Veil of Thoughts
When somepony had told Rarity about the ‘accident,’ she had said it had happened at Twilight’s house. It wasn’t much to go on but it was all they had.
It was a short trot to the library. Twilight’s house was located only a few minutes away from the hospital. Rarity found it odd that Ponyville wasn’t any different than she remembered it being the day before. Ponies in the streets went about their business, laughing and talking. The sky above was its normal shade of dazzling blue with the sun slowly rolling across it.
This was just another day and everything out here was the same. Rarity wasn’t sure why she thought it should be any different. The events of the previous day and the chaos of the morning had swept her up in an emotional rollercoaster. It seemed almost unfair that the rest of the ponies were blissfully unaware of what was currently going on in the hospital.
Rarity let her mind wander as she watched the other ponies around her. What was it like to be a pony whose friend wasn’t in mortal peril? Could she remember what it was like to be like that pony she saw on the corner, giggling away without a care in the world? Rarity wondered if she still remembered how to giggle.
The tall tree house library rose high above them as they arrived at their destination. It was one of the larger buildings in town and had been built into an actual living tree using magic. Rarity was sure that Twilight had told her all about it at one point. She felt a pang of sorrow in her chest at the memory of Twilight.
For a long moment the two ponies stood in front of the tree house, shaded in its shadow. Rarity was trying to find the courage to go in and Fluttershy looked like she wanted to be anyplace other than here.
Rarity took a deep breath, she knew she could do this, for their friends, who needed them. As she approached the door, she was surprised to find the sign in the front window stating that the library was open. Perhaps nopony had thought to flip it over? She tried the door handle and found that it was unlocked. Perhaps nopony had time to lock the door behind them?
The downstairs was deserted and that made Rarity feel uncomfortable. She had never been here before without Twilight around. Well, that wasn’t true. She had visited the library numerous times before Twilight had taken up residence. Now that Twilight was here, it felt like she was intruding into somepony’s home.
Apart from Twilight herself not being there, Twilight’s usual mess of research – which often littered the floor in piles – was also absent. In fact, the library was unusually clean. Twilight, for all her organizational skills, always seemed to leave a horrible mess behind whenever she was working on something.
Rarity and Fluttershy trotted into the cavernous downstairs room. Their hoofsteps echoed loudly against the wooden floor. They hadn’t gone more than a half a dozen steps when there was a crash and a shout from upstairs.
“Twilight!” shouted a tiny panicked voice. Rarity almost felt her heart break in her chest as a purple baby dragon rushed out from the upstairs room. For the briefest of moments his eyes gleamed with longing and hope but as he saw Rarity and Fluttershy his expression dulled. “Oh… hey… I thought…”
“I’m sorry Spike, she’s still in the hospital,” said Rarity.
“Yeah, I know, I was just…” Spike started to say. “Is she going to be okay Rarity?” The tiny dragon looked down from the upstairs landing, his big green eyes glinting with tears.
“I honestly don’t know dear,” replied Rarity. “But we’re doing all that we can to help her get better. Actually, we were hoping we would be able to talk to you, if that’s okay?”
“Uh, sure, I guess,” said Spike. He didn’t move, he just sat there, staring down at them.
“Do you think you might come down please? It feels like we are standing at opposite sides of the room shouting to each other,” said Rarity with a smile.
“Oh, yeah, of course,” said Spike. “Sorry,” he added before hurrying down the stairs. “I guess I’ve just been a little out of it since... you know.”
“It’s quite alright,” said Rarity with a smile. “Now, what can you tell us about the day of the accident?”
“I didn’t actually see what happened,” said Spike. “I just found her afterwards. Twilight sent me out on an errand. When I got back, I found her lying on the floor, except, she was all different. So I ran and got help. And the doctors came and took her away. And I’ve been cleaning since she left, because I want everything to be perfect when she gets back.”
Spike had said all this very fast. He was hyperventilating a little as he finished, tears starting in his eyes. Rarity trotted forward, putting a hoof around Spike to comfort him.
“What was Twilight doing before you left?” asked Fluttershy.
“She was going over her checklist for the day,” said Spike.
“Do you still have that?” asked Rarity hopefully.
“Of course, Twilight has me keep all her checklists,” explained Spike. “Gimmy one sec.” the little purple dragon waddled off into the adjoining room.
Rarity wondered what they would discover from Twilight’s list of things to do. Her friend was incredibly meticulous when it came to planning. If there was something to be done, Twilight usually had a list on how, when and where to get it all accomplished to stay on perfect schedule.
Spike returned with a very long piece of parchment in his hand. He held it out and Rarity used her magic to lift it into the air so that both she and Fluttershy could read it. Only the first few items had been checked off the very long list.
(X) Write checklist.
(X) Review checklist.
(X) Eat Breakfast, Pancakes and orange juice.
(X) Double check of the checklist.
(X) Send Spike to get repaired bust of Callos the Strong.
(X) Read Chapter 28 of The Magic of Mysteries.
(X) Meet Rainbow Dash and give her surprise.
(_) Read Chapter 29 of The Magic of Mysteries.
(_) Read Chapter 30 of The Magic of Mysteries, unless Spike gets back early.
(_) Move Star Swirl the Bearded back into basement.
(_) Replace Callos the Strong.
(_) Lunch, apple salad.
(_) Triple check of the checklist.
(_) Reorganize History of Equestria section.
The list went into details of organization, a step in which Rarity thought it might have taken just as long to write as to re-organize the section. The list ended with dinner, dessert, brush teeth, quadruple check checklist and finally bed.
“What was the surprise she was giving to Rainbow?” asked Fluttershy. Spike shrugged.
“I don’t know, she didn’t tell me,” said Spike. “But she seemed really excited about it. When I wrote the list she had me tripled check that I had included that one. I have the checklist she had me make to check the things on the checklist if you want me to get that.”
“No, I think this is fine,” said Rarity with a smile. “How about this The Mysteries of Magic book?” asked Rarity. “It seems like she was really into it.”
“That’s pretty normal for Twilight, she reads whenever she can,” said Spike. “The Mysteries of Magic eh?” said Spike with a nod. “Yeah, I think that’s under dangerous spell craft!”
Fluttershy and Rarity looked at each other with wide eyes and Rarity knew they were both thinking the same thing. Dangerous spell craft. Twilight hadn’t, she couldn’t have… this couldn’t have been the surprise she had intended for Rainbow?
What if Twilight had found a new spell and wanted to try it out? Celestia had said this hadn’t been an accident, what if Twilight hadn’t understood what the spell would actually do.
A minute later Spike returned with the book. It had a well worn dark green hard cover. The lettering was etched into the front in silver. The words glinted in the sun as Spike held it up.
Rarity used her horn to lift the book and flip its pages. She was no advanced magic user like Twilight and a lot of what was in the book she didn’t really understand. However, she knew enough to know that these were no simple spells.
Yet, something wasn’t right. As Rarity flipped to the end of the book she realized that she had never seen a chapter 28, nor any chapter for that matter. This book simply didn’t seem to have any. How could Twilight have been on chapter 28 of a book that had no chapters in it?
“Are you sure that’s the one Twilight was reading?” asked Spike after a minute. “Because, I don’t think she has pulled that one out in a long time.”
“It’s right here on the… oh my…” Rarity looked at the list again, she had gotten it backwards. “I guess I read it wrong, it’s The Magic of Mysteries, not the other way around.”
“Oh. That ones over there at the reference desk,” said Spike pointing to the round table that made up the center of the library. Rarity let the book she was holding drift back down into Spike’s arms before she and Fluttershy trotted over to where Spike had pointed.
The circular table had numerous open research books on it, as well as other quick reference guides lined up end to end. In the center of the table was a marble cut statue of a unicorn with a large curly beard.
Rarity found what she was looking for lying out of place from the rest of the organized books. It was open to the start of chapter 28. She read the first lines.
“Oh my! This isn’t a spell book at all,” said Rarity, her eyes widening a little. “It’s a romance novel! I didn’t know Twilight was into this kind of thing.” She kept reading, it was actually pretty good.
“Who is that?” asked Fluttershy, pulling Rarity out of the steamy romance story. She looked at what Fluttershy was pointing at. It was a white marble bust of a unicorn that Rarity didn’t recognize… and yet… that pattern on the hat… where had she seen that before?
“That’s Star Swirl the Bearded,” said Spike, trotting back to them after putting away the other book. “He’s Twilight’s idol, second only to Celestia. She brought it up from the basement while Callos the Strong was being repaired. She has a checklist of replacement statues someplace… Anyhow, we were supposed to take him back down to the cellar when I got back but…” Spike looked away, his eyes starting to water once more.
Rarity followed his gaze to the wooden carving of the stallion that normally held the place of honor on the table. The memory suddenly clicked for Rarity. She had been here the day the wooden carving had been broken. Rainbow, trying to explain some new trick she had mastered, had knocked it off the table with an errant hoof and snapped off an ear.
“Twilight said Star Swirl was a good pick, because everypony should know about him,” said Spike. “Also, he’s really heavy so Twilight didn’t think Rainbow would be able to knock it over.” There was silence for a long moment and then the baby dragon looked up at Rarity with watery eyes. “Rarity… what… what am I going to do if Twilight doesn’t come back?”
“She will,” said Rarity forcing a smile that didn’t quite fit on her face. “I promise she will.” She was thankful that she was not the element of honesty.
They had heard nothing yet. No doctor, no nurse, no news. Pinkie and Applejack were seated in the waiting room, the only sound the soft steady tick of the clock.
Fluttershy and Rarity still hadn’t arrived and Applejack was starting to worry about what had happened to her friends. It had been more than an hour now. What was keeping them?
The door opened, Applejack and Pinkie both looked up. It wasn’t the ponies they were hoping for, but Applejack felt much relieved by who it was. Rarity and Fluttershy had at last arrived.
“They told us to come here,” said Fluttershy, a worried expression on her face. “They wouldn’t tell us why. Did something happen to Rain… I mean… Twilight Dash?”
“We don’t know what’s happening either,” said Applejack. “She was having some kind of a fit and they told us to leave. Now we’re just stuck here waiting. What happened to you two? Where have yall been?”
“We went to Twilight’s house,” said Rarity. “To see if we could find any clues as to what happened.”
“That’s a great idea!” exclaimed Pinkie. “Why didn’t you invite us along! I love detective stuff! I’m the best detective there is! I’m so detectiveous that I detect the detection!”
“Did yall find anything?” asked Applejack after a short pause in which everypony stared at Pinkie with no clue as to what she had said.
“We thought we might have,” said Rarity. “But it turned out to be a dead end. Spike wasn’t there when it happened. All we have is this list to go on.” She held up the list for Applejack to read.
“What about this book?” asked Applejack, pointing her hoof at the item on the list.
“Oh! Oh! I love that book!” said Pinkie. Applejack gave her a sideways glance. “It’s one of my favorites! I bet that’s totally the copy Twilight borrowed from me. At first she wasn’t that interested in it but, after I told her a thousand times how amazing it was, she said she would read it if I just stopped talking!”
“Pinkie, what do you know about spell books?” asked Applejack.
“Uh, it’s not a spell book,” said Rarity blushing slightly.
“I was also trying to get her to read Fifty Bales of Hay,” continued Pinkie. “But she said one was enough for now and she would see how she liked this one and if she did she would borrow the next one!”
“Is that, uh, a farmin book?” asked Applejack with a raised eyebrow. Rarity, Pinkie and even Fluttershy giggled. “Not a cookbook either I take it.”
“No, its, uh a little more, romantic than that,” said Rarity.
“Uh, huh. Anyhow,” said Applejack, trying to get the conversation back on track. “It looks like the last thing Twilight did was meet with Rainbow. Whatever this surprise was, it has to have somethin’ to do with the way they are now.”
“We asked Spike what it was, but he didn’t know,” said Rarity.
“Well, it’s a start,” said Applejack. “At least it’s something to go on. I just hope it isn’t too little too late.”
The silence ticked on as the day slowly trotted past. They had been waiting for hours with no news. Rarity had left twice to inquire about their friend but had returned without an answer. All they could do was sit and wait. It was the worst feeling in the world.
Twilight’s house had provided no real clues. Applejack had re-read the list several times but came up with nothing new. Eventually, she had just set it aside, frustrated by its lack of answers.
Even if they had found a clue to go on, Rarity doubted that anything could have helped them at this point. Celestia knew what was wrong, she knew how to fix it, but the fix would be imperfect, risky and dangerous.
The day was growing late and the sun was lowering slowly in the sky. Outside twilight had come early, bathing the horizon in a purple-blue glow, with the faintest stars glinting on the edge of night.
When the door opened again, all of the heads in the room turned to see who had arrived. It was the doctor, he wasn’t smiling.
“I’m sorry that you all had to wait so long,” said the Doctor. “Your friend is stable for the moment and the Princess has asked that I come get you. So that you can…” words seemed to fail him for a moment “… so that you can be with your friend.”
“What’s wrong,” asked Applejack, her words breaking in her throat. Doctor Red Cross shook his head sadly.
“To be honest, I don’t really know,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be anything… wrong with her, not medically speaking.” He paused for a long moment, looking at the mares in front of him, debating his words carefully. “I am sorry but your friend… she may not be with us that much longer.”
Fluttershy started to cry and Rarity moved to her side to hold her.
“Is there nothing we can do?” asked Rarity as she tried to comfort Fluttershy.
“We have done everything we can for her,” said Red Cross. “For now, all we can do is wait and hope. I’ll take you up to your friend.”
The trip up stairs was surprisingly short. Applejack had expected it to take much longer, yet no sooner were they out of the waiting lounge then the door to room 306 stood before them. Red Cross pushed it open for the mares and they filed in one at a time.
Twilight Dash was not the only pony in the room. Celestia was still there, standing bed side and looking over her pupil.
“What is wrong with them?” asked Applejack, hoping to get a better answer from the Princess. Celestia looked very sad, her purple eyes glistening with mourning.
“It appears that like Aurora Wind and Silver Stars, Twilight Dash’s fusion is imperfect,” said Celestia. “Twilight did a much better job with her spell, a flawless job in fact. However it would seem this kind of joining is truly impossible. Their mind is rejecting them. Their body is failing. They are… they are dying.”
All of the ponies let out an audible gasp. Fluttershy and Rarity both began to cry quietly.
“What… what can we do?” asked Applejack. “The Doctor said we just had to wait and hope, but… there must be something we can do!”
“There is only one option left to us at this point,” said Celestia. “I must separate them, before it is too late for both.”
“But that didn’t work last time,” said Pinkie Pie. “You said you can’t just put them back the way they used to be!”
“No, I can not,” Celestia agreed. Her eyes turned back to the pony in the bed. The lavender mare’s breathing was still labored, her rainbow hair was matted to her head with sweat and her face looked pained. “I must ask a terrible thing of all of you. Something nopony should have to ask and nopony should have to answer.”
“No,” whispered Fluttershy, backing away, tears rolling down her face. “Please, no. Don’t ask us that.”
“Ask us what?” asked Applejack.
“I am sorry my little ponies,” said Celestia sadly. “But I must ask you to choose who you want me to save.”
The room went silent. Nopony moved, nopony dared answer the question that lingered in the air.
“You need to decide quickly,” said Celestia. She was focused on Twilight Dash. “I am afraid there is not much time left.”
“We can’t vote on our friends,” said Applejack. “How can you even ask us that!”
“It is not a question I ask lightly,” said Celestia seriously. “I would not ask of you a choice I was unwilling to make myself. I have already chosen Twilight Sparkle.”
Everypony was quiet for a moment as Celestia’s last words hung in the air. It seemed like nopony was willing to give an answer to her question. At last, when the silence seemed like it would go on forever, Fluttershy stepped forward.
“Rainbow,” said Fluttershy, her shy eyes looking almost defiant. “I want Rainbow back.”
“If we have to choose, I pick Twilight too,” said Pinkie more seriously than her friends had ever heard her before. “That’s what my Pinkie senses say.”
“I…” said Rarity, looking uncomfortably at Applejack. “I also vote for Rainbow.”
The last vote was on Applejack. She looked nervously at her friends, how could she choose any of them over the other. The choice was all on her, she would decide it, she would cast the vote that would sacrifice one pony’s life for the others. How could they ask that of her? How could anypony ask that of any other pony?
“I don’t like this,” said Applejack after a long moment. “I don’t think this is right… but I also don’t see any other choice.” She hung her head in shame, closing her eyes so that she wouldn’t have to see the reactions of her friends, “Rainbow… I pick Rainbow…”
Celestia nodded. Her horn began to glow, magic flared around the room in a dazzling display of power. Outside, the sun was dipping under the horizon. The day’s end was only seconds away.
Twilight Dash began to glow as Celestia’s magic flowed over her body. The air crackled with energy and everypony except for Celestia took a step away.
“NO! Stop! Please!” the voice came from Twilight Dash.
“Stop!” cried Applejack, realizing her mistake. This was wrong. This was completely wrong! They couldn’t do this! But Celestia did not stop.
Twilight Dash’s horn began to shimmer and brilliant blue sparks shot from it into the air. Celestia’s eyes widened as purple waves of energy spilled out of the mare in the bed and mixed with her own white magic.
Celestia redoubled her effort, her spell glowing even brighter so that it was hard to look at the epicenter of the chaos. Twilight Dash was fully encased in blinding white light.
There was a crack like thunder and all at once the room went dark.
Night had come. The sun had set below the horizon. The cascades of magical energy had knocked out all the lights, leaving the room in shadowy darkness.
Celestia’s horn came to life once more. An orb of white light formed above her head, bathing the room in a glow like the moon.
It took everypony a moment to realize what they were seeing. Where there had only a moment ago been one pony, there were not two. The number of ponies seemed to have gone the other direction entirely. The bed was empty.