The wind whipped against her face as she floated high above the skies, feeling the weightlessness of the air take hold and drift her through the endlessness. She looked over in awe at the sight below her, as every tree, river, building and pony seemed little more than a scale model. Adjusting herself, she glided down to follow along the river below.
She felt a heavenly bliss overcome her as she glided barely inches above the streaming water, briefly drifting a hoof through its surface before gliding higher above the trees. She felt free. Free of the very earth that held her, free from the confinements of any reality that could possibly be. With such endless freedom, she knew why Rainbow Dash had claimed the skies as her home.
She grunted, more from surprise, as she felt a slight turbulence force her feeling of unreality away momentarily, before that same freedom return. As if expecting to see the cause, she glanced behind her, only to see the endless river that she continued to follow.
Rarity and Spike were calling to her in the distance, waving at her on the riverbank nearby. She smiled at them, returning the wave as she glided past. Despite passing them, she could still hear them in the distance in front of her. With another glance behind her, they were gone, yet their voices echoed through the very banks that she continued to follow.
They were there once more, now accompanied by others, standing before her as the bank turned sharply to the left. She hadn’t noticed their faces when she saw them before, now that they were in front of her, she could feel her entire world shiver and groan. She flew over them, towards the open plains.
The bright and sunlit world she was exploring turned dark before her very eyes. A feeling of foreboding overtook her, as rain began dampening her coat. She covered her eyes with a shriek as lightning flashed, blinding her entire world. She looked around frantically at her surroundings; her friends had disappeared once more.
“Please.” She heard a young, familiar voice in the distance, accompanied with a deep sobbing.
A draconic face filled the skies above her, each tear turning in to one hundred drops of rain, as the same gagged word murmured from his lips.
The mare alighted on the wet grass below her. The river had long disappeared, as she had continued to drive forwards through the oncoming storm. She stared up at the sky, wordlessly trying to comprehend what was in front of her.
Beside the dragon, the faces of Applejack and Rainbow Dash came in to focus, pensively staring down at her. Their eyes told the same emotion, betraying their expressed bravery with worry.
On the other side of the dragon, appeared Rarity and Fluttershy, wearing their hearts on their sleeves, as tears and wailing flowed free from both of them. But why were they crying? Why was such fear strewn through each of her friends?
Below the dragon came the usually bouncy and hyperactive smile of Pinkie Pie, in an unrecognisable stare of worry and anxiety. Her mouth opened, calling to the mare once more.
Twilight stared through the storm, unexplained words muttering from her mouth, “Don’t tell the Princess...”
As the words fell from her lips, she could feel reality grasping for her, pulling her away from the world she had built around her. Her world slowly crumbled, falling in to a bleak nothingness. She felt as if she were floating on her back, as a wave of reality, and sickness, moved over her.
The sounds of various beeping filled her ears, accompanied by various emotions from ponies around her. She tried to open her eyes, slowly beginning to feel pressure around her face, everything was black. Fear gripped her heart as she instinctively shot upwards with a yell.
“Twilight! Twilight, calm down! It’s alright, sugarcube.” Came various voices and gasps, the most noticeable being the accented voice of Applejack beside her as she felt a gentle embrace slowly lead her back down to the familiar sensation and warmth of a pillow, “You’re in the hospital.” Despite Applejack’s calming, there was no hiding the choke deep within her throat.
Two arms wrapped around her neck, followed by an impending weight on her chest as the most familiar voice filled the room, “We were so worried! I-I came home, to find you lying there!” The dragon sniffed, “I was so worried about you.”
“Twilight, what happened to you?” Rarity’s voice sounded from the other side of the bed.
Twilight felt for the cause of the pressure on her face, deducing it to be some form of cotton material wrapped around her head. She thought to herself, digging in her mind for an answer, “I... don’t know. I can’t remember.”
“It was lucky that I was coming down to see you,” Rarity remarked, “Spike was absolutely frantic. I called for an ambulance as quickly as I could.” She went quiet for a moment, prompting Twilight to turn towards her, “The news of commotion at your library quickly spread through the town. Before we arrived at the hospital, everyone was already here.”
Twilight was silent, still attempting to get her bearings. Being unable to visualise where she was facing, or what was around her, was very disorientating. She tried to mentally visualise her surroundings by the various sounds, only able to assume that she was in a similar bed to Rainbow Dash’s, during her time in hospital. She pictured her friends surrounding her bed, knowing the true locations of three of them, “Am I... okay?” She knew it was too vague of a question, but couldn’t bring herself to ask more specifically.
An awkward silence filled the air. Twilight could visualise each of her friends exchanging their expressions with one another.
“Uh... yeah,” Rainbow Dash’s voice sounded beside her, opposite of Applejack, “yeah. You’re going to be fine.” The forced laugh only further expressed her nervousness, “You’ll be back to the books in no time!”
Twilight forced her own smile; each pony knew she wouldn’t accept that answer. But nevertheless, she replied, “Good. The new Daring Do book is out tomorrow. I’m having it delivered straight to my library.” Twilight was shocked at her own avoidance.
It was harder to search for answers, when the answer could very likely be life changing. She could feel each part of her, nagging at her in different directions, for their own selfish reasons. On one side, she had to know what was keeping her hospitalised. Ponies were not kept in bed, purely because of a minor incident.
On the other hoof, there was a part of her that was afraid to find out the details. Would the answer mean something would change in her life? Or would everything return to normal eventually? That part of her, an instinctual fear of the unknown, was now gnawing at her to defy her own personality, and avoid knowing what had happened to her.
This feeling was never mentioned in the excerpts of journal records she’d seen in books of real life accounts, for various life-changing reasons. Everything she had read was recorded in such a way, that everything worked out for the best. No pony ever had to worry about what would go wrong, or how they would change. It was always a happy ending.
A third nagging feeling pulled at her, that if something was wrong, she should know, so she can have time to adapt, and understand. If something had changed, and her life would be different, then it should be no trouble to simply adjust and continue on.
What do I do? Twilight thought to herself, conceptualising the possibilities was getting her nowhere. There were two possible ways to handle this: Find out now, or find out later.
“Sugarcube,” Applejack asked with a pause, “do you feel alright? Is there something we can do for you?”
“I don’t know, Applejack.” Twilight replied simply. With the important questions rolling around in her head, it was impossible to think of anything else to ask for.
She felt the cool touch of glass at her lips. A small chill ran through her spine at the sudden sensation, “Drink this, Twi’.” Spike said as the glass slowly tipped upwards.
Twilight drank the cold water, suddenly becoming very self conscious that everypony was watching her drink. What do they look like? She questioned, Are they watching me? The feeling became quite overbearing.
The glass was removed from her lips, followed by the familiar clink of it being replaced on whatever was next to the bed, “Feeling any better?” Spike asked.
“A little, I think.” She lied, “When will the doctor be here?”
“Right now, actually!” A deep voice came from the end of the room, “Good to see you’re awake, Ms. Sparkle. That was quite the nasty scare we had.” There was a calming tone to his voice, reminding her of how so many doctors seemed to speak to their patients. “The good news is you’ll be out of here in a few days. However...”
Twilight’s stomach lurched as the pause filled the air nervously. She held her breath, unable to let go, as her heart beat nervously in her chest. She could feel each rhythmic thump, as her entire being dreaded the next words from the doctor’s mouth.
“However,” the doctor repeated, “we’re going to need to run a few tests before you’re allowed to leave.”
Twilight awkwardly felt half of her body relax, before tensing up once more. You can’t just tell me that! Twilight thought furiously, why are you keeping me here? What tests?! She screamed inwardly, yet her throat was locked. The silence hung through the room around her as the unanswered question remained.
“Now, don’t worry, it’s quite possible that it’s only a small trauma that will go away on its own. If it is, it will clear up within a couple of days.” Twilight relaxed at the inkling of hope, “So we’ll just hold on until then. Unfortunately, we can’t have all of your friends here all the time. There’s one bed next to you, which one of you can sleep in,” he seemed to realise through his sentence that her friends were in the room, “but only until we need it again.”
Twilight smiled at that, feeling relieved that she wouldn’t have to be alone. She hoped, at least, that somepony would be able to stay with her, even for one night.
“‘fraid I can’t. I’m needed at the orchard every day.” Applejack said.
“And, um,” Fluttershy finally spoke, “I need to take care of the animals at night, and in the morning, but... I can visit during the day... if you’d like.” Until now, it was almost as if Fluttershy had been completely invisible, aside from the odd emotional sniff that didn’t fit with the other five.
“I’d love to, however Sweetie Belle is staying with me, and I just know how bored she gets. I couldn’t have her playing around you, given your condition, Twilight.”
Twilight’s heart sank. She knew she would have to send Spike back to the library. The dragon’s silence suggested that he was aware of that, as well.
“Oh! I could stay! We could play games, and make stuff, and oh! Oh! We could have a party! Everypony in the hospital could join in! It’ll be so awesome! I’ve never had a party in a hospital before. Have you? I bet you have, you work here all the time, right? Do you live here, too? I heard you do. It’s just a rumour around town that all the doctors and nurses live in the hospital, so you’d have to have parties sometime, right? If there wasn’t anything fun, that’d be so boring!” Pinkie’s usual trail was cut short by a surrounding plethora of ‘No!’ To Twilight’s inward delight, she was glad everypony had agreed.
Twilight was saddened by the commitments, and respective desires of her friends, however she could never ask them to leave their lives behind. She turned her head towards where she had heard Rainbow Dash’s voice, assuming that she was still standing there. She hoped that the Pegasus would at least be willing to stay for one night.
“I can’t tonight...” Rainbow said conflicted, “I’m rostered to help with the storm tomorrow, and they couldn’t do it without me. We start really early in the morning, and I have to make sure everything is ready before we head out...”
Twilight suddenly felt lonely. Tonight, the first night in hospital, was going to be very long.
“But...” Rainbow added with an upwards inflection, “I’ll pick your book up tomorrow, Twilight. I’ll come down and spend the night with you. The weather team’ll understand. “
Twilight smiled, relieved. There was something to look forward to, “Thank you, Rainbow. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem, Twi’.” Rainbow replied smugly, “I wouldn’t be the best if I didn’t!” She added.
Twilight giggled quietly at her friend taking a tongue-in-cheek stab at herself.
“Good, good.” The doctor interjected, “now I’m afraid Twilight’s going to need more rest, if she’s going to have any chance of recovery.”
Spike hugged Twilight tightly around her neck, threatening to never let go, “Owlowicious’ll look after the library, right? I mean, he can do it!”
Twilight nuzzled Spike gently on the cheek, “Sorry, Spike. Don’t worry; I’ll be home soon, okay?”
She felt Spike hold her for a long moment before letting go reluctantly, “Okay, Twi’. I’ll come visit you every day. I’ll bring some cookies!”
“Sounds good, Spike. Take care of the library for me, okay? And... if I was working on something before this happened, please leave it untouched. I need to find out what it was.” Retrograde amnesia. It’s normal after trauma.
The sudden lack of weight, and thud on the floor suggested that Spike had jumped off the bed, “Hey Twi’?”
“I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Me too.” Twilight forced a smile.
With a final bout of goodbyes, her friends filed out of the room, leaving only the doctor left. The door closed with an audible clack before he began talking again.
“Dinner will be served soon, Ms. Sparkle. The nurse will help you when it comes. I advise that you don’t worry, and just focus on making sure that you get yourself well-rested, so you’re able to make the best possible recovery.”
Twilight simply nodded, listening for the doctor walking out of the room.
As the door clicked shut, Twilight sighed deeply, What mess have I gotten myself in to now? What will the Princess think?
Don’t tell the Princess.
“... so, Twilight is going to be in hospital for a few days, and she’s left me in charge of the library!” Spike puffed his chest out proudly.
“Who?” The owl replied, shifting himself slightly upon the bookshelf.
“Twilight. You know, the pony who lives here?” Spike said as he gestured to the mess of books strewn around the room. He had meant to clean it up when he returned last night, however, he had found sleep to be far more entertaining.
Spike threw his hands in the air with an exasperated groan, “the point is, you have to do what I say, because I’m in charge now! Understand?”
As if in answer, Owlowiscious stretched out a wing and a foot and yawned. Without a further word, he turned his head on to his back, and closed his eyes.
“Fine!” Spike snapped, pivoting around on his foot, to both further investigate the mess and ignore the unhelpful avian.
The library’s floor was covered in piles of books, multiple sets of ink and quills, and various scrolls, which was normal for one of Twilight’s study sessions. There was very little out of the ordinary, aside from where he had found Twilight lying on the floor when he’d returned home that afternoon.
The scene flashed briefly in his mind: Twilight lay on her back, her head propped up slightly by the wall. There was no blood, to his relief, although her unconscious form had sent him in to a panicked shock.
Spike shook his head, walking over to where he had found his friend. His imagination played on what might have happened based on the mess before him. He pictured her careening in to a pile of books, sliding to a halt as her head hit the wall. The scene reversed itself, logic placing the trajectory towards her desk.
The dragon righted a spilled candle before investigating the rest of the cluttered mess spread across the desk. It was very normal for Twilight to ignore basic organisational skills during her study sessions, something which Spike had managed to accept. He glanced over the illegible scrawl of Twilight’s swift writing and various reference materials, finding very little to comprehend. ‘Paradigms of Magic’ seemed to be last night’s subject, something he had heard Twilight murmur briefly as he completed the morning’s chores. Granted, he had tuned out on the explanation.
The one legible sheet he noticed had been covered in various drawings of various symbols. The bottom quarter of the page had been completely dedicated to a particular symbol, which seemed to represent a star inside of a ring, with various markings written around it. He studied it quietly, as his wild mind drew conclusions for the events.
His mind played his imagined scene once more. A large, powerful flash of magic emitted from the papers on her desk, throwing the unicorn backwards towards the wall. She landed on her back, sliding through a pile of books to a halt as she head hit the wall.
The thought chilled him to the bone.
Spike had just finished packing a bag of cookies, and the new Daring Do novel, as a knock sounded from the door, “Owlowiscious, get the door!” He shouted from the kitchen. The amount of mess that he had cleaned up over the course of the morning had left him in a slightly fouler mood, with the owl, as he hadn’t lifted a single feather to help, despite his demands.
When the knock sounded thrice more, Spike stormed out with a glare at the sleeping owl. With a deep breath, he opened the door to see Rainbow Dash. Spike snorted a stifled giggle as he moved aside, “Hey... Rainbow Dash!” He snickered at the sight before him, “how’s the weather?”
“Just fine. Thanks.” She replied flatly.
Spike let out a huge guffaw at the sight in front of him, falling backwards with a fit of laughter.
Rainbow Dash dressed in a pink raincoat, and mismatched boots, glared at him behind a bright blush, “I lost mine, alright?! This was all I could find!”
“Sure you did.” Spike righted himself off the floor, snorting once again behind a twisted smile, “Is that Pinkie’s?”
Rainbow Dash sighed grumpily, “Yeah. She was the only pony close to where we were preparing the storm.”
Spike grinned, “It suits you!”
Rainbow Dash removed her attire, glancing at it spitefully. Her smile widened as she moved the topic along, “So, did the new book arrive?” She had obviously been looking forward to it as much as Twilight.
Spike nodded with a smile, “Yeah. Hardcover, too.” He gestured to the kitchen, “I’ve got it all packed up and ready to go.”
The air between the two went flat at the mere inference of returning to the hospital. Spike could feel his heart clench for a moment as he exchanged an understanding expression with the mare. He took a sharp, deep breath, as he glanced out the window at the storm.
“Hey,” Dash prompted tentatively, sitting herself beside the dragon, “how are you holding up?”
The sullen seriousness in Rainbow Dash took Spike by surprise. He hadn’t expected anything like that from her of all ponies, “Well... I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. The fact they had her head, horn and back in bandages is... scary, Dash. I don’t want anything to change!” He lowered his gaze to the ground, “maybe there’s nothing to worry about... but what if there is? What if she can’t walk, or can’t use magic anymore?! I don’t want her to change!”
A wing wrapped around the dragon, as he heard hushing sounds from his friend, “That’s not the Twilight we know, is it? She’s been through worse." Spike looked up to see Dash smiling down at him, “after all, Twilight wouldn’t let herself change for anything.”
Spike buried himself in the side of the Pegasus, quietly sniffing in to her side. Quiet moments passed, as the thoughts of Twilight hung in the air. Rainbow Dash was right; Twilight was tougher than most ponies would give her credit for. That was something Spike knew he could count on.
“The storm’ll be over in about an hour. I’ve been given leave to look after Twilight until the end of the week.” She smiled, “good thing it’s only Tuesday.”
Spike let go of Dash and looked up at her quickly, “Tuesday?”
“Yeah? What about it?” Dash inquired as Spike ran Twilight’s desk.
Spike hurriedly grabbed a scroll and quill set, before stuffing them in his bag, “Twilight still likes to send letters to Princess Celestia on Tuesdays. She’s fine with you guys doing it, but...” Spike trailed off, trying to think of a less direct way to explain this.
The two shared a laugh before Spike nodded, “Yeah. It’s Twilight.”
The door opened wide, followed by the simultaneous greetings of the pegasus and dragon. Twilight stirred groggily in her bed as she turned to face the noise.
Before coming to the hospital, Rainbow Dash had detoured back home to don her Daring Do hat, which she wore proudly as they waltzed in to the room. Between her and Spike, they had decided that acting normal would be the best course of action when coming to see their friend. The sterile setting of the hospital was depressing enough, rather than to add their own worries on top of it.
Rainbow Dash snatched the bag from Spike, excitedly slumping it on the ground, “How’s it going, Twi’? They treating you alright?” With expert finesse, she threw a second Daring Do hat in the air, pumping the air with a hoof as it landed on Twilight’s head. Spike shot her a rather unimpressed look.
Twilight muttered something blearily under her breath.
“Sounds good!” Rainbow Dash replied, taking the book from the bag “You ready to hear the next awesome tale of Daring Do?” She sat down in the chair next to the bed heavily, forcing a loud creek as it slid back slightly. “The cover looks so cool; it could be the best one yet!”
Twilight sat up in her bed, placing a hoof on her forehead, “Uh... I guess. What time is it?”
“2pm.” Spike replied, pouring Twilight a glass of water before offering it to her.
Twilight smiled appreciatively, lifting it up carefully between her hooves. Rainbow Dash watched in amazement, as she finished the entire glass in one long swallow.
Spike returned the glass to the desk, looking at the white flowers that accompanied it, “Who’s the flowers from?”
“Flowers?” Twilight asked, turning toward Spike.
“Yeah. They’re white, and closed. They haven’t even bloomed yet. Who would give these to you?” Spike carefully inspected one with a claw, sniffing at it.
“Somepony visited you? Nice.” Rainbow Dash said in a manner that suggested she wanted to return the subject to the book she held in her hooves.
“I don’t think so...” Twilight replied thoughtfully, she directed herself towards the blue pony, “I had dinner, and went to sleep. If anypony visited me last night, they didn’t wake me up. And only Rarity and Sweetie Belle visited me this morning.” She smiled, “Sweetie Belle drew me a picture.”
Twilight frowned as her hoof waved to various point in the room. Spike grabbed her hoof, lightly directing it towards where a crudely drawn picture of stick-ponies were covered in various glitter and craft materials, with the words ‘GET WELL SOON’ written in glitter-glue. Twilight seemed uncomfortable at Spike’s help.
“Sweetie Belle was so proud of her work, I can’t wait to see it.” Twilight said. There was a hint of disappointment in her voice. She rested her hooves on the blanket in front of her, going quiet for a moment.
Rainbow Dash opened the book to the prologue, her hoof raised in the air dramatically. She opened her mouth to begin, as Spike interjected once again, “Any news on when you can get out?”
Twilight shook her head, “I have an appointment for certain tests later today. The doctor says the only certain damage was to my back,” she touched the bandages around her torso, “however, it’s only bruising. It’ll go away soon. From what they saw before they applied the bandages, and when they changed them this morning, he said that my... He...” The air in the room grew dense as Twilight swallowed hard, “he said that there may be severe damage to my eyes.”
Rainbow and Spike shared the same slack-jawed expression, both unable to find anything to say. They could only stare at the unicorn with a worried shock. The quiet air hung sickly, as if the one who controlled fate, was standing in the room with them.
The blue pegasus had gone silent, the opened book hanging limply on her lap. The news chilled her to the core, “Y-you mean... you... but won’t that mea--” She stammered, trying to find any way to ask the question that hung in her mind.
Twilight let out a shuddered breath as she hung her head. Her shoulders trembled as her breaths quickened with the sound of sobbing.
Rainbow Dash’s eyes filled up sympathetically as she moved over, sitting on the bed to embrace her friend quietly, pulling the unicorn to her chest. Twilight lay against her sideways, two wet patches forming on the bandage around her head.
She barely noticed Spike joining the embrace as she gently held the unicorn in her arms, making an excruciating effort to keep her own tears in check. Her own mind raced at what would be going through Twilight’s, at the very danger of the worst-case scenario. She hoped quietly, that luck would prevail, and maybe, just maybe, Twilight’s disadvantage wouldn't be as severe as it could be. For now, she would simply be there for her friend, and allow nothing to come between them. She could not be left to feel alone.
“I don’t know what to do,” Twilight gagged breathlessly through her sobbing, “I just don’t know.”
Life is going to change. There’ll be no books, and no library. Nothing that was you will be there anymore. You know this. Without your eyes, the Twilight Sparkle that everyone has known and loved, will cease to exist.
Twilight rested her head in Rainbow Dash’s chest, sobbing quietly as her mind raced rapidly, polarising one thought with another. The news had struck her deeply when the doctor had told her, yet she was quiet.
Twilight sat on the bed, facing the doctor. Her mind’s eye visualised him as a yellow colt with an auburn mane, wearing the coat that all nurses and doctors seemed to sport. She gave no response.
“Ms. Sparkle, I know this is hard news to hear. However, there are plenty of programs that can help you adapt, no matter the severity of the damage.” He sounded so patronising. He wasn’t the one who had to live with this.
There was a muffled shout in the distance, and the doctor sighed, “Please excuse me, Ms. Sparkle. However, I assure you, this isn’t the end of the world.”
Twilight sniffed, righting herself up from her friend’s embrace. She could still feel the scaled form of Spike clinging to her. Rainbow Dash’s hoof moved to sit on top of her own.
Maybe my friends will stay, she hoped. After all, they are my friends. I could just adapt.
“I’m... sorry,” Twilight muttered to herself, instinctively wiping at her eyes with her free hoof, only to be met with the cotton barrier. She sniffed again, forcing a smile towards Rainbow Dash, “The new Daring Do is here?”
Rainbow Dash was quiet for a long time. Her hoof was firmly placed on top of Twilight’s, as if afraid to let go, “Twilight,” Rainbow said seriously, “I don’t want you to feel as if anything between us is going to change.”
Twilight quirked a brow as the intense seriousness of Rainbow’s voice washed over her. She had heard this same tone on multiple occasions, when Rainbow was not only dropping all of her barriers, but was also placing a deep-seeded promise.
“Whatever this is, we’ll be beside you. All of us” her voice cracked as she finished her sentence.
“Twilight,” Rainbow interrupted, she hadn’t finished, “There are times when life changes, and everypony around them has to adjust. This is one of those times.”
Rainbow’s wisdom had caught Twilight off guard. There was nothing hidden behind those words, no ulterior motive or hidden feelings, she was being the real Rainbow Dash. Her mask had been removed.
Twilight smiled, “Thank you.” She raised her hoof, pressing it on top of the pegasus’, She slowly followed the length of her friend’s arm before leaning forward and embracing her tightly, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” she repeated tearfully.
She felt Rainbow Dash embrace her again, “No need for that.” Twilight could only imagine that playful smirk that Rainbow wore so well as her mask was slowly replaced, “After all, I wouldn’t be too awesome if I left you because of some silly thing like this, would I?”
That’s Rainbow. Twilight smiled inwardly. A few heartfelt words were more than enough before Rainbow returned the mask of coolness. In truth all of them knew, that deep down Rainbow was more sensitive and wise than she would ever let anypony believe. She was the youngest of the group, and she still held public appearance to heart. One day, she would grow out of that, and prove to the world what loyalty meant.
“Should we tell the Princess?” Spike asked, reaffirming his existence.
Twilight let go of the pegasus, turning towards Spike, “No.” The amount of conviction in her voice surprised her. One of her deepest thoughts had been how her mentor would react, if she knew that her most prized and faithful student was defective. She might disown her, or send her to a facility for the disabled!
Defective. The chilling thought flashed through her mind, causing her stomach to constrict.
“She doesn’t need to know,” Twilight justified, “it doesn’t affect her. So long as I report to her, send in my assignments and exams, she won’t even know the difference!” She forced a smile, trying to sound cheerful.
The tone in Spike’s voice begged to differ, “You can’t do that.” Twilight could imagine Spike’s worried expression. She wondered if he already had a quill and paper in hand. “She’s the Princess. She needs to know what’s happening with those closest to her!”
“No, Spike! We can’t tell her!” Twilight snapped, putting a hoof to her mouth as she realised her sudden outburst. “I mean... it’s not important.”
“Twilight,” Spike whined, “You of all ponies should know that’s not true.”
Twilight shook her head, “No. And I don’t want anypony sending it on your behalf or mine. Do I make myself clear?”
The safest option. I can’t disappoint her.
Spike sighed after a pause, “Alright.”
Twilight nodded, “Thank you, Spike. This is the best way to handle this.”
She chided herself inwardly for saying it -no- she was not important. She was the Princess’ prized student, after all. With this plan in place, she’ll continue being just that! If the Princess never found out, then her esteem will continue. That was the most important thing.
“Well, I brought some paper for you, Twilight. It’s Tuesday.” The weight from where Spike was sitting lightened, followed by a thump on the floor next to her.
Twilight paused, “Then, I... should send something to the Princess. Um...” she furrowed her brow, tapping her forehead. Her thoughts had been so involved in preventing herself from being disowned by the Princess that she hadn’t had any time to consider what this week’s letter would contain. She was supposed report on her recent study on...
“Spike, did you find what I was studying last night?”
“Uh, you... what?” Spike stammered, “Oh! Something about Para-die-gems of magic. That’s what was on your desk, at least.”
Twilight brightened, raising a hoof in the air, “Of course! Paradigms of magic!” The memory clicked to her with glee.
“Para-dimes, Spike. The set rules, formations, runes and symbols that can be used to alter the appearance, strength and use of an original spell, by changing its inherent structure at the source! Basic paradigms can be used to change the brightness of a light spell, or the size or temperature of a pyrokinetic spell.” Twilight’s speech quickened as she gestured in the air to illustrate her points. She pictured where her hooves were, in relation to the description she was trying to convey.
“What?” Spike sounded even more incredulous than his previous question.
Twilight sighed, “It’s what we call the framework of magic. Changing the paradigm, or ‘paradigm shift’, changes the framework of the original spell. While that’s the most basic, and perhaps generalised explanation of the term, that is basically what it means. It’s mostly a term for the ‘setup’ of a spell, as paradigms are mostly conceptualised. So while changing the framework of magic is physical, it is brought under the conception of being a paradigm.”
Twilight scowled at Rainbow’s quiet muttering of ‘egghead’ before turning back to Spike, “Does that make sense?”
“No, but I’ll take your word for it.” Spike replied. There was the familiar sound of unravelling paper at the corner of the room, “so, you want me to tell the Princess about paradigms?”
Twilight paused, “I... didn’t get to finish my research,” she said, disappointed in herself, “I only managed to understand the basics of conceptualisation to practicality, before...” Before what? What was I doing before I came here? “I don’t know.”
Twilight shook her head, Think, Twilight, think! There has got to be a way to remember what happened. There was one spell, that allowed a caster to see repressed memories, but would the caster be able to apply that spell on themself? The book didn’t specify.
“You don’t know? Twilight, that’s not like you.” Spike’s sarcasm sounded less apparent than usual. The sound of paper was heard once again, followed by the familiar audible clack of a clip.
“I don’t remember,” Twilight sighed. “Princess Celestia won’t accept a letter on the basic synopsis of what I’ve been studying! She’ll want a detailed report!”
Spike muttered something under his breath, which brought a giggle from Rainbow Dash. Twilight frowned, having missed the apparent joke.
“I’ll send her a letter tomorrow. That’ll give me time to remember.” Twilight forced a smile. In truth, she knew she was just procrastinating until she found a reasonable excuse to send a letter. Retrograde Amnesia had been known to never recover.
“So...” Rainbow Dash began beside her, an excited inflection in her tone, “how about that new Daring Do book? We can get started on it now!”
Twilight lay down on the bed again, righting the hat to sit skewed between the pillow and her horn, “That sounds nice, Rainbow.” She smiled lightly, turning her head towards her friend.
The sound of a scraping echoed through the room from the far end of the bed, screeching loudly as it circumnavigated closer to where Dash had been sitting, “Alright!” Spike shouted enthusiastically.
Rainbow Dash chuckled under her breath, “Then let’s begin!” The first page was opened, filling the air with the scent of freshly printed paper, “Daring Do in Search of Marenkaura!” She lowered her voice menacingly, as she began her narration, “As Daring Do trekked through the scorching desert...”
“... and she catapulted in to the air, waving to the Watchmares as she flew over them! With a loud, audible crash, she flew through the entrance!” Rainbow Dash had taken to standing on the seat as she narrated the book energetically, acting out every scene with vigour and energetic strength. The book had been everything she thought it would be! Action, adventure and suspense, just like all the others! “And that’s the end of Chapter 7!”
Twilight applauded, a wide smile strewn across her face, “Wow, Rainbow! This has to be one of the best yet!”
Rainbow smiled in returned, it was good to see her friend could be distracted, even for a short period of time, from the looming disaster that had befallen her. She opened her mouth to begin the next chapter, as a set of hoof-stomps were heard from the doorway.
“Wonderful reading! It’s good to know my daughters will enjoy this next instalment,” the orange colt smiled, walking in to the room, “And I can tell you enjoy it, too.”
Rainbow’s cheeks reddened as she sheepishly slunk back in to the chair. Spike giggled.
The doctor’s horn lit with a bright yellow hue, levitating the medical report from the edge of Twilight’s bed, eyeing it carefully, “Well, Ms. Sparkle, it’s time for your tests. Your friends can come as well, if they would like?”
“Can I, Twilight?” Spike asked. The amount of worry on his face superseded his obvious desire not to return home. Spike had been watching the setting sun for a while now, glancing out the window whenever he could.
“Sure, Spike,” Twilight nodded, “Rainbow, are you coming, too?”
Rainbow considered for a moment, only now feeling the dryness of her throat after having read for such a long period, “Uh... yeah. I’ll catch up with you guys,” she smiled, glancing out the door in hopes of finding a small café meters away.
“Well, we’ll be in Room 2ICU.”
“Intensive Care?!” Rainbow snapped.
The doctor shook his head, “No, no, no. That’s CCU: the Critical Care Unit. Nopony really knows what ICU stands for; we lost that information in the Great Fire.” He gestured towards the door, and in nine other directions, “It’s just down the hall, just follow the signs.”
Rainbow wiped her brow, “Thank Celestia,” she smiled, heading for the door, “I’ll see--... catch you soon, Twilight.”
She hurried out the door, grimacing at her verbal slip. “Darn it, Rainbow. Don’t say that around her,” she scolded, “The last thing she needs is to be reminded of her problem.” She continued wandering the halls in search of the café she had managed to find the first time around.
After finding the café and purchasing a bottle of apple juice, she found herself simply staring out the window at the night sky, allowing the news of her friend time to sink in. It was true, that there was no concrete answer, however whatever damage there was, would scar Twilight for the rest of her life.
The bottle sat untouched on the windowsill as she continued to stare at the moon, hearing nothing of her own thoughts as they fought for dominance in her head. What was Twilight going to do if she was blind? Who would help her? Could Rainbow keep the promise she made to her? Each thought had not been allowed an answer as a new contemplation entered her mind.
Her mind quietly wandered to the day before, when she had heard that disastrous call.
“Rainbow Dash! Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie’s voice sounded under her.
Rainbow alighted on the ground in front of her friend, “What is it, Pinkie?” She had asked irritably, “I’ve got stuff I need to do.”
How could I have been so rude?
Pinkie’s eyes were wide with shock and fear; her words more babbled than usual, “It’s Twilight! I was at the bakery when I heard the sirens, and I didn’t think anything of it, because those sirens could be anything. But then I thought maybe those sirens were for a party, but they couldn’t have been for a party, because who has loud sirens at a party anyway? You can’t hear all the cake! So, I went out to have a look, and there was nothing, so I went back to making sweets. They’re really good, Dash, you should totally try some! But then—”
Dash had rolled her eyes and sighed gruffly, “Get to the point, Pinkie. If I don’t get to Cloudsdale, I’m gonna miss a chance to get out of Storm Duty.”
I didn’t know something bad had happened.
“Dash!” Pinkie gasped, “Twilight’s in hospital!”
That doesn’t mean I had to be so short.
“She’s what?! Why?” Dash had shouted, it had taken the news for her to realise something was wrong.
I came in the end, didn’t I?
“Nopony knows, not even Spike. We gotta go!”
What if Pinkie says something about my attitude?
I owe it to her.
She shook her head quietly, turning around to wander through the sterile halls and find her friend. Twilight would need comforting once the news was final. She picked up her pace, following the signs riddled around the hospital’s white halls leading to the department her friend would be waiting in.
Each corridor she followed, each hall she turned in to, felt further away than when she had began. At the end of her journey through the labyrinthine hospital, she would find her friend, and the answer to the horror that had been looming over her since she arrived at the hospital. She halted quietly, at Room 2.
Rainbow stared at the number on the door for a moment, scowling at the snake-like figure. She opened it slowly and quietly, glancing around at the various machines in the dimly lit room, each looking like a larger microscope than the last. Twilight sat inside the largest one in the room, appearing more machine than pony. The upper part of her face was secured by what appeared to be a metallic mask, with two looking glasses for eyes. Rainbow closed the door, looking around further as her eyes adjusted to the lack of light.
Spike glanced in Dash’s direction. As their eyes met, volumes spoke between them. Those two, teary orbs conveyed the news she had been dreading. Dash froze, her heart sinking in to her stomach, her eyes teared up sympathetically, as her gaze fell on to Twilight.
Twilight’s mouth was agape, as her body lay limply in the seat. Tears streamed silently down her face, slowly dripping on to her chest. Yet there she stayed, as silent and still as the room itself. Not a single sound escaped her, not a single breath was heard, and not a single twitch was seen. She was still, and silent.
Rainbow Dash simply stared at her, unable to think, unable to move. Her entire body ceased, her entire thoughts silenced, as the realisation of her friend’s wound slowly sunk in to her every fibre. Her mouth twitched, as her own tears slowly descended her face. Twilight, no...
She turned toward Spike, opening her mouth to speak. Spike interjected, shaking his head quietly. Why would he want to talk now? The news would hit him almost as deeply as Twilight. Rainbow inwardly chided herself.
She moved to the far side of the room next to the dragon, who had been seated on a small swivel stool. There was nothing to say, no pony to talk with. She could only let her two friends grieve in peace.
You’re useless now. Everything you’ve ever worked for, everything you had ever hoped to be, means nothing. Without your eyes, you cannot read. You cannot learn.
But you can adapt, there are ways for blind ponies to cope in the world.
Twilight couldn’t move. When the doctor had removed her bandage, the void that remained already answered her darkest fears. Yet she could have hoped for some miracle of magic or science. The doctor had said nothing, only the grim, dark news that she had been expecting all along.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Sparkle. Your eye sight has completely deteriorated.”
You’re blind, Twilight. She had heard, instead. There was no sympathy in the words, there were no plans or programs that she could go on to restore her eye sight, there was no substitute she could use to replace her own eyes, and magic, her most faithful and loyal friend, could not repair organic matter.
“Remember, Twilight, magic has limitations. It cannot repair organic matter, it cannot raise ponies from the dead, and it cannot change the past. Magic is functional, and can only be used functionally. Do you understand that?” Princess Celestia’s voice rang through her head.
I don’t want to understand. Not now. I want to be fixed. I want my eyes back.
Twilight shuddered inwardly, as every ounce of her body screamed out in anger, fear and grief, all in a single fluent motion. She screamed, so as to make sure the heavens themselves knew that fate had betrayed her.
The world still turned, time moved on, and the room was silent. No retribution came; no heavenly light or mystical being appeared to fix her. Even the warm air of Princess Celestia, never embraced her. She was alone in a real world.
If the Princess found out, she would send her to an institution for the blind. Spike would be given to the next unicorn that the Princess took in to her tutelage, and Twilight Sparkle would forever be forgotten. Without sight, she couldn’t leave. Someone would have to lead her out of the hospital, and everyone would know that she is a flawed unicorn.
Twilight silently waited for the doctor to speak, yet not a word was spoken.
The door had closed. By now, the doctor should have announced himself. What more bad news could he give to her tonight? Had her home burned down, too? Had her family been sent to the dungeons for one reason or another?
She heard a quiet sniff in the corner of the room. It sounded larger than Spike. It was another pony. Perhaps, if she was lucky, Rainbow Dash had returned as she promised. If it was her, why hadn’t she said anything?
Twilight choked, “W-who’s there?” Her voice came out in a raspy squeak, its tone changing rapidly.
Rainbow had returned, “Rainbow... I’m... it’s...” Twilight gagged, a fresh onset of sobbing breaking loose from her throat. If it weren’t for the machine holding her in place by whatever metallic device had been placed around her face and eyes, she would have slumped to the ground.
“I can’t... I don’t...” She couldn’t bring herself to say those words. She couldn’t admit to herself what was wrong.
“I know,” Rainbow’s voice cracked.
“Rainbow... what have I done to deserve this?”
The unfair question held itself heavily over the air. Twilight resented herself for directing it at her friend, as if she were the one who caused this. She was trying to help, she didn’t deserve any questions like that.
“I don’t know.”
Twilight sighed heavily, every fibre in her body shuddering. The doctor was supposed to return soon, once he had the results. Then, she could return to her bed. Then, she could sleep. If she was lucky, maybe she wouldn’t wake up. Maybe, if there was something out there to give her some form of justice, she wouldn’t have to put up with the hardships and changes that she’ll be forced to uphold.
Selfish. She chided furiously at herself. Don’t even think that. Your friends and family would be devastated to learn that you were no more. They would prefer you in your condition now, than the darker alternative.
So many emotions filled her entire being, fighting for dominance. She wanted to cry, to accept, to blame, to scream, to bargain, to live and to die. Each emotion combated by its alternative, never allowed to rest on one decision. There was no true answer in this unreality that was her new life. There was only one fact in this whole scenario, that she needed to accept.
“Rainbow Dash...” Twilight said slowly through her tears.
Rarity exhaled deeply as the warm mud encapsulated her body, the steams filling her nostrils with a relaxing scent, “Honestly, Rainbow Dash, you really should join us more often. I keep telling you.”
Rainbow Dash groaned, “You know I don’t like it here. Why’d you drag me here, just so I could talk to you?”
Rarity only smiled, picturing Rainbow Dash in the bath beside her, “Because, dear, you really need to culture yourself more. And what better way to do it, than with your wonderful pal Rarity?” She closed her eyes, enjoying the ambience of the spa.
She had made sure to invite all of her friends to the spa today, so they could at least catch up on the week’s news. She hadn’t seen them in four days, since the hospital, and she was just as eager to hear about the news about Twilight. Having spoken to both Applejack and Fluttershy, before Rainbow Dash arrived fashionably late, she noted that they were keen for the information as well.
“So...” Fluttershy started quietly. Rarity had seen her on the bed in front of her, before she had put her mask on. “How is Twilight doing?” The strain in her voice was noticeable.
Rainbow Dash was quiet for a moment before sighing deeply, “She got the news two days ago.” She paused again.
Rarity’s stomach lurched, her features tightening. She had waited so long for the news that it was torturous to have to wait any longer.
“She’s blind,” Rainbow stated darkly. From the sound of her voice, she had yet to get over the shock.
The room filled with various gasps and cries, before going quiet once more. The cucumbers over Rarity’s eyes fell off, landing in the mud with an audible slunk.
Twilight had voiced her concerns in the hospital, when she’d taken Sweetie Belle to visit her. She had been worried for the worst, but had sounded as if she were still hoping for the best. She could feel the gut wrenching sympathy for her friend, only imagining the pain that it must be causing her.
“She’s been silent since she heard the news. The last time she spoke, was when she went to sleep. She didn’t wake up for almost a day. And now...” Rainbow sighed, “she just lays there, stari—” She shook her head, clearing her throat, “just lays there.”
“This can’t be right,” Applejack said, now lying on her back on the bed next to Fluttershy, “I mean, she’s smart, ain’t she? Ain’t there some spell to make her see or somethin’?”
Rarity shook her head, “No.”
The others looked at her, mouths agape.
“Well, not to restore her sight. At the most, she could temporarily see shapes. However, she would need to maintain her magic for long periods of time.” She regarded their incredulous looks coolly, “My grandfather’s vision deteriorated in his old age, it’s not like unicorns have ignored such disabilities, you know.”
“But... what about reading?” Fluttershy asked.
“Well... my grandfather would use a similar spell on books with engraved letters. He says it was almost as if he could see the skeleton of prose. I’m still not sure what he meant by that, honestly.”
“What about Pegasi and Earth Ponies?” Applejack asked, giving an irritated look. After all, Granny Smith was heading down a similar path, if age didn’t catch up with her first.
“The scientists in Canterlot research solutions for all ponies, Applejack.” Rarity felt a little betrayed at Applejack’s inference, if that is what it had been.
Applejack simply nodded at that, shuffling on to her stomach with her hooves hanging limply off the edge.
Rarity sighed, “There is no magic that is able to make her see again. There are only provisions that can help her through life.”
She couldn’t help but question what Twilight could see, what the world looked like to her. When she tried to visualise it, her brain would spin, accompanied by a tingle down her spine. Calling it black seemed unfitting, while ‘void’ seemed too extreme.
The air sat silent for a while as each pony sat within their own thoughts. Such big news had to settle in, before it could be comprehended completely. Rarity knew that soon, she would understand what had happened to her friend.
“Does Pinkie Pie know?” Rarity asked, shocked at her sudden jump in subject.
Rainbow rolled her eyes, sinking into the mud more, “Does she ever. She spent all of yesterday trying to get Twilight to talk, and then started accusing her of being a stuffed toy. I haven’t seen her since she went off looking for the ‘real Twilight.’”
There was a stifled giggling around the room.
Rarity moved to the edge of the bath, leaning on it with muddy hooves, “Rainbow, dear, I hope you haven’t been disadvantaging yourself for the sake of Twilight. It would kill her to know that she’s burdening you.”
Rarity frowned at the amount of mud the cyan mare had splashed around the bath from shifting around in the bath so much. She now lay in a position as if she were reclining in a beach chair.
Rainbow shook her head, “Nah. I got enough time off. I’ve spent most of the time reading to her,” she gestured in the air, as if explaining a point.
Rarity smiled, “That’s lovely of you. I’m sure she really appreciates it. Even if she doesn’t seem to be listening.”
Rainbow nodded with a sigh, “I know she can hear me. It’s lonely in there, y’know? Like she’s not even there at all.”
“Y’ can’t blame ‘er for that,” Applejack said, “she’s the one who’s gotta deal with it.”
“I know that!” Rainbow Dash snapped, jumping on to her feet defensively, “It’s depressing in there. You go spend a day with her and see how you feel!” She stared Applejack down.
Applejack grimaced and Fluttershy cowered to the corner of her bed.
“Rainbow Dash, calm down,” Rarity chided, “we understand. That’s why I asked if you’re okay.” She tried to sound calming, and hoped it could be enough to dent the pegasus’ emotion.
Rainbow flapped her wings and hovered out of the bath, spraying mud around the room. Rarity in particular, was treated to a face full of mud. With a scowl, Rainbow Dash zipped out of the room leaving the other three mares stunned at the outburst.
Rarity sighed, tutting under her breath, “The poor dear. I can’t imagine what she’s going through, having been with Twilight the entire time.”
Rarity’s empathy hung in the air, in hopes of enticing her friend back. Yet, she did not return.
Having met so many ponies in her time, Rarity had heard many stories from many ponies. Rainbow Dash’s story was typical of a friend reaching out to somepony in a spiral of depression. At times, it was if nopony was there at all.
A gurgle emanated from the bath that Dash had occupied. Fluttershy further cowered into her gown, whilst Applejack and Rarity stared at it in disbelief. A form slowly rose from the depths of the mud, its featureless body facing each pony separately before blowing a bubble of mud. It shook its head energetically, throwing mud over the entire room.
“Have you guys seen Twilight anywhere? I know the real her is around here somewhere!”
Rarity rolled her eyes, “No, dear. She’s grieving at the moment. She’ll be okay, soon.” She furrowed her brow at the pink pony. Pinkie had always been the odd sort, but it was hard to believe that she was actually looking for the ‘real Twilight.’
“Oh. Well I’ll have to have a Twilight’s Back To Normal party then! Oh! I’ll make her special Get Well Soon cupcakes, she’ll love them, I just know it! What’cha think a blind pony wants at a party? They don’t see too well, so I guess we gotta find other games, right? Oh! We could have musical games! And ‘Guess That Sound,’ it’s not a game yet, but we can make it one by then...”
Rarity couldn’t help but stare at the pink pony as she continued her tirade. It wasn’t so much for what Pinkie was saying, rather, it was that Pinkie had just moved on and accepted that Twilight was blind. It was almost admirable that Pinkie had simply added ‘blind’ to Twilight’s profile, without any negative connotations.
She realised that she had no idea how she would treat Twilight. She couldn’t imagine seeing Twilight as a different pony, but now, she would need help getting around and doing things. Surely, the available spells weren’t cure-alls for her condition, magic was functional. Twilight would need to know who or what each shape was, she’d need doors opened for her, or help crossing the street.
Twilight wasn’t helpless, but she would need taking care of. That much had to be true.
Rarity, Fluttershy and Applejack simultaneously cringed as the smell of various chemicals and cleaning agents filled their noses. The smell of a hospital was very hard to be used to, and often smelled of ‘sick.’ They exchanged a grimace with each other as they walked to the reception desk.
Rarity could feel the anxiousness, fear, sickness and confusion in the air from the ponies not just sitting in the lobby, but from every pony in every room in the entire hospital. The atmosphere stung her senses, bringing her mood down to a low. Gravity seemed to force its weight upon her. She had never enjoyed hospitals for any reason.
The white mare behind the desk looked overly bored as she reclined lazily in her office chair, taking careful consideration of filing her front hooves with a metal hoof file. She glanced up to the three mares with an apathetic stare, seemingly waiting for them to talk first.
“Hello,” Rarity started, trying to ignore the dirty look from the receptionist, “we’ve come to see Twilight Sparkle. However, we’d also like some information on the various programmes for the blind.”
The receptionist huffed, shifting through the records in front of her, “Twilight Sparkle, Room 42. Just follow the signs and you’ll find her.” She gestured to the large stand at the far end of the lobby, “information is there.” Without further word, the reception turned away from the three mares and returned to her delicate task of filing her hooves.
Rarity gave her a sour look before wandering over to the stand of brochures, looking through each title individually, mildly curious as to what variety they had. It was an extensive variety, ranging from wing rehabilitation to magic depletion, and even a couple on Wild Cutie Mark Syndrome. As she passed them over, Rarity plucked out three brochures on dealing with blindness. One for the patient, one for relatives and friends of the patient, and one detailing certain rights and services a blind – visually impaired – pony was entitled.
“Excuse me, aren’t you Twilight’s friends?” a mare’s voice sounded behind them, accented slightly with the typical Canterlot sound.
Applejack and Rarity turned around, while Fluttershy disappeared into the closest pot-plant. Behind them, stood a blue stallion and a grey mare, wearing each other’s teary-eyed and depressed expressions.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Applejack said curiously, “Can we help you?”
The grey mare nodded, “My name is Twilight Velvet, and this is my husband, Night Light.” She offered a weary smile, “You’ve come to see my daughter?” The resemblance between this mare and Twilight was uncanny.
Rarity’s smile widened, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Twilight has told us so much about you. I remember seeing you at the wedding, I always had wished we could have spoken sooner,” she pulled back quietly, coughing quietly into her hoof, “yes, we’ve come to see Twilight. We did hear the news.”
Velvet nodded, her face growing dark as tears welled in her eyes, “You’re aware that she’s...?”
The two mares nodded, “Yes. I was going to read these to her, so she may feel more at ease.” Rarity said, holding up the brochures.
Twilight’s parents smiled. Whether it was genuine or forced, Rarity was unable to tell. “I’m sure she’ll appreciate that. She was awake when we left. The doctor mentioned this was the first time she had even sat up since she heard the news,” Velvet said.
“Rainbow told us,” Applejack nodded, “good to see she’s gettin’ up at least. I’m sure she was glad to see you.”
Night Light shook his head, “No,” he spoke with a deep voice, “she was surprised to see us. She was unaware that the hospital had notified us of her condition. It was if she didn’t want us to know.”
Rarity raised a brow, “She didn’t? Why on earth would she not want her own parents to know?” That didn’t sound like Twilight at all. They were her family, and yet she had not intended to tell them?
“I believe it has to do with how close Shining Armor is to Princess Celestia,” Night Light replied factually, standing tall, “she continuously mentioned that we are not to tell the Princess of her condition, granted that is quite an absurd notion. However,” he mused, “Twilight has always been like that.”
“Y’ don’t say,” Applejack said sarcastically.
Rarity rolled her eyes. It would make sense for Twilight to be worried about such a detail. She had hoped that Twilight could have learned by now that Princess Celestia was far too kind-hearted to throw a pony aside, purely because of a disability or minor mistake. It struck her as odd, however, that Twilight’s thoughts did revolve around the Princess as such.
“Twilight has said she’ll learn to adapt to a new life,” Velvet said with a sigh.
Rarity smiled lightly, “That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
Velvet nodded, “Perhaps. “
Rarity restrained herself from prying further. The mare seemed as if she was about to burst into tears again.
“Perhaps we should return home, dear,” Night Light prompted, “we have a long journey home.” He offered a smile to the other two mares as he draped a hoof around his partner’s back.
“It was a pleasure meeting you,” Velvet said with a smile, before turning away. The pair walked out of the hospital quietly, leaving Applejack and Rarity beckoning a mud-covered Fluttershy out from the pot-plant.
Rarity opened the door slowly, peeking into the quiet room. Twilight was hunched over the side of the bed, her back towards the opened window. Today had been a particularly glorious day outside. Twilight’s ears twitched slightly as her friends filed into the room, standing around her.
“Twilight, dear. It’s us,” Rarity said.
“Us?” Twilight asked in a tone that chided Rarity for being obscure. Rarity grimaced.
“Applejack and Fluttershy,” Applejack offered, bringing Fluttershy forward with her hoof, “We’ve figured we’d come ‘n visit you today. Y’r due out anytime soon, ain’t ya?”
Twilight grunted in response, and then nodded, “Yes.”
Aren’t you being too depressive about this, Twilight? Rarity thought bitterly, instantly scolding herself for it.
“How are you doing, Twilight?” Fluttershy asked innocently.
Twilight replied with a sigh, “Rainbow Dash told you?”
The three nodded, exchanged a look to each other, and replied in chorus, “Yes.”
“Are you feeling any better? I mean... aside from... you know... every... thing.” Fluttershy lowered her head, blushing furiously.
Twilight shrugged, her gaze never left the floor in front of her. Whether she knew what she was looking at, was a different thing all together.
“Well, we met your parents outside, dear. It was lovely for them to come all the way from Canterlot to see you, even for a while. It’s a shame we don’t have a hotel in Ponyville, isn’t it?”
Twilight nodded, “I should have told them myself. But... I’m glad they came.”
Rarity smiled. Twilight loved her family, as it seemed. Based on what Dash had told them, Twilight had made an improvement after her parent’s visit. Rarity could only imagine the pain she felt, having realised she hadn’t told them, or perhaps, had decided against doing so.
“Where’s Rainbow Dash?” Twilight asked, finally raising her head. Her eyes stared straight ahead, as if looking at something on the far wall. Suddenly, Rarity felt invisible as those warm eyes stared through her.
“I’m not sure,” Rarity replied, “she didn’t say where she was going.”
Applejack tutted under her breath.
Rarity shot her an icy scowl, mouthing a warning for her to be quiet. Applejack pulled back, hanging her head apologetically.
“Oh... I was hoping she could continue the book,” Twilight said with a smile.
If only you knew, Rainbow Dash Rarity thought fondly. She was listening, and she loves it.
“Well actually, I do have some material for you, Twilight,” Rarity grinned, holding up one of the brochures in front of her, “I can read it to you, if you’d like. It details certain things that will make your life easier, henceforth. I glanced through it on the way through the halls, and I believe that you will be pleasantly surprised.”
Twilight raised a brow, “The echolocation spell.”
“Uh... well, yes. That’s one of the things mentioned in here. Although—”
“It can only be maintained for short periods of time, so as to not drain the caster’s magic. Furthermore, it allows the caster only to see their surroundings during each pulse. If the surrounding were to changing during that pulse, it could be hazardous without a guide.” She lowered her head again.
“That’s right...” Rarity paused, “however, Spike could guide you. I know he wouldn’t mind. In fact, any of us would be happy to help you, Twilight.”
Twilight nodded, “I know. Thank you, girls.” Her words sounded haunted by whatever thoughts were going through her head. “I’ve had a lot of time to... think things through. I’ll need my books to be transcribed, so as to have a deep etching in each page. That will require a lot of time, and bits.”
Rarity glanced over the brochure in front of her; Twilight had covered the next part of the list already.
“Well, dear, you’re entitled to a disability allowance. It can used for such things.”
“A disability allowance would mean that Princess Celestia would need to approve it. I can’t tell her.” She sighed, “And I can’t afford the transcriptions.”
“Twilight, you need to stop thinking so negatively about Princess Celestia. She loves you, and you know that. Why would her acceptance change, simply because your life’s circumstances have? Quite frankly, she would be offended that you think of her in such light.” Rarity chided authoritatively.
Twilight looked directly at her. Rarity could feel her gaze, yet it wasn’t the gaze she knew. Twilight’s eyes no longer held a warm and soul-filled smile; it had diminished to something different. Those bright, purple eyes that had once been a welcome sight were now a blank slate.
“She’s right, Twilight.” Applejack said.
Fluttershy gave a quiet agreement.
Twilight shook her head, “You don’t know that. I don’t know that. After all, I didn’t see another disabled unicorn in the Princess’ school. None of the photos on the wall showed any disabled unicorns. It can only lead to the logical conclusion, that she doesn’t accept them!”
Rarity placed a hoof on Twilight shoulder comfortingly, trying to console her ever-stressed friend, “Dear, you know that’s not true. Have you considered talking to her? Ask her in a letter if there have been any disabled ponies in her school.”
“She’s too smart for that. She’d see right through it. Thank you, but I know what I’m doing. As long as Princess Celestia doesn’t know I’m blind, everything should be fine. I know it.”
Rarity looked to Fluttershy and Applejack for support. Both frowned at her, just as stumped.
“In any case, dear, we’re here to support you. Pinkie’s already organising to throw you a party.” Twilight’s incredulous look spoke volumes.
“I don’t know either.” Rarity said with a shrug.
The four mares sat around, now only idly chatting between each other. Rarity, had moved the conversation along to the goings on around the boutique, for any form of conversation. Now, they spoke of anything they could think of, simply trying to bring normalcy into Twilight’s life.
Twilight had taken to talking more than when they had first arrived, and had even managed to giggle once or twice during the conversations. She reclined on her bed lazily, staring towards the ceiling, as she joined in the conversation every now and then. To Rarity, that was the best she could have expected from Twilight’s present condition, and it was nice.
Rarity watched her friend carefully, trying to decipher what her thoughts were. Outwardly, Twilight seemed to be trying to cope with everything, yet her voice betrayed her with a sense of pain, confusion and fear. Rarity could only guess that Twilight was mentally tearing herself limb from limb.
“Those are wonderful flowers, Twilight. I don’t think I’ve seen those before.” Fluttershy smiled gently, wandering over to inspect them in detail.
“I was looking forward to seeing them. I’ll need to wait a little longer until I can try the spell, and hopefully I can get some sort of understanding of them,” Twilight replied.
Rarity glanced at the white flowers; they hadn’t bloomed, and presently resembled a star. She could swear that she had seen those flowers somewhere before. They were apparently rare.
Behind them, was Sweetie Belle’s picture. Rarity frowned as she realised that Twilight would never see the details of Sweetie Belle’s effort. It was a shame, considering she had put so much effort into it.
“I’m sure whoever gave them to you meant well,” Rarity hoped.
Twilight sighed deeply, suddenly changing the conversation, “Life is going to be so different.” The depression seemed to have mellowed from her voice slightly. This was a statement.
“I know, dear. Remember, we’re here for you. If you need any help at all, you only need to ask. I’m sure I can close the Boutique for an hour or so.”
“I can help you, too. I mean, if you would like it.” Fluttershy smiled sweetly.
“I can try, if I’m free,” Applejack added quickly.
Twilight smiled and nodded, “Thank you, girls. It means a lot. Did the brochures have any information about... living with somepony like me?”
Rarity felt a stab of sympathy as Twilight stumbled to find a comfortable way to refer to herself, “Actually, dear, they do. We have a whole brochure on what we can do to help out, as well as things that you’ll be able to do for yourself, given the right amount of time.”
Despite this, Rarity still wondered just how much help Twilight would need. She was unsure if she was truthfully able to be there whenever her friend called. Can I continue my life, without directing it to helping Twilight? That’s what Spike is doing, isn’t it? Perhaps he’ll be able to help enough without any of us needing to be his assistant.
“Y’ know Spike will do anything for you, right?” Applejack prompted with a smile, “He’s lookin’ forward to you comin’ home.”
“I know. I don’t want to burden him, or you... or anypony. I’m sure I can manage to do things on my own soon enough,” Twilight’s hopefulness broke half way through the sentence, her voice returning to the darker tone it had carried since their arrival.
Her mind must be an absolute mess, Rarity thought concernedly.
“What... am I going to do with myself, when I return to the library?” Twilight questioned, “I don’t have any transcribed books, and no materials that I can study.”
Fluttershy, Applejack and Rarity exchanged glances with each other, seemingly unable to answer the question.
Rarity furrowed her brow, thinking for a moment. She brightened as the light bulb in her head flickered on, “I’m sure you have something, dear,” she said, trying to keep her voice level, “however... I think I forgot to lock the... laundry in my... uh... pantry this morning, before I left the house. Silly me! I should best go and do just that, before it gets too late! I’ll come by again tomorrow, Twilight!”
Without a second to engage in farewells, Rarity found herself rushing out the door barging through the hospital, intent on her new idea.
Twilight furrowed her brow as Rarity excused herself, followed by the sound of her running out the door. An awkward silence hung in the air. She turned towards Applejack’s and Fluttershy’s voices curiously, “What was that about?”
“I don’t know, sugarcube. Smooth as apple crumble, that one,” Applejack replied, sounding confused and perturbed.
Twilight sighed and shook her head, “Was it me?”
Am I already a burden on you?
“Don’t be silly! I’m sure Rarity just had some stuff she needed to take care of like... lockin’ her laundry in the pantry,” Applejack replied, sounding more confused as she quoted Rarity.
Twilight nodded slowly. In truth, she didn’t believe it. It had to be something about her. Perhaps Rarity had simply found the situation too awkward. Maybe that was why Rainbow Dash left as well.
Twilight forced a smile, “I guess you’re right, Applejack.”
“Maybe they’re planning something?” Fluttershy’s voice quietly sounded.
“Like what, sugarcube?” Applejack asked.
“I don’t know... maybe they’re helping Pinkie with the party... or... something.”
Twilight couldn’t help but giggle, “Do you remember the last time either of those two helped with a party? Rainbow Dash set traps in everything in her party, and Rarity refused to let her party go ahead due to the colour of the curtains.”
The amusing thought of Rainbow Dash’s desire to prank everypony conflicting with Rarity’s decorative ideals appeared in to Twilight’s mind. She could only imagine the drama those two could conjure up if it ever came to that.
Twilight leaned back in to her bed and smiled genuinely, the thought struck an amusing chord.
“I hope they’ve found far better things to do.”
Rainbow Dash huddled under her blue cloak, stealthily sneaking around the corner. Each step, each breath was as important as her life. One mistake could cost her everything. If she was seen, her entire life would be over.
She peaked around the corner to find nopony looking at her. Slowly, carefully she approached her destination, following the route she had mentally planned before entering this treacherous and forsaken area.
She slowly placed the book on the table in front of her, pushing it across to the colt at the other end. She pulled the hood further over her face, hunching down to further hide her features. She glanced around once more, taking a deep breath.
“I’d like to buy this.”
The store owner cocked a brow at the odd behaviour, “That’ll be 15 bits,” he looked over the cover and smiled, “I’ve read this, it’s a good one. Granted, I’m more in to Clove Cutter, myself. Have you read his work?”
Rainbow Dash shook her head, throwing the bits on to the counter, “No, I haven’t.”
The cash registered clanged loudly at the transaction, causing Rainbow Dash to look around desperately.
“We have a few of his books down on the shelf to the right. If you’re interested—”
“No! It’s fine!” Rainbow Dash quickly stuffed the book in to her bag, turning to hurry out the door.
She froze, the colour in her face draining, Oh no.
“Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie Pie shouted loudly, “What are you doing here? I didn’t know you came here! Do you come here often? You know this is a book store, right?” She bounced up to her friend and gave her a hug.
Rainbow pushed Pinkie back and flailed her hooves in front of her mouth, vainly trying to quiet her, “Sssh! Pinkie Pie, be quiet! I don’t want anypony knowing I’m here!” She hissed, hunching under her hooded jumper.
“Why? Oh! Are you on a secret mission? I thought Rarity was too, she was running like it was the end of the world or something, but it wasn’t, she just said she had to come to the book store!”
Rarity shook her head, pushing passed the pink mare with a bemused look. She stared at Rainbow for a while, incredulous shock reaching on to her face. The sharp gasp she gave left one to wonder if it was truthful, or an attempt to draw attention to her obviously unwilling friend.
Rainbow sighed, retracting the hood around her shoulders. There was little use in trying to hide it now. “Hello, Rarity,” she sulked, her cheeks burning.
Rarity’s facial expressions contorted rhythmically between confusion and amusement, “What on earth are you doing here, dear?”
Rainbow noticed the book levitating in front of the unicorn, gesturing at it with a hoof, “I could ask you the same question. I’ve never seen you read.”
“Actually,” Rarity huffed, “I’m quite fond of romance novels.”
“Fifty Shades of Hay?” Rainbow snickered. Fifty Shades of Nay, more like it.
Rarity seemed hurt, choosing not to respond to that, “That’s not at all why I’m here. Twilight is due to be released soon, and I couldn’t bring myself to know that there would be nothing for her when she returned home.” She held the book up with an accomplished smile, “as it happens, this store has a small amount of books in Praille.”
Rainbow Dash cocked a brow, “I didn’t know that.”
She had only heard of Praille in passing, the books transcribed for sightless ponies. The subject was briefly covered in the school curriculum in Cloudsdale, however sleep had been far more entertaining.
“You wouldn’t, dear. It’s something you have to know, rather than something you would find. Now, you didn’t answer my question, what are you doing here?”
Rainbow Dash lowered her head, her cheeks burning hotter, “I bought another book,” she muttered quickly in to her jumper, in a similar vain to Fluttershy.
“I’m sorry dear, what was that?” Rarity learned closer.
“I bought another book,” Dash repeated quickly.
Rarity pulled her head back in surprise, screeching loudly, “Really! Well, this is astonishing. Which one?”
Dash sighed, “The first book in the Flight Angel trilogy.” She glanced behind over her shoulder to Pinkie, who had taken it upon herself to begin telling the cashier how his store would look far better with various party props and music.
Rarity seemed disappointed, “I see.” She moved passed Rainbow Dash to the cashier and smiled, going about her transaction.
Pinkie continued talking.
“How’s Twilight doing?” Rainbow asked, “Any better?”
Rarity smiled at the cashier, claiming her book. She motioned for the three mares to leave the store, “Her parents came to visit from Canterlot. Apparently, she didn’t tell them, or her brother.” Rarity glanced worriedly at her friend as they exited through the door.
Dash frowned, “That sucks. Even my family knew when I broke my wing. She’s stressing over the Princess again, isn’t she?” There was a slight amusement in Dash’s voice.
Twilight had proven time and again that Princess Celestia was her idol, and had come to believe that disappointing her was a fate far worse than being locked in a dungeon, exiled, or exiled and then locked in a dungeon. Dash had always wondered where Twilight’s priorities lay.
“Precisely. The poor dear. On the bright side, she mentioned to us that she would like you to continue Daring Do.”
Rainbow Dash smiled wide, “Really? Cool! We were getting to a really good part, too!”
Rarity giggled, “Yes, dear. Anyway, I’m on my way back to the hospital again. I needed to get this before the store closed. Would you like to come with me?”
Dash considered for a moment, and shook her head, “I dunno, Rarity. I mean, I really gotta check up on the weather patrol. Last time I was gone for a while, they completely screwed up the schedule.” She cringed at the memory of coming home to find the majority of Ponyville suffering weather damage.
Rarity rolled her eyes, “Then you’d best see to it.”
“I remember that! My Pinkie Sense was going off like crazy for the whole week! And then it stopped, like, poof!” Pinkie raised her hooves in the air and fanned them back to her sides in emphasis. “Oh, Dash, I need two jars of rainbows, can you get them?”
Rainbow Dash furrowed her brow scrutinisingly, “What do you need those for? You know they’re not made for any use outside of making rainbows.”
Pinkie Pie smiled and gave Dash a few pats on the head, “Don’t you worry about that. I’ve got it all figured out!”
Dash scowled as she fixed her mane, “Figured what out?”
“How to make Twilight see, silly! If we make her drink the rainbows, she’s bound to see again, with all that colour inside of her!” Pinkie sat on her flanks and smiled accomplishedly.
Rainbow tilted her head, her mind slowly clicking in to place as to what had been put forward. Pegasi were often very protective of their rainbows, and only ever used them for their designed purpose. Little research had been taken in to their use outside of rainbows. What had been tried, often failed, and was given the same conclusion: rainbows are spicy.
“Just you wait! You’ll see her so happy and bouncy, and we’ll have a party about how she can see again,” Pinkie ended her sentence with an upwards inflection, as if she were about to continue. Instead, she smiled and bounced off down the street.
Rainbow Dash stared at Pinkie incredulously as she bounced out of sight. She looked to Rarity, who had mimicked her exact expression. She could feel her brow furrowing further as so many unanswered questions piled around her.
“Are you going to get them?” Rarity asked simply.
“I can try... I don’t think I’ll be successful, though. You saw how many ponies work the rainbows, it’s pretty hard to be around when nopony is looking. I might be able to get one, even that’s a stretch.” Rainbow Dash shrugged, “It’s not like any harm can come from it, ‘cept maybe keeping a bucket of water around.”
Rarity cringed, “Oh my, you’re right.” She glanced at the clock in the distance, “I’d best head back now. Do come down and see Twilight when you can.”
Rainbow Dash nodded, flying off in to the sky. She sighed deeply as she entered the empty skies, her isle of solitude, her ‘happy place.’ It was a place where nopony could bother her, or distract her from her thoughts. In this vast expanse, there was no danger of being discovered sleeping, or simply staring off in to space. Up here, she was a needle in a haystack.
She alighted on a cloud and lay down, watching as the ant-like ponies went about their business before the sun went down.
So what if she lied about going to the weather factory, it wasn’t as if it mattered right now. The depression in Twilight’s room had really cut through her. It was almost as if nopony was in the room at all. It had been like sitting in a room, by yourself, for the entirety of her stay. Yet, she couldn’t bring herself to leave.
“Hey Twi’? Hello?” Rainbow Dash prompted from the side of her friend’s bed. Twilight had been completely silent since they’d arrived. Despite three epic chapters of Daring Do, Twilight hadn’t even grunted. She hadn’t even smiled as Dash donned their Daring Do hats again.
Rainbow Dash sighed, “C’mon, Twi’, It’s getting good.” She knew it wasn’t the best time to lighten the mood, however, it was the only thing she could think of to feel useful, “I mean, she punched a Sphinx in the face! How cool was that?”
Twilight didn’t respond.
“Hey, Dash? This is a bad time for that.” Spike croaked from his chair. Spike had barely said anything, himself. He only sat on the chair, staring at the back of Twilight’s head with a haunted expression.
Rainbow Dash sighed and shook her head, “Fine. I better go and do stuff anyway.”
She had been insulted. She knew, deep in her mind, that it wasn’t Spike’s or Twilight’s intention, and that ultimately, she would chalk it up as being a stupid reaction. For now, it only hurt. She couldn’t do anything to help, and simply just ‘being there for her,’ wasn’t working out either.
Admittedly, it was relieving to hear Twilight talking again. Yet, she wanted it to be her that managed to do that. Another trophy on her wall, and another medal around her neck: Rainbow Dash, the mare who helped her friend!
That didn’t happen.
Maybe, it didn’t need to. Maybe instead, she should simply be happy that her friend’s mood was improving slowly. The fact that Twilight had sat up, should be a blessing in itself. Maybe, she should be happy that Twilight won’t simply be moping around for the rest of her life.
Rainbow raised her head with a smile. That’s how it should be.
“Ms. Sparkle?” The doctor walked in with a smile, “You’ll be able to leave in the morning. As soon as we finalise these tests, you’re free to go. However, I cannot stress how important it is that you understand your condition thoroughly.”
Applejack gave him a cool look as he calmly explained the situation. She wasn’t impressed that he could explain it as an everyday occurrence. Somepony’s life had been changed forever, and he treated it with little more emotion than another fact.
“I’m going to leave these brochures with your belongings on the chair here,” he produced the same information that Rarity had picked up in the lobby, placing it gently on top of Twilight’s saddlebags.
Applejack assumed that Spike had brought the bags over during one of his visits.
“Why can’t she leave now?” She inquired, raising her brow. Surely the doctor knew who his patient was.
“As I just said, we have tests we need to finalise,” the doctor replied impatiently, “also, one of our specialists will be teaching Ms. Sparkle various spells and ways to help cope with her new lifestyle.”
“Actually,” Twilight said, “I know the Praille spell, as well as the spell for echolocation,” she smiled.
Applejack nodded, “It wouldn’t be surprisin’, actually. See, Twilight is the Princess’s student.” She crossed her arms, nodding once again to further emphasise her point.
The doctor paused, seemingly considering the situation, “Be that as it may, we will still need to go over it. It is procedure, after all.”
Applejack rolled her eyes. She knew Twilight was smart enough to be able to take care of herself for the most part, or at least figure out new ways to cope on her own. Applejack almost felt insulted for her friend. Yet, Twilight only nodded in response. She didn’t look particularly hurt by the insinuation.
“Do you have any more questions?” The doctor asked, glancing to each pony individually. He tapped his hoof on the ground rhythmically.
“No, thank you.” Twilight said.
“You’re sure she can be released tomorrow?” Applejack asked, quirking a brow.
“Yes. If all goes well, she can be out by mid day,” The doctor replied, giving a quick glance to Fluttershy, who had fallen silent once again, “If that’s all, then I’ll see you tonight, Ms. Sparkle. I expect the specialist will be here before then.” He gave a final nod of acknowledgement to Applejack and Fluttershy before leaving.
Applejack looked between Fluttershy and Twilight as the doctor left the room. Fluttershy had moved over to Twilight’s side, looking over her friend with gentle eyes. Every time she met with the unicorn’s eyes, she would turn away.
“It’s okay,” Twilight said, “it’s part of the necessary procedure. I would prefer to know that I have everything under control. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn something new.” She forced a laugh.
Applejack nodded, “If you say so, Twilight. I’m still sure you’re capable.”
“Well,” Twilight shrugged, “at least I’ll know that I have everything under control.”
“Y’r sure y’r not tellin’ the Princess?” Applejack asked with a concerned sigh, “She’d be might peeved if she found out, y’know.”
“She won’t find out,” Twilight replied simply. Her response was filled with far more confidence than it warranted.
“What makes you think that? She’s the Princess after all.”
“Because,” Twilight’s paused made Applejack twist her lip, “I know that I can handle it.”
“I don’t reckon you can, sugarcube. No offense, but she’s kinda cluey on this stuff.”
Twilight shook her head, “I can do it, I just—”
The room jumped as Rarity burst in to the room, panting heavily as she halted at the foot of Twilight’s bed. Her magic faltering as she held a large book in front of her. She forced a smile, catching her breath before managing to speak.
“I... found you... this!” She said between breaths.
Applejack furrowed a brow at Rarity’s lack of stamina, “What is it?”
“P-Praille! It’s a book... in--in Praille!” Rarity managed to sound accomplished during her gagging.
Twilight sat up quickly, a mixture of excitement and apprehension in her face. She leaned forward, smiling wide. Her eyes lit up in a reminiscent way of Twilight Sparkle before this accident.
Applejack smiled. The Twilight they knew was still there, only different now. Given the right opportunities and facilities, Twilight Sparkle would always be herself.
“That’s amazing! How on earth did you come across it?” Twilight’s bright eyes stared directly at Rarity.
Applejack felt uncomfortable seeing Twilight ‘look’ at Rarity. The knowledge that Twilight couldn’t see her friend, made her gaze suddenly seem distant.
“Oh, you know, dear. Around.” Rarity smiled, shrugging off any expectant look as she laid the book open in front of the unicorn, “There you go, dear. I hope you find it interesting, at least. It’s on the biological differences and functions of earth ponies, pegasii and unicorns.” She took Twilight’s hoof with her own, placing it on the page.
Applejack craned her neck, examining the open page. She had never seen a book in Praille before, let alone seen a pony read something from it.
The immediate difference was the type of paper used. It was thicker, with a yellow hue. She noticed the engraved letters on each of the page. It was written entirely in their language, yet each letter had been indented in to the paper, leaving a deep engraving.
The engravings made it somewhat harder to read, seeing the words physically, and without ink. It was almost like reading a plaque or engraving on a statue. The more she looked at it, the easier it became to read.
Twilight took no time in lighting her horn, using her hooves to touch around various points of the page. The book began to shimmer with the familiar light of Twilight’s magic, as every etched letter lit up fiercely. Her eyes focussed on it, following each word on the page.
Rarity, Applejack and Fluttershy exchanged a worried look as Twilight became silent. Both her horn and the book had dulled to a low shimmer.
“Twilight?” Rarity prompted, “Can you... do you?”
Twilight smiled up at Rarity, although a disappointment prevailed in her features, “Yes... although not well. I only knew the spell; I never had a chance to practice it.” The disappointment faded from her face, “With practice, it won’t be a problem.”
Rarity leaned forward as Twilight reached out to her, pulling her in to a tight embrace. Despite Twilight’s awkward position on the bed, she managed to hold the hug for a while, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Rarity squeaked as Twilight’s embraced tightened, “You’re welcome, dear.” She patted the unicorn on the back before pulling back with a gasp.
Applejack grinned, “Well what do you know, it looks like things mighten be so bad after all.” She felt a pang of guilt as the words left her mouth. If she was wrong, would they hold it against her? The inherent silence in the room further fuelled her worry.
“Yes, well,” Rarity smiled, brushing her hair with a comb she apparently pulled from thin air, “I’m glad you like it, Twilight. I’m just glad that I was able to make it in time. “
Twilight smiled, “This... is wonderful, Rarity. Thank you.”
“Would you like to hear some?” Twilight sounded so hopeful in those words, like a little filly who had just learned how to help around the house.
The three friends nodded, sharing the same smile, “Sure, Twilight.”
Twilight sat on the edge of her bed pensively, her horn lighting up every few minutes, and dying down quietly. Fluttershy watched her quietly, not wanting to interrupt her thoughts or spells she was attempting.
The yellow mare had promised to come down today, to help Twilight get home safely. Today was the day they had been waiting for. Twilight would be free to resume life outside the hospital, in hopes that things wouldn’t prove to be too difficult.
Twilight had voiced a few objections to her life, as her mind continued to process to realisation that there were changes that needed to be made. Yet, her thoughts still seemed overly raddled and confused, as her objections often conflicted with themselves, leaving her friends confused and unable to help.
Fluttershy felt a great sorrow for her friend, finding the thought of being blind to be one of the most frightening things she could ever have to live with. To never be able to see her animal friends again would tear her apart, let alone allow her to live the lifestyle she maintained. It was in this, that she found sympathy, and almost pity, for her friend. She had to make sure that Twilight was safe and sound.
Twilight nodded, “I think I’m getting it. It’s not an easy spell, but... I’m getting the hang of it.”
Fluttershy smiled, “That’s wonderful, Twilight. Does it... hurt?”
Twilight gave her a quizzical look.
Fluttershy waved her hooves in the air defensively, “I mean the spell. Does it hurt?”
Twilight shook her head, “No. It’s disorientating, for now.”
When Twilight had first tried the spell, she marvelled at what she could see, claiming it to be like looking at a sketch. However, her magic quickly halted as she dizzily held her forehead.
“Will it get better?” Fluttershy asked.
Fluttershy stopped herself as she began to ask yet another question. She had asked too many already. Instead, she took to staring out the door, waiting for the doctor to finally give the word that they could make the trip home.
In truth, Fluttershy had little idea of how she was going to lead Twilight home. The only viable option seemed to give Twilight her tail to cling on to, despite how demeaning that would be.
“Ms. Sparkle, it looks like you’re free to go!” The doctor smiled widely, “Your back will heal itself eventually, just make sure to take it easy. As for everything else, if you ever find yourself in need of support, you only need to contact one of the contacts on the brochure.” He took the papers from the clipboard at the end of Twilight’s bed with his magic, folded them, and tucked them in his shirt pocket.
Twilight tentatively slid off the bed, and stretched her legs. It was the first time Fluttershy had seen Twilight walk since the accident. She had no trouble standing, at least.
Fluttershy brought over Twilight’s saddlebags, fastening them securely around her torso. She had packed the ‘get well soon’ gifts in the two bags without too much trouble. However, she’d taken it upon herself to carry the flowers in her own bags. They seemed too fragile and precious to pack with everything else.
“Thank you, doctor,” Twilight replied. “You’ll forgive me if I say I don’t hope to see you soon.”
The doctor chuckled, “I hope so too, Ms. Sparkle. Please, do take care of yourself.”
“Fluttershy?” Twilight looked straight ahead, passed the doctor.
Fluttershy came from behind Twilight, “I’m here, Twilight. How um... would you like me to lead you?”
“Let’s try talking, first,” Twilight said. “If that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. I’ll need to practice the spell before I use it outside.”
Fluttershy nodded, cringing at the thought of her friend’s safety being entirely in her hooves. It was a disconcerting thought that if Twilight were to trip, or walk in to a wall, it would be her fault. “Okay, um... the door is in front of you. Just... need to... walk through it.”
To her relief, Twilight managed to walk through the opened door without any trouble, taking a slow and steady pace until she heard Fluttershy’s voice tell her to continue walking forward. It didn’t seem as hard as she’d originally imagined it to be, however she dreaded the inevitability that they would need to do this the entire way back to the library.
Leaving the hospital hadn’t been particularly hard, despite Twilight almost colliding with a tray of food. Fluttershy felt oddly accomplished, in being able to help her friend, yet she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was treating her like one of her animals.
“So, if I remember rightly, the ducks would fare far better at the west side of the pond, as opposed to the east. That is at least, what my books have said,” Twilight smiled toward her, slowly walking diagonally again.
Fluttershy smiled, “Oh... um, yes. I’ll try that. Move slightly to your left, Twilight. You’re... heading across the road... again.”
Twilight stomped a hoof with a groan. She was able to walk in a straight line for a time until she started talking to Fluttershy again. Apparently, facing who she was talking to, did little to help her innate sense of direction.
Her frustration had been growing each time Fluttershy had corrected her direction.
Twilight stopped and shook her head, “I’m sorry, Fluttershy. This is... it’s just so hard. I don’t know where I am, or which direction I’m facing. I try to feel as if I’m walking straight, or in the right direction and I just... can’t.”
Fluttershy stopped beside her friend, draping a wing over her side, “It’s not... that bad. You’ll get used to it.”
Twilight frowned, “It’ll never be the same. Where are we?”
Fluttershy looked around, “We’re near Sugarcube Corner. Your house isn’t too far from here.”
Twilight nodded and sighed deeply, “Let’s keep going.”
Twilight began walking forward, leaving Fluttershy sitting on the ground behind her. It took the yellow mare a quick trot to catch up with her, once she realised they were moving again.
“If we keep following this road, it won’t be too long until we reach the library,” Fluttershy said gently, “Sugarcube Corner is on your left.”
A small smile crawled on Twilight’s face. She seemed to appreciate the extra effort of the visual descriptions. Fluttershy’s mind dug deeply for as much detail as she could muster, trying to find as many landmarks and descriptions as she could possibly think of.
Calmness began to set in between the two, as the connection grew stronger. Twilight hadn’t once looked towards Fluttershy, yet she had heard every word. She began to question things, asking for more detail. This made Fluttershy smile, her fear slowly beginning to drain as she adapted to what Twilight both desired and required.
If Twilight began walking diagonally again, even slightly, Fluttershy found it far easier to change her descriptions to help the unicorn right herself, rather than to simply call her out on it.
“We’re walking past Sugarcube Corner now. Some ponies are lining up through the door, I think there must be a new recipe. Your library is barely visible in the distance, but it’s there. Be careful, there are rocks there... that’s right. The road is going slightly left now...” Fluttershy announced as they walked side by side. She hadn’t ever thought of describing things, or having spoken so often. Yet, Twilight needed and appreciated her effort, and that was enough.
Fluttershy continued quietly as Twilight began talking once more, “So, I was wondering... do you know what Pinkie has planned?”
“There are two ponies on our right – I don’t know. I think she was going to invite everypony to Sugarcube Corner for a private party. – On your left, there are some bushes. Be careful not to walk over them...”
Twilight twisted her lip, “I’m slightly concerned about what she has planned. Things are... different now, and I don’t know if she understands that. She barely visited me in the hospital.” She sounded disappointed and hurt.
“I don’t know.” Fluttershy responded simply, describing the slight change in the path’s texture.
“I guess Pinkie Pie is just being Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said with contempt.
Fluttershy couldn’t respond to that. She had no desire to speak ill of her friends. Instead, she continued to describe the local scenery as they continued down their path.
They arrived at the library with an audible sigh of relief. The journey had been more taxing than a simple stroll through the town as they had been accustomed to. She felt accomplished in lending a hoof to her friend, as well as managing a way for both of them to manage to walk together.
Fluttershy opened the door at Twilight’s request, using a hoof to guide her through the entrance.
“Spike, I’m home!”
Those three words rang throughout the house, echoing off the walls like a long lost chorus. Spike leaped from the bed to the staircase excitedly, failing to gauge how he would land on the stairs. After tumbling and crashing down the stairs, he quickly righted himself and hurried to the door, taking no time in rushing over to embrace the unicorn as tight as he could possibly manage.
The unicorn gagged and patted him on the back, “Great to see you too.”
“I’ve missed you, Twilight! The library hasn’t been the same without you!” Spike smiled, hurriedly unfastening the saddlebags from her.
Twilight staggered slightly as the uneven weight pressed against her without warning. Spike grimaced, “Uh... sorry.”
Twilight shook her head, “It’s okay. Give me a little warning next time.”
Spike nodded, taking a little more time to take the saddlebags off Twilight’s back. He wandered over to the side of the room, placing them next to her desk. He took a moment to glance through the inventory, noting the two books, Sweetie Belle’s drawing and the brochures.
Fluttershy stood in the doorway with a smile, “Spike, where can I put these flowers?” She opened her saddlebag, producing the white, star-shaped blooms.
“Let me get a vase. I’ll put them on the windowsill.”
Once the vase had been acquired and placed, Fluttershy gently left the flowers floating in the water. She smiled at them before turning over to Twilight, who had taken to slowly feeling her way around the side of the living room.
She padded across the floor, every so often using a hoof to touch the wall as she began the slow journey. Spike felt intense pity rise up in his stomach as his closest friend had been reduced to such a slow and clumsy pace. It reminded him of a newborn foal learning to walk, exploring their house for the first time.
Spike hurried to her side, grabbing one of her hooves instinctively, “This way, Twi. Come sit down at the table.”
Twilight hopped along with him, awkwardly walking on her three grounded hooves, “Thanks, Spike,” She said with a hint of reluctance.
Spike guided her to her seat, gesturing Fluttershy to sit on the opposite side of the round table, “I’ll get some tea started.”
“How is the library?” Twilight called as Spike donned his apron and began organising a pot of tea for the two ponies
“Oh, uh... yeah, everything’s been... good!” Spike lied, setting the teapot to boil.
In truth, he’d had enough trouble trying to get Owlowiscious to help out with cleaning the library each day, only to find himself doing that darned bird’s job. While he’d maintained the cleanliness of the library today, he decided to forgo mentioning his procrastinations for the last two.
“Good,” Twilight replied. Spike heaved a sigh of relief. “I’ll need you to do an extensive order as soon as possible. We may even need to begin storing books in the basement again.”
Spike leaned on the bench, waiting for the water to boil, “Again?” He shouted, “The last time we did that, we almost lost half of the books behind your machines!”
“Oh, that won’t happen this time!”
Spike rolled his eyes, muttering to himself “That’s what you said the last time.” He righted himself up as the water began to bubble, “Why’re we moving books down there this time?”
The teapot whistled loudly.
“Because I’ll be ordering my books in Praille. We’ll need to keep a portion of my current books in the basement, to make room for the books I’ll be using regularly.”
Spike placed the cups and kettle on the tray and carefully wandered out, “Why not just have a bookcase for your new books? I mean, you can’t use that many books regularly, right?” He placed a cup in front of each pony and the teapot in the middle. As he finished his sentence, he chided himself over the underestimation of Twilight’s working habits. They’d be lucky to have any room left once Twilight’s order arrived.
Twilight considered this for a moment, “We’ll see.”
Twilight’s horn lit up as a magical light hue enveloped the pot. It slowly levitated inches in to the air, levitating slowly in to the air, clattering loudly as it came toward her, stopping just in front of her at the edge of the table.
Spike frowned, “Twilight, are you sure you want to do that? I can do it.” He moved over to her, reaching for the pot.
“Let me try. I can do this.” Twilight replied with intense conviction, snatching the pot out of arm’s length.
Spike sighed, letting his arms drop to his sides as Twilight continued her attempt at pouring her own tea. With the tone she used, Spike knew there was no chance that Twilight was going to accept help. He had seen it far too many times.
The spout of the teapot tapped gently on the side of the cup and Twilight smiled, “See?”
The pot slowly tipped upward, pouring the liquid.
The room was silent as Spike took out a cloth and began mopping up the mess on the table. Twilight had poured on the wrong side of the cup.
Twilight made a quiet noise under her breath.
“It’s okay, Twilight,” Fluttershy said as she watched the unicorn quietly as Spike finished cleaning the mess.
Twilight hung her head and sighed under her breath. The teapot and cup landed on the table as her magic withdrew. A soft sob emitted from her as she shook her head, “I thought I could do it.”
“You’ll get the hang of it, Twilight,” Spike smiled, hugging the unicorn softly. “You only need to practice some more. You only tried once.”
Spike poured the two ponies their tea and went about his business wringing out the cloth over the sink. He sighed deeply, Twilight, you’re being too ambitious.
“Can you cast more than one spell at the same time?” Fluttershy asked.
“I can. It’s the same principle as levitating more than one object. However, I need to concentrate more if I’m casting two different spells. Once I master the echolocation spell, things will become easier to work with. Although, it’s as if I’m seeing the skeleton of the world when I use it. It’s... uncomfortable.”
“What do you mean?”
“How can I explain it?” Twilight considered, “If the world was a painting, I’m only seeing the underlying sketch. The outside lines, with little detail.”
Spike listened carefully as he began his chores once more. With Twilight around, there was no chance to be lazy.
“Oh,” Fluttershy leaned forward as if looking for something in Twilight’s eyes, “I think I know what you mean.”
“It’s very disorientating, and something I’ll need to get used to... being able to see the lines of everything.” She went quiet for a moment, “There is no colour or shade, only black and white.”
A familiar three-beat knock echoed through the room, followed by the door creaking open, “Pinkie, you here?” Rainbow Dash shouted.
She cautiously walked towards the counter, “Pinkie? Hello?”
Sugarcube Corner had been closed today. Mr. and Mrs. Cake were both out of town, and Pinkie hadn’t spoken to anypony since her last conversation with Rainbow and Rarity. The lack of light and customers made the building seem eerie.
A bead of sweat wandered down the back of Dash’s neck. She could feel that something odd was happening, something overly familiar that she had been subjected to time and again by a pony whose voracious need for laughter often had her cooking up schemes of unimaginable surprise. This was just another trick.
“Pinkie Pie! I brought the rainbows. Not that it’s going to help,” She trailed off cynically.
It had been easier than she imagined gaining the two jars of liquid rainbow. She hadn’t counted on the lack of concentration and mental cognition of the ponies who were monitoring it that day. Although, she doubted that they could be any help at all to Twilight.
She stood at the end of the staircase, “Pinkie, I know you’re here!” She shouted, “Do you want these or not?”
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. She took the jars from her saddlebags and placed them next to the cash register, “They’re on the counter!”
Unease set in to Rainbow as she stood in the apparently empty room. She had been subjected to this exact thing before. Pinkie would hide somewhere, and pop out when Rainbow least expected it. Sometimes, she even went to the extra effort of wearing a mask.
Rainbow Dash had two choices: Leave the room at breakneck speed, or stay where she was and wait until Pinkie ultimately became bored. However, she could also try reasoning with her.
“Pinkie, I want to go and see Twilight. Let’s not do this. You can come with me or something!” She called out in to the emptiness.
There was no answer.
Rainbow sighed, “C’mon! This is stupid!”
She growled under her breath and made her way for the door, stomping her hooves with each step to further emphasise her impatience.
With each step came another wave of fear and expectancy. She could feel that Pinkie Pie was near.
She reached the door and looked around in shock. Pinkie hadn’t appeared at all. A mixture of fear and relief filled her. Perhaps she forgot to lock the door. Rainbow shook her head and chuckled under her breath, “Darn Pinkie, you almost had me.”
With a final glance towards the apparently empty building, Rainbow trotted off. She would need to ask her friends about Pinkie’s weird behaviour in the last two days. At least, it was weird by Pinkie’s standards.
She wandered down the street, towards Twilight’s library. A thought crossed her mind about how difficult it would have been for Twilight and Fluttershy to walk all the way from the hospital to her house. It wasn’t a short distance, despite being almost literally ‘down the road.’
She pictured Fluttershy draping a wing over Twilight’s back as they slowly walked home. They must have walked at a snail’s pace. Even then, the snail might have arrived first.
With Twilight’s disability, it couldn’t have been easy. Above all, it would have been frightening.
“And finally, Zebrica: A Land of Beauty. Did you get all that, Spike?” Twilight smiled, carefully sipping at the tea. Over the last hour, she had become more comfortable with doing this.
Spike groaned, “Yeah. Are you sure that’s all?”
Twilight nodded, “So long as I get the Paradigms book first, it will be okay. The Princess is surely expecting to hear from me. How many books are on the list?”
“You want me to count them all?”
“Of course. Weren’t you keeping a running tally?”
“I lost count at 239.”
“Well, then yes, I need you to count them.” She glanced over to Fluttershy’s direction, “Do you need any books, while we’re ordering things?”
“Oh, uh, no. I don’t want to be a bother. There’s nothing I’m really looking for, and I’m sure the local book store has what I like.” Fluttershy replied.
Twilight nodded, tapping the large book in front of her with a hoof, “I can’t wait to get these!”
“What will you tell the Princess?”
“Yeah. I think she’ll notice the bill for all these books,” Spike added.
Twilight furrowed her brow, “Well, I... can explain that I’m studying in Praille. The best way to study it is to immerse yourself in it.”
A feeling of unease washed over her at the realisation that she would be lying to the Princess. However, it was for the best in the end. The Princess would have her prized student, and Twilight would be able to live the life she lived before.
Spike tutted, “I don’t know, Twilight. Are you sure?”
Twilight froze. There would be no way of hiding her obvious lie, unless she could manage to say something else. Although, there was little use for any pony to learn the Praille spell unless they needed it.
Essentially, she should be in the clear.
“She wouldn’t have any need to know it. Everything will be fine, Spike. I just know it!”
“You’ve said that before. Twilight, are you really thinking this through?”
“Yes... of course.” Twilight replied. Her mind raced and her stomach sank. She should have thought of alternatives, in case the Princess somehow found out. The Princess always seemed to busy, so perhaps Twilight would be lucky enough for this to be either missed, or procrastinated upon.
It wouldn’t be the first time...
“If you say so.” Spike didn’t sound at all convinced. The sound of scribbling continued.
“Don’t tell her,” Twilight said, her tone coming out far more commanding that she had meant to. She flattened her ears and frowned, “I don’t want her to know.”
“You already told me not to,” Spike snapped, “so I won’t.”
“It’s okay. Is that everything? I’ll send it off.”
Twilight nodded, “Yeah.”
The familiar sound of Spike’s flame sounded throughout the library, accompanied by the magical tingle of the magic that he used almost every day. It was such a wonderful green flame that Twilight had always found herself enchanted and inspired by it.
She had seen it develop from a tiny ember, to the beauty it was today. It would only grow larger and more impressive as he grew older. The older and larger he grew, the more impressive and awe-inspiring his flame would become.
And she would never see it again.
A knock came from the door, jerking Twilight out of her thoughts. She stood up instinctively, about to head towards the door, wherever it was.
“I’ll get it,” Spike shouted.
Twilight sat back down, twisting her lip. Spike seemed to like answering the door, even before this. It wasn’t at all related to her having trouble getting there.
“Hey guys,” Rainbow Dash sounded cheerful.
“Rainbow, good to see you,” Twilight smiled. Her stomach sank at the use of ‘see’.
“You doin’ okay, Twi’?” Rainbow’s voice came closer. By the end of the sentence, Twilight could feel Rainbow breathing on her, “Got here alright?”
Twilight smiled, “Of course. Fluttershy talked to me the entire way.”
She appreciated Fluttershy’s help. During their trip home, Fluttershy’s descriptions not only gave her an indication of where she was going, and a mental image of what was near her, it allowed to her feel less alone in the void she now lived in.
“Talked? Well, anyway, Pinkie’s party is tomorrow evening. You can come, right?” Rainbow asked, her voices trailing over to Fluttershy’s direction.
Twilight’s mind’s eye pictured her sitting next to the yellow mare, across the table from her.
“Yeah, I migh— I will be there,” Twilight smiled. The thought of reading that new book Rarity had bought her had crossed her mind. However, she reasoned that Pinkie had put so much effort in to this, it would be rude to not attend.
“I dropped off some stuff for her earlier... I haven’t seen her since yesterday. Have you, Fluttershy?”
“Uh... well, I did. But... she didn’t speak to me. I mean, she was her usual self but... she didn’t say a word.” Fluttershy replied, stuttering over her own explanation.
“Weird...” Rainbow trailed off. “So, uh, Twi’, how’s that spell coming along? Can you do it yet?”
Twilight furrowed her brow. It had been a while since she had practiced the spell, the reserves of her magic would have replenished by now. It was worth trying once more, if only to see her library in this new sight.
“I’ll try it again,” She answered with a nod.
She instinctively closed her eyes, executing her magic with innate ease. She focussed on her spell, visualising the magic’s effects with her mind. She pictured herself being able to see her friends, and the room around her. In her mind’s eye, she was normal again. Her magic flowed freely from her horn, she could feel it course through her very soul, gripping on to her and never letting go. The magic sparked and shined in her mind, filling her sight with a flash of bright light.
The light intensified, becoming brighter and brighter until it began to hurt. A throb of pain coursed behind the back of her eyes. In a way, it was almost comforting to know that she could still feel pain. Yet, the reminiscent thoughts of staring at the sun made her instinctively want to turn away.
The tingle of her magic tickled her forehead, reaching down to the bridge of her nose and expanding over her eyes. She could feel it grip to them, crawling down her optic nerve and to the forefront of her brain.
The light slowly died down, a foggy haze filling her vision as she adjusted to the visualisation the magic provided her. There they were, watching her intently for a reaction. Each of her friends seemed confused, excited and worried at the same time.
As she had described, it was almost like looking at an artist’s scratch painting of the entire world. Their features were scratched into the black canvas.
What she had read about the spell’s pulses wasn’t as accurate as she had imagined. While there were notable pulses around the room, they were far more frequent than she had been led to believe. It was more accurate to describe what she was visualising as a scratch painting, rather than to describe its similarities to actual echolocation.
Why would they call it echolocation, if it isn’t?
A memory rushed through her mind, answering her question. Like many modern spells, this had been developed from a time far before anypony lived today. It was originally designed for echolocation, however it was later improved to what she was visualising now. The name had just stuck.
She wished already that she could see shadows on objects, or some semblance of depth. While her friends’ features were clear to her, and she could read their emotions once again, detail on objects were sparse. She could once look in to Spike’s eyes and see a shine, or the difference in colour along his iris. Now, they were two ovals inside a larger oval. There was a feeling of emptiness.
Twilight smiled, “I... can see everything around me. “ She winced, feeling her magic begin to use her energy. The spell weighed heavy on her.
As Rainbow Dash moved closer, parts of the sketch broke away. They danced and blurred along the distance that her friend had moved over. Her entire being broke in to lines and shapes, to slowly reform where she now stood. Twilight’s world spun.
“So, that’s all it is? Your problem’s fixed?” Rainbow Dash asked, waving a hoof in front of Twilight’s face.
Rainbow’s hoof turned in to a large, indistinguishable blur in Twilight’s face.
“Not exactly,” Twilight said, beginning to feel queasy at the odd visions. “It’s so disorientating. So... weird.”
Spike’s form blurred in to nothing, his own sketch breaking and forming along the room. It rushed to a bookcase, froze, and then hurried towards Twilight. He held out a blank book in front of her, pressing it towards her, “Can you see what it says?”
Twilight raised a brow, “Of course not. It’s blank.”
Rainbow Dash and Spike exchanged an uncertain and concerned look, “No, Twilight... it’s not.” He turned the book around and cleared his throat, “Summoning spells are amongst the most difficult to maintain, particularly the larger the object becomes.”
Twilight stared at him, and then to Rainbow, who nodded affirmatively.
“That’s what it says, Twi’.” She said.
Twilight hummed thoughtfully.
She nodded slowly, her mind clicking in to place the usefulness of the Praille spell. The sight spell simply allowed the caster to see little more than the basics of the world around them. Text, pictures and anything that would be considered as detail would remain blank.
“Spike, would you please bring me the book Rarity gave me? It’s in the bag.” She asked.
Spike did as requested, opening the middle of the book and presenting it to her.
Unlike the previous book, this one wasn’t blank. Rather, it was filled with the same sketches and lines that the rest of her world was. However, with the slightest movement of her head, or refocussing of her sight, the words would shiver. That was why the Praille spell had been developed; it was based on lighting up the etchings, rather than forming them. It was similarly structured to the spell she was using, except it could only pick up things it was able to light up.
Twilight nodded, “Thank you, Spike.” The look on her friends’ faces begged the obvious question. “I can’t read using this spell. I just... wanted to try.” She explained her conclusions to them, going in to further detail of what she could ‘see’.
“So you need one spell to see, and another spell to read?” Fluttershy asked curiously.
“That’s right. I’m not sure if what I’m seeing is based on inexperience, or the spell itself, however... I think I can manage with this. I suppose this is better than nothing.” She replied.
Twilight grunted as a short, sharp pain stabbed down her horn, crawling to the back of her neck. She instinctively dismissed the spell. The sketches froze in place, like a finished picture. Her friends stared at her both concerned and curiously, yet despite the breathing she could hear, they forms didn’t move. Slowly, each line began to trail down and melt, dissipating into nothing. It was almost ghastly to watch her friends dissolve in to blackness.
The void returned once more.
“Twilight! Are you okay?” Her friends shouted in unison. She could feel them touching her shoulder and back.
Twilight nodded, “Yes. The spell is quite draining. As time goes on, I’ll be able to use it for longer spans of time. Although, I may need to find other ways of using it, if I’m to maintain it for long periods of time.” She forced a smile, feeling the familiar throb that accompanied the overuse of magic, or the use of an unfamiliar spell.
“You’re sure you’re okay?” Rainbow asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine, Rainbow. Thank you.” She forced another smile, “So, any idea what Pinkie is planning for the party?”
Rainbow chuckled, “Oh, you’re not gonna believe it. From what I last heard, she was making games for us to play that don’t need us to see.”
Twilight giggled, “Really? Like the Trust game?”
Rainbow gasped, “You know that, too? They made us go through it in Cloudsdale during ‘friendship month’ every year. It was supposed to prepare us for stormy weather and stuff. Remember that, Fluttershy?”
“Oh... yes,” Fluttershy responded, sounding almost haunted.
Twilight nodded with a fond smile, “Back in Canterlot, Princess Celestia would often let us play the Trust game. She said if we could learn to trust one another, we could become closer study partners.” She giggled, “There was one time, Mint Breeze and I were paired up and without me realising so, she lead me out of the classroom, all the way through Canterlot Gardens and to the local café, because she was hungry!”
They all shared a laugh, beginning to swap stories of their own fillyhood back in their home towns. Their conversations moved from one subject to another, barely representing where they had first started.
Their conversation lasted hours, until it was time for both Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy to return home. They said their goodbyes, once again offering their help to Twilight whenever it was needed, and left the library, leaving Twilight and Spike to their own devices.
“Spike, I’m going to bed. It’s been an exhausting day.” Twilight shouted across the room, hoping for Spike to be within earshot.
“Let me help you up the stairs,” Spike replied, touching her foreleg. His sudden touch made her skin crawl, not knowing he was beside her.
Twilight shook her head, “No. I’m going to try my spell. I can do this.”
“If you’re sure... at least let me make sure you’re safe. I’ll come with you.” Spike replied, sounding unsure.
Twilight nodded, “Okay. I can do this.”
Twilight lit her horn up again, casting her echolocation spell once more. She stood up and wandered slowly to the stairs, keeping a close gaze on them, as they shifted and blurred with every step she took. Even the slightest movement or her head, or the change of her gaze, would cause her surroundings to break and shift slightly.
She stared down at the stair in front of her, testing the ground with a hoof. As her hoof connected with the stair, a pulse emitted from it, causing the surrounding lines of the stair to shudder and wobble. She tested it again, seeing the same effect. Every time her hoof came in to contact with an object, visual pulses would emit for a moment.
She took each stair as slow as she could manage, watching the pulses with curiosity and caution. Every step was another obstacle to overcome, one that she was determined to conquer. As she stood on each step, she refocussed her vision to the next, and the next, and the next. It was her challenge, and she would overcome it.
Her world spun and twisted as it shifted with every motion of her body as she ascended the stairs. Every line would blur and break as she ascended her next step, causing her to stop once more, and wait for them to reform, before taking another step.
She glanced upward, waiting for the world to form once more. She was only a few more steps towards her bedroom.
She smiled in triumph as her bed sat before her, letting the spell fade and disperse.
Today was the first day of her new way of life, and perhaps with practice, it wouldn’t be so bad.
Twilight sat at her desk, under the glorious sunlight that shined through her window. The birds sang their merry chorus, little fillies ran past her house every so often lost in their games, and Twilight turned another page in the book she was presently engrossed in. It was a normal and wonderful day.
She quietly sketched another note on one of the various pages around her desk, and smiled over the progress she had made today. Today’s session began far earlier in the morning than usual, however today’s subject proved to be both fascinating and detrimental to her magic in the future. It was something that she had been waiting to get her hooves on for weeks, ever since she received her study schedule for the semester from Celestia.
The notes strewn across her desk were covered in descriptions, graphs, charts and various runes, detailing specific uses for each specific magical function. One could increase the power of a spell, while another could decrease the amount of magical energy that was consumed. If she was able to master these, there was little limit to what she could find herself accomplishing within the boundaries of magic.
And yet something bothered her about what she was reading. The subject was extremely advanced, even for her. For once, she felt as if she should request tutelage from the Princess or another unicorn, in order to begin the subject. It felt almost dangerous.
However, her desire for knowledge and ultimate need to please her teacher overrode this fear. She could simply picture what the next letter from the Princess would say:
Twilight Sparkle, it would say, you have once again surpassed my expectations and have successfully completed a subject that many ponies would find difficult. I am proud of you, my faithful student.
The thought of receiving such commendation from Princess Celestia thrilled her, the butterflies in her stomach fluttered energetically at the thought. She adored those letters, she adored the praise, and above all, she adored the Princess.
It couldn’t hurt to try just one spell with these new foundations. A simple light spell to illuminate the room would do the trick, accompanied by the paradigm to allow her magic consumption to be lowered.
Twilight closed her eyes and focussed, visualising the complex rune amongst the orb of light that would soon materialise in front of her. Her horn sparked brightly as magic flowed around its base, momentarily idling around it before pushing in front of her and forming in to a bright, purple ball. It hovered before her, glowing faintly.
Twilight felt her insides lurch as her magic jerked outwards toward the ball of light, surrounding it with a bright blue hue. The paradigm was now taking control. Twilight stumbled backwards as the hue enveloped her spell, growing brighter and brighter by the second. Instinctively, she exterminated the spell with force, watching intently in the hopes that the spell would simply dissipate.
The magic continued to grow brighter and brighter, expanding outwards with an unseen force as it exploded through the entire room. Twilight screamed as the spell encased her. It was too late by the time she brought her hooves to her eyes, as an immense and dire pain filled their sockets. Weightlessness filled her as the spell lifted her from the ground.
She gasped sharply, a sharp pain emanating from her back as she landed on the ground with a harsh crack.
Everything went black.
Twilight shot up in bed with a frightened scream, as the reality of life caught up with her. Instinctively she looked around, to see nothing but the dark void that had become so familiar. She could feel the sweat drenching her body and the tears staining her face. She could feel her deep and ragged breaths, and the sharp pounding of her heart trying to escape her chest.
She clung to the sheets, pulled them to her body, and cried.
Rarity and Rainbow Dash stared at Pinkie quietly as they ate their sandwiches, still waiting for her to say something. They had been helping her all day, and yet, she hadn’t said a single word to either of them. When either of them tried to get her to answer, she’d simply make a zipping motion with her lips, smile, and try to explain her next instructions with various movements or demonstrations with her body.
It had been a long day for all three of them, working tirelessly to get everything set up with Pinkie’s interesting delivery of instructions. For now, they’d taken it upon themselves to break from their preparations of Twilight’s party, for lunch at the local café.
“So...” Rarity prompted, feeling overly uncomfortable at the awkward situation Pinkie was putting them through, “what do we have left to complete?”
Rainbow Dash shrugged, swallowing a large mouthful of hay salad with an audible gulp, “We’ve gone through the list. So I guess we don’t have anything else to do, right?”
Pinkie shook her head and began moulding an explanation with her hooves. Rarity was awestruck by how comprehensive her instructions were, despite having spoken no words. Granted, now that Rarity thought of it, Pinkie was incredibly good at charades.
“You want us to pour the rainbow liquid... in to a portable pool?” Rarity said incredulously, trying to comprehend what her friend had planned.
Pinkie simply nodded and sipped her drink through the straw.
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes and groaned, slouching on her seat, “C’mon, Pinkie. What’s with this weird silence stuff? It’s annoying.”
Pinkie stared at Rainbow quizzically, as if she was completely mad.
Rarity rolled her eyes, turning the conversation to a better subject, “So, Twilight is available for this evening? You’re sure about this? After all, we can reschedule it, if she’d rather get some rest.”
Rainbow took a bite from her meal, “She said she’d be here. I don’t doubt her. Besides, she needs it.” Rainbow smiled at her sandwich, “We need to make her understand we’re here for her, and we need to convince her to talk to the Princess, y’know?”
“I agree. After all, it shouldn’t be that different, right? She’s still our Twilight.”
“I don’t know, Rarity,” Rainbow replied, putting her sandwich on the plate. “Twilight’s new spell doesn’t work as well as we hoped it would. She said it makes her tired and disorientated. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem to help her much.”
Rarity frowned, considering this for a moment. Her grandfather never said anything about being disorientated, and he seemed to manage to walk around just fine. He had passed on many years ago. Perhaps he had said something about the spell, or the way he used it.
She couldn’t remember him too clearly. She was too young to form a vivid and lasting memory of him and his ways. She only had a photograph in her photo album at home, and that wouldn’t help Twilight at all.
“I’m sure she’ll get used to it, dear. After all, a new spell is always disorientating. Why, I remember when I learned my levitation spell. Dreadful, really. All of my items would fly in every direction except the one I wanted it to go.” She smiled, “Twilight will be fine.”
Rainbow Dash went quiet for a moment and nodded, “Well, yeah, are spells that different? I mean, this is Twilight we’re talking about.”
“Well, dear, spells can be practiced as thoroughly as you do in your...” she gestured towards the pegasus’ wings, “flying. If you focus on the right part of the spell, you can improve it. Given the right amount of time, Twilight will be able to maintain it for longer periods of time.”
Longer was the best word to use. Rarity didn’t want to admit to herself that Twilight would probably never be able to use it for an endless amount of time. She could use it longer if she reduced its power, however the effects that that may have on the spell would vary. Anything could happen.
Rainbow looked at her wings as they were pointed to, following it up with a shrug, “I guess. It was kinda creepy watching her, you know? She looked like she was staring through you. I don’t know if she was looking at me or not.”
Rarity raised a brow, “In my grandfather’s picture, he has that same look. Was her horn lit up when she was looking at you?”
“Yeah. She cast the spell, and it was like she was normal. Her eyes were moving and stuff. But it didn’t feel like she was looking at you.” Rainbow looked somewhat uncomfortable as she explained what she saw.
“It’s intriguing, I must say. I’m sure I’ll see her use it sooner or later, I suppose.”
“Or nothing will happen, and Twilight will use her magic to see!” Pinkie blurted out suddenly, startling both of her friends.
Rarity and Rainbow Dash stared at her, frozen in their seats. Rarity’s stomach lurched as her mind caught up to what just happened. “Pinkie, what was that for?” She snapped.
“I was waiting and waiting to finish the sentence from ages ago, but it was getting so boring not speaking! Especially when the conversation is so interesting, ‘cause I wanna talk about Twilight! Twilight won’t be any different, because Twilight is Twilight, and if Twilight wasn’t Twilight, well she wouldn’t be Twilight. That’d be silly if she wasn’t Twilight, because then who would she be? Would she be Rainbow Dash, or would she be somepony else? Maybe she could be Minty!” Pinkie exploded in a flurry of words.
Rarity rolled her eyes and tuned out, waiting for Pinkie to catch up on days of silence. She glanced over to Rainbow Dash, who gave her the same exasperated and pleading look. This would take a long time to pass.
Applejack frowned at Fluttershy’s further failure to barter at the local marketplace, “What happened to being assertive?”
“Oh, um, well, I try to be... but, it’s hard, and what if they needed the extra bits?” Fluttershy replied meekly, putting the carrots in her saddlebag.
Applejack gave her a deadpanned look, “With empty shelves like those? I don’t think they’ll be needin’ much.”
Fluttershy frowned, “Are you sure?”
“Positive, sugarcube,” Applejack smiled as they began walking. “Anythin’ else you need?”
Fluttershy shook her head as she glanced through her acquired inventory, “I don’t think so. I was running low on a few things for the animals at home.”
Applejack nodded, “I was doing the same. Figured seein’ you was the most interesting of comin’ here.”
Fluttershy smiled, “Well, it was nice seeing you too, Applejack. Was there, um, anything else you wanted to do here?”
Applejack shook her head, “I suppose I should return to the farm and get a head start on tomorrow’s apple buckin’ before the party starts. What about you?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what to do before the party... I don’t want to be late.”
Applejack laughed. She had felt that dilemma far too often. In truth, the apple bucking would be more of a distraction, rather than a job that needed to be completed. If she didn’t find some sort of distraction soon, she’d find herself in the familiar dilemma as her friend; the inability to decide to do something, in case she was late, however having too much time to not do something.
“Oh, it’s the others.” Fluttershy smiled, gesturing to the café across the road.
The two approached a sleeping Rainbow Dash, extremely bored Rarity and a Pinkie Pie who’s senseless tirade of words had apparently driven her friends to a state of mental stasis. Despite the approach of Fluttershy and Applejack, she continued to talk.
Applejack and Fluttershy exchanged a look with Rarity, both sharing the same opinion.
“What’s goin’ on?” Applejack shouted over the pink pony, glancing over Rainbow Dash, who had taken to sleeping on her half-eaten salad.
“I don’t know, dear! However from what I’ve gathered, I think it was some kind of failed joke she was trying to pull by staying silent until the time was right. She never finished a sentence a while ago, I think she was hoping to finish it later. She got bored of being silent, so... now she’s catching up, I suppose.” Rarity replied with a roll of her eyes.
“Didn’t she try that once before?” Applejacked asked sceptically.
“Yes, and she didn’t have much success then, either. Face it, dear, she’s not patient enough.” Rarity remarked, glancing irritably at the talking pony.
Pinkie turned her attention to Rainbow Dash with a raucous laughter, “You should’ve seen your face at Sugarcube Corner! You were all like ‘I know you’re here!’ and I was like ‘Shh!’ and then you were like ‘I’m leaving!’” She giggled, deepening her voice and imitating a storming motion as she imitated her friend, “I almost jumped out and scared you! But you left as I was going to! Oh! I got the Rainbows you gave me, these are going to be so great! The games are going to be so much fun!”
“Games?” Rainbow Dash inquired, having been woken up by Pinkie’s laughter at her.
“Of course, silly! I figured the rainbows wouldn’t work. Because, I mean, come on. They’re rainbows! They don’t help ponies see, if they can’t see them already! So we’ll use them for games, instead!”
Applejack furrowed her brow, looking to Rainbow for answers. Rainbow only sighed and shrugged, clearly annoyed. Applejack twisted her lip, but decided it was better to leave this be and ask at another time.
“So, uh, how’s the party goin’?” She decided to ask to the group.
“We’re almost finished! Spike’s making some cupcakes for us, and I’ve got lots more! We just need to get a few more things ready, like the rubber mats for the rainbow games, and we’re all ready!” Pinkie replied ecstatically.
“Rainbow games?” Applejack raised her brow inquisitively, and not without a hint of sceptic interrogation.
“We’re going to have a slip and slide! With the rainbows! Just don’t swallow any, that stuff is spi-cy!”
Applejack was speechless. Pinkie hadn’t been kidding when she said she was ready to make games up, especially for this occasion. She was far more creative than she had been given credit for. Pinkie had been working tirelessly to gather items and find a way to make this day special for Twilight, while also keeping it relatively ‘in theme’ for everypony else.
This would certainly be an interesting night.
Spike hummed to himself as he worked tirelessly in the kitchen. After each instruction in the recipe, he would glance up at the clock with anticipation, only to find that barely a minute had passed. He was getting frustrated at how slowly time was moving today.
Breaking between hums, he’d mutter the words of his song to the tune in his head, quietly enough so as not to draw attention from the purple mare in the study, but loud enough to enjoy himself.
“As I go riding merrily along...,” he sang quietly, placing the tray of cupcakes in the oven, kicking it shut with his foot.
He glanced up to the clock again and sighed. Two hours remained before it was time to bring Twilight to the party, and there was almost nothing left to do. He’d woken up earlier so as to finish all of his chores early enough to be allowed to join in the party, and he’d finished them too soon.
He frowned, remembering the slight interruption to his early chores. He found Twilight crying in to her sheets as he came up to investigate a loud scream. She was so distraught, finding very little voice between her horrified sobs. She shook violently, hugging her sheets as close to her body as she could. Spike did all he could to calm her down, and eventually, managed to.
She quietly explained the dream she had, finding comfort in explaining as much detail of the dream as she could remember. Every now and then, she’d bite her lip and sniff quietly as emotion built up again. Gently, Spike brought her back on track and she would continue. At the end of her story, there was a long and uncomfortable silence before she finally explained why the dream was so vivid and horrifying.
”This was what happened in the library the day that I was blinded. I was blinded by my own lack of foresight.”
Spike shook his head, snapping out of his trance, noticing that he was staring at the oven.It was disturbing to think what Twilight went through, and was still experiencing in her own mind. It didn’t take a genius to see the disturbed look on the mare’s face, or the out-of-character quietness she had been exhibiting since Spike brought her downstairs.
He quietly walked out of the kitchen and peeked in to the study, seeing Twilight at her desk with her horn ablaze with magical light. The breakfast Spike had prepared for her sat untouched next to her book. Her posture was slumped, her shoulders sunken and her usual mutterings replaced by silence.
It was normal to hear Twilight muttering to herself when she was studying, it was even normal to hear her cheering when she accomplished something. Today however, she was completely silent. Spike wondered if a single page of the book in front of her had been turned.
He sighed and wandered back in to the kitchen to check up on the muffins. Their smell gently wafting out of the oven was far too inviting. He opened the door and gently pressing down on the closest one, tutting under his tongue as he felt the soft dough in the middle. They’d need a while longer.
He smiled briefly, at the remembrance of his own deduction on what had happened to Twilight. He was so close, it felt as if he might have been completely right. It was an odd feeling, to feel accomplished in being right about the misfortune of his closest and most-loved friend.
The clock had moved forward twenty minutes. At least time had decided to cooperate with him now. Still, there was so much time to kill, and chronocide wasn’t a skill he possessed, aside from doing chores or sleeping.
He leaned back against the cupboard and twiddled his thumbs idly, staring at the clock. He sighed, glancing out the window, watching the sun quietly begin its descent for the night, throwing an orange hue throughout the sky. The sunset left an excited bubbling in his stomach, as it foretold the night’s event.
Spike adored Pinkie’s parties, when he was able to attend them. This one in particular would be one he had been anticipating ever since it had been announced. It was a chance to enjoy the party, and help his closest and most cherished friend. Admittedly, he felt useless. Twilight had to deal with the bulk of her condition alone, leaving little room for him or the others to offer any assistance.
He continued watching the clock, while every so often checking on his rising muffins until they were baked completely. He placed each muffin on the counter before dumping the hot tray in to the sink to cool down. Each of them had risen almost perfectly. He brought out a plastic container and gently placed each muffin inside, closing the lid with a loud snap.
Spike heard a startled yelp from Twilight’s room. With a quick stumble, he hurried in to the darkening room, to see Twilight instinctively turning towards various directions. The snap had obviously either woken her, or snapped her out of a trance.
“Twilight, it’s okay. It’s only me,” Spike said as soothingly as he could manage, reaching for the closest candle, lighting it with a short flame from his mouth.
The candle lit the room in a familiar orb, the light forcing the shadows to its edges. He walked over carefully, illuminating Twilight’s startled features. He placed the candle next to her pillow, allowing him to wrap his arms around her comfortingly.
Twilight calmed. Spike could feel her breathing slow once more. “What time is it?” She asked, returning his hug quickly before pulling back. Her horn lit up again as she looked over the page in her book. Had she even turned it?
“It’s almost 5:30. The party is in about an hour. I was thinking about dropping off a couple of things, and coming back to get you. Is that alright?” Spike asked, desperately hoping she would agree. Not only would it be hard to carry both his muffins and direct her as well, he was also hoping to see how the party was set up, so as to find a better way to surprise Twilight as she was lead through the door.
Spike’s stomach sank as Twilight thought about it, tapping her hoof against her chin and emitting a long and thoughtful hum. She did this far too often when he asked to do things.
“Alright,” Twilight smiled, “you’ll be back soon, right?” She seemed worried, and almost lonely.
“I’ll be half an hour, on the dot!” Spike replied proudly, puffing his chest out. This was perfect!
Twilight nodded, “Okay. I’ll see you when you get back.”
Spike grinned wide, hugging Twilight tightly before hurrying out the room. With sheer swiftness, he grabbed the box of muffins and bounced excitedly to the door, “I’ll see you soon, Twilight!” he shouted as he opened the door. Without waiting for an answer, he shut the door and ran towards Sugarcube Corner, smiling wide.
“See you... soon,” Twilight replied quietly as she heard the familiar click of the door. Spike’s eagerness took her completely by surprise. Perhaps the party would do her well, after all. If anything, it would provide her a sense of comfort that her friends were truly there for her.
She still battled as to just how much she could allow her friends to help her, as compared to her doing things on her own. Tonight, she promised herself she wouldn’t think about her burden, her burden on others, or even Princess Celestia.
Princess Celestia. The thought of her mentor and idol lingered in her mind, as she visualised the various outcomes if the Princess found out about her condition. Both the good and the bad waged a war in her mind, painting her teacher in such various and polarising lights.
She lit her horn up once more, allowing the words on the paper in front of her to form properly before reading. The book she was given was extremely interesting, despite that she found herself reading the same paragraph over and over again as varying thoughts filled her mind. At the bottom of the page, a small piece of paper had been jammed in to the spine of the book.
Written in perfectly curved lettering were three simple words. These three words had somehow pushed themselves to the forefront of her mind, quieting thoughts of her condition, of her future, and even of her nightmare.
The author of these words was more than evident. Such neat, careful and beautiful writing could have only come from Rarity. She meant well with her gift, and the words she left, while simple, begat an intense amount of thought.
Tell Princess Celestia.
She could choose from two options: Tell her, or don’t. The former would allow her to live her ultimate fate as soon as possible, and could potentially change her life forever in either direction. The latter would allow Twilight to live her relatively normal life, with a few further white lies to cover her condition and reasons why she would be unable to conduct certain requests from the Princess.
She sighed, retracting her magic and closing the book with her hoof. This was the hardest decision she could ever make. The Princess was her idol, the one she wanted to model herself after. If she reacted negatively to this new condition and way of life, Twilight could not fathom how she would be able to function. Her dreams would be further destroyed.
Twilight stretched her legs. She felt contact with something, followed by a light thud. Whatever it was, Spike must have placed it beside her, forgetting to take it with him when he left.
She closed her eyes, finding comfort in visualising things as a normal pony would. She allowed her mind to focus on the illustrious Princess Celestia, sitting on her royal throne as she overlooked the business of the day’s orders. Twilight sat next to her, adorned with her own royal attire, as she wrote down all of the Princess’ desires, commands and laws.
She was the royal scribe. Her duties allowed her to be with the Princess at all times as they both attended royal business both inside and outside of Canterlot, as well as various summits the Princess was required to attend.
Alternatively, perhaps she was the royal advisor, or arch-mage. Whatever duty that would require consistent contact with the Princess. Nothing would be different, nothing would change, and Twilight’s dreams were still intact in this alternate reality.
As she slowly returned from her apparent doze, the smell of smoke filled her nose, awakening all her senses. Her eyes instinctively snapped open and she glanced around quickly, seeing only blackness. Her stomach sunk and she stumbled from the feeling of heat beside her. Intense heat filled the room, accompanied by the crackling of fire and dense smell of smoke.
“Help...” she croaked quietly, trying to find her voice. “Help!”
Fear filled her veins as she stumbled in her mind for the echolocation spell. Her head was blank, wiped clean with instinctive fear. She needed to run; she needed to escape the encroaching furnace. Disorientation and confusion filled her as her mind raced for a solution. Stumbling away from the searing heat, she bumped into a bookcase, hearing the familiar thud of books falling to the ground.
She placed her left hoof on the bookcase, following its contours towards where she could remember the door. Each step wrought the agony of fear in her mind. The heat of the room made her sweat, and the smoke made her cough and heave. The door had to be near.
As she felt the wall around the room, the heat began to strengthen. She stopped, feeling the sheer burning heat in front of her. Her mind’s eye envisioned the fire surrounding her, blocking all forms of escape.
Her heart beat furiously, every fibre in her body screaming for some form of escape. She began screaming loudly, “Help!” as she backed towards the bookcase again, pressing herself against the wood in a futile hope to avoid the fate before her.
She shook violently, fighting for her breath. Cursing and screaming, searching in her mind to find an escape from this death trap. Her mind latched on to the thoughts of Princess Celestia once more. That this lie, she would carry to her grave.
Princess Celestia, I’m so sorry.
Sirens rang loudly through the town, causing the group to exchange looks between each other before hurrying out the door to see the ruckus. Fire trucks raced passed them towards the smoke that billowed towards the already darkened sky.
Their respective stomach dropped and hardened as a unanimous fear filled their collective minds.
As they arrived the scene before them filled their minds with the fear of the worst.
Red and blue lights flashed fiercely through the area as Fireponies raced around the Twilight’s library with a hose, screaming orders in various direction. A ladder was being erected to Twilight’s room, as one firepony attempted to breach in through the window.
An ambulance screamed up behind the scene, with two ponies and a stretcher poured out, ready and waiting for the word to run inside. One paramedic took it upon himself to interrogate the closest firepony on the situation.
Rarity intercepted a firepony as he returned to the truck, his face blackened by the smoke inside.
“Where’s Twilight? What’s happened to her?!” She screamed frantically.
The firepony frowned, glancing back at the scene as he spoke with authority, “We haven’t been able to get into the room. So far, there is no sign of any residence in the rest of the house. We’re working as fast as we can to quell the fire, and reach the effected room. However, we have not heard any signs of anypony inside.”
Rarity turned back to the others as the firepony pushed passed her and retrieved another hose. Each pony had turned ghastly pale. Rainbow Dash and Spike had stormed up closer to the tree, only to be blocked by an authoritive firepony telling them to return to their friends.
There was nothing anypony could do, and there was no sure fate of their friend.
All they could do was wait.
The familiar, feverish and chaotic rush subsided slowly around Twilight. She could feel her magic float away into the forever nothingness that used magic was destined to disappear. It was a void that none could enter, and none could see.
A slight cold breeze brushed passed her, echoing around her surroundings and sending a shiver through her body. The sound was loud, reverberating off apparent walls. She stood up quickly, her hooves clattering noisily on the cold and hard floor.
She could feel a cold chill run through her as the breeze returned. She shivered, closing her eyes and trying her magic, desperate for any form of understanding of her surroundings. Her horn sparked and fizzled. The teleportation spell had eaten up the vast majority of her magic reserves, as such large spells did. It was unfortunate that such a long distance teleport had been instinctual, and not at all planned.
“Hello?” She shouted, hearing her voice echo around her and deep in to the distance. “Is anypony there? Hello!” The only answer she received was her own echo. Not a single sound or breath of another pony could be heard around her.
She shivered again, feeling tears form in her eyes. Wherever she had been taken, she was both lost and alone. This fate was worse than the one she had almost lived. She choked back her tears and slowly put one hoof in front of the other, taking careful and deliberate steps. If she was lucky, she would find a wall, a door, or somepony that could help her.
The sound of the wind, and general feel of the air gave her a sensation of being higher, and the cold, hard floor felt clean and flat, as if made for civilisation. Wherever she was walking, it had been made for ponies to walk on. She wouldn’t dare turn left or right, fearing that whichever direction she went, she would possibly fall to her death, or worse.
The edge of her hoof touched something hard. Slowly, she trailed it upwards, following the hard wall in front of her. The wall stopped abruptly, giving way to a new material. Her hoof clinked on it soundly. She tapped her hoof against it twice more, hearing a familiar clink of hoof-on-glass. This was curious.
The sound of hoofsteps echoed behind her. They sounded larger than a normal pony’s, their timing spaced much further apart than a mare’s, or even a colt’s during a regular walk. As the hoofsteps came closer, a familiar warmth encompassed her. As the warmth reached her, a terrifying undertone crept through and grasped Twilight on the shoulder. Her stomach sank.
Twilight had teleported herself to Canterlot Castle.
“Twilight? What are you doing here?” The sweet, soft and warm regal voice of Princess Celestia asked, with a mixture of pleasured surprise and deep confusion. She sounded tired, as if freshly woken.
Twilight turned around, facing the voice as best she could, staring up in the same direction she had done so for years, “P-Princess Celestia!” She stammered, “I-I-I c-came for... for... some... advice!” She could feel the sweat on her brow forming quickly as her stomach sank further, and her heart pounded mercilessly in her chest.
Twilight could feel the scrutinising gaze of her mentor. She didn’t need to see it to know it was there. With a masked neutrality that had been practiced over centuries, the sceptical gaze of a mother and teacher cut through her like a knife. Princess Celestia had watched her with the same expression many times as Twilight had tried to cover her actions, and Twilight knew all too well that she was being treated to that same, scrutinising gaze.
“Well then, perhaps we should go somewhere more comfortable?” Celestia’s replied warmly without any evidence of the gaze Twilight had imagined.
“Oh... yes. Of course,” Twilight replied, hoping the princess would simply lead the way.
“Very well,” Celestia said, her large form slowly moving from her student.
Twilight followed quickly, simply following the sound and air of her mentor. Despite the situation, her idol’s mere presence made the world feel calmer, as if nothing truly mattered anymore. Her presence had always brought forth a sense of calm and willing obedience.
They walked silently through the corridors of the castle. Twilight’s mind raced over the series of events that preceded her arrival. The fear of death gripping her, only to be quelled by the air of her mentor. Her house would be okay, she was sure of this. Hopefully. Their walk concluded as Celestia stopped and opened a door.
“You first, my dear,” Celestia beckoned.
Twilight nodded slowly, carefully trying to walk in a straight line. She halted as she felt the cushiony texture of a seat meet her hoof. Carefully, she climbed over and sat down, waiting for her mentor to take the seat opposite her as she always had. To her surprise, Celestia sat next to her, quietly settling down on the pillow to Twilight’s right, stifling a yawn.
“Now, what was it you were needing advice on?” Celestia asked calmly.
Twilight’s mind went blank. She had gotten this far, and now, there was nothing in her mind except the multiple gaping questions about her future. Twilight sighed, conceding to mentor and to herself, “Princess Celestia...” she began, looking for the softest way to get to her point. She swallowed, “Have there been any disabled unicorns in the past? Did you teach any?”
“I see,” Celestia replied simply, trailing off in to an uncomfortable silence. “Twilight, I’d like to ask you something first,” she asked quickly.
Twilight’s heart sank.
“I’d like you to tell me what has happened.” Celestia spoke calmly. There wasn’t a hint of anger or disappointment.
Twilight bit her lip, feeling her tears well in her eyes again. Celestia already knew, somehow. There was no point in beating around the bush. She swallowed hard and sighed, “I was studying Paradigms at home. I wanted to try a test spell, so I cast a simple light spell with one of the runes. And... it... it exploded. I didn’t want this, Princess Celestia. I-I didn’t want any of this, I only wanted to test the spell! I wanted to—”
Celestia made a quiet and calming shushing sound, “It’s okay. I know what happened. I had only hoped that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.”
Twilight looked up to her mentor, a feeling of dread and shock overwhelming her, “But how? Did Spike send you a letter?”
“No, Twilight. My sister knows more than she would ever let anypony believe. She told me she visited you during the night, and left you a gift. Did anypony tell you about them?” Celestia’s concern flowed through her words, the unanswered question leaving a bitter tinge within them.
“N-no. I know somepony left me flowers.”
“Luna left you those flowers. They’re Moonflowers. White flowers that only bloom in the moonlight. She’s overly fond of them, and I know she often leaves them as a token of her own concern or affection. We’ve been worried about you, Twilight.” Celestia sighed deeply, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
The question poised knives to Twilight’s throat. She stammered quietly to herself, trying to word herself properly, and truthfully. Celestia had most likely figured it out, but still wanted to hear it from Twilight herself.
“I... I don’t know. I was afraid you wouldn’t want me as your student. That I was... defective.” Twilight hung her head low, hearing her thoughts for the very first time. Now, they only sounded selfish and unreasoned.
The Princess was silent for a moment, “Twilight I’m... very disappointed in you.” She replied. Hurt weighed heavily in her voice.
Twilight froze, her stomach curled and groaned as her mentor’s words sunk into her deeply, pressing down on the knives and cutting her insides. Those very few words that Twilight had tried so very hard to avoid had been spoken due to her actions. She hadn’t failed an exam, she hadn’t forgotten her homework, she had insulted the Princess.
The silence that hung in the air further intensified Twilight’s guilt and overwhelming grief. Tears slowly fell down her cheeks, her heart ached desperately as her mouth voiced silent words. She shivered to herself, hugging her body as she turned away from her beloved idol.
“I’m... sorry,” Twilight choked. “I didn’t want... I didn’t mean to... I just wanted things to be normal.” She stammered through her tears.
Shock weighed heavily in the Princess’ voice, “I would never do that to you. I have always been so proud of you; I want to see you be the best you can possibly be. Never let yourself believe that you are expendable. Whether it is for your friends, your family or me.” Celestia turned Twilight’s head to face her with a hoof as she spoke.
Twilight could feel the hurt gaze of her mentor through her words. Yet, a semblance of hope filled them, and her. She wiped the tears from her eyes with her hoof and sniffed, “But... I’m defective.”
“That’s a terrible thing to say,” Celestia gasped. “You are not ‘defective’ or ‘broken’. There have been great and talented ponies that have risen to greatness, despite their disabilities. Blue Moon was an arch-mage many centuries ago, and one of my earliest students. She lost one of her legs in an accident. In those days, there were no prosthetic legs, there were no spells that could help her walk, and there were no forms of provision for such disaster. And yet, despite all of that, she rose to be an Arch-Mage in my court.”
The story seemed almost surreal to Twilight, as if the Princess had simply made everything up. However, she knew Blue Moon was real. She was the arch-mage who had fought side-by-side with the Princesses against the first invasion of Discord so many centuries ago. Blue Moon had never been referred to as being disabled, nor had she ever been called ‘Blue Moon the Three Legged,’ or anything similar. It hadn’t been recorded in anything she had read.
“Blindness is more common than I would like to admit, and more often due to lack of understanding of certain spells or the foundations of magic. I have had blind students before, Twilight. They were just as capable and wonderful as any other student that ever attended my school.” Celestia let go of Twilight’s face, the warmth that once encompassed the unicorn returned once more. “You wouldn’t even know it if you saw them. They look just like you or me.”
Twilight paused, allowing the information to sink in. Her relief filled her with an unfathomable joy. She would continue her life with Celestia as her mentor, and if she applied herself, perhaps her dreams would come true. However, one question still hung on her mind.
“Can I be fixed?” The question came out slowly, and not without pain. She knew the inevitable answer, that there was little hope that such a thing existed. It was for closure.
Celestia was silent for a moment, sighing deeply, “No, Twilight. Magic is functional, not a cure-all for everything. I’m afraid that even today, magic cannot fix organs, it cannot regrow limbs and it cannot cure the blind. There are limitations in everything, and this is only one of them.”
Twilight nodded. She expected to cry, or weep over the news. Yet, she found herself accepting it. There was no cure, only the provisions that she had been provided with to be able to see temporarily.
“And the echolocation spell? Will it become easier?”
“Of course. Like any form of magic, you will learn to use the spell efficiently and understand its ways. In the future, I think I will teach you to use Paradigms. It’s important to understand how magic itself will change when the foundations are disrupted. Naturally and innately, there is only one set of paradigms for every spell. When you change that set, the spell itself changes, and you will need to learn to control it.”
Twilight smiled wide at the prospect of being taught by her mentor once more. It had been far too long since she had been side-by-side with her, and learned from her very own words and examples. Her elation grew with the widening of her smile as Princess Celestia briefly explained the concept of paradigms to her.
Although the world may be dark, her dreams will always shine brightly. She pondered on this thought and smiled inwardly. She had been stupid, caught up in what might happen, instead of understanding what would happen. She needed to learn to trust in the care and love of those around her, rather than create a fantasy that would never happen.
“I’ve learned a lot from this, Princess Celestia,” Twilight said deliberately, “I’ve learned to listen and to feel. There is so much that I still have yet to learn, to be able to be comfortable with this new... way of life. I should be excited to go through with it. I should be willing to see it through to the end.”
“Excellent,” Celestia said with a strong, proud warmth, “I’m glad you’ll continue. I’ll make sure every book you receive for your studies is in Praille. In fact, I think we may need to begin sending you some replacements, won’t we?” There was a knowing hint in her voice, followed by a gentle ribbing.
Twilight’s eyes widened, feeling a grip of panic, “The library! What’s happened to it?”
“Your study room has taken a lot of damage; however a lot of the house is still intact. The fire brigade managed to arrive in time. However, I think a lot of cleaning will be in order. I’m sure we can organise to have your room repaired, as well as acquire assistance to help poor Spike with all the mess.”
Twilight nodded, feeling a pang of guilt and pity for her poor assistant. Spike would be spending days cleaning the books, and hopefully finding little damage to the books outside of the study. If the damages to the study were too significant, it would be possible that she organise for the room, or house, to be extended. It would be wise, if she was going to need both a copy of a book in print, and in Praille.
She sighed to herself, returning to look towards the Princess’ voice, “I’ll be glad when things return to normal. I’ve been looking forward to enjoying life without having any problems hanging over me. This... whole thing has been so hard. I don’t know how I’ve managed.” It was the truth. She had spent days in hospital haunted by her condition, a day at home haunted by her dream, and now she was here, haunted by the fire that drove her out of her house. It was hard to imagine just how much pain she had lived through in these past days.
The accident had haunted her from the beginning. The explosion of magical energy was something she had never felt from herself before, without the use of the Elements of Harmony. This was a new form of magical power, unlikely anything she’d felt before. The feel of such power almost scared her.
Her friends had been beside her the entire time she was in hospital. Rainbow Dash had spent hours reading to her, despite her silent state. She could only picture her friend flying around the room, acting out key scenes as she read the book in a boisterous and involved voice.
Applejack, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie had returned to see how she was doing. They stuck by her, waiting and hoping that she would return as the mare they once knew. When her fate was sealed, they found ways to adapt and accept her for who she would be in the future. Pinkie Pie had planned a party for her. Tonight’s party had now been delayed by this disaster. When Twilight returned, she would make it up to her.
Rarity gave her a Praille book, out of her own money. Twilight smiled at the thought of it. This would be something she would treasure until the end of days. She would appreciate all of her friends for everything they had done for her.
“Disaster happens to the best of ponies. I’ve dealt with much in my time, and seen far more than I would like to admit. It is something we all must overcome,” Celestia said simply, her voice trailing off to the end.
“It’s hard.” Twilight exhaled deeply, “I never thought my life would change so drastically.”
“Indeed. Some changes are as drastic as they are extreme. Don’t let that discourage you. Some things never change.” The white mare’s voice hinted a smile.
There was a long and understanding silence between the two as the emotion of the conversation caught up with Twilight. She couldn’t see what Celestia was doing, however, she could only imagine her staring pensively out a window, or even watching her.
“Princess Celestia, may I... would you take me home?” Twilight asked carefully. It was time that she returned to her friends, and comforted them of her continuing existence.
Celestia slid a hoof over her students back, and pulled her in for a close and momentary embrace, “Of course. From now on, I hope you’ll keep in closer contact to me. I look forward to hearing from my most faithful student.”
Twilight felt an elated tickle in her chest as her most cherished words reached her ears. My most faithful student. A goofy grin crawled on Twilight’s face, as pure relief replaced all forms of emotion. This conversation had been for the best.
The sudden screams of her name and embraces from six different forms covering her took her by surprise. Nevertheless, Twilight smiled at all of them. She was home once more. Celestia had promised to send her to the living room.
“Twilight! What happened to you? We were so worried!” Rarity practically yelled down Twilight’s ear.
Twilight’s smile became one of pensive maturity, “I had a lot of time to think. I was taken to Canterlot Castle before the fire got out of control.” That small white lie would prevent any further worry. “I spoke with Princess Celestia, and I told her. She understands... I understand.” That was the best summary she could come up with at this moment. It was all that was needed.
“Pinkie, I’m sorry I missed your party. I didn’t expect for any of this to happen. Maybe I can make it up to you?” Twilight said, facing in no particular direction. For all she knew, she was staring at Rainbow Dash.
“Oh, don’t be silly!” Came the bouncy voice beside her, moving in front of her, “We can still have the party now! It’s not that late! We can still have a ton of fun, I’m sure!” That was Pinkie, always ready.
“What does my study look like?” Twilight inquired, bracing for the worst possible news. She could only imagine that half of her study would be missing, with the rest of her house covered in thick, black soot.
“It’s very damaged,” Fluttershy chimed in, “But we could get some of the books out for you. Although... everything in the house is very black... I’m sure we can get this cleaned up soon.”
Twilight nodded and sighed, it wasn’t the worst possible scenario, but it was close enough to it. Time would allow this to be repaired, and with Princess Celestia promising to organise help, it wouldn’t be so much of a worry.
"Twilight, what happened to you? Are you okay?" Spike asked anxiously, refusing to remove himself from his vice-like embrace.
Twilight simply smiled and wrapped a hoof around the dragon's back, "I'm fine, Spike. Everything is going to be okay. However, I think we both have some adjusting to do in the future."
"What do you mean?"
"We're going to need extra room for a lot more books. And I think we're going to need a little more communication in the future, don't you think?" Twilight replied.
"I-it was the candle, wasn't it?" Spike visibly shook, "I saw it there, it was knocked over and-"
Twilight made a gentle and comforting shush, "It's okay. I'm fine, and the library will be too, eventually."
Spike's hug somehow strengthened, enticing a pained squeak from Twilight.
“So you told the Princess everything?” Rarity inquired beside her, placing a hoof on her shoulder.
Twilight nodded, “Yes.”
The silent and expectant air held the question from all of her friends.
“I was wrong. Princess Celestia will support me with my blindness,” referring to her condition by its name felt good. She could feel the pain lift ever so slightly, “and my studies will resume as normal. From time to time, I will have lessons with her, so there is little risk of getting hurt again.”
“So you’re saying... nothing’s gonna change?” Rainbow Dash asked above them.
Twilight nodded again, “That’s right.”
It was time to accept that her life won’t change significantly. It was time to accept that she was now, who she was. This was now a part of her identity. There was little she could do to change any of that, aside from conducting research into any possible provisions to further expand the echolocation spell. With enough research, she may even be able to perfect it. It would not only be for her, but for everypony.
Right now, it was time to celebrate. Twilight sighed wistfully. This party would mark the next, and newest chapter in her life. She would celebrate her new way of life, and cast aside any doubts of herself, replacing them with a calm understand, that this is how life would be.
With a smile to her friends, and one final embrace, they set off. Tonight was going to be fun.
The white princess walked quietly outside behind her sister with a calm smile, staring up in to the night sky. The sky seemed different this morning; it held something different. The sky seemed fuller, and brighter.
Celestia clicked her tongue, “What have you done tonight, sister?” She asked curiously.
Luna grinned almost mischievously, an expression Celestia knew all too well. It was one that was displayed whenever Luna had taken it upon herself to create something new.
“It’s such a beautiful night, isn’t it, sister?” Luna replied, “I thought it would be a nice change to see the sky shine during the dark night. Don’t you agree?”
Celestia raised an inquisitive brow at her sister’s demeanour, “And why would that be?”
Luna’s grin turned in to a smile as she levitated a scroll from the balcony over to her sister, “I hope you didn’t mind. I had a feeling something special was going to be said in tonight’s letter.”
The letter had obviously been sent while Celestia had slept during the night. Its sender could have only been one mare. Luna was right. Tonight, something special had been said. Something that made the winged unicorn’s smile grow wide as pride buzzed within her.
Sometimes, life takes an unexpected turn for the worst and you may not have any idea how to deal with what life deals to you. However, it’s important to realise that not everything is the end of the world. Whether the change is major or minor, big or small, forever or temporary, you need to be strong and stand against it.
A burden may be something that changes you, but it can also be something that makes you stronger if you allow it to. If you stand up and allow yourself to become a stronger pony, then you will. It’s important never to let it defeat you. When you allow your will to be strong, there is nothing that can stop you.
Friends will help you become stronger in the face of adversity, they will always want the best for you, and will always do their best to make things as good as possible. Some may be able to distract you, some may be able to help you adjust, and some may be there for as much moral support as you need. Whatever the case, it’s important to allow your friends to help you, and never to take your burdens on alone.
They will love you for who you are, not what you are or what you can’t do. They will cherish your differences, as you cherish theirs. When you change, they will support you. In times of adversity, they will support and adapt with you.
Friends will make each day just that much easier.
Your faithful student,