"C'mon!" Twilight cried, "Hurry, hurry, hurry!"
Princess Twilight Sparkle and her old and new friends huffed and puffed as they ran alongside her down Thunderhead Mountain, desperately trying to escape the angry dragon.
Princess Twilight and her friends had been on a quest with her new friend-and Princess Luna's pupil-Laurel Wreath, and her friends Scarlet Streak, Cupid's Arrow, Snowflake Swirl and Funny Bone and her special somepony Evergreen.
Over the weeks, they had been travelling to throughout Equestria, trying to locate the the sinister Elements of Disharmony before they caused massive damage like the Element of Dark Magic had in Ponyville.
Together, they'd managed to collect all the Elements but one. Applejack and Scarlet Streak-the spirits of Honesty-had worked together in Dodge Junction to defeat a warehouse operator and the ponies in his company who were under the influence of the Deceit element and were robbing ponies through scams.
In the Wet Hoof Forest, Snowflake Swirl and Fluttershy-who represented Kindness-collaborated to stop the forest-dwelling ponies from hurting the environment, the wildlife, and each other when they were being controlled by the Cruelty element.
Next, Twilight and her friends journeyed to Maneami, a city on the beach, where Rainbow Dash and Evergreen-the Loyalty spirits-defeated a pony who pretended to lead them to the Treachery element, but then trapped and nearly drowned them.
The gang then travelled to an Old Western town in the Sandy Tail Desert, where the Laughter spirits Pinkie Pie and Funny Bone had liberated a town of depressed ponies from the Disharmony element Misery.
Now, at last, their trial had taken them to the mountain to reclaim the Gluttony element from a dragon. But Rarity and Cupid's Arrow-the Spirits of Generosity-had only angered it, and the dragon was now chasing them down the mountain.
"This is all my fault!" Laurel cried, "If I'd known that dragons were capable of bearing Elements, I would've come up with a different strategy! I'm sorry, everypony!"
"Did that scroll you read say anything about it?" Applejack asked.
"Well, no, but-!" Laurel said.
"Then you couldn't have known! This ain't your faint." Applejack said.
Applejack and her friends turned a corner and stopped dead in their tracks as a huge boulder blocked their path.
"Oh, no! Dead end!" Evergreen cried.
"Maybe we could try moving it with our magic?" Laurel suggested.
"That would take too much time!" Twilight cried, "We're trapped…"
The dragon smirked as it approached them, and prepared to blow fire on them. Twilight cringed and squeezed her eyes shut, bracing herself for the inevitable.
Twilight then heard the dragon roar in pain. She felt heat on her face, but no burning sensation.
She dared to open her eyes, and was shocked to see that the dragon had gotten its tail pinned under a rock. And standing in front of Twilight was a lavender unicorn with a royal purple and teal mane, her horn glowing with magic.
"Starlight!" Twilight and her friends cried.
Starlight Glimmer turned, grinned, and said, "Looks like I got here in the knick of time!"
"Wait, I'm confused. You know this pony?" Laurel asked.
Starlight frowned at Laurel, confused, and asked Twilight, "Who the hoof is she?"
"I'll explain later! Right now, we need to get the necklace off the dragon! Starlight, Laurel, Rarity! Grab a boulder so we can pin down its legs!" Twilight said.
With some difficulty and intense concentration, the four unicorns managed to lift and drop rocks on the dragon's legs.
Cupid and Rarity charged in, putting their hooves on the necklace and channeling all the Generosity they had inside them into the element. The Gluttony element fell off, and Twilight grabbed and shoved it in her box with the other Elements of Disharmony.
The dragon looked around and asked, "What happened? Why am I stuck?"
"You were accidentally possessed by a very powerful dark magic and began chasing us down the mountain. We were forced to, uh, confine you with rocks. We're really, really sorry. We didn't mean you any harm. We just wanted to break the spell on you." Fluttershy explained.
The dragon roared and whimpered, "Hurts."
"We know. We're sorry. Just hold still and our friends will remove them so you can go home, okay?" Snowflake Swirl said.
The dragon nodded and Twilight, Laurel, Starlight, Snowflake, and Rarity removed the rocks on its tail and legs. The dragon stretched its legs and shook its tail and flew back to its cave on the summit.
Twilight and her friends sighed with relief and Rainbow Dash said, "Glad that's over with."
"Me too." Fluttershy mumbled.
"Me three!" Pinkie Pie cried.
"So...now that we're all together again…" Starlight said, "Can somepony please explain why you guys are on Thunderhead Mountain messing with a dragon, what the big deal with that necklace was, and who these new ponies are?"
Twilight grinned and said, "Starlight, these are our new friends-Evergreen, Scarlet Streak, Funny Bone, Cupid's Arrow, Snowflake Swirl, and Laurel Wreath. Guys, this is my pupil, Starlight Glimmer. She was in Canterlot for a week catching up with some other ponies and doing an errand for the princesses."
"So that's why Princess Celestia said you couldn't train me! You already have a student!" Laurel Wreath said.
"Well, that and she's looking after somepony else, too. Her name's Sunset Shimmer. She lives...really far away." Starlight said.
"I'm actually studying to become a princess, too! I'm Princess Luna's pupil!" Laurel said.
"Princess Luna?!" Starlight asked, "What exactly did I miss while I was gone?"
"It's a long story. I'll explain as we go down the mountain. Besides, we need to get to Canterlot immediately before these fall into the wrong hooves or claws again." Twilight said, motioning to the box with the Elements of Disharmony in it.
The rest of Twilight's friends said their agreements and Evergreen said, "Before we start heading down, is everypony okay? Does anypony have injuries I need to take a look at?"
Everypony said they were okay, and Twilight and her friends began their long descent down Thunderhead Mountain. True to Twilight's word, the ponies told Starlight all that had happened. Twilight explained what had happened the day she took the exam to get into The School for Gifted Unicorns and Laurel then recalled what had happened with her parents and at school once word got out about the disaster. Twilight told Starlight about how Laurel's transition to Ponyville and her friends had worked with Twilight to find a solution to help Laurel, as well as how Laurel became Midnight Eclipse and threatened to destroy Ponyville if Princess Twilight didn't give up her crown. Laurel talked about the battle she'd had against Twilight and her friends, and then how Laurel's friends had broken through to her. Twilight finished the tale by recalling how she and Laurel's friends had become the Elements of Harmony to defeat Midnight Eclipse, Luna accepting Twilight to be her pupil, and the quest they were on to find the Elements of Disharmony. Laurel then explained how the Elements of Disharmony worked, as well as The Great Pony War.
"Wow. So, there's a dark side to the Elements of Harmony? And there was a civil war in Equestria? And somehow you got ahold of one of the dark Elements?" Starlight asked.
Laurel nodded, her head bowed in shame.
"I still feel really guilty about it." Laurel said.
"I get that. I did something bad once, too. That's how Twilight and her friends got ahold of me. When that happens, you need to forgive yourself and move along. Yeah, you messed up big time, but hey, you've got a bright future now! We're in training to be princesses, and studying under two awesome alicorns. Our pasts don't define the ponies we are now." Starlight said.
"Thanks. Wait, you did something bad, too? What did you do?" Laurel asked.
"I-ah-well…" Starlight said, "I found a spell for removing Cutie Marks from ponies, so I manipulated an entire town into letting me take away their special talents because I told them I wanted to create 'a more equal society' for them. In reality, though, I just wanted power. Princess Twilight and her friends helped me see what I was doing was wrong, and they took me in."
Laurel Wreath and her friends stared at Starlight in shock.
"So, yeah." Starlight said to Laurel, "You're not the only one who committed a bad deed that ended up changing your life and winning the attention of a princess."
"That's good to hear." Laurel said, "I mean, not that you did something horrible, but that I'm not the only who messed up big time and is currently trying to lead a new life."
"Yeah." Starlight said, grinning.
Laurel was about to say something when Spike ran to meet them when they got to the mountain's base.
"Twilight! You might want to read these!" Spike said, holding up a letter with the royal seal on them.
Twilight took the letter from Spike and began to read it out loud.
Our dearest Twilight,
We are afraid that you all must abandon your quest and come to Canterlot immediately. A strange magical phenomenon has developed over the city, and we are feeling the presence of a magical energy that we have never felt before. We fear that somepony or something powerful is lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike when we least expect it. Please report to Canterlot with your friends, your pupil, and Laurel Wreath and her friends.
Princesses Celestia and Luna
"Strange magical phenomenon?" Laurel repeated.
"New magical energy?" Starlight asked.
"Something powerful lurking in the shadows?" Fluttershy asked, trembling.
"What does all that mean?" Scarlet asked.
"There's only one way to find out," Twilight said, "We're going to go there and find out ourselves."
"But Canterlot's four hours away from here!" Cupid said, "By the time we get there, it'll be night! Or close to it!"
"We don't have a choice! The princesses personally summoned us to Canterlot! If whatever's going on in Canterlot is so bad that the princesses are calling to Canterlot to help them, then we can't just leave them! Equestria needs us!" Evergreen said.
The rest of the gang nodded and charged towards the train station with Spike riding on Twilight's back, anxious and excited for their new adventure.
"Where in Equestria is the stupid train! We've been waiting here forever!" Scarlet complained, pacing back and forth.
"Oh, Scarlet, it's only been an hour!" Snowflake said.
Rainbow Dash huffed and said, "An hour too long in my opinion. I'm pooped. I want to sleep on the train, but for all we know it could be in Dodge Junction!"
"Hear, hear!" Rarity cried, "My hooves are killing me from being forced to walk on so many rocks! I need my beauty sleep!"
"Thank you!" Scarlet Streak said, high-fiving Rarity and Rainbow Dash.
"Everypony, please. I know it's been a long day, and we're all tired, but we need to be patient. We'll have plenty of time to sleep once the train arrives. Hopefully it won't be too much longer." Twilight said.
"Uh, Laurel? You okay. Sugarcube?" Applejack asked.
Twilight turned and noticed that Laurel Wreath was anxiously pacing up and down the platform in front of some of the benches facing the tracks.
"No!" Laurel cried, "I can't stop thinking about what Evergreen said. If whatever's happening in Canterlot is so bad that Princess Celestia and Princess Luna need us in there as soon as possible, then every second we're wasting sitting here waiting for the train to arrive could be one more second until Canterlot's destroyed, and Equestria falls. The train might not even make it here for hours since so few ponies live here! Not to mention, Canterlot used to be my home. My old classmates still laugh at me over the failed exam and my parents still shame me for it. If I go back there, I'll be a laughing stock and a disgrace!"
Twilight put her hoof on Laurel's shoulder and said, "It's going to okay, Laurel. To be honest, I'm worried about the situation in Canterlot, too. But we can't let it freak us out. I used to obsessively worry about things all the time, too, even things that were beyond my control. And led to me getting into all kinds of trouble, didn't girls?"
"Uh-huh." Twilight's friends said.
"My point is, Laurel, if you let that fear get to your head, it'll only make you more anxious, and that anxiety will cause you to make bad decisions that you'll end up regretting. Just take some deep breaths and try not to stress out, okay?" Twilight asked.
"B-but what about my parents and those mean ponies from school?" Laurel asked.
"That's what you have us for. We'll protect you. We won't let anyone hurt you, Laurel." Starlight said.
The rest of the ponies agreed and promised they'd defend her.
"But you just met me, " Laurel said, turning to Starlight.
"And you all barely know me." Laurel finished, turning to Twilight and her friends.
"You're right, we don't know you all that well. But we've seen enough to know that you're a wonderful pony who's kind, smart, brave, loyal, and has a really bright future ahead of her. We see a pony who's destined to do great things with her life, and become a great friend of ours, but needs work on her confidence after being knocked down for so long." Twilight said.
"And besides," Starlight said, "I trust Princess Twilight and her friends' judgement. If they trust you, then I trust you."
Laurel grinned from ear-to-ear and said, "Thanks, everypony."
Twilight was about to say something when she was blinded by a bright light and interrupted by a horn.
Twilight, Laurel, and their friends cheered as the train pulled up to the station.
As soon as the doors opened, they all stampeded into the sleeping car and began calling bunks.
Twilight waited until all of her friends were quiet, and yawned, stretched, and was out like a light.
"Twilight," a voice, whispered.
Twilight groaned as she felt a poking sensation on her side, "Go away…"
"But, Twilight, this is urgent!" the voice whispered shakily.
"Is it some kind of emergency…?" Twilight asked.
"W-well, no, but-!" the voice said.
"Then it can wait until morning." Twilight said, "Go to sleep."
"But this is urgent!" the voice cried.
"If it's not an emergency, then it can wait! Go away!" Twilight said.
The voice huffed and said, "Then I guess I have no choice."
The insides of Twilight's eyelids were suddenly lit up, and Twilight opened her eyes to see a white light coming from a horn that was bright, it shone throughout the cabin. The rest of Twilight's friends groaned and cried out as they were woken up, too.
Twilight shone a light in the pony's face, and Laurel Wreath's terrified face was reflected back at her.
"Laurel Wreath! What's so important that you had to wake us up at the crack of dawn for?" Twilight snapped.
"Y-you mean you don't feel it?" Laurel asked.
"Feel what?" Twilight asked.
"That weird energy." Laurel said.
"What energy?" Twilight asked.
As soon as Twilight got out of her bed, she felt what Laurel was talking about. There was a strange vibration in the air that was travelling through Twilight from her horn to her hooves. Whatever the vibration was, it was making her feel chills, darkness, and irrational fear that made her heart pound against her chest.
"I…" I mumbled, shuddering, "I feel it now."
"Feel what?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"Y-you don't feel that vibration?" Starlight asked, trembling.
"You mean the train moving? Yeah, we feel that. Why?" Cupid asked.
"M-maybe only unicorns c-can feel it b-because of our magic." Snowflake said, looking worried.
"That's not the only thing I wanted to show you." Laurel said, "You know how the princesses said in their letter that there was a strange magical phenomenon in Canterlot?"
"Yeah?" Evergreen asked, sounding nervous.
"Come with me." Laurel said, walking out of the sleeping car.
Twilight and her friends followed Laurel into the passenger car, and gasped as they saw what was out the windows. Twilight felt her legs tremble and mouth open with shock.
Somehow, impossibly, all of the sky around Canterlot had turned blood red and been covered with pitch black clouds.