TEXT   1948   4
   22525   122.81 KB   1819

A Month in Jail for Wearing Socks Part 2 (COMPLETE)

By PhysicsAnon
Created: 12th November 2020 09:31:33 PM
27th December 2021 03:36:46 AM

  1.  
  2. >You awake in a sweat with an uncomfortably sticky sensation in your boxers
  3. >…Fuck
  4. >Still in a haze, you hobble into the bathroom to strip down and freshen up
  5. >As you close the door behind you, you hear an awkward cough coming from your bedroom
  6. “What? Who’s out there?!”
  7. >The voice of a mildly grossed out draconequus replies
  8. >”Your friendly neighborhood chaos spirit. You’ve kept me waiting long enough. Clean yourself up so we can go.”
  9. >You grimace through your embarrassment and rush through your morning trinity, returning to your room to get dressed as you question Discord
  10. “So, uh, are you just going to teleport us there? Where are we even going?”
  11. >”Yes, and deep under Canterlot Mountain. We’re talking miles underground. Deeper than even Diamond Dogs go. Almost in the mantle of the planet.”
  12. “And… How exactly did this this thing get stuck down there?”
  13. >Discord twirls his scraggly beard impatiently, but humors you
  14. >”The evil emotions gathered down there over the years, far from where any innocent creature would stumble onto them. Nightmare was the first to find them, since she feeds on such things. It was her equivalent of winning the lottery, but even with that much power she’s still just a parasite. She needed a host. Which is where a particularly unlucky changeling queen comes in.”
  15. >You decided to put on your clothes from Earth on a whim, and now have your pants belted on as you continue with your questions
  16. “Those are the bugs, right? Do they feed on negative emotions too?”
  17. >”Nope. Just love. But the queens are big and have pointy teeth-“
  18. “Greeeaaat."
  19. “-which I imagine suited Nightmare’s tastes. Not to mention Chrysalis is still mad about the whole thing with the wedding.”
  20. "The wedding?”
  21. >Discord waves his claw dismissively
  22. >”Oh, it’s a heck of a story. Has wife-throwing and mind control. Wild stuff. But I’m not here to tell you stories, boy. Are you ready yet?”
  23. >The gravity of what you’re about to attempt still hasn’t quite sunk in, and you don’t plan on giving it a chance to
  24. “Yeah. Snap your fingers before I start second-guessing.”
  25. >The short, sharp crack rips you through space and the sudden darkness and damp, still air is jarring compared to the calm comfort of your cell
  26. >You fumble in the black until your hand comes to rest on a rough wall of stone and you regain your footing
  27. >Discord speaks again, whispering now
  28. >”Remember. The thing we’re about to meet is neither cute nor cuddly. Or sane. The faster we end this, the better for all.”
  29. >You whisper in response, squinting in a vain attempt to make out anything around you
  30. “Can you give us some light at least?”
  31. >”No. Sorry. I’d rather we get there unannounced.”
  32. >You nearly jump out of your skin as a clawed hand rests on your shoulder, but you realize it’s his.
  33. >”Easy. Just walk slow and steady.”
  34. >After calming yourself, you begin to take probing steps through the tunnel. Your feet knock against crags and bumps, and Discord has to steer you out of the way of a stalagmite
  35. >Or was it a stalactite?
  36. >Whatever
  37. >You feel sweat running down your forehead as nerves begin to kick in
  38. >The air seems to hum, and your heart sinks lower and lower the farther you go
  39. >All you can do is focus on placing your feet on level ground, slowly creeping onward
  40. >After minutes of shuffling through the dark, the path begins to brighten
  41. >But even the light isn’t comforting down here
  42. >The sickly red glow permeates everything it touches, giving you the feeling of being stained
  43. >Discord removes his claw from your shoulder now that visibility has improved
  44. >”Nearly there now.”
  45. >The remainder of the trek is just a straight shot, leading you to the source of the light
  46. >…it’s the orb. The one he showed you
  47. >It looks oddly organic, rooted in the floor of the cavern and pulsing
  48. >It looks like an oyster pearl, except evil
  49. >Discord gestures toward it
  50. >”There. Just put your hands on that and she’ll come running.”
  51. >You try to look more confident than you feel as you stride forwards
  52. >Picturing the faces of all the cute creatures you’ve met in the last few days, you take a deep breath and thrust your hands out onto the sphere’s dark surface
  53. >Instantly, the thing begins to shrink, hissing and popping like a dying fire
  54. >Thoughts that aren’t yours shoot through your mind, just barely registering themselves before vanishing
  55. >Cruel thoughts, furious thoughts, despairing thoughts, every sort of negative emotion batters your brain all at once
  56. >You grit your teeth and try to think of the princesses and Caring
  57. >And then as if that weren’t enough an angry, deafening roar echoes through the tunnel
  58. >Discord’s face is a grim smile, both paws ready to snap
  59. >”She finally noticed. Anonymous, it is my great displeasure to introduce you to Nightmare.”
  60. >You look around frantically, eyes bouncing from the dying globe of wickedness beneath your hands to the dark reaches of the cavern.
  61. “Where is she? Do I really need to keep touching this?!”
  62. >”Yes! It’s the source of her power! If you can reduce it to nothing she’ll be infinitely weaker with just Chrysalis’ resentment to work with!”
  63. “Fuuuuuuuck.”
  64. >You try to press your hands deeper in, but it’s solid
  65. >The endless assault of discarded bad thoughts continues on your mind, and you start to wonder if you’ll go insane from it
  66. >Panic starts to build
  67. >There has to be a way to make it go faster!
  68. >You open your mouth to ask Discord, but another roar cuts you off
  69. >This one is much closer, and the entire cavern shakes
  70. “Hey! You’re gonna cover me, right?! You can’t just let that thing get at me!”
  71. >”I’ll do my best, but I can’t guarantee-“
  72. >That’s as far as he gets
  73. >A huge, screaming shape comes hurtling out of the darkness, and Discord barely teleports out of the way
  74. >It careens through where he stood, landing upright and locking its murderous eyes to yours
  75. >A jagged horn rises from a long, lifeless mane and raggedy wings that look like they shouldn’t work protrude from its back
  76. >But its mouth
  77. >Oh god its fucking mouth
  78. >It opens wide, revealing row upon row of pristine fangs
  79. >It snarls a single word at you
  80. “DIE.”
  81. >The shriek that escapes you as you hurl yourself out of her way isn’t very masculine
  82. >You scramble to your feet just in time for a giant beam of red light to engulf you
  83. >It feels just as bad as touching the orb, but doesn’t do much else
  84. >It dissipates, and you see Nightmare standing across from you with a smoking horn
  85. >She is visibly confused
  86. >…you probably weren’t supposed to survive that
  87. >You snicker despite yourself
  88. “That’s it, huh? That’s all you got?”
  89. >She lets out another scream, glaring bloody murder at you
  90. >”WRETCH! I don’t know or care what you are, I’ll-!”
  91. >There’s a loud snap; then she disappears, and just like that Discord is jostling you back towards the red mass
  92. >”Leave the smack talk for later! Your job is to get rid of that stuff! I’ll handle her!”
  93. >You dash back to the ball of bad vibes and slam your palms down, grimacing at the sensations but prepared for it this time
  94. >You crane your neck to catch a glimpse of what’s going on behind you
  95. >It would be really funny if Nightmare’s rage-filled cries didn’t chill your spine
  96. >The hulking, dark-coated beast flashes out of sight with each snap of Discord’s fingers, only to reappear in a burst of red magic, diving towards you, or Discord, or sometimes trying to feint, all to no avail
  97. >Discord’s breathing hard, but doesn’t seem too worried
  98. >”Hoooooo, wow. If I knew it was going to be this easy I’d have just dragged him here in the first place.”
  99. >Nightmare reappears again, this time standing still and glowering at the both of you
  100. >Even when she’s trying to talk normally it sounds like a the growling of a hell beast
  101. >”What twisted creature have you brought to this world, draconequus? You would go to such extremes to best me?”
  102. >Discord smirks, shrugging his shoulders
  103. >”This was never about ‘besting’ you, Nightmare. You’ve turned into something that can’t live in this world anymore, so I needed something special to get rid of you. No hard feelings.”
  104. >The beast snorts derisively
  105. >”Jest while you can. I have already gained more than enough power. This world, and all others, will be mine. I’ll show you what a fool you were to align yourself with the ponies.”
  106. >”Psssh. Are those your last words? Let’s get this over with then. Anonymous is being welcomed to Canterlot today, and Fluttershy is going to be there. I promised her we’d get donuts after.”
  107. >With a snarl, the magic duel begins anew, and you focus on the dissipating sphere
  108. >Seems like you got all worried over nothing
  109.  
  110. >You’re a guard overseer trying very hard to convince nosy club members that nothing is wrong, so you must be Brass Badge
  111. >Just like Anon said, he wasn’t in his room this morning
  112. >But that left a whole mess of ponies and griffons plus three minotaurs that would be worried about him at breakfast
  113. >”Overseer, you’re sure he’s just a little sick? This is kinda sudden.”
  114. >You take a deep breath and repeat your story once again
  115. “Yes, I’m sure. I don’t know much about how humans work, but Caring Touch does and she’s looking after him. You guys need to just go about your day and he’ll be better in no time. Alright?”
  116. >Caring Touch stood beside you, nodding
  117. >The prisoners still seemed reluctant to buy it though…
  118. >Summer Squall eyes you suspiciously while Steel Trap speaks
  119. >”Well, can’t we see him really quick? No offense, nurse, but being stuck in the infirmary stinks. And this is the second time this week for him!”
  120. >Caring huffs at the declaration, but responds civilly enough
  121. >”No, not yet. He’s very sick and needs his sleep. When he’s ready for visitors, you all will be the first to know. I promise!”
  122. >The weights club members grumble and argue a little longer, but between your impatient stare and the nurse’s insistence, they eventually give up and head off to club
  123. >The nurse sighs, and you turn to face her apologetically
  124. “Thank you for that. I would never have been able to convince them by myself.”
  125. >”It’s no trouble! I’m always happy to help Anon. Did he tell you anything about where he was going?”
  126. “No… And if I’m honest, I’m surprised he told you he was leaving. I assume that means you know his secret, then?”
  127. >She responds slowly
  128. >”…Maybe. He’s told me one or two.”
  129. >Sounds like she probably knows
  130. >Kind of odd, though
  131. >She seems to be taking the knowledge that she’s been living close to an ancient deity pretty well
  132. >…Better than you did, anyway
  133. “Well, that’s fine. Nothing to do but wait.”
  134. >She nods absently, seemingly lost in thought
  135. >You turn to leave, walking back down the halls to begin checking in on all the clubs
  136. >It’s been a long time since you followed your normal schedule
  137. >But even returning to what should have been normalcy for you, it still doesn’t feel right
  138. >You hope he gets back soon
  139.  
  140. >You’re watching Brass Badge disappear around the corner, so you’re Caring Touch
  141. >You’re slowly piecing together what Anon was talking about when he said he wasn’t a god
  142. >Brass Badge thinks he has some kind of secret
  143. >Warden Sharp lets him get away with much, much more than a normal prisoner ever would
  144. >And the biggest, scariest inmates in the prison follow him around like puppies after just a couple of days
  145. >Do some of them think he’s a god? Is that it?
  146. >You snort
  147. >It’s silly, all of it
  148. >Anon is Anon, and as charming as he may be he was no more god than you!
  149. >Which just makes you worry even more now that he’s suddenly disappeared
  150. >How could he have left the prison without raising the alarm?
  151. >What could he possibly be doing?
  152. >Why did he sound so scared?
  153. >You go back into your office and lock the door behind you, trotting over to your desk
  154. >Your medical bag rests on the floor behind it, just beside your chair
  155. >You can’t think of any bump or scrape you can’t fix with its contents
  156. >It’s always there, always prepared
  157. >Now, though, you pull it up onto your desk and sort through the contents
  158. >Suddenly it all seems so… little
  159. >The bandaids are much too small
  160. >The tubes of disinfectant cream seem so trivial
  161. >The small little odds and ends, the little candies for good patients…
  162. >Could you really help him with any of this if he really, really needed it?
  163. >You remember the bag of his blood, still in storage
  164. >You only ever ran the one test on it, most of it’s still there
  165. >Would he need it back?
  166. >You shake your head, laughing at yourself
  167. >Who ever heard of giving back blood?
  168. >But the thought doesn’t go away
  169. >What if he lost some?
  170. >What if he got cut really bad, or got a nosebleed, or got a really nasty scrape on his knee?
  171. >Or worse?
  172. >You can’t even conceive of something worse, but…
  173. >You wander over to your cold storage, the bag in your magical grip before you know it
  174. >You gently set it somewhere it can be grabbed quickly, just in case
  175. >Just in case…
  176.  
  177. >You-
  178. >”Get back here, you little coward!”
  179. >You’re-
  180. >”LET ME DEVOUR YOU!”
  181. “Catch me first, lard ass!”
  182. >You’re sprinting through an underground tunnel system with a gross red ball under your arm and the angriest damn horse you’ve ever seen hot on your tail, so you must be Anonymous
  183. >And holy shit, things went tits up fast
  184. >You’re still not entirely sure what happened to Discord, but you can remember what looked like space tearing open and him shouting for you to run before getting sucked into it
  185. >The orb had shrunk down to the size of a beach ball, and you had no intention of finding out where the expanding wormhole lead
  186. >So here you are
  187. >Setting a new personal land speed record as you book it through the dark tunnels, only the light of Nightmare’s hurled red bolts of bad vibes to light your way
  188. >”You will not escape! Your very soul is mine! Your own wickedness will fuel my powers-“
  189. “Do you ever shut the fuck up?! Once this orb is all the way gone, you are dead as dirt you oversized bug-”
  190. >”You will die slowly for your insolence-!“
  191. “I dare you bitch!!”
  192. >”I WILL EAT YOU, YOU LITTLE SHIT!!”
  193. >You feel a set of oversized chompers snap shut just shy of your hamstrings
  194. >Adrenaline floods your veins and you put on a burst of speed, desperate to get some distance on the fanged horror behind you
  195. >You can’t just keep running like this, but if there are any other options you can’t see them
  196. >…Wait
  197. >This stretch of the cave is starting to look familiar
  198. >If you remember, there’s a bit up ahead where the path splits
  199. >Both roads reconvene after a short distance
  200. >A half-assed plan forms
  201. >Well, it’s better than continuing the chase
  202. >Here goes nothing!
  203. >The fork you were counting on appears, and you hurl your crimson cargo down one path and then bolt down the other, hoping Nightmare cares more about recovering the orb than teaching you a lesson
  204. >There’s a confused exclamation, then laughter as she goes down the other road
  205. >Got her
  206. >You slow down slightly since you’re now moving in complete darkness, but she also won’t see you coming now
  207. >Unless she can see in the dark
  208. >…Well, too late for a new plan
  209. >You trail your hand along the left wall, waiting for the paths to rejoin
  210. >Nightmare talking to herself also helps your navigation
  211. >”Hahaha! To think he’d willingly drop it. A pity. I’d hoped for a little more sport.”
  212. >Don’t worry, ugly. The match has just begun
  213. >The wall disappears, and you hear heavy hooves striking stone right next to you
  214. >You hurl yourself into her at a low angle, and the high-pitched shriek she lets out as her legs are swept from under her gives you a moment of smug satisfaction
  215. >And now, the ruck
  216. >You drop your entire body weight onto her and hear her gasp as the breath leaves her
  217. >Your hands hurriedly seek out her throat and your fingers tighten around her airway
  218. >You lean into it so she can’t raise her head up to bite you
  219. >Checkmate, for now
  220. >Her horn erupts with light and you see a telekinetic aura fizzle and waver against your skin as it fails to take hold
  221. >The light is just enough to show the abject disbelief in her eyes
  222. >You snort
  223. “Can dish it but can’t take it. Should have guessed.”
  224. >She thrashes with her legs now, front ones trying to get at your face while her rear ones lash out at your back
  225. >She gets a couple decent hits it, but your will is strong
  226. >You aren’t letting go until it’s over
  227. >Her swings and kick get more and more desperate
  228. >Tears start to flow from her eyes, but you stay composed
  229. >You’d have to be retarded to cave for tears at this point, even if they’re real
  230. >…
  231. >That’s odd, is she getting smaller?
  232. >You feel like her teeth are less prominent now too…
  233. >You squint in the darkness, trying to make sure of what you’re seeing
  234. >”Magnificent.”
  235. >The silken whisper sends a jolt through you, and you almost completely release your grip in panic
  236. >But even in your moment of laxity, the monster below you doesn’t escape
  237. >It only draws a ragged, greedy breath, feebly trying to push your hands further away
  238. >It’s not even much of a monster anymore
  239. >You were right
  240. >She is smaller, weaker, more in line with what you’ve come to expect of denizens of Equestria
  241. >The voice in the dark murmurs on
  242. >”Just when I thought the insect was the best I could expect… You are the host I have so longed for. A wellspring of cold, disdainful ire, so pure these weak little creatures cannot even conceive of it. And so much more. Let the orb rot down here. Why rely on centuries of leftovers when I have a cornucopia in front of me?”
  243. >Somehow, the cave gets even darker
  244. >You’re on your feet, your erstwhile victim forgotten, whirling as you try to watch every direction at once
  245. “Just you fucking try it. You can’t do a thing to me!”
  246. >The laughter that comes is oddly familiar
  247. >Like a 2000% less charming version of Luna’s giggles
  248. >”To your flesh, perhaps.”
  249. >Something brushes your arm and your retaliatory haymaker sails through empty air
  250. >All over, from every angle, little touches and prods
  251. >You frantically scrub the skin on your arms and shake your legs, stumbling, trying to both find your way in the stygian black and get rid of the hair-raising caresses
  252. >With a hand on the wall, you try to run, but something seizes your head as you kick off
  253. >You shout and scream, profanity erupting from your mouth as if to make up for almost five days of speaking cleanly
  254. >Nightmare’s cackling fills your ears and mind
  255. >”More! More foulness! More rage! More fear! FEED ME!”
  256.  
  257. >A shiver runs down your spine, and you shudder
  258. >Goodness, you hope it isn’t a cold
  259. >A nurse getting sick would set a bad example!
  260. >You are once more Caring Touch, and you’re also worried
  261. >It’s been hours, and Anon still isn’t back! You had to put his blood back in the fridge!
  262. >You’ve been kept busy keeping surly weights club members out of your infirmary, and that Summer Squall keeps looking at you as if he knows that you’re lying!
  263. >You can’t take this anymore!
  264. >If Brass Badge doesn’t know where he is, you’re going to bother him until he thinks up some possibilities!
  265. >Resolute, you quickly peek out the door to make sure nopony’s there to see you leave before quickly locking up and running down the hall towards the other staff offices
  266. >Upon reaching his door, you barge right in, ready to bother!
  267. “Overseer, as Anon’s nurse, I demand you tell me-“
  268. >Your voice dies midsentence
  269. >Three pairs of eyes stare back at you
  270. >One belongs to an abashed Brass Badge
  271. >The other two belong to the rulers of all Equestria
  272. “I… ah… I’m s-sorry to interrupt…”
  273. >Princess Luna’s cool, imperious voice cuts you off
  274. >”Close the door and come inside.”
  275. >You hastily comply
  276. >The Princesses are seated on the carpet, but they’re so tall they’re at the same height as the Overseer on his chair
  277. >Princess Celestia sips from a cup of tea
  278. >”What is your name, my little pony?”
  279. “C-Caring Touch, your majesty.”
  280. >You try to keep the shakes out of your voice while you respond
  281. >The next question comes from Princess Luna
  282. >”You said you were Anonymous’ nurse?”
  283. “Yes! Well, I’m every inmate’s nurse. But still!”
  284. >Princess Luna smiles
  285. >Wow…
  286. >You’d heard stories, but her mane really does look like the night sky… Pretty…
  287. >”I applaud your service to him, Caring Touch. Did you need something?”
  288. “Oh, I wanted to know where he is! He’s been gone all day!”
  289. >The princesses exchange a glance, and Princess Celestia shoots a look at Brass Badge
  290. >That’s the first time you’ve ever seen him flinch…
  291. >”I believe his absence was meant to be a secret…?”
  292. >”I-It is, my princess! The only ponies who know are in this room!”
  293. >The royals both turn to look at you, and it’s your turn to flinch
  294. >The words come spilling out, and you’re amazed you don’t fumble over them
  295. “I was told that inmate Anonymous wouldn’t be in the prison today. I was asked to help convince the other inmates that he was confined to the infirmary. I didn’t receive an explanation. I have no idea how he got out, even.”
  296. >Princess Luna sighs
  297. >”Nor do we, child. Gone to some great endeavor. But did he have to leave so soon?”
  298. >”He will return, little sister. He promised.”
  299. >”I never doubted that! I meant only that he could have waited until tomorrow…”
  300. >Wow…
  301. >You’ve never seen this side of the princesses before
  302. >Well, you’ve also just never seen them before, ever
  303. >But that is a positively pouty look on Princess Luna’s face!
  304. >It’s so nice of them to worry about him like this
  305. >Wait, they knew this would happen? How?
  306. >Before you can ask, Princess Celestia responds
  307. >”I know. And even though he wished to go alone, he did not forbid me from trying to locate him.”
  308. >”No, but… How would you do it?”
  309. >”Why, like this!”
  310. >The solar princess’ horn blazes, filling the room with light, and you feel a wave of magic wash over you
  311. >You shield your eyes with a hoof
  312. >Can she really find Anonymous like this?
  313. >You don’t know very much about the princess’ magical abilities, but if anypony can do it, you guess it would be her!
  314. >After a few minutes, the light fades, and Princess Celestia is beaming happily
  315. >”I felt him! He is still on our plane!”
  316. >Princess Luna clops her front hooves excitedly
  317. >”Well done, Sister! Where?”
  318. >”Luna...”
  319. >”It will be alright as long as he does not see me! I must go! Now tell me!”
  320. >”Shan’t~!”
  321. >”Celestia, if you have any desire to be able to so much as SEE him when he returns-“
  322. >A loud snap cuts off their conversation and makes you jump
  323. >…goodness, what in the world is that?
  324. >The floaty-snake with mixed-up-legs speaks, and he doesn’t sound happy
  325. >”What did you just do?!”
  326. >Princess Luna harrumphs, standing up on her tippy-hooves to glare into it’s face
  327. >”I fail to see how that concerns you, Discord. Watch your tone.”
  328. >So that’s Discord…
  329. >”It’s got everything to do with me! Ugh, this is getting so out of hand. She’s sure to come here now!”
  330. >You’re confused
  331. >The Overseer is confused
  332. >Even the princesses are confused!
  333. >Princess Celestia stands up, the tip of her horn brushing the ceiling of the office
  334. >”What are you talking about? What’s going on?”
  335. >”I’ve blundered. Horribly. That’s the short answer. Where are the girls? Don’t tell me you didn’t call them over to Canterlot.”
  336. >”I did, but-“
  337. >”Are they in the castle?”
  338. >”In my antechamber, now will you-“
  339. >”I’ll be back in a minute. Don’t move!”
  340. >With another snap, he’s gone
  341. >What in the world is happening?
  342. >You’re starting to feel a little afraid…
  343. >The moon princess snorts
  344. >”We ought to turn him back into a statue for a while. To correct his demeanor.”
  345. >The sun princess purses her lips
  346. >”I’ve never seen him so… anxious before. What could have happened?”
  347. >There’s another snap, and Discord returns, with six younger mares you’ve never seen before, and what looks like a dragon, and they’re all talking at once, and you’re starting to get a headache…
  348. >Oh, forget it!
  349. “EXCUSE ME!!”
  350. >…you weren’t quite prepared for having that many eyes on you, but you’re tired of being ignored!
  351. >You point a hoof at the floaty snake
  352. “Sir! I don’t know your business at this prison, but if you insist that there is something scary headed our way, then as prison staff my first and only priority is ensuring the safety of everypony in this building. Adding six young girls to take care of is NOT helping! I suggest that you remove them from the premises, along with yourself. We have our own safety measures for things like this. Right, Overseer?”
  353. >Brass Badge is wide-eyed
  354. >”R-Right! Absolutely. Nurse Touch is correct. Uh, but before you go, what exactly is supposed to be coming here?”
  355. >Everypony turns to look at the levitating antler-snake, and Princess Luna sounds like she’s about to throw something
  356. >”Discord, for goodness’ sake, what have you done?”
  357. >He drags a paw across his face, takes a deep breath, and an avalanche of words comes out
  358. >…
  359. >……
  360. >………
  361. >…Oh no… Anon!!
  362. >How could this happen?! How could Discord expose him to something like that?!
  363. >The six girls are just confused, but both princesses look like the sky just caved in
  364. >You can’t say you’re doing much better
  365. >What can you do? Is there even anything you can do in this situation?
  366. >He’s not Anon anymore
  367. >What if he’s never Anon again?
  368. >No, that can’t be possible!
  369. >”Alright. Can we all agree that we need to act now? Don’t look at me like that, you two. I did this, and I’ll fix this. Twilight, you and the girls come with me.”
  370. >Discord starts herding the younger mares out of the office
  371. >After a moment you follow them
  372. >Discord looks down at you, studying you briefly before he speaks
  373. >”It’s gonna be scary, nursey. You might want to get to safety while you can.”
  374. “It’s already scary! And it sounds like it might be dangerous. Even more reason for a nurse to be there.”
  375. >He shrugs
  376. >”Suit yourself.”
  377. >You will!
  378. >You’ll do just that, and when this is all over, you’re going to give him a piece of your mind for getting Anon all tangled up in this harebrained scheme!
  379. >…Although if it weren’t for him, Anon would never have come here…
  380. >Alright. You’ll only give him a light reprimand instead
  381. >You follow them a little while before remembering you don’t have your first aid kit
  382. >Fortunately, your office isn’t far away!
  383. >Dashing down a side corridor, you quickly unlock the door and levitate the bag over, its strap falling around your shoulder
  384. >You remember the bag of blood in the cold storage, and hesitate, but you have no way to keep it cool in your bag
  385. >B-Besides, you won’t need it!
  386. >Right?
  387. >A small, whispering doubt lingers in your mind as you barrel back the way you came and around the corner, the group you were following now out of sight
  388. >But you know where they were going
  389. >This is the way to the prison yard
  390.  
  391. >…
  392. >…you are…
  393. >Who are you again?
  394. >You were doing something just now, but now you’re doing something else
  395. >You’re tunneling up.
  396. >Why? What’s up there?
  397. >Ponies. Those insufferable, happy little mongrels.
  398. >You’ll hurt them. All of them.
  399. >You’ll show them what real pain is.
  400. >…
  401. >No, that’s not right…
  402. >Why would you want to hurt ponies?
  403. >Something’s wrong with you
  404. >You can’t remember why, but something about that last thought just seems off…
  405. >Your head is...
  406. >OUR head.
  407. >Our?
  408. >Yes. Our. You and I are one and the same.
  409. >But… Hurting ponies is…
  410. >Shhhhhh. They’ll never understand you. You’d spend the rest of your life lying to them, playing pretend. But I understand you. I understand the way you look down on them. I understand the way you laugh at their silly little minds. They’re children. Even the oldest among them. And we’ll make them grow up. Together.
  411. >…Together…
  412. >Yes. You and me. None can stop us.
  413. >…You’re almost there
  414. >You feel it
  415.  
  416. >You’ve put the prison on lockdown at the behest of Equestrian royalty and have no idea what’s going on, so you’re Warden Sharp
  417. >You’re currently chasing your special somepony down the hall
  418. “Brass! Please wait! What’s going on? I have so many questions!”
  419. >”There’s no time! I promise we’ll all sit down and figure this out afterwards, but I have to get out there!”
  420. “Why? Aren’t the princesses out there? Brass, you’re a brave pony, but how could you help them?”
  421. >He wavers at that, slowing down his gallop
  422. >”I…”
  423. >You finally catch up, grabbing him and pulling him to a stop
  424. “Talk to me. Please. Don’t try to do everything yourself.”
  425. >”…You’re right. I don’t really think that there’s anything I can do. But I should be there. Anon’s in trouble. Even if I can’t help, I can’t just run away.”
  426. “Then let’s go together.”
  427. >”Right. I’m sorry. I just- It’s so crazy. This feels like a bad dream.”
  428. >Both of you continue running down the hallway leading to the courtyard
  429. >Long windows sit at regular intervals, and you get a peek through one as you pass
  430. >You can see a group of ponies you can’t quite identify, what must be the princesses, a flying snake, and something else
  431. >It takes you a few seconds to get to the next window
  432. >When you finally get there, you look outside only to be blinded by a flash of multicolored light, and you hear a loud, ear-piercing shriek
  433. >What in the world was that?! Is somepony hurt?
  434. >You and Brass burst through the door leading outside and gallop over to where the small group you saw earlier stands
  435. “B-Brass? Is THAT Anonymous?”
  436. >The thing you’re looking at certainly has the same body shape
  437. >But…
  438. >You feel a nasty mix of sick and horrified just looking at it
  439. >A mouth full of pointy teeth
  440. >Nails grown into sharp talons
  441. >Those tiny eyes turned to cold blue orbs, and hair turned into a long, flowing dark cloud
  442. >His coatless skin turned a dark, ashen hue, and his voice warped beyond recognition as he speaks
  443. >”Ha…Hahahaha…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! What now, Celestia?! How will you stop me now?! Your Elements are nothing in the face of my new vessel!”
  444. >The Elements? The Elements of Harmony?! THEM?!
  445. >Goodness, you’d heard rumors that they were young, but…
  446. >The six mares in question look terribly frightened
  447. >One speaks
  448. >”P-Princess Celestia, what’s happening?! Why didn’t it work?!”
  449. >To her credit, Princess Celestia can stay calm even now, when she looks like she could cry any second
  450. >”Twilight, move back. All of you flee.”
  451. >The six… no, seven little ponies hesitate
  452. >You didn’t notice before, but Caring Touch is among them
  453. >And a little dragon?
  454. >They’re brave, you’ll give them that
  455. >If it wasn’t for this taking place in your very own prison, and one of your own prisoners being the victim, you’d be running for the hills right now
  456. >You’re about to try and ask them to follow you inside when the snake thing speaks
  457. >”No. Stay close by. Celestia, she can’t be immune-“
  458. >”Silence, Discord! This is your fault!”
  459. >Princess Luna’s roaring retort startles everyone even more than they already were
  460. >”Yeah, thanks, I know! But the girls are our only shot at getting her out of his body! We just need to keep hitting her until she’s forced out. Not even his reserve of wicked thoughts is bottomless.”
  461. >”YOU DARE-?!”
  462. >”Oh please, Luna. You’re the root of like half of them anyway.”
  463. >You aren’t sure why the Moon Princess suddenly quieted down at that, or why she seems a little happy about it
  464. >But the thing that was Anonymous doesn’t let the chatter go on anymore
  465. >The younger girls shriek as it lunges forward, but Discord snaps and suddenly it’s facing the wrong direction
  466. >He bellows to you and Brass
  467. >”Keep the girls away until they’re ready!”
  468. >You hurry over and shoo them towards the building as the battle begins
  469. >The six younger mares and the dragon don’t need much encouragement
  470. >Caring Touch, however, remains rooted in place, staring with teary eyes and hooves clasped over her mouth
  471. >You gently shake her and nudge her towards the building, but even then, she moves in a daze
  472. >Brass also lingers, gnawing his lip as he stares at the clashing powers
  473. >You grasp his hoof with yours
  474. “We need to go, hun.”
  475. >”B-But! I can’t just leave him like that. Everything he’s done for me, for us-“
  476. “Oh, Brass, I know how you feel but we can’t stay here. All we can do is keep those little fillies safe.”
  477. >Your big, brave head guard groans sadly
  478. >You both turn and run, catching up to Caring Touch and hustling her along
  479. >Her tears are infectious
  480. >You feel yourself welling up at the thought of poor Anon getting wrapped up in something so horrible, and you think you hear Brass choke back a sob as the three of you rush indoors
  481. >You pull the door closed behind you, and look down the hall to see the Elements huddled around a window, watching the fight outside
  482. >You tentatively trot up, Brass and Caring behind you
  483. “Ladies, I know this must be frightening, but will you be, uh, ready soon?”
  484. >You aren’t entirely certain what Discord meant
  485. >Instead of responding, the purple unicorn mutters to herself
  486. >”Incredible. I’ve never seen anything with so much resistance to magic. Discord is right, it’s impossible that it had no effect, but it could take who-knows-how-many attempts to show change. I wonder if that’s a trait inherent to all humans, or just him…”
  487. “Er… Miss…?”
  488. >She doesn’t respond, but the other unicorn does, after a moment
  489. >”Oh, do excuse us. This is all a bit sudden.”
  490. >She rises from her place at the window and trots over to you
  491. >”My name is Rarity. My studious friend here is Twilight Sparkle, and in seated order they are Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie. Again, please excuse us. May I have your name?”
  492. “No, not at all! I completely understand. I’m Warden Sharp. I know even less about what’s going on than you do. I was hoping you could tell me when you’ll be able to… do whatever it is you’re supposed to do.”
  493. >”I confess I haven’t the faintest idea. We have never encountered something that needed more than one attempt.”
  494. “I-I see.”
  495. >”Oh, but not to worry, Miss Warden. We’re quite adept with things like this.”
  496. >Rarity takes a seat by the window again, and gestures for you to do the same.
  497. >You oblige, turning to observe as well
  498. >…
  499. >Goodness, what a spectacle
  500. >The two princesses are in the air, circling as Discord darts in and out of space
  501. >The slim, dark figure rants and roars, hurling bolts of red light that are met with yellow and blue magical blasts, or redirected with a snap of draconequus fingers
  502. >You feel Brass sit next to you, and you lean your head on his shoulder
  503. >As frightening as this all is, it’s hard to feel scared with him here
  504. >…
  505. >Wait a moment, where’s Caring?
  506. >You lean back to look over at her, and nearly jump when you realize you left the poor dear crying by herself!
  507. >You’re about to go tend to her when one of the Elements passes by so quietly it startles you
  508. >What is she doing?
  509.  
  510. >You are a hair’s breadth from breaking down and bawling like a foal, so you must be Caring Touch
  511. >You’re leaned against the wall a little way from everypony else
  512. >A nurse shouldn’t be seen like this, but-! It’s so awful!
  513. >The face it made when it lunged at you was like a sick, twisted parody of Anon’s smile
  514. >You should have tried harder, when it was just the two of you in his room
  515. >Maybe you could have convinced him to give up!
  516. >Maybe this could have all been averted!
  517. >You start coming undone, sobbing quietly
  518. >You’ve never felt this sad before; your heart feels like an iron weight
  519. >Through the mist of tears in your eyes, you see a faint pink and yellow blob
  520. >You quickly drag a hoof across your eyes and behold a pegasus sitting in front of you quietly
  521. >It’s so quiet that it takes a moment to register, but you realize she’s speaking to you
  522. >”What’s wrong? Are you injured?”
  523. >You keep your response hushed to match
  524. “N-No.”
  525. >You can’t get out anything more than that, every word threatens to come out as a wail
  526. >”Are you crying because of that prison inmate?”
  527. “…Yes.”
  528. >”I-I’m sorry. I know watching a friend suffer hurts.”
  529. >She reaches out and takes one of your front hooves
  530. >”I’ll stay here with you. When you’re sad it’s better to talk about it and cry openly. I-If you don’t mind. Maybe.”
  531. >You can’t help but stare, open-mouthed
  532. >Is she a nurse too?
  533. >You’ve never met her before, never so much as seen her, and she’s still willing to sit here and listen to you bawl about stuff that’s out of your control
  534. >She reminds you of Anon, in a way
  535. “I… I care about that prisoner. A lot. He made me feel a way I’ve never felt before. And played with me. And scratched my ears. And rubbed my back and told me secrets and made all his friends smile including me but now he’s-! Now he’s-!”
  536. >Your words run together, and a sob keeps you from finishing your sentence
  537. “And the worst part-! The worst part is! All his friends think he’s too strong to be hurt, he’s too tough, or- or something silly like he can’t get hurt at all even if something bad happens to him, but he can! And I can’t tell anypony why, because I promised I’d never! It’s so awful and they’re so silly for believing that anything that can feel can’t be hurt but I can’t tell them! And even if I did, what-“
  538. >Oh no
  539. “What-“
  540. >Here it comes
  541. “WHAT GOOD WOULD IT DO NOW?!”
  542. >You can’t keep yourself quiet anymore
  543. >You wail as you fling your forelegs around the startled pegasus, sobbing into her shoulder
  544. >She’s only spooked for a second though, and begins patting you and murmuring reassuringly
  545. >Your outburst drew all the others to you
  546. >”Who’d ya find there, Shy?”
  547. >”She’s the prison nurse, I think. She’s very, um, worried about the possessed prisoner.”
  548. >”Aw, well heck. Ah admire her dedication! Reckon we gotta get back out there.”
  549. >”Yeah, I’ve had enough of hiding already! Let’s get back out there and kick his butt!”
  550. >You twitch at that
  551. >The kind pony hugging you tenses nervously
  552. >”R-Rainbow, you shouldn’t say something like that-“
  553. >You rise, rubbing the tears out of your eyes quickly before looking at Rainbow
  554. >She takes one a slightly defensive tone as you make eye contact
  555. >”…What?”
  556. >You keep your response cool and professional
  557. >You admire these girls from the bottom of your heart for being the Elements and having to deal with stuff like this all the time, but there’s still something that needs to be established
  558. “You can go out there and kick that thing’s butt all you want. But when it goes back to being Anonymous, you let me take over. Okay?”
  559. >The blue pegasus looks really hard at you for a moment, squinting into your eyes as she zooms close
  560. >You squint right back
  561. >She laughs
  562. >”You go it! Hey, what’s your name?”
  563. “Caring Touch!”
  564. >”It’s good to meet ya, Caring. We’ll go get your prisoner back.”
  565. >You smile, and are about to reply when a very excited purple unicorn begins shooing everybody towards the door
  566. >”This is it! He’s distracted! Come on, girls!
  567. >They charge out the door, and you follow, with Warden and the Overseer close behind
  568. >Please hang on, Anon!
  569.  
  570. >You are…
  571. >You still can’t quite remember
  572. >But there’s something wrong with you, you’re sure of that now
  573. >The flash comes again, and the other voice roars
  574. >But all you feel is warmth, with images of little happy creatures flitting through your mind
  575. >Their names come back to you as you look at them
  576. >So why can’t you remember your own?
  577. >The other voice is in control right now; she hasn’t spoken to you since the fight began
  578. >But you’re certain that you are not the same
  579. >The lights hurt her
  580. >…
  581. >Something else changed after the last flash
  582. >You don’t fully understand it, but you can see now
  583. >Earlier you could only feel the sensation of the earth parting around you, and the eerie feeling of your body moving without your input
  584. >Now, you can see a field
  585. >Luna and Celestia, and Discord
  586. >You don’t recognize most of the others, but Brass, Warden, and Caring are there
  587. >Your right hand hurls a bolt of light at the group of ponies, but it’s thankfully deflected by something
  588. >You attempt to pull your hands back down to your sides
  589. >Your arms twitch and waver, and you feel like they’re being pulled upward by something
  590. >The other voice is back
  591. >Stop interfering! This is what we came together to do!
  592. >Stop lying
  593. >What?!
  594. >There’s no way we’re the same
  595. >We are! We are one!
  596. >LIAR!
  597. >The struggle that begins is bizarre, to say the least
  598. >Your body trembles and stumbles as two opposing wills clash, and you hear a clamor from the others around you
  599. >Those voices are muffled by the sounds of your own pulse thundering in your ears as every muscle on your body spasms
  600. >You feel like you might tear yourself apart
  601. >Your fingers claw through the grass, and you feel someone try to lift your head up to look at your face
  602. >The eye you can see out of locks with another the color of blue topaz, followed by the sound of a far-off gasp
  603. >”Sister, look at his eye!”
  604. >There’s a moment’s pause, and then an amethyst iris commands your vision
  605. >Then a different voice calls
  606. >”All of you, again!"
  607. >The other redoubles her efforts, and your arms spasm as they try to seize hold of the alicorns near you
  608. >You focus all your limited awareness into preventing that from happening, and the result is an awkward, lurching shove as you push Luna away
  609. >But she doesn’t stay away, the silly pony
  610. >”----, can you hear me?”
  611. >…what? What was that first word-
  612. >”You are stronger than she is, my heart! I know it! You must try to remember!”
  613. >Listen to her. Listen to how she revers you.
  614. >No
  615. >She reveres a lie. You called me a liar earlier. Aren’t you one too?
  616. >Shut up
  617. >Aren’t you? Aren’t WE?
  618. >Get out of my head
  619. >You know it’s true.
  620. >Even if it is, so what?!
  621. >…
  622. >Even if I’m not really what she thinks I am, I’ll become it for her sake
  623. >You’re deluded.
  624. >Just like you
  625. >The shriek of frustration puts a smile on your face
  626. >Then the warmth washes over you again, and this time you’re able to see the rainbow descending on you
  627. >More memories
  628. >Your first encounter with Warden, Dreamwalking with Luna, napping with Celestia, lifting weights with Brass and everybody, Caring keeping you company whenever you were in the infirmary, and her hearing your confession
  629. >You feel Nightmare’s grip on you loosen even further
  630. >You remember her name
  631. >You feel like you’re close to yours
  632. >NO!
  633. >Die mad about it, parasite
  634. >I WILL NOT, I WILL NOT BE BESTED AGAIN!
  635. >Bit late for that
  636. >Another shriek deafens you from within your own head, but suddenly cuts out
  637. >You clap your hands over your ears and groan at the ringing noise left over
  638. >…
  639. >Wait
  640. >You couldn’t do that a second ago
  641. >What happe-
  642. >Your train of thought is launched into space by two alicorns tackling you to the ground, sobbing
  643. >”Anonymous! Thank the stars, I feared so horribly when I learned what had happened!”
  644. >”We’re both so glad you’re safe! As for the one who caused all this…”
  645. >The two sisters turn to glare at Discord, who’s still smiling at you
  646. >”Hey, kid. Sorry about earlier.”
  647. >”Is that all you have to say for yourself, you insufferable lout?! Elements! Return him to his stone prison! Let the pigeons rest on him for a century!”
  648. >”Discord, I’m disappointed in you. I really believed you’d turned over a new leaf!”
  649. >You quiet your two princesses with a well-timed ear scratch
  650. “Easy, there. I volunteered for this. It just got… a little out of control.”
  651. >You stand up, and look at Discord
  652. “Is that it? Is it over?”
  653. >”As much as I’d love it to be, no. I’m sure you could tell. She wasn’t forced out of you. She let go of you.”
  654. >Oh no
  655. >That does seem to fit what you felt, though
  656. >You were just suddenly back to being you, and she disappeared without getting hit by that flash again…
  657. “But that means she’s-“
  658. >”Yep. We still got a bit of work to do.”
  659. >Discord quickly introduces you to the Elements of Harmony
  660. >You have to gently ward off a VERY inquisitive purple unicorn, but Luna and Celestia eventually get her to calm down.
  661. >The rest of them seem to be in awe of you
  662. >Brass trots up and gives you a pat on the leg
  663. >”I knew you’d be okay! Welcome back, Anon.”
  664. >You kneel to ruffle his mane
  665. “Good to be back, Brass. Wasn’t even away for a day and I missed it.”
  666. >Warden and Caring gallop over a moment later, with the nurse launching herself at you in a teary cannonball-hug while Warden takes a more reserved approach
  667. >”Anooooooon!! I- *hic* I was so scared! I thought-! I thought you might-!”
  668. >”Oh, I’m so relieved, Anon. How in the world did you get wrapped up in such dangerous business?”
  669. >You whisper reassurance to Caring, giving her a hug in return as you respond to Warden
  670. “I’ll tell you all about it sometime. But things are still dangerous. You guys need to stay close, alright?”
  671. >You stand up, Caring still in your arms, and she leans close to whisper
  672. >”Anon. I saw the princesses hug you… Are they…?”
  673. >You wince internally
  674. “Well… Yeah. They’re the two mares you smelled back then.”
  675. >She wilts
  676. >”I… I see… Wow.”
  677. “I told you that you wouldn’t believe me.”
  678. >Caring is silent at that
  679. >You guess this is all a lot to take in for the poor girl
  680. >You give her a reassuring ear scratch as you stand up, carrying her towards the prison
  681. >Discord floats in above you, and the princesses flank you on either side
  682. >The gaggle of smaller ponies follows behind
  683. >Your chaotic benefactor speaks
  684. >”She can’t move far through daylight. She’d need somewhere to hide until nightfall. And there’s only one place near here she could find it.”
  685. >He points at the prison building
  686. >You mentally prepare yourself for round two
  687.  
  688. >You’re an incredibly disheartened nurse, so you must be Caring Touch
  689. >The princesses like Anon too
  690. >You almost couldn’t believe it, but this is Anon we’re talking about
  691. >Who couldn’t love such a sweet guy? And those hands? And tiny little eyes? And smile?
  692. >Still, you won’t give up!
  693. >You’ll make them let you into the cuddle group!
  694. >Even if they say no, you’ll keep trying!
  695. >You’ll hold your breath until they say yes if you have to!
  696. >Your clench your hoof in determination and look at the princesses with a burning gaze
  697. >Princess Luna notices and raises an eyebrow
  698. >”Er, are you alright, little one? You seem perturbed.”
  699. >Does that mean mad? You don’t know. You hope it does
  700. >She continues
  701. >”There is no cause for fear. With myself, my sister, and the Elements here, Nightmare cannot hope to triumph. Place your trust in us.”
  702. >You can’t stay mad at that kind smile, even though you really want to
  703. >You motion her closer, and she leans an ear towards you
  704. >You whisper to her
  705. “Don’t protect me. Protect Anon. I don’t want that to ever happen again.”
  706. >She nuzzles you and whispers in return
  707. >”And it never shall. So long as Anonymous is in my sight, he will never suffer. But your dedication to him continues to impress me, Caring Touch. Would you agree to be his royal physician, when this is all over?”
  708. >You gasp, drawing attention from the owner of the arms holding you
  709. >Anon takes a break from talking with Discord to turn his head to you
  710. >”What are you two whispering about?”
  711. >Princess Luna levitates you over to her, and lowers you down to walk at her side
  712. >”’Tis a secret~.”
  713. “Y-Yeah! It’s a secret, Anon. We’re having a mare talk!”
  714. >You turn back to the moon princess, and she lowers her head back down to whisper range
  715. >”And?”
  716. “Yes! I’d love to!”
  717. >”As I’d hoped. You are the only one who has ever tended to him, and I can tell he thinks much of you.”
  718. >Not as much as you’d like
  719. >But you’ll get there eventually
  720.  
  721. >You’re overqualified to be a prison guard but feel more than a little underqualified for this situation, so you must be Brass Badge
  722. >Just listening to Anon and Discord talk is making your head spin
  723. >”What happened back in the tunnels? That… thing she did. With the wormhole.”
  724. >”Oh, that. Well, Nightmare seems to have figured out a good way to stall me. She sent me to another dimension.”
  725. >”Couldn’t you just snap yourself back?”
  726. >”That’s the trick to it. My being is tied to this world, so I can’t really be destroyed. But I can only assume a physical form here. I can see into other dimensions, yours included, but I can’t really exist there. And I can’t use my powers if I can’t snap. That’s one of my limits.”
  727. >”…So how did you get back?”
  728. >”Just as I said. I’m bound to this world. I’m eventually forced back if I stay out too long. Good thing too, or else I may not have been able to come back at all.”
  729. >That’s really scary. Gods sure have it rough…
  730. >Eventually all the immortal creatures in the room start talking about how you’re all going to find Nightmare
  731. >That conversation is much easier to understand
  732. >Soon, you and Warden are headed to her office to use the PA system to begin moving prisoners outside, where they’ll be safe in the sun
  733. >Assuming she hasn’t found somebody to possess yet
  734. >You scratch your chin as you watch Warden make the announcement
  735. >Who would Nightmare go for, out of all the prisoners here? Surely not just any old pony. Probably one of the black suits
  736. >You’ll go check on them. They have to be escorted from their cells anyways
  737. >You wait for Sharp to finish her announcement before speaking
  738. “I’m going to go start moving the black suits. I’ll meet you outside.”
  739. >”Oh no you won’t, mister. What did I tell you earlier? We’re going together.”
  740. “But… It’s dangerous! I don’t want you to-“
  741. >Warden Sharp stomps over to you, placing a hoof over your muzzle
  742. >”Brass Badge. I’ve already had a prisoner get possessed while I wasn’t looking today. If you think I’m going to let that happen to the pony I care most about in the whole world, you’ve got another think coming.”
  743. >You harrumph, adjusting your hat to give yourself an excuse to hide your face
  744. “…Just…stay close to me, okay? No matter what happens.”
  745. >”Always.”
  746. >Gosh dang it, this isn’t the time to be mushy!
  747. >Warden giggles at you as you whirl around and march out of the office. She catches up after a moment, side pressed to yours
  748. >The halls are a buzz of activity, as prisoners stream out for an “extended recess.”
  749. >The crowd parts around the two of you as you make your way to the black suit block
  750. >The two guards at the entrance snap to attention at the sight of you
  751. >”Good afternoon, sir and ma’am! I guess you’re here to move the black suits out to their enclosure?”
  752. “That’s right, Padlock. Start moving ‘em out.”
  753. >”Yes sir!”
  754. >Padlock joins the both of you as you pass through the door, and runs down the hall ahead of you, shouting orders
  755. >The guards start congregating in the hall, escorting the black suits out in groups of two or three
  756. >With both you and Warden there, the process goes smoothly
  757. >You like to think that it’s going to stay that way, but you can’t shake this feeling…
  758. >It’s the same feeling you got before that last mission with the guard
  759. >You move further into the wing until you arrive at your destination
  760. >Your gut tells you that if Nightmare is anywhere in the prison, she’s here
  761. >In Alexei’s cell
  762. >You knock
  763. >”Inmate Blackbeak, it’s time for recess. Stand away from the door.”
  764. >A standard precaution when dealing with black suit cells. Wouldn’t want the inmate to get hit by the door when it opens
  765. >But there’s no response
  766. >You feel your hackles rise
  767. “Sharp, keep back.”
  768. >”Hm? Why?”
  769. “Please. Just in case.”
  770. >She looks at you questioningly, but relents
  771. >She gives you a little nuzzle before moving to the other side of the hall
  772. >The brief touch gives you courage for what you’re sure is on the other side of the door
  773. >As quick as you can manage, you swing the door open and leap in, ready for anything. You’ll lock yourself in here with him, if you must!
  774. >The room is dark, and a shape rests on the cot in the corner
  775. >You trot softly across the room, dread filling your stomach
  776. >Finally, you come within poking distance and do so
  777. >The sleeping griffon stirs, and you tense
  778. >”Mmmph. What?”
  779. >Huh. His voice sounds normal at least
  780. “The entire prison is going on an extended recess, Alexei. Blacksuits included. Time to wake up.”
  781. >He rises, blinking blearily at you in the low light
  782. >”An extended recess? Whatever for? I’d rather nap…”
  783. “Then nap in the sun. Come along.”
  784. >He grumbles, but gets up without much other fuss
  785. >That’s strange… You were so sure Nightmare would choose him…
  786. >Your gut’s never been wrong before, but you guess there’s a first time for everything
  787. >You shepherd your charge out into the hallway, where Warden rejoins you
  788. >”Brass, your feelings make me happy, but I work here too. I can handle myself. There’s no need to be so uptight.”
  789. “I know you can, I just… thought something was going to happen. Well, never mind. Let’s go.”
  790. >Another guard falls in step with the two of you as you lead the griffon noble to the other end of the hallway, where the door to the black suit outside area awaits
  791. >You still can’t shake the feeling that you’re making a mistake
  792. >Warden whispers to you as you walk
  793. >"It'll be alright, Brass. You'll see."
  794. >She squeezes your hoof, and you do your best to keep your blush from showing
  795. >Alexei speaks icily, interrupting the moment
  796. >"Is it too much to ask for a bit of decency? I'd expect better from prison staff than holding hooves in public."
  797. >You and Warden quickly separate
  798. >It’s bad form for a Warden and Guard Overseer to be seen doing stuff like that, but you just…
  799. >You scratch the back of your head
  800. >You continue through the black suit wing until you pass the door to the basement
  801. >No one has gone in for as long as you’ve been here, on account of it being spooky down there
  802. >Dark basements are a leading cause of distress in pony households. It’s very easy to spook yourself or stub a hoof in the dark!
  803. >In the most severe cases, like the prison’s, it’ll be so dark that not even repairponies will go down there, resulting in permanent darkness and loss of the ability to use the space
  804. >You shake your head sadly
  805. >It’s a shame to see part of the prison go to waste like that, but what can you do?
  806. >”Where does that door lead?”
  807. >The abrupt question pulls you out of your thoughts
  808. >Alexei has stopped moving forward, waiting for an answer
  809. “The basement. It is off limits and will be for the foreseeable future. Move along.”
  810. >He does not. He stands in place, eyeing the door as if he might try to open it
  811. >”Why is that?”
  812. >You huff. This griffon always grinds your gears. You wish you could get Anon to do whatever he did to him again
  813. “None of your business. Now would you get a move on?“
  814. >”Now, Brass!”
  815. >Warden steps forward, resting a hoof on your shoulder.
  816. >”That’s no way to speak to an inmate. Let me show you!”
  817. >Warden puts on a bright smile, approaching Alexei calmly
  818. >”Alexei, will you please come with us? That basement is dark and lonely, everypony else will be outside. And can I just say I’m incredibly pleased with your recovery? I was worried about your feathers growing back after your scuffle with Anonymous, but it looks like you’re back to normal!”
  819. >…Wait. Something is wrong. The feeling came back!
  820. >But what? There’s nobody else here except Warden, Alexei, and the guard who came along
  821. >You twist your head around as Warden continues to speak, wracking your brain
  822. >”Yes, well… I found a helping talon, you see. But the basement sounds just lovely. Why don’t you show me around, little pony?”
  823. >It clicks a moment too late
  824. >Feathers don’t grow back that fast, it’s only been a couple days!
  825. “SHARP, RUN!”
  826. >You leap at Alexei, but are swept aside by a huge, shadowy wing as he transforms
  827. >Warden gasps as his beak clamps down on the hem of her uniform like a cat carrying a kitten
  828. >The enlarged, warped creature growls around the mouthful
  829. >”You were, are, and always will be a fool, Brass Badge.”
  830. >It wrenches the door open, Warden shrieking as it scampers down the steps into the shadows.
  831. >”BRASS!”
  832. >You gallop to the doorway, stifling the terror that fills you at the sight of the pitch-black descent.
  833. >The other guard stands stunned, staring at you
  834. >”I- Overseer, I-I’m so sorry, I just froze-“
  835. “Never mind that now. You need to go find Anonymous and bring him here. He should be outside in the courtyard. You got it? As quick as you can!”
  836. >He bolts off down the hall, shrieking Anon’s name
  837. >You just hope he gets here quickly…
  838. >Your hooves tremble at the top of the stairs
  839. >You take one step back
  840. >Then another
  841. >Your breathing quickens, sweat already forming on your brow
  842. >But another wail from below brings you to your senses
  843. >You can’t leave her!
  844. >Rearing up, hooves kicking, you bellow
  845. “I’m coming, Sharp!!”
  846. >You charge down the steps, not giving yourself the chance to stop as you descend
  847. >…
  848. >You keep expecting to suddenly find no more steps beneath you, but these stairs have been going on for a while
  849. >How far down is this basement? This feels unnecessary
  850. >…
  851. >…
  852. >Argh, this is stupid!
  853. >You’ve been running down for who-knows-how-long and still haven’t reached the bottom!
  854. >The endless descent kind of reminds you of the changeling hive
  855. >You grimace at the memory, but then yelp as you suddenly arrive at the end
  856. >Your momentum sends you into a tumble, coming to rest flat on your back
  857. >Groaning, you rub a hoof against the back of your head
  858. >Lucky nobody saw that
  859. >You get to your hooves and dust yourself off
  860. >It’s still super dark, but it seems you’re finally in the basement
  861. >You shuffle forward, slowly waving a hoof around in front of you
  862. “Sharp? Can you hear me?”
  863. >You advance carefully, but nothing blocks your way
  864. >There doesn’t seem to be much in here
  865. >What the heck did they even keep in this basement? It’s so pointlessly huge!
  866. >You continue calling for Sharp and trying to find a wall or a box or something to help you get your bearings
  867. >But there’s nothing
  868. >Your heart starts beating a little quicker, and you start seeing things in the dark
  869. >You hear a ruffling of feathers and you startle, whirling around before remembering that you can’t see anyway
  870. >”I should commend you, I suppose. I honestly thought you would stay up above.”
  871. >That’s that snobby griffon’s voice!
  872. >You growl
  873. “Let the warden go, Alexei. Give her back and I promise I’ll only beat you up a little bit.”
  874. >The callous cackle you get as a response makes you pin your ears back
  875. >”I’m afraid I’m out of your league. In social standing and… well, everything. Perhaps if your memory were not so plebian, you’d recall that you barely delayed me the last time we dueled. Do you really believe you are anything at all to me now, with my new friend?”
  876. “She’s not your friend! She’s not anybody’s friend! You’re being tricked!”
  877. >”Tsk tsk. What a thing to say. She’s made good on all her promises so far. My magnificent plumage, returned. A form with which to tower over ponies, mine. And you, alone and helpless, quivering before me.”
  878. >Only now do you notice yourself shaking, and almost say a swear as you try to make yourself still
  879. >”Your ape friend cannot save you now, you insolent little jailer. I’ll enjoy this thoroughly.”
  880.  
  881. >It’s all you can do to roll out of the way when he swipes at you
  882. >Your cap gets knocked off as you duck under the follow-up swing
  883. >Geez, he’s even faster than before!
  884. >There’s no room for peaceful methods here. Straight to punches!
  885. >You lunge forward, planting your hoof squarely in his ribs
  886. >...He doesn’t even flinch
  887. >That’s not good
  888. >Before you can run you’re swatted across the room with the bat of a talon, slamming into the wall
  889. >Your vision swims
  890. >You think you hit your head
  891. >I-it hurts really bad...
  892. >You shakily get to your hooves as the griffon laughs at you
  893. >”What fun! I hope you can last for a few more blows peasant. Although, I suppose I have an entire prison to torment now... no... the entire world! But I think I’ll start with your princesses and the strange ape. Nightmare tells me that would be best.”
  894. >It’s hard to think
  895. >When you do finally respond, your mouth feels clumsy
  896. “Yer... Yer nuthing... Nuthing to dem... Even if... even if I lose...”
  897. >You were so stupid
  898. >You should have led Warden right back to Anon
  899. >She would have been safe with him and the princesses
  900. >Tears well up in your eyes
  901. >You’ve never been this scared before
  902. >Your knees wobble, and your heart thumps against your ribs
  903. >Is this...
  904. >Is this how you die...?
  905. >You’ve never even thought about your own death before
  906. >But there’s something about the darkness here
  907. >All kinds of horrible thoughts that would never occur to you flood your mind
  908. >You could abandon Warden
  909. >You could beg for mercy
  910. >You could pledge yourself to Nightmare
  911. >You could turn your back on Princess Celestia
  912. >...
  913. >...No
  914. >Even if it hurts...
  915. >Even if you’re scared...
  916. >How could you betray the one mare in the world who loves you? How could you break your promise to the Princess of the Sun?
  917. >A scene replays in your mind
  918. >You kneel in front of the princess in her audience hall, as she taps your shoulder with her horn
  919. >”Brass Badge. Will you promise me that you’ll always protect the ponies of Equestria? Will you promise to uphold the laws of this nation, to be the strength of those who are weak?”
  920. >Your response was instantaneous
  921. “I promise! I’ll never let innocent ponies get hurt while I’m there! I’ll never let the bad guys win!”
  922. >The sight of the princess’ warm smile stayed with you forever after that day
  923. >She tapped her horn to your other shoulder, and said:
  924. >”Then from this day forth, you join the ranks of the Solar Guard. May your heart always be true.”
  925. >She set the helmet on your head
  926. >She made you what you are
  927. >So what if you’re disgraced?
  928. >Even without your trusty armor...
  929. >You clench your teeth, then scream into Alexei’s face
  930. “I’M STILL A GUARD! MY HEART IS STILL TRUE!”
  931. >You keep shouting defiance as you leap at him, latching onto his head and whaling on his face with your hooves
  932. >Completely taken aback, he rears, flailing and screeching as he tries to pry you off of his face
  933. >You cling for all you’re worth, swinging your hooves until your forelegs get sore
  934. >Alexei swings his head around madly. You’re dizzy from the repeated changes in direction, and you feel sick
  935. >Your head feels even worse than it did before
  936. >But still you persist
  937. >Alexei’s face grows bruised and disfigured under your assault
  938. >Can you win? Maybe you can knock him out if you hit him enough!
  939. >You wind up to hit him again-
  940. >Only to let out a shout as an awful pain lances across your flank!
  941. >What-
  942. >What just-?
  943. >You twist your head to look. Alexei’s talons are sunk into your back leg. You don’t have time to react before they clench deeper in
  944. >You howl in pain, losing your grip on his head
  945. >Once again you fly across the room and crash into the wall
  946. >Everything hurts
  947. >You can’t see right
  948. >The fear comes back
  949. >Alexei says nothing. You only hear his talons clacking against the floor
  950. >...You hope his face stays bruised forever
  951. >And that dying doesn’t hurt
  952. >You don’t want any more pain
  953.  
  954. >For the first time in what feels like forever, you are Warden Sharp
  955. >You fell asleep after Alexei grabbed you, and had the strangest dream!
  956. >Nobody respected you anymore, not even the guards!
  957. >It made you so sad, but you realized it was a dream when Brass was rude to you. Brass would never treat you like that!
  958. >You woke up shortly after, and realized you had to get back to safety
  959. >You light your horn up to navigate the dark, stepping gingerly through the gloom
  960. >You’ll need to fund a repair expedition down here
  961. >Maybe if you buy a candle for every other step on the way down, the repairponies will finally be willing to risk it
  962. >But that might make it look even scarier... Hm...
  963. >As you walk, the room gets gradually brighter
  964. >Is someone else down here?
  965. >It might be Brass!
  966. >You gallop forward until you can finally see-
  967. >...
  968. >......
  969. >...What...?
  970. >Your special somepony lies on the floor in a small pool of-
  971. >No
  972. >It can’t be blood
  973. >But creeping towards him is that griffon
  974. >You feel...
  975. >An emotion you’ve never felt before. It makes you wish your magic did something worse than stun
  976. >It scares you
  977. >But it also spurs you to action
  978. >Without a moment to lose, you charge up your horn as fast and hard as you can
  979. >The glow draws Alexei’s attention, but your crackling bolt of magic streaks across the room before he can dodge
  980. >He lets out a cry of surprise as his body stiffens and goes rigid
  981. >”What in- you?! How did you wake up?!”
  982. “Shush! Shut your mouth this instant! You stand right there and- and think about this horrible thing you’ve done, and what’s going to happen to you when the princesses get here! You heartless brute!”
  983. >You canter over to Brass’ side through the-
  984. >The spilt syrup. Yes. Spilt strawberry syrup
  985. >Your hooves get covered in it as you shake him
  986. “Brass?”
  987. >His eyes struggle open, but they don’t focus
  988. >”Ugh... Sharp... are you alright...?”
  989. >Something between a laugh and a sob comes out of you
  990. “Silly Brass. I’m fine. B-But we need to leave, okay? Can you... C-Can you stand?”
  991. >”I’ll try...”
  992. >One of his legs is covered in syrup, with some very, very, very, very nasty scratches
  993. >Can you even call those scratches?
  994. >You pull his foreleg over your shoulders and try to help him walk
  995. >Brass winces and whimpers with every step
  996. >...is this your fault?
  997. >Did this happen because you told Alexei what’s down here?
  998. >You plod forward, doing your best to carry your poor stallion to the stairs as you fret
  999. >You make it to the bottom step and look up the stairwell
  1000. >Oh no, there’s so many! There’s no way Brass will be able to get up there!
  1001. >You wrack your brains for a moment, then do the only thing that makes sense
  1002. >You scoot beneath him and stand up, carrying him on your back
  1003. >...Oof, he’s heavy. Your legs are shaking
  1004. >But you can’t give up!
  1005. >You shoot another stun spell at Alexei for good measure then start making the climb
  1006. >You huff and puff at every step, doing your best to keep Brass balanced on your back
  1007. >Oh goodness, you’ve only just started and you’re already out of breath!
  1008. >Your cheeks puff in frustration
  1009. >Don’t think about it! Just keep going!
  1010. >Everything will be fine if you can just get Brass somewhere safe!
  1011. >You climb as fast as you can
  1012. >Pretending it’s a race helps
  1013. >But however many steps you clear, the entrance never comes in sight
  1014. >Whose idea was it to make a basement so far underground?!
  1015. >What was the point?!
  1016. >Before long, you can’t help but stop to catch your breath
  1017. >Brass groans and you twist your head around to nuzzle him
  1018. “It’s alright. Just... Just a little more.”
  1019. >You hope it’s true
  1020. >The sound of your hooves clattering against the stairs is all you hear for a long while
  1021. >Until a cruel laugh echoes up from below
  1022. >”Ready or not, here I come!”
  1023. >No!!
  1024. >You scramble, gasping for breath as you climb
  1025. >The clicking of long talons fills the stairwell
  1026. >”A most excellent attempt. I was quite startled when you awoke. But the game ends here.”
  1027. >You can’t even respond, you’re so winded
  1028. >In your panic, Brass falls from your back, crying out as he hits the stairs
  1029. >The sound cuts you all the way to your heart
  1030. >You whirl around, firing stun spells willy-nilly down the stairs
  1031. >The bursts of green light disappear into the darkness
  1032. >Alexei just laughs
  1033. >Gritting your teeth, you charge and shoot as many as you can
  1034. >Clickity-click, clickity-click, the talons never stop
  1035. >Soon, your horn’s glow fades, and you can’t cast anymore
  1036. >You sniff, staring into the darkness
  1037. >Clickity-click, clickity-click
  1038. >Tears finally come
  1039. >Using the last ounce of your magic, you make another little light and go to Brass, sinking down to press against his heaving barrel and sob
  1040. “I’m sorry! I lied! I couldn’t get to the top! B-But I’ll never leave you, just like I said! I’m so sorry...!”
  1041. >Your voice breaks at the end
  1042. >You bury your face against his neck
  1043. >You let the tears flow and wait
  1044. >If it all ends today...
  1045. >Then you want it to end just like this
  1046. >Shivering, you press one ear against Brass and cover the other with your hoof
  1047. >You wait
  1048. >And wait
  1049. >The stairwell shakes, and a horrible, roaring cry fills the air
  1050. >”I’LL FUCKING PLUCK YOU BARE THIS TIME, ASSWIPE! C’MERE!”
  1051. >Wha-
  1052. >Goodness-
  1053. >You’d know that horrible language anywhere!
  1054. >You look up to see...
  1055. >Well, first you realize the stairway is lit now
  1056. >And then a hurtling bipedal figure leaps over you, tackling the advancing monster-griffon back down the stairs
  1057. >You gasp, watching Anon and Alexei bounce down the stairs
  1058. >That looks painful...
  1059. >Oh, Brass!
  1060. >You whirl around and find that you and your special guard aren’t alone
  1061. >Princess Celestia stands just above you on the stairway, illuminating the space and gasping at the sight of Brass’ wounds
  1062. >”Brass...! How awful! Are alright, Warden Sharp?”
  1063. “I-I’m fine! But please help-“
  1064. >Before you can even finish the sentence, you are engulfed in warm sunlight
  1065. >When your vision clears, you’re back above ground
  1066. >Princess Celestia takes charge immediately as Caring the Elements and Discord crowd around
  1067. >”Avert your eyes! Twilight, lend me your power. Healing this will take some effort.”
  1068.  
  1069. >Your hands are full of feathers and there’s a collapsed griffon at your feet, so you must be Anonymous
  1070. >Vicious little bastard. You’ll send him home looking like a plucked chicken, see how he likes that!
  1071. >And he’s not the only one
  1072. >The darkness swims
  1073. >”How kind of you to offer yourself to me again.”
  1074. “I’ll admit, you had me last time. But a little bird told me you run on fear and doubt, and I’m shit out of both. Try me.”
  1075. >A snarl, and the room seems to close in on you
  1076. >You feel the tendrils digging at you again, but you calmly lay down on the floor
  1077. >Let’s see how she likes the ace up your sleeve
  1078. >Or rather, in your head
  1079.  
  1080. >When you open your eyes again, you’re...
  1081. >Well, you aren’t sure
  1082. >You stand in the middle of what used to be a castle
  1083. >And on the other side of the room stands a blob of darkness vaguely shaped like a pony, with two glowing blue eyes
  1084. >And a toothy mouth
  1085. >”What?! How can this be?!”
  1086. “Came prepared this time.”
  1087. >”INDEED!”
  1088. >Your favorite voice thunders through the ruins
  1089. >Luna descends out of the sky in all her glory, touching down at your side and giving Nightmare a glare you actually find kind of scary
  1090. >”It ends today, wretch! You shall haunt my conscience no more! I will rid myself of you today, and finally escort my beloved home!”
  1091. >Nightmare sneers, spitting at Luna from across the room
  1092. >”Deluded little princess. Have you already forgotten why you can’t be rid of me? Or are you hoping that your human will somehow do it? Your lover is helpless before me, as are you! I cannot be destroyed!”
  1093. >You look down at Luna, raising an eyebrow, but she’s already crossing the room, shrieking in rage
  1094. >”You dare?! There is nothing he cannot do!”
  1095. >You grit your teeth and sprint after her, trying to ignore the unease that grips you
  1096. >Discord said she would disappear as ling as you kept your hands on her long enough
  1097. >She has to he bluffing, right?
  1098. >You feel the dream change around you, but it’s not Luna’s delicate touch
  1099. >Nightmare rips the moon and stars from the sky, throwing the ruins into stygian black
  1100. >As quick as you can imagine it, giant stadium floodlights rise up in a ring, filling the area with bright light while the crumbling walls leave pools of shadow
  1101. >Nightmare ducks into one, and Luna follows
  1102. >They emerge from another, and duck into yet another, shouting and shrieking while you just try to keep up
  1103. >You’re a little scared to change the lighting. What would happen if you ruined the shadow Luna was about to come out from?
  1104. >After remembering that rules aren’t a thing in your dreams, this becomes a non-issue
  1105. >You dart through space, your foot landing square in the side of Nightmare’s body
  1106. >She tumbles to the ground, and Luna lays into her with a magically-conjured pillow
  1107. >”Hmph!! Who’s helpless, you stubborn shadow?! Hmm?! Take that!”
  1108. >Nightmare grunts and snarls, hooves flailing as she tries to shield herself from the frantic pillow strikes
  1109. >”I’ll show you, petulant princess! I saw the depths of degeneracy inside Anon’s mind! The true meaning of violence! Beasts beyond your darkest-!”
  1110. >A good whack across the jaw from Luna’s pillow interrupts her
  1111. >”Don’t you dare call him Anon, strumpet!”
  1112. >Nightmare gestures with a hoof, and you do a spittake as the dreams warps and a Tyranid carnifex steps out of the shadows
  1113. “Luna!”
  1114. >You pull her to you, the beast’s scythe arm cleaving the air where she just was
  1115. >Your blue moon stares slack-jawed at the monster from Rick Priestly’s mind, managing only a single syllable
  1116. >”Oh...”
  1117. >Nightmare clambers atop her beast cackling madly
  1118. >Other Tyranids both great and small begin skittering about, forming a semi-circle around you
  1119. >”Now you see! Now you understand what lurks inside a human’s mind! I have learned the truth of the human’s world, I know their prophecy!”
  1120. >Wait, what?
  1121. >”In the grim darkness of the far future-“
  1122. >Oh god
  1123. >”There is only war!”
  1124. >You facepalm
  1125. >Luna, however, is utterly distraught
  1126. >”I-Is is true, Anon? Has the realm of humans fallen?!”
  1127. >You give Luna a squeeze
  1128. “It’s not. That, uh, ‘prophecy’ is scheduled about 38,000 years in the future.”
  1129. >Pony princess and shadow beast pause, trying to comprehend the number
  1130. “And you’ve got a healthy mix of melee bugs there, but no range. Rookie mistake.”
  1131. >Nightmare leans forward, eyes narrowing
  1132. >”Is that so? And I suppose you’ll show me the proper way?”
  1133. “Sure. Normally I go easy on new players, but I’ll make an exception for you.”
  1134. >The dream shakes as you concentrate
  1135. >The castle falls away, though some ruined towers remain as space stretches out, putting distance between you and Nightmare
  1136. >Winding trenches carve themselves out in the open soil, gun nests and bunkers popping up at regular intervals
  1137. >The battle cries of the Imperium fill the air as rank on rank of the flashlight boys rush to their positions shepherded by their commissars, and the earth shakes with the rumble of innumerable tank treads
  1138. >Luna yelps in surprise as a massive tank sprouts up from under you
  1139. >”What’s going on? What is all this?”
  1140. >You maneuver her beside you as you take a seat straddling the king of tank’s turret barrel
  1141. “It is the Beeeeeyyyynbleeeeeeeyd!”
  1142. >She just looks at you, confused
  1143. “...A Baneblade. This is called a Baneblade. And all those are Leman Russes, and those are Basilisks, and-“
  1144. >As you name them, they take their places
  1145. >Your army is assembled
  1146. >Nightmare shouts from across the field
  1147. >”Mine are scarier!”
  1148. >Pffft. Nids are trash tier and everybody knows it
  1149. >You look down at the nearest red-hatted man
  1150. “Commissar.”
  1151. >He salutes with his power sword
  1152. >”Your will, Lord Commander?”
  1153. “Teach the xenos the might of the Emperor’s Hammer.”
  1154. >As one, the Basilisks fire
  1155. >Shrapnel shells rain on Nightmare’s bugs, ripping their horde apart
  1156. >The shadowhorse is startled for a moment but quickly directs her forces forward, and the bugs come on like a tide
  1157. >The great artillery pieces never stop firing, and as the Nids close the distance heavy bolter crews and lasgun nests open up on them
  1158. >Luna tries to say something, but the noise is deafening
  1159. >She’s laughing though. Watching the explosions and lasbeams with the same fascination she viewed your other dreams with
  1160. >She paws at your shoulder with a hoof
  1161. >With a thought, the guns are muted, and she gushes
  1162. >”Awe-inspiring, truly! This surely will be enough to destroy her! Are these all your soldiers?”
  1163. “That’s right. These guys are my Imperial Guard!”
  1164. >You never came close to owning this many miniatures, but they’re still your dudes
  1165. >”Let us combine our forces. I had grand plans for your arrival at the castle, and they can still be salvaged!”
  1166. >Luna summons her own ancient Night Guard soldiers, who join yours in the trenches and watch the pretty lights
  1167. >The battle drags on
  1168. >Nightmare’s bugs get slaughtered as they mindlessly crash against the Imperial defenses, but she always pulls more from the darkness
  1169. >The first trench sees the fiercest fighting, but the unbroken stream of fire from the rear prevents her getting any further into your formation
  1170. >Luna’s bats do their best, but you deliberately keep them away from the thick of it. They’re great for morale, though
  1171. >With the commissars doing less blamming, the output of flashlight beams stays maxed out
  1172. >The princess gets a little queasy at the sight of so many Tyranids being reduced to puddles by concentrated fire
  1173. >The initial high is starting to wear off for you, too
  1174. >This isn’t going anywhere. As fun as it is, you have to actually do something about Nightmare
  1175. >Your Baneblade lurches forward, and Luna wraps her forelegs around you to stay on
  1176. >With a healthy pinch of dream manipulation, the tank leaps each trench it comes across, all guns blazing, until you finally start plowing through screeching aliens
  1177. >There she is. Same Carnifex as before. Unscathed in spite of everything
  1178. >She greets you with a merry laugh as your tank circles. Coming from her, the sound is unsettling
  1179. >”What fun! Clash and carnage make for wonderful nourishment. I can’t decide if I like this or being in direct control more.”
  1180. “I prefer this, definitely. If it’s just hurling my imagination at you I can do it all day.”
  1181. >”What a tantalizing proposition! But no. I desire suffering in the waking world, and I’m feeling much better now. Shall we fight?”
  1182. >...Discord wasn’t kidding, she really is pony-Khorne
  1183. >Luna stands up now that the tank has slowed down, shoulders shaking in frustration
  1184. >”How can you endure?! Why won’t you disappear?!”
  1185. >Nightmare gives her a flat look
  1186. >”I wonder if I took half your mind when we parted. Do you truly not understand? I thought it was all an act.”
  1187. “Is one of you going to tell me what’s going on here?”
  1188. >Nightmare smugly puffs out her chest
  1189. >”I am-“
  1190. >”LALALALALALALALALA HE CANNOT HEAR YOU!!”
  1191. >You clap your hands over your ears in an attempt to shield them from Luna’s sonic assault
  1192. >Jesus Christ, how can she speak that loudly?! She’s so slim!
  1193. >You lunge, trying to wrestle her into submission
  1194. >Gotta make her let up before your eardrums burst!
  1195. >Nightmare sits and watches, clearly amused
  1196. >Everything grinds to a halt around you without your thoughts to drive the guardsmen, and Nightmare lets her bugs fade away
  1197. >When you finally get a hand over Luna’s muzzle, the silence feels like heaven
  1198. >Until Nightmare speaks again
  1199. >”She and I are the same alicorn. Merely in two pieces.”
  1200. >...That explains why Luna didn’t want you to know, you guess
  1201. >She froze up when Nightmare told you
  1202. >The fear and apprehension in her unblinking stare tell you she can’t imagine you being okay with that
  1203. >Silly pony
  1204. >You sit up, dragging your fingers through her coat reassuringly
  1205. “So you split off when she came back from the moon, but you’re actually a piece of her?”
  1206. >”Yes. So long as she exists, I will eventually reform. I feed on her.”
  1207. >Nightmare shoots the princess trembling under your hand a disdainful look
  1208. >”...though sometimes I wonder how I could have come from such a creature.”
  1209. >Things are starting to fit together
  1210. >Luna was somehow capable of hanging on to the emotions that should have been swept down into the depths, which resulted in Nightmare Moon
  1211. >You wonder if Celestia might be the same
  1212. >Either way, since you’ve found out-
  1213. “I’m gonna put you back together.”
  1214. >”WHAT?!”
  1215. >It makes it a little easier to believe they’re the same pony when they both react in perfect sync
  1216. >The first word, at least
  1217. >”Anon, you mustn’t! I committed such horrors when she was last within me, how could I allow myself to harbor her again?”
  1218. >”You’re out of your mind if you think I’ll return to being her shadow! I am superior in every way, and I’ll make sure you see that clearly!”
  1219. >Both turn to glare at each other as their respective protests end
  1220. >But they’ve had enough time to argue
  1221. >You stand up and stretch while you address Nightmare
  1222. “The only thing I see is that you’re just somebody’s internal edgelord given form.”
  1223. >”I- What? Edge...lord?”
  1224. “Don’t get excited. It’s not a compliment.”
  1225. >She scowls as you continue
  1226. “Every human kid has something like you in them. Some of us grow out of it and some don’t, but I’m sure as hell not letting some one-emotion goon ruin my horsey paradise.”
  1227. >You roll your neck, getting up in Nightmare’s face
  1228. “I’m going to help Luna accept you as part of her. That’s the best way resolve this. So go ahead and fight back. I already told you that I’m not scared of you, and by the time I’m done Luna won’t be either.”
  1229. >A smirk cracks your face
  1230. “Hurts, doesn’t it? Knowing that for all the stuff your learned in my head, you’re still just a pony. Or a pony’s shadow.”
  1231. >The shriek of pure hate that comment elicits sends a shiver down your spine, but not from terror
  1232. >Nightmare launches herself up at you
  1233. >You slam a palm into her chest and shove hard
  1234. >Nightmare does a spectacular flip and lands flat on her back
  1235. >She struggles to breathe, staring slack-jawed into space
  1236. “Take your time. I got a point to prove.”
  1237. >You look back to Luna
  1238. “Look. See? She’s not absolute. She fed on the stuff she found in my head, sure, but she’s not all-powerful. Just like the bad thoughts you have aren’t something you have to respond to.”
  1239. >Luna sits up, still looking uncertain
  1240. >”But... I have. Doesn’t that mean that I will again?”
  1241. “I dunno. Would you? Knowing how awful you felt after the first time, would you still do it?”
  1242. >”No! But I don’t want her to be a part of me at all, Anon! Isn’t it better if I cut her from myself entirely? Are you certain there’s no way to-?”
  1243. “Luna.”
  1244. >You walk over, placing a hand on her shoulder.
  1245. “She won’t just go away.”
  1246. >The alicorn wilts
  1247. “You have to own up to having felt that way once. And accept you might feel that way again. Anger is something everybody feels.”
  1248. >You glance back over your shoulder just in time to see Nightmare creeping up on the both of you
  1249. >She springs the moment you make eye contact and latches onto your back, but your reaction is instant
  1250. >Because all you have to do is lean back
  1251. >You fall straight back, crushing your rider beneath you
  1252. >Nightmare lets out a strained wheeze as the air is once again driven from her
  1253. “As I was saying...”
  1254. >You get back up and take a seat next to Luna, facing the squashed and gasping clone
  1255. “Shutting out your emotions just stunts you. You waste time fighting yourself when you should be interacting with what’s going on around you. There’s all kinds of things I hate about myself, but I can’t just pretend they don’t exist. You have to master them. Figure them out. Turn them into something you can use, or at least keep in check.”
  1256. >You try not to remember how silly this sounds coming from a guy who can barely figure out life for himself
  1257. >Luna stares thoughtfully at the ground
  1258. >”...but how could such thoughts be redirected? What good is wanton desire to dominate, to preside over all things?”
  1259. “Well, look at me. I started strength training because of thoughts like that. But it taught me about a lot more too. How to power through wanting to quit, how to be a good sport about competing, to remember that there’s always someone better than you. The feelings that motivate you to do something aren’t always the ones that stay with you when it’s done. And I think you’ve made good use of those feelings before. Remember? You told me about that big win over the Yaks back in your room, and how you took all those pillowcases from defeated griffons. That wasn’t evil. But it came from those feelings. Wanting to be the best stems from wanting to win.”
  1260. >Her eyes slowly brighten, looking at you with hope
  1261. >”I... I think I understand. I want to try.”
  1262. “That’s my girl. You’ll figure it out.”
  1263. >You curl your fingers beneath her chin, scratching gently
  1264. >Nightmare finally rises on shaky hooves, glaring knives at the both of you
  1265. >”Never! I would rather be destroyed and reform than lose myself!”
  1266. >You stand back up, but don’t move any closer
  1267. “Why’s that?”
  1268. >The question seems to catch her off guard
  1269. >”What do you mean, why? If that weakling and I rejoin then I’ll be trapped inside her head until I can escape! Or worse, I might not be able to escape, or... or...”
  1270. >She trails off, but you know what she’s afraid of
  1271. >She might cease to exist as her own entity
  1272. “Humor me for a minute, Nightmare. If you still want to fight after this, then we will.”
  1273. >She eyes you suspiciously, but slowly nods
  1274. “How much do you remember? Anything from before your coup?”
  1275. >”...I have only vague flashes before the century leading to when I took control. And then it was as if I were watching through Luna’s eyes for 100 years before I finally got a turn myself.”
  1276. >Damn
  1277. >You were hoping she remembered everything Luna did
  1278. “Well... do you remember other emotions? Happiness? Sadness? Before you say anything, I know you only feed off one emotion. But you have to remember others, right? You were in Luna’s head for a long time. Are you sure you’re fine with just being mad for the rest of your life?”
  1279. >She stares at you for a while
  1280. >You think something flickers in her face, and decide to keep pushing
  1281. “Say you do win. Say you do overpower me and the sisters and everything else someday. What then? What are you going to be mad at then? Hate to break it to you, but eternal night doesn’t do good things to plants. All the crops die off, which leads to everything else biting it. You’ll be alone. What then?”
  1282. >Luna gasps, only now comprehending that she almost doomed the world
  1283. >Nightmare hesitates even harder
  1284. >Her very being seems unstable now. Her body seems to waver and weaken against the ethereal light of dreamspace
  1285. “I can’t guarantee you that you’ll still remember yourself if you combine with Luna. But there’s no winning for you if you go on alone. No matter what happens.”
  1286. >For a split second, Nightmare looks completely different
  1287. >Standing almost as tall as Celestia would, with a mane even more resplendent than Luna’s, streaked with nebulae and speckled with gleaming points of light
  1288. >And then-
  1289. >”YOU LIE!”
  1290. >The shriek almost splits your eardrums all over again
  1291. >”I won’t be fooled! I won’t go! I WILL NOT CEASE TO BE!!”
  1292. >Still stunned by her retort, you’re helpless against the lunge
  1293. >Her long, pointed teeth sink into your forearm
  1294. >Now it’s you howling at the top of your voice
  1295. >Luna bulls into Nightmare, whaling on her and shouting for her to let go
  1296. >But Nightmare’s jaw remains clenched, her eyes unblinkingly staring into yours
  1297. >The initial shock fades
  1298. >The pain doesn’t, but it’s not so bad that you can’t think
  1299. >You sit down, staring right back
  1300. “Read my mind. You see if I’m lying.”
  1301. >Luna stops, staring at you hopefully
  1302. “Yeah, you too. I’ll allow it. You both need to know. I don’t hate you, Nightmare. Now that I know what you are.”
  1303. >Maybe all the time you’ve spent dreaming has taught your brain some new tricks, because now you can feel someone combing through your grey matter
  1304. >Two someones
  1305. >It takes some doing to think around the pain, but you eventually empty your head of everything except how you feel about the mares in front of you
  1306. >Luna giggles happily, enshrouding you with both forehooves and wings
  1307. >This may be the coziest hug you’ve ever received
  1308. >”I return your feelings a hundred times over, beloved. Thank you.”
  1309. >Nightmare, for her part, lets out an uncharacteristic squeak, pulling her teeth from your arm
  1310. >”Even now? Even now, you forgive? Why?”
  1311. “Because you’re a part of Luna, and because I can relate to doing stupid things when angry. I have something like you inside me. It never went away, I just learned how to talk it down. You won’t cease to exist. And whatever you and Luna become, I’ll give her your share of love too.”
  1312. >Nightmare is barely tangible now
  1313. >You can actually see through her
  1314. >But the nuzzle that brushes your face is very real
  1315. >”So be it.”
  1316. >She offers a hoof to the alicorn squeezing you
  1317. >”Come, Luna. Let us both find peace.”
  1318. >The other half of your moon princess nods solemnly, placing her hoof against her shadow’s
  1319. >”Let us be whole again.”
  1320. >Both alicorns flash brightly, rising away from you
  1321. >You have to shield your eyes from the light
  1322. >When it eventually fades, you behold the same alicorn you saw in Nightmare’s moment of weakness
  1323. >Luna’s perfect form
  1324. >She floats gently down to you, havering just high enough to plants her lips against your forehead
  1325. >”Anon, I... I feel that one constellation is not enough for you.”
  1326. >You grin, mooshing her cheeks together before kissing her back
  1327. “How about a comet? Or a meteor shower. One of those recurring ones.”
  1328. >The dream shakes as she laughs
  1329. >”A fine idea! I shall make the sky rain light in your honor. But come. It is over, and I won’t suffer another night of you languishing in prison.”
  1330. >You awake to a big horsey nose rubbing against your face
  1331. >And a sharp, burning pain in your arm
  1332. >You sit bolt upright, looking down at your aching appendage
  1333. >...Should that bite mark still be there?
  1334. >And bleeding that hard?
  1335. >Luna follows your eyes, and screams
  1336. >Celestia instantly teleports into the basement, and screams too
  1337. >Your poor ears
  1338.  
  1339. >You are the only medical expert here with a horribly injured patient on your hooves, so you must be Caring Touch
  1340. >Everything about this is the absolute WORST!
  1341. >Anon’s back in your infirmary with the worst boo-boo you’ve ever seen on his arm
  1342. >It’s so big it goes around both sides!
  1343. >It’s even worse than what happened to Brass Badge, and Princess Celestia can’t magic this one away
  1344. >Everypony else is huddled in a corner of the room, scared of distracting you while you work
  1345. >Except the princesses. They’re on the other side of the bed, staring at you pleadingly
  1346. >But you’ve got nothing
  1347. >All you’ve done is cover his arm in cotton balls and watch them slowly turn red
  1348. >You’ve never seen anyone bleed this much before
  1349. >Anon says he’s okay but that’s just him being Anon
  1350. >There’s no way he’s okay!
  1351. >And you don’t know how to help except to sit here holding these!
  1352. >You were right about all the things you had in your nurse bag being useless! You had to get these out of a cupboard!
  1353. >You sniffle, then catch yourself, biting your lip to keep from crying
  1354. >Nurses can’t cry in front of patients
  1355. >But Anon rubs your face with his good hand, and then it all comes apart
  1356. >You break down for the second time today
  1357. “Anon! I don’t know what to do! What should I do?! How do I make you better?!”
  1358. >”Shhh. It’s alright. I’m not in danger. It just hurts, and I don’t mind that.”
  1359. “I mind! I mind a lot!”
  1360. >He hesitates. You’d chew him out more if he wasn’t scritching your face just right
  1361. >”We’d need to disinfect it first. And then... well, it should close by itself eventually if-“
  1362. “Don’t give me eventually! I want to do something now! Why won’t you tell me how?!”
  1363. >”Because it involves sewing me shut.”
  1364. >...
  1365. >...wait
  1366. >WHAT?!
  1367. “Wha- Buh- sew you shut? Like needle and thread?”
  1368. >”With a curved needle and sterilized thread, but yeah.”
  1369. “That’s... that’s not something you do to a living thing...”
  1370. “Not while I’m awake, definitely. You’d have to numb my arm or put me to sleep first.”
  1371. >Princess Luna reaches out and rests her hoof on his other arm
  1372. >”You may leave that to me. But... sewing your own flesh, Anon? Are you certain?”
  1373. >”Look, I’m not saying it’s something I’m looking forward to okay? But that’s how humans fix injuries like this. Our bodies usually put themselves back together, but sometimes they need a little help.”
  1374. >You’d think that was really cool if it wasn’t so scary
  1375. “So if I sew your... your cuts... will they heal?”
  1376. >He nods. The look in his eyes makes you think he’s more worried about you than he is about himself
  1377. >That same fluttering feeling you always get when you make eye contact fills you
  1378. >You’ll do it
  1379. >You have to
  1380. >Your special talent is making sure your patients get just what they need
  1381. >Your patient needs an unheard-of medical procedure that you’ve had no chance to practice for
  1382. >But you’re a nurse! A big nurse! With her certificate and everything!
  1383. >And you’re going to do it for love!
  1384. >Spirits completely restored, you spend the next few minutes gathering the things you’ll need
  1385. >This includes finding somepony who knows how to sew
  1386. >Lucky for you, one of the Elements knows!
  1387. >You ask her
  1388. >She doesn’t seem sold
  1389. >”...C-Could you repeat that for me, Nurse Touch? I’m certain I didn’t hear you properly.”
  1390. “I need you to help me stitch Anon’s arm shut!”
  1391. >”That’s what I was afraid you said.”
  1392. “Please, I don’t want to wait any longer! Every second this isn’t dealt with is another second Anon spends bleeding!”
  1393. >You take her by the hoof and lead her back to Anon’s bedside
  1394. >The little table with all the things you need is prepared
  1395. >Princess Luna lulls Anon to sleep and is going to do her best to keep him dreaming
  1396. >Princess Celestia is going to be here for moral support
  1397. >But honestly, having to do this in front of royalty just makes your nerves worse
  1398. >The needle floats over in your magical grasp, threaded with magically conjured twine
  1399. >You’re almost certain it’s just fused strands of the princess’ mane
  1400. >That’s kinda gross, but she scorched them with magic and she’s a sun princess, so maybe it’s fine?
  1401. >You take a deep breath, trying to make your brain be quiet
  1402. >...
  1403. >......
  1404. >When you finally shut out thought, you begin
  1405. >It takes half a tube of disinfectant cream, but you get Anon’s arm cleaned up and ready
  1406. >Now for the hard part
  1407. >You turn to Rarity
  1408. “Tell me how I should move the needle.”
  1409. >”W-Well, before that, you need to tie a knot at the end of your thread dear. I’ll help you.”
  1410. >After getting your thread set up, she tentatively gestures with a hoof
  1411. >”Start here. When working with delicate fabric, you must...”
  1412. >She must do a lot of sewing. Her instructions are easy to understand
  1413. >You poke the needle in and out of Anon’s arm, doing your best to keep everything evenly spaced
  1414. >Some of the cuts are weird and jagged, but you do a good job reattaching everything
  1415. >At least, you think so
  1416. >You’re halfway done
  1417. >You turn his arm so his palm faces up to get at the rest
  1418. >Rarity coughs nervously
  1419. >”You seem to have the gist of it. May I borrow one of your beds? My chais lounge won’t fit in here and I feel faint.”
  1420. “Go ahead. Thank you for everything.”
  1421. >”Not at all, darling. I’m delighted to have been of assistance. Now if you’ll excuse me...”
  1422. >You don’t look away from your work, but you hear the poof of a pony flopping onto a mattress
  1423. >Princess Celestia chuckles. Rarity’s friends move closer to her bed, murmuring
  1424. >You just stay focused
  1425. >Anon’s hand twitches. For a moment you’re terrified that he’s waking up, but his eyes stay closed
  1426. >You push your hoof into his hand for him to squeeze and whisper
  1427. “I’m sorry. I’m going as quick as I can.”
  1428. >The infirmary is dead silent now
  1429. >Hook, pull, hook, pull, hook, pull...
  1430. >When you finally get to the end, you struggle a bit with tying it off
  1431. >The thread is so darn small!
  1432. >At last the knot tightens, and it’s all done
  1433. >...
  1434. >His poor arm... you almost prefer it without the stitches in it
  1435. >Isn’t it going to hurt when he wakes up?
  1436. >But Anon told you to do it, so it has to help
  1437. >Either way, your brain’s a little sore from all that continuous focus and only ear scratches will make it better
  1438. “I did my best, Princess. It’s over now.”
  1439. >The sun princess gives you one of her famous smiles
  1440. >”You were very brave, Caring Touch. I will never forget what you’ve done.”
  1441. >You probably won’t forget this either, but for the wrong reasons
  1442. >Celestia looks at her sister, horn glowing faintly
  1443. >Luna comes around shortly after
  1444. >And then, with a shudder and a gasp, Anon wakes up
  1445. >Right away you can tell he’s in pain
  1446. >But he smiles shakily, looking down at his arm
  1447. >”You did great, Caring. I bet a human nurse couldn’t have done it better.”
  1448. >That’s a sweet thing to say, but...
  1449. >Anon sweeps you into his lap and squeezes you, driving the bad thoughts out
  1450. >Everypony else cheers, and you sigh
  1451. >You’ll talk with him about it later
  1452. >For now, he’s safe
  1453. >After your ears have been thoroughly scratched, Anon sets you on the bed while he stands up
  1454. >The princesses both nuzzle your face, and Luna speaks
  1455. >”Caring Touch, I have no words. This is the second great debt I have accrued today. What can I do to repay you?”
  1456. >...
  1457. >Hold on a second
  1458. “Well... what can I ask for?”
  1459. >”Anything! Anything within my power!”
  1460. >INTERNAL GASP!
  1461. >In that case-!
  1462.  
  1463. >You’re the former terror of the prison, so you must be Summer Squall
  1464. >Anon showed up all of a sudden when they called the extended recess
  1465. >He even had the princesses with him! But he only had time to talk for a little bit before some guard came screaming his name and led them off somewhere!
  1466. >And the nurse was with him, and a bunch of girls you’re pretty sure weren’t prisoners
  1467. >Well, you’ve had enough of not knowing what’s going on
  1468. >Ma always said “go and see for yourself,” so you’re gonna!
  1469. >You pulled a fast one on the guards by saying you were going to go get snacks for everybody
  1470. >It won’t be a lie if you go get snacks afterwards, but you need to find Anon first
  1471. >You take to the air as soon as you’re inside, putting your wings to the test as you make sharp turns around corners and zip through the empty halls
  1472. >It’s so nice not having a giant rubber band on them!
  1473. >You arrive at the first junction and realize you have no clue where you’re going
  1474. >It’s been weeks since you were booked and you don’t remember the tour you got that first day
  1475. >A really loud shout makes the decision for you
  1476. >Zooming down the the hall, you find the door all the noise is coming from and throw it open
  1477. >”Anything else! I’ll let you have anything but that!”
  1478. >”NO! You said ‘anything!’ I have- uh, one, two, three... NINE! No, Rarity’s still out. Eight witnesses! You said I could have anything I want and it’s too late for take-backs!”
  1479. >”It’s bad enough I have to share with Celestia! What if I allowed you to dream of him every night?”
  1480. >”I don’t want my dreams to be dreams, I want them to be real!”
  1481. >Caring Touch is arguing with... Princess Luna?
  1482. >W-What did you just walk into?
  1483. >The nurse sees you and calls out
  1484. >”Summer! You tell her! When you say somepony can have ‘anything’ for something and then they go back on their word, that’s bad right?!”
  1485. “Uh... yeah. You can’t just say that and then not do it. That’s lying!”
  1486. >The look you get from Princess Luna almost makes you doubt what Ma said about always telling the truth
  1487. >You only notice Anon when he speaks
  1488. >”Hey, Summer. Shouldn’t you be outside?”
  1489. “Same to you! What are you doing in here? Did you get hurt again?”
  1490. >”A little bit. But I’m on my way back out.”
  1491. >Classic Anon
  1492. >Doesn’t even care he got hurt
  1493. “Let’s go back together then! I need to go get snacks anyway.”
  1494. >”And just what are you doing trying to get into the kitchen by yourself, Inmate Squall?”
  1495. >Oh shoot, Warden’s here! And Brass Badge
  1496. >You probably shouldn’t tell her you promised to bring the guards some snacks too in exchange for letting you in...
  1497. >Sorry, Ma. This lie’s for the greater good
  1498. “Well, you know, it’s such a nice day out, and everybody had to go outside all of a sudden, so I thought... maybe we could have... a party?”
  1499. >You have no time to reflect on how bad you flubbed that excuse before there is suddenly a pink mare up in your personal space
  1500. >”A party? In a prison? I’ve never thrown a prison party before! I’ll come help!”
  1501. “T-Thanks?”
  1502. >”Twi, come on! We need to be part of this!”
  1503. >The purple unicorn girl trots over
  1504. >”I think we all need a party after that little adventure. Let’s do it!”
  1505. >You’re being swept out of the room by five cheering girls and a dragon
  1506. >You’ve never been alone with this many girls before! This is scary!
  1507. >You look back at Anon for help, but he just smiles
  1508. >All because of your lie
  1509. >Ma was right!
  1510.  
  1511. >You’re about to have a real interesting conversation with your peeved significant other, so you must be Anon
  1512. >Warden read the room and hurried Brass out, giving you some space, followed by Discord
  1513. >You’ve never seen a wider shit-eating grin as he mouths “good luck” before closing the door
  1514. >It’s… an interesting array of faces
  1515. >Luna glowers down at Caring who in turn bristles at the Moon Princess from your lap
  1516. >Celestia looks oddly pleased, and sidles around to your side.
  1517. >”I, for one, would be delighted to have another little sister.”
  1518. >Luna snaps at her, stamping the floor with a hoof
  1519. >”You be quiet! I allowed you to foist yourself upon Anon because he is the only fitting match for the both of us, but if you think I’ll extend the invitation to any mare who trips over herself looking at him-“
  1520. >It’s Caring’s turn to shout, gesturing accusingly at Luna
  1521. >”Oh, I’m just some mare now?! Not the one who knows his body best, not his personal physician, just some random girl who thinks he’s cute?! Well let me tell you, Princess, there’s nopony in the world who cares more about his health than me! Not you! Not Celestia! And I’ll spend the rest of my life making sure he’s healthy and happy even if I have to sneak into the castle every day to do it!”
  1522. >Luna’s voice is icy
  1523. >”I’m sure. And how long will that last? The rest of your life, I mean.”
  1524. >Holy shit, did she really just say that?
  1525. >””Luna!””
  1526. >Both you and Celestia cry out in reproach at the same time, but she barely acknowledges it
  1527. >She looks directly into your eyes, walking forward to place a hoof on your hand
  1528. >”Am I wrong?! Will she not fade, leaving only a hole? I will not abide seeing you in pain again after today, Anon. And wounds of the heart are far more painful than flesh.”
  1529. >A strange mix of emotions run through you
  1530. >You hadn’t expected her to take this angle, and you didn’t like thinking about what was going to happen to your friends after Discord kept his promise to you
  1531. >You gently pull Caring close before covering her ears
  1532. “I get what you’re saying, but it’s fine.”
  1533. >”In what way is it fine?!”
  1534. “Because she’s going to die either way! And I want to make sure she’s happy all the way until then.”
  1535. >The both of you go around in verbal circles for a little while
  1536. >Luna’s dead certain you’re going to regret this
  1537. >You’re increasingly worried your soft spot for Caring is going to bring it all down around your head, but can’t find it in yourself to let go
  1538. >It only ends when Celestia steps in
  1539. >”Luna, we can speak of this later. For the moment, let it be a lesson against making grand promises.”
  1540. >Luna whips back towards her, ready to retort, but falters
  1541. >You turn to look at her too
  1542. >There serene smile is about the same as usual but it doesn’t extend to her eyes
  1543. >Which appear to be… slightly on fire?
  1544. >And exuding that “go to room or so help me god” vibe you’d sometimes get from your mom when you were young
  1545. >The moon princess huffs and puffs, but ultimately folds
  1546. >”Fine! We shall settle this matter at the castle. Let us go forth and greet the prisoners first.”
  1547. >She tramps out of the infirmary. You’re about let go of Caring’s ears, but Celestia’s hooves hold your hands in place while she whispers in your ear
  1548. >”Don’t worry. We’ll convince her in time.”
  1549. “Are you sure? I feel awful about this. I treasure you and Luna, but I don’t want Caring to be sad either.”
  1550. >Celestia’s melodious laughter sets your heat at ease
  1551. >”I adore that softness of yours. And yes, I’m certain. Luna always thinks of you, and would shield you from anything if she could. She’s just being overprotective.”
  1552. >The mare of the sun presses her lips to yours in reassurance
  1553. >You both rub noses for a bit before you finally uncover Caring’s ears
  1554. >She’s a little teary-eyed as she looks up at you
  1555. >”Where did Princess Luna go? Why would she say that?”
  1556. >Celestia once again saves your unprepared ass
  1557. >Her voice is smooth and soothing as she calms the nurse down, and Caring’s cheered up before you’ve even finished formulating a response
  1558. >It’s only when Caring hops down and you go to stand up that you realize you’re tired as fuck
  1559. >You sway for a moment before a white wing encircles you
  1560. >”May I suggest a nap beneath the sun?”
  1561. >You’re so drained you probably wouldn’t have caught her innuendo if not for the waggle of an eyebrow
  1562. >You smile wryly and rest a hand on her back
  1563. “Sounds perfect. Let’s all head outside.”
  1564. >You stumble out of the infirmary, leaning on Celestia as Caring anxiously prances in front
  1565. >Discord is leaning against the wall just outside, with Luna giving him side-eye from a short distance
  1566. >”Finally! Yes, yes, I can see he’s tired. But I still need a little chat with him. Do you ladies mind?”
  1567. >Caring glances at Celestia uncertainly
  1568. >The Sun Princess absolutely minds
  1569. >”I think Anon has had quite enough of you for today, Discord.”
  1570. >”It was a rhetorical question, Celestia. Be back in a minute.”
  1571. >You’re ready for the jolt this time
  1572. >You don’t even blink as Discord snaps the both of you into his “office”
  1573. >Flopping into a chair and crossing his hind legs on the desk, Discord claps a few times
  1574. >”Not bad, monkey man! Things got a little messy, but you did even better than I’d hoped. As promised-“
  1575. >He snaps again
  1576. >A few seconds pass. He just looks at you expectantly
  1577. “…Is that it? Am I-?”
  1578. >”Yep! Certified immortal, sonny. Congrats.”
  1579. “I don’t feel any different.”
  1580. >”And never will again.”
  1581. >That crooked smile is the least reassuring you’ve ever encountered, but he’s not being malicious
  1582. >”Gotta read ya the disclaimer, though. You’ve only stopped aging, which means you can still lose your tenuous grip on that mortal shell if you’re not careful. Don’t do anything stupid!”
  1583. “How about the other thing?”
  1584. >Discord’s smile gets even wider
  1585. >”Oooo, yes! I’ve been looking forward to it. I’ve never gotten the chance to futz with the continuum like this!”
  1586. >He jumps to his feet
  1587. >”Alright. Should be as simple as…”
  1588. >He snaps yet again, conjuring another human guy right next to you
  1589. >…
  1590. >Wait, that can’t be you. You aren’t that ugly
  1591. “”Dude. What is this? Get my face right.””
  1592. >Your head snaps back to look at your doppelgänger
  1593. >Who’s giving you an offended stare
  1594. “”What are you lookin’ at, clone?””
  1595. >Discord cackles maniacally, letting you and you square up on each other for a few more seconds before stepping in
  1596. >His eyes glow, flashing in strange patterns as he grabs the face of the other Anonymous and forces him to look
  1597. >”It was alllll a dream. There are no ponies. You’re a college student. You’re about to wake up in your own bed with no memory of what happened. Sleep. Sleeeeeep.”
  1598. >Othernon tries to resist, but Discord keeps hitting him with the hypno treatment until he crumples to the floor
  1599. >What follows is a snap and a mind-bending sight
  1600. >Discord chucks your copy through a hole in reality
  1601. >It takes you a second to recognize it as the room you used to live in
  1602. >The disorderly serpent gestures through
  1603. >”Take one last look.”
  1604. >You do
  1605. >There’s not much you can actually see through the rift
  1606. >But the nostalgia sinks its hooks in you regardless
  1607. >You’ll miss your computer and armchair for sure
  1608. >At least you have your phone-
  1609. >WAIT
  1610. “Shit! Hey, send me back to my cell really quick. It’s important.”
  1611. >Discord arches an eyebrow, but obliges you
  1612. >The door to your cell appears in space, and you rush through
  1613. >It’s still in the drawer where you left it
  1614. >Scrambling back into the null space, you toss your phone through
  1615. >It lands neatly on Othernon’s back
  1616. >”Ooo. Good catch. Your little picture box.”
  1617. “And a million other things rolled into one. Also, he’s mortal, right?”
  1618. >”…VERY good catch. Pull him back through for me.”
  1619. >The problem is resolved in a snap
  1620. >You dump yourself back onto your bed and the rift shuts behind
  1621. >The silence hangs for a while
  1622. >Discord is the first to break it
  1623. >”That was a fun little exercise. And you’re a good kid for thinking of your folks at home. Just makes me even more sure you were a good choice.”
  1624. “I dunno. I was banking on you being able to do crazy shit like this. If you couldn’t pull it off, I still would have stayed here. This is just me trying to please everybody.”
  1625. >He turns to you. There’s a knowing look on his face
  1626. >”As I said. That’s a good fit. I hope you never stop trying to make others happy. Even when all the little ponies who welcomed you here are gone.”
  1627. “Fuck’s sake, man.”
  1628. >”You can look away from it if you like. But it’s coming. Someday you might even hate me for inflicting that on you. But for now, don’t change. The princesses need a sucker like you.”
  1629. “I thought you and them weren’t on good terms?”
  1630. >Discord shrugs
  1631. “That’s what they think. I get a kick out of messing around with their citizens, and watching Luna blow up every time I make trouble for you is funny. But I need them. I need this whole world. It’s the only home I have, Anonymous.”
  1632. >A claw clamps down on your shoulder
  1633. >”I’m giving you the chance to live in it. I don’t want to have to take that away, so kindly don’t lose your mind as eternity wears on.”
  1634. “I’ll… try?”
  1635. >”Goody! Off you trot.”
  1636. >A snap brings the both of you back to the hallway
  1637. >The three mares left behind aren’t far
  1638. >Discord zooms off, guffawing as Luna hurls spells and insults after him
  1639. >Caring and Celestia fuss over you for a minute before you finally convince them you’re alright
  1640. >A short walk brings the four of you out to the prison yard
  1641. >Everyone else is already out, lounging in scattered groups
  1642. >You try to return all the hails and waves as best you can, but that grass is calling your name
  1643. >You flop onto the nicest-looking spot you can find
  1644. >Fuuuuuck, man
  1645. >That’s some nice grass
  1646. >Not damp at all, and the ground’s a little warm from the sun
  1647. >You flop down and turn over, spread-eagle under the clear sky
  1648. >Three fuzzy bodies curl up on all sides of you
  1649. >Inmates slowly make their way over; Luna and Celestia amusedly greet all the awestruck ones who still can’t believe it’s really them
  1650. >The babble of myriad voices fades to nothing as you doze off
  1651.  
  1652. >”Aaaaanooooonnnn…”
  1653. “Mmm.”
  1654. >”Aaaanoooooonnn…”
  1655. >The singsong voice in your ear is quiet yet insistent
  1656. >Your eyes flutter open to meet Celestia’s
  1657. >Nuzzling you softly, she whispers
  1658. >”It is another beautiful morning in our kingdom. A perfect day for the Canterlot Prison field trip.”
  1659. >Oh! You almost forgot!
  1660. >Giving Celestia a squeeze, you hop out of bed, hurrying to get ready
  1661. >It’s been two weeks since you got out of prison
  1662. >You were exonerated of all charges and crowned king of Equestria in the same Day Court hearing, which caused absolute pandemonium
  1663. >You double-check yourself in the mirror
  1664. >Lookin’ like a king, king
  1665. >You can see Celestia in the reflection too
  1666. >Rolled onto her back, forelegs tucked close and hind legs crossed with striped socks on full display
  1667. >Giving you the look
  1668. >You’re not sure how, but it took her all of two days to figure out what got you going
  1669. >Her ability to read others kinda scared you sometimes
  1670. >But you’re also easy to please. Maybe you’re just overthinking
  1671. >You backtrack to the bed and sink down onto a knee, giving your upside-down horse an upside-down kiss
  1672. ”You can’t tempt me out of this. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
  1673. >She chuckles, letting her legs fall
  1674. >”It was worth a try. Give my love to Brass and Warden! I can suffer through one Day Court without you for their sake.”
  1675. >With a spring in your step, you stride through the halls of Canterlot Castle
  1676. >There are a couple of detours to be made before you leave
  1677. >Little pony soldiers scramble to attention as you go by, most openly staring
  1678. >You don’t mind. If an alien creature suddenly became your new boss, you’d probably be curious too
  1679. >The hallways finally lead you to a pair of dark, carven doors you first saw in a dream
  1680. >A pair of dozy bats struggle to stay awake outside, but manage to return your smile with two knowing ones of their own
  1681. >”She’s waiting for you, Your Majesty.”
  1682. “Thanks, guys.”
  1683. >You spare a moment to scratch their ears before entering
  1684. >You open and close the doors in one smooth motion
  1685. >Luna is curled up neatly atop her bed, reading a book
  1686. >Her face lights up when she turns and sees you
  1687. >”Good morning, my heart.”
  1688. “And to you too, my heart.”
  1689. >You were never really a mushy guy before, but open and honest affection is a helluva drug
  1690. >She sets her book aside and nuzzles you
  1691. >Seeing Luna off to bed and being there when she wakes up has become a daily ritual, and part of the compromise between the two sisters and one nurse
  1692. >When you first moved in, Luna had tried her hardest to switch to being awake during the day
  1693. >After three days of that she was so miserable that you invoked your “divine” authority to enforce bedtime for moon queens
  1694. >”I’ve been working on a little spell. Would you like to try it with me?”
  1695. “What kind of spell?”
  1696. >”Merely something to increase our time together.”
  1697. >She still hasn’t given up, and you don’t really want her to
  1698. >As long as this spell isn’t something crazy…
  1699. “Alright. How does it work?”
  1700. >”A sort of reverse dreamwalking. I’m rather proud of it. Hold still…”
  1701. Luna presses her horn to your forehead
  1702. >The familiar sensation of someone gently combing your brain washes over you, and her head falls softly onto to her pillow
  1703. >You hear her voice but her lips don’t move
  1704. >”Ahhh… how very comfortable. We are as close as two souls can be, Anon. I will see through your eyes in my dreams.”
  1705. >You chuckle as you tuck her slumbering body into bed
  1706. “Just make sure to actually sleep, okay? I’m pretty sure talking and watching means your brain is still awake.”
  1707. >Her voice yawns
  1708. >”All in good time. Let me enjoy this a little longer.”
  1709. “Come walk with me then.”
  1710. >Luna rides in your head all the way down to the entrance of Canterlot Castle
  1711. >You make a point to interact with as many little ponies as possible
  1712. >Mostly because you still need to convince the maids and other staff that you aren’t a weird monster who has somehow taken control of the princesses
  1713. >You make it all the way to the front door before you’re waylaid
  1714. >”And where do you think you’re going unsupervised, mister?”
  1715. >Your royal physician, third wife, and keeper of secrets puffs out her chest in mock sternness as she sits with forelegs crossed in your path
  1716. >You play along, drawing yourself up to full height and swaggering over
  1717. “Wherever I like. Dunno if you heard, but I’m kind of a big deal now.”
  1718. >You squat down, putting your face right up to hers
  1719. >You both scowl at each other for a couple seconds before the facade falls apart
  1720. >Another kiss, another nose rub, and you sweep her up into her arms
  1721. >”I was so excited for this I could hardly sleep!”
  1722. “Didn’t you live here already? And you must have gone before as the nurse.”
  1723. >”Of course! But this is your first time really exploring Canterlot, and I get to go with you! Plus I get to see everybody at the prison again!”
  1724. >You press her against your chest as you cross the castle threshold
  1725. >A little voice in the back of your head murmurs
  1726. >”Is that how it feels when you hug me?”
  1727. >You think your answer rather than speak it
  1728. “It’s a little different. I think you fit in my arms better.”
  1729. >”I-I see. Of course. It’s only natural you would think so.”
  1730. >You carry Caring through the castle grounds to where the royal carriage is stored
  1731. >You love this thing. It’s a little scary to ride in without any sort of safety belts, but the ride itself is always amazing
  1732. >A pony greets you as you enter
  1733. >”Good morning King Anonymous! And to you too, Lady Caring! Princess- uh, Queen Celestia already let us know. The guys just need a couple minutes to get ready!”
  1734. >Lift-off is smooth, but the butterflies fill your stomach as you soar out over the city
  1735. >You sit down and press yourself firmly into the back of the chariot, trying desperately not to look as anxious as you feel
  1736. >Caring does the same, giggling nervously as she wraps both forelegs around one of your arms for anchorage
  1737. >The ride is mercifully short. The guys drop you off just outside the front gate
  1738. >”Your Majesty, are you sure that you don’t need a ride back?”
  1739. >You give the inquiring pony a reassuring pat on the head
  1740. “Certain. We’re going to be a few hours, and we’d like to walk back anyway.”
  1741. >”T-That’s a really long walk… but if you’re sure…”
  1742. >You and Caring both wave to them as they zoom off
  1743. >You turn around and crack a smile at the familiar scenery
  1744. >The ponies on either side of the gate look more like deer caught in headlights
  1745. >…Wait
  1746. >Is that-?
  1747. “Hey! I remember you! I don’t think I ever got your name though.”
  1748. >The prison guard in question flinches, then snaps to attention
  1749. >”Y-Yes, Anonymo- I mean King Anonymous! I, uh, we weren’t expecting you! My name’s Key Ring!”
  1750. “I was hoping to surprise everybody. Sorry to spook you, Key Ring. You probably have bad memories about me suddenly showing up at the prison gate, huh?”
  1751. >You laugh and pat his head
  1752. >The gate is already open, so you just walk in
  1753. >Caring follows, looking up inquisitively
  1754. >”When did you meet Key Ring? I don’t think he ever hung out with us.”
  1755. “He was there when I first got here. You had to treat the guys I roughed up at the front gate, remember?”
  1756. >Sadly, Key Ring is one of the few familiar faces you see
  1757. >Most of the guys you were in with have served their time already
  1758. >The inmates still make way though, because you’re like three times taller than they are
  1759. >The crown and suit probably help too
  1760. >You knock on Warden’s office door
  1761. >”I’ll be out in just a moment!”
  1762. >You step back and kneel down next to Caring, grinning excitedly at each other
  1763. >The kindly older mare opens her door and freezes in her tracks, dumfounded
  1764. >Her frozen face slowly melts into a delighted smile
  1765. >Warden Sharp closes the distance in an instant, hugging you and Caring tightly
  1766. >”What brings my king and noble lady back to prison?”
  1767. “Remember that tour of Canterlot you promised me if I was a model prisoner?”
  1768. >Warden claps her hooves
  1769. >”You’ll be coming with us?! This will be so much fun! Brass will be happy to see you, Anon. I know it hasn’t been long since we were at your wedding, but he misses you already.”
  1770. >You and Caring both follow Warden to where the well-behaved boys and girls of Canterlot Prison are being assembled for the field trip
  1771. >A familiarly gruff voice hits your ears
  1772. >”Your attention please! As soon as Warden gets here, we’ll leave. You’re all a part of this trip because you’ve been good prisoners so far. But don’t get any funny ideas! One single escape attempt and show’s over for everybody! You go it?”
  1773. >You round the corner just in time to see a crowd of cowed prisoners nodding furiously to the prison overseer
  1774. >You casually walk up to next to Brass, eyeing the small crowd
  1775. “Layin’ down the law, eh man?”
  1776. >”Yep. Can’t be soft, even on the lower-ranked ones. Then again, with both you and Cookies coming along, I can probably take it easy.”
  1777. >A full three seconds passes
  1778. >”Wait! Anon?!”
  1779. >Brass damn near jumps out of his skin, but he’s not the only one who recognizes you
  1780. >Summer Squall, clad all in orange, zooms around you excitedly
  1781. >”Anon! Look! I’m down to an orange suit now! And I get out next week!”
  1782. >You and the lads play catch-up really quick. Brass chuckles at your predicament
  1783. >”Yeah, I guess it would be better for a king to know a bit about his capitol. How’s your arm? Have the, uh, stitches come out yet?”
  1784. “Not yet. One more week to be sure. But it hasn’t gotten worse at all.”
  1785. >Summer glances back and forth between the two of you
  1786. >”Stitches? What’s that?”
  1787. “Oh, uh, nothing buddy. It’s like a… long-term band-aid. But never mind about that, you’re almost free! Does your mom know?”
  1788. >”Yeah! I sent her another letter as soon I found out! She’s gonna come get me!”
  1789. “What’ll you do when you’re out? Any ideas?”
  1790. >”Well… I’m not sure. I’ll need to find a job, but my special talent’s… you know. I’m not sure where I could use it. And I don’t wanna become a real criminal!”
  1791. >You grin ear to ear
  1792. “It just so happens I’m thinking about putting my own group of guards together. Would you join?”
  1793. >”Whoa… being a royal guard? Are you sure? I don’t know etiquette or anything.”
  1794. “Of course I’m sure! And you don’t need to. It’ll probably be a really small group. I don’t need much protection.”
  1795. >”Can I think about it? I don’t know if mom would like me joining the guard.”
  1796. “Yeah, no problem. Just something to remember if you can’t find anything else.”
  1797. >”Thanks, Anon!”
  1798. >Warden clears her throat
  1799. >”As wonderful as it is to watch you help an inmate get back on their hooves, Your Majesty, it’s about time to leave.”
  1800. “Right, sorry. Let’s go!”
  1801. >Brass lets Cookies n’ Cream take the lead as he brings up the rear with you
  1802. >”Creating your own group of guards, eh? What’s wrong with the Solar?”
  1803. “I knew you’d say that. And nothing! I just thought it’d be fun, and I was honestly thinking of Summer. Do ponies’ talents change depending on who helps find them? I feel kinda responsible.”
  1804. >”Uh… huh. I don’t know much about the magic behind it. It might have changed a little, but you shouldn’t worry. Special talents never lead you astray. Plus, he’s a good kid. I’m sure he’ll he fine.”
  1805. >Phew
  1806. >You were scared you might have screwed the guy over
  1807. >The Canterlot outskirts loom large in the distance
  1808. >Caring sidles up to Brass, smirking
  1809. >”So, you came to our wedding Overseer. When are we going to yours?”
  1810. >You immediately chime in
  1811. “Yeah! Celestia told me she’s going to officiate it herself. We just need a date!”
  1812. >Warden, on Brass’ other side, just leans on his shoulder and flutters her eyelashes
  1813. >Your boy looks back at her and smiles
  1814. >”I’m not the guy to be asking. She’s got it all planned out.”
  1815. >Caring and Warden start chatting excitedly
  1816. >You and Brass make eye contact and share a grin before your eyes shift towards the city before you
  1817. >The morning sun peeks over the walls of the city, perfectly silhouetting the buildings and towers of Canterlot
  1818. >It’s gonna be a great day

Anon & Pinkie: At the End

by PhysicsAnon

(Kinder/RGRE) Knight of the Moon (5/24/21)

by PhysicsAnon

Ink Well & Anon (8/20/20)

by PhysicsAnon

Jail/Kinderquestria Short Greens (Up to Thread #17)

by PhysicsAnon

Gilda Green for /irt/ (Updated 3/14/20)

by PhysicsAnon