Even though the mood was fairly sombre, the group tried their best not to let recent events dampen their spirits. Sitting around a table at Sugarcube Corner, were five mares and a young baby dragon. Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Spike, were all trying to enjoy their time here, despite everything that had been happening here. The six of them looked around after eating their cakes to see outside the window at the state of Ponyville.
Ever since the dragon attack a couple of weeks ago, everypony here had been busy trying to rebuild. Whole districts had been wiped out by the monster and many had been left homeless. But nopony in this village was willing to allow their neighbours to be without a place to stay, and many had offered up their own homes for them to live in until the damage had been repaired and the destroyed homes rebuilt. It was times like this that made the mares proud to live in a place like this, where so many of the community would band together like that.
But, on a more personal note, they lamented that it could only be the six of them here today, and not seven. Twilight, one of their closest friends, had been in Canterlot since the attack. And even though they had every confidence in the doctors there, they were all worried that no word had yet been heard of her condition. And speaking of conditions, some in the group couldn't help but have their eyes drawn to Rainbow, whose bandages were a clear sign of how close they came to losing far more than they did.
This gaze did not escape her notice however.
"Oh come on guys! I told you, I'm fine! Can we please try and enjoy the evening?" She snapped.
They all knew that she just didn't want them to worry, but her tone wasn't exactly appreciated. Still, they agreed with the sentiment. The sun was shining, and they were all certain that things would get back to normal soon. So they busied themselves with the usual chatter, like Fluttershy and Rarity making their usual spa appointments, and Applejack talking with Rainbow over the upcoming rodeo. Pinkie and Spike meanwhile were just occupying themselves with their desserts, which they happily gulped down with no regard for table manners.
All-in-all, things were going well. But that soon changed when, all of a sudden, the door of Sugarcube Corner burst open. The heads of everypony ion the room snapped to attention and turned in the direction of the door. The six gaped in surprise at what they saw there. In the doorway, was a mare. A very familiar mare. A unicorn mare who, not very long ago, had caused quite a few problems for all of them. She was a light blue in colour, with her mane and even lighter shade than that. She scoured the room until she locked onto the six of them, though she was mostly trying to catch her breath, having apparently run a long way.
"Trixie?!" Spike said.
The so-called "great and powerful" Trixie, who had twice come into this town and shown herself to be a handful for the six mares and Spike. The last time they saw her, she'd appointee herself as the totalitarian ruler of Ponyville, enslaving eveypony, even them. And even though Twilight had accepted her apology for her actions, the rest of the group was, needless to say, not all that thrilled to see her again. A sentiment which was echoed by Rainbow's angry tome.
"What are YOU doing back here?" She asked.
Trixie walked up to them, still; panting.
"Where....is......Twilight?" She asked, still trying to catch her breath.
The group exchanged confused looks before turning back to her, with Applejack answering.
"She's over in Canterlot. Why'd y'all ask?"
Trixie suddenly looked very worried.
"You have to help me find her! She's in terrible danger!"
Although she had only heard of this place in books and from stories she'd heard as a child, Twilight could see easily why nopony ever came to this place. She was flying high in the sky, looking down on the rocky and barren land below her. The wasteland, as it was known, had certainly earned it's name. Very little lived here, and even the creatures that did were not the kind you'd want to meet. It was little more than a vast expanse of nothing.
Twilight couldn't help but think Sombra wise to come here. Nopony would ever think to look for him here, nor would they want to. But still, here she was, looking for him herself. It had been several hours since her incident with him at Canterlot. The nightmare he had created had unnerved her greatly. But, as much as she knew how dangerous Sombra was, she was still more than willing to try and confront him over the things he had done.
At first, she'd thought that maybe charging out like this was an unwise decision, that perhaps it would be better to call for reinforcements and strike at Sombra with a stronger force. But every time such thoughts entered her mind, they would vanish soon afterwards, replaced by the memory of what she'd heard back at the meeting room, and how hurt she felt over how little faith those around her seemed to have in her abilities. No, she told herself. She was a princess of Equestria. And she would prove to all, even Celestia, that they did not make a mistake in choosing her to be one.
But first, she had to find the one who had called her here. But that did not take long. For there, ahead of her, was her destination. A mountain, vast and craggy, sticking out like a sore thumb amidst the relatively flat land of the wastes. Narrowing her eyes, she flapped her wings hard and launched herself through the air faster than before. With the advanced flying skills of an alicorn, it did not take long for her to reach the place. Gracefully, she landed on the ground, right in front of a large hole in the side of the mountain which was undoubtedly the entrance to this place. Looking at the gloomy darkness within, Twilight steeled herself.
"Well Twilight. This is it." She told herself.
Hesitantly, she began to walk inside. But with every step she took, she grew bolder, walking faster and faster within the tunnel. Concentrating, she caused her horn to glow, illuminating the tunnel in the same glow. She could see much further now, and saw that the tunnel went on for some time. The further in she walked the more she noticed that the tunnel was filled with large rocks, almost as big as she was. She ignored them however and kept moving.
Eventually, she came upon the exit to the tunnel. Emerging from it, she came upon a large open cavern, so large it must have taken up most of the inside of the mountain. Looking down from the high place, she saw, not far from her, a figure. it was the same size as an adult stallion, but was covered in a black robe and mask. As Twilight gazed upon the figure, a chill went down her spine. A very familiar chill that she'd felt not too long ago. She knew who this person was, and she walked forward to confront him.
"Sombra!" She called out.
Sombra, who had been looking at the ground until this point, lifted his head and set his sight upon the angry young alicorn who was now marching towards him.
"Ah, Princess Sparkle. How lovely to see you." He said calmly, bowing in mock fashion.
Twilight stopped walking towards him, her horn now glowing brightly as she began to focus more magic.
"It's over monster! You're coming back with me to Canterlot to face justice for your crimes against ponykind!" She announced.
Sombra looked up from his bow and chuckled.
"My my. How confident you've grown in your new position. Unfortunately, young one, I have no intention of going to Canterlot. At least, not yet."
Twilight lowered her head and aimed her now-charged horn at him.
"I'm not giving you a choice in the matter.
Sombra tilted his head, clearly unimpressed with the young mare's words.
"Oh, I’m sure you'll try. But the question is......"
He then pointed his robed hoof to something behind her.
"......how long can you last against all of us?"
Twilight was confused for a brief moment until she suddenly realised the meaning behind his words. Quickly, she spun around to see a very unwelcome sight behind her. Changelings. Dozens of them, all crammed into the tunnel entrance she'd just walked out of .Twilight was shocked. Where had they come from? There was nothing in that tunnel except rocks. Then, realisation dawned on her. They'd tricked her. The rocks had been changelings in disguise, just waiting for her.
This got worse when, out of nowhere, she heard an almost deafening sound. It was a buzzing of some sort, which snapped her attention to the chamber around her. Lining the walls were more changelings. Hundreds of them. Twilight's mouth was gaping open at this point. This mountain. It wasn't just Sombra's hiding place. It was the changeling hive! She faced Sombra once more. Although his face was obscured by his black mask, she had no doubt that he was smirking at this point.
The unicorn king raised a hoof and aimed it at her.
"TAKE HER!!!" He commanded.
And at that command, all hell broke loose. Changelings from every direction charged or flew down from the chamber walls, all aimed at Twilight. The young princess immediately erected a magical shield around herself, just in time to take the impact of dozens of changeling drones trying to ram into her. The shield knocked them back, allowing her just enough time to dispel her shield and flap her wings, launching herself into the air. Many of the drone soon followed her, shooting green bolts of magic from their own horns to try and strike at her.
But, despite her relatively brief experience in flying, Twilight managed to successfully dodged many of the blasts. But she knew she couldn't keep flying away and dodging, not with this many enemies. She stopped mid-air and aimed her own horn at her attackers, sending out a powerful burst of magic which kmocked well over a dozen drones out of the air at once. But despite this successful attack no her part, the enemy were simply too numerous to be deterred.
She resumed her high-speed flying within the chamber, with the drones in pursuit. As she flew around, she caught a glimpse of Sombra on the ground, who at this point had merely been observing the battle. An idea occurred to Twilight as she saw him. Her entire reason for coming here was to bring this guy down. If she could do that quickly and then try and escape afterwards, it would only be a matter of time before she re-entered Equestria's borders, and there was no way the drones would follow her once that threshold was crossed.
Chancing it all on this plan, Twilight changed direction and flew down fast towards the motionless king. Sombra, seeing her fly towards him, did not move. She flew closer and closer, dodging all the blasts and attacking changelings between her and him. Eventually, she was within mere metres of him, charging her horn and ready for a powerful attack that would no doubt defeat him. But little did Twilight know that this was the worst thing she could have done.
For mere moments before she reached him, Sombra raised a hoof and gestured to the young princess. As soon as he did, Twilight felt an unbearable pain throughout her body. It was so great that it caused her to lose concentration, allowing her pursuers to quickly catch up to her and knocked her out of the ground. The impact was hard and Twilight now laid on her side as dozens of changelings now surrounded her. She attempted to get up, but before she could, the drones opened their mouths and shot out bursts of sticky green goo at her.
The struck all over her body, practically attaching her to the ground. Despite her struggles, she knew it was hopeless. She had seen this substance before, back during the first time she'd witnessed these creatures. It was impossible to simply force her way out. Realising that she could use her magic, Twilight began to concentrate on her horn. But that plan soon died as another blob of the stuff hit her horn, covering it. No matter how hard she tried, the substance had prevented her from using magic. She was now completely covered in the stuff, with only her head exposed.
She looked on, increasingly fearful of the changeling swarm which now had her in their clutches. But her attention was soon drawn to Sombra, who made his way through the swarm and stood before here. Although his mask obscured his face from her, she had no doubt that he was silently gloating over this.
"Well now princess. How does it feel to have a nightmare come true?" He asked.
Twilight said nothing. She didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he was getting to her. She then noticed the crowd begin to move once more, as another, larger figure was approaching. Twilight's eyes widened in horror as she saw the very familiar form of Queen Chrysalis, now standing next to Sombra. The young princess knew just how bad this situation was now. Sombra returning was dire enough, but to have the Queen of the changeling ally herself with him was a level of emergency she'd never known.
"A successful hunt I see Sombra." She commented.
"Indeed you majesty. Now we will see if the seed has become ready to harvest." Sombra replied.
Twilight raised an eyebrow, unsure of what he meant by that. But she had little time to ponder as the dark unicorn approached her, lifting his hoof as he did so. Twilight didn't want to stick around and see what he was going to do, and so struggled with all her might against the goo which imprisoned her. But it was hopeless. She wasn't going anywhere. All she could do was look on as her enemy placed his hoof on her head. The moment he did so, that agonising pain from before emerged once more.
She thrashed around in her binds, struggling to cope with this pain she had never known. Sombra was doing something to her, something twisted. She began to feel something within her. It was a familiar, though unpleasant, feeling that she'd tried to forget about. It was the same feeling she'd felt back when she fought the dragon, back when she used dark magic. She felt her power grow from within, and soon, as everyone around her saw, her eyes began to glow a bright green, much like they had done the last time she'd used this power.
Twilight tried to stop it, to try and bury this power like she had done before. But Sombra's own power was drawing it out. And soon, she saw his purpose. For the green glow of her eyes began to pour out of her, and streamed into the slits in Sombra's mask where his eyes should be. The crowd looked on, with many drones backing away in fear over what was happening. Twilight meanwhile was growing weaker, as she felt the power drain away from her, that dark feeling beginning to fade as it did so.
Eventually, the green magic was gone from her eyes completely, and Sombra removed his hood from her, letting her lower her head with sheer fatigue. With Sombra, something was beginning to happen. There were streams of green light emerging from within his robes and mask, as changes began to occur to him. After a few moments, the light reached it's brightest, before eventually fading down. Twilight, still tired, raised her head to see her enemy.
The dark unicorn raised his hoof once more and placed it on the side of his mask. There was a clicking sound as he began to pull it off. Once off, Twilight and all others there could see him, just as he had been when he attacked the Crystal Empire. Sombra placed his hoof to his face and began to smile, a look which unnerved Twilight. He then placed his hoof on his robe and pulled it off, revealing him exactly as he had been before, complete with his regal-looking red cloak.
"And so I am restored! I must thank you young one. Without you, none of this could have been possible."
And those were the last words Twilight heard before she lost her strength completely and fell unconscious. Chrysalis walked over to her and poked the side of her head, making sure she wasn't awake. She then turned to Sombra and gave her own smile.
"I must say Sombra, I wasn't sure this would work."
Sombra gave a brief chuckle.
"It is true. Had Twilight remained a regular unicorn, the magic that the dark power latched onto would not have been sufficient to restore me to my full glory. But since she became an alicorn, her magic has become far more potent. And so too did the dark magic once she decided to use it."
Chrysalis nodded before turning back to the unconscious Twilight.
"What shall we do with her now? In this weakened state, it would be so easy for me to.....end her."
The changeling Queen made her horn glow and began to aim it at Twilight. But she soon felt the touch of Sombra's hoof on her shoulder, causing her to stop casting her spell. She looked at him, confused.
"I believe she is far more valuable to us alive my Queen. If we were to simply kill her, she would become a martyr for her people. A saint to be revered in death and a name behind which all ponies could rally against us." He said.
Chrysalis frowned and gestured to Twilight whilst keeping her eyes on Sombra.
"Then what exactly do you intend?"
The dark king smirked.
"We will send her back, humiliated and defeated. And doing so will send the ponies of Equestria a clear and unmistakable message. The alicorns are the most powerful among them. If one of them faced us, and lost, as Twilight did, then they would know that none of them are safe. They will doubt the ability of Celestia and the others to protect them from threats like us. Ponykind will tear itself apart in a mad scramble to ensure their own safety. Believe me, the fear that a defeated alicorn will bring will cause far more damage to their society than any show of force."
Chrysalis considered this for a moment before eventually cracking a smile at her partner.
"My dear Sombra. I do believe I'm growing quite fond of you."
Sombra gave a brief bow with his head before looking at Twilight again.
"But don't get me wrong. I have no intention of letting such a powerful adversary return without ensuring that she becomes......"less" of a threat" He said darkly.
His eyes began to glow a bright green, the sure sign of use of dark magic. He approached the unconscious Twilight, and once more placed his hoof on her forehead. After a few moments, as the changelings around them observed, Twilight began to become enveloped in the same green glow as Sombra's eyes. Something was happening to her, but what, they could not tell. The glow became brighter and brighter until eventually, it was too bright to see.
"What do you mean she's in danger?" Rainbow demanded.
Virtually the entire group had got out of their chairs and faced Trixie, who was looking increasingly nervous around them. The moment she mentioned that Twilight was in some sort of peril, they'd been right up in her face, looking rather angry. She couldn't blame them of course. The last time she'd shown her face here, she hadn't left the best of impressions. But that didn't matter now. What did matter was that they understood what was going on.
"You have to believe me. Something bad is being planned for her! You have to tell me where she is so I can warn her."
Applejack snorted, clearly unimpressed with her words.
"Yeah right. What proof do y'all have that you're tellin the truth?" She asked.
Trixie opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, there was a near-blinding flash coming from outside. Everypony and Spike turned their attention to it, as it immediately died down soon afterwards. Their anger towards Trixie soon disappeared as they all exchanged nervous looks at one another. Not a word needed to be said as they all rushed outside. For many, their jaws were practically on the ground as they saw, lying in the middle of the street, a purple pony lying on the ground, unmoving.
They all rushed towards the unmoving form, and instantly recognised it as Twilight. They gathered close, with Fluttershy checking her breathing. She breathed a sigh of relief as it was soon confirmed that she was still alive. But as relieved as they all were that she was still kicking, that relief too turned to horror as they noticed something about her. Something that they knew should be impossible, but they saw anyway. None of them said anything, as all were hoping that their eyes were playing tricks on them. Eventually, it was left to Spike to finally say what was on all their minds.
He knelt down next to his closest friends and placed his clawed hand on her gently, before turning back to the other with tears in his eyes.
"..........where are her wings?"