THE REGAL DREAM
Somewhere else, some other time.
Or was it the ocean?
The sound of waves crashing into each other was like a storm. It sounded like rocks cracking open by the force of thunder. Twilight Sparkle felt the salty water splashing all over her coat and on her face. She was bathed in the salty liquid and her mane was all dirty and tangled. Her mouth tasted foul too. She was really tired, exhausted, and her chest throbbed in pain. Was it because of the exhaustion? Probably. She lifted her head to look in front of her. She could only see the sandy beach line and beyond that nothing else. Emptiness. There was nothing before her. The sky and the horizon were empty. She looked behind her as the sea waves licked her body. Some of it splashed her in the face. The sea or ocean extended far beyond what she could wander. It left her breathless. She remembered why she was there. She was looking for her.
With Great difficulty and a lot of pain in her joints, she started to stand up. Her legs pained, she felt like she just woke up after an entire day of doing exercises with Rainbow Dash. For how long did she sleep? Hours? Days? It felt like weeks or even years. She felt old, aged without noticing. When she could finally stand up she took a better look at her surroundings. The horizon was definitely empty. No mountains, no terrain, nothing at all. Beyond the beach there was just emptiness. She looked up in the sky and there was nothing there either. It was pure white. Not white clouds, just white, a canvas waiting for an artist to paint the sky on its surface. Behind her the waves kept crashing into each other with a wind she could feel but that didn’t rustle in her ears. Feeling uncomfortable, with sand all over her body, she started taking steps. Even as slow as she was moving every step was a stab in her chest, her legs and her back. It cut her breath and made her yelp. But she couldn’t stop walking. She had to find her.
Due to the lack of sun she couldn’t tell for how she’d been walking. For a moment she felt the beach line extended infinitely until she saw it made a curve like a scythe, and by the end of it there was a cliff, rising over the sea. There were rocks on the base and the waves roared as they died on them. Twilight kept on walking, not caring how tired she was or how much pain she was going through. Her hoof prints were erased by the water leaving no trace of her presence. She had to take a moment to breath, when she tasted the nauseating sea air. It was warm and reeked with salt and putrid sea weed. The salt opened her nostrils and unclogged her lungs, but it was so saturated it made her dizzy and twisted her guts. She had to stop, cough, gurgle and spit quite a few times. She was dry. Wait. Wait a second, what was that thing on the edge of the cliff?
There was something up there, by the end of the beach’s line on the edge of that cliff. It was a building, a small house. That gave her enough energy to keep on walking. It was a church. Or was it? She had no idea, it was too far away, and with the emptiness engulfing her on every direction it was hard to tell. It could even be her imagination for all she knew. But as she got closer the building was getting clearer, more defined. It was really there, it wasn’t an illusion or her mind playing tricks. A gust of sea wind hit her and almost made her lose balance. She kept on walking. She had to be there. She had to get there.
Without even noticing she found herself in front of the building’s facade. It looked like a church, but it wasn’t one. It was a school. It looked exactly like Cheerilee’s school for foals and colts in Ponyville. It had everything but the cheerful colours. The most colourful part of the entire building was the brownish door frames. The windows were of a grayish blue. It didn’t look abandoned but it felt old and lonely. Twilight looked through one of the windows. It was so empty, there was nopony inside. She then took a hoof to the door and knocked it as hard as she could. In the emptiness the knocking sounded like a set of explosions, they even echoed through the cliff. Nothing. No answer but the distant echoes. She knocked again, this time harder. Her hoof chipped on the wood, stinging her all the way up to her shoulder. Her knockings were now like a symphony of explosions, all of them surrounding her. She knocked a third time and the door unlocked. It didn’t open, it just unlocked. The sound of a lock, a heavy one, falling on the floor like a big clock, and the solid tinkering of the mechanism unclasping, so strong it rocked her guts. She placed a hoof on the door, tentatively, and then pushed it open.
The inside left her devastated. There were desks and chairs, perfectly organized in rows and ready to use. There were ink pots, quills and papers. The blackboard was pristine and a set of chalks on the Teacher’s desk. It was immaculate, clean and spotless. They were…waiting. Waiting for somepony to use them, to rescue them from their empty existence. Twilight knew it will always be empty. That place was built to be empty, even those who stepped inside, if they were not empty, they would be. She stepped inside and closed the door behind her with an audible clack. Something is wrong, she thought. There was something else in there with her, she could see it, hiding under one of the desks. A shadow. It was curling into itself.
Twilight got closer, her hooves feeling heavy, scared to death, not sure if it was her. Then the shadow started to profile in her eyes. White and blue mane. The coat was dark, between pale black and dark purple. It had a thin snout, female. Wings, bigger than those of the average pegasus. She also had a horn on her forehead. She got closer and noticed the cutie mark on the flank. A moon.
It was her.
She found her.
“Luna!” said Twilight, surprised to hear her own voice.
She galloped towards Luna, feeling worried and relieved at the same time.
“Luna! Princess Luna!”
No answer came from her, which panicked Twilight. Was she dead? No, no, she was alive, she could see her shivering and shaking in what could be cold, fear or both. Twilight got to her, kneeled and nuzzled her head with her snout. She got no answer, no physical response, nothing. Luna didn’t reply, her eyes were fixed to the floor. She was ice cold, dry and her fur was covered in what looked like grey dust. Twilight looked straight into her eyes.
“Luna, can you hear me?” said Twilight.
The Princess didn’t answer. Her eyes didn’t focus on Twilight’s, they moved erratically. She looked at the floor, at the ceiling, at the desks, at the chairs, back at the ceiling and then all over again. Sometimes she looked at one point in the distance, looking at nothing, only to repeat the cycle again. Twilight grabbed Luna’s head. Screw the manners, she thought, you will come back!
“Luna! Look at me!” shouted Twilight, her voice echoing inside the empty class.
That time the Princess looked at Twilight. It was there, looking at her eyes, when Twilight knew they were in big trouble. Not just because she was crying, but because those weren’t the eyes of a strong, determined and brave Princess. Those were the eyes of a little foal. Lost without her mother. Waiting for her sister to save her. Luna’s mouth opened letting out a fragile whisper. Twilight had to put her ear close to Luna’s mouth to hear it. As weak as it was, it was also clear like a moonlit night. The words she heard dried her throat and made her heart skip a beat.
“Who…who are you?”
Twilight experienced the feel of falling. Falling, with no friends to catch her. She was alone down there. She risked her life, her mind, all her knowledge, all that she was and she lost. The feel of falling only worsened when Luna said, in a clearer voice.
Right there and then, in that school in the middle of that void, Twilight realized there was no escape. They would never get back home.
Ponyville was silent and dark. The night had fallen over the city a good couple of hours ago, covering it with the peaceful blanket of darkness for every pony to sleep. In the Sky, the moon was the Queen. It was so big and bright, beautiful to look at surrounded by a sea of stars. A gust of wind made the leaves rustle. The night was abnormally cold though, sprinkles of ice floating from the river. Inside every house scattered all over the humble town the ponies slept having safe and sound dreams, or no dreams at all, having the certainty that the sun will wake them up in the morning. But not all the ponies were asleep. There was one who was still awake, working busily in her studies. She was a dedicated student, and an expert in the magic of Friendship. This pony was none other than the most magically powerful and most intelligent Pony in Ponyville, Princess Celestia’s number One student, Twilight Sparkle. Her house, Ponyville’s library, was the only house in town that had the lights on, those of her study, making the tree look like it had eyes.
Twilight loved the night. She did most of her research at night when she had nopony to bother her, and the sound of crickets and night wind was like a subtle musical tingle that inspired her. That night, though, she was having problems focusing. She was conducting a research on the nature of dreams: How they affected the personality, how they influenced the decision-making processes, and how much they required of the brain to develop, amongst other things. Despite all of this work, she kept crashing into a dead end. Being dreams there was no tangible evidence as all her research was based upon suppositions and “what ifs”. That wasn’t scientific or professional. What angered her most was that she felt like she wasted her friend’s time. She had Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy volunteering as test subjects. All they had to do was sleep, dream, and then write their dreams down…for three months. That lead Twilight to little conclusions about her studies, but helped her know her friends better.
She learnt that Rainbow Dash kept dreaming with flying and performing stunts, that she missed Gilda (but didn’t feel guilty for calling her off like she did) and that she felt as confident and stubborn in her dreams as she felt in real life.
Pinkie Pie was as random in her dreams as she was in real life. Her notes, despite being covered in molten sugar, ranged from bouncing balloons to rains of anvils or explosive turtles, and even beds made of buns or talking fish. But Twilight realized how consistent her writing was, demonstrating that Pinkie’s random mind was neatly organized.
Fluttershy, unsurprisingly, was fragile. She had a really small amount of nightmares, but many nights she would wake up before sunrise only to fall asleep again. Her notes were full of sentences starting with “Tonight I dreamt of nothing, but…” and then proceeded to tell how she felt about it. Not helpful, but it was curious and the copious amounts of notes, even for days without dreams, showed a dedicated and diligent personality.
All that data was of no useful purpose. It wasn’t enough for her to write a text on it and send it to the University of Canterlot, but at least she could present her research to Princess Celestia. She could use it to further develop her investigations in the Magic of Friendship. She pondered the option but in the end she realized she’d be just repeating herself all over again. She squeezed the last drops of ink from her quill into the ink pot before placing it down neatly on the desk. She closed the pot, rolled the scroll and tucked it inside the drawer where she kept all her research. She didn’t have a reason to keep it, but she had no reason to throw it to the trash either.
She felt tired. Rubbing her eyes she looked at the clock. What time is it?, she thought. She used to go to bed at one or two in the morning, so when she saw it was only midnight she was surprised. She was so bored out of her pony skull with this research that she was starting to get in the mood of going to bed before her usual times.
“Gosh it’s not even…” she yawned, cutting off her words “…it’s not even late.”
Before she could finish...
KNOCK – KNOCK – KNOCK
It was downstairs. Who could be knocking on her door this late? She felt a terrifying grasp in her gut. It couldn’t be any good. That feel of unease woke her up from her sleepiness, sharping her senses. She became aware of everything, even the tiniest crack on the wood. She trotted her way downstairs tentatively, lightning her way with her horn. There were three…
KNOCK – KNOCK – KNOCK
KNOCK – KNOCK – KNOCK
KNOCK – KNOCK – KNOCK
…before she arrived to the door. Whoever it was it had to be really impatient…or maybe bringing urgent bad news. The lower floor of the Library was cold compared to her study. She got to the door and opened the small window she had on it, so she could see who it was without having to open the door. Her fears were confirmed when she saw the helmets and the armours wore by the Pegasus Ponies standing before her house. They were Royal Guards, from Celestia’s Personal Guard nonetheless. They were three: The two in the background wore the typical golden armour with blue capes, but the one on front wore shiny, silvery armour with blue and purple reflections. His mane and tail were red like fiery cinnamon. She knew him personally. He was the Captain of Celestia’s Personal Guard: Platinum Plaques. If he was there the news regarded the Princess’ safety.
“Good evening Officers…” said Twilight, her voice shaking with anticipation “Is there anything I can help you with?” she added, making Great efforts not to jump and scream questions.
“I am afraid, Miss Twilight Sparkle, that you have to come with us.” said Platinum Plaques. He sounded worried and angry, but it wasn’t towards Twilight.
“What for?” said Twilight.
“We can’t tell you, because we haven’t been informed. All I can tell you is what I know. It regards Princess Celestia’s safety, and your presence has been summoned by her sister, Princess Luna. She requested the presence of the Six Wielders of the Elements of Harmony. We need you to get in our carriage without further questions.”
She couldn’t read any feelings coming from Platinum Plaques’ voice. He was good at hiding them. At first she hesitated. Luna was summoning them? All of them? Why for? Why would she summon them, this late, into the castle, with this urgency? It was urgency, right? Oh Gosh, it was urgency! Something happened and she was there standing before her door doing nothing but mumble. She thought on Spike. Her eyes trailed to his bed. He was there, sound sleep, oblivious to all this. She wondered if she should wake him up. She shook her head and then said, with a determined voice.
“Give me two minutes officers, I need to get something first.”
She went to her desk and wrote a note that was then placed on Spike’s bed, next to him. Then went to her saddle bags and put inside two books, a set of new scrolls, a bottle of ink, three quills and…Her hooves came across her research papers on dreams. She shrugged “Why not?” she thought, and threw them inside. Throwing the saddle bags on her back, she left through the door.
“Okay, let’s go.” she said.
She closed the door behind her, switching the lights off and entering in the carriage. She took a long look to her house, feeling she would never see it again. But why? Why did she felt she was leaving for a long time? Why did she had that sensation of loneliness and abandonment? Before her thoughts could settle she felt the pull of the carriage as it lifted from the ground, being carried by the Pegasus ponies on the way to get the rest of her friends.
* * *
Gathering all her friends wasn’t easy but it took less time than she originally imagined.
The first one they went for was Fluttershy. She was the only pony that went to bed later than her, so when they arrived to her cottage she was still awake, fixing a bird’s nest that got thrown down by the wind. Twilight told Fluttershy about the situation, all she knew about it, and she hopped into the carriage without even whimpering.
The next one they took was Rainbow Dash. She was more difficult to wake up. Not only her sleep was deeper, but her house was sound proof. They had to knock endless times on the door before they got her to open the door. Thankfully they didn’t even need to tell her everything. She just saw Fluttershy and Twilight in the carriage, giving her more than enough reasons to hop inside.
Applejack had fallen sleep in the barnyard working on some broke wooden planks on the roof. When they woke her up her first reflex was confusion, and then she yawned, stretched, popped her joints and cracked her neck for two minutes before scratching her eyes and ears. She made herself promise not to ever fall sleep again when working. She listened carefully to the Guards, but even with all that briefing, what little there was, she didn’t jump in the carriage until she saw her friends inside. If they were there, then it had to be serious.
Rarity took a long while to talk into. She went to bed just minutes ago, after packing a big order of dresses and placing on her night mud mask. When she attended the Guards she was wearing just one cucumber slice, the other one removed so she could see where she was going. After removing all her make up, brushing, perfuming and tucking in her saddle bags a selection of dresses, she hopped inside the carriage. Sighs from Applejack and Rainbow Dash could be heard but were silenced by Rarity’s complaints.
Pinkie Pie was the last one they took. The Pink pony saw the carriage and thought they were preparing a party or something. She jumped inside without even letting the guards finish their briefing of the situation as she kept humming a song she made up on the fly about how Royally Royal the Royal Family Royally was. Or something like it, it wasn’t clear, she was also talking about balloons, confetti and streamers. But not oatmeal, hay no! She wasn’t that crazy.
In the way to the Castle.
For the most part of their trip towards Celestia’s Castle the six friends were silent. After the first questions about what was going on or why they were taken to the castle at this time of the night, they were rendered speechless due to being tired. Rainbow Dash fell asleep again, she was snoring on one side of the carriage. Pinkie Pie used her as a pillow as she kept humming a tune while playing with a set of juggling balls nopony knew where she took from. Applejack had her eyesight lost in the horizon. The only ones talking were Twilight, Rarity and Fluttershy.
“Nothing.” said Rarity “I simply can not imagine how rude all this is. They take us out of our houses and bring us all the way here, giving us no explanations whatsoever.”
“Come on Rarity. It’s not like they forced us.” said Twilight.
“Right.” there was sarcasm in her voice “I would like to know what they would have done if we said no.” said Rarity with a sharp voice tone.
“Would you say no to a Royal Command?” said Twilight.
“Heavens no!” said Rarity “But it disturbs me. I can’t help but letting my mind wander and it only goes towards the worst ideas imaginable.”
“I know, me too.” said Twilight.
“So do I, uhm…” Fluttershy got in the conversation inadvertently “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“Oh, you do not interrupt Fluttershy.” said Rarity.
“Okay, but…yes, I agree with Rarity. They could have, well, told us something.” she sounded upset, as upset as Fluttershy could get.
Twilight looked down and then to the window. The curtains blocked the starry night.
“They told us enough. Luna called for us. The fact that she is the one calling us and not Celestia throws me off. Whatever reason could Princess Celestia have to not call us herself?”
Her words were the last they spoke in the carriage. It wasn’t long until they landed. When the flapping of the wings ended and the whirling whistle of the wind stopped, they realized how awfully quiet the night was. All the way up there in the Castle of the Princesses, silence was the biggest presence, an empty presence that wrapped them like a five inch thick blanket. Twilight gulped. She was afraid, her hooves were shaking and she could feel her coat stiffen with the cold. She stepped out of the carriage, followed by her friends. Fluttershy made a signal to Pinkie Pie, and she woke up Rainbow Dash. The Blue Pegasus snored, snorted and then stepped out of the carriage, rubbing her eyes.
“Mmhmm…” she groaned “I was making the sickest nastiest flying stunts ever.” added with a complaining tone.
“Come on Rainbow.” said Applejack “Where yer goin’ ya wont be doin’ any flyin’ tricks.”
“Yeah, right.” replied Dash with a touch of snark “I bet you I am doing some amazing flying stunts before the night is over!”
“I really doubt it, sugah cube.” replied Applejack.
The ponies stepped into the entrance of the castle. It was a large platform of an elliptical shape and a set of columns, three times taller than the Apple family’s barn, sustained a dome over their heads. The dome represented the constellations, their names engraved in glowing golden letters. Right before the ponies the doors were as tall as the columns, and the entire edification was as big as a mountain. Fluttershy had to contain a whimper of intimidation when she looked up. Flashbacks crossed her mind. The doors were made of ivory and white oak, and were carved with images of Regal Ponies. All of the Celestial Family was portrayed in it. Their serene faces looking down on the ponies with what Twilight understood was respect. Under the moonlight, the surface reflected with pure whiteness, like it had an internal flare, and the moonlight made the eyes on the figures look hollow.
Twilight was leading the group, all of them following Platinum Plaques towards one of the doors. As they got closer, the door opened. The creaking sound was like a stampede, making the floor tremble. It was magnificent yet terrifying. Their stomachs tightened due to the violent rumbling. There was nothing but darkness inside. The entire palace was summed in black. It was as if the void laid behind those doors. They kept walking. When they crossed the arch, Twilight had to stop. Not because of fear but because the temperature was so cold it cut through her body like an invisible knife, sucking the air out of her lungs. The inside was even colder than the outside! How could that be possible? She could see her breath curling before her eyes thick like mist. It was so cold. All the other ponies noticed too, she could hear groans and complaints from everyone, especially Rarity.
“Oh dear, what is going on in here? It’s colder than outside!” she said, only to pull a scarf and a coat from her saddle bags. She gave another coat to all her friends who asked for one. Rainbow Dash and Twilight were the only ones who didn’t ask.
“I don’t understand this.” said Twiligh.
“Perhaps you should request the Captain to explain us what is the situation, before we go any further” said Rarity while flailing one of her hooves.
“Ah am nopony to complain Twi, but ah agree with Rarity ‘ere.” said Applejack.
Similar gestures came from all the five ponies putting Twilight in a difficult position. She didn’t want to sound rude to Captain Platinum Plaques, but it was true this had gone too far. They deserved some explanation. She got closer to Platinum Plaques, who was still walking, ignoring the voices behind him.
“Captain, we’ve waited long enough. I think you should tell us why we are here and what’s going on.”
Platinum Plaques stopped dead in his tracks and looked at Twilight right in the eye. She worried, almost attempted to curl and back up, expecting a look of anger and authority from the Captain. His look was not of anger or authority but of worry and concern. He had to divert it and look somewhere else. She could feel he was about to burst into tears.
“I am sorry Miss Sparkle.” he said “I literally can’t tell you anything, because we have been told nothing” he then rose his voice so the rest of the ponies could hear him “The only thing Princess Luna told me and my Guards was that she requested your presence, and that we had to diverge the heating system of hallways and empty rooms of the palace to Princess Celestia’s room. That is why it is colder in here. The sooner we get to the Royal Chambers, the sooner you will get your explanation and step out of this cold.”
The six mares looked at each other, each of them with various degrees of concern on their faces. They kept following Platinum Plaques to the chambers, that were located on one of the tallest and biggest towers of the castle. The way was illuminated by the moon, its light making long shadows with the columns of the hallways. The windows poured their shape on the carpets; white squares, long rectangles that crawled up the walls and triangles. It was all so…static. The air was so still Twilight thought she could cut through it. The clopping sound of their hooves breaking the deafening silence. Her ears buzzed with anticipation. She could hear the heavy breathing of her friends, their thick misty breaths surrounding their bodies. It took them five minutes of cold limbs, itchy backs, complaints and Rarity “shushing” her friends anytime some of them stepped on her clothes, to reach the door to the Royal Chamber. They were already exhausted.
Platinum Plaques turned around again and hit the floor twice with his front hooves. The doors opened with the slowest movement Twilight ever saw. A warm light came from them and with that the dizzying wave of hot air due to the heating being on. The ponies welcomed it, they closed their eyes and let out a sigh of relief. The Captain talked to them.
“You may enter now. I can’t follow you where you are going.” he said, and then turned to Twilight “Thank you, Miss Sparkle. I hope, whatever it is that’s happening, you and your friends can find a solution for it.”
Then he walked away, returning to his command post. He had an entire night of surveillance before him. Twilight stepped inside the room, followed by her friends, the doors closing behind them with a gentle shuffling noise and locking with an almost inaudible click.
The room was really big, twice as big as Twilight’s house. The ceiling was decorated with paintings that depicted the entire history of Equestria, from its early beginnings to modern times. There was one fragment of the ceiling that looked like it was made out of water. Twilight realized it was a magic painting; it painted itself as major events happened. There was a big balcony with a lavish door, the glass covered in golden shapes coming from the frames. The walls were colored in a mixture of white, blue, purple and black, and had paintings of the sun and the moon. One part of the wall was covered in paintings of Celestia and Luna together. One of the paintings was framed with photographs. Under it there was something scribbled on the wall. A painting that looked like a doodle made by a five year old. It was white and purple.
“I drew that.” said a voice.
All the ponies turned to the source, and they saw Luna. She was a very beautiful mare, slightly taller than the average pony but shorter than her sister. Her blue and white hair fell behind her head and over her eyes. She wasn’t wearing her crown. She had a thin silk veil covering her shoulders, making her dark purple coat look slightly clearer. She had a regal poise but she looked really tired. Twilight guessed she woke up not too long ago. The Princess was standing next to a bed, which occupied a big part of the room, right in the middle. It was a circular bed, and on it, lying under a thin bed sheet, laid Princess Celestia. She was…asleep. Twilight never saw Celestia sleeping, this was new for her. She had that regal attitude even when sleeping, her eyes closed tight, her mane was lying over the pillows. She had her tail curled and over her stomach, like a puppy. Twilight and the rest of the ponies walked towards the bed, slow but firmly.
“Princess Luna.” started Twilight “What happened? Why were you requesting our presence?”
Luna did not reply right away, and when she did it wasn’t what Twilight wanted to hear.
“I was…4 years old. I was playing with my crayons when my sister found me. Instead of getting angry, she giggled and decided to preserve it.” she sounded firm but her voice was tainted with sadness “My sister. She was always protecting me. Keeping me safe. It broke her heart more than it broke mine, when she was forced to banish me.”
She turned to the Ponies, who looked confused and dazzled by the situation.
“This is our bedroom.” she explained “This is where we retire when we have to rest from our work. I sleep here during the day, when my sister is taking care of the Sun. Then she comes here when I am taking care of the Moon. I was coming to wish my sister a good sleep, when I realized something was wrong.”
The Ponies remained silent.
“Every night before she falls asleep, she gives me a good night wish. She always does it. Even when I was banished, she kept doing it.”
She remained silent for a while. Twilight couldn’t sense Luna’s feelings. She wasn’t psychic, but if the level of magic energy emanating from her body could indicate her level of emotional stress, then she was going through a lot of pain and suffering. When she talked, her words choked.
“Every night. For more than a millennium. It was a way of letting each other know things were in order and well. Tonight, she didn’t do it.”
Twilight walked closer towards Luna. She didn’t understand. What was wrong? Celestia was sleeping and the night was going apparently right. Why would Luna call for them?
“What is wrong then, Princess?” said Twilight.
Luna took a moment to reply. She got close to her sister’s body, nuzzling her gently. The tone of the scene was so severe and solemn not even Pinkie Pie dared to talk. She was making Great efforts not to make a joke and liven up the whole situation, digging her teeth on her tongue to keep it shut. Her gesture was quite comical, though no one looked at her.
“Twilight…” said Luna “I called your presence here, all of you, because I am afraid my sister has been trapped into her own dreams.”
The ponies didn’t know how to react. Twilight gasped taking a hoof to her mouth. Rainbow Dash and Applejack just looked at each other, confused. Fluttershy’s pupils shrunk until they were the size of pinheads. Rarity took a hoof to her forehead and rubbed it under her horn in concern. Pinkie Pie just widened her eyes, released her tongue and let go a raspberry in surprise. All the Ponies turned to her with angry faces. She just smiled as a way to apologize. The situation was more severe than they imagined.
“Trapped?” said Rainbow Dash “How can you get trapped into your own dreams?”
“Only the most Powerful Mental Magic can do that.” said Twilight “It’s magic not even I know. Princess Celestia told me it’s-.”
“Forbidden.” said Luna “We forbid its use because it’s considered a Dark Art. Using it involves sacrificing everything that makes you who you are. The wielder of such magic loses its identity, and if it doesn’t it deteriorates so much there’s little of them left.” she gulped just to continue talking “My sister doesn’t know how to use it and I don’t know of it either. I can’t imagine who does.”
“Why wou’d anyone do such a thing?” said Applejack.
“I honestly don’t know.” said Luna “She never angered any pony enough to suffer this. She has no enemies. She is a kind and fair ruler. And now she is trapped in her dreams. My sister is now trapped in there, unable to wake up.”
“Have you tried a bucket of water!?” said Pinkie Pie, bouncing “Al-ways works! At least with me of course, but that’s because I have such heavy sleeps! Heavier than yours Rainb-Omph!” she was silenced by Rainbow Dash, who shoved a hoof into her mouth.
Luna ignored the pink Pony and kept on talking, walking to the feet of the bed and blocking Twilight’s view of Celestia for a moment. Twilight had no idea how they were going to pull Celestia out of her dreams, or if that was actually what was happening here. If Celestia couldn’t wake up, the sun wouldn’t rise. If the sun wouldn’t rise, the night and the cold would turn Equestria into a frozen ball in a matter of weeks.
“Are you sure she is trapped into her dreams?” said Twilight to Luna, in a rather confidential tone “Because, you know, it’s kind of hard to know that she is trapped into her dreams if she is sleeping.”
Luna didn’t speak, she just nodded. She closed her eyes and then spoke again.
“My sister and I, we…It sounds so silly.” Luna giggled and rolled her eyes as she looked to the ceiling, looking for some courage to say what she was going to say “We have a connection between each other. I could hear her Twilight. I can even hear her now.”
The next words burned into Twilight’s mind like fire.
“She sounds like a little foal. Lost without her mother. Waiting for her big sister to come rescue her.”
Twilight nodded. Celestia and Luna were so lucky. She didn’t know what it was to have siblings. She will never know though. I am lucky too, she thought, I have five Great friends, and even more now. I am not alone. Luna is not alone, she has us. With the determination that was characteristic of her, she talked to Luna.
“We will do everything in our hooves to rescue Princess Celestia.” she said “But I have no idea how you plan on doing it Princess Luna, and due to the lack of information I couldn’t come up with a plan myself.”
“It’s okay Twilight” said Luna “I did come up with a plan.”
She walked around the bed, getting closer to her sister and rubbing her horn over her coat. To Twilight it was as if she was testing something, maybe testing her blood pressure, or her brain activity. In reality, Luna just wanted to snuggle her sister. Her mind boiled with good wishes and hopes for the best. She couldn’t wish harder for her sister to come back. The six ponies remained stiff and immobile, breathing in silence. Once she was done, Luna returned to their side.
“This is what we are going to do.”
The bedroom was really warm. Due to the shock of the current situation they didn’t realize how the cold left their bodies until they started sweating under Rarity’s coats. She recovered her dresses as Luna gathered the Ponies in front of a blackboard. Twilight and her friends felt like they were back at school. Luna was holding a chalk with her magic powers and started to scribble on the board.
“Right now my sister is trapped in her mind.” she said “She is held hostage in a prison made of her own thoughts, so what we have to do is get in there and pull her out before it’s too late.”
“Wait just a gol’ darn minute” said Applejack “Get down there…You mean, down into her mind? How do we do that?”
“Maybe we can squeeze-weeze through her ear! It’s easy-peasy, I do that all the time with candies!” said Pinkie, as she stuffed her hoof inside her ear and pulled out a lolly-pop.
Luna ignored that and resumed her explanation.
“In order to get in her dreams, Twilight and I will cast a Dream Infiltration spell. Dream Infiltration spells are used in psychology and psycho-analysis. They help the Doctors deal with traumas, helping the patient endure against his or her fears.”
“So, we have to fall asleep, and when we’re asleep you put our minds inside Celestia’s dreams.” said Rainbow Dash.
“Exactly.” said Luna “It’s called Placing. We place you into her dreams, and then we find her. Once we find her, all we have to do is take her out by waking her up.”
“Yes but…uhm, how do we wake her up inside a dream?” said Fluttershy.
“There are several ways.” said Luna “One of them is not pretty, and the other one is quite rude.”
“Talk about the rude one first.” said Rainbow Dash.
“We make her fall. When you are in a dream and you fall, you wake up instantly. You jump in bed, startled. It always works. What we have to do is set up a fall and we wake her up.” explained Luna “The fall could be placed at the edge of a cliff, on the top of a building, even in mid air, if we are flying at some point.”
“Okay, that seems to make sense.” said Rainbow Dash. She knew the feeling, many times she dreamt of crashing and it was never pretty. “If that’s the rude way, what’s the not so pretty way? What’s worse than falling then?” she added.
Luna hesitated before telling this. It was going to be a very hard blow for all the ponies, but she had to tell them. If there was no other way to wake up and falling wasn’t available, they needed to know the other way, just to make sure.
“The not pretty way is when you die.” said Luna, making all the ponies fell silent. Their hearts skipped a beat “If you die in a dream, unlike like real life, you just wake up.”
“I’s still dying.” said Applejack.
“In a dream!” defended Twilight “But it won’t come to that. We will set up a way to make ourselves fall into Celestia’s dream, so when we find her, we bring her back with us. Understood?”
The ponies remained silent, until Rainbow Dash lifted a hoof.
“I’ve a question” said Dash “How come your sister is not fighting against this? Isn’t she all Powerful?”
“I said it before.” said Luna “She doesn’t know Mental Magic, no way to use it or to protect herself from it.”
The room remained silent. Each of the ponies pondered the options, despite the fact they were running out of time to save their Princess. Luna looked at them worried, not only for the current situation but for their answer. She could beg them to come with her and save Celestia, but they had to come voluntarily or else the Mental Infiltration spell wouldn’t work. Forcing somepony into such a thing would disable their minds and personalities. It would make them prisoners, just like her sister was now. She could see the six ponies looking at each other, and then back at Luna with stern looks filled with determination.
“We are ready.” said Twilight with a smile.
Luna’s face beamed with happiness. She would have hugged each one of them if they were not in a hurry.
“Alright. We need a team of Five Ponies to do this. Five is the best number, not too big not too small. Plus, it’s the maximum amount of ponies I can get under the Mind Infiltration spell at the same time.” she made a pause and then continued “I have to go, and so do you Twilight. Celestia will need someone who’s very close to her to pull her out, to remind her who she is. She also needs someone she could trust, to convince her that letting herself fall is the only way out of the dreams. You are not only someone she can trust, but you are almost as magically Powerful as I am, you will be a Great support when we are down there.”
“Then, who else is coming?” said Twilight.
“You’ll make the call.” said Luna with a solid thud from one of her hoofs.
Twilight had to choose between her friends. That alone was really difficult. She felt guilty. Guilty for waking all of them up in the middle of the night. Guilty for bringing them all the way to the Castle. And guilty for leaving two of them to wait, sitting down and doing absolutely nothing. She looked at her friends, her face contorted by the difficulty of her decision. Before even starting to think on who to pick, she started:
“Before I say anything girls, I-.”
“Nah problem at all Suga’ cube!” said Applejack “Two ‘f us won’ go down ther’ with ya’ll, but we’re goin’ t’ stay with yah ‘ere the whol’ time.”
“You can count on it Twi!” said Rainbow Dash.
“I will sing, really softly. Just so you don’t feel lonely.” said Fluttershy.
“I’ll be setting up a party!” said Pinkie Pie “So actually, I wouldn’t mind if you don’t pick me!” and then took out some invitations from her mane and with a candy cane began scribbling on them. She stopped after a while since she couldn’t resist eating the cane.
“Do not worry darling.” said Rarity “We are never going to let you down, whether we stay here or go with you.”
Twilight was happy to have such understanding friends. But then again, she had to coldly and objectively choose her options. She needed a team able to fence against whatever could lie down in Celestia’s dreams. She was a Princess and the closest they had as a God figure, but Twilight was sure she had nightmares too. And if nightmares can get dangerous when you are dreaming alone, having six ponies with you could get things quite nasty. She needed strength, both physical and mental. She needed ponies that could handle pressure and difficult situations with nerves of steel. After pondering it for a while, which felt longer for her, she said the names.
“Alright, I’ve made my choice. The ones that are coming to rescue Princess Celestia with me and Princess Luna are...”
Each and everypony awaited bearing the excitement in their own way, but their expressions were pretty similar. Tensed mouths, eyebrows frowned and eyes half closed. The more decided ponies like Rainbow Dash or Applejack were snorting, one of their fore-hooves hitting on the ground. Rarity was rather laid back about being selected. She knew that in the case she was picked she would prepare some sort of protective saddles for her friends down into Celestia’s dreams. Fluttershy was terrified. The prospect of risking her consciousness and her mind in such a feat left her almost fully paralyzed. She had to dig deep within her to take all her courage and stand still. Pinkie was being Pinkie Pie, so she just stood there holding a stick ended on an arrow pointing at herself.
The yellow coated and pink haired pony whined but then stepped forwards, her frown curled and her eyes half closed. She took all her assertiveness in that pose but as she walked Twilight could sense some panic taking over her legs.
The rainbow colored mane Pegasus pony stepped forwards quickly and with determination. She was even happy about it, as her grin couldn’t hide her enthusiasm.
“And Pinkie Pie.”
Pinkie Pie was as surprised as every pony else was. Both Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy looked at Twilight, and even Luna got concerned. Bringing Pinkie Pie in could blow up the whole operation if she wouldn’t follow orders. As the pink pony bounced happy and cheery, shooting confetti and streamers all over the room Luna and Rainbow Dash talked to Twilight about her choice.
“Are you sure you wanna bring Pinkie?” said Rainbow “I like her and all that, she’s my friend too, but she’s a bit...well, random.”
“I have to agree with Rainbow Dash, Twilight. Your friend seems a bit…off-kilter, if you allow me to say. Who knows what she will do inside my Sister’s head?” said Luna.
“I know you might have questions, but think about this for a second.” said Twilight, Pinkie Pie oblivious to their conversation, still bouncing “Pinkie Pie possesses some...abilities not even I have. With her skills, do you have any idea how much can she alter and control those dreams in case we get in trouble?”
Both Dash and Luna nodded to that question approving Pinkie’s inclusion. There was no need to say more. Pinkie Pie would be a Great asset to the team, if they managed to keep her under control. It wasn’t hard, Pinkie was quite the hyperactive pony, but when she was told to stop doing something she would listen. The more Rainbow Dash thought about it the more she realized her real doubts were not about Pinkie Pie’s choice, but about Fluttershy’s.
“What about Fluttershy?” said Dash “You could have picked any pony else. Maybe Applejack and her strength can come in handy.”
“I didn’t base my choice in physical strength, but on mental strength. Down there I don’t know what we will be facing, but we are not going to be fighting with our hooves or with our muscles.” said Twilight “Down there it’s all about the mind.”
“Twilight is right.” said Luna “I do support her choice of Fluttershy to be on the team.”
Rainbow Dash took a hoof to her face, sighing and finally accepting the choice.
“Oh-all right, I guess I see your point...maybe.” she said, trying to sound as convincing as possible.
Twilight turned to Applejack and Rarity, both of them feeling a bit odd about being left out. They were not upset, just unsure of what they’ll be doing for the next ten hours.
“Nah worries Twilight!” said Applejack “We’ll keep an eye on ya’ll five while ya sleep, fear nothin’!”
“We will keep you warm and safe, you have nothing to worry about Twilight.” added Rarity.
Twilight could feel twinkles of doubt and worry in their voices, but at least they sounded honest. She trusted them, that was enough. She didn’t notice the wheezing sound of the teapot until Luna lifted it with her magic, pouring the contents in five tea cups. The smell of tea filled the bedroom. It was so Powerful she could even taste it in her mouth.
“It’s Sleep-Ease Tea.” said Luna “Only ten times more powerful. It will keep us sleeping for a good 10 hours, more than enough time to get in there, find my sister and bring her back.”
She then turned around with a startled expression. She just remembered a very important piece of information.
“You have to know, when we are down there inside my Sister’s dreams, we will perceive time in a different way than we do perceive it here.” said Luna.
“What does that mean?” said Rainbow Dash.
“Inside a dream our brain works faster. One minute in the real world will feel like 20 minutes inside a dream.”
“So if we sleep for ten hours, we would be inside Celestia’s dreams for...almost ten days.”
Expressions of panic and doubt spread around the group of friends. The idea didn’t seem that good after all. Rainbow Dash, despite loving her naps and enjoying a good sleep, had doubts growing inside her about the plan. Being inside a dream for ten days wasn’t a very appetizing prospect, even if it was the best dream in the world. Feeling the unease and fear spreading around the group of friends, Luna rushed to explain the situation with more detail.
“We won’t need to stay inside my Sister’s dreams for that long. As soon as we find her we activate The Fall and we will wake up.”
“Will The Fall still work with such sedation?” said Twilight tentatively taking one cup with her magic.
“Yes, it definitely will.” said Luna as she sipped carefully from her cup. It wasn’t too hot.
Rainbow Dash took the cup with her teeth and gulped its contents in one single motion. It tasted terrible. She hated tea. It left her mouth feeling like a used horseshoe.
Pinkie liked the tea, but it was too tasteless. She sipped it with long slurps using a straw that twisted and turned and made one whirl on the side turn with hypnotic motion. She wished it had more sugar in it.
Fluttershy thought it was too sugary. She drank it quickly trying to suppress the nausea that sugar caused her. It’s not like she hated sugary stuff, but so much sugar was too much.
Twilight drank her tea peacefully and quietly, and so did Luna. For them the tea was just fine.
Once they finished they placed the cups on the table and hoped onto the bed, placing themselves around Celestia making a circle. Fluttershy laid down next to Celestia’s head, on her left side. She laid her head on the pillows, her mane tangling with that of the Princess. Pinkie Pie laid next to Celestia’s flank, her puffy mane rubbing against the body of the Princess. Rainbow Dash laid next to Celestia’s hooves, and as a reflex she grabbed the tail of the Princess between her hooves like it was a stuffed toy. Twilight laid in front of Celestia right next to her chest. She placed a hoof on her teacher’s forelegs. She was really worried. Luna hoped next to Twilight and laid next to her sister, rubbing her face against Celestia’s.
Applejack and Rarity took some blankets and duvets and covered their friends with them to keep them warm. Applejack just threw the blankets on them. Rarity took time to tuck the fabric under the bed and setting it as neatly as possible. Applejack rolled her eyes and sighed. She moved closer to Pinkie Pie.
“Don’ go too crazy in there Sugah cube.” said Applejack to Pinkie Pie.
Rarity got closer to Fluttershy. The shy Pegasus pony looked very afraid. Rarity rubbed her face on Fluttershy’s and gave her a kiss on her cheek.
“Be safe darling.” said Rarity “Don’t you forget, you will come back.”
“Of…course.” said Fluttershy “See you…later, Rar…i…” and fall asleep.
Applejack went to wish good luck to Rainbow Dash, but she was already snoring. Applejack had to admire the entirety of that Pegasus pony. She rubbed a hoof over Rainbow Dash’s mane.
“Ya little hayseed.” muttered “Try not to show off too much.”
Twilight and Luna were the only ones who were still awake. Twilight could feel Luna charging up the Mental Infiltration spell, her horn glowing and her body expelling a magic field she had never seen before.
“Are you ready?” whispered Luna.
“Yes…Let’s do this.” she said with a nod.
She closed her eyes. She had never experienced falling asleep. Anytime she went to bed she never realized when she was falling asleep. She felt it that time. First her limbs paralyzed, her forelegs and then her hind legs. It was odd. She couldn’t move them but she could still feel them. Then a sinking sensation in her chest like her body was melting away. Then she stopped feeling all over. Nothing. Numbness and terrifying still. Her brain was awake enough to tell her that she was feeling nothing at all. She thought she moved her eyes but she wasn’t sure. Twilight was now in a different plain, in a different level, above reality. It was all just black and silent. Until she heard the thunder roaring and the rain splatter on her body.
END OF PROLOGUE.
THE REGAL DREAM
Chapter 1: Manehattan Train Rain.
It was raining.
Twilight stood right there in the middle of the rain, her coat getting wet. She could use one of her protection spells to cover her body but she wasn’t sure how the world of the dream would react to her powers. It was surreal and yet it felt tangible. She was in the middle of a street in the biggest city of Equestria: Manehattan. Manehattan was well known for its many big districts full of skyscrappers and buildings that forced the ponies to look up until their necks hurt. There were so many buildings Twilight didn’t know where to start counting them. It was an endless forest of towers, rectangular giants made out of concrete and glass, raising proudly over the tiny ponies, looking down on them. The rain, while not busy or copious, was enough to freeze and form big puddles in the sidewalks and on the roads.
The roads had some carriages, and she was surprised to see other ponies pulling from them. Other ponies. Were there other ponies besides her and her friends inside Celestia’s dream? There were ponies on the sidewalks too! And inside the buildings. She could see their shadows through the windows and the rain. These ponies didn’t look normal though. Their bodies were pitch black and she couldn’t see where their legs joint to their bodies. They were...shadows. Shadows of ponies walking up and down the street leaving a trail of faded black behind them. She shivered, but it was more the freezing water than the creeping fear. She shook her head to get rid of the water in her mane. She felt really uncomfortable.
“I have to find the others.” she muttered.
She started galloping through the streets. At first she didn’t meet anyone she knew. The ponies on the sidewalks distracted her beyond her good judgement. When she tried to look at their faces they either look down or look to the side. What is this all about? thought Twilight, Why don’t they let me see their faces? She pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind and kept galloping. Everything felt so real. The rain splattering her body, getting into her eyes, soaking her mane and tail. She stopped to catch some breath as she looked up. She was standing in the middle of a square. Big buildings stood on opposite sides of it making a hallway that divided in several ways, their facades covered with banners announcing new books and movies. But the banners were either blank or blurred out. It wasn’t the rain, she just couldn’t recognize anything. The carriages moved at a fast pace, leaving trails of white foamy water on the roads before they filled again. The streets were not that busy with ponies now, but she felt overwhelmed. As she looked up in the sky, eyes half-closed to prevent the water getting in them, she saw how cloudy it was. The clouds were of a dark grey she had never seen before, that of a menacing maw closing over-
A shout made her jump in place. She turned around to see Pinkie Pie. She was smiling. Her hair, once puffy and curly, was now flat. There were gushes of water falling down her mane which looked like a pink waterfall on the left side of her face..
“Pinkie!” said Twilight “I’m so happy to see you!”
“So, this is the dream, eh?” said Pinkie “This is so cool! It feels real, but I can also do this!”
Pinkie rose a hoof and pulled from her chin deforming her face like it was made out of clay. Her eye sockets and her mouth stretched to an unnatural length, as she rolled the skin on her chin and let her tongue hung loose. She then shook her head side to side.
Arching one eyebrow Twilight looked at Pinkie and held her head between her hoofs, making the skin return to normal with a smacking sound like something just slapped her on the face.
“Pinkie! We have to focus!” said Twilight “Besides, you can already do that in the real world.” she added “Come on, we have to find the others.”
Pinkie just shrugged and followed Twilight. Now that she was with somepony else she decided to slow down her pace and take things a bit more calmly. The big city could have her friends anywhere, and if she wanted to find them they better start moving and checking every possible way. She could ask Pinkie Pie for ideas, but she supposed talking to the pink pony would only get her to a dead end.. Despite being with her though, she was still afraid of those other “faceless” ponies. All of them doing the same thing: Hiding their faces; burying their muzzles between their fore legs; even the way their…even the way their coats looked like.
Twilight stopped dead in her tracks making Pinkie smash her head on her hind legs. The ponies, all of them, had the same fur color. They had different shapes, sizes, genders, and even hair styles or saddles, but they all had the same color. It was a sea of black and gray, moving in rivers around the city over the sidewalks. She shivered and this time it wasn’t for the rain. Who were those ponies? Was this a nightmare? Had they stepped directly into a nightmare?
“Twilight?” it was Pinkie “Twilight, are you alright? You look a bit…well, sickly pickly.”
Twilight didn’t listen. She was more concerned about what laid before her eyes right now. Oh no! She just realized what a major mistake she made. She should have asked Luna if they were stepping into a dream or into a nightmare. What if this was one? Those nightmares, those terrible nightmares where somepony was trying to get her, or where she was trapped and tied to the floor unable to move away from whoever was going to get her! Throughout her research in dreams she read those examples and more from a book, giving her quite a few sleepless nights. Were they in one now? She never read of nightmares depicting cities full of faceless ponies who all had the same color, but maybe she just found a new example! What if-
“You worry too much.”
The voice startled her so much she jumped high enough to fall on her face when she landed. She stood up, turned around and saw Luna. She had Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy on her sides. The three of them were soaked wet, like her and Pinkie Pie. Rainbow Dash didn’t seem to care, but Luna and Fluttershy had their manes pulled back over their shoulders.
“P-Princess Luna.” said Twilight with the shadow of a stutter “What is going on here? Who are all these other ponies?”
Luna looked around before giving Twilight an answer. The violet coated pony felt a tightening knot of anticipation before hearing the answer. She was afraid of knowing who all of those ponies were. If they were not real ponies, then what were they? She shook those thoughts out of her head and focused on her surroundings to calm down, their sound engulfing her. The rain splattering. The pools of water were forming everywhere as the rain drops sprinkled on them. The sewers making a suction noise that echoed from their cavernous entrails.
“We should move to a more calm, drier place.” said Luna “Follow me.”
She sounded so calm. Her voice was full of confidence. It was calm and soothing and it transferred to Twilight. She welcomed the feeling more than she was willing to admit. Luna moved forwards on the lead as Twilight and her friends followed her. She wasn’t running, she was just trotting. Twilight had to frown at that behavior.
“Where were you three?” said Twilight to Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.
“Caught up inside a building.” explained Rainbow Dash “It was locked from the outside; took us a while to get out. From there you guys were just a few steps away.”
“Oh...” Twilight said, before continuing “It seems Luna placed us all together around the same area of the dream.”
“Yeah! Pretty cool, huh!?” said Pinkie as she made a rolling step only to continue walking.
“I am so happy.” said Fluttershy with a touch of excitement in her voice “I’ve never been in Manehattan. It’s all so big!”
Twilight had to admit that the view was breath taking. She had never been in Manehattan either, and seeing those skyscrapers made her wonder how they were built and how much effort and pony hours of work were used on building them. Then a creeping fear of doubt crawled inside her head. That wasn’t real. She wasn’t really in Manehattan. They were not in Manehattan. For a few minutes she forgot that was a dream and not the real world. That was a dream, a dream they were put into to save the ruler of Equestria and her beloved teacher, Princess Celestia.
“Don’t forget this is not real.” said Twilight “Keep in mind, we are in a dream, and we have to rescue Princess Celestia.”
“That’s right.” said Luna from the lead “If you forget you are in a dream you can lose your grasp on reality. You may never be able to differentiate between dreams and reality anymore.”
The five ponies gave several replies, understanding that the situation was more severe than they first imagined. Twilight had no problems differentiating between reality and dreams and she had no problems trusting her friends to do the same. She finally saw where Luna was taking them. It looked like a coffee shop with a gorgeous street terrace with tables and covered by a big canopy. The canopy looked waterproof and was engraved red and golden embroideries of leafs and flowers. It was dry underneath, and the sidewalk seemed dry as well. With a sigh of relief for finally encountering some dry place to stay, Twilight shook her whole body to get rid of the water. Her tail and her mane were still wet, but at least her coat felt drier and less cold. Her friends shook off the water too and took sit at Luna’s table. Fluttershy squeezed her pink hair between her hoofs. Behind them the opened glass doors let the bright golden light come through. It felt like the light of a flame inside an oven. A breeze of air, warm and cozy, came from inside the coffee shop. It smelled like recently baked muffins. Twilight welcomed it as Pinkie bounced on her place sniffing the air with a hungry expression.
“Are those muffins!? OH! I WANT ONE! I WANT TWO! I WANT FIFTY!” the pink pony was over-excited.
Rainbow Dash placed a hoof on her shoulder and pulled her down from her bouncing with a comprehensive grin.
“Not now Pink.” said Dash with a friendly tone “Besides, I am sure if you eat in a dream it doesn’t feel that real, right Princess?”
She didn’t reply. Luna had a very serious semblance on her face. She wasn’t angry She was concerned and not by Pinkie Pie’s sudden burst of hunger. She looked at the five ponies, cleared her throat and then started talking.
“Well, it’s good to know we all arrived safe and sound. Now, to answer your question Twilight, the ponies you see here are not real.”
Not real. They were not real. Oh no, they are nightmares, nightmares! thought Twilight, panic taking over her gut with cold fingers.
“They are not nightmares either.” Luna added due to Twilight’s growing expression of panic “They are nothing but a representation of my sister’s subconscious. They don’t have faces, and they are all the same color because my sister makes no distinction when treating everypony. So there’s nothing to worry about Twilight, at least not yet.”
Twilight hated when those words showed up in conversations. “Yet”, “though”, “maybe”, “but”…They always meant something else had to be added, and it frequently was something really bad. She ventured and asked:
“Why not yet?” her voice sounded frailty.
“It has to do with how we will move in this dream.” said Luna “In the dreams, there’s nothing keeping us from doing whatever we want. In the dreams we are free. We can fly; we can run on the walls, we can imagine all sorts of creatures, scary and funny. In the dreams there are no barriers. The only barrier is our imagination. But when we are in other pony’s dream, and we start twisting the foundations of that dream, we can alert the subconscious, and this will turn hostile.”
“So, if we change the dream space, we get attacked.” said Twilight.
“We would have to change the dream space a lot in order to trigger the subconscious and make it attack us.” said Luna, as she lifted a cup of something that looked warm and sweet that wasn’t there before. She took a sip of it and placed it down on the table. “For example, making a cup of chocolate pop on my hoofs won’t alert my sister’s subconscious.”
“Then, where is the limit?” said Twilight.
“It depends on the dreamer.” said Luna “My sister is very strong and very calmed, so we really have to mess with this dream space beyond our imagination before her subconscious takes measures on its own hooves.”
They didn’t see Pinkie Pie stand up from the table and rush outside of the canopy. They saw a blur of pink bounce off the table and then Pinkie Pie was hopping up and down in the middle of the street, with a smile on her face and a mischievous look on her eyes.
“Oh! Oh! Does this mean we can do this!?” she said, as she turned around, her back to the coffee shop, looking directly at the skyline of buildings right before her.
Twilight got off the table and stood next to Pinkie Pie. The other ponies and Princess Luna looked at the scene from underneath the canopy. Pinkie was standing on her hind legs. How could she do that? thought Twilight. With her forelegs she started doing circles in the air, like she was making a pizza as her eyes focused on three buildings in the distance. A violent crackling sound snapped through the whole city. Something really long and steel made just snapped, cracked and bent in an unnatural way. The ground rumbled under their hooves. Twilight looked around for the source of the noise and the rumbling as she noticed that it was coming from the buildings in the background. They were moving.
Twilight saw three buildings, all of them more or less of the same size, rocking side to side on their bases like they were bowling pins. The buildings looked alive, trying to get out of their foundations and start walking. But instead of walking, the buildings began to…inflate. Twilight saw the windows bend in an impossible way for glass, without shattering as if heated up inside a furnace and then expanded by a glass blower. The sound they made was like scratching a piece of glass with a rock. The metal bent from the inside, pushed by an invisible force. The surface was flat, no wrinkles were formed on it. As the building inflated like party balloons, they began to float. They floated. The buildings didn’t look like buildings anymore, they were round on the top and thin at the base, like balloons. They elevated high, higher, high enough to almost touch the storm clouds, until they stopped anchored to the ground by a chain made from steel pipes. The chains snapped with a jolt of electrified energy, making the ground tremble from the sheer force the balloons pulled.
The three ballooned buildings stood there, floating for every projection to ignore. Twilight didn’t care for the projections though. She was awestruck by the sheer mind-blowing display of power her friend just made. Pinkie Pie got down on all fours again, breathing calmly and smiling, as she said, without looking at Twilight.
“That’s really cool, isn’t it?”
Twilight was taken by the surprise and awe, and just replied.
“Yeah…it’s something.” despite her amazement she scolded Pinkie for such actions “But Pinkie, you can’t go around the dream altering it at your will. You don’t want the Princess’ subconscious to attack us, right?”
“Okie Dokie Lokie! I won’t do it again!” said Pinkie Pie and then proceeded to make her signature swear “Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!”
All Twilight took from Pinkie’s display was that the projections didn’t even care for how she just bent the dream space. If they didn’t care for such alteration of their world they were safe. After that they left the coffee shop and walked down the street. Even though it was clearing out the rain was still annoying. The street they were walking on had buildings on one side and a river on the other. The river was wild, it roared and boiled with the storm. The waves sailed over the railings and splashed the road. The few ships that were tied to shore rocked so hard against the rocks that Twilight thought they would crack like walnuts. The sound they made scared Twilight. She could feel the crunches of the wood in her guts.
Luna was now running at her fullest. Twilight knew the only way to find Celestia was using her own magic to detect the Princess’ magic field. Being the one held captive under this dream her magic energy would have levels higher than usual, making her a beacon they couldn’t see, but feel. Twilight was running as fast as she could, pointing with her glowing horn at every alleyway and road they passed by. Nothing. She felt all her efforts were getting them nowhere. Luna stopped dead in her tracks and turned to the four mares. She looked as exhausted as all her concern and frustration could let through.
“This is getting us nowhere.” said Luna “We have to split up. Two groups will cover more ground than just one.”
“Good idea!” said Rainbow Dash.
“Twilight…” said Luna “…you and Pinkie Pie continue going down this street. Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and myself will get into the alleyways.”
The alleyways? Twilight didn’t know about Manehattan as much as Luna did, but she knew that the alleyways of that city could be treacherous, to say the least. There was a literal labyrinth of twists and turns, dead ends and most frequently, doors that led to walls or houses that never got finished. It was quite disturbing, according to the reports she found in her library. Maybe in the dream world things would be toned down…or enhanced. Twilight felt compelled to share her concern.
“Are you sure of that Luna?” said Twilight.
“Don’t worry, we will be fine.” said Luna “If we get into trouble, we will get inside one of the houses and wait until everything calms down.”
Twilight said nothing. She just nodded and gave her best confident look at Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. She nodded and winked at them as a show of trust, but in her deepest she felt they were never coming back. She blamed herself for having such negative thoughts. What would they think of her if they could hear what she was thinking? Before she could even notice Luna, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash disappeared inside an alleyway. She stood there in the middle of the rain looking at the alleyway for a while before turning around and kept on trotting.
The rain was now less copious than before, thinner in quantity but the size of the drops was outstanding. Twilight had her mane flat and stuck to her body, and so did Pinkie Pie. Her mane wasn’t puffy anymore, it was flat and stuck to her neck, face and body. Even looking like that her cheerful mood remained unscathed..
“What now!? What now!?” she said while jumping.
“Now, we keep looking.” said Twilight.
“Oooh, I love that game! I am going to look as hard as I can!”
She didn’t say more as she started prancing down the road. Twilight still had shivers from the rain, the faceless ponies, and the overall feel of that dream. It wasn’t because it felt out of place or wrong. It felt so real that she couldn’t believe she was asleep. She kept running, Pinkie bouncing behind her and often to her side. That Pinkie Pie! She could be faster than Rainbow Dash with just a few bounces. Twilight felt relieved to be with her. Despite all her unpredictability she was a really loyal friend.
It was during one of those inner trains of thoughts she was having when she realized there was something in the distance, shining. She saw a mare, about 500 meters away from them, walking with quite a haughty pace. Head straight up, her legs were longer than the regular pony’s and her coat of a pure white like snow. But it was the hair what caught Twilight’s attention, the mane and the tail. It shined brightly with the colors of the Aurora Boreal. A warm feeling filled her gut, her horn spurted a few sparks and then it glowed with a purple haze. She loved when that happened.
“There she is…” said Twilight unconsciously “She’s there. Pinkie! She’s there! I’ve found her!”
There was no doubt about it. She started galloping towards the Princess. Pinkie followed her as fast as she could. Twilight could see Princess Celestia walking towards some sort of building. It had hidden in between taller sky-scrapers and it had a pointy roof top. Twilight identified it as a clock tower. Her questions about what was a clock tower doing in the middle of a city were silenced by Pinkie’s voice.
“Oh, you found it! You found it! Whatcha find!? Please say a Diabolo, please say a Diabolo!”
“Pinkie! We are not looking for something! We are looking for Princess Celestia! And I just happened to spot her! Come on!” Twilight felt a bit upset about her friend’s light-headed attitude.
“Oooh, you’re right, you’re right. Sorry Twi” she sounded apologetic “I won’t do it again” and kept galloping…Only to stop five seconds later “Oh!”
Twilight rolled her eyes
“What now?” said Twilight, trying to hide the anger in her voice.
Pinkie Pie had stopped and sat down in the middle of the rainy street. She was holding her tail between her fore hooves. It was twitching. Not just a normal twitch but an uncontrollable twitch. Pinkie was amazed by it. She looked at her tail like that was the first time she saw that.
“Twitchy Twitch!” said Pinkie Pie “Something’s gonna to fall!”
Twilight groaned and just kept galloping.
“Give me a break, Pinkie. Come one!”
“Twilight! I thought you’d believe me!” complained Pinkie.
“I do. But this is not the real world, this is a dream and I doubt that your “Pinkie sense” works in here.”
She passed a hoof over her face and then over her ear to remove the wet mane hair from it. She couldn’t believe she found Celestia. At least, she hoped it was her. They galloped past next to what looked like a post office. It had a big sign shaped like an envelope hanging over the door, more faceless ponies waiting outside. She shivered just looking at them. But she didn’t mind. She will get away from them in just mere minutes.
“Who says it won’t work?” said Pinkie quite upset “There’s no rules! It’s like what I did with those buildings!”
“Oh please Pinkie! We have bigger issues here! I just saw Princess Celestia and we are going to miss her because of you!”
“Me? I’m not gonna miss her! I’m gonna miss you! Or…I’m not? Am I not gonna? Huh…” Pinkie talked to herself until her speech turned into a mumble.
There we go again, she thought. Why did Pinkie have to be so random? And why was she doing that wheezing sound? No. No, that wasn’t Pinkie. It wasn’t so much as wheezing as it was cutting through the air. It sounded like something big and heavy falling from the sky. She stopped galloping, not because she was out of breath. She stopped out of fear as she looked down and noticed the shadow of something rectangular right where she was. The worst part was that the shadow was growing bigger as the wheezing sound was getting louder.
Pinkie looked up. Her mouth hung open as she saw what looked like a rectangular shaped object falling right over them. It was close enough for her to notice the heavy wheels, the triangular shape of one of the rectangle’s sides, and the complex maze of tubes and pipes underneath it.
But the violet pony didn’t reply. She was paralyzed with fear and confusion. Her legs didn’t answer to her impulse of running or just jumping away.
Pinkie jumped. She didn’t think. She didn’t consider the options or the risks. She just leaped forwards like a frog, caught Twilight between her forelegs and pulled her away just in time before impact. Twilight heard the deafening impact when they landed on the sidewalk. It was so potent she could only hear a metallic clank, followed by the clattering noise of pipes colliding between each other. Her ears were stuffed now, shut close to protect the eardrums. She stood up. Pinkie was talking but she couldn’t hear her. She sounded really happy though, probably because she just saved Twilight’s life. She was worried, she was shocked, and she was definitely panicking. Right before her, blocking the road and their way to find Celestia, was a train engine, crushed and smashed, smoke and steam coming from beneath the mechanism. The cockpit was destroyed and there was coal lying all over the place. The sidewalk and the road sunk a few meters because of the impact, forming a crater shaped like the engine itself. The rain fell over it making a tinkering noise, like a kid playing with chopsticks on a tin can.
Twilight walked towards it, limping. She sprained one of her legs when Pinkie jumped to get her out of the way. Pinkie herself, once happy and relieved for saving her friend, was really startled, and her beaming smile was gone. She looked at the engine with the same abject terror-filled eyes as Twilight.
“This wasn’t supposed to be here.” said Pinkie “There’re no train tracks!” she then turned to Twilight “Twilight? What’s…going…on?”
Twilight couldn’t reply. She just moved her mouth without making noise, as she noticed something even more terrifying. It wasn’t the train engine, or anything coming out of it. She realized that the projections, those of Celestia’s subconscious, had stopped moving. They didn’t walk. They didn’t pull carriages. Worst of all, they didn’t hide their faces anymore. Their faces were black and empty except for two pure white, empty, judging eyes. And there were hundreds of them looking at Twilight and Pinkie, judging in silence, accusing. Blaming.
The rooftops had turned the alleyways into a jungle of artificial waterfalls. Anywhere they looked Luna, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy only saw streams of water falling from the roofs, splattering on the sidewalk and making sounds like rocks crunching. Dash was flying over them as Luna and Fluttershy just kept on their pace with a steady trotting. Luna questioned her own decision of going into the alleyways. Sure it was a fast way to cut through the city, but it also meant that they would have to get through very small passages. If they were caught by something or somepony, the fight could get pretty nasty.
“See anything Rainbow Dash?” said Luna.
“Nothing.” said Dash “At least nopony that looks like Princess Celestia.”
“I feel nothing either.” mumbled Luna to herself.
Her horn was glowing with a purple light, warming her forehead. The rain that made contact with it evaporated with a chirruping sound and a small trail of steam. She couldn’t sense anything but Twilight Sparkle about 3 kilometers away from her group. They moved a Great distance since they split up, she didn’t even notice. Her whole focus was on finding her sister.
“Wait, wait…” she had to stop “I’m out…out of breath…”
Fluttershy stopped but Rainbow Dash moved forwards.
“I’ll check around the place and then come back!” she said before disappearing behind a rooftop.
Luna didn’t realize how tired she was until she stopped. Her heart was pounding her chest so hard she felt it was going to jump out of it. The rain cooled her flank and her legs, and if it wasn’t for it they would be burning hot. She looked at Fluttershy. The little Pegasus pony was making Great efforts to keep her mane organized and away from her eyes. Luna had no problem though, she had short hair falling before her eyes.
“Here, let me help you.” said Luna, removing the hair from Fluttershy’s eyes in one expert move of her hoof.
Fluttershy smiled and looked at Luna to thank her. Instead she gasped. Luna didn’t see what made Fluttershy gasp but in the next couple of seconds all she could feel was Fluttershy bumping over her and pinning her to the ground. Luna’s face went right into a puddle. She was about to shout at Fluttershy when a beaming ball of fire crossed over their heads and impacted right where Luna was standing a few seconds ago.
“Why are they doing this?” said Pinkie.
Those eyes. White, empty. There was no way to get a response from them. But the worst thing was that they were not moving. What were they waiting for? What were they planning for her and Pinkie Pie, and why? Twilight wanted to talk, but she also wanted to run away from there. The creeping feel of doubt between both options paralyzed her.
She felt her panic rising when she heard Pinkie’s voice. The pink pony sounded both worried and scared. It probably was the engine that startled her and she was just getting over it and those pony projections didn’t help. Before Twilight could say another word a second explosive crash could be heard on their left. Twilight saw a trail of smoke and the side of a train wagon sprouting from a house’s roof. The roof was smashed beyond repair, the other side of the wagon cracked the external wall of the house and Twilight could see the seats through it.
“Is that a wagon!?” said Pinkie “Twilight! But what is th-!?”
Before they could get over the second impact they were cut off cold by the loudest sound Twilight had ever heard. It was a stream of cluttering noise, metal groaning and twisting, bending and shrieking, glass breaking and wood snapping. She didn’t took long to find the origin of this noise. Looking up she felt like Celestia herself opened the skies and let loose a rain of destruction. But it wasn’t water what rained anymore. It was trains. Engines, wagons, coal carts, and they all looked like they belonged to some kind of fair or variety show. Colorful roofs and sides covered in logos and pictures. The wagons crashed in a ball of splinters, or sometimes made a hole in the road with chunks of rock flying all over the place.
“What’s going on Twilight!?” screamed Pinkie Pie to make herself be heard over the roaring thunder of the train rain.
“You tell me!” said Twilight screaming at the top of her voice.
“I am not doing this!” said Pinkie clearly upset of the accusation “I promised!”
Twilight wasn’t up for arguing especially with Pinkie Pie. She had to find a way to get out of there before one of those carts or wagons or train engines fell over their heads. She could try climbing over the engine, or jump into the river. But the engine was quite big (even sunk into the ground) and the river was still rocking like a wild animal, bound and tied. A cart fell a few meters away from where they were, sending a cloud of splinters in their direction. Twilight hid her face under one of her legs.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” said Twilight.
Pinkie furrowed her brow looking at Twilight. She considered not getting Twilight out of there. What kind of friend was she to doubt her like that? The sting of doubt sparked within her, only to be extinguished by her newly acquired sense for stopping and thinking about it. Twilight was just scared. She was scared and her reaction was logical. Pinkie knew how to get them out of there. She directed her eyes to the engine.
“Twilight!” yelled Pinkie.
Twilight looked at Pinkie and then to where Pinkie was looking. She saw the engine twisting and bloating in an impossible way. It was like the metal turned into molten sugar and the machine dissolved in a small area before her very eyes. In the blink of an eye a gaping hole appeared in the engine, big enough for two ponies to walk through. The edges were glistening from the heat but the rain cooled them down.
“Through there! Quick!”
Pinkie and Twilight crossed the hole before a wagon fell on the spot where they had been standing a few seconds before, collapsing over the holed up train engine. Pinkie and Twilight galloped while dodging the falling carts. One impacted over a house left to Twilight. The front collapsed like a castle of cards and pieces of concrete and glass flew into Twilight’s path. She jumped over them and dodged a wood beam that crashed on her right.
“Watch out!!!” shouted Pinkie at one particularly large wagon that landed right before them.
The wagon was pretty long and it didn’t look like one of the others that were falling from the sky. It was silver colored and had red and yellow stripes all over its surface. It was made of metal. Twilight refused making sense out of the situation as she jumped inside with the intention of crossing through it. If they had some cover they might avoid getting injured. The inside was covered in seats that had been ripped off their base, glass shards and metal planks. Twilight could see the rain of trains falling through the windows. A clang made Twilight raise her head and look behind her, keeping up her galloping.
Her sentence was cut off clean when she saw the wagon section right behind them just got crushed, flattened like a piece of paper.
“Oh hayseed… RUN!!!”
Pinkie felt her lungs were going to burst. She wasn’t used to galloping and she had never done so much until that moment. Her hooves felt chipped and tired, but she couldn’t stop. Another clang as another section got crushed. Twilight felt oil spluttering behind her staining her flank. It was hot, but not burning. She kept galloping, the exit a few meters away from them. As a last effort they both jumped, extending their forelegs and getting through the door. They then saw the giant hand made out of the sidewalk, crushing the train with its fingers. The wagon looked more like a paper cylinder crushed and crunched beyond recognition.
“Oh dear…” was the only thing Twilight could say to express her confusion.
She looked up in the sky as she noticed the rain was clearing. No trains or water seemed to fall anymore from the sky. She couldn’t believe what just happened. She had to ask…The others. Luna, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, were they in danger? The alleyways, she had to get to the alleyways.
“Luna…Quick! Pinkie, we have to find them!” she shouted.
She galloped as fast as her exhausted legs allowed her. Pinkie took one last concerned look at the destructed scenery. Train carts sprouting on the sidewalks, on the houses, on the roads, even on the river. They crushed bridges and other carts. The projection ponies that were not looking at her were trying to crawl their way from underneath all those machines. Smoke leaped from within their dead mechanisms, dirt, rocks and stones were scattered all over the ground, with basically half the houses, stores and restaurants reduced to rubble. She gulped down with sadness and contempt, as she galloped in the way Twilight left, deep into the alleyways.
* * *
When Luna and Fluttershy stood up from the ground they looked up and saw a pony standing on the roof. It looked like any other pony, with the four legs and the body shaped like a bean. But it wasn’t a pony. He was a stallion, from the size of his body and the shape of his muzzle. But he wasn’t a stallion either. His body was made of cogs and gears like the inside of a watch. The legs had three hydraulic mechanisms. The head looked like that of a real pony, with a smoking tube in the center of his forehead.
Before Luna could comprehend what she was seeing she heard the sound of metallic hooves clattering on the sidewalk behind them. Three more of those Mechanized Stallions, all of them with tubes on their foreheads. They looked like fake unicorns, or grown up kids playing at being a unicorn. She found it silly, until they started blasting. The Mechanized Stallion right above them fired another flaming ball as Luna pushed Fluttershy back down the alleyway.
“What are those?” said Fluttershy.
“I have no idea.” said Luna “Dodge!”
One of the three Stallions at ground level in the alleyway shot a lightning ball. It sparked the walls and made bricks explode. The water evaporated under the electric current. Luna charged another lightning ball within her horn to shot it back at them. Luna’s lightning attack was stronger. It fused with the Stallion’s and sent it back to the attacker. The Stallion was propelled backwards by his own attack and then exploded in a jumble of scrape metal.
The Stallion on the roof tops sent a barrage of fireballs, smaller ones but equally Powerful, that scattered a line of holes around Luna and Fluttershy. One of those hit the yellow Pegasus pony on her right foreleg. Fluttershy shrieked with a broken voice and fell on the ground, her leg flexed against her chest due to the pain. Luna pushed her behind a set of concrete steps to cover her from the intense fire as she shot back at the Stallion on the rooftops. She sent another lightning bolt, but the Stallion dodged it.
Rainbow Dash’s voice came from the distance as Luna saw a zipping multicolored trail of light. Then she heard a clang and a punch, and the next thing she saw was the Stallion falling from the roof and onto the ground. His mechanical legs detached from his body and flew in different directions. A thick, gooey liquid sprayed the ground leaving a brown stain in the middle of the rain pools. Luna saw Rainbow Dash landing behind the other two Stallions. The blue Pegasus pony jumped over one of them and kicked him in the head, making him shoot a fireball to his partner. The Stallion exploded in a ball of smoke and refuse that then caught fire and sent Rainbow Dash against a wall. Luna fired another round of lightning balls to destroy the remaining Stallion.
Dash stood up and galloped to Luna and Fluttershy, feeling a little dizzy. Her mane smelled like she just stuck her head inside a fireplace. The yellow Pegasus had her right leg covered in bruises and scratches. Some of them were bleeding but not too much. It looked more annoying than painful.
“Fluttershy, are you alright?” said Luna, concerned in her watery eyes.
“Yes, I think so.” said Fluttershy “It doesn’t…hurt or anything. It feels kind of, well, numb.”
“We need to find a house to take refuge, we are not safe here.”
“No! Really!?” said Rainbow “What the hay were those things!? Those weren’t like the other Projections! Those were armed, for Pete’s sake!”
“No, they are-WATCH IT!!!” Luna called just in time to jump and get Rainbow Dash out of the way as two fireballs appeared out of nowhere, zipping over their heads. The fireballs hit the building right behind them overthrowing it against the building opposite to it on the alleyway, cutting their only escape route.
They looked at the place of origin of the fireballs and saw three figures. They were taller, they looked stronger, and aside from the steaming pipes on their foreheads acting like horns, they had wings made of thin tinfoil and steel. They were not moving; their bodies spelled tufts of steam that looked like their manes and tails. Rainbow was hesitating, her hind legs twitching in the indecision between jumping and waiting. Luna moved to Fluttershy and hopped her on her back between the wings. That didn’t seem to upset those Mechanical Alicorns. She moved close to a door and kicked it open with her hind legs. At the sound of the splinting wood the Alicorns started shooting at them. Their piped horns blasted an array of fireballs that destroyed windows, doors and brick walls. One of the houses had its wall collapse over the sidewalk with a rumbling thunder.
Luna threw Fluttershy inside the building and stood in the middle of the alleyway to return fire. Fluttershy felt her head throbbing with pain and a sheer feel of burning. Her eyes were moist, about to burst in tears. Rainbow Dash lifted from the ground and ran over the wall to avoid the relentless fire from one of the Alicorns who seemed focused on her. Behind her windows, flowerpots, roof tiles and other debris exploded and splattered to the ground. She landed next to the Alicorn and threw an uppercut to his chin that made his head spin in place. Rainbow saw the tubes going from the head down the neck and how these snapped and twisted, sending jets of sickly brown oil in a circle. The Alicorn fell to the ground in between spasms and shakes as his joints caught fire and exploded.
* * *
Twilight had no problems finding the alleyway Luna and her team was. The spectacle of fire and lightning could be seen from miles away, and the crackling of the buildings at how they collapsed by the magic attacks was even louder than the snaps of electricity and the roars of the fire. Pinkie and Twilight turned around another corner as they jumped to each side of the alleyway to avoid a loose fireball that crossed between them. A thick smell like burnt hair filled their nostrils.
They were behind two Mechanic Alicorns, and in the distance they could see Luna standing against them with her magic. Rainbow Dash was fighting another of the Alicorns in the ground, he had his head twisted and a brown liquid sprouted underneath his neck.
“Rainbow!” shouted Twilight.
Rainbow Dash looked at Twilight, happy to see her and Pinkie. She was about to smile when all of a sudden something fell on her. Her face smashed against the ground as she felt the metallic taste of blood coating her teeth and her tongue. The metallic hooves of another Alicorn that came out of nowhere stung her wings and her forelegs. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t even turn her head around to see who attacked her.
Fluttershy dragged herself outside until half of her body was out. She saw Rainbow Dash pinned down, the Alicorn pointing his piped horn right at her face. She could even see the multicolored mane of her friend catching fire on the tips from the heat.
“Rainbow…Rainbow, Luna. Luna!” shouted Fluttershy “Luna!”
Luna was sweating and her eyes were twitching. She had a lightning bolt charged and ready to blast that Alicorn as she dodged and flickered the other attacks, but she couldn’t shoot. Rainbow Dash was too close; she would just get fried in the process.
“I can’t!” screamed Luna “Rainbow Dash is too close, it will hit her too!”
Luna licked her lips, her legs were quivering from the mental exhaustion and her own energy draining from the extensive use of magic. Fluttershy looked back at her friend. Her eyes were on fire, her brain burning like a piece of coal. What could she do? What!? I am so useless, she thought. If I could use the stare to push him away from Rainbow. If only I could…But before she could finish her thoughts, her view got obstructed by a blinding white light. Everything before her turned white as she felt a warmth spreading all over her face.
Twilight saw Fluttershy popping her head from inside one of the buildings. She was going to shout her friend to take cover as she charged another fireball spell, when she saw the eyes of the Pegasus pony turning white. The pupils and the iris disappeared, as a burning beam of white light came from them, crossing through the Mechanized Alicorn’s body and turning him into ash. Twilight used this momentary distraction to charge against the other two Alicorns. Pinkie opened a hole under one of them and Twilight released her charged up fireball against the face of the second one.
Fluttershy blinked, trying to clear her view. When it finally did clear, the Alicorn that used to be on top of Rainbow Dash had banished, as well as another one of them. The last one was a burning carcass lying under Twilight’s hooves.
Luna was staring at Fluttershy with her mouth opened in a surprised gesture.
“Fluttershy that was incredible.” said Luna.
Twilight’s voice came from the end of the alleyway and it sounded with a ghostly echo.
“PRINCESS, LOOK OUT!!!”
Luna turned around too late. She didn’t notice the other four Mechanized Alicorns approaching them from behind, two flying and two trotting. They were not fooling around anymore, they were shooting at them with everything they got and not just magic spells. The four Alicorns spread their wings and Luna, who was the closest, could see small vents inside them. They all ignited and exploded in a blast of fire as a storm of spears flew right against them. Fluttershy closed the door and threw her body to the ground, just in time to see the spears stick to the door frame. They were long like swords, with dented edges and sharp. Smoke came from them as the tips of the dents glowed with red incandescence.
Twilight acted as quickly as her instincts allowed her. She casted a shield spell and covered all of her friends in a protective bubble made out of magic energy and air. That would be enough to deflect the spears or, if they got through her barrier, slow them down enough to reduce damage. The spears cut through the air with an eerie whoosh. Twilight dispelled the barrier and galloped with all her might against the Alicorns. She forgot her pain. She forgot the risks of doing something so irresponsible. All she cared for now was to destroy the remaining Mechanized Alicorns. She didn’t charge one fireball spell, she charged three at the same time.She leaped on the wall and pushed herself up with her legs getting over the enemies and directing her horn downwards.
“This ends, NOW!!!” she shouted as she released the three fireballs with an uncharacteristic rage.
The fireballs exploded the sidewalk with an unimaginable force. The paving stones flew up and then fell, burying what was left of the Mechanized Alicorns, as quietness reigned again over the alleyway. The impact of passing from chaos to silence startled her. Twilight turned around, her mouth dry and completely out of breath. She could taste the fire in her mouth, all over and under the tongue. She was so desperate for a drink she lowered her mouth and sipped some of the water on the floor. When she talked her voice sounded raspy.
“Everypony alright!? Fluttershy?”
“I am fine, I…am fine” said Fluttershy showing up at the door.
“Pinkie!” shouted Twilight to the end of the alleyway.
“I’m okay!” said Pinkie “Rainbow Dash’s alright too! She just lost a tooth!” she added as she helped her friend to stand up.
Twilight didn’t get an answer from Luna. She didn’t need it either. The Princess was standing right next to her. Luna had her coat covered in dust and dirt, and her hoofs were coated in a thick layer of mud. Her once regal figure was now trying to stand up with difficulty. Her eyes were red and the fur around them was covered in dirt. She had her right fore hoof over her chest and she was pulling from something. A spear, sharp and dented like a shark’s jaw was stuck right in the union between the neck and her clavicle. Twilight gasped a scream in her mouth as the Princess yanked the spear out of her body, a spurt of blood spraying on the floor.
“I need your help Twilight…don’t you think?” said Luna before tumbling to her left and collapsing on the sidewalk.
The building’s door was closed shut as Twilight added more locks and chains to it to make sure. Lying on the floor were Fluttershy and Luna. Fluttershy was okay. Her hoof was just scraped and she wasn’t bleeding anymore. Luna however was bleeding profusely and it didn’t seem to stop. Rainbow Dash was checking every window making sure nothing was coming on their way, as Pinkie Pie kept pressing on Luna’s wound to stop the bleeding.
“This can’t get any worse.” said Twilight.
“Don’t!” said Rainbow Dash, her mouth stinging from the lost tooth “Every time you say that, things get worse, so don’t say it…again.”
Luna sighed on the floor. She had enough strength to talk, even if it was in a weak thread of a voice.
“Twilight, what h-h-happened to you? Did you find m-my…my sister?”
Twilight forgot about that. She did see Princess Celestia. She saw her going towards a clock tower in the middle of the city. Twilight decided to give Luna the pieces of information one by one.
“We did see Celestia, but as soon as we started galloping towards her we got blocked by a train rain.”
“Train rain!?” said Rainbow Dash from one of the windows.
“Yeah! It’s like a rain, but with trains!” said Pinkie Pie bouncing on the spot.
“That’s not important right now!” said Twilight, and then turning to Luna she added “What’s going on here? Who’s doing all this?”
“Yeah, this makes no sense. You said her mind would attack us if we messed with her dreams, but we did nothing! And there’s no way Pinkie’s ballooned buildings caused this reaction!”
“Thank you Dashie!” said Pinkie with a big smile.
“You…” it hurt to talk, it was like having needles inside her lungs. Luna gasped and made an effort to raise her voice as she talked “You are right, this is something else…This is not my sister’s subconscious.”
“Then who the hay is doing all this!?” Rainbow Dash sounded more than angry. There were touches of fear in her tone.
“Whoever…wh-whoever is controlling my sister and keeping h-h-her under this sleeping spell is also controlling the dreaming space, and has filled it with an army of projections ready to kill us. That explains the rain of trains and…Th-Those mechanized ponies.”
“Kill us…” repeated Rainbow Dash, before a smile appeared on her face “Well, that’s not so bad, I mean…” she even found funny how a few minutes ago she was about to get her head blasted by that mechanic alicorn. It would be an awesome way to wake up, she thought “…If we die here we’ll just wake up, and all we’ve got to do is fall asleep again, right?”
“N-No…” Luna’s answer hit them right in the stomach “It won’t work that way…N-Not under these circumstances.”
Those words hit them harder than the rain of trains and the fireball blasts from the Mechanized Alicorns.
“What!?” they all joined at that scream, even Fluttershy, who stood up with a spring.
“What are you talking about Luna?” Twilight forgot the ranks for a moment and ignored using the “Princess” title in that sentence. She felt like something was twisting her guts, tightly enough to make her face contort in a painful expression.
“Yeah! What the hay are you saying? If we die we wake up. You told us!” shouted Rainbow Dash, as the all-too-familiar feeling of betrayal extended all over her body.
“This is…is a very, very Powerful individual. If this pony can control the dream space like this and send projections to kill us, it can certainly control the destiny of our minds when we die in this dream and before they return to our bodies.”
A silence crept inside the building, five endless seconds during which the rain and the creaking of the foundation were the only protagonists.
“Meaning…” said Rainbow Dash.
“If we die, whoever is controlling this will take our minds and drag them into Limbo.”
Twilight felt the cold fingers of fear grasping her spine and sinking her stomach into the abyss of panic. She knew of Limbo, it was explained in the books she had been reading during her studies in dreams. The prospect of that was terrifying.
“Limbo?” Fluttershy’s voice sounded lower than usual, taken by the trepidation.
“What is that?” even Rainbow Dash sounded filled with fear.
“Oh! I love Limbo! Limbo is the funniest dance ever! Can I be the first!?” Pinkie Pie didn’t change her usual attitude. Even in the worst situations she was still being Pinkie Pie.
Twilight looked at Pinkie so angry and so severely that the Pink pony just backed up and sat down with guilt written all over her face. She poked at her puffy hair to distract herself, as Twilight stepped forwards to explain.
“It’s nothing.” she said “Limbo is literally nothing; pure, raw, infinite and empty dream space. The place where we go when we don’t have dreams.”
Rainbow Dash was angry now, not annoyed nor upset, but angry. She looked at both Twilight and Princess Luna. Her wound was now dark around the edges and even though the bleeding was lesser there seemed to be no way of stopping the hemorrhage.
“You knew this too!?” said Rainbow to Twilight “You knew all along and said nothing to us!?”
“Rainbow-” started Twilight.
“Cut it with the Rainbow! We stepped into this dream risking our minds, and we didn’t know it! You lied to us!” she said alternating between Luna and Twilight.
“I am doing this for my Sister!” Luna shouted and this caused her to start coughing. Some blood drops fell on the floor “I wasn’t expecting hostile presence; I wasn’t expecting this pony to have such Powerful magic.”
“Great…” Rainbow finally gave up arguing and accepted the facts, but not without adding her own drops of bitter snark “So, we’re trapped inside Princess Celestia’s dream, assaulted by this super Powerful subconscious, facing somepony who can turn a building into a pony cruncher, and if we die our minds go down the drain all the way to Limbo until they become boiled clouds.”
“…I am so sorry.” was the only thing Luna could say.
“You will if we die.” sentenced Rainbow Dash before turning around and returning to look through the windows.
Twilight approached Luna. The bleeding didn’t stop. They had to find a way to stop it before she bled out alive.
“Can’t we create a medical kit to fix you?” said Twilight.
Luna smiled shyly and weakly.
“Even if we could, the wound is quite deep. In the real world, I would need surgery. I think it…I can’t remember what artery it was, but I think it’s severed.” the Princess looked at Twilight with a mix of impotence and fear in her eyes “I am not getting out of this Twilight. You and I know it.”
“Luna…” Twilight didn’t know what to say. She had to focus. Nothing was lost, not yet. They still had to find Celestia and bring her back, they could still do that. With all her determination, Twilight talked to Luna “Luna, we can still continue with the plan.”
Her friends looked at her, and Rainbow Dash left the window to go back with them.
“Girls, we can keep going with the plan. All we have to do is go get Celestia from inside that clock tower she went into. It’s just a few hundreds of meters away from here. Rainbow, have you seen any hostile projections out there?”
“Nothing. They are either hiding or this pony ran out of them.” said Rainbow Dash.
“Alright. We go get Celestia, and we activate The Fall. We have more than enough time to get out of this dream before Luna bleeds out. Now come on guys! Let’s move!”
Placing them deeper.
They left the building in a circular formation. Pinkie Pie helped Luna to walk, while Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Twilight stood on the front. The alleyway seemed calmed now, the remains of the previous battle still smoking. The rubble cracked under their hooves. Twilight checked if the main road was empty. The train wagons and the engines were still there, but everything seemed calm. The normal projections, those of white eyes and blackish coats, were still looking at them, but they didn’t attack. Twilight was surprised at how calm and laid back Celestia’s real subconscious was.
“All clear, come on!” Twilight whispered. She thought it would make no difference to whisper or to shout, but her instinct made her whisper anyways.
The five ponies moved as swiftly as they could, with the calm only ruptured by the occasional thunder in the distance. As they left the river behind Twilight looked at the clock tower standing fearful and tiny compared to the other bigger and taller buildings. She had the feeling that wasn’t in the original city of Manehattan. It felt like somepony placed it there for some reason. She asked Luna.
“Luna, is this familiar to you?”
Luna lifted her head. Her neck popped with a painful crack as she looked up. Having her head hanging between her shoulders wasn’t such a good idea. She felt so weak, her mouth tasting like liquid copper. When she saw the building a warm feel of nostalgia flowed inside her body, warming her cold hooves. She recognized the clock tower. The symbols carved in the golden planks, the architecture so rich in its details.
“It’s…our mother’s clock.” said Luna “We used to hide in it when we played hide and seek.”
“Well, that’s a huge clock for a house!” said Pinkie Pie arching one of her eyebrows.
“It’s...In the real world is s...smaller.” explained Luna “My sister’s subconscious must have brought it for her to hide inside, like we did when we were young.”
Fillies giggling. Twilight could hear them all around her. She could feel them running around her, but she couldn’t see them. Was Luna bringing a memory into that dream? Was the clock doing that to her? If it was something related to Luna’s and Celestia’s childhood, it was there for just one purpose: It was a shelter. Celestia was definitely in there. Once the creeping sound of the fillies faded, Twilight got close to the clock tower’s door. It was wonderfully detailed, pictures and engravings of moon cycles, constellations, different representations of seasons and months. There was even a world map of Equestria drawn on the door’s blades. Twilight placed a hoof on it, but it didn’t budge. It was shut solid.
“Let…Let me…” said Luna.
The Princess got off Pinkie Pie’s back, and walked pitifully towards the door. She looked up, the water drops falling over her face and rolling down her cheeks. They had so many moments together inside that clock. They kept hiding inside until they were so big not even their legs could get inside. She only had to place one hoof on its surface and the door creaked open, a sliver of golden light coming from the inside. The doors moved away and allowed the five mares to step inside.
Twilight expected something more complex for a clock tower, but all she found was one single column in the middle of the building that stored the mechanism and a staircase that circled around it. It wasn’t too high, just four stories of any normal building in Manehattan. Going back to Pinkie’s side, Luna rested her body on top of the Pink pony’s with a heavy sigh. Pinkie had a red stain on her coat. They had to hurry.
“My sister must be all the way up.” said Luna.
They stepped inside as the doors remained open. Twilight moved in first, her horn glowing with a lightning attack always ready. She would make no mistakes again. Rainbow Dash covered her back as they walked up the staircase with their hearts pounding hard enough for them to hear it. It was even more audible than their hoofs clattering on the metal staircase. The mechanism made a clasp sound and one set of cogs started rolling, hammering away as the gears turned. Twilight didn’t know what that meant, only that it startled her enough to make her jump.
“You have to stop being such a scared pony.” joked Rainbow Dash.
They finally arrived at the highest level of the tower. There the floor made a circular shape and there was a railing on the edges. The floor was made out of a metallic grid, Twilight could see the bottom and the inside pf the mechanism through it. But she ignored all that when she saw the white body lying on the floor, the multicolored mane flat over the floor, lifeless.
“Oh no…” was the only thing Twilight could say.
She trotted towards her teacher as Pinkie left Luna on the floor and checked on her wound. It looked worse than bad. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy went with Twilight to check on Princess Celestia. Luna stood up and dragged herself next to her sister. She had to see if she was okay, she needed to see it. She was lying there, why would she be lying there? She wasn’t dead, oh please, oh please, don’t let her be dead. Her head was at boiling point with thoughts flying left and right, none of them good.
“She is asleep.” said Twilight.
Her words hit Luna like a bucket of freezing water. It wasn’t as bad as dead, but it wasn’t good news either. She laid down on the floor next to her sister. She looked so peaceful, so child-like sleeping like that. It made her forget about the stabbing cold pain in her chest for a couple of seconds.
“I don’t get it.” said Rainbow Dash “She is asleep. What do we do? We wake her up?”
“We…We can’t.” said Luna, her hoof covering the gaping wound as blood flowed underneath “I can h-h-h-hear her now, the same way I could hear h-her in the real world.”
“Then what do we do?” said Pinkie Pie.
Twilight walked forwards. If she learnt something about all her studies in dreams is that being sleep inside a dream didn’t mean a dead end. They could still go inside Celestia’s head as she was right now. It could happen in real life. She read it in books, reports of ponies who had experienced dreams within dreams. If it could happen they could try doing it inside that dream.
“Well, we have to assume that whoever is controlling this has also put Celestia to sleep again, thinking we couldn’t get inside her head to rescue her.” said Twilight “But that pony is wrong, we can still get inside her dream right now the same way we got inside her dreams in the real world.”
“A dream within a dream.” said Luna.
“Exactly.” said Twilight “We only have to go deeper. This is how we will do it.”
Twilight divided the efforts between two teams. She would take Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash and Luna inside Celestia’s second dream. Fluttershy would stay into the first dream in Manehattan to protect them from the hostile Projections. Staying inside the clock tower wouldn’t be advisable as now it was opened and the Projections could get inside. Twilight asked Rainbow and Fluttershy to bring a carriage to put all of them inside for Fluttershy to drive around. In this case running away was better than facing the enemy.
While the two pegasi were away, Twilight took Luna aside for a moment to talk to her. It was breaking her heart seeing Luna like this. She had to repress her tears harder than she expected, her eyes stung and burned when the salty liquid went back inside. The wound looked worse than ever, the edges were black now and the flow of blood didn’t stop. Twilight wondered how she could still be alive.
“Luna…” Twilight didn’t know where to start or what to say next “Luna I…”
Luna placed a hoof on Twilight’s face. Her lower lip was coated in crimson and brown. When she talked she had a raspy voice.
“I know what you are going to say, Twilight.” said Luna “I am not going to get out of this alive.”
“Yes.” said Twilight “I know if we go deeper within layers of dreams you will experience less pain, but it’s a temporary arrangement. You will still die from blood loss and drop into Limbo.”
Luna shivered just hearing that word. It scared her, terrified her to the point of paralyzing her. She tried to act stoic despite being scared to death.
“Yes…I knew the risks.” said Luna “I knew them. You did not, you…nor your friends. If somepony deserves to end there, that’s me.”
“No!” Twilight couldn't believe how Luna said something like that “I won’t let you fall into Limbo. You won’t lose your mind Luna.”
Losing her mind, becoming an empty husk and starting from scratch, as if she was being born again. She smiled slyly when saying the next few lines.
“You don’t want me to become a little foal…” her lips tightened.
Twilight caught her joke, if she could consider it such.
“…Scared without her mother.” continued Twilight.
“Waiting for her big sister to save her.” finished Luna just to cough with such a raspy breath even Twilight felt her chest in pain.
“No. It won’t come to that.” said Twilight “You will come back with me. You will come back with me so we can be friends together. I will get in there and save you, you understand?”
Luna nodded. Twilight got her face closer to Luna’s, her snout pressing against the Princess’, their eyes fixated into the other’s. She could smell her breath, poisoned by the copper stench of blood. Twilight grabbed Luna’s head with her fore hooves as she spoke with a demanding voice tone.
“Say it. Say that you understand and that you will wait for me.”
Her voice sounded full of confidence.
“I understand and…” Luna’s voice sounded weak, but it was just because of her gaping wound inside her chest. Being intimidated by Twilight didn’t count “…I will wait for you.”
Twilight was startled when she heard Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy bringing in the carriage. She told Pinkie to move on and together they brought Luna downstairs and inside the carriage. The carriage was big enough to hold seven ponies, so having such tall ponies like Luna and Celestia made the carriage the perfect size for all of them to get inside. It was fully covered and had small windows. Twilight thought it was perfect. They laid Luna as comfortable as they could before going back upstairs and bringing Princess Celestia. They placed both sisters together on one seat as Rainbow Dash and Pinkie jumped inside. Before taking her place Twilight talked to Fluttershy.
“Fluttershy, I know you are careful, but try to avoid all bumps and air currents. Performing a dream within another dream can get pretty unstable and it doesn’t help if things get hasty on this level.”
“Don’t worry Twilight.” said Fluttershy “You know me, I am very careful.”
“I know.” said Twilight “Fly around for a while, give us enough time to find Celestia so we bring her back before activating The Fall.”
“Alright” said Fluttershy, only to add a few seconds later “How…How do I do that?”
“You fly as high as you can, preferably over the river or a big mass of water, and then you let yourself and the carriage fall. That will wake us up, and if we are not ready by then and we miss it, the splash in the river will do the trick.” explained Twilight as quickly as she could.
“Alright.” said Fluttershy “For how long do I have to fly?”
Twilight hesitated. Fluttershy remembered that inside a dream time moved slower than in the real world, so inside a dream that’s into another dream time would move even slower. One minute in the real world was twenty minutes inside the dream world, so the effect increased the deeper they went into dreams. If Fluttershy flew for 20 minutes into the first dream, that would give them 400 minutes inside the second dream, over 6 hours.
“Fly for twenty minutes, more or less.” said Twilight “That will give us around 6 hours. That’s more than enough time.”
“Okay Twilight. I will do that.” said Fluttershy.
Twilight wanted to hug her. She wanted to do it so much. She hesitated. Why did she want to hug Fluttershy so bad? She felt like she wasn’t going to see her again.
“Oh, to hay with it.” she threw her forelegs around Fluttershy’s neck and gave her a tight hug “Please, be careful.”
Twilight hopped inside the carriage and took her place next to Luna. Their heads together like before. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were lying on the opposite seat of the carriage, already half asleep.
“Just like…like before, Twilight.” said Luna.
“Let’s go.” said Twilight.
They used the Dream Infiltration spell again. Being inside a dream already there was no need to use any sedatives to get sleep. Twilight felt the surge of magic energy surrounding her body, making her fur stand up. The sparks ran all over her coat, around her mane, behind her ears, as she closed her eyes. The last thing she saw was Rainbow Dash and Pinkie holding each other’s hooves. The last thing she felt was this sucking sensation in her stomach. She remembered all the times she took a flight with Rainbow Dash and anytime they pulled from the ground she felt leaving her stomach behind. That was the same feeling she experienced now.
Fluffy. Spongy. It was like she was walking on clouds.
END OF CHAPTER 1.
THE REGAL DREAM.
In the Main Street.
It was a spectacle of clouds and light.
Twilight stared with her mouth open at the magnificence of the Pegasus city of Cloudsdale. There were tall buildings that bent under the force of the wind. At that altitude the edifices tended to be slightly unstable. There were smaller buildings too with sturdy columns made of marble held by clouds and plaques of ceramics. Twilight remembered seeing buildings like those on her history books, especially in those episodes narrating the story of an ancient civilization called “The Greeks”. The city was built by Pegasus ponies more than a millennium ago and it extended its domains beyond her sight. The sunlight crossed through the clouds forming a light show of every color in the spectrum. There were areas in the horizon covered in dark clouds and Twilight could see the curtains of rain soaking the fields. The shadows formed by the clouds created a bizarre mosaic of shapes that felt alive as it scurried over the landscape.
Twilight was standing on the roof of a small sized building, the wind current messing up her mane in every which way. Next to her was Princess Luna whose hair was also moving in every direction. She had her eyes half closed and Twilight didn’t know if it was due to the painful wound on her chest, the sheer blinding force of the wind or both. Twilight noticed the building was a bar, the roof built out of cloud tiles and the chimneys regular steel pipes. She tried to figure out how Cloudsdale was built in her studies and learnt that in that city the Pegasus ponies used clouds the same way earth ponies use concrete to build, only of a different density to resist the fast winds on the highest levels of the atmosphere.
Despite the sun light bathing their bodies it was cold enough to give Twilight goose bumps. She rubbed one of her hoofs over her shoulder as she talked directly to Luna.
“Luna, we need to get moving.”
The Princess didn’t react. She was even more shocked than Twilight at the sight before her eyes. The Sun rays cutting their way through the clouds, the small water drops spraying over her face anytime a small puff of cloud crossed over her head, and the warm feel that fresh air rubbed over her neck and all over her back. She never had the chance to experience the day in such a way. The beauty of the sun light left her breathless for what she felt was hours. Maybe it’s my perception within this dream, she thought, but that doesn’t make this less stunning. Her mouth hung open in a gesture of admiration and sadness. She realized why those ponies back then loved the day so much. It wasn’t until a gust of wind hit her on the cheek that she realized she had streams of tears coming from her eyes.
“Princess! Princess Luna, does it hurt!? Can I get you something!?” said Twilight with a clear timbre of alarm in her voice, thinking Luna was crying because of her injury.
“It’s not that.” said Luna realizing her injury didn’t hurt all that much “I just…”
Her words escaped her mouth involuntarily.
“I’ve never seen the day…like this…b-before.” she couldn’t feel her mouth.
Come on! Snap out of it! She shouted to herself. Your sister Celly needs you! Stop looking at the clouds like a silly filly and get to work. Luna rubbed a hoof over her eyes and cleared the tears from them. Without saying anything she activated the Magic Search spell and started looking for her sister’s magic field. She still had a thick ball of liquid stuck in the bottom of her throat, but when she talked to Twilight she sounded determined. Another gust of wind dried the remaining tears.
“We need to find my sister.” said Luna to remind her why they were there “I can’t feel her magic field though. We are either not close enough or that pony is interfering with the signal.”
Twilight made her best efforts to ignore what just happened with Luna.
“I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but…” said Twilight.
“Then don’t!” said Luna before coughing without control for a couple of seconds. Her coughs sounded dry “I am f-fine…” more coughing. She could feel the stinging taste of blood in her tongue “I am f-fine, really. Twilight…” she cleared her throat “Don’t jump to conclusions yet. We need to find my sister, hop onto my back.”
Twilight hesitated. She wasn’t just worried for Luna’s physical condition but also for the protocol. Was it alright for her to jump onto Luna’s back and ride with her across the sky? She thought it would be harmless. They were in a dream, that wasn’t the real world, and they were in a hurry to find Princess Celestia. She jumped and landed onto Luna’s back. The Princess extended her wings and hopped off the building. Twilight felt her stomach going up and then down again as Luna regained a more stable flying level. She wasn’t moving her wings that much using the air currents to keep herself balanced. Twilight looked around with her mouth open as her horn glowed with a dark purple mist as she looked for Celestia’s magic field. She was stunned at the edification of the city. She went to Cloudsdale before but her stay wasn’t long enough to see all of it and the few things she saw were a factory and the Coliseum. While outstanding in their design, the district of Cloudsdale they were on now was bigger and busier.
There were buildings left and right of a road made out of nothing where Pegasus ponies flew, pulling carriages or just by themselves. A line of clouds separated both lanes. The buildings went from small sized bars to hotels and flats, and their colors ranged from the purest white to the darkest black, passing from red, green, yellow or blue. Twilight couldn’t name all the colors she saw, there were so many! Her mind was overloaded with colors. Too bad this is a dream, she thought, if I was told this was a dream I would… A sting of fear pierced her heart with coldness. She moved her head close to Luna’s head rubbing their cheeks together. She had to make herself heard and, even though Luna was flying rather slow, the wind coming against them made the world swirl in the wind currents.
“Luna! What do we do when we meet up with Princess Celestia!?”
Twilight realised they didn’t talk about how to take Celestia out of that dream and now that they were two levels deep inside dreams, the reaction she could have would be nothing but unpleasant. Luna’s voice sounded confident enough to calm Twilight down.
“We will tell her she is dreaming!” said Luna raising her voice to make herself be heard “There could be better ways to get her to wake up, but we have no other choice!”
“You make it sound dangerous!” said Twilight as she grabbed to Luna’s neck tighter.
“It is!” said Luna, the sentence falling inside Twilight’s gut like a ton of bricks “If you tell a dreamer they are dreaming you are attracting attention to you and whoever is inside with you! You can get her subconscious to attack you until it kills you! But we have no choice!”
“Will she wake up if you tell her she’s dreaming!?” inquired Twilight with an even more worried tone.
“No, but she will trust us to take her with us and then wake her up!” replied Luna.
Luna’s horn started glowing brighter than before and so did Twilight’s. They looked at each other as Luna stopped in mid air flapping her wings with a Powerful air slashing sound. Twilight felt her ears deafening with the beating of the feathers against the wind. They had stopped over the road with pegasi flying underneath them. Twilight didn’t need to look to see their black figures leaving black trails behind them like they were made out of smoke. Celestia’s subconscious remained black even at that level of dreaming, which encouraged and terrified Twilight. The faceless ponies were better than ponies she could recognize. Ignoring everything around her she focused her horn towards one of the bars on the right side of the street, situated between a wobbling skyscraper and a shop with wings on its banner.
The bar had a front made out of red columns that looked translucent. Twilight could see the windows through them, a pale warm yellow light coming from the inside. The frame was made out of solid oak, the knots on the wood still visible. The glass wasn’t glass but solid dry ice and the steam coming from it ascended to the sky only to be assimilated by the building’s spongy cloud structure. The door was opened and a cheerful sound of ponies chatting and laughing invited them to step inside. Luna landed in front of the bar, breathing heavily and panting. Twilight hopped off to the ground as she realized she was walking on clouds, without her spell! She guessed since that was a dream she could walk on clouds without a problem. In a city made of clouds, physics mattered little.
“Alright, fine.” said Twilight “Are we going to tell Celestia that she is dreaming?” she added looking at Luna.
Luna rubbed her hoof over the shoulder. The wound didn’t seem to be there anymore but she could see the blood spurting in little dots under her skin and between her coat, staining her hoof and leaving a trail of crimson over her shoulder. It stung her muscles and her bones. Ignoring it the best she could she replied to Twilight.
“Yes, there is no other way we can get her to wake up.” said Luna “I will talk to her first, but I will need your help if she starts to hesitate.”
“Hesitate? Why? What can happen if she hesitates?” said Twilight, thinking it couldn’t be that big of a deal.
“If she hesitates her mind will stop and try to figure out what’s wrong. It’s the first state before her subconscious attacks us and if that happens…Well…”
Twilight didn’t need to know how that sentence followed.
* * *
Rainbow Dash and Pinkie separated from the group as they arrived to Cloudsdale. But neither Rainbow nor Pinkie Pie remembered that. They realized how each time they got inside a dream they couldn’t remember how they got in. In the blink of an eye they went from a rainy evening in Manehattan to a fairly cloudy morning in Cloudsdale. Rainbow Dash was too happy to think too much about it though as she flew over the city while carrying Pinkie Pie on her back. The pink pony clenched to her Pegasus friend with all four legs, her puffy mane straightened by the force of the wind.
“What do we do now?” said Pinkie, her mouth literally stuck inside Rainbow Dash’s ear.
“We have to find Twilight and Luna.” replied Rainbow Dash with half a smile, her focus on flying drifted temporarily to answer to Pinkie “Keep your eyes opened Pinkie.”
“I’ll keep both my eyes out!” said Pinkie Pie with her characteristic screechy determined voice.
“I hope you don’t mean that literally.” mumbled Rainbow Dash.
She got past the Coliseum and the Sports District to step into the Main Street of Cloudsdale. The Main Street was the biggest living area of Cloudsdale as well as the biggest entertainment district. Dash never spent enough time in those places, despite her friends at flying school trying to pull her out of the gym every Friday. That thought made her think of Gilda and a nagging feel of guilt poured into her heart with coldness. Thinking of her left a place inside her chest that felt hollow.
Out of nowhere a blast of wind crossed under her cutting through the air in a perpendicular line above the street. The wind it lifted hit Rainbow Dash right under her wings and threw off her balance.
“Waaaah!” screamed Pinkie Pie.
“What the hay was that!?” said Dash.
“Wh-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-t wa-a-a-as whaa-a-a-a-a-aa-a-at!?” said Pinkie Pie as she spun with Dash.
They rolled in the air, stumbling and twisting without direction. Everything became a blur to Rainbow Dash. She couldn’t see the buildings or the black projections anymore. All she could see was white smudges covered with black smudges and eventual colorful smudges here and there. She yelled at Pinkie Pie, hoping she will hear her.
“Hold on tight!” screamed Dash.
“I-I-I-I-I’m t-t-t-t-try-y-y-y-y-i-i-i-ing!” replied Pinkie Pie.
For anyone who could be looking at them it was like a puff of multicolored wind spun over the Main Street and headed directly to one of the roof tops on the left side of the street. Dash folded her left wing and, sticking it to her body, she extended her right wing and tried to stop the spinning in order to push all the air resistance against her. The wind passing under her belly gave her the chills like a gush of ice cold water. She could feel her body balancing over the clouds. She regained her position and stopped spinning.
Sadly she managed to balance in time to see the roof top going right at her with a violence she didn’t expect from a building. The impact was strong and she felt her body sinking upon the fluffy cloud roof. A mist of small clouds lifted around their bodies, covering them in tufts that looked like cotton. Rainbow Dash had an extra crest of white on her mane that she quickly shook off with her hoofs. Pinkie Pie was rolling on her back as she threw hooffuls of clouds. Some of them vanished between her hoofs and others she squeezed so tight they turned into water.
“Woohoo! Let’s do it again!” said the Pink pony.
“Not likely.” said Rainbow Dash “You okay Pinkie?”
“I’m Great! This is so awesome! We’re in your city Dashie! Doesn’t it feel like going back home!? Huh!? Huh!? Huh!?”
Despite her smile, Rainbow Dash wasn’t happy. Not even the natural happiness of Pinkie Pie could cheer her up. She didn’t like Cloudsdale all that much, especially the Entertainment District and the Main Street. She didn’t have fond memories of those places and trying to push those thoughts to the back of her head was of no use in a dream. In a dream her thoughts were everywhere. They surrounded her and haunted her. What was that blast of air that threw away her perfect balance? Was it her? Was her reminiscence creeping inside her memories and popping out of nowhere to hunt her until there was nothing left but guilt? Rainbow Dash bit her lower lip and tried her best not to think about anything but what they had to do.
“Well, it’s nice.” replied Dash with her best smile, despite the circumstances “Did you see Twilight or Luna before we crashed?”
“Oh yeah!” said Pinkie “They’re right…” and she deliberately delayed her reply to extend a hoof and point directly to the building placed right in front of the one they were sitting on “…there!”
Rainbow Dash looked at the building right before them as she saw Luna and Twilight stepping inside. It was a bar, and the light coming from the inside made stepping into it even more appealing than Dash was willing to admit. The Alicorn and the unicorn disappeared, engulfed by the yellow light, as Rainbow Dash sat down on the roof top and put her fore hoofs on the edge of it.
“I guess we’ve got to play the Waiting Game now.” sighed Rainbow Dash.
“Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! Oh yes! I love games! How do you play that!?” bounced Pinkie Pie.
* * *
The bar had a very roomy atmosphere. There were tables full of pegasi from every rank and social class. Twilight could tell from the shape of their clothes and the trim of their manes. She noticed the glasses and stacks of books on some tables and figured those were intellectual pegasi discussing the economy. There was a Piano at the back of the bar, empty at the moment. The lamps hanging from the ceiling laid a comfortable light over them with the warmth of the sun. There was a bar attended by the shade of a Pegasus with spiky hair and squared muzzle. Twilight had the feeling she’d seen him before, which made her wonder if their subconscious wasn’t slipping inside Celestia’s dreams by accident.
“There…” whispered Luna.
Twilight directed her eyesight to where Luna was looking and, certainly, there she was. Princess Celestia sat at the end of the bar, one of her hoofs holding a glass of something and her sight lost in the bottom of it. She looked somber and her mane flowed calmly behind and over her shoulders. Her wings were folded over her back and even like that they were overwhelmingly big.
“How do we approach her?” said Twilight.
“I will talk to her first.” said Luna “If she starts to breath heavily or if she gets too nervous then intervene. Stay calm and focused. She knows you as good as she knows me Twilight.”
“Alright.” said Twilight.
Luna led the way, flinching at each step. She whipped the blood from her coat and rubbed the hoof on the floor, leaving a dark brownish stain shaped like a horseshoe. Twilight looked at it unable to hide her concern as she kept walking behind the Princess. Luna stopped by Celestia’s side and cleared her throat. Celestia didn’t reply. She was so cold! Luna could feel a virulent current of cold air emanating from her sister’s body. Without touching her Luna circled behind her sister and sat on her right. Celestia didn’t move.
“Sister?” said Luna with a very soft voice.
Expecting no reply whatsoever, Luna’s stomach jumped when Princess Celestia turned her head to the right and planted her big eyes on hers. She was smiling and her expression was that of somebody who just woke up. Her hoof played with the empty glass on the bar counter and when she talked her voiced sounded sweet and clean with a happy tone like nothing was happening.
“Hello Little Sister.” said Celestia “What are you doing here?”
Luna felt a striking pain inside her chest. She never knew if it was caused by her wound or by her worry.
* * *
“So, how does this game works!?” Pinkie Pie was still excited about Playing the Waiting Game.
“We wait.” said Rainbow Dash “There’s no winner by the way.” she added.
“That doesn’t sound fun.” said Pinkie Pie with a gloomy tone as she stopped bouncing “Oh! I know how it can be funnier!” and as her mood whiplashed she jumped behind Rainbow Dash and pulled a couple of cloud tufts from the roof top.
Rainbow Dash turned around as her eyes turned into a mask of abject terror. Pinkie Pie was shaping the cloud tufts into instruments. There was a xylophone, a tuba and an accordion. They all were white colored and had cloudy texture, but Pinkie used her abilities to turn the fluffy material into solid golden metal. Rainbow Dash rushed and pounced Pinkie Pie, pinning her to the ground right before she could take the Tuba’s mouthpiece between her lips.
“Are you crazy Pinkie Pie!?” said Rainbow Dash as she snickered to herself at that question “If you play those instruments those dark Pegasi will attack us. We have to stay hidden”
Pinkie’s expression was of surprise at first but then she nodded with a cheerful smile and patted Rainbow Dash on her head.
“It’s alright silly.” said Pinkie Pie “I promise you I won’t play those instruments.”
She was going to get off Rainbow Dash when a rumbling noise shook the building they were standing on. Rainbow Dash looked at the xylophone Pinkie had made and saw the keys vibrating, making a tingling noise that gave her the creeps. There was some marble that cracked from the roof top and fell on the sidewalk. Pinkie looked up to see some clouds vanishing or turning into columns of water that precipitated, dissolving before touching the ground and turning into vapor. Rainbow Dash got off Pinkie Pie as the rumble stopped, the floor returning to its normal steady self.
“What was that?” said Pinkie Pie with more curiosity than concern in her voice.
“No idea.” said Rainbow Dash “But it feels like Fluttershy’s having problems up there.”
Fluttershy was flying at her fastest, which wasn’t fast enough to outrun the relentless creatures that attacked her. She looked behind to protect her face from the rain and to see if she was still being followed. She saw two figures, dead eyes and mechanized bodies catching up with her. She then looked at the big carriage she had behind her and through the windows noticed her friends were still asleep. They looked so peaceful. That eased her fears as she turned to the left and passed between two tall buildings. She was trying to lose those mechanized alicorns but so far there was no success in her plans.
Turning left made the carriage tilt to the right as an air current sent a blast against the bottom of it, making it vibrate.
* * *
Inside the bar Twilight saw the glasses tilt and tinker between each other as the bottles behind the counter moved to the left. She could feel a minor gravity shift inside her gut as she slowly moved to the back of the bar in the direction Princess Luna was. Princess Celestia changed her facial expression from calm to quizzical. Narrowing her eyes she asked in the same voice tone but tentatively.
“So, what is it you want Little Sister?”
Luna gave Twilight a concerned glance as she moved closer to Celestia. She remained silent as she looked over her shoulder at the projections inside the bar. They were still chatting between each other. Parts of Celestia’s mind talking between each other like they were in the middle of a sick theatrical play. The projections didn’t move though meaning Celestia’s subconscious was still unaware that she was inside a dream. She turned her head to Celestia and Luna, breathing heavily and rapidly. She could feel her heart pounding harder as she wondered why was all that happening. She looked at the drinks on the tables and saw the liquid inside rumbling, the vibrations going through her legs and inside her body. She bit her lower lip.
“Big Sister…” said Luna, her voice sounding more serious than usual. She had to measure her words carefully “I am here to tell you something. I need you to listen to me very carefully.”
Celestia moved her eyes rapidly left and right before focusing them again on Luna. Twilight could feel something was going more than wrong. The murmur inside the bar was growing weaker as she started to see white dots appearing on the featureless faces of those pegasi. The indigo colored unicorn felt the cold grip of fear striking her. She couldn’t help it.
“Alright.” said Celestia, her voice now sounded more like the authority figure Twilight grew up with “What is this you have to tell me Princess Luna?”
“I came here to tell you…something.” started Luna “Something you can’t remember but that you know deep inside.”
Twilight noticed how Celestia’s mane shifted into a terrifying shape. Its natural flow of round lines and soft tones started changing to an unnatural creep of angular shapes and dark tones. The pinks and blues turned into dark reds and blacks. The murmur was practically non existent now. Outside she could hear a light rumbling and noticed the sun light getting blocked by something she couldn’t see.
* * *
Fluttershy was doing all she could to stay away from the Mechanized Alicorns, but their attacks were unstoppable. One fire ball passed right underneath her and she caught the smell of burning wood. Panicking, she realized the carriage caught fire on one of the wheels. It was small but she was frenzied enough to turn around and fly lower to an area where the houses were stuck together with little separation between each other. She flew into the alleyway as she tilted the carriage slightly to the right making water pour on the wheel.
Some streams dropped water inside the carriage, spraying all over Twilight’s face.
* * *
Rainbow Dash looked at the clouds above the city. They changed from white to black in the blink of an eye. The black spread inside the clouds like ink spreads inside a drop of water and thunders roared in between them. The clouds inflated until they grew big enough to block the sun light, and lightning sprouted when the storms collided between each other. When the rain poured over them it did it without mercy. It fell over them like a waterfall. With their manes and tails flattened by the water, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie jumped off the roof top and hopped inside through the door, splashing on the sidewalk and being careful not to fall off the edge of it.
“What happened? Why is it raining?” said Pinkie Pie.
“Maybe Fluttershy opened a window in the carriage.” said Rainbow Dash shaking the water off of her coat.
Pinkie Pie shrugged.
“Whatever happens I bet Twilight will find a way around it. She always does!” and when she looked around the store they stepped inside she added “Oh hey Dashie! Look! They have eyes now!”
Rainbow Dash looked at Pinkie Pie as the creeping sensation of being observed grew within her. It crawled inside her nape, scratched at her spine and forced her to stand still until her neck felt numb. She didn’t need to turn around though. She could feel those eyes picking at her all over her body.
“How many are in here Pinkie?” whispered Dash.
“Oh, about twenty!” said Pinkie with a cheerful note “Huh, that’s funny.”
“…W-What’s funny Pinkie?” Rainbow Dash’s voice sounded devoid of life.
“I think I can also see their mouths.”
* * *
Twilight could see from inside the bar how the sun light disappeared and the water poured with sudden violence. A storm formed out of nowhere. She touched her face feeling wet and coldness spreading over her cheek. She turned to Luna and gave her an anxious look as she ogled at the pegasi sitting around the bar. The murmur was gone now and their faces had almost fully grown eyes on them. Luna stuttered for a moment before continuing.
“Y-…you know this is not real.” said Luna “This is not the real world Big Sister. You are in a dream”
Before Luna finished talking Twilight saw all the pegasi in the bar stop, turn their faces at them and stare with those glowing white eyes. She turned to Celestia and Luna. The white Princess had a shocked expression in her face, her eyes fixed on Luna’s and her mouth opened in a gap of abject terror. She wasn’t breathing hard or hyper ventilating. She was paralyzed.
“Big Sister, you have to trust me.” Luna’s voice sounded riddled with fear.
This is not working, thought Twilight. Luna wouldn’t convince her sister, and if she didn’t convince her sister then her subconscious will tear them all apart. She had to do something. Intervene. Twilight bolted from where she was, jumped between both sisters and placed her hoofs on Celestia’s shoulders.
“Twilight, don’t!!!” cried Luna.
As soon as Twilight touched Celestia the pegasi stood up all around them in the bar and took a step forwards but didn’t move any further. They pushed the tables aside and adopted a fighting stance ready to smite Twilight and Luna. They were not talking anymore and the only sounds floating in the room were the glasses tinkering and the bottles twinkling.
“Princess! Look at me!” said Twilight in the most calmed voice she could use “It’s me, Twilight! Twilight Sparkle, your most prized Pupil.”
Celestia looked at Twilight as if she didn’t know who she was. The projections took a step forwards. Luna took a step back and cooed in submission. The pain inside her chest affected her braveness and she didn’t know how to react against such attack. Twilight continued as the shadows drew closer to them.
“Princess, you taught me everything I know. You taught me to be brave, to not be afraid of my abilities.” another step closer. Twilight could see them a few steps behind Celestia, those white eyes and slightly over their jaw line a thin white line suggesting a mouth “Don’t be afraid now Princess.”
* * *
Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash were cornered inside the store. They couldn’t reach the door because two projections blocked the way, and they couldn’t jump out the windows because they were covered with bars. Dash pushed herself against a barrel and pulled Pinkie Pie close to her. The projections were now around thirty and their eyes were not the only thing glowing in their black faces. With a devilish grin they now featured big mouths that, when opened, showed endless rows of teeth in what looked like a bottomless hole of a throat.
Rainbow Dash pushed her face against Pinkie’s, scared to her deepest as she trembled and shake in fear. They looked inside those gaping mouths knowing they were going to be torn apart. Pinkie Pie thought she could call upon a rain of anvils and bring the projections to an end, but if she did so she would risk to destroy the little stability the dream had left, killing the minds of her friends. She could only curl against Rainbow Dash, hiding her fear as best as she could.
“Dashie…Dashie, don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”
Dash didn’t reply and wrapped her hoofs around Pinkie Pie’s face pulling her close. If they were going to die she might as well save Pinkie Pie from looking at it. She swallowed saliva for what she felt would be the last time and closed her eyes, the odorless breath of those shadows licking their faces.
* * *
Twilight felt desperate and mentally exhausted. Her brow was coated with sweat and her back ached. She had her hoofs firmly gripped on Celestia’s shoulders and she could see the projections now surrounding them. They were on the bar counter, on the tables and in between them and Luna. She was growing desperate and those projections seemed to be growing hungrier. She saw those mouths and those bottomless throats and her panic grew bigger. Luna whimpered pressing her back against the wall unable to say a word and her wound opening on her chest, ripping the flesh off of it.
Twilight closed her eyes and in one last act of desperation hugged Celestia. She didn’t know why she did that. She was so desperate, Twilight felt the only way she could pull Celestia out of her paralysis was with some of the affection she gave her over the years. Twilight laid her head against her chest giving a comforting and reassuring hug. If she was going to die and lose her mind she would do it hugging the one who she cared for and admired the most.
She opened her eyes. She didn’t realize but she was crying. The first thing Twilight Sparkle saw was that the Projections had stopped moving towards them. They were standing inches away from their bodies, their mouths open yet not attacking. Twilight raised her head and with a slightly cracked up voice talked to her teacher.
“Yes, yes Princess Celestia! It’s me!”
“Twilight, are you saying this…this is all a dream?” she sounded confused but her voice was calm and didn’t crack when talking.
“That’s exactly what’s going on Princess.” said Twilight “We are inside your dream, and we have come here to get you out, to save you. You are in danger.”
She made a pause and scrutinized Celestia’s expression to make sure she understood it. She looked side to side, staring at the projections with her mouth agape in an expression of disbelief. Twilight decided to let her analyze the situation she was into for as long as she wanted. The projections were not moving anymore and she seemed more relaxed now. Luna moved away from the wall and stepped closer until she put one of her hoofs on her sister’s foreleg. The warm touch gave Celestia the shadow of a smile, a little twinkle of the corner of her mouth.
“Don’t worry Big Sister. Relax. You know how it is, you remember from the therapy sessions I went to.” said Luna, her voice though firm had a touch of worry “Accept the fact that you are in a dream. Breathe calmly. Accept that, and accept that we are here to save you.”
Twilight realized Luna’s words were the last push Celestia needed to accept what lied before her. Princess Celestia turned her face to Twilight, then to her sister. She swallowed hard and nodded with the slightest head move.
“This is not real. You’ve come to save me.” said Celestia.
Twilight didn’t see it right away because it happened really fast, but in the flutter of a humming bird the projections moved from where they were, hounding and overwhelming her and Luna, and back to their seats and drinks. Their mouths zipped and disappeared at the same time their eyes were swallowed by the black featureless faces. Twilight welcomed the feel of relief like a warm liquid filling her limbs.
“That’s right Big Sister. We are here to save you.”
* * *
Rainbow Dash was surprised to not feel anything at all. She opened her eyes tentatively, thinking she would wake up and remember nothing. But she knew she was Rainbow Dash. She knew she loved flying. And she knew the strawberry smell that filled her nostrils came from Pinkie Pie’s mane, tangled around her muzzle. She noticed how before her there was nothing. Those mouths were not there as well as those eyes. The projections had drifted out of the store leaving it in darkness and empty.
“Uhm, Dashie…You can…let go now.”
Pinkie Pie’s voice sounded from under her chin. Rainbow Dash looked down and realized she was still hugging her close and tightly. Pinkie Pie seemed happy to be like that though. Rainbow Dash gave her a gentle squeeze and let her go, standing up and moving away from the corner as she rubbed her hoof on her foreleg. The embarrassment made her blush.
“You…You okay Pinkie Pie?” said Rainbow Dash.
Pinkie bounced around happy. To her it was as if they were not about to lose their minds into Limbo a few seconds ago. She might have been scared but that was then. Now she was happy, bouncy, cheery and all super joyful.
“Of course I am!” said Pinkie with a rush of happiness in her voice “I was with you the whole time! I knew we would be safe!”
Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow as she looked again at the store making sure there were no more shadows inside. It was empty. She wondered how those shadows could move with that ease inside the dream world and if they could do it too. But the thought that occupied her head in that moment was if the shadows, if those projections, could take the shape and aspect of ponies she knew in the real world. And not only ponies but childhood friends and family. A shiver ran over her spine.
“O…Of course Pinkie.” she said, her voice raspy at the start “You know I’ll always keep you and everypony else safe! Come on, we have to meet up with Twilight and Luna.”
“Okie Dokie Loki!” giggled Pinkie as she followed Rainbow Dash out of the store.
* * *
“If this is a dream, who is keeping me down here?” asked Celestia.
Twilight looked around them as she noticed the projections were not moving and the murmur cacophony remained stable at a medium level of noise. She was relieved to see that Celestia’s subconscious wouldn’t react to a normal conversation but it wasn’t the right place to talk about their plan. She didn’t know who could be listening and maybe even that pony that kept Celestia under that dream was around there, creeping within the shadows. Twilight looked at Celestia, Luna standing behind her.
“Princess, we think you are not safe in this place. We have to take you somewhere else, away from these projections.” said Twilight.
“But this is my subconscious. They are not going to hurt you Twilight, nor will they hurt you Little Sister.” she said that last line looking at Luna with concern.
“This other pony, the one controlling you, she can even turn your subconscious against yourself.” explained Twilight “The sooner we move away from this place the better.”
Celestia looked at her student and then at her Little Sister. In other circumstances Twilight would have seen Celestia with an ominous expression followed by a smile and a polite answer. Maybe even a little joke to ease things down. In this case Celestia was acting in a way Twilight had never seen her before: She was serious. Her expression beamed authority and gravity. She could ask anyone to do something and they would, shaking and fearing for their lives. She stood up and away from the bar counter. Twilight looked over Celestia to see two other Pegasi standing up next to the bar’s entrance. She looked at Luna.
“We leave through the back door.” said Twilight in a whisper.
Luna nodded and moved back until her body hit the wall. She gestured with her head to Celestia and she followed it to the right of the bar. Luna flinched at the pain on her shoulder as she rubbed a hoof over it. The wound was now bigger than it was on the upper dream but the bleeding wasn’t that bad. Twilight moved to Luna and they both followed Celestia out of the bar through the back door. She could feel those projections moving in close. Before closing the door behind them and locking it she could see their wings were red and black instead of just black, with an aura that resembled fire.
Gritty horse eater.
Rainbow Dash was growing impatient and even though the projections were ignoring them she was also getting worried. Twilight, Luna and Celestia didn’t step out of the bar yet. Rainbow Dash knew that Twilight had done something to keep the shadow pegasi away from slaughtering them, but it was taking them too long to step out of the bar.
“Still nothing.” muttered Rainbow Dash.
They were sitting in front of the store they had been hiding as Pinkie Pie munched on a candy cane she took from her mane looking at the Pegasi passing by. She was bored from playing The Waiting Game, so she just found a much more entertaining game to play.
“Black one…Black one…Black one…”
“Where are they?” complained Rainbow Dash.
Pinkie gave one last lick to the candy cane and stuffed it back inside her mane as she looked at Rainbow Dash. The Pegasus pony didn’t look back at her.
“Maybe they left the bar someway else!” said Pinkie with a cheerful voice tone.
Rainbow Dash shook her head as she rolled her eyes. It was a ridiculous idea, she thought, the only reason Twilight could have to not leave the bar through the front door…Her mind snapped as she lifted Pinkie Pie on her back, flapped her wings and took off from the ground leaving a trail of clouds behind her. Pinkie was confused.
“What’s going on!?” said Pinkie.
“You’re right! That’s what’s going on!” replied Rainbow Dash.
* * *
Twilight and Luna galloped behind Celestia as they traversed behind the bar and into what looked like an open air hallway. The houses on either side were so close together that the alleyways were non existent, and the lack of doors on them gave them the feel they stepped inside a dungeon. The absence of ceiling allowed Twilight to see the sky, now clearer than before with the rain and the wind gone. From time to time a shadow Pegasus flew over their heads leaving a black trail behind it, though it wasn’t those shadow pegasi what concerned Twilight. It was those big, blazing pegasi that followed them.
Twilight turned around and saw them in the opposite end of the hallway stepping outside of the bar’s door. A burst of splinters indicated they just destroyed the door. The pegasi stepped outside and glared at Twilight, Luna and Celestia. Celestia wanted to step forwards but her sister stopped her.
“No.” said Luna “We take care of these…” but before she could end her sentence she collapsed onto the ground.
“Sister!!” Celestia caught Luna right before her head hit the ground. Despite it being made out of clouds it was also covered in marble tiles. Celestia looked at her sister’s chest and noticed the big gaping wound.
Twilight wanted to check up on Luna to see if she was okay but she had to face those blazing pegasi. She padded the ground and snorted, blowing off two small clouds of steam. Her horn glowed with a yellow light as she charged up a lightning spell. The pegasi took a few steps closer to Twilight and she did the same, shortening the distance between them. The pegasi started moving faster and so did Twilight. The ground trembled under her hoofs and when she fired the lightning spell the clouds underneath her turned black and a wave of lightning hit the blazing pegasi. Twilight had a triumphant expression in her face but it didn’t last long. The pegasi shook off the attack and charged straight at Twilight. They were stronger than those in the first dream level. With the distance shorter than before she had no chance of avoiding them. In a more instinctive than rational act, she turned around and lifted her hind legs hoping she would hit one of them in the process.
“Hold on Twilight!”
A familiar voice came from above as Twilight, Luna and Celestia looked up to see Rainbow Dash’s figure cut out against the sun light and drifting directly against the blazing pegasi. She had an expression that conveyed both anger and ecstasy. She was smiling while snarling. With one hoof extended she charged against the two pegasi. Sadly, she never did that. A black and white shadow popped from beneath the floor and hit Rainbow Dash right on her right side. She could feel her ribs bending against her lungs and even a snap. One of those broke, that she knew. Pinkie Pie got ejected from Rainbow Dash’s back and landed on one of the blazing pegasi. Twilight used the confusion to charge against the other pegasi hitting him in the gut with her horn at the same time she charged up a stunning spell. The pegasi flew up into the air and landed on the floor twenty feet away over his neck. It snapped like a dry branch. Pinkie made a boxing glove appear on her fore hooves and brought them down with the Pegasus head between them. The impact was strong enough to make the Pegasus explode in a puff of black smoke.
Celestia was holding her sister up. Princess Luna coughed with a very dry throat as she felt the warm blood going up and out of her mouth. It was just a few drops but that enough to make her panic. Twilight got next to Pinkie Pie and helped her get up.
“Where were you?” said Twilight.
“Oh, we were waiting for you to get out! But you didn’t! So we came here! And here we are! And Rainbow Dash! Oh, Rainbow D-a-a-ash!” Pinkie called with her characteristic cheerful voice tone but when she turned around her expression changed to a more somber one.
Rainbow Dash stood up. She looked around to make sure of where she was. She was behind the bar, in an awfully clean and aseptic alley made out of clouds and marble covered buildings. She was going to charge onto one of the pegasi attacking Twilight but something had knocked her out cold against the ground. She couldn’t see what it was until she stood up. It wasn’t something. It was someone and when she saw her, Dash felt inside her stomach the sensation of falling with nothing and nobody to catch her. She saw the feathers all over the head and the neck, the sharp talons and the magnificent wings. Half of the body was pure white and the other half was black. Half of the body was of an eagle, and the other half was of a lion. And all of it was terrifying.
“Hello, Dweeb.” said Gilda.
Rainbow Dash stood up taking strength out of nowhere and tried to stand firm against that projection. She started moving to the right in a circular motion so she could stand between her friends and that thing. The eyes were empty without pupils.
“Rainbow! She’s not the Real Gilda!” said Twilight.
“No! Really?” mocked Rainbow Dash with a good dose of irony, “I know it’s just a shadow Twilight. And before you say it, yes, I know I brought her here from my own subconscious. Don’t worry; I’ll be done in a jiffy.”
She’s all my guilt, thought Dash, I created her and now I have to finish her. She is not real. Then Twilight’s words cut through her like an icy knife.
“No! Rainbow, you don’t get it! That Dark Presence, the pony that’s controlling the dream? I can feel it inside that Projection!”
Rainbow Dash widened her eyes only to narrow them and throw the most bitter look of hatred she’d ever give in her life. That was very low. Not only was that other Powerful pony attacking them and trying to kill them but now it was getting inside their minds and using their feelings as bludgeoning weapons. Guilt, remorse and regret. Rainbow Dash had a lot of that and it had taken the shape of Gilda.
“More reasons for me to stay behind.” said Rainbow Dash “I’ll buy you time while you find a place to stay. I’ll deal with her first and then join you.”
“I’m not gonna leave you Dashie!” yelled Pinkie Pie, her voice broken, sounding nothing like her cheerful self.
“You won’t Pinkie.” said Rainbow Dash “Remember, I’m sleeping in Celestia’s bed with you. We’ll all wake up soon and be together again. But now, you guys gotta go!”
She looked at Gilda and a sting of sadness hit her right in the gut. Gilda wasn’t really there. She really did not exist. What she was looking at was a shadow, a projection her mind created and put inside that dream. Whether she was being used by that Powerful pony that kept Celestia under this dream prison or if it was just a piece of her mind looking for revenge that she didn’t know. However, she knew she had to resolve this situation once and for all, resolve her issues and confront what she had been avoiding all this time.
“Get outta here!” shouted Rainbow Dash.
There was no time to decide, no time to think and no time to act rationally. Twilight looked at Celestia, Luna and Pinkie Pie and then back at Rainbow Dash. She had to decide, and decided to leave her friend behind.
“How will you find us?” said Twilight, each word hitting her like a punch in the gut.
“My house.” said Rainbow Dash “Look for my house here. It looks exactly like the one I have in Ponyville. Stay in there and I’ll come find you all.”
Rainbow Dash adopted a fighting stance.
Those were the last words Twilight heard Rainbow Dash say for a very long time. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t even attempt to get close to Rainbow Dash and give her a pat on the shoulder or even a small hug. All she could do was stare back at her friend as she pushed Pinkie Pie, Celestia and Luna away from the scene. She saw Rainbow Dash talking to Gilda and they both engaged in a conversation before starting to fight. Twilight caught nothing of it as she was trotting away and outside of the hallway of houses and back into the Main Street of Cloudsdale. She didn’t realize the sky was turning from blue to orange, the clouds switching their cottony white texture to a darker brownish burnt marshmallow color. Luna limped towards Twilight, now a thread of blood flowing from her chest wound down her leg, staining the cloud she was standing on.
“Rainbow Dash’s house…” started Luna as she rubbed a hoof over her chin to clear off the blood lines formed from the corner of her mouth “…where…w-where can we find it?”
“In this dream world, I am not sure.” said Twilight “But knowing Rainbow Dash, it sure is in a high place. We have to fly up.”
Luna huffed as she passed her neck under Twilight’s body and flipped her up on her back. Twilight was surprised she still had that much strength after all the blood loss and the excruciating pain. Luna felt the stabbing wound to open even more, ripping off her flesh and muscle. Ignoring it the best she could she lifted off the clouds and flew away from the Main Street.
“Follow me Big Sister!” she yelled at Celestia, the strain making her cough more blood.
Celestia took Pinkie Pie on her back and followed her sister. Her wing span was magnificent, that of such a big Alicorn. Pinkie couldn’t see where they were going because of those broad wings. She grabbed Celestia’s body with all her hoofs and embraced herself for what she expected would be a bumpy ride. Pinkie didn’t feel all that well. Her stomach hurt and it wasn’t because she was hungry. She felt she left her friend behind with nothing to defend her. Deep inside her mind something snapped, making Pinkie Pie feel miserable, guilty. She rested her head on Celestia’s neck unable to remove Rainbow Dash from her thoughts.
* * *
“So Dash, are you done with those lame-os or do I have to knock some sense into ya?”
Rainbow Dash took a step forwards. Her face showed no emotion, hiding it pretty well. Her mind was a swarm of rage and fury but she had to put it all back as much as she could in order to distract that shadow and give Celestia and Luna more time.
“You can try all you want.” said Rainbow Dash “Gilda wouldn’t be so stupid as to face against me. She knows I’ll win.”
“Hah! Sure!” her voice sounded cocky, her head tilted with every word “All you’re gonna win is a kick in the face!”
Rainbow Dash stopped moving and sat down, shaking her head at the projection. What she was staring at wasn’t even a shadow of her friend. It was just an amalgamation of all Rainbow Dash hated about Gilda turned into a weak and apparently fragile puff of smoke.
“No, I so won’t.” said Rainbow Dash, a smirk drawing on her face “I thought I’d face the memory of Gilda but…You’re not even close. I can’t believe that pony used only the bad memories, the bad feelings, the…the bad experiences to create you. You’re pathetic.”
Gilda’s smile faded from her face being replaced by pure anger. Her beak contorted into a grimace gesture of anger as she dug her claws on the floor and raised her hind quarters, flapping her wings and spreading them ready to charge right against Rainbow Dash. The Pegasus pony just looked at Gilda with an expression of disgust.
“You’re not even a shadow of my friend. You can’t use her memory against me ‘cuz you only used the bad ones.” she said. And there are a lot more good than bad memories with me and Gilda, she thought.
The shadow of Gilda shrieked making the clouds around them blow up. Puffs of steam exploded around Rainbow Dash who saw how the street started to shatter, the walls of the hallway/alley crumbled and collapsed, only a few walls and the floor remained. The confusion and the air covered in white smoke blocked her vision and she didn’t see Gilda charging right against her until it was too late. The Shadow Gryphon punched Dash right in the stomach and threw her back. Rainbow Dash got the air sucked out of her as her eyes widened and they fell against the ground, the impact on her wings made less painful thanks to the spongy ground but hurting nonetheless. Dash threw a hoof against Gilda’s face and she felt something cracked. She didn’t hurt her hoof so she hoped it was Gilda’s cheekbone. Dash threw the Gryphon away with one of her fore legs and stood up holding her stomach.
“Darn…She’s strong…” muttered Dash, feeling the saliva clotting her mouth. She spit on the ground and charged against Gilda again.
The Gryphon turned and pushed Rainbow Dash away with her lion legs, sending the Pegasus pony into the air. Gilda flipped and regained her position on the ground before flapping her wings and propelling herself up and against Rainbow Dash, smashing her head against the Pegasus’ sternum. Dash felt dazed and her head started spinning. They were moving so fast she couldn’t see the sky or the clouds, all she could feel was how much her chest hurt and that Gilda was pushing both of them against a building. Dash braced for impact folding her wings and closing her eyes.
The building was made out of clouds but the windows were made out of dry ice. When Dash and Shadow Gilda went through them they shattered and some fragments stabbed Dash on her back. She screamed in agony as the glassy ice pierced her skin and muscles. She felt the clouds disappearing under their bodies as they crossed through the building like a meteorite, splitting it in half. Dash and Gilda emerged from the other side of the building. Rainbow Dash put both her fore legs between her and Gilda and pushed the Gryphon away so she could punch her in the face again. This time something sprayed her face. It was a black liquid. Is this what they have for blood?, she thought. She looked at the building they just broke through. The upper part was collapsing onto the alley they just were. The upper half of the building crumbled due to the weight of the marble used for the floors and the windows. Making no noise it crumbled upon the street. It disappeared into a puff of vapor and the marble tiles cracked into pieces after losing what sustained them.
Dash looked at Gilda, still feeling her stomach queasy from the impact, as she reached a hoof at her back to check if she was too badly injured from the glass. She didn’t feel a thing but noticed she had several shards stuck between her wings and over her hind quarters. She ignored them, I’ll remove them later, she thought, as she adopted another fighting stance flapping with her wings in mid air. Shadow Gilda gave her a deformed snarl and charged against Rainbow Dash, her face retorted into a mask of anguish after all the punches she threw at her. Dash grabbed Gilda by the neck, Gilda grabbed Dash by the chest and they continued fighting. Rainbow Dash noticed they were leaving the Main Street heading east. There was nothing east from the Main Street except…except for the Weather Factory.
It didn’t take Twilight and Luna too long to find Rainbow Dash’s house. After flying up for a couple of minutes Twilight could distinguish the lavish design of her friend’s house. It had a central tower, three floors tall, with columns, windows shaped like portholes with curled clouds under them and around the roof. The roof top itself was round like a dome and a rainbow sprouted from it falling over a group of clouds set next to the base of the house. These groups of clouds opened around their base letting the liquid rainbow pour in the shape of tiny water streams like spurts. A small path lead from the exterior of the house to an armor-clad door made out of oak and steel. The whole house could easily be the most beautiful house Twilight knew of.
“Is that Rainbow Dash’s house?” said Luna, her surprise making her ignore the pain in her chest for a couple of seconds “It’s gorgeous…”
“Yes, yes it is.” said Twilight “Quick, we have to get inside before anything else happens.”
Luna landed on the path followed by Princess Celestia. Pinkie Pie bounced from the Princess’ back to the ground. Not even the feel of the fluffy clouds in her hoofs cheered her up. She walked away from Celestia and her friends, getting to the house’s door first. Twilight frowned and smacked her tongue, feeling sorry for Pinkie. She couldn’t know what she was going through. Twilight was a very good friend of Rainbow Dash, but Pinkie was like a sister for the Pegasus pony. They were very close together, so much so that losing touch between them would break the poor Pink pony’s heart. Luna limped next to Twilight, reminding her why they were there.
“Come on.” said Luna “We h-have to g…” she couldn’t finish, the pain didn’t even let her talk.
“I get you.” said Twilight passing one of Luna’s fore legs over her shoulder.
Celestia was still behind, walking really slowly over the clouds. Twilight looked behind her to see she was acting like a child. She moved her hoofs over the clouds and lifted small specks of the vapory stuff before her eyes. Twilight didn’t understand why Celestia was doing that. Was she getting controlled? Was she regressing to a lesser mind state to the point she thought she was a foal? Twilight sounded more annoyed than worried when she shouted at the Princess.
“Princess! Come on!” she tried to compel the authoritative tone Celestia used with her when she was a filly.
Celestia looked at Twilight with surprise and as she groaned in annoyance she stopped fooling around with the clouds and stepped forwards. Then Twilight noticed the clouds underneath Celestia and her semblance switched from calm to panic. The clouds turned black and grey under the Princess, the light on her stomach changing color due to the sun refracting through the storm clouds. A wind started swirling around her lifting specks and tufts of cloud like debris. A series of lightning bolts sprouted from the spongy matter making Celestia stop and back up in fear. The lightning cracked and snapped, deafening her and reflecting on her coat with explosive yellows and sickening blues. Instinctively she spread her wings and tried to fly away but two lightning sparks hit her and she plummeted to the ground. Celestia fell on her left side, her face getting stuck inside the clouds and her wings feeling numb. It terrified her not being able to feel her wings, she wished she got injured instead so the pain would remind her that her wings were there. Twilight let go of Luna’s foreleg and ran towards her Teacher. The Moon Princess tried to run towards her sister but the injury on her chest prevented her from doing so. She was now bleeding more profusely than before.
“Princess!!!” she screamed.
“Twi…Twilight!” screamed Celestia back from underneath the clouds.
The floor before Twilight raised into a wall of black clouds and lightning that blocked her view of Celestia. It made a terrifying sound of a rift opening on the soil with a juicy crunch of clouds being ripped apart. She could hear the Princess scream and struggle with her invisible adversary. An air current spiraled over Celestia until it turned into a tornado, spinning faster and faster until Twilight’s ears went deaf from the force of the wind and the whirling cutting sounds. In that plethora of noise and disorientation Twilight could hear a deep, ghostly voice, very clearly saying.
“BEGONE WITH YOU!!!”
Then as quickly as it appeared the wall of black clouds disappeared and all that was left was a sleeping Princess Celestia. Twilight and Luna widened their eyes in surprise as Luna tried to run towards her sister only to have her left foreleg fail and collapse onto the spongy floor.
“Sister…” she could only say that “Sister, sister…”
Twilight moved towards Celestia and checked her vitals. She seemed to be okay. She had a pulse and her breathing was stable. There were no physical injuries of any kind. Not even her wings seemed injured after the lighting struck her. Twilight figured out that whatever that tornado was it just got her into another sleep state, meaning she was dreaming again. All their work just got thrown out the window. Twilight cursed in a low voice as she hit the ground with her hoof. The clouds only made her feel more frustrated. She wanted to hurt her hoof to relieve that frustration, not just bounce it on the marshmallowy floor.
“Now what do we do!?” said Twilight.
“She’s…she’s asleep, Twilight” said Luna “We do as before. We…we…”
“Another level?” that was unfathomably risky. Going deep one dream level was dangerous enough, but getting inside another dream while being inside a dream into another dream…Twilight’s head started to hurt “Luna, we shouldn’t. We are putting too much at risk!”
“I know…” said Luna “But…if my sister doesn’t wake up, if…if this presence destroys and keeps her mind locked in there, Equestria will remain in Darkness. We have to take her back, Twilight.”
“I can’t…Luna, we shouldn’t.” she sounded less convinced now “We may never come back home, and you are mortally wounded. We can’t lose you either!”
Luna looked at her sister held between Twilight’s forelegs. She looked so peaceful, oblivious of what happened around her. Luna closed her eyes as tears rolled down her cheeks. She remembered their mother, those days at the beach during summer school. It was so beautiful. Celestia would always fall asleep reaching the end of the day, right when Luna felt the most awake and active.
“All I’m asking you Twilight is to take a leap of faith.” said Luna.
Twilight smiled shyly as she looked at Pinkie Pie. The Pink pony was standing by the door with a gloomy expression in her face, waiting for them to get inside. Twilight couldn’t comprehend what Pinkie was going through at this moment. There were too many things to worry about and she had to act. She had to decide. Once again all the weight of the decision laid on her shoulders and she hated it. She hated it and she wanted to get away from there as fast as she could. With a groan Twilight shook her head and then looked at Luna.
“Alright” said Twilight “Pinkie! I need your help!” and in a more relaxed voice tone she asked to Luna “Can you walk towards the house by yourself?”
“Yes. That I can still do…” said Luna as she dragged towards the house.
Pinkie stopped by to help Luna get inside. She was silent and her eyes were those of a depressed pony who lost her best friend. She didn’t know how Rainbow Dash was or if she was going to be safe leaving her there all by herself. Pinkie did her best to push those feelings away and focused on helping Luna get inside the house. She returned to Twilight and together they carried Celestia inside as well.
“I swear I heard that voice before.” said Twilight, thinking Pinkie was listening to her “I can’t put my hoof on it, but I know I heard it somewhere.”
Pinkie did not reply, which worried Twilight more than she expected. She looked at the Pink pony as they carried Celestia and noticed how her coat was darker now. Her hair was still puffy and curly, with a very bright tone of pink, but the coat was more of a fuchsia tone. Her silence only increased Twilight’s concern. They stepped inside Rainbow Dash’s house and closed the door behind them. It made a terrifying sound that hit Twilight right inside her brain, deafening her ears for a couple of seconds. Swiftly, she locked the door and checked the insides. The house was of a very simple design. There wasn’t too much furniture: a lamp on the entrance and a circular staircase that spiraled its way up. It looked like the inside of a lighthouse made out of cotton and clouds.
“The bedroom must be upstairs, come on.” said Twilight.
As they climbed up the stairs, Pinkie dragging Princess Celestia on her back and Twilight carrying Princess Luna over her shoulder, Twilight was hit by a terrible realization. If they were going to get inside a dream, then how will they activate the Fall to wake up and go back to the Real World?
“Luna.” said Twilight “How are we going to wake up if we go inside another dream? Who will we activate the Fall?”
“R…Rainbow…Rainbow Dash will do it.” said Luna, struggling to talk “She will return here and will drop us to the ground. We are h-h-…high enough to f-feel The Fall in the next dream level.”
“I’ll leave her a note.” said Twilight, half joking half serious.
“But she better do it before Fluttershy drops with her Carriage.” said Luna.
Twilight forgot completely about Fluttershy and her Carriage. She wondered if everything was still okay. It had to be, since there had been no disruptions after the incident at the bar. But now that Luna mentioned that, she wondered what it meant. She planned the Fall with Fluttershy so if they couldn’t wake up when the Carriage was falling they could wake up when the Carriage hits the water. Was there a hole in her plan all of a sudden?
“Why should she do that?” said Twilight.
“B-because the Carriage will be in fr-free fall.” said Luna “If it’s f-falling there’s n-no gravity inside and so…There won’t be any gravity here either.”
Twilight gasped as she understood the root of the problem. She decided to just focus on carrying Luna to the bedroom as quickly as possible. As she did so she used her magic to bring up a quill and a scroll and started scribbling a note for Rainbow Dash. As she did that she calculated how much time passed since they entered that dream. Around 3 hours or so passed, that was close to ten minutes for Fluttershy. They still had enough time to find Celestia inside that dream level and bring her back. They arrived to the room as Twilight left Luna on Rainbow Dash’s bed. It was the most comfortable place of the room. The Princess rested her head on the fluffy pillow and closed her eyes, preparing the Dream Infiltration spell. Twilight helped Pinkie Pie to bring Celestia as she placed her on the floor, right under Luna. Pinkie was going to take a cushion she found on a corner when Twilight walked towards her placing a hoof over her shoulder.
“Are you okay Pinkie?” asked Twilight.
Pinkie Pie looked at Twilight. She could say she felt really bad for Rainbow Dash, for leaving her behind like that and abandoning her against that Shadow of mean meany pants Gilda. But that would be not just rude but uncalled for. Pinkie Pie knew better than anyone to stay cheerful, even when things were getting bad, so she gave Twilight a smile and hid her concerns the best way she could.
“I’m fine Twilight. Let’s go get the Princess out and come back home with our friends!” as she hopped on the cushion and closed her eyes.
Twilight smiled, with the certainty that everything would turn out okay in the next dream level. She looked at Luna, who had extended one hoof and wrapped it around her Big sister’s face. She was crying in silence. Luna looked at Twilight as she approached to the bed.
“We will bring her back Luna.” said Twilight “Are you ready?”
Luna looked down at her sister. Her tears fell over Celestia’s face. She didn’t react, she was fast asleep, deep enough that she wouldn’t even feel a downpour. Luna looked back at Twilight, her wound stabbed her again to remind her that it was still there. She wondered how it would look like in the first dream layer and if she had almost bled out completely inside the carriage.
“Let’s do this.” said Luna with the best determination face she could put.
Twilight smiled and started heating up her horn. The magic swirled around their bodies as Luna activated the spell, charged up by Twilight’s energy. The power made the clouds around them change color from white to grey and then back to white, as Twilight felt the all too familiar sensation of limbs getting numb, vision getting blurry and contact with the world around her fading. The last thing she saw was Luna’s face, eyes closed in a peaceful semblance.
She felt cold and dirty. Her body covered in sand of soil, and her face resting over a stinky liquid surface.
END OF CHAPTER 2.
THE REGAL DREAM.
Chapter 3: Memory’s Forest.
Twilight felt her face covered with dirt and water.
She was lying on the bank of a lake in a muddy shore. Luna was lying in front of her but Pinkie Pie was nowhere to be seen. A cold breeze passed over Twilight’s coat making her fur rise. A shiver ran down her spine. As she stood up she removed the mud off of her face with one of her fore hooves. She dipped it in the water taking away the biggest spots of wet dirt and finally sunk her head underwater to give it a full clean up. She walked towards Luna and woke her up by shaking her shoulder.
“Luna.” said Twilight “Luna, are you alright? How’s your wound?”
Luna stood up. She felt really weak and a bit dizzy. Her hoof stained with smudges of blood when she placed it over her chest. The gaping wound wasn’t as big as in the previous dream but it was big enough to worry.
“I am okay.” said Luna with a confident yet faint voice “Just...give me a minute to recover.”
Twilight obliged and gave Luna a minute as she scrutinized their surroundings. They were on the shore of a lake, their hooves deep in mud, and around the lake an endless forest expanded. The lake was placed in an unnatural location for such a mass of water. The terrain bent and made a curve downwards and the water surface followed such curve with precise devotion. Curvature, thought Twilight, like those reports of Pegasi patrols talking about the planet’s curvature when they flew high into the atmosphere. But she was seeing it right before her very eyes and she wasn’t flying miles high above the surface. They were so deep that the dream space was starting to curve into itself. Her eyes darted side to side, looking at the strange environment. It was night, deep and without stars. The only light source was the shining Full Moon in the sky, glowing with an aura. The trees surrounding the lake extended beyond Twilight’s vision and they were so close between each other it seemed impossible for her to squeeze between the trunks. She took a while to realize where they were, and when she did notice the name of the place came out of her lips unintentionally.
“The Everfree Forest.” her lips drying as the last syllable escaped her mouth.
She couldn’t understand why. Out of all the places in Equestria why did Celestia have to dream of The Everfree Forest? She moved towards Luna. The Princess felt better after a couple of deep breaths. It was a terrible weakness spreading from the wound in her chest that was keeping her from moving right away. The crippling pain shut down temporarily the nerves on her neck and her left foreleg, stabbing her lungs with pain and forcing her to stop. She wondered if this was what heart attacks felt like. The simple idea terrified her. She took a couple of deep breaths, filling her lungs and ignoring the pain, then turned to Twilight Sparkle.
“Princess Luna, why are we here?” Twilight’s voice was taken by panic.
“I s-suppose you…you w-were expecting us to...event-t-tually step into...a nightmare, right?” said Luna “D-Don’t worry Twilight.” added after seeing Twilight’s face of abject terror “We h-have to find P-Pinkie Pie first. Then we c-can go get my S-Sister.”
“Do…Do you know where she can be in this place?” said Twilight with a mix of concern, incredulity and doubt.
Before Luna could give her answer they heard a rustling noise coming from the forest. From between two tree trunks Twilight could see a pink smudge shaped like a hind leg. It was struggling and shaking. The rest of the body seemed to be stuck inside the forest and grunts came from beneath the branches and the darkness. Twilight gasped and ran towards her friend. She grabbed Pinkie Pie by her hind leg and pulled. She pulled as hard and careful as she could, wishing for her to be okay and unscathed. The violet unicorn managed to pull both of Pinkie’s hind legs out of the forest, as well as her tail and half of the body.
“Come on Pinkie!” inquired Twilight, grabbing Pinkie by the tail base and pulling until her teeth hurt.
She felt Pinkie’s body giving up the struggle and a yelp as the pink pony fell on top of Twilight. With her face again in the mud, Twilight spat out all the wet dirt that entered her mouth as she ogled at Pinkie Pie with severe annoyance.
“Pinkie! Where the hay hav-…have you…been?”
Twilight’s voice broke up on her lips as she looked at her friend. Pinkie Pie’s neck and cheeks were covered in small scratches and bruises. She looked like she stepped out of a fight when she was winning. Her forelegs were slightly injured too, red scratches without blood on them over her bright pink coat. But what caught Twilight’s attention and speech capacity was Pinkie’s mane and tail. She didn’t realize before because she was trying to pull her out of the forest, but they were not puffy and curly anymore. They were flat. Her mane fell down over her shoulders and before her eyes, and her tail dragged on the ground in the same fashion. The few occasions Twilight saw Pinkie Pie looking like that happened after a soul-crushing depression.
“Is there something wrong Twilight?” asked Pinkie Pie.
“Your hair…is…” started Twilight.
“Yeah, I dunno what’s up with that!” said Pinkie pulling at a hair tuft with her fore hooves “Anyways! What are we up to!?” her voice sounded enthusiastic.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” said Twilight “You should tell us, before we keep moving, Pinkie.”
Pinkie Pie let out a sigh and looked at Twilight with a rather apologetic face. She hated to admit it, but there was something wrong with her. She rolled her eyes and then looked at Twilight.
“I’m worried for Dashie.”
There was no need to say more. Twilight stood up, taking Pinkie off of her and passed a hoof around Pinkie’s neck pulling her into a hug. Pinkie Pie sprawled and hugged Twilight with both fore hooves as she dug her face into the Violet unicorn’s shoulder. She forced herself not to cry, holding back the tears until her eyes itched and burned. She closed them hard until her eyelids hurt and her heart became a ball of liquid fire. She hesitated and felt the ground collapsing underneath her, but it was only the feeling of contempt she had for that presence that took Celestia away and separated her from Rainbow Dash. Pinkie Pie had never experienced anger like this. She had been frustrated, disappointed, even depressed to the point of considering exile. But she never felt such a surge of energy coming from inside her. A surge of energy that made her want to grab that dark presence and punch it in the face.
“But I’m fine!” said Pinkie Pie letting go of Twilight’s hug and adopting a determined pose. Her straight mane and tail made her look more severe than she already was “We have to find Celestia! Come on girls!” and as soon as she started walking, she stopped to ask “Uhm…Which way should we go?”
Twilight rolled her eyes and walked next to Pinkie as Luna kept up with them limping from the side she was injured. Twilight placed a hoof over Pinkie’s shoulder and looked over the forest. It was submersed into that still silence that forests have during summer nights, when not even insects or the rustle of leaves can be heard. The deep black treetops looked cut out over the bluish purple sky, still without stars. There was a shape amongst those treetops that stood up due to its uniqueness. It was an edification of some sort, made out of bricks judging from the shape of the windows and the ruined state of it. The moon light allowed Twilight to make out more details of the structure. It had the foundations of three towers peeled off of bricks and any sort of construction, and there was only one tower left erected in the back of it. The tower was pure white and reflected the moon light like a cylindrical mirror. The base, which used to be a hall, was now stripped of the roof and the walls had decayed to the point of leaving the bare bones of the wooden structure. Twilight could recognize the remains of The Palace of the Regal Sisters anywhere. She knew that Celestia had to be there.
“That way.” said Twilight pointing at the ruined castle.
“Our Palace…” said Luna, taking short steps “My sister will certainly be there.” she found it really hard to talk. It wasn’t so much the wound as it was the awestruck feel of surprise and dread the memory of that palace brought to her “Twilight…We have to hurry.”
“Yes. Let’s not waste any more time.” said Twilight
The three of them started galloping. Twilight was surprised that Luna could keep up with them, injured and dying from the pain and blood loss, she was still able to match their stride. They galloped following the shoreline of the lake as Twilight could distinguish a path opening between the trees in the distance. It was vaguely visible but she calculated they could get through and inside the forest. Hopefully it gets wider inside, she thought. Twilight looked at Pinkie Pie. The pink pony was biting her lower lip and her eyes were a mix between anger and concern. Twilight nudged Pinkie with her head as a signal of affection.
“Don’t worry about Rainbow Dash!” said Twilight “I bet she is perfectly fine.” she added.
Pinkie looked at Twilight and nodded back with determination. Pinkie knew that, she knew bone deep that Rainbow Dash would be okay, that she would be safe. Rainbow Dash was a big athlete. She was fast, strong, agile and very determined. Nothing could stop her. Thinking of her made Pinkie wish she was there with them. She wanted to see her face again. Those purple eyes bright with courage and that colorful mane. Looking at Rainbow Dash was what made Pinkie Pie so happy. No wonder having her best friend in peril had made her get so sad and depressed.
“Pinkie!” yelled Twilight “Seriously, she will be okay!”
Pinkie didn’t nod to that and let those words sink in. Rainbow Dash will be okay, she thought, there’s nothing to worry about.
* * *
Rainbow Dash received a kick in the face from Gilda that threw her against the doors of the Weather Factory. She was still fighting the shadow of her friend, a shadow made out of every single bad memory and bad feeling Rainbow Dash had for Gilda. Rainbow Dash didn’t have much trouble fighting against it until now. Even though the shadow was not a powerful foe, it was giving Rainbow Dash too many problems. The bad feelings against Gilda were minimal compared to the good feelings and the good memories; but the little strength that projection had inside itself was enough to put Rainbow Dash in quite a hassle. Right before hitting the doors Dash folded her wings and closed her mouth, gritting her teeth together. The doors to the Weather Factory slammed with an ominous crack that echoed through the entire facility. The edges broke against the walls and split in two at mid-section height when they impacted. A rain of splinters exploded around Rainbow Dash as she landed on her side against the floor. The impact had knocked all the air out of her and she had no time to recover when Gilda landed on top of her, planted her leonine paws on her hind quarters and passed one of her talons around the Pegasus’ neck. Rainbow Dash tried to get her off but the gryphon was tightly stuck to her. The surprisingly elastic tail wrapped around Dash’s hind legs and immobilized her.
“Don’t move or you’ll hurt yourself.” whispered the shadow of Gilda “Let me take care of that.”
Gilda tightened her grip around Rainbow Dash’s neck as she felt the claws digging inside her flesh. Rainbow Dash rocked to her right and threw a punch at Gilda’s ribs. The gryphon gasped and coughed as her grip loosened and Rainbow Dash rolled and kicked her friend’s shadow on the left flank. The Shadow Gryphon flinched and kneeled on the ground. Rainbow Dash stood up and punched Gilda so hard on the face she hurt her hoof. She could hear a distinctive crack when her hoof hit the stern beak. Gilda used Dash’s temporary pain to charge and bull-rush the Pegasus, smashing her against one of the snowflake making tables. Rainbow Dash spat blood over the cloudy floor as she punched Gilda on the base of the neck and threw her to the right moving away from the table. Her back was in such pain from the impact against the doors that she didn’t feel the knifing bruise from the desk’s edge on her back and over her wings. Before Gilda could recover, Rainbow Dash galloped against her and right before reaching her she turned around and bucked with both hind legs against Gilda’s body. She saw the Gryphon propelled against one of the walls as she tumbled in mid air and landed over another desk, which was full of snow flakes in the process of being made. The poor flakes shattered in a mist of ice crystals.
“Not before I hurt you to death.” muttered Rainbow Dash as she rushed against Gilda once again, ready to punch her until her head exploded.
* * *
Fluttershy was having more problems than she wished for in Manehattan. Her friends were still safe and sound inside the carriage, but the copious amounts of rain and the never-ending chase those Mechanized Alicorns were giving her was taking all the energy out of her body. Her wings ached, she was out of breath, and the rain drops stung her in her face and her body. She was so tired that the buildings were nothing but blurry rectangular shapes to her eyes. She rubbed them with both hooves as she turned to the right, avoiding another three alicorns that were approaching her from the front. Inside the carriage everything tilted to the right. Rainbow Dash, asleep and strapped to one of the seats, moved with the turn.
* * *
Rainbow Dash lost her balance and had to stop her charging when the entire Factory tilted to the right. She saw the desks sliding down over the floor and plummeting through the cloud walls making holes of their size and shape. The snowflakes flew all over the place as she was thrown against one of the walls. The entire world was moving to the right. The clouds changed their shape and some of them even evaporated. Gilda grabbed the edge of the desk where she was, as she jumped and flew straight towards Dash, who was defenseless. Rainbow Dash saw Gilda coming right at her but her reaction wasn’t quick enough. The gryphon landed on top of her and pushed all her weight over her, grabbing her forelegs with her talons, pinning Dash to the wall.
“Now what, Rainbow Crash?” said Gilda as her shadow mouth turned into a despicable grin.
Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth and let go a mix between a groan and a scream as she pulled her hind legs up and against Gilda’s chest, kicking her as hard as she could. She felt the bones crunching under her hoof as her kick pulverized the ribs of that projection. Rainbow Dash pushed Gilda aside to get up but a terrifying sound paralyzed her. She looked up. The Factory had turned completely on its right side. The right wall had turned into the floor and the left wall had turned into the ceiling. Rainbow Dash remembered that the left wing of the Factory was dedicated to processing the water and light in order to create the rainbows. She also remembered that the door, despite being prepared to contain leaks, wasn’t locked unless somepony pushed the switch to lock it. The switch was in the security room and Rainbow Dash was certain that nopony was there to push it.
The door of the Rainbow Processing wing opened and a column of liquid rainbows erupted downwards inside the room. The clouds that were hit by the column of pure liquid laser beams vanished in a puff of microscopic water drops. The floors were eroded by the sheer force of focused light and water. The sound it made was something Rainbow Dash never heard in her life. It was a screeching roar of water and light, a glistening torrent of fluids that broke through everything it touched. The column hit right between Gilda and Dash making a hole in the wall. Rainbow Dash saw how it dug through the clouds and concrete, the shrilling noise cutting through her ears so loud she had to cover them. A white smoke formed between the column and the concrete. The blue Pegasus was about to get up when she saw something coming right at her by the corner of her eye. It was a squirt of rainbow. She closed her eyes just in time as the squirt hit her cheek over her mouth. Rainbows didn’t hurt ponies or any other animal alive. It was just water and light. But it was enough to destroy through the clouds and if the quantity was big enough it could also eat through even more solid materials.
Rainbow Dash looked up to see that the wall of the Rainbow Processing wing was cracking up. Tiny holes appeared over the wall that soon filled with jets of rainbow juice. A constellation of holes appeared over the door, and soon grew bigger, joining the largest hole to become even bigger. Rainbow Dash rolled over on her side, and managed to stand up. She was confused by the unsteadiness of the Factory as it crumbled and shook. There were no tables or desks left, but the cabinets had opened and scientific equipment rained from them over their heads. Rainbow Dash dodged a microscope and landed on a desk that didn’t break through the wall/floor of clouds. She tried to find Gilda but lost her track after the column of rainbows started pouring inside the room. Maybe she got swept away by t-
“Gotcha!” Gilda appeared from behind Rainbow Dash and grabbed her by the neck again. “And this time, I won’t release you.” She squeezed Rainbow Dash’s neck between her taut arms.
Rainbow Dash put her fore hooves together and threw her left elbow against Gilda’s ribs, but to no effect. The gryphon stood behind her with her arms crushing her windpipe. Rainbow Dash panicked when the air was cut from her lungs and her mouth made a dry noise. She couldn’t breathe. She wasn’t breathing. Her eyes opened in abject panic. Her brain couldn’t register the lack of air. Her panic grew even bigger when she felt a piercing pain in her heart. Her eyes filled with water as she looked to the rainbow column. I need to throw her inside, she thought; please Celestia, don’t let it kill me! It was agonizing. Rainbow Dash spread her wings and with a Powerful flap of them she propelled herself forwards and against the rainbow column. The roaring torrent of light and water was still going strong, the rainbow fountains not running out anytime soon. Rainbow Dash calculated her fall just enough so she could hit the rainbow stream with her back. Gilda got hit by the turrent and she was forced to let go off Rainbow Dash’s neck. The colorful column splashed Dash’s back, mane and hair. They were uncomfortably warm. Dash took long deep breaths of precious fresh air, but her calm didn’t last long. The wall/floor where she was standing crumbled because of that rainbow column. The structure debilitated so much it finally cracked and Rainbow Dash plummeted towards the void. With renewed strength she spread her wings and stopped the fall as she witnessed a breathtaking view. The column of rainbows fell in a straight line of red, yellow, orange, blue and purple, mixing with the clouds and disappearing in the horizon. She could see clouds and pieces of concrete falling around the column. Rainbow Dash could see the shade of Shadow Gilda amongst the concrete and the swirling broken clouds.
“I have to finish this.” said Rainbow Dash as she darted towards the gryphon’s shadow.
* * *
Fluttershy was still turning to the right in her escape from the new Mechanized Alicorns when two of them started shooting at her with what sounded like a barrage of small fireballs. She didn’t know. She wasn’t sure at the moment. All she knew was that her friends were in danger and she had to protect them, no matter the cost. She remembered Rainbow Dash’s training, her flying tricks, all those flying maneuvers she saw her doing. What was the name of that move where Rainbow Dash twisted and turned like a horizontal tornado? She saw her doing that so many times she could try it herself just to avoid those Mechanized Alicorns, confuse them and get some extra time for her and her friends.
“Alright…” said Fluttershy with a weak voice “Here goes nothing.”
She closed her eyes, tightened her muscles and changed the direction and orientation of her wings. She passed the wind current under her right wing and forced it over her left, making her body twist to the left. As she turned over her side she pulled her hind legs up and pushed her entire body up and to the left. She kept the pose for a couple of seconds as she barrel-rolled to the left. The small fireballs zipped between her ears and between her legs, and even though some of them hit the carriage the maneuver worked just like she wanted it to.
Inside the carriage everything twisted and turned.
* * *
Rainbow Dash couldn’t reach Gilda’s shadow. The gravity of the world changed radically throwing her against the column of rainbows and through a set of clouds, dissipating them. Her mane, tail and coat got covered in water and light, her wings stuck to the sides of her body. She had to grab onto a cloud not to fall. She saw the shadow of Gilda recovering, spreading its wings and propelling up into the air but soon directed her attention to the column of rainbows and the clouds around it. They swirled and shaped into a vortex.
The column of rainbows curled and twisted until it turned into a tornado of colors and liquid, and the clouds around it skewed and stretched until they turned into cirrus. Rainbow Dash saw the clouds in the distance doing the same, acquiring the shape of an overly stretched marshmallow and started to swirl around the tornado of rainbows. Rainbow Dash jumped from one cloud to the next in order to get closer to Gilda. Gilda, with her wings cleaned up and free from the sticky rainbows, jumped and flew against Rainbow Dash. She passed through the cloud Dash was using as support and punched her in the chin. Rainbow Dash punched Gilda with her uninjured hoof and threw her against a wall of concrete that bypassed around the tornado. The Pegasus jumped at the concrete and charged with her head against Gilda’s chest. Dash felt confused, the entire world twisted around her. The words of Princess Luna resonated in her head: “If you fall in a dream, you wake up.” Rainbow Dash had no problem about it, except that her wings were covered in the rainbows and still stuck to her sides. She had bigger problems though as Gilda punched her in the face and threw her up and back to the Weather Factory.
Rainbow Dash landed on another cloud. The wind whistling in her ears added to the sense of anti gravity as she took a moment to shake the rainbows off of her wings. She considered it ironic. She saw Gilda jumping from a cloud to another and then disappeared behind the tornado of rainbows. The light made strange shapes over the clouds. The rays it spewed were so bright Dash thought she’d go blind if they hit her eyes. Finally, and after a lot of struggling, Rainbow Dash got rid of the rainbows on her wings and flapped them. A smile showed on her face but didn’t last long as Gilda pounced her from behind, breaking the cloud they were in and landing onto another piece of concrete, this one orbiting around the tornado like a satellite. It circled so fast that Dash could feel gravity on it as she stood up and confronted Gilda again.
“I will beat you, Dash!” shouted shadow Gilda, her voice so deformed it sounded both male and female “I always do!”
“You’re wrong!” shouted Rainbow Dash “ Gilda always beat me. You never will!”
Rainbow Dash jumped against Gilda snarling and screaming, grabbed her head between her hooves in mid jump and threw her on her back. She heard the bones breaking in the gryphon’s wings as she smashed Gilda’s head against the concrete platform. She smashed it one, two, three times! Then released her and punched her another three times, black goo spread all over the platform in triangular stains. The tornado of rainbows made a jittery hiccup and trembled. Rainbow Dash got distracted by that move as she saw the clouds and the pieces of concrete and wall around it starting to fall. They just stopped moving and plunged down to the ground.
* * *
Fluttershy barrel-rolled another three times before acquiring a steadier level of flight. She looked behind her to see the Alicorns were gone and to check on her friends. Twilight and Pinkie Pie had moved from their seats, but Rainbow Dash, Luna and Celestia seemed just fine. She sighed in relief and resumed her flying, this time getting closer to the ground and keeping herself in between the buildings. She even slowed down to take a breath and stop the rain drops from stinging all over her body.
* * *
The tornado of rainbows dissipated as quickly as it appeared and the column vanished into thin air. Rainbow Dash looked at the Weather Factory and saw how it returned back to normal. The sudden change of gravity threw her off the concrete platform and made a mess out of her wings. She couldn’t pull herself up and precipitated down to the building. She entered into outflow. Her wings flapped but she couldn’t get herself to fly. The wind passed between them but there was no way she could move them. She saw the Weather Factory growing bigger and bigger under her. In a last attempt to avoid damaging herself more, she stuck the wings to the sides of her body, curled herself into fetal position and closed her eyes. The impact against the roof of the Factory was strong but it didn’t hurt as much as she expected. She went through the cloud roof and finally landed back in the snow-flake making room. When her body hit the floor she felt no pain. Relieved, Rainbow Dash stood up. The whole place was an absolute mess. The tables were burnt down, there was a huge gaping hole in the left wall caused by the rainbow tornado, and the room to the rainbow processing wing was gone. She was surprised there were still rainbow pools full inside.
Rainbow Dash stood up as she spread her wings to see if they were okay. She sighed in relief when they flapped and no pain came from them. She smiled, though that didn’t last for long. She got her leg caught on something on the floor and when she looked at it her eyes widened in terror. It was a yellow talon. Another yellow talon appeared from under the floor and grabbed her by the neck, pulling her face against the clouds and muffling her breathing. She felt like she was being smothered with a pillow. The talons pulled up the body of shadow Gilda, or what was left of her. One of the wings was gone. The other was a deformed stump no one could dare call a wing. The face was distorted and nothing was left of Gilda’s pointy eyes. The were stretched and pure white. The beak was shattered and when she talked it crumbled; pieces of shadow going up and vanishing into thin air.
“I...am not...done with you, Dweeb!”
Shadow Gilda used Rainbow Dash’s temporary panic attack to throw the Pegasus pony into the rainbow processing plant. Rainbow Dash turned around right when Gilda jumped onto her, but she wasn’t strong enough. Gilda threw her talons against Rainbow Dash’s chest, nailing one of them inside the Pegasus’ flesh. Dash screamed when she felt the four claws digging inside her body, the nails scraping her ribs and tearing apart her muscles and tissue. She managed to stop the other claw, though it scraped at her skin leaving long, irregular marks.
“You afraid?” mocked Gilda “I told ya I’d beat ya!”
Rainbow Dash looked at Gilda. That thing wasn’t her friend. That wretched pile of anger wasn’t Gilda.
“Quiet…” muttered Rainbow Dash “Shut UP!!!”
Rainbow Dash tightened the muscles of her neck and head-butted Gilda right between the eyes. The gryphon squawked and backed up, taking a claw coated in Dash’s blood to her right eye. It had exploded. Dash cleaned the black goo from her forehead as she ignored the pain in her chest, jumped towards Gilda and grabbing her by the neck took her to the nearest rainbow pool. Without mercy, Rainbow Dash grabbed her friend’s shadow head and dunked it in the liquid rainbow. The shadow struggled and squirmed as bubbles started forming in the surface. Rainbow Dash grabbed the body of Gilda tighter as tears started to form in her eyes. I am not killing her, she said, no, not killing her, not killing her! This is not Gilda! It’s not her! She was crying, streams of tears running down her face and to her chin. How Gilda abused Fluttershy. That wasn’t her. How Gilda insulted her friends. That wasn’t how Gilda was. It was those bad memories, those feelings, that shadow fed on and Rainbow Dash had to get rid off them.
“You’re not her.” said Rainbow Dash with the weakest voice “You’re not my friend. YOU’RE NOT MY FRIEND!”
Rainbow Dash felt how the Shadow of Gilda tightened her neck and chest muscles. The screams could still be heard from under the rainbows as fewer bubbles appeared on the surface. The tail shook from side to side with agony and the lion paws pounded the surface leaving claw marks. Rainbow Dash kicked Gilda on the flank again to make her stop moving.
“YOU ARE NOT HER! NOT!!! HER!!! JUST DISAPPEAR!!!” Rainbow Dash’s crying hurt her. The tears burned her skin and her eyes “GO AWAY!!! GO AWAY!!! LEAVE ME ALONE!!!”
As the struggles of Shadow Gilda to get her head out of the rainbow pool grew weaker, Rainbow Dash’s anger and bad memories grew thinner. All the bad feelings vanished. All those bad memories and frustrating arguments with her disappeared. When the muscles on Gilda’s neck and chest gave up and relaxed, Rainbow Dash felt something inside relaxing too. A tension, a pent up strain located between her chest and her head that had been there for years, was now gone. The feeling of relief made her cry again, big warm tears rolling down the wet paths the others left. The body of her friend finally let go and collapsed on the edge of the rainbow pool with the head still under the surface. Rainbow Dash stood back and sat down on the floor, as she saw the body flickering and vanishing. The shadow disappeared before her very eyes leaving just a trace of black smoky smudges.
“It’s gone.” said Rainbow Dash “The pain is…gone.” She couldn’t believe that. She had been living with that pain for years, that guilt that ate her from the inside, and now it was completely gone. She smiled as she looked around at the destroyed Weather Factory. Seeing the ruined building made her snap out of her shock. “Twilight! Luna! Pinkie! I gotta go meet them!”
She spread her wings ignoring all the cuts and bruises that stung her skin and muscles, and lifted up from the factory through the hole she made in the roof. Flapping her wings, feeling free for the first time inside that dream, she flew as fast as she could to reach at her house as quickly as possible. As she flew through the clouds, she hoped her friends were safe and sound, but out of all her friends it was Pinkie who was the most present in her mind. She quietly prayed for her friend to be okay.
Entrance to childhood.
Luna, Pinkie Pie and Twilight galloped to the Palace after what felt like several hours. The Everfree forest in Celestia’s nightmare seemed oddly deserted. The trees moved out of the way and spread out so the path they took was open enough to let them see the night sky and allowed the moon light to illuminate the ground. Twilight felt the creeping fingers of fear crawling on her neck. At every turn there seemed to be a shadow transforming into something else. The elongated black shapes scurried between the trunks and over the rocks, turned into arms and claws that licked at her body when she walked near them. But then she moved her head or the moon light would pour over them, and there would be nothing there. It only added to the feel of detachment her mind was going through. She had to stop her chain of thought to remember where she was. I am inside a nightmare, inside Rainbow Dash’ bedroom in Cloudsdale, inside a carriage carried by Fluttershy in Manehattan, while lying on the bed of Princess Celestia in her Castle in Canterlot, she thought, I am in a dream, within a dream, within another dream. This was affecting her. No matter how much she tried to rationalize it, she could feel the threads with reality being cut off.
Luna’s voice sprung her out of her thoughts.
“Focus!” said the Moon Princess with a firm voice.
Twilight appreciated Luna’s intervention as she went back to the world before them. The forest opened now in front of her eyes, the trees on the sides of the path moving away into a gallery of trunks and treetops. At the end of this natural hallway rose the remains of the Palace, a decaying monolithic structure, once a proud ruler over the landscape and now a victim to the voracity of the plants and the tree roots. The walls were cracked and from within the bricks leaves and branches could be seen. There was dirt and dust around the base and over the steps going up and inside the Palace. What used to be a front made out of columns had turned into a peeled off rib cage made of stones and wooden beams. Twilight and Luna stopped, as Pinkie Pie stepped closer to take a better look. She removed her straight hair off her face and turned to Twilight.
“This place needs a few parties, don’t you agree Twilight?” said Pinkie Pie.
“It certainly does.” said Twilight with a discrete smile.
Luna flinched and dragged her left leg as she walked towards the entrance. She thought she saw something behind the broken windows, a white figure with a colorful mane waving with the wind. Luna’s heart started pounding frenetically against her chest, making the wound in it hurt even more. It was like knives stabbing her, an endless fistful of blades plunging inside her chest all at once. The pain didn’t let her think clearly.
“I think I just saw my sister.” said Luna.
“Let’s go in then!” shouted Twilight.
But as Twilight tried to take a step forward the ground trembled under her hooves making her fall on her side. Pinkie bounced towards Twilight and helped her to a safer spot as the ground between them and the Palace rose with an explosion. Chunks and lumps of wet soil caked with weed and roots flew over their heads and landed on the ground shattering with a deafening crack. They saw something coming from the ground. No, no, it’s not coming from the ground, thought Twilight, it’s the ground itself.
“Move away from the Palace!” shouted Luna
Twilight, Luna and Pinkie Pie moved away until they were covered under the left line of trees on the path, as the entire section of terrain that circled around the Palace moved and lifted, squirming and throwing the trees that got over it. In the drier areas the dust didn’t let them see what that thing was, a thick wall of dirt blocked their view. The areas closer to the Palace’s moat, being soaked in water, didn’t lift dust and let them see what rose. It had a cylindrical body shape, with sharp scales and spikes over the upper part and an armored belly on the lower part. The parts of its body that were not covered in scales had trees and chunks of ground sticking out; rocks glistened in their broken grains with crystalline brightness. As it kept rising, Pinkie Pie, Luna and Twilight saw it had no mouth, eyes or distinguishable facial features. The head, what they could consider the frontal part, looked wormy and empty, the tip curled inside out as it moved side to side. Twilight realized what it was doing.
“That thing is sniffing.” said Twilight “It’s sniffing for us.”
“What do we do now?” said Pinkie Pie “It’s too big, it’ll eat us!”
“Not if we cut it in half.” said Luna with a whisper as she moved swiftly behind them. “Come on. I have an idea.”
Luna moved behind the trees as Pinkie Pie and Twilight followed her. They could hear the worm made out of ground rocks and snapped tree branches move away from the Palace and drag his disgusting body away down the path the three ponies just followed. It groaned and moaned with a revolting wet roar that reminded them of animals in agony from illness or broken limbs. Ignoring such disturbing sounds, Luna looked between the trees and saw, to her dismay, how the Palace started to move away. The dream space expanded and pulled the Palace a few miles away from them. The towers and the walls grew smaller before their eyes as the pale colors of the stones fused with those of the trees and night sky. Soon they were left in the middle of nowhere, with their goal away from them.
“Darn it!” shouted Luna, realizing too late of what she just did.
The ground worm turned around and aimed its faceless head to where the three mares were. Twilight, Luna and Pinkie Pie jumped out of the forest and into the opened area, mere seconds before the worm threw itself against the forest and crushed the area into the ground. When it lifted its head there was a deep crater where Twilight and her friends had been standing just mere seconds ago. Twilight looked at the worm and she could feel it looking back at her. She turned to Luna.
“Your plan! What is it!?” said Twilight.
Luna couldn’t reply. When they stepped out of the forest she miscalculated the distance with one of the trees and had the bad luck of hitting her injured shoulder with one of the branches. Her wound didn’t get worse, but the pain was so intense she couldn’t even talk. She tried to though.
“P-Pinkie…Pi-Pinkie distra…” she was gasping for air, her moans were of agony.
“Pinkie! You distract it!” said Twilight to Pinkie Pie.
Pinkie Pie made a military gesture to Twilight and she charged against the Worm while calling it names.
“Hey!!! Hey you!!! Mister Slimy Slimer Sloppy Schlock!!! Follow me!!!”
The worm took the bait as it started following Pinkie all around the expansive clearing. It was enormous and the ground trembled under its weight when it moved, but it was also really slow. It could snap its head like a whip, but it couldn’t drag itself that fast. Twilight knew Pinkie Pie would do okay but she wouldn’t last long. One of those impacts could turn her into a bloody pulp. She turned to Luna.
“What do we do now?” said Twilight.
“I…I will s-support your magic attack.” said Luna, feeling slightly better from her injury “You h-have to shoot a lightning bolt…right a-at its mid-section.”
Twilight looked at the worm and how it moved. Every time it waved its body it made a curl and a swipe, leaving a deep trench in the soil. It lifted rocks and made dust fly away. The rumbling of the ground and the stones under its weight deafened Twilight and Luna, and they couldn’t even hear their own voices. Luna shouted something at Twilight, but her weakened health and her particular soft voice didn’t let the purple unicorn hear a single word. Twilight stopped paying attention to the Princess and focused her horn on the worm. She didn’t have many opportunities left before the worm decided to crunch Pinkie Pie.
“Alright, I’m ready when you are!” shouted Twilight to Luna as she adopted a fighting stance in the middle of the clearing.
Luna started charging up her spell as Twilight aimed with her horn at the worm. She had to calculate carefully where to aim her magic spell. If she aimed right at the worm her attack would miss because of the distance between them. If she didn’t compensate the distance correctly, her attack would miss before the worm arrived to her targeted area. It was a mathematical jumble and she had to do it on the fly, as Luna’s horn glowed with a glass cutting shrill. There was no time to waste thinking and doubting. Pinkie Pie was only a few meters away from the Worm’s body, almost lost in the mist of dust and small bouncing pebbles.
“Now Luna! NOW!!!” shouted Twilight.
Luna transferred her magic energy in the form of a beam that connected her horn with Twilight’s. The beam charged up Twilight’s magic energy so much she felt she would be thrown backwards. Digging her hooves on the ground, leaving marks and scraping her horseshoes, Twilight leaned her head forward and aimed three inches away from the ground worm’s body. It might have seemed easy to an outside viewer. The ground worm was a big monster, possibly the biggest creature Twilight had seen since the smoke snoring dragon. That however wasn’t a point in her favor. She was really far away from it and at a distance so Great even the biggest target is small. Her first attack missed the ground worm by four meters. The beam hit a line of trees that bursted into flames. The leaves flew up in the sky engulfed in a blue and white fire.
“Again!” said Luna “Are you ready!?”
“Hold on!” said Twilight out of breath, panting with her tongue hanging out.
A thick layer of cold sweat coated her brow and her neck. That attack left her exhausted but not just from the unbearable, unfathomably Powerful magic energy. When Luna charged Twilight’s attack it also transferred her emotions to her. Everything she was feeling right now went inside Twilight’s head. Twilight could feel the stabbing inside her chest, the guilt tearing her guts apart and the remorse for not being able to get Princess Celestia to a safe place yet. All that left Twilight confused and broken for fifteen excruciatingly long seconds. She turned around to Luna.
“Don’t worry…I am okay. We w-.”
Twilight couldn’t finish her line. She didn’t notice at first but Pinkie had managed to outran the ground worm and return to their side. Twilight couldn’t explain why the ground worm decided to stop dead in his tracks, but she figured out it had something to do with the terrifying cackling noise coming from the other end of the forest.
* * *
Fluttershy’s plans were not working. None of them had worked out. Escaping the Mechanized Alicorns had failed. Doing flying maneuvers between the buildings to lose them only gave her a couple of seconds before they caught up with her again. Not even doing the flying tricks she saw Rainbow Dash doing had worked out. She ran out of ideas, and felt she couldn’t give her friends anymore time. Judging from the clock in Manehattan’s City Hall it had been 10 minutes since she left her friends. That was just half the time Twilight asked her to give them, but if she remembered correctly…
“Twilight said twenty minutes was more than enough. Maybe ten will be good too.” said Fluttershy.
She looked behind her to see six Mechanized Alicorns relentlessly following her. She couldn’t hold them back and she couldn’t fight them. Those were machines; they were immune to the power of her Stare. She was also far too exhausted to even try it.
There was no other way out. If she didn’t want to lose her mind and fall into Limbo, she needed to execute the Fall. There was no other way. She knew deep within her heart that her friends would be okay. She knew Twilight would pull all of them safe from there. She remembered her words. “If the first Fall doesn’t work, we can also wait for the second one”. She wasn’t a coward. She was not acting cowardly. With one last effort, she flapped her wings harder until her joints burned and her nerves felt as if they were being electrocuted. A jolt of pain crossed her back due to physical strain but she didn’t care. Her flight traced a curve upwards shooting up into the sky as high as she could get. She looked down and made sure she was gliding over the river.
“Yes, there’s the river…” said Fluttershy.
She wasn’t sure how high above the river she was. She had flown as high as she could without getting out of the dream’s boundaries. She hoped it was high enough to give her friends time to prepare their Fall, rescue Celestia and get out in time. She looked at the Carriage and through the window, checking out and making sure they were alright. To her they seemed okay and safe.
“I am sorry girls.” she said. “I hope you are ready.”
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and folded her wings to her sides. As soon as she did that the carriage plummeted to the ground, dragging Fluttershy with it. The wind whirled on her ears and the rush of adrenaline made her perceive the world around her in slow motion.
* * *
Rainbow Dash saw her house in the horizon. It was impossible not to distinguish it. It was the most lavish and richest house of all Ponyville. She always felt very proud of how it came out. She was about to set hoof upon the spongy cloud surface when everything around her trembled. The wind stopped. She looked up in the sky to see it changing colors into a psychedelic nightmare. It went from blue to black, to white, to purple, to yellow and finally sea blue. An invisible force assaulted her from behind and pulled her up and over the surface, making her fly against her house. She tried to flap her wings but she couldn’t do it. They didn’t respond to her properly. She closed her eyes before the impact as she felt her head going inside the spongy cloud, blocking her vision temporarily.
Despite her head being stuck inside one of the pillars of her house, she could feel her body being lifted. It felt really odd since she wasn’t using her wings to be lifted. As she made Great efforts not to vomit from the uncomfortable feeling, she realized what was happening inside the dream.
“That feather brain activated the Fall!” she shouted inside the cloud.
* * *
Twilight, Pinkie Pie and Luna saw what caused that rumble and the snapping cackling sound. It was loud and terrifying enough to make even the ground worm stop moving. In the horizon, the mountains were collapsing onto each other. The triangular shapes shifted and raised above the tree line, the mountains shattered and split in two, fragments the size of carriages and small houses flew up into the sky. Twilight followed one of those fragments with her eyes. She panicked when she realized it was going to fall right where they were.
“Oh no.” said Twilight with the faintest of voices “RUN!!!”
Before she turned around to run away from the rain of fragments she could see the trees next to the mountains bouncing and collapsing before been engulfed by an unseen force. They were yanked and pulled down into the ground. Twilight ran away as a guilty feeling spread in her chest. She felt guilty for being the first one in running away. Even when Luna and Pinkie Pie caught up with her she still felt guilty. Behind them the noise and the explosions of rocks colliding into each other grew louder and closer. Twilight could feel the wind, caused by the rumbling and the shaking of the terrain as it collapsed into itself. Twilight didn’t need to see it. The mental image that terrifying noise gave her was clear enough.
“We’re…not…going to…make it.” said Twilight half breathing half panting.
The noise was dangerously close now. She looked to the left and saw the line of trees disappearing. They fell back and turned into a pile of splinters as they got crunched by the falling ground. The ground worm made an agonizing noise of surprise as it got swallowed by the gaping terrain wound too. Twilight started to cry. She cried as she galloped, from exhaustion and fear. She felt really sorry. She felt sorry for not been able to get her friends out on time, and bring them all the way down to rescue Celestia. She would never forgive herself for such actions as-
“Y-you are s-s-still worrying…Too much!”
Luna’s words came from behind Twilight as she felt lifted in the air. When she landed, she did it on Luna’s back. Princess Luna, injured and exhausted, pushing herself to the limit, pulled Pinkie Pie from her tail and pulled her upwards, making the pink pony land next to Twilight. Pinkie Pie was as surprised as Twilight, but the violet unicorn guessed it was because Luna didn’t let Pinkie use one of her contraptions, or summon a handful of balloons to fly. Luna took a leap forward, landed on her fore hooves and propelled herself up, lifting from the ground as she flapped her wings. The motion of her wing muscles didn’t hurt her at all, but the wind force pressed against her chest wound, making her flinch.
As they moved away from the ground, Twilight grabbed tighter onto Luna’s back. Pinkie Pie grabbed onto Luna and Twilight, as the two watched the destruction of the Everfree forest. The surface of the forest, everything underneath the bushy tapestry of trees, disappeared into a sea of falling rocks. Twilight saw them crashing into each other and down to oblivion, a sea of deep darkness that left nothing behind. That humongous maw swallowed the forest in the shape of an expansive wave. Twilight worried for a moment, thinking it would destroy the dream space and leave them there floating on Luna’s back. With relief, she saw the crumbling stopping right before reaching Zecora’s hut. Twilight felt the grip of fear leaving her chest as she realized the hut was empty. There seems to be no projections here, thought Twilight, this is a nightmare after all.
Luna landed with difficulty a few meters away from where the collapsing had stopped and let Twilight and Pinkie down to the ground. Pinkie Pie hopped and bounced around as her straightened hair waved. Shaking her head and her legs she looked at Twilight and at the Princess, inquiring for answers with a perkily annoyed expression.
“What the hay was that?” said Pinkie Pie, her voice scratchier than usual.
“Luna, was that the Fall?” said Twilight.
“Y-yes Twilight. That was the Fall.” said Luna, half exhausted from the flight and half pained from her chest wound. She took a hoof to it. It stained red and black.
“We missed the fall? How are we going to wake up now!?” said Pinkie Pie, her expression even more worried than before.
Twilight walked to the edge of what was now a bottomless cliff. She couldn’t comprehend the gargantuan void below them. There was literally nothing, just blackness, pure, raw emptiness. That wasn’t Limbo though. Twilight knew that, if she jumped off that cliff, she would just wake up in the previous dream layer. She turned to Luna and Pinkie Pie.
“If Fluttershy is already falling that means we don’t have much time left.” said Twilight. “How high is the highest point in the first dream layer?” asked Twilight, her voice tense and hesitating.
“I a-am…I am not sure.” said Luna.
“Take a guess!” inquired Twilight, angry.
“M-maybe one…one thousand two hundred meters.”
“Twelve hundred meters…” Twilight made a series of calculations, her brain working over time: Speed, gravity, air resistance, friction, weight of the rain drops, angle of falling… “Twelve hundred meters, force of gravity…Divided by total velocity…That means Fluttershy will hit the water in fifteen seconds, if she is falling from the highest point. That gives Rainbow Dash about five minutes, which gives us an hour and forty minutes.”
It was too tight. There were just too many variables and her calculations were not exactly at 100%, but that was the closest she could get. All of this based on a supposition, she thought. What if they were falling from a shorter distance? They had to act like they only had thirty minutes.
“S-so we h-h-h-have one hour and forty m-minutes…to find and rescue my sister before the next F-F-Fall activates.” said Luna.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait!” asked Pinkie Pie, slightly confused but catching up with them. “What next Fall?”
“When the carriage sinks into the river.” sentenced Twilight.
Yanking up the chain.
Fluttershy was fifteen seconds from falling into the river.
She had her eyes closed and could only feel the rain drops over her coat, the mane whirling up into ringlets and the weight of the carriage pulling her down. Inside the carriage the gravity shifted and every one inside lifted from the floor and their seats. Rainbow Dash, asleep as she was, had her body elevated from the seat as she floated in the middle of the vehicle.
* * *
Rainbow Dash pulled her head from inside the column and tried to stand on the floor before her house. She couldn’t. The lack of gravity didn’t allow her to stand firmly on the floor as she scraped at the clouds with her hooves, chipping off little specs of mist. She flapped her wings but they served no purpose. Without gravity there was nothing pulling her down to the ground, and without that there was no reason for her wings to keep her afloat. She bent her body, pulling it forwards to grab the column with her fore hooves and approached the front door. Suspended in front of her house, she pushed the door open to see it was empty.
“Where’s everypony?” she said in a muttered that followed a potent “Hello! Is anyone here!?”
Rainbow Dash closed the door behind her as she floated up inside her house. She looked left and right to see the rooms empty. The tables floated and bounced inside the dining room, and the sofas in the living room made odd positions as they collided between each other. Rainbow Dash felt awkward. She had never floated around without flapping her wings and having them folded while she floated inside her house made her feel odd. I just wonder how we are going to fall without gravity, she thought. She left the lower floor and floated up to the bedroom floor. She grabbed onto the stair steps until she finally arrived to her bedroom door. She pushed it open and the scene made her groan in impotence.
“Aaaaargh, horse apples!”
Inside her bedroom all her friends floated in mid air. Celestia and Luna were above her bed, their bushy manes flowing under their bodies. They looked peaceful, sleeping a dream Rainbow Dash would never see. Twilight and Pinkie Pie were on the other side of the room, one floating above the other. Pinkie Pie’s bushy mane remained immobile under her head, while Twilight’s straight hair floated all over her body. Rainbow Dash looked at the scene, terrified. A piece of paper floated before her eyes. It was creased and had Twilight’s writing on it. She took it with her hooves and read it.
Rainbow Dash, by the time you read this we will be down another dream level trying to rescue Princess Celestia. I am sure you will do everything that’s in your hooves to activate the Fall on time. Please be careful, your friend, Twilight Sparkle.
Rainbow Dash furrowed the note into a paper ball and threw it against the wall. The paper ball bounced against the walls without stopping until it tangled in the curtains.
“How am I gonna make you fall without gravity?” she muttered.
If there was no gravity, there was no fall. If there was no fall, there was no waking up and if there was no waking up there was no way they would return home. She had to think of something and she had to do it fast. If she remembered Twilight’s calculations correctly she had just a few minutes to figure something out. But what? There is no way to simulate gravity in a freefall unless I tie them to…her chain of thought stopped dead in its tracks, as she pushed herself forward towards her wardrobe.
“I have an idea…” she said “It’s not pretty, but it’s an idea.”
* * *
Twilight Sparkle was exhausted. She was beyond out of breath, her heart ached and her lungs were on fire. When she stopped to take a break she felt the back of her tongue go numb and a disgusting metallic flavor spread inside her mouth, between her teeth. She looked behind and saw Pinkie Pie with her tongue out, dragging her straight pink hair over the soil, and further back was Princess Luna, with a crimson stain over her chest. Luna looked tired and pained, and her step was doubtful. She couldn’t hide the limping. Luna looked at Twilight as she got closer and the indigo unicorn stared back.
“We need to slow down.” said Twilight “Just for your wound.” she added looking at Luna’s injury.
She examined it despite Luna’s complaints. The wound was deep enough to see the bone and the bright muscular tissue torn apart. Twilight couldn’t see any blood vessel and the wound didn’t have any visible external bleeding. With an internal hemorrhage her possibilities were smaller. She was definitely not coming back with them on the Fall. Twilight looked at Luna and the Princess just smiled with the corner of her mouth.
“Y-you will come to f-find me…W-when I f-fall into Limbo.” mumbled Luna.
Twilight nodded without saying a word as she turned around and resumed the galloping. They trotted slower as they got closer to the Palace. Twilight calculated around five minutes had passed since they sensed the first Fall. That didn’t worry her that much though. She was worried about Luna, and about bringing her back. How would she do that? The only way to follow Luna where she was going was by dying. Would she kill herself to rescue Princess Luna? She had to. She promised her, she promised they would be friends again in the real world. A cold feeling of fear and regret spread inside her heart as she gasped for air. Twilight panicked. The concept of dying, even if it was a dream, terrified her. The concept of dying and having her mind get lost into Limbo just made her consider everything she’d learnt about magic. All her knowledge, all her power, gone. Everything she was would vanish if she couldn’t get out of Limbo with Luna.
“We are here.” said Pinkie Pie with an uncharacteristic serious voice.
Twilight didn’t realize but they were standing right in front of the Palace. The steps were clear and there seemed to be nopony in the surrounding areas. The trees remained calm. The air was still, so calm that Twilight couldn’t feel the slightest breeze over her mane. The steps, still cracked and crumbled after years of erosion, invited them to climb them and step inside.
“Come on.” said Twilight, stepping forward and starting to climb.
Pinkie Pie and Luna followed her with a steady rhythm. Once they were up at the top of the stair, Twilight pushed the derelict door with one hoof. The creak it made echoed throughout the entire forest like a sick melody. Twilight’s fear scurried down her spine as she stepped inside the Palace. The last time she had been there, Nightmare Moon was about to bring eternal night all over Equestria. She wasn’t afraid of Nightmare Moon though. The Dark Mare was gone and Princess Luna was back. Twilight knew for sure her bad memories wouldn’t betray her like it betrayed Rainbow Dash in Cloudsdale. She pushed those thoughts aside and focused on the architecture to calm her nerves.
The room they were in was shaped like an ellipse. There were columns that once held a magnificent roof, and windows with beautiful shattered stained glass. The floor was covered in dead weed and dust. In the center of the room laid a statue with five platforms prepared to hold five spheres. It was everything that was left from The Elements of Harmony, at least in their memories. The place was so silent that even the slightest rattle of a rock falling over the cliff was loud and alarming.
“Where is she?” said Pinkie Pie “Where’s the Princess?”
Even though Pinkie Pie talked in whispers it served no purpose. From the other side of the room came a voice that sounded faint but authoritative. Even within the suffocating silence they couldn’t make out what the words said but they caught the tone. It was the tone of a ruler, tied down and imprisoned. The sound of hooves against the stone made the hopes of the three ponies rise as they saw a glowing light coming from inside a hole. The glowing light cut out a profile of the hole, from the inside of the wall located in the further end of the room. They realized it was an old door frame leading downstairs. The light grew more intense and finally they saw a figure coming from the inside.
“Celly…” mumbled Luna.
Princess Celestia stood in the edge of the door frame. She was so tall her horn scraped on the ceiling of the tunnel leading downstairs. There was a smile on her face and hope in her eyes. She was only a few meters away from them. They didn’t say a word. Celestia and Luna galloped towards each other, with equal expressions of joy in their faces. Pinkie Pie and Twilight followed closely. It was only for a little while, but hope filled Luna’s heart and opened the gates of her memory; to Luna it felt like an ocean of time. She looked at her sister as her figure grew larger in the distance. Flashes of memories came to her mind: The smell of her hair; the sound of her giggle; her voice when she was telling her anecdotes about Canterlot. Her laughter. She felt she would recover all those memories and bring her sister back with her. They would make more photos together and Celestia will encourage Luna to stop making the houses look so flat in her paintings. They would return to their normal life. They would be friends together again.
The voice interrupted Luna’s thoughts painfully as a blinding light rose from the center of the room. The statue that used to contain the Elements of Harmony shattered in a cloud of rocks and shards and a bundle of lightning arms interjected between Luna and Princess Celestia. The sound of the sparkles and the electricity crackling between them deafened Twilight as their furs and their hairs stood up and caught electricity. Pinkie Pie was thrown back against a column after a bolt zapped her. She stood up dizzied and sat down again, her vision blurred due to a throbbing headache. Celestia looked around her, panicked. Luna had never seen her big sister so scared.
“Sister!!!” screamed Celestia, her voice barely audible from beneath the lightning.
“Celly!!!” yelled Luna trying to move forwards and into the wall of lightning.
Twilight grabbed Luna and pulled her away. She didn’t need to make any big effort. The Princess was weak enough from the blood loss.
“No! Luna stop!” shouted Twilight.
“I don’t care Twilight, it’s my sister!!!” shouted Luna, trying to get Twilight off of her.
Celestia looked around her, scared. Fear paralyzed her. She had never experienced magic that Powerful before. Inside a dream everything was enhanced. Inside a dream, her God-like powers were not better than those of anypony else. Inside a dream she was mortal. Then the presence spoke again and for the last time in that dream, its voice shaking the foundations of the palace.
“I! Have!! Had it!!! WITH YOU!!!”
The lightning storm surrounded Celestia from every side. A cage made out of lightning and thunder encased the Princess of the Sun and lifted her in the middle of the air. Luna and Twilight looked at it, impotent and unable to stop it. Celestia got struck by a lightning bolt. Then another. And another. And another. A seemingly endless barrage of lightning crossed Celestia’s body from every angle. It passed through her head. It passed across her stomach and through her legs. They penetrated inside her hooves and sprouted out of her eyes. She stopped feeling the pain when her nerve endings burned. When it felt it was over, the lightning turned solid. The twisted yellow, white and blue shapes turned solid and shot against Celestia, piercing the Princess’ body. There was an explosion of crimson liquid that rained under her legs. The stain that formed below her had a sick purple tone, the red mixed with the blue of the stone. Her white body turned pink with deformed streams of red coming from the countless wounds. When the lightning retracted her body fell on the floor like a dead weight and the storm vanished as suddenly as it arrived.
Luna’s mind couldn’t comprehend what just happened. She had to take a few steps before finally getting a reaction. Her heart swelled with rage and hatred, unable to take the eyes away from her sister’s dead body, she galloped to her, ignoring the pain, with tears running down her face.
Her shriek tore through the silence. She screamed so loud, and in such a desperate state, that her throat ached and her voice broke mid scream. She fell to her knees as she buried her snout under Celestia’s forelegs. Her sister’s blood stained Luna’s snout with black marks. The tears mixed with it leaving pink marks over her white body. Luna didn’t care. She didn’t care about anything anymore. Her sister was dead. She had her dead body right before her. She had recognized her. She saw it in her eyes as they ran towards each other. She didn’t even get the chance to tell her how sorry she was that she didn’t like the last photo she took. Luna let go a moaning sob of despair and guilt as she buried her head into her sister’s bloodied coat and cried disconsolately. Her chest ached but this time it was from anguish and not from her injury.
Twilight just sat down and cried in silence. Her teacher, the person that cared for her during her whole life now lied dead on the dusty floor of that Palace. Deep down Twilight still remembered that it was a dream. None of it was real. But Celestia’s death meant that her mind was now gone. Celestia was now in Limbo. Twilight couldn’t focus on anything. She just couldn’t. Her mind was a boiling pot of terror and preoccupation and she had no idea what to do next. Her organizing skills crumbled under the pressure and her magic powers didn’t include resuscitation. It was over. Her mind, her good judgment, couldn’t stop her from muttering.
“It’s all over…We’ve failed.”
Behind her, Pinkie Pie walked towards Twilight and passed a hoof over her shoulder. Twilight’s eyes filled with tears as she closed them and hugged Pinkie Pie tighter than she had ever hugged someone before. The tears ran down her face as she hid her snout inside Pinkie’s straight haired mane, muffling her agonizing moans. The Palace remained in silence as the three ponies mourned the loss of Princess Celestia, ruler of Equestria, now trapped in Limbo.
Obliterating two souls.
Fluttershy’s carriage was fourteen seconds away from the water.
She felt weird. With her wings stuck to her body and the sense of falling surrounding her, Fluttershy couldn’t help but feel a wave of panic taking her heart and crunching it. Besides that pinch that was nothing but a small bother, she was alright. She had, however, a deep feeling of concern. Would her friends be okay? Would they be safe?
* * *
Rainbow Dash floated all the way to her wardrobe and opened it, hoping that inside that dream also her things would have been transferred. She sighed in relief when she saw that was exactly what happened. With a big smile on her face she pulled out five harnesses for bungee jumping and five Jet-Packs. She checked if they still had fuel inside them and that the straps were secured enough. Then she checked over the bungee ropes and the straps which seemed to be in order too. Everything was safe and ready to use. Rainbow Dash smiled at her flawless responsibility. I can be a bit impulsive sometimes, but this ain’t child’s play, she thought.
She floated towards her friends as she prepared to strap them into the bungee harnesses.
* * *
Pinkie Pie couldn’t bring herself to cry. She was paralyzed and confused. Celestia was dead, which meant her mind was gone into Limbo. She didn’t understand the concept of Limbo as well as the others, but she knew it wasn’t a good thing. If they woke up and Celestia was still in Limbo, her mind would be gone forever. That she understood. She kept hugging Twilight, not sure of what to say or where to start saying anything. She hated these situations.
“Twilight…What’s gonna happen now?” said Pinkie Pie.
Twilight snorted and passed a hoof over her face, clearing the tears off of it. She didn’t reply but at least she stopped her crying. The lack of responses made Pinkie feel impatient. The pink pony grabbed Twilight by the shoulders pulling her up from behind her straight mane and looked at the unicorn right in the eye.
“Twilight, why don’t we go get her?” said Pinkie Pie, surprised to hear her own words. She couldn’t explain where they came from.
Twilight’s face changed from sad to shocked and then confused. What did Pinkie just suggest? Twilight wasn’t sure if Pinkie understood what was happening. The implication of going inside dreams, the complexity of the dream levels, how they affected each other…
It was Luna. Her voice sounded weak and distant, but there was a characteristic calmness in it. She wasn’t crying anymore. She lied over her big sister’s dead body, but she wasn’t crying. Maybe Pinkie Pie is really onto something, thought Twilight. She realized that Pinkie Pie put her hoof on a Great idea. Twilight grabbed Pinkie Pie by her arms.
“Go on Pinkie.” said Twilight, encouraging her friend. “What’s your idea?”
“Well…” said Pinkie Pie, making a gesture with her head to throw her mane over her back again. “Why can’t we get down there and rescue Celestia? That’s like…It’s like another dream, right? We can get inside her head, and find her. And when we find her, we make her fall in there and she will wake up here. And then all we have to do is make her fall here, and then Rainbow Dash makes us fall, and then we all fall inside Fluttershy’s carriage, waking up.” She remained silent and ended up her plan explanation with an innocent tone. “Or is it a terribly terrible baddy bad idea?”
“It’s a Great idea.” said Luna from the distance “Well it’s…the only idea.”
“But it will work.” said Twilight, walking towards Luna and the cadaver of Princess Celestia “Pinkie, you’re the greatest.”
Twilight didn’t want to hide her enthusiasm as she gave her friend another hug. Pinkie Pie felt really happy, a warm and fuzzy feeling spreading over her chest and inside her heart, as for a moment she felt one of her hairs curled into its natural form. Twilight lowered her head under Princess Celestia’s body and pulled her up. Luna and Pinkie Pie imitated her and between the three of them lifted Princess Celestia. The red ichor poured from the gaping stabbing wounds and over their bodies. Twilight ignored it, surprised to realize there was no foul smell. With Great pain, she started moving upstairs.
“We have to put her and us in the highest tower of the Palace.” said Twilight.
It took them ten minutes to walk all the way up the tower as they left a trace of red blood and white feathers on the steps. Endless times they slipped and almost fell downstairs. Twilight had to grab Pinkie Pie by her mane and her tail so she wouldn’t go downstairs or, even worse, down and out of the Palace. The tower’s steps were not fully covered and there was a section that was fully exposed to the outside. A soft wind passed between their legs. Twilight welcomed the fresh wind passing over her sweaty stomach and her exhausted limbs, a much needed relief. Once they arrived at the top of the tower, Twilight laid Celestia next to the edge, over a platform without walls that seemed clean enough.
“Alright.” said Twilight “Luna, this is the plan: Pinkie Pie and I will go down to Limbo to get Celestia back. You stay back and look after us as much as you can.”
“Why h-her?” said Luna pointing at Pinkie Pie “Why c-can’t I go with y-y-you? I am about to d-die, Twilight. I can h-h-help you down th-there.”
“We need somepony with magic strong enough to keep us safe in here.” said Twilight “Pinkie Pie could use her dream bending powers to protect us, but her abilities will be much more useful down in Limbo.”
“If I…Urk!” Luna had to stop; the wound yanked her so bad her breath got cut for a couple of seconds. When she resumed talking she did so without breath. “If I s-stay h-here…Alright T-Twilight. I will s-stay h-here and protect you f-f-f-for as long as I can.”
“Don’t forget to make us Fall before you slip into Limbo.” said Twilight.
Luna nodded, as she got close to Twilight and Pinkie Pie and hugged them. Luna spread her wings and hugged her two friends closely and tightly. She got as far as breaking protocol and nuzzled each other over their cheeks, the closest they could get to a formal kiss. Twilight broke the embrace first as she looked at Luna.
“I won’t forget.” said Twilight “I will come to rescue you. I will come to bring you back.”
“Before…Before I turn into a little filly, scared without her mother…”
“Waiting for her big sister to save her.” finished Twilight. “I will come to rescue you, I swear.”
Twilight turned around and laid next to Celestia’s dead body. Pinkie Pie let her body fall next to Twilight as she looked at Celestia’s bloodied face. She moved her eyes away from it before the feeling of puking grew bigger. Luna’s horn glowed with a black light that threw purple shadows and violet reflections over their bodies. Twilight knew there was only one way to get into Limbo. As she looked at Pinkie Pie’s face, she realized the earth pony knew that as well. Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle held their hooves together and closed their eyes, when they felt Luna’s magic inside their chests, squeezing their hearts. Twilight didn’t expect it to hurt so much.
“It hurts!!! IT HURTS TWILIGHT!!!” screamed Pinkie Pie.
“It…It will be over…soon, Pinkie…” replied Twilight, her teeth gritted and and hooves holding Pinkie’s tightly.
She felt her chest was about to explode. Her heart stopped beating, strangled by Luna’s magic. Luna felt every single second of their heart attacks. The agony, the short breath, the pain and the fear sheered through her mind and body as she looked at Twilight and Pinkie Pie agonizing and spasming on the floor. Twilight felt her neck tense up, the muscles about to snap and her blood vessels on the edge of rupturing. She saw Pinkie Pie gagging and gesturing like she was about to vomit; nothing came from her mouth but raspy breaths. The last thing Twilight felt was Pinkie’s hoof over hers, and how they slipped over the floor. After that a black emptiness surrounded her, and then nothing. No panic, no fear, no happiness, no depression. Nothing but a complete void of emotion. Luna walked towards the two friends and checked their pulse. They were gone. She took a few steps backwards and sat down on the floor, tears coming to her face. She was alone again. And even if Twilight or Pinkie or even her sister returned from Limbo in time, Luna would be gone by then. She took a moment to breathe as she passed her hoof over the wound. There was a crust around it, but it was still stained with red and brown. The inside felt worse though. She could feel the pool of warm blood formed between her lungs. Her left lung was pierced and made her breathing more difficult.
“Twilight…” she whispered, looking at Twilight lying next to Celestia and Pinkie Pie “Twilight…don’t get lost in there…Don’t get lost down there.”
* * *
Twilight felt absolutely nothing at first. She also saw nothing. Everything was black. The first thing she did was listen. She heard the sound of waves crashing against the shore. She felt her coat covered in water and sand. Lifting her head slowly, she blinked until her vision cleared. Before her a yellow smudge focused into a yellow line, and finally into a beach line. She looked behind her to see an endless mass of water.
END OF CHAPTER 3.
THE REGAL DREAM.
Twilight wasn’t sure if the mass of water was an ocean, a sea or a lake. The salty scent floating in the air and clogging her lungs indicated it was clearly a sea or an ocean. She looked before her and side to side. The beach line extended beyond what she would consider infinity. There seemed to be no trace of Pinkie Pie anywhere. Twilight looked at the waves, crashing and rolling over the sand, leaving dark marks that resembled clouds, the foam crusting over the sand piles. Twilight coughed, cleared her throat and started trotting. She felt the heat, but there was no sun. Despite the sea moving she couldn’t feel the air. The place reeked with salt and rotten seaweed. It took her a full minute of walking until she saw something in the distance. A pink blur lying on the beach, moved by the waves.
“Oh no…” muttered Twilight.
The indigo unicorn clenched her teeth and galloped at full speed towards her friend. As she got closer and closer she could distinguish more details of Pinkie’s state. She was covered in sand from her chest down, and her pink mane was still flat and tangled in seaweeds. Twilight didn’t notice she was breathing until she was right next to her. The unicorn lowered her head and rubbed it against Pinkie Pie’s face.
“Pinkie. Pinkie! Are you alright?”
Pinkie Pie blinked, surprised by the clarity of the blue sky. She raised her hoof to clear her eyes but stopped as she saw it covered in sand. Shaking her hooves and her head, Pinkie Pie stood up, rolled to her side and sat down on her hind quarters as she smacked her tongue. Her mouth tasted raw and it was drier than a desert. She blinked a few more times until her vision cleared and finally looked at Twilight. Pinkie was confused, but Twilight looked even more confused to her.
“Is this Limbo?” said Pinkie Pie.
“It seems like it.” said Twilight. “Look at all this emptiness.”
Pinkie Pie shrugged as she looked around with Twilight. There seemed to be nothing anywhere but the ocean/sea and the beach line. Twilight noticed the beach line ascended and rose upwards right before them into a cliff. Twilight had never seen a formation like that in her life. The cliff was devoid of life or signs of civilization. With a sigh she looked past the yellow beach line and started to make out formations in the distance. They were mountains, and against the blue sky they looked grey and purple. Plumes and rings of clouds floated around the peaks, immobile. The ground between the beach and those mountains was flat, cream colored and frighteningly empty. Twilight couldn’t see any shadows or even a texture of something. There was no sand, no rocks, no grass, not even soil. The entire place was like an empty scroll.
“Where do we start looking for the Princess? She could be anywhere!” said Twilight with a drop of fear in her voice.
“Why don’t we start with that tower over there?” suggested Pinkie Pie, pointing at the distance.
Twilight raised her ears as she looked at the direction Pinkie Pie was pointing. There was nothing there but the emptiness of the ground and the purple mountains. Twilight looked at Pinkie Pie, her nose furrowed in anger.
“Pinkie! This is no time for your games!” reprehended Twilight.
“No! Really Twilight! It’s there, just look harder.” insisted Pinkie Pie.
Twilight rolled her eyes as she looked at the distance again. That time, to her surprise, she saw something. It was a thin grey line lost between the mountains. It was as thin as a hair and it had a spiky end pointing up to the sky. When Twilight adjusted her vision to the distance, her eyes in pain from the exertion, she could see it was a tower. They were too far away to notice any details, but it was the only clue they had to keep moving forward. Twilight felt the hopes of finding the Princess growing inside her again, filling her insides like a warm liquid.
“It’s really far away.” said Twilight. “Very good eye, Pinkie.”
“I try my best.” said Pinkie Pie with a smile.
“Come on. We have to get there as soon as possible.” said Twilight.
She had no idea how far away they were from the tower. If her calculations were correct, they had more than twenty six hours to reach the tower, climb up and bring Celestia back; but even with so much time on her hooves, she didn’t want to risk anything. Whatever that presence was, that devilish pony that put Celestia under such a terrible regal dream could alter the world of Limbo to its will. It could increase the distance between the tower and them, or force them to walk in circle endlessly. Twilight and Pinkie Pie left the beach and stepped on the plain of emptiness. The terrain felt unnatural and oddly solid.
“Marble.” whispered Twilight. “At least it’s not sand.” she then turned to her friend. “Are you doing okay Pinkie?”
Pinkie Pie nodded. Her straight hair falling over her face was still tangled in seaweed. Pinkie removed the weeds as best as she could and pushed the hair over her shoulder and on her back. She felt dirty but she didn’t care. All she wanted, with all of her might, was to get inside that tower and finish with whoever did all this. Her chest was still tight after Luna’s induced heart attack, but it didn’t bother her as much as she imagined. With the best smile she could give, she replied.
“I’m fine Twilight. Let’s get moving.”
Twilight nodded to Pinkie and they started trotting, their hooves making a hollow sound as they trotted over the marble plain. The ghostly sound echoed all over the empty extension and resonated in their ears, suffocating their minds.
* * *
Fluttershy was ten seconds away from the river.
She wasn’t feeling anything anymore but the tight grip of gravity around her gut. It was a dizzy sensation that always left her breathless and that she only experienced during cold winter nights or anytime a gust of wind hit her under the wings and threw off her flying. Her neck was paralyzed by fear and by the sheer force of gravity pulling her down. She wanted to check on her friends. To make sure they were okay.
* * *
Rainbow Dash left the jet packs floating in mid air before checking their fuel levels one more time. They were all full and ready. She then moved to the bungee cords pulling them close to her as she got closer to Princess Celestia’s sleeping body. With all the care and attention she could put on, she strapped the harness to Celestia’s body. The harness was flexible enough and it fitted the Alicorn’s body perfectly. Once she strapped Celestia and checked all the cords were in place, Rainbow moved towards Princess Luna. As soon as she grabbed Luna by the shoulders, the Princess of the Moon coughed in her sleep. A few blood drops came out of her mouth and floated in the form of crimson spheres. Rainbow looked at Luna worried as she checked the dried up wound on Luna’s chest was bigger than before. She tried to ignore it as she strapped the other bungee harness, making sure the wound wasn’t scraped by the cords.
“I don’t have much time…” mumbled Rainbow Dash. “I don’t have much time. Focus. Faster.”
As she talked to herself, Rainbow floated up to Twilight and Pinkie Pie, holding two more harnesses with her mouth. If her calculations were correct she could achieve her plan in three and a half minutes, but she had to keep moving. As she approached to her friends, Rainbow got her wings caught up on one of her desk’s drawers. Without gravity her wings were a mess and they flurried without control. She had to stop them from doing that.
“Okay, I had it with you.”
She pushed herself towards the wardrobe and pulled her set of bungee cords. They were colored like her mane and tail, and the clips that kept the cords in place had a lightning shape. With a smirk she slid inside the harness and strapped her wings tight to her body. That’s gonna keep ‘em in place, she thought. Without her troublesome appendages in the way, she resumed placing the harnesses on her friend’s bodies.
* * *
Luna limped away from her sister and the two ponies lying on the top of the tower. Her chest was fogged up in pain. Her wound throbbed in agony and her heart felt strangled after performing the magic over Twilight and Pinkie Pie. She never thought she’d have to use that magic again. With a sigh, Luna laid down on the floor and took a moment to gather her thoughts. Tears came to her eyes, swelled and poured over her cheeks as she looked back at the lifeless bodies of Pinkie Pie, Twilight and her Big Sister. She cried in impotence for not being able to save her. She made herself promise; if her Big Sister was in trouble she would come and save her. But she couldn’t save her that time. Luna let go a moan she held back since the start of that ordeal, as she finally rested her head over the cold stone, her tears falling on the dusty floor lifting small puffs of dirt.
“I’m sorry Big Sister…” whispered Luna. “I’m so sorry…”
She felt herself slipping away into the void. Its cold hands grabbed her flanks and over her haunches as she felt like falling backwards into a hole. As her eyes closed, without her perceiving it, a chunk of ground flew over her head and took away a piece of the tower she was standing on making bricks and dust fall around the three sleeping bodies. It finally crashed inside the ruined castle courtyard. Luna stood up, with a fire running through her veins and the cold fingers of death slipping away from her skin. She looked around to see the source of that odd meteorite and she came across a most terrible sight.
“You.” said Luna, her voice so firm it even surprised her.
Three miles away from the Palace the Ground Worm rose over its destroyed body. Falling into the void before had damaged the underbelly and the head of such abomination. The soft part of its body, the lower part, was completely gone and it showed the rocky bowels of the beast, a crumbling system of tubes and organs made out of tree roots. On the head, the left half was gone and Luna saw the remains of a primitive eyeball, milky white and hanging from what looked like a tree branch. The Worm had a mouth with a dislocated jaw which made the lower half hang loose in a grotesque gesture.
“You are not going to get any closer.” muttered Luna.
She pranced on the floor, snorted a cloud of steam and jumped from the tower as she extended her wings. She screamed the whole time from the pain and the adrenaline cutting through her body, but she couldn’t hear it. Her ears clogged with the cold air and the force of the wind, as she lifted mere meters from the ground and charged straight at the Worm. She had to buy Twilight and Pinkie enough time to find her sister and bring her back. Without looking back at the Palace, Luna rushed to the Worm and passed under his belly. She saw the pieces of rocks and soil falling from its decayed body. Wincing in pain, Luna flew upwards and charged an ice spell, her horn glowed white and blue and a trail of sprinkles formed behind her. The Worm was too slow for her and was in more pain than her. He was also bigger. With a blast of freezing air she shot a sphere of ice that traced with a white line from her forehead to behind the Worm’s head. The strong impact sounded like a rock breaking a frozen glass and the Worm wailed at the sky as it dragged its body and made the ground groan under its weight. Luna flew over its head and charged another ice spell but she had to stop. Her wound just yanked from the inside and forced her to stop charging up. She took a quick series of frantic sharp breaths as she looked down. Her wound gushed and bled down her front left leg, dripping down to the hoof. Seeing her own blood made her feel dizzy and her flight resented from that. She went down a few meters and got in the attack range of the Worm. The creature groaned and lifted a tentacle made out of weeds and roots from its mouth. The appendage flew in a straight line aimed at Luna’s head.
Luna saw the tentacle coming right at her. She tensed her wings and pushed her body up and forwards, a pained scream escaping her lips. She thought she could do it. She thought she could escape that tentacle. When the stabbing pain on her left hind leg made her bones explode and her flesh tear apart, she realized she hadn’t been fast enough. Luna flapped her wings as hard as she could, until they stopped hurting from numbness, moving away from the Worm. A rain of tentacles flew in her direction, but she was too far away from them to reach her. She furled her injured leg and stuck it to her stomach as she felt the warmth of the blood spreading under her skin. If it wasn’t broken she was sure something snapped inside, either the muscles or the cartilage. Once she was far away from the Worm, Luna landed next to a tree to see if her injuries were too severe. The leg tightened its pain around her gut and into her groin area when she tried to extend it and place it on the ground. She looked to see the pearly white hip bone sticking out. A trembling piece of muscle glistened under the moonless sky. With a groan of pain and impotence, Luna flapped her wings again and returned to face the Worm.
“I’m going to die either way.” she boasted. “I might as well do something before the inevitable happens.”
With such words filling her ears as she tried to convince herself of what she was about to do, she charged once again against the Worm as she ignored the shooting pain in her chest and in her thigh.
* * *
Twilight and Pinkie Pie arrived at the tower.
As they walked towards it Twilight had enough time to think of what to do with whatever lied inside it. As they got closer Twilight felt the surge of magical energy increase after every step they took. She knew it was the most Powerful source of energy she had ever experienced in her life. The only source of magic energy stronger than that was hers, and even with that she kept her magic power at bay and contained. She couldn’t imagine what lied inside that Tower. What could that entity, Pony or not, want from Princess Celestia? What would drag him, her, it, to do such terrible acts like murder her and trap her in Limbo? That sort of craziness was what Twilight couldn’t comprehend. As they took a few more steps they finally got a perfect view of the tower, and Twilight’s fur coat rose with a chill of fear.
The tower looked like it had belonged to a bigger edification that was no longer there. There were remains of big stone walls that flanked it, and rotten wood planks corroded by the pass of time and the poor conditions it had experienced. The tower was round on its base but it twisted with a sick pattern. There were bricks bigger than others and they stuck out under the beacon windows. All of the body had a sickening blue and grey pattern with pieces of fabric and flags falling still due to the lack of wind. On top of the tower stood a circular room that was four times bigger than the tower’s diameter. It looked abandoned from ground level, but Twilight noticed the roof was in pristine condition. The roof tiles were intact and they shined under the non-existent sun. The roof was purple and had white smudges over it, the tip of it curled down. Twilight had a dreadful feeling of familiarity with the shape of the roof striking her brain and squeezing her innards.
“I have this familiar feeling of dread.” said Twilight, so faintly even she doubted she talked.
“Huh?” said Pinkie Pie turning her head to her friend.
Twilight looked down and up again at the tower as they got closer to it. The tower kept getting bigger and taller in her eyes and by the moment they arrived at the base it was so tall she couldn’t look all the way up without hurting her neck. Tossing her mane aside she looked down again and looked for a door to get inside. The base was bigger than her house.
“We have to find a way to get inside.” said Twilight.
“Twilight, when we have to come back, we will feel the Fall, right?” said Pinkie.
“You want me to calm you down or to be sincere with you?” asked Twilight as she walked around the base.
“Uhm…Which one gives me more points?” asked Pinkie. “Wait, what were we playing again?”
“It will work Pinkie.” assured Twilight. “This is another dream level, just a dream level that’s really hard to get into. Now help me find the-AHA! There it is!”
Twilight’s triumphant cheer surprised Pinkie as the unicorn galloped to one of the base’s sides. There was a carving in the wall of bricks and stones big enough to fit a huge door. Instead of a door, Pinkie Pie and Twilight were presented with a gate made out of oak with hinges made out of steel. The bolts that held the re-enforcement plaques in place looked weird to Twilight. They were multicolored transparent stones. Her disbelief hit her so hard she had to say it out loud.
“This door is very odd. Diamonds.” her voice was devoid of emotion. “Who would use diamonds as bolts on its own gate?”
“A rich pony?” suggested Pinkie Pie.
Twilight placed her hoof on the door and she removed it immediately. The wooden surface was burning hot, a horseshoe shaped mark carved in the wood where her hoof was. She looked at her hoof. The edge of it was a bit red, but it didn’t hurt. However her actions did have a reaction. She moved away as the door creaked under its weight and opened. The invitation was received wearily by Twilight and Pinkie Pie. Whatever laid in there wanted them dead. Twilight knew it. She could feel the wrath inside the tower, how it filled the tower to the brim with pure vaporized hate. She could breathe it in the air. The feel of dread assaulted her again.
“Somepony is not happy with how life turned out.” muttered Twilight.
“Wha-?” asked Pinkie Pie, her straight mane shuffled to one side.
“Come on Pinkie. The Princess is in there, I can feel her magic…and somepony else’s too.”
Twilight stepped inside and the cold air engulfed her body. The temperature shift chilled her bones and made her feel dizzy. The floor was dusty and there was a spiraling staircase that went all the way up to the top. Twilight looked through the staircase shaft and the staircase shaft looked back at her with its corkscrew iris. She felt a few water drops scurrying under her coat which gave her a shrill feeling of threat. Her breath intensified as her horn started to glow. The magic energy in the place was so Powerful she feared losing control of her powers. She looked at Pinkie Pie and pressed her with head movements to get inside.
Pinkie Pie took longer to step inside the tower. Before placing her hooves inside, she looked back at the endless steppe they had crossed. There was no trace of their walk. There were no hoof prints, no marks of their tails dragging on the floor, and no puddles of sea water where they had to lay down to rest. She looked up to the perennial blue sky as Pinkie Pie let go a sigh. We are getting out of here, thought Pinkie Pie, we are going to get out of here and we are going to have a party. We are going to have the best party ever! That simple thought cheered her up. She felt one of her hairs turn curly again. With a determined look, Pinkie stepped inside firmly. As she stepped inside the door behind her closed with a thunderous slam and pushed Pinkie down on the floor. She hit her chin and scraped it. Twilight rushed to help her friend.
“Are you okay Pinkie!?” said Twilight.
“Yeah I’m…” Pinkie Pie felt her chin with one of her hooves. There was just a few scratches but she was alright. “I’m fine, I’m okay.”
“Whoever it is, it wants us in there with it.” said Twilight. “Let’s not make it wait.”
Twilight helped Pinkie Pie stand up and they began walking up the circular staircase. There was a metal pier in the middle of the tower that held the staircase in place. The wind, humidity and salt had eaten through the metal and it could barely sustain the staircase, which was quite feeble. Each time Twilight put a hoof on a step she feared it would collapse, but those feelings dissipated thanks to a realization: That pony wanted them up there. Her train of thought was stopped when Pinkie Pie asked her in an abrupt manner.
“Twilight, what did you say before?” her voice was that of a curious pony.
“What did I say when?” said Twilight.
“You were talking about…uhm, how was it? Oh yeah! A familiar feeling of dread. What is that supposed to mean?” Pinkie Pie cocked her head to the left as she asked the question.
Twilight took a moment to give her answer. They were half way up the staircase, the metal groaning under their weight, when Twilight started explaining this feeling that had been bothering her the whole time. When she spoke her words sounded as dry as her throat.
“Ever since we slipped inside Celestia’s dreams, I’ve had a terribly familiar feeling of dread. I felt it when we stepped in Manehattan, when we went to Cloudsdale, and inside the Everfree Forest.” She talked without even noticing if Pinkie Pie was paying attention. Her thoughts slipped out of her mouth as she organized them. “It feels like something isn’t happy with how its life turned out. It’s a feeling so Powerful that not even I can grasp its beginning and its end. It’s the feeling of a pony that is not happy with its destiny.”
“Who couldn’t feel happy with her destiny?” said Pinkie Pie. “We all get our Cutie Marks for a reason, because that’s who we are supposed to be.”
“I am not sure Pinkie.” said Twilight. “I don’t think this has anything to do with this pony’s Cutie Mark. I think something happened to her, and she’s been regretting it all her life.”
Their steps echoed inside the tower. The holes in between the bricks and the stones let the sun light pass in the form of thin white lines. They were three quarters up the spiral staircase. Twilight looked up to see a closed trapdoor. It was made out of wood so old Twilight could hear the creaks and cracks from where she was. There was a very audible crack as Twilight looked down to see that a section of the staircase had moved, but not fully collapsed. The metal groaned and clawed at the wall, leaving deep marks on the bricks. Twilight looked up again.
“We better hurry.”
They sped up the pace as their hooves clanged against the metal steps. The last quarter of the way up they made it in less than one minute. Pinkie Pie was as scared as Twilight when they finally stood underneath the wooden trapdoor to the room. The square door to that attic was rusted on the hinges and had sand and dust crusted on its lock. It looked like it hadn’t been opened in decades. Twilight reached a hoof for the lock and kicked it. It didn’t budge.
“Why don’t you use your magic?” suggested Pinkie Pie.
“I am not sure.” doubted Twilight. “There’s a very thick mist of magic energy floating in the air, it can affect my spell. But I guess we have no choice.”
She was terrified of the consequences if that magic energy went out of control within her body, but they couldn’t stay there kicking the lock forever until it snapped open. Her horn glowed as she charged a “Dismantle Spell” and focused her magic energy inside the lock’s mechanism. She felt the gears inside her head and got a clear mental image of what the innards of the lock looked like. With a few moves of her telekinesis and a few lucky guesses, Twilight finally opened the lock with an audible twang and it fell on the floor with a clang. The door to the attic opened and a cloud of dust rained over their heads. Twilight closed her eyes in the nick of time but she couldn’t stop her coughing. The atmosphere was suddenly charged with a thick smell of smoke and incense.
“I…I’ll go first.” said Twilight.
Twilight jumped and placed her hooves on the door’s edges. She pulled herself up without much trouble and when she had a firm step up into the attic she turned around and helped Pinkie Pie to climb up. The attic was in semi-darkness, the only light source coming from the door they just opened.
“Twilight, what’s this place? It smells…wrong.” said Pinkie Pie, furrowing her nose.
“I don’t know, Pinkie.”
It seemed empty and as Twilight started to panic and hyperventilate she noticed the steps going up before her. They were purple and blue with white light bulbs inside. They went all the way up to what looked like a stage with curtains on left and right and a sign that had blurred letters. Twilight could only make out two of them: G and P. Before Twilight could try and read more of the sign a blinding white light hit her through her corneas forcing her to close her eyes. She opened her eyes slowly and studied the room around her, now bathed in pure white light. The light bulbs on the stairs were on as well, their light not as blinding as the spotlights and more yellowish than white. Once her vision adjusted to the light she saw they were surrounded by magician paraphernalia. There was a set of dusty old cloaks hanging from a perch. Next to it there was a square coffin with blades stuck in its sides, followed by an empty water tank and two door frames without doors. On their right there was a broken vessel with rope coming through the cracks and a pile of magic wands snapped into pieces. Twilight and Pinkie moved their eyes towards the stage as a faint moan of pain came from it.
“Oh my Gosh…” Twilight’s voice sounded lifeless.
Lying on the left side of the stage was Princess Celestia. She seemed unconscious and tied up, with a handkerchief stuffed inside her mouth and a rope keeping it in place. Her legs were tied up and her eyes covered with a second handkerchief, that one blue. Then they heard the sound of steps over the stage, getting closer as the shadow of a mare pony started moving behind the curtain.
“There it is again.” said Twilight.
“What? What is it?” said Pinkie Pie as she felt her knee getting so pinchy she felt it on fire.
“The feel of dread, the familiarity… So much hate, so much relish, so much frustration could only belong to her.”
The shadow disappeared from their view as she stepped from behind the curtain and into the spotlight of the stage. The white mane, short and curled into a single lock, the coat was pale blue and her pose was of a prepotent pony that enhanced her smug smirk. The eyes of the pony narrowed when she spoke and her voice filled Twilight’s heart with contempt and pity.
“Frustration caused by your humiliation.”
Twilight didn’t know how to feel. She was disgusted and enraged, but also humbled and worried. She took a step forward as a confused Pinkie Pie stood next to the square door on the floor and watched the scene. Twilight stopped walking when she reached the first of the steps, as the pony dedicated her one of those hate-filled smiles.
“Hello there, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight ruffled her brow and her nose as she clenched her teeth and when she said the pony’s name she did so with a voice filled with vile rage.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie, for you, Twilight Sparkle!”
Stepping on wet stones.
Fluttershy was eight seconds away from the water.
She didn’t feel the wind on her ears anymore. Even though her eyes were closed she could still feel the presence of the mechanized alicorns, flying towards her or just gliding in circles over the carriage. Her mane furled up in tufts that slapped her face and her mouth.
* * *
Rainbow Dash finished strapping the harness around Pinkie Pie’s body. She pulled her friends together and strapped them with a spare rope, next to Celestia and Luna. Once she had the four of them together in a neat group, Rainbow Dash pushed them out of her bedroom’s door and towards the house’s top floor. She grabbed the end of the rope she used to tie the two ponies and the two alicorns together and pulled them upwards. Directing her body with her fore hooves, Rainbow Dash managed to reach the top floor in no time. On her back she had the five jet-packs. They would have been heavy in the real world, but in the dream world and without gravity, she could carry them without trouble. She kept saying the same words over and over again.
“Come on, come on, come on, come on…”
She left her friends and both Princesses floating in the middle of the small room. The top floor was a place she used for weather observation. It had a removable dome made of clouds that Rainbow Dash kicked open. The blue sky greeted her. She turned around and returned to her sleeping friends. As fast and safely as she could, Rainbow Dash strapped the jet-packs on the backs of Pinkie, Twilight, Celestia and Luna. Once the harnesses were tightly tied, she moved to the elastic bungee ropes and strapped them to the ground using a set of wedges.
Her plan was risky but simple. With her friends tied to the bungee cords and these tied to the floor of her house, she would turn the jet-packs on. Those jet-packs would propel them up into the sky but the bungee cords would keep them in place, not letting them fly away. Once they were ready, Rainbow Dash would switch off the jet-packs and the bungee cords would pull from them, giving them the sensation of falling. She wasn’t sure of many things. I’m not even sure of my math here, thought Rainbow Dash.
“…But this is the best I can do.” she said.
She made a second check up on the cords to make sure they were in place and tied correctly before she strapped to one of the elastic bungee cords and strapped the jet-pack around her back. As she looked up through the opened dome she felt an uncontrollable dread haunting her behind her ears. She looked at Pinkie Pie and wished for all that she believed in for her to be okay. A groan of pain and a series of raspy coughs took her out of her thoughts. It was Luna. Rainbow Dash looked towards the purple coated princess to see thin tendrils of blood escaping between her lips.
* * *
Luna landed on the Palace’s entrance, with her leg shooting lightning strikes of pain through her body. The pain travelled down her spine and paralyzed her other hind leg, the one that was still unscathed. The worm was still alive and moving relentlessly towards the Palace, his disgusting figure getting bigger in the horizon. Luna couldn’t get close anymore. Each time she did there was a wall of tentacles launched towards her with intentions of ripping her limb by limb. The stealth approach wouldn’t work, and attacking it from the distance was pointless. There was only one way to take down such a behemoth.
Luna limped and flapped her wings as she flexed her legs up and against her body. She yelled in agony as she clenched her teeth until her gums hurt. Her eyes burned with tears and her head boiled with a mix of emotions. Even if it didn’t affect her good judgment, she couldn’t help but feel a strike of sorrow crossing her heart and getting into her head. She had to protect them. She had to keep them safe until they returned from Limbo. She was ready to give her life for them. She was gone anyways, she didn’t care anymore. With a groan and one last breath, Luna beat her wings faster than she had ever beat them as she flew towards the dislocated jaw of the worm. The beast roared with a pitiful wail as it snapped its head forwards and caught Luna between its jaws. Luna felt the earth getting inside her nose, into her eyes and under her feathers. She felt the roots tangling her mane and her legs and the feeling of suffocation took her over. With one last effort, she charged what she considered her most Powerful spell.
From the outside, the worm shook off and trembled as its head cracked from the tip to the back. From within the crack a blinding blue light came, cutting through the sky and the clouds. The under belly of the worm inflated and expanded, crunching the trees in the surrounding areas to its body. The soft tissue finally gave up and it tore with a crunching sound of rocks and soil breaking. The trees inside its body caught fire and a flare of white and purple shot from its throat as its vocal cords burned. The worm finally exploded in a thick cloud of smoke and fire that launched rocks the size of houses into the air.
Luna felt herself being propelled into the air as she lost perception of what was up and what was down. She opened her eyes. She couldn’t see with her left eye. The vision with her right eye was blurred, but she could distinguish the shapes. She could see the Palace growing bigger before her. As she tried to flap her wings to try and correct her direction, she realized they didn’t respond to her muscles. She couldn’t feel them either. They were gone. As best as she could, she covered her head with her forelegs and braced herself for impact. She passed through one of the shattered windows and landed on the floor, rolling over her side and finally collapsing against a wall. One of the glass shards stuck in her left eye. It didn’t hurt her, though she thought it was because the pain on her hind quarters masked the pain of the stabbed eye ball.
Luna rolled over her side and tried to stand up. She fell on the ground and the impact knocked the air out of her lungs. Her hindquarters wouldn’t move. They were either broken or blown to pieces. She didn’t care for either perspective. She had killed the worm. Her friends and her sister were safe. All she wished for now was to slip into Limbo and end that torture. She dragged over the floor with her forelegs. She had to get up the tower again to set the Fall for Twilight, Pinkie Pie and her sister. She left a trace of sweat and blood as she did so. She looked over her back to check her wings. One of them was gone. The other was a jumble of cut tendons and chewed sinew. She had to stop dragging to cough and avoid a vomit that scratched the back of her throat. She resumed her dragging, as pitiful as she looked. The worst part was the steps. She could feel her ribs bending under her dead weight on the edge of the steps and each time she pulled herself up. She only wanted to set the Fall and finally die. She also wanted to kiss her sister before doing so.
* * *
Trixie walked to the edge of the stage and went down a step. She had a haughty pose, that of the show pony she was. She wasn’t wearing her titular pointy hat but she was wrapped in a purple robe with stars stitched all over it. Her face contorted in a smile that was half madness and half psychological strain. She looked at Celestia, tied up and gagged, and then back at Twilight.
“Finally, Twilight.” said Trixie. “Finally, I will set right what transpired so many years ago.”
Twilight didn’t listen to Trixie. She looked at Celestia, lying down on her side, tied up and submitted to Trixie’s will. The mixture of emotions, the anger and the surprise confronted between each other only left pity and contempt towards the pale blue unicorn. She couldn’t believe that all the attacks, all the kidnapping, and all the pain they had gone through within the last…Twilight wasn’t even sure if hours, days or weeks had passed since they entered the dream world. Her mind was a hive somepony just beat to a pulp and as she tried to keep up with the events, a question raised in her mind.
“What have you done!?” yelled Twilight. “How could you put Princess Celestia under a Dream Trap spell!?”
Trixie smiled as she stepped down another step. Pinkie Pie lowered her head and snorted. She was ready to charge at any time.
“It was simple..” said Trixie as she removed the hair from her face with a contemptuous gesture. “The books that instruct how to learn and how to use that spell are forbidden but not destroyed. Getting them was just a matter of creating an illusion and sneaking into the library at the right time.”
Twilight thought that made sense. The Library of Canterlot never recorded any case of robbery for more than a thousand years, so the security level was quite low. Celestia’s mind however, that was a totally different thing. How could her teacher succumb before such a trickster and boaster as Trixie? She was just a loud mouth, with no real talent. Or was she?, thought Twilight, doubting her own speculations.
“But…Celestia…Celestia is the strongest, most Powerful-”
“Powerful!? Powerful! Powerful doesn’t mean invulnerable!” shouted Trixie as she raised her hooves in disbelief. “It doesn’t matter how tenacious you are. When you are asleep, you are defenseless. And Princess Celestia is no exception.”
Trixie was getting nervous and Twilight could feel it. The field of magic energy that surrounded her body furled and wrinkled making crackled waves around her horn and her head. Twilight was scared. She didn’t doubt her own powers, but if Trixie was strong enough to put Celestia under a Dream Trap spell in the real world, inside the dream world she could be nearly unstoppable. And if Trixie had spent so much time in Limbo, as she planned the whole thing, controlling the dream levels to her will, it also meant she knew how to do several things at the same time. Twilight realized, as she looked at Trixie, that she wasn’t looking at the same Trixie that came to Ponyville with petty fair tricks. She was before the presence of an unstoppable force of magic nature.
“What were you talking about fixing something Trixie?” said Twilight, going back to what Trixie said before. She had to calculate her words carefully. Twilight knew Trixie wasn’t right in the head.
Trixie’s smile faded away as she moved down another step. She was closer to the ground than to the stage. Her cape flurried and lifted from the floor as a glow of magic energy formed around Trixie’s hooves.
“Canterlot. Entrance Exam for Celestia’s school for Gifted Unicorns.” her voice sounded nostalgic, reminiscing in a memory she had kept within her heart for years. “I spent three years of my young life learning every single spell for that exam. I was in line, ready to impress the teachers with my magic tricks! Sadly, somepony else entered before me. A purple unicorn, with an indigo mane. A blank flank, unlike me!”
Twilight felt a cold hand squeezing her heart until it skipped a beat. She barely remembered anything from her entrance exam and much less the other fillies that waited in line behind her. She was so nervous back then. Nevertheless, her reaction to that revelation took her by surprise. She could only mutter a few words.
Trixie kept going on with her speech, as she ripped Twilight apart with her words. Each accusation stuck inside the unicorn’s heart with hurtful guilt.
“Before I even realized, I saw the Princess rush into the class, passed right by my side without even noticing me!” Trixie pointed an accusatory hoof to Twilight. “YOU! You, usurper! You took what was mine!! You stole away my chance of getting into her school and becoming her Prized Pupil!!!” she said the last two words with disgusting mockery.
Twilight wasn’t sure how to approach Trixie without having to face her in a magic duel. She could see it coming by the way Trixie was moving before her, and how her horn glowed with a green veil. Twilight wasn’t sure if Trixie still had a good side left but she used her words as carefully as she could to try appeal to it.
“But…Trixie, you are putting the lives of everypony in Equestria in peril! You are risking the lives of all of them just for…for a childhood tantrum!?”
To Twilight’s horrified surprise, Trixie kept on talking without paying attention to what Twilight just said.
“I was devastated. All my efforts were ruined, they crumbled before my eyes.” she started crying. As the tears rolled down her cheeks her voice cracked and trembled. “I c-c-couldn’t look at my b-books the same anymore. I lost my appetite for reading, m-my curiosity died and faded, and all was left was just p-petty magic tricks.” her expression changed. Trixie tensed her shoulders and looked at Twilight with rage filled eyes. “And it was THOSE magic tricks what took me to Ponyville, and if it wasn’t for them I would have NEVER been humiliated by YOU!!!”
Twilight lost her temper. She couldn’t rationalize with Trixie; she was beyond the point of no return. There was no possibility to reason with her. Twilight looked at Pinkie Pie and Pinkie Pie returned her the look, as she trotted away and next to the pile of broken wands. Pinkie wasn’t sure of what Twilight had in mind, but she hoped it was a way to stop Trixie from doing anything she’d regret. Twilight tried to appeal to Trixie’s good nature one more time.
“You were doing it, AGAIN! You put the lives of every pony in danger! Don’t you realize what you are doing Trixie!?”
Before getting her answer, Twilight knew that Trixie wouldn’t answer to reason.
“I am righting a wrong.” said Trixie as she levitated her pointy hat and placed it on her head. “I am fixing a mistake I let happen many years ago. I am taking you out of my life.”
Trixie’s horn glowed and aimed a telekinetic spell at the squared coffin with blades stuck all over it. The blades shined the same color as Trixie’s horn and levitated in the air unsheathing from the casket’s thin wood with a sharp sound. Trixie turned her head in a violent circle and directed her eyes to Twilight. The blades cut through the air aimed at the indigo unicorn and the pink earth pony. Twilight pushed Pinkie Pie out of the way and casted a kinetic barrier to stop the blades. There were too many for her to stop. Some impacted on the barrier and twanged with a wobbly sound clattering on the floor. Others sprung on the barrier and stuck on the wall. There was one that got through the barrier and stabbed Twilight on her right shoulder, between the neck and her leg. Twilight was pushed back from the force of impact and fell on the floor. The pain made her scream like she had never screamed before and Trixie’s smug gesture of triumph swelled her face.
“I am the best.” mocked Trixie.
Twilight grabbed the sword with her left fore hoof and pulled from it. It burned, the metal scraping her bone with a raspy sound. When she finally pulled it out she realized she wasn’t bleeding. It pained her but she could stand on her leg. She didn’t have time to react as Trixie casted another spell on her. Trixie lifted Twilight in the air as the indigo unicorn started to feel a surge of electricity running through her body. She always felt that every time she teleported. Before she could say anything the world around her turned black and when she recovered her vision, she found herself inside the empty water tank.
“Twilight!” Pinkie’s voice got muffled by the thickness of the glass.
Twilight pressed her hooves over the glass. It was solid; the heavy glass panels were assembled by steel plaques and thick pins. She would charge an explosive spell but the shock wave would kill her. She didn’t know what could happen if she died in Limbo but she didn’t want to take any chances. Through the dirty glass, Twilight saw Trixie smile and her horn glowed another time. Twilight got hit by a water stream coming from the top of the tank. The tank started to fill faster than she ever imagined as panic took over her body. She started shaking and her breath turned rapid and frenetic. The water filled the tank fully. It was so cold it cut through her skin and into her lungs. She held her breath and dived down as she started hitting the glass walls, without success. The water surrounded her fully. Her entire body was at its mercy. She could feel it pressing against her nostrils, trying to sneak inside her throat through the corners of her mouth. Her eyes hurt as she forced them open under water. Her lungs were on fire, she couldn’t hold the air any longer. A few bubbles left her mouth as she kept hitting the glass walls to no effect. No, no, no, no, no, I don’t want it to end like this, not like this, her panicked thoughts took over her better judgment as her hits turned into frantic slapping.
Before she could get any more panicky, something from the outside hit the glass. It was big enough to make a hole. Small air bubbles entered the tank as Twilight made an effort to move her mouth towards the hole to breathe. Another impact made her swim back until her body hit the opposite side. A third impact broke the glass panel that shattered into sharp triangular fragments and emptied over the floor. Twilight was pulled by the water current and landed on the floor, taking short breaths of precious air. She looked to her right and saw Pinkie Pie. She had a pile of anvils standing behind her and a satisfied smile on her face.
“Sorry Twilight, I had to break my promise.” excused Pinkie Pie.
Twilight looked at Trixie; her eyes glowed with white rage as she casted a telekinesis spell over the glass shards and shot them at the magician pony with whooshing speed. The shards cut through Trixie’s cape and stuck all over her legs and back. Trixie lowered her head and covered it with one of her forelegs that got dotted with shrapnel. The glass shards tore through the curtains behind Trixie and destroyed part of the stage. Twilight stood up soaked in water and threw another telekinesis blast against Trixie. The pale blue pony got hit hard enough to make her bounce up in the air and twist like a rag doll. In mid air, Trixie aimed her horn at Twilight and launched her most Powerful kinetic blast.
Pinkie Pie got thrown against the pile of broken wands as her pile of anvils bursted into ash. The floor around Twilight vaporized in a cloud of splinters and the wall and roof behind and over her disappeared. Loose bricks rolled in the air and fell to the ground with crunching echoes. Twilight, however, remained in place. She had her eyes closed and a barrier of pure magic energy surrounded her. When she opened them, the barrier faded. She looked at where Pinkie Pie had landed. She seemed to be okay. Twilight then turned to Trixie, who had landed on the floor with a limp on her left hind leg.
“You don’t have to keep doing this.” said Twilight.
“This is all I have left!” shouted Trixie as she blasted a fire ball. The projectile hit the floor behind Twilight and set a few boards on fire. “This is all you left me!!!”
Twilight had to take Trixie away from Princess Celestia. With the magician unicorn in the middle of the stage there was no safe way for her to take Celestia, untie her and bring her back. She tried to appeal to Trixie’s good nature once again. Twilight didn’t want to give up, she knew Trixie was good, just blinded with rage.
“You don’t need to hold Celestia any longer!” said Twilight. “You wanted me. I’m here. Let Celestia go.”
Trixie held her fighting stance as she pondered her choices. Twilight could see her moving the eyes frantically, confused and unsure. A noise of rustling metal came from behind her as Pinkie Pie finally moved away from the pile of wands and approached Twilight with a slight limp. Her right hind leg was twisted in a weird angle. Her face was a mixture of pain and sadness. Twilight returned her eyes to Trixie as she discovered an expression she had never seen Trixie have: Regret. Her eyes were swelling with tears and her mouth contorted into an upset pout. The pale blue unicorn shook her head and blinked until her expression turned from regret to furious rage.
“No.” said Trixie. “No. No! NO!”
She lifted her fore hooves and when they hit the ground the magic wave travelled through the wooden floor until it hit the clothes hanger. The fabric twisted and curled and came alive. The sleeves stretched into tentacles and the coats extended until they formed gristly wings made of fabric. The clothes wrapped around Twilight’s legs and body, pulled her against the hanger and began to strangle her. Pinkie Pie jumped forwards as she pulled out a giant pair of scissors, but Trixie shot another kinetic blast to the pink earth pony that knocked her out. Twilight had a sleeve around her neck that tightened until her throat choked. She had a sliver of breath left that whistled beneath her lips.
“I have a much better grasp on magic than you!” shouted Trixie.
“N-No…No, you don’t.” Twilight’s voice was faint but thanks to the silence it was audible. “Y-y-you are j…just a puppet…of your…p-power.”
Trixie opened her eyes until they hurt and snarled in disbelief. How could Twilight not accept her? What did she have to do to make that stubborn unicorn listen? Her rage took over her mind, killing her rational side and forcing her magic powers beyond the limits she swore not to cross. The fabric tightened around the limbs and torso of Twilight as the sleeve around her neck was so tight Twilight couldn’t feel it anymore. Chocking and gasping, unable to breathe, she thought that was the end. She could see flashes, memories passing before her eyes. Her memories, going away, faded into oblivion. Trixie thought she’d be happier. She thought seeing Twilight dying before her eyes would bring her satisfaction, but all she felt was contempt for her, pity and spite. Her eyes filled with tears that rolled over her cheeks as she started sobbing, and the harder she sobbed the harder she tightened the sleeves around Twilight’s body.
“Don’t…please…” said Twilight, in a last attempt to convince Trixie to stop.
Twilight felt the sleeves getting loose. It was faint at first, but she could feel it. She looked at Trixie and saw the eyes inflated in tears and glowing red from the exhaustion and the sadness. Twilight could feel Trixie’s heart broken into pieces. The sleeve around her neck loosened and Twilight managed to get a few mouthfuls of fresh air before an anvil came out of nowhere and hit Trixie on her left side. The fabric lost its unnatural stiffness and let Twilight fall on the floor. She landed as best as she could and turned to Pinkie Pie. The pink pony was holding another anvil and her face was even angrier than Trixie’s.
“Now you’ll see, you big mean meany magiciany pants!”
“Pinkie, don’t!” shouted Twilight.
Pinkie didn’t throw her anvil. Around them the entire room was devastated. Half of the wall and half of the roof were gone, and the floor stood in place thanks to the pillars below it. Trixie’s magician equipment had been reduced to trash. Twilight trotted as best as she could towards Trixie. She had one leg injured and her neck hurt really badly, but she managed to get up on the stage and get close to Trixie. Twilight sat down and held Trixie’s body between her fore legs. The impact from the anvil had fractured her ribs and she was bleeding profusely from the mouth. Twilight looked behind her to see Princess Celestia moving, certainly awake and startled by the events around her.
“Pinkie, the Princess! Help her!” said Twilight.
Pinkie left the anvil on the floor and galloped towards Celestia. She ignored the pain in her hind leg as best as she could.
* * *
Fluttershy was five seconds away from the water.
She could feel the moisture of the river coating her back and the buildings entered her visual field in the form of giant moles of steel and glass. The pull in her stomach was about to break as she felt the surface of the river getting close to her.
* * *
Rainbow Dash laid on the floor of her house, floating a few inches away from it and next to her friends. After checking every rope and every jet pack one last time, she grabbed the remote that had all the engines connected to it. She then looked up to the sky as fear gripped her gut for one second. This is gonna work, she thought, this is gonna work and you are waking up. And when you wake up, you’re gonna give Pinkie a big hug. After those encouraging words, Rainbow Dash grabbed the remote and hit the start up button. The engines on the jet-packs roared with flames as they were pulled up at high speed. Rainbow Dash felt the bungee harnesses tightening around her waist and her chest, but not enough to cut her breath.
After ten seconds of ignition she felt the pull from the bungee cords as they reached the rope’s limit. She looked back and down on her house to see the ropes holding firmly. She then looked at her friends and the Princesses. They were all ready to let go and start the fall. She calculated how much time she had left until Fluttershy hit the water in the superior dream level. She had close to one minute before that happened. If she wanted to synchronize it correctly, she’d have to switch the jet-packs off when there were only twenty seconds left.
* * *
Luna collapsed over the floor when she reached the top of the palace’s tower. She retched a mix of blood and saliva as she pulled her body forwards with her fore legs. Twilight, Pinkie Pie and her sister were where she left them, still safe but not breathing. She knew they were not dead, but the sensation of seeing her sister and her friends dead like that was disheartening. Luna lifted her body’s upper half and charged a last spell with her horn. With a curtain of blue sparks, she casted a “Breach spell” that shattered the platform they lied on.
The fissures on the floor joined and formed bigger fissures until the entire platform turned into a spider web made out of cracks. Luna lied down on the floor as it shattered and placed a hoof over her big sister’s face. In one last effort that made every wound in her body scream in agony, Luna pulled her face close to Celestia’s and landed a soft kiss over her big sister’s cheek. She left a red mark over the white fur.
“S-see you in the m-morning, Celly.” with those last words, Luna let her head fall on the floor.
The last thing she felt were the cracks opening under her body, and her sister’s fur rubbing over her forehead. Then there was nothing.
Pinkie Pie removed the ropes around Celestia’s legs and the handkerchiefs around her wings. The Princess fluttered her wings to loosen up her muscles as she stretched her legs. Twilight wondered for how long they had been down there that the Princess needed to stretch her wings and legs from the numbness. With Trixie in her arms, Twilight inquired the magician pony for answers.
“You did all this to get to me?” said Twilight with a faint voice, her throat hurting after the strangle attempt.
Trixie looked away from Twilight’s eyes to give her answer.
“Yes. I wanted to be…I wanted to be Celestia’s Best Student.” her voice sounded full of grief, guilt and regret. For Twilight it was painful to see Trixie in such a state.
Twilight hugged Trixie tightly and rested her head over her left foreleg as she hugged her close with her right one. She removed the white mane from her face and passed a hoof over her face. She couldn’t understand why Trixie was like that, and that was because she wasn’t the one that got rejected from Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. She didn’t realize how that crushing feel of guilt took over her heart and it was too late for her to push it away. She was already crying, feeling responsible for Trixie’s destiny.
Pinkie Pie’s voice shook her from her thoughts. Twilight turned around to see Celestia and Pinkie Pie standing up, waiting for her to come with them. The Princess had an expression of surprise and fear in her eyes. Twilight had never seen her like that.
“Twilight, we have to go.” Celestia’s voice sounded calm, even though her gestures indicated she was scared to death.
When Twilight replied, her words had a dead weight feel that sunk their hearts.
“I can’t. I have to stay here. Princess…” Twilight turned around and looked at her teacher, the alicorn she idolized so much. She then turned to Pinkie Pie. “Pinkie, bring Celestia back and make sure everypony is safe in the real world.”
“You can’t stay here Twilight! You’ll go dazy crazy and lose your mind!” said Pinkie Pie with the most exaggerated gestures.
“Pinkie Pie is right, Twilight.” said Celestia with concern in her voice. “You can’t stay here just because you feel responsible for the life she’s had.”
Twilight shook her head in negation, as she looked at Trixie. The magician pony was crying, but her tears hadn’t left her eyes yet.
“It’s not because of that.” said Twilight. “Luna must be dead by now, which means she has to be somewhere down here. I have to find her and bring her back.”
Celestia’s expression changed from concern to horror. She knew Luna was there with them, but she had no idea she was dead. A haze of feelings passed through her mind and her impossibility to pick one made her stand still in the middle of the stage. Pinkie Pie pushed Celestia’s side, ignoring any kind of protocol.
“My sister…Is she…?” Celestia’s voice sounded terrified. Twilight didn’t recall hearing it like that before.
“Come on Princess!” shouted Pinkie Pie. “We gotta go! Don’t worry for Luna, Twilight will bring her back!”
Celestia and Pinkie Pie walked to the part of the room that had been devastated. It was a perfect place to jump from. As they got closer they looked up into the sky and saw colorful rings forming all over it. They looked like circular aurorae borealis. Twilight could see them too. The way they expanded and cracked into angular shapes and sharp lines made Twilight realize of something: The Falls on each of the dream levels were occuring.
* * *
Fluttershy hit the water.
She felt the impact throwing her back and pulling the saddles and the straps on her sides tightly and around her waist. It felt painful but she endured it. She could feel the water surrounding the carriage without getting inside the cabin.
* * *
Rainbow Dash saw the clouds turning black and pouring rain in the shape of floating masses of water. The aquamarine spheres floated from cloud to cloud with amorphous shapes. It was the signal. She pushed the button, switching off the jet-packs. The moment of truth, she thought. The bungee cords tensed and pulled from them with the violence of a slingshot as they fell at terminal speed against her house. She could see Pinkie Pie’s puffy pink hair next to her as the sky grew smaller and the sensation of vertigo grew bigger inside her stomach.
They were five seconds away from hitting her house’s floor.
* * *
In the palace’s tower, the floor crumbled under the bodies of Twilight, Pinkie Pie, Luna and Celestia. Chunks of floor fell to the ground as they started slipping into the void under the palace. It was a hundred and sixty feet fall. The thunder of the rocks and the bricks hitting each other broke the apparent peace in the forest. It wasn’t long until the tower collapsed, dragging them with it.
* * *
Twilight shouted at Celestia and Pinkie Pie, as the reverberations in the sky grew bigger and wider. The sound they made was of thunder hitting drums with the wrath of the Gods.
“That’s the Fall Princess! You have to go now!”
A sound wave hit the tower and pushed Pinkie Pie and Celestia towards the void. Pinkie Pie managed to stick her body to the floor and hold onto one of the cracked wooden planks. Celestia couldn’t react in time as she gasped and was taken away by the air current. She gave one last glance at Twilight. Her eyes were warm and reflected the concern that had invaded her. Before plummeting to the ground, Celestia smiled. She curled her wings around her body, and that was the last Twilight saw of her teacher for a very long time. She turned to Pinkie Pie. The deafening sound of the waves was so strong Twilight thought it would break their eardrums.
“Don’t lose your mind!!!” shouted Pinkie Pie as she held to the broken piece of wood. “Find Luna and come back, okie dokie!?”
“I will!!!” Twilight’s voice sounded confident, but her convictions were poor.
Pinkie Pie let go of the wooden plank as she precipitated to the void. She saw the tower roof belittling in the distance as the air whirled in her ears. The pull in her stomach made her jump in surprise seconds before she hit the ground.
* * *
Pinkie Pie jumped startled as she felt her chest and her head. She was back at the Everfree Forest, on top of the palace’s tower. Next to her was Celestia, who had already woken up. They looked at each other with a startled expression and then down to Luna’s body. Pinkie Pie was terrified by how Luna looked. She didn’t have the time to count the number of cuts, wounds and general injuries she had. The floor they were standing on crumbled and shattered as bricks and stones disappeared under their bodies. Celestia pulled Pinkie Pie close to her as they fell again.
The floor finally gave in to their weight and the cracks, collapsing into the void. Pinkie Pie and Celestia fell, embraced and hoping they would wake up before a rock or a brick would hit them. Pinkie Pie experienced the same feeling of pulling in her guts, before she bounced again right before she hit the ground.
* * *
Pinkie Pie opened her eyes again as she felt the familiar feeling of the wind whirling in her ears and the grip around her gut. She was falling already, pulled back down by an invisible force. She could see her hair was back to normal. It was puffy and curly, and was bright pink. She wanted to look to her right but she couldn’t move her head. However, she saw a multicolored hair tuft with the corner of her eye. She smiled faintly before the force pulled her down without mercy. The grip around her gut grew tighter as she saw clouds exploding all the way around her. Then she bounced for the third time.
Rainbow Dash closed her eyes as she felt they were about to impact against her house’s floor. In a last effort, she tried to hug Pinkie Pie.
* * *
Before she could open her eyes, she felt the water hitting her face and the sound of the city in the distance. When she opened her eyes she saw the inside of a carriage, everything upside down and the water getting inside with violent spraying geysers. The windows broke and the water flooded the carriage. Pinkie Pie, Celestia and Rainbow Dash were hit by the cold liquid that sprang them back into an even bigger jump. Fluttershy got pulled by the carriage until the water surrounded her body.
The carriage splashed in the river and sunk in a matter of seconds, disappearing under the liquid surface.
* * *
Twilight held Trixie between her forelegs as she rubbed her face with one of her hooves. She felt weightless, which surprised Twilight. She wasn’t sure if the injuries in her ribs were too severe, but the bleeding didn’t stop and Trixie’s eyes seemed gone. She looked at Twilight. There was a very faint light in her eyes, pale almost. When Trixie talked she did so with a dry throat.
“Remember the time…when I went to Ponyville?”
“Yes. Yes, I remember.” said Twilight.
“I just…I just wanted them to admire me. I wanted them…to remember me.”
Twilight’s smile grew. How could she think something like that? She passed a hoof over Trixie’s face, the touch made the magician unicorn shed a few tears that rolled down her cheeks.
“But they did.” said Twilight. “They admired you, Trixie. They still do. You will always be remembered as, The Great and Powerful Trixie.”
Trixie smiled, but it was a smile filled with bitterness. She coughed and cleared her throat. She felt her insides disappear. She could feel her organs fading, her legs didn’t answer to her impulses. She spoke out of breath.
“That’s…That’s ironic…Because I won’t remember myself when I wake up.”
Twilight bit her lower lip as she lowered her head and hugged Trixie tightly. She wasn’t sure why she did that, but Trixie replied and hugged her back. Then, with panicked slaps, Trixie mumbled.
“I feel it Twilight. I’m slipping away, I am fading.”
She couldn’t feel her legs anymore. With terrified eyes, Trixie and Twilight looked at them to see they were vanishing slowly. The vanishing grew bigger and spread wider over her body, past her legs and over her stomach.
“No, no, I won’t let you go, I’m holding you Trixie. I’m holding you.”
Twilight grabbed Trixie’s hoof with hers, but it only passed through it. Trixie lifted her hoof before her face to see it was transparent. When she flexed it, the hoof disappeared. Trixie’s body felt weightless for Twilight, as it slipped from her lap and on the floor. Only half of her was left.
“Twilight…I’m scared.” Trixie’s voice trembled.
“Trixie…” Twilight lowered her body over Trixie. Only her torso and her head were left, and her torso dissipated at a worryingly fast speed.
“Twilight…” Trixie’s short white mane disappeared. Her ears were also taken by the dissipation.
“Trixie, I won’t forget you. Do you hear me? I will never forget you.”
Twilight placed her hoofs on Trixie’s face. The unicorn had an odd expression in her face: Calm. When Twilight’s hooves passed through Trixie’s head, she didn’t even bat an eye. Trixie managed to mouth a few words before disappearing completely. Her voice didn’t sound no more, but Twilight repeated the words out loud.
“North tower…Storage room…” said Twilight.
Trixie gave one last nod, as the vanishing took over what was left of her. The pale blue face was gone first, followed by those beautiful bright eyes. Then she was gone. Twilight stared at the void left by Trixie, with a sob in her throat that she couldn’t let out. It strangled her throat, making her choke her tears. With a desperate groan, Twilight wailed and cried with her mouth opened, screaming in impotence. She hit the stage’s floor in anger until she chipped her hooves’ tips. Once she emptied all the anger on the floor, she looked at the hole left by Trixie’s kinetic blast.
“I have to move…” said Twilight. “I need to find her.”
Twilight left the stage behind, galloped towards the square attic door and slipped inside. As she galloped downstairs, not caring whether the staircase would hold her weight or not, she cried and gasped trying to digest the events she just witnessed. It had hit her harder than she first admitted. Once she reached the bottom, she pushed the tower’s door open and stepped into the empty plain. Not knowing where to start, Twilight galloped back to the beach. The doubt that assaulted her as she started galloping made blanked her mind.
“How do I get there?”
“Rarity! They’re wakin’ up!”
Applejack’s voice was the first thing Rainbow Dash heard. She blinked several times, feeling dizzy but oddly relaxed. All her limbs were extremely relaxed, as well as her mind. She felt at peace. She stood up on Celestia’s bed, back in the Royal Castle on Canterlot. The Regal Chamber, with the white walls and the columns, and its changing painting on the ceiling, welcomed her. Rainbow Dash moved away from the bed as she stood on the floor. Applejack and Rarity came to greet her. Rarity went forward and gave her a hug.
“We were getting worried about all of you.” said Rarity.
“How’re the others?” said Applejack.
A feeble mumble came from Celestia’s side. It was Fluttershy. Rarity rushed ahead to check up on her friend. Applejack went with Rainbow Dash to see how Pinkie Pie was. The pink pony woke up, rubbed her eyes and looked at Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash smiled and raised a hoof to greet Pinkie Pie.
“Hey there Pinkie! How ya doi-?”
Rainbow Dash was cut off because Pinkie Pie jumped on her and wrapped her forelegs around the pegasus’ neck. Rainbow Dash was hugged so tightly by Pinkie Pie that all she could do was hug her back. Pinkie sobbed on her shoulder, but in between sobs, Dash could hear giggles and chortles. Involuntarily, Rainbow Dash cried tears of joy. Applejack left them alone as she went to check on Rarity and Fluttershy. They were hugging too.
“Are you okay Darling?” said Rarity.
“Yes. I am fine.” said Fluttershy. “I am so happy to be back. It was really dangerous down there.”
“But what in the hay happened with the Princess?” inquired Applejack.
A groan came from the center of the bed, as the group of ponies saw the magnificent wings of Princess Celestia spread open. Celestia stretched her neck, yawned and opened her eyes. She looked around making sure she was still inside their room. As she moved away from the bed, she stretched her legs and shook her head. She felt rested, but her face let everypony else see how tired and exhausted she really was. Her face was not of joy, but of concern and worry. Her silence sunk the group of friends into a worry bigger than before. Applejack and Rarity looked at Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie.
“What happened down there?” asked Applejack. “And why aren’t Twilight and Luna awake?”
On the right side of the bed laid Luna and Twilight, breathing peacefully. They didn’t move and if it wasn’t for their breathing Rainbow Dash would have said they were dead. Without Celestia intervening to say anything, Rainbow Dash turned to Pinkie Pie.
“Pinkie, you went deeper down there with them. What happened?”
Pinkie Pie’s face turned into bitter sadness as she curled her mouth down and looked at her friends.
“Luna and Twilight…We had to go into Limbo to get Princess Celestia back. Luna went into Limbo too. Twilight had to stay to find her and bring her back.” said Pinkie Pie.
Applejack and Rarity didn’t understand anything. Fluttershy curled her tail around her legs as she didn’t want to take part in the conversation. She was still recovering from the shock of the mechanized alicorns attacking her. Applejack was the first one to step forwards and require an explanation.
“Limbo? Whut’s that? Who was behind all this? We need an explanation, consarnit!”
“Applejack is right. You simply cannot tell us our friends are still in danger and expect us to sit down and wait.” said Rarity.
“That’s not important right now.” said Rainbow Dash. “We brought Princess Celestia back. Twilight will find Luna and bring her back safely, don’t worry about it. We’re safe now that Celestia can raise up the sun again.”
Celestia’s voice struck them like a frozen blade through the heart. The five ponies turned to Celestia, who was in the same place she landed when she got off the bed. She was standing with her legs stiff and immobile, as she looked at her sister and Twilight. Her face had showed no emotions thus far, but a hint of fear grew in her eyes as she spoke the next words.
“I can’t make the Sun rise without Luna.” said Celestia.
Those words caused Rainbow Dash to snap. She stopped caring about protocol and manners and yelled at Celestia with all of her anger.
“What the hay did you just say!?”
“Rainbow Dash!” reprehended Rarity.
“No, shut up!” said Rainbow Dash pointing at Rarity. “You were not down there, you don’t know how it was!” and then returned her look Celestia. “What does that mean? How can you not rise the Sun without Luna’s help? You’ve been raising the Sun and bringing down the Moon for a thousand years. Why can’t you do that now!?”
Celestia took a moment to deliver a reply.
“When Luna returned to my side, I gave her back her powers. If she doesn’t come back, if she loses her mind in Limbo…We won’t be able to bring down the Moon.”
Gestures and expressions of disbelief and desperation were shared. Applejack threw her hat down in anger. Rarity put her face down and walked to a lonely part of the bedroom, only to be joined by Fluttershy. Rarity felt terrible and when Fluttershy got close to her she hugged her pegasus friend back. Pinkie Pie stood up on the bed with her fore hooves to check up on Twilight and Luna. She couldn’t even see their eyes moving under the eyelids. They had to be fast asleep and really deep into the dreams. Celestia didn’t even dare look at her sister and her prized student. She felt guilty and made unworldly efforts not to cry. Her chest was tight with grief.
In the overwhelming silent bedroom, Rainbow Dash was the only one who spoke up.
“So…So we’ve been through all this just to go back to the beginning!?”
* * *
Or was it the ocean?
END OF CHAPTER 4.
THE REGAL DREAM
A beach line.
The yellow arc extended beyond what Twilight could consider the horizon. She was back at the beginning of Limbo. Her chest throbbed in pain, and her mouth tasted foul. She felt her coat covered in sand and salt, wet from the water. As she started moving, lifting her body from the moist sand, she was struck by the pain in her limbs. She was numb from the neck down. The only part of her body that didn’t hurt was her head. She looked side to side, feeling exhausted. The sand-cluttered sea air filled her nostrils and made her want to vomit. Why was she there? Why was she back in Limbo? Her. She had to find her. She had to find Princess Luna.
Twilight thought she saw it on the edge of a cliff that grew from the beach line. It was far away from where she was. It looked exactly like Cheerilee’s school for fillies and colts in Ponyville. The washed out windows, the brownish door frames and the pristine glasses, all of them welcomed Twilight back to a place she found terrifyingly familiar. She knocked on the door, the impacts resounded like explosions inside the building. She knocked until her hoof chipped and had to stop from the pain. The door creaked open with a loud click from the lock falling to the floor. Twilight stepped inside.
A shadow under a desk.
The shadow’s coat was purple, her muzzle that of a mare, with white and blueish hair falling behind her ears and over her face. A regal pose not even the intimidated attitude could wash away. Twilight realized she had found her when she saw the cutie mark on the flank. A moon.
It was her.
“Luna!” muttered Twilight.
She had found her.
“Luna! Princess Luna!”
Twilight galloped towards Luna, with concern and hope in her mind. She kneeled before the Princess. Luna was confused; her eyes didn’t focus on anything. She looked up, down, left and right, unable to focus on anything. Sometimes she looked at one point in the distance only to repeat the entire cycle of looking around in every direction. Screw the manners, thought Twilight, you are coming back! Twilight grabbed Luna’s face between her hooves and looked at her straight in the eyes.
“Luna! Look at me!” said Twilight in an authoritative tone.
Her voice echoed inside the empty school. Twilight felt a shiver run down her spine when she saw Luna’s face. Her eyes were swollen with tears, bright red and her face was stuck in an expression of fear and despair. She looked terrified. When Luna spoke, Twilight had to put her ear next to her mouth, as the Princess’ voice was faint and barely audible. It was then when Twilight realized they would never get back home.
“Who…are you?” said Luna.
Twilight experienced the sense of falling, the floor disappearing under her hooves. She had to look down to see she was still inside the school. She had put everything at risk and now she was going to lose it. Was Luna’s mind really fully gone? She couldn’t be sure.
“Who…Am I?” added Luna.
Twilight moved away from Luna, let her face go off her hooves and sat down on the floor. Twilight wanted to cry. She wanted to curl into a ball and cry until her eyes bled. She could do that. She wanted it so badly she felt her heart about to explode. As it beat hard against her ribs, Twilight’s inner fighter kicked in. She couldn’t give up. She still had her mind. She knew who she was and why she was there. When she spoke again, her voice sounded like that of an old mare in her late days, broken by the tears.
“My name is…Twilight. Twilight Sparkle.”
Luna’s response came half a minute later. She lifted her head, eyes blinking repeatedly. She had heard that name before, that voice also sounded familiar. Inside her vacuumed mind, something snapped, something clicked in its right place.
“Twilight…Sparkle…I remember that name. I remember…somepony with…that name. Somepony I met many…many years ago. Is that you?”
Twilight looked at Luna. She lowered her body until her belly rubbed on the floor and her head was at the same height as Luna’s. Luna lied on the floor with her forelegs stretched out and her hind legs squatted. Twilight crawled a little closer to Luna, but not too close. She didn’t want to intimidate her.
“Yes. I came here for you. I came here…to save you. To remind you of who you are.”
Luna smiled shyly and hid her head beneath one of her forelegs. She was intimidated by that indigo maned unicorn, her voice sounded awfully familiar but Luna couldn’t put her hoof on it. Why was she so familiar to her?
“Me?” Luna chortled with a drop of despair in her voice. “I am…nothing. I am just a little foal…”
Twilight knew those words. She heard Luna saying those a long time ago. She heard those words years ago, her own memories about to be erased clasped their fingers on her mind and stuck close to her. When Twilight spoke, she did so automatically.
“Lost without her mother…”
“… Waiting for her big sister to save her.”
Those words brought Luna a sensation of warmth in her chest. She lifted her head as she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. More tears rolled down her face. Twilight got closer to Luna.
“You are Princess Luna. You are a proud ruler. The Princess of the Moon. You rule Equestria, with your big sister, Princess Celestia. I’ve come here for you, to save you, to remind you of…something. Something you once knew.”
Twilight looked around. What was that something she had to remind her of? She had it on the tip of her tongue but she couldn’t remember it. It was something really important, the only reason why she made such a long journey to bring her back. When she heard the words, she thought it was her thoughts slipping out from her mind, but they actually came from Luna’s voice.
“To convince me to wake up from this dream…”
She remembered. She was remembering. Twilight’s hopes grew bigger as she felt them about to burst her chest. With a smile, Twilight looked at Luna, crawling even closer. Their hooves were about to touch.
“To take a leap of faith…Yes…” said Twilight, the words floated in the air.
“To stop worrying so much…”
Twilight knew Luna was ready. Luna lifted a hoof and removed the tears from her eyes. Her vision blurred for a second until it returned to normal and saw Twilight crying with her. It was tears of joy, happiness had taken over her in a rampant spree. It had been risky to put everything she was in peril, but it had paid off. Twilight reached a hoof forwards and offered it to Luna.
“Come back with me.”
Luna looked at Twilight’s hoof. She moved hers towards it.
“Come back with me Luna.”
They were about to touch each other. Luna could feel the surge of magic energy pulling her towards Twilight. The world around her turned so bright she had to close her eyes.
“Come back…so we can be friends together again in the real world. Come back with me. Come back, please. Come back…”
Twilight’s voice faded as the world around them started spinning. Twilight grabbed Luna’s hoof, as an unexpected force pulled from them and yanked them out of the school, shattering the roof.
* * *
Twilight blinked. What she saw before here were just blurred colorful smudges: Blue, yellow, pink, white, orange, purple… She blinked harder as her vision cleared, and with her vision her hearing returned as well. She heard voices, voices of joy and happiness. And all of them were familiar to her.
“She’s waking up! She’s waking up!” said a happy, cheerful voice, overly excited.
“Oh, thank goodness!” said another voice, tinted with a posh accent.
“Ah told y’all, she’ll be jus’ fine!” said a third voice with a southern accent.
“Oh my, I was so worried.” said a voice filled with shyness.
“Ha! Nothing can stop our Twilight!” said a screechy enthusiastic voice.
Twilight lifted her head and looked at her friends: Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Applejack and Rarity. They all looked at her as they cheered and lifted their fore hooves in signal of happiness. Their attitude and their mood made Twilight smile. She looked around to see she was still lying on Princess Celestia’s bed, though the Princess didn’t seem to be around. Twilight was about to get up when she realized she was holding something with her left hoof. She looked before her and realized she was holding somepony else’s hoof: Luna’s. Princess Luna was awake and held Twilight’s hoof even tighter than Twilight held hers. They exchanged looks. Luna was serene but scared, while Twilight was filled with anticipation and dread. The few seconds before Twilight got her answer felt eternal. Luna licked her lips, looked to Twilight and smiled.
“Twilight…Sparkle…” said Luna.
Twilight smiled, giggled and cried. As the tears ran down her face she sprung from the bed and threw herself onto Luna’s chest. Luna hugged Twilight as she got up and Twilight hugged her with need. She had never been happier and more relieved to see somepony safe and sound, hearing her voice and making sure she was alright. Twilight ran her hooves over Luna’s neck and under her mane to make sure she was okay.
“Are you ok-k-kay Princess?” asked Twilight, unable to contain the adrenaline rush, still not believing she had managed to step out of Limbo with Luna.
“I am fine, Twilight. I am fine.” said Luna with a very calmed voice.
Twilight let go of Luna’s hug, as she stepped down from bed to be promptly assaulted by all of her friends’ hugs. She had Rainbow Dash, Applejack and Pinkie Pie hugging her on one side, and Rarity and Fluttershy hugged her on the other. She hugged them as much as she could with happiness swelling her heart and heat boiling in her stomach. The sensation of relief and happiness took over her and she couldn’t feel anything else but calm and peace. She had not experienced those in years. The group hug got interrupted as the bedroom door opened.
Luna’s voice tore through the room. Twilight turned around to see Princess Celestia standing at the doorjamb, holding a cup of something with her magic powers. The cup lost its glow, fell and crashed on the floor.
“Sister…” was all Celestia managed to say.
Princess Celestia rushed at the bed. Luna jumped from it and wrapped her forelegs around her big sister’s neck. Celestia hugged Luna with one of her forelegs since she needed the other one to stand still. Her entire body was shaking, emptying the adrenaline she accumulated for so long. Celestia cried in gasps that broke Luna’s heart. Twilight had never seen the Princess so disconsolate in her life, and she would never see her like that again. Celestia couldn’t speak; she just moaned and gasped as she tried to control her sobs. Luna could feel the spasms on her sister’s chest.
“It’s alright Celly. I am back.” said Luna, trying to calm her sister.
“T-Thank you.” said Celestia. “Thank you, little sister.”
Celestia managed to calm down her sobs, as she let go of her sister. Luna sat down next to the bed as she looked at the clock. It was close to seven o’clock in the morning. She had to bring down the Moon!
“Oh My!” exclaimed Luna. “Sister, I have to…”
“Yes, yes, go.” urged Celestia with a smile and calmed eyes. “We will have enough time to talk later on.”
Luna smiled at her sister and then turned to the group of friends. Twilight was surrounded by her five mare friends, and even some of them were still hugging her. Luna felt really happy for her. She felt happy for everypony. She left with a smile, without saying another word. As Twilight saw Luna disappearing through the door, she remembered something. It was a fragment of memory, a piece of dream she brought from their trip down into Celestia’s dreams. Before saying anything or asking her teacher how she was, Twilight rushed with her request.
“Princess Celestia, we need to call Captain Platinum Plaques. They need to search for somepony in the North Tower of the Castle, inside the Storage room on top.”
* * *
There was a waiting period of two hours during which few things were done. Celestia and Luna were together on one side of the room. They were apart from the other ponies as they talked about the dream and how they managed to pull through such a difficult situation. Through the room’s windows, the warm sunlight illuminated the ponies and alicorns in orange and yellow tones. Luna rubbed her head repeatedly over her sister’s neck. It was hard for her to admit they were back. Celestia lifted a cup of tea and gave it to Luna.
“I guess you will not want to go to sleep now, right?”
“Your guess is right, big sister.” said Luna, taking a sip of the tea. “Mmm, this tastes good.”
On the other side of the room, Pinkie Pie narrated the events that happened inside the dream to Rarity and Applejack. Twilight and Rainbow Dash interfered a few times to put the facts straight and tell the story correctly. Fluttershy stayed quiet, only pointing out those events happening in the Manehattan dream.
“If I were ther’ with y’all, Manehattan would’ve been one heck of a nightmare.” said Applejack.
“Oooh, there were nightmares alright!” said Pinkie Pie, as she hopped on the bed and curled her body. She was trying to imitate some sort of snake creature. “The attack of the fifty-mile-long Worm in the Everfree Forest! OooOooOooOooOooh!”
Twilight pulled Pinkie Pie’s puffy tail and brought her back down from the bed.
“Well, it wasn’t exactly like that.” said Twilight. “But it wasn’t pretty. At least that’s over, thank Celestia.”
Pinkie Pie moved away from Twilight as she chortled and pounced over Rainbow Dash, giggling. Twilight looked at the clock and saw that almost an hour had passed since they called for Platinum Plaques. She knew the North Tower was the furthest Tower in the Palace, but it was taking a ridiculous amount of time to find-
“We found her!”
The voice of Platinum Plaques was preceded by the explosion of the bedroom’s doors opening. Celestia and Luna stood up as Twilight rushed to meet the Captain of the Guard. He was followed by another two stallions, all of them covered in dust. On Platinum Plaque’s back, lied a pale blue coated mare. She had a bony complexion, so much so Twilight could even see the ribs’ shape under her skin. Her mane was white and covered in dust and dirt. It looked like she hadn’t eaten or taken care of herself for days. What terrified Twilight was that she looked dead.
“She’s alive. We found her like this in the Storage room.” explained Platinum Plaques.
“How could somepony get through our magical defenses?” said Luna, with a tint of surprise in her voice.
“The North Tower does not have those defenses.” said Celestia. “It is so far away from the main building, there is no need to defend it.”
“Besides, nothing of value is stored inside.” said Platinum Plaques. “Nothing, except a good hidey hole.”
Twilight ignored the conversation and focused on Trixie. The unicorn was in such a poor state it even humbled Twilight. She reached her hoof and lifted her face. It surprised her to see Trixie’s eyes half opened, her mouth agape in an expression of tiredness. She looked side to side and finally looked at Twilight. Their looks met for a brief moment, as Trixie lowered her eyes.
“Where…am I?” said Trixie in a raspy voice. She had been without water for two days. “Who…am I?”
Twilight’s next words tore her heart to pieces. She could feel the stabbing pain of guilt taking over her.
“You are…You are the Great and Powerful Trixie.”
Trixie narrowed her eyes, looked to the left and before falling unconscious, she could only utter a feeble.
She let her head hang loose over Platinum Plaques’ shoulder. Twilight was about to grab Trixie’s head but Celestia stopped her placing a hoof over her shoulder.
“It will be of no use.” said Celestia. “Look.”
The Princess was pointing at Trixie’s flank. Twilight looked and gasped in terror. Trixie’s cutie mark was gone. The magic wand and the handkerchief had disappeared. Twilight put her hoof over the furry coat and it got covered in grey dust. Twilight didn’t know the loss of somepony’s memory could have such severe consequences, but it made sense. Losing your personality, your identity, all that made you who you are, also meant losing what symbolized it.
“What’s going to happen to her now?” asked Twilight.
“Don’t worry Twilight.” said Celestia. “I am not going to imprison her.”
Platinum Plaques had to hold back a scoff of surprise, and when he talked, despite him doing it with respect, he couldn’t hide a bit of disappointment and outrage at the Princess’ decision.
“Your Majesty, are you sure of such decision? This is the pony that put you under a Dream to keep you prisoner.”
“One thing I learned with the time is that there is a moment to punish and a moment to forgive.” said Celestia looking at Luna and Twilight. “Trixie has received her punishment, and the most horrible one at that. Losing everything that made her what she was is the worst punishment I can imagine. Now is the time for forgiveness.”
“Then, what will happen to her?” insisted Twilight.
Celestia took a moment to give her answer. She knew not everypony in the room would agree with her decision but it was the least she could do. Despite Trixie trying to destroy her memories and put the entire land of Equestria in danger, she had to set an example.
“I will take care of her. I will take care of her and educate her in the right ways of the magic.” She then turned to Twilight. “Like I did with you, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight was surprised she accepted and approved the decision so quickly. The rest of the ponies were not so keen in approving the decision. Rarity and Applejack were less angry and more surprised, but Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie lifted their voices at Celestia’s decision.
“That’s a big risk!” shouted Rainbow Dash. “That…That…Trickster! She tried to kill us!”
“And with some of us, she did!” added Pinkie Pie. “It’s a long story.” she added after seeing her friends’ surprise faces.
“Celestia is right.” said Twilight. “She can do no harm now. Not to us. Not to anypony.”
Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie settled down, still a bit disappointed by Celestia’s decision. They understood why Celestia took that decision, but the events inside the dream, all those attacks and traps that Trixie had thrown at them, they were still fresh and beating inside their brains. Celestia is right, thought Rainbow Dash, we need to learn to forgive and move on. Pinkie Pie blinked and then smiled, changed her state of mind as she moved her thoughts into something more cheerful. She waited until Twilight was done talking with the Princess.
“Thank you Princess.” said Twilight. “Could I…Could I come visit her?”
“Of course Twilight.” said Celestia. “Give us a few weeks to help her recover and get her back into optimal physical shape. Then you can come visit her. I am sure she will appreciate the company.”
“Thank you a lot again, Princess.” Said Twilight, as she got close to Celestia and gave her a soft hug. Celestia ignored the protocol this time and gave her prized student the tightest hug she had ever given her. Twilight couldn’t prevent a pinch of sadness hitting her heart.
“Hey guys!” Pinkie Pie’s voice came in the perfect moment. “You know what this calls for!?”
All the ponies except the Princesses answered with a timid voice tone.
Pinkie Pie stood up on her hind legs and, rocking one of her forelegs, yelled.
And she bounced out of the bedroom singing a happy tune and launching streamers everywhere. Rainbow Dash was the first one that followed Pinkie Pie, and after her all the other mares left, except Twilight, Luna and Celestia. Celestia looked at her sister and with a smile nodded her towards the door.
“Come on Luna.” suggested Celestia.
“Oh, uhm…” Luna rubbed her front legs together as she coiled her head down. “Should I?”
“He, he, he, I think you deserve a good breakfast and some rest after such a strenuous night, don’t you think?” said Celestia with a big smile.
Luna looked at her sister and then back behind her on the bed. Platinum Plaques and the other two guards placed Trixie over the bed and were already taking care of her. Luna’s concerned expression made Celestia insist once again.
“Don’t worry about her now, Luna.” said Celestia. “We will take care of her. You go with Twilight and her friends, and have some rest, understand?”
Luna knew she had nothing else to do there, and just staying in the room doing nothing would make her feel even worse. She wanted to take that break and stay away from the bedroom, so she looked at her sister, gave her a hug, and then back at Twilight.
“I understand, Celly. Shall we go, Twilight Sparkle?”
Twilight had those words resonate in her mind. So we can be friends together again. She smiled and offered Luna to pass first.
“Let’s go, Princess.” said Twilight.
Luna left the bedroom with a happy trot, breathing the fresh morning air and letting it go through her mane. She felt alive and awake. As the sound of her hooves echoed and faded away in the hallways, Twilight turned around to look at Princess Celestia.
“Do you want me to send you a report on what happened the last couple of…” Twilight stopped talking as she made up her mind. For her, it had been weeks, almost months, inside that dream. In reality, not even seven hours had passed. “…hours?” finished Twilight.
“It will not be necessary Twilight.” said Celestia. “But I would love to see your study on the nature of dreams, once you finish it.”
“Oh! Well…” Twilight knew that study was far from finished, if not pointless. But after that experience, she had enough material to work with for days. “I will make sure to send it to you as soon as I finish it, Princess.”
With that, Twilight nodded and left the room with a smile, as Princess Celestia turned around and began attending Trixie with the help of the Royal Guards and Platinum Plaques.
* * *
The Palace’s doors opened and a blast of fresh air hit the six ponies and Princess Luna. The bright sun light bathed their bodies making long shadows over the white floor of the stance. Before them, the Sun glowed big in the sky and the city of Canterlot woke up to another bright day. Twilight stepped forwards first as she looked over the houses and the other ponies. They were so oblivious about what just happened. They would never know they had been on the edge of catastrophe. Seeing those ponies doing their daily routines and their normal lives like nothing happened, made Twilight realize how worthy was everything they fought for.
She was about to resume her walking when something hit her on her side. It was a purple and green blur made out of scales that hugged her neck tight enough to choke her words.
“S…Spike!” said Twilight.
“Twilight! Oh my Gosh! I was so worried about you! And your note just worried me even more! I came here! Early in the night! But they didn’t let me in! And I went to get something to calm me down! But I think-!”
Twilight put a hoof on Spike’s mouth to shut him up and then pulled him close into a hug. She didn’t realize how much she had been missing Spike until she saw him. Spike’s initial enthusiasm turned into joy as he hugged Twilight with a calmed smile and a peaceful gesture.
“It’s alright Spike.” said Twilight. “We were just…busy, helping the Princess solving something.”
“Oh! Oh! Can I know about it?” said Spike.
“Mmmmaybe after breakfast.” said Twilight.
Spike hopped on Twilight’s back as they walked away from the Castle. Luna moved forward and closer to Twilight, as the others followed them. Pinkie Pie was behind, thinking on what colors she had to use for the streamers, when a shiver down her spine made her stop. She sat down and took her tail between her hooves. It was twitching out of control.
“Twitcha-Twitch…” said Pinkie. “Twilight! Watch out!” warned Pinkie.
Twilight turned around to look at Pinkie Pie, drifting her attention away from what lied before her.
She was about to put a hoof on the ground when she realized there was no ground under her. Twilight shook her fore hooves frantically as she looked in front of her and down in the ditch that opened up before her. Spike jumped off of her back as she rolled down the ditch.
“Waaaaaah!” screamed Twilight.
She rolled, tumbled and finally bounced off the ditch. She fell and landed on the bottom of it as everything around her blacked out. Her hearing turned deaf, and her body went numb. She felt the unconsciousness taking over her brain and in a matter of seconds she slipped into darkness.
* * *
Twilight opened her eyes as she looked around and recovered the control over her limbs and the hearing in her ears. She was surprised of her first reaction, as she had never been happier to see the bottom of a ditch before. She looked around and found her coat covered in dirt and mud. She looked awful. She looked up as she saw her friends looking worried at her. All of them sighed in relief when they saw Twilight moving, and some of them even giggled, relieving the tension from the momentary scare. Twilight dug her hooves on the ditch’s wall and climbed up without much difficulty. Rainbow Dash lent her a hoof and pulled her up and back into the path again. Twilight realized the ditch was a dry river and that she had missed the bridge that crossed over it for a couple of inches.
“You okay sugar cube?” asked Applejack.
“Oh yes, I am fine.” said Twilight.
Twilight looked at her friends with a kooky smile to show them she was alright. But there was a niggling doubt crawling behind her head. She had no idea how to put it without making it sound silly, so she made it sound like a joke.
“He, he, he, you know guys…For a moment I thought I was going to wake up after falling into the ditch.” she said while rubbing the back of her head with her fore hoof.
The group of friends laughed out loud. Rainbow Dash patted the ground in laughter. Pinkie Pie bounced before Twilight and poked her on the nose.
“Ooh, come on silly!” said Pinkie Pie. “You know you’re already awake, right?”
Twilight looked down to the floor as she rubbed her hoof over the soil. The small pebbles rolled under her. She nodded at her friends with a smile. They resumed their advance towards “Joe’s Malts and Doughnuts” as Pinkie Pie giggled, Rainbow Dash boasted about her aerial tricks, and Rarity worried about her deliveries been delayed after the night’s events.
It all went back to normal.
Twilight forced herself to believe that. She looked behind one more time at the great Castle of Canterlot, as she let go a sigh of relief and exhaustion. She had been at the edge of the pony mind and returned, with scars so deep only time would close.