A Shadowy Night
It was late that same day and Vanilla was in her bedroom with another of her best friends, Starlight Wishes a cream-colored Candy Unicorn with teal mane, who would be spending the weekend with her friend.
"It was nice your father let us to do this little slumber party. Unfortunate Blue couldn't join us." Starlight said.
"Yeah. It's really a shame that Blue had to stay home and take care of her sister. Cherry had to get ill right now? And why haven't you brought your sisters?"
"You know I would never bring Caramel, she thinks it's something of spoiled little girls, and Mint is training as usual."
"What about Snow and Cookie?"
"I don't know. I've not seen Snow in a while and Cookie simply said she coundn't come."
"Well, at least you're here with me." Vanilla smiled.
"You think I'd let my best friend down? A party is never a party without at least one friend. Besides, I think everything is more peaceful without many people."
"Girls, bedtime!" King Candy called on the other side of the door.
"Okay, Daddy!" Vanilla replied. "Well, we better have some sleep anyway, we'll have plenty of time to have fun tomorrow." She turned off the light and went to bed. In minutes was almost asleep when a light woke her.
"Star, turn your horn off and go to sleep." Vanilla muttered, hiding her head under the pillow.
"I wanted to ask you something." Protested the unicorn, going to the bookshelf and returning with a book of dark blue cloak with the symbol of a moon and several embroidered stars, floating in front of her.
Vanilla only heard the sound of her friend's hoofsteps and finally put her head out to spy on what her friend brought.
"My photo album." The princess said. "Moon and I asked Bill to take them the last time we went to Canterlot. It was a very fun day. Moon always make them fun. But I don't like going out of Sweet Island very much."
Starlight simply lay on the floor and began to examine the photos.
"Moon is that crazy filly who lives watching the stars, isn't she?"
"She's little, but very intelligent for her age. But also, her mother is very smart, works hard, and Moon is just too curious."
"I've heard Dragonia's ponies are dangerous." Starlight said, absently.
"They say that because of the dragons. Said they lived there before the arrival of the first ponies, and this ponies managed to ally with the dragons. Even after they rebelled and eventually got banished from what is now the kingdom of Dragonia, they say something still remains in the hearts and souls of ponies there. Personally I never saw anything strange."
"Taking those suspicious maks, right? Everypony in Dragonia has a birthmark shaped like dragon claws. A whole kingdom!" She almost yelled the last part.
Vanilla had to admit, it was a strange thing, but never happened nothing to say that this could be something more than just a simple mark.
"It is rather strange. And perhaps not a birthmark, it might be part of some tradition or something. Dunno. Certain ponies are simply afraid of what they don't understand. So, what you wanted to ask me?"
"I just..." Starlight began, so stopped. "Wait! You hear that?" She lifted her head and looked at the door.
"No. What?" Vanilla asked sleepily.
"The sound of hooves. There is somepony in the hallway."
"Must be Bill in one of his rounds, go to sleep."
But the next second the two heard a crashing noise in the hallway, apparently someone bumped or tripped on something. The two friends looked at each other and ran to the door. They opened a loophole just to spy on what was happening in time to see a shadow turning down the hall.
"Let's see what it is!" Vanilla called, chasing the shadow.
"But wasn't you who was tired?" Starlight protested, before chasing her friend.
The two ran to where the shadow had gone but neither saw no sign of anything suspicious. They continued to the throne room, still nothing. But while Starlight was ready to give up and go back to bed, Vanilla was willing to find out what it was.
A silent search took them all around the castle, always avoiding the guards, since they shouldn't be out of bed so late. They had found nothing when they passed in front of the door leading to the tunnels and found the strangest scene they would never have imagined.
Two creatures, apparently a mixture of pony and dragon were fallen before the open doors.
Vanilla couldn't believe! She recognized them by the armor, as the guards who should be protecting the tunnels.
"Vani, I'm getting scared! shouldn't we warn your father and go to sleep?" Starlight suggested nervously.
"How can you sleep with all this happening?" Vanilla asked excitedly.
"Your guards turned into dragons, somepony broke into the castle, it's enough reason to believe that I'm having a nightmare and go back to bed."
"You can go if you want. I'll see what's happening."
"Are you crazy?! Whoever is there has knocked out two dragon-ponies or whatever they are. You think you have any chance?"
"I won't let it see me. Come with me or stay here, as you want."
And with that she flew into the tunnel, leaving her friend behind. She had to get to the tree, wishing that, whatever was down there, got lost in the tunnels. Lucky she had a good memory and knew the way. She just had to be careful not to be seen, but that was all.
The tunnel was dark, forcing Vanilla to land and go trotting carefully. If only Starlight weren't so fearful. Although she had to admit that the dragon-ponies were even frightening, especially considering all that she had heard about Dragonia.
What she wouldn't give to Flame to be there with her. No. If she really wanted someone to be there, that someone would be Platinum, she would know exactly what to do in that situation, especially considering they were her guards who had been turned into dragons.
But she was from Dragonia and would only come to Sweet Island in a week.
Vanilla hadn't a week. She just ran a few more corridors and arrived at the door. By the time there wasn't anything suspicious, nor a sign of her reason to be there.
Then she realized she had come too late, the doors of the tree's hall were open and there was a hooded figure.
Despite her first intention is to not be seen at that moment she couldn't help herself, jumped in front of the door and shouted: "Stopped there, thief!"
The figure turned to her, then threw back his hood, revealing it to be none other than Dusky Spark.
"Well, well, well, what have we here? The little filly is playing the bold princess just because Dad let her leave her home for once?" He scoffed, laughing. "I'm not here to hurt anyone or destroy anything. All I want is a little bit of power from you. Then you better turn around and forget you ever saw me here, if you know what is best for you."
"No!" She replied. She wasn't afraid. It was just an ambitious pegasus, certainly older and stronger, but not as fast as her.
"Why, darling, there's no reason to play the brave. It's too late. And it's just a fruit. It's not like it's harming the tree, or you, or me. You have nothing to gain and nothing to lost, I, on the other hand, have much to gain and nothing to lose, so why this?"
"Because you broke into the castle, did whatever you did to those guards and is stealing the only thing worth more than money on this realm. Needs more?"
She wouldn't back down, in fact she wanted to provoke him to chase her to push him away from the tree. She didn't know that he had already picked one of the fruits/marshmallows.
"If you came here to stop me is wasting your time." He laughed and threw the marshmallow in his mouth.
Vanilla frozen in place, waiting for the next events that she probably would regret not having listened to Starlight... But for a moment nothing happened. She sighed in relief.
"It seems that your plans got off, no?" She laughed.
But then a white aura began to surround him, Vanilla took a nervous step back. Dusky laughed.
"What was you saying, princess?"
But then the aura became green and turned into a wave of flames, he screamed, Vanilla walked back, until she felt herself hitting the tunnel wall. Now she was definitely scared. Why wasn't she in bed?
The flames were extinguished, but the creature that now laid on the devastated area, besides still looking a bit like Dusky Spark, looked more like some kind of insect-pony. It was black, had a threatening horn, insect wings, prickly mane and sharp fangs. At least that's what Vanilla thought at that moment, when she thought the dragon-ponies were the worst she had ever seen.
He began to wake up. Stood upright a bit wobbly.
"What happened?" He muttered, taking a hoof to his aching head, then he felt the horn. Shocked, ran a look for every part of his body that he could, before running near a crystal and examining his reflection.
"What happened to me?" He muttered in surprise, then turned to Vanilla. "You!" He exclaimed angrily. "What did this thing to me?"
The little filly couldn't help but cringed over against the wall, wishing she could do magic as her friend and fade away.
"I don't know what happened." She finally managed to say. "I don't know what went wrong."
"Liar! Was you who brought me here to begin with that whole story about power. I should have known it was a trap."
Vanilla decided to react. With all her strength she pushed him away and quickly flew into the tunnel.
She was desperate to get out. She needed to find her father, anypony, just needed help. She not even dared to look back. She coundn't lose, much less waste time. She could see the light, almost out when she felt something bump into her and they both collide against the wall.
Dusky had gotten what he wanted. She couldn't stop thinking. He had reached her so easily.
"End of the line, princess." He threatened.
Vanilla closed her eyes frightened. Then she noticed the brightness of a light and felt the weight being lifted off her, she looked to her right and saw Dusky fallen a few feet away. Then she looked across the tunnel and saw her father standing there menacingly, Starlight half hidden behind him.
"Get away from my daughter!" King Candy threatened, walking toward Dusky.
There was no time for reaction from Dusky before King Candy cast a spell on him. The girls closed their eyes when a bright light filled the hallway and when finally extinguished, there was no sign of Dusky anywhere.