Shh No Tears

 

Applejack blinked groggily. It was well past dawn—why had she overslept? She realized that she was holding Rarity, in her sleep, and looking up at Rainbow Dash.

“I’m sorry,” said Dash. “I need help…”

Rarity stirred and made a complain-y noise that would have been better suited to her cat. Applejack gulped. “Help with what, Dashie?”

“I can’t get Twilight to move. It’s pretty bad.”

The next thing Applejack knew, she was trotting on sleep-wobbly hooves around the bank of the pond, alongside Dash, and Rarity was running to catch up with them, calling “But what is the matter with her?”

Twilight was huddled under the bough of a tree, and her lip quivered as she peered up at her three friends. She’d been crying.

“I’m so scared…” she said.

Applejack’s ears were laid back in dismay. “Uh… guess all this has got a lil’ bit too much for ya?”

Twilight gulped. “The last time I saw Princess Celestia, she hated me. She was so angry. And now I’m about to confront her, and, and, and… how can I do that when I still love her?”

That silenced all the ponies—except Rainbow Dash.

“Listen. You have to let go of that, okay? You love Trixie too. We’re here to help you. Whatever it is, you can face it. Take it from me, okay? I would know.”

There was a funny, bitter tone to her voice, and Applejack glanced at her, but Rainbow wouldn’t look away from Twilight and her jaw was set. She looked quite fierce.

Twilight looked up to meet Dash’s eyes, taking in the pain, the determination—remembering things she’d said, when it was just the two of them. ‘I have a lot to think about. You can help me be brave, okay?’ ‘Hurts and won’t stop. Yeah, you nailed it…’ ‘and even if I am never able to be happy again, let me tell you that I was awesome and I will keep that within my heart’.

Dash’s eyes were battle flags—banners to the cause of defending something, even when you’d lost the irreplacable. They burned into Twilight’s, calling her to battle, demanding that she face the pain of losing her mentor so she could defend her lover.

Twilight sank into those eyes. She still felt tiny and helpless, but Rainbow Dash’s bleak, fierce gaze told her that was not an excuse. There would be no note to bring to teacher, granting permission to stay home and skip the test.

She wasn’t the only one being tested, either. Twilight realized the other two ponies looked sleepy. Rainbow had gone into their leafy bower, where they were together, and woken them just to enlist their aid, where the previous night she’d fled the very suggestion of Applejack and Rarity being so intimate. That clearly was hard for Dash to face, and yet there they were: standing over Twilight, expecting her to get up, travel the rest of the way and finish the job.

And Rainbow Dash, defiant, staring down at her with understanding and forgiveness but somehow that expectation which said—you WILL rise and face all this, no less than I have…

Twilight began to cry again, but put out a forehoof, lifted herself, stood forlorn before her friends, her tail hanging low, her ears drooping.

Rarity yawned. “Anyhow, darling, it may be something quite unexpected. No? You simply cannot assume the worst.”

“All I can see is Princess Celestia raging at me,” said Twilight, but still she followed the others back to their camp, Rainbow Dash staying close by her side.

They hit the trail, Dash flying reconnaissance more and more as dragon territory approached. They ran hard, alternating between a canter and a gallop, knowing their danger. Their safety depended on the fact that dragons tended to be too isolated to organize border guards. Their risk was the fact that dragons hated trespass worse than most organized species.

Their luck was in—they only had to hide under trees and bushes three times. They rested well, each time, both to ensure the passing draconic shape had flown well away, and because Rainbow Dash knew that where they were going, there was no pausing, no rest, and no ground cover at all…


Trixie lay in the dark.

Thinking wasn’t going well.

No matter what she did, she could not forget Twilight Sparkle. Admittedly, this was a sad and strange thing to try to do, but Trixie figured it was the last step to going utterly mad and losing herself entirely. She’d been working at it all night, in despair, knowing her tormentor Princess Luna would return. She had no stomach for more mind games she was doomed to lose, and longed to reject the whole thing, to present her personal Nightmare Moon with an empty shell: the husk of a Lulamoon, all spirit fled.

It wasn’t working, because when she got down to the core of herself, there was a faith there which wasn’t hers to betray. She could not both honor Twilight’s memory, and remove herself as Nightmare Moon’s prey. That part of her which loved Twilight remained vulnerable. Beautiful, innocent Twilight hadn’t rejected her or gone away—Trixie had been stolen from her, and found she could not let go of the connection they had, even if it proved the fracture that would destroy Trixie in the end.

Having tried to discard all her weaknesses and confound Princess Luna, Trixie found herself all weakness, trembling in the dark from her longing to be with Twilight Sparkle again. She felt that she’d pleasure Luna for hours given just the slightest promise that she could see Twilight, even hear about her and how she was doing, sad as that might be. She would grovel and do anything, even just to know Twilight was okay, for she’d stripped away everything but the yearning of her heart that would not die.

Anything, if Princess Luna promised to let her see Twilight, or hear about Twilight. And Princess Luna would not lie to her. She’d made a point of not lying to her. So if she did make promises about Twilight, then Trixie could believe them. Right?

With a lurch of her psyche, Trixie realized her weakness was setting her up—she was already rationalizing what she would do for Luna to get what she had to have—news of her love. It had been—days? weeks? Trixie wasn’t sure—and already she was breaking, already she was bargaining, and there was only one possible outcome.

She would end up serving Nightmare Moon, endlessly, swooning over her alicorn magnificence, and frolicking for her amusement to gain smaller and smaller concessions.

She’d frisk and bat her eyelashes and flirt her tail and beg, “Say it, oh Mistress, please say it! Just say the words!” And Nightmare Moon would half-smile, and croon, “Twilight Sparkle.”

And she would likely quiver, and moan, “Trixie loves the way YOU say it!” and return to pleasuring her new owner…

Trixie’s eyes flooded with tears. She bit her lip, hard, and considered getting up and charging headlong at a wall, but she wasn’t sure she could gallop.

And so, she lay in the dark, savagely telling herself that everything was gone. There would be no Twilight Sparkle. If she appeared, it would be a vision. Nightmare Moon would torment her with illusions, perhaps one day would even bring Twilight into her presence to torture her, and it meant nothing, for she would never be free again—except through her total rejection of her fate.

Trixie’s mind grew darker than the blackness surrounding her. She retained enough awareness of time to suspect that Luna would be returning again before very long.


Twilight galloped for all she was worth. There hadn’t been ground cover for the last twenty minutes. Her nerves shrieked with tension as she cried out, “Again!”

The four ponies clattered to a halt on the rocky terrain, and with practiced speed, Rarity yanked her bit from her pack, Twilight chomped it, her magic stallionhood shot forth, and she concentrated on the arcanomorphic field she sought.

“I think it’s just over this ridge! We’re right on top of it!” said Twilight, and the four ponies charged off, scanning the horizon frantically.

Rainbow galloped hard, limbering up her wings as she ran. She had stayed grounded for the last half hour, knowing that a speck in the sky might attract attention, but she also knew she had to be ready at any moment. She hadn’t told the others, but Rainbow had a plan. If a hostile dragon turned up, she intended to take to the air and fight it so the others could escape.

She wondered what it would feel like to be flamed in mid-flight, and then chewed up before she even hit the ground—and possibly before she was dead. They got more territorial the farther you got into dragon country and the more crowded they were with each other, and they were well within dragon country. She wondered if she’d be a big enough snack—and if she could be enough of a distraction that her friends would go entirely unnoticed. Dragons weren’t stupid, so bucking one in the nose would not render it unaware of what else it had seen running around—but if she flew up thrashing her mane and tail so wildly that it did not even spot her friends in the first place?

Rainbow ran on, grimly rehearsing her plan. If that’s what it had to be—it would be epic, at least. It would hurt, really bad. And so what?

They topped the ridge, and Applejack cried, “There! Th’ cave!”

It wasn’t even a dragon cave—at least, not dragon-sized. The entrance was big enough for a pony to climb into, and they did—first Twilight, then Rarity, then Applejack, and lastly Rainbow, still scanning the sky.

Darkness was lit by Twilight’s horn, and the four ponies panted, shaking and exhausted.

“We made it! We’re safe!” panted Applejack.

“Safe in a dragon’s cave,” pointed out Rainbow Dash. “Doesn’t sound too safe to me!”

“Is this the correct one, Twilight? Check, do!” said Rarity.

Twilight took the offered magic bit, and clamped it between her teeth, focussing her mind. There was total silence, and then she began walking down into the depths of the cave, the other three following her anxiously.

“Uh…” said Dash.

Twilight didn’t stop. She began trotting faster, glaring at the wall to her right. The glow from her horn doubled, then tripled, as she muttered spells.

“Whatcha doin’, Twi?” said Applejack.

“Dens’ty calc’lation…”

They’d gotten to a much wider area that opened onto still more cavernous space, and Dash peered nervously into that darkness. Twilight paced back and forth, put a forehoof up on the wall, and then spit the bit out. Rarity, attentive, caught it before it hit the ground.

“It’s behind this,” said Twilight.

Applejack blinked. “In th’ wall?”

“It’s hollow. There’s another cave behind it, a big one. The wall is rock, but it’s really thin here…”

Dash’s jaw dropped, and she made a choked noise of complete horror, and squeaked “No!”, but Applejack had already whirled—and kicked.

The crack of hooves against rock resounded. It reverberated off into the distance, showing that the complex of caves was indeed vast—and just when it was dying away entirely into the silence of four ponies’ held breath, it changed.

A deep voice rumbled sleepily and wordlessly. Something huge shifted position—and a magic glow flicked on, in the distance, around a bend in the interconnected caves.

Twilight’s eyes were wild. “Rarity! Can you do this spell? It’s a rock-to-earth spell.”

“I think so… yes!”

“Applejack, Rainbow, dig!” hissed Twilight. She began frying the rock wall with magic, fiercely converting the unyielding stone to soft sandy dirt. Rarity did likewise, and earth pony and pegasus crowded together to tear away at the softened area…

The dragon’s voice rumbled again—not sleepily.

“Who’s that?”

The four ponies froze for an instant, and then Rainbow Dash’s face went grim and hard. “Applejack, dig!” she said. “I’ll distract it.”

“No!”

“I’ll lead it away, I swear…”

“No you don’t,” said Applejack, “it’s too dangerous… Rainbow!”

But she had already gone, flying towards the telltale glow of the dragon’s magic illumination .

“Applejack! She’s gonna come back here. Make there be a hole to get into when she does!” begged Twilight.

Applejack scowled horribly—and resumed digging, twice as hard, all the while peeking to her left at the glow in the distance.


Luna had returned—walking out of the darkness, casting light before her as she went.

Trixie watched, stolidly, as her tormentor walked calmly up to stand there, towering over her, looking down with every appearance of concern.

“How are you doing, little Lulamoon? Have you been thinking?”

Trixie didn’t respond. Luna sighed.

“Of course you have. May I inquire—purely as a formality—if there is anything I can do for you?”

Trixie didn’t even shift her gaze. Luna hung her head.

“It’s like that, is it? Very well—I shall join you. We can mope together. And just as I cannot or will not help you with your problem, consider that you cannot or will not help me with mine—and how similar that makes us, in so many ways.”

There was no reply from Trixie. Luna did not expect it. Solemnly, she laid down beside Trixie, and after one sidelong glance, devoted herself to staring into the same nothing her Lulamoon studied.

They waited, without knowing there was anything to wait for, and time passed in their unwillingly shared silence.


Rainbow Dash flew madly through the winding caves. Why did they have to loop around? She had to stick to areas big enough for a full-blown dragon to fit into, but it had led her back to where she’d started, she was about to lead the dragon right onto her friends! Desperately, she swerved left into empty, dark space. She had to stay far enough ahead of the dragon to not be eaten, but near enough that the magic light it was casting allowed her to see where she was flying. It was insanely stressful. In open spaces she could see fine, but that was because the dragon was intentionally casting light near her so it could target her…

The light zoomed up behind her, a glowing draconic orb of magical power, and burst into the cavern, illuminating it completely.

Dead end.

Rainbow Dash dropped to the ground, trotted in place turning this way and that, backed up farther and farther until she was against the wall…

The dragon appeared at the entrance to the cavern, blocking it almost completely.

“Well, well, well. And what shall I do with you?”

Dash gulped, and then went for it. Blaze of glory time—if she was going to die, she would die in style, and like herself, not some pitiful prey animal. Audacity and awesomeness and Rainbow Dash radical extremeness…

Dash blinked.

The dragon blinked. It was no fool, and could see the little pony had got an idea. There was no mistaking the startled look, the lift of the little fluttery wings, the flick of the tail. Not only was it an idea, it was an unexpected idea—and animals about to be eaten so rarely had anything of the sort, they tended to panic and be ruled by instinct to the last.

Rainbow hopped into the air, and flew deliberately right up to the dragon’s face, counting on her radicalness to save her until she could speak—and said it.

“Don’t kill me. Fuck me!”

Draconic jaw dropped. It snorted a puff of flame in shock, perhaps belching it from the stores it had been working up for her demise. “What? What did you just suggest?”

“Ha! Didn’t see that one coming! And I do mean coming! C’mon, let me add to my list. It’s all I’ve got nowadays. I did a griffon, but she hardly counts ‘cos she’s an old flame—get it? old flame? And I had a Diamond Dog, that’s really weird! Did you know they get stuck in you? They swell up. It’s kinda hot. Except he did a bad thing, he was biting my wings. Not the wings, okay? I’ll let you fuck me but keep off the wings…”

The dragon’s ears showed complete perplexity. “If I am not mistaken, you are a pegasus pony. What exactly do you think I’m going to do with you?”

Dash grinned, more than a bit manically. “Hey, there’s lots of things we could do!” She flew down to land on the rocky floor, and stuck her butt into the air, wiggling it, grinning back over her shoulder. She winked. Then, she winked. “Want the list?”

“There’s a list?” blinked the dragon.

“There is now!” insisted Rainbow Dash. “Okay, for starters, maybe your penis is bigger than my whole body—unless you’re a girl, I can’t tell—but I could rub myself all over it. Or, we might be able to fit one of your clawtips in me. Or, oooh! That’s a forked tongue, I saw it! A pointy forked tongue. I had a friend.. uh, I mean, I’ve got a friend who does great things with her tongue. How’s about poking that tongue into a little pegasus pussy and tasting pony in the right way for a start… uh, I mean, for a change?”

The dragon stared at her, stunned. It spoke. “Strange does not begin to describe you. I’ve never even heard of such a thing before.”

“C’mon! I’m beggin’ ya. Don’t just flame me—DO me then flame me! Or, just… lick all over my body for a while first? Like, eat me quick, but eat me OUT for a long time first, give me a nice sendoff, okay? Please, that would be so fucking hot…”

“The alarming thing,” said the dragon, “is that you are not joking.”

“Of course I’m not!”

“No,” said the dragon. “I mean, I can smell you. It’s not the stink of fear, either. You are sexually aroused at the thought of being penetrated by the tip of my tongue, or having me lick your body all over. Pony, what is the matter with you?”

Rainbow’s bravado began to fray. “Hey, don’t you mean, what is awesome with me? You know?”

The dragon shook its head, solemnly. “Not likely. You’re not even trying to protect yourself. You’ve become so aroused. Frankly, it’s got me more curious than I’ve been in hundreds of years.”

“To… to taste hot pegasus pussy?”

“No. What I really want to know is what broke you this badly, to make you want to combine sex with death?”

Rainbow looked back at the dragon, eyes wide, defenseless—and then, she sagged to the floor and began to cry, and then bawl.

Seeing this, the dragon reached out, extended a claw, and nudged her tiny pony body, with surprising gentleness and caution. “Seriously. Food’s common. Weird is more uncommon. Why are you doing this? How did you even get in here?”

Rainbow sobbed, “Lost my… one love… now we’re gonna die, it’s all for nothing, couldn’t even help Twilight with hers…”

“Help who? Help what? Answer. Who are ‘we’, pony?”

“My friends… we’re rescuing Twilight’s lover, somepony stole her and brought her here…”

The dragon stiffened. “Repeat that.”

Rainbow sniffled, sprawled forlornly on the cold rock floor. “I told you! We’re just here to rescue a friend. Sort of a friend. It’s weird. She’s weird.”

“A pony friend?”

“A unicorn. Twilight’s marefriend. Named Trixie.”

The dragon cared nothing for such details. Other details interested it more. “This is my lair. I know every inch of it, little pony. Explain how anyone could bring a pony here without my knowing about it.”

“There’s a secret cave behind the wall…”

The dragon snorted fire. It burst forth and puffed across Rainbow Dash where she lay, and she squealed and thrashed, but the next thing she knew, the dragon was prodding her with that huge claw again, blowing cooler air across her to rejuvenate her—and demanding answers.

“What secret cave? Tell me! Where? How do you know? Where is the secret cave?”

“Near here, where we came in, that little entrance…”

“The ventilation hole?”

“Twilight’s able to locate her, and she found a place where the wall was thin—she’s being held captive in there…”

The dragon froze for a moment, its head held high as it thought, and then it bent and spoke to Rainbow, up close. “You hope to free this captive, then, and take her away from here?”

Rainbow nodded.

“Do it. Digging through a wall, eh? You have one day. Then I will come, smash in all walls, and scour everything with fire. Go get your pony friend, and get out of here before then. I have spoken.”

Rainbow gasped. “Really?”

“Would you rather I did it right now? It’s tempting.”

“No!” squeaked Dash. “No, we’ll do it! Ohmygosh. Thank you! Really? I mean, thanks!”

“For things we have in common, and for the courtesy of telling me. There will be no infestations of ponies in here, not at a time like this! Always buzzing around your head or skittering across the ground, growing little gardens wherever they go and stealing… priceless things.” The dragon glowered, terrifyingly. “Do it quickly before I lose all sympathy.”

Rainbow gulped, and looked up at the dragon with big, adorable eyes. “Thank you for not eating me?”

The dragon hesitated, and then—“Pregnant pegasus is a morally distressing delicacy. I don’t approve of it, even if I were not gravid with egg myself. It’s… tacky.”

Rainbow Dash’s heart stopped for a moment.

“I’m not pregnant,” she said. “Diamond Dogs can’t mate with ponies.”

The dragon narrowed her eyes, and tapped her nose with a claw. “I smell no Diamond Dog in you. Just pregnant pony. Go help your friends.”

Dash’s eyes widened—as she remembered back to a happier time, before the Diamond Dog, before any of that. A day when she’d lost everything, a morning when she’d seemed to have everything. A tryst on a clifftop with Big Macintosh, and how she’d ordered him fiercely not to touch her wings. And earlier that morning, for a solid hour, until she could barely walk and those same wings were quivering nibbled wrecks…

Applejack.

The dragon stared, perplexed and frustrated. Her patience was thin, and she wanted nothing more than to clear all the ponies out of her lair immediately. Yet, something she’d said to this pregnant pegasus mare had made her stand, trembling and shaking, speechless and stunned—to the point where she was not even trying to flee an annoyed dragon, when told to leave.

She prodded the tiny creature’s butt with a claw. The pegasus pony walked a step, and froze, shaking, again.

But a deal was a deal.

“Pony. Go help your friends, NOW. You have one day to do that. Starting… a few minutes ago.”

That did the trick. The little creature squeaked, took to the air, and zipped past her towards the ventilation shaft, where they’d apparently got in.

The dragon grumbled, and headed back to her bedroom. She was gonna have to put in screens.


“We have a day!” cried Rainbow Dash, flying up to where Twilight, Rarity and Applejack labored.

“Oh my gosh, Rainbow!” said Twilight. “You smell of dragon-fire! Are you okay?”

“We made an agreement,” said Dash. “We have to get Trixie out of here. Dig!”

“We are!” protested Rarity. “I’ve been helping Applejack. Twilight’s eyes have been glowing, and she’s able to transmute the stone so fast it takes both of us to dig it. You can help, too!”

There was a little tunnel already, and Rainbow stuck her head down it. In the dimness, she saw Applejack, facing her.

“Applejack, I…”

Applejack gritted her teeth, and gave a mighty buck to the end of the tunnel—and light shone through, all at once.

“WE’RE IN!” she cried, and Rainbow squeaked again as first Twilight, then Rarity, burst past her to charge through the tunnel and into the secret cavern.


Trixie blinked. She was seeing double, and felt too weak to rise—but she was sure she heard a sound. She couldn’t help it—she looked over to see Luna’s reaction, though she knew it could be a trick.

Luna was staring at a point across the cavern. Trixie looked too. But was that what she was expected to do? To respond to the trick?

There was a little puff of dust and debris, and a muffled shout, and the next thing Trixie knew, Princess Luna was standing in the way, obstructing her view. But something was happening—unless it only seemed to be happening. Trixie tried to decide whether to focus, or to ignore everything. Passing out seemed like a third option, too.

Luna stood, jaw set, staring across the cavern. Of course. A rescue party. They’d probably tracked the magic bit. They would have to be handled.

First out of the tunnel came Applejack. Then, predictably, Twilight Sparkle. Her eyes glowed white, and her rage was incandescent as she saw who awaited her, and she shrieked, “YOU!” and began to gallop across the floor. Rarity emerged from the tunnel, as Applejack began to flank her. And then—Rainbow Dash, who looked unbelievably upset, and who looked around frantically before her eyes fixed on Applejack with an expression of heart-in-throat worry.

Princess Luna moved fast—though she did not, physically, move at all.

Her horn flared out, intolerably bright, and Twilight Sparkle slammed into a nonmaterial wall of force. She whinnied in fury, kicked at it, and then lowered her head and began mage-wrestling Luna, forcing the wall back with impossible, alicorn-like force fueled by her passion and desperation. That was one pony down—but not out. Rarity was charging on her right, and Applejack flanking on the left, and Rainbow Dash was the wild card, capable of moving with incredible speed and destructiveness.

Luna’s horn fired a bolt of crackling energy, in an instant of brilliant tactical genius through reading the situation at a glance—and Applejack went down hard, sprawling like a sack of potatoes flung across the floor.

And Rainbow Dash shrieked, “APPLEJACK!” and could not do anything but rush to her side, hysterical.

“Rarity! Shields!” snarled Twilight. She gritted her teeth, eyes filled with hate, driving back Princess Luna’s wall of force with sheer willpower and focus. Rarity gulped, and materialized a shield, knowing it wasn’t a spell she’d mastered, counting on Twilight’s attack to neutralize much of Luna’s energies.

“No! Applejack, please!” wailed Rainbow Dash.

Alarmed, Rarity looked over at the limp earth pony form and the despairing pegasus clinging to it—left alive to cry out her anguish distractingly—and then, bright energy struck her, and she collapsed.

Twilight focussed harder and harder, stepping forward, turning herself into a magical killing machine fit to destroy an alicorn, something without a heart to break or a shred of mercy to distract her from her task. She took another step, her eyes flaring blindingly, while Luna held her ground, the mage-wrestle amping up to unthinkable power…

“Whyy-hyyyyy?” cried Rainbow Dash, as if she was being torn apart not just emotionally but literally, her scream of grief speaking of agony too terrible to be borne. She’d tilted her head back and cried out to the air somewhere beyond the rocky ceiling that proved the tomb of all her dreams.

Twilight glanced to the side, just for an instant, her heart wrung.

Twilight went down.

Luna’s head dropped, and she panted. Behind her, Trixie stirred, and managed to croak, “What…” from a parched and wasted throat.

“Hush,” said Princess Luna. “We are not finished.”

She rose, and walked quietly over to Rainbow Dash, who trembled all over as she looked up at her enemy, whose eyes were wide and defenseless as she clung to the warm body of her beloved—who spoke, quaveringly and earnestly.

“Kill me too… I can’t stand this, I can’t…”

“Shhh,” said Princess Luna. “No tears.”

There was no blinding bolt of energy this time—but Rainbow Dash collapsed across Applejack’s body, still holding her.

Trixie was trying to get up. Luna didn’t object—and seemed chastened, downcast.

“Are they dead?” asked Trixie, her voice cutting the silence.

Luna laughed, sadly. “Of course not, Trixie Lulamoon. The bolts were nothing more than flashes of light, harmless. They sleep. For now.”

“What are you going to do?” blinked Trixie, wobbling. “Mistress Luna, please don’t hurt them!”

“What I must,” sighed Princess Luna. “Would that this day had never arrived! I’ll begin with this earth pony. I suspect she is not too clever, which may make it easier. And my sister is less likely to notice.” She concentrated, and her horn glowed with gentle purpose.

“Make what easier?” asked Trixie. Everything seemed so unreal.

“Forgetting.”

“Forgetting what?” said Trixie.

Luna turned, and her gaze was sad and cruel.

“You.”

She returned to her work, carefully editing Applejack’s memories to remove Trixie and the journey to the cave. Trixie’s eyes were wide, and she shrunk back, intimidated. Luna seemed not to be attacking her, but had made no promises of any sort about the ponies that lay limply scattered about the cave.

“What will you do then, Mistress?” said Trixie.

“I must return them to their homes—I will need to think of some pretext that their minds would agree upon, some alternate story. A picnic, perhaps? Some unlikely adventure that they embarked upon? For now, they will forget all this—and you. Don’t cross me, Trixie Lulamoon. I wish it had never come to this, but there is no other way.”

Trixie wobbled, walking unsteadily up behind Luna. “You promise they’re alive? They’re unharmed?”

“I’d better get them out of here. I should send you to sleep as well…”

“Mistress promised she would not touch Trixie’s mind!”

Luna blinked. “That is true. And I will honor that. Do not interfere. Your powers aren’t great enough to change this, little Lulamoon. I think I trust you with the others—you shan’t wake them, I know that—but I had better do Twilight Sparkle right away and get her out of here…”

Trixie Lulamoon lunged forward and stabbed Luna in the butt, with her little horn.

“Argh! Stop that! There is nothing your meager powers can do, especially weakened as you are!”

Trixie staggered over to Twilight’s limp form, pressing her head to her lover’s.

“Trixie, this is…”

Trixie seized Twilight’s slumbering magic powers in her mage-meld… and drained them with every scrap of energy she had left.

With a whump of displaced air, Princess Celestia appeared, and fell heavily to the rock floor.

“What is the m…” she began, haughtily, and then she saw her sister staring aghast, saw the orange and blue pony bodies across the floor, the limp white unicorn and the purple one, all lying there like they were dead—most of the Element Bearers, struck down before her—and Trixie, who cried up at her beseechingly.

“Princess, help us!”

Celestia’s eyes were wide in shock. Slowly, they turned towards Princess Luna. Instinctively, the dark alicorn threw up a magical shield.

“Prithee, fair sister, wait! We can explain!”

Celestia snarled, her horn flaring blindingly, and the magical energies warred between the two alicorns—but so fierce was Celestia’s outrage, that the battle was brief. As desperately as Luna fought, Princess Celestia’s magical force crushed down upon her, until Luna’s resistance snapped, obliterated by the flood of magical force her sister unleashed.

Luna squealed and collapsed, at the same instant that Celestia gave a whinny of triumph—or perhaps it was just the sheer force of her exertion given voice when the strain was released. Luna lay sprawled on the rock floor, and Princess Celestia panted, as Trixie looked up at her, wide-eyed.

Celestia looked around, and then back at Trixie.

“Actually, Miss Trixie Lulamoon, I would prefer for you to explain, please.”

Trixie gulped.

Princess Celestia looked around once more at all the limp pony bodies in the cave, seeing on second look that they were breathing and obviously unharmed, but locked in an ensorceled sleep. She glanced back at Trixie, with an air of weary expectation.

“This ought to be good.”

Somehow, the casualness flipped a switch in Trixie, and the awe she’d so rarely had for the Princesses was gone again, and some of her Trixieness came back in its place.

She rolled her eyes wryly. “Oh, you have NO idea…”