[Rainbow Dash has set out for Canterlot, having learned that Darkness is making some kind of commotion there. She continues to feel ill and sore, paying this sensation little heed. She flies on, tailwind strong.]

(Vesse: You are such a loyal creature... Yet your desire to do good for your friends has already harmed you. Soon, you may understand the issues Cruce faces.)

Rainbow Dash: [High in the air, she attempts to ignore Vesse. Her words sting, as do needles of her impending corruption.] (I'm not giving up. I don't care what happens to me. As long as I can see them again at the end of all of this...) [Her wings have been distorted in shape and color. They are thinner and sharper, larger and appearing more insect-like. Small protrusion have occurred at the base of her mutating wings. Her body color has darkened a tad as well, save her rainbow features: cutie mark, mane, and tail.]

“Because, little pony, if you don't swear your loyalty to us...”

“I will personally enslave all of Equestria, starting with these 'Princesses'. As you see, I have already taken your two friends to my side.”

“So. I suggest you get your little flanks to that crummy city on the hill, and ask 'em all nicely to scram. If you can't do that, well, we'll just have to make it painful.”


[In the distance, an enormous tower can be witnessed piercing the skies of Equestria. It braises the clouds, standing beside the cliff side of the broken Canterlot.]

Rainbow Dash: [Perches atop one of the support beams of a building partially crumbled into stone and wood. Immediately, she notices a grueling scene unfolding below, involving Princess Celestia and her friends.]

Princess Celestia: [Stands ahead of her many guards, having informed them to stand down. She appears displeased.] Twilight Sparkle, what is the meaning of this?

Twilight Sparkle: [Wit h her head low and eyes shut tightly, she winces at her mentor's words, dreading something deep.] I'm sorry, Princess... w-we have to... abandon hope.

Princess Celestia: ...Twilight... how could you say such a thing? What has gotten into you?

Applejack: I-I'm afraid it ain't just her. Each of us think it's best to just put all our efforts to rest now.

Pinkie Pie: There's just nothing we can do...!

Fluttershy: [She shakes her head, sniffling.]

Princess Celestia: [She pauses, looking each of them over.] No, I will not believe what I hear. What is the matter? You can tell me anything, you know?

Twilight Sparkle: ...You won't like what you're about to hear. [Lifts her head.] You need to flee Equestria.

Princess Celestia: [Blinks, raising her head back.] E-excuse me? Twilight...?

Twilight Sparkle: Please, Princess. You're running out of time. If you don't get out of here soon, they'll...

Royal Guard: They'll what? C'mon, out with it already!

Princess Celestia: [Quickly turns her head to the side, giving the guard who spoke a glare. He sinks away, remaining silent. She turns back to Twilight.] What could be troubling you so? And what could possibly be worth leaving our home for?

Twilight Sparkle: Darkness...

Princess Celestia: Darkness?

Twilight Sparkle: There's a portal to a safer world in the Everfree Forest. I'm begging you, go there, and... we may still have a chance.

Princess Celestia: ...[She looks to the threatening skies for a moment, before softly closing her eyes.] ...No.

[Looks of increased dread fill the four ponies' expressions.]

Princess Celestia: We have to stand strong against anything, even if it should come down to the bare bones. We've been through so much together, that to back down now would be giving up everything for an enemy we simply do not know. Twilight... We have what it takes to get through this. Believe in yourselves. There is no greater magic. We will see the shining sun again; the light at the end of this terribly dark tunnel. Trust me. Trust yourselves...

Twilight Sparkle: [She takes a deep breath.] I do trust myself and my friends. I trust you too, and I always will. And that's why I have to save you! [Taking a step forth, her horn glistens.] I'll get you all out of here even if I have to do it by force! [To everyone's, including herself, surprise, she releases a magical bolt from her horn, directed at Celestia.]

Royal Guard: [The very same antsy guard who spoke out leaps in front of Celestia as he notices Twilight conjure this magic, taking the bolt to the side, his motion semi-disturbed, as he hits the ground with a scorching mark at his side. He hollers out, as other guards quickly rush to his aid.]

Princess Celestia: [Gasps, eyes unmoving from Twilight's.]

Twilight Sparkle: [She trembles, shedding a single tear as she readies another blast, the other three ponies moving up to assist her if need be.]

Princess Celestia: [She is silent, taken aback, watching the four ponies stand ready to defend Twilight's actions. Her guards tell her to get back, some of them rushing to the front to shield her.]

???: NO! [A streak of rainbow light beams down from above, crashing into the tight space between the two sides. Dust from the dilapidated environment is kicked up, showing two bright magenta spheres: Rainbow Dash, as she is revealed in her fullest by the settling of the dust. She stands with a heavy limp, her corruption spreading quickly now, as a second pair of insect wings has begun taking shape on her back. Her nose appears to be sharpening as well, taking the shape of a reptilian snout.]

Twilight Sparkle: [Steps back.] Rainbow Dash! I-is that you?!

Pinkie Pie: What happened to you?!

Rainbow Dash: [Seems she can barely keep herself up. As she speaks, she reveals fangs.] Never... mind that. What's the matter with you, Twilight?! Are you mad or something?! Don't you know what you're doing?

Twilight Sparkle: We're doing this for the sake of our home... If we don't, Equestria will be destroyed! Please, just trust me, Rainbow! We need your help!

Rainbow Dash: [Questioning her loyalty, she struggles to answer.] ...F-Forget that! If saving Equestria involves hurting innocent people, then count me out! There's a better way, and I'll be flying by Celestia's side the entire time!

Twilight Sparkle: You don't understand! [Furious, her horn shimmers again.] Fine! You'll just have to experience Darkness to get the big picture! Our whole world's about to be crushed, and you just don't even see it!

Rainbow Dash: [Raises her voice over Twilight's.] YOU THINK I HAVEN'T EXPERIENCED DARKNESS?!? Why do you think I LOOK LIKE THIS?! I... AM... Darkness! And I'm still defending Equestria with everything I've got!

Twilight Sparkle: [She cancels the magical energy in her horn, the spark whimpering away.] Forget it... I don't want to fight any of you. I-I just don't... But I have to. I have to save this world... and this is the only way. [She takes a few steps back, creating distance between the two. A small,dark whirlwind picks up around her horn. The whirlwind surrounds she and her friends, morphing into a large dark corridor. The corridor takes three of them away, while one leaps from the crowd in a flurry of woe.]

Pinkie Pie: Noooo!! [Crying, she lunges for Rainbow Dash, hugging her as tightly as possible.] I don't WANNA go to the dark side! I don't want you to hate me! I wanna be good! Even if you're scary looking! Waaaah!!

Rainbow Dash: [Falls back, legs already weak under the pressure of corruption.] Pinkie!

Pinkie Pie: You don't hate me, right? [She gives Rainbow an incredibly large frown, eyes big.]

Rainbow Dash: I don't hate you! I don't hate anyone! I just need to know what's going on, and why Twilight did that.

Pinkie Pie: [Teary, she lets go of Rainbow Dash, stepping back.]

Rainbow Dash: [She stands, looking back to Celestia and her guards.] Celestia, is everyone here okay? You're not hurt?

Princess Celestia: [Eyes closed, she shakes her head before turning to the guard who took the shot for her.] …

Injured Guard: I'll be fine... [The scar at his side appears to darken and sizzle.] Ggh!

Assisting Royal Guard: Don't strain yourself! Here, help me take him to safety. [With the support of another guard, the injured victim is lifted, carried off on the backs of two stallions.]

Princess Celestia: What have I just witnessed? [Watches as the guard is taken away.]

Rainbow Dash: Oh, come on, Princess! You and I both know Twilight, and she wouldn't do something like that out of nowhere! Pinkie, what happened at Ponyville?

Pinkie Pie: Those thieves are back! They're working with Darkness, and they forced us to do terrible things or else Equestria would explode!

Rainbow Dash: What? Explode?

Pinkie Pie: Something like that, or SOMETHING EVEN WORSE! If we don't make everyone leave this place somehow, Darkness will swallow everything like some kind of really big pony-filled pill! And they'll make all of us into Nightmares!

Rainbow Dash: [Gives a single blink, before returning her attention to Celestia.] Okay, don't you worry. I know who's responsible for this! It has to be Danielle.

Pinkie Pie: [Gulp.] You know Danielle?

Rainbow Dash: I met her when I was on Safa, and I've seen her here. [Looks off at the Tower in the distance.] That tower way over there belongs to her. She can bring it wherever she goes, and use it as some kind of fortress. We have to go through it in order to get to her! Then we can stop the witch and bring everyone back to reason.

Pinkie Pie: But what about the Star Ponies?!

Rainbow Dash: Ugh, forget the Star Ponies, they're not as big a problem as Darkness is anymore!

Pinkie Pie: Buh-buh-but, Rainbow, those three thieves are Star Ponies...

Princess Celestia: ...The very same thieves who drove you six apart...? This resulted in the confiscation of the Elements of Harmony. I never would have suspected them to be Star Ponies... I never would have suspected any of this. [With her head low, she gives a faithless sigh.]

Rainbow Dash: I promise, I'll stop them before they can do any more damage! I'm going to the Tower. Pinkie, get 'em somewhere safe. We've all suffered enough today! [She crouches low before bursting into the air, heading for Danielle's Tower of ice.]

“Slianna! Rilia! Stay here and make sure things don't go crazy! Rush and I will head to the Tower!”

“Impulse, what are you doing?”

“I'm going with the two of them. If Darkness is here, then the Princesses are in danger, and I gotta be there for 'em!”

“Okay! Spike and Shining might be held captive up there. No clue what the baddies are planning this time...”

“Never did have a clue myself.”

[Rainbow Dash lands within the large audience chamber of the royal palace; the site of the battle between Reigh and the Princesses. The Tower appears to have risen beside the palace, using one of its balconies as an entryway.]

Rainbow Dash: [Upon landing, she shows signs of impending collapse. She struggles to stay standing, her entire body shaking with a sick exhaustion. The corruption has spread since her flight from Celestia, two sets of sharp verminous wings extending much further. Her tail has lost its color, appearing on even level with her back.] (V...Vesse... why is this... happening to me?)

(Vesse: Rainbow... You have pushed yourself too hard after I healed your wing. Your body has recognized my power, and it urges to feed. It's doing everything that it can to do just that. Feed. I cannot stop this now.)

Rainbow Dash: (What's going to happen...? I'll make it, won't I?)

(Vesse: You will. Despite the contortion of your being, you will still be Rainbow Dash. So long as you are a part of the Spirit Cross, I cannot completely usurp your spirit. Only your body will truly suffer.

Rainbow Dash: Drat... [She lifts her head, looking ahead, the Tower showing clearly through the warped ruin of the palace walls.] Mmgh, well I don't care about my body.

Fornax: [He replies as soon as his fiery portal manifests, a small, raging pillar bursting from the floor for a moment, this molten star pony straying from it.] That's a bold thing to say. You don't care about that, and you'll end up getting hurt. Or worse.

Neutrino: [As a bolt from the sky, he shoots down, the chamber flashing brightly from his appearance.] Lucky for us!

Nebula: [Her many particles of radiant dust gather together, forming her floating physique.] Bodies are overrated anyway, I must say.

Rainbow Dash: [She growls deeply, haunches high, ready to fight.] You three... are just the worst thing that's happened to Equestria.

Nebula: Ouch, how harsh~. You should watch your tone around Star Ponies, dear Dash.

Neutrino: And, really, what is UP with you!? Danielle didn't even mention anything about your costume change! Blekgh, you're like a bug...asus!

Rainbow Dash: [Careless to respond to the criminals, she conjures the uncorrupted Crossblade, bright and colorful, unlike her shifting body.]

Neutrino: There it is: The Crossblade, everypony!

Fornax: So she was right about that. You did get some new swagger. Show us what you've got. We could use someone like you. Your friends were easy enough, so don't disappoint us.

Rainbow Dash: [Furious, she charges ahead, the three Star Ponies ready to combat her empowered rage.]

-Aphotic Tower-

[Rush and Safiri have teamed up for this climb. They are seeking out the main forces of Darkness, as well as doing their best to rescue teammates held hostage. As a familiar duo, they have ascended quite a ways.]

Safiri: [Crossblade in her mouth, she slices through a single imp, a dark mist splashing behind her.]

Rush: [He does the same, fending off a small horde of the creatures, blade of red plasma cutting clean through them.] The Tower's not offering as much of a puzzle as Lavender told us it would! [A quick lunge eliminates one of the threats before him. He turns around, facing Safiri, still not quite used to her new appearance; that which Nebula cursed her with.]

[The allies close the space between each other, searching the empty, icy hall for any further foes. A humming noise, as if something was shutting down, is heard. The path is clear.]

Rush: Is that force field down? [Turns to face the doorway to the stairwell.]

Safiri: [Her Crossblade is gone.] Yep. How much further do you think we have?

Rush: Probably a ways to go, but it's already been battle after battle, and from what I heard the other Phaze Guardians and Shades talk about, these Towers are designed to test more than just combat. But it does depend on who enters the Tower in the first place.

Safiri: I'm okay with fighting Nightmares! It's fun, but it's getting cold...

Rush: You're a ghost thing, how do you feel cold?

Safiri: [She responds with a whine.] I still feel lots of stuff!

Rush: [Grins.] We'll fix you. Let's go, Saf.

[The pair continues ahead, preparing themselves for another small swarm of Nightmares in the next room...]


[Roofed and safe within the lodge for the time being, Pinkie explains to a small audience what had taken place outside between her friends.]

Cadance: Twilight did what?!

Princess Luna: This is far more pressing than I imagined. Sister, how do you fare?

Princess Celestia: [She stands by one of the windows in the lodge's main lobby.] Mmm... I've taught her so many things, and this is what it comes down to...

Canterlot Resident: [He whispers to the unicorn beside him.] I don't think I've ever seen Celestia like this...

Canterlot Resident: [She whispers back.] I agree, me neither.

Cadance: That can't be right... That's not the Twilight Sparkle I know.

Pinkie Pie: Me neither! It's why I think Darkness did something to her when we didn't see.

Princess Celestia: This is my fault. I should have believed her when she told me that those three thieves were too much to handle. I would have found out that they were Star Ponies. I could have banished them for their horrible crimes. The Elements would be safe. None of this would have come to pass...

Princess Luna: Sister... do not say such things. The two of us know how cunning the Star Ponies are.

Princess Celestia: And we should have expected that they would take advantage of Twilight, Pinkie, and their friends eventually.

Princess Luna: Many things are uncertain about them. As such, we could not have been certain ourselves.

Cadance: To think that the Star Ponies are upon us at all is such a frightening thought, but none more so than what's become of Twilight...

Princess Celestia: Perhaps Darkness is just too powerful for our world.

[The crowd responds with gasps, high and low, quiet and loud.]

Princes Luna: [Appalled at the thought of hopelessness.] S-...Sister...

Princess Celestia: If this evil can force my beloved, most trustworthy pupil to turn on her teacher, it is an evil greater than anypony here has ever seen. I wonder: is this the Storm...? Is Darkness the spawn of the Strayer Void that Cruce and Reigh have brought to Equestria?

“If it is...”

“We will find a way to prevent this from ever happening. To do that, we need our secret weapon back.”

“We need Impulse.”

[Rainbow Dash is thrown to the ground, the Crossblade leaving her mouth. She finds herself incapable of rising to face the three once again. She lays with one cheek pressed against the crumbling floor, eyes on her Blade.]

Neutrino: [He stands, pushing himself from the wrecked wall, although has difficulty doing so.] You're... gh... you're finished...

Nebula: [Unscathed, she looks to Neutrino.] She would have bested you, Neutrino, were it not for us. [Facing Rainbow Dash, she chuckles.] But, this is over now.

Fornax: [Out of breath, he kicks Rainbow's Blade away from her, keeping it from her range.] You pack some kind of crazy punch. You would make a proper Star Pony. Too bad you gotta be born into that sort of thing. Either way, you're coming with us, so you can stop being difficult now.

Rainbow Dash: [Her corruption has accelerated with the use of her Crossblade. Her ears are longer, pointed back, and sharp. Her color is fading fast, mane having converted to the color of her darkening, purple body. Her tail appears more like a dragon's; long and serrated. A third pair of wings has formed at her back. Her tongue, although unseen, forks, much like a snake's. Her eyes are her physical identity, bright and unchanged.] I'm not gonna give up...

Fornax: ...Why? You're broken in every way.

Rainbow Dash: I can't... give up...

Fornax: Look, kid. You're digging yourself a shallow grave. I personally don't want to mess you up anymore than I have to, 'cause you're a lot more powerful than your friends. Rarity and Spitfire are nothing but mindless drones now, and Twilight and her chums are stuck with us. They couldn't even touch us, or Darkness, but you. You're different. You're not weak.

(Vesse: Rainbow, you must prevail. Do everything you can to survive.)

Rainbow Dash: ...[She budges, finding the power within herself to stand, as she uses the magic of the Spirit Cross to warp to her weapon, holding it between two hoofs as her wings keep her upright. The Crossblade glistens, a red radiance growing brighter at the tip of the rainbow-colored blade.]

Neutrino: What—how did she...?

Nebula: What is she doing?

Fornax: Kid, stop! What are you doing?!

Rainbow Dash: The last thing... I should be doing...! [A beacon fires into the sky, tearing through the fabric of this reality, warping the cosmic structure of the universe. A maelstrom of lights surfs the clouds, consuming the palace of Canterlot in its wake...]

-Aphotic Pinnacle-

[Safiri and Rush climb the spiral slope outside the Tower, coming close to the sanctum at its peak... As they reach the top of the slope, they notice that the doors leading into the sanctum have been left wide open. Rush recognizes this room, as he was imprisoned here previously. However, instead of finding Spike and Shining Armor in the small holding cells at the back of the room, they are simply laying unconscious in the middle of the spacious, empty room.]

Rush: ...[His eyes scan the room, having already taken note of the two he came to rescue.] ...Saf...

Safiri: [She is doing the same, slowly approaching the center.] Mmhmmm?

Rush: [Walking with her, turning around occasionally...] This's not what I uh...

Safiri: Mmmmmhmmmmm...?

Rush: [Placing a hand on Spike's side, he checks to make sure that both are unharmed.] Hm... these guys are okay. Nothing strange about them.

Safiri: No, but I don't like this at all.

Danielle: You shouldn't. [A dark corridor at the entryway of her sanctum gives form to this voice. Danielle steps forth, icy claws clicking softly against the frozen ground.]

[Rush and Safiri spin around, Blades ready once more.]

Danielle: Precious naivety... Mmhmhmm~.

Rush: You're not supposed to be... why are you here?

Danielle: A new world to spread the frostbite across is a beautiful opportunity for Darkness. A Phaze Guardian should know. But yes, the Darkness you do know is pitiful.

Rush: There's nothing even for you guys here! No Eclipse, to start.

Danielle: Mmm, what does a new land really need to have a gorgeous allure~? Not an Eclipse. That, my dear Guardian, is a prized feature of our universe. We, as Darkness, are open to any world.

Rush: Open to any world? Really?

Danielle: Enough badinage. When you two are ready to rescue those distractions, do so, then do leave my presence, if you would be so kind.

Rush: Distractions...?

[At this moment, the beacon from below erupts into the sky, creating its formerly expressed distortion of lights and shimmering space.]

Rush: [Shields his eyes for a moment, before sprinting ahead, mindful of Danielle as he passes her, who simply smiles, eyes closed. He gazes into the sky, watching as the clouds come together, swirling, creating the dreaded red vortex...] …

Safiri: [Her Blade vanishes. She soars out to the ledge of the Tower and wraps both arms around Rush, pulling him back.] Rush!

Rush: [Unresisting, he does not take his eyes off of the Strayer Void.]

Break: Leading into Episode 4:

(I found an Eclipse. Ectie. She's not doing so well. 'Easy to see why. Castle Blossom got overtaken by these things called Nightmares. Apparently one of the Shades barreled through here as well. 'Still don't get it. Equinox seems to know more than I do. She's a Phaze Guardian though. Wouldn't put it passed her to figure this whole thing out on her own. Lot of questions. Back in business. Good.)

(We're on our way to the futuregrounds. No Nightmares yet. No Shade either. Just missed 'em, probably.)

(Futuregrounds Fairies are in sight now. Stuff looks alright over there. I might run into someone else I know, while it's still good having an Eclipse with me. Haven't broken the news to Ectie yet. I figure I should when Kutzu and Susie are around. Maybe that's a crappy plan.)