"The Spirits of Harmony"
The light exploded about them.
No Pony or Imp, save one, knew for sure where the explosion had originated from. Those on the Equestria side of the portal, which remained open only by the will of a single pony, were caught by surprise. Pure light filled both the rocky hall of the portal on the moon as well as the royal throne room in Canterlot.
One pony smiled, recognizing the surge of power. Her celestial fire brightened, fueled by hope, as she drove the Nightmare back.
"We have won," Celestia intoned, "Your chances for redemption grow slim, Nightmare."
"Redemption?" the Imp spat back, and her beak widened with a sickening grin, "It is you who should beg for forgiveness!! Your ponies can't help you now!"
"Then the Elements will decide your fate," the sun goddess stated as Steelwing pulled abreast of the Princess, wings arching forward to protect the prone form of the Princess Luna. Another pony appeared to the Princess' other wing, the pink burst of clouds dissipating as she grinned at the Nightmare.
"Your teammates?" Celestia asked of the two.
"Should be coming through behind us," Filigree supplied.
"Your precious Tome lost the Elements," Nightmare cackled, "The portal will collapse before they ever reach it."
"You underestimate my little ponies," Celestia said sadly, "You always did."
"What?" the Imp demanded then turned her gaze to the Portal. There, bathed in pure light, stood the form of Galaxi using her power to hold the portal open.
"It is time," Celestia sighed with a serene smile.
Clockwork struggled to pull Trixie along the ground.
"Get her through!!" Spectrum cried, lashing out at another Imp before taking a claw hard across her chest, which sent her crashing to the ground. The Imps hadn't taken long to recover from the burst of light, and seemed undeterred from trying to maul their way through Spectrum.
The Imps leapt at the prone form, only to meet a pair of bucking hooves driving them back. The green suited mare was panting heavily, not being the most physical of ponies, and reached a hoof down to help Spectrum up to her hooves.
"Get her through, I'm alright," Spectrum groaned.
"I'm not leaving you either," Clockwork said softly.
"I know," the pegasus smiled, and then leapt away, launching herself at the Imps.
Clockwork ran to Trixie. The de-horned unicorn was bleeding from where her horn should be, where it used to be, worrying Clockwork that she might die of blood loss before she ever got through the portal. She couldn't be sure that Trixie was still immortal after all she endured.
The small mare let out a yelp as an Imp crashed into her from the side, driving her to the ground, its claw upraised to follow up. Only a desperate roll to one side saved her neck, and a flailing kick managed to push the imp back enough to let her regain her hooves. The Imp spread its claws, placing itself between her and the portal, between her and Trixie.
A second pulse of white light exploded forth, Clockwork's eyes wide as she saw where it came from this time. The pulse of magic energy drove the Imps back, screaming in pain as they flooded back down the hallway.
"What ?" Spectrum called, shaking herself off. She looked to Clockwork, but saw the mare frozen in place, her eyes wide as saucers. The pegasus slowly turned to look herself, and had to look again just to be sure of what she was seeing.
There, against the curved wall of the room, rested the remains of the Elements of Harmony. They were glowing fiercely, so brightly it hurt to look directly upon them. The horn that had impaled them rested placidly amidst the colored fragments and ruined metal holder that had once housed them. But what truly drew the awed gaze of the two ponies were the silhouettes of six ponies, each bathed in a different color of the rainbow, hovering above the elements. Another burst of light filled the room, and the image of the ponies vanished, replaced by streaming colors leaping from the Elements themselves, lancing out into the air in a swirling, spinning, rainbow.
Then it dove, and the colors each split away from each other as they did. Three of those colors flew towards the trio of ponies on the moon, crashing into them. The other three leapt for the portal, one stopping midway through while the final two found their targets upon the other side.
Another burst of white magic exploded forth, and time stopped.
The blind mare didn't recognize the voice. The world seemed enveloped in a gentle energy, soothing the psychic's mind and emotions as she paused to look. She saw her own body framed in the opening of the Portal, struggling to keep it open. But it was like looking at a still image of herself through a hazy filter.
"Where am I?" Galaxi asked softly.
"Between the seconds of time," the unknown mare said, and Galaxi turned to regard her fully. She was a regal looking unicorn with angled violet eyes that regarded her in return. Her soft purple coat shimmered with magic, and her indigo mane with a streak of pink seemed to almost float about her head.
"Wait, I shouldn't be able to see those colors " Galaxi blinked.
"Consider it a gift for awakening to your true potential," the mare said with a smile. It was then Galaxi noticed the star shaped Cutie-mark on her flank, the exact same shape as her own
"You you can't be here," Galaxi gasped softly, "You "
"Died?" she asked with a quirked smile, "Yes, I did. That's why I'm here. My spirit has resided with the Elements, with my friends, until the right bearers were chosen."
"Then you're Lady Sparkle?!?"
"Twilight is fine," the mare answered warmly.
"But why? How are you ?" Galaxi stammered.
"Right, sorry. I got distracted," Twilight said, then cleared her throat, "Galaxi, you have been chosen by the Elements to represent them. You are the embodiment of the Element of Magic, the sixth element."
Galaxi blinked, "Me? How ? I'm an Earth pony!"
"You are also an extremely gifted psychic and telekinetic, with far more skill and ability then you give yourself credit for," Twilight noted, "You could not hold that portal with telekinesis alone. Only true magic could do that. You have been hobbled by your own self-doubt and limitations. But your true understanding of friendship, the realization that these mares are your friends, has unlocked this power within you."
"But shouldn't Tome ?"
"Trixie has her own fate," Twilight offered with a crooked smile.
"BWA?!?" the dark gray mare answered, teleporting from the spot. She almost didn't notice her body, poised mid-leap at the Nightmare, below her.
"Oooh, you're good," the other pony stated by her ear.
"Damn right I'm good," Flourish answered, her eyes narrowing.
For what felt like hours (but in reality lasting no time at all), the two forms appeared and disappeared seemingly at random. Pink smoke seemed to fill the area, as well as the giggles of first one mare, and then both mares, at what amounted to an insane, free-form, version of tag.
Finally the pair appeared back where they started, facing each other, panting from the exertion.
"So either I'm dead, or the stories about you being stuck between realities are true," Flourish finally conceded.
"Nope!" the pink pony facing her giggled, then bounced around Flourish in a lazy circle, "Well, I WAS, but I get kinda weird without my friends."
"Is that why you kept appearing at parties?" Flourish couldn't help but ask.
"I had to," she answered, stopping to rub a hoof at her chin, "Y'see, it was all dull and gray, kinda like your coat!"
"But when there was a party a group of ponies being happy, it was like someone dropped color onto the world. I was drawn to it. And if it got big enough, enough happy energy " and the pink pony grinned widely and leapt into the air, "Bamph!! I'd get to come out to play!!"
"So you really were there " Flourish looked at the pony, her jaw dropping.
The bouncy pink pony nodded quickly, "Uh huh! You were such a cute filly too! Too bad going into the guard got rid of your pretty green coat, but don't worry Thistle, I knew who you were long before you were ready."
"Then why?" Flourish asked softly, "Lady Pie "
"Pinkie Pie!" the pony made a face, "I hate being called a Lady, makes me feel all stuffy and uptight."
"Alright then, Pinkie Pie, why? Why did I have to watch my family suffer? If you knew "
"Ooooh, you like to ask the HARD questions!" and Pinkie paused long enough to look solemn, "Don't look for somepony to blame, no pony was at fault for those deaths, especially not you. But a pony cannot know happiness without knowing sadness. If you had suffered such a loss and never smiled again, then you couldn't have done all the good you did.
"Instead, you stood up to it! You wept, you grieved, and then you made sure it wouldn't happen to anypony else! You didn't let it harden your heart, and nor did you let it beat you down. You didn't turn into some grumpy-puss, or go all violent and dark. No, you laughed at your fears, and protected everypony else.
"If that doesn't embody the Element of Laughter, I don't know what does!" she finished, smiling so broadly it made Flourish's face hurt.
"Wait, Element of Laughter?" Flourish asked, stunned.
"That's right, silly!" Pinkie grinned, and poked Flourish with her hoof, "Tag, you're IT!"
"Well, I gotta say... yer not quite what I expected."
Filigree blinked slightly, her head craning around. She'd seen the orange beam of light approaching her, but she wasn't fast enough to avoid it. Instead, she'd hunkered down and braced herself for the impact which never seemed to come. Instead, she saw her body behind her; separate from where she was now. Considering the implications of this made her head hurt. Instead she chose to regard the figure who had spoken, expecting a previously unknown force of the Nightmare's army. Instead her eyes rested on an orange pony with a blonde mane and a cowpony hat tipped back on her head.
"Who were you expecting?" the gryphon asked carefully.
"When the Elements figured ya for the job, I expected ya to be more violent," the cowpony stated in an easy draw, adjusting her hat a little, "Kinda like that there Gilda was when she visited."
"Gilda the Outcast."
"Ah didn't know she was an Outcast. What'd she do to tick off her kin?"
"She befriended a pony," Filigree offered with a sardonic smile. The orange pony shook her head slightly.
"Amazin' how things work out, innit?" she asked rhetorically, then offered a hoof, "Ah'm Applejack, an yer Filigree. Put 'er there pardner."
Filigree carefully took the hoof in her clawed hand, but was surprised when the pony started to pump it with abandon, almost knocking the gryphoness over. It took the gryphon a few moments to recover from the vigorous hoofshake.
"Lady Applejack," Filigree said with respect, "It's an honor to meet you."
"Shoot girl, drop alla that 'Lady' stuff with me," the pony grinned crookedly, "That might be Rarity's thing, but me? Ah'm just a simple farmpony."
"Not as simple as you think," Filigree said softly, "But I do wonder if somehow that beam did not kill me; I should not be speaking to spirits."
"Nah, if anything this is the start of a whole new part of yer life," Applejack said with a broad wink.
"I do not understand?"
"Ah recon Ah'll have ta do this formally then," the pony chuckled, but hardly seemed to grow any more formal when she resumed speaking, "As the last embodiment o' that there Element of Honesty, Ah'm passin' it on ta you. Ya do some good with it, ya hear?"
Filigree blinked widely, "Wait, me? I thought this was just a strike team ?"
Applejack laughed, "Everypony but Celestia and Luna believed that, an' I betcha even they weren't so sure it'd work. But WE did."
"The Spirits of Harmony the last bearers of the Elements. We've done been waitin' on you gals," Applejack smiled, and tugged her hat down over her eyes, "An' now, you and yer team are gonna buck Nightmare Moon into next week!"
Filigree grinned darkly, "Happily."
"Um ex-excuse me."
Spectrum blinked, turning slowly from where she was. The pegasus had been caught off guard when the odd beam had struck her. She, like Clockwork, saw the beam lance out at her, but had been unable to react. What worried her was the fact she saw the world as though it were through a lens, her own body having just started to try and dodge the beam.
"H-hello?" the small voice said again. Spectrum turned to face it, her amber eyes wide as she regarded the yellow pegasus with long flowing pink hair that stood there. The mare fluttered her wings in surprise and ducked back under the gaze.
"You you're Lady Fluttershy?" Spectrum asked carefully.
The yellow mare nodded and gave a smile as she stood up more fully, "Y-yes. I'm Fluttershy."
Spectrum frowned visibly, "Do you know what's going on?"
"Of course," she answered softly, "I'm here to give you something if, y'know, that's alright with you?"
"What are you here to give me?" Spectrum asked, confused.
"You've been chosen by the Elements to embody the Element of Kindness," she finished with a smile.
"Me? But "
"You care deeply for your friends," Fluttershy interrupted, "You've cared for, and done everything you can to protect innocent ponies. You helped your friends Filigree,.. Thistle the rest of your team. You care about them, and you know when to be gentle and kind, and when to fight. Every time you've had the option, you've tried to be kind first."
"So the Elements chose me?" Spectrum asked, and Fluttershy nodded with a smile.
"You earned it," she said softly, "You know, if you um... want it."
"Thank you, Lady Fluttershy," Spectrum smiled broadly, "I only hope I can live up to your example."
"You already have."
"I gotta admit, you got guts."
Clockwork blinked broadly and spun about, looking for the voice. She didn't find it, and instead saw her own body behind her. She was leaning forward, anticipating the blow, but trying to protect Trixie from the incoming attack at least, she THOUGHT it was an attack.
"Who's there?!" the small mare demanded.
"Up here," answered the voice, tightening as if the owner smothered an insult. Clockwork's eyes lifted to a fluttering blue pegasus with a rainbow streaked mane and tail. For a moment she thought it was Spectrum turned blue, but the cutie-mark was different: a cloud with a tri colored lightning bolt from it.
"Wait you're Lady Dash?"
"That's right!" the mare answered proudly, putting a hoof to her chest as she lowered herself to the ground. Something about the mare's demeanor told Clockwork she didn't often deign to stand on the ground very often.
"But how?" Clockwork asked, turning to look at her own image, "Am I dead?"
"Nah, not yet anyway," the pegasus chuckled as she trotted up beside the shorter mare, "You've been chosen."
Clockwork looked confused, and looked up at the taller pony, her green eyes meeting the lavender eyes of the rainbow maned pony, "Chosen? Like I was chosen for the team?"
"Well " Rainbow Dash seemed to consider, "Kinda, but kinda not."
"That explains it so well," Clockwork deadpanned.
"Hey, I'm not the egghead of the group! That was Twilight's job," the pegasus objected, fluttering back up off the ground to hover above Clockwork, as if she had so much energy she couldn't stay still for more than a few moments at a time.
"So what do you mean then?"
"I mean you were chosen!" she reiterated, "Princess Luna chose you for that team, but this is a more important team. This is the Elements of Harmony!"
"Wait, what?" Clockwork blinked.
Rainbow Dash grinned, and leaned forward from where she hovered, face to face with Clockwork, "You got picked. I mean, how cool is that?"
"But how did I get picked?"
"Well, specifically you put yourself in danger not once, not twice, but three times in the past oh, I dunno ten minutes to protect your friends; twice for Trixie, and once for my Granddaughter. You've done a lot more, but I think that makes my point. YOU are the new embodiment of Loyalty," Rainbow Dash grinned, crossing her forelegs over her chest as she hovered overhead.
"Me?" Clockwork squeaked, "Are you serious?"
"I know, right?!?" the pegasus did a back-flip in the air before landing again by Clockwork.
"What happens to you then?" Clockwork asked softly.
"I dunno," Rainbow Dash shrugged, "Maybe I'll finally get to go to the Summer-lands. I kinda thought that'd happen when I died, but the Elements kept me and the girls together so we could pass them on when the time came."
"Didn't you like run into a wall or something?" Clockwork asked carefully.
"I DID NOT RUN INTO A WALL!!" the pegasus cried, launching into the air for a moment, "I mean GAH! You have no idea how much grief I gave Twi and AJ when they got here about that. You'd think they'd know me better then that! But no, they found my body propped against a wall, and thought I'd been caught in a trap."
"So what did happen?" Clockwork asked, sitting on her flank, "Might as well set the record straight."
Dash paused in her irritated looping flight and looked at the mare, "You think that'd work?"
"Well yeah, you gotta point," Rainbow Dash agreed, and flew lower.
"So the girls and I got sent to Detrot city," Rainbow Dash began, "Seems somepony had gotten a word about a warehouse the Imps were hiding in. So the ground team goes in, that's Twilight and AJ, and Fluttershy guards the door to keep any from escaping. That leaves me circling overhead and keeping watch. Honestly, I was starting to get bored.
"About the time I felt like I should just take a nap on a nearby cloud, I spot some incoming. A quick swoop closer and I see that they're a pair of Imp squads, at a full 3 wings apiece. That's like, eighteen Imps! Now I wasn't the Fastest Mare in Equestria for nothing; I could outrun ANYPONY well, unless they could teleport like Pinkie Pie.
"Anyway, that means I can pretty much hit my infamous Sonic Rainboom any time I wanted to... so I fly at them, and time it so my Rainboom goes off right in the middle of their little formation. BOOM! Shreds 'em all!! Or so I thought. Turns out a couple of them still lived, which I see when I start to turn. They're hurt, but the survivors are ignoring me and heading for the warehouse. That's when I notice they're carrying one of those weird glowing gems."
"A bomb?" Clockwork asked softly.
"Yeah, I think so," Rainbow Dash agreed and fluttered her wings, "But I got a problem. Twilight and I studied the effects of keeping the speed up from a Sonic Rainboom a few times. You can't breathe right after hitting one, and going much faster starts to feel like the wind is trying to rip you apart. But the Imps they were going for my friends.
"So I lower my head and pour on the speed. I'd felt the wind seem like it was trying to rip away your feathers before, but this was like flying through razor sharp icicles; cold and miserable and every movement was like being stabbed by some jagged edge or another. My lungs were starting to burn too, I wasn't getting enough air, but I saw the Imp drop that crystal thing
"I poured everything I have into my wings and make a grab for the gem. That's when I did it the first, last, and ONLY example of a second Sonic Rainboom. Then the shockwave hit the gem, and it exploded at the same time."
"You didn't survive the explosion, did you?"
"No, I didn't," the pegasus said softly, looking oddly melancholy for a moment, "I don't know if it was that second Sonic Rainboom, or the gem's explosion, that pulverized me. It didn't matter, I was dead so fast I didn't even realize it. But I took out the Imps and saved my friends, so that's what counts, right?"
"I think so," Clockwork smiled.
"Well now, Darling, you have certainly seen better days."
The cyan mare groaned softly, not daring yet to open her eyes. Her head pounded in a way she never felt before. She reached a hoof up to touch her head where it hurt and winced in pain as she found the splintered and bloody stub of her horn.
"Are you just going to lie there?" the voice inquired. The de-horned unicorn fluttered her eyes to look glassily at the mare speaking. A pure white unicorn with perfectly coiffed purple mane and tail stood looking down at her.
"Let me die in peace, Rarity," the cyan mare moaned, and closed her eyes.
"Oh please, let us not be so melodramatic," Rarity chuckled.
"You can torment me after I've passed."
"Oh stop it, Trixie," the unicorn chided, "You still have plenty of performances left. This is the beginning, not the end."
"I've given everything I can," Trixie said softly, tiredly, "My life is the last thing I have to give."
"That's why I'm here, Darling."
"Huh?" Trixie cracked an eye to look at the mare again.
"Generosity, dear," the unicorn smiled tenderly down at her, "You showed such fantastic generosity these past months. You gifted your time and knowledge, then your protection, to your friends. And then the nastiness with the Nightmare happened, and you were forced to give much more then anypony should ever have to. You gave all you could to keep her from breaking your will. You gave of yourself to try and save Equestria, and in the end, you gave the last thing you could your Magic. You shattered your own horn to try and stop the Nightmare. These deeds were not done selfishly, or to build your own reputation. They were done for the purest of reasons; to save your friends."
"I don't I don't understand," Trixie answered softly.
"My dear, did you forget that I was the bearer of the Element of Generosity?" Rarity smiled winningly.
"No, I didn't," Trixie answered hoarsely.
"Then you understand that I am complimenting your generosity?"
"I I do."
"Then understand this, Trixie," the white coated unicorn said, her voice lilting formally, "You have come a long way from the days when you turned my mane green and filled the streets of Ponyville with fireworks. You have shown generosity in its purest form, and for that I am proud to declare that you are to be the carrier of the Element of Generosity from this day forth."
"M-me?" Trixie squeaked, her eyes going wide.
"Yes, you." Rarity answered, poking Trixie's nose lightly with her hoof, and then made a face, "But I think perhaps a final act from the former Element of Generosity is called for."
"What are you ?" Trixie started, but the unicorn had already closed her eyes, a gentle glow suffusing her horn. The magical energies swirled about Trixie, lifting her from the prone position she had on the floor. She could feel the spell working through her coat and mane, cleaning them and returning them to pristine condition before lowering her to her hooves.
"There we go," Rarity said softly, "But I don't think you need these tacky things anymore." With undisguised disgust the unicorn tugged free the collar and shackles, now a poor fit to the smaller unicorn, and discarded them.
"Thank you," Trixie said softly, "I know it doesn't mean much but "
"Oh no dear, we're not quite done, but I think everypony should be here for the next step..." she interrupted with an enigmatic smile, and her eyes glanced over Trixie's shoulder. Trixie turned her head slowly, and her eyes widened at what she saw.
Arrayed behind her were the members of her team, plus their analog amongst the original Elements of Harmony, the famous mares that made up "The Six", all of them shoulder to shoulder. Trixie instantly understood the associations she saw, all save one.
"Galaxi?" she asked, looking to Twilight Sparkle.
"Yes," she answered, trotting slowly around Trixie to stand beside Rarity, "The final element, the Element of Magic."
Trixie only smiled, "I think I understand. Galaxi was always stronger then she knew."
Twilight let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding (and wondered how a spirit could hold their breath) and smiled, "A final act of generosity that suits your new role."
"No, not a final act," Trixie said softly, "but I am unsure how useful I'll be to the team now."
"First things first there pardner," the orange cowpony said, standing next to Rarity. It was only then that Trixie realized that six ponies had formed a ring around her. Twilight stood before her, Rarity to her right, and Applejack to hers. Pinkie Pie was behind her, then Fluttershy, and finally Rainbow Dash completed the circle. Trixie swallowed nervously for a moment, seeing those she had embarrassed and combated so many years ago standing before her.
"Yes, I need to I WANT to, ask your forgiveness. I treated you ponies poorly in the past, humiliating you and tormenting you every step," Trixie said softly, shoring up her confidence as she looked at each face in the circle, tears welling in her eyes, "I was a misguided foal. It wasn't until I made my own friends, found a REASON to fight, that I understood. Trixie only wanted fame as Tome I found purpose."
"Trixie," Twilight said softly, her voice gentle as she looked back into the cyan mare's eyes, "We know. We saw you every time you approached our statues, every time you broke down in tears thinking you would never have this opportunity."
"As such, we have a few final acts of our own to carry out," Rarity continued.
"You were a right pain in the flank back then, Trixie, but ya done gone straight," Applejack added.
"You found a reason to smile that didn't involve hurting anypony!" Pinkie cheered.
"And um you learned to accept the kindness of others without taking it for granted, or viewing it as weakness," Fluttershy managed to squeak out.
"Yeah. You did some pretty awesome things since you got your head on straight," Rainbow Dash finished up, "I mean, standing up to my son like that that was awesome."
"Trixie," Twilight Sparkle intoned, her voice taking on a sudden formality that pulled everypony's eyes to her, "We, The Six, present you with two final gifts."
"G-gifts?" Trixie asked, confused. Her eyes widened when she saw each of the Six dip their heads and focus their attention, a glow forming on Twilight's horn. A small bit of energy seemed to leave each of the ponies, focusing on that glow, which swirled around in a lazy spiral. Twilight's horn glowed even brighter as the twisting light slowly moved forward, lighting on Trixie's brow. Trixie ducked her head and closed her eyes, unsure what to expect, but gentle warmth filled her body. When she opened her eyes, they widened at what she saw
There, on her brow, was a magnificent spiral horn of pure silver. The colors of the rainbow chased over it for a moment as it slowly altered itself to the size of the unicorn who now wore it. But the silver color remained, with a small splash of it on her forehead as a base.
"Trixie," Twilight said softly, pulling the astounded mare's eyes from the newly grown horn, "We forgive you. You may hold your head high knowing that we bear no grudge against you."
"I I " Trixie stammered, overwhelmed. Her face was open, jaw hanging slack, and her eyes filled with tears of relief. To Trixie, it was as if a great weight had been lifted from her soul, "T-thank you."
"GROUP HUG!!" Pinkie cried, and leapt onto Trixie's back, followed by the laughing spirits of "The Six". After a moment, the other mares present (and gryphoness) decided to join in as well.
"I see things are progressing better than I expected," intoned a new voice.
"Princess Celestia!" Twilight cried, and the group hug broke up as both sets of mares bowed to the Princess. The only pony that didn't dashed to her mentor, neck hugging her warmly.
"Hello Twilight," Celestia answered with a sad smile, "Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy. I suspected the Elements had borrowed your souls for one final act. It is so wonderful to see you again, and looking so young."
"I expected Princess Luna to be here as well," Rarity said softly, looking about curiously.
"I fear not," Celestia said sadly, "She lies unconscious from the battle. She will be sorely disappointed to have missed this."
"It's time for us to finally move on, isn't it Princess?" Twilight asked softly.
"I am afraid so," Celestia answered, struggling to hide the tears in her eyes, "It is time to say your last goodbyes."
Rainbow Dash was the first to move, quickly catching her granddaughter in a tight hug, "You made me proud Rainbow Star. Now you go kick that Nightmare's flank, hear me?"
"I will, I promise," Rainbow Star answered softly.
Clockwork was surprised when she was approached by Applejack and Rarity, both with the same question.
"Your sisters are doing fine," she answered with a smile, "Sweetie Belle has a grandfoal named Tempo who she suspects might be a special. Apple Bloom is still kicking, though she didn't mention a family to me."
"Ah, Bloom'll get along jus' fine," Applejack nodded.
"If you could just keep an eye on them," Rarity asked softly and patted Clockwork's shoulder, "we would very much appreciate it."
Clockwork nodded to the two mares, watching their retreat. She was surprised to find Rainbow Star sidling up beside her, and turned to find herself face to face with Lady Sparkle.
"Clockwork Key, Rainbow Star, I'm sorry I couldn't be there as much as I wanted to. In a sense, you were destined to be sisters, of a sort," she offered with an unsure smile, "I hope you both know I never wanted to slight you on time or access to me. I honestly didn't know about any of this prior to my passing and the wheels had been put in motion. I should have brought you together sooner. I should have been there more for you. I should have "
"Regrets will get us nowhere," Star answered with a smile.
"Besides, we're friends now," Clockwork pointed out, "And that's what is important."
"You have nothing to feel guilty about," Rainbow Star continued, "You did all you could, and I was proud to have known you."
Clockwork brushed a tear away and forced a smile, "You did everything you could have. It's our turn to give it a shot "
Twilight looked between the two mares, and smiled, leaning close to hug them tightly for several long moments. When she pulled back, her eyes were misty, and seemed about to say something before deciding better of it. Instead she gave them each another quick hug, and trotted over to her friends.
"Now you gals better kick that Nightmare's flank, y'hear?!" Applejack called.
"Yes ma'am." Spectrum answered, her team forming up by her.
"Princess, we're ready," Twilight told Celestia, smiling sadly.
"Tell Spike I'm sorry," Celestia said softly, pausing to nuzzle the unicorn's brow in a tender, almost motherly, fashion.
"Goodbye, my little ponies," the Princess answered, tears working their way down her face as her horn glowed a delicate gold unlike anything the mares had seen before. The forms of "The Six" slowly became less distinct, as if they were fading away, small wisps of light in rainbows of color swirling from them and into the ether.
"Oh cool! That looks like--" Pinkie Pie's voice cried, fading before she finished the thought, leaving the remaining ponies in silence.
"Are you crying?" Flourish teased, breaking the silence with a poke at the gryphon.
"No," Filigree growled, turning away, "I just had something in my eye."
"My little ponies," Celestia interrupted, a motherly smile upon her features, "It seems you have truly earned the blessings that my sister hoped you would. Now is the time to use them."
"How do we do that?" Spectrum asked.
"You will know shortly. I will gather your spirits and convey them back to the land of the living," Celestia said, her voice hardening, "We still have the Nightmare to defeat."
The group of mares looked to each other for a long moment, then back to the Princess. Spectrum stepped forward, her amber eyes hard.
"We're ready Princess."
"Is that the best you've got, Celestia?!?"
The Nightmare flung her wings wide and screeched to the sky. Across the room, standing protectively before her sister, Celestia smiled serenely.
"You have lost already," Celestia intoned as the portal behind her collapsed.
"Your ponies are split up, the portal is no more!! No pony will rescue you now!!" Nightmare taunted.
"No," Celestia offered, and her horn glowed brightly, "Because I will bring them here myself."
"NO!!" The darkened form of the Nightmare launched at the Princess, only to crash into a wave of magic and heat that pushed her back.
"It is too late to stop," Celestia said, and spread her wings wide. There, arrayed before her, were four ponies and a gryphon. They stood stock still, their eyes closed, almost like statues.
"These aren't the Elements!" the Nightmare laughed.
"Oh, but they are," Celestia smiled, and then her voice took on an ethereal tone
"THE ELEMENT OF LAUGHTER!"
Flourish's eyes parted, the red glow of her eyes washing over the room. About her neck, a pale red jewel with the symbol of the rapier embedded within a broad golden necklace materialized.
"THE ELEMENT OF HONESTY!"
The gryphon's eyes opened, suffusing the room in a bright orange glow, joining the red. About her neck, a golden necklace formed, and a symbol of flared wings formed the symbol of her element in fiery orange.
"THE ELEMENT OF KINDNESS!"
Spectrum's eyes opened, the yellow color of the light shining from them mixing with the other's colors. About her neck, a golden necklace formed as well, an amber five pointed star resting at its crest.
"THE ELEMENT OF LOYALTY!"
Clockwork Key's eyes parted, but unlike her peers, the green glow covered her entire body, flowing over her as it took form. Angular pieces formed, as the armour she crafted materialized about her, humming with power as a single gem of bright green set embedded within the neck of the armour in the shape of a winding key.
"THE ELEMENT OF GENEROSITY!"
Trixie's eyes opened, the blue glow suffusing the room with her team's. About her neck, almost as if to parody the collar the Nightmare had placed upon her, a golden necklace formed with a magic wand shaped gem in sky blue at its center.
The Nightmare used a wing to shield herself against the light, but it held no power against her. She growled, then threw her wings wide, taunting the Princess, "You failed! Where is the final element?!?"
"Right here," Celestia stated, and stepped to one side, revealing the small form of Galaxi.
"THE ELEMENT OF MAGIC!"
Galaxi's eyes parted, and the final color of the rainbow, purple, flooded into the room. A Tiara of gold formed upon her brow, with a hanging purple gem that covered the "star" on her forehead perfectly, the glow of both gem and her eyes matching as the mares began to float.
"NO!!" the Nightmare cried, and launched herself physically at the collected mares, only to be met by Celestia. The Princess forced the Nightmare back, smiling serenely.
"You have one final chance to repent," Celestia stated.
"You are a foal!!" Nightmare cried, and found herself pushed back into the nearest wall.
"Then it ends here."
The rainbow colors that suffused the room seemed to take shape, coalescing and cocooning the Nightmare, who clawed and shrieked at it futilely.
"Finish it," Celestia ordered.
A blinding white light flashed from the element bearers, launching itself towards the Imp known as the Nightmare, burying her in the pure light of friendship of love.
Not a sound was heard for several moments, only the visual majesty of the Element's assault upon the Nightmare. The very thing that had cured and freed Luna from the very entity they now attacked that they now eliminated.
"It is done," Celestia intoned softly, and turned her back on the Nightmare.
"FOAL!!!" Nightmare shrieked, her voice reverberating with impossible power. Celestia whirled back around, her eyes narrowing as she saw a single clawed hand carve through the rainbow surrounding her, causing a backlash that knocked the six ponies on their flanks.
"Did you think I would not be prepared for this?" the Nightmare demanded, as she revealed herself in all her glory. She had grown a number of feet and her black coat of the night sky had deepened to an inky black. From her head she now sported a mane of ethereal stars that resembled her former glory of Nightmare Moon. Even the purple accents on her body had somehow returned, "There was a REASON I adopted and became the ugly form of these accursed Imps! They FEED on Magic! Your pathetic Elements of Harmony have only MADE ME STRONGER!!"
Celestia's eyes widened. She had worked behind the scenes for so long that she had almost forgotten what it was like to be taken off guard. She frowned as the new element bearers roused themselves from their failed attempt to end the Nightmare.
"To me," Celestia ordered, "This fight is not yet concluded."
The group of mares recovered as quickly as they could, forming up around the Princess of the Sun. The Imp only grinned at the sight, her baleful eyes narrowing at those who dared to defy her power. She finally let out a roar that could be heard across the entirety of Canterlot
"Taste the true power of the NIGHTMARE!!!"