"It is always darkest just before the dawn."
"So… Derpy Hooves, huh?" Carrot Top asked, and was answered with a soft peal of giggles from Ditzy. The group of five ponies were arrayed outside the crumbling building in the wastes of the Everfree Forest. The moon shone down on them serenely, but instead of feeling peaceful, Ditzy was on edge. Something big was coming, she could feel it. She suspected so could the other ponies.
"Out of curiosity dear, you said you 'were' married?" Bon-Bon gently probed.
Ditzy answered with a nod. "It's… a painful part of my life honestly. Not because I was married, but what lead to the divorce. I… " Ditzy stammered a little and lowered her head, "I lost my foal. She wasn't strong enough, or I wasn't, or… something. No pony was really sure why she didn't make it."
"Oh my, I'm so sorry!" Bon-Bon quickly answered, moving over quickly to neck hug the smaller pegasus.
"That didn't end the marriage. I did that all by myself. After she… after the foal died, I fell into a deep depression. I could barely do anything for myself for months." She sighed softly. It felt good to get it out of her system, "My husband left during that time; I drove him away. It was painful for both of us, and we were both depressed after I lost the foal. Two depressed ponies don't work so well together. I handled it worse then he did and... I pushed him away. I felt like I wasn't worth his love. After awhile, I guess he agreed and left me.
"I ended up in therapy eventually. It took several different doctors, but one finally got through to me." Ditzy said softly, "Doctor Bloom finally managed with a surprisingly simple idea: sometimes you have to force it and make yourself laugh. It takes an effort to be happy, and if you don't TRY, you'll always be depressed. So I made the effort, and found that if I looked deep inside, I could laugh in the face of my pain. I know it sounds silly, but it worked. I think that's why the whole 'Derpy Hooves' thing clicked. Those shades brought up everything I had been depressed about and piled it all on me at once. The name just happened to be a handy focus when they started talking about my foal, and I had to let it out. It was either that or break down again."
"If… it's not too painful, what was the name of the little foal?" Lyra asked softly from one side.
"Dinky. She was a beautiful little unicorn foal named Dinky." Ditzy said softly.
The mares stilled for the moment, letting the wind whisk the name away. Ditzy was surprised, she wasn't depressed, even though her eyes were tearing up. If anything it felt good to share all this in a way she couldn't have with her former husband, cleansing in a way. It was as if a weight had been lifted from her soul.
A cry from inside the building suddenly drew her back to the here and now with a start. Bon-Bon and Lyra were already running even as Ditzy's wings launched her into the air, diving into the room they'd left Twilight Sparkle in. Her eyes went wide as she saw some sort of vortex of energy, the Elements they'd recovered swirling within it. She had arrived just in time to see the lavender blur of Twilight Sparkle's pelt as she dove at it and vanished. The vortex, the pony, the elements, all of it; gone.
"Where'd they go?!?" Carrot Top demanded, and the group started to look around the room.
"Over there!!" Raindrops called, pointing out a window to a nearby ruin, where bright flashes of light could be seen.
"Let's go." Lyra ordered, and dashed off. There was no question of the rest of them following, which Ditzy did as fast as her wings could manage. The trip wasn't that long, but to her it felt like forever, every second ticking as she knew something was horribly wrong. Bon-Bon and Carrot Top started to call out for Twilight the moment they passed the entryway. With the shining light gone, they weren't sure exactly where in this new ruin she was. If anything it seemed far larger then the previous one, even having multiple floors!
"I think I hear her!" Ditzy called to the group, pointing up an crumbling staircase.
"We're comin' Twilight!!" Carrot Top announced, and charged up the stairs, Ditzy following close behind with the rest of them. Twilight's voice got steadily louder as they approached, as did the laughter of the dark mare they were trying to stop; Nightmare Moon!
"You think you can destroy the Elements of Harmony just like that? Well you're wrong, because the spirits of the Elements of Harmony…" and Twilight paused for effect as the group piled into the room, " …are right here!!"
"What?" came the response from the dark mare, all eyes on her now as the group spread out behind Twilight Sparkle. Ditzy's eyes took in the scene before them; another decaying hall of formerly white and pristine marble, this one larger and lined with crumbling columns. On a dais at the "head" of the hall stood Nightmare Moon, looming triumphantly over the shattered remains of the Elements. Yet with Twilight's words the shards of crystal started to vibrate and lift from the ground, hovering about the dark mare as her eyes widened with alarm.
"Raindrops," Twilight stated, with an odd formality that made the lavender unicorn seem far more powerful then Ditzy expected, "who refused to run from her friends and rescued us from a deadly fall, represents the spirit of… " A group of the crystals detached from surrounding the baleful mare and flew up around the yellow Pegasus, which caused her to blink owlishly in surprise, "Loyalty!"
"Carrot Top, who was willing to sacrifice her own life to rescue us from the Manticore, represents the spirit of…" Twilight continued, another group of crystals moved to surround Carrot Top, who splayed her hooves in a fighting stance, "Generosity!"
"Lyra, who called on us to trust her and guided us through the forest of 'monsters', represents the spirit of…" another group of crystals surrounded Lyra as she tipped her head up proudly. "Honesty!"
"Bon-Bon, whose gentle demeanor and kind words soothed the flailing dragon of the river, represents the spirit of…" Bon-Bon smiled and dipped her head as another grouping of crystals surrounded her, "Kindness!"
"And Ditzy Doo, whose laughter drove back the phantoms of her past, represents the spirit of…" Ditzy almost fell out of the air with surprise, her eyes as wide as saucers as she was surrounded by her own ring of crystals, "Laughter!"
"You're still missing the sixth element! The spark didn't work!!" Nightmare Moon tried desperately.
"But it did! A different kind of spark." Twilight paused, turning to look at the group of collected mares behind her, "I felt it the very moment I realized how happy I was to hear you, to see you, how much I cared about you. The spark ignited inside me when I realized that you all… are my friends." Twilight then turned back to the dark mare, "You see, Nightmare Moon, when those Elements are ignited by the... the spark, that resides in the heart of us all, it creates the sixth element: The Element of MAGIC!!"
A sudden flare of light bloomed over Twilight's head, coalescing into a beautiful golden tiara with a bright star-shaped gem at it's peak. Ditzy winced her eyes at the blinding light as the tiara slowly descended to rest on Twilight's head. Her focus was then forcibly shifted to the crystal ring about her, the crystals reverberated as if they were suddenly energized by what just occurred. She felt, and saw, the crystals suddenly draw inward right to the base of her neck. The flare of light was felt as much as seen, and the little grey mare's eyes closed as the Element did more then just form itself against her, but fuse with her on a level she couldn't even hope to understand.
One by one she "felt" every one of them. Carrot Top and Bon-Bon. Raindrops and Lyra. Finally Twilight Sparkle, the bright heart of magic that drew them together into a swirl of color. A rainbow she felt more then saw as it arched upwards like a climbing pegasus, then dove at Nightmare Moon. She could feel herself twisting and spinning, reminiscent of how she and Raindrops tried to circle the Manticore, but somehow it was ALL of them. They swirled about in perfect synchronicity, circling Nightmare Moon. The beauty of the moment, the feelings that rushed through her, that singular instant of perfection….
All too soon, it was over. Ditzy realized she must have passed out, as she found herself lying on the floor. A soft groan to one side told her that she wasn't the only one. She rolled over, catching her hooves on the ground and with some effort managed to push herself up. There was a soreness, but on a level she couldn't explain. It was like a muscle she never knew existed, one somewhere deep in her soul, had just flexed for the first time.
"Is everyone alright?" She heard Lyra ask somewhere behind her.
"I think so." Carrot Top answered with a groan.
Ditzy finally managed to pry her eyes open, forcing herself to focus as she looked at an unsteady Bon-Bon. "Nice jewelry," Ditzy gently teased her, and the filly looked down at her chest. A golden necklace adorned Bon-Bon's neck, shining in the light and adorned with a glittering gem right at the front in the shape of a wrapped candy.
"Oh! So this is… you have one too Ditzy. It matches your Cutie-mark!"
"How can you tell? My mark is just a few bubbles." Ditzy joked with a smile, feeling surprisingly good as she looked down at her own necklace. The Element of Laughter, she realized. Despite the soreness, she hadn't felt this good in many years.
"Hey cool! Check it out!!" Carrot Top called from one side, proudly showing off her Element, shaped like a carrot hanging from her neck.
Ditzy looked over to Twilight as the unicorn climbed up to her feet, still adorned by the jeweled tiara, and smiled, "Did we win?"
"Indeed you have." came a warm voice, and their heads twisted to face a window where the glow of the rising sun could be seen. But from that triumphant sunrise came a shimmering ball of light that seemed to arc and land on the ground just inside hall, where the glow turned into the tall gleaming white form of…
"Princess Celestia!!" Twilight shouted. Ditzy bowed down with the others, but Twilight rushed past to the larger Alicorn, the two neck-hugging like old friends. Ditzy decided that protocol could be ignored for now and got back to her hooves. She openly admired the pure white pelt of the Princess, with her golden hooves and sun mark on her flank. Her mane and tail of ethereal multi-hued colors that seemed to float in an unfelt breeze, her majestic wings spread widely in the morning light, and her horn still glowed from the use of her magic.
"Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student, I knew you could do it." Celestia's warm voice resonated through the room.
"But, you told me it was an old Pony-tale…" The lavender unicorn started, sounding confused.
"I told you that you needed to make some friends, nothing more. I saw the signs of Nightmare Moon's return and I knew it was you who had the magic inside to defeat her, but you could not unleash it until you let true friendship into your heart." She said, nodding to the rest of them assembled with a gentle smile.
Celestia's expression then darkened as she turned to face the remnants of Nightmare Moon. She moved over to the other figure, who without her armor and affected magic looked so much smaller. Ditzy recognized her from the first time she lived this day.
"Now if only another will as well." Celestia said, "Princess Luna, it has been a thousand years since I have seen you like this. Time to put our differences behind us. We were meant to rule together, little sister."
"Sister?!?" Ditzy asked in shock, and realized that her voice was not the only one.
"Will you accept my friendship?" Celestia asked softly, looking down at the smaller filly. Luna looked up at her sister for agonizing moments. She had a soft lavender pelt with dark indigo markings and hooves, and a silvery blue mane and tail sparkled in the sunlight that played over her form. A horn poked through her mane and her wings were folded tightly to her sides, even are her face twisted with conflicting emotions. All six of the mares from Ponyville leaned forward, as if willing the younger sister to accept the offer. Ditzy, somehow, managed to overbalance herself and fall.
"I'm so sorry!! I missed you so much, big sister!" the smaller alicorn cried as she leapt forward to embrace her sister. The collective breath held in the room seemed to be let out, and the ponies let out a cheer.
"I've missed you, too." The elder sister whispered tenderly, with tears in her eyes.
"You know, dears…" Bon-bon stated as she wiped a tear from her eye before offering all assembled a wide smile, "I think this calls for a celebration!!"
When one is whisked away by royalty, it tends to be a memorable experience. For Ditzy Doo, it was no exception. Golden chariots were quickly called, and they were given a full royal pegasus escort for the flight back to Ponyville. While Princess Celestia did collect the Elements of Harmony, Ditzy understood that meant nothing. It was unimportant, only a physical shell to carry the essence from one host to the next. The true element was already there inside her, and could not be taken away so easily.
Of course someone notified Ponyville as well, where they were welcomed and cheered as heroes in an impromptu celebration. Ditzy's odd dissonance from her eyes came into play once again, as she could see the events again from when she woke up and joined the celebration. She saw the "original" prevailing heroes come back to the town, but now she WAS one of those prevailing heroes!
Ditzy was euphoric, but when she felt a wave of sadness from the friends she'd made it dampened her mood quickly. She joined them and slowly realized why, and formed with them a small half-circle that faced the Princess' chariot. She turned just in time to see Spike hurl himself at the lavender pony, hugging her with a great intensity. Yet Twilight seemed distracted, as uncertain as the rest of them.
"Why so glum, my faithful student? Are you not happy that your quest is complete and you can return to your studies in Canterlot?" Celestia asked the unicorn. Ditzy swore she could almost hear the knowing smile in the Princess' voice.
"That's just it. Just when I learned how wonderful it is to have friends, I have to leave them." And the unicorn turned to face them. Ditzy's eyes remembered the original scene, and the original 5 ponies who stood there, but she couldn't help but feel an intense pang of sorrow at the thought of Twilight leaving.
"Spike, take a note, please." Princess Celestia suddenly ordered, her tone turning officious as the baby dragon rushed forward with quill and parchment in hand, "I, Princess Celestia, hereby decree that the unicorn Twilight Sparkle shall take on a new mission for Equestria. She must continue to study the magic of friendship. She must report to me her findings from her new home in Ponyville."
A cheer went up from their small group, and immediately Twilight Sparkle found herself mobbed by the ponies she'd befriended. Ditzy didn't care if it wasn't the original version, this was the version SHE got to be in!
"Oh thank you, Princess Celestia!" Twilight cried, "I'll study harder than ever before!"