Nuggets of Wisdom

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

MLP:FIM: The Dark Stallion - Episode 09


My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic presents

The Dark Stallion

Episode 09: The Gala Crashed! Princesses In Peril!

**********

Last time on My Little Pony:

After retrieving the Amulet of Purity, Twilight and her friends were invited to attend the Grand Galloping Gala. Their Gala experience this year proved to be more pleasurable than their first visit. Rainbow Dash and Sky Wind were able to hang out with her idols, the Wonderbolts, Fluttershy was able to make amends with the royal garden animals along with the help of Ninja Star, and Twilight was able to spend some quality time with her mentor, Princess Celestia, but not without enjoying the Gala with Xander. When he was able to request an audience with the princesses, Xander was informed, much to his dismay, that there was not much to the Amulet. He would have left, but not without Twilight convincing him to stay and to open up to others. Unfortunately, their touching moment was interrupted by the invasion of the Shadow Clan? What sinister motives do they have in store for our heroes?

**********

Dark clouds sizzling with thunder and lightning circled above the palace, concealing the otherwise moon-and-star-lit night sky.

As confused and terrified Gala guests gazed aghast at the sky outside, from within the palace ballroom, guests stood silent and trembling in the presence of the Shadow Mare, who gazed down upon them with her glowing red eyes.

“Citizens of Equestria,” she addressed them, “I have come to inform you that the reign of your two princesses shall soon wane, and in their place, the rightful sovereign shall ascend his throne. Equestria as you know it will come to an end, and with it shall begin the reign of the Dark Stallion.”

As the Shadow Mare disappeared, cackling, other puffs of purple smoke appeared throughout the ballroom, bringing about a legion of shadow ponies. Their appearance provoked panic among the Gala guests, who began screaming and rushing about in an attempt to escape.



**********

Watching through the palace windows, Princess Celestia and Luna could see the dark clouds swirling above the castle and hear screams of terror echo throughout the palace.

Luna turned to her sister. “What do you make of this, sister?”

Celestia could only shake her head as she turned her back away from the window. “I’m not sure myself, but one thing is certain—“

She sprinted forward as she raced toward the door, with Luna in pursuit. “We need to gather the Elements and find Twilight and her friends. Only they can defeat this threat that has befallen us.”

**********

From outside, Twilight Sparkle and Xander could hear the cries and screams of ponies being terrorized by shadow ponies.

“The Shadow Clan,” Xander said through clenched teeth.

“What are they doing here?” Twilight asked.

“We were supposed to be invited,” a voice behind them replied, “but our invitations were lost in the mail.”

The two unicorns turned to see Squish hovering above them with scepter in hand.

“So we decided to crash the party instead.” He raised his staff, whose gem began to glow with blue magic. “I always preferred making a big splash!”

He flung his staff toward the two ponies, shooting a blue magic orb at them.

Xander leapt to the left. Twilight leapt to the right. Both dodged the ball of energy as it crashed into the fountain that was behind them, destroying it into fragments of stone and sprays of water that flew in every direction.

Squish slowly descended to the ground and held out his free hand. “I do believe you two have something we require.”

Xander clenched the amulet within his hoof. “They’re after the amulet.”

He flung it toward Twilight, who caught it with her magic. “Quick, get it to the princesses and make sure they are safe.”

Twilight nodded and swiftly turned to run inside the palace.

Squish raised his staff once more. “Oh, no you don’t!”

Once again his staff’s gem glowed blue with magic, and from it, shot a blue magic orb at Twilight.

The orb was quickly intercepted by Xander, who deflected it with a shield of dark blue magic. His shield sent the orb flying straight back at Squish, who reabsorbed it back into his staff. Twilight managed to escape into the castle as Xander stood his ground and stared down Squish.

**********

From atop the palace battlements, royal guards clashed with shadow ponies. While the guards found themselves outnumbered by the invading shadows three to one, nevertheless, they stood their ground and held their defense.

Being the most elite soldiers in all of Equestria, as one should be in order to defend the lives of the royal monarchs, the guards were able to fell most of the intruders into puffs of purple smoke, and yet, being overwhelmed by their sheer numbers, quickly found themselves growing tired.

The Captain of the Royal Guard himself, Shining Armor, from where he stood atop the battlement, raised his sword on high. “Stand your ground, men! Defend the palace! Keep the enemy at bay!”

Just then, he and the two guards accompanying him felt a presence rush behind them like the wind. Before they could turn and look, the two guards were felled with two invisible slashes, and before Shining Armor himself could be felled with the third strike, he turned upon his heels and countered the attack with his sword.

He found himself bearing his sword against the two claws of the giant mantis, Slash, who gazed at him through slit eyes.

“Fancy the Captain of the Royal Guard to hold his own against a formidable foe such as myself,” the mantis said through a crooked grin.

Shining Armor shoved Slash back, and in one swift movement, plunged his sword into the mantis’ chest.

He grinned at his victory, but his grin turned into a frown as the mantis disappeared into purple smoke with a log taking his place.

Before he could react to how his sword sliced through wood rather than flesh, Shining Armor received a harsh blow to the back of the head. He fell face down unconscious upon the battlement.

Behind him stood Slash, who had struck the royal guard out cold with the back of his claw.

“But I’m afraid I am far more formidable a foe to hold my own against a captain such as yourself,” Slash replied.

He bent down and placed his claw against Shining Armor’s neck, holding it right above the jugular vein. One slash, and Shining Armor would be done for.

“You shall pass having fought honorably for your country,” Slash whispered.

Before he could make the fatal move, Slash noticed something in the corner of his eye.

From where he stood atop the battlement, he gazed toward the ground below and saw as Ninja Star and Fluttershy were cornered by a gang of shadow ponies within the royal gardens.

Slash removed his claw from Shining Armor’s neck and returned to his feet.

“Consider yourself lucky,” he said before leaping away off the wall, leaving behind an unconscious Shining Armor to lie among the felled bodies of his men.

**********

Fluttershy and Ninja Star found themselves cornered by at least five shadow ponies. Ninja Star drew his katana as Fluttershy cowered behind him.

Before any of the shadow ponies could strike, they were attacked by the animals within the garden. The birds flew around their heads and pecked at them, while the smaller animals pounced upon their legs and sank their teeth deep into their flesh.

The shadow ponies struggled furiously to fight off and swat away the offending animals. This caused them to become too distracted to notice Ninja Star rush toward them with his katana raised.

In a single swift movement, he raced along the shadow ponies and struck them with his sword, being careful not to harm the animals, and causing the ponies to disappear into purple smoke.

As Ninja Star vanquished the last shadow pony and seethed his sword, he received cheers of adoration from the animals, with Fluttershy beaming in delight.

Ninja Star soon felt a presence behind him. Turning to see Slash pounce down upon him from above, he drew his sword just in time to counter the attack. The force of Slash’s landing forced him to fall upon his back, but with his hind hooves, he managed to shove off the attacking mantis.

Slash returned to his feet and brandished his claws before him as Ninja Star likewise brandished his katana.

Before either could attack, the animals once more pounced toward the intruder from either direction—however, unlike his shadow pony minions, Slash would not have himself be so easily defeated by mere woodland creatures.

With a single swipe of his metal claws, he whirled around in a complete circle, striking down the approaching birds.

As a mess of feathers fell to the ground, the other animals stopped dead in their tracks, and in terrified shrieks, retreated into the safety of the bushes.

Slash cackled. “Unlike my underlings, I will not be so easily defeated by mere woodland creatures.”

Fluttershy could only gape in silent horror as she saw what used to be birds lying at Slash’s feet. Shock soon turned to disgust, and disgust turned into indignant rage. With her face reddening at the wrongful deaths of the animals, she furrowed her brow and grit her teeth.

“How dare you,” she whispered, before yelling, “HOW DARE YOU!”

From under her dress she whipped out her kendo stick and launched herself toward Slash, who shielded himself from her onslaught with his claws.

“Attacking ponies is one thing,” she yelled. “But I will not stand by while you kill—”

She struck his claws once more with her stick, and subsequently attacked with every other word. “poor—defenseless—animals!”

In a single shriek, she began wailing on Slash, only for him to deflect each and every one of her attacks.

Tiring of the futile barrage by the yellow pegasus, Slash swiped both claws at her, forcing her to fall and summersault back several times before landing on her rump.

By the time Fluttershy shook the dizziness out of her head, she could only watch as Slash leapt toward her with claws raised over his head.

She turned her head away, awaiting his inevitable attack; but before Slash could land upon her, Ninja Star intercepted and deflected the attack.

Both the mantis and ninja pony stood their ground, each with their blade clashed against the other’s.

Fluttershy blushed as she watched Ninja Star standing in front of her to protect her. To her, he almost seemed like a knight—or rather, in his case, a samurai—fighting for her honor

Slash grimaced. “Looks like you managed stop me from taking the life of yet another female companion of yours. Too bad you were not this quick to save the other two mares back in your homeland.”

Ninja Star clenched his teeth in frustration.

“DEMON!” he yelled before raising his sword to strike, only to be parried by Slash.

The two exchanged a series of blows, each countering the other’s attack, until Ninja Star parried Slash’s attack and kicked him away with his hind hooves.

Slash stumbled backwards a few feet, but did not fall. He was about to rush forward when he was stopped by a cry from above him.

He turned his gaze to the sky and saw as Philomena rushed toward him from above. He raised his sword, preparing to deflect the attack, but only watched as the phoenix flew around him in a complete circle.

As she did so, she touched the tip of her fiery wing on the ground, causing fire to spring up as she circled the mantis, encircling him and trapping him within a ring of fire.

Slash could only watch as he stood trapped within the fiery circle. The flames that encircled him soon rushed inward, and in a single burst, engulfed him before being snuffed out in an instant, leaving behind a circle of burned grass and ash with no Slash to be found.

Ninja Star returned his sword to his scabbard. Fluttershy stood to rush by his side. Both of them examined the blackened circle.

“Is he—” Fluttershy asked, only to be interrupted by Ninja Star with a—

“No! He would not be that easily defeated. I feel this is not our last confrontation.”

**********

Within the ballroom, Gala guests scrambled here and there as they were chased and terrorized by the shadow ponies. While a few guests were able to hold their own and fight back, others were left defenseless by the onslaught, forced to either duck underneath tables or find safety in numbers.

One unfortunate stallion with a well-kept blonde mane found himself cowering against a pillar as three shadow ponies cornered him.

He fell to his knees and shielded his face as the three paced toward him. “Get back, you curs! My aunts will have your heads if you touch one hair of my glorious golden mane.”

He buried his head into his lap with both hooves over his head as the three shadow ponies leapt to pounce upon him.

Before any one of them could touch him, they were intercepted by a white and orange blur that promptly kicked them away.

When Prince Blueblood opened his eyes and looked up, he saw that it was Applejack and Rarity that had come to his rescue.

Upon Rarity’s shoulders rode Spike. As the shadow ponies picked themselves up, the baby dragon took a single leap, and with three puffs of breath, launched three fire balls at each pony, enveloping them in flame before they disappeared into purple smoke puffs.

Spike landed upon his feet and struck a pose alongside Apple Jack and Rarity.

“Spike uses fire blast,” he boasted. “It’s super effective.”

The Prince could only remain seated with his mouth hanging agape as he gazed upon his three saviors, one of which being a previous Gala escort that he had snubbed.

Rarity glanced upon him. “What’s the matter, prince? Afraid to get dirty?”

In another part of the ballroom, three other shadow ponies were about to pounce upon another pony. Unfortunately for them, this pony was pink and packing heat—specifically, a cannon. A party cannon!

With her party cannon in hand, Pinkie shot three blasts of confetti at the shadow ponies, causing them to disappear into purple clouds upon impact.

Pinkie Pie blew away the smoke rising from her party cannon. “Party cannon: never leave home without it.”

On the concert stage, Octavia and her bandmates were cowering in the back and shielding themselves with their instruments. Just then, a blue-haired unicorn sporting a hot pair of shades strode on stage. She pushed forward a pair of speakers that she aimed at the crowd.

Pinkie Pie took notice of her and began motioning to everyone in the room. “All right, every pony, take a seat! She’s got this!”

Apple Jack and Rarity could only raise an eyebrow.

“And who and what, pray tell, is that?” Rarity inquired.

“Oh, it’s no pony special,” Pinkie nonchalantly replied. “It’s just Vinyl Scratch and her—BASS CANNON!”

Vinyl Scratch punched a button on her speakers, causing them to open and reveal a larger speaker glowing blue and reverberating with an electronic beat.

As it glowed its brightest, the speaker released a blast of blue light that filled the entire room with a reverberating techno beat, knocking away everything in sight, including the shadow ponies, all whom disappeared into purple smoke clouds.

As the light and music subsided, the ballroom appeared in shambles from the impact. Curtains were rent, tables were overturned, and a large black streak appeared along the floor where the bass cannon was unleashed.

All of the guests had been knocked to the floor with their appeal messed up. This included Rarity, Apple Jack, and Pinkie—whose hair was as frizzled as the day she first gazed upon the Sonic Rainboom that gave her her cutie mark.

“Woot!” she cheered. “DJ Pon-3 to the rescue!”

Vinyl Scratch grinned, raised one lens of her sunglasses to reveal her red eye, and winked.

Rarity and Apple Jack brushed the dust off of their dresses.

“C’mon, ya’ll!” Apple Jack motioned to Rarity and Pinkie. “We have to get to the princesses and get those there Elements of Harmony. It’s the only way we can send those Shadow Clan goons home packing.”

**********

Both Xander and Squish stared each other down for a single minute, each one refusing to budge as one kept their eye close on the other.

It was then that Xander decided to strike. His horn glowed with blue magic as a ball of electricity began to form at its tip.

When the ball grew to the size of a basketball, he released it with his magic and sent it flying toward Squish, who only absorbed the energy into his staff’s gem.

Squish spun around once, and whipping forward his staff, sent a bolt of electricity flying toward Xander.

The unicorn dodged the attack as the bolt struck the ground underneath him and smoldered it black with ash.

As Xander landed on the ground, he was forced to sprint forward as he received a barrage of energy blasts that fired from Squish’s staff rapid fire like a grappling gun.

Xander outraced the attack as it lingered behind him, but it eventually began to catch up. Before he could be struck, he stomped onto the ground, causing a wall of stone to rise up in front of him and deflect the attacks.

Squish continued to fire at the stone wall, chipping away at it with each and every blast, almost like a sculptor chipping away at a block of stone. His onslaught caused the wall to fissure in half and break apart into rubble.

Xander noticed that he was standing only few feet away from one of the water fountains. With his horn glowing once again, he used his magic to lift water right out of the basin, and as it rose from out of the fountain, the water formed as single stream that froze instantaneously, solidifying it into a spear of ice.

Xander flung this spear straight at Squish, forcing him to dodge the attack by falling to the ground below.

Squish landed onto the ground gracefully upon his knees with one hand on the ground and the other resting his staff at his side.

As he stood, he noticed a shadow beginning to form underneath him. He turned to see that he was standing right behind another fountain, from which rose water like a tidal wave ready to crash down upon him.

He escaped the crashing wave with a leap forward, the water barely soaking his feet as it crept up behind him like a rolling tide, with the foam licking his heels.

As he landed, he felt his feet begin to sink into the ground, almost as if he had landed into soft sand, but it soon became apparent that he was sinking quickly as though it were quick sand.

Squish had fallen waist down into the earth before he began to react, but try as he might, he could not pry himself free, but only sunk further to his armits, then to his chin, and finally to the tip of his head. The kappa was buried into the earth below.

Xander stood and grinned at what he considered to be his victory.

As he turned to return to the palace, he felt tremors vibrating underneath his hooves. As the tremors increased, he leapt forward, evading as the earth exploded underneath his feet.

Squish flew out of the ground like a cork from a wine bottle and twirled in the air like a drill head, almost as if he had drilled his way out of the earth.

As gravity took hold of him, Squish flung his staff over his head, preparing to strike as he fell toward Xander.

The colt stomped his fore hooves on the ground, causing a magic circle to glow underneath him. From it arose a pole staff with a pointed edge on one end and a furling ribbon on the other.

Before the kappa wizard could strike him with his staff, the unicorn colt deflected the attack with his own staff.

The two foes stood apart from one another, their weapon of choice clashed against the other. Both pushed against the other with equal weight, until Xander gave a single shove and swung his staff at the kappa.

Both clashed staff against staff in a series of blows, each one deflected by the other. Xander seemed to have the upper hand as he drove Squish backward.

As the two continued to deal blow after blow, Squish found himself backed up against the fountain from which Xander had created the wave, the tiled floor underneath them still wet from the attack.

Xander positioned the staff at his side and drove it forward like a spear. Squish would have been harpooned like a squid had he not cartwheeled away from the attack.

Returning to his feet, the kappa wizard struck his staff against the ground, and with his magic, caused the water soaking it to freeze solid in a single second.

Xander found that his hooves were frozen to the ground. He struggled to move, but failed to release himself from his icy restraints.

Squish leapt into the air and whipped his staff toward the ground, unleashing another lightning bolt attack as he did before.

The electricity surged through the ice and up through Xander like a lightning rod. Xander shrieked from his sudden electrocution, with his frozen hooves preventing him from fleeing.

The electricity had subsided once Squish had landed on the ground, allowing him to remain unharmed. Xander was not so fortunate. He could barely stand, with sparks continuing to flicker along his body.

Xander wheezed painfully as he attempted to breathe. “How—how are you able to counter all of my moves so easily?”

Squish chortled as he approached the stallion. “Well let’s just say that—” In a single puff of purple smoke, he transformed into LaRousse, including his voice. “—I learned them the last time we faced off.”

Xander’s eyes widened. “You? You were LaRousse during our wizard’s duel?”

Squish smirked. “Oh, but that’s not all. While we’re on the subject—” He transformed once more, this time into a dirt brown stallion with a scar across his right eye. “Do you remember me?”

Xander gasped, recognizing the dark figure, the same one who had broken into his home and killed his father before his eyes as a young colt.

“You!” Xander would have pounced upon Squish had his hooves had not been restrained by ice. “You’re the one who killed my father! You’re the reason I’ve been alone all my life!”

Squish snickered, transforming back into his original form and chortling uncontrollably, forcing Xander to grit his teeth.

“Me?” Squish asked, ceasing his laughter. “I’m the one who forced you to be alone? I may have killed your father, but I wasn’t the one who forced you to be alone all your life. You seemed to have done a good enough job of doing that on your own. You’re the one who refused to associate yourself with anyone else—”

Squish transformed one last time, this time, into a form that made Xander’s heart sink even further into his chest: Twilight Sparkle.

“—even when they offered their assistance. Face it, Xander, you remain alone because you choose to be that way, not because I forced you to.”

Xander growled as the ice underneath his feet began to glow red, melting away and setting himself free.

Upon freeing himself, he leapt to pounce upon Squish, who quickly transformed back into his original form, spun out of the way of Xander’s attack, and knocked him down with his staff.

As Xander fell flat on the icy cold ground, Squish walked up to him and grabbed him by the mane, pulling him up to eye level.

“Don’t get mad at me for telling the truth,” Squish told him. “You’ve said it yourself: you don’t need anyone’s help. That’s why you put on this loner persona, isolating yourself from the rest of the world, refusing to accept anyone’s help.”

Squish dropped Xander, causing him to collapse on the ground. Both the fighting and the electricity had drained the colt of his energy, making him unable to move.

The kappa wizard began to walk away. “You insist on helping yourself? By all means, be my guest.”

As the wizard strolled away toward the palace, Xander began to painfully pick himself up. His knees trembled as his legs could barely support his weight, but he managed to stand. He faced the wizard walking away from him, his horn glowing with blue magic.

Xander sent a blue magic beam flying toward the kappa, who disappeared in a puff of purple smoke before the attack could strike him, leaving Xander along to heave with heavy breath.

**********

Circling the palace skies were a swarm of shadow pegasi. The swarm were soon intercepted by an orange and blue blur. The orange blur flew in one direction; the blue blur in another. Each blur intercepted the shadow ponies, targeting them one by one, crashing into them and making them dissipate into purple smoke.

After more than a dozen shadow ponies had fallen, the two blurs united and flew alongside one another. Who else could they be other than Spitfire and Soarin, the two most prominent members of Equestria’s own elite flying team, the Wonderbolts?

As the two flew alongside one another, they were joined by two shadow pegasi flying on either side. The shadow pegasi flew parallel the two Wonderbolts before barrelrolling into them. Before either of the Wonderbolts could be struck, they rose above the attack, and in a quick rush forward, swirled around to roundhouse kick the two shadow pegasi, forcing them to explode into purple smoke and disappear.

The two Wonderbolts hovered in midair to admire their own feat.

“Tempest Twister!” a voice cried out.

Before either of the Wonderbolts could turn around, they were struck by a sudden gust of air that knocked them off their guard and sent them plummeting toward the ground.

Fortunately for them, they were caught by Rainbow Dash and Sky Wind before either could continue their plummet downward to their fate.

Dash held onto Spitfire, and Skywind onto Soarin. The Wonderbolts were not injured, but they were clearly braised by the attack.

“Are you okay?” Dash asked as she held onto Spitfire.

The fiery orange-maned pegasus groaned in response. “Nothing too serious, but that attack left me sore.”

Dash released her idol, allowing her to hover slightly in midair. “You stand back and let us handle the rest.”

The rainbow-maned pegasi glared at the shadow pegasi hovering above the palace skies.

“Y’know, all I wanted to do was spend the evening with my favorite flying team, and these shadow goons had to fly in and ruin everything.”

In a single motion, Dash ripped off her dress and tossed it aside, revealing her natural blue coat. “C’mon, Sky Wind, let’s send these bird brains flying south for the winter.”

Sky Wind set aside Soarin and tossed aside his suit as he rushed to catch up with Dash. “How do you suggest we do that? It’s two of us and—way too many of them? We’re outnumbered!”

Dash grabbed Sky Wind by the hoof, causing him to blush, as they flew along. “Just follow my lead.”

She pulled her male counterpart to the highest altitude they could climb to, barely reaching the black clouds above them. As they dove to make their descent, Dash veered to the left and began circling in that direction.

The two flew around in a complete circle, flying faster and faster until they created their own wind. This wind of theirs gained momentum and formed to create a whirlwind, one whose opening faced downward, creating a vortex that began sucking everything into it like a black hole.

At first, the vortex mostly collected loose debris, but soon, it began to suck in the remaining shadow pegasi. Try as they might, the ponies could not escape the draft of this upside-down tornado, and they found themselves being flung upward into it like dust into a vacuum cleaner.

When the last shadow pegasi had been drawn into the vortex, both Dash and Sky Wind ceased their flight, and did an about face to fly in the opposite direction. As they reached breakneck speeds, their flying caused their tornado to slow down and inevitably dissipate.

Upon seeing that the palace skies had been cleared of all shadow pegasi, Dash gave a cheer.

“Now that’s how you put a tornado to good use!” Dash exclaimed.

Sky Wind chuckled. “I guess it must really SUCK to be them.”

Dash laughed in response. She was so busy laughing that she did not notice a black blur ramming into her.

“Rainbow!” Sky Wind exclaimed.

Dash was driven toward the ground by the black blur, to the point where she gained enough momentum to plummet to the earth on her own.

Crashing into the ground, she bounced one, two, three times before eventually skidding across what appeared to be the palace gardens where Fluttershy and Ninja Star had since vacated.

The black blur had stopped to hover in midair, revealing himself to be Swoosh, who chuckled to himself in amusement.

“This’ll take care of yahs!” He dove to the ground in a twirling motion.

“Twister Drill!” He exclaimed as the air around him began to glow with a purple aura. As he twisted in midair, the purple aura around him likewise twisted as a drill head, one that descended upon an unconscious Rainbow Dash, lying flat like a plank of wood.

Before Swoosh could crash into Rainbow Dash, he was intercepted by a purple blur, and in a single strike, was sent flying in the opposite direction, crashing one, two, three times across the ground before stopping.

As he picked himself up, he saw standing across from him Sky Wind, his teeth clenched, his back arched, and his wings extended as he stood in front of Rainbow Dash guarding her.

“You won’t touch one feather on her body,” the purple pegasus yelled.

The tengu forced himself to stand upright and brushed some dirt from off of his face. “Heh, I sees that youse is as agile as ever. Nice to knows that I trains yahs good, Sky Wind.”

Sky Wind’s expression of anger shifted to that of confusion. “W-what are you talking about?”

Swoosh shrugged his shoulder and cupped his claws upward.

“Don’t tells me yous forgot the same personal flying coach whose trained yah since you was a flightless little foal, Sky Wind,” he said with a chuckle. “That hurts big time, ya know what I’m sayin?”

Sky Wind furrowed his eyebrows in anger once more. “No, I don’t! What the heck are you talking about, and how do you know my name?”

“I’m sure that should have been made apparent to you by now, my son,” said a voice in the distance.

Sky Wind turned to see a tall slender mare entering the garden.

**********

Twilight rushed down the hallway as fast as her hooves could carry her. Before she could continue on, a bright light blinded her and forced her to stop. Upon opening her eyes, she saw Xander standing right before her.

“Twilight, give me the amulet!” he told her. “I’ll take it to Princess Celestia. You get out of here.”

“Xander?” Twilight asked, startled and confused, taking a few steps back. “But how—“

“There’s not enough time!” Xander said, “Give me the amulet!”

“But how did you defeat Squish so quickly?” She asked before raising a skeptical eyebrow. “And why would I give it to you when you’re the one who told me to give it to Celestia in the first place?”

Xander then scrunched his face in frustration, and in a purple puff of smoke, transformed into Squish.

“Well, I guess you can’t fool all the ponies all the time,” he raised his staff towards Twilight, who gasped in horror.

**********

The Shadow Mare stood at the foot of the palace doors and across from Sky Wind within the royal gardens, standing over the body of Rainbow Dash as Swoosh stood opposite of them.

Her figure was mostly shrouded in the shadow looming overhead, but as she stepped forward, what little light there was revealed her figure more clearly.

Her mane flowed behind her like wisps of smoke, its color matching the same purple hue of her body, almost as if she were made of pure shadow. Her tall slender legs were clad with metal arm bands and wrapped in dark bandages all the way to her hind shins. She wore a long pale scarf that wrapped around her chest, up along her neck, and all the way to the bottom of her face, concealing her mouth and revealing only her ears and glowing red eyes.

Sky Wind soon realized that he had seen those same red eyes before. He had seen them staring back at him in his visions whenever he tried to remember his lost memories. They were the same glowing red eyes he had seen staring back at him whenever he looked upon the amulet. And now, these red eyes looked upon him as the mare who owned them slowly approached him from afar.

“You!” he exclaimed. “You’re the mare from my visions. Who are you?”

The mare’s eyes shifted from a glare to a twinkle, revealing that she was grinning underneath her bandana.

“I think the real question you want answered is, who are you, Sky Wind?” The mare continued pacing toward the now frightened pegasus.

“I’m sure by now you’re dying to know about your lost memories, but I’m sure many other questions have been plaguing you. For instance, has it not struck you as odd that the Shadow Clan began attacking Ponyville around the time of your own arrival, the exact same time that you lost your memory?”

Sky Wind shuddered as the mare inched closer and closer to him, but yet he remained steadfast, not wanting to abandon Rainbow Dash.

“I assure you it was no accident, and neither was your amnesia,” The mare told him. “It was all planned out.”

The Shadow Mare now stood looming over Sky Wind, who cowered in her presence, but continued to maintain his valiant demeanor, no matter how much his trembling knees revealed otherwise.

“You were brought here for a purpose, my dear Sky Wind,” the mare told him as her horn began glowing with a red aura. “Would you like me to show what that purpose is?”

Before Sky Wind could answer, the mare had placed her horn upon his forehead. In a single flash, a red searing heat penetrated his skull like a warm knife, causing every fiber within his brain to burn. A sudden surge pulsed from the mare’s horn into his brain, forcing him to recall memories without him actually thinking about them. The last time he had felt such a sensation was when both Twilight and Xander tried to regain his lost memories. He cried out in pain as his eyes glowed in a flash of red light, and all he could see was white.

**********

Within the moonlit throne room, Sky Wind stood opposite the Shadow Mare as she gazed down upon him from atop her dais. Nearby, Squish tended to a bubbling cauldron as Swoosh and Slash surrounded it and peered inside.

The Shadow Mare paced toward her son. “You understand your mission, Sky Wind?”

Sky Wind bowed his head with eyes closed. “Yes, mother. I will go down to Ponyville and befriend the Princess’ protégé and her friends. That way, we can better monitor their activity.”

The Shadow Mare approached him. “Yes, and to ensure that we learn everything about them—”

Her horn began to glow with red magic as she gently placed it upon Sky Wind’s temple. “This surveillance spell will allow us to see and hear everything that you do. Your eyes will be our eyes, and your ears, our ears.”

Once the Shadow Mare lifted her horn from off of his head, Sky Wind lifted his own head and opened his eyes to reveal that they were glowing red.

Over at the cauldron, Swoosh and the other two minions watched the surface of the water as it began to shimmer and glow red, eventually revealing the face of the Shadow Mare as Sky Wind saw it. The cauldron allowed them to see everything through Sky Wind’s eyes and hear everything that he heard, just as the Shadow Mare had said it would.

“One more thing,” the Shadow Mare said, “for your mission to succeed, it is imperative that the others never learn your true identity, and while I can entrust you to remain secret, we must take special precautions.”

Sky Wind frowned. “What do you propose?”

The Shadow Mare’s horn began to glow red once more. “I must place a memory removal spell upon you and wipe your mind clean of all previous memories.”

Sky Wind hesitated. “But then how—”

Before he could say anything else, he was smacked in the head by the Shadow Mare’s horn, the impact of which caused his head to surge with magical energy, and him to cry out in pain.

“The surveillance spell will still allow us to see and hear everything, and Squish and the others will be sure to check on your whereabouts during their own missions to Ponyville,” the Shadow Mare assured him as he continued to writher in pain from the energy surging from her horn. “And as for you, the ponies down in Ponyville are more than willing to aid any other pony in need—”

Within a few seconds, Sky Wind’s eyes burst with a sudden white light, and he fell limp to the floor unconscious.

The Shadow Mare smirked as she gazed down upon her unconscious son. “Especially one suffering from amnesia. You are sure to draw the Princess’ most faithful students and her friends to your aid.”

With that, her horn once again glowed red.

Behind Sky Wind appeared a black portal like a whirlwind. With one flap of her wings, the Shadow Mare sent him flying away into it. The portal then closed with a crash like thunder.

**********

The Shadow Mare pulled back her horn from off Sky Wind’s forehead.

“Do you remember who you are, Sky Wind?” she asked him.

Sky Wind twinged as the pounding within his head subsided. His frown of pain soon turned upward into a devilish grin, as he lifted his head and opened his eyes to gaze at his mother.

“Indeed, I do, mother,” he replied.

He received a hardy smack on the back from Swoosh.

“Goods to has you back, Sky Wind,” the tengu told him, wrapping his arm around his shoulder.

“And good to see that my mission has proven successful,” Sky Wind replied.

“Not quite,” the Shadow Mare said. “There is still much more for us to do before we can usher in your father’s arrival. We must make haste and obtain the final pieces of our plan.”

As the three talked amongst themselves, Rainbow Dash began to rouse from her unconsciousness. She groaned as she painfully lifted her head and opened her eyes. Her vision was extremely blurry, but she could make out Sky Wind’s figure among that of the Shadow Mare and Swoosh.

“S-Sky Wind,” she uttered through breathe that she forced from her lungs, her strength still too weak for her to breathe.

As her vision cleared, she could see as Sky Wind disappeared with the other two into purple smoke. This sudden occurrence forced her to wake to her full senses as shock resonated throughout her entire being. She leapt from off of the ground and stood to her feet.

“Sky Wind!” she exclaimed as she rushed to where the pegasus last stood. From where she stood, she frantically looked in every direction in search for any trace of him, but not a single one she could find.

“Rainbow!” she heard someone call out from behind her.

She turned to discover the voice was that of Apple Jack, who rushed up toward her, along with Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Spike, Fluttershy, and Ninja Star.

“Are you alright?” the cowpony asked her. “You look more beaten up than a hen that barely made it through a fox house.”

“I’m fine, but Sky Wind isn’t,” Rainbow Dash replied. “Those Shadow Goons had taken him.”

**********

Princess Celestia and Luna ran down a long corridor until they reached the vault where the Elements of Harmony were stored. Celestia lit her horn and stuck it into the keyhole until a clicking sound was heard.

Upon removing her horn, the doors opened to reveal the case in which the Elements were kept. The case glowed with an indigo aura as Luna levitated it with her magic, and opened it to reveal the Elements sparkling within.

“Princesses!” yelled a voice from behind them.

The two turned to see Twilight Sparkle coming down the corridor. She was heaving, clearly out of breath, with sweat rolling down her forehead.

“I ran as fast as I could in order to find you,” she said through panting breath. “The palace is under siege. You’re all in great danger.”

“Indeed!” Celestia nodded. “But more so the Elements of Harmony.”

Celestia retrieved the case with her magic and hovered them over to Twilight. “They’re not safe here. You must take them and leave the palace immediately.”

Twilight accepted the case with her magic.

“You might as well hand them over to me,” said another voice from behind her.

Twilight turned to see the Shadow Mare strutting down the corridor with Slash, Swoosh, and Sky Wind by her side.She immediately rushed in between the princesses for safety.

“Shadow Mare,” Celestia said with furrowed brow.

“Celestia! Luna!” replied the Shadow Mare, feigning a happy voice, “It’s been so long, and yet I’m afraid that I’m short on time to catch up with old memories. So if you may, I’ll be taking the Elements of Harmony and that Amulet.”

“The intruders!” yelled a voice from behind her. “We must not let them near the princesses!”

The Shadow Mare turned to see two lines of royal guards charging towards her.

She rolled her eyes and scoffed. “I have no time for this.” She flicked her hooves forward. “Take care of them!”

“Our pleasure!” Slash hissed as he charged toward the first line of guards. Without missing a single beat, he struck down each and every guard that he passed until they had all fallen.

Swoosh leapt forward toward the other line of encroaching guards.

“Tempest Twister!” he yelled, raising his staff in one hand and pointing to the sky with another.

With a mighty flap of his wings, he sent a gust of wind towards the other guards, knocking them over like a line of dominos.

The hallway lay before them littered with the bodies of fallen royal guards, all moaning in pain as they lay injured and wounded.

The Shadow Mare turned her attention back to the two princesses and smirked.

“Twilight!” Celestia exclaimed, standing her ground in a fighting stance. “Take the Elements and flee! You can escape—”

She turned to face Twilight, who stared back at her with an evil grin. Her horn glowed purple, and from it emitted a plume of blue smoke with overtook Celestia and Luna. The two princesses began to choke before falling to the ground unconscious.

Twilight disappeared in a puff of smoke, and in her place was Squish, now holding the case and wearing the amulet.

“Fooled you!” he said.

At that moment, the real Twilight Sparkle, the other five ponies, Spike, Xander, and Ninja Star came galloping down the corridor, only to halt as they saw Slash and Swoosh each carrying one of the princesses over their shoulder.

“Princess Celestia! Luna!” Twilight gasped.

“Gaze upon your beloved rulers,” the Shadow Mare announced. “For this shall be the last time you ever see them again. Very soon, your new sovereign shall be the Black Stallion!”

She began cackling maniacally as she, her three minions, and Sky Wind vanished along with the princesses in a cloud of purple smoke.

Dread filled Twilight and the others as they realized the severity of what had just happened and what was about to occur.

**********

Twilight: Oh no! This is terrible! The princesses have been captured!

Fluttershy: The Amulet and Elements of Harmony, too!

Rainbow Dash: And they have Sky Wind!

Xander: I don’t know. It seemed that Sky Wind was awfully eager to go off with them.

Dash: Hey, what are you trying to say? That Sky Wind is in cahoots with them? He can’t be, he just can’t!

Twilight: That doesn’t matter right now. We need to go and rescue the princesses.

Shadow Mare: Don’t get your hopes up. Your princesses will be no more, and the Dark Stallion will take their place as the rightful ruler of Equestria.

Twilight: Next time on My Little Pony, “The Dark Stallion Returns! Elements of Harmony Unite.” Who is this Dark Stallion anyway?