The Guardian of the Night

The Royal Guard has intensified their training regimen after countless attacks on Canterlot. They’re tougher, better, faster, stronger – and, after months of hard training, they only accept the best of the best. The Night Guard, the elite soldiers trained to protect Princess Luna during the evening, are similar to the Royal Guard, only ten times tougher.
Undeterred by the challenges that await him, Pipsqueak (now a full grown stallion) signs up to join the most elite soldiers in all of Equestria... The Night Guard.
He isn’t doing it for the fame or glory. Pip is motivated by one goal and one goal only: to fulfill a promise he made as a foal. He will become the guardian of the night.
This story is technically a sequel to The Dream Stalker, but it is not necessary to read that story first in order to understand this one.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/201940/the-guardian-of-the-night

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23. Nightmare Fuel

Without waiting for prompt, Thunder Clash sprang forward and collided with Phantom Shade. The bat pony half-laughed and easily threw the pegasus aside, his strength peaking at new heights.

“Stand down, you old fool,” Phantom Shade commanded. “Wasn’t it you who told me certain things can only be dealt with magic?”

Thunder Clash got up, his bandages crimson, and snorted. “Phantom Shade, you manipulative dog…”

Nightmare Moon growled in frustration. “You ingrate. If you turn on me now, you will never see that curse lifted.”

Phantom Shade turned around and glared. “Funny how the forces of darkness always assume ponies want what they have to offer. There is no curse, and you would have delivered me nothing. I said what you wanted to hear… and now I have the power of an alicorn.”

Marble, Specter, Mist and Equinox entered the room, making the space feel smaller than it was. Phantom Shade didn’t wait to explain to them what was happening. He pulled his bow and shot once, accidentally snapping the string with his new strength. The arrow practically teleported across the room in its speed, piercing through the tattered wing of the nightmare creature, barely slowing as it completely exited the other side of the flesh and impacted heavily into the back wall.

“Tsk,” Nightmare Moon spat. “To face me is to face oblivion. I will never forget this insubordination, and you will suffer for it.”

“Oh, we’re doing this now?” Marble suddenly asked, holding Sebastian at the ready. “Because I think we all know what needs to be done.” She swung with her hammer in a wide arch, almost hitting others, but somehow she managed to get it just right. Nightmare Moon, however, easily moved aside and riposted with her horn. Despite her magic being tied up in the illusions, she effortlessly slashed along Marble’s foreleg and knocked her aside.

Mist pulled her bow and tossed it to Phantom Shade, who notched another arrow. Specter shot one of his own, but Nightmare Moon was fast enough to move out of its path. Equinox galloped over to Pip and Thunder Clash. When she neared, Pip realized her left wing was completely shredded, the only part remaining was the bone and muscle of the joints. The flesh wounds on her side looked hastily tended to, but she paid them no mind.

“We should get out of here! We need to tell everypony what's really going on!”

Thunder Clash nodded and Pip agreed.

They went to leave, but Nightmare Moon had other plans. She charged forward as Phantom Shade loosed another arrow. The arrow pierced right through the side of the nightmare’s neck, but that did not derail her path. She impaled Phantom Shade with her horn, right through his gut below the ribcage. In one powerful shake, she slammed him against the fall wall. Nightmare Moon stood up onto her hind legs in order to deliver a finishing blow.

Pip jumped at the monster, cutting her legs with his claws. Specter shot an arrow from behind her and it impacted on her back, half the arrow sinking into her flesh. Thunder Clash swooped in and grabbed Phantom Shade, pushing him to the side in order to protect him.

With a powerful few beats of her wings, Nightmare Moon flooded the room with gale force winds, knocking all ponies down. She laughed as the injuries that had been dealt began to slowly heal. Even the arrow slowly removed itself.

Phantom Shade picked himself up and the magic crackling over his hide began to flare. Although he was gravely injured, he stood his ground and activated the alicorn magic he temporarily had access to. But… he had no horn to hone and focus the energy… The magic flared, uncontrolled, and burst outward, ripping through his coat and body and leaving large open wounds that reminded Pip of a toy that had lost its stitching along the seams.

The magic shattered Phantom Shade’s armor and flooded the room with a dark void of power. It wasn’t some or a part of the total magic he possessed… it was all of it. All the magic at once, suddenly warping everything it touched. Pip watched as Nightmare Moon doubled over in pain from the pulse, but soon his vision went black with pain and confusion…

---

Pip opened his eyes and was met with an odd sight. All was dark. There was no light, just… black. He stood and tried to squint through the void. Nothing. He could see nothing. Was he blind? Was something happening? He tried to focus, to see if this was a dream, but his concentration was broken by an eerie voice.

“Pipsqueak… What are you doing, child? What are you attempting to accomplish?”

The dark and threatening tone gave Pip pause. Where was he? How could he get out of here? Pip galloped forward, limping on his bad leg.

“Fear, doubt, bitterness, hate… They cannot be outrun. Cannot be outfought. When the first rays of the light pierced the darkness, the fear of darkness was born. Before the light, there was nothing to compare… only oblivion. I represent that oblivion. That fear that one day the light will fail.”

These were the voices that whispered to Luna. These were the forces that plagued the lands and brought ponies down to a pit of despair. And… they weren’t lying. Pip knew the whispering was true. He couldn’t outrun the darkness. He stopped and looked around, trying to find the moon, but there was nothing.

“You are weak. Like a single grain of sand on a beach, your life is insignificant. Whatever you hope to accomplish, somepony else has already accomplished it. You want to be a guard? Thousands of others have lived that life, some far better than you can ever hope to rival.”

Pip froze. He knew that too. It was true. There were hundreds of guards. Maybe even thousands. And there would be thousands more. His life… it had been lived by other ponies before him… His mouth felt dry. He wasn’t unique. He really was just… a grain of sand on a beach.

“Luna is powerful and her life epic in scope and circumstance. She doesn’t need you. You are but a footnote in her journal. You can never hope to rise to her level, and you know it. She is literally your better in every way.”

That was true too. He was nothing compared to Luna. She was magical, powerful, long lived… Pip knew he was none of those things, and he never would be.

“What is the point to your life, child? There is none. You live life for somepony else. You base your worth on what you can do for them. You have nothing of your own, and you’ve done that because you know you are insignificant. Your short life will be over and done with in the blink of an eye. And then nopony will care. Nopony will even remember.”

“Luna would remember,” Pip offered in a weak voice. “And… I don’t want to hear anymore. I know what you are. I’ll fight you until my last breath.”

“Will you?” the dark voice said, a hint of mirth in its words. “Then fight me. It is just the two of us in this nothingness. Fight me. Let me taste your mettle.”

Pip looked around. He was surrounded by darkness. He flailed and bucked and attacked but… nothing. There was nothing corporeal to fight. Just… uncertainty. Just weakness. That’s all this darkness was. He felt foolish for even trying.

“Such skill,” the darkness mocked. “But what could a small foal, like yourself, ever really hope to achieve?”

Pip looked down. He was tiny, a foal, just as he had been when he was younger. So small, so pathetic…

“I am eternal. You are not. Rest, child. Leave the fight to those who can handle it. Rest your head and sleep. Close your eyes and accept that you can never be anything more than a dot upon the page of time.”

 

The truth of the conversation rocked Pip. These weren’t false promises or gimmicks. This was… reality. He would never be the best. He was nothing. Everything he hoped to do could be done by somepony else… and better.

Pip sat down. Sleeping would be easy. If he was sleeping, he could be dreaming… and in his dreams there was no judgment or pain or reality… Within in his dreams, he could be the best. But…

The stars didn’t cease to twinkle because they couldn’t be as glorious as the moon, nor were they swallowed up by the darkness of the night… they were there to light up the night and bring guidance to all those who were lost. Nameless, faceless… they stood in the sky and asked for nothing in return. Thousands of them… they weren’t unique on their own, but the role they played for the ponies gazing upon them was. They were everything Pip wished he could be. They had been, and always will be, his guiding light.

“Never,” Pip suddenly said aloud, standing back up. “Never. I will never stop. I may not be able to fight you with my hooves, but I shall never give in.”

“There is no fighting fate, only denying.”

“There may be things I cannot change,” Pip said, rage building within his conviction. “But that doesn’t mean I’m doomed to fail! It doesn’t mean I can’t transcend some parts of life! It doesn’t mean I should stop! You will have to rend the meat from my bones before I quit! Do you hear me!? You’re nothing! You say you’re eternal, but you only exist because of the light!” Pip slammed his hooves down in frustration and suddenly the darkness all around him shattered like he were standing within a fragile snow globe.

The darkness gone, Pip could then see where he was. And it startled him.

He was in a vast nightmare wasteland, standing on the edge of an island in an ocean of blood and bile. The sun in the brick-red sky was shattered open like a broken marble and, from it, came the boiling blood that made up the ocean. The ring of fire from the sun scorched the sky and pulsed like a dying heartbeat.

Pip was speechless. It took him a long moment to take everything in. The island was large, he could not see the end, but somehow he knew it was isolated. The surreal feeling he got from the surroundings told him this was the dreamscape he was used to. Phantom Shade had somehow created this nightmare… it was a patchwork of horrors and fears from all the ponies that had been struck by his burst of magic.

Pip knew Phantom Shade had no control over the magic. This was an accident spawned from the Nightmare Force’s influence.

Laughing from above drew Pip’s attention. He glanced up and saw Nightmare Moon flying over the island before turning up and disappearing into the sky. She had exited the nightmare… Pip took a deep breath. The Nightmare Forces drew power from nightmares. He had just been trapped in one himself, which meant the others were here too.

Nightmare Moon had been wounded by Phantom Shade’s blast… If they didn’t get out of this nightmare soon, she would gather power from their nightmares and recover. If they had any chance of defeating her tonight, they would need to escape, and quickly.

Pip ran forward, determined to find the others. The island was covered with dead trees and scorched earth. The smell in the air was that of cooking meat and the copper of blood. Pip knew the others would face darkness like he did… If they had help, they could escape it sooner.

“Why?”

“I’m sorry,” Thunder Clash responded.

Weaving through the dead and rotting trees, Pip jumped over a small rivulet of blood and bones before reaching a battlefield. The field was littered with pony bodies, their corpses still wearing their Sun Guard armor. Looming over the battlefield was an undead dragon, animated by dark magic. It smashed and wrecked and destroyed everything in its path, including homes and countryside’s… Even in this dreamscape, Pip could feel himself frightened by its visage.

The skull of the creature was exposed, and its vacant eye sockets were like looking at death itself. Thunder Clash was standing in the battlefield, stopped over the soldiers that had fallen there.

“Help us,” the soldier at Thunder Clash’s hooves muttered.

“I’m sorry,” was all Thunder Clash could mutter in response.

The soldiers looked like they had died years ago… their coats sliding off their atrophied muscles, stiff with rigor mortis, and the lower portion of their bodies purple with the pooled blood that had collected there. The only soldier that didn’t look like a rotting corpse was the one in front of Thunder Clash, who was a pretty white pegasus with a silver mane. Thunder Clash couldn’t seem to look away from her, even as the undead dragon raged all around him.

“Stay with me,” the white pegasus muttered. “I’m cold…”

Thunder Clash knelt next to the body and pulled her close.

Pip walked up slowly and saw her eyes were faded and sunken in. She was dead. Was Thunder Clash’s nightmare to relive a terrible memory from his past? To relive the memory shaded in nightmarish horror? Pip knew the real memory couldn’t have been this terrible… it was the work of the Nightmare Forces. They were trying to make everypony give in to despair.  

“Thunder Clash…” Pip spoke, unable to find anything to say that would be adequate.

He didn’t respond. Thunder Clash held the body of the pegasus, even as it continued to waste away in his arms at rapid rates. Soon the body was nothing more than ashes… but still he remained.

The ashes reformed as the white pegasus and she stumbled to the ground in front of him again, repeating the death cycle for Thunder Clash to witness.

“Why?” she asked.

“Thunder Clash,” Pip tried to get his attention.

The drill sergeant continued to ignore him. Pip jumped when somepony touched his shoulder. It was Phantom Shade. The bat pony pulled Pip to the side and shook his head.

“Move on. He’s too stubborn to leave her.”

Pip glanced over his shoulder and stared at Thunder Clash. “His nightmares will give power to Nightmare Moon.”

“One nightmare left will not give much,” Phantom Shade commented. “I will go to find Celestia. I know she is here. You find the others and leave this place. We all must hurry if we are to stop Nightmare Moon.”

“Time passed oddly in the dreamscape,” Pip informed him. “This could only be a few seconds, or it could be hours. We have no way of knowing.”

“Better to error on the side of safety,” he spoke in a dark calm.

Pip stared at him for a moment. “You escaped your own nightmare? Like me?”

“When you know your time is nigh, there isn’t much else that frightens you.”

“Will you… be okay?” Pip realized this dream version of Phantom Shade was bleeding from the puncture wound Nightmare Moon had given him, and his skin and coat were ripped open like a torn doll. His cutie mark was a single gold eye with a slit-pupil. Phantom Shade smiled slightly.

“That doesn’t matter now. What matters is that we stop Nightmare Moon. Do you understand me?”

Pip nodded. “I agree.”

“Find the others,” Phantom Shade commanded.

“Sir, yes sir.”

The bat pony flew off toward the shattered sun, and Pip gave Thunder Clash one last look. Thunder Clash was determined to stay… the look on his face said he would never go as long as the white pegasus was there. Pip sighed, he never wanted to let anypony go, but he knew that if he were to help the others, he would have to hurry.

Running along the nightmare island, Pip spotted a terrible sight in the distance. There was a smashed and ruined home; the walls were crumbled, and there was a desecrated silo in the distance. When he got close, he realized who this nightmare belonged to.

Marble was rocking back and forth in the shattered house, trying desperately to fold a blanket with trembling hooves. Standing by Marble’s side was an older mare, light gray in coat and dark gray in mane, who was scrutinizing every moment of Marble’s folding. On Marble’s other side, was a twisted, nightmarish version of Marble. It had a mangled mane, jagged teeth made jagged from being smashed, and lacerations across all four of its legs.

“So much order… could be made better with destruction,” the twisted version of Marble whispered.

“Marble, you need to fold it again,” the old mare said.

Marble nodded. “Of course. Again. I’ll do it again.”

Pip galloped up to the house, his leg still bothering him. He tried to alter the dream, but just like the nightmares with the sun, he couldn’t. He was thankful, however, that he was no longer a foal.

“Marble!” he called out. “Marble! It’s just a nightmare!” Pip stopped next to her and smiled, but… Marble didn’t seem to see him. She continued to fold the blanket.

“Good ponies make the house clean and proper,” the older mare muttered.

“Yes, mother,” Marble responded.

“You aren’t a good pony,” the nightmare whispered. “Good ponies don’t like destroying things. Good ponies like order. Harmony. They don’t like destruction. Discord.”

Marble wiped the sweat from her brow and continued to fiddle with the blanket. Pip laughed to himself and took a step closer to Marble. “Don’t worry, Marble. You don’t have to do this any longer. It’s just a nightmare. C’mon. We should go.”

She shook her head, finally acknowledging his presence. “Pip. I have things to do. I… I want to be a good pony.”

Marble’s mother was a very prim mare with her hair pulled back in a tight bun. She stood straight and watched with a judgmental stare.

“Marble, it’s just a stupid blanket. Leave it,” he tried to tell her.

“Good ponies do their chores!” she barked.

“Or you could break everything like you know you want to,” the nightmare whispered. “Break it. Destroy it. Free yourself from the constraints of order and do what you want. Your fate has been decided for you… and fate has decided you will be destruction.”

Pip didn’t have time for this. He hadn’t known Marble was so upset by her cutie mark and ability to destroy but…

He took the blanket and ripped it in half. The shock Marble had was more than he had ever seen from her. She jumped up, enraged, and grappled him to the ground. Mercilessly, she slammed her hoof across his face in one powerful punch.

“Break him like you break things,” the nightmare whispered. “You cannot hide your monstrous side!”

Marble raised her hoof to do it again, but she held her stance, conflicted. In that second she frowned. “Pip… The nightmares are right… I’m a monster…”

“You know they’re nightmares?” Pip asked, rubbing at his muzzle. The blow had hurt, but he knew this was all a dream. “If you know… don’t listen to them!”

“But… they’re true, Pip. They’re true. It’s why I had to leave home… Good ponies don’t want to destroy… I can’t give in. I have to have order or else I’ll become a nightmare myself…”

Pip stared up at her. “You know that’s not true, Marble. Everything ends. Destruction has its place… Like these nightmares. They need to be destroyed. Please, Marble. You must know I don’t think you’re a monster.”

“I know,” she said with a long exhale. “I… I sometimes just worry… that I could be consumed by darkness. I thought I knew how to stop it. I would just… keep to myself, and keep everything in order. Like my mother… Sometimes I can’t help but go overboard, in both directions, and that frightens me.”

He smiled as she got off him. The destroyed farm fell into the ocean of blood, breaking the island by crumbling a portion of it. The nightmare visions shattered.

Marble closed her eyes and soon her body in this dreamscape disappeared. She had awoken in the real world. Pip could join her, but he turned to find other ponies still caught within the twisted nightmare.

“Weirdo! Weirdo!”

Pip followed the cruel and mocking voices. Everything in the nightmare world was more sinister than the real world… even the voices of what he knew were foals somehow sounded like death threats.

Much to his shock and surprise, he ran across a group of school children and a foal version of Equinox. The foals around her… they were earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns. Not bat ponies.

“Weirdo! Weirdo!” the kids jeered.

Her fluffy ears were turned down and her lip quavered. The foals began throwing things. Rocks, sticks, leaves. Everything was fair game. Equinox just let them, her eyes downcast. Pip was about to charge out and stop this weird child-like nightmare when another stallion stepped out to help her. A pinto stallion, like Pip. Only this stallion was a unicorn… clad in Crystal Guard armor with a halberd at his back.

The pinto stallion stepped between Equinox and the foals and shooed them away. Pip watched, confused, because he thought this was a nightmare world. The pinto stallion picked up Equinox and tossed her in the air like only a loving parent could. Then, like a shift in the wind, the stallion turned and handed Equinox off to a bat pony mare.

“I can’t keep her. You take her,” the pinto stallion said in a cold tone. “She isn’t welcome back.”

The bat pony took Equinox. Reaching for the stallion as he disappeared, Equinox began to cry. “Come back!” she said. “Don’t leave!”

Pip had seen enough. This was a nightmare. He jumped out and ran over to Equinox and the mare bat pony. He grabbed Equinox away from the other pony and shook his head. “Stay back, nightmare,” he commanded.

Equinox looked up at him and suddenly smiled. “You came back!”

“I…” Pip caught the words in his throat. “Y-yes… Yes. I did. No need to fear.”

The bat pony mare hissed and disappeared. Pip placed Equinox down and she stared at him for a long moment. “You’re not my father,” she said in an accusing tone. “Why did you lie to me?”

The ground beneath Pip began to rumble, and he knew he was running out of time. “Equinox,” he spoke very deliberately. “This is a nightmare. We have to escape. Everypony is depending on us. We’re the only ones who know of the danger.”

“But… But you’re going to make fun of me as well,” she said, her foal-state taking over. “Everypony who knew always did… even though it was so obvious… My cutie mark… my special talent. How can anypony not know?”

Pip shook his head. “You’re lucky, Equinox. You’re the only one I know who can enjoy both the splendor of the day and the mystery of the night. Why would anypony make fun of you for that?”

“My mother made me pretend I had a bat pony father… but he resented me and doted on his real daughter, Mist… and my real father taught me of fighting and honor… but then he had the audacity to send me back to my mother. He said I would happier there… What does he know, Pip? Maybe… Maybe I wanted to be a day-pony, like him… Maybe I wanted to stay… Why wouldn’t he just let me stay with him?”

The ground began shaking again. This nightmare wasteland was intensifying… Was Nightmare Moon doing something to it? Pip knew they didn’t have much time… “Equinox, you gotta pull it together. You’re the sanest, best pony I know. If I can make it through the maze of nightmares, you can too. I need your help, Equinox. I can’t do this all on my own. Please, Equinox. Please believe me.”

Equinox nodded, no longer a foal. She looked very serious and determined as she turned her attention to the blood-red sky. She touched her shredded wing. “Pip. We cannot leave without Mist. You made a promise to Luna… I made a promise to my sister. Help me, and let’s end this together.”

“Definitely,” he said. Pip already suspected where she would be.

Blood made him queasy, but not like Mist… He turned his attention to the vast ocean of bubbling red. Just as he suspected, there was a small rock on which she was trapped. Mist was crying for help, unable to fly. Pip pointed to her and Equinox nodded.

The ground was splitting apart now; hot vapors spraying out and up into the sky. The ground was threatening to open and swallow them all, perhaps even trapping them within this night terror…

Equinox couldn’t fly, so they jumped into the blood ocean and began swimming for their destination. Although the blood boiled around them, Pip couldn’t feel the heat. He pushed forward, trying not to see that the blood was filled with squirming centipedes and worms. Everything about this place was a nightmare inside a nightmare… the corrupted magic giving birth to new fears.

Pip and Equinox made it to the island as the nightmare world split in two, draining the blood into a deeper, darker abyss; a chasm. The rushing blood was pulling everything and anything toward the crack. Equinox was caught in the undertow, being pulled into the vast hole. She tried to swim, but she wasn’t used to her broken wing, and her swimming was now chaotic. Equinox splashed and began falling toward the abyss. Instead of becoming trapped, she disappeared, waking from the nightmare and leaving it all behind.

“Mist!” Pip called out, barely hanging onto the ledge of the rock. “Mist- arg!” The blood was washing over him and attempting to pull him down. He was covered in the sticky life fluid, barely able to see as his head was constantly pulled beneath the surface.

“Mist! It’s a- arg…. It’s a nightmare!”

She stared at him in petrified terror. She shook her head, backing away, her legs trembling and her eyes glazed over with tears. “P-Pipsqueak… I-I can’t…”

“Please!” Pip held up his hoof, hoping she would take it. “It’s a nightmare- erg…” He spit a mouthful of blood out, nearly gagging from the writhing of the insects intermingled with it. “Please! We need to go!” If she didn’t take his hoof and realize this wasn’t real… He would have to leave her, just like he was going to have to leave Thunder Clash and Specter…

She cringed away. “Pipsqueak… I’m afraid… I’m afraid of dying… I’m afraid of losing myself…The blood… it brings back to many terrible memories…”

“It can’t hurt you…” Pip said between gasps. The gaping chasm that was pulling everything in was widening. Soon the rock Mist was on would be tumbling in. In one last ditch effort, Pip decided to try something else. “M-Mist! I need your help, Mist! I’m going to fall unless you take my hoof!”

“I can’t!”

“I’m going to fall! Please help me!”

“The blood!”

“Just this one time, Mist! It’s all I ask! I’m begging you!”

Pip’s hold the rock failed him. He slipped and began to fall, but Mist lunged forward, just in time. She wrapped her forelegs around him and held him close, despite the blood. Her eyes were pressed tightly shut, and she hugged him. “It’s just a nightmare!” she proclaimed in sudden realization. “We have to escape!”

Pip felt his consciousness exiting the nightmare…

---

He awoke on the floor of the tower. Slowly he opened his eyes, realizing then that anypony that escaped was just waking at the same time as well. His gut told him barely any time had passed… mere minutes, at the most…

Nightmare Moon was laughing, content in her victory. Pip gazed around the room, trying not to draw attention to himself. Specter and Thunder Clash weren’t moving.  Phantom Shade wasn’t awake and he was currently bleeding out, soaking in his own blood… Was he still in the nightmare? Did he become trapped? Had he found Celestia?

Marble and Mist both got up and Nightmare Moon lifted an eyebrow in surprise. “Oh? Two tough little fillies going to keep up the good fight?” Marble and Mist took up combat stances, but they were drained and weak from the dark magic of the nightmare. Fortunately, Nightmare Moon looked equally as drained and wounded. Phantom Shade’s magic had done a number on her…

Pip glanced to Equinox, who was right by his side. She stared at him with her gold eyes, the two of them having a silent moment, taking in the same facts. Two earth ponies, two bat ponies. All weak. All drained. They had no magic, no alicorn on their side… But Pip had a plan. And he suspected Equinox knew that plan as well.

“Equinox… You’re the only one,” Pip breathed to her under his breath. His one good ear heard the smash of a war hammer and the sound of battle. Mist and Marble were giving it their all, risking everything. “Do you understand what I mean?” Pip asked Equinox as he slowly picked himself up.

She nodded. “Are you sure you want me to do that?”

“Very sure,” he said with a forced smile.

When Pip turned his attention to the fighting, he saw Marble being thrown into the stone wall, cracking it with her impact. Mist had grabbed Specter’s bow and was firing it, but Nightmare Moon was now laughing in triumph.

Equinox would need a distraction. Pip didn’t mind doing that. It was the least he could do. Mist fired another arrow and Pip took up an offensive stance. Equinox remained on the floor, feigning her entrapment within the nightmare world.

Nightmare Moon turned her attention to Pip and gave a cruel smile. “You have no Elements of Harmony, no magic… What do you plan to do, child?”

Pip had no answer. He wasn’t really good with words anyway.

He galloped toward Nightmare Moon. Mist shot an arrow to try and distract the nightmare, but the nightmare instead took the hit of the arrow to the leg in order to better deal with Pip. When Pip got close, Nightmare Moon smashed him across the face with her hoof guards, breaking his muzzle and agitating his already ringing ear.

Pip fought through the pain and cut at her with his claws. Nightmare Moon bucked him away, sending him crashing to the floor. Pip angled himself so that he was on the opposite end of the room from Celestia. He faced Nightmare Moon with a glare.

“I would hate to have to kill you,” Nightmare Moon earnestly said. “It will upset Luna.”

With a deep breath, Pip rushed forward again. Mist let another arrow fly, hitting Nightmare Moon in the body just below her wing. Pip jumped up and cut at her wings. The dark alicorn threw him to the ground again, this time with a sickening crack. Dazed, momentarily blind, and sick to his stomach, Pip got up again.

Half-galloping, half-limping, Pip didn’t stop. Nightmare Moon was no longer amused. She lowered her head in a threatening manner. When he got close, Pip tried to attack, but she was much too fast. She impaled her horn through his shoulder and slammed him back to the ground, right on his injured ear, shattering its ability to hear anything, even the ringing.

Nightmare Moon shook him off and he crumpled to the floor. It had been a pathetic fight at best, but in his blurred vision, he knew Equinox had managed to do what she needed to.

“Mist, close your eyes!” Equinox shouted, standing over the body of Celestia. Powerful magic crackled over Equinox’s coat. On her flank was her cutie mark… and a cutie mark of the sun.

 
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