My Little Pony: Friendship is Forever

Author's note: There is at least one other fanfic by a different author which is also entitled "Friendship is Forever". This fic is completely unrelated. Also, this was written before season 2, though there may be season 2 references that I added in during revisions.

Chapter 1: The Worst Night Ever

The two alicorns charged at one another for the hundredth time, each one determined to kill the other. Blasts and spirals of intense magic whirled all around them and the vast hallway of the ancient castle trembled as they clashed, dust and debris cascading from the walls. Meanwhile the screams of war echoed from the bloody, sunny fields outside.

The smaller alicorn had a coat of deep blue and a mane that was almost black, while the larger had a pure white coat and a majestic, flowing mane of silver and gold. Each struggled to stay on his hooves as terrifying quantities of blood dripped down to the floor. The blue alicorn realized his wounds were so grievous that he would never leave the castle alive, and so he focused the last of his strength into a final blast directed at the other, the intent to end his opponent's life filling up his very being…

Sometime later—it might have been seconds or days—a small unicorn filly from far away found herself standing over the two corpses, unsure where she was or how she'd gotten there. The world outside was silent, and might very well have been a black, empty void beyond time or space. She closely examined the white alicorn's broken, bleeding form, and studied his face, noble in death. She searched for the emotions to react to what she was seeing, but they were somewhere just out of reach—or perhaps she just hadn't learned how to feel them yet.

In one terrible moment, the alicorn's eye opened, the world started shaking, and a voice pierced through her skull—whether from his lips, from his mind, or from the room itself, she couldn't tell. It spoke terrible things in words she didn't understand, chants never meant to be said or thought by any living creature.

An instant, she saw that she was the alicorn, lying prone on the ground, her helpless, mindless eyes gazing out into infinite nothingness. She was paralyzed at once by death and by the fear of death as some lingering shadow of her consciousness observed the spectacle. There was a terrifying, growing roar in her ears as the older alicorn reached out to her from someplace far away she had never been to and could never see, seizing her, throttling her thoughts, and forcing two words into her struggling, frantic mind:

"You someday."

Twilight Sparkle awoke from a strange nightmare, but as she tried to remember what it was about, the details slipped away from her. She was surrounded by the oppressive darkness of a large, strange bedroom, so she shivered and ducked under the covers, warm amongst the hills and valleys of the oversized sheets.

Even though she was very small, barely old enough to wear her cutie mark, Twilight knew that studying under Princess Celestia was the opportunity of a lifetime. After getting acquainted with what would be her new home for at least the next few months, she had started taking her first lessons from Celestia, showing her how much magic she knew already and learning some new spells, scratching the surface of the fantastically complex world of unicorn magic. It had probably been the most exhilarating day of her life.

Now, however, she was beset by fear of the darkness that enveloped her, as well as the inexplicable, lingering dread that her nightmare had left behind—the stomach-sinking pain that she knew would only get worse when she realized what it meant, when it was no longer vague and nameless. She wasn't sure she could fall back asleep.

In an instant, she remembered the most terrifying part of her dream. Shivering alone at the top of a stone tower, she imagined what it would be like to stop thinking and feeling, to become nothing. She shut her eyes so tight that afterimages danced before her. What would it be like to lose even those, along with the rest of her senses and everything about herself? To fall from reality, to go away forever. This was her fate: to die someday, no matter how her life played out. She would cease to be. It all seemed clear and terrifying, her own nonexistence floating before her like a glistening bubble—and the next moment, that bubble burst, swirling away into menacing, foreboding particles, the idea suddenly too vast and alien to wrap her mind around.

She turned the light on and paced uncertainly for a long time, afraid but with nowhere to run to. Her thoughts nipped at her mind no matter how much she tried to brush them away, and she sorely wished she could stop thinking—just for a while. Suddenly, she spotted a moving light in the sky through the window. At first it looked like a star, but as it drew closer, she saw that the source of the light was Princess Celestia's horn, and that she was flying down towards the base of the tower.

She hurried downstairs to answer the door. The alicorn passed inside with utmost grace, her hoofsteps barely making a sound. "Twilight," she said, gazing down at her student and shuffling her wings, "I couldn't help but notice your lights were on. Is there something I can help you with?"

Twilight hesitated. Before her stood a being centuries older than herself, whose calm magenta eyes and gentle smile masked generations' worth of wisdom. She blushed and mumbled "It's… it's nothing."

The princess cocked her head to the side. "Please, if there's anything you need, you should feel free to tell me. We're going to be working very closely throughout your stay here in Canterlot, so it's very important that you're able to communicate with me."

"Well…" Twilight stopped herself. "It's just that I had a bad dream, and when I woke up, I was kind of scared, because it was still really dark… I mean, it's not that bad, so I can probably just go back to bed…"

Celestia smiled reassuringly at her. "I understand completely. It's strange, being away from home for so long, isn't it?" Twilight nodded meekly. "And it's completely normal for a filly to be afraid of the dark. I hope that in time, you'll come to see this place as a second home, and feel comfortable here. Until then, I know a little trick that might help you get through the night. Would you like me to teach it to you?" Another nod.

Celestia looked around the room, at Twilight's belongings, half-unpacked but more or less neatly organized. Finally, she picked out a book sitting at the table and lifted it into the air with her magic.

Twilight watched in fascination as the princess's horn and the book's pages glowed simultaneously. "There," she said, lowering it into Twilight's reach. "Tomorrow, I'll be sure to teach you how to cast that spell yourself. For now, though, I think it's best that you get to sleep. Just keep the book near your bed and it'll keep glowing for the rest of the night—not so brightly as to keep you awake, but enough, I hope, to make the darkness a little less frightening."

The little unicorn wore a surprised stare, both at the spell and at the generosity she'd just been shown by the ruler of Equestria. "Thank you, princess," she said, beaming.

"Like I said," Celestia replied, "you should feel free to ask me with help for anything, no matter how small. I am your personal tutor, after all."

For the rest of that night, Twilight's dreams were blissful and formless. Her fears melted away into her sleepy, muddled thoughts, and by the next morning they would be entirely forgotten in the joy of a new day and a fresh adventure.

Twilight absently thought back on her days in the castle of this as she, her friends from Ponyville, and Spike all rode a hot air balloon into Canterlot. She shivered with anticipation and bubbling joy as they disembarked onto a grassy field, treading tentatively as they readjusted to the solid ground. From there they followed the road, filled with countless other guests: earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns from all walks of life. The seven friends beheld with awe the massive, open gates of Canterlot. The day had finally come—the Grand Galloping Gala was about to begin, here at Equestria's capital. Twilight had never been to the event before, but—as she understood it—it was an annual gathering of well-to-do ponies from all over Equestria, hosted by Princess Celestia. After a good deal of strife involving the tickets and an even greater deal of waiting, it was time to find out what all of the fuss was about.

"Oh, this is simply marvelous!" cried Rarity, taking in the sight of the well-dressed aristocrats surrounding her. "Everypony who's anypony is here! This is a dream come true!"

Twilight chuckled a little at Rarity's excitement, though she was quite in awe herself. This would be the first time in months that she would get to spend any amount of time with Princess Celestia. She couldn't wait to discuss her progress in studying magic, with which Celestia would no doubt be thoroughly impressed.

"Well," said Applejack, "guess I'd better go set up shop. I'll catch y'all later, alright?"

"Oh, right." said Twilight. "Good luck!" She'd forgotten that all of her friends had their own reasons for wanting to attend the Gala, and that this might involve going their separate ways. She wasn't overly concerned, though; surely, there would be plenty of time to enjoy the festivities with them later.

"I've got somewhere to be, too," she announced once Applejack had gone, and with that, she cantered ahead of the others, hoping to be greeted by the Princess. On the way, Spike jumped down from her back. She looked over her shoulder to see him picking up something he'd dropped, but there was no need to go back for him—he'd be able to find her later, assuming he didn't have his own plans.

As she made her way into the entrance hall, Twilight felt a jolt run through her. Greeting the guests was Princess Luna, Celestia's younger sister. Some months ago, Luna had come to Equestria with vengeance in her heart, threatening to cast all of Equestria into eternal night. Twilight had made five new friends (the same ones who had accompanied her today) while undertaking a quest to defeat the very pony that stood before her now. After uniting the Elements of Harmony, six extraordinary magical artifacts, they had robbed Luna of her dark powers and her thirst for revenge, restoring her to her natural state as Princess Luna, who had then pleaded for forgiveness from Princess Celestia—who, of course, had granted it.

All of these events flashed rapidly through Twilight's mind as she stared at Princess Luna. "Welcome, Twilight," the Princess said to her, not quite smiling.

"Luna!" replied Twilight. "I haven't seen you since… well…" She shuffled her hooves awkwardly.

"You know," said Luna after a moment, "I never got a chance to thank you. If I had stayed in my form as Nightmare Moon for much longer…"

"It was nothing," Twilight assured her, though in fact it had been an extremely perilous and difficult quest.

"…Right. Anyway, I think Princess Celestia wants to see you. She's waiting in the study."

Twilight's ears perked up. She'd been worried that Celestia would be too busy greeting guests to spend any time with her star pupil, but it seemed that wasn't going to be a problem. She thanked Princess Luna and thought to give her a quick bow before cantering away to meet Celestia.

"Twilight!" the princess's wonderfully familiar voice greeted her as she entered the room. "I'm so glad you could make it."

"I wouldn't dream of missing something like this," Twilight replied, bowing. She had spent much of her youth under the Princess's tutelage (for she had a great deal of natural talent in the ways of magic), but ever since moving to Ponyville, Twilight had gotten only limited chances to talk with Princess Celestia. Being with her now was like a dream come true—she felt completely in her element, eager to share her thoughts and feelings with the wisest pony she knew.

Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie was gallivanting about in her usual fashion, wavering from one brightly colored or shiny object to the next, with no more design than a lost balloon. She sniffed out fun almost on a quantum level, dancing and singing and partying through room after room to her heart's content, past bewildered onlookers. While she was in the ballroom, however, she stopped. Amongst the crowd was a zebra she thought she recognized.

"Zecora?" Like her one-time acquaintance, Zecora, the individual was wearing a brown, hooded cloak. However, upon hearing the name, the zebra glanced briefly towards Pinkie, and then shuffled away, disappearing amongst the masses of ponies.

Well, that was that, Pinkie decided. She and Zecora had been on good terms the last time they'd spoken, so any zebra avoiding her must not be Zecora. Immediately satisfied with her logic (as always), Pinkie Pie resumed her frolicking.

Applejack felt giddy as she made her first sale in her first minute. If all went well, Applejack thought to herself, she might make enough money to expand the farm and maybe even hire a few new employees—and, most importantly, she could finally afford that operation for Granny Smith's hip. Just as she was thinking this, she was pleasantly surprised to see Fluttershy approach the stand.

"Well, howdy, Fluttershy," she greeted the pegasus pony. "What can I get for ya?"

"Well, um," Fluttershy mumbled, "I'd like three of those apple slices, please."

"Comin' right up." As Applejack noticed Fluttershy getting out a hoofful of coins, she added, "Oh, no charge."

"Are you sure?" Fluttershy asked meekly.

"O' course! What're friends for? Anyways, I'm makin' plenty o' profit as is, but thanks fer offerin'."

"Well, alright, then," said Fluttershy, still hesitating somewhat before taking her food.

Instead of eating it all, however, she took it to Canterlot's famous gardens, intending to share it with the exotic creatures it was known for (the ones that ate apples, anyway). Sure enough, as she passed amongst the trees, she spotted a spider monkey, a wallaroo, and a toucan, each humming with its own unique brand of life. The animals she neared would shy away at first, but then be naturally drawn to her calming aura. She smiled to them and to herself, wondering what other strange new creatures might be hiding in the gardens.

As for Rarity, there was only one creature in the garden she was interested in: a ravishingly handsome unicorn named Prince Blueblood. She had, of course, noticed and recognized him almost immediately after entering the castle, but, not wanting to scare him off, she was waiting until the right moment to approach him. That moment was now, she decided, as she gracefully walked around the fountain, towards-but-not-quite-towards him. He responded by approaching her more directly.

"Well, hello," he greeted her. "I am Prince Blueblood."

"I am Rarity," she replied, doing her best to contain her nervousness at being in the presence of such royalty. She was elated that he was speaking to her… that is, until she noticed that he was eyeing her suspiciously. Her nervousness doubled.

"Why, you look as though you suspect me of a crime," she said, smiling and trying to make it sound like a joke.

"Well," he said, relaxing, "I was told to watch out for someone who wasn't on the guest list… there were signs that someone dug under one of the castle walls, as if to avoid the front gate."

"Oh! How terrible!"

"Indeed. However, I can't imagine how you could do such a thing while still leaving that beautiful dress intact."

Now he was smiling, and Rarity's heart was pounding so loudly that she worried he might hear it. "Well, thank you," she replied. "I made it myself." This, she thought, is going to be a night to remember.

Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash had managed to catch the eye of Spitfire of the Wonderbolts. They had recognized her as the winner of the Best Young Flier competition in Cloudsdale, where she had saved their lives.

"So, you guys have probably tried out the Sonic Rainboom by now, right?" she asked. She was completely star-struck from meeting her heroes, and it would mean the world to her to know that they had adopted her signature move into their routine.

"Actually," replied Spitfire, "we tried to, but we couldn't quite figure it out. Honestly, the Sonic Rainboom may have been done before, but as far as I know, you're the only pony alive today that can do it." Rainbow Dash blushed furiously.

"Well…" she stammered for a moment. "Well—you know, if you like, maybe I could show you how I do it. I mean, I'm sure you guys could… that is"—

"We'd be very grateful if you could give us a few pointers," Spitfire interrupted helpfully. Rainbow Dash couldn't believe her ears. The Wonderbolts, her all-time favorite flying team, wanted pointers from her!

At the same time, Twilight was telling Celestia about the greatest magical feat she had ever performed.

"I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I knew I had to try. I focused as hard as I could, and—well, when I saw the Ursa Minor lift off the ground, I was so shocked that I almost lost my concentration."

Princess Celestia raised an eyebrow. "An Ursa Minor?" she asked. "You lifted an Ursa Minor clean off the ground?"

"Well… yes," replied Twilight. "I wanted to make sure it woke up someplace it knew, so it wouldn't just attack Ponyville again, and so I sent it back to its cave…"

"In the forest, you mean?"

Twilight looked carefully at her mentor's face. She was not being patronized—that she had achieved such a feat had caused the Princess genuine shock, and… something else, though she wasn't sure what. "It was really hard," she shrugged. "I don't think I could have done it if I wasn't under immense pressure…"

"Yes," agreed Celestia. "That is when magic comes out the strongest… you must have been practicing quite a lot."

"Only every day," laughed Twilight. Over time, she had grown more comfortable with the idea of having magic as her special talent, especially after her friends had convinced her that there was nothing wrong with showing off when the situation called for it. She was very lucky, she thought, to have a cutie mark that foretold such incredible power.

Princess, there's something I've been meaning to ask you for a while… where do cutie marks come from?"

Quite confused, Celestia asked "Whatever do you mean, Twilight? All cutie marks appear when a pony discovers his or her special talent… what else is there to wonder about?"

"I mean, what actually causes them to appear? How and why does a symbolic image suddenly brand itself on a pony's flank?"

Celestia thought for a moment, and then replied, "Well… you see, Twilight, everypony has a little bit of magic inside, whether they realize it or not. With the exception of unicorns, however, most ponies can't actually channel this magic, so they only see it when they get their cutie marks."

"Really? So maybe unicorn ponies, earth ponies and pegasus ponies all have a common ancestor…"

"Maybe," said Celestia. "I don't pretend to know the answer myself."

Just then, they heard hoof-beats approaching from down the hall. Shortly after, somepony knocked on the door. "Come in," Celestia said, and in stepped one of her royal servants.

"My apologies, your highness," he said, bowing, "but… your speech…"

"Oh! Of course!" cried Celestia. "How could I have forgotten? Twilight, if you'll excuse me…"

Twilight followed her down the hall, hoping she hadn't been responsible for making the princess late for her speech. As Twilight walked into the ballroom, she noticed that all around, ponies were being ushered in from all over the castle. Princess Celestia took a stand at the front of the room, her back to a grand tapestry of ponies gazing up towards a blazing sun. She waited until everypony was present, and addressed them all, her voice augmented by magic:

"Greetings, everypony! I'm thrilled that you were all able to make it this evening. As you may or may not be aware, I have recently decreed that a new pony city be established in the far south, thereby extending the borders of Equestria. A team of carpenters and unicorns is currently hard at work setting up…"

As Twilight listened, she suddenly felt a strange tingle run up her spine, and she wasn't quite sure why. She shrugged it off, thinking she must have been hit by a cool air current, or something.

"…and of course, none of this would be possible without all of your support," Celestia went on. "You, the hardworking citizens of Equestria, make it possible for us all to enjoy bountiful harvests, extravagant homes, the many conveniences of modern life…"

Twilight wondered why Celestia was praising ponies for products of manual labor when the crowd before her was almost nothing but nobility. For that matter, what was so special about having enough to eat and a shelter over one's head? These were things that every pony in Equestria had… what point was the princess trying to make, exactly?

"…Incidentally—and I add this with great pride—a week from now, I will personally be overseeing the coronation of Prince"—

Thump.

For a moment, the room was completely silent. Twilight had registered a flash of motion as something small and dark had flown in Celestia's direction. Looking closer, she realized with horror the reason the Princess had stopped speaking.

There was a dart in her neck.

In an instant, the room was thrown into chaos. Pinkie Pie's hair deflated, falling straight on either side of her head, as the reality of what had just happened dawned on her. The guards scrambled, trying to figure out where the dart had come from, and other ponies were looking around frantically, screaming, rushing towards Princess Celestia as she fell to the ground, rushing towards the doors, making for cover…

"What the hay was that?"

"Stay calm!"

"Let me out of here!"

At once, two things happened: Twilight made a mad dash for the Princess as the severity of the situation threatened to overwhelm her senses, and Rainbow Dash spotted a dark figure vanishing from sight on the other side of a window at the top of the room. She sprang off the ground, flew straight towards the window, sailing through it, and then whipped around. A cloaked figure was running away along the roof, making almost no sound as he did so.

Rainbow Dash sped after her without a moment's hesitation. "Don't think you can get away!" she shouted. It occurred to her that she should have alerted the guards, but there was no time to go back. She quickly caught up with the pony, bowling him over and tripping herself in the process. As she struggled to her hooves, she realized that he wasn't a pony at all, but a zebra.

"Wait… Zecora?" she said, puzzled. But, she saw as she watched him stand up, it wasn't Zecora at all—it was definitely a male. Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes at him. He had to know she wasn't afraid.

"What's the big idea, shooting a dart at the Princess? And just who are you? Answer me!"

In response, the zebra reached into his cloak. Rainbow Dash braced herself as she saw him withdraw a dagger. She took a step back, prepared to knock him off the roof if it came to that. Instead of attacking her, however, he stayed where he was and swiveled the dagger in his teeth, holding it at an odd angle. Just as she realized what he was doing, and before she could stop him, he jerked his head sharply to the side.

He slit his own throat.

It made a sharp, wet sound lasting only an instant. Rainbow Dash stood there in shock, dimly aware of a few tiny, warm drops of blood landing on her face as the zebra fell over sideways, tumbling off the roof. She felt her entire body quiver for a moment as she heard his body hitting the ground below with a sickening crack.

Back in the ballroom, Twilight was frantically drawing poison of the tiny wound in the princess's neck, having carefully removed and set aside the dart. The poison formed a gossamer-thin, winding trail of fluid through the air. This wasn't something Twilight had practiced before, and despite struggling to isolate the poison, she saw Celestia's royal blood begin to mix into the hovering stream as the psychic tendrils of Twilight's magic delved deeper into her circulatory system. Twilight had no idea how much of the poison it would take to kill a pony, and every one of her nerves was on fire as she carried out her work. Those around her watched in silence, for it was obvious to all of them that she knew what she was doing. Somepony rushed off to fetch a medic.

She began sensing for smaller and smaller particles of poison, her magic now acting like a microscope as well as a syringe. A team of unicorn medics arrived and approached the two of them.

"The princess was poisoned, correct?" asked their leader.

"That's right," replied Twilight. "Can you help her?" She continued her work as the ponies inspected the princess, paying special attention to the poison on the ground.

"To give her the right antidote," said the lead medic, "we'd have to know what kind of poison that is, and we don't have time to find out." After watching Twilight siphon poison for a few seconds, she added "Keep doing what you're doing. We'll monitor her progress."

Twilight silently wondered why they couldn't just drain the poison better than she was doing, but she kept at it. What followed were ten of the most tense, nerve-wracking minutes of her life. The medics maneuvered around her, unpacking their equipment and making measurements in the corner of her eye. Finally, Twilight found herself unable to detect any more poison, so she tried harder. She mentally scanned the princess's entire bloodstream again and again, as carefully as possible, but it seemed that she was clean.

Celestia had also lost a great deal of blood, as Twilight noted with a jolt when she looked at the pool she had made. There had only been a tiny amount of poison in the dart, so whatever color the substance may have had was almost completely diluted by red. The medics assured her that the blood loss alone wasn't life-threatening, however. Celestia's heart and lungs still seemed to be functioning all right and the wound was no longer bleeding freely, so Twilight tentatively asked "Princess? Are you… awake?"

Though she had not moved during the entire procedure, Celestia's eyes fluttered at the sound of her pupil's voice. "T-Twilight?" she managed weakly. "Is that you?"

"I took out the poison, Princess. You should be okay."

"Oh… thank you."

With that, Celestia lapsed into sleep. "She's stable," said the lead medic, and the rest of them stepped back. With a deep, shuddering sigh of relief, Twilight looked away from the princess for the first time since the dart had hit her. As she gazed around the room, she realized something else was wrong.

"Where's Rainbow Dash?" she asked. The ponies looked at one another, and then Prince Blueblood answered her.

"She flew out that window up there," he said, pointing. "That's where the… the assassin was standing…"

Twilight felt her heart sink into her hooves. For a few horrible, agonizing seconds, she stared at the window, frantically wondering how many darts this assassin had thought to bring. Her fears proved to be for nothing, however, when Rainbow Dash appeared outside the window, tenderly climbed through it, and flapped down to a place on the ground where the ponies were clearing out, allowing her to land.

She looked around at everypony, seeming uncharacteristically lost, confused, and timid. "The Princess," she said starkly in a voice that was even hoarser than usual. "Is she… alright?"

"She is," Twilight answered immediately. "What about the assassin, though? What happened?"

Instead of answering, Rainbow Dash stared at the ground in front of her. Her hind legs wobbled for a moment, and then she half-sat, half collapsed on the floor.

"Well?" said Twilight. "Did you catch the assassin, or not?... Did you at least see where they went?"

Very, very slowly, Rainbow Dash lifted her head up and looked at Twilight's face. She moved her mouth wordlessly.

"Rainbow! This is important! This is very, very upsetting for all of us, but we need to know what happened to the assassin."

The answer came like a pin-drop in utter silence: "He killed himself."

For a moment, she kept staring at Twilight, with absolutely no expression on her face. Then, suddenly, she collapsed on the ground, covering her face with her hooves, shuddering again and again as she struggled in vain to choke back sobs. The death of anypony, even a stranger, even an enemy, was a rare and horrible event within the borders of Equestria. It was so awful, she thought, so wrong, and, as she and her friends gathered in close to comfort Rainbow Dash, Twilight silently prayed that she wouldn't have to see the body.

As the wordless minutes dragged by like a thick, chilling fog, many of the ponies started to leave. Twilight was beginning to feel a sense of numbness washing over her when suddenly Celestia begin to stir.

"Princess!" she cried, and rushed over to her, followed by her friends. After Celestia had risen unsteadily to her hooves, she looked first at Twilight.

"Twilight…" she said softly, and the young unicorn's heart fluttered to hear that voice, alive and safe, speaking to her once again. "You… you saved me, didn't you?"

Words failed her, so she nodded. By now, the room was far less crowded than it had been, but all eyes that remained present were on Princess Celestia.

"And… my neck… what hit me?"

A pegasus from her royal guard stepped forward. "It was an assassin, your highness—a zebra, to be exact. He shot you with a dart and tried to flee, but this young pegasus—" he indicated Rainbow Dash—"stopped him. After being caught, he killed himself."

Celestia stared blankly at him. Then, she sighed, somewhat shakily, "I… see. That is terrible indeed." Then, looking around at Twilight and her friends, she added, "I deeply regret that you all had to witness something so terrible... Anyway, investigations are in order—I'll have to see to it that the entire castle is searched for any clues as to where the assassin came from, and whether anyone was with him. In the meantime, perhaps it's best that you all go home now, and get some rest."

On their way out of the castle, the ponies received a collective and nasty shock as they noticed an unmistakable crumpled heap lying just twenty feet or so from road that led from the main gate. No one had thought to move the body. Just as Twilight wrenched her gaze away from the figure, unable to look at it any longer, she heard a voice from somewhere in the darkness.

"Twilight!"

She whipped her head around, searching for the source of that familiar voice, and sure enough, Spike, her faithful companion, was running up the road towards her.

"What's going on, Twilight?" he asked, looking at the zebra. "Who is that? Is there a killer on the loose or something?"

Twilight felt tears well up in her eyes. She had just seen her beloved princess at the brink of death, and now, here was Spike—her Spike—just a baby dragon, scared and confused, and he had just seen a dead body. She embraced him, and, struggling to maintain a straight voice, she said "It's alright, Spike. There's no danger anymore. We're going home, okay?"

"Yeah… okay."

That night, as she lay in bed, she couldn't stop wondering who would do such a thing. It was so horrible, and Princess Celestia was such a benevolent ruler, and such a kind, wise, caring pony… so who could possibly want to take her life?

Twilight remembered something else… an old fear, something icy in the pit of her stomach that threatened to tow her away into a place of terror and pain. She instinctively shrugged the feeling away and forgot what it meant.

In the morning, she thought to herself. I'll deal with all of this in the morning. Still afraid, but convinced that the danger had passed, she gradually settled into a shallow, uneasy sleep.