Nuggets of Wisdom

Saturday, January 10, 2015

MLP:FIM: The Dark Stallion - Episode 07


My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic presents

The Dark Stallion

Episode 07: At Last, The Amulet Of Purity Located!

**********

Last time on My Little Pony:

Rainbow Dash tried to help Sky Wind get his lost memories back. They started by having both Twilight Sparkle and Xander use magic spells, but neither of them made any avail. The two pegasi then ventured into the Everfree Forest to obtain an ingredient for a magic potion. They managed to find it, but so did the Shadow Clan, along with a rampaging Hydra. Fortunately, Dash, with the help of Ninja Star and Fluttershy, tied the Hyrda up into knots, while Sky Wind tracked down the Shadow Clan for the missing ingredient they stole. However, even with the magic potion brewed, Sky Wind was still unable to get his memories back. Will he ever regain his lost memories, and what dark secrets do they hold?

**********

As Twilight carried a stack of books downstairs, she saw as Xander stood overlooking a table. Upon its tabletop was unfurled a map of Equestria with notes and open books scattered about it. Xander furrowed his eyebrows as he studied the faded markings on the map’s aged brown paper.

“How goes the search?” Twilight set aside her books to approach him.

“I spent a good two years traveling across Equestria from library to library in search of literature about the Amulet of Purity, and after arriving at your library, I’ve only managed to find a scant trace of information pertaining to it.” Xander turned his gaze to Twilight. “Nevertheless, what little information I’ve found has brought me one step closer.”

When he turned to look at the map, he gasped. Staring back at him was a pink face—Pinkie Pie!

“One step closer to what?” she asked.

Xander clasped his chest for a split second before furrowing his brow at the pink pony standing on the table and his map.

“Where the hay did you come from?” he yelled, not sure whether to be annoyed or confused.

“Through the door, silly,” Pinkie nonchalantly pointed to the open library door, “though sometimes I sneak in through the window.”

She looked down at the map upon which she was standing. “Ooh, what are you playing here? Looks like Risk. That’s a really fun board game. No, actually it’s kind of boring. Not at all fun like Candyland or Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders or…”

“It’s not a board game,” Xander interrupted her. “It’s a map of Equestria, an old map that was owned by my late father, who would hardly appreciate ponies standing on top of it with their dirty hooves.”

Pinkie lifted one hoof to inspect it. “Good thing I just washed mine.”

“Could you get off?!” Xander barked.

Pinkie shirked back and quietly stepped off of the table.

“Sorry!” She began studying the map. “So whatcha looking for, anyway?”

“Xander here is looking for a rare artifact called the Amulet of Purity,” Twilight answered. “His father dedicated his entire life looking for it, and now, Xander has spent the past few years trying to search for it himself. He was just telling me about some important information he found while doing so.”

Xander nodded. “I still don’t know what the Amulet is or what it’s capable of, but I may have found something that can tell me how to find it. The thing is, it’s only a poem, and a rather cryptic one at that.”

From the table he lifted a piece of parchment and brought it before him and Twilight. Upon first glance, Twilight could not make heads or tails of what was on it, as it was written in the runes of an ancient language that was foreign to her.

Fortunately, Xander translated it for her: “Unicorn magic, Pegasus flight, the sweat from the brow of the earth pony’s plight. When all three come together in unity, then is revealed the Amulet of Purity.”

Pinkie scratched her chin as she thought for a second or two. “Not bad, but I know a better poem: there once was a colt from Nantucket…”

“Pinkie, please!” Twilight interrupted, equally annoyed at the pink pony.

She then turned her attention back to Xander. “What do you think it means?”

Xander held his chin as he delved deep into thought. “I’m not sure myself. My father spent years simply deciphering this dead language, who knows how long it will take me to decipher this poem. It could lead us anywhere. Where exactly, I don’t know.”

“Maybe it’s here?” Pinkie asked.

Xander turned to face Pinkie. He gasped when he saw how she had scribbled red ink on his map with a red marker that she held in her mouth.

“My father’s map!” he yelled, yanking the marker away from Pinkie with his magic. “Just what do you think you are doing?”

Pinkie shrugged her shoulders. “Your poem reminded me about the three major cities in Equestria.”

She pointed to one city that she had circled in red ink. “There’s the capital city of Canterlot, where all the unicorns live. Then there’s Cloudsdale, where the pegasi live. And finally, there’s Ponyville, where all the earth ponies live.”

Each of the three cities were circled in red ink, with each circle connected to one another with lines that formed a giant triangle.

“When you connect all the cities together like this, you get a triangle,” Pinkie explained. “So maybe your amulet thingy is located somewhere in here.”

Twilight scratched her chin. “You know, Pinkie, I think you might be onto something.”

"Or at least she would be," Xander shook his head, "if it wasn't for the fact that these cities only existed within the past century. None of them existed when Equestria was founded, let alone when the Amulet existed."

"So what cities did exist back then?" Pinkie asked.

"Well, when each of the three pony tribes emigrated to Equestria, each of them constructed their own settlement. The unicorns built the kingdom of Unicornia; the pegasi, the city of Pegalopolis, and the earth ponies, the hamlet of Earthenshire."

As Xander named each of these ancient cities, he circled their locations on the map, then connected them all with another triangle, which overlapped the previous one, and with it, formed a star.

Upon its completion, the red star glowed with such intensity that it forced Xander and the others to shield their eyes. The red glow lasted for a good five seconds before fading away.

When the three ponies returned their gaze upon the map, they saw, where the star’s center once shone, the freshly-drawn sketch of a mountain range with a stone tower rising from the nook of two mountains.

From the drawing rose small wisps of steam, almost as if it were etched into the parchment with a fiery quill—clearly the product of magic. Underneath the mountain range and tower was written the words—

“Union Tower,” Twilight whispered. “That must be where the Amulet of Purity is located.



Xander gazed intently at the new location which the map had revealed. “Finally, after the many years of my father researching the Amulet of Purity, I’ve finally come this close to obtaining it.”

“So when do we leave to find it?” Pinkie asked.

Xander returned his gaze to Pinkie, gasping when he realized four extra head surrounding the table and looking over the map: the remainder of the Mane Six.

“Where did you all come from?” Xander exclaimed, shocked at their sudden appearance.

Pinkie bounced in place with glee. “I brought them here to show them your new discovery.”

“That quick?” Xander asked.

Twilight leaned next to him, replying, “It’s Pinkie Pie. She can do anything. Don’t question it.”

Rainbow Dash hovered over the table as she studied the map. “This Union Tower appears to be located in the Carponian Mountains, which is only a three hour flight north of here. We can easily fly there in no time flat.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow, “Uh, you do realize that most of us are sort of earthbound, what with us not having any wings.”

Dash rolled her eyes as she scratched her head. “Oh, yeah, forgot that minor detail.”

Applejack placed her hoof on the map where the mountains and tower were drawn. “Seems to me that this here tower will take at least half a day’s trek. Fortunately, most of us here have the horsepower to make the journey.”

“And if you need any additional horsepower,” Dash added. “I’m sure Sky Wind and Ninja Star can lend their hooves for this.”

Fluttershy stepped forward, “Oh, Ninja Star-kun would most definitely be a big help with his ninja skills, some of which he taught me, though I’m not sure how well I can do on my own.”

Rarity beamed in excitement, “Oh, but I do love the prospect of searching for an ancient amulet. I’m sure it’s quite an exquisite piece of jewelry, if its legend is anything to go by. Though I do wonder what I should wear for our journey. I do have the quaintest little camping outfit for such an occasion.”

Twilight nodded, “Then it’s settled: we leave first thing tomorrow morning.”

The six ponies pumped their hooves in the air and cheered in excitement.

“What do you mean ‘we’?” Xander asked, his tone breaking their moment. “I’m the one who’s going to be searching for this—by myself.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “You’re not seriously suggesting going on your own?”

“Why not?” Xander asked. “I spent most of my time searching for this amulet alone, why would it be any different from here on out?”

“Because you’ll be traveling to an ancient ruin where no other pony had tread, not some library in Equestria,” was Twilight’s response. “It’s far too dangerous for one pony to go at this alone. You’re going to need the help of far more ponies than one.”

Xander turned his back on the six. “I never asked for any pony’s help, and I most certainly never asked for yours.”

“Well asked for it or not, you’re still going to need our help. This is a team effort. We’re going to go with you tomorrow, and there’s nothing else you can say on the matter.”

Xander glanced at the ground, then back up as he walked away from them. “So be it.”

*****

Spike had woken up in the middle of the night to use the little dragon’s room when he passed by the window. There he noticed a faint light coming from outside. He pressed his face against the glass as he peered into the blackness of night, being pierced by a light as faint as a firefly’s. Upon squinting his eyes, he recognized the light as that of a glow of a unicorn’s horn, and upon squinting harder, he recognized the unicorn as—

“Xander!” he exclaimed.

The colt was walking past the library with his satchel, fuller than usual, hanging from his side and with a map floating in front of his face with his magic. As Xander strode through town and towards the horizon in the distance, Spike turned on his tail and called for Twilight.

*****

Along a narrow mountain trail trekked Xander. All night he had been traveling from Ponyville, and by break of dawn, he had reached the base of the mountains, and by noon, he was now clambering towards their summit by the narrow trail winding along them.

Xander could hardly tell it was approaching noon, as the sky was gray with clouds that concealed the sun from view. From these clouds came barreling cold harsh winds that berated Xander as he traversed the mountain trail, which was far too narrow for him to travel on all four limbs, forcing his back and two forelimbs against the mountainside with his hind hooves on the trail’s narrow edge.

Slowly he inched his way along the trail, with every other step sending loose rocks tumbling into the abyss below, which he could barely see as the winds forced him to squint his eyes. Losing his balance would spell certain death for him, as he would fall hundreds of feet below, possibly to jagged rocks that would skewer him.

If he were a pegaus, he could fly above the mountains to his destination, though the harsh mountain winds would hardly make his flight easily. Being the skilled unicorn he was, he could have easily used his levitation spell to fly himself there regardless, but the magic exerted would drain him of most of his energy, and he wished to conserve as much of it for when he reached the tower.

And so, with no other alternative, he sidled against the mountainside, along the trail that could barely support him. Nearly an hour passed until the path became wide enough for him to walk upon all four hooves, though barely. A few more minutes, and the path became wide enough to trot along at a much faster pace.

Very soon, the path came to an end. Xander stood at a clearing near the summit, a clearing which appeared to be where a cavern opening would be, but oddly enough, there was nothing there.

Xander stood before the mountain wall with nothing else around him other than a few oddly placed boulders.

He checked his map. He was standing in the precise location where there should have been an entrance to a tunnel that would lead him to where the tower was, but when he lowered his map, which barely remained in his hand with the howling wind against him, he saw nothing.

Just then, he noticed near his forehooves a stone buried within the mountain’s gravel and dust, a stone that appeared to be of a different material than the other rocks along the mountain. With his hoof, he dusted it off and revealed a rune inscribed upon it.

With a satisfied smirk upon his face, he took two paces back. His horn glowed with a dark blue light, and before him, the mountainside wavered like a curtain in the breeze, dissipating to reveal a cavern entrance. It had been concealed with a magical cloaking spell which Xander now promptly dispelled.

Before him stood an entrance to a tunnel with a white light shining at the end of it. Into the tunnel he ran, the light at the end of it growing brighter and brighter until it enveloped him.

His eyes quickly adjusted to the light by the time he reached the tunnel’s end. Before him was a gorge that extended for a good mile with more mountains on the other side. A few feet before him was a stone bridge that spanned the length of this ravine and extended to a stone tower whose height rivaled that of the mountain peaks.

This was the Union Tower he had been looking for.

The bridge was long enough to reach the tower on the other side of the gorge and wide enough for at least four horses to comfortably walk side-by-side. At its start, from where Xander stood, was a gateway with two statues on either side—one statue of an earth pony, the other, a unicorn. Above and between the two was a pegasus whose wings spanned the width of the bridge and touched the heads of either pony statue.

Excited, Xander raced forward through the gateway. Unbeknownst to him, the eyes of all three statues glowed red upon his passing. He soon stopped dead in his tracks as the bridge began to quiver as though it was an earthquake.

Just then, Xander noticed one of the pillars crumbling at its base, causing it to topple over and fall towards him. Before it could crush him with its weight, Xander used his magic to stop it in its place.

However, as he was doing this, he failed to notice the pillar on the other side likewise falling over. As soon as he noticed, he was already preoccupied holding up the other pillar for him to react. He closed his eyes, waiting for his inevitable death.

When his death did not arrive, he opened his eyes. Before him flew two pegasi struggling under the weight of the pillar. One pegasus had a rainbow-colored mane; the other, black with a purple coat.

Rainbow Dash and Sky Wind pushed against the pillar until it once again stood upright. When it was put back in place, it glowed with a purple aura, causing the broken pillar to become whole once more.

Recognizing the purple magic, Xander turned around to expectedly find Twilight Sparkle, along with the rest of her friends, standing behind him.

“What are you all doing here?” he asked.

Rainbow Dash flew up alongside her friends and glared at Xander with her hooves against her hips. “You know, the proper response is ‘Thank you for saving my life.’”

Xander cocked an eyebrow. “And how did you all manage to get here?”

Twilight stepped forward. “Spike informed me of your late night excursion. I managed to gather every pony else just in time to track down your trail and follow you.”

“Well, it looks like it was time wasted,” Xander said. “I told you before that I don’t need your help. I can handle this on my own.”

“Like Tartarus, you can!” Twilight pointed to the pillar that nearly feel onto Xander. “If we hadn’t reached you in time, you would have ended up flater than a pony pancake.”

“With strawberry syrup!” chimed Pinkie Pie.

Xander looked at the pillar, then back at the others. “That was one misstep. I can handle things from here on out.”

“And what if you run into another misstep in the tower?” Twilight asked. “Xander, you graduated Gringhorn’s Academy with honors. You’re smarter than this. You can’t do this on your own.”

Xander turned from them. “It doesn’t matter. This is what my father has been searching for his whole life. It’s my duty to fulfill his legacy and retrieve that amulet. It’s my duty and mine alone. I cannot ask any pony to bear it.”

There was a silent tension that hung in the air between him and the other ponies, a tension that broke when Applejack stepped forward, her hat removed in humility.

“Listen here, Sugarcube,” she began with her voice lowered in a somber volume as she would use to address a forlorn Apple Bloom, “Y’all don’t have to put on this macho stallion act. You may pretend that you don’t need any other pony’s help, that you’re a lone pony against the world, but you’re not. You’re not alone. You may not consider us as such, but with the time you’ve spent in Ponyville with Twilight, you’ve become one of our friends, and friends like us stick together tighter than molasses on a tin pan in winter. Friends like us are more than willing to offer a helping hoof if y’all just ask for it. I should know. That’s a lesson I had to learn myself.”

She placed a hoof upon his shoulder. “Now I reckon that with us having followed you all the way here and having saved yer hide there, the least you can do is accept the help we’re offering you.”

Xander stared at the ground as he thought for a good minute. “If you insist.”

He took a few steps forward before turning to look back at the others. “Just don’t try to get in my way.”

Xander lead the way as the other ponies followed.

Applejack paced back to walk alongside Twilight and lean toward her ear. “That there Xander can be more stubborn than a mule with his hide stuck in a tar puddle.”

“I wouldn’t hold it against him,” Twilight shook her head. “I was once that stubborn.”

Dash rolled her eyes. “Yeah, but you weren’t quite that rude.”

The nine ponies traveled across the bridge. When they arrived at the end, they stood at the base of the tower and before an archway that appeared to be the entrance. There stood a tall stone slab that appeared to be the door, though how it would open perplexed the ponies.

“Um,” Fluttershy asked, “do you suppose they would let us in if we knocked?”

Rainbow Dash snickered. “Why bother going inside when we can easily fly to the top?”

Upon finishing her sentence, she leapt into the air and flapped her wings, launching herself upward into the air and flying towards the top of the tower.

“I’ll be up there and back down with the amulet in ten seconds—”

Before she could finish, she felt a sudden draft blast against her, preventing her from ascending any further, and causing her to fall backwards to the ground, collapsing facedown.

She stood up from her sudden impact and shook the dust off her.

“What the hay was that?” she cocked her head to gaze up at the tower.

Twilight shielded her eyes as she looked up. “The tower must be protected by enchantment. It’s obviously housing a very important artifact at the top. If any pony dares to take it, they’ll have to start all the way down at the very bottom. That means no flying.”

Applejack took a step forward towards the stone slab and gave a gentle shove. “And how d’ya reckon we get inside? This here door would take at least a dozen Big Macs to force open.”

Twilight pointed at the symbols displayed upon the slab. “Perhaps these provide a clue.”

Engraved in the stone slab were three circles grouped together into a triangle, and within each circle were the figures of a horse. Each one represented a different pony race: unicorn, pegasus, and earth pony. Underneath each figure was a line of text written in the runes of an ancient language, one that seemed familiar to Xander.

“Those lines,” he said. Using his magic, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumbled piece of paper. Opening it revealed the same ancient text he had shown Twilight in the library.

“They’re the lines to the poem.” He pointed to each pony figure and read aloud the text underneath them: “Unicorn magic, Pegasus flight, the sweat from the brow of the earth pony plight.”

“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat,” Pinkie chimed in. “How I wonder where you at?”

“Pinkie!” the others chided her.

“That’s a lovely poem and all, darling,” Rarity said, “but whatever does it mean?”

“It was the poem that showed us the way to get here,” Xander replied. “So perhaps it will show us the way to get inside. But how?”

He held his front hoof to his chin as he pondered. Staring at the ponies around him caused an idea to spark in his head.

“Unicorn magic,” he recited as his horn began to glow.

Using his magic, he plucked a feather from Dash’s wing, forcing her to yelp in pain and glare at him in annoyance.

“Pegasus flight.”

He levitated the feather over to Applejack and brushed her forehead with it, sopping up a few drops of sweat.

“The sweat from the brow of the earth pony’s plight.”

He brought the feather before him, “When all these three come together in unity,” and pressed it against the door.

Upon contact with the glowing, sweaty feather, the slab began to glow with the same color as Xander’s magic, with the three figures glowing the brightest. Upon their illumination, the figures began to circle each other in a loop, causing the sound of creaking to erupt from within, almost as if the tumblers of a lock were being moved. With a loud click, the three figures stopped, and the door vanished in a flash of blue light.

The nine now stood before an open entrance into the tower.

Twilight gazed at Xander in amazement. “How did you figure out—”

“As I said,” Xander cut her off. “The poem led us here, and the poem would lead us inside.”

Pinkie Pie leapt in-between the two and bounced in place several times. “Makes sense to me.”

With that, the ponies entered the tower. As they did so, they were watched from across the bridge and within the shadows, where three pairs of glowing red eyes watched them proceed.

*****

The nine ponies entered a room completely enveloped in darkness. The only other light present, aside from the outside light pouring in through the doorway through which they had entered, was that of the torches lining the wall. These torches had become lit once the ponies entered. As to how these torches could light up on their own, the ponies simply ascribed it to the magic of the tower, the same magic that created the draft which prevented Rainbow Dash from flying to the top.

The torches illuminated a single stone path leading from the entrance to the other side of the room, where stood a dias raised three steps above the floor. Otherwise, the entire room was too dark to see anything else within it. When the ponies looked up, they could barely see the ceiling—in fact, it almost appeared as if there wasn’t a ceiling at all.

When the nine traversed the length of the path and reached the raised platform, they noticed another stone slab embedded into the wall behind it. Upon this slab was engraved another set of three circles. Within each circle was engraved a different symbol: one of a flame, one of a snowflake, and one of a rain drop.

Underneath the stone markings was another line of text written in the same ancient language. However, this text appeared to be much different than the text from before—or at least these seemed to be the case for Xander and Twilight. For everyone else, it appeared to be the same indiscernible gibberish.

When all nine ponies had mounted the platform and approached the slab, Xander translated the ancient text.

“To ascend to the height of the tower’s spire,
Three trials must you pass: ice, water, and fire.
The amulet awaits to be claimed as the prize
Of he who the elements harmonize.”

Upon reading aloud the last word, the engravings within the slab began to glow. A loud thud erupted through the room, emanating from the platform upon which the ponies stood, startling them. The ground underneath their feet then began to reverberate like an earthquake.

The entire platform upon which they stood felt as though it were moving upward like an elevator, and from the looks of their surroundings, it appeared as though this were the case. For the light of the torches appeared as though they were sinking into the floor below, though it seemed more likely that the platform they were on was ascending upward.

As the torches disappeared below them, another line of torches appeared above them and began to descend towards them. When the light of the torches became parallel to the platform, the platform ceased, and another loud thud reverberated throughout the room.

As soon as the ponies could blink, the darkness around them vanished, and in its place appeared boiling lava. From their platform stretched a vast pit of magma, almost as if they were standing within an active volcano, though it appeared more like they were in a cavern.

The sudden change of climate flustered the ponies. The heat caused beads of sweat to form upon their foreheads. They coughed as the volcanic fumes overcame them, and squinted as they peered out across the red molten sea. They could hardly see in front of them, as the air wavered with the rising steam.

To say that the ponies were shocked and confused would have been an understatement.

“What in the hay just happened?” exclaimed Applejack. “What happened to the tower?”

Twilight studied the surroundings. “I think we’re still in it.”

“Then how do you explain all of this here lava?” Applejack replied.

“It must be part of the trials.” Twilight turned to the slab and looked over the three symbols. The topmost one that was currently glowing was the symbol of fire. “The text said that we would have to overcome three trials to ascend the tower.”

Xander gazed over the lava. “And it appears that our first is trial by fire.”

Twilight took a few steps over to where Xander stood. “So what exactly do you think this trial entails?”

Xander pointed across the magma sea. “To get to the other side.”

The ponies once again squinted to peer across their fiery obstacle. Once again they could barely see in front of them, as the air wavered with the rising steam. What they were able to see through the fumes and steam was a platform similar to theirs on the other side of the pit, which now appeared to be the same length as the room they were previously in.

Dash flaunted her wings. “No sweat. Sky Wind and I can fly over there easy, lava or no lava.”

Rarity approached her and cocked an eyebrow. “And how do you suppose the rest of us get over there? Hmm?”

Dash blushed from embarrassment. “Oh, well, I guess I overlooked that detail.”

Twilight then approached. “Xander and I could use our teleportation spells, but that would still leave the rest of you over here.”

“Too bad there isn’t a bridge,” Rarity said.

“Or perhaps a boat,” Xander replied.

The unicorn was staring at the ceiling above where he noticed a large stalactite dangling above the magma before them. The rock formation itself was larger at the bottom than it was at the top.

“Ninja Star,” he asked the ninja pony. “Do you see that large stalactite? I think it can be easily broken. Try throwing one of your kunai knives at it.”

Without replying, Ninja Star seized a kunai from his satchel, and in a single motion, flung it at the stalactite above. Upon striking it, the knife caused the rock to tremble momentarily before splitting from the ceiling and plummeting into the magma sea below.

As the rock plunged into the lava, Xander leapt forward and onto it, and with his horn glowing blue, used his magic to keep it afloat. The other ponies were now able to see that the rock was smooth on top like a tabletop and appeared wide enough to hold all of them.

“This rock should be able to carry us all, and my magic should be able to keep it afloat,” Xander informed the others. “The only thing we need now is something to propel us across, and for that, we may need some—“

“Peg-assistance?” Rainbow Dash cocked an eyebrow. “You got it! Me and Sky Wind here will use our wings to get you all across in ten seconds flat—give or take!”

With that, the two pegasi flew onto the floating rock and turned to face the others.

Pinkie Pie followed suit and bounced gleefully onto it.

“All aboard the lav-a boat!” she chimed in a sing-songy voice. “It promises something for everyone!”

The other ponies were wary to step onto the rock, not only because they feared it would not hold them, but also that it would easily allow them to slip off into the lava; but as they saw Twilight fearlessly step onto it, they eventually received the nerve to follow her lead.

Once everyone was onboard, Rainbow Dash and Sky Wind pushed against the platform to send the rock floating, bobbing away into the magma sea, and beating their wings, created a gust that propelled it even further away.

All nine ponies were soon straddling the rock, making sure to stay far away from the edge, as it sailed across the fiery sea. Their rock wobbled in the waves of lava almost like a regular boat wobbling in the water, except it wasn’t only the motion causing their stomachs to turn sour. The heat was even more intense now that they were floating above the lava, causing them to sweat more profusely and breathe heavily.

“Phew-ee!” Applejack exclaimed, wiping the sweat from her brow. “The heat is causing me to sweat harder than harvest day on the farm. It’s hot enough in here to roast an apple.”

“Or a marshmallow,” Pinkie Pie added.

Sure enough, the pink pony was sitting on the edge of the rock holding a stick with a flaming marshmallow on the end.

Applejack nearly gave a double take. “Pinkie Pie, I swear to Celestia, in a time like this, are you seriously cooking s’mores?”

“Of course not,” Pinkie replied. “I don’t have any graham crackers or chocolate bars.”

Five long minutes the ponies spent journeying across the magma sea. To them, it felt as though they could not survive another five minutes more in the heat, which they were sure would cook them if they continued on for much longer.

Thankfully, with a huge bump, their rock boat reached the other platform across the pit. In a single file they leapt off of the rock. The last one to depart was Xander, who, releasing his magic, sent the rock sinking until it was completely subdued by the magma.

Rarity wiped her brow, disappointed that her sweating had caused her hair to frill up. “Oh, I do declare I will need a perm after this endeavor.

With that, the platform underneath them reverberated once more, and a loud thud rang out from beneath them. Once again, the three symbols on the slab began to glow and revolve around one another.

As this happened, the platform began to rise from out of the lava and ascend upward into total darkness until nothing could be seen but further darkness below. A few seconds passed and another line of torches appeared from above and descended until they were aligned with the platform.

Another loud thud erupted. The platform stopped moving, and the symbols ceased circling one another—this time, with the snowflake symbol on top.

Within a blink of an eye, the nine ponies saw a bridge of ice stretch from their platform across the pit to the platform on the other side. The ice bridge provided a single narrow path, barely wide enough to fit a single pony, and with no guardrails, nothing to prevent them from falling off.

Below the bridge was an abyss of pure darkness, one that appeared to go on forever with no bottom in sight; above it were ice stalactites hanging from a ceiling of ice, which stretched in all directions into the walls of the icy cavern in which the nine now found themselves.

Having previously been sweltering and sweating from the rising heat of magma, the ponies now found themselves shivering from the sudden drop in temperature. The sweat that covered their body now exasperated their imminent hypothermia, causing goose bumps to form more profusely.

“Well, at least we have a bridge this time,” Rarity said. “But now I’m only wishing I had packed my scarf.”

“I don’t think this bridge is going to help us any,” Twilight replied. “It appears far too narrow, and there’s nothing preventing any pony from falling off.”

Ninja Star reached into his satchel once more. “Perhaps I can be of assistance there.”

From his satchel he drew another kunai knife, one with a rope attached to it. He twirled it above his head like Applejack would a lasso, and in a split second, flung it toward the wall behind them. The knife drove deep enough into the wall that, when Ninja Star pulled on the rope, it became taunt.

Ninja Star took hold of the other end of the rope, to which was also attached a kunai. Once more, he twirled the kunai above his head several times before releasing it, causing it to fling across the pit and into the wall on the other side.

The rope stretched from one end of the pit to the next parallel to the ice bridge at shoulder height, providing a makeshift guardrail.

“This rope will allow for something to hold onto and keep your balance,” Ninja Star informed them as he bravely stepped onto the ice bridge while grasping onto the rope. “Even so, be sure to watch your footing and make your way across at a leisurely pace.”

Fluttershy followed behind him. “Oh my, Ninja Star-kun, you are awfully resourceful.”

The other ponies followed one by one in single file onto and across the ice bridge. Even with the rope providing support, they carefully inched their way across, one hoof in front of the other. They dare not move any faster in fear they would slip.

“I do declare,” Applejack commented. “I’d hate to fall off of here. You can’t might well see the bottom, though I’d reckon you’d be falling into that there lava pit.”

“Now that you mention it,” Dash replied. “How has this ice not melted yet if it’s sitting directly above a sea of lava?”

“It’s not,” Twilight replied. “I can’t really explain it, but each of these rooms are their own separate entity. If we were to fall, we wouldn’t be falling into the lava, but Celestia knows what we would be falling into. You could very well end up falling forever. It’s all due to the magic of the tower.”

Another five minutes passed until all of the ponies made it across the ice bridge. Once the last one had leapt onto the platform on the other side, Ninja Star took a violent yank onto the rope, causing the kunai on the other side to dislodge, and allowing him to wrap up the rope and return it to his satchel.

Once again, their platform reverberated and began its ascent once more, causing the ice bridge to disappear into complete darkness beneath them, and causing another line of touches to descend from above toward them.

Once again, the three symbols revolved around one another in a complete circle, stopping once the platform had stopped and the torches became parallel with it. This time, the glowing symbol at the top was that of the rain drop.

In yet another blink of an eye, the darkness subsided to reveal that the ponies were now within a vast vacant chamber. Its floor, walls, and ceiling were covered entirely in stone tiles, and around its perimeter, sticking out of the walls, were stone statues of sea ponies—the pony version of mermaids with the head and torso of a horse and tail of a pony. The sea ponies stood silently against the wall of the room with their eyes shut, almost as if they were sleeping.

Aside from these sea pony statues and the two platforms on either side of the room, there was nothing else within this chamber save for the ponies themselves. There appeared to be no obstacles within. No lava. No ice. Nothing.

Rarity surveyed the room from where she and the others stood. “There doesn’t seem to be anything here.”

She did not have to speak loudly for her voice to echo throughout the chamber, her voice bouncing off the tiled surroundings.

Dash leapt into the air. “Well, then, all the easier for us to cross.”

She was about to dart forward when Twilight, with her magic, grabbed her by the tail. “Dash, wait, there’s still one trial left.”

Having fallen to the ground upon being halted, Dash gazed at Twilight with annoyance shown in her face. “But there’s nothing here. What other trial could there be?”

Twilight held her chin as she focused on the floor in contemplation. “Well, the first trial was by fire, and the second trial was by ice, so that makes this trial—“

“Trial by water,” Xander pointed to the symbols on the wall and how the raindrop symbol was at the top.

His words, though soft spoken, echoed especially loudly throughout the chamber, causing it to reverberate with slight tremors, almost as if an earthquake was starting.

As the words echoed louder and the trembling intensified, the eyes of the sea pony statues began to slowly open, their stone eyelids revealing sapphire eyes glowing with blue light. Once every sea pony’s eyes were wide open, their mouths began to open likewise. And once every sea pony’s mouths were wide open, from out of them poured water at an intense rate, almost like faucets loosened to their highest setting.

The entire room began to fill will water, which, being released at such a high rate, violently tossed and turned with waves almost like a tempest-tossed sea. One wave crashed upon the platform that the ponies were standing on, washing them off and into the drink to be tossed about by the waves.

To say that the nine ponies were panicking would be an understatement at this point. Finding themselves suddenly swept up into the water, swimming in high-rising tides and braving storm-strong waves was too much for them to handle. They soon found themselves flailing about in the water, being carried about by the current like a stick within a stormy sea. They coughed and sputtered as water filled their mouths gasping for breath as they struggled to keep their heads above the water.

So violently were they tossed about within the waves that they were unable to speak to one another, instead being forced to gasp for breath. The only exception was Pinkie Pie, who, unlike the others, was not flailing about in the water, but instead, was floating about within a wooden tub with a makeshift sail while she wore a paper sailor’s hat.

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream,” she sang gleefully to herself until her vessel inevitably capsized, tossing her into the water with the rest of the ponies.

More and more the chamber filled with water, which frightened the ponies even more as they realized they were running out of air. Frantically they flailed within the water, fighting wave and foam to keep their heads above water level. Soon their heads were bobbing against the ceiling as the water reached ceiling height.

Within a few seconds, the entire chamber was filled completely in water, and the nine terrified ponies found themselves completely submerged. They flailed about within the water even greater as what little air that remained in their lungs quickly became depleted, with air bubbles rising from their lips. All hope seemed lost as each pony succumbed to their inevitable fate, their bodies ceasing to flail, and their eyes closing shut. Each found themselves floating limp within the watery depths.

All but one.

Xander, who had fallen limp and lifeless like the rest of his reluctant companions, opened his eyes wide as they and his horn glowed with blue magic. Around him water began to swirl as a whirlpool.

With his last remaining breath, he plunged deep within the depths of the submerged chamber, the water spiraling around him, making his descent akin to a drill penetrating wood. His hoofs soon touched the floor at the bottom, and as soon as all four of his hooves touched, the floor under him began to glow bright blue with a magic circle forming around him, which exploded into a burst of blue light.

When the light faded, it revealed a metal grate which had formed underneath Xander. Quickly the grate began to drain the room of the water, causing it to circle in a giant whirlpool like water circling a drain. The remaining ponies circled about the whirlpool, still as lifeless as they previously were. Faster and faster the water descended as it poured through the metal grate until eventually the last drop of water had been drained.

Xander remained standing in place as the other ponies flailed about the wet floor like fish out of water. They began to cough and sputter the water out of their lungs and rise to their feet, each pony drenched soaking wet.

Pinkie Pie shook herself like a wet dog, revealing her fur to be just as fluffy, and her hair even fluffier than usual.

Applejack patted one ear to shake water out of the other. “Well, it looks like I won’t need to take a bath for a long time, not that I take many to begin with.”

As soon as Twilight shook her mane out of her eyes, her horn began to glow purple and surround each pony with purple magic, causing their fur to dry off.

“Good things Xander here knew alchemy to transmute a drain into the floor, otherwise, we would all be swimming with the fishes,” she said. “And good thing I know a drying spell, otherwise, we would all be sopping wet.”

When the last pony stood to their feet, a light shone down from above and upon one of the platforms. From the platform appeared a spiral staircase that rose from the floor all the way to the ceiling where an opening had formed.

“Looks like we finally have an exit,” Dash said, flying off into the direction of the new staircase, where the other ponies began to walk towards, with each of them ascending it to the top.

*****

When the nine ponies had scaled to the top of the staircase, they reached an opening that lead outside. Passing through, they stepped out onto the tower’s battlement, the very top of the tower, where they found—nothing.

From where they stood, they could see a panoramic view of the mountains and surrounding landscape that stretched out either way towards the horizon, as far as the eye could see. Other than the view, there was nothing else to find other than the stone floor of the battlement and the stone guardrail encircling it.

The ponies stood silent in amazement of the surrounding view, but mostly of the realization that there was nothing else to see.

Rainbow Dash scratched her head. “I don’t get it. Where’s that amulet thing supposed to be? There doesn’t seem to be anything here.”

“Figures,” Xander said. “My father spent most of his life searching for that amulet, and once I’ve found a clue to its location, it appears to be just as missing as it was before.”

Twilight grunted. “I don’t believe this. We climbed all the way up to the top of this tower, and after crossin over boiling lava, narrowly slipping into an icy abyss, and nearly drowning to death, we came all this way only to find nothing?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that we found nothing,” Pinkie interjected, not as glum as her other disappointed companions, “We have this breathtaking view. I bet I can even see my house from here.”

Pinkie dashed forward across the battlement on her way towards the edge. In a single step, she found herself surrounded by a ring of pink light, which caught her by surprise and caused her to stop in wonderment.

“Ooh, pretty!” she said, surveying the pink light she was standing in.

Upon closer inspection, the circle she was standing in contained a glowing set of pink balloons, the same symbol as her cutie mark, and the same symbol as her Element of Laughter.

The other ponies began to notice that there were five other circles surrounding the perimeter and inscribed in the battlement’s floor. Inscribed within each circle was a symbol, symbols which Twilight and the other mares recognized as—

“The Elements of Harmony,” Twilight said, surveying the ancient markings on the battlement floor. “Each of these circles contain an Element of Harmony, and the one Pinkie Pie is standing in right now is the Element of Laughter. That’s why it began to glow when she stood within it.”

Twilight paced toward another circle. “This one contains the Element of Magic, my element. I wonder if it will react to me.”

Upon stepping inside it, the circle and the symbol within it began to glow with a purple light.

“My hypothesis proves accurate,” Twilight exclaimed. “These magic circles react to the element inscribed within them. If each of us stand within it, something is bound to happen.”

The other mares walked over to the circle with their corresponding element: Rarity and her Element of Generosity, Applejack and her Element of Honesty, Rainbow Dash and her Element of Loyalty, and Fluttershy and her Element of Kindness.

When each pony stepped inside their circle, both the circle and the symbol within began to glow with a magic whose color corresponded with the element: white for generosity, orange for honesty, blue for loyalty, and yellow for kindness.

The three stallions stood on the sidelines watching the spectacle play out before them. As the lights intensified with each circle and symbol, the stallions were forced to shield their eyes from the blinding light.


"The amulet awaits to be claimed as the prize," Xander whispered, "of he who the elements harmonize.”


With the last mare to step within their corresponding circle, the magical lights revealed that the six circles were all part of a larger magical circle inscribed upon the battlement floor, with one last circle within its center.

As all the circles and symbols glowed, the circle within the center began to glow with a pillar of pure white light that stretched into the sky above. The intensity of this light blinded the other nine ponies and forced them to cover their eyes.

The blinding white light soon faded, and in its place, rising from the center circle, was a medallion with a metal chain. The medallion rose from the stone floor and floated in midair.

Xander’s eyes widened as he saw this. He approached the medallion and took it within his grasp. He studied it carefully. It was a crystal clear gem that shone with the radiance of a prism, shining fragments of rainbow upon the ground. It was encapsulated within a silver frame and hung by an equally silver chain.

He had only heard about this very object in legends told by his father, as it was the very item his father had been searching for, and the search for which he himself had continued.

Within his hooves he held the Amulet of Purity.

 “My father spent his entire life looking for this, and now, finally, after following in his footsteps, I have it within my own grasp,” he said. “At last have I found the Amulet of Purity.”

“Don’t you mean we?” Pinkie Pie asked.

Xander cocked an eyebrow.

“Pinkie has a point,” Twilight said. “You and your father may have been searching for that, but if it wasn’t for our help, you wouldn’t be holding that right now. You needed the help from us all to scale this tower and overcome the obstacles, and you definitely needed the aid of our elements to uncover that Amulet. You may not want to admit it, but you needed our help all along.”

Xander nodded his head and hummed to himself. “Fair enough. Looks like I did need your help after all. Sorry I tried to run off without you.”

He gazed back at the ponies. “But this Amulet belongs to me."

As Xander was talking and holding the amulet aloft within his hooves, he was slowly approached by Sky Wind. The pegasus felt drawn to the medallion like a moth to a flame. The closer he inched toward it, the more this strange feeling intensified.

As he drew near, Sky Wind began to hear a deafening ringing in his hear, a ringing that caused the inside of his head to simultaneously throb into a headache. This overwhelming pain forced him onto his knees with him holding his head.

Upon closing his eyes, he saw the shadowy figure of a mare glaring at him with red eyes, the same image he had seen when Xander tried to pry into his memories.

“Yessss,” the mare whispered. “We are closer, closer.”

Sky Wind groaned in pain as the ringing within his head increased with his headache.

The others had by this time taken notice and stopped what they were doing.

Rainbow Dash ran up next to him, trying to help him to his feet. “Sky Wind! Are you alright?”

He groaned as he was helped up, but continued to clasp his head in pain. “The amulet—I—I don’t know what it’s doing to me, but it’s causing me to see and hear things.”

Xander pocketed the amulet. Upon doing that, the visions and ringing within Sky Wind’s head ceased, though he still suffered from a splitting headache.

“We’ll take him to the bottom of the tower and see what’s wrong,” Xander explained.

*****

The nine ponies made their way to the bottom of the tower, where they made their way outside and onto the bridge.

As Xander led them, he reached into his coat pocket, and, making sure Sky Wind wasn’t looking, pulled out the Amulet to study it.

Twilight leaned next to him to likewise glance over the amulet. “What type of power do you think it holds?”

Xander shook his head. “Not sure myself, but I’m going to find out.”

“More like we’re going to find out!”

Xander and the others stopped in their tracks as they saw, standing before them, far across the bridge, three purple puffs of smoke. In their place appeared Squish, Swoosh, and Slash.

Swoosh held his hand out before him. “I commend you for braving the trials of the tower. It spared us the trouble of getting the amulet ourselves. Now by all means hand it over, or we will be forced to take it from you.”

Pinkie Pie shoved Xander aside before he could say anything and pointed at the three lackeys. “Oh yeah, you and what army?”

Squish raised his staff aloft, causing the sapphire on the end to glow. Behind him and the other two appeared a dozen puffs of purple smoke that revealed shadow ponies. Several more purple smoke clouds exploded in the air and dissipated to reveal shadow pegasi.

Rainbow Dash glared at Pinkie. “You just had to ask.”

Once more, Squish held out his hand before him as if her were begging. “I won’t ask again: hand over the amulet.”

Xander clasped tightly to the amulet in his hand. “You’ll have to take it from us.”

Squish whipped his staff before him. “So be it.”

The gem on the end once more began to glow, and from it shot a fireball at Xander. Before it could crash into him, Xander disappeared, causing the fireball to crash into the ground where he once stood, with the impact causing the other ponies to leap out of the way and scream.

In a blink of an eye, he appeared behind the legion of shadow ponies. Before they could turn and face him, his horn glowed with blue magic and shot a beam of blue light, striking at least four shadow ponies and forcing them to disappear into purple smoke.

The remaining shadow ponies, along with the three lackeys, turned to face him and charge at him.

Before they could reach him, Xander flung the amulet over their heads and sent it flying across the bridge.

“Twilight, catch!” he yelled.

Hearing her name, Twilight dashed across the bridge with her eyes on the amulet. When it drew near her, she caught it using her magic as it floated in front of her with a purple aura.

She smiled knowing that she caught it, but her expression shifted as she noticed three shadow ponies charging toward her.

Quickly, she released the amulet from her magic and caught it by the chain with her teeth. She aimed her horn at the charging ponies. Her horned glowed purple, and from it shot a purple beam of light, causing the three shadow ponies to fly in three different directions and disappear into purple smoke.

She whipped her head clockwise and sent the amulet flying across the bridge toward her friends.

“Some pony, quick!” she cried.

The pony who caught the amulet was Pinkie Pie, who nearly fell off the bridge doing so.

Having caught the amulet, Pinkie danced a little jig. “Oh yeah! Go Pinkie! Go Pinkie! It’s your birthday! It’s your…”

Unfortunately, while dancing, she accidently flung the amulet off the bridge.

“Oopsy!” was all she could say.

Twilight face palmed and grunted in frustration.

Rainbow Dash leapt from where she stood and dove off the bridge. “Don’t worry, leave it to me.”

She quickly caught up to the amulet as it plunged into the ravine below, and in ten seconds flat, caught it in her hooves.

Quickly diverting her current flight path, Dash soared upward with the amulet in hoof. “Never you fear, your friendly neighborhood Rainbow Dash is…”

Before she could finish, she was blind-sided by Swoosh, who charged right into her and forced her to let go of the amulet.

The amulet spiraled in the air until it fell into Swoosh’s claws. “Ha! That’ll shows yah!”

Just then, he was blind-sided, this time by Sky Wind. The pegasus charged head first into the tengu’s chest, then spun around to roundhouse kick him away. As with Dash, the amulet flew out of his claws and into the air until Sky Wind caught it.

“You back off from Rainbow Dash, you hear?” he said.

Upon looking at the amulet, Sky Wind once again found himself with a pounding headache and a ringing in his ear. Shutting his eyes in pain, he once again saw the image of the mare with the glowing red eyes.

“Yesss,” she whispered. “Take it, my son, take it.”

Sky Wind clasped his forehead in pain and grunted. From his other hoof slipped the amulet. Once it had fallen a great distance away from him, his pain subsided, and he opened to see the amulet falling beneath him.

Fortunately, he was situated over the bridge where Applejack charged toward the falling amulet, catching it in her teeth.

Just as she did, she noticed shadow ponies charging at her from either direction. Without hesitation, she kicked her back legs at the shadow ponies behind her, striking them and making them disappear into purple smoke, and swiveling on her forehooves, spun around to strike the other two charging at her.

“That ain’t how we play down on the farm,” she yelled.

Noticing two more shadow ponies charging at her, she tossed the amulet behind her before kicking the charging shadow ponies with her forehooves. “Fluttershy, your move!”

Fluttershy caught the amulet by the chain with her teeth. She then yelped as she saw four shadow ponies surround her.

“Um, perhaps we could talk things out?” she asked.

The four ponies lunged at her. In a single leap, she drew her kendo stick and swirled around, striking each shadow pony and causing them to disappear into purple smoke clouds.

“I said let’s talk things out!” she yelled.

She then noticed as Slash lunged at her. As he flung his claws down upon her, Fluttershy countered with her kendo stick, but soon found herself thrown upon her flank by the sheer impact.

Slash raised his claws once more and flung them down at Fluttershy, but was stopped by Ninja Star, who countered with his sword.

“Your issue is with me,” he said.

Slash disappeared in a puff of purple smoke, revealing a log in his place.

Ninja Star gasped. “A substitute.”

He soon felt the cold metal of Slash’s claw against his neck, close enough for him to feel his own pulse within his jugular vein.

“The amulet, or your life, ninja pony,” Slash breathed into Ninja Star’s ear.

In a puff of smoke, Ninja Star likewise vanished.

Fluttershy gasped. “Another substitute.”

Slash turned to see Ninja Star flying toward him, and receiving a single kick to the forehead, found himself being thrown at the feet of his comrades.

Slash painfully picked himself up. He and his two companions saw as Ninja Star and the other ponies stood across from them in fighting stances.

“Three is a crowd,” Ninja Star said, sword brandished, “but nine is an army.”

Squish grunted as he rose his staff in the air. “No way we can fight outnumbered. Retreat!”

With that, he and his two fellow Shadow Clan lackeys disappeared into puffs of smoke.

The nine ponies cheered, having vanquished their foes and retained possession of the amulet.

*****

Within the moonlight lit throne room appeared three purple smoke clouds that dissipated to reveal the three defeated lackeys, who cowered before the presence of the Shadow Mare, staring down at them from atop her throne.

“The amulet, I take it you have retrieved it,” she inquired.

The three lackeys gulped as they each took a weary step towards her and knelt.

“Well, you see, your majesty,” Squish said.

“We were unable to gets it for yas,” Swoosh continued.

“And it was all the fault of,” Slash continued.

Each of the three stood to point an accusing finger at one another, “these fools!”

Upon seeing the others pointing at each other, their expressions of fear turned to anger as they each glared at one another.

“What? No. It wasn’t me. It was you!” They all said in unison, each of their faces revealing more anger.

“Enough!” barked the Shadow Mare, forcing the three to jump and shirk back in fright.

The Shadow Mare surveyed each of her three minions cowering and trembling before her.

“It is clear that you failed to obtain the amulet,” she said. “No matter. It may be in other hands now, but it will soon be in our own. We will move forward with our plans, and in doing so, take back what is rightfully ours, including the amulet—and this time, we will retrieve it, will we not?”

The three glanced at one another with sorry, frightened expressions, which they directed back at their mistress, nodding, and replying with “Yes, your majesty.”

“Good,” the Shadow Mare said. “This time, we will succeed, and Equestria will be ours.”

*****

Twilight: Hey, it’s me, Twilight Sparkle. Can you girls believe its been one year since we first  attended the Grand Galloping Gala.

Rainbow Dash: You mean we’re invited again? Are you sure you want to go considering what happened last time?

Fluttershy: Um, Twilight, why does it seem like you have more tickets there?

Twilight: Don’t know. It says here that—gasp—the Gala now requires each guest to bring an escort?!

Dash: What, you mean like a date?

Fluttershy: Oh my! Whomever will we bring?

Twilight: Next Time on My Little Pony: “To The Grand Galloping Gala, Night Of Wonder!”

Dash: Hee, hee, hee! I bet I know who you’re going with, Twi!