Too Near The Sun

“Oh, Fluttershy,” moaned Princess Celestia.

Fluttershy winced. “I realize it’s a lot to ask,” she said petulantly. “I’m a dangerous monster and a big threat to all the ponies. But there’s a perfectly innocent foal in me, and I’m very sorry, but I must insist. Please wait until the foal is safe, before you… before…”

She couldn’t finish, and Chaos couldn’t let her finish. The little yellow vampony may or may not have drawn natural breaths, but if she had, they were knocked out of her by a frantic tackle-hug from Chaos—once Discord—always a friend.

“Fluttershy, no!” cried Chaos. “Whatever’s the matter, we’ll fix it! Won’t we, Celly? Make her stop this instant!”

Fluttershy sniffled, and crankily objected, “But that’s just what I’m asking! Once the foal is safe, help me to stop being a monster and properly die, instead. I got unmasked in front of everypony, and I lost my family, they hunt me now, and I have no friends…”

“Here are two,” said Princess Celestia, shaken but unbowed.

“And I have the strength of ten because my heart is pure,” vowed Chaos, “plus with chaos magic I’m sure I can be at least twelve ponies on top of those, so that’s twenty-four already. Fluttershy! Talk to us! What on earth is the matter? I think your little fangs are adorable, however did you get them?”

“Aren’t you listening?” squeaked Fluttershy, outraged. “This is very serious! I’m a vampire, and you have to kill me! I should never have waited this long. I thought I could disguise myself and live among real ponies. They are not either adorable little fangs! They’re ‘be a nasty old vampire and bite helpless ponies and suck their blood like a big meanie’ fangs!”

“Is that what you’re doing?” shot Celestia, quickly.

“Of course not! Ew!” replied Fluttershy. “Who do you think I am?”

Princess Celestia gazed levelly at her. “That’s a very good question, my little pony. That is exactly the question I’m asking myself now. I’m trying to work out exactly what you’re telling me, and I am deeply concerned by what you’ve already said.”

Chaos continued desperately to snuggle her. “You’re my very best friend, and you’re the kindest, gentlest creature Equestria has seen in thousands of years, and please don’t feel that way about yourself! Oh, Fluttershy, if I lost you I don’t know what I’d do!”

Fluttershy sulked, pouting, her little vampony face showered with alicorn kisses. “I’m beginning to get the feeling you’re not going to help, Discord. Or Chaos, I guess. If you turn into Discord will that make it easier to kill me?”

“No,” snapped Chaos. “It would be even worse.”

“Why?”

“All of our best touching moments were when I took draconequus form,” explained Chaos. “Though I suppose this must count as such a moment. There’s an idea, touching moments! I’ve experienced some wonderful touching moments lately in alicorn form. Celly licked my nipples and I was absolutely beside myself with joy. Would it help you appreciate your new form if I licked yours? Do vampires have nipples? I’ll check.”

Fluttershy squealed, and pushed the overaffectionate Chaos away. “Stop it! Anyway I’m into stallions! Honestly!”

“Celly thought the same thing,” argued Chaos, “and now look at her! I’ll do anything, Fluttershy, please let me soothe you, I can’t bear to see you this sad! Though it seems that now you’re exceedingly cross. That’s an improvement, isn’t it?”

“Chaos!” snapped Princess Celestia, and Chaos immediately desisted. The two alicorns studied Fluttershy, who studied them right back.

“You’re going to let me give birth to this foal and then kill me and that’s all there is to it,” insisted the frustrated vampony, even as Chaos let out a whimper and visibly winced at her friend’s mad, self-destructive truculence.

“Steady, love,” said Celestia, holding her chin high.

“Yes!” squeaked Fluttershy. “Talk her into it, Princess! Make the hurting stop!”

“I wasn’t talking only to Chaos,” said Celestia firmly. “What is this hurting you speak of, Fluttershy? Answer me right now and name any ponies you have attacked. I’m concerned you’re not telling me everything. I want to be absolutely sure, so I’m asking you this directly. Who are you hurting? We may yet salvage this situation, perhaps with some sort of quarantine.”

“What sort of question is that?” retorted Fluttershy. “My head hurts because Rainbow Dash kicked a hole in it, and my leg hurts because Rainbow Dash broke it, and I realise that sounds very bad but please don’t be cross with Rainbow Dash about any of it because I completely understand and discovering what I really am had to be very upsetting to her…”

“Who did you attack, Fluttershy?” pressed Celestia. “How many ponies have you bitten and fed on?”

“None!” squeaked Fluttershy, shocked.

Princess Celestia’s head bowed in relief.

“You’re still Fluttershy,” she said. She twitched. “I’m going to have a word with Rainbow Dash, I think. Good heavens. A hole in your head? Where?”

“That’s not the point!” argued Fluttershy. “It’s more like a big dent than a hole anyway! You have to listen, I need you to help end my badness. I get these terrible impulses like wanting to smack Rainbow Dash because that really hurt a lot and it wasn’t fair, and…”

Celestia was waving a hoof, shushing her. She cleared her throat. “Poor dear! I may say that I would want to smack Rainbow Dash as well, if she’d concussed me that way. A big dent? Really? You’re lucky to be a vampire, a mortal pony might not have survived such an injury. Wishing to smack Rainbow Dash for that is an amazingly tolerant response.”

“But…” objected Fluttershy.

“Applejack nearly smacked Rainbow Dash when they were staying over to visit us in Canterlot,” added Celestia. “She managed to restrain herself, though, as you do.”

“But…”

“I’d quite like to smack Rainbow Dash too,” added Chaos helpfully. “I think it would be funny, plus I’m curious whether her bottom would turn mauve.”

The other two stared at her, and she said, “What? It’s a pretty color,” in a petulant tone.

Celestia turned away from her predictably demented beloved, and addressed Fluttershy. “My point being, the impulses which concern us are vampiric impulses. Specifically, vampiric attacks on innocent ponies. Not ‘wishing to smack Rainbow Dash’, which I’m sure is a temptation many ponies face and successfully overcome. You behave as if it is quite unthinkable for you to act as a vampire, though in fact you are one. Am I correct so far?”

Fluttershy nodded, pouting. “Of course I don’t act that way. But you yourself admit that I’m a monster!”

“Oh, really? I’ll tell you what you are,” snapped Princess Celestia, “and what we’re going to do about it!”

Fluttershy eeped. “I’m sorry! Um… what?”

There was a little pause, just long enough to get Shy’s full attention away from contemplating her own monstrosity.

“You’re still Fluttershy to us,” said Celestia, gravely. “That’s what you are—you’re our good friend. We can trust you, and we do. And we are going to take care of you. Because we love you.”

It was plain the idea had not occurred to her. Celestia had been very firm and direct, and watched Fluttershy realize that the Princess considered her to be still, essentially, herself. She stared, shocked, her jaw dropping, her cute little fangs forgotten in her surprise.

“B–but I’m not. I’m really not,” she said.

“Are too,” said Chaos, with a winsome tenderness that belied the words. Her eyes glistened, as she gazed at Fluttershy.

Fluttershy stared back, trembling, as Chaos moved in. She flinched, unable to cover her fangs, disturbed because the little pale-blue alicorn clearly meant to seal her vow of friendship with a kiss…

“Step away from her.”

The voice was cold as ice, yet beneath that tightly controlled chill was a terrifying rage.

They turned to see Twilight Sparkle, her eyes mere slits of incandescent fire.

Princess Celestia gulped. “Twilight! How good to see you. We’re here to try and heal Fluttershy, she’s had an accident. Several, really. While I wouldn’t normally categorize Rainbow Dash as an accident, I fear she’s reacted rather poorly to the changes in Fluttershy, who’s dreadfully distressed and needs our help…”

Twilight swallowed. Her mouth was very dry. Impending death seemed to interfere with normal body functions. And why wouldn’t it? Who could blame a body for trying to go on strike and stave off its fate? Twilight had managed just the one rasping line before going mute, and it took her a moment to get her voice back. When she’d cleared her throat, she spoke.

“If it’s any consolation, I think when Discord dies she may go back to normal.”

“Stop it,” ordered Celestia, moving toward her. “Do you understand, Twilight? Calm down.”

“I need you to back me up on this in case I’m not enough,” said Twilight. “Don’t tell me to calm down. It’s too late for that now.”

“Why?”

Twilight felt as if her brain was exploding. It was so hard to form words. Specifically, it was hard to form the words she had to say.

“He killed Trixie and Spike, Princess. I think if you won’t help me, you need to stand aside too. I’m sorry.” She gulped. “But not really.”

Celestia’s eyes widened. “Pray tell me right NOW why you make such unreasonable accusations!” she demanded. Behind her, Fluttershy cowered back, overwhelmed by all the hostility.

“Nopony else could have got through my shield!” yelled Twilight, and the eyes blinded them for a moment with glare before she squeezed them into the hateful line again. “Nothing but one of us. Alicorns, princess. The killer was an alicorn with powers beyond any unicorn that ever lived. And you wouldn’t hurt Trixie, I know you wouldn’t. Who else could it be, Cadance?”

“Stop it, Twilight Sparkle,” ordered Celestia. “Exactly what happened? Talk sense!”

“I am,” said Twilight bitterly. “The logic is irrefutable and it points only one direction. I guess you don’t like this, though you of all ponies should know better. He hurt you too. I thought maybe you’d join me but I can do this alone, there’s a way. It’s not a good way.”

“No,” breathed Celestia in horror. Beside her, Chaos made a little croaking noise, and couldn’t look away from the blinding eyes that promised her immediate doom. Without asking, she knew what the vengeful adolescent alicorn planned to do.

“I actually am sorry,” said Twilight, “but I won’t have to feel sorry for long. Stand aside.”

Celestia blanched, then rallied. “You think Chaos has done something terrible? Better you should blame this innocent vampire pony, for it would be every bit as absurd and unjust, but at least that I could understand! Of all the nonsense, Twilight Sparkle! You accuse an innocent alicorn Princess of terrible things, all the while looking at an equally innocent vampire, yet it is Chaos you accuse and not the vampire! Have you gone mad?”

“I’ll tell you why it isn’t the vampire,” hissed Twilight, energy crackling all over her body.

“Oh?”

“The vampire would have drank all that blood that was spilled,” gritted Twilight. The searing radiance cut out for a moment, as she squeezed her eyes shut in momentary agony. Before anypony could react, the glare was back, pinning them. “Stand aside. Last warning. It’s time, Princess. Join me. Help me.”

“No!” sobbed Princess Celestia, her voice revealing how her control had slipped. With stumbling awkwardness, never looking away from Twilight’s incandescent eyes, she moved in front of Chaos, shielding her. Fluttershy scrambled to the side, her face a picture of dismay. Chaos seemed paralyzed, with her fear of Twilight turned from fantasy to oppressive reality in brief, terrifying seconds.

“No,” repeated Princess Celestia, more bravely. “You won’t hurt Sw… Chaos. Or, indeed, Discord, if you must call her that. You’ll have to get through me first.”

Twilight didn’t blink, and the slits of incandescent hate did not flicker.

Celestia’s ears gradually laid back in fear as she watched, though she never looked away.

Tears were coming to Twilight’s eyes through all the rage, and then she spoke seven words that turned the Princess’s blood to water.

“Oh, dear Celestia… he turned you, too.”

Twilight’s body began to crackle with magic, though she never blinked. The magic surged and seethed around her angrily. Fluttershy peered from beside her Princess, alarmed.

“What’s she doing?” she asked.

“It ends here,” said Twilight grimly. “It has to.”

“Get away, Fluttershy!” wailed Celestia. “Swirlie, stay behind me!”

“But what’s she doing? Why are you so frightened, Princess? Twilight, stop that!”

“Get away, I can’t protect you both!” cried Celestia. She extended her wings, trying to cover Chaos.

“Save yourself, Celly, you can’t stop it!” squealed Chaos. “I’m done for! Alicorn death bolt!” She cowered, curling into a ball.

“Death WHAT?” squeaked Fluttershy, shocked.

A voice rasped. It was Twilight.

“This is how you kill a Princess.”

She leveled her head at Chaos and Celestia in front of her, and her horn lit up like a small star. Not content with that, she flung herself forward at them, horn-first, even as it erupted with a bolt of blinding energy.

Fluttershy’s eyes went very wide… and without an instant’s hesitation, she charged, flinging herself forward into Twilight’s path.

The long, lavender alicorn horn, venting every shred of alicorn life-force in Twilight Sparkle, impaled Fluttershy…

And exploded.

The limp, broken body of Fluttershy went flying across the mountain, landing like a sack of dead kittens.

From the space where Princess Twilight Sparkle had been, dropped a small lavender form. An unconscious unicorn, with no wings and nearly no horn. A form that hadn’t been seen around Ponyville for a long, long time.

Princess Celestia had wrapped herself around Chaos, expecting to die, and only gradually became aware of an approaching commotion. From one direction, one set of hooves galloping. From another, two sets, one larger and heavier than the first. She looked up.

Trixie Lulamoon, frothing with effort, charged up the mountain with Spike riding her like the knight he’d always wanted to be. They rushed to Twilight’s side, Trixie crying “Mistress! Mistress!”

Dazedly, Twilight Sparkle opened her eyes, to see Trixie and Spike there, clinging to her. She blinked, not quite registering that her body had changed.

“Am I in heaven?” she asked, looking up at her faithful Trixie.

She looked further up.

Princess Celestia towered over them all, teeth bared in fury, wings arched, her expression one of incomparable rage.

“Try again,” she snarled, her horn flashing to life with a sound like a crack of Doom.

Then, before Twilight could even cower away in terror, the vision was obscured by a wall of pale blue. It wasn’t a very large wall. It was, in fact, a rather petite alicorn rump, and Twilight’s face was brushed by a silky tail that seemed to contain shifting seahorse patterns that were never the same twice.

“No, Celly!” pleaded Chaos. “Stop, look! She didn’t hurt me. Something happened. Somehow she’s changed!”

“Stand aside!” demanded Celestia, shaking.

“Oh, not you too?” retorted Chaos. “Spare me those appalling words. We could go back and forth like this all morning! Stop it, love. Think!”

Celestia, heaving deep shuddering breaths, faced her counterpart and saw that it was true: no harm had come to Chaos, and it did seem as though something very strange had happened. “She did what?”

Chaos glanced back at Twilight, who returned her sharp gaze with a foalishly helpless look. No horn, no wings, that obvious vulnerability—it told Chaos all she needed to know.

“See for yourself… if you promise not to be rash!” she said, locking eyes with her lover. “Are you sure you’re good?”

Chaos stood her ground, her gaze challenging Celestia’s, searching out the threat of violence. She knew that once Princess Celestia had resolved on a course of action, she did not lightly set it aside. She also knew the depths of Celestia’s self-control. For several seconds, Chaos did not yield, sheltering the lavender unicorn until she was satisfied that the raging Princess was orderly once more.

Then, Chaos gave a little knowing nod, and drew aside to reveal the curious sight of two apparently hornless unicorn mares frantically cuddling each other: Trixie Lulamoon, and Twilight Sparkle. The original, unicorn Twilight Sparkle… cowering so hard it looked like she was trying to grovel right through the earth.

Celestia realized her teeth were still bared, her nostrils still flared. To all appearances, she was on the verge of obliterating Twilight in a towering fury.

Chaos—Swirlie—knew better. Her voice was relieved, soothing.

“See, Celly? She didn’t hurt me. Look, somehow she returned to being an ordinary unicorn. It’s like all of her alicorn-ness burned away in the bolt and some life force reflected back into her. I’ve never heard of such a thing! If only we could try it again and safely watch what happened,” said Chaos, “though I confess I am at a loss over what protective clothing one could devise. And it seems rather tough on all involved!”

Celestia gulped and nodded. She was still shaking.

Chaos continued brightly, “We must check to see what damage she has done, since we ourselves were NOT harmed in the least, thanks to…”

She glanced across the mountainside, and trailed off, looking stricken.

Three figures huddled together. Fluttershy hadn’t moved from where she’d fallen. The other two figures were a massive zebra who looked shattered, and Pinkie Pie… but it wasn’t easy to recognize her, for her mane had gone totally straight and hung as limp as the scruffy pile of yellow fluff before her.

Pinkie Pie looked up, and her eyes were dead and listless. Dursaa turned his tearful, hopeful eyes to her, his lip quivering like a very little colt’s, awaiting her report.

“Her heart’s not beating,” she said dully. Dursaa collapsed, crushed.

In a moment, Celestia and Chaos were by her side, and Celestia was expostulating, while Chaos seemed too distressed to speak. “You’ve said that once before!” insisted Celestia. “Remember? You told me the story of Rock Candy’s foaling! You’re too excited. Calm yourself and try again. I would listen at her chest myself, were my pulse not pounding in mine own ears…”

“I am calm,” said Pinkie Pie. “I’m not sure why I would ever be excited—or happy—again. My ears are fine. She’s not. She was the real Fluttershy after all, and she sacrificed herself to save you. She’s dead, Princess.”

“But…” managed Chaos, “but that didn’t slow her down before! She made it look cute! She was the most adorable little vampire ever!”

Pinkie’s look at Chaos silenced her again. It was pitying, and so terribly sad, and left nothing to doubt and nothing to say. Then, she looked down at the corpse of her beloved. The problem was apparent.

Fluttershy lay there, and listening at her chest wasn’t going to do a lot of good. A great big hole went through her, right where one might listen.

“Twilight must have stabbed her through the heart with that alicorn horn,” said Pinkie tonelessly. “Look, it came out her back. And you were yelling something about an alicorn death bolt. Stabbed through the heart with an alicorn death bolt? I guess that’s what it takes to k…”

She crumpled, and buried her face against Fluttershy’s side. A breeze stirred Fluttershy’s yellow wings. They weren’t even splayed in agony: they were totally limp, relaxed in death.

“She got what she wanted after all,” said Princess Celestia weakly, “but it was not what she deserved.”

She bared her teeth, eyes squeezed shut, hurt beyond all reason: her benevolent spirit and sense of justice violated. All she’d done had not been enough to save this innocent, sad, wounded creature. Another’s insane will had doomed Fluttershy just when she had been offered mercy. That mercy had been dashed from her hooves, mockingly. Celestia’s eyes opened. She turned her head, very slowly, toward Twilight.

“Celly… CELLY! NO!” cried Chaos. She leapt, for the larger alicorn had lunged at the killer, murder in those royal eyes. Chaos grabbed her, flapping wildly as she wrestled Celestia away. “Leave her alone!”

Twilight whimpered, trying to scrabble to safety, but nearly paralyzed by shock and shame. Spike hugged her and glared at Celestia, yelling, “Back off! I can flame, I’ll totally flame you!” as Trixie struggled to interpose her body between her love and the threat, just as Celestia had done.

“Noble!” yelled Trixie, tears in her eyes. “Now we see the truth, huh? Fuck you! I’m sure she had her reasons!”

Chaos was still wrestling with the enraged Princess. “I mean it, Celly! If you love me, listen! Oof… Will you CUT IT OUT?”

Celestia stopped trying to get to Twilight. Chaos lost no time.

“This has to stop, Celly! What are you doing? Do you think you can bring Fluttershy back if you destroy Twilight? We’ve lost enough today! You want to bring order, you want to bring justice, but all you’re going to bring is vengeance!”

“But…” groaned Princess Celestia.

Chaos bared her teeth. “That is not the Princess Celestia I love.”

Celestia stared tragically at nothing for a moment. She glanced at the corpse of Fluttershy.

Tears flooded her eyes, and she sagged, hanging her head.

Twilight wept as well, shaking with the full realization of what she’d done, as Trixie and Spike both hugged her.

Chaos stood for a moment, just to be sure, and then sagged against Celestia, and buried her face in her Celly’s mane, sobbing silently as grief overcame her—and Princess Celestia lifted her head high, crying out to the open air—the air that Fluttershy would not grace with her gentle presence again.

“Ah!” cried Celestia in anguish, in a voice that carried across the mountainside. “The most terrible sound I have ever heard is the silence where once that loving pony heart did beat. Where once its noble throb held forth, there is naught but a wretched void!”

Fluttershy opened an eye, fixing the Princess with a sulky gaze.

“Well, excuse me for not keeping up appearances,” she said defensively. “I’ve had a really difficult day.”

All eyes stared at her.

She pouted, lower lip poking sulkily against the cute little fangs.

The first noise was Chaos, a shrill squeal of utter delight. She leapt upon the stricken vampony, hugging her and trying to wrap pale-blue wings around her in her concern and relief.

“Ow!” wailed Fluttershy. “Ow ow stop it, ow!”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” cried Chaos. “I was so excited, what was I thinking? Your wound!”

Fluttershy looked down at herself, and blanched. “Oh, no! Did it hurt the foal? Ow, ow… though I had to rescue the Princess, I just had to! I’m sure my foal would feel the same, but still! Is it okay? Somepony check!”

Pinkie had been stunned beyond hope of response, but that got her moving. She glanced over the grisly damage hastily. “No, Flutterbuttie. She’s hurt you so badly, but it didn’t get your belly or womb or anything like that.” She gulped. “She stabbed you through the HEART with her horn and blasted you with magic. I thought you were dead.”

Fluttershy winced. “You make it sound bad,” she complained. “Which it is, it’s awful. Look again, are you sure? Are you sure the foal is okay?”

She focussed her pain-glazed eyes on a lavender shape that had staggered up, with a blue unicorn and purple dragon trying to hold it back. It leaned in anyhow, sobbing and sniffling.

“I’m sorry,” moaned Twilight Sparkle, “I’m so sorry…”

Fluttershy raised a hoof, and whacked Twilight in the eye with a mighty whack, and over Twilight went.

“Meanie!” said Fluttershy. “That hurt really bad! And you could have hurt my FOAL! Not to mention Princess Celestia! I hope you ARE sorry for what you’ve done.” She pouted. “I’ll forgive you later but right now I am very cross with you!”

“Told you so,” said Trixie, dragged Twilight off, and sat on her.

Princess Celestia bent over Fluttershy, solicitously. “My dear Fluttershy! You have indeed saved the day. We could not have imagined this course of events, not in a thousand years! I vow to you now that we will do everything within our power to heal you, as we will try to heal all the damage the day has brought us.” She glanced sharply at Twilight, then turned back to Fluttershy. “Not only have you saved my life, but if I’m not mistaken, you may have saved Twilight Sparkle.”

“Oh, good,” said Fluttershy. “I just wish I could have talked to her, but there was no time! Plus nopony would trust a monster like me…”

Dursaa said, hoarsely, “Oh, Fluttershy, how can you make mistakes so egregious? You’d give your life then turn around and give your DEATH, for us!” He buried his face gently in her soft wing, a picture of utter trust and devotion.

“I know, right?” said Pinkie. “Stop doing that, Flutterbutt! You have to take better care of yourself!” Her eyes glistened. “We’ll try to show you how. By caring for you. You dummy!”

“Your valiant heart is one that can teach even a Princess lessons in forgiveness,” said Princess Celestia, glancing once again at Twilight. “We can but try to approach your amazing gentleness and mercy.”

Chaos hugged Celestia. “I know you will! But isn’t Fluttershy wonderful? She is my best friend, the most wonderful pony ever!”

Fluttershy’s eyes had widened at Celestia’s words. “Oh! My heart, right. Um… Is it all right if I don’t beat it for a while?”

“What?” blinked Princess Celestia, taken aback.

“Well,” explained Fluttershy, “it hurts very badly though if it makes you feel better I can still try. I haven’t had time to fix it and it will take forever to do that, dumb meanie Twilight really hurt it a lot. Look, the hole even came out my back! I realise you want my heart beating but I’m afraid blood will go everywhere. And I’m sure it will hurt terribly. But if you like, I will. Do you have two big corks to stop up the holes?”

“Good heavens, nay!” said Princess Celestia. “Remain as comfortable as you can, in whatever way you must. We’ll try to find a way to heal you, dear Fluttershy, don’t trouble yourself.”

Pinkie looked sick. “She really did stab you through the heart, huh?”

“Oh, yes,” said Fluttershy. “As if Rainbow Dash hadn’t injured me enough!” She heaved a big sigh, and then winced. “Ow.”

“You need to ask OUR permission not to beat your heart?” pressed Pinkie. “Are you loco?”

“Please promise me you won’t be too cross with Twilight,” said Fluttershy. “I feel sure she must have had some reason for acting the way she did. And can you tell her I’m sorry for punching her in the eye with my hoof? That was wrong of me.”

Pinkie’s jaw dropped. “But… she stabbed you through the HEART!”

Fluttershy wore her sulky, pouting look.

“Well, as you can see, I wasn’t using it.”

Pinkie’s eyes filled with tears. She gazed at her stubborn beloved, shaking her head in disbelief.

“Yes you were, Fluttershy,” she said, and very gently kissed her sweet nose. “And you still are.”