False Notes is a fanfiction by Lu. It focuses on Downbeat and a majority her life in Equestria.
It is written alongside Ishi's Restless Dreams
Prologue: Glissando Down From the HeavensEdit
Downbeat stood still, frozen in fear. Her plum and aqua mane was messed up, sticking in various directions and even singed in some areas. She couldn't see a thing, it was all pitch black. Not even her white coat was visible. It had been black for Celestia knows how long. And Downbeat had been awake for every second of it so far.
A low growl ripped into her ears, seemingly coming from everywhere. She didn't know what made the noise, but it was obvious it wasn't friendly. Slowly, she backed up until she collided with something. It was rough and thick, probably a tree. The growl grew louder and more menacing. Downbeat knew her only chance to escape was to fly away. Lifting her wings, she rose into the air, noticing no difference between it and the ground.
Far off in the distance, a small flash of white streaked her eyes. Surprised, she staggered, almost losing balance. Colors flashed in her vision, but she kept flying. It was only a few minutes until she hit something.
Downbeat slammed straight into a smooth surface. A house? Maybe, she thought. She carefully moved her hooves along, waiting for an ending in the surface. When she found one, she continued moving forward.
After an hour with little activity, Downbeat landed. It was silent, like everywhere else. Assuming the area was deserted, she sat down. What was the bright flash? She asked herself. Nothing I've seen before...
"It was Lightblade." A small voice called. Seconds later, she felt a small hoof on her wing. "I'm Solaris." The voice said. "Are you okay?" Downbeat nodded, looking at where the voice came from.
"Why are you here? I thought you were Celestia's child. You should be at the castle." She frowned slightly.
"I was in Ponyville when Darkblaze appeared. Lunaris, my sister, was at school, like me. I don't know where she is, though, she ran off in fear."
Downbeat blinked. It was summer. The foals wouldn't be in school. She stood up, then spoke slowly. "Who are you, really? It's summer. School isn't attending."
The voice sighed, then chuckled. "Ah well. It was fun while it lasted." Two yellow eyes glinted through the shadows, making Downbeat blink. "Name's Spinn. I'm the trickiest Manticore around here. You're the first to ever see through my vocal stunts. Too bad. I'm going to have to end you now."
Sudden pain ripped through Downbeat. She tried to rise and fly away, but a shock to her nerves sent her staggering. Carefully, she reached over to her left wing. There was nothing but a moist stump. Another shot of pain spread across her neck, forcing her downward. Before consciousness left her, she saw a bright flash of light. It was seconds before it faded back to black.
Downbeat woke to hoofsteps past her door. Sunlight filtered into her eyes, making them water. She still wasn't used to light after being in the dark so long. Looking around, she found herself in a pale blue room. She was sitting in a bed, bandages around her legs and neck. The hospital, she thought.
Rising from the bed, she decided to find somebody and ask what happened. Looking to the doorway, she noticed a group of ponies walking past. Orange, purple, white, blue, yellow, and pink. She waited a few minutes, then followed.
She arrived to voices, probably belonging to the ponies.
"Hey now, sugarcube. Nurse Redheart says he'll be fine. He'll wake up, I'm sure of it. Light, if you can hear me, we know you can make it."
"Light, if you don't wake up I'm gonna be real mad, you know that? Who else will I race against? I mean, that's not the only reason..."
"Darling, we know you can pull through. We're counting in you."
Downbeat continued to listen. She heard six voices in all, each from one of the ponies she saw. It was a few moments before a scolding voice reached her ears. "Just what are you doing out of bed? You need to rest. Bad enough I have those six trying to end the patient's life with their worrying!"
"Nurse, please don't yell at her. She's probably just confused. You said you found her near Coltsdale, correct?" Downbeat's jaw dropped slightly. Standing before her was not only a disgruntled-looking nurse, but Princess Celestia herself. Her multicolored mane shone in the light, atrributing to her serene look. The alicorn gave a small smile. "Hello. Who are you, my dear?"
Downbeat bit her lip. Truly, her name was Tone Deaf. She had cast that name aside when she left home. After a moment if thinking, she spoke. "Downbeat, miss."
"Alright. I think you should listen to Nurse Redheart. You were attacked by a Manticore, and suffered serious injuries. Not only was your throat torn open, but..." Celestia paused, a look of deep sympathy filling her face.
"I know." Downbeat replied. "My wing was torn off." She replied with a traight face, showing no pain.
Celestia nodded. "Alright. Hurry off, then." Downbeat lowered her head and made her way back to her room. She slowly got into bed and sighed. It would be a long time before she got used to her missing wing. She was not looking forward to it.
Chapter One: Diminuendo Through Your LifeEdit
Approximately four years later
Downbeat kept her head lowered as she swept a room in the castle. From the few glances she gave beforehand, it seemed to be the bedroom of two ponies. Like most of the castle rooms, it was white. But looking at the columns and doorframe, half of it was trimmed with yellow, and half of it was trimmed with blue.
The yellow half, as Downbeat called it, had various stacks of books. She noted they were carefully sorted by what kind of information they held. There was a stack of weapon books, a stack of combat books, and even a stack dedicated to armor advantages and disadvantages. She looked over to the bed of the yellow half and realized it wasn't made. There was also a small dish-shaped dent in the mattress, as if somepony jumped on it a lot.
The blue half was a lot neater, the books actually being put in bookcases. Further inspection while dusting revealed they were sorted alphabetically and by author. Several were about astrology and math, subjects that didn't really catch Downbeat's fancy. A desk next to the window revealed that this pony was probably the neater of the two. Stacks of paper evened out, quills arranged by size, even the bed nearby was made.
After doing most of the work on the yellow side, Downbeat made her way out the door. She was met by two younger ponies, both staring at her with intense puzzlement. The filly was a deep blue, while the colt was a striking yellow.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I was just doing some cleaning," Downbeat started but she was cut off by the colt.
"You've only got one wing." He said softly, staring at where her left wing used to be. His hazel eyes seemed transfixed to the spot until his companion gave him a small shove, making him shake his head and mess up his orange-striped mane.
"That's very rude of you, Solaris!" The blue alicorn said. She turned back to Downbeat, her long mane covering one of her eyes, which were also hazel. "I apologize. My brother can be a bit insensitive sometimes."
"Lunaris, you didn't let me finish! I think it's cool she's going around with just one wing. In my opinion, only cowards choose the prosthetic." Solaris grinned, glancing back and forth between Downbeat and Lunaris.
"Oh. Well, I guess you have a point." Lunaris looked down for a moment, then back up, locking eyes with Downbeat. "You're the new maid, aren't you? Feather Duster was talking about you earlier. Is it true your injury was caused by a creature in the Great Darkness?"
Downbeat remained silent. Picking up the broom, she walked past the young ponies. A few trotlengths down the hallway, she heard a loud nicker.
"You could have at least said you weren't comfortable." A mustard golden stallion with a darker mane walked over to her. He was followed by a cream colt with a matching mane. Both were Pegasi, and they were also dressed in the standard Canterlot soldier armor.
"Busy Bee, take note of the mare before you." The golden stallion said to the colt. He glanced over to the other Pegasus until he nodded and took out a note pad and quill.
"As you can see, she is closing herself from society. Whatever incident, possibly the one that made her lose her wing," The stallion paused and pointed his hoof at the stump on her side. "Occured, it has made her think that other ponies are not to be trusted."
"Wait," Downbeat felt her face grow hot with anger. She tried to argue, but no words came out. The best she could do was throw the broom and them and run off.
"See what I mean?" The stallion chuckled and picked the broom up. He was about to set it against the wall when another voice poked into the hall.
"You're a bunch of bullies." The voice was moderate and knowledgable, but also held a little scathe. Busy Bee tried to say something, but was cut off by the sound of faint hoofsteps.
Downbeat uncovered her eyes. Her hooves were hot and moist, tears trapped from the outside air not evaporating properly. Looking up, she saw another pony nearby. Recognizing it as another pegasus, she turned away. It was only a few moments later, a kind voice spoke to her.
"Why are you crying, miss?"
Downbeat froze. She knew that voice. It belonged to one of the ponies back in the hospital. Which one though, she thought. Blinking, Downbeat saw the pegasus at a better detail. Pale yellow with a soft pink mane, the other pony sat a few trotlengths away.
"It's... Complicated." Downbeat said simply. She wiped tears from her face and stood up. The other pegasus moved a few steps forward, cautiously, as if not sure if it was okay to approach. Downbeat gave a small nod, and the other pony came up beside her.
"It's okay. You don't have to tell me anything. If you want, you can come to my cottage for a bit. Oh, I almost forgot. My name is Fluttershy." Fluttershy gave a small smile, lifting Downbeat's spirits a bit.
"I'm Downbeat. I was crying because... Some people just don't understand me." Downbeat explained what had happened at the castle, being sure to explain the real reason why she was so quiet.
"Well, not every pony is going to be nice to every other pony. Sometimes we just have to endure things like that. I'm sorry to hear about what happened. I know some other ponies with similar situations." Fluttershy paused, as if about to say something else, then closed her mouth. She then realized something. "Actually, I would really appreciate it if you come to my cottage. I'm expecting a friend. He comes whenever he likes, but maybe today you'll get lucky. I think you two will have a lot in common."
Downbeat frowned slightly. She didn't really like meeting new people, but if it was somebody who might have something in common... "Alright." She said finally.
Fluttershy smiled and began to walk away. Downbeat followed, looking around a couple of times.
"Good night." Downbeat said, giving a small wave to Fluttershy. Luckily, the friend, Lightblade, had arrived. After a few minutes of awkward conversation, he had asked a sensitive question. She answered pretty quickly, though. It was about her wing. She had explained a creature tore it off, but his reaction was a bit off. Most were sympathetic, something that was starting to get on her nerves, but he seemed... Like he was hiding something. She shook it off and continued walking.
That night, Downbeat slept under a large elm tree. The night was a bit chilly, but she ignored this. Her only focus was in her dreams. At least once a week she had nightmares reminding her of the moment she became flightless. They all ended with bright lights and pain in her wing and across her throat.
She woke up, the sun shining almost directly in her eyes. She had a few hours before she was supposed to be at the castle, so she walked to the nearest town, Ponyville. Travel was much slower without the ability to fly, but she coped. Few residents were up at this time, and the few that were weren't doing much.
She looked around the village for a while, a bit dizzy from just waking up. The pain in her wing and throat had vanished, and she was simply tired. She sat down by the back of a house, noticing a few ponies were already setting up carts with various produce. She took a few moments to buy a couple of apples, then began to walk out of the town. Not long after, she met another pony on the road. This one was a crisp orange with a pale yellow mane tied into a braid. A brown hat sat upon it.
"Howdy, Downbeat." The pony said, surprising her. She had never seen this pony before. Well, that was actually a lie. She then remembered that this was another pony from the hospital. Fluttershy had mentioned her last night as well.
"Oh, um, hello. Applejack, is it?" Downbeat murmured, trying to avoid eye contact. She didn't really expect an interaction this time of the day.
"That's right. Fluttershy told me a bit about you over the phone last night." Downbeat began to notice the pony had a bit of a country accent. "I just wanted to say that if you ever need some new friends, you can always talk with our little group." The earth pony nodded and continued her own path to the town. Downbeat sighed.
She arrived at the castle an hour later, taking a quick train from the station outside Ponyville to Canterlot. She heard a few noises and looked up.
Above her were three figures. She recognized two, Lightblade and Solaris. The young alicorn was practicing his fire bursts on the older pegasus, who avoided the fireballs with ease. Shouts like "I almost got you!" and "You going to try harder?" were heard from the two. The third, a pale silver-blue alicorn, stood on the roof slant, staring up at the sky. The moon was still slightly visible, an often occurence when Luna was a bit late with lowering it.
"Hey!" Solaris shouted, barely dodging a small energy burst Lightblad had fired.
"Just keeping you on your hooves." The older one replied. He chuckled, then looked down. He appeared to be looking at the older Alicorn, but Downbeat noticed his gaze shifted slightly. A small frown appeared. Solaris didn't realize he wasn't paying attention and fired another ball of flames. It hit Lightblade in the shoulder, but the Pegasus didn't seem to care. The younger pony stopped and looked down as well.
"Hey! It's you!" Solaris began to descend, but Downbeat was already making her way to the door.
Chapter Two: Keep the Beat ConstantEdit
"Downbeat, could you pass me the duster?" Feather looked over to her pegasus companion, asking for her namesake. After Downbeat handed it to her, she began to dust the shelves of Princess Clipsia's room. She didn't visit the castle often, so dust gathered quickly.
"How was yesterday?" Moth Wing, a shy pegasus like Downbeat, but with a pale blue coat and yellow-and-blue mane, peeked out from the threshold of a nearby closet.
Downbeat shrugged and gave something similar to a "Meh," but said no more. The two other maids got the signal and remained silent for the next hour.
Shortly after her main shift, Downbeat decided to rest. She chose a tree not far from the castle grounds, but then realized somebody else was already sitting under it.
Like her, this figure was a white pegasus. But, this one had both of his wings, and a medium cyan mane. He appeared to notice her, but remained quiet.
"I'm sorry, I didn't see you there." She mumbled.
"It's alright." The other pegasus said in a cool voice. "Would you like this spot?"
"No, it's fine, I can find another." She ducked her head a little for a moment, then lifted it again. "Wait, I think I've seen you around before."
"If you've been around the castle enough, then most likely, yes you have." He shifted his position a bit. "I'm afraid I can't say I've seen you, though."
"Oh, well, I don't try to make myself known. But I'm a maid in the castle."
"I see." He paused a second before continuing. "I'm the Fifth White Knight. That's how you've seen me. Blizzard."
She looked up at this. "Oh, like Lightblade? Well I'm Downbeat."
"You know Light as well?" He thinks on that. "Guess it's no surprise. Just about everyone else knows him. Anyway, it's nice to meet you."
Downbeat blinked for a moment. When she snapped back to attention, she was in the castle, sitting on a set of stairs. Oh, right, she thought. The castle is hosting a party. On her lap sat her diary, and she had lost focus around a certain page. A pony named Blizzard had talked to her quite a while ago.
Hearing hoofsteps, she stiffened. Almost holding her breath, she stood still until she saw who it was. Lightblade.
Lightblade blinked, surprised to find her there. "Oh, hey." He mumbled.
Downbeat paused, then replied. "Oh, hello..." She pretended to look back down to the book, but a question itched at the back of her head. She had to ask him.
"What are you doing up here? Party's downstairs." Lightblade gestured behind him.
"I don't like crowds." She replied simply. "I prefer a quiet place to enjoy my reading."
Lightblade mumbled something, but it didn't seem important.
"How about you?" She asked, looking back up.
"There's not much to do downstairs." He admitted.
"And you expected there'd be something to do up here?" Downbeat asked, eyes narrowing slightly with suspiscion.
"Well I don't know, maybe."
Downbeat looked back to her diary. The silence that filled the room agitated her, and she had an urge to sing. But she decided to ask something instead. "Light...I have to ask you something."
Lightblade perked up a bit. "What's that?" Downbeat took a breath. Here goes, she thought.
"What happened during The Great Darkness? I remember the Princess mentioning something. A Darkblaze was involved, I think?"
"Please Light. I deserve to know. Lots of people deserve to know. My life was changed because of The Darkness, I think I should know the truth!" She raised her voice.
Lightblade took a big breath. And then he fired. Downbeat tried to stop him several times, but he just kept explaining. When he finished, she was speechless.
She prepared herself to react, when Lightblade fell over. He began to yell obscenities. "I..." Downbeat couldn't grasp the words.
She gave out a small gasp and walked out of the room, trying to keep the tears away.
Chapter Three: Cracked VoiceEdit
Downbeat screamed. All the rage and sorrow she felt, learning he was responsible, learning he was the reason she was like this, that Darkblaze corrupted the Manticore that crippled her and caused several other tragedies.
Giving out a sob, she ran through the castle halls, charging out of the main doors. She ran as far as she could. She ran and ran, she ran until her legs gave out. Collapsing in front of a tree, she continued to cry. Every once in a while she screamed again. She kept screaming and crying until her throat hurt, which wasn't very long because of her scar.
Rubbing her wet face, Downbeat sighed. It wasn't long before she fell asleep.
"Hey, wake up!" A voice growled. Downbeat didn't move. She didn't want to. "Tone, wake up before I buck you good and hard!"
Downbeat removed her hooved from her face. It was her sister, Sharp. The black pegasus with a yellow-and-silver mane looked down upon her younger sister. "What's the problem, sissie? It's been a long time since you bawled your face off."
Downbeat shook her head and stood up. "Leave me alone, Sharp. I'm fine without you." She turned around and sat, back to Sharp.
"Hey, do I need to tell mom you're being difficult again?" Her sister tapped her sharply with her hoof.
Downbeat shuddered. Her mother was not one she liked to talk to. "No, just leave me alone." She stood up again, this time taking off in a gallop.
"I'm afraid Celestia has restricted your access until further notice, Downbeat." One of the guards replied. Downbeat had tried to enter the castle, but the unicorn had blocked her way. "Consider yourself on unpaid leave."
Downbeat scowled and glanced at the sky. No sign of Lightblade. She thought as much. Bidding the knight farewell, she made her way back to the city of Canterlot.
"Here ya go, sweetie." The pale blue earth pony named Folkbloom handed Downbeat a cup of tea. Downbeat was the only one in the tea shop, but she didn't really care. She needed some alone time.
"Folkbloom, I need you help in sorting some of the stock!" A voice yelled from behind a door marked "STAFF ONLY".
"I'll just be a minute. Have to help Folkblossom." Folkbloom turned from Downbeat and trotted through the door. In the moment it was open, Downbeat could see a unicorn that looked almost exactly like Folkbloom, but had a pale yellow coat instead.
Now she was truly alone. Taking a sip of her tea, Downbeat thought. She probably overreacted, yes. But if it wasn't for Light, she could be flying instead of being stuck on the ground.
Downbeat finished her tea. She was just about to put the required number of bits on the table when he came in.
"Downbeat," Lightblade said. He looked like he had ran all the way from the Crystal Kingdom to the shop. He wasn't out of breath, but certain parts of his mane and tail were out of place.
"Go away." She grunted, leaving the bits on the table. She attempted to shove past him, but he was steadfast. "Why should I trust you after you did what you did?"
"After what I did?" he interrupted. "Listen, I didn't know I could create some opposite clone of me that would try and take over Equestria! I stopped him, anyway."
"You're missing the point." She said through gritted teeth. "I thought I could trust you, and then you revealed that it was your fault I'm like this! All my life I thought I could just blame it on Darkblaze, but then you revealed you created him or something! And because of that, it may be a while before I open up to another pony. And it may be years before I forgive you." She came close to tears while muttering the last sentence.
"Downbeat. You've been living without your wing for four years now. Don't you think it's time to get over it?"
"You opened old wounds, Light." Downbeat replied softly. She pushed past him again, this time getting through.
She got a good distance away from him before he spoke up again.
"I never really explained why, you know." He said.
Downbeat stopped and listened.
"I told you what happened, not why it happened."
"What does it matter?" She said.
"Okay, let me ask you this." He walked up to her. "What am I? Do you know? Do you know why I'm like this?"
Saying nothing, Downbeat pushed past him again and began to walk away again.
"It doesn't matter." She said, leaving him there.
But there was a part of her that knew it did. And if he hadn't told her the whole truth, she wanted to know the rest. But for now, she needed to be alone.
"When I count to three, all your cares will leave. You will close your eyes, and respond to each of my questions in a calm and truthful manner." The dark grey pegasus, her ruby mane tied back in a bun, stood over Downbeat.
"Is this really necessary, mother? I just need to talk." Downbeat muttered.
"Even my daughter can be reluctant to tell the truth, da?" The pony, Arpeggio, paused for a moment to regain her composure. "Sorry, I let my accent slip."
"Maybe you would like to go back to mother Marescow, da?" Downbeat replied, imitating her mother's accent. "Maybe catch up with Trotsky?"
"One, two, three!" Arpeggio said quickly, glaring at her daughter.
Downbeat's eyes immediately shut. She sat down, and waited.
"Now, let's start with all the tension you've been feeling."
"Remember, I want you to go back to this Lightblade and try to work things out." Arpeggio pushed Downbeat out of her office and closed the door.
Downbeat, feeling refreshed and a bit chipper, made her way downstairs and out of the office building. She decided to follow her mother's advice. About half an hour into her search thought the town of Manehattan, it was Lightblade that found Donwnbeat.
"Oh, hey." He greeted, half expecting her to shun him away. "What do you need?"
Downbeat blinked and flicker her right ear. "Um, nothing? I was just visiting my mother. She uh, is a psychiatrist. Helps me calm down."
"Oh..." He didn't seem to have much to say. "You want me to tell you now or later or... what, what's up?"
Downbeat tilted her head for a moment. "Well... I guess. I think I can handle it."
"It's not as bad, trust me." He said reassuringly. "It's more confusing than anything. Come on, let's get somewhere private."
Lightblade led her to the fields just outside of Ponyville, confident that nobody would bother them.
"Okay... where to begin..." He scratched the back of his head.
"Um.. Just start where you think you should." She sighed.
"Okay... hmm... well, I'm sort of the next step in the evolutionary chain for pegasi... if that makes sense. Does that make sense?"
"I...guess?" She raised an eyebrow. "So you're like, advanced genetically?"
"Yes! Exactly. Except, evolution kind of screwed up since I'm the very first. So I'm all unstable and whatnot. I pretty much got a whole lot of power and not a very effective way to control them. Until recently at least. Recently being two years, but still. That's pretty much the reason why Darkblaze came about in the first place. Back then my power was so unstable it could act on its own accord, and depending on certain factors, could create something like him... which is how that happened. Even still I'm pretty dangerous to be around."
"Oh..." Downbeat thought for a moment. "Please, continue."
"Well... okay specifics... OH! I can go into a battle rage if pushed too far! Which is not good." He shivered a bit. "Let's just say it's um... really, REALLY bloody, and once there was a piece of bone stuck between my teeth. Drove me nuts trying to get it out... also there's one main ability that I have that lets me absorb genetic material to... um... upgrade myself, I guess you could say... it's the reason why... I have well... this."
He spreads his wings, and to Downbeat's surprise, he has four wings instead of the normal two.
"They're my sister's wings." He explained. "I absorbed her blood when... when she died..."
Downbeat gasped. "I..." Her voice failed her, but her expression was one of puzzlement rather than surprise.
"Yeah, it's kind of complicated. I can't make it any simpler than that... but... you know, any questions?"
Downbeat thought for a moment, then shook her head. "No, not really."
"Okay, good... well I think that about covers it." Lightblade look around and sighed. "Hey, Downbeat..." He had a soft smile when he looked back at her. "Thanks... for listening... it really means a lot."
Downbeat smiled back. "No problem, Light." She looked out to the fields, thinking. Soon, she began to hum a small tune.
Light stayed to listen for a bit before standing up.
"Well, I'd best be off. Princess is probably wondering where I am right about now. You want to come along?"
Downbeat frowned. "I can't. She's suspended me until further notice. Probably because of last night."
"If you're with me it wont matter. If you want just say so." He told her.
"Alright." She stood up as well and nodded.
"Right, then." Lightblade gestured her to follow and they were on their way.
It was about a 45 minute journey from walking to the train station and riding to Canterlot. The guards at the castle once again stated Downbeat was prohibited from the castle until further notice, but with Lightblade's superior rank, he gave her passage. They worked their way through the halls and to Princess Celestia's throne room.
"Hi." Lightblade greeted. By now he had known her for long enough to skip formalities.
"Light," Celestia replied. "Downbeat." She seemed a little distracted, but focused her attention on the pegasi.
"Something wrong?" Light asked.
"Light, I ordered for Downbeat to not be allowed in the castle."
"I know, but it's okay." He looked over to Downbeat "Really, we worked things out."
Celestia sighed. "It's more than that, Light. A lot more."
Downbeat frowned. "What do you mean, miss?"
Celestia paused. "Well, it has to do with the Darkness."
Light immediately stood at attention. "What do you mean?"
The princess sighed. "Light, Downbeat. As you know, The Great Darkness was able to corrupt various creatures. Like the Manticore that attacked Downbeat. The thing is, we're trying to quarantine her. But I think it's safer she remains in castle now."
"Wait, what?" Light was confused. "Why? What's going on?"
"She's... The attack left traces of the darkness in her. Any time, she could break out and.. She won't be herself. This can also spread to other ponies. The royal family and all others in the castle are immune because of the magical power here, and Lightblade, you are too for obvious reasons." Celestia slowly made her way down the steps from her throne.
"So, I'm sick?" Downbeat frowned, mouth alightly agape.
"So, wait... what's gonna happen?" He had a hint of worry for her in his tone.
"Well, unless we can find some way to cure her, and any other ponies she may have infected, she's going to break out sometime. I'm not sure how the Darkness will affect ponies, though..." Celestia nodded quickly. "Downbeat can stay in Clipsia's room for the time being."
"Wait a sec..." Light thought for a moment. "I still have my mission in Skyrift I need to get back to soon. Would I need to stay here instead?"
"Light, until you are dismissed from Skyrift, you should still attend to your duties there. Downbeat will still participate in her maid work, but I will keep a close eye on her. Lunaris can use her sensory magic to detect any change anyway." Celestia turned and glanced out a window.
Both the Princess and Downbeat could tell he wasn't at all comfortable with that decision, but as his duties demand he needed to complete the mission he was given.
"Fine..." He reluctantly agreed. "Downbeat, you'll be okay, right?"
"Um, I think so..." Downbeat shifted uncomfortably.
"You better go, Light. The sooner you get back to Skyrift, the better. It was nice to have you back for Hearth's Warming Eve." Celestia began to usher to two out of the throne room.
"Come, Downbeat, let's prepare Clipsia's room." The princess draped one of her large wings over the pegasus and led her down a hallway branching off of the main hall.
Chapter Four: Dark TempoEdit
The last few days were restless for Downbeat. Ever since she learned she was infected by the darkness, her physical state declined a little bit. Sometimes she found herself yawning or sleeping on her feet. It must be inhabiting like a normal cold for now, she thought. Sleepy, loss of appetite, and cloudy thoughts.
After being practically oushed into Clipsia's room by Feather Duster, Downbeat decided to treat it like a normal cold. Placing her cleaning supplies in a small table, she slid into bed. It wasn't long before she was actually asleep.
Blinking, Downbeat found herself in another place. It was black, but streams of light were visible. Following them, she paused. There was a set of stairs ahead of her. Floating, purple, and almost transparent. She took a hesitant step. The first stair shone brighter, and released a single tone.
Slowly, Downbeat made her way up and up the stairs. Listening to the notes, she recognized them as a light C scale. The end lead to a wide floor, as black as everything else around Downbeat. The only major detail was a pony. Pale silver with a darker mane, this unicorn sat facing her, a smirk on his face. Pushing up some glasses that were close to falling off, he addressed her.
"Before you open your mouth, I shall answer your questions. One, yes, you are dreaming. Two, no, I am not a part of the dream. Three, a simple invasion spell. Tricky to master, but not as much for a unicorn of my power." He stood up.
"What are you doing here?" Downbeat managed to get out.
"Oh, seeing if I can find a manifestation of the Darkness in your dreams. Apparently, everything that is black is that manifestation. Though the effects on the outside are minimal, it's obvious that some control is being taken in your subconcious." The pony mused. "I'm Silver Lining, by the way."
Downbeat remained silent. "Now, if my dream interpretation classes taught me anything..." Silver walked around Downbeat, looking her over for a moment. "The set of music stairs represents your hope. You still love singing, even if your voice is weaker. Even if you do not talk as much as you used to."
"Wait, how do you know this scar is related to my voice being weaker?" Downbeat began to feel cautious.
"Oh, just another thing I found while poking around your mind. Took you a while to get up here, so I decided to have some fun. Now, the streams of light that lead you to the stairs, those are most interesting. Could they be purity? A goal? Representation of what you can't achieve yet you still think you can? Or maybe... Somebody dear to you?" Silver Lining teleported right in front of Downbeat, a pesky grin on his face.
Downbeat backed up. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Deny all you want, Downbeat. But it will not change the fact that we are coming for you. And the princess. And your little rays of Light." Silver gave a cackle, then vanished. Moments later, shouts entered Downbeat's ears, and she woke up.
"Downbeat, get out! Ponies are invading the castle!" Feather Duster's familiar gravely scream sent Downbeat leaping from her bed and through the doors of the room. Several windows were broken, and many of the banners that hung were now torn. Downbeat backed up a little when she found an unconscious pony nearby.
"Over here, girl!" The maid shouted from an intersection. Feather turned to five a few kicks to some charging ponies, then ran up to Downbeat. "Come on, we have to evacuate! I hope the royal family is okay..."
Downbeat ignored the prattling pony and directed her attention to another scream. Past the intersection Feather Duster came from, a small blue alicorn was cornered by a much larger and older pegasus. Downbeat didn't know what made her do it, but the next thing she knew she was barreling into the pegasus, slamming him into a wall.
"I'm okay." The alicorn, Lunaris, said. "You go find other ponies that need help. I'll take Feather and try to find mother." The young heiress bolted past Downbeat and Feather followed her down one of the many castle hallways.
Downbeat's hooves ached. The ponies behind her had been chasing for what seemed like an hour. They didn't know the twists and turns as well as she did, but they didn't tire.
A unicorn gave a bolt of fire, barely missing and burning her tail a bit. Downbeat gave a scream. She was now very afraid.
"Downbeat!" A familiar voice cried.
A blur of blue and white tackled the group of ponies behind her while Downbeat rushed to stand behind Princess Celestia. The princess seemed a little scared too, but a look of determination did its best to hide that.
Lightblade was suddenly beside her. "Are you okay?" He asked.
"I... They came after me... I don't know why." Downbeat was gasping for air, fatigue from the chase finally catching up with her. All the adrenaline made her shake.
"Don't worry, we're getting out of here." He launched a bolt of energy at another pony before smashing a window. He gestured for Celestia to jump out first, then took Downbeat in his arms and followed. Using their wings, Celestia and Lightblade slowed their descent and pulled into a normal flight pattern. Downbeat covered her eyes with her hooves. Not flying for a long time can help develop acrophobia.
They landed in Talmia Plains. Lightblade set Downbeat on the grass, and she stood up shakily. Moments later, Lightblade's Blitz and best friend, Shiden, had joined them.
"Are you okay?" Lightblade asked after looking over everyone for injuries.
Downbeat gave a small nod, but Celestia remained silent.
Lightblade turned to the princess. "What do they want? Do you know?"
The Princess hesitated. After a long pause, she spoke. "Light... The world is in danger."
"What do you mean?" Light asked, a small amount of dread creeping into his voice.
"They wanted not only me, but you as well, and Downbeat… they want to resurrect the Darkness." Celestia's voice was soft and very grave.
Lightblade took this in. Downbeat took in a deep breath. Everything was too much. Her condition, the attack, it would take a while before it all sunk in.
"Shiden." Lightblade said, directing his attention to the Blitz. "Go to Skyrift. Inform them that the Royal Family is safe. It was just a distraction so they could prepare an assault on Canterlot. Tell them I'm currently protecting Princess Celestia and to not send reinforcements to Canterlot, then find Gravitz and make sure Luna's safe. Come back to me after you're done."
The bird nodded and was gone.
The next few hours were a blur to Downbeat. She was sent to get some supplies while Lightblade and Celestia discussed what they were going to do once they had settled into the town.
She only came back into focus when food had been brought out. She wasn't hungry, but ate a few of the pizza rolls so Lightblade or the Princess wouldn't be worried. She also downed a glass of milk to help rehydrate herself.
Soon, Celestia and Downbeat were in their beds. Light turned out the light and exchanged some commentary, but Downbeat wasn't listening. She was surprised by how fast she had learned to trust Lightblade again after what she knew about him. Maybe because their pasts were linked? She mulled this over for a bit, then found she couldn't sleep.
"Light?" She lifted her head up.
"Hm? What is it?" He whispered. He entered the room quietly, and walked over so he stood beside her bed."
"I… um…" Downbeat paused, then started again. "I never got to tell you properly before… I don't blame you… for what happened. It wasn't your fault."
There was a sigh from Light, then an unexpected hug. Downbeat's face flushed red, and a small squeak escaped her lips.
"Thanks." He said. He gave her another small squeeze, then left the room again.
Having released this information, Downbeat felt much more relaxed. Closing her eyes and yawning, sleep came easy.
"My, my, I think I just figured out what those streams of light meant." Downbeat was back in the pitch black area. Silver sat in front of her, his usual grin plastered to his face. "Actually, I already figured it out a long time ago. But still, now you know."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Downbeat tilted her head.
"Oh, you know who." Silver taunted, pushing his glasses up again.
Then Downbeat realized who he was talking about. Her face turned red again, and she lowered her head.
"No need to be embarrassed. This is, after all, your mind. And you may have escaped us for now, but as I said before, we're coming for you. By the way, about how long has it been since you found out you were sick? A week? Week and a half? I have a feeling that breakout will happen any day now. Or maybe... Ah, nevermind, I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise. Anyway, let's talk about Light."
"I don't want to." She said simply, trying to avoid the unicorn's gaze.
"Oh come on. I can tell you something about him. Would that help loosen your tongue?" Silver walked up to Downbeat and gave her a small shove.
"What?" Downbeat extended her wing for balance.
"He doesn't feel the same way, your feelings are unrequited." Silver turned away.
"That's a lie." Downbeat was starting to feel strange. Some sort of intensity was forming in her.
"No, no. It's true. I am a mind reader after all. Kinda how I got my cutie mark? No matter how cloudy your mind is, I can percieve the greatest things in it."
"Stop it. Get out of my head." Flames flickered in Downbeat's eyes. Her face grew hot, she felt her words scald. The black shadows around them began to twist and shake. "You're a liar. You're just toying with me. No matter what Light's feelings for me are, I will still be this way. So just leave me alone!"
The shadows leaped out and knocked Silver Lining down. He seemed unfazed, though. Standing up, he chuckled. "Well, my work here is done. Seems all that the Darkness needed to activate was some pure anger. Oh, and you're going to have to explain a lot to the princess and Light when you wake up." The stallion gave a bow, then vanished.
Downbeat gave a scream, letting the shadows flow around her.
Chapter Five: Shadow TonesEdit
Downbeat gave out a gasp, blinking her eyes rapidly. It seemed like she had taken a breath in a long time. Celestia stood over her in the darkness, looking worried.
“This isn’t good. We can’t have you breaking out. Not now. They can find us if you do.” The princess was muttering, trying to get Downbeat to sit up. Lightblade was nowhere to be seen. He was either gone or asleep. Downbeat got to her hooves, sliding out of the bed and taking deeper breaths.
“Are you alright? I saw something… And when I moved over to check on you, you weren’t breathing. You had REM, though, so you were still asleep. Did you have a nightmare or something?” Celestia bombarded her with questions, and she shook them away.
Yawning, Downbeat made her way to the kitchen. Opening the fridge, she found the carton of milk from earlier and poured herself a glass. She offered Celestia some, and the princess accepted. The two sat at the table in silence for a few moments.
“You like him, don’t you?” Celestia asked, using a napkin to wipe some milk off of her nose.
“Huh?” Downbeat had to spit out some of her milk to get the response out. The princess usually wasn’t this prying, and she wore a small grin. Downbeat thought it was a bit odd to be so casual about it, but she replied. “Um… Yeah.” She muttered.
“Why not tell him? I’ve only just become aware of your feelings. Either it was the Darkness or you hide things very well without any magical ability.” Celestia finished her milk and rinsed her cup out in the sink.
Downbeat sighed, her thoughts going back to the dream she had earlier. Was Silver Lining really telling the truth? Did Light only feel friendship for Downbeat? She took a deep breath, then slowly told Celestia what happened.
Celestia was silent for a few minutes. The longer the silence lasted, the more Downbeat became uneasy.
“Silver Lining was one of my students; and Armageddon’s apprentice. He specialized in dream scrying, a very rare magical ability. I guess he was able to change it around, use it to read one’s mind. He became too proud of his abilities, thinking he could master Luna in dream traveling. He challenged her to a battle in a dream, and it resulted in him being banished. Wherever he is, he’s getting to you. I’ll settle your thoughts now and say this: whatever he says that worries or offends you is a lie.” Celestia sighed and sat back down at the table.
Downbeat frowned. “Is there a way to prevent him from entering my dreams?”
“Like I said, dream scrying is a rare and powerful form of magic. If anyone is able to prevent it, Luna can. But remember, we have to lay low for a while.” Celestia explained.
Downbeat nodded, finishing her milk and washing her glass out as well. She paused, hearing the door to the balcony open. Lightblade entered, yawning. “Oh, I didn’t know you were up. Morning, I guess. Sun still isn't out yet, but whatever."
“Isn’t it only about five PM in Canterlot?” Downbeat asked.
Celestia gave out a giggle. “Yes, but it’s about six AM here. We are in another part of the world, after all. Downbeat, don’t you have something to ask Light?”
Downbeat spluttered, almost rearing. The princess herself had pushed Downbeat in an uncomfortable situation. The grin on her face confirmed what she wanted Downbeat to say.
“No, miss.” Downbeat replied coolly. “I thought you did. You mentioned something about me not breathing before I woke up?”
Celestia rolled her eyes, frowning. “Downbeat may start to break out soon. I saw some shadows around her earlier, and when I went to check on her, her breathing had stopped. Probably wasn’t for very long since she’s functioning now. If she does, we don’t have to worry about her infecting other ponies, but I’m still not sure what would happen.”
“Oh,” Light said, a bit of concern crossing his face for a moment.
“I’ll monitor her condition for a while, and notify you of any change." Celestia said, closing her eyes for a moment. A small frown came to her face. "Luna's safe, right? What about the other knights? Lunris and Solaris?"
"We'll have to wait for Shiden to get back to know." Light replied. "But knowing them, I'm thinking they're fine one way or another."
Downbeat looked around the small town. Celestia had suggested they visit some of the local shops instead of spending the day cooped up in the apartment. Downbeat was reluctant, but finally agreed. Anxiety began to build. It was a slow build, but noticeable. She wished her mother was nearby.
"Um, is this seat taken?" A mare asked. The unicorn was a bright pink and had a golden mane with curls down to her knees. She seemed flustered, and had a small bunch of papers sticking out of her saddlebag.
"Oh, um, no. Go ahead." Downbeat gestured to the empty seat across from her. Many of the tables were empty because of the time, but she didn't judge the mare's choice.
"I'm Sugar Song." The unicorn smiled. She reached into her saddlebag and took out a few papers, setting them on the table.
"Downbeat." She replied. That name seemed familiar. It was on the tip of her tongue, where had she heard it before?
"You've probably heard of me. I have some very popular songs."
Then it came to Downbeat. She knew about Sugar Song. She seemed nice and her voice was sweet, but it could instantly turn bitter. She once heard the singer berate Cattail, a librarian in Canterlot, simply because she didn't have the right book.
"Yeah. Never heard your music though. I am a bit of a singer myself."
"Oh, would you care to sing a few notes for me?" Sugar smiled, revealing pearly whites almost as pale as the powdery substance she was named for.
"I don't want to, my voice isn't as strong as it used to be." Downbeat looked around for some sign of Light or Celestia. They said they were going to check out one of the nearby stores, and it had been almost an hour.
"Are you sure? Because even though my songs are really sweet," Sugar leaned in, a menacing glare woven in her eyes. "I check to make sure the competition isn't adding any sugar to theirs. If you catch my drift. I don't care if you're a simple hobbyist, you will hum, whistle, or sing to me one of your songs. And if I don't think it's threatening, then you're safe. But if it's good, I'll make sure you never get a career in the music industry. Ever."
That crossed the line for Downbeat. To think this pony thought she could decide who was talented and who wasn't, then rub out the competition! She would have made a more passive approach, but something immediately flared up. She jumped to anger.
Before she knew it, the area surrounding her and Sugar had gone dark. Shadows curled around her, and it took her a moment to realize they had cut her mane short. She couldn't see, but her eyes had changed from their usual aqua to a deep red.
"Listen here." She spoke stiffly. "You will stop bullying other ponies who are doing what they love. You will give them a bucking chance. You will learn to accept your parts, no matter how small they are, and you will learn that nobody is perfect, like you think you are!"
Sugar Song stared at Downbeat for a moment, eyes wide. In an instant, she turned tail and ran, screaming and leaving a trail of papers behind her.
Downbeat scoffed, then set her head on her hooves. The shadows vanished, but her eyes and mane stayed the same. The Darkness had now broken out.
"Downbeat?" A familiar voice caused Downbeat's ears to perk up. She had calmed down, but an inner rage wouldn't let go of her. She looked up, and saw Lightblade. "Light..." She managed to get out.
A shadow jumped out, aiming for the other pegasus. He moved aside quickly, letting it disperse after hitting the wall of a building. Downbeat cringed. Every time the energy lashed out, she felt a small wave of pain in her head.
Celestia was suddenly beside Lightblade. "Light, we need to get her out of here, that signal was probably picked up by every magical entity within a hundred miles."
Downbeat didn't pay attention for a moment. But a shout from Celestia made her snap her head up. "Light, no!"
Lightblade was beside her, the sword he had found earlier protecting him from the shadows all around. Without any fear, he dropped it and picked Downbeat up. Downbeat had to time to make a noise as three dark tendrils went through him. The tendrils lifted him up, and Downbeat moved so she fell out of his grasp. After a moment, they removed themselves from Lightblade and sunk back into the ground.
Downbeat couldn't take it. Her vision blurred and she trembled slightly. She wanted to help Light, be she knew she couldn't. Not in her unstable condition. The Darkness was hostile to him. Her vision was still blurry, but it began to get darker, almost black. She couldn't hear anything, it felt like she was in a silent room that was pitch black.
Then, she felt an embrace. Blinking a few times to clear her vision, Downbeat saw it was Light. She was about to say something when more dark formations appeared, speeding toward Lightblade. But they stopped. They began to fade slowly, their natural opposite, sunlight, extinguishing them.
"Light?" Downbeat managed to mutter.
"You alright, now?" He asked, looking to her.
Downbeat thought, then gave a small nod. She felt herself calming down and the Darkness retreating back to her subconscious.
"Alright." He chuckled. He released his grip slowly, then suddenly fell to the ground, passed out.
Chapter Six: Six-day RestEdit
"Mother of mom! Oh, wait, I mean, grandma!" Solaris stumbled through the forest, one eye swollen and purplish-blue. He also spoke with a faint lisp, like he bit his tongue. He probably did in the recent fight. He got through with his wings intact, but he now had a shiner and a bleeding mouth.
"I could have sworn I saw Shiden fly from this direction. That may lead me to Light, and anyone else he's with." He bit his lip. "I didn't see any sign of the other knights once I had chased off some of those ponies. I hope they're okay." He straightened himself. "No. They are okay. Because they're the Canterlot Royal Guard!" He straightened his wings, gave them a cautionary flap, then took to the skies.
Downbeat sat up in bed. She felt cold, yet she was wrapped in blankets. The pony, Solaris, was looking for them. Where he was, Downbeat wasn't sure. But he was looking for them.
She noticed Celestia was reading a book nearby. She glanced over, hearing Downbeat. "Oh, you're up. Listen, I," She stopped, noticing Downbeat get up.
"It's Solaris." Downbeat said. "He's looking for us." The princess went silent. It was quiet enough for them to hear the knock at the door. Downbeat looked at Celestia, but she seemed to be worrying about her son. The pegasus walked over to the door and opened it.
A silver-blue pony stood before her, wrapped in a dark red cloak. He had silver whiskers covering his face and dull blue eyes. They flickered with recognition. A spark flashed, and Solaris stood before here, still in his cloak. His eye seemed to have healed a bit, and the lisp was gone. "Downbeat! Listen, is Light here? Or mom?" He didn't wait for an answer, pushing past and looking around.
"Solaris?" Celestia hurried over to her son and embraced him. There was a silent moment, in which Downbeat decided to close the door. Once it had passed, Celestia spoke. "Where is Lunaris? And Luna? What about the other knights?"
Solaris took a breath, then started. "I don't know, to be honest. I was stunned for a while. And they either cut their magic off or mine was dulled. I couldn't sense them. It was, fuzzy, I guess. What I do know is they aren't dead."
Celestia nodded. "This group of ponies... They're doing everything to keep us in the dark. Even after we've guessed their plan. Solaris, listen to me. Lightblade is missing. Since we currently have only a few guesses at a plan, you need to stay low, like us. Take a room nearby, I'll pay for it. Only when I summon you will you be needed. Should Lightblade return soon, you may come and help us."
Solaris nodded hesitantly. He waited for more, but proceeded to the door when Celestia remained silent. He paused. "This is going to be bad, isn't it?"
"Possibly. I will see about contacting Armageddon. He may have some clues since he can scry." Celestia picked up her book again. Solaris trotted out the door and closed it softly after him. Once he was gone, Celestia turned to Downbeat.
"We now have an opportunity to talk in private."
Downbeat wasn't exactly eager to do so.
The princess led her to the bed and asked her to sit down, and she did. Celestia sighed, thinking of where to begin.
"Downbeat..." She began. "I... I know you have feelings for Light." She tried to make this as less embarrassing as possible for her. "So I just want you to know about some things."
Downbeat bit her lip. Now that Celestia wasn't teasing her about it, the subject seemed more serious. "What kinds of things?" She asked, shifting uncomfortably.
"Well... you know about his abilities and such; the way he is. If you're willing to go further with him at some point you should be aware how dangerous it is to be around him." She tried to put it as gently as possible. "He... he's very unstable. I'm not trying to say that you shouldn't be together but... I just want you to know the risks involved. Part of the reason why I made him my Royal Protector is so I could keep an eye on him and keep his powers in check."
"Yeah, he explained a little bit of that to me." Downbeat admitted. "I'm not saying I'm confident in my feelings. Just waiting for the right time, you could say."
"I guess I should be glad you aren't worried about it." The princess said. "Light's mostly been alone all these years. His family is already gone and I'm sure he feels he's responsible for that..."
"Well, I kind of felt the same way when I was younger," Downbeat said. "I wasn't a very good singer. And my family used to be well known for their voices. In fact," she paused. "Because I didn't meet my parent's expectations, my real name is Tone Deaf." She lowered her head a little.
"Well I do think Downbeat suits you better,' She said smiling. "Well I guess that's all I have to say. I'm glad I could have this talk with you."
Downbeat nodded a reply. Glancing outside, she noted it was getting dark. Lightblade had been missing a full day. How long until he returned?
The answer was another five.
The second he stepped inside, he began to fall over. Celestia ran up and caught him, Downbeat following. With some work, the got Light on one of the beds.
He woke up a few hours later. Downbeat glanced at him a few times, but guilt hung over her head.
"Ah, Light." The princess said, any tone of worry no longer present in her voice. "Are you alright?"
"Agh... a little stiff..." He sits up and stretches himself out, making sure his limbs still worked. "But not dead, at least."
"Ah, that's good." Celestia was much more relieved.
Light rubbed his head, seemingly to get rid of the remnants of a headache.
"Light, what happened?" The princess continued. "When you were captured by them, where did they take you?"
Downbeat was interested in what had happened as well, so she listened in, but refused to take her eyes from the ground.
"I don't know..." He responded. "When I got out I didn’t look back… I was in some dungeon or something when I woke up. I broke out before they were able to do anything."
"Are you sure?"
"Light, I felt the Darkness on you when you got here. What was it?"
Light's expression seemed to notify that he was hiding something, but he quickly came up with a response.
"I... it's nothing..."
"Light, you need to tell me. It's important." Celestia pressed.
"Trust me, it's fine." He says. "You don't have to worry about it."
He was definitely hiding something, but Celestia dropped it due to her complete faith in her knight. She was sure that as long as he said he was fine, he was fine, although she wasn't necessarily okay with not knowing. Light then looked to Downbeat, who still had her eyes to the ground.
"Hey, you okay?" He asks.
She doesn't answer, instead sighing and heading out to the balcony to be alone. She saw Light try to follow, but he was stopped by the Princess. She was right. Downbeat needed to be alone, right now.
She stayed out there, curled up against the wall, for hours until it was night time. By then, Light had come out to visit her. He sat down next to her, but still she didn't look up at him. She hated herself right now.
"It's cold out here," Light says. "You might get sick."
"I'm already sick..." She muttered, barely enough for her to hear herself, thinking Light wouldn't hear either.
"Downbeat... come on..."