20w, 2dHarmony on the Winds 3 comments · 77 views
34w, 1dTalk about a long time! 5 comments · 74 views
69w, 5dHeadcanon Updates 2 comments · 119 views
82w, 6hTaking Lots of Time 3 comments · 52 views
106w, 2dBreak Time is Over! 0 comments · 73 views
107w, 6dReaching the Mid-Way Point 1 comments · 57 views
111w, 5dOnward to Chapter 5! 1 comments · 54 views
112w, 6dStudies of a Bookworm 1 comments · 55 views
113w, 2hChapter 4 and History of Equestria 0 comments · 53 views
113w, 11hOn the FINAL subject of Chapter 3 0 comments · 49 views
Twilight looked so, so much more rested after a very, very long night's sleep, her friends staying by her side through it all until morning.
The lavender Unicorn was the first to wake out of all of them, her dreary and well-rested eyes blinking open only to see that Spike, Rarity and Applejack were settled in around her, all of them seeming to be sharing a comfortable and plush mattress, no doubt from Rarity's storage.
It wasn't until Twilight stepped off the side of it in her still-sleepy stupor and fell to the floor with a resounding thud that she realized they were in Rarity's bed, and not on the floor.
They all awoke with an assortment of grumbles and utterances of various forms of gibberish, the five that weren't currently faceplanted on the floor looking between one another in confusion until they all settled their eyes on Twilight.
With Twilight's rump in the air, head mashed into the wooden floor and legs kicking impotently in the air behind her to try and right herself, Pinkie Pie couldn't help but fall into a raucous laughter at the cost of her friend's dignity. Soon the others joined in on the laughter, and it was only when Twilight managed to get herself flopped over onto her side and back up on her feet that she rubbed her face to try and soothe the pain away from the initial impact.
"How'd I end up in this bed....?" Twilight asked with a pained groan.
Rarity's dainty laugh stopped rather quickly as a yawn overtook her. It proved contagious, and soon they were all yawning in much the same way, the six ponies all getting up out of their respected sleeping spots and stretching themselves out. Rarity once more tried to speak, now that her own body wasn't rebelling against her need to answer Twilight's question.
"WELL, darling, first you nodded off while we were all conversing with one another. Then you started to doze off once again while we were having a pillow fight!"
"Yeah, it was kinda funny watching you just fall over from taking a pillow to the face like that!" Spike chimed in, the green spines atop his head just barely visible from over the end of the bed.
"Ah-HEM! One must never interrupt a lady, Spike!" Rarity said, chastising the blushing dragon.
"Basically Twi', we saw ya were mighty tired, so Rarity loaded ya on Rainbow's back an' we put ya to bed," Applejack said, since Rarity felt it more imperative to scold Spike than finish what she had to say. "Plus, there wasn't much room, so ya had to share the bed."
"Yes, well, my bedroom WAS built to my preferences," Rarity said, examining her mane for a moment and frowning. "Excuse me, but I have a fashion emergency I simply MUST take care of!"
Clearly Rarity had slept on the wrong side, because her mane had managed to both curl up even more than it already did, as well as flattening out halfway through one-half of it. As Rarity went to work on her hair, Twilight observed with no small amount of awe.
For Twilight, her usual morning routine involved some brushing to straighten out her mane and tail after a good night's rest or no rest at all, in her case most of the time. Combine that with breakfast followed by a thorough brushing of her teeth and she was set.
Rarity, however, seemed to turn such a simple wake-up activity into the most vain of chores, the fashionista using her magic to produce three brushes of varying sizes and three different levels of thickness for the bristles in each brush. Each of the brushes went straight along her mane in rows, each brush following the other in a perfect and constant straight pattern, forcing every little knot and unwanted loose or split end to cooperate and fall into place as she desired it.
Considering what other options they all had instead of watching and waiting for Rarity to finish doing her hair, they all headed downstairs and into her kitchen. Twilight snapped out of her focus on her friend, her own mind apparently a very odd thing when she's only just woken up if she took such an interest in coiffure maintenance, her legs moving as if of their own accord as the concept of coffee rung in her mind.
Normally she avoided the stuff, never truly feeling a need for it; enthusiasm was her caffeine. This morning was different though, considering she'd slept for so very long after such a long time forcing herself to go without, even without the aid of her lost enthusiasm for what used to be a daily, rigorous, enticing activity for her. Such a long sleep only made her entire being crave more of it, not truly feeling rested as she should. Of course, she'd fix that with time and some black water.
Yet, even if she felt awake, her body certainly didn't feel up to very much at the moment. She felt sore and exhausted, the stress on her legs from staying tense and awake for days on end, never receiving the relaxing and soothing rest that sleep provided. Her everything ached, when she took time to take notice, her back and her neck having heavy, dull aches in them that screamed for some of the spa treatment that Rarity had talked her into a long while back.
Oh, how sad for her, that she would have to take the last dose of Zecora's special tonic she had become so accustomed to. It was far more convenient and was easy for her to get compared to a session at the spa. Not to mention it was all she had time for. It only bothered her that it was her last dose before she had to wait around another month before she could get another bottle of her medicine.
Unknown to Zecora however, Twilight had already taken some of her medicine as well as several chemistry kits and figured out the combination of herbs and medicinal concoctions needed to create the tonics. This excursion into the forest contained more than one purpose for Twilight, though amidst her enjoyment of the relief the medicine brought, she had forgotten to take heed of just how alluring the tonic can be.
She failed to realize just how far she had bypassed caution in favor of satisfaction.
Her smile had everypony confused, including the party pony talking to her at the moment. Her goofy smile combined with her dull and half-lidded eyes had Pinkie Pie's questions coming on with an incessant demand that Twilight's focus couldn't ignore for much longer.
"Twiliiiight! Hey Twilight, you there? C'mon, whaddaya want for breakfast?" Pinkie Pie began to half-shout to her.
Twilight shook her head a few times and blinked her grogginess away as much as she could, Pinkie's enthusiasm giving her a bit more awareness towards the physical rather than the mental.
Pinkie blinked a few times, then looked at her friend quizzically. "Coffee? Well okay! I thought you didn't drink that stuff?"
"Okie-dokie-lokie! One coffee comin' up!" Pinkie said, hopping away and into Rarity's kitchen.
The smell of coffee being brewed was impossible to miss alongside various other scents, all mingling with one another as they filled the living area they were all waiting in. Though Rarity was still doing her hair and Pinkie was busy cooking a few different dishes, there was an odd tension between Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Fluttershy and Twilight. Despite the overall agreement they all had, each of them aside from Twilight looked very pensive regarding this decision, a choice made both under malevolent duress as well as equally vile temptation.
While Twilight wasn't much in the way of reading the thoughts of others from their behavior alone, she knew her friends well enough to realize that, even in her somewhat distracted state, that their tones as they spoke were intentionally riddled with concern. She looked to each of them with a scan of her eyes, their faces saying it all.
"Something wrong?" Twilight asked, already predicting the general answer she'd get: a question.
"....Are you absolutely-" Fluttershy began.
"-SURE that I want to do this? Yes," Twilight said quickly. "I'm very sure."
A sudden clatter of various pots and pans from the kitchen made them all jolt and look in the direction of the intruding noise, but otherwise, Twilight was undeterred. She let her gaze wander between the three of them until Rarity came down the stairs, her hoofsteps like a sledgehammer in a room quiet enough for the occupants to hear a pin drop.
"Darling, I did perhaps state first and foremost amongst all of us that this idea is both a last resort and likely our only option given your circumstances, but even I must ask such a tedious question. Do you truly think this is a wise thing to do?" Rarity said with a hint of caution in her voice, her words all carefully chosen and picked out. Rehearsed, one might even say.
"If I ever want to sleep without you all around me every night or day that I stay in bed late or-or maybe if I don't want to take a nap and feel like somepony's trying to kill me, then yes!" Twilight half-shouted, looking between each of them.
The desperation in Twilight's voice hit them all with the same sense of urgency they had the night before, when their friend lacked the well-rested demeanor and composure she had now. Applejack looked to the others, all of them still looking somewhat unsure of what they considered to be a wild gambit for one of Twilight's plans. It was only when Pinkie Pie came into the living area with her back loaded with random plates of food.
"Breakfast is served~!" Pinkie Pie said in a very sing-song tone, her voice peppered with the same joy as always. "Oh, and um, I agree with Twilight."
Much, like the other four, Twilight snapped her attention to her friend as well.
"You do?!" Twilight asked with no small amount of surprise.
"Well DUH!" Pinkie retorted, as if such an answer were an obvious thing.
"But why in tarnation would'ja-"
A sudden mashing of a cupcake in Applejack's mouth shut her up. Where the cupcake came from was unknown, considering Rarity rarely carried any baked goods beyond bread in her kitchen for fear of giving in to the temptation of such confectionary delights, but Applejack kept chewing regardless.
"-Because somepony has to! Plus, if we don't help her, what kind of friends are we? I'll tell ya what kind!" she said while setting their dishes down in front of them all. "The super meanie kind that think they know how Twilight feels and think she's being all irrational when it really is the only choice!"
All of their gazes turned to Fluttershy, the only one that hadn't really said anything for or against the whole thing. The shy pony's gaze faltered only slightly, as if all the world were gazing upon her and awaiting her statement.
"Well I don't know a lot about magic, but....w-well, if she can mess with your head when you're in Ponyville, and she's normally in Everfree Forest at the old castle, doesn't that mean that the closer we get, the worse things she could do to you?"
Fluttershy's question weighed heavily on Twilight, the pony meant to think of all scenarios, the one that hadn't considered such a possibility. Was distance really a factor? The entire time she'd attempted to make sense of it, wandering closer to the Everfree Forest and testing the range, it had all been the same, no changes had been noted in the Nightmare's very jolting appearance.
She had not, however, tested actually entering the Everfree Forest itself. She couldn't, the guards wouldn't let her! If she'd attempted to sneak past them and back and had gotten caught, she likely wouldn't have gotten another chance, she had thought all of that out, and the odds were against her in that regard. Still, it mattered little to her.
"That's possibly true. I still have to take that chance. She wants me there, and I don't think she wants me dead."
"But what if this is all just some big fancy trick o' hers?" AJ asked, cutting in. "Maybe we should talk to Princess Ce-"
"NO!" Twilight shouted, stamping a hoof hard into the floor, harder than most of them thought she could, hard enough to make the ground vibrate beneath their hooves.
They all stared at her for a moment, transfixed on the sudden physical feat that simple stomp flaunted. The only pony any of them knew that had that kind of strength was Big Macintosh, and possibly Applejack on a good day. Even Twilight seemed startled by the sudden burst of strength, but she just as quickly shook it off, finding the possibility of being turned away after coming so close to getting her friends to agree to go into the forest with her something she simply couldn't allow.
"Look, I just can't stand here and do nothing anymore, okay? I'm sorry, but I have to do this," she said, looking to all of them, one after the other. "This is very important to me, and she said she has answers to my questions. Princess Celestia turned her back on me, so I want to get some answers from somepony that's actually willing to give them to me."
They all looked between one another once more, an insecurity over the whole situation apparent between each of them. Rainbow Dash, however, was the first to speak up just before Twilight was about to say something herself.
"Well I'm in!" the rainbow-maned pegasus blurted out. "I'm not gonna stay in Ponyville and idle around flapping my wings while Twilight's off risking her life!"
They all looked to Rainbow Dash with a bit of surprise, Twilight included.
"WE are the Elements of Harmony! Nightmare Moon couldn't handle us, who's to say this thing can take us on? I say we get our Elements together and we do this!" Rainbow Dash said with a big grin.
Pinkie Pie grinned and hopped over to Rainbow Dash, pulling Twilight over as well and hugging them both, one in each of her forelegs. "Dashie's right! Twilight would do this for any of us, so we gotta do this for her, no matter what!"
They all sighed and the tension in the room itself seemed to lighten up. Spike, who had opted to stay out of this conversation due to not being an Element of Harmony, returned from the kitchen with a bowl of gems that Rarity had given him permission to eat since she had a bit of a surplus going on. Pinkie Pie spotted him and waved him over.
"Right Spike?" Pinkie Pie asked him.
"Uh....whah?" he asked, his mouth stuffed with crunched-up rubies.
"We should help Twilight, right?"
"Oh," he said, swallowing his food after chewing a little more. "Yup, definitely! Do you have any idea how creepy it is to be the one sleeping at the end of her bed, peek over the end of it and see her sitting up with her eyes wide open? Her creepy face in the dark is my new nightmare fuel."
"Hey, I didn't do that too often!"
"No, the rest of the time I'm trying to sleep and you're trotting around downstairs talking to yourself while hovering a book next to your head that you're not even reading!"
"Well, excuse me for being terrorized by a monster."
"Yeah, I know, I get it. I didn't see the thing, but I think I'm glad I didn't," Spike said, shrinking in a little on himself and jamming a few more rubies into his mouth for comfort, frowning. "Tho creepeeh."
"Well, it's settled then," Rarity said with a clear indication of finality. "We shall prepare at once!....Well, we shall prepare after our meals, that is."
With that, they all dug in much in the way Spike already was, with Twilight being the one to finish first. That was a given, she was the one most eager to leave. With her extra time however, she decided that it would be a good idea to take off before everypony else to get a few things taken care of.
The highest priority on her list was, of course, to go get another list. A list of ingredients to be precise, hidden away along with the single dose of the potion she finished off in the process of retrieving her secret piece of parchment. She grabbed her saddlebags and tucked the paper away in a small pocket built into the inside of the left saddlebag, along with a thin stack of papers, all of them vivid images of the kinds of plants she was going to be looking for.
Of course, explaining why she would need such plants and herbs to her friends was something she had to really sit down and think through, no small feat given how sleep-deprived she'd been when she came up with her airtight answer for all of them. The explanation was simple: they were for a potion she found in one of the books she borrowed from Zecora to block out the minds of others, a potential last-resort if it became necessary. If they bothered to ask why it's considered a last resort? 'It dulls your mind and makes you really light-headed.'
She wasn't exactly lying, nor did she care. She was telling the truth about what the medicine did to her. She just wasn't bothering to tell them that it was actually a painkilling potion instead of an actual potion to block out an intruding mind. Some part of her found her willingness to go to such lengths to get these plants so much as to lie to her friends by way of omission disconcerting, but this issue was buried as rapidly as it appeared in her mind by a torrent of desire for her own supply of her new favorite medicine.
Along with her list, she had packed various other things prematurely, food and a First Aid Kit, along with a few more now that her friends were coming with. Spike had stayed with Rarity to help her get her things ready since she herself had already gotten all of her packing done a while ago before her friends talked her out of it the first time. This gave her enough time to double-check her list to make sure she had all of her requirements written down. All of her 'special ingredients'.
Satisfied, she began to get everything bound to her form in preparation for their little stealthy excursion, but a knock on her door interrupted her train of thought, working her magic on a strap going under her torso for her saddlebags. Her magic opened the door from a distance, too busy working at her saddlebags to give appropriate courtesies and be there to meet her guest face-to-face. She figured on it being one of her friends coming to retrieve her so they could get ready to head out to the forest.
Instead, Spike had shown up, little small barely-noticeable crumbs of red ruby littering the areas around his mouth, something he was in the process of trying to fix with that bizarrely long tongue of his. In the end, the motherly behavior Twilight sometimes displayed when it came to her Number One Assistant culminated in a washrag being brought over through her magical grasp and wiping his face clean with it herself.
"You really must've chowed down on those rubies, Pinkie made really big breakfasts for all of us and you had a pretty big bowl of those things yourself," Twilight said, smiling and patting his head afterwards. "There, all clean."
Spike looked up to Twilight with his usual expression of irritation, he didn't like being babied by her, but that irritation faded when he noticed a loose strap on her saddlebags that she'd failed to tie down properly around herself, on the underside of her body as usual, where he usually had to do it. He took care of it quickly, and was rewarded by a silent 'thank you' in the form of a one-legged hug from the lavender Unicorn he'd basically been taking care of since she was a young filly and vice-versa.
"Twilight....uh," Spike stuttered a little, taking a moment to form the words in his head before saying anything else. "You know that you're like a big sister to me, right?"
The determined Unicorn stopped for a moment, looking to him with a serious expression, unsure of what to say in response to that. After a few seconds, she simply nodded to him.
"Well, I know now. Why didn't you ever-"
The sudden outburst that interrupted her surprised her as much as the sudden latching on of the small dragon grabbing hold of one of her forelegs in a vice-like grip. Though, Spike had the decency to watch it with his claws at least. Despite his size, she was still a fleshy Unicorn with tender and soft skin and he was still a little baby dragon with tiny claws that could leave some semi-deep cuts if he tried hard enough.
"Please don't do this Twilight! All of this stuff that's been happening, th-the Princess must have some kind of explanation for why she wouldn't say anything to you about it! Maybe it's best if you don't know!" he said rapidly, frantically, the desperation evident in his tone.
She cringed and shook her head.
"I'm so, so sorry Spike, but I have to. I can't live like this, haunted by nightmares of things I've never even imagined, constantly paranoid of every little sound and shadow out of the corner of my eye or on the edge of my hearing," she said with an increasing elevation in her voice. She dropped down and laid down in front of him, forehooves pulling him in for a hug. "I'm so sorry."
All was silent between the two of them while Spike was pulled in under Twilight's head and a little to the side, her forelegs curled around him to keep him close. His arms had wrapped around her neck at the base, both of them holding each other close for a decent amount of time. Twilight knew she had to go, but Spike didn't seem to want to let her. Eventually though, the little dragon spoke up again, breaking the dead silence that had taken over the library.
"One day, and then I send a letter to Celestia."
Twilight sat up quickly and looked down at him in surprise. "What?! One day, that's-that's how long it took....last time...."
Spike nodded, his arms crossed over his chest. "The last time you went to that old castle. Yeah, I remember," he said, glaring up at her. "You get one day, and that's it. Then Celestia finds out. I don't care what you say."
"You know that's not fair, Spike. But...." Twilight said, sighing and hanging her head. "I suppose that's for the best. Just one day, then you can tell the Princess whatever you want."
"Including the fact that you won't let me stay up past ten at night? By the way, totally doing that tonight too."
"Sorry Spike, but threats of being a brat aren't going to keep me in the library," she said with a small giggle, nudging him with her hoof. "Even if it IS very tempting."
The little nudge made him stumble back a little, a small smile finally breaking the glare and the scowl Spike had going on the whole time they were speaking to one another. He looked up at her with that small, almost adorable smile, but it quickly faded away when the reality of her leaving for that dangerous forest hit him once again.
Twilight leaned down and planted a kiss on his forehead. "Get some rest now so you can stay up late enough to get that letter out to Princess Celestia....you little brat," she said in a teasing tone. "I'll be back soon."
Spike rolled his eyes. "Yeah, 'soon' as in 'sometime tomorrow or the day after maybe', if you come back at all!" he said, frowning and slumping down onto the floor. "The Princess is gonna chew me out for letting you do this so bad...."
"Spike, you couldn't stop me even if you REALLY tried," Twilight said flatly. "So don't even try to think the Princess will blame you."
"I just-I....ugh, I wish there was something I could do!" he said, clenching his teeth. "Somepony's screwing with your head and you're all I've really had other than the Princess since the day I was born! H-how would you feel if you thought your brother was running into certain death and you had no way of stopping him?!"
Twilight already knew the answer to that question, and it only made her feel worse for Spike. "I'm really, really sorry Spike, but like I said, I have to do this. I don't see many other options, I really don't...."
There was silence between them once more, both looking to one another, desperation and fear in Spike's eyes, while sadness and regret reflected in Twilight's. Without saying a word, Spike walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her left foreleg and hugged her tight, Twilight curling her other foreleg around his back in a small and comforting hug.
"....Just come back, okay?"
"I promise I'll come back, Spike. I swear I will."
It pained her to make such a promise to him, mainly because of the fact that she couldn't be sure if she could keep such a promise. Whatever this pony, or THING was, it wanted her and her specifically. It even called her its sister! Not to mention it said it had answers for her, answers regarding the anger and the constant internal quarrel with herself that she always seemed to be losing, given enough time. She wanted to keep her promise, but at the same time, she just had to know for certain whether or not this thing could truly explain it all to her.