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Friendship is Magic - Art by GGod

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July 10, 2011
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Act II: The Twilight Hour

Part 3 – Jury-Rigging


SUNSIDE

Rainbow Dash shivered in the late evening cold.  She knew it shouldn't bother her; after all, anypony who had flown above the clouds, or through them, must have faced worse temperatures at one time or another.  Anypony who could break the sound barrier and not mind the wind chill had no right to complain about a breeze.  Yet attitude was ninety percent atmosphere, and Rainbow Dash knew this more than most ponies.  And in the suffocating darkness of the Everfree Forest, even the gentlest sensations could feel threatening.

After Doctor Whooves had left, the group had adjourned while Twilight worked on a plan to open a gate between worlds.  Knowing each passing hour could mean the difference between their Twilight's rescue and her death, Rainbow Dash found herself unable to focus on anything.  She had flown down to the weather center, to let Cloudkicker know she wouldn't be showing up to work for a while and to ask the other pegasus to take over for her.  Cloudkicker, perhaps seeing the request as an opportunity to prove herself, accepted gleefully and without any questions.  When Rainbow Dash returned home, she found a note taped to her door waiting for her.  A time, place, and an unusual and probably illegal request.  And now Rainbow Dash was outside the Castle of the Royal Sisters for the second time that week.

"I'm glad everypony could make it," said Twilight, looking over the five ponies she liked to think were her friends.  "I asked all of you to bring something for this experiment.  First, Applejack."

The orange pony brought forth the bundle of rope she had carried on her back.  "I don't see what this'll be good for," she said.

Twilight took it out of her hooves with telekinesis.  "This is perfect, Applejack.  Thank you.  Now, Fluttershy, the stakes."

Fluttershy approached Twilight, a cloth bag swinging from her mouth containing six metal stakes left over from the construction of her chicken coop.  She dropped the bag at Twilight's feet and raised her head to look at the strange familiar pony.  For some reason, Twilight had become far more disarming since she had managed to regain some control over her life.  Fluttershy wished the unicorn could be weak and helpless again, so she could help again, instead of being scared, but the thought was selfish and Fluttershy did her best to ignore it.  This Twilight was still the same pony she had protected in her time of need, even if she didn't act like it.  Fluttershy quickly retreated to the other thing she was asked to bring, a first aid kit.

Twilight lifted each stake, one at a time, and she brought them in a circle around her, about four feet across.  With a single swift flick of her neck, each stake sped downward and was buried in the ground, only a couple inches sticking above the ground.  The rope slithered around the stakes, and the two ends tied themselves together; the result strongly resembled a snake swallowing its own tail.  Twilight stared disapprovingly at the knot, which began to glow more brightly.  When the light faded, the knot was gone, the rope now a single loop.

Rarity inspected the hexagon.  "It's nice, dearie, but what's it for?"

"It's a spell circuit," explained Twilight.  "A circle, or close to one, at any rate.  Everything in magic is about circles, one way or another.  In this case, it's about establishing a boundary.  Defining the scope of the magic."

"A controlled explosion," echoed Fluttershy.  "You mean the explosion's only going to be inside that circle?"

"That's the idea.  Assuming everything goes as planned, we won't feel anything more than a warm breeze.  Rarity, I trust you memorized the spell I gave you?"

Rarity's face went pale.  "I'm sorry, Twilight.  I tried, but I couldn't make any sense out of it."  She could tell Twilight was disappointed, but there really was nothing she could do.  She had read over the entire spell once and tried to figure out where to start making heads or tails of it, but the effort was wasted, as if the spell, even the footnotes, had been written in a completely different language.  "I'm a dressmaker, you know, not a wizard."

"Maybe not," said Twilight, "but I know a sorceress when I see one."

"Excuse me?"

Twilight peered at Rarity, sighing.  "Do you really not know anything about magic?  There are three types of spellcasters.  There are wizards, like your Twilight.  They study magic, understanding how it functions at the most basic level, and they build from there, making more complicated spells by combining simpler ones that they've already mastered.  In theory, wizards are the most versatile, since almost all magic is available to them, provided they have a fully-stocked library and lots of free time to research.  Then there are sorcerers, like you and me.  We don't need to know how magic works to use it.  We can see how the parts of the spell fit together, which parts supplement each other and which parts clash.  We use our gut and intuition, hitting the books only when we have to.  Thus, we're the most adaptable on the field of battle, since we can change strategies on the fly with little consequence and try things that feel right, even if we haven't studied them.  When it comes down to it, for a wizard, magic is like building a machine, shaping each gear.  For a sorcerer, magic is like painting, or dressmaking.  I think you'd make a very good sorcerer if you put your mind to it."

This was indeed news to Rarity.  She had never considered a future in magic before.  "I'm flattered, really," she said.  "But that doesn't change the fact that I can't memorize an entire spell in the span of a few hours."

"Fine.  At least you brought the other item I requested?"

Rarity nodded and removed the ruby hairpin she had been wearing.  "Take good care of it," she told Twilight.  "It's expensive."

Twilight nodded as she took the hairpin, barely registering the request.  She focused on the hairpin, prying the ruby off with telekinesis and crushing it into powder.  Rarity, aghast, almost began crying.

"What's the third type?" Twilight heard Pinkie Pie ask.  "You said there were three types of spellcasters."

"Warlocks.  I have a bit of that in me too, I guess.  Since magic is my special talent, it means I'm not locked into learning magic of a specific school.  Most gifted mages are a bit of all three, although I'm a lot more of a warlock than your Twilight is.  Warlocks are all about power.  Gathering up as much as you can at once and then releasing it, which is interestingly basically what we're trying to do right now.  They can be deadly if they catch you surprised or unprepared, but otherwise they're pretty easy to handle, since they only have one strategy and one setting.  Unless they're paired up with another spellcaster, in which case they can channel all their energy into powering up their partner's spells."  Twilight strung out the powdered ruby into a ribbon and began writing symbols around the perimeter of the hexagon, just inside the circle.

"What're you doin' now?" asked Applejack.

Twilight grunted, wishing that the others would just let her work instead of asking so many questions.  "External storage space," she answered.  "Spells take up space in the working memory of the caster.  Rarity seems unable to lend her own brainpower to the cause, and it's too complicated for me to handle on my own, so this is the alternative.  I'm writing some parts of spell into the circle itself, so that I won't need to hold them in my mind the entire time.  It's not as elegant, and it probably doubles the risk of us all being killed in the rebound, but it'll do."  She glared at Rarity, silently letting her know, if we die, this is your fault.

"Alright," she said when she was finished.  "Rainbow Dash, your turn."  The multicolored pegasus nodded and nudged forward her item, an unstable thundercloud.  Small arcs of lightning leaped from the surface, not enough to kill, but certainly enough to give any non-pegasus a long-lasting fear of storms.  Rainbow Dash, immune to the cloud's small bolts, pushed against the cloud uninhibited until it was just outside the circle, whereupon she dragged it to a stop.  "We're blowing up a cloud?" she asked, trying to understand how that would work.

"No.  A bomb has two parts, a fuse and a payload.  The cloud's the fuse.  We don't want the entire thing to just blow up on us; that's a walking disaster, so we have one part we can control that triggers the rest."  She turned to the only member of the group who had not yet contributed anything.  "We're going to use Pinkie Pie's military-grade explosives.  Celestia tier."

Pinkie Pie bounded into the center of the group, a crate labeled "Danger: Do Not Shake" in all capitals strapped to her back, jostling with each step.  Rainbow Dash stared, dumbfounded, but decided that she truly didn't want to know why Pinkie Pie owned a crateload of  volatile explosives or where she had obtained them.  Like everything involving Pinkie Pie, it was easier to simply accept.  The pink mare stopped at the edge of the hexagon and shook off the crate, which landed perfectly in the center of the circle with a resounding thud.  Rainbow Dash squeezed her eyes shut, expecting the worst, but when they opened, nopony had been reduced to cinders.

Twilight carefully maneuvered the cloud so that it was over the box.  The setup complete, she turned again to Rarity.  "At the very least, Rarity, can you at least pipe the spell and channel it?"

Rarity's face was blank.  "Do what?" she asked slowly and after a good pause.

Twilight squealed infuriatingly.  "I form the spell and pass it to you so you can add your own power to it.  Is that too much for you?"  Twilight wondered how any unicorn could possibly be unfamiliar with one of the most basic magic techniques.

Rarity nodded, recalling the miniscule amount of formal training she'd actually received on the subject.  "I think I can handle that."

"Good.  Go stand on the other side."

Rarity walked around to the far end of the contraption.  She eyed the storm cloud worriedly.  "Are you sure this is safe?" she asked, trying to find an excuse to chicken out and get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible.

Twilight was unable to respond.  Her eyes were squeezed shut in concentration.  The rope closest to her began to turn a iridescent purple like it was made of glass and filtering sunlight, only the light came from inside it.  The rough form of multiple bound threads melted into a single cylinder, and the effect spread around both sides of the hexagon, pulling it into a circle in the process.  The magic met at Rarity's feet, and as the two links met, she felt her mind fill with feeling.

There was no logic in what Rarity saw.  She was expecting to see a neat diagram, with each part of the spell conveniently labeled.  Instead she faced a jumbled mess of shapes, colors, and emotions.

Twilight had been right about one part, though.  Even though Rarity had only looked at the spell in its written form once, and she had barely understood it at the time, she could sense which parts of the spell were meant to connect to each other.  Colors that clashed should stay far apart.  Conflicting emotions shouldn't be adjacent.  She still didn't understand what the spell did, even remotely, but she knew how to assemble it.  In her mind's eye she guided the parts together with a gentle hoof, strengthening the bonds with her own energy.  One element, a red bit that reminded her somehow of Rainbow Dash before a race, became the output for the rest of her power.

She could now feel the spell straining against the boundaries Twilight had placed it in.  It wanted to be released, and Rarity wasn't going to stand in its way.

"Is this safe?" echoed Twilight.  "Not at all."  But it was too late to stop what had already begun as the thundercloud shot downward, colliding with the crate.

The resulting sound was deafening.  Rainbow Dash tried to stand her ground, but found herself sliding backward, pushed by a force worse than any storm she had ever encountered.  Beside her, Pinkie Pie rocketed back, thrown by the explosion but seemingly not caring.  The heat of the blast engulfed Rainbow Dash, and for a moment she felt like she was being cooked alive.  She swore she could smell singed hair.

Then the magic kicked in.  A shimmering barrier rose up from the circle, pushing the explosion back.  Rainbow Dash watched as the fire was compressed into a sphere about the size of the circle, spinning erratically above it.  Every couple of seconds part of the fire would break free and jet out, only to be quickly forced back into place.

Rarity felt the spell straining under the force of the explosion, and she fought to maintain its structure.  Twilight, as the spell's caster, was subjected to more of the backlash, but she seemed to be controlling the spell with much less strain, although Rarity saw that she was sweating.

The world around the ponies seemed to be rippling, distances elongating and suddenly contracting.  Only the sphere in the circle seemed to have focus; everything else was bent awkwardly at an angle, as if it was being swung around the sphere at massive speeds.  And through her constantly shifting viewpoint, Twilight was certain she saw trees that weren't there before, skeletal and bare,  a second castle, even more decayed and downtrodden than the first, and fleeting, shifting figures peeking out from the windows, their green eyes watching the events unfold.  She tried to reach out to it, draw it closer to her and keep it there, but already the image was slipping away.  The shield, unable to take any more, vented the fire upward, and Twilight and Rarity simultaneously collapsed to the ground.

Nopony spoke.  A minute passed.  Then another.  All Rainbow Dash could think about was the world on the other side, the world she had now seen.

Fluttershy trotted up to Twilight and nudged her.  When the unicorn didn't respond, Fluttershy dug her head beneath the collapsed mare and slowly lifted Twilight onto her back.  "Come on," she said to the others.  "Let's take them back to the library."  

They had failed.  Rainbow Dash realized this now, although it should have been obvious for some time.  Twilight's plan to get them across hadn't worked.  Rainbow Dash was about to help Fluttershy carry Rarity when something in the distance caught her eye.

Pinkie Pie and Applejack bounded over to Rarity, hoisting her up and balancing her on the pink mare's head.  "You coming?" Pinkie Pie called.

"Yeah."  Rainbow Dash peered into the darkness between two of the trees.  "I thought I saw somepony, but I'm not sure."

"Who?" asked Fluttershy.

"I don't know.  I didn't get a good look, and it's not there anymore.  Maybe I just imagined it."  She gave up and took half of Twilight onto her back.  As the friends left the clearing to head back to town, Rainbow Dash dared one more look into the darkness, and she swore she saw a pony's head looking back at her.


MOONSIDE

Twilight tried to focus on Silver Shield through the haze, her stomach still lurching from the attack.  He was pacing the room, muttering to himself.  She couldn't make out what he was saying, but she didn't have to.  The important part was clear enough; he wasn't paying attention to her.  Trying her best to push the pain aside, Twilight closed her eyes and concentrated, and her horn began to glow softly.

Behind her, a small seed of violet light appeared.  It spun, stealing wisps of energy from the air as its elongated ends approached them, and it grew in size.  When it reached the size of a small apple it slowed to a stop, and as it hovered small strands escaped, only to quickly be reabsorbed.  The surface constantly shifted and roiled, giving it the appearance of a miniature purple sun.

Silver Shield turned to address his captive and then raised an eyebrow, amused.  "You're really going to try magic again?" he asked, bored.  He stepped forward, and Twilight instinctively flinched.  The  sphere shuddered but maintained its shape.  Silver Shield looked at Twilight mournfully.  "I'm not going to hit you again, Twilight.  You're not stupid, and you can understand how this is going.  I'm in control, not you.  I trust that you're not going to do anything to make me angry."

Twilight didn't want to admit that he was intimidating her, so she merely nodded silently.

Silver sighed.  "I suppose we should just get this over with.  The prosecution is ready to make their case."

Prosecution?  They?  Twilight wanted to ask Silver Shield what he meant, but her breaths were still ragged, and she couldn't force the words out.  Instead, she watched as Silver climbed onto the judge's chair, perhaps because the witness booth was already occupied.  "The prosecution calls to the stand their only witness," he announced with an air of theatricality.  "Silver Shield, of the Silver Star lineage, royal guard of Canterlot.  Please state your relation to the victims."

Twilight again tried to speak, trying to figure out how to admit she didn't know whom she had killed, but Silver Shield cut her off, and it became apparent that he had begun talking to himself again, playing both sides of his own interrogation.

"I owe it to my family," he said.  "Without their disregarded advice, their overbearing presence, and my loveless captivity of a childhood, I never would have met her.  My father had high hopes for me, even before I was born.  Success runs in my family's veins.  Not quite as literally as some of the other aristocratic families, but nonetheless, the very name Silver Star struck awe in every Canterlot pony, as it should.  An endless line of scholars and mages, all of them with the strongest of minds and the purest blood.  And all of them unicorns.  Keep it within the upper tiers, they said.  Don't defile something so precious.  And then I popped out.  You can imagine the scandal.  There were accusations of infidelity.  I was their mistake.  And when the reputation of the family began to falter, I was their scapegoat as well."

Twilight didn't understand why the speech was unnerving her.  She knew she shouldn't be feeling any sympathy for the stallion who had taken her hostage.  She couldn't relate to his life at all; magic had always been her gift, and she couldn't imagine what it would be like to be surrounded by it but unable to use it.  His treatment of her had afforded him no respect.  But when she looked into his eyes, she saw fear, overwhelming panic as he struggled to bring justice to whatever small pieces of his life he had actually cared about.  Silver Shield was afraid of the world and had nothing to live for but revenge, and as Twilight realized this her heart broke.

"They named me Silver Shield.  I used to think it was something to be proud of.  I was too young to know the truth, that my name was some secret inside joke.  Silver may be beautiful, but it makes a terrible shield.  It's too soft.  It tarnishes.  It can't do what it was made to do.  It's expensive and yet worthless, and that's what my family thought of me."

Silver Shield lowered his eyes, downcast, and Twilight seized the moment to finish the spell, visualizing the last piece that would bind the loose ends of the spell together and connect them.  She built the set of instructions for the sphere so that it could run parallel to and independently of her own will, sending them over the pipeline.  She felt the sphere acknowledge the connection, and she activated the final trigger.  The spell complete, her horn faded just as Silver Shield looked up and resumed his speech.

"I was determined to prove them wrong, that I really could amount to something.  So I joined the royal guard.  If I couldn't give my life to my family, I could give it to my country, the country that kept the Silver Stars safe, kept them from being torn apart by dragons and griffons and who knows what else.  And maybe, just maybe, I could win back a shred of respect.  And it almost worked.  I wasn't scrap anymore, just damaged, impaired.  And then I met Stone Wall."

Behind Twilight's back, beads of red bubbled to the surface of the sphere, combining with each other into a circular mass covering a fourth of the surface.  Slowly, the skin on the red circle lifted, and Twilight's Third Eyed opened, awaiting its next orders.

"I don't know what my family was expecting.  On one hoof, they wanted to salvage what was left of the diluted bloodline.  On the other, however, they had made it clear that any unicorn who would  defile herself with anything less than perfection was scum.  I suppose they were hoping I would wither up and die, and they could prune the less stellar branch of the family tree, trying to pretend that I had never happened, that I was just some bad dream.  Instead, when I found Stone Wall, I lost their respect.  And I realized something that had never occurred to me before: I didn't care.  I didn't care that my family hated her; I didn't care that she was a Pegasus.  For the first time, I was happy."

Twilight took in the new image granted to her by the Eye.  Until now, she had been scared to use magic to untie herself.  If she couldn't see where to aim, any attempts to sever the ropes would be ineffectual at best and harmful at worst.  Now, aided by the Eye, she was a bit more confident in her ability to not miss the rope and strike skin instead.

"Are you listening to me?"

Twilight froze.  Silver Shield was glaring at her now, intense contempt filling his eyes and frown.

"I'm getting the feeling you don't even care about what I have to say, sometimes.  Like you're not taking this trial seriously.  Do you even value your own life, Twilight Sparkle?"

Twilight feigned ignorance, hoping Silver Shield would continue his speech, distracting himself from her escape plan.  After ten seconds of silence, Twilight realized he was awaiting a response.  "Yes," she choked.  "I want to live."

"I find that hard to believe," sneered Silver Shield.  "Do you believe I'm even worth your time?  Because I don't have to do this.  This trial, this whole presentation is out of the goodness of my heart and my respect for an established system.  If you'd rather, we can both agree on your guilt and I'll just kill you here and now.  It would save us both a lot of time, don't you think?"  He pushed his face close to hers; she could feel his ragged, panicked breath, and she was certain he could feel hers.  "Or is this all because I'm not a true unicorn?"

Twilight sputtered, not comprehending.  "I don't," she began, desperate to say something, but she had no idea what word should come next.

"Don't interrupt me," barked Silver Shield, forgetting he had been awaiting an answer.  "I refuse to be patronized by your type.  I used to buy in to all of that garbage.  My parents had me thoroughly convinced about the superiority of our breed.  That magic conquers all.  That one day the earth ponies and the pegasi and the sea ponies would all be put in their proper place.  And I believed it.  I believed I was worthless, and I wished that somehow, things could be different, that I would wake up in the morning and be more like my beautiful, perfect family."  He slapped Twilight across the face.  "That's the effect that you have!" he screamed, and then he instantly quieted.  "And I thank you for it.  If it wasn't for their abuse, I might have turned out like they did.  I never would have joined the Guard.  I never would have met Stone Wall.  My family did one thing right; they opened my eyes to the truth.

"But all good things come to an end, and my life ended when the Darkness fell.  Our chain of command was toppled at the top when Celestia vanished, and everything was thrown into chaos.  I was a coward;  I wanted to run and hide.  Stone Wall, on the other hand, was a natural leader; she took charge and held us together.  She believed that there was a way to fix things, to bring back the sun.  But she wanted your help.  She trusted you.  And that was her last mistake.  A month after the Darkness, Stone Wall told me she had tracked you down.  Somewhere in the Swayback Mountains.  She said you had something that could save us.  The Element of Magic, although I didn't know it at the time.  That night was the last time I saw her.

"The question that is now put before this court is: what happened to Stone Wall?  The answer is obvious.  We know where she went; she visited a known enemy of hers who had multiple reasons to kill her.  To remain hidden, to avoid being brought to justice, to protect her treasure.  No other pony with motive to kill her would have known where to find her, and most would not even have been able to reach her.  In addition, Stone Wall was a competent fighter, a strong flier with excellent eyesight.  The only way she could have been subdued would be if she were betrayed, attacked when her guard was down.  Logic dictates the truth, Twilight Sparkle.  She put her trust in you, and you betrayed her.  This is proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that for the charge of ponyslaughter, the jury finds you, Twilight Sparkle..."

"Wait," cried Twilight, panicking.  Silver Shield eyed her with the contempt he would spare for a horsefly.  "This is a trial, right?  Don't I get a chance to defend myself?"

Silver Shield cursed as he realized that he was going to have to follow his own rules.  He cleared his throat and spoke.  "Of course.  The defense calls to the stand Stone Wall.  Oh, wait, they can't.  Because you murdered her!"  As he spoke the last sentence her shoved his face against Twilight's, his mouth drawn into a vicious scowl.  "Anything else you'd care to present?  It's clear from the stakes we can't trust the testimony of the accused.

"Please," Twilight choked out.  As crazy as it seemed, even to her, the truth was her only chance.  "I don't know who you're looking for, but it's not me.  I'm not the one you want.  I don't even know you."  She watched Silver Shield's scowl as it transformed in utter rage.

"You're not Twilight Sparkle?" he asked, barely managing to keep an even volume.

"Yes.  But no.  I don't remember you, or anypony.  I don't even know who I am."

Silver Shield pondered this for a moment.  "So you plead insanity," he finally concluded.

Twilight nodded enthusiastically.

"I'm tempted to believe you," admitted Silver Shield.  "It would certainly explain how you were so easy to catch, like a bumbling foal on her legs for the first time.  And there's definitely something wrong with you, although that's not a new development.  But there's one gaping problem with that.  The first thing you said to me when we met.  Do you remember what it was?"

Twilight didn't, and she shook her head to say so.

"You looked me in the eye and said 'Silver Shield'.  You called me by my name, even though I never told it to you.  Which tells me two things.  Firstly, that you're not quite as dumb as you're claiming to be.  You're not an amnesiac.  Secondly, there's only one place you could have learned my name.  From Stone Wall, right before you killed her."

Twilight desperately thought, trying to remember where she had heard Silver Shield's name before.  Was it possible that he was telling the truth?  Had she killed Stone Wall?  She knew the answer was somewhere in her subconscious, if she could only fall asleep again and find it.  "Please," she begged, one last time.  "I don't want to do this."

"Too late," growled Silver Shield, and he raised his hoof to strike her horn again.  Then he paused.  "Wait.  Don't want to do what?"

Twilight smiled, but her expression was not joyful.  If anything, it was her way of asking for forgiveness.  "This," she said softly, before she executed her new-found unconventional use for her Third Eye.  The bright purple sun behind her, at her order, flew around the chair and into Silver Shield's face.  The stallion reared back in surprise, falling over on his back.  Taking advantage of the distraction, Twilight closed her eyes, trying to recall what she had seen of her own backside.  Drawing a line in her mind, she prepared to make the cut.  Her horn lit up, a single crack rang throughout the room as a lance of hardened wind struck the ropes, and Twilight was free.

Silver Shield howled, trying to push the Eye away from him, but every attempt only scorched his hooves.  Finally, he managed to hit it on the soft red flesh, and it flew backward before changing direction in the middle of its journey to follow its master.  The stallion blinked rapidly to eliminate the dancing spots that now obscured his vision.  To his left he saw a large shrinking shape, and although he still couldn't see clearly, there was only one thing it could be.  He stood, taking only a second to steady himself before charging after his enemy.

As Twilight ran, she noticed that the view from the Third Eye had gone out.  Whatever Silver Shield had done, he had blinded it.  Twilight wasn't sure what to make of this; she had only used the spell a couple times in the past, and that had never happened before.

If Twilight had to give Silver Shield credit for one thing, it was his speed.  She left the makeshift courtroom and entered the long hallway, and as she turned the corner she heard Silver Shield impact the wall less than a second behind her.  She knew she couldn't outrun him; the only question was how far she'd be able to get before he caught her.  She bounded up the stairs, forming what she hoped would be enough of a plan to save her.  She could feel Silver Shield's breath on her flank, and knew this was her only opportunity to escape; if she didn't pull some sort of trick immediately, he would never give her a second chance.

Through the Third Eye, Twilight saw a light.  This struck her as odd; the Eye was damaged; it shouldn't be seeing anything at all.  The light stretched and sharpened until it looked less like a light and more like an incredibly blurry image.  An image of a pony that, in the last couple of days, had become very familiar to Twilight.  Twilight didn't understand how this was possible, but the pieces of the puzzle slowly began to come together.  The Eye was always supposed to be broadcasting an image.  Now, unable to look at the outside world, but still having to send something, the Eye was, somehow, looking at her memories and surface thoughts.  In any other situation the effect would have been useless, perhaps even unnoticeable.  Now, however, it was a stroke of luck.

As Twilight passed through the doorway onto the first floor of the library, she slammed the door shut behind her.  Then, holding the door shut, she began to concentrate.  All she needed to do was teleport; it was a spell she'd done many times before, but in the heat of the situation it came to her with difficulty.  She felt Silver Shield's weight slam into the door with regular rhythm, and she didn't know how much longer she'd be able to manage.  She needed to escape; she willed her body to dissolve and take her somewhere, anyplace but where she currently was.

Her horn lit up and sparks flew off of it, but one last kick against the door, combined with fatigue from her exertions, finally sent her sprawling.  Distracted in the middle of the spell, her horn sputtered and the light died.

Silver Shield knocked the door off its hinges and entered the room, looking even more enraged than he had been before.  To him, Twilight had not only doomed Equestria and murdered his lover, but now she had made a fool of him in his own home, while he was supposed to be in control.  He loomed over her, and Twilight knew that she was about to die.  Desperate, Twilight did the only thing she could think of.

Her horn lit up once again, and with it came another figure.  The new pony appeared next to her, slightly transparent and flickering in and out of focus.  At first, Silver Shield stared at the projection, pacified.  Then, he became even angrier.

"How dare you!"  He shouted.  "How dare you defile her image like this?  I'll kill you!"

And Twilight had no doubt that he would have killed her, had the projection of Stone Wall not taken that moment to speak.

"Listen carefully to me," it said, pulling words from the memory Twilight herself could not conciously remember.  "We can save Equestria, together, but first I need to die.  You have to kill me, Twilight Sparkle."
Whelp, here it is. 6000 words of ponies.

I've noticed that this chapter alone makes the story nearly 20% longer.

Also, something I want to mention about the previous chapter. I apologize for trying to use the "Neighcola Tesla" joke twice. I was originally going to write "Alan Trotting" the second time, but then I remembered that there's an legitimate conspiracy theory (and if that's not an oxymoron, I don't know what is) that states that Nicola Tesla invented a weather machine and sold it to the Illuminati (The secret organization that is supposedly preparing the world for the Antichrist's arrival.) So you see, I really had no choice but to reuse Tesla.

Alan Trotting will have to appear later.

Also, you may have noticed that the chapter is title "Act II Part 3" instead of just "Chapter 12". I've decided to break up the story into acts.

Now, the fact that I mentioned in a comment on ED that the story will have a little over 30 chapters seems to imply that there will be three acts, maybe four, right?

Well, the current plan is for there to be five, and maybe six.

What have I gotten myself into?

Previous Chapter: [link]

Next Chapter: [link]

Chapter List: [link]
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:iconbuckingawesomeart:
BuckingAwesomeArt Featured By Owner May 20, 2012
time to stop again. ugh, why always at the good parts? anyways, loving it, just loving it. so far this has been an enticing story with an ingenious plot. cant wait to continue reading it tomorrow.
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:iconsilverrattler:
SilverRattler Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
"I was a coward; I wanted to run and hide. Stone Wall, on the other hand, was a natural leader;

Shouldn't it be other hoof? They don't have hands. xD
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:iconsilverrattler:
SilverRattler Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
" In her mind's eye she guided the parts together with a gentle hoof, strengthening the bonds with her own energy. One element, a red bit that reminded her somehow of Rainbow Dash before a race, became the output for the rest of her power."
There needs to be an apostrophe.
That's the part where Rarity's starting to put in her own magic.

"One one hoof, they wanted to salvage what was left of the diluted bloodline."
Remove one 'e'.
That's where Silver Shield is talking and some red bubbly thing is behind Twilight.
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:iconsilverrattler:
SilverRattler Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
""What's the third type?" Twilight heard Pinkie Pie ask. "You said there were three types of spellcasters.""

:)
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:iconkurseofkings:
KurseofKings Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
"Military-grade explosives?!" Where and how the heck did Pinkie Pie get her hooves on those?!
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:iconfreedomandchaos:
FreedomAndChaos Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
It's Pinkie Pie.
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:iconkurseofkings:
KurseofKings Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
...Good point.
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:iconkurseofkings:
KurseofKings Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012
This may sound stupid since you've probably already told us, but if silver shield isn't a unicorn, then what kind of pony is she/he?
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:iconfreedomandchaos:
FreedomAndChaos Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012
Fun Fact: When I wrote the first chapter, Silver Shield wasn't going to be a recurring character. I only gave him a name so the reader would sympathize with him.

When I conceived the idea of him playing a more important role in the story, I had him as a unicorn. But then I reread the first chapter and realized I already said he was an earth pony. And that's where I got the idea of an earth pony born from a family of unicorns.
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:iconfreedomandchaos:
FreedomAndChaos Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012
He's an Earth Pony.
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