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Black Crystal Heart (Update June 5th)

shukaku20 Mar 11th, 2013 1,252 Never
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  1. Prologue
  2.  
  3. >"Join me, Sombra. With the powers of the Crystal Kingdom combined with mine, not even Celestia with the Elements could stand in our way."
  4. >Sombra, the love of your life stares back at the pitch black alicorn, scorn in his eyes.
  5. >"I would never consider it, traitor, and I will do everything in my power to stop you."
  6. >Rising from her seat, Nightmare Moon turns to leave.
  7. >"You will regret this, mark my words."
  8. >The door slams closed, the sound echoing through the large, empty hall.
  9. >Edging next to him, you kneel down and wrap your arms around his neck.
  10. "What happened to her? She always used to be so nice..."
  11. >"I don't know, but I promise you, my love, everything is going to be alright."
  12. >His soft lips press against yours, and for a while, you truly believed what he said.
  13.  
  14.  
  15. >The halls rush past in a blur as you run towards the throne room.
  16. "Sombra! Where are you?" you yell out, your bare feet slapping on the cold cobblestone floors.
  17. >A vicious blue glow comes from under the doors ahead, and you hear your husband cry out in pain.
  18. >Crashing up against the doors, you pound your fist against it.
  19. "Sombra! What’s wrong? Are you alright?"
  20. >"Get out of here Anonymous, it's not safe!" his strained voice calls back.
  21. >An evil laugh rings out, and you feel a force pulling you against the doors.
  22. >They burst open, and you are dragged into the room by a magical aura matching the light that previously shone from under the doors.
  23. >"Come now Sombra, why not let your little monkey girl watch as you are beaten? That is, unless you still think you can win?"
  24. >Currents of power surge around Nightmare Moon, and her magic suppress both you and Sombra.
  25. >"I'm not... I'm not going to let you hurt her," he works out through clenched teeth, and his horn starts glowing.
  26. >"Pathetic."
  27. >With a flick of her horn, Sombra is sent flying into the wall with a painful crunch.
  28. "SOMBRA!!"
  29. >He struggles to his hooves, constantly held down by Nightmare's power.
  30. >"I told you... I'm not going to... not going to let you hurt her."
  31. >Once again, he is launched into a wall.
  32. "Please... Sombra, please stop! I can't stand to see you hurt like this!" you call out as he makes his way to his hooves again.
  33. >Magic that could destroy a lesser unicorn courses around him as he focuses, but Nightmare Moon just laughs.
  34. >"You're pathetic. Your magic is weakened by your love for that freak."
  35. >Lightning courses over your body and you scream out in pain.
  36. >Just as soon as it had started, it stops, leaving you gasping for breath and your muscles twitching in agony.
  37. >"ANON!"
  38. >His normally calm demeanor is shattered, and he starts fighting against the bonds, wild magic running rampant.
  39. >Twisted pleasure crosses Nightmare's face, "Perfect, embrace the hatred, let it empower you."
  40. >There's a brilliant flash as the magic around Sombra breaks, leaving you temporarily blinded.
  41. >As your vision returns, you see your love running towards you, and a look of disappointment on Nightmare Moon's face.
  42. >"A pity..."
  43. >He is stopped by a spell wrapping around him, holding him up by his neck.
  44. >"Since you won't abandon her for power willingly, I'll just make you do it."
  45. >Dark, twisting tendrils of magic launch from her horn, straight into Sombra's heart.
  46. >You do everything in your power to call out, but it's as if there is no air in your lungs.
  47. >Squirming around in his chest, the tentacles slowly retract, and coming with them, a brilliant red gem in the shape of a heart.
  48. >"Here it is, the legendary crystal heart, source of all the happiness and power in the Crystal kingdom."
  49. >"It's hideous, so contaminated by love. I'll just have to fix it."
  50. >Dark magic pours from her horn, entering the gem, and its red hue starts to become replaced by black.
  51. >The entire time, Sombra convulses in pain, as if the magic was pouring into him.
  52. >You catch his eye, and his struggling ceases, instead replaced by a look of determination.
  53. >The air around him converges as he builds up massive amounts of magical energy, and before Nightmare can react, he releases it.
  54. >Pure white magic fires straight at you, and the last thing you hear is a ragged "I'm sorry, my love..."
  55. >These words reach you in the same moment the magic does, and your body is frozen, a single tear drifting down your face.
  56. >Pale blue crystal covers your body, slowly building up until you are encased in a giant gemstone.
  57.  
  58.  
  59. "You just... AHAHAHAHAHAHA! I can't believe you just imprisoned your own wife."
  60. >Your dark magic finishes on the crystal heart, and the red, his love is forced out.
  61. >As the color pools on the floor, it condenses into a mirror of the original heart, down to the last detail.
  62. >His magic spent, Sombra collapses in your magical grip, and you unceremoniously drop him on ground.
  63. "Now, to finish what I started."
  64. >Taking hold of the corrupted crystal heart with your magic, you hold it to Sombra's chest.
  65. >Black tendrils slowly and painfully drag it into him, and you watch with glee.
  66. "Soon, soon you will be my ally, and I will be unstoppable!"
  67. >You allow yourself a moment for an evil laugh while Sombra twists and squirms in agony as black magic takes hold of him.
  68. >Corrupted magic starts seeping from the corner of his eyes, and his horn takes on a scarlet hue, marking his transformation.
  69. >The magic having taken its course, Sombra gets to his hooves.
  70. "Come, my ally, join me, so we may rule this world together."
  71. >Red irises surrounded by green stare back at you, and before you can utter another word, black tendrils shoot out from the ground around him, straight at you.
  72. >Deflecting them with your own, you glare at him, before stepping back.
  73. "You insolent little worm, you think you can take the gift I gave you and turn it against me?"
  74. >More streams of magic shoot from around him at you, forcing you back further.
  75. >Conjuring a barrier around yourself, you press forward through his assault.
  76. "It seems talking to you is pointless, you are less than a mindless beast now."
  77. >Levitating the red heart, all his love and good traits, you smile.
  78. "Since you won't join me, it seems I will have to get rid of you."
  79. >With a powerful flux of magic, you teleport away, into the deepest depths of the dungeons, where an enchanted door lies.
  80. >Most wouldn't suspect it to be so though, its appearance as plain as any other door.
  81. >Its enchantment can drive even the strongest ponies mad, as it preys on their fears and paranoia.
  82. >You are immune though, your black magic guarding you against it, and you pass through.
  83. >Faint whispers of a thousand tortured minds dance through the room, music to your ears.
  84. >Without any concern, you throw the pure crystal heart out into the room before leaving.
  85. "Nopony will ever find it there. And now, to get rid of this annoyance..."
  86.  
  87. ~~Canterlot Castle, later that day~~
  88.  
  89. "SISTER! Something horrible has occurred!"
  90. >Disguised as Luna, you rush into Celestia's chambers, a look of panic on your face.
  91. "It's just..." you burst into fake tears, sobbing against her shoulder as she comforts you.
  92. >"Shhh... It's going to be okay little sister. Calm down and tell me what happened."
  93. >With a little acting, you 'calm down' enough to start telling her what happened.
  94. "We were... we were visiting Sombra and Anonymous, when we noticed something wrong with him."
  95. "He... He attacked us, and then trapped Anonymous in a giant crystal..."
  96. >While her exterior may seem calm, you can feel anger boiling under the surface.
  97. "We think he... We think he's corrupted. There was evil magic coming from his eyes, and his horn had turned red and he used black tentacle magic..."
  98. >"It will be alright, Luna. I shall take care of him personally, and save Anonymous."
  99. >Your sister rises, and you follow as she heads to the chamber of the Elements.
  100. >As she dons the Elements, you wait just outside for her to come out.
  101. >The room is warded, and even disguised as Celestia's sister, it would trip and your entire plot would be ruined.
  102. >"Worry not, little sister I will deal with this in only a moment."
  103. "But... we're not going to let you go alone. If there is any way we can help..."
  104. >She wraps a wing around your shoulder, and though the feeling disgusts you, you fake comfort.
  105. >"You are determined to come, so I will not stop you. Just remain by my side, and you will be fine."
  106. "Of course sister, we trust you and your judgment."
  107. >She takes the lead, and you follow behind, a barely concealed smile on your face.
  108. >'Everything according to plan'
  109. >It seems Celestia wants to waste no time, as she bypasses the royal guard station and the chariot bay.
  110. >The observation chamber is where she stops, and you edge up behind her.
  111. >"Let us see..." A sphere of magic spins beneath her hoof, as she focuses its powers on the Crystal Kingdom.
  112. >"Ah, we can teleport to here; there are no ponies nearby so it is safe."
  113. >With a nod, you begin the mental preparations for long distance teleportation.
  114. >"On my mark, Luna. 3, 2, 1, go."
  115. >A powerful shockwave of magic goes off as the two of you teleport, many a book and other small objects knocked off their shelves, much to the cleaning staffs displeasure.
  116. >After hundreds of years of teleportation, the nausea and other symptoms that came with it hardly affected you anymore.
  117. "This is... awful," you say while looking around.
  118. >What once were brilliant structures are now darkening, reflecting the change in their king.
  119. >"We must hurry and reverse this, before it becomes too late."
  120. >With Celestia in the lead, you run straight for the palace, and all around you, the corruption becomes more apparent.
  121. >The normal guards are nowhere to be seen, and the two of you enter the castle unobstructed.
  122. >Blowing open the throne room doors, your "sister" yells out "Show your face, Sombra!"
  123. >Deep laughter echoes through the hall, seemingly coming from every direction.
  124. >From behind the throne, a giant crystal flies right at you, too fast to stop while in disguise.
  125. >You don't have to stop it though, as Celestia's magic stops it a foot from your face.
  126. >"That was clo...?"
  127. >Her sentence is cut short as she sees the contents of the crystal.
  128. >"How could he... HOW DARE HE DO THIS TO HER?!"
  129. >Rage bubbling forth, she sets the crystal down gently, before waves of magic seep from her in an expanding sphere.
  130. >In a flash, the sphere expands a hundred-fold, covering the entire castle, and a dark glow appears around the throne.
  131. >"There you are. Come out and face me!"
  132. >With slow steps, Sombra, or at least, what you left of him, walks out from behind the throne.
  133. >"Explain yourself! Why have you done this?"
  134. >Magic flies out from around him, aiming straight for Celestia.
  135. >They dissipate more than twenty feet out, a powerful barrier protecting her and you.
  136. >"Since you refuse to explain, I have no choice."
  137. >All six elements begin swirling around her, tremendous magic pressure building in the air.
  138. >Edging back, you watch as the most powerful weapon ponykind has to offer fires off, washing over Sombra.
  139. "Is... is that it?"
  140. >"I'm afraid not..."
  141. >As the rainbow energy vanishes, you see him, completely unharmed.
  142. >A second blast has the same result, and the wear of using the Elements begins to show.
  143. >"Luna, we're not going to be able to beat him like this..."
  144. "What can we do?"
  145. >She takes hold of the crystal containing Anonymous, and says "For now, retreat."
  146. >The magic aura retracts, temporarily blinding all but you and Celestia, and you rush from the castle.
  147. >Nearly the entire kingdom has darkened, and Celestia sighs.
  148. "Do we go home? This whole place is changing because of him..."
  149. >"It just proves how tightly linked he is to the kingdom, and to remove Anonymous would only make things worse."
  150. >"We must leave her here, and seal this place off. There is no other way, as much as I hate to say it."
  151. >With a small flash, a golden bracket and chain appears on the top of Anonymous's crystal.
  152. >"I will at least leave her with a view of her kingdom, an apology, since I can't do more..."
  153. >A much larger flash, and you see a matching one in the bell tower.
  154. "Is such a thing safe?"
  155. >She gives a low sigh as a response, and starts walking to the edge of the kingdom.
  156. "Sister? What are we going to do?"
  157. >"Erase the Crystal Kingdom. If we don't, the corruption will spread and overtake all of Equestria."
  158. >With a tightly hidden skip in your step, you slowly follow her from the Crystal Kingdom.
  159. >She charges the Elements one last time, the magic covering the entire city and surrounding area.
  160. >It fades, and along with it, everything it covered, a barren crater remaining in its wake.
  161. >Beside you, Celestia falls to her knees, and you smile.
  162. "It's a shame..."
  163. >"It is. I wish it was otherwise..."
  164. >Rising to her hooves, she takes off on the long flight home.
  165. "Your fate can wait, sister. For now, I am fine with this."
  166. >With mighty flaps, you fly after her.
  167.  
  168.  
  169. Chapter 1
  170.  
  171. >Stepping out of the train, you approach the castle, your book-bags loaded and ready for your teacher’s test.
  172. >Your heart flutters like a butterfly as you walk through the long hallways to where the princess awaits.
  173. >Pausing a moment at the door to the throne room,  you take a deep breath in an attempt to calm yourself.
  174. >Pushing open the door with your magic, you step inside and walk towards your teacher.
  175. "Good afternoon, Princess. I'm here for my test."
  176. >She turns to face you, a warm, but concerned smile on her face.
  177. >"Twilight, my student. I am glad you are here."
  178. "I've got everything I need, ink, quills and extra paper to show my work," you say, pulling the things out of your bags.
  179. >The scroll of paper slips from your grip and starts unrolling, all the way to Celestia, across the room.
  180. >Her magic rolls up the scroll, along with your other supplies, before putting them back in your bag.
  181. >"My student, what do you know of the Crystal Empire?"
  182. "I don't remember seeing anything in my books about it, but..." you start digging into one, before Celestia stops you.
  183. >"You won’t find anything; there are no proper records of it, since it vanished more than a thousand years ago."
  184. >You watch as she steps to the side of the throne, pulling a cover from a crystal and taking it out.
  185. >"The Crystal Empire," she says, setting the crystal on the ground, an illusory image rising from it, "was, and is again, one of the largest population centers in Equestria."
  186. >"Over a thousand years ago, it was ruled by a once kind unicorn ruler, and an old friend of mine, Sombra."
  187. >"Little is known of what made him change, but he was corrupted by dark magic. It lead him to not only imprison his wife in crystal, but caused the dark magic to start corrupting the city itself."
  188. >The display starts to darken: sharp, spiky crystals jutting out of buildings.
  189. >"We, as in, Luna and I had to banish not only Sombra, but the entire Empire using the Elements."
  190. "Is this going to be on my test?"
  191. >She laughs softly, making you flatten your ears in embarrassment, before you see the seriousness return to her features.
  192. >"What has happened is the Crystal Empire has returned. Shining Armor and Cadance are already out there, and I want you and your friends to join them."
  193. "My big brother is there! But what about my test?"
  194. >"This is your test, and it will help determine whether or not you are ready to go to the next stage of your training."
  195. >Nodding, you can't quite smile, but you aren't showing how unsure you are, at least, you think you aren't.
  196. >After bowing to your teacher, you head outside to where your friends are waiting.
  197.  
  198.  
  199. "Sister, are you sure she is ready for such a test? We remember what happened, and even for us, it was difficult," you say, stepping out from behind the throne
  200. >She picks up the crystal, the illusion vanishing and she sets it back in place.
  201. >"I believe in her, and her friends. If anyp0ny can solve this, they can."
  202. "We are still unsure, but since you think it best, we will trust your judgement."
  203. >Taking to your room, you leave Celestia behind and close the door quickly behind you.
  204. >Wards form, and with a small crack, your coat shifts to its normal midnight blue.
  205. >Throwing away Luna' hideous royal regalia, you sink into your cushion.
  206. "This may become a problem, but perhaps, it could be another chance to gain him as an ally, after a millenia of solitude."
  207. >Focusing, you release a small probe of magic out towards the Crystal Empire, passing Twilight and her friends as it goes.
  208. >Across fields of grass, and then snow, your probe flies, till it encounters a magical barrier.
  209. >The feeling of it causes you to pause, before you put two and two together, making you realize it's Cadance's.
  210. >Backing off, your probe is suddenly engulfed and consumed by a powerful black magic.
  211. >Snapping back to yourself, a small grin tugs at your lips.
  212. "His powers have certainly grown. I wonder how well the new elements will handle such a powerful foe?"
  213. >Closing your eyes and letting your disguise reform, you settle in for what will be an interesting few days.
  214.  
  215.  
  216. >The train comes to a stop, You and your friends disembark, the station barren and snowy.
  217. >Almost immediately, you see a shrouded figure approach from the storm, which rages all around your group.
  218. >"Twiley! You're here!" the figure calls, stepping into view.
  219. "Shining!" you call back, rushing forward to hug him.
  220. >"Sorry to rush you, but we have to hurry, as you can see what the corrupted magic has done out here," he gestures all around, where you can barely see a hundred feet.
  221. >Stepping back, you turn to your friends, all of whom have their bags ready, save for Rarity, who has Spike carrying hers.
  222. >Despite the weather, the snow is shallow and easy to move through, leaving only the strong wind to slow your progress.
  223. >There is a faint rumbling, the wind and snow intensifying, and Shining suddenly perks up.
  224. >"WE HAVE TO RUN! NOW!"
  225. >A massive black shadow bears down on the group, and you all sprint towards where Shining was leading.
  226. >In the next moment, a blue barrier appears in your vision, but at the same time, the shadow closes in.
  227. >You and your friends burst through, Shining appearing a minute later, dark shards protruding from his horn.
  228. "Shining, are you alright?" you ask, rushing over.
  229. >He concentrates, and magic crackles from the base of his horn, but when it reaches the shards, it fizzles out.
  230. >Letting out a sigh, he rises and motions you to follow; "This way, Cadance and I are staying at the palace right now."
  231. >As he moves, you get a chance to look around, the crystal architecture everywhere, dazzling, and at the same time, bleak.
  232. >More focused on seeing everything there is to see, you only faintly make out Dash and Applejack teasing Rarity.
  233. >Compared to the arctic conditions all around the shield, inside, it’s summer, just like back in Ponyville.
  234. >Your group enters the shimmering crystalline palace, Shining at the head.
  235. >A very tired Cadance greets you, the skin under her eyes sagging and her coat and mane unkempt.
  236. >Giving her a brief hug, Shining turns back to your group, "Cadance has been keeping the city safe, but she can't sleep or what's out there will happen in here."
  237. >"Twilight, what I need you and your friends to do is check on the Crystal ponies and see if they know anything that can help."
  238. >Rarity suddenly speaks out, exclaiming, "There are crystal ponies!"
  239. >Everyp0ny looks at her, you included, and she lets out a faint cough, before acting as if it never happened.
  240. >"Anyways, I want you to report back with any information you find, okay?"
  241. "Of course! This report must be part of my test!" rushing up in front of him, you smile and nod, before saying, "You can count on me."
  242. >Rushing out, your friends close behind, you look for a good place to start.
  243. >Getting into the city and houses, you suddenly notice how quiet everything is.
  244. >Rarity and Applejack can sense the mood, and as usual, Fluttershy is very reserved, but on the other hoof...
  245. >"Hey, you, what do you know about this evil spirit thing? Huh?" Dash asks, rushing up to a distinctly nervous pony.
  246. >Grabbing her with your magic, you drag her away, before stepping towards her.
  247. "I'm sorry, my friend can get a little overexcited sometimes. We were wondering if you could tell us anything about the tale of Sombra?"
  248. >The pony looks up and away a moment, drawing your eyes to a bell tower.
  249. >"It's..."
  250. >They suddenly start walking away, making you feel nervous, and Applejack walks up behind you.
  251. >"Maybe they're a mite shy; we just gotta ask around 'nd maybe we'll find somethin'."
  252. "I hope you're right, Applejack..."
  253. >Splitting up, you with Fluttershy, Rarity with Pinkie and Rainbow Dash with Applejack, you start asking around.
  254. >Most ponies give the same response as the first, a number of them looking up at the bell tower.
  255. >As you are about to take a break, an old, scraggly, male crystal pony approaches you.
  256. >"You are one of the ones who wants to know the tale of Sombra? Come, I'll tell you what is known."
  257. >Looking to Fluttershy a moment, you nod to her and follow the stallion, as he leads you away to a rougher looking part of town.
  258. >"The tale is an old one, but one we have never forgotten, being trapped in time."
  259. "Trapped in time?"
  260. >"That's right. Everyp0ny you see, we are all the same as when Sombra first became corrupted."
  261. >Sitting down in the shade of a blackened building, he starts his tale.
  262. >"More than a millennia ago, the kingdom was ruled by Sombra, a kind and just king."
  263. >"Him and his wife were loved by all, and truth be told, we still do love them, and pray for them to return to normal."
  264. >"Even though he was not Royal by birth, from a young age Sombra came into the royal court of the Crystal Kingdom."
  265. >"Always looking to better the lives of everyp0ny, he quickly rose in ranks, eventually ending as the heir to the throne."
  266. >"With the passing of the old king, he took the throne, and for several years, he ruled well."
  267. >"It was about six years into his rule when a strange being came to reside here."
  268. >Nop0ny knew who or what she was or where she came from, but she quickly acclimated, becoming a normal part of our life.
  269. >She's a sweet girl, Anonymous. Always kind to everyp0ny, and after becoming part of our life, she had quite a few suitors.
  270. >Even when turning them down, she was always nice, claiming she wasn't interested.
  271. >Some persisted for a while, but slowly, they all petered out, save one.
  272. >For almost a year, Sombra tried courting her, and finally, on Hearts and Hooves day, she consented to go on a date with him.
  273. >Even with all his blunders, everything went well, and less than half a year later, they were married.
  274. >Some were worried what would happen, having an alien as the queen, but like Sombra, she was always concerned for the little folk like us.
  275. >About what made everything change though, nop0ny knows.
  276. >You could ask Anonymous, but I can guarantee you're not going to get a response, given..."
  277. >Sadness takes over him, small trails of tears coursing down his face, before he shakes it away.
  278. >"Well, I can't tell you anything else, but I wish you luck in whatever you are going to do."
  279. >Looking up from your notes, the stallion has vanished, seemingly into thin air.
  280. "Fluttershy, I think we need to talk to the girls, as well as report to my brother."
  281. >She meekly nods, following as you head to the park.
  282. >Rainbow Dash and Applejack are in the park, not having much luck, from what you can see.
  283. >Upon spotting you, AJ trots over and asks, "You have any luck, Twi?"
  284. "I think so. I got a bit of a history lesson about Sombra and his wife, Anonymous, but I can't quite make sense of it all."
  285. >AJ nods, motioning over Rainbow.
  286. >"Hey, ya think ya can go 'n get Rarity and Pinkie? Twi thinks she may have somethin'."
  287. >Dash nods, before saying, "I'll be back in a flash."
  288. >Leaving her namesake trail behind, she takes off, zooming around over the city.
  289. >Moments later, she returns, Pinkie and Rarity running behind.
  290. >"Twilight, Darling, I hear you found something, do enlighten us," Rarity says, calming her curls from the run.
  291. >Retelling the tale told to you by the old stallion, all sorts of reactions coming from your friends.
  292. >"Oh my, it's almost like a tale from a romance novel," Rarity says with a small sniffle, dabbing her eyes with a silk hoofkerchief.
  293. >Pinkie bounces around your group, saying "I've never partied with an alien before, Iwonderifshelikescake,ormaybepie,OOOH,ormaybecupcakepieor..."
  294. >"Come on, Pinkie, there's no way she's 'n actual alien. She's probably just from a real far away place, 'nd just seems lahk one."
  295. "Applejacks right, there is no possible way that Anonymous could be from another planet. What we need to do now, is figure out where Anonymous is."
  296. >"Umm... She might be..." Fluttershy starts, her voice suddenly drowned out by Rainbow Dash.
  297. >"I bet I could find her lickety split. How hard could it be to find an alien."
  298. >"...Please, wait..."
  299. >Again, Fluttershy is drowned out, but this time by Applejack; "Bah, yall're gonna get mighty nosy if ya search like that. We should just ask somep0ny."
  300. >"But I..."
  301. "If anyp0ny knows, it's likely the old stallion who told me the story. If we find him, we can find her."
  302. >"QUIET!!" Fluttershy yells, shocking all of you, "... Um, thank you. I think I know where Anonymous is."
  303. >Giving her a solid pat on the shoulder, Applejack says, "Well, why didn't ya say so earlier?"
  304. >"Well, I umm..."
  305. "So, where is she Fluttershy?" you ask, looking over at her.
  306. >With everypony staring intently at her, she shrinks back behind her mane, before pointing a hoof to the bell tower.
  307. >"She's, umm... up there, I think."
  308. >Taking a moment to process, everyone just stares at the tower.
  309. "Now that I think of it, I haven't heard the bell chime once."
  310. >"Ah can't say ah have either."
  311. >"But why would a princess, or rather, a queen chose to live in a bell tower, rather than her palace?" Rarity asks, as your group starts walking.
  312. >Bouncing along, Pinkie says, "Maybe she wanted a little time to herself?"
  313. >everyp0ny groans at her bad joke, and minutes pass as you head to the clock tower.
  314. >Looking up at the massive crystal tower, you can’t help but be awed by the purity of it.
  315. >While all the other crystal buildings show signs of black corruption, but the tower is so perfect that you can faintly make out the stairs within.
  316. >Gently knocking on the door, you hear the sound echo up through the tower and out the windows.
  317. "Hello? Is anyp0ny here?"
  318. >Like the knocking, it echoes up the tower and out the windows, but there is no response.
  319. >Pushing open the door carefully, the six of you enter the tower.
  320. >As vivid as the outside, the interior sparkles with beam of sunlight reflecting all over the smooth walls.
  321. >There is nothing visible except a staircase, and with a nod to your friends, you start up them.
  322. >A dozen spirals up, you pause a moment to look out a window.
  323. >The whole city is laid out in your vision, and you can see part of the splendor Celestia showed you with her crystal.
  324. >And like her illusion, shadows and jagged dark crystals jut out from many buildings.
  325. >"Yo, Twilight, if you're done sightseeing, you might wanna get up here and see this," Rainbow Dash calls down at you.
  326. >Running up the last of the stairs, your jaw drops at what you see.
  327. >Instead of a bell, as you would expect to see, there is instead a tall, pale blue crystal suspended from a golden bracket and chains.
  328. >While this itself is strange enough, what is inside it is even more so.
  329. >A creature, an alien nearly six feet tall, slender and soft looking.
  330. >Dressed in only a white nightgown, the being you can only assume is Anonymous is trapped seemingly serenely in the massive gemstone.
  331. "Dear Celestia..."
  332. >Fluttering around it, Fluttershy asks, "I wonder what kind of critter she is? She looks sort of like a monkey, but also like a minotaur."
  333. >"Ah'm thinkin' she might just be an alien, like that old man said."
  334. >The others are silent, just sitting back and looking at the strange creature encased in crystal.
  335. "I... I have no idea what to do. We can't just leave her like this, but I don't think my magic could do anything to help."
  336. >"I'm sure we can think of something, Darling. For now, we should just report to Shining Armor."
  337. >Slowly nodding your head yes, your gaze remains focused on the beautiful female in the crystal.
  338. >A moment more, and you turn back to the staircase, your friends close behind.
  339. >Down the stairs and towards the palace, you realize you haven't seen Spike since your meeting with Cadance.
  340. "Girls, have you seen Spike?"
  341. >"Ah think we left 'im back at the palace, Ah just hope he ain't gettin' into trouble."
  342. >"My little Spikey Wikey would never cause any trouble for the princess," Rarity says.
  343. "I'm more worried about the fact that so many things here are made of crystal, and that's one of Spike's favourite snacks."
  344. >Everypony pauses for a moment, remembering Spike's last birthday.
  345. >"Yeah, we should hurry," Dash says, and with a group nod, the lot of you pick up the pace.
  346. >Almost crashing through the palace doors, you find Shining and Spike helping relax Cadance, and no teeth marks or anything anywhere.
  347. >"Twilight, girls, you're back. Did you find anything out?"
  348. "Umm, sort of. We found Anonymous and we learned Sombra's history, but nothing more."
  349. >"Please, do tell."
  350. >As you start to retell the tale again, you are cut off by an ear shattering crack, followed closely by what sounds like glass breaking.
  351. >Everyp0ny’s senses are overloaded as a blinding white light comes from seemingly everywhere, combined with a shattering scream of pain from Cadance.
  352.  
  353.  
  354.  
  355. Chapter 2
  356.  
  357. >Stumbling blindly towards where you heard Cadance cry out, you crash into somepony else, falling to the ground.
  358. >Disentangling yourself, you find your vision slowly returning, vague shapes and colors coming into view.
  359. >Cries of panic and pain can be heard from your friends, though they rapidly disappear as everything comes back into view.
  360. >Everyp0ny scrambles to their hooves.
  361. >That is, everyp0ny but Cadance.
  362. >Immediately running over, Shining nuzzles up against her, saying, "Cadance! Are you alright?"
  363. >There is no response, but her chest rises and falls with regular breaths.
  364. "Is she okay?"
  365. >"She should be fine, I hope. What we should be worrying about is what broke the barrier."
  366. >All around, the light coming through the windows starts fading and everyp0ny rushes to see outside.
  367. >Where once Cadance's pale blue barrier was, there is now a deep, grey-black one, obscuring the sun.
  368. >Darkness congeals at the entrance to the city and you and your friends rush outside, eyes focused on it.
  369. >From the shadowy mass, a pair of vivid red and green eyes appears, a red horn appearing shortly after.
  370. >You and the other elements can only stare as Sombra steps from the darkness, a powerful magical aura surrounding him.
  371. >Fluttershy, Rarity and Pinkie all shrink back slightly and even you feel a measure of fear, looking at such a powerful foe.
  372. >From inside the building, Shining calls out to you, "Girls! You have to get away from here!"
  373. >Black magic lashes out from Sombra as he approaches the palace, corruption and sharp black crystals forming wherever they touch.
  374. >Following Shining's advice, the girls start running and after a final glance, you follow as well.
  375. >With no direction, you find yourself heading to Anonymous's tower.
  376. >A tendril hits the ground barely ten feet in front of you, making you swerve aside to avoid the razor sharp edges.
  377. >Looking back, you see the palace starting to change, black crawling over its normal color and sharp points jutting out at strange angles.
  378. >Tendrils of magic begin shooting out of the palace, striking all over the city, several headed in your direction.
  379. "WATCH OUT!" you call out, the others look towards you and the palace.
  380. >They break into a sprint and you do so as well as a veritable rain of tendrils come down all around you.
  381. >Dodging left and right, you and your friends quickly make progress towards the tower.
  382. >Rainbow Dash is the first to make it and she rushes inside, Applejack and Pinkie after her.
  383. >As the last to enter, you turn to close the door, just as a massive black tendril comes straight for you.
  384. >Expecting to see it rip through the door, you cringe, only for the magic to dissipate harmlessly against the tower.
  385. >"Is everyp0ny ahlright?" Applejack asks, looking around.
  386. >"I'm good."
  387. >"My mane is a mess, but besides that, yes."
  388. >"Yuppers, I'm A-O-k."
  389. "I'm fine," you say, Fluttershy nodding in agreement.
  390. >Deep booms resonate through the tower as blasts of dark magic strike it, but to no effect.
  391. >After the initial barrage, the shadows swirl around the tower, seeking entry.
  392. >Under the door frame is the magic's first entry point and it reaches for you, the one closest to the door.
  393. >A cold band wraps around your ankle and you blast it away with magic.
  394. >"Upstairs! Hurry!" Rarity calls, already part way up.
  395. >Everyp0ny follows after her, shadows creeping up the stairwell after you.
  396. >Coming up to the top, the flaw in the plan comes to light.
  397. >Up here, there are only two ways out.
  398. >Down the stairs you came up and out the windows.
  399. >"Not ta be the bearer o' bad news, but we're trapped," Applejack says, looking out the windows.
  400. >Looking to the windows, you see the sharp black crystals working their way in.
  401. >"What should we do?" Dash asks, zooming around the room, claustrophobia possibly setting in.
  402. "Calm down, there has to be a way out..." you say, partially unsure of yourself.
  403. >With the slowly advancing darkness, you and your friends find yourself pushed back closer and closer to Anonymous's crystal.
  404. >As the tendrils creep forward, you and your friends form a small ring around the crystal.
  405. "I'm going to try and make a shield. Can you help, Rarity?"
  406. >"I shall try my best, Darling."
  407. >Magic flows from your horn, forming a barrier around both your friends and the crystal, Rarity's magic forming a secondary one behind yours.
  408. >With yours and Rarity's powers combined, the shields seem to hold up against the oncoming darkness.
  409. >Cracks start forming and you strain to keep it whole.
  410. >"Ah hate ta say it, but if'n we don't survive this, Ah just wanna say ya'll are the best friends a mare could ask fer."
  411. >"Too bad we can't have one last party..."
  412. >Shattering under the pressure, the shields collapse, black overwhelming everything.
  413. ~~~~~
  414. >"Rarity! Applejack! Pinkie! Fluttershy! Rainbow Dash! Are any of you there?"
  415. >A panicked voice cuts through to you; and for the first time in what feels like forever and only a moment at the same time, you stir.
  416. "Who... Who are you?" you ask, your voice faint from a millennia of non use.
  417. >The panic stops for a moment, only to be replaced by confusion.
  418. >"I'm Twilight Sparkle... Who are you?"
  419. "My name is..." A scream cuts you off, and you reach out, stumbling into the darkness on weak legs.
  420. >"H... help! Get away from me!" Twilight's voice calls out, panic and fear coming across.
  421. >Stumbling to your knees, you crawl forward, intent on helping the only voice to reach your ears in your eternal solitude.
  422. >Without even enough strength to get back to your feet, you crawl along the smooth, featureless floor.
  423. "Where are you? I'm coming to help."
  424. >Small cracks of magic reach you, and you orient on their direction.
  425. >Light soon starts pairing up with the sounds, cutting through the shadowy black fog.
  426. >Even at the low levels reaching you, it hurts your eyes, making you wince, but you persist, intent on not being alone any longer.
  427. >"Get back! Get back!" Twilight exclaims, more flashes appearing.
  428. >Stumbling to your feet, you rush forward, a thick wall of blackness washing over you before a vivid purple light overtakes your vision.
  429. >Blinded by this light, you end up losing your footing, falling to the ground again.
  430. >"A... Anonymous?!" you hear Twilight say, magic helping you to your feet.
  431. "How do you know my name?"
  432. >As your eyes slowly adjust to light, you make out the color purple.
  433. >"I heard it from one of the ponies. You're the queen of the Crystal Kingdom, right?"
  434. "Yeah, or I was..."
  435. >The moment you close your mouth, something cold wraps around your ankle and starts dragging you away from Twilight.
  436. >Hands grasping for anything, you get no purchase on the smooth ground.
  437. >Your legs cross back through the blackness, the cold crossing them, but stopping just above your knees.
  438. >"Don't worry, I've got you," Twilight says, her magic wrapped around your arms.
  439. >Slowly, you are pulled out of the shadowy wall and over to the purple unicorn.
  440. "Th... thanks. What is that?"
  441. >As you sit up next to her, she says, "That is your husband, or rather, what is left of him."
  442. "You mean he's dead...?" you ask as tears start leaking down your face.
  443. >Letting out a small gasp, Twilight starts rubbing your back, saying, "No, it's just... What do you remember of what happened before you got trapped in crystal?"
  444. "There was Luna, but she wasn't Luna. She wanted Sombra to join her for something against Celestia, she never told us much. A few days later, she came back again, and this time..."
  445. >Mid tale, you see a large rope of shadows shoot out at Twilight's back, and you jump in front of it.
  446. >Pain shoots out from the bone-cracking impact, but you hold your ground.
  447. "Don't hurt her, I know you, you're... stronger than this..." you say, doing your best to resist blacking out.
  448. >Flickering a bit, the darkness shimmers, as if in thought.
  449. >Twilight, having spun around in the course of your speech to the shadows, catches you as your knees give out, lowering you gently down.
  450. >"Don't worry Anonymous; I won't let him hurt you. I swear it upon my title as Celestia's Disciple and the Element of Magic."
  451. >Vision fading as your eyes drift shut, the last thing you see is a brilliant purple light forcing back the shadows.
  452. ~~~~~
  453. >Fighting back against the darkness, you stand over Anonymous's unconscious form, magic streaming from your horn.
  454. >Tendrils keep launching towards you and Anonymous, and despite your best efforts, anger and desperation start showing.
  455. "I'm not going to give up! I won't let you win!" you exclaim, more and more magic being released with each magic bolt.
  456. >Eyes glowing, your body releases a massive surge of magic, scattering the darkness, before you blank out for a moment.
  457. >Shaking your head as you rise, you see the crystalline walls of the tower once again, but this time you are alone.
  458. "Rainbow Dash? Fluttershy? Is anyp0ny there?"
  459. >Running around the room, you look for any signs of your friends.
  460. >Aside from the clatter of your hooves, there is no sound, no replies from your now missing friends.
  461. >*Drip*
  462. >*Drip*
  463. >A faint dripping makes your ears twitch, and you start searching for its source.
  464. >The only object in the entire tower is Anonymous, still trapped within the crystal.
  465. >Touching the crystal with a hoof, you the surface is slick with moisture and yet your hoof feels dry the moment you pull it back.
  466. "Huh?"
  467. >At the bottom of the crystal, small droplets of what look like water drip from the bottom point and splash on the ground.
  468. >Faster and faster, the drips fall and instead of pooling, they clump together, forming into a small sphere of pale blue liquid.
  469. >Fascinated by this strange magical phenomenon, you reach out to touch it, but something screaming at the back of your mind tells you to stop just before contact.
  470. "What is this? I've never..."
  471. >Creaking comes from above, and tiny motes of shiny dust drift from the ceiling.
  472. >Backing away a few steps, the golden bracket holding Anonymous's crystal first slips, then drops the crystal entirely.
  473. >The pointed bottom of the crystal pierces through the sphere, making it explode outward.
  474. >Countless tiny droplets shoot in every direction, and those that hit you immediately solidify, burning like fire.
  475. >Trying to swat away the burning crystal flecks, your attention is drawn away from the crystal, which begins rapidly melting.
  476. >A puddle of liquid crystal spreads, and you dodge back, seeing it approaching your hooves.
  477. >There is a slam of a door and the clatter of hooves coming up the stairs, your attention more focused on the rapidly melting crystal.
  478. >From up the stairs, you see the old stallion come up, and you stop him with a bit of magic.
  479. "Be careful, the crystal solidifies and burns if it touches you!" you call out to him.
  480. >"Don't worry about me; we have to worry about her!"
  481. >Before you can react, he rushes into the expanding pool of liquid crystal, heading straight for the partially exposed Anonymous.
  482. >He bites down on the back of her clothes and starts dragging, yelling at you through clenched teeth, "Help me!"
  483. >Snapped out of your stupor, you focus your magic on Anonymous and the remaining crystal on her, helping move it with him.
  484. >Even as he moves, you can see more liquid crystal dripping down onto him, but he doesn't flinch.
  485. >Working together, you get Anonymous down the stairs, and out the main door.
  486. "Hey, are you alright?" you ask, looking over the numerous patches of burned and crystallized fur.
  487. >"Yeah, it hurts a bit, but I'll be..."
  488. >Mid sentence, there is a snap, and you see one of his hooves snap off, sending him tumbling to the dirt.
  489. >Quickly setting Anonymous aside, you rush to his side and start preparing a healing spell, but he pushes you aside.
  490. >"We don't have time to worry about me, and besides, it's not even bleeding."
  491. >Unable to protest, you watch as he rises to his remaining hooves, small flecks of blood red crystal dropping off the stump.
  492. >He loads Anonymous back onto his back, and starts walking again.
  493. >"Come on, miss, we have to get out of here before Sombra comes."
  494. "Ah! Right!"
  495. >Scrambling after him, you start levitating Anonymous again as you follow him to the lower end of town.
  496. >He leads you into a small house before collapsing.
  497. "Hey, are you alright?"
  498. >"Yeah just a little... tired..."
  499. >Setting Anonymous gently on the couch, you lift him and carry him towards his bedroom and set him on the bed.
  500. "Get some rest, I'll make sure to take care of Anonymous."
  501. >With a small nod, he starts drifting off, despite the massive pain he must be in.
  502. >As you creep out, the sound of violent retching comes from the living room and you rush over.
  503. >Her body leaning over the edge of the couch, Anonymous spits out the last of the crystal from her system, it joining with a puddle on the floor.
  504. >"Bleargh... What? Where am I?"
  505. >Confused, she looks over at you, recognition sparking on her face.
  506. >"You, you're Twilight!" she exclaims, quickly getting to her feet.
  507. >Once again, you are unable to react, and before you know it, you are wrapped up in Anonymous's arms in a tight hug.
  508. "Yeah, I'm Twilight." you gasp out, the breath being squeezed out of you.
  509. >Suddenly dropping you, Anonymous focuses on the house, before saying "I know this place, even after so long, I remember it..."
  510. "Wait..." you start, but she has already run off to the bedroom, and you quickly follow.
  511. >"Old man..."
  512. >Kneeling at the edge of the bed, she looks over a him, the crystals slowly consuming him.
  513. >Hearing her voice, he rolls over, a small smile on his face, "Anonymous, I'm... I'm so glad you're okay..."
  514. >"Hey... are you...?"
  515. >"I'm afraid so. I got a little too reckless, trying to save an old friend."
  516. >Sitting in the doorway, you can see the crystal spreading, eating away at him.
  517. >"I just..." tears drip on the floor as they flow freely from Anonymous, "I don't know what to do..."
  518. >A hoof slowly raises from the bed, brushing against Anonymous's mane, "Save your husband. Save him and fix the Crystal Kingdom."
  519. >"Do that and I can rest easy, knowing I managed to finally do something with this old body of mine."
  520. >"You were never..." Anonymous starts to reply, and you turn away.
  521. >Unable to watch this tearful reunion and goodbye, you quietly step out, closing the door behind you.
  522. >Despite your best efforts, you can't think of anything but Anonymous and the old stallion, tears starting to blur your vision.
  523. >Even though it is muffled by the door, a song sung in a soft, pure voice reaches your ears.
  524. >Unlike anything you have heard before, the song is a sad goodbye.
  525. >Low and mournful, it echoes throughout the house, but unlike equestrian songs, there is no magic in it, only pure emotion.
  526. >Unable to hold back anymore, you let the sadness overwhelm you, and your tears flow freely.
  527. >As the song comes to a close, the door opens and closes, before you hear a soft thump.
  528. >Sitting against the door, Anonymous weeps openly, and you walk over, nudging under her arms.
  529. >Like earlier, she hugs you tightly, but for a far different reason.
  530. "I'm sorry, I couldn't do..." She cuts you off with a shake of her head.
  531. >"You helped him save me. He told me to tell you that without you, he would have failed, and that...*sob* and you helped him achieve his greatest wish in life..."
  532. >She clings tighter, tears coming anew.
  533. >"Why him... why did he have to die... He was always there to say good morning to me, and he always listened to whatever problems I had..."
  534. >She picks you up, squeezing you against a pair of round, soft mounds on her chest as she walks to the couch.
  535. >"Always there to cheer me up... never asking for anything, despite how much he helped me..."
  536. "He sounds like he was very important to you."
  537. >With a sniffle, she nods, "He was like a second father to me. He let me stay with him, even though he was barely getting by on his own when I first got here."
  538. "I don't want to sound rude or anything, but where are you from? I've read every book in my library, and you don't match up with anything I've seen."
  539. >Wiping her nose, she lets go and nods.
  540. >"I guess a little history lesson might help take my mind off of..."
  541. >Before she can think about him, you rise to your hooves.
  542. "How about I make us some tea first, and we can talk while we calm down."
  543. >"Okay. He keeps the leaves in the third cupboard from the sink."
  544. >Setting a kettle to boil, you dig out some tea leaves, and set them aside for use.
  545. "How about we start with what are you?"
  546. >Looking out a window, a small smile tugs on Anonymous's mouth, "Ah, that brings me back. That was always everyp0nys first question, even though the answer was meaningless.
  547. >"I'm a human, a species evolved from monkeys and apes, but I'm the only one of my kind here."
  548. "How..."
  549. >"...Did I get here? I never knew myself, but with the magic here, I figure it was some kind of freak event. Where I'm from, there are only humans as sentient beings, though I can't remember a whole lot from then."
  550. "It has been over a thousand years, hasn't it?"
  551. >Shaking her head in what looks like an attempt to clear it, she puts her head in her hands.
  552. >The sharp whistle of the kettle cuts through the silence, and you quickly head over and fill the teapot.
  553. "I know it must be hard," you say, pouring a glass for her.
  554. >Glass spinning in her hands, she replies, "Yeah, but I need to get past this; I need to focus on how to get Sombra back to normal."
  555. >Sitting down at the table across from her, you sip slowly from your cup.
  556. "This might be an out of place question, but what are those things on your chest?" you ask, pointing at the offending objects.
  557. >"Not even going to take me for dinner and drinks first?" she says, another small smile forming.
  558. "Huh?"
  559. >"You ponies carry them a bit lower, like, down here," she motions to her hips, and you suddenly find yourself blushing.
  560. "Sorry, I didn't know..."
  561. >"Ha ha, don't worry, that was another of the really common questions I had to deal with. Not only that, you wouldn't believe how many stallions like a girl with big breasts."
  562. "Is that so? No wonder you had so many suitors."
  563. >"He was telling tales again, wasn't he?"
  564. >Her expression darkens a bit, but she quickly smiles again.
  565. >"I'm just glad he didn't change."
  566. "Old friends rarely do... FRIENDS!!"
  567. >It suddenly hits you that your friends are all currently missing, and you shoot to your hooves.
  568. "My friends! I have to find them!" you exclaim, and Anonymous stands as well.
  569. >"Let me help, since you helped me."
  570. "No, you should stay here. It's not safe for you to go, since you will probably be one of Sombra's main targets."
  571. >With a determined shake of her head, Anonymous says, "I need to. Something tells me you won't just be ignored either, so going together means we will both be safer."
  572. >Moved by her steadfast determination, even after just having lost somep0ny close to her, you can’t help but nod.
  573. "Alright, but if anything goes wrong, I want you to run first."
  574. >"Hey, I'm not going to let you go alone. I can handle myself if things get tough."
  575. "Right... just remember, without you, we probably don't have a chance to save Sombra."
  576. >Together, the two of you walk to the door, ready to face whatever may come at you.
  577. >Or so you hope...
  578.  
  579. Chapter 3
  580.  
  581. >Blinking past the bright sunlight, you and Twilight are shocked by the damage to the city.
  582. >Black crystals grow from every surface, many buildings barely recognizable.
  583. >As you watch, the crystals spread slowly, jutting from nearly every surface.
  584. >Touching one, it starts growing onto your hand, and Twilight smacks your hand off.
  585. >"Be careful Anonymous. We can't touch these or what happened to..."
  586. >A sharp pain grips your heart, and you clench a hand in front of it.
  587. "I will. Lets start looking for your friends."
  588. >Twilight looks around a moment, before rubbing the back of her head awkwardly.
  589. >"To tell you the truth, I have no idea where to start looking. Maybe you should lead for now."
  590. "Where to start," you mutter, thinking back to the time before encasement.
  591. "What kind of threat are your friends? To Sombra, that is."
  592. >"Ummm, well none of us are fighters or anything, if that's what you mean. Oh! We're also the bearers of the Elements of Harmony. Does any of that help?"
  593. "You're the bearers of the Elements! It's no wonder they were taken. You guys are the biggest threat to his existence there is, short of maybe that evil Luna."
  594. >Her ears turn back as she thinks about it, "That's kind of what my brother said, except for the evil Luna part."
  595. "At least that makes finding them easy," you say, joints popping as you stretch, "There's only one place he would keep them."
  596. >"So there won't be any problems rescuing them?"
  597. "I never said that; in fact, rescuing them is going to be incredibly hard."
  598. >"Oh..."
  599. >Before she can get depressed, you kneel and start petting her mane.
  600. >It seems kind of degrading, but everyp0ny you have done it to enjoys it.
  601. >Twilight is no exception, meaning no frown forms on her face.
  602. "We can't be getting depressed, like you said earlier, even if that means I have to pet you the whole time."
  603. >She smiles up at you and nods, "Alright. Let's go see if they are okay at least."
  604. >The path to the palace is littered with spires of black crystal, all of which are growing and spreading.
  605. >While you are focused on the path ahead, Twilight's eyes always wander, and she notices many ponies looking out of their windows, but trying to stay hidden.
  606. >"Ummm, I think we're being watched."
  607. >Looking around, you see the eyes as well, concern swelling up in your chest.
  608. "Don't they recognize me? Are they too scared to come out with what's going on?"
  609. >One of the doors opens and a young colt steps out.
  610. >Cautious of the crystals, he makes his way over and tugs at your nightgown.
  611. >"'scuse me, but are you really Queen Anonymous?"
  612. >He smiles as you kneel down and pat his head.
  613. "Yeah, it's me."
  614. >Rubbing into your hand, he asks, "Is everything going to be fine?"
  615. "I don't know, but believe me when I say I'm going to do everything I can do to fix all this."
  616. >He smiles and runs back to his house, before returning with his parents.
  617. >"My Queen, it is so good to see you well," they say, bowing before you.
  618. >Smiling, you reach out and pull them both into a hug.
  619. "I'm so glad to see so many ponies again and after all this, I'm glad to see you safe."
  620. >Shocked by your action, the stand there a moment, before hugging back slightly.
  621. >Standing on the side, you see Twilight looking around nervously, and you giggle.
  622. "Come on over, Twilight; you can get in on this hug too."
  623. >Scuffing a hoof, she looks around one more time, before walking over.
  624. >The two older ponies step back, and you grab and hug Twilight with only minimum consent.
  625. >The foal runs over and jumps up, and you include him in the hug as well.
  626. >Letting them go, you see doors opening all around, as ponies come out of their houses.
  627. >Muttering reaches your ears, and you catch words like "Queen... Returned... Free hugs..."
  628. >Ponies start to fill the streets, and you and Twilight are soon surrounded by your subjects.
  629. >Numerous ponies you remember from before come over, and you share hugs with all of them.
  630. >Amidst the reunions and celebrations, you feel Twilight your shoulder.
  631. >"Anonymous, we have to get going. Something is happening in the palace and we need to hurry before we are caught."
  632. >Following her gaze, you see a dark cloud reaching out from the top of the palace, heading in your direction.
  633. "I see," standing, you address the ponies here, "I'm glad you are all safe, but I have a mission right now, and I have to go. I want you all to promise me to be safe until I fix everything."
  634. >"We promise, Queen Anonymous!" they reply, "We wish you the best of luck and our hearts are with you!"
  635. >Starting off towards the palace again, you turn back to wave at all the ponies before they return inside.
  636. >"You are really popular with your subjects, Anonymous," Twilight says, walking alongside you.
  637. >Nodding silently in response, your gaze remains focused on the dark cloud.
  638. >The streets become more and more filled with black crystals, slowing your progress to a crawl.
  639. >"This isn't working Anonymous. Are there any other ways into the castle?"
  640. "A few, but..."
  641. >"But what?"
  642. "One is on the other side of the city, over in the main guard post. The other is..."
  643. >Your eyes wander to a ponyhole on the side of the street, and Twilight's follow yours.
  644. >"You don't mean..."
  645. "The other way is through the sewers..."
  646. >Both of you stare at the metal circle for a while, weighing if it's worth it.
  647. >"Well, I hear the crystal ponies take good care of their waste disposal systems..."
  648. "Yeah, we do try..."
  649. >Looking at each other, a sigh escapes both your lips.
  650. "I guess we should get started..."
  651. >"Yeah..."
  652. >Twilight lifts the cover, staring into the dank, pungent sewers.
  653. >"I'll go first, to make sure you can fit down here."
  654. >Helping her down into the hole, you watch as it becomes lit with a purple light.
  655. >The source of this light moves around a bit, before Twilight comes back into view, her horn glowing.
  656. >"It looks good, Anonymous. You can come down."
  657. >Lowering down into the hole, the first thing that hits you is the powerful aroma.
  658. "Ugh, this is almost as bad as I expected."
  659. >"Almost?"
  660. "I've smelled some nasty sewers before, and this one isn't too bad."
  661. >"You're a queen! What have you been doing in sewers?"
  662. "I wasn't always. Before arriving here, I used to live in a dead end kind of city, and the sewers often let out gas and those were some nasty smells."
  663. >"I see..." Twilight says, looking around, "So, which way do we have to go?"
  664. "Towards the palace right now. It only gets confusing when you get close."
  665. >With a bob of her head, Twilight starts off down the narrow walkway.
  666. >The purple light from her horn throws strange shadows on the wall, both from Twilight and yourself, and you keep catching yourself glancing around nervously.
  667. >Through the sewers you travel and the closer to the palace you get, the more you see the strange shadows and the closer you edge in towards Twilight.
  668. >Something scurries past, and you can't help but let out an *Eeek!* and grab Twilight.
  669. >"Where did all that bravado from earlier go?" Twilight asks, just a hint of a smile coming through.
  670. "I... I can't stand the dark, okay. Being trapped in that crystal didn't help either."
  671. >Rearing up, she hugs around your waist, saying, "Don't worry, I'll stay right here beside you."
  672. >Hugging back, you let out a small laugh.
  673. "I guess the shoe is on the other foot now, huh?"
  674. >Separating, the two of you begin walking again, heading straight for the palace, until you come across a large round chamber with a dozen or more connecting tubes.
  675. >"Which way now?" Twilight asks, the glow from her horn increasing to light the entire room.
  676. "Umm... Now what was it..."
  677. >"What was what?"
  678. "The passageways are marked to show directions, in case the royal family needed to escape."
  679. >"And which one leads into the palace?"
  680. "Let me see... The flower lead to the barracks, the shield to the south edge..."
  681. >Running through all the symbols, you watch as Twilight marks each one with a tiny glowing spell.
  682. "Grrrr... Why can't I remember..."
  683. >Twilight pats your back, trying to act consoling.
  684. >"Don't stress yourself, Anonymous. You've ruled out almost all the directions, so maybe seeing the other symbols will jog something?"
  685. "Maybe..."
  686. >Following her along the wall, you stare at the symbols as they pass, the ones you remember only solidifying your affirmation of their direction.
  687. >The ones you don't bring faint flashes of memories, but nothing that could tell you which way to go.
  688. >Three symbols remain un-attached to a direction, a tree, a diamond and a bell.
  689. >"We have a one in three chance of getting it right, can't we just guess?"
  690. "Yes, but..."
  691. >"Then don't worry. If we're wrong, we can just come back and take a different path."
  692. >With a silent nod, you agree, and follow her as she heads for one of the unlit paths.
  693. >The path she chooses is the one marked with the crystal, the reasoning seeming pretty obvious to you.
  694. >Through twists and turns, you follow closely behind Twilight, the sounds of your feet and her hooves against the floor are the only ones heard.
  695. >Soon, the path comes to a stop at a solid stone wall.
  696. >"It looks like we'll have to go back and try one of the other tunnels."
  697. "I don't know about that..." you say, running a hand along the wall.
  698. >Increasing the strength of her light, she starts looking with you and asks, "Is it hidden?
  699. "Yes, but not by magic. It was crafted to look like the wall, but press in the right area and..."
  700. >There's a click as your hand sinks in slightly, part of the wall moving aside.
  701. >Peering into the darkness beyond, Twilight sends a small ball of light down the passageway.
  702. >Square walls line the corridor, rather than the rounded ones in the sewers, and you slowly step inside.
  703. >"It looks like I chose the right path," she comments, stepping in behind you.
  704. "Looks that way."
  705. >Quickly catching up to where Twilight's ball stopped, it's absorbed before you carry on, deeper into the passage.
  706. >Fifty feet beyond where Twilight absorbed the orb, you find a door blocking your path.
  707. >"Anything we should worry about with this?" Twilight asks, looking up at you.
  708. "Nothing I can remember, but he could have set up all manners of traps or alarms on this by now."
  709. >"Only one way to find out, right?"
  710. >Reaching up to take the doorknob, you grab her hoof to stop her.
  711. "I should probably do it, just in case there are any old traps, since they don't activate for those of the royal bloodline."
  712. >"Good idea."
  713. >Carefully grabbing the cold, metal knob, you turn it slowly until it clicks, and the door starts to swing open.
  714. >Without a sound, you slowly push the door fully open, a bright light filling the tunnel from the revealed room.
  715. >While your eyes adjust to the light, you hear Twilight gasp and push past you.
  716. >"Applejack! Rarity! Fluttershy! Pinkie! Rainbow! Can you girls hear me?"
  717. >Attached to a massive door by iron shackles, five ponies all hang, seemingly lifelessly save for erratic twitching and whimpers.
  718. >Twilight rushes forward to help, but you stop her before she can touch the door.
  719. "You can't!" you exclaim, pulling her back, "They say any who touch that door will loose their mind to madness."
  720. >"We don't have any choice, Anonymous," she snaps back, “we have to rescue them if we want to be able to use the elements to help save Sombra and the Crystal Kingdom."
  721. >Her reasoning is true, and you let go, allowing her to run to her friends.
  722. >She first reaches a white unicorn, but the moment she touches them, she freezes.
  723. "Twilight? Are you alright?"
  724. >You don't get a response, her body not moving an inch, and you edge forwards, always eyeing the door.
  725. "Hey, Twil..." reaching out to shake her shoulder, the moment your fingers make contact, images flood into your head.
  726. >Recoiling from the visual overload, you stumble back and fall on your butt.
  727. >Despite this, Twilight doesn't so much as twitch, and you get up and walk over again.
  728. >This time, you dive at Twilight, trying to knock her away, but like last time, the moment you touch, images start flooding into your head.
  729. >Fighting through, everything locks into place, and you find yourself standing in the middle of what looks like Canterlot Square.
  730. >Bound to the ground by ankle chains, a, what you can only guess was white, unicorn stands.
  731. >All around them are burning pile and countless fancy looking ponies throwing dresses and suits into the flames.
  732. >Approaching, you see the unicorns coat is covered in splotches of black and red.
  733. >Black, where vulgarities and insults have been written, and red where patches of fur have been ripped out, leaving tender, swollen skin revealed.
  734. >"Come on, Rarity, snap out of it!" Twilight calls, rushing up to the ponies side.
  735. >Running up after her, you finally get a good look at what has been done to her.
  736. >A big black X is drawn over her cutie mark, and beside it is a crude drawing of a stallions cock.
  737. >Her mane and tail look like they were attacked by a pair of rusty scissors, and her face is swollen and bruised.
  738. >"Rarity, I know you can hear me, please, just answer."
  739. >Looking around, you see Twilight in the crowd, and you tap the one next to you on the shoulder.
  740. "She might not even see you, Twilight, look."
  741. >Pointing out at the other Twilight, your Twilight looks at where you indicate.
  742. >"But then... how am I supposed to...?"
  743. "I don't know, but maybe she will see me if I try. I don't see myself out there, and maybe I can convince her to change the dream, or whatever this is."
  744. >"It's worth a shot; go for it, Anonymous."
  745. "Alright, anything about her I should know? Something that may help pull her to reality?"
  746. >"Well, she's a seamstress and a self proclaimed fashionista. Oh, she also likes to go to the spa often with Fluttershy."
  747. >Taking a deep breath, you quickly straighten your hair and clothes, before you hear Twilight cough.
  748. >Stepping in front of Rarity, you kneel down, and tilt her face up to look at yours.
  749. "Are you the Miss Rarity I have heard so much about? I've been looking for a suitable seamstress to help expand my royal wardrobe, and I have had many recommendations for you."
  750. >Her eyes slowly focus on you, her mind processing what you asked.
  751. >"I... No, I mean, I am Rarity, but..." she starts, her mind and words sluggish.
  752. "Well, if you are her, why can you not create something for me? Is my stature to difficult for you to deal with?"
  753. >"It's not that, I just..."
  754. "Then it should be no problem for a fashionista like yourself, correct?"
  755. >She looks down at her hooves and says, "Yes, but..."
  756. "But what? You're at your workshop, are you not?"
  757. >"No, I'm... yes, I guess I am..."
  758. >Twilight looks around shocked, as the environment has changed from Canterlot to a smallish workshop, laden with fabrics.
  759. "So, can you start making something?"
  760. >Some measuring tapes float up, and she starts, "I need to measure..."
  761. "But isn't that what that mannequin is for? I remember you made that specially for me and my clothing," you say, pointing to an empty corner.
  762. >As she looks, a human mannequin appears, and she nods as if suddenly remembering, "Oh, right, well I'll get started..."
  763. "Why? Isn't it that there that you're holding?"
  764. >A dress suddenly appears, held in her magic, and she looks at it, before floating it to you.
  765. "Thank you, Rarity, now come, we have a date at the spa with Fluttershy."
  766. >She nods again, and everything suddenly twists, as you find yourself back in the dungeon.
  767. >With a click, the shackles holding Rarity unlock, before vanishing, dropping her onto the ground.
  768. >Twilight helps you pull her away, before turning to you.
  769. >"How'd you do that? I mean, make her change the dream or hallucination or whatever?"
  770. "It was an old hypnosis thing I remembered seeing once. It only works on sleepy or out of it people or ponies, but really fast, strong suggestions or information will overwhelm the mind, and make it try to answer or accommodate that info."
  771. >"I get it, so you made her think she was at her workshop, and then you just sped her through the steps, until you could maybe snap her out of it."
  772. "Yeah, I think. I was just kinda spamming the A button in my head, trying to speed through stuff."
  773. >"A button?"
  774. "Human thing, sorry."
  775. >A groan from Rarity snaps you away from your discussion, and you kneel down and help support her.
  776. >"Hey Rarity, are you feeling okay?"
  777. >With some shaking and groaning, she slowly comes too, eyes fluttering open, looking up at you.
  778. >"Q...queen Anonymous, I finished your dress," she says, holding up an empty hoof.
  779. "And you did a wonderful job; now, please rest for a bit."
  780. >She nods sleepily, before laying down, her breathing becoming regular.
  781. "Who should we help next?"
  782. >"Ummm..."
  783. >Her gaze flickers between her friends, indecision clearly visible on her face.
  784. "How about I pick, so you don't have to choose between friends?"
  785. >She nods and you walk over to the door, standing in front of a rainbow maned pegasus.
  786. >Twilight joins you, and together you touch her.
  787. >Like with Rarity, you're overloaded with visual stimuli but force through until everything locks into place.
  788. >Also like with Rarity, the pony is bound in place by ankle shackles.
  789. >This time though, the damage is far more severe.
  790. >A pool of blood lies under her hooves, small streams trickling down from her sides; the source being a pair of mangled stumps on her back.
  791. >What you can only assume are her wings are being passed around by the ponies that are and were bound to the door.
  792. >"Look at me! I'm the fastest pony in Equestria!" a pink earth pony taunts, flapping the wings while holding them out like a bird.
  793. >"S... stop it, give them back!" the pegasus says, fighting against her binds.
  794. >The wings are passed on to a yellow pegasus, who drops them in the dirt.
  795. >"I'd rather have all my fur and feathers ripped out than use these pieces of junk," she says, kicking them over to the next pony.
  796. "Do you have any ideas Twilight?" you ask, turning away form the slightly macabre display being put on by the orange pony.
  797. >"Can you do that command hypnosis thing again?"
  798. "I don't think so; she seems too aware for it to work."
  799. >She sighs before turning back to the group.
  800. >"Hey, I'm not there!" she comments, a trace amount of sadness appearing in her tone, "If it's supposed to be her friends there, why aren't I there?"
  801. "I don't mean to sound rude, but maybe she doesn't consider you a friend?" you point out, and Twilight shakes her head.
  802. >"I know I'm her friend. Maybe it means I can communicate with her this time."
  803. >Walking over, she joins into the circle with the others, and the wings are passed to her.
  804. >"Come on Twilight, give them to me. We all know the princesses are grooming you to be an Alicorn, you don't need my wings," the pony says, looking at her.
  805. >Holding up the wings in her magic, Twilight holds them out towards Rainbow and says, "You're right, I don't need them. Besides, these are yours, and nop0ny else’s."
  806. >The others dive towards Twilight, but are repelled by a shield, and Twilight places the wings back in their proper spot.
  807. >Glowing bandages form and bind around their bases and as Twilight's spell ends, the wings retract to their normal position.
  808. >"GIVE THOSE BACK! THEY'RE OURS!" Rarity yells, her magic trying to grab the wings.
  809. >It fails though, as the glow of the bandages erase her magic as it gets close.
  810. >Twilight smiles at the pony and says, "Come on Dash, fly. I know you can."
  811. >"Yeah, but..."
  812. >"Look, I may not be the Element of Honesty," Twilight starts, glaring at Applejack, "But I would hope that you would trust my judgement, so please, just fly."
  813. >Uncertainly, Dash opens her wings, and when they don't fall off immediately, a bit of a smile forms and she gives a few experimental flaps.
  814. >The four other ponies let out otherworldly screeches, before vanishing as Dash takes off, hovering just above the ground.
  815. >Dash hugs Twilight, saying, "Thanks Twi, I guess you're my only real friend."
  816. >Hugging back, Twilight replies, "No, those weren't really them, this is just a nightmare to torture you."
  817. >Everything suddenly shifts, and you and Twilight are back in the dungeon, the shackles holding Dash click before vanishing.
  818. >Her eyes open for a moment, and she weakly asks, "Is that true, Twi?"
  819. >"Of course it is. Now rest, please."
  820. >Fluttering closed, her eyes droop, and the rest of her follows, Twilight laying her down next to Rarity.
  821. "Two down, Three to go..." you say, looking at the remaining ponies on the door.
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