only because of its volume.
“HE DID WHAT?!”
Luna and I looked at each other and began to laugh. I don't know why that finally woke the rest of the ponies after they managed to sleep through Luna's amp spell (and believe me, I’ve heard jackhammers quieter than that), but in short order I was surrounded.
I didn’t hold their attention very long, though, with the rest of that delicious spread still waiting. I settled in and had another bite or two just to keep them company. Luna excused herself shortly afterward, promising to return soon. Rainbow and Applejack got into an eating competition that made Rarity move to the other end of the table, shooting an occasional glare whenever they got especially loud or messy. Pinkie was talking a mile a minute, trying to tell me her recipes for every item on the table between bites. Fluttershy just ate quietly, listening to Pinkie’s barrage of words and periodically nodding. Twilight returned with the news about the time everyone was done eating.
Trixie was to be held under observation for the next week. The heavy duty sleep spell on Spike had been lifted, though they needed to let him wake up naturally to complete the cure. “Which is unfortunate for him. He’ll miss seeing you altogether, Dresden.” I’d been listening with only half an ear, but that caught my attention.
“What, really? You’ve found me a way home already?”
Twilight shook her head. “I didn’t have anything to do with it. Apparently both Princesses have visited Earth before. Princess Celestia said Luna could take you wherever you need to go. And... she said I could see the Nevernever as part of my studies, but I’m afraid you need to say goodbye to everypony else.”
“What?!” Rainbow exclaimed, rising to hover several feet off the floor. “Why can’t we go with? I’m not afraid of the Never-Ever!”
“Nevernever,” Twilight corrected. “But I think the Princess is more worried that a large group of ponies would draw the attention of the inhabitants. From what little she'll say, they aren’t pleasant. Letting them discover Equestria would be bad.”
“Oh c’mon.” Rainbow retorted. “How bad could they be?”
I cleared my throat. Rainbow was tough, but I had to agree with Twilight on this one. “You remember how bad Trixie was in her nightmare form?” The blue pegasus nodded hesitantly, and a couple of the ponies at the table shivered. “She doesn’t even make my top ten list of villains. And there’s stuff in the Nevernever that makes my enemies look like schoolyard bullies. Remember, I only got here because I was running for my life from something.” Several dozen somethings, actually, but there was no need to go into that. Rainbow just stared at me.
“Kinda puts things in perspective doesn’t it?” Pinkie piped in. Rainbow flushed and glared, but the pink pony just giggled.
“That’s also why the Princess asked us to keep quiet about Dresden and the Nevernever. If ponies knew about either, they might try going there or accidently let something else in.”
Rarity sniffed. “Must we? I mean, how likely is it that somepony would be so careless?”
Twilight cocked an eyebrow. “Remember when Snips and Snails heard about the Ursa Major? From what the Princess says, opening a way isn’t difficult, but it is dangerous. Secrecy keeps everypony safe.”
“Well, I won’t lie to nopony, but I can keep my mouth shut. I can promise ya that.” Applejack offered.
The rest of the ponies gave their assent in one form or another. Pinkie even gave a short musical number about ‘everypony doing their part’.
Twilight nodded, smiling at her success. Then she turned her attention to me. “We need to leave soon, Dresden. Princess Luna wants to discuss where exactly we’re going.”
“So this is good-bye?” Pinkie asked, her lower lip trembling. “But I never got to throw a party for you. Or take you Sugarcube Corner. Or bake a cake for you. Or –“
“I think he understands, darling.” Rarity interrupted. She turned towards me. “It is sad to see you go, but I understand. I wouldn’t want to leave Ponyville for long either. You have been a gentlecolt of the highest order, and I look forward to your return.” How she curtsied with four legs and no dress I’ll never understand, but she pulled it off with grace. I bowed in return.
Applejack was more direct. She offered me her hoof, and did her damnedest to shake my hand off. “It’s a right shame to see you gone, Dresden. I’ll admit I was wrong about you. You really came through for us every time it counted. You’ll always be welcome at the farm far as I’m concerned.”
Rainbow zoomed over and punched me in the shoulder, hiding a sniff behind a frown. “You’d better come back. I never got to show you any of my coolest tricks, and I’ll prove that the Sonic Rainboom isn’t impossible.”
I chuckled and gave her a light punch in return. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Pinkie started bouncing in place, chirping excitedly. “Oh oh oh! And we you come back I can throw you a party! You can bring all your friends and I’ll bring mine and you can introduce all of them to us then we’ll all be friends and we’ll play games together and eat all kinds of yummy goodies and dance to all my best jams and−”
Applejack reached over and shoved a turnover into Pinkie’s mouth, cutting off the torrent of words suddenly. Pinkie frowned at Applejack at first, but once she started chewing her mood brightened. She swallowed the whole thing with an audible gulp and licked her lips. “Mmmmm, apple cinnamon.”
I laughed, but a gentle nudge at my side turned my attention from the pink party pony. Fluttershy was standing next to me, trying to hide behind her bangs again. “Um … do you promise you’ll come back?” She blushed. “I mean, I know we just met yesterday, but you really helped out with the chores at my cottage, not that I only like you because of that, but I really liked our talks and you’re very nice and …um … well…” She trailed off blushing even harder.
My brain, an amazing data processing machine perfected over millions of years of natural selection and honed to razor sharpness by years of mental discipline, had apparently turned to mush, because the only thought I was registering was D’awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
Fluttershy gave a startled squeak as I scooped her into a big hug. “Of course I’ll be back.” I told her. “You all couldn’t get rid of me if you tried.”
“Awww, group hug!” Pinkie yelled and I was quickly surrounded by ponies all embracing me and giving their last goodbyes. I disentangled myself with a little difficulty. Luna was already waiting for us across the room. I threw my coat back on and checked the pockets. Everything seemed to be there. I gathered my staff and blasting rod, waving one last goodbye to the five ponies I was leaving behind. Luna looked at both Twilight and me, and then, with a stomach wrenching twist, she teleported us elsewhere.
We arrived in an observatory of some kind. A few telescopes clustered around the far window, and the walls and cabinets were almost overflowing with star charts and astronomical equations. The main desk was an island of organization in the sea of clutter. It held only some stationary, a few quills, an inkwell and an old, slightly battered abacus.
“Please pardon our untidiness,” Luna said, digging through one of the smaller cabinets. “We have been absorbed in our most recent work, and the servants are forbidden from cleaning here lest they find something they ought not. Now, where lay the map I seek?”
“Your work?” I asked curiously.
“Oh yes,” she said her voice echoing from within the surprisingly deep piece of furniture. “We have been most busy repairing and renewing the wards of aversion and other spells of shrouding.”
Twilight frowned curiously. “What do the spells shroud?”
Luna leaned forward, and as odd as it sounds, I was almost afraid she’d fall into the cabinet. “Why, this realm, of course. Surely thou thinkest not that it is mere chance that Mister Dresden is the first visitor we’ve had in centuries. Celestia possesses greater power, but the more subtle magics have ever been our own, and it is vital that any spells placed in the Outer Realm be of the utmost discretion. Our magic has fared poorly in our absence, but it shall swiftly be restored. We are fortunate that Mister Dresden was the only being to find us. Ah, here it is.” She drew out a large, creased and extremely old piece of parchment. Her horn glowed brighter as she smoothed it out and set paperweights at each of the four corners.
It was a map of Earth. A crude and simplified one, maybe, but it seemed accurate enough. There were two or three dozen small circles scattered across it, each with a small amount of text next to it. There was a circle just to the southwest of Lake Superior. It had to be at least a few hundred miles from Chicago, but that wasn’t too bad overall. Not when you consider the choices I might have had.
“There,” I said stabbing a finger at the lone circle.
“Truly?” Luna asked her brow furrowing. “Thou dost not resemble any of the tribes local to the inland seas.”
“My world has gone through a lot of changes in the past two hundred years. When was the last time you visited?” Twilight was studying the map with evident curiosity, poring over the notes in the legend. I’d asked the question more out of idle conversation than any real interest.
Luna thought for a moment. “About eighteen centuries.”
Stars and stones! I hadn’t been expecting a recent date, but now I was just happy the continents were in the right places! It’s one thing to know the being sitting opposite you is immortal, despite all appearances to the contrary, but it’s something else to have that fact demonstrated so forcefully. The way she said ‘eighteen centuries’ like someone else might say ‘a few years ago’ was fairly humbling. The surprise stripped my mind of anything useful to say, so I just went with the first thing that popped into my head. “Wow, that long huh?”
She nodded. “Yes, we seldom visit it. Not only are such trips dangerous, but we find the inhabitants of thy world a bit…” She hesitated, her eyes cutting toward me from the map.
“Brutal?” I suggested.
“Violent,” she agreed. “Though they have good reason, given the world with which they are faced.” She paused to think for a moment. “There was one group, however, that we rather liked. It was a small religion professing near-Equestrian ideals of love and forgiveness even in the face of persecution. We believe they were called Christians. Dost thou happen to know how they fared?”
Twilight seemed to materialize by my side at the prospect of a whole new history to learn.
“That’s a bit of a long story,” I managed. Both their faces fell, and I felt like an ass. “But I guess I could tell it on the way.” Their faces brightened and I relaxed, then I nearly lost my lunch as we teleported again.
We’d been walking for more than an hour, and I was barely past the twelfth century. I wasn’t a history buff by any stretch, but I knew more than your average Joe. In the supernatural world, feuds between races can last for millennia. Not knowing the past means you could have a whole bushel of enemies you never know about until it’s too late.
I stared into the distance, trying to spot the cave Luna said held the end of the Way. We’d entered the Nevernever beside a waterfall outside another set of ruins in the same forest where Trixie had set up camp. The gate had led us here.
I’ve never been to the American southwest, but this place looked pretty similar to the westerns I’d seen as a kid… or maybe a Roadrunner cartoon. Barren dirt and stones for miles, interrupted only occasionally by tall spires or flat slabs of rock. There was one important distinction, though. While the desert seemed empty, this patch of the Nevernever was downright desolate. There were no plants, no animals, and no clouds in the sky. There weren’t even any bones or tumbleweeds to indicate that something had been here at some point. Luna, Twilight and I were the only moving things for miles.
As creepy as the place may sound, I loved it. This was quite possibly the nicest piece of the Nevernever I had ever seen. Sure, it redefined the word ‘barren’, but at least nothing was trying to kill and/or eat us as we traveled. I had the feeling this area was far removed from the lands of the Fae, the only part of the Nevernever I was familiar with.
We wandered aimlessly across the landscape – at least, it seemed aimless until I noticed the subtle pattern in the seemly random stones Luna paid close attention to.
“So what’s the deal with the stones?” I asked during a lull, pointing towards the latest pile of rocks she’d examined.
“I thought we were talking about the Magna Carta and its effect on the future political structure of England,” Twilight complained.
“Oh, come on, Twilight!” I said. “Give a guy a break, would you?”
“As you wish.” Luna conceded. “We must be able to travel the path between the gates, but any obvious trail could mean discovery. Thus the stones are arranged such that they seem natural to the untrained eye, but in fact detail a safe path.” I nodded, eager to know more.
Luna sighed theatrically. “And we suppose we must teach thou the secret of reading them before we are to hear any more of the rise of the British aristocracy.”
I rubbed my throat. “Well, I could use a break from talking,” I hinted with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. We spent the next ten minutes learning how the stones’ placement guided the path. It wasn’t a difficult system once you knew what to look for, and soon Twilight and I were guiding the group almost as well as Luna had.
After that I went back to explaining more history, only to be interrupted every minute or so by one pony or the other with questions. That was how we’d strayed from the Catholic Church to the Magna Carta in the first place, after all. I made it all the way to the Revolutionary War before we reached the end of the Way. It was a small cave at the base of large mesa, and the way Luna stopped told me we’d reached our destination.
I turned to face my traveling companions. Luna laid a hoof on my arm and smiled warmly. “Know this, Wizard Dresden. Thou shalt be welcome always in Equestria. And,” her smile grew slightly sad, “we will try to live up to the advice thou gave us. We pray that thou enjoyest peace and a long life.”
I smiled widely and lifted my right hand, spreading the fingers into a V. “Live long and prosper, Princess Luna.” I bowed to her, and she lowered her head in return. Then she moved aside, leaving me to face Twilight.
The little purple unicorn was grinning softly, studying me. I couldn’t help but be reminded of our first meeting, but this time I didn’t resist the urge to hug her. She hugged me back and laid her head softly on my shoulder. It’s funny, you know? I’d known her for less than two days, and she was already more near and dear to my heart than ninety-nine percent of the people I know. There was a brief temptation to go back with her. To spend the rest of my days in a world that kind and innocent. But I knew I couldn’t. My friends and my city needed me. That didn’t mean I’d never return, though.
We broke apart, but I didn’t rise just yet. “When you’ve had enough time to forget how annoying I can be and want me back, send me a message.”
Twilight laughed. “And how am I supposed to find you?”
I sucked in a quick breath and took the plunge. “My name,” I enunciated carefully, “is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.” She stared at me in shock, and I grinned. “I’m in the phone book under ‘Wizards’.”
Then I walked through the gate and back into my own world.
Dear Princess Celestia,
I learned that you can become friends with almost anypony. You may think that you’re both too different from each other to ever be friends, but sometimes, if you get to know them, you’ll find that the two of you have more in common than you’d ever believe. It takes all kinds to make a world, and there’s nothing wrong with being different, even if it means the two of you make for very strange friends.
Your Faithful Student,
Author’s Note: Whew, that was a wild ride. Crazy to think something I spent the last five months is finally done. Not that I’m going to get a break; I’ve already got more story ideas than I know what to do with. Among them, I’ve been thinking about a sequel to this story, (working title, Dresden Fillies: Fragile Harmony). Anypony interested in seeing that?