Lights swam in front of my vision; incoherent pulses of light commanding my attention and obscuring all else. A chill ran down my body and my eyes begin to clear, the last distracting motes dancing away into oblivion. I try to focus my eyes and see my breath crystallise, forming a small billowing cloud before dissipating. My gaze delves further into the environment and I realise that I'm in fact lying on floor. I feel the chill seeping across the stone floor and latching onto my soul. On further inspection, the floor and places on the nearest wall display sections of frost. I move to stand up, thinking all the while, trying to remember where I am and why I am, when I see a white form curled up on the floor off to my right. As I move closer, I see that it is not moving, perhaps not even breathing. Using my left hoof I try to roll the body over. It slides on the icy stone floor, but I notice the cutie mark on its flank. Three blue diamonds. I feel myself freeze on the spot as it all comes rushing back. Seeing the events that transpired once again, I feel a tear make its way down my cheek before freezing on my chin. I can't believe that all this began with a simple letter.
I close the book and lower it to the table beside me before releasing my magical grip. The motion of the book making contact with the table causing tiny specks of dust to billow out and hang in the single ray of sunshine that seeped in from the open window. Although I endeavour to keep the library clean and free of dust and clutter, it is inevitable that a slow build-up of dust occurs to precipitate the next cleaning session.
I close my eyes and allow the soft warmth of the summer afternoon to comfort me. Unfortunately, even with my studies of friendship, there is very little time to be set aside for relaxation and recreation. Admittedly, my studies are fun and very much a recreation for me; this doesn't, however, replace a nap in the sun or a good novel. As much as I love my friends, sometimes I just like to be alone. Perhaps this is why I enjoy my sessions at the spa with Rarity. During our visits, we often find ourselves relaxing and allowing the treatment to scour any built up tension and stress. Rarely do we engage in anything more that the occasional dialogue about recent events.
“None of that has any particular significance though,” I think to myself as the sunlight plays over my eyelids, creating bright patterns. My eyes start to strain with the strong light so I roll over, eliciting a strong sigh of relaxation. My moment of peace is shattered by the obnoxious sound of Spike belching a lungful of dragon-fire; most likely indicating a letter from the Princess. Realising that this matter will need to be dealt with, I resign myself to the loss of my allotted relaxation time. Standing up off the couch I seek out my draconian assistant. I find him in the kitchen, apparently having been interrupted in the midst of trying to surreptitiously sneak in a snack before dinner.
“Spike, what does the Princess want?” I ask in a voice equal parts inquisitive and mildly aggravated as Spike begins to unfurl the scroll.
Yours truly, Princess Celestia.”
Spike finishes reading the letter before sitting down on the floor, a shocked expression seated on his face.
This is certainly unexpected, though I suppose I shouldn't be as this study has been going on for 3 years now. Although I am reluctant to leave a field of study that is always providing new material, I must admit that I have learnt very little in the last year or so. Not to mention the fact that I've neglected much study in other fields beyond some simple research. My train of thought slides to a halt, as I can no longer evade the question that’s straining to burst brilliantly into my mind.
What about my friends?
Princess Celestia allowed me to stay here and study friendship, however now that my studies are over I'll have to leave them. I might never see them again, I mean the last time a started a new study I spent the first 3 months in my room and the library by myself. Catching myself I realise that a once joyful idea now fill me only with sadness and fear. I don't want to go back to that life again I want friendship, no I NEED friendship. The thought of leaving everypony is repugnant, but I can't disobey the Princess. She's the reason I even have the opportunity to study in the first place.
“Aaahh!” I yell as I stand up sharply, startling Spike, “I can't take this!” I feel the feeling of an invisible breeze emanating from my horn flow over my body, the tell tale sign of my magic. This time however my magic feels heated, reflecting my emotions. I note all this as slip into the void between seconds and the void between atoms before slipping back out to find myself standing on an unfamiliar crest.
I notice that for some reason the entire world around me is grey-scale, it feels like I haven't left the void yet though I must have as nothing can exist in the void. As I'm looking around, I feel a breeze not unlike what I feel when using magic, it suddenly picks up quickly becoming a gale. I notice something in the corner of my eye and turn my head to see what it is. I don't believe my eyes, it is a pony made both of light and darkness and the winds of magic are forming a maelstrom. As my mind tries to wrap itself around what its senses are telling it, a voice whispers in my mind sending shivers through my soul, resonating in my very being.
“Soon,” whispers the voice the voice I can only assume is belonging to the entity before me. I feel the sudden urgent need to look away and look down, averting my gaze. Something feels wrong, I bring my hoof up to take a closer look.
I blink and find myself standing in front of Rarities boutique, the world full of colour once again. I don't know what to make of the whole ordeal, nothing like that has happened during a teleport before. Well I guess standing here speculating on the possibilities is not helping anyone, so I move to knock on the door which opens as I raise my hoof to knock. Standing in the doorway is the beautiful and elegant spirit of generosity, Rarity.
“Hello Twilight, my dear, I hadn’t expected to see you this afternoon. Isn't Wednesday afternoon your scheduled personal time?” questioned Rarity, a note mild concern edging her voice; understandable as I rarely deviate from my schedule without good reason or Pinkie Pie.
“Yes well, a lot has happened this afternoon, would you like to go and have a drink?” I reply calmly in an attempt to ease her concern. I'm not sure if I should tell anyone about my situation just yet, I need to focus on concluding my studies, something I won't be able to accomplish with a group of worried and upset ponies surrounding me. “That's if you aren't busy of course.”
“It's nothing I can't put off until tomorrow. Now why don't we go to Sugarcube Corner, I hear Pinkie's back from her little holiday.” said Rarity smoothly, apparently eager for the distraction from whatever work she had planned. However I don't think the Corner is the best place to go to keep a low profile. Pinkie seems to able to discover the most obscure secrets seemingly at will. Thinking quickly I search my memory for a suitable alternative, though the list is surprisingly small there are enough options for my purposes.
“Actually I think I'd prefer to visit Bon Bon's place. I hear the tea is quite nice.” I counter in a friendly manner. From Rarity's response, I determine that she's taken the bait for can I see any indication that she is aware of my deflection. But why would she consider the idea that I have anything to hide, after all we are still friends right? Right?
Snap out of it Twilight! You can do this. It's not like you're leaving tomorrow. All I have to do is write that report then I can talk to everypony and then... Then what. I'll be leaving in a little over a month. How am I supposed to dismiss three years of close friendships? What do you say to somepony that has been by your side through thick and thin? What do you say to somepony who held you're hoof when you were down? What do you say to som--
“Twilight, you'd better drink that tea before it goes cold.” says Rarity calmly. I note the edge of curiosity and concern underlying her voice again. I must have gone on autopilot on the way here. It wouldn’t be the first time, though under the circumstances I see why Rarity might be concerned. “So what's troubling you, dear? You haven't spoken a word since we left the boutique and don't think I missed that deflection when I suggested the Corner. What's happened? You know you can tell me anything.”
Well that was unexpected. I guess I'm still underestimating her even after these couple of years being around her. Picking up my cup of tea with my magic, I once again feel the breeze of my magic flowing from my horn, though much more localised than when I teleported. Taking a sip I consider my options: telling Rarity offers the release of pent up stress and a voice of reason yet, on the other hand I risk the situation getting out of hand and restricting me from my duties. I know I can just make her Pinkie Promise not to tell anyone, perfect.
“Okay, but only if you Pinkie Promise not to tell anyone what I'm about to tell you. I don't want anyone to over react. Celestia knows I did.” I said as I replaced the cup on the saucer and locked Rarity's gaze.
“But of course, I'm no stranger to secrets. Cross my heart hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.” replied Rarity as she performed the requisite motions to seal the ultimate pact of secrecy. “Now tell me what has wound you up tighter than a spring.”
“Well earlier this afternoon, during my scheduled relaxation time I received a letter from the Princess.” I say calmly before pausing for effect, I don't know why I did, perhaps Rarity's aptitude for drama has rubbed off on me. “In which she notified me that in one month my studies in friendship will be over and I must return to Canterlot to pursue a new field of study.”
Not surprisingly my companion is quite shocked. Though, to her credit she hides it well. Only a slightly slack jaw and widened eyes gave any indication that she had been knocked off balance by the news. She quickly composed herself and took a somewhat nervous drink from her own cup of tea. I find myself sitting in a very uncomfortable silence as Rarity drinks her tea quietly. Ever so slowly she lowers the cup and looks at me calmly.
“Well Twilight I won't lie, that was most unexpected. Did the Princess give any reason for this sudden recall to Canterlot?”
“No, she simply asked me to compile my findings then return by the end of the month.”
“I must admit that this is disturbing news, not the least because will be leaving us soon, but also because I didn't expect something like this from Celestia. It feels most out of character for her, after all it was her that allowed you to stay here.”
“Yes it is odd, however I can't very well refuse. I'm a royally funded student. I doubt I have the option to just stay here. Perhaps there is something else happening that the Princess wants my help for.”
“That definitely a possibility, it wouldn't be the first time the Princess has challenged you like this. Though it most distasteful to try your friendships like this, so hopefully it just what it looks like.”
“I just don't know what I'm going to do about the others. I mean, how would they all react to this news? I'm not leaving for a month. I just don't want something like that hanging over everypony's head. It wouldn't be fair.”
“True, but I think you should tell them, they're your friends I'm sure they'll understand. Once they calm down that is.” replies Rarity as takes another short drink from he slowly cooling cup of tea. “Oh! But poor Pinkie, she had a party planned for your Birthday, but that's just after you leave.”
“Well I'm sure she'll throw me an even bigger party to make up for it. You know what she's like.”
“There, see you just proved that they'll understand. Everypony will be upset for sure, but you're not leaving just yet so try and enjoy it while you can.” stated Rarity reassuringly. I can't help but think that she's correct. Yes, the others will be upset that I'm leaving but they're adults, they'll understand. I pick up my cup and drain the rest of my tea. I fish a couple out a couple of bits and put them on the table before standing up.
“Thanks for talking with me Rarity, but I need to get back home to Spike. I'll talk to you and everypony else later.” I say as Rarity finishes her tea and stands up before drawing me in for an embrace and whispering into my ear.
“Any time dear, any time. Why don't you come around to the Boutique some time, you should refresh your wardrobe before returning to Canterlot.” I gently extract myself from the embrace and look warmly at the beautiful pony in front of me.
“I think I will, talk to later.” I say as a warm feeling wells up in my chest, “And I really mean it, thank you for listening to me. I was really over-reacting.”
We both thank Bon Bon as we leave the cafe side by side. The evening was quickly starting to take over the skyline as the sun created a dazzling sunset: vibrant orange clashing with darkening blue sky to produce a marvellous purple hue. Looking at the sunset I am hit with a sudden realisation that no matter how far apart me and my friends are, we'll always be looking at the same sunset and sleeping under the same stars.
Rarity and I bid each other one final farewell and part ways as I head towards the library and her to the Boutique. I can't believe that I freaked out so much earlier. It's not like our friendships hadn't gone through trials like this before. But I can't help but think that I'll still be going back my old life: a lifestyle I had tried so hard to leave behind me. Before I know it I was back home. Spike it seemed had turned on the lights at some point. I couldn't blame him, I'd been gone much longer than I had expected.
As I enter my humble dwelling, I catch the scent of celery soup wafting through the house. It seemed that Spike at recovered from the shock and resumed his normal duties. I proceed to move into the kitchen and seat myself at the table, Spike places a bowl of soup and a plate of toast in front of me. He sits down and we chat idly during the course of the meal, I endure his questions and reassure him. Eventually we finish and I wash the dishes before heading into the library proper begin my compilation of the friendship study. Luckily, following the Discord incident Spike and I decided to copy each of the friendship reports so that we have them on hand should we require them again.
I work quietly with Owlowicious for several hours. There are a large number of reports to go through so we organise them into groups and start the arduous task of refining all the reports into one massive report. It is slow work and by the time I am ready for bed it is almost midnight and we have only completed three months of reports between us, but it is a start.
I bid Owlowicious goodnight and ascend to my bedroom where Spike already lay asleep in his little bed. My eyes tired and my mind swirling I clean my teeth and promptly climb into my warm and inviting bed. Letting out a content sigh I close my eyes try to calm my thoughts, I quickly fall asleep.
I open my eyes and find myself standing in the grey landscape from before. I look around; the grey pasture appears to stretch endlessly with no distinguishing features to mar it. The breeze is blowing gently causing my mane to billow slightly. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I'm using my magic, like it wasn't a natural breeze. But what is natural in a place like this? Maybe everything is as grey and neutral as the ground I'm standing on. This time no mysterious being demands my attention so I begin to walk out into the landscape. As soon as I take the first step, the previously calm breeze intensifies before peaking as a raging force, and yet strangely I'm not being blown around. It is as though I was at the centre of this gale, as though I was absorbing it. My train of thought is interrupted by the appearance of the light being. It just stands there in the raging wind, looking at me. As we stand there, my eyes begin to study and understand this strange being. My gaze travels over its body taking everything in when I notice something happening to its legs. They seem to be changing from light into something else, solidifying. The change is slow, barely noticeable, though the transformation appears to be speeding up. As the change creeps up the forelegs, I notice that they are purple. It is at this point that I notice an odd tingling sensation in my fore legs. A shiver runs along my spine as I lift my left leg up for inspection and reluctantly shift my gaze from the being. My leg is transparent and made of light.
I open my eyes and find myself tangled in the bedding, dripping with perspiration and breathing heavy. With a sense of unbridled panic and a healthy dose of dread I untangle my left leg from the blankets and lift so that I can see it. Nothing is different. It is most definitely solid and certainly not transparent. Breathing a heavy sigh of relief I flop back onto the bed, sheets sliding onto the cool wooden floor. What had I just experienced? I had read a couple of papers on the nature of dreams and other neurological stimuli, as well as some slightly less credible reports on dreams as vehicles for premonition and viewing the future, but nothing like this. I try and think back to what had happened in the dream, but it is all a haze; all I can remember is my hoof made of light. Scientifically speaking that was not possible. You couldn't manipulate light like that with some kind of apparatus to contain the light. And yet I can't shake the feeling that it had in fact happened, or at least symbolised something very important. I resolved to make time later to investigate later. Now, however, I have work to do and I can smell Spike fixing this morning’s breakfast.
With a little bit of effort I peel my rebellious body away from the comforting softness of the mattress and onto the cool hardness of the floor. Moving with a calm efficiency I levitate the various sheets and remake my bed before heading to the bathroom to take a quick shower. The cold water streams down my back and shocking my system as I levitate a wash cloth and proceed to clean the perspiration of my body. As I finish the task, I give myself a few moments to relax in the embrace of the curtain of water. I feel the issues from yesterday slowly begin to float to the surface; it was time to get out of the shower.
I look around the small bathroom that I have known for the last three years, taking note of its little sparse features. A smooth stained wood cabinet that Apple Bloom had made for me after she discovered her cutie mark. The soft towel with my cutie mark that Fluttershy had given me for Hearth's Warming last year. The old ceramic basin that Spike and I had laboured to fix the leak from two years ago before caving in and hiring a plumber. Some of these I'd be able to take back to Canterlot, others would be passed onto the next owner of the library. However, even with the various bits and pieces that I've accumulated over the years, things would be different. In a month's time I'd be cleaning my teeth and brushing my hair in front of a different mirror. Once again I'll have to make myself at home anew. It was funny, I'd never really placed much importance on the small things like the contents of the bathroom beyond its function. How circumstance can change your perspective on things.
After I finish brushing my mane I cut short the train of thought that was slowly spiralling into mildly depressing territory and make my way down to the kitchen and collect my breakfast. I head over to the table, my bowl of porridge floating in front of me creating an interesting sensation as the hot steam from the bowl contrasts the cool sensation from my magic. I eat my breakfast in silence as I plan my day out. Firstly I need to go shopping to replenish a few essentials. Then resume work on the report. The list is strangely short; I guess it's just one of those days. I try to avoid thinking that everything takes on different priorities when you're running out of time.
Finished with my meal, I clean up and then locate my saddle bags and the checklist I had prepared earlier. Bidding my two assistants farewell, I depart the house and head in the direction of the town centre. It truly is a beautiful day without a single cloud in the sky. The blue vista stretches majestically out to the horizon. Even with such a dark cloud hanging over my mind, I can't help but feel happier and calmer. I must be sure to thank Rainbow Dash the next time I see her.
Looking around I find the various shops and stands that I will need to visit. Wasting no time I head off to fill the checklist. As I go about my various tasks, I greet the many familiar faces and chat idly with the few that I'm closer to. As I near the end of the list, I decide that perhaps I should make Spike something nice for dessert. I'm sure the situation is a lot harder on him than it is for me. He always did enjoy Apple Crumble, but I will need to buy more apples for that. I don't however see Applejack or Big Mac with their apple cart today, so I'll have to make a trip up to Sweet Apple Acres then. Quickly collecting the last few items on the list, I head towards the apple farm on the edge of the town.
After walking for about fifteen minutes, I reach the outskirts of the property and walk under the lovingly carved wooden sign that had stood there since the farm's founding so long ago. The hard, beaten dirt road kicked up small puffs of dust as I followed the well-established routine. The narrow road eventually splits off into a narrow stone path leading up to the Apple family's house. I leave the old road and walk the relatively short distance to the front porch to stand in front of the well-aged door. I hadn't seen Applejack at any point along the walk here, so she must be either in the house or one of the other sections of the orchard. I feel the familiar coolness as I levitate the metal knocker. Three loud bangs sound as I rap the piece against the door.
I stand back from the door as I wait for someone to answer. While I wait I play my eyes across the familiar sight of the porch. Granny Smith's much loved rocking chair sat motionless in the late morning warmth, and an apple bucket lay discarded on the far side just waiting to be given purpose once more. Before I can look around further, the door opens and the most dependable of ponies appears before me. A light sheen of sweat mattes her coat; a testament to the daily vigil of a career farmer. Yet despite this, the earth pony before me looked happy to see me. Even though I was apparently interrupting the morning break. It was moments like these that reminded me what friendship really means and how lucky I was to have such good friends.
“Well, how have you been, Twilight?” asked Applejack as she stood in the open door. “What brings you out here this early in the morning?”
“I've decided to make a special treat for Spike's dessert tonight, but for that I need some apples,” I reply pleasantly as I adjust myself to face her directly.
“Well, we sure can set you up with some! Why don't you come in for a drink? I just went on my morning break," she suggested, a warm smile gracing her otherwise somewhat rugged appearance as she stepped aside with a welcoming hoof inviting me in.
"I'd love to," I reply. It's not like I am in a big hurry to complete the report, and I certainly have enough time to spare for a cup of tea. As she follows me into the hallway I remark, "So, I guess the new worker out there is doing a good job if you're taking these breaks."
We head into the living room, passing the dinner table and the entrance to the kitchen. Compared to my library, the Apple family's house is quite open and inviting. The room opens up on the left of the short hallway. In it, two large lounge chairs corner a low lying stained wooden table. Opposite the far right lounge is another rocking chair. The room is decorated with a couple of paintings. On the two outer walls of the room, large windows sat open, allowing a cool breeze to gently waft through.
“That he is. I haven't seen a stallion work as hard as Big Mac in all my years on this farm,” replied the mare. “Now why don't I go and put a kettle on for us while you grab a seat.”
“Ok, sure,” I say as I make my way towards the far lounge, taking in the cool aesthetic of the room. I never get tired of the vividly landscapes captured on canvas; they really display the unfettered beauty that this region has. One only has to look out the window and take in the orchard, the vibrant green leaves dotted with splashes of colour that are the Apple family's namesake. I raise my voice so that my host can hear me in the kitchen, “So how is young Solid Core's life on the farm? Is he all settled in now?”
“Yeah he's really got in the swing of things now. Didn't take as long as I expected considering he isn't from a farming family,” answered Applejack loudly from the other room, her voice carries nicely down the hall. I hear the sound of the kettle whistling, followed by the eventual sound of a small trolley rolling down along the floor. Arriving in the lounge room, I levitate a cup over to my position and take a long smell of the fragrant drink. “I won't lie that I'm enjoying the time off that he allows me. It's not much, but it means that I'm not working as hard all the time.”
“Well I'm glad that you followed my advice and hired him,” I say conversationally before taking an experimental sip of my tea. It's still quite hot, so I place it on the nearby table.
“Well I couldn't very well turn him away, he needed a place to live. The fact that he was looking for work was simply a bonus,” replied Applejack, ever so slightly incredulous at the idea of turning away someone in need of assistance. “But enough about me, how are you and Spike handling the library? It's been awhile since I've seen the little guy.”
“Oh. Well. Um, he's doing okay.” I fumble out, a nervous giggle straining it's way out. To compensate I quickly grab my tea, a warm breeze mirroring my emotions and blending smoothly with the tea's heat flows over my forehead. I can sense Applejack looking at me, I guess now would be as good a time as any to address the situation. “Speaking of myself and the library, I received a letter from Princess Celestia yesterday.”
“Oh you did, what did she want?” interrupts my host, this is my last chance to stop, no I have to deal with this.
“I'm being recalled to Canterlot. My studies in friendship are over. I leave in a month.” I state bluntly. To say that my host was surprised would be an understatement, unlike Rarity she wasn't inclined to mask her emotions, honesty in all but name it would seem. “I've already talked to Rarity about it yesterday, we decided that it would be best if I talked to everypony about it as soon as possible. The apples are to help take Spike's mind off the whole situation.”
“Well I won't lie Twilight, I did not expect that one. Did the Princess give you a reason?” She asked following a brief, though awkward period of silence as my statement was processed.
“There was nothing in the letter, though I've considered sending a response asking for the reason. Admittedly I will still be returning regardless.”
“It just won't be the same around here without you Twilight. So much has been changing, not all at once but I've been noticing it a lot lately.”
“Still, it's not like we won't be friends anymore and we can still get together from time to time.” I suggest.
“Twi, don't kid yourself. You know how far it is to the capital, even by train and we both know how hard the Princess works you. Not to mention how hard you work yourself when nopony's around to pull you out of the library from time to time,” retorts Applejack. Her tendency to cut through to the core is making itself readily apparent. It was true though, I was just kidding myself. Even here in Ponyville I frequently find myself studying something for days on end before someone comes around to sort me out. Take that away and I'll likely just go from one topic to another, punctuated only by shopping and the occasional visit to the family.“Have you considered asking the Princess if you could leave her tutelage?”
“No I haven't considered it, nor will I entertain the thought. The Princess has given me the opportunity of a life time.” I replied, what I didn't say was that I could always make new friends later in life. Friends by their very nature were replaceable something that can obtained with some effort anywhere in life if you make the effort. Such a depressing thought even if it was true, but it raised another question. Were my friends more important than the opportunity of my dreams? The chance fulfil my insatiable hunger for knowledge under the guidance of the Princess?
“Well I trust you'll make the right choice when the time comes. Now let's go and grab you some apples.” Said Applejack a little dryly, she understood what this meant to me and how hard the situation was on me but couldn't help but feel that I was selling out so to speak. As we left the relaxing I can't help but feel that I could have handled the situation better. We walked into the orchard and located the section being bucked today. Solid Core was busy making his way through the trees towards us with a cart of apples attached. “Hey Core! Take a break for a while me and Twi here are going to take over for a bit.”
“You know I've never bucked a tree before don't you?” I ask the mare beside me as we approached the nearest tree laden with apples.
“I know, but perhaps you should give it a go. Consider it another memory. Besides it isn't that hard, just” stated Applejack as she turned to face me, raised her hind legs off the ground and “kick. Now you try. Go on it’s everyday a pony gets to buck one of the famous Apple family trees.”
“Okay, okay. I'll give it ago.” I say as I fend her off good-naturedly. I position myself in front of the adjacent tree before closing my eyes and taking a deep breath. Apples. The air smelt of fresh, crisp apples along with the earthen smell common on farms. As I raise my hind legs, I feel myself focusing. It's not everyday I buck something unless I'm in a hurry, surprisingly it feels harder aim the kick. My muscles bunch up as I tense, ready to unleash the pent-up force. I take in another breath, I am perfectly balanced and everything seems to stand still though I can't see the world though my closed eyes. The cool breeze is no longer, I feel the breeze on my face though it no longer calms me nor does it carry the local scents.
I kick back at the tree as hard as I can to try and make up for the lack of earth pony strength. I feel my hooves connect with the trunk of the tree, it is hard if only for a moment before I lower my legs to the ground. Opening my eyes I look around to see a dumbstruck Applejack, eyes glued to the tree behind me, I wonder how badly I did if she's that stunned. Turning around I feel the cool breeze again along with the scent of tree sap. What I see is unbelievable. There is no way that I could have done that. In front of me was the tree that I had tried to buck. Broken in half, the top half lying three metres away having been stopped by the next tree, the last tree having been hit hard enough that it had dropped its own apples. Something was very wrong here and I don't know what.
“I did this?” I ask nopony in particular. Applejack has snapped out of her brief shock and is looking at me strangely, or perhaps curiosity. Not that I'm surprised I had just kicked a tree in half, that wasn't something that happened everyday if ever.
“Perhaps you should send a letter to the Princess.” She suggested as she picked up some nearby apples from the newly felled tree and placed them in a sack and handing it to me. “Maybe she'll have some idea as to why you're suddenly as stronger than Big Mac.”
“I think I will, thank you for the apples and really I'm sorry about the tree. Would you mind not telling the others about my situation? I want to tell them myself.” I ask as I add the bag of apples to my already heavy saddle bag. Applejack waves off the apology with a hoof saying that there was no way I'd have known this would happen. I apologise anyway then bid farewell and start to make my way out of the orchard, leaving only mystery and destruction in my wake.
As I walked down the dusty road, saddle bags sitting heavy on my back, I pondered the events that had transpired at the orchard. They were curious at the very least and a cause for concern at the worst. I think the best course of action would be to research the phenomenon and if I my search should fail to produce results I’ll send a letter to the Princess. First things first though I need to get home and check on Spike before I get stuck into this research.
Suddenly I hear a rip and feel myself pitch forward, face planting. I hear someone call my name and made their way over to me as I started to get up, rubbing my hoof at the base of my horn. I look up at the pony that was just reaching my side now. It was Dr. Hooves the town doctor. I feel a little dizzy as I look at him and don't process much of what he said. I shake my head and the fuzziness clears and I look back to where I'd tripped and discovered that my saddle bag's harness had ripped, apparently the missing weight had cause me to over compensate and face plant. I know that I've had that bag for a long time but even so, I'm surprised it snapped under so little weight. I notice the good doctor trying to get my attention and focus back on him.
“Twilight, are you okay? You seemed to space out there for a moment.” pressed the doctor concern edging his voice.
“Yeah, um. Sorry about that I guess I hit my head a bit hard, I'm fine now though. Nothing feels broken or strained.” I replay as I shift and start to stand up, as soon as I do though I feel a wave of nausea and my vision swims. I open my eyes to find myself on the ground again. I lift my head before vomiting on the ground in front me.
“Twilight! Are you all right?” He asked rushing to my side as I collapsed on the ground again, “Looks like you might have a concussion, we need to get you to the hospital. Will you be all right if I go and get them to bring wagon.”
“No I'll be fine, I don't need to go the hospital. I've just had some minor head trauma, all you could prescribe me is bed rest. Which I can receive at home.” I stop to catch my breath before struggling to get to my feet. I'm successful this time, only swaying slightly as my body tries to re-orientate itself after the unexpected fall. “I appreciate your concern, but if you could just give me a hand back to my house that would be great.”
“But you really shoul-” Dr. Hooves started to object.
“I said no, I'll just pick up my bags,” I reply as I start to reach out for my broken saddle bags. My vision begins to swim and I have to shuffle to keep my balance, my bags remain on the ground. “Woah! Ok so maybe you should carry them for me, it would seem that the concussion is interfering with my ability to control my magic.”
The doctor gives me a worried, if reproachful look as he moves to collect the broken bag and sling it across his back. However as he picks the buckle strap he strains for several moments before releasing it.
“What have you got in there? I can't hardly lift it, not without breaking something that is”
“Well I picked up a few books from the post office, they were heavy didn't seem that heavy.”
“Twilight, I can't hardly lift that. Now I might not be the strongest earth pony around but still is exceedingly heavy. I'm rather interested in how you managed to pick that up let alone carry it,” stated the brown pony a look of concern and professional curiosity conflicting upon his face. What on earth is happening? I can only think that it must be connected to the strength my legs had when I bucked the tree. I think that a letter to the Princess might be in order sooner rather than later. I need to get home as soon as possible.
“Okay, well just grab the bag of apples from the left bag, I'll organise someone to collect it later.” I deflected smoothly. Sweet Celestia my head's pounding, I need to lie down. Get home. Send letter. Go to bed. I start walking once the doctor has found the apples. It doesn't take us long to reach the house, I fumble with the door handle before managing to open it. I thank the doctor and tell him that I'll come for a check-up just in case tomorrow. Once he left I find a scroll and pencil, normally I'd have had Spike take the letter but it would seem that he's gone out at some point. Picking the pencil up in my mouth thanks to my inability to use magic at the moment, I begin to outline the day's events in fairly neat mouth writing. It would seem that I still have the same knack for it that I did as a filly before my magic matured. When I finish I write a short note telling Spike to send the letter to the Princess when he gets home and place both on the table before heading up to my room. I lay down and instantly fall asleep, the stress of the recent events finally over taking my body.
Act 1 Chapter 3
Waking from my reverie I released a long slow breath creating a billowing white cloud in front me. At my feet lay the stone cold corpse of Rarity. My Rarity. I lowered my body to the floor next to the object of my affection, an object as cold as my heart. How did this happen, it wasn't supposed to end like this. I chose this path so that she would be spared, not left to lie on the frost laden floor of a castle dungeon. Had Celestia been wrong? Maybe she got the story wrong? I feel a couple tears starting to run down my face to freeze in long streaks. My left ear twitches as I sense something in the room with me, an impossible breeze blows through the room causing small particles of ice to whirl around. I feel the cool breeze of my magical mane whip around my face as the breeze intensifies, oh how I hate that mane. I hate what it represents, what once brought wonder and delight has turned to ashes in my mouth. The wind of the grey domain coalesced in the centre of the room, in the form of a pony. A pony made of light. I shouldn't be see it again, the contract had been fulfilled. Why was it here?
“I'm sorry Twilight.” Said the pony with an unmistakeable voice, a voice that I would recognise anywhere. A voice that had once comforted me and brought me joy. A voice that now represented only loss and pain. Rarity's voice.
My neck was stiff and cracked audibly as I sat up straight from the bench, I still have the bad habit of leaning in when I write. I take a deep breathe in the dimly lit study, the few candles casting flickering shadows on the rooms curved walls. The air smelt of dry parchment and melted wax, a sense of appeasement conflicting with the turmoil simmering just below the surface. Looking to my left Owlowicious was still diligently working his way through the reports, he would likely still be there until the wee hours of the morning even after the candles burnt out. Dropping my quill onto the bench I stretched my back and stood up, scattering a couple of stray reports that had fallen off the table at some point this evening. Bidding the owl goodnight I head off towards the bedroom, it's alluring call as effective as any siren's song. Spike was already in his bed, sound asleep when I reached the room so I tread lightly as I approached my bed.
As I lay in the bed my mind reviews the recent events. After my bad fall a week ago I had apologised to Dr. Hooves for my behaviour before throwing myself into the friendship report. Once again I found myself thinking back to the response that I had received from the Princess concerning the events at Sweet Apple Acres.
Dear Twilight Sparkle,
Concerning the events at Sweet Apple Acres, while certainly interesting I must ask you not to be concerned everything is under control. However don't hesitate to write me should any other similar phenomenon occur. As for this Grey Domain that you tell me you've been seeing in your dreams, I would ask you to not interact with anything from that place. I'm sure you have many questions, these must however wait for your return to the capital.
Yours truly, Princess Celestia.
It would seem that the Princess either knows or suspects what is happening to me, what is annoying is that the Princess withheld any information pertaining to the the events. In what free time I had, I've searched the library for any information related to the subject. But I haven't found anything. This is odd since the Princess clearly knows something, which means that she has been hiding something. Something that couldn't be written about in a book or scroll. However I can't bring myself to suspect the Princess of something so nefarious as censoring information like that. She's always taught me the value of freedom of speech and the right to learn. There is no way she would do something like this. I feel myself drift into soft embrace of sleep, comforted by my rationalisations.
I open my eyes as I rise from a dreamless slumber, a sense of restoration and peace radiates from within. My heart seems to stop beating as I notice that the entire room is grey. Completely devoid of colour, in a manner not unlike. I pause as my mind staggers from the implications. In a manner not unlike the Grey Domain, the place where I first met the pony made of light. I feel the cool nothingness of the Domain's mysterious wind breeze across my body. I leave the comfort of my bed and quickly head down stairs in search of Spike. I find him in the kitchen preparing the morning oatmeal porridge. Hearing my approach he looks up from the stove to presumably bid me a good morning. I'll never know for sure if that was his intent though as he stands there, a dumbfounded expression on his face. This only lasts a moment as he speaks.
“Twilight!” He exclaims when he looks at me, “You're glowing!”
“What do you mean I'm glowing?” I ask him in return, “Are my legs made of light? Does everything look grey and colourless to you?”
“No it's not your legs, it's your eyes. They're completely white, like those times you've lost control of your magic. And what do you mean about the room? It seems fine to me.” He answers, I can see that he's very confused and not a little bit worried. It's not very often that I've lost control of my magic or tapped into a source strong enough to empower to such a level. But what does this mean? Spike isn't seeing the same thing as me, or rather I'm not seeing the same thing as him. While they could be unrelated I'm thinking the eyes and my altered vision are connected.
This is just another thing to add to the list of things to ask the Princess about. I feel a pressure building behind my eyes and I shut them in response. I suddenly feel very light headed and open my eyes to find myself on the floor. I feel the cool smoothness of the tree-house’s floor against the side of my face, small specks of dirt press against my cheek. We really need to give the house a good clean soon. My mental tangent is interrupted by Spike reaching my side. I'm surprised at how differently time flows in these sorts of events. I opened my eyes and it felt like it'd been hours and yet it could have taken Spike no more that twenty seconds to reach me. One thing I notice is that the world is no longer grey but has returned to it's natural state. Except that something seems off, though I can't place my hoof upon before Spike kneels down beside me. Focusing in on his purple and green form, I noticed for the first time just how sleek and shiny they are. I barely notice the corners of my vision narrowing as I look deeper at the young dragons scales. My eyes pierce through the scales and I find myself delving through the atomic structure of his toughened leathery under skin. Before I realise it I pass the skin and reach the inner workings of the body; individual blood cells rush by me in transparent vessels and electrical charges zip past along the spidery network of nerves. Acting on what would appear to be instinct I feel my gaze travel up along the body until I reach the heart; it's constant beating happening in relative slow motion. Flexing, relaxing, flexing, relaxing. Over and over in a never ending cycle as the body shuffles along it's mortal coil. Closer and closer I go, into the gaps between atoms, into the gap between one second and the next. Then I see it. A slowly growing light shining brightly at the centre of Spike's being. I approach the light, it slowly growing as I move closer. Inevitably I reach the light, for the lack of a better phrase I find myself standing on the precipice of a mysterious new land. Despite lacking any apparent physical form I reach out and touch the light. Causing a gap to flash open, perhaps a better term would be portal seeing how as the place I find myself viewing is impossible. I step through the mysterious portal and into the light, into an impossible room. Standing in the middle of the room, facing me is a pony. A pony made of light.
To say that I'm shocked is an understatement of the greatest magnitude. Unlike every other time I've met this pony however, the world is not drained of all colour. Neither is the being partially coloured in like was the last time I saw it. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that it is not the same entity; related perhaps but different altogether. All other thoughts in my mind cease however, when the pony begins to speak. From it's mouth comes no words, for to call such a thing would be sorely lacking and disturbingly inaccurate. What comes forth from it's mouth was both the most beautiful and the most horrifying thing I've ever heard in my life. It is the sound of life and of death. Of growth and of decay. Even as the soaring melodies lighten my heart so to does the dripping, disjointed bass undertones make it shrivel and fracture. It is the voice of a god.
“Greetings Chosen.” sang the pony, “Has it been so long already? I only just gave your predecessor my condolences. The fact that you're here means that you've reached the second stage. I'm sure that you must have many questions but it is not my place to answer them.”
“Chosen? What are you talking about?” I ask all to eagerly despite the ponies statement, a thousand questions whirl through my mind. “Where am I? What are you and why am I changing? What am I becoming?
“You are just as curious as your predecessors, though they all ask the same questions.” replied the creature that could only be a deity, “I shall answer what I can, though my previous statement stands. There are some things I will not divulge, I trust this will be satisfactory.”
I breathe out and realise that I've been holding my breathe since I started this incredible journey. I consider sitting down and find myself suddenly reclining on a comfy lounge chair the colour and text a crystal clear ocean. I focus my attention back on the pony, an inquisitive expression settling on my face.
“First of all, you are the chosen avatar of a primal force though I may not divulge which one. Only those that made the pact may inform the Chosen. As to where you are, you are in what you would consider to be the soul of your ward Spike. This is his most honest and intimate part of him, it reflects his nature, desires, loves, fears or anything of significant enough value to him. The appearance however is simply your mind's way of interpreting it, if you saw it the way we do it is likely you would go insane. Though considering what you have to look forward to it might be a blessing. As to what I am, I am a primal force of the universe. I am the spirit of Gaia, I am life and death. I am the one that controls all nature everywhere. I am not alone however, there are a few other primal forces that govern mechanics of the universe, some more directly than others. Do you have any other questions for me Chosen?”
“Just one.” I find myself reeling from this new information, it answers some questions but leaves even more to be answered. But there is only one that want ask this Gaia. “Why me?”
“Because you were born to die, the living sacrifice whose blood would renew the pact's fading ink.” Replied Gaia, her form beginning to dissipate slowly. “I must go now. Trust me when I say that you will have your answers soon, but shall wish you had not received them. The next time I will see will be in the Fields of Eternity. I would wish you peace and prosperity, but the Chosen never receive any. Until the next time Chosen.”
At which point the last motes of shining energy flickered out of existence, leaving me alone in Spike's soul room. Although curious I feel that I should leave, it wouldn't be right to invade some ponies privacy like that. As I turn to leave the room, I notice a small desk in the middle of the room. Two large precious stones at rest on the lacquered surface. One white with veins of blue scattered sparingly throughout; and the other purple fading to pink. They both shone brilliantly in the ever present light, filling my heart with a warm maternal happiness I did not often feel. As I start to leave the room I feel an intense pressure behind my 'eyes' and I attempt to blink away the pain. Opening my eyes, Spike is reaching out to lift my head off the floor. I feel the breath that had started to release when I was in the room fully leave my lungs. For a moment I begin to panic as my lungs appear to fail in their duty, I blink again and my lungs start to inhale. I'm losing my grip on reality, I'm beginning to think that this return to Canterlot is well timed. Perhaps a little too well timed.
Struggling to my feet I inform Spike that I'm going out for the morning, much to his consternation.
I leave the old tree-house, my bowl of porridge sitting forgotten on the bench eventually going cold. I wander through the town without aim or goal, occasionally stopping to observe something of interest. Pegasi busily zip across the sky pushing clouds into their prescribed positions. It would seem that a lot of cloud cover was scheduled today. I am getting tired of this new vision, every time I focus on something I find myself examining it on the sub-atomic layer. Nonetheless I feel that I am slowly making progress, I am slowly starting to get the hang of this new skill.
I look up and find myself near Fluttershy's cottage, I'm not surprised really. Aside from my library, the Canterlot archives and Princess Celestia's side, the cottage is one of my favourite places to relax. It is situated just close enough to the Everfree forest that the flora and fauna surrounding the cottage is more diverse and vivid than anywhere else in the region, without the danger of the forest itself. A cool breeze stirs some loose leaves on the ground, causing them to float across the path in front of me. The occasional animal call fills the calming breeze with a natural ambience that complements the rustling of the trees. Although my vision doesn't zoom in, I nonetheless notice that everything appears more detailed and vibrant. I can't imagine living with out this level of detail, how did I not notice the sheer beauty and magnificence that even something as simple a dead leaf held. My thoughts are interrupted by the appearance of the shy pegasus herself from a nearby section of forestation, a young blue jay resting on her back. Her beautifully natural butter coloured coat brushes by and catches on errant branches and leaves. The gentle breeze gently caresses the ever graceful flowing mane giving it an air quality as the individual strands floated apart. Her emerald eyes flicker around as she navigates the brush, her ward safely stows between her wings. Eventually reaching the path on which I am situated, she looks up in surprise as she notices me and trots over to meet me, I do the same.
“Twilight, are you all right?” she asked the common waver of concern clearly evident in her soft melodious voice, “You look a bit worn out, has something happened?”
“Sort of Fluttershy. It's all very odd, I' very confused at the moment and the Princess is refusing to give me any information that might help.” I reply, the tones of weariness and mortal curiosity stirring up my words in unique ways that will never be heard again. I'm finding that I am noticing appreciating the strangest things now, I can only put this down to my physiological changes and for all I know neurological changes as well.
“Oh, well that's not good. Would you like to come inside for a bit and talk about it?” offered Fluttershy, her piercing emerald eyes now firmly focused on me. “I need to tend to this young one's wing, it would seem he fell out of the nest when learning to fly.”
“Sure, that sound great.” I answer, layers of stress already flaking off my conciousness in a slow painstaking fashion. “There's something I need to tell you anyway.”
We begin the walk up to the cottage, the local foliage slowly thinning as we neared the homely domicile. The old wood walls stand in perfect harmony with the unbridled nature around it. Birds flicker around the area, filling the air with their intermittent melodies. I can hear the buzzing of dragonflies in the nearby pond along with the occasional splash of a fish breaching the surface in search of food. The heavy cloud cover casting a dim light over the whole scene, working with the gentle breeze to give it a cool aesthetic. My observations are brought to an abrupt stop as we reach the door and my host opening it. I'm invited in and so lead the way into the small yet spacious living room.
The room is sparsely decorated save for some perches and other animal related objects along with a smattering of pony furniture. On a small wooden table sits a beautiful stone vase, in which sits three snow white lilies. I can see a couple of window sill gardens, each one brimming with seasonal flowers. To my right as I enter, a two picture frames graces the otherwise featureless wall. One is aged, it's wooden frame nicked and yellowing; the other relatively new and made of a simple yet elegant wire frame, it's copper burnish dully catching what little light has filtered into the house. The first frame holds a picture of Fluttershy's parents, she doesn't talk about them often nor have I ever been privy to familial situation. The second frame houses a picture of the six of us all grouped together, I still remember the day we had that picture taken. Before I have a chance to reminisce however, I turn my attention back to my quite host who is even now finishing up with the young bird.
“Um, I wasn't really expecting any visitors today. So I don't have much to offer you, I'm sorry.” Fluttershy apologises, legitimate concern flavouring speech. “How about some tea? Rarity just gave me some green tea to try.”
“That sounds perfect. I've read a bit about green tea.” I reply as Fluttershy makes her way into the small kitchen to prepare the steaming beverage. “It's much weaker than most other blends of tea but is apparently quite relaxing.”
“Well I don't know about all that, but apparently it is the latest fashion in Canterlot at the moment.” Fluttershy responds conversationally. She finishes up in the kitchen and returns to the living room, a tray with two fired clay mugs resting on top. The faint aroma of the tea wafts gently on the breeze, helping to stabilise a calm and friendly atmosphere. I accept my cup and grasp it with my magic, the familiar phantom breeze emanating from my horn. The mug is old and well use, she must have bought it when she first moved down to Ponyville. The mug reminds me of all the things that I'll be leaving behind when I leave for Canterlot. Of all the things that have become a part of my life over time, but which can no longer accompany me. I lift the drink and take a short sip to gauge th temperature of the water. Still too hot to drink, might have to wait a couple of minutes. I turn my attention to my host who is sitting patiently on a chair, I locate the nearest one and take a seat once I realise my error. Seeing that I'm paying attention, Fluttershy breaks the silence.
“So what was it that you wanted to talk to me about Twilight?” she asked in her usual soft caring fashion.
“The other day, I received a letter from Princess Celestia. She has informed me that I will be returning to Canterlot at the end of the month. My time in Ponyville is finally over and so are my studies in friendship, nor am I to remain as the resident librarian.” Not surprisingly, she is quite stunned by the news and doesn't reply immediately. I decide it is just better to wait for her to collect her thoughts. I take a drink from my tea, much better. It would seem that shock is the standard response, I guess I'm just expecting it now. Though I wonder how Rainbow and Pinkie will react, they are the most excitable of the group. But in saying that I still can't believe that in a few short weeks I'll be leaving both my life and my friends behind. I must admit though that I am concerned about what's happening to me. Returning to that capital will at least allow me to get some answers, then I might be able settle into my new life. I slide out of my introspection as Fluttershy starts to speak again.
“That's terrible news Twilight, have you talked to anypony else about this yet?” asks Fluttershy.
“So far I've told Rarity and Applejack. Both of them took it pretty well, but I can tell that Applejack is a little hurt that I'm choosing my studies over our friendship.”
“I guess I hadn't given any thought to that. But you need to do what's best for you, besides you moving away won't make us any less friends.”
“You're right, of course. But I can't help but feels sad about uprooting my life here with you all. I know I've only been here for a couple of years but this is my home now. I can't imagine living anywhere but Ponyville.
“Twilight, sometimes it's just time to move on. Just like how I'm nursing this blue jay back to health. In a week I'll return it to it's nest where it'll learn to fly and eventually leave it's nest. Well, that's what I think anyway.” stutters Fluttershy as she responds to my doubts. Perhaps she's right though, everything changes. Nothing ever stays the same forever as I well know. If my studies in friendship have taught me nothing else, it's that there is always something new around the corner. Besides, I'm not the same person I was when I arrived in Ponyville. I found friendship and have learnt so many things, so perhaps it won't be as bad as I'm making it out to be.
“I think you might be right. I guess I hadn't looked at it that way before. I've just been so afraid of going back to my old way of life that I forgot to look on the bright side of things.”
“Well, um. It's not that I won't miss you Twilight, we all will. You're a part of our lives now, to lose you is to lose a vital part of ourselves. But we can't stand in the way of your duty and desires, that wouldn't be right.” replies Fluttershy as I take another drink from my tea. As I begin to lower the mug to the small table, I feel a sharp pain behind my eyes that travels up through the base of my horn. This unexpected experience causes me to release my magical grasp, causing the old clay mug to shatter on the floor. I rub my fore head with my hoof, trying to alleviate the residual pain. After a moment I realise that I broke Fluttershy's mug. Fluttershy who is at the moment torn between wanting to help me after seeing the apparently obvious look of pain on my face and anguish at he loss of the mug. Her pain reminds me of the small things that I'll be leaving behind when I leave. But these thoughts are fleeting as I consider the possibility of a new symptom of my condition developing. If I can kick down a mature apple tree, who knows what could happen and I don't want Fluttershy caught up in this. Especially as I don't any clue about what's happening myself.
I apologise to my host profusely before quickly leaving the host, any sense of restoration shackled down by the chains of fear and anticipation. I canter down the path, my eyes welded shut as the pain flares back again. For fear of hitting someone I cast a quick teleportation spell, not even thinking about a destination. With my eyes shut I feel the breeze that accompanies my magic, but it feels odd. It lacks any kind of heat or coolness, it feels grey. I barely have time to register this as I feel myself slip out of existence and back in again.
I open my eyes as the pain finally recedes, bringing with it much needed relief. The first thing I notice is the face of Rainbow Dash not five inches from mine. The second thing that I notice is that I am currently falling out of the sky. I scream.
I want to apologise to anyone following this story, I am well aware how long it's been since my last chapter. I'm just not that good at writing when I'm not in the mood, call it writers block, procrastination. Call it whatever you like, I none the less want to say sorry for not writing faster. I hope you liked the latest chapter, some feedback would be lovely.
As a child I've grown up mostly around unicorns. My parents are unicorns, the children at my school were unicorns and the librarians at my local library were unicorns. But that didn't mean that I was oblivious to the other breeds of pony. In my youth I was particularly fascinated with the pegasi, in the periods when I didn't have my head in a book otherwise occupied. Unlike the earth ponies they had a sense of grace, wonder and mystery. It was always a joy to see them soaring through the sky or arranging the weather for the day. As an earth bound pony, it was the inevitable dream of mine to one day fly through the sky. To feel the sun on my back and the wind in my mane with not a care to tether me to the ground. Needless to say I quickly realised the silly nature of such a desire and directed my focus to my other studies.
However as I fell through the clouds, the wind whipping my mane and tail around, all I could think of was the ground rushing to reclaim me. The startled form of Rainbow Dash flaps on the spot next to where I'd appeared. By the time she snaps back to reality I've already fallen for a good five or ten seconds. I'm quickly picking up speed as gravity rushes to return me to my place on the ground, I am still screaming. I see the blue form above me drop into a steep dive heading straight for me, her wings pumping hard. In less than ten seconds flat she's positioned herself below me, trying to halt my rapid decent. We start to slow down but the weight of another full grown mare is proving to much for my rainbow manned friend to negate. I watch with a horrified expression etched onto my face as I finally land in the earth's rigid embrace. The sound of snapping bones fills my ears.
As I lie on the ground, broken limbs sending white hot waves of pain along my nerves. I find myself thinking back to the seconds before the impact, when I snapped out of panic mode and time stopped. All of a sudden everything became crystal clear, I noticed every detail. I counted the hairs on Rainbow's head and the leaves on the tree twenty metres away. I new how fast we were going and that if I didn't do something Rainbow would die, crushed underneath me as my body continued under speed. I readied a teleport spell, but I didn't have time to enlarge it to take the two of us. But that was okay, for some reason I felt that I would survive this. The second finally began to slip out of my grasp as my spell flickered brilliantly to life and out again as crashed into the ground directly below where Rainbow Dash had been not a second before. I feel a breeze flutter across my body before darkness replaces my vision.
Lights strobe in front of my eye lids, the dancing spots causing mild pain at the back of my eyes. I lift my leg to shield my face from the lights, it works so I open my eyes. A grey cloudless sky stretched into eternity above me, I am in the Grey Domain once more. I sit up, my leg still sheltering my vision. The odd texture of the grey grass briefly captures my attention as I cause it to rustle when I sit up. But only for a brief moment as I look towards the source of the bright light, which has now disappeared. Standing before was of course the pony of light, his form still an eclectic assembly of light and purple. My own sections of light cast a dim glow the same as the entity before me. The thought occurs to me that I am the reverse of the being before me, where it is made of light I am made of flesh and bone covered by a purple coat. That would then suggest that I am becoming a creature of light, a primal force, at least in part. An interesting notion, one that I raises questions for which I haven't an answer. My attention is quickly grabbed by the pony before me speaking. The sound is like a scent on the breeze, light and fleeting but at the same time powerful and permeating everything.
“The time is growing ever nearer Twilight. As you can see the transformation is well under way, though there is much I still need to do. Revel in my gifts and know no fear, for you are my chosen. The Eternal Sun will guide you through the final stages, but now you must awaken.” says the primal being, it's sudden shift from silent observation to verbal communication surprising me. As it speaks the last sentence I find myself opening my eyes.
The heart monitor continues it's vigilance, that single monotone sound filling my world even as I lie on the hospital bed. I find myself staring up at an unfamiliar ceiling one again. The dim light fixture on the ceiling flickering at seemingly random intervals. The white painted ceiling fills my world, the world populated only by the regular beep of the my ever vigilant sentinel. Slowly other sounds begin to filter into my own private sphere of conciousness. Nurses walking up and down the hall. A baby starting to cry. A pony sleeping soundly. Another sobbing, deep racking sounds the betray a repeat event.
These last two are close by, in the room perhaps. That makes sense. That is logical. I tear myself from the new plane of existence I had created for myself and turn my head to the right. Kneeling on the floor, her head resting on the bed. Tears running from her eyes to land silently on the generic cream bed covers, is Rainbow Dash. Her mane is unkempt as usual, but the situation lends her look a tone of self-neglect, emphasising the overall emotions of pain, sadness and failure.
Sleeping on the small couch set against the wall, lies the pristine form of Rarity. Her mane showing signs of neglect, though this is more likely due to the lack of equipment required to maintain it than out of lack of interest. Returning my gaze to the distressed pegasus, I try to speak. However, my mouth is locked by a brace. This realisation makes me deduce that I had not broken my neck in the fall and also that I am currently on strong pain medication if I am not feeling anything. I feel my eye lids begin to get heavy, I won't be able stay awake for much longer. The cool breeze of my magic washes over my head and down my torso as I prepare the spell in my mind. In the back of my mind I notice something different about my magical discharge, something uncontrolled. Then I finish and release the spell from my horn, a low glow emanating from it's tip all the way down to the base. With the link established I start to speak in my mind.
“I forgive you Rain-” I think as my mind is slowly pulled back under by the darkness. The words speak themselves into Rainbow's mind even as I say them, my eyes already shut as I drift back to an artificial sleep.
Darkness. Never ending. All encompassing. Darkness. I feel myself floating aimlessly in this empty void. Where am I?
“You're in your mind” I hear myself whisper. Why am I here? “You're here because you want answers.”
As I float there I consider the situation. I am in a void created by my subconscious, ostensibly because I want answers. But if this is my mind, then can I create other things here also? An interesting proposition, it would make sense but in saying that I am in a world not governed by sense. I decide to test this concept and imagine a solid surface beneath my feet. No longer an I floating, I find myself standing on a hard floor of unknown material. I can't see anything, I need light. And there was. High above me is a bright sun, it's light ridding the void of it's black nothingness. I can now see forever in each direction, just a white surface under a white sky for as far as the eye can see. But like the void, the sight of a never ending horizon is extremely disconcerting, I need to create an enclosed space. Around me the tree that I call home materialises, as though it had never not been there. However there is one last thing I need, a companion. I wonder if I can create something that complex. Maybe I can't, but perhaps I can copy something that complex.
Walking outside, I marvel at the sheer grandeur of this empty world. Unlike the fake, virtual world that was created when I work up. A world based in one reality but separate from it. This is a completely realised, blank surface on which life can be created. I reach a spot several meters from the house and remain facing away from it. Kneeling down with one leg I place my horn against the ground before standing back up straight. As I do so, a plane of mirror glass rises ever showing my reflection.
Staring at the image I realise just how much I've begun to change. My legs are longer, slimmer, more like the princesses. So to is my body my akin the royal physique, though it is by no standard the same. It is clear to me that I am changing, growing, into the almost unique forms of the three princesses. I can only image the changes that are still taking place and those that are yet to begin. The only question remaining is the reason for these changes. The spirit of Gaia alluded to an ancient pact, one that Celestia would have knowledge of. I decide to shelve these thoughts for later as I shatter the glass with a touch of my horn. Behind the now broken pane, stands my reflection.
“You are Dawn Glow, for you are made in my image.” I speak to pony before me.
“I am Dawn Glow. I am made in your image.” It replies in a monotone voice, completely devoid of emotion and personality. You could almost be tricked into thinking that it was a real pony. It's eyes begin to explore it's surroundings, this doesn't take long considering the circumstances. Finally it looks at me again, it's blank stare taking in every inch of my body. It tilts it's head to one side, hair hanging limply in the still air before speaking again. “Mummy?”
To say that I am shocked would be to state the blatantly obvious. This is odd, but not an unreasonable result. Dawn is an image of myself, but an image is not a perfect copy. It lacks the memories and knowledge stored within me, it is a perfectly reasonable deduction that it would assume me to be it's mother. In addition, it is possible that it was partially aware during it's creation given my intent and the nature of the process used. If that is the case then it could have potentially perceived me and imprinted. But none of this matters, what can matter in a world of dreams.
“Yes Dawn. I am you mother, now let's go inside and find something to eat.”
“Okay.” It replies cheerily as it follows me into the imitation tree house.
I sit it down at the table and wander into the kitchen, taking food and plates out of the various cupboards as I go. I think a simple daffodil sandwich with some orange juice will be fine. I quickly prepare the two sandwiches and take them out to the table. Where I find it eating the table cloth, I sigh as I place my hoof on my face. For it's part, Dawn just turns to look at me, the cloth spread before her leading up to her mouth. Why am I surprised. Release the food from my magical grasp, placing it on the table before extracting the table cloth from my images mouth. The corner is damp with saliva, gross. At least we're in a dream world, I can just conjure up another. I apply some thought and the next instant the table is covered once more by a red and white checked cloth.
“You silly filly, you're not supposed to eat that.” I say as I magic the image's sandwich in front of her. I take my own as I sit down, taking a bite while ensuring that it sees me. I savour the flavours, it's strange. The daffodils don't taste like daffodils, they taste like chocolate coated strawberries. But then again I did feel like some strawberries. Perhaps my imagination is shaping reality even as I perceive it. I wonder if there are any other changes I haven't noticed?
I finish my meal and help Dawn finish it's own before cleaning everything up. It's education time. If this is a dream world, I shouldn't need to sleep and if I don't need to sleep in conjunction with a completely malleable world. I can do any experiment I've ever wanted, but first I need to bring my reflection up to speed. This is a dream after all, I have all the time in the world.
Daily Diary Entry 15
Education is going well. Dawn has shown an appetite for knowledge like myself. I predict that within one year we'll be able to cover most of my previous education. After all who better to explain everything than your better half? I've also noticed Dawn developing more of a personality, it makes sense, she's already an adult in form so he mind's trying to catch up.
Daily Diary Entry 30
I've come to like having Dawn around, she fell over a rock today while out walking. I've never comforted someone like that. I wonder if my mum felt like this?
Daily Diary Entry 350
We've finished advanced Biology and review the basics. Knowledge retention hasn't proved an issue as I thought it might. Dawn has been acting strange over the last couple of weeks, I thought that being my reflection she'd be like me. But aside from a hunger for knowledge, she is a completely different person. I still can't believe I created it.
Daily Diary Entry 475
She seems to be going through the stages of emotional growth as normal. I estimate that within the next two years she'll be well into her mid teens emotionally. Dawn wrote a poem for me today, it's nice to see her learning things on her own. I pinned the poem on the message board, she seemed happy.
Daily Diary Entry 890
I caught Dawn touching herself this morning. I'm not sure what this means. She's not a real mare, just my reflection. I can't help but feel uneasy around her when we're reading.
Daily Diary Entry 1125
Dawn yelled at me today while we were testing the effects of extreme heat on various heavy metals. I'm getting concerned. She seems so frustrated, I hear her crying in bed sometimes. I just don't know what to do.
Daily Diary Entry 1300
Dawn has run away. I don't know where, with all the various environments I've imaged she could be anywhere. It started when she kissed me this evening while we were lying next to each other reading some fiction novels I'd remembered and conjured up. I shoved her away, yelled at her. I told her we can't do that sort of thing, a daughter shouldn't kiss her mother. She ran away in tears. I can still feel the warmth of her mouth, I can't stop thinking about it. I'm a terrible mother.
Daily Diary Entry 2000
I've given up searching my dream land for Dawn. She's somewhere out in the endless wilderness I've created over time, all alone. I still regret how I reacted to her kiss.
Daily Diary Entry 2550
Today my daughter marshalled an army of dream beasts and declared her intent before charging across the dust plains of the east. Although extensive, Dawn's knowledge is nothing compared to mine. Her creations are ramshackle and primal, though nonetheless ferocious. But this is my world to control and dispose of the legion with ease. I ask her why she doesn't come home. She says she can't stand the sight of my face any more, before teleporting to a place unknown.
Daily Diary Entry 3000
I grow weary of this world. I spend most the time perfecting my ecosystem, it's rather like being a god. But I am no god, to marred by imperfection. My greatest success is also my greatest failure. I know I could destroy everything in the world and find Dawn. But she deserves the right to live, it's been a long time since I've though of her as an object, just a figment of my imagination. I shan't resist should she return, I simply await the end of this living hell.
Daily Diary Entry 4000
This is my last entry. Dawn has granted me this last request before I hang. She is no longer my daughter in appearance, I don't know what she is any more. I pray to Celestia that she finds happiness where I've known none for so long. I love you Dawn.
I feel the harsh caress of the noose around my neck, the course wood of the hastily constructed gallows. Dawn Glow's minions gather before it, they've evolved significantly since I last saw them. Given time they could very well become a modern society like the ponies of Equestria. The Sun glares down, covering the gathering in a summer's warmth.
“Any last words Mother?” Spits Dawn Glow, her spite and hatred writhing visibly from her body.
“I love you and always will, my little ray of sunshine.” I whisper so only she can hear. I feel the noose tighten around my neck. Nearby a bird calls to it's mate, receiving a reply in turn. Beyond the legion of dreams I see the fields of poppies swaying in the wind. I would not wish godhood on anyone, not even my worst enemy. The floor drops away from my feet.
The world crumbles around me as everything is consumed by the darkness from whence it came.
I open my eyes to see a familiar ceiling. A deep breath releases from my lungs before drawing a new one back in. I feel a tear run down my cheek, a feeling pained loss seated deep in my heart though I know not why. I repeat this a number of times before I voice interrupts the cycle.
“Twilight! You're awake!” says the surprised voice of Rainbow Dash, who promptly drops the cup of coffee she had apparently been holding when she entered the room, as she rushed over and hugged me. The embrace was tight, I let out an audible squeak of pain. My assailant quickly disengages and takes a step back, a pained expression on her face. “Oh Twilight I'm so sorry! I forgot!”
“That's okay Rainbow, I forgive you.” I reply as I wipe away the tears, before I realise that the brace that had prohibited my speaking the first time I woke up was gone. “How long have I been asleep for?”
“About six days now, the doctors are surprised that you are even alive. That fall should have killed you, should have killed us both.” stated Rainbow Dash, a pained expression still returning once more. Head looking down at the floor, she says quietly “I'm sorry, I should have been able to save the both of us. But I couldn't even save myself.”
“I already said I forgive you and I'll say it over and over again till you forgive yourself.” I reassured the young mare. At which point the ever beautiful form of Rarity walked in followed by my other three friends. I prepare myself for the chorus of surprise, sympathy and get well wishes along with the inevitable hugs. I provide the requisite replies, hugging in return, reassuring those that need it and just generally playing the part. We all have roles to play, nothing can change that, whether we to or not.
Eventually everyone decided to leave when a doctor came in to check up on me. I asked Rainbow Dash to stay behind, I still needed to talk to her about my living situation. And I suspected more reassurance concerning the indecent.
I talked to the doctor and he explained to me that the fall should have killed me. From the estimated height from which I'd fallen, then landing on open ground, I broke my back in several places. This in addition to several ribs, the back of my head and my pelvis. Not to mention the damage done to my internal organs and circulatory system. Quite frankly, he stated that I am a medical mystery, nay a medical impossibility. He went on to inform me about the rapid repair of my injuries and the physiological enhancements that I have been slowly receiving. Noting my earth pony like musculature and slightly enlarged form. I was patient as he explained all this, waiting till the end to tell him that I understand and that everything is under control. After which her left, leaving me alone in the room with Rainbow Dash. The tension was palpable. I decide to speak first.
“How are you feeling?” I ask quietly. The question hangs in the air, pregnant with anticipation.
“I don't know Twilight. I still feel like I let you down, like I failed you. I've hardly slept since the incident. Every time I close my eyes, I still see you smashing into the ground. Your limp body bouncing back into the air a short distance. I can still hear the sickening crunch, you have no idea how horrible it was to watch.” she replied, tears held up in the hollow expression etched on her face. A cool breeze floats in form the open window, Rainbow's mane lifts up around the edges. It is a hauntingly beautiful scene. One eclipsed by pain that beget it.
I gesture for her to come closer to the bed, arms out to give her a hug. We embrace once more, I stroke the back of her ever messy mane, whispering sweet nothings in her ear. I remind her of the good she's done, the memories we've collected and the friendship we hold. Eventually she leaves the embrace and returns to standing beside the bed. Now is the time for me to tell her.
“Rainbow, you feeling better now?”
“Yes, thank you for talking to me about it.”
“That's ok, but I asked you to stay back for another reason.”
“You did? What's the matter?”
“Recently I received a letter from Princess Celestia. She told me that I am finished my studies in friendship and will be returning to Canterlot to pursue another field of study. I only have about two weeks left before I leave. This may seem unfair, but the Princess has something extremely important in store, I understand that now.”
“You're leaving Ponyville?
“For how long?”
“I already said. I will be staying there until I am re-assigned or leave the Princess' tutelage.”
“I've got to go.” said Rainbow Dash and with that she flew out the window, leaving me alone in the room. I close my eyes and try to relax in the breeze. As I do so, I try to remember the strange dream I had while under the anaesthetic. But all I can see is a fuzzy image my reflection, for some reason I find myself saddened by the imagery.
Now I just need to tell Pinkie.