Twilight groaned softly as her senses began to return, the first thing she felt was a pounding sensation against her skull like a hammer was being repeatedly smashed against her forehead, soon after came taste and a strange metallic flavour that she didn't recognize at first. Slowly her bleary eyes began to flutter open, only to be snapped shut again a second later as a blinding white light met her almost instantly.
She tried to inhale a deep breath, only to start coughing violently as a sharp pain flared up in her chest, the feeling like a hand was clenching tightly around her ribs and stomach cutting her attempts at breathing short. Pain was about the best word to describe her situation it seemed, her head was aching, her lungs burned and her throat was painfully dry.
It was several minutes of painful gasping before the vice around her chest loosened enough for her to inhale even a minimal amount of air, just enough to keep her conscious.
Twilight tried to lick her lips in a vain attempt to moisten them and was startled to find something was clenched between her teeth, the rough material was cold in several places but strangely warm in others, when her tongue briefly touched those locations that irony taste returned and made her stomach twist painfully. Working her jaw she managed to force her teeth to unclench, only for a loud clattering sound to accompany whatever it was she'd been holding as it struck the floor.
Again the lavender unicorn forced her eyes open, the light was still there but it wasn't as dazzling as before, everything was a blur at first and she could only make out a few scant details past the piercing white light. The blurry images slowly resolved into familiar shapes and shadows, the walls of the room she was in were a bright white and reflected the light shining through the two windows above her head painfully back into her eyes, forcing her head to move to the left she spotted a row of wooden cupboards, each a dark brown colour, mostly. Her eyes opened further as she noted several dark red stains on the nearest two, streaks form where the initial stains had started rolled downwards towards the floor.
Twisting back, she glanced upwards and studied the high ceiling above her, dark brown much like the cupboards though thankfully lacking the red stains. A light was inset into the roof, swaying slightly from side to sight and making the shadows above (and no doubt below) lurch and shift sickeningly.
Turning to the right she found herself staring at the legs of a dining table, apparently the owner of the house had a thing for that natural brown colour as the table was the same as everything else, right down to several red spots darkening the leg nearest her, several streaks led down to the floor where it was beginning to spread out in a steady pool of dark red.
What had happened here? Why was she here?
Twilight tried to unscramble her thoughts, but this only resulted in the hammer bashing against her skull even harder and more frequently then before, her vision grew unfocused along with it, forcing her to squint her eyes shut again.
Shifting her front hooves upwards she began lightly rubbing her temples in hopes of easing the headache, finding this ineffective she made to pull her hooves away, only to realize her coat and the stray bits of mane that had fallen in the way suddenly clung to them and an odd sticky sensation had formed where she touched.
Ignoring the pounding in her head, Twilight forced her eyes open once again and brought her hooves up to eye level. Once the room stopped spinning and her vision stopped swimming, she was able to see what it was staining them.
The same red fluid that stained everything around her was apparently staining her hooves as well. An icy chill swept down her spine as she started to piece together what she was seeing. The red liquid, it had to be…"Blood."
But where was it from? Why was there so much of it? Was it hers, or someone else's? Again the pounding in her skull returned and forced out any hope of recalling how she'd gotten here or even where here was., Instead she could only try to focus on forcing the matter at hoof. Namely where she was and why she was surrounded by blood.
Slowly the unicorn shifted onto her side, then onto her stomach, her hooves shook and wobbled as she put weight on them, leading to her crashing painfully back to the ground the first attempt. On the second however she managed to push herself up onto her knees, it was a start.
Now that she was righted, Twilight spared another glance about the room. The blood was everywhere she looked, the white walls were dotted with red spots in places, the cupboards and floor was soaked, and a rapidly expanding pool of the crimson liquid was spreading rapidly outwards from…the pony felt her heart stop as her eyes landed on a familiar shape a few feet away.
Sprawled out in a heap a short distance away was an orange shape that, at some point she would have considered a pony. But now the best description she could think of was 'a bloody mess'.
The pony had numerous marks along its stomach and ribs, bloody rents torn into the flesh and fur, some were superficial and only bled slowly, others were right down to the bone or deeper, Twilight had to clamp a bloody hoof over her mouth as the contents of her stomach surged into her throat, a moment later when she realized she what was touching her lips, she had to fight even harder not to lose it.
Trailing upwards, she noted the pony's tangled blond mane was matted with blood as well, and a large gash ran from one side of her throat to the other, if she had any doubt as to the identity of the bloodily murdered pony, the cowboy hat laying next to her dispelled any doubts.
The pain in her head seemed to bleed away as a newfound strength flooded her limbs and she stumbled to her hooves, without even realizing she began to shuffle backwards away from the corpse. "N-no, no, no, no!" She began whispering under her breath, her vision misting as tears crept into her eyes. Twilight only made it a couple of steps before her hoof landed on something other then floor and almost skidded out from under her. The object slid away as she stumbled, drawing her attention to the object.
A bloody knife greeted her eyes, it looked like it would be right at home in a kitchen, fitting given where they were, but the bright red stains marring its once pristine surface connected it to the grisly seen she'd woken up too. Slowly her eyes widened as she realized that the knife had been what she'd woken up holding.
Did she do this? Did she murder Applejack? Why, why would she do something so horrible?
Her retreat was halted when something solid abruptly impeded her progress, finally she tore her eyes off away from her friend and risked a peak over her shoulder, a large door loomed before her, painted a dark green. Without pausing for thought Twilight used her magic to force the door open and bolted into the next room with the intention of putting as much space between her and Applejack's corpse as possible, she needed to think, to remember, there had to be an explanation for her moment of insanity.
Bursting through the door, the unicorn discovered that the next room was a dining hall. A massive table that could easily sit a dozen ponies dominated the center of the room and a number of high backed solid oak chairs lined one side, a more ornate chair sat at the head of the table.
Behind the table were two windows that let in a steady stream of sunlight, and in between the windows was a portrait, as her eyes settled on the picture she felt her hooves begin moving of their own accord, slowly pulling her closer towards it. Despite every instinct screaming at her to run, despite her brain constantly reminding her that Applejack was dead and she needed help right away, the pony couldn't take her eyes off of the portrait, and within a few steps she found herself right in front of it, eyes widening as she took in the details.
A stallion with a dark ash gray coat stared back at her, his dark piercing blue eyes seeming to bore into her soul as she stared up at him, his mane was black as midnight and framed his scowling face quite well. Even from the simple portrait Twilight felt the air of authority about him, as though he knew he was better then anyone else in the room and was determined to show it.
Slowly the unicorn's gaze dipped down below the picture and noted a plague at the base of the frame.
"Lord William Defoal." Twilight read aloud, her voice laced with confusion as she played the name through her still throbbing head. It wasn't familiar, and quite a usual name for a pony to say the least.
The pony's eye shifted back to the portrait one more time, before she began to back away again, as she did so the eyes of Defoal seemed to wander after her, following her every movement as she inched away.
Why she stopped, why the picture had caught her eye Twilight couldn't understand, but no sooner did she pry her eyes away from it for more then a heartbeat, then the situation came crashing down on her.
Applejack, what she'd done, everything suddenly burst into realization again, causing her to jump slightly. She had to get help! Something had to be done, somehow she had to come up with an answer for this madness!
Whipping around, she rushed through a door she hadn't even noticed on the opposite side of the room. The first thing she saw was another door directly across from her, then her front hooves hit something solid, causing her to stumble and fall over the object.
Stars burst in front of her eyes as she crashed to the ground, her head impacting painfully with the floor, she eventually rolled to a halt a few paces away from whatever she'd struck, flat on her back and staring up at the ceiling.
This room was darker then the others, not helped by the fact that her eyes were hazy and unfocused after the smack to the head. It took a full minute of blinking before she was able to start making sense of the room.
A staircase leading up to a second floor came into view, next a few candles burned low in the holders set into the walls, casting flickering shadows across the walls. Slowly Twilight forced her head up and cast a glance about at ground level. A trio of doors, the one leading back into the dining hall, another directly opposite, and a third that was a dark red colour, thankfully not stained that way by blood.
Finally she saw what had tripped her, a bundle of bright pink and bloody red. Another familiar pony shaped mass that lay just inside the dining room door, much like Applejack this pony was cut up badly as well, her pink mane which was puffed up like it had been struck by a harsh wind was streaked red with blood, as was her coat, again there were slash marks all over her and one deep one across her throat.
"Oh my gosh, what, who could have done this!" Twilight squeaked as she started to push herself backwards away from the corpse of another friend. There was no way she could have done this kind of damage, she would never hurt anyone! Especially her friends!
Her back connected with something else and Twilight felt her heart beat painfully in her chest as she slowly craned her neck around to see what she'd hit, deep down she prayed it was a wall, and not…
Another bloody corpse, this one a light cyan colour with a rainbow coloured mane and tail.
Three of her friends were dead, butchered, and somehow she was still alive, somehow she'd woken up with blood on her hooves and the murder weapon clutched between her teeth. There was no denying it any longer. "No, no this can't b-be happening!" She cried eyes clenching shut as her hooves came to rest over them, pressing tightly in some futile attempt to banish the images from her mind. "T-this can't b-is happening!" She repeated, even with them closed so tightly, a few stray tears began to roll down her face and her body began to shake as sobs overwhelmed her.
She couldn't have done this! There was no way she could have killed her friends. But the blood was on her hooves, there was no one else in the house it seemed. Her heart began pounding in her ears, drowning out her weak sobs as she tried to force her mind back to where this had started, somehow, somehow she had done this and the pony had to know why…
"Twilight…" A voice whispered in her ear and cut her off mid thought. The voice hissed in her ear again, a chilling note that made her blood turn to ice in her veins and caused a shiver to run down her spine.
Suddenly the unicorn yelped as something touched her shoulder, causing her to jolt upwards and her eyes to snap open. Glancing about fearfully, Twilight found herself sitting in her bed at the library, Spike standing next to her bed with wide eyes and mouth slightly agape as he stared at her.
Panting heavily, Twilight let the change of scenery sink in, she wasn't in that manor anymore, and she wasn't surrounded by her dead friends. She was home, Spike was here and she was in her bed. The moon hung high in the sky, bathing their bedroom in a soft blue light that revealed little outside of her immediate vicinity.
"Easy Twilight, its okay, you were having a nightmare again." The baby dragon said slowly, a reassuring smile forcing its way onto his face as he moved a bit closer to the bed and lightly patted her on the shoulder. Her eyes were wide as dinner plates as she scanned the darkness around them for a full minute, before she finally focused on Spike, his smile faltered as he saw the pain behind those violet coloured orbs, whatever she'd seen had scarred the daylights out of her.
What disturbed the dragon the most was that it was a sight he was becoming used too…
"A n-nightmare? Oh Celestia it f-felt so real…" Twilight did her best to still her beating heart, the rapid pounding making it feel as though it was about to burst out of her chest, and her breathing wasn't much better coming in short ragged gasps every second or two. A cold sheen of sweat covered her from head to hoof, making her shiver slightly as the chill wind blew through the window and struck her.
"Twi, it was that same nightmare, wasn't it?" Spike asked quietly once she'd managed to recover slightly. This had been happening for almost a week now, every night he'd been woken by the unicorn crying, yelling and thrashing in her sleep, sometimes she'd wake up screaming a friends name before breaking down and sobbing for half the night. Other times she'd wake and almost knock him senseless as she tried to fight off some unknown assailant. Every night though she woke up panicked and frightened.
"Same nightmare to the letter...except." An image popped into her mind. That portrait she'd seen in the dining hall that had never been there before. "Defoal," she rolled the name across her tongue, even now it still didn't ring a bell.
"What was that?" Spike asked when she spoke to softly for him to hear.
"Nothing Spike, nothing…sorry for waking you again," Spike gave her another reassuring smile before heading back towards his own bed, though once arriving he kept a weary eye on the pony, there was no way she was alright after that. He knew where this was going and honestly wished he could help. But there was little that could be done except wait and hope the nightmares passed with time.
Twilight didn't dare risk going back to sleep. The images of her murdered friends still burned painfully in her mind and every time she blinked they danced across her vision, taunting her with grisly reminders of what she'd dreamt up. The thought that worried her most was that maybe, maybe she was capable of that…Maybe she was beginning to lose her grip on her sanity or something and was slowly being driven insane and the images were foreshadowing what was to come.
And where did this 'Defoal' come into it? She'd never heard the name before in her life, not that she could remember. Was there actually something behind it or was that just another trick her mind was playing on her?
With a frustrated groan, Twilight fell back onto her bed and stared up at the ceiling. This had gone on long enough, over a week of constant nightmares and images of slain friends. Tomorrow she'd have to set her mind at ease, there was no doubt a book in the library that would explain the reason behind all this, and it probably couldn't hurt to look into this, Defoal pony while she was there, if only to get the name out of her head so she could focus on the real issue, namely her tenuous grip on her sanity.