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The Night that Never Ended p13

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In all of New Ponyville, there were 45 time-telling devices. Of these 45, exactly 26 were watches. Of the remaining 19, six were grandfather clocks. Of those six, there was, of necessity, one largest clock. And as the largest clock, it naturally had the loudest tick. Furthermore, as would befit a leader, this clock was located in Rarity's bedroom.

The largest clock with the loudest tick was currently in very real danger of being smashed to silent pieces by Rainbow Dash. The only thing stopping her was that in order to break the infernal device, Rainbow Dash would have to take her eyes off the bed.

Not even for a second, she reminded herself again. She looked stoically at the two unicorns lying on top on the purple covers, each resting peacefully on their back. The clock ticked away the seconds as Dash sat in the backwards chair, her chin resting on the back of it. In the otherwise silent room, the sound was maddening. Given the additional circumstances of her friends, it was downright torturous.

Twenty minutes, Rainbow Dash noted to herself as the clock ticked once more. She wasn't trying to keep track of time, but every second felt like a week. Make that a month, she corrected as the clock continued to sound relentlessly.

An eyelid fluttered, and Rainbow Dash was at the bedside before her chair hit the ground. The crash went unnoticed as Dash looked down at Twilight. Her face was impassive, but on the inside she was scanning Twilight's face desperately for any more movement.

Just as she was about to back up and return to her seat, she caught the faint flicker again. She remained perfectly still as Twilight's eyelids twitched slightly. Twilight gasped softly, but her eyes didn't open.

Rainbow Dash didn't know what to do, but between the clock and the day's events, she was out of patience. "Twilight," she spoke softly.

The mare's eyes shot open, and Dash recoiled slightly. "R-Rainbow Dash?" Twilight asked weakly. She began to move, but Dash placed a hoof firmly on her chest.

"Don't move yet, Twi. I hit your head pretty bad." Dash's voice was soft, barely above a whisper. Her face was unreadable, but something about her was irking Twilight.

Twilight lay still for a moment as the memories of recent events began returning to her. Rarity blacking out, the dream-

The silence.

Twilight's heart skipped a beat, but soft sounds surrounded her. It's gone, she gasped gratefully, It was just a dream. She squinted her eyes slightly as she looked up at Dash, not used to the light yet. "Dash…what happened? Why am I in Rarity's bed?"

Dash looked over her shoulder towards the empty wall before turning back to Twilight. "I don't know," she hesitated, "…but it happened to everypony. The entire town, every unicorn…" her voice trailed out as she stared over Twilight's head, lost in thought. Twilight was about to speak again when Dash finished her thought. "We were hoping you could tell us," Dash smiled for the first time down at her, but Twilight could sense that it was forced.

Twilight tried to sit up again, but Dash's hoof was firm. She lifted a hoof to swat her friend away, but it seemed too heavy and sluggish to obey her command. "We?" asked Twilight, her hoof falling back down to her side.

"Applejack is out helping the townsponies. Once we figured out how to snap you out of it…well, it's not pretty, but it's better than letting them suffer." Dash looked over her shoulder towards the door distractedly, but quickly pulled her gaze back to Twilight.

Twilight's gaze upwards was confused. She squinted as the face of her friend was blurred by the bright light in the room. "Suffer? Dash, I was just unconscious. It was a nightmare, but I'll be fine."

Dash hesitated, and Twilight could read the worry on her face. Not waiting for her friend to try and hide something from her again, Twilight pressed the issue. "Rainbow Dash, if there's something I should know-"

"You were screaming." Rainbow Dash blurted it out, and Twilight could finally detect a twinge of emotion in her voice. "You were screaming and I couldn't make you stop. I couldn't…I couldn't do anything." Twilight felt something wet fall onto her hoof, and realized that Rainbow Dash was crying. Moving her hoof to take her friend's, Twilight finally found the strength to raise her other one and shield her eyes from the glare.

"Rainbow Dash, you did help me. I remember seeing you for a second, I remember being thankful, but I don't know why exactly. I know it was a bad dream, but…I don't remember screaming."

"It wasn't just you." Rainbow Dash wiped a hoof across her eyes, her voice becoming hard again. "Like I said, it happened to everypony. One second, I was asleep in my bed, and the next everypony is panicking." Dash looked over her shoulder before turning her gaze down at her friend, her eyes pleading. "Twi, if there's anything you can tell us, anything at all…Applejack and I just don't know what to do."

Twilight closed her eyes, letting them relax is quiet darkness. I want to help, she thought to herself, but I just don't know. "It was unicorns, right?" Twilight opened her eyes to see Dash nod. "And everypony else was unaffected?" Dash nodded again. That implies something tied to magic… Twilight coughed, her throat feeling very sore for some reason. She tried not to think of the effects of screaming on her body as she spoke up, "Dash, could I please have a cup of water?"

Rainbow Dash rose and walked opened the door into the office, moving out of sight. For a few moments, the only sounds were the ticking of the clock and Rarity's soft breathing. With her attendant gone, Twilight adjusted herself into a sitting position, her physical strength returning rapidly.

Dash reentered the room holding a cup of water. Twilight gestured to the nightstand next to her and rubbed her eyes. When she opened them again, the brightness of the room was enough to enter her conscious mind. "R-Rainbow Dash, why is this room so bright?"

Dash placed the water down next to her friend and looked into her eyes. "It's the same brightness it's always been, Twilight" She replied evenly. You know you can't hide it from her forever, she scolded herself.

"It…is?" Rainbow Dash saw a change come across Twilight's face. Where before Twilight had looked puzzled and a little worried, she suddenly seemed horrified. Like she might start screaming again  any second, Dash thought as her body tensed.

Twilight gulped, and Dash could see her throat bob as her face became slightly paler. Twilight looked at the cup, or perhaps at Rainbow Dash, or perhaps at the wall behind her. Dash turned her head over her shoulder automatically, unable to stop the natural reaction.

Several moments passed with Twilight simply laying in bed, and the worry became too much for Dash. "Are you ok, Twi?" she ventured, not sure how to proceed. She wanted to help her friend, but this was all out of her territory. Remembering Twilight's earlier request, she gestured towards the cup beside the purple unicorn. "Have some water, Twi, you look…uh, you look fine." She knew she finished lamely, but Twilight didn't seem to notice. She just kept staring at, well, whatever she was staring at.

"I've been trying, Rainbow Dash." Twilight's voice made Dash's stomach drop. It sounded…weak, even pitiful. "My magic…it's gone."

Rainbow Dash's jaw grew slack, but didn't have words left to comfort her friend. All she could do was look down into Twilight's eyes. They glistened back at her, entirely black in the dim light as tears quickly began to form in them.

_________________________

Applejack walked forward dejectedly, her hooves stumbling over the rough stone beneath her. Her flank heaved as she gasped for breath, sweat running down her legs. That…should be all of them, she thought to herself, but her ears remained attentive for the telltale wails of unicorns. Everypony is safe…I hope.

When the…whatever it was, had happened, ponies panicked as their friends fell in the street. By the time Rarity and Twilight had been taken care of, however, many ponies had come to Rarity's office for help.

Applejack thought back to the scene less than half an hour ago. Standing in the wrecked doorway, looking out into a tow full of crying and pleading faces, asking for her help…

And I gave it to them, her chest swelled with pride as her hoofsteps became a little larger. I helped them all, I saved them all. Granted, if Rarity was any example then they would have come around on their own eventually…but I led them, and I led them well.

Surprisingly well, in fact. Once Applejack had spread the word of knocking the unicorns unconscious, the screams had begun to die out one by one. It was hard at first, clubbing or smothering her friends, but Applejack knew that it was for their own good.

Stumbling into Rarity's office building, she let the battered table leg fall from her mouth next to the upturned table it had originally been broken from. The lobby was in tatters from her earlier rampage, but right now that was the least of her worries. Though every step caused her legs to tremble from exhaustion, she made her way up the steps into Rarity's office one at a time, finally pushing her way through the door. The office itself looked fine, and the door to the bedroom stood slightly ajar. Walking over to it, Applejack sighed in relief as she heard the sound of voices. Thank Celestia, she thought, at least one of them is awake with Rainbow Dash.

"…much of a good thing, just like in my dream. I think it was some sort of subconscious reaction to- oh, hello Applejack." Twilight sat in bed and smiled as the orange mare nudged the door open, trotting inside. Rainbow Dash stood next Twilight, looking worried. Applejack's gaze sought out Rarity, who remained how she had left her earlier. Her chest rose peacefully, and Applejack hoped that she would recover soon.

Twilight coughed, and Applejack's gaze returned to her. "I said 'hello, Applejack'." Twilight smiled playfully up at her friend, but Applejack's jaw was slack.

"Uh, Twi, y-your eyes. They didn't, er they never-"

"I know, Rainbow Dash told me." Twilight gazed up at Applejack, or at least something near her. Her eyes remained dilated freakishly wide, with only the barest hint of white tingeing the edges. Besides giving her unnerving look, it made it difficult to tell where exactly she had her gaze fixed. "I was just giving Dash my best theory on what happened."

"Oh, uh, swell. Has there been any change in Rarity yet?" Applejack knew that she sounded callous, and that if any pony could shed light on the situation, it was Twilight, but…I watched her die, or thought I did. I can't do that again. Maybe it wasn't supposed to be her top priority, but making sure Rarity recovered took precedence over everything else anyway.

Dash shook her head while Twilight sulked. "Sorry AJ, she's just been lying there. I've tried waking her up gently once or twice since Twilight got up, but I've got nothing so far." She glanced apologetically toward the earth pony, then turned her gaze back to Twilight. "You were saying, Twi?"
Twilight cleared her throat and, with a hurt look towards Applejack, resumed her theory. "Like I was saying, I dreamed of silence and light. The light kept getting brighter and brighter until it was painful, and I think that was like what happened to me. Something happened here that affected every unicorn, so logically it's magic related. And now I can't cast any magic at all, which-"

"Whoah nelly, hold on a tick there Twi, your magic ain't working?" Applejack's relief at stopping the screams suddenly vanished, no longer sure that this ordeal was over.

Twilight nodded, and Applejack could see that this was hard for her. "I…yes. It's not blocked, just…gone. Like it never existed-"

"And you might know what's going on?" interrupted Rainbow Dash, looking hopeful.

"If you ponies will just let me finish! " Twilight looked to both of her friends, whose mouths were suddenly firmly shut. Sighing in relief, she continued, "Good, thank you. As I was saying, I don't know whats happening, but I think I can put two and two together." She turned her gaze to the ceiling as she did the mental math, "I dreamed of silence, and I wake up with no magic. Too much light could be construed as too much magic, so I think that New Ponyville may have been hit with some sort of magic…wave." Her two friends looked down at her skeptically, and Twilight's cheeks reddened, "Ball? Storm? It's magic, it doesn't have a shape!"

She threw her hooves up in frustration, knowing that the idea must sound rather silly to other ponies. But instead of chastising her for it, Applejack nodded sagely, "So ya'll had some sort of magical overload or somethin'?" She waved her hoof vaguely, indicating her lack of expertise.

"Something like that. My powers aren't being blocked, they're just gone." Twilight seemed to bounce back and forth between confident and terrified, and Applejack couldn't help but worry how well she was actually taking this, "I can't even sense magic anymore. Any time I try to feel for it, I just get…well, I guess the best translation would be silence." Applejack began noticing a trend whenever Twilight said that word. She always hesitated and dropped her volume just a tad, barely perceptible until she kept repeating it. "Unicorn magic isn't like pegasus wings where it's just a physical part of the body, it's more like smell or taste. When magic happens nearby, a unicorn can sense it to some degree. When the magic…thing happened to us, it burned that sense out. Probably." Twilight didn't want to second guess herself, but she didn't want to make any promises either.

Rainbow Dash looked down with confusion. "So, the eyes are…?"

Twilight squirmed awkwardly. "I…have no idea. It's some sort of physical side effect I suppose. It does make everything seem brighter, though."

Applejack stamped her hoof, her patience running out. With the startled attention of the two ponies on her, she glowered angrily, "Ya'll are ignoring the important question here. Twi, how did this happen?"

Twilight blinked, confused, "W-well like I said AJ, a wall of magic-"

"That ain't what I meant!  I'm no unicorn, but walls of magic don't just appear from nowhere so far as I know. How did this happen?"

Twilight was surprised at herself. She had been more than a little proud of herself for deducing her way to the cause of her problem, but she had never considered the origin of the magic. "I…well, it's magic, so it came from a unicorn. But it's not a spell exactly, that doesn't make sense." Her friends looked down at her with confusion, and she backpedalled. "Alright alright, I'll start at the basics. Unicorns make magic to power spells. Spells use the magic as energy for doing…whatever they are meant to do." Twilight stopped until her friends gave her a nod, indicating that they followed her so far, "We weren't hit by a spell because spells are things like funny mustaches or big rocks. We were hit by magic, specifically a lot of it that was released very quickly." Twilight thought back to her days as a filly trying to learn magic, "If you have a lot of magic bottled up at once and you lose control, it dissipates around you; every unicorn knows that. But if a lot of magic were released very quickly-"

"It would dissipate in a wider area?" Dash finished for her, proud of herself for following along so well. Applejack looked like she was still having trouble, so Twilight continued for her sake.

Not wanting to ruin her friend's pride, Twilights smiled at the standing pegasus, "Yes, Dash, it would affect a much larger area. But it would alsogrow more chaotic as it spread out until it finally dissipated, so if New Ponyville were caught on the edge-"

"We'd end up with what we've got here" finished Applejack, smiling smugly.

Slightly irked by the constant interruption, Twilight forced another smile, "Yes, if I'm right, which is a big 'if'."Twilight's mind had already reached the logical conclusion of her thoughts, but the smiles on her friends faces told her that they hadn't yet arrived there.

Fine then, she sighed inwardly, I'll have to spell it out for them. "This isn't complicated magic, but it was magic nonetheless. A unicorn had to cast it, and with New Ponyville being hit so hard, I can't believe it was just an accident." The smiles faded from the faces of Dash and Applejack as they too saw the obvious answer. "Girls, I think New Ponyville is under attack."

_________________________

The captain stared straight ahead as she walked. The armor of her guards to either side of her clacked loudly in her ears, and all around her similar noises disturbed the silence of the night. Her ropes had been removed, the familiar constraint of invisible bonds bound her wings magically to her side.

The captain stumbled over a rock in the dark, but quickly caught herself. Don't let them see that you're tired, she thought as she grit her teeth, you're better than that. You're better than them.

The hooded pony ahead turned her azure face back to smile at the captain. Trixie wasn't the foremost pony, but she was making a point to make it seem like she was leading her troops. Her horn flared as the brightest light source nearby, something that the captain knew they would surely need soon.

The night is ending, she has to stop soon, thought the captain as she picked her way carefully over the ground. As she took a few more tentative steps, she was surprised to find her hooves no longer falling on randomly shaped rocks. Looking downwards in confusion, she saw the traces of a faint path in the light from Trixie.

Trixie apparently noticed this as well, for she held up a hoof. Everypony halted as one, with the exception of the captain, as Trixie turned to address the crowd. "Ponies of the Royal Guard!" she began, letting the noise of the captain being pulled to the ground fade before continuing, "Prepare the supplies and set up camp along this path. The entrance to New Ponyville should be less than a mile down this path, so we shall rest here and gather our strength so that we may attack tomorrow." She turned back away from her troops and looked down the path, scuffles of commotion arising as the ponies emerged from the forest and spread out down the dry trail. "Warrant officer! " she called out.

There was a brief flash, and the small pony stood at her side. "Yes, Ma'm!"

Trixie gazed into the darkness, contemplating her next move. "Bring me the captain and a patrol of guards, four- no, five ponies strong." The officer nodded and trotted off towards the captain, who watched him approach with contempt.

The officer exchanged a few words with the guards and then moved away again, never bothering to look down at the captive. The captain was pushed forward by her guards after a moment, arriving behind Trixie after a few dozen steps.

Trixie turned from her vigil as the captain came close. "Good morning captain, I hope the trip wasn't too hard on you." She smiled knowingly at the slumping figure.

The captain smiled. If she was going to die to this foal, she was damn well going to deserve it. "Actually, I'd prefer the air. You know what that's like- oh, sorry, I forget I'm not around pegasi anymore."

Trixie smiled condescendingly down at the prisoner, but the captain caught a flash of annoyance in her eyes. "Really, Rainbow Dash, I could order your death at any moment and you choose to taunt me? That seems rather immature, even for your standards."

"Would you rather me beg for your mercy and throw myself on the ground in tears?" The captain barked out a laugh, "Not going to happen, traitor. Even if you kill me, I'll die knowing that Nightmare Moon will annihilate you in retribution."

It was Trixie's turn to laugh, and the sound managed to be light and airy while remaining frigid. "Come now captain, do you really think I would have done this if I wasn't assured of my success? With your mangled body returned to camp whilst I am in the queen's presence, apologizing profusely for my audacity in assuming your guilt…well, let's face it, the cards are in my favor."

"You don't think that looks a little convenient?" The captain was legitimately surprised. Even Trixie can't be this stupid, she thought to herself.

Trixie laughed airily again, a sound the captain had come to dread. "Does it, captain? Ask yourself, if you were working with them right now and learned that I was here, what would your first course of action be?"

I'd attack, she thought before she could stop herself. Damn it, she's right, I'd attack her while she wasn't expecting it, before we were cornered in. Not willing to give Trixie the credit, the captain tried another tactic, "Nightmare Moon will never believe that I betrayed her. I am nothing if not loyal, foal." The captain's own temper was rising, even though she knew that Trixie was just trying to get to her. "Besides, New Ponyville doesn't know you are here. What happens when Nightmare Moon arrives to find an innocent village?"

The captain's words caused Trixie's grin to slowly fade. "Y-you think I haven't thought of that?!" Trixie reared up theatrically, falling back onto habit in her suddenly unsure situation. "I've already prepared a…thing, for that! Yes!" The captain raised an eyebrow and grinned, always her ace in the hole for riling Trixie.

"Those foals will of course know I am here, because, I-I will tell them myself!" Surety returned to Trixie's voice as her plan played itself out in her head. "Yes, with their leadership and a third of their population crippled, they'll be running around in a panic. After I announce myself, what little organization they had left will crack, leaving them ripe for conquest." She leered down at the captain, "Thank you, foal, for making my plan even more flawless. You may have even saved me some inconvenience down the line." Trixie laughed frigidly, her horn glowing brighter as she turned from the captain.

Facing in the direction of New Ponyville, Trixie planted her hooves firmly on the ground and narrowed her eyes. She concentrated on the words she wanted to speak, imagined herself speaking them, but never moved her lips. Citizens of New Ponyville, the captain heard booming in her head, I am the great and Powerful Trixie, and I am here to end your pathetic rebellion!

_____________________

Applejack and Rainbow Dash both perked up at the side of Twilight's bed, their conversation forgotten. Your leadership is in shambles, I have crippled your defense, your populace is in panic, and I have not even arrived yet. You have no hope of survival against my armies, but I am not a cruel pony. Surrender yourselves now onto my mercy, and I'll make sure justice finds you swiftly. You have one hour.

For a moment, the ponies stood waiting for more. When it was clear that he message had ended, Applejack looked at her friends, "Who the hay is Trixie?"

Twilight and Rainbow exchanged glances, but it was Twilight who began speaking first. "She is- was, a traveling showpony who liked to brag about her power." She sighed, "Seems like some things really never change."

"Looks like she's got the bite to back up her bark this time, though." Rainbow Dash put a hoof to her chin in thought, "Ya know Twi, you showed her up once before, I bet you could-"

"No way, Rainbow Dash, not like this. If my powers ever come back, it won't be within the next hour." Twilight's black eyes glimmered in the light, white barely visible around the edges. "I think there's only one obvious course of action now."

"I hear ya, Twi. We're the closest thing New Ponyvile has to a leader until Rarity comes around, we need to be of one mind in this." Applejack nodded to her friend glad that common sense had shone through.

"No question about it!" Rainbow Dash hopped into the air, pumping her healed hoof to the ceiling. "We'll show these Royal Guards how New Ponyville ponies act!"

"Then it's settled," Twilight smiled in relief, "We'll begin the evacuation immediately."

"Whoa, hold on there a tick, that ain't what I was saying at all!" Applejack stamped her hoof, stopping the unicorn mid thought, "We have to begin shoring up our defenses before that Trixie pony gets here!

"She's practically here already, AJ!" Rainbow Dash fluttered in irritation, "We need to have an attack for ready for her before she has a chance to attack us!"

"Attack? Are you mad, Rainbow Dash?" Twilight was becoming flustered quickly, "We don't have anything to attack with, especially since it's an army of magic users! Our only chance is to pull back and seek out the resistance."

"The resistance? Twi, we don't even know where they are, and who's to say Trixie won't just hunt us down on the road?" Applejack shook her head, trying to make her friends see the obvious solution. "If we blockade the town and wait out the siege, we can hold out until our unicorns are back on their horns- err, hooves. Then we might stand a chance of fighting or escaping."

"No no no NO!" Twilight pounded the bed with her hooves, the illogical thoughts of her friends driving her mad. "How are we going to wait out a siege when our supplies are so low? We'll starve to death within days."

"Exactly!" exclaimed Rainbow Dash, "So we don't give them a chance to set up a siege. We've got a perfect cover of darkness with the night ending right now, a few pegasus ponies can fly low and find them, then drop torches on their supplies." Rainbow Dash slammed one hoof down onto the other for emphasis, "with a swift attack on priority targets, their entire force will be crippled before they have a chance to do us any harm"

"Why, that's the most inane idea I ever did hear-"

"Well we can't just run and hide-

"The resistance-"

"-stupid, desperate attack idea-"

"-the only logical solution-"

As the room descended into chaos, the great clock ticked away in the corner, the time hurrying away unnoticed.

__________________________

Trixie turned back towards the captain after her horn had returned to a merely illuminating glow instead of blinding. "Thank you for your help, captain," she smirked down at the Shadowbolt, "now for your final role in my plans. Warrant officer, you've instructed the men on how to reach New Ponville?"

"Yes, Ma'm!" I didn't even see the little bugger arrive that time, thought the captain.

"Good, then I must leave to make my report. It would be a shame if one of our patrols were attacked just outside the entrance to the rebel base, wouldn't it?" Trixie grinned, but the face of her second-in-command remained impassive."

"No, Ma'm, it would be exactly what you were planning."

Trixie's shoulders slumped. "Warrant officer, you have the subtlety of a pair of scissors. I'll make this simple for you." She leaned in close to the trembling pony, her voice dripping malevolence. "Take the captain and four other ponies, kill her in front of New Ponyville, and make the scene look realistic. Understood?"

The tiny pony nodded energetically, not daring to speak a word with his mistress so close to his face. "Good," Trixie said, backing off of the officer. "Now, captain, did you have any last words?"

The captain considered her options, but nothing sprang to mind. Shrugging her shoulders, she did her best to look unconcerned as she looked up at Trixie. "Yea, white hair makes you look old."

She was rewarded with an indignant snort from Trixie before she felt something hit the back of her head. Her world exploded into bright colors as she felt herself hit the ground.

Worth it, she thought as she was dragged limply into the darkness. Despite everything, she couldn't help smiling. I might die, she thought to herself, but with a warning like that, New Ponyville can stay alive to spite Trixie longer. </i>

____________________

"Rainbow Dash, wait-"

"No Twilight! I'm done!" Rainbow Dash's wings stood at full length, her front legs lowered aggressively as she faced her two "friends". "You've been arguing in circles for forever while our opportunity slips by! You can do whatever you want, but I'm going to help save this town!"

"Hold on, sugarcube, you can't just-"

SLAM!

The door to Rarity's bedroom shook with the force of Dash's kick, but he didn't even notice. She stomped her way down the stairs, the clomping hoof steps helping to vent her anger. They're both stupid, she fumed, we don't have time to talk, we've got to take action!

Sounds began to make their way through her clouded head, and she raised her glance to see a throng of ponies standing outside the ruined door. A few of them had trickled inside, but with nothing to knock on and their cries going unheard, they seemed confused and lost. Seeing Rainbow Dash, however, a chorus of yells began to assault Dash's ears.

Dash scanned back and forth, her skill with performances in large crowds letting her read them at a glance. The emotions were varied; some ponies cried out in anger while others pleaded for an explanation. Mostly though, Dash could sense the fear. These ponies were living a nightmare, and just wanted something to cling to. Dash smiled, I have just the thing.

Dash forced her way out of the door, only a few ponies not making way for her willingly. Once she had room above her, she leapt into the air and motioned for attention. The crowd gradually fell silent as she looked down at them, and finally she began to speak

"I'm not good at this sort of thing, so I'll keep this quick," she said simply, "there's an army of unicorns out there, we don't know how big they are, and they want to kill us." Dash knew that this was going to catch flak for this later from both Twilight and Applejack, but she just didn't care about them right now, "Rarity is unconscious and we can't decide what to do."

The crowd erupted, anger and confusion crashing in waves over the ponies below Dash. Floating high above them, Dash's face remained impassive. "Right now, the motions on the floor are arguing and more arguing, so I'm taking some action. Effective immediately, we are at war." The crowd mumbled, nopony terribly surprised by the announcement. "Those of you with young ones, stay at home. Those of you who can't fight, stay at home. Those of you with the will to save this town," Dash paused for effect, one of the few verbal theatrical tricks she knew, "follow me."

Rainbow Dash landed in the middle of the crowd, which had grown silent. Calmly, she began walking through the town center. After a few steps, her ears picked up another set of hooves walking behind her. Not daring to turn her head in fear of her hopes being crushed, she walked toward the town gate, the sounds of hooves in her stead growing slowly, but growing nonetheless.

___________________

"You blasted idiot! You can't possibly think that that would-"

"I reckon it's a better idea than those foal thoughts running through your head, you-"

Applejack and Twilight screamed at eachother, each of their words going unheeded by the other pony. To both, there was only one obvious answer, and neither was about to let New Ponyville suffer because some foal couldn't see the light. The clock in the corner ticked on, punctuating every angry point with another lost moment in time.

While the yelling wasn't doing anything to budge either pony, it was having another effect. Forgotten by both ponies, Rarity's eyes fluttered in her sleep. She drew in breath sharply, and then let it out in a long sigh unnoticed by the flustered mares.

A few moments later, her eyes scrunched up in irritation. Groaning loudly, she opened her eyes and glared angrily at the ceiling. "Excuse me, my dears," she said conversationally. Immediately, all noise in the room ceased except the slow ticking of seconds, several of which went by before Rarity spoke again. "I've not only had the most horrible dream, but I also had the most horrible night followed by the most horrible headache of my life. I don't know why you thought that my bedroom would be a good place to have a tiff, but I can assure you that it is not. Now get out!"

Rarity closed her eyes and took a deep breath, waiting for the sound of retreating hoof steps. Her head felt like Applejack had bucked it more than a few times, and she wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and die from the pain. So when two hugs managed to tackle her from a laying down position, she was less than amused.

"Get off of me! Are both quite mad?" Rarity sputtered and flailed weakly, her head pounding. To make matters worse, every time she opened her eyes it felt like she was looking into the sun. "I said get out, not jump on me!" The weight lifted from her chest and the ponies erupted into frenzied speech, but the throbbing of Rarity's head drowned out their words.

"Shut up shut up shut up!" Rarity's voice ended in a shriek, and the room relapsed into blessed silence. When she squinted her eyes, Rarity could make out the faces of Twilight and Applejack around the glare in the room. She knew that they looked scared and desperate, but she was in no mood to coddle anypony. "If you absolutely insist on keeping me awake, then go fetch me a glass of water at least." The clock ticked away, the seconds passing in time with her headache throbs. "And someone break that damn clock."

"Here you go, Rarity." Twilight handed her own untouched cup of water to the angry mayor. Rarity kept her eyes closed as she used her magic to raise the cup to her lips, taking a big gulp of…nothing.

"Huh?" Rarity opened one eye to look at the offending cup suspiciously, which was still held loosely in Twilight's hoof. "It's…my magic…wha?"

Twilight slowly lowered the cup as Rarity sputtered, looking guiltily at Applejack. "Rarity, there's some things we need to tell you." Rarity could see the purple face screw up in confusion, and drew in a gask as she noticed Twilight's eyes. "You've been unconscious for the better part of a day…"

__________________

Day had fallen over the Everfree Forest, and the heavy darkness that came with it weighed the captain's shoulders down. Before the light faded, she had recognized a certain large boulder and fallen tree, and judging by how long she had been walking since then, she knew she was beginning to near New Ponyville.

Her wings were cramped, but she could feel the magical bonds that kept her from flexing them. Her hooves plodded ahead nearly blindly, the weak yellow light from the Warrant Officer's horn giving the group of six barely enough light to see a step ahead of their hooves.

The ponies surrounded the captain on each side, and without her wings there was no opportunity to escape. Her eyes narrowed at the diminutive warrant officer, He's an oaf and a foal, she told herself, I'm sure he'll screw up eventually.

I'm sure…


_____________________

Rainbow Dash stood looking at the blank rock in front of her, waning torchlight sharpening her silhouette the wall. Her figure was not alone, however, and she turned to face the crowd who had followed her to the town exit.

Her heart sank as she looked over her volunteers. A ragtag group of villagers, she sighed inwardly, armed with torches and rocks. Still, we'll never have an opportunity like this again. Only two figures stood out in the crowd, literally rising head and shoulders above most ponies. Two red stallions, one who wore the familiar face of Big Macintosh and another who wore a construction hat, stood grim faced as they looked toward their new leader. Gulping, Rainbow Dash tried to put on a show of confidence.

"I'm not making a speech, if that's what you're wondering," she said evenly, "but before we got out there, just know that you don't have to do this." Rainbow Dash scanned the crowd for hesitation, and found far too much of it. "if you aren't willing to die tonight, now is the time to leave."

She knew she would lose support with that statement, but she still winced inwardly when ponies began to step back. First a blue earth pony, then a dazed looking unicorn, and then another earth pony slowly turned and disappeared back toward the tunnel, their sense of self preservation outweighing their shame. When all was said and done, less than half a dozen ponies stood before her, including the two immovable red stallions. The other three ponies consisted of two female guard pegasi and grey colt. Dash's heart sank a bit more when she recognized the old grey colt as Billy Gruff, the gate operator.

Five, then, including myself. Dash sighed, but she had known what she was getting into beforehand. Maybe I should just turn around before I get somepony killed. The image of Twilight and Applejack yelling back and forth over Rarity's unconscious form came to mind, however, and Dash shook her head clear. No, I don't have time to second guess myself. It doesn't matter if this is a good or bad decision, we have to try.

"This is not a suicide mission," she said to herself as much as the ponies before her, "This is a strategic strike. You two and I," she pointed a hoof to the guards, "will fly low and quiet with torches. This is the only entrance that the Shadowbolt captain knew about, so they should be on or near the path leading here. Steal what food you can and burn the rest." The guards nodded together, and Dash turned towards the two stallions. "You two have the dangerous job," she smiled, knowing that Big Mac wouldn't mind in the slightest, "You're gonna be taking the flak for us. Hit 'em hard, make some noise, and distract them long enough for us to get the job done, then high tail it back here. Assume they already know the way in, so no need to hide your tracks."

Big Mac and the other pony turned towards eachother, grinning at their assignment. Dash nodded toward Billy Gruff, who took out his pipe and grabbed the crank. "Ok, fillies and gentlecolts," Dash grinned and spread her wings as the door began to swing aside, "let's do this!"

_______________

Rarity listened to the two ponies in front of her. Her head still throbbed, but she found that she could keep it down to manageable levels by simply keeping her eyes closed. Applejack and Twilight had to remain calm while explaining their situation or else watch the face of their friend screw up in pain and anger.

"…and between the lack of supplies and any military strength, I believe that we have to evacuate New Ponyville," finished Twilight, glad to finally have the chance to explain her stance thoroughly.

Rarity nodded but remained silent. After a few moments of careful thought, she spoke softly. "I don't like it, Twilight, and the ponies here won't either, but…you are right. We don't have enough food to last more than a day or two under siege."

"Now wait just a second there, sugarcube!" Rarity flinched at the volume of the objection, and Applejack hesitated. It was hard to be angry when saying anything above a whisper hurt your friend, "Err, sorry, I meant to say that we have to stay here. New Ponyville is a defendable location, and I'm sure that with strict rationing we can hold out until our unicorns have recovered."

"To what purpose, Applejack?" Twilight interjected, "Most unicorns only have a little bit of magic related to their special talent, but the Royal Guard has been trained for combat. Even with our powers back, we won't be able to fight them."

"We'll stand more of a chance in here than out in the open! We can't just run away with our tails between our legs!"

"Is this about pride?" Applejack, you can't-"

"Girls! Please!" Rarity had to yell over both parties, her head swelling painfully. Damn alcohol and damn Trixie, she grumbled to herself. "I am the leader of New Ponyville, my dears. Let's not forget that." She paused for a moment to let her headache subside, then continued, "Applejack, if we stay here we will die. There is little doubt in my mind about that. If we run to the resistance, there's at least a chance that they will take us in."

"No, wait! Rarity, you can't risk the lives of everypony on a gamble like that!"

"Control your voice, Applejack. Ughh, please look at this logically: by staying here we risk everything on the ability of our unicorn villagers to fight off an army on empty bellies. By leaving, we risk everything on our ability to run and hide long enough for us to find the ponies who can fight. Applejack, you've told me in the past that the resistance is somewhere in the Everfree Forest, right?"

"Well yea, but-"

"Then it's settled. We'll begin preparations immediately."

Twilight's heart soared, she's finally being practical! Her thoughts were practically giddy, and she realized that she had been afraid of Rarity making another poor decision based on the vague concept of generosity. Whatever had happened to the unicorn the day before and in her dreams, Twilight couldn't help but be grateful for it, twisted though it may seem.

"Please Rarity, think this through!" Applejack appeared to be near panic, something that was surprising to Twilight. She's always been stubborn, she thought in confusion, but not like this. She actually seems…scared.

Applejack's eyes were wide as she looked towards the prone figure of Rarity on the bed. Her legs visibly trembled even just standing still, and when she spoke her voice sounded like it was holding back tears. "Rarity, Twilight, please. We have to stay here, just…just trust me."

Alarm bells went off in Twilight's head. "Applejack…what do you know that you aren't telling us." Twilight's ebon eyes narrowed suspiciously, but Applejack couldn't wilt any more beneath the gaze.

"Now, Twilight, I know she's not taking this well, but that's no reason to accuse her-" Rarity cut herself off as she looked towards the orange pony. Something was obviously wrong, and Applejack looked like a cornered animal as her gaze shot back and forth between each pony.

"Please, just…listen to me!" Applejack pleaded, taking a step back. "It's suicide to leave the safety of New Ponyville. We'll never find the resistance."

"We have to try, Applejack," Twilight pressed. She was getting tired of listing the same arguments over and over again, but she was also sick and tired of her friends hiding things from her. "Unless you have something else you'd like to tell us…?"

"I…I…" Applejack looked back and forth between the two ponies, both glaring at her. "I…I'm sorry!" She collapsed to her knees as a sob escaped her mouth. "I couldn't think of what else to do! I just had to do something, I had to help somehow. "

Rarity's already white face paled. "Applejack, you didn't-"

"What? What?! " Twilight looked back and forth, still not understanding. "What did you do, Applejack?"

Stifling a sob, Applejack looked up at her friend pitifully, "I lied, Twilight. I lied to everypony." Her eyes pleaded for forgiveness she knew she didn't deserve, "There is no resistance."
Google Docs Link that I totally forgot for like 12 hours: [link]

Yea, it took forever, and that's due to a lot of stuff. Firstly, and most importantly, it's because this chapter was originally twice as long.

Yea, I had t cut it off somewhere to keep it under 10k words. Its at about 7.4 now I think, and I decided to break it off, add some polish, and have chapter 14 come out that much sooner.

So yea, 13 took forever, but I can say right now that chapter 14 will be going up in two days, which will be June 16th. It's actually almost done, weirdly enough.

Personally, I don't like that I cut it off where I did. It's gonna make the moral exploration to come difficult to write without a good transition, but the cliffhanger was too good to resist :D
© 2011 - 2022 BronyCray
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DolphinBuster's avatar
Applejack....You bitch.