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The Night that Never Ended p14

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Rarity sat in her new office. The air still smelled faintly of paint as she brushed a hoof across her spotless desk and sounds of hammers floated in from her window. The ponies had been lucky to find this cave just a few days ago, and were quickly constructing their new homes.

Rarity's thoughts were not on the progress being made around her, however, as she looked down at the report before her in disbelief. A hundred times a day since coming here, she had counted her blessings. So many of her friends had escaped, so much had been saved. Who cared about a few buildings lost when lives and families remained intact? And now their new home was rising up, board by board, one day to stretch into the darkness of the cavern above them.

Rarity knew all this. She was happy that they had gotten away with so much, but some ponies apparently couldn't see how lucky they were. She let the report fall limply from her grasp, her eyes tearing up.
How could they be so ungrateful, she wondered in honest confusion. How can anypony kill themselves? Can't they see that life is always worth living?




"What…Applejack, no, tell me you're lying."

Twilight's knees suddenly felt weak, and she reached out a hoof to steady herself against the night table.

"No, Twi. For the first time in a longtime, I'm telling the honest to Celestia truth." Applejack sat on the ground where she had fallen onto her hindquarters, staring teary-eyed into space. "I lied to you. I lied to everypony. There ain't no resistance."

"But you're the element of honesty! Why would you lie about something like that?" Twilight was surprised by the desperation in her voice. One at a time, She had seen what monsters her friends had become. To hear Applejack follow suit, to know that she had always been that way…Twilight wasn't exactly angry so much as disappointed. Was it so bad to hope that just one of her friends may have been different?

"I, too, am interested in hearing your reasons for this, Applejack." Twilight cast a shocked look at Rarity, who didn't seem overly upset. Surprise was written clearly on her face, but she was at least remaining logical. Twilight found herself scoffing cynically at the thought of Rarity being rational about anything, a thought that drove home how little faith she had come to place in her friends.

"It all started when the suicides had first begun." Applejack's face was puffy eyed, though Twilight couldn't see any tears, "I knew I had to do something, anything to help. Rarity kept saying that all they needed was a little bit of hope, and I…I didn't know what else to do." Applejack turned her gaze to Rarity. "I don't mean to accuse you, a' course, you just gave me the idea was all. If ponies had something to believe in, some hope for the future, maybe we could go back to living the way we did when we had Celestia to protect us."

Rarity nodded, and Twilight found herself speaking before she could stop herself. "Applejack, no! You're supposed to be the element of honesty, but this...Celestia, what have you done?" Twilight stared at the silent earth pony in disbelief, her words coming to her slowly. "You lied to give them a vague sense of hope? That's it?

Applejack choked back a sob and looked Twilight in the eyes, her confidence growing at Twilight's calm reaction. "It wasn't a vague sense, Twi. It's the surest thing they have, and they cling to it something fierce. When we first got here, it was the only light at the end of the tunnel, and it's kept more than a few of them going. Twi, I don't mean to pat myself on the back, but my lie certainly saved lives."

"It saved lives..." Twilight trailed off, her head drooping. Fluttershy saved lives, she reminded herself, when she became a murderer. Rarity "saved" lives by focusing on the short term instead of the long term. But at what cost?

"...At what cost?" Twilight repeated, this time out loud. A confused Applejack glanced at Rarity, who look just as puzzled. "At what cost!?" Twilight said again, her voice rising. "Applejack, Fluttershy and Rarity and even Pinkie Pie used their elements to help other ponies, but you... lying..." Twilight sputtered, unable to wrap her head around the idea. "Applejack, you may have saved a few for awhile, but what have you done to yourself?"

Applejack furrowed her brow, rising onto her feet from where she had sat. "Twilight, I ain't the important one here. If me abandoning some magical "element" that didn't work anyway can save even one life, then that's worth it."

"Worth it!? Worth your own morals? Worth your own self?" Twilight felt her anger rising, though she knew she was coming off as unreasonable. "Even Fluttershy is killing her friends every day for the sake of kindness, but you just abandoned everything you believed in-"

"Don't act as if you know what I believe, Twilight Sparkle!" interrupted Applejack, taking a step froward. "If there is one thing I know I believe, it's that lives are always more important than vague morals. The night I watched you die, the night I learned that sometimes, honesty just isn't enough." She shook her head, and Twilight caught a sense of condescension. "I know my plan wasn't perfect, but I'd say it was a mite bit better than dying off one by one."

"Don't you dare defend yourself like that!" shouted Twilight, her head lowered aggressively. "How can you apologize and admit your mistakes, and then turn around like you regret nothing?!"

"I regret a lot of things Twilight." Applejack's voice had become harder, her defenses rising against the relentless unicorn. "I regret leaving my grandma in a burning barn. I regret ever leaving Ponyville alive. I regret living' under a rock for months, trapped in the dark and knowin' that nothing but more darkness was outside." Tears welled up in the orange pony's eyes as she yelled at Twilight, sobs escaping every few words, "I regret living with no purpose for all these months, wondering everyday if there was even a point to all this, but there is one thing I don't regret. I don't regret ignoring my element of harmony, Twilight. I don't regret giving everypony hope, even if it is just a lie." Applejack sighed, wiping the moisture from her eyes, "I don't need you to agree with me, Twi, I just want you to understand."

"Oh, I understand Applejack." Twilight would have rolled her eyes if she hadn't been so angry. Even the sarcasm in her voice was lost as she glared out from under her brow. "You put every pony higher than yourself because you wanted to be selfless. Well now everypony lives every day as a lie, even if they think they are happy. Applejack, that's not helping, that's cruel!"

"Will you be the one to tell them, sugarcube?" Applejack stood up straight, looking down her nose at Twilight. "You think I made such a bad decision? Then go on out there and tell everypony the truth. Crush what hope they have and see if Trixie can even begin her attack before we tear each other to pieces."

Twilight took another forward and opened her mouth to speak. To her surprise, however, Rarity leapt between the two feuding mares. With a blink, Twilight realized that she had come very close to butting heads with Applejack and took an extra step back.

Turning slowly to look at each mare, Rarity spoke sternly. "Girls, stop this at once. Nopony is going to do anything rash." She let her gaze linger on Twilight warningly as she finished, and Twilight felt a pang of guilt. She hadn't been ready to tell everypony the truth just to spite Applejack...had she?

Seeing that all eyes were on her, Rarity retreated to the bedside. Leaning one hoof on the bed unsteadily, she frowned at both ponies. "What Applejack did is over and done with, but you are both right. If we tell everypony now, we'll all end up with nothing." Rarity paused for effect, and Twilight found herself grudgingly agreeing with the unicorn. "According to you both, Trixie announced that her attack would be here soon. We quite simply do not have time for this foalishness."

Twilight paused. While Rarity had certainly proved herself inept at leadership, she did have a point. Keeping her glare fixed firmly on Applejack's stubborn face, Twilight spoke. "You can do whatever you want," she said steadily, "but I won't have any part of this. I won't help you continue lying to this town."

"We don't need your help, you self-righteous-"

"Applejack, will you please shut up! " Rarity's outburst silenced the room, and Twilight noted with a hint of satisfaction that Applejack was left stunned mid sentence. Turning back to Twilight, Rarity continued in a much softer voice. "Twilight, I know that I haven't listened to you in the past, so you have no cause to listen to me now. But please, we need to be united in this. Will you help us?"

Twilight hesitated as she looked back and forth between Applejack and Rarity. Whatever  Rarity had gone though while unconscious had obviously changed her, just as Twilight knew that she had been changed. Bags hung under Rarity's eyes, and the burden of leadership could be seen weighing her shoulders down. By contrast, Applejack stood behind the unicorn, glowering angrily over her shoulder. Twilight struggled to keep her temper down as the earth pony looked down her snout, and Twilight returned the glare.

Twilight's gut churned, looking between her two friends. Applejack was only trying to help, she said to herself, what's more important? Honesty or saving lives?

But she didn't help. She's only made things worse. And now Rarity wants to continue this lie? Twilight's face twisted up in anger, feeling betrayed by both friends. Ughh! We'll have to break it to the town slowly, over a period of months, but before that we'll have to find food, and before that we'll have to win a war, only they expect the war to be won by the resistance, who will also bring them food?

No, I can't. I won't…


"I will help this town," Twilight answered Rarity, her words forming slowly and deliberately in her mouth, "but if you will lead with lies and tricks, I will have no part in it. I'm going to find Dash, and I'm not coming back to this room." Twilight turned away from them both, only barely glimpsing the disappointment on Rarity's face.

"Did our friendship mean so little, my dear?"

Twilight froze, her hoof in the air to push the door open. Lowering it slowly, she looked back over her shoulder. "You aren't my friends. Neither of you ever were. The Applejack I know would have never gone this far, and the Rarity I know wouldn't allow it to continue for even a moment longer." Twilight sighed, finally leaving what hope she had behind. "As far as I'm concerned, we only met the day I arrived in New Ponyville. We were never friends."

Turning around dismally, Twilight left the room. She heard Applejack yell something, but all she could make out was her heartbeat booming in her head. She looked straight ahead all the way across the office and down the stairs, and even kept the wobble out of her legs until she was in the town square.

In a twisted way, Applejack was right. She knew that her lie had saved lives. But it was dangerous and irresponsible, she scolded herself as much as Applejack, and it wasn't worth the risk. It wasn't worth giving everypony hope when it would inevitably be stolen away again. It wasn't worth changing everything about herself to buy one more day of life.

It wasn't until she was home that she finally stumbled and fell against a wall, eyes looking up towards the ceiling. In the darkness of her house, she was left to the silence around her. The same painful, mocking silence that resonated in her horn.

First my magic, now my friends, she thought as she lay, not noticing that her eyes were tearing up. What have I got left in this place?

______________________

The captain knew she was running out of time. Lack of sleep had addled her sense of direction, but she knew that they had to be getting close. If I don't escape by the time we get to New Ponyville… a moment of self doubt threatened the captain, and she squashed it instinctively. No, I'm not giving up that easy. Come on Dash, there's only six of them; this shouldn't even be a challenge. Maybe If I move quickly enough I can squirm away. Her scan roamed frantically over the ponies near her, but they all stood on guard. If I try to make a move too early, they won't get careless again. I just have to hope that I have another opportunity.

The captain knew that she wasn't a patient pony, and the circumstances were doing nothing to help. She could feel her hooves twitch with almost every step, her eyes looking frantically for an opportunity. She turned her head at the pony directly behind her, who glared at her. With two more ponies to either side, her only hope was forward. The warrant officer is a shrimp, he won't even know what hit him. Her muscles tensed, but she restrained herself, but the other Royal Guards will. Damn, I won't get more than a few feet before they drag me down. Damn damn damn damn!

A sudden sense of déjà vu assaulted the captain. Being led captive down this path, enemy ponies surrounding her on all sides. The only thing missing from the picture was her lieutenant. She shook the wistful thoughts out of her head as the company came to a halt, the warrant officer kicking the ground lightly with his hoof. A hoof pushed the captain and she fell to her knees, her head only just beneath the short pony's gaze.

The warrant officer sighed and averted his eyes. "Look captain, I don't take any pleasure in this. I just want you to know that."

"Could'a fooled me, you bastard." The captain spit on the ground as she glowered upward. "You've been at Trixie's beck and call since I first saw her. You're nothing more than a henchman who's scared of his own shadow."

The warrant officer's gaze hardened, his pig-like snout scrunching up in anger. "Cut the self righteousness, captain. You don't know what it's like to work for somepony like her. If I didn't know these guys so well," he waved a hoof at the ponies around him, "You can bet that I'd have my horn broken for even talking to you."

"Yea, and I suppose you are the sole voice of reason in the entire Royal Guard, right? Spare me, petty officer." Dash lifted her gaze towards the void-like sky, refusing to meet the other pony's eyes. "Or is this the part where you let me go so that I can come back with an army of my own?"

The warrant officer chuckled at the faint trace of hope in her voice. "Heh heh, I always did like you, captain. I'd tell you not to tell Trixie, but unfortunately I won't be freeing you anyway. These guys don't like me enough to cover my ass for that." He backed off as the captain was picked up and thrown against a nearby stone wall, which rumbled beneath the force of her body hitting it. The mountain rose behind the captain, her racing heartbeat seeming to make the stone beneath her vibrate. "We've got to make this bloody, but I can at least make sure that you're dead before we get to work on that. Sorry 'bout this, Dash."

The captain looked ahead into the steel blue face before her. The warrant officer's horn began to glow with a yellow light, and the captain hoped that her mask would hide the fear that she could feel seizing control of her. No! I'm not going down without a fight! She cried in her mind, as her hoof tensed for a desperate kick.

"…do this!"

"Huh?" said the warrant officer as the stone next to the captain swung outward, his horn's glow fading.

"Wait, what?" said the captain, looking over her shoulder into her own surprised face.

"Wait, what?" said Rainbow Dash, her wings falling limply down to her side as the ponies behind her hesitated.

The three ponies stood in silence for a moment, trying to figure out what was going on. The captain was the first to recover, and not about to make the same mistake twice, she scrambled to her feet to make a break for it.
    
The Royal Guards had loosened their grips on her arms in the confusion, and the captain was able to wrench free. Maneuvering around the ponies, she made a break for the darkness. If I can just get in the open for a second, she thought frantically, I can escape into the air. I can still warn Nightmare Moon about Trixie!

"Gwaah? Wa-wait! Get her you oafs!" The warrant officer pounced onto the Shadowbolt, the two tumbling off to the side.
"New plan! Attack! Don't let them warn the others!" cried Rainbow Dash, her wings flaring up again. She charged full bodily at the nearest royal guard, broad siding the colt. She was rewarded with a satisfying crunch as the colt hit the ground, stunned as the wind was knocked out of him.

The captain kicked out wildly, catching the warrant officer by luck. The unicorn tumbled away with a grunt, and the captain scrambled back to her feet. Seeing her path ahead blocked by a Royal Guard and an unfamiliar pegasus guard, she turned to the side only to find a large red stallion glaring her down.

"Woah, hey there," the captain backpedalled, not liking the look in the stallions eyes, "can't we talk about this?" The unfamiliar red pony cracked his neck, his eyes glowering under the rim of a construction hat. The captain gulped, "Ok big guy, you asked for it!", she said with more confidence than she felt.

She charged at the large pony, leading with her hoof and putting all her weight behind the kick. Seeing the pony brace for the hit she swerved, rolling to the side at the last second. Big is just another word for slow, she grinned to herself as the world spun around her.  She righted herself as she came side-to-side with the earth pony, but glimpsed a red hoof fill her vision before her world exploded.

________________________

Forepony Checkers lowered his hoof, watching the Shadowbolt tumble into the ground near the base of the mountain from his clothesline. He looked at the limp form, taking a pondering step over to finish off the Shadowbolt. Before he reached her, however, a sharp crack accompanied searing pain in his back.

"AUUGGHH! " he cried out, arching his back as he fell forward. A royal guard stood over the him, the glow in her horn fading. Forepony Checkers looked up into the face through tear rimmed eyes, but saw no mercy as the horn began to glow again.

KRACK! The forepony closed his eyes for the final blow, but no pain accompanied the sound this time. Opening his eyes after a moment, he saw Big Mac lowering his hindquarters from a buck. Off to the side lay the motionless Royal Guard, her head twisted at a disturbing angle.

Standing to his hooves, Red Checkers nodded to the colt. Wincing as another spell crackled past his head, he turned back to the fray, sticking close to the side of his rescuer.

_______________________

Rainbow Dash lashed out at the Royal Guard in front of her, catching the mare on the jaw. She yelped out as she fell to the ground, spitting out blood and scrambling away. A scream behind Dash distracted her from finishing the mare off, but all thoughts of the Royal Guard fled from her mind as she beheld the sight before her.

In the blackness of the day, the only lights had been the discarded torches of the three pegasi and the flashes of magic. But now a pillar of flame shambled aimlessly through the battlefield, a scream tearing through the night from inside the inferno. As Rainbow Dash recognized the shape inside the flames as one of her two pegasi guards, her stomach began wrenching. The scream faded into a gurgle and the pony collapsed, the flames continuing to obscure the figure beneath. As her stomach churned from the sight and smell, Dash saw a horn glowing behind the flame, and the Royal Guard smirked as his magic faded, looking down at the motionless body.
Narrowing her eyes on the black unicorn, Dash felt something within her snap. She launched herself forward with an inarticulate scream of rage, closing the distance rapidly. Rainbow Dash savored the expression of fear on the pony's face as he looked up, realizing far too late that he was being attacked.

____________________

The warrant officer scrambled through the dark, coughing as he regained his breath. A shadow against the wall a few feet away moved slightly, and he instinctively dropped onto his stomach. Hearing a groan, he regained his composure and scrambled over, turning the body over.

A grin crossed over his face as he saw the mask of the Shadowbolt. Maybe I can still pull this off, he thought as his horn began to glow. He certainly didn't want to consider what Trixie would do to him if he failed. A sound behind him gave him just enough time to duck as he felt a hoof swoosh past his head, and he raised his gaze to see a guard pegasus land a few feet away.

"Get out of here, foal, before you hurt yourself." The warrant officer glared at the pegasus pony, but she only lowered her head aggressively as her wings spread out. The warrant officer tensed up, stepping away from the body of the captain, "I don't have time for- eep!"

The warrant officer barely had time to duck as the orange pony swept over him and disappeared into the darkness. Swinging around rapidly, he eyed the wall of blackness ahead of him. The occasional spark of light behind him gave deeper penetration into the heavy gloom, and it was during one such flash that he caught the outline of a face.

Instantly, his horn sprang to life. The pony screamed and flew past him, a gash opening under one wing as she did. She crashed into the ground, writhing in pain, while her wing fell twitching some distance away. Ignoring the screams as they mingled with the chaos around him, the warrant officer rushed back to the side of the captain.
Panting from the exertion of using so much energy so quickly, he put the guard out of mind as he collapsed into the dirt next to the twitching Shadowbolt. I guess I don't have to worry about making it look real, he thought as his horn began to glow, this couldn't possibly be any more-

The warrant officer felt himself leave the ground, and curiously felt unable to breathe. It wasn't until he came down again some feet away that he felt the pain of being kicked in the stomach, having the wind knocked out of him for the second time in as many minutes. Glaring up at the captain as she stood shakily to her hooves, he coughed for breath.

The captain stumbled, bracing herself against the wall.  She looked toward the huddled form of the Warrant officer, her goggles narrowing as she spat venomously. "I'm not…going down…urgh" the captain collapsed forward, her knees buckling as she began throwing up violently. With tremendous effort, the warrant officer got back up on his own four hooves and looked toward the dazed Shadowbolt. It wasn't until the light from a flame illuminated the stone wall behind the captain that the warrant officer saw the blood. Head wound, he grinned as he shambled towards her, that kick probably took the last of her strength.

He didn't need to tell himself how thankful he was for that. He gathered his remaining strength into his horn as he stepped shakily forward. His magic wasn't as tapped as his physical strength, but with all the wasted energy on interrupted spells, it was coming close.

____________________

Rainbow Dash drew back her hoof again, pummeling the face of the flame-wielding pony beneath her. She couldn't feel her hoof anymore, and she wasn't sure how much blood of the pulpy mess beneath her had belonged to the Royal Guard, but she didn't care. Images of the tortured pegasus flew through her mind as she hammered again and again, not caring that the pony had long since stopped fighting back.

Another scream caught her ears, wrenching her from her rampage. Lifting her head, she couldn't find the source of it, but she did see another Royal Guard, unusually shorter than the others. Acting more on blind instinct than conscious thought, Dash launched herself toward her next target, plowing into the unicorn.

As she made contact, her shoulder caught the tip of his horn as it flashed. Searing pain shot through her arm, and she could feel the air near her face split. There was a horrendous screech as the rock above the gateway to New Ponyville was gashed open several inches deep, but Rainbow Dash grit through the pain and landed on her hooves, barely glancing at her bloody shoulder.

The warrant officer rolled several feet away, his squat body making it harder for him to stop himself. As he finally skidded to a halt near the still-burning body of the pegasus guard, he coughed weakly. So this is how it ends, he thought as the enraged visage of Rainbow Dash limped towards him, the flames causing the light to flicker across her bloodstained fur. Despite, or perhaps because of his impending death, the warrant officer began laughing to himself mentally. In a way, the captain got me after all, he reflected as her watched her savage form stagger closer.

Suddenly a red hoof filled his vision, nearly blocking his sight of Rainbow Dash. Turning weakly onto his back, the warrant officer looked up at the chin of Big Macintosh, standing over him protectively. "Rainbow Dash," he said in his plodding voice, "we've been through this before. He couldn't hurt a snail after that last spell, there's no threat left." The warrant officer turned his head back to Rainbow Dash, eyes pleading for a sliver of hope.

Without ever acknowledging the Royal Guard, Rainbow Dash hesitated and looked at Big Mac. Her eyes were hard, but after a moment she relented and slumped her shoulders. "Fine," she sighed as she lifted herself into the air, nursing her oozing shoulder, "Maybe we can salvage something out of this nightmare after all." As she turned away, the warrant officer turned his gaze back to Big Mac. The red stallion exchanged a glance with yet another red colt some distance away, and then both turned their gaze on the retreating form of Rainbow Dash.

Nopony was looking at the warrant officer.

Big Mac noticed a light that flickered out of time with the flames. Looking down in curiosity more than alarm, he eyed the fiercely concentrating unicorn beneath him. "Hey now, kid, you couldn't cut grass in the shape-"

There was a flash, and the colt blinked. The space beneath him was now dark, and much emptier. "Damn it!" he yelled, giving a rare display of anger. Red ran over to him, and Rainbow Dash turned back around. Sure enough, Big Mac stood over an empty patch of ground, his distraction giving the unicorn enough time to teleport away.

Rainbow Dash sighed. I suppose it was too much to hope for, she thought. She looked around the battlefield dismally, the light from the torches and the burning body fading slowly. All of the royal guards lay dead, but so did two of her own ponies. Most of the corpses were visibly mutilated, and Dash's stomach heaved briefly when her gaze fell on the face of the fire-casting pony. Oh Celestia, she groaned as she averted her gaze, I did that. I actually killed him.

Dash looked toward the rock wall, trying to put the sight of the battlefield out of her mind.  With only the bare wall to see, she couldn't help but face her own thoughts. Why? Why can't anything ever go as planned? Why does everything have to get worse and worse until everypony breaks!?

Dash wanted to scream. She just wanted to fly into the air and yell into the void that mocked the day. A thousand scattered thoughts floated through her overwhelmed mind, and she caught herself thinking of Pinkie Pie. She's the lucky one, Dash wanted to shout, she escaped into her own world. She doesn't have to live in this hopeless hellhole. Celestia, just one glimmer of hope, that's all I ask! But Celestia was gone, who knew where, and Rainbow Dash knew it. What do you do when the only god left is the one trying to kill you?
The movement of nearby shadows caught her attention, distracting her from the irony of her prayer. The world seemed to blur around her with every movement as she inched her way towards closer, finding herself on her hooves even though she didn't remember landing. The memory of the first scene when the gates had opened replayed in her head: the Royal Guards waiting outside, the fear that it was a trap, and then the sight of the Shadowbolt. In the chaos of the battle, Dash had forgotten about the other mare.

She stumbled over to the curled body as it lay softly breathing, coughing occasionally. Dash's vision stretched before her, sounds seeming distant and muffled. Dash pulled at the goggles on the mare's face, and although they offered some resistance they eventually came off with a soft crackle of magic. Rainbow Dash wasn't at all surprised to recognize the glassy-eyed face of the captain, her own face, below her.
It all makes sense, she thought dazedly. She didn't know what made sense exactly, and somewhere in her a voice screamed that her shoulder had been losing a lot of blood, but she was happily at peace. She felt herself slipping forward as the captain's glassy eyes turned toward hers weakly before rolling back in her head. The sounds of quick hoofbeats behind her were the last things Dash heard before falling softly forward into unconsciousness.

____________________________

Trixie looked up into the expectant face of Nightmare Moon. The heavy darkness of the day poured in through the open windows, but was thrown back to the corners of the throne room by the goddess' roiling mane. For the first time ever, Trixie didn't lower her eyes when looking into Nightmare Moon's face, though her body was laid on the ground in a pose of worship.

It took all of Trixie's willpower to keep the smile off her face. Nightmare Moon looked curiously at the prostrated mare, neither anger nor belief yet coloring her features. She'll believe me this time, Trixie knew, she has too. I can show her proof.

Finally, Nightmare Moon spoke down to the teal unicorn. "Trixie…I am relieved to hear your words." Trixie held back a sigh of relief, knowing it could give her away. "You were indeed audacious to assume my captain's guilt, and I am glad to hear of your repentance. But for now, let us speak of this rebel base you seem to have stumbled across."

The ebony pony stepped delicately down the stairs to the throne, her mane streaming behind her like a torch. Trixie watched her openly, no longer needing to hide behind courtesy and regal poise to avoid her wrath. "You claim they hide inside a mountain and openly defied communication with you, is that right?"

"Yes, your majesty. I used an advanced telepathy spell to make contact before I made assumptions about their allegiances, but they openly mocked me. Naturally, I dispatched a patrol and came back to make my report immediately."

Trixie saw Nightmare Moon's brow scrunch up in a mixture of pain and anger, but it quickly sank into disappointment. "I see. I had thought that all traces of the resistance had been put down in Manehatten, but it seems that some ponies cling to outdated ideas. Very well, we shall go and see to this mess." Nightmare Moon strode past Trixie, towards the shadowed door of the throne room.

"W-we?" Trixie stammered as she scrambled to her hooves, falling into step behind her mistress. "But, your majesty, I can handle them perfectly well myself! If you'll just hear out my request for additional power from-"

"Forgive me, Trixie," Nightmare Moon interrupted without even casting a glance towards the unicorn, "But you misunderstand. For the first time in almost a year of service, you appear to have shown some sense of responsibility for your actions and regret when you acted in error." Nightmare Moon's voice remained even, but her mane settled to a low simmer as she arrived at the door. "I'm not coming down into that compost heap to help you; I'm going to find out what you're lying about."

With a glimmer of Nightmare Moon's horn, the large doors flew open. Trixie followed her ruler across the hallway to a window that looked out into the distance. "If you are telling the truth, Trixie, then I will grant you all the power you need to crush this insurrection." Nightmare Moon still refused to look at the unicorn below her as her gaze settled on the distant forest. "If, however, you are lying, if you have made even the slightest move against my throne…I have no tolerance for treason, Trixie, and you'd do well to remember that."

Trixie gulped as the queen's horn began to glow. My plan is perfect, she told herself as the world blurred around her. It is a masterful work of subterfuge. I have nothing to worry about. With all the self assurance she could muster, she attributed her quickening heartbeat to excitement instead of nervousness.

____________________

Rainbow Dash rose slowly out of darkness, her mind returning to the real world gradually. She opened her eyes to see a dim wooden ceiling above her, a sight she had come to loathe. Panic set in as she recognized the room around her, the soft bed beneath her feeling all too familiar. She whipped her head around and, sure enough, bandages encircled her shoulder. "No no no! I'm not spending another three days in here!" she yelled, thrashing around in her blankets.

"Relax, Rainbow Dash," Dash turned her head towards the voice, seeing Twilight stretched across the ground in front of a book. A pencil was held awkwardly in her mouth, and she placed it down before continuing, "You aren't even tied down."

Rainbow Dash gave her shoulder an experimental lift, her worries dispelled as she sat up. Gripping the book in her mouth, Twilight marked her page and stood up, coming closer to the pegasus. Her fears gone, Dash's found the memories of the battle rushing back to her.

She felt her body seize up, "Twilight! What happened?! How did I get here? Where are the other ponies?" She reached up to grab her friend, but winced in pain from her shoulder.

Twilight put the book down and to free her mouth. Grimacing at the aftertaste, she spoke softly to her friend, "Big Macintosh and another pony dragged you back in with a few others. Some of them…I didn't get a good look at them, but there was a lot of blood." Twilight hesitated, and Dash could see that something was troubling her. "The whole town went into a frenzy when you guys came back, and when I got to you I offered to keep watch over you until you woke up."

Dash kept fidgeting, glancing this way and that. "Twi, there's something very important that I need to know. How long ago was I brought in?"

The question seemed to take Twilight off guard, her blackened eyes widening in confusion. "Uhm, I guess about thirty minutes, why?"

Dash braced herself for the forthcoming reaction, "Because that group we ran into was a patrol, and one of them escaped. If he made it back and told Trixie that we attacked them, then she won't wait another day before launching her forces. We need to evacuate now."

Twilight smiled, and it was Dash's turn to be confused. She should be worried, she thought suspiciously, or at least surprised. But Twilight's smile seemed off to Dash, and her voice sounded high strung when she spoke. "Oh, that won't be a problem," she all but giggled, "we've decided to stay in New Ponyville anyway. What difference does it make whether she attacks in a day or an hour?"

Dash's suspicions took the confirmation badly, her stomach dropping in worry. "Twi, are you ok?" The change in Twilight's demeanor had occurred quickly, and Dash wondered if she had brought up a sensitive subject.

"Oh, I'm fine Dash!" she exclaimed, her voice dripping sarcasm, "I'm just here, looking after my friend, while Applejack and Rarity fortify a town of sticks and rocks." She sat down on the edge of the bed in a huff, hooves crossed across her chest. "Rarity woke up and Applejack…she…gahh! I can't even talk about it right now!"

Dash chalked Twilight's frustration up to the orange mare's stubbornness, focusing on their next step. Though Twilight just glared at the wall away from her, Dash looked at her slouched form. "Well, we can't attack anymore, but I'm surprised they don't want to evacuate." She tapped her chin pensively, "So, what are you gonna recommend to them? I doubt they'll let me back in there after I stormed out like that."

Twilight grunted a laugh again, "Heh, you stormed out? Dash, I'm honestly surprised they didn't have me arrested after I left that room. "

Dash's jaw dropped dropped, "You mean you walked out too? Over what!?" Twilight opened her mouth to respond, but Dash shook her head. "Damn, now neither of us carry any weight with Rarity. What were you thinking, Twi?"

Twilight drew back, a hoof coming up across her chest defensively "What was I…? Dash, you walked out first! And then you just trotted outside and attacked the Royal Guard!" Twilight's voice was more incredulous than offended, but Dash deflated swiftly under her voice.

"No, wait, I didn't mean…" Dash hesitated, trying to find the right words. "Err, I'm sorry Twi. I guess I'm just mad that after everything now, the only thing we have to show for it is not having any control over what happens next." Her shoulders drooped, "We just have to sit and wait for Trixie to attack."

Both ponies sat in silence. Dash's face contorted, and she opened her mouth to speak more than once but never uttered a word. Twilight simply sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at her friend. Dash turned her eyes upwards in time to see Twilight lift a hesitant hoof.

"Dash," she began, her face already drawing back, "We don't…we don't have to stay here, you know."

Dash was confused for a moment before Twilight's meaning sank in. "You mean, leave New Ponyville?" Her mouth dropped open, "Twilight, our friends are here!" she exclaimed, stammering around the implications. "How can you even suggest that?"

Twilight hadn't been sure of what to expect from Dash, but this was certainly a possibility. "Please, just listen!" she pleaded with hooves together, "I know that everypony we really know is here or dead, but these aren't our friends!" Dash drew herself back from interrupting, albeit barely. "Rainbow, our friends are back home in our Ponyville. This is very literally a different world, a parallel universe, and by definition that means that some things are different." She held her hooves open to gesture to the room around her, "We've both seen the way that Rarity and Applejack behave, towards us and the town! Whatever happened that night that made the Elements of Harmony fail, it could have been from either of them not embodying their elements, and we can both see that none of our friends embody them anymore."

"So we should just abandon them?" replied Rainbow Dash. Her voice was calm and questioning, not at all what she expected. I should be angry, she wondered at herself, I was a moment ago. Why aren't I anymore?

"Well, we're not really…" Twilight trailed off, looking down guiltily. "I mean, we're not even supposed to be here in the first place, right? We only got here by mistake." Dash kept her face impassive, and Twilight tried a different argument, her words gaining strength as she continued. "Dash, I want to help everypony, believe me, but…by Celestia, look around Rainbow. What is there here to save?"

Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to reply, trusting her anger to supply the words her mind couldn't find. But nothing came out, and her face scrunched up in confusion. No, she thought, this goes against everything I stand for. They are still my friends, this is still Ponyville.

And with a flash, Dash knew why she couldn't be angry. Deep inside her, her sense of loyalty burned at her and begged her to stay, but on top of that sense of duty were days and days of watching ponies suffer. Days of never-ending darkness and rot. Watching her friends lie and kill and sacrifice innocents for nothing.

What do I have left to be loyal to?

Twilight took Dash's silence to mean she was on the fence about the idea, and continued with her plan. "We could leave tonight," she muttered, afraid to break Dash's thoughts. "We know where at least one escape tunnel lies, the one the captain escaped from. We could make our way to one of the main cities and lie low until my magic returns and I can find a way home."

Dash remained silent, and Twilight looked towards her face. The cyan pegasus refused to meet her eyes, and her face held a sadness that Twilight had never seen on her friend before. "Please," begged Twilight, her voice soft in the silent room, "We don't have to die here. Not for this."
Twilight realized that her hooves were clasped together, and she slowly drew them apart and lay back. Very slowly, Dash lifted her head to look Twilight in the eyes, which Twilight could tell were moist around the edges. I don't want to do this, she wanted to add, but If you saw Rarity ignore common sense, if I had time to explain what Applejack did, I know you'd agree. She held her words however, as Dash opened her mouth.

"Twilight," she began as a tear rolled down her cheek. "I'm…sorry. I can't leave" Her head dropped onto her chest, and Twilight could hear a sob come from her friend. "I wish I could," she continued in a muffled voice, "but it goes against everything I know." She looked up, her eyes now puffy with tears. "Ever since I saw Fluttershy killing those animals, I've only cared about protecting you. You're right, I don't owe them anything, but I just can't. Even if they aren't our real friends, even if this isn't Ponyville anymore…I'm not ready to give up on them. Not yet."

Dash's head dropped again, and Twilight felt like a lead weight sat in her chest. "I'm sorry Dash," she found herself saying suddenly, falling forward and throwing her hooves around the mare's shoulders, "I didn't mean to make you choose between me and everypony else. She felt a pair of hooves embrace her back tentatively, "If you aren't leaving, then neither am I."

Both mares lay in the bed as their tears subsided, each racked by the occasional sob. Dash's embrace grew tighter over the course of a few minutes, and Twilight gave a final squeeze to her hug before drawing away.

"That puts us back at square one," moped Twilight as she sat up, "we can't do anything except wait for Trixie to attack at any moment."

"Maybe…" Dash hinted, placing a hoof on her chin.

Twilight perked up. Dash appeared to be deep in thought, but Twilight was desperate for good news. "Rainbow, is there something you haven't told me?"she asked, leaning forward.

"When you saw me being brought in, you said you saw a few other ponies, right?" Dash ventured, her hopes rising slowly.

"Yea, but I didn't get a good look at them. I think the entire town was trying to cram onto that tiny bridge-"

"Did you see how many of them there were?"

Twilight thought for a moment, "Well, there were two ponies walking, and four stretchers with you on one of them. So six total, I guess." She looked at her friend, confused by this line of questioning.

Dash smiled, her grin splitting her face from ear to ear. "Twi, I only went out there with four ponies."

Twilight hesitated. "So then who was the sixth one?" she asked slowly, her mind trying to race ahead and guess the answer.

"You reminded me just now when you were talking about escaping," Dash said as she sat up and flexed her wings, "It wasn't just the Royal Guard out there. The captain was showing them the entrance to New Ponyville."

Twilight found herself scrambling to keep her balance as Dash leapt out of bed, knocking Twilight off in the process. Regaining her composure, she cocked her head to the side. "Rainbow Dash, the captain didn't want to fight us even after Spitfire died," she said incredulously as Dash shook life back into her limbs, "why would she go back on that now?"

"I don't know" answered Dash as she lifted herself experimentally off the ground, "maybe she didn't, but that sure is what it looked like." She let herself fall to the ground, giving a satisfied smile as every body part checked out. "But if she's anything like me, she doesn't want to see everypony here die either. What if I go and try talking to her?"

"Rainbow Dash, that's brilliant!" Twilight exclaimed. She began pacing between the bed and the door, thinking out loud. "If these ponies stay here, we'll all die. But if you can convince the captain to help us, and I can convince the town to stop following Rarity, then maybe we can escape before Trixie surrounds us." She stopped and smacked one of her hooves into the other, staring at Dash. "We have to work fast, though. You go to the captain, and I'll go to the town square."

It was Dash's turn to be surprised. "Wait, how are you going to convince everypony to stop following the mare who saved their lives?" Dash questioned as she narrowed her eyes.

"Because I know something they don't," Twilight replied, her voice wavering slightly. "Applejack lied about the resistance, and if everypony finds out about it then Rarity and Applejack won't be leading anypony."

Dash's head drooped, but part of her wasn't very alarmed. She honestly felt more disappointed by the continuing trend of her friend's failing than surprised, a realization that worried her deeply. "I see," she stated simply as she trotted toward the door. "In that case, we better move now."

"Okay Dash," Twilight replied as torchlight flooded the doorway. The two mares stood side by side as the empty street stretched before them, each with their own mission. Twilight tried to ignore her own warnings as the possible outcomes of telling the town the truth assaulted her imagination, and a quick glance towards Dash revealed that she was similarly lost in thought.
The cyan mare looked back, and Twilight realized she had been staring. Carefully making her face impassive, Dash nodded and flexed her wings. "Good luck, Twi."

Twilight resisted the urge to hug her friend again, knowing that she had to be strong on her own for the coming trial. "Thanks Dash," she answered. She could only imagine what Dash must be going through, having to ask a twisted version of herself for help. "And you too!" she added belatedly as the mare left the ground, disappearing into the darkness above.

With a sigh, Twilight turned toward the street before her. With the whole town against her and Dash gone, her only companions as she began walking towards the town center were the clops of her hooves and the silence between their echoes.
Google Docs Link: [link]

Well, here we are. Has it been three weeks of four? Well, it's been awhile, but here's chapter 14.

A lot of things contributed to this delay, but that's not important. What is important is that most of them have been taken care of, so the time before 15 should be dramatically decreased.

When I started writing this, I wanted to bring in one of the many big elements from Plato's Republic (hence the name Politeia, which is Greek for Republic). The concept of the Noble Lie has always given me moral pause, and part of writing this chapter (and the next) was exploring that idea. The basic idea is that Applejack's lie made the town a better place, without question. The drawback is that if anyone ever finds out, the whole system will collapse. You can decide whether or not it was a good decision before I bring that question to a close in 15 (maybe).

I want to give a special thanks to the people who preread and edited this chapter. I've learned a few things about how I want to do this in the future, so expect it to be more streamlined with the next update. Of six people that volunteered, only two actually got back me with a list of edits, so I'm definitely going to be more selective. That being said, the feedback I received about parts that needed to be improved was invaluable, and there's some things that I couldn't believe I didn't catch earlier. If I had more time, I'd go through every previous chapter again just to catch every flaw.

So yea, the noble lie was the big question for this chapter, but I wanted to start leading you into the biggie for chapter 15 as well. For those of you who have been waiting for the captain to say her piece...well, keep waiting, but not for too much longer now.

I'm going to be honest, I really struggled with this chapter. Every character deserves an entire scene devoted to teir actions, but I generally try to keep my writing in third-person limited. Something I've been slowly finding out is that no matter how much I want to, I can't show you everything. When I try, it just gets drawn out, redundant, slow paced, and boring. Compare, for example, chapter 12 with chapter 8; Chapter eight said only what it needed to say in order to deliver the kick at the end, while still keeping the story moving. Chapter 12 was mostly throwing a bunch of information at you that was merely a progression of events, quite literally the epilogue to chapter 11 (compare their names, even). That's the kind of thing that I want to cut out of my writing, but it's a fine line to walk. Just one of the many things I'm learning while writing, I guess.

Oh, and if you read all of that, I assume you care enough about what I'm saying to read more of my work. In that case. go here ([link]) to read my short, one-shot story that needs stars. Please?
© 2011 - 2022 BronyCray
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DolphinBuster's avatar
I love RD's plan...only 4 ponies...against an army. LOL, That'll work perfectly.

At first I thought that Rainbow would agree with Twilight on leaving New Ponyville but, She didn't cause of her loyalty. I kind of spazzed at the screen for a minute cause in my opinion...There's not point of being there cause there isn't much that they can do other then support and give hope, which was royally fudged up because of Applejack and her lying about "the resistance" (hiss). Also, you would expect Twilight to think of all the idea's but Rainbow is just overflowing with them! I'm not saying it's out of character, In my opinion it's not. In the show, sure Twilight has the solution(or most) to everything but I'm pretty damn sure that Rainbow has a lot too, LIKE...When she devised a plan to steal a book from the hospital, and pranks. Also, you know I used to love Trixie but this story made me realize that if she did have the capability to have power, She would DEFINITIVELY do this, Like that i totally the Trixie thing to do x]

I'm sorry -_- I seem to be doing this every few chapters, or is it every? I dunno. Just had to vent out my thoughts so I can continue reading without over thinking stuff from this one. Good grief :P I will shut up now.

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