The Mare in the Moon loomed over Coltham, peering down at her subjects through the sheets of rain pouring down over the city. With only a thin canopy shielding its occupants from the weather, a lone carriage flew through the sky, pulled by two pegasi. Lightning flashed around them, illuminating the interior for a brief moment.
The pink earth pony snorted herself awake. “Dooon’t make me use the chocolate frosting! ...huh? Wha?” She raised her hoofs to rub at her eyes, and chains clanked. “Hi Twilight! Long time no see!”
The unicorn said nothing to her, instead just staring out at the rain, ignoring the steady stream of chatter falling from Pinkie Pie’s lips.
“And I told her bo-ring! What you really need is some spice to your cakes and I’ve got just the thing for you!”
They veered sharply towards the ground at last, in time to sail between two stone ponies guarding the archway, their statue countenances forbidding. Above the roar of the storm and thunder, neighing laughter echoed as the carriage flew by. “Home sweet home finally!”
With great care, the carriage fully descended before the iron doors of the building that stretched out in all dimensions, culminating in a pointed tower that was a mere ominous silhouette in the dark of the night. Twilight Sparkle stepped out of the carriage and her horn glowed in the dim light. She nodded at the two pegasi as she passed. “Thank you, sirs.” Behind her, sparkling with the same color as the unicorn’s horn, Pinkie Pie’s manacled forelimbs dragged the rest of the pony along. “Oh, that tickles! Ow! Ok, now the rocks aren’t very nice. And, oooh, it’s my big night home and you’re getting me all muddy!”
By this time, both ponies’ manes were flattened by the downpour and their fur dripped. Twilight turned her head and knocked heavily on the doors. As she waited for them to open, she tossed her mane back out of her eyes, blowing stray hairs back unsuccessfully.
The doors slammed open. The occupants within were greeted by a truly breathtaking sight. A unicorn, mane rippling in the wind, stood with magical power crackling around her. By her side, an earth pony, but what an earth pony. As befitted an animated scene of such dramatic proportions, her teeth, bared in a wide grimace or a demented smile, glinted, and her eyes reflected the magical light emanating from the unicorn’s horn. Lightning flashed behind the two to complete the picture.
“Waaaardie, how’ve you been?”
“That’s the Warden to you, you young filly,” the grey haired pony tapped her hoof irritably. She motioned with her head to one of the guards behind her. “Lock, if you would.” The brown stallion nodded and trotted forward.
“Cuff-man! How’s Mrs. Cuff? And the little Cuff juniors?”
“Shut it, Pie!” The stallion guard charged the last few steps and shoved his face into Pinkie Pie’s, twisting a hoof in her mane. “A lot of guards here really want to ‘talk’ to you.”
“Oh? Do they want to bake some treats too?”
“That’s enough!” The warden stomped her hoof hard. “Guards, restrain her!”
Twilight’s horn faded to its normal lavender shade as more guards, unicorns these, approached and their own magical bonds flooded over hers. Pinkie Pie laughed as they propelled her forwards towards an upright wheeled table. “He! Hey! That tickles! Ha ha!” Her teeth audibly clicked shut though when the straps closed around her legs, immobilizing her, and the guards stepped back nervously. “Hey, what’s the matter, guys? Don’t you wanna dance?”
“Get her out of here!” The warden snapped. Pinkie Pie turned her gaze on her slowly, grin still intact and stretching her lips. “Aw, don’t be a party-pooper. Don’t worry! You’re still invited to the party though! You’re all invited.” Giggle. Snort. Giggle.
As the guards began wheeling her further into the asylum, Pinkie Pie thrust her head forward and called out to the silent unicorn. “You too, Twilight! I’ve got a speeecial invitation for my guest of honor. It’ll be fanterrific!” Laughter echoed down the hall.
“Are you alright, miss?” The young filly flushed when Twilight turned to blink incomprehensibly at her. “Um, Miss Twilight Sparkle.”
“Twilight is just fine.” The unicorn winced a little at the rasp that accompanied her first words in several hours. She cleared her throat. “And thank you for asking.” Twilight was eyeing the other pony over even as she spoke. Nurse’s cap a little lopsided atop her mane, red cross on her flank, probably only recently earned. Something weighed heavily on her heart as she made herself turn away. So young to be interning at Arkham. So young to be living in Coltham really, though hundreds of fillies and colts grew up in this city which the sun rarely brightened and which ate up innocent dreams to fill its never-ending gluttony...
Twilight shook her head and trotted after the disappearing guards and their prisoner. “You’re going in, Twilight S--Twilight?”
Though she kept her voice low, Twilight’s grim words carried to both the young intern and the remaining guards and left them staring uneasily after the shadows moving deeper into the gloom of the asylum. “Something’s wrong. Something’s very wrong.”
Those who saw the murky sun rise the next morning were to remember those words.
Twilight Sparkle broke into a gallop to catch up with the group ahead, but by the time she’d reached the elevator doors, they had already opened and closed. “Sorry, Miss Sparkle,” a guard nearby told her. “You just missed it.”
The guard blinked as Twilight closed her eyes, screwed her face up, and vanished with a tiny ‘pop’. “I...guess you won’t be waiting for the next one.”
When the elevator car and its occupants stopped and the doors opened, Twilight was waiting for them.
“Hey Twilight! I knew you’d wanna join the party.” Pinkie Pie wiggled her hoof at Twilight as much as she could with the restraining cuff around it. “Gummy will be so excited to see you.”
“Gummy’s in a menagerie, Pinkie Pie.”
“Well, excuuuuse me. I wouldn’t invite someone to a party and not make sure they could come. Especially not my very own pet alligator!”
The wheels trundled onwards, very loudly in the empty hallways. Another set of sliding doors, this one leading into a small waiting room that the closing doors sealed them into. As they waited for the second set of doors to open, Twilight Sparkle trotted closer to the bound earth pony. “Tell me something, Pinkie. Why did you let me catch you? All of Coltham has seen you do things no other pony can do. You could have escaped, but you just...stopped.”
“You mean things like this?” Pinkie Pie shoved her face into Twilight’s, her neck stretching impossibly far. The guards all jumped and one stallion slammed the metal roughly with his hoof. “Get back, Pie!”
“Yes,” Twilight said. “Exactly like that.”
Pinkie Pie laughed and instantly, her head snapped back into its natural position, with no evidence whatsoever of any injury to her body or even any sign that anything unnatural had occurred. “Silly Twilight.” The light of the scanner playing over their bodies cast an eerie light in her eyes. “I didn’t need to keep going.”
“What do you mean?”
The doors opened and Twilight fell back a little to let the guards keep apace of what they were escorting. But she still heard Pinkie Pie’s snorting, chuckling response. “Well, you got my invitation. That’s the end of the inviting and the start of the partying!”
“There’s not going to be a party where you’re going.”
“Oooh, that’s what you think.”
Twilight fell silent. No, that was not what she thought at all. Why else would she have followed this insane pony into the very depths of Arkham Asylum? Because in the pit of her stomach, she feared that Pinkie Pie was up to something and she knew very well what Pinkie Pie’s ‘parties’ were like... She walked, so lost in thought that she barely noticed a familiar figure waiting for them as they crossed the hallway into the Intensive Treatment area.
“You have the look of a mind that’s ill at ease. Tell me what troubles you, if you please.”
Twilight started. “Commissioner Zecora! I’m sorry; I didn’t notice you.” She stopped and watched the rest of the group move on ahead of her. “It’s just...there’s something not right here.”
“The party pony is being locked away. What more is there to fear today?” The zebra nodded towards Pinkie Pie as the pony was wheeled behind the glass windows spectating the holding cells.
“This party she keeps talking about. And she let me catch her too easily.” Twilight shook her head. “I don’t like it. I feel like she knows exactly what she’s doing. And we’re all just playing into her hooves.”
Somewhere high above them, a pegasus pony clasped her hooves behind her head and snorted. “No kidding.” Not that any of the ponies she watched on the screen before her could actually hear her or knew of her presence. Yet.
Twilight turned her head sharply. “What was that?” She dashed to the viewing window and Zecora, after a moment’s surprise, followed.
Pinkie Pie laughed, skipping freely over a fallen guard’s body, trampling him into the floor. “You step your right hoof in! You pull it right back out!”
“Stay back, Pie! I’m warning you.” The remaining stallion had his shaking hoof out before him, attempting to ward off this pink-maned demon as he cowered in the corner.
Pinkie paid him no mind, continuing in her song and dance. “You stomp your whole self in!” The guard shrieked as she charged him, slamming him against the wall. “You stomp your whole self out!” She kicked him in the head with her back legs as she trotted away, knocking him out like a light. “You stomp your whole self in! And you stomp your self about!” She did a twirl in the middle of the floor, laughing.
“Dashie! I’m hooooome!”
Rainbow Dash, watching over the monitors, smirked. “About time, Pinkie,” her voice echoed over the loudspeakers. She stomped her hoof onto a large glowing button and the glow blinked out. Onscreen and in the holding cells lobby, the streams of electricity running across the entrance to the real heart of the asylum vanished. Pinkie Pie squealed and in a running jump, cartwheeled her way up the ramp and through the now unobstructed doorway. Just in time, for at that moment, the glass of the window finally shattered and Twilight leapt in, eyes and horn aglow and blazing.
“Hiyaaaa Twiliiiiight!” Pinkie Pie yelled across the room, swaying giddily. An enormous grin stretched from one cheek to the other.
“You won’t be able to escape, Pinkie Pie,” Twilight called. “Give it up.”
“You really are a silly pony.” Pinkie Pie did a little jig. “I don’t want to escape, Twilight! It’s just like I told Dashie. I’m home and it’s tiiiime to party!”
Twilight leapt at her. Pinkie Pie squeaked and pinwheeled backwards. “Dashie, Dashie, DASHIE!”
“Pinkie!” came the staticky voice over the intercom. An earsplitting crash screeched along with technical feedback and the doorway electrified again just in time for Twilight to slam into them.
“Aaah!” Twilight tumbled backwards. She stumbled to her hooves and immediately collapsed again, twitching with residual jolts. She glared through the white sparking bars. “You won’t get away with this, Pinkie!”
“You have to catch me first!” Pinkie Pie sang, cartwheeling down the corridor, her voice fading as she turned the corner. “Catch me if you can, Twilight!”
With the pink pony out of sight, Twilight immediately switched targets. “Rainbow Dash. You can’t do this. She’s insane.”
“Uh, are you forgetting something?” Rainbow Dash chuckled. “I am too. See you at the finish line.”
There was no answer. Twilight Sparkle tried to clamber to her hooves, gritting her teeth and willing her legs to stop giving out under her.
“Twilight Sparkle!” The voice came, panicked and muffled through the glass. Twilight turned her head to see Zecora staring at her, hooves pressed to the window. “Are you alright? You gave me quite a fright.”
“I’m...” Twilight groaned as she struggled up. She shook her head fiercely. “...fine.”
“There’s no way to get in or out. And whose work this is, there is no doubt.”
“There definitely isn’t,” Twilight said grimly. She trotted forward, nose almost touching the sizzling electricity barring the doorway.
“Of this course, are you sure? You know that she wants you to go after her.”
“I know.” Twilight closed her eyes and her horn sparked. In a flash of light, she blinked out of sight and reappeared on the other side of the barrier. “She’s been planning this, Zecora. I have to stop her.”
“Twilight--” But the unicorn had already taken off down the corridor.
It didn’t take long for her to spot the first signs of trouble. Well, perhaps the second signs. The fairly blatant first signs included Pinkie Pie escaping and the security system revealing itself to have fallen into the hooves of the freed inmates. The screams and sounds of shattering glass came more as confirmation than as any original announcement of the impending catastrophe.
Rarity blinked slowly and turned a brilliant smile upon the rest of her audience. The portion of her audience that remained alive, that is. That tallied up to...one very terrified stallion.
“There, now, we’re free from...vulgar interruptions.” She shook a hoof in disgust and stepped daintily over the body before her. “Now, dar-ling,” Rarity trilled. “Where were we?”
The captive stallion closed his eyes and desperately tried to wriggle free from his restraints as the unicorn examined her reflection in the glass. “Oh, no, no, no. This simply won’t do. I can’t be seen in public like this.” A red strip of cloth ripped away from one of the curtains, glowing with unicorn magic as it floated over. Humming softly, Rarity wound it around her belly and tucked the loose end into place. Heedless of the still-damp stains on the ensemble, she examined her reflection again. “Well. I suppose this will have to do. Given the circumstances, I think it does look rather marvelous, don’t you?”
He had seen what happened to those who did not tell the mare what she wanted to hear. Quickly, the guard nodded frantically. “Yes, yes, it does.”
She laughed, still looking at her own image. “You are too kind.” Rarity turned this way and that. “Oh, what I could do if I had some proper fabric. And a sewing machine. Do you happen to know where I could find one?”
“I-I don’t know, Rarity.”
The unicorn grew very still. When she finally turned, her blue eyes held chill frost in their depths. “What. Did you call me?” Her voice was very soft and carefully even.
“I--” He didn’t know the answer she wanted, didn’t know where exactly he’d misstepped. He tried not to look down at the corpse of his former coworker. “I...”
“Did you not hear my question?” The lilt in her voice did nothing to reduce the coldness of her tone.
“I...I heard. I...” The stallion swallowed hard. “I called you ‘Rarity’?”
“MISS. RARITY.” In a furious trot, Rarity reached her captive in a manner of seconds and now shoved her enraged features into the terrified stallion’s face. “Do you not KNOW how to address a lady?”
He was too terrified to even coax any sound from his throat beyond a pathetic whimper. Celestia, he’d done it now. Maybe he could hope that in her rage, she would kill him quickly. Maybe he wouldn’t have to hear his own screams mimic those of Palmer’s only a few minutes earlier when Rarity had torn--his heart slammed resoundingly against his ribcage in fear.
Both hapless victim and frenzied inmate looked up and immediately ducked the shower of glass that exploded down upon them. Rarity screamed. A gust of air breezed past the stallion’s face. He cracked an eye open cautiously in time to see a tangle of white and purple limbs crash into the wall opposite him.
The dust and plaster settled in momentary silence.
“MY DRESS!” The shriek chilled all those who heard it. It rang unrestrained, desolate, and shrill throughout the halls of the intensive treatment unit. Twilight barely caught Rarity within the magical confines of her telekinesis before the other unicorn charged her. It was no easy task; Rarity thrashed and screeched, and she promised brutal violence with both the near-incoherent threats she hissed out between bared teeth and the frenzied fury in her eyes.
“Put me down this instant; do you hear me? I will end you, Twilight Sparkle. Do you know what utter perfection you’ve ruined, you uncouth ill-mannered--”
“Rarity,” Twilight cut in. She trapped Rarity’s eyes with her own steady gaze. A sense of déjà vu swept over her, as she looked again into those pale blue depths. The last time she’d seen them...
...she’d been marveling at how those eyes were framed by the curl of heavily blackened lashes. At the beautiful dress the mare had been wearing, the perfectly permed mane with not a single hair out of place. And then they had dragged the snarling, screaming Rarity away and slammed iron carriage doors on her so that Twilight lost sight of those deranged eyes. The screams remained though, up until the guards took their positions at the front of the vehicle and began pulling it to the asylum. The carriage was wheeled away and slowly the sound Rarity’s cries were lost in the normal bustle of city noise.
Twilight nudged a forsaken, torn strip of cloth on the ground with her hoof. A dark pink, the color of raspberries maybe. A pity it was, one, ripped at the edges, and, two, stained with a drying crimson patch.
“Quite a scene of disaster.” Zecora shook her head as she trotted up to the contemplative unicorn. “If only we had gotten here faster.”
“There was no warning, Zecora.” Twilight shook her head. “No pony knew she was capable of this.” She looked up at her zebra friend. “I suppose they’ll incarcerate her at Arkham Asylum?”
“She’ll be kept in Coltham Prison for a while. That is, at least, until she stands on trial. But, yes, she’ll end up at Arkham eventually, what with the number of her victims over twenty.”
Twilight Sparkle sighed. She could express hope that Rarity would find healing for her shattered mind there, but they both knew how flat her words would fall. With the city’s resources stretched thin, the asylum now served more as a holding cage than a treatment center. And the public liked it that way. It kept the menaces off the streets. Indefinitely. For as long as the bars could hold them.
As they made their way between uniformed ponies, faces masks of concentration as the officers interrogated hysterical witnesses and survivors, bits and pieces of sobbed stories floated over to Twilight’s ears. “...trampled him! It was awful!” “...ruined her dress...” “...went through mares like that...didn’t know...” “...tore him to pieces...” “...humiliated...snapped...” “...knife...”
“Rarity...” And Twilight realized that there was really nothing she could say to calm her down. There was no hint of mercy, no hint of rationality in those eyes. To Rarity, what did the loss of one or twenty paltry lives matter? She was creating beauty in a world that did not deserve her genius.
Twilight closed her eyes. The angry curses ensuing from Rarity cut short abruptly as her head slammed against the wall. Her head rolled back in her skull.
“Are you okay?” Twilight half turned and looked over the trembling guard. He started and nodded jerkily.
“Get her back in her cell. Some of your friends are just outside if you need help.” If the guard had a stuttered response, Twilight didn’t wait to hear it. With those words, she turned and took off deeper into the maze of corridors.
Not a moment too soon as well, for she just barely caught up with the party pony and any delay would have meant missing her. “Pinkie Pie! Stop where you are!”
“Me?” Pinkie Pie looked completely unperturbed. “Where’s the fun in that?” She did a little dance on top of the elevator car, the tapping of her hooves casting sharp staccato echoes.
“Why are you doing this?”
Pinkie Pie sighed. “Twilight, Twilight. I thought you’d ask better questions than that. I’m doing this to make everyone smile, of course! It’s what I do.”
“But what are you going to do?”
“It’s a surpriiiiiise!” Pinkie Pie sang. “So is this!” She raised her forelegs and Twilight caught only a glimpse of rainbow mane and pale blue coat before both ponies vanished upwards. She rushed to the edge of the long drop and pinwheeled as she nearly toppled over the edge. When she’d made sure that she wasn’t going to topple over, Twilight craned her neck and looked upwards. Pinkie Pie laughed down at her, face a rapidly diminishing speck in the distance. “Were you surprised? Were you? Were you?”
Twilight knocked her head against a supporting beam and cursed. Her horn glowed and the inmate that had been attempting to kick her from behind found himself flung headlong into the wall. The second, with shreds of torn restraining straps still clinging to his coat, slammed into the wall and stayed there, pinned. The knife dropped from between his teeth and the glee in his eyes quickly changed to fear.
“What’s she planning?” Twilight growled in his face.
A bit of the stallion’s bravado returned, stupidly perhaps in the face of such menace that had just knocked his partner out cold and pinned him against the wall with a mere thought. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Seconds later, he found himself dangling over a very very long drop down an elevator shaft and screaming to a very different tune. “I don’t know! I don’t know! She didn’t tell me! I swear!”
Twilight tossed him none too gently against the wall. Not that she’d expected Pinkie Pie to have told her lackeys her plans, and even if she had, it was a long shot that said lackeys would have understood her convoluted logic. No, the only pony who knew what Pinkie Pie was up to was Pinkie Pie herself. And possibly Rainbow Dash. But getting the pegasus to snitch on her partner in crime was about as easy as catching Pinkie Pie herself. Which is to say, Twilight might as well go after the party pony herself.
“Hey Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight stiffened and turned. Rainbow Dash flashed her a grin and saluted, hovering. Twilight’s horn glowed.
With a speed renowned throughout Equestria, Rainbow Dash had her on the ground, knocking her head against the cold floor. Twilight gasped, concentration broken. Her vision swam.
“Not so fast. I’m not missing Pinkie’s party for anything.”
“What are you…doing here then?” Twilight managed. Her horn flared weakly before fizzling out.
“Oh, you know. Just dropping in to say hey.” Rainbow Dash chuckled. “You’re really going to have to step up your game, Twilight. Pinkie will be devastated if you don’t make it just because some measly colt takes you out.”
“You two….aren’t going…anywhere.”
“Going? Who said we were going anywhere?” Rainbow Dash lazily floated her way back to the shaft. “You’re a laugh, Twilight. I’d love to stay, but gotta dash!” She shot up, vanishing from Twilight’s field of vision in an instant. Dust whirled behind her.
Twilight groaned and climbed painfully upright. This was getting to be something of a bad habit, picking herself up off the floor. This was also going to be a long night.
Twilight Sparkle flew across the room and only instinctive teleportation prevented her from slamming her head against the wall and breaking her neck. She reappeared in a hallway and slid to a scraping stop on the floor. Yep. Definitely a habit. Definitely a long night.
As luck would have it, Twilight had run into several more released inmates after carefully teleporting up a floor. Not that she would normally have attempted this, not when teleporting without line of sight could transport her into a wall. But the elevator shaft had offered a glimpse of the floor above, though even poking her head out had ended up being an extremely dangerous when immediately after she’d blinked out of sight, the elevator car had careened down and crashed to the bottom. A throaty laugh had followed it as Twilight had looked frantically around for the perpetrator and found none. Rainbow Dash’s parting gift probably.
Well, there had been no chance of catching up with Rainbow. So Twilight had made her way through the corridors, knocking heads together and into floors and walls, whatever worked. Until a furious howl had ripped through the hallways and an orange blur had bowled her over before she could react.
“I,” came the snarl between punctuating punches, “Will. Kill. You. Twilight.”
Ok, perhaps she deserved that a bit. More than a bit. A lot, if you were to ask Twilight herself, whose opinion was a little skewed on the issue as well.
Apple Bloom. She’d caught the little filly shoplifting a few apples. This was when Twilight Sparkle had just been starting out, had been new to this vigilante business. Had been young and stupid. She’d approached her, all crackling magic and glowing eyes, and the terrified filly had panicked. Ran. Ran right into the incoming train from Appleloosa.
“DEAD?” her older sister screamed. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHE’S DEAD?”
“She ran headlong into a train, Miss Applejack. It was a terrible accident. Death was instantaneous. There was nothing anypony could have done.”
“Why? You can’t just stand there and tell me Apple Bloom didn’t look both ways and just full on ran into a train. You better be doing your goshdarned hardest to find out who pushed an innocent little filly—” The tears were streaming even as Applejack pushed her face into the officer’s in intimidation.
“Miss Applejack.” The officer paused awkwardly. “We already know what happened. She was being chased.”
“Chased? CHASED? Who was chasing her? When I find that haypickin’ lout, I’m gonna—”
“Ma’am. She was caught stealing apples from a vendor. She was in the act of fleeing when the accident happened.”
This silenced Applejack finally, if only momentarily. Her mouth hung open in shock. “…well, I…” She swallowed hard, bent her head. “I always told her the city was no place for her.” The tears dripped. “She ain’t even got her cutie mark yet. That’s why she was here. Wanted to be a dancer, she did. Said that might be her special talent.”
“Hundreds of hopeful young dancers come to this city every month,” Twilight said quietly, half hidden in the shadows. “Only a few are accepted. It’s harsh competition.”
“And just who might you be?” Applejack rounded on her.
“I—” Twilight stopped. When she didn’t continue, Applejack’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “You what?”
Twilight took a long, deep breath. “I was the one pursuing Apple Bloom when she died.”
It had taken the entire buildings’ worth of officers to hold Applejack back in her ensuing rage. She had spent the night in prison “to calm down.” It hadn’t served its purpose very well. Applejack left the next morning, teeth gritted, eyes hard and cold.
Then had come the first murder. A mare brutally assaulted and trampled. Not a single bone in her body had remained intact. Then a second, a third. She had been caught in the act for the fourth, but the officers had not been able to hold her. “You tell that mare,” Applejack had told them coldly before stomping their heads into the ground. “You tell that Twilight Sparkle that I’m comin’ after her. And she’d better show up and stop hidin’ like a coward, else these ponies are just gonna keep on dyin’.”
Twilight Sparkle showed up for the fifth. She’d saved the victim from dying simply by catching Applejack’s attention. It had taken Commissioner Zecora’s every ounce of comfort and lecturing the previous night for Twilight to go into the fight without a death wish. As it was, she still suffered broken bones by the dozen before the entire police force showed up and cuffed and sedated the rampaging earth pony.
“No one could have foreseen the unfortunate event,” Zecora had scolded. “Do not offer up your life for something that you could not prevent.”
I could have, Zecora, she had muttered. I could have not scared her. I could have not chased her. She was just a scared filly trying to survive, not some hardened criminal.
She had a hard time even now, convincing herself to stand up and face the owner of the hoofsteps storming closer, instead of just closing her eyes and letting a well-placed stomp crush her head.
“Twilight! Come out and face me!” The orange earth pony skid to a halt in the corner and turned. “There you are.”
“Don’t. Say anythin’. Nothin’ about how it ain’t your fault. Nothin’ about how she was thievin’ from some fat merchant who wouldn’t have missed a few apples’ worth of coin. NOTHIN’ ABOUT HOW YOU DON’T DESERVE THIS.” Applejack charged.
There was enough distance between them down the length of the hallway that Twilight could concentrate for long enough to cast a spell. She reappeared behind the earth pony. “Applejack, I wasn’t going to say any of those things.”
“Oh, really now?”
“Applejack—will you listen to me?” Twilight again teleported out of the way.
“I can do this for a lot longer than you can keep up your fancy magic tricks. And when you run outta juice…”
“Applejack!” Twilight paused for a long breath. “Listen to me. I just wanted to tell you…” She swallowed around the lump in her throat. Forging ahead before the earth pony could interrupt again, Twilight blurted, “I’m sorry.”
Things should have halted. In any good story or forgiving world, they would have. Applejack should have heard the unexpected words, hesitated, and then found that those very words were exactly what she needed to hear for the healing to begin.
Really, it was even doubtful that Applejack heard her. If she did, she certainly showed no signs of caring. In Twilight’s defense, she had tried and she waited till the very last possible moment before concluding that talking down the earth pony was a lost cause.
The end of the sparking cord that had caught Twilight’s eye during her teleporting rose like a striking serpent from behind the unicorn. Twilight dove out of the way. In her momentum, Applejack could not stop and collided with the electrical wire.
Applejack’s screams rang off the walls. The smell of burning fur wafted over to Twilight as she lay in a huddle. She hastily flung the cord away when the shrieks abruptly fell silent and only the crackle of electricity remained.
Applejack crumpled to the floor. And into the eerie silence that followed as Twilight just crouched there and stared at the limp form came the sound of singing.
Twilight closed her eyes and willed herself to get up. Although…what was the use? Wasn’t she just playing into Pinkie’s hands by continuing? She could just refuse to play this twisted game and just lie there. Except there were ponies depending on her. The guards in the facility. The inmates running free and tormented by their own insanities. The Warden. Commissioner Zecora.
Come on, Twilight. The voice that floated into her consciousness was not her own, but brought back vague, dangerous memories… Twilight shook her head and wincingly got up. Applejack had most definitely broken some of her bones. Reaching carefully with her mind into her own body, Twilight allotted a portion of her telekinesis to setting hurting bones in place and holding them there. It meant she would be distracted in any magic she would have to perform from now on, but it was a necessary burden.
She followed the wordless singing as every step brought the sound closer and closer. It took only a few turns before the large atrium loomed before her. Originally intended as a garden in which inmates with privileges could roam, the entire room was now covered with dirt and uprooted plants lying interspersed with the corpses of several guards
A small yellow figure sat in the middle of it all, singing.
The pegasus looked up through the shock of mane covering half her face. “Hello, Twilight.” Her voice was softly pleasant, in sharp contrast with the carnage all around. “Angel and I were just talking about going outside with our friends.”
“Fluttershy, you shouldn’t be out of your cell.”
“Oh, I know.” Fluttershy smiled serenely at Twilight as she nuzzled the white rabbit before her. “But I missed all my little animal friends so much. I needed to make sure they were ok.”
“You know you’re not supposed to be talking to your animals, right?”
The first wrinkle in the calm demeanor appeared as Fluttershy’s mouth twitched. “I don’t see why I can’t. How would you like it if I locked you away in a cell and kept you from seeing all your friends for years and years? …I wouldn’t do that, but, but, it’d be very cruel.”
Twilight groaned inwardly. “Fluttershy…” She paused as she saw that the muscle at the corner of the pegasus’s eye was still jumping.
“I…have you seen Pinkie Pie?”
“Oh, yes. She’s been working so hard getting ready for the party.”
“Where is she?”
“Um…I can’t tell you that.”
“But you have to! Listen, Fluttershy, a lot of ponies are going to die unless you help me stop Pinkie Pie.”
“Yes?” The utter lack of concern for the lives of her fellow ponies gave the innocent question an unnerving air.
“Pinkie Pie won’t care either about what animals get caught in the crossfire.”
“You’re lying.” The sheer amount of conviction in that statement made Twilight blink. “Pinkie Pie wouldn’t hurt my friends.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Oh, but I do. They’re already all smiling now that I’m here, you see.”
Twilight froze. “Smiling.”
“Fluttershy, you—” Twilight growled in frustration. There was no way she could convince the pegasus to tell her where Pinkie Pie was. Not unless…
Fluttershy gasped as a purple glow surrounded the bunny in front of her. “Angel!” She lunged for him, but Twilight quickly dragged the bunny back and up. “I don’t want to do this, Fluttershy, but I have to stop Pinkie. Tell me where she is.”
“Put Angel down right this instant, you mean bully!”
“Tell me where Pinkie Pie is, Fluttershy.”
Fluttershy’s face contorted. Her lips tightened and she squeezed her eyes shut. “The roof.”
“And how do I get on the roof?”
“Put Angel down.”
“How do I get on the roof?”
Fluttershy opened her eyes and glared. Her breath came in short hisses between clenched teeth. “Elevator in the staff section.”
“Thank you.” Twilight quickly lifted Angel when Fluttershy again made to leap for him. “Let me walk out of here, Fluttershy. I’m not giving Angel back to you until I’m gone from here.”
“I’m going to kill you,” Fluttershy gritted out. Her pleasantness had been entirely forsaken as she now bared her teeth and stared at Twilight as if she could bore holes through the unicorn’s head with her gaze. Her eyes never left Twilight, though the rest of Fluttershy stayed perfectly still, as the unicorn circled her cautiously and backed away towards the other end of the room.
Twilight tripped over a corpse lying directly in the doorway. Her concentration faltered. Immediately, Fluttershy pounced. She shot into the air and snatched Angel. “GET HER!”
Twilight turned tail and began running down the corridor. She wasn’t entirely sure what manner of critters Fluttershy could have befriended within the walls of the asylum, but she wasn’t sticking around to find out.
The buzzing of several parasprite wings informed her of their presence regardless.
Twilight dared not look back, not to check how big the swarm was that followed her, not to see how far behind her they were. She ran as fast as she could, as fast as the magic supporting her broken bones would allow. She ran fast enough. The lift doors did not open as quickly however.
Thinking furiously, Twilight summoned up the remaining unused drops of her magic and froze in place the first parasprite that dove at her face with open jaws. Holding the tiny bug took very little effort. Holding it and an entire wall’s worth of its kin took quite a bit more. Especially when the rest of the swarm was buzzing angrily behind the obstruction and pushing with considerable cumulative weight against the makeshift blockade. Twilight bit down on her lip until the taste of blood stung her tongue.
Her concentration shattered. Twilight gasped, but even as the suddenly released parasprites flew apart before making for her, something grabbed her and yanked her away. Through the ceiling. For a moment, Twilight felt as if her body was being ripped in half. An icy chill gripped her limbs.
Then she was coughing on the floor of a very different room and someone was saying to her, “I did tell her to play nice! Silly Fluttershy, losing her temper like that. Oh, well. Look, Twilight! I finished early! All for my specialriffic guest of honor!”
“Pinkie Pie,” Twilight breathed in disbelief.
“Thaaaat’s me! Now look! Look, look, look!”
Twilight Sparkle looked. And promptly turned white and felt bile rise in her throat.
The room was lined by rows upon rows of corpses. They had been propped up against chairs and walls. All wore party hats. All had the same garish smile carved onto their faces, with cheeks peeled back, and teeth laid bare. Twilight’s eyes, almost against her will, ran down the lines of the mutilated bodies, and her heart stopped.
She would have recognized those zebra stripes anywhere.
“See? I even brought all your friends!”
Twilight turned slowly. Her eyes glowed a molten white. Pinkie Pie squeaked as she found herself lifted bodily into the air. “Hey, hey, that tickles!”
“Hey!” A pegasus missile slammed into Twilight and hooves swiped across her face. Rainbow Dash scowled at Twilight as she stood over the unicorn. “Leave her alone! Do you know how long it took Pinkie Pie to put this together?”
“It’s ok, Dashie.”
Rainbow Dash glanced back briefly at the pink pony before glaring at Twilight and letting her go. She flew back a ways to hover behind Pinkie Pie who was bouncing excitedly, as if she had not just been grasped by telekinesis and on the verge of being thrown into a wall. “Guess who’s also here, Twilight!”
Twilight spat out blood and wiped her mouth on her foreleg. “I’m not playing your little game, Pinkie Pie. The city’s not going to let you get away with this.”
“But even the Commissioner is smiling!” Pinkie Pie dashed over and stretched the cut cheeks even further into a horrible grin. “Look how happy she is!”
“ENOUGH!” Twilight charged and was again knocked over by Rainbow Dash. White light flared around the pegasus and she flew back against the floor hard. She was immediately on her feet. “Oh, is that the way you want to play? Fine!”
Calling forth all her magic meant the sharp pains in her legs and chest returned with a vengeance. Twilight ground her teeth and grimly bound both Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie. Rainbow Dash was struggling like a demon. And Pinkie Pie… Pinkie Pie was laughing. Twilight tried to ignore them and felt her stomach twist again as she looked at Zecora’s body. She was going to bring Pinkie Pie to justice even if it meant irreparably shattering all the bones in her body.
Twilight looked away. It was then that she noticed. Pinkie Pie had been standing in front of a chair and now that she was spinning slowly in the air and giggling to high heaven, Twilight could see what she had been concealing…
Her mind went blank. Purple and green. Green and purple. The corpse was a little rotten, a little decayed at the edges. Same gruesome smile as the rest, this one helped by the skin of the mouth already having peeled back with the help of time.
Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash fell to the floor with twin thumps. Rainbow Dash leapt up, fighting furious, before Pinkie slipped in front of her and made a slicing motion with her hoof. She nodded at Twilight.
Twilight could not tear her eyes away. Purple and green. Little baby dragon ridges running over his head and down the length of his spine to his tail.
“You two haven’t seen each other in a long time, huh!”
Twilight! Help me!
Spike, just hold on! I’m coming!
“Spike, say hello to Twilight.” Pinkie Pie adopted a squeaky tone. “Hi Twilight! Long time no see!”
You’re only a baby dragon.
Ha! I can take down anypony that comes after me. Just give me a chance. Come on, Twilight.
“Twilight? Aren’t you going to say hi back? You’re going to make Spike all sad!”
You uncouth, ill-mannered dog. Nothing about how you don’t deserve this. I’m going to kill you.
Pinkie Pie slipped a hoof into the corpse’s body and wiggled it around a bit until she found the mouth. Opening and closing the mouth in a mockery of speech, she said in her high-pitched voice, “Twilight, what’s wrong? Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“Why aren’t you smiling? I just want everybody to smile!”
“You murdered your whole family, Pinkie.”
“And now they’re smiling! Just like I wanted them to. I threw them this humungous party to celebrate. Want some cake?”
I killed Apple Bloom. I killed Zecora. I killed Spike.
Come on, Twilight.
Just lie there. And never have to fight again. Home to books and empty hallways and a dead number one assistant.
Help me, Twilight!
I can’t. I hesitated. You died.
Help Twilight come on don’t you want to smile with us smiling all dead
“Hey Dashie! I think she’s smiling!”
The tears fell and followed the curves of her cheeks to wet her bared teeth.