Chapter 25: Epilogue
Sunshine spilled onto the viridian lawn as the morning sun crested over the battlements of the old castle, causing the dew still clinging to the blades to sparkle before evaporating. Twilight trotted down the steps from the south doors to enjoy a leisurely morning stroll through the gardens, as she used to do in days gone by when she recovered from being upset.
Predictably, Princess Celestia had not been there when she had awakened, nor was she down at breakfast in the royal dining room. An invitation to eat there was a lifetime affair, and it was far better than sitting with the rest of the staff awkwardly in her usual corner table while not talking to any pony. She might have learned how to make friends, but that did not stop the castle staff from being just a little skittish around her, being the personal student to a living goddess and all.
The mare looked at her surroundings as she walked, flashing back to her fight with the queen tyrant occasionally when a bush or flower looked funny. The images of death and destruction would probably be burned into her memory forever, which she hoped would not be a hindrance to her in the future. She closed her eyes and sighed, deciding she had delayed her return home long enough.
Normally, she would have been happy to go home and see her friends and extended family in Ponyville. But after all that had happened, there remained a foalish worry that perhaps this was all just a dream: that she would wake to find her friends were still dead. You’re being silly, Twilight, she thought to herself as she left the gardens and headed towards the front gates.
A sound of wooden wheels upon the hard cobblestone ground in her ears as she approached the gates, the jingling of a harness creating a curious melody with the other noises. It was probably just a cart of supplies for the kitchens or a shipment of papers for some of the royal offices. Although, it was strange that they did not take it around to the back entrance, since delivery carts were usually pegasus-driven.
However, the sight of a familiar azure unicorn pulling the wagon answered her question, but posed several more. “Trixie!?” she spoke to herself in little more than a whisper.
“Ungrateful cretins,” the mare voiced as she unhitched herself from her cart. “How dare they search the Great and Powerful Trixie so roughly! I ought to file a formal complaint while I am here about these barbarian ta-” Before she could finish speaking, the magician was suddenly bowled over by a shape of furry lavender and found herself pinned to the ground. “Watch where you are going, you incompetent twit! You have just run into the most powerful unicorn in all Equestria: The Great and Powerful Trix-” For the second time, she was interrupted, this time by a big hug.
“Trixie!” cried a familiar voice. “I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you alive! How have you been doing, little sister?”
“Twilight Sparkle! Trixie demands that you release her this instant! You are crushing her ribcage!”
“Sorry,” she replied with a blush, moving aside so her sister could let herself up and regain her breath. The egotistical mare coughed and wheezed as she pulled the air back into her lungs, eyes burning from the lack of oxygen. Her face glowed a tinge of red out of both the embarrassment of being publicly associated with her and anger at nearly being strangled.
“What on Celestia’s green earth has gotten INTO you!? Trixie was minding her own business when WHAM! She’s assaulted by her own overzealous elder sibling without so much as a warning!” she wheezed, her voice a little hoarse. A light titter of mirthful laughter made her burn a little redder in the face.
“I guess I just... didn’t expect to run into you here and I wanted to say hello, but I got overexcited,” Twilight said. “I mean, I haven’t heard from you in a while and Mom hasn’t said anything about you either, and I worry. It’s my job as the older sister to worry about my younger siblings, but that does not excuse me for bowling you over like I did. I just... I had a dream last night... and you died in it and... I apologize.”
Trixie gave her a funny look, as if she had been smacked across the head with a plank of wood. However, as soon as it arrived, it was gone, replaced by that familiar smug smile Twilight had grown to love. “Trixie is flattered that you are dreaming of her, but quite frankly, she is appalled. As if the Great and Powerful Trixie could ever die, be it in a dream or not!”
The elder unicorn rolled her eyes sarcastically after a light peal of giggles. “Never change, Trixie.” A silence stretched out between them, growing steadily more awkward until she decided to break it. “So... what brings you out to Canterlot Castle? Applying for another performance date?”
“Among other things, yes. You see, Trixie has learned that pony magic is quite popular to see outside the borders of Equestria. So, she seeks a visa to travel and work in foreign lands for the time being, namely Draconia. She will be the only show in town: maybe even performing for kings and queens of foreign lands! Who cares about being the strongest unicorn in Equestria when I can be the strongest in the WORLD?” She stood on her hind legs with fireworks shooting off behind her dramatically.
Catching a glance at Twilight’s face, she quickly fell back onto all fours and blushed slightly. “Well, Trixie HAS to be confident, or she doesn’t eat!”
“It’s okay to be confident, and sell yourself, Trixie. The trick is learning how not to overdo it, okay? I think this might be a good experience for you, and I wish you all the best, but please... PLEASE stay safe out there, okay?” Twilight wrapped her forelegs around her sister’s neck in a gentle hug and was slightly surprised to feel her reciprocate, albeit lightly.
“Trixie promises to be safe... as long as Twilight promises never to run me down like that EVER AGAIN unless I am in danger of dying, on fire, or both.” The lavender unicorn laughed at her joke, and nodded
“I promise. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a train to catch.” With that, the two unicorns parted ways, Twilight glancing back as she heard the doors to the foyer open behind her. Hopefully in times of peace, the dragon-serving ponies in Draconia would be a little more receptive to her show. Trixie may have been a bit of a braggart, but she had to admit that she herself would probably never have the same flair for entertainment or talent for such bedazzling magic. But it was just as well: no pony could be good at everything.
Trees blurred past in smudges of green and brown as the train hurtled down the mountain and into the forest that separated Ponyville from Canterlot. It had always been a strange feeling to ride the train to and from her home, but the chariots were for royal business only: no exceptions. But Twilight did not mind: she did not wish to go home quite so soon. In fact, the closer she drew to her home, the more apprehensive she became over what she would find there waiting for her.
I’m being stupid again, she chastised herself as she rested her head on the windowsill. Drawing in a big breath, she pressed her muzzle against the glass and released a breathy sigh. Soon she would be home, really home, for the first time in what felt like ages. However, there were still nagging doubts in her unconscious mind, and those thoughts made her blood run cold.
She gave her head a liberal shake as the conductor, a brown earth pony stallion in a blue vest with a gold watch, stepped into the compartment. “Next stop: Ponyville! Arriving in Ponyville in two minutes!” he announced as he strode down the aisle. Twilight pulled her face away from the window as the dense forest became sparser, finally opening up into the fields of agriculture and grass that surrounded her home. She remained seated until the train came to a full stop.
Stepping onto the platform, the unicorn had to squint her eyes as the still rising sun shone in them. Her home, and the town’s library, was but a quick trot down the arterial street from the train station, past Town Hall and Sugarcube Corner. As she stepped off the platform, the idea of passing either town landmark sent a shiver down her spine. “Maybe I’ll take a more... scenic route,” she decided after a pause.
Turning to the left, she swung wide around the town, which would take her past Fluttershy’s cottage and Sweet Apple Acres. For some reason, it felt best to do this, possibly to see that everything was all right and that she was fretting over nothing. Ponies walked past as she journeyed down the streets, some waving at her in recognition, to whom she would give an unconscious wave back.
Maybe Celestia did have a point about being a natural leader: not only for her organizational prowess, but also for the way ponies looked up to her, now that she was not a self-exiled book hermit. Her thoughts turned back to the crown the Pool had given her. Was it a sign that she should have more confidence in herself as a leader, learn to accept that she was royalty and use her natural skills...? Twilight shook the errant thoughts from her head. She still had fifty-eight years, seven months and approximately twenty-one days to figure out the answer.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a gray Earth pony mare walking beside a familiar, grinning white unicorn in a pair of large purple shades. “See, Octavia? I told you this town wasn’t SO bad. They’re looser than your fourth string, see?” A loud belch suddenly ripped through the air, followed by a hard smack and cry of pain, making Twilight turn around to see the unicorn rubbing her cheek with a hoof. “Ow! Octy!”
“Vinyl Scratch, if you do that again in my presence, I WILL break those stupid glasses of yours!”
“I’LL BE GOOD!” the DJ panicked and winced.
Twilight giggled to herself and turned her attention back onto the road she walked. Groups of ponies wandered and trotted past her with the odd group of foals playing in the streets between the hooves of the adults. The Ponyville she walked through certainly felt like the one she had known before the Trial, or Vision-Quest, or whatever the heck she was supposed to think instead of ‘Life-Changing Trauma.’
She shook her head and continued walking, taking in the fresh air as she strode out from between the buildings and into the trails that surrounded the town. The leaves of trees and bushes rustled softly in the gentle morning wind, carrying the scents of jasmine, daisies, buttercups, and other wild flowers that thrived in the valley. The familiar, soothing (and delicious) scents put her mind at ease, lending a spring to her step as she turned down the road to her friend’s apple farm.
A wood fence lined the side of the road as she drew close to the path that would take her in, its simple design reminding her of the family’s nature. Twilight could not help but giggle in spite of herself. What had she been expecting: corrugated metal and barbed wire? As if Applejack or Granny Smith would ever be run out of their farm: they would both rather die than abandon their trees.
Now she really began to feel silly, turning her light giggles into a full stream of laughter. She was home now! The nightmare was over! Only a couple of days had passed for them and there was no tyrant, no alternate version of herself running Equestria into the ground. It would take time for her to get used to it, but there was no war, no ponies out to capture her for money. She forced a smile onto her lips and continued on her way in a light trot.
The thought of seeking professional help crossed her mind for the twelfth time since she had woken up in Celestia’s bed. And, for the twelfth time, she told herself that no pony would believe her, not to mention the fact that the pool was only supposed to be known by members of the royal family and their close confidants. I just need to find a calm place to meditate. Then, I can figure things out a little more easily. She turned back toward town, with the perfect place in mind.
It was amazing how a little fresh air reinvigorated a mare’s spirit and improved her attitude. Twilight quietly applauded her decision to not run home immediately and curl under her bed for a couple of days until all of her wavering doubts had passed. Seeing for herself how things were the same did more good for her than any speculation or book could accomplish.
Fluttershy’s cottage on the edge of the Everfree forest proved just as lively and well-kept as she remembered, which only strengthened her conviction that she was no longer dreaming. Animals skittered across the lawn and frolicked in the bushes and other plants. The shy pegasus was nowhere to be seen, which concerned her a bit, but she was probably out getting food, or making a house call for somepony’s pet since she was practically a veterinarian.
The unicorn resumed her walk back into town, casting an aside glance to the forest. The thicket of trees and wild bushes did not bend to the breeze, as the forest had its own uncontrollable climate, which still sent shivers down her spine if she thought about it too hard. It did not feel as dangerous as it once used to, but that was probably a residual effect of the pool. There were still monstrous creatures and mysterious secrets lying in wait beyond its borders.
A rustling of the bushes ahead made Twilight freeze in her tracks and draw upon her magic, making her horn glow in her new rosy aura. A black and white shape, cloaked in brown, emerged from the wood and looked her in the eyes, glowing yellow from beyond the veil. In an instant, she knew that the creature meant no harm, dispelling the arcane energies as she trotted over closer.
“Zecora!” Twilight cried in her approach. “Sorry, but I thought that you were some kind of monster. I apologize.”
“For your caution, Twilight Sparkle, you are right. To see a beast from Everfree would be quite a fright,” the zebra spoke, turning down her hood to see her smiling face. It faltered a little when she looked her in the eyes, by quickly picked up again before she spoke. “I hope you don’t take any offence, but something in you differs, I sense.”
“Well...” the unicorn trailed off. “I did have a bit of a life-changing experience over the last few days, but it’s a long story that can wait for another time.” The smell of various herbs and spices wafted across her muzzle as she walked aside and slightly behind the world-savvy zebra. “Do you mind if I walk with you into town? We haven’t had the chance to talk lately.”
“Of course, dear Twilight; I do not mind. Try not to stray and fall far behind.”
“So, I take it you’re here on your monthly shopping trip?”she asked, trying to strike up conversation as they approached the edge of the settlement.
“Your assumption is correct, I do declare. I am perusing the stalls around Town Square,” she replied with a smile. It always amazed Twilight how quickly she could make up rhymes on the spot. Though speeches, like for Nightmare Night, were probably rehearsed, she could not deny just how hard it was to extemporise poetry. She had tried her hoof at writing it in school and failed utterly. It was a sore spot that she did not like revisiting
Zecora and Twilight walked through the outskirts of town, down the more quiet streets and avenues on their way towards the market. They found their conversation when the zebra stated she needed some of the plants for her potion work. Twilight had not had much luck with potion making in the past, but soon found herself paying rapt attention to her words of comfort and encouragement.
But as their conversation moved on, and the buildings continued to pass, the unicorn found her attention slowly slipping, not out of boredom, but of sheer relief. If she was not a dismembered corpse rotting in a river, then she really was home after all! The doubts that remained in her head became all the weaker, almost having vanished completely by the time they arrived in the bustling heart of Ponyville.
“Although talking to you was very nice, we must part now: I need to buy some rice,” she explained, nodding her head in farewell.
“Okay. I’ll try to stop by your place for tea some time in the next couple of weeks, if you’ll have me.”
“My humble wooden door is always open for you. Come any time, and I’ll make my special poppy brew!”
A wide smile spread across her face. Zecora made the best poppy tea she had ever had the joy of tasting in her life! It was always a favourite treat of hers since very few tea shops would make it, probably since it required a lot of time to prepare and extract enough opium so that the drinkers would feel relaxed instead of passing out. “That sounds lovely. Thank you!”
As the zebra turned towards the market, Twilight decided that she had delayed enough and started walking towards the library. More ponies crowded onto the street as the morning grew late. Judging from the position of the sun, the time was about ten, maybe ten thirty. It was summer too, so the foals had school off for the season, which made sense as she could see Sweetie Belle, Applebloom, and Scootaloo sitting behind a cardboard box booth of some kind.
“Hi girls,” she chirped as she drew near. Scoot recoiled slightly, but she had grown used to her apprehension around her. “So, what are you three up to today? Still trying to earn your Cutie Marks?” Spying their flanks, she was relieved to see that they were still blank.
“O’ course we are, Twi!” Applebloom smiled. “We’re gonna be...”
“CUTIE MARK CRUSADER PONY-AID SALESPONIES!” Twilight’s ears rang as all three of the hyperactive fillies screamed in her face at the top of their lungs. In fact, they even managed to create a small breeze just from the force of it.
“Won’t you help some poor, innocent fillies earn their marks, Twilight?” Sweetie pled with wide puppy-dog eyes.
“Girls, how many times do I have to tell you that you can’t force a Cutie Mark to appear: that you have to focus on what you’re already good at?” However, they refused to listen, bombarding her with sappy looks that she was sure would make even the most hardened of ponies melt. “I mean... didn’t you try this before with your sister, Applebloom?” The looks continued unabated. Even after years of dealing with an adorable baby dragon, her resolve was crushed under their hypnotic eyes. She sighed. “Fine. I’ll buy a glass.”
The three fillies smiled in a broad grin, even Scootaloo, before they set to work, filling a disposable paper cup with red juice from a glass pitcher. “That’ll be one bit, please,” the orange Pegasus spoke with her hoof outstretched as her earth pony friend pushed the drink forward with her muzzle. Twilight gave her the gold coin and brought the drink over with her magic, taking an experimental sniff. Yep. Smells like death, she bitterly remarked to herself.
Seeing the looks of giddy expectation in their eyes, the purple unicorn took a deep breath and threw the concoction down her throat in a single gulp. It tasted like death too. But those bright, happy smiles on their faces made her fight her gag reflex and work through the pain. “Yummy!” she quivered. The fillies squealed in excitement and checked their flanks, moaning in disappointment when no mark had appeared. “I... gotta go. I just remembered I had a... a... thing... at the... the place.” Twilight Sparkle dashed to the nearest body of water she could find.
Only those three fillies can turn something as wholesome as Pony-Aid into something as lethal as rat poison, Twilight moaned inside her head while bent over the side of the stream. Thankfully, she had rid herself of most of the foul concoction (and her breakfast), but she decided not to risk moving for the time being, for fear that she had not quite finished being sick. The last thing she needed was to arrive home and throw up. Spike was probably worried enough as it was.
Her reflection wavered woozily in the gently flowing stream that bisected the main square of Ponyville. Ponies gave her a wide berth when the sound of her retching filled the square, much to her embarrassment. She sighed a little before realizing she had already suffered worse humiliation. So what if they talked about it for a couple of days? In a week, everypony will have forgotten about how she was sick in public.
“That’s the spirit!” a deeper, more confident version of her voice said. Twilight looked around, twisting her head sharply to find the source of the noise. “Down here, Twilight,” it spoke again; making the unicorn cast her gaze downwards. The unicorn nearly jumped out of her skin at what she saw. It was a perfect reflection of herself, but with wings, and less of a green tinge to her face.
“Eos?” Twilight spoke into the water tentatively. The mare nodded her head quietly with a smile on her face. “But... why don’t you look anything like you used to? I mean, you used to look like Queen Eos. What happened to the height, and that magical mane of yours?”
She shrugged and tilted her head slightly in gesture. “I don’t know everything. Remember, Twilight? I only know what you know: I just put the pieces into place faster. Anyway... I... well. I wanted to thank you. For giving me a chance, I mean.”
“Don’t mention it,” the unicorn replied with a dismissive wave of her hoof. “I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. It was either let you help, or die.”
“That IS a choice, Twilight. It may sound parasitic of me, but if you die, I die with you. If it really meant that much for you to be rid of me, you could have easily done so. I think Genesis called it ‘falling upon your own sword’ or something like that.”
She snorted, choosing not to answer. “You’re still on probation, you know. One false move and you are out of here so fast that you’ll lose those feathers of yours.”
The reflection said nothing in return, meekly nodding her head to show that she understood the terms of their agreement. They sat in an awkward silence, each looking at something, anything other than each other. Eventually, Twilight broke the silence. “How come, when we were in the pool, I was stuck looking like you without the aid of a magical spell?”
“Oh!” Eos spoke, as if just recognizing her. “Uh... well, you fell into a pool of magma and your original body was destroyed.”
“I’m a golem made of CLAY. Clay is a sedimentary rock once it has hardened, and thus unable to be melted since it has a higher melting point than any other kind of rock in the rock cycle.”
“Physically, it was not destroyed. However, the tie to your soul circle was destroyed by the magma, erasing the spell. Magma in the Hells is not ordinary, of course, due to inter-dimensional discrepancies. Anything could have happened, really, since the evidence suggests that the Sorrel Hells exist on a shifted dimension that the pool can tap, but not fully exploit unless relevant to the epiphany. Of course, this is just extrapolation.”
Twilight pondered on this for a while, but quickly decided that she would not figure it out on her own and stowed it into the back of her mind for later investigation. “So, does that mean my circle is intact now that I am back in... well, the usual reality?”
Eos seemed to pause and think about her answer to the question, rubbing a hoof under her chin as Twilight usually did when contemplating a perplexing conundrum. “I honestly do not know. It would be better, I think, to ask the Princess to check on the status of the circle if it becomes a primary concern. For all I know, you could have shifted into a real flesh-and-blood unicorn via transference. I wouldn’t worry about it, though.”
Twilight’s heart skipped a beat at the prospect of being turned into a real unicorn. Not that she was unhappy being a golem, but she did not fancy the idea of knowing almost exactly when she would die, as golems were only active for eighty years unless they had a regeneration clause in their circle. Considering the disposable nature of her creation, she doubted the princess had added such a clause.
“You have to admit, Twilight,” the alicorn reflection continued, “we are unique and in a unique situation. Name me another advanced golem made by a living goddess with the blood of an alicorn in her veins, or a live pony that has ventured into the Sorrel Hells and survived a dip in a pool of magma. Nothing may have changed, or EVERYTHING may have changed. The problem is that we do not have enough evidence to come to a proper conclusion.”
“I agree,” the unicorn responded. “We will have to research this further. However, it can wait. I would place a higher priority on recovering from our last adventure rather than diving head-first into a new one.” The alicorn doppelganger nodded her head in agreement. “Very well then: here is the only rule for your probation, Eos. Unless I ask for it, you are not to interfere, directly or indirectly, in my life or actions. Understood?”
“Understood.” Without another word, the alicorn vanished, leaving only Twilight reflecting in the gentle run of the stream. The little chat had done her a world of good, as her queasy stomach had settled...even if it did look a little strange for passing ponies to see her talk to herself. The unicorn pushed herself onto her hooves and started walking back to her library. She needed to shower, and to curl up with a good book.
Twilight had not seen hide nor hair of any of her closer friends since arriving home in Ponyville. Not even Rainbow Dash had been seen among the scattered clouds in the azure skies. Then again, she was either off practicing her stunts, or napping since she never did work during the normal work hours, which was insanely inefficient in her opinion. But who was she to criticize her friend’s work ethic?
She sighed contently as her library finally came into sight; hardly a leaf had changed from how she remembered it. A weary smile spread across her face as she approached, relieved to finally have a quiet night to herself away from fear or worry. The lights were on inside, meaning that Spike had not abandoned his post to spend time with his not-so-secret crush.
The unicorn grasped the door handle with her magic and opened it with a gentle push, expecting only to see her beloved assistant on the other end. It would have been very easy: walk in, give him a little harder hug than normal, and go read a book. However, she did not expect to see all of her friends except for Pinkie Pie waiting for her. “Twilight!” they called in unison. “...surprise?” Dash said sheepishly.
Purple and pink streamers shot across the room like thick spider webs, stretching from the tops of bookshelves towards the centre of the room where they were taped to the ceiling. Tanks of helium littered one of the corners near the kitchen as the wafting smell of baked goods swept from under the crack in the door. They had all dropped whatever they were doing, one of the balloons slipping off the nozzle of the tank before flying around like a blind pigeon.
She had obviously stumbled upon them setting up a party.
“We uh... didn’t expect ta see ya quite yet, sugar cube,” Applejack spoke with shifty eyes.
“Oh my goodness, I hope this doesn’t ruin the... um...” Fluttershy trailed, developing a sudden and intense interest in the confetti-covered floor. Despite her friends acting strange, Twilight could not restrain herself. She bounded forth with Pinkie-like enthusiasm and grabbed all of her present friends in a large group hug. Although they were still surprised by her sudden arrival, they returned it with glee.
“Twilight, darling, are you okay?” Rarity asked when she felt the purple unicorn begin to heave and sob. Sensing her distraught disposition, the four mares hugged her back tighter. “Just let it out dear... We’re here for you.” The purple unicorn continued to cry and sob for many minutes, refusing to let her friends go.
Eventually, she broke off the hug, wiping tears off of her puffy red eyes. “I’m sorry, girls,” she apologized. “I didn’t mean to break down like that. It’s just... you have no idea how good it is to see you all. Some more than others,” she added with her gaze wandering over towards Rainbow Dash. “But... there’s one thing I have to know. How did you girls know I would be home today in order to set up a surprise party for me?”
“Well-” the orange farmer started.
“I’ll handle this one, AJ,” the cocky pegasus raised a hoof to the other mare’s mouth to silence her. “You see, Twi, Princess Celestia sent Spike a letter this morning. It was super early too and it said that you would be coming back home later today. It also said ya needed us all to be there for you, for some reason. It didn’t say what happened, just that you had an awful time helping Luna. Did she hurt you, Twi!? If she did, I’ll fly off to Canterlot right now and buck that sorry mare right in the face! No pony makes my friends cry!”
“No, Rainbow. It wasn’t Princess Luna. It was all my fault, so if you’re going to buck anyone in the face, it ought to be me. ...I was far too curious for my own good, and I paid for it with a bit of my innocence.” An uncomfortable silence hung in the air. Rainbow Dash took a sudden interest in the streamers while Rarity looked about ready to faint. They had not even heard the least of it, but she knew she had to tell them... at least a censored and abridged version so they could understand.
“It’s a very, very long story, but I will try to keep it as short as possible,” the lavender librarian started. “You see, I was asked by Princess Luna to help her move a special object from the old castle in the Everfree Forest, lost for centuries since only she could touch it and was... banished for most of the time. I was shown the object, which is said to help the user realize a great truth about herself. Luna doesn’t know much about it except that it’s a relic from the world’s creation.
“I... I let my curiosity get the better of me and I touched it. The object took me to... well, I can only describe it as an alternate universe. It was a universe in which I had succeeded in killing Princess Celestia and Luna, and became a tyrannical self-appointed queen by the name of Eos. Evidently, the dragons and the griffons formed an alliance in an effort to overthrow her and steal her authority over both the sun and the moon for themselves.
“It was awful! I... Everypony said I had been gone for ten YEARS and that my arrival was some sign of her downfall. The Crusaders were all grown up and were young battle-hardened mares! Dash had killed herself trying to stop the queen and went out by making the Cloudsdale Weather Factory’s reactor self-destruct! Rarity had left to work as the queen’s tailor and the rest of you made your own different movements...all working against each other.”
“Heh. You gotta admit, Twi, making the weather factory blow is a pretty epic way to go, if you have to,” the blue pegasus smirked in self-satisfaction.
“What’s a good way to go, Dash?” Spike asked as he made his way down the stairs. “T-Twilight! You’re home ear-” Before he could finish his sentence, a flash of purple filled his vision. Spike found himself in the vice-like grip of his oldest friend and caretaker. “You’re... hugging... too... tight!” he cried as he struggled for breath.
“Twilight’s just tellin’ us what got her so upset,” the orange mare explained to the reeling dragon once he had squirmed his way out of said unicorn’s grasp. “Please, continue, sugar cube.”
“Right, thank you, AJ... and I’m sorry, Spike. Anyway, as I was saying: I ran into the girls and they told me most of this, but I was so concerned about Spike that I went looking for him. Along the way, I was betrayed by other members of their large organization, and nearly captured by the queen’s governors. You see... she made a bunch of golems that were loyal only to her to watch over the affairs of the individual city states of Equestria...
“Sorry. I’m getting off track. I found out that Spike had fled to Draconia to advise their war council on pony society, so I tracked him down and ran into Trixie. After some...” she paused. There was no way she could break Spike’s heart by saying that he had betrayed her. Alternate reality, or not, he would beat himself up over it for the rest of her life, at least. “After some difficulties with them, I went out to see how I could fix things with Spike and Trixie at my side.
“I found out what I needed to do, but it involved a trip into the... the Sorrel Hells themselves. At least I thought it did, but it ended up doing nothing more than scarring me. I ran into you there, Dash, since you were technically a suicide and you helped me through it. I then managed to get the rest of you to agree with me that the queen needed to be stopped and we all marched together on Canterlot.
“It was a long and bitter fight... Trixie and Fluttershy ended up dying... but I won in the end and... and...” she could not continue, for the tears were building up in her eyes once more. “I can’t finish! I just... it’s too fresh. I’ll tell you all the whole story some day, maybe, but for now... Now I just need you to be here for me.” A hoof gently touched her on the shoulder, making her tense muscles relax a little.
Fluttershy looked at her with those big, sparkling topaz circles she called eyes and frowned a little. “Of course we’re here for you, Twilight. We understand that things were probably more horrible there than you let on, and we know you are entitled to keep your secrets: but please open up to us about them soon. It does nopony good to let them fester. I am not saying you have to now, or tomorrow, but one day, okay? ...we all love you.” She embraced her, soft mane swept over the sobbing mare’s neck. “Remember that.”
Twilight nodded her head and smiled, wiping away the fresh tears that had fallen down her cheek with a sniff. Before she could utter her thanks, the door opened behind her, making her turn her head to see who had come inside: it was a library after all.
“Um... Jackal catnip?” the wall-eyed, blond pegasus known as Derpy Hooves spoke. One eye was trained on her while the other wandered up to the ceiling. Beside her, however, was a small, off-purple unicorn with a more pale shade of yellow mane, looking between her adopted mother and the other assembled mares with a bit of confusion.
“I don’t think you’re interrupting anything super important, Derpy,” Twilight spoke slowly, trying to analyze the context of the situation. The enigmatic pony seemed satisfied with her answer and smiled, putting a hoof around her daughter.
“Pickle doughnuts taste good with jelly sprinkles. But sometimes Burning Jewels tastes better!”
“Mommy’s been taking speech therapy classes in Canterlot every weekend. She can say proper names now and everything!” The little filly beamed, receiving an affectionate nuzzle to the back of her neck from the pegasus. “Uh, we were wondering if you had ‘Journey to the Centre of Tartarus’ by Burning Jewels. Momma said she thinks I’m old enough to handle it!”
“Of course, I do,” Twilight smiled as the book in question became wrapped in her magical aura, inciting a vocalization of interest from Rarity as she regarded its new colour and feeling. She quickly gave both of them hugs before the mare took the book in her mouth and stuffed it into her saddlebags.
“Pickle barrel kumquat, Twilight!” The mailmare thanked, before turning to leave.
“Wait! Derpy...” Twilight trailed. “Um... I was kind of wondering if you’d let me teach Dinky how to use magic when she’s old enough. I mean, you don’t have to do it, or decide right now: I just thought I would offer.”
“Really!?” The little unicorn gasped, the sparkle in her eyes quite evident.
“Mmm... Toaster burns. Quiet springs!”
“Mom said she’ll think about it,” she sighed before receiving a gentle nudge from the mare. “Oh: and to thank you for the offer. Bye!” With that, the two ponies were off, walking side-by-side down the now busy streets of Ponyville.
“Twilight Sparkle, have you noticed that your aura changed?” Rarity observed.
“Ya mean because it’s some shade of red instead of blue? Ah don’t think it’s that big a deal if ya ask me,” Applejack added.
“Not a big deal? A unicorn’s magical aura is like her hoof print! They very rarely change, and if they do, it’s usually the result of a trauma or a life-changing eve- Oh...” she trailed once realization stuck. “Well, that answers that, but you really do have to go to the Register’s Office sometime and get it updated, darling.”
“Yeah, but that can wait for later, Rarity! Right now, it’s time to PARTY!” Pinkie yelled after popping out from behind a nearby bookshelf. She nearly gave the alabaster unicorn a heart attack, judging from the volume of her shriek. The others, including Twilight, jumped a bit while Fluttershy fell over in a faint. “Whoops! Was that too much of a surprise? I mean, the actual surprise party was ruined, but I still wanted there to be a surprise since we planned it as a surprise party, but don’t worry! I heard everything you said, so you don’t need to explain it, which reminds me of the --mmph!”
Rainbow Dash had got back to her hooves and jammed a cupcake into the pink mare’s mouth. “Now’s not a good time for that, Pinkie.” Twilight walked forward and gave the pink pony a gentle hug, like she had with her other friends. She seemed to slow down and returned her hug, closing her eyes in their warm embrace.
With the party finally kicking off into full gear, Twilight felt confident that, with the help of her friends, she would walk away from her experience a better mare. Yes, there would be hurdles in the future, and yes, she would probably still have an irrational fear of grown dragons and griffins, but perhaps those wounds would heal in time too. Things would return to normal one day... Well, at least as normal as things could get in Ponyville.
Only the sound of gentle breathing filled the room as the early autumn sun began to rise and shine through the windows of the old tree. A lump of lavender lay beneath star-speckled sheets of velvet blue as her chest rose and fell in the rhythm of peaceful slumber. Twilight Sparkle mumbled to herself and rolled over in her sleep as the light assaulted her eyelids, nearly rousing her from a well-deserved rest.
Alas, her dream of sleeping in that day would be ended quite forcefully as the metallic din of her alarm ripped the peaceful air asunder. She groaned and enveloped her alarm in a blanket of ruby magic before hurtling it against the opposite wall, smashing it to pieces and bringing an end to its wretched task. “I hate alarm clocks,” she lamented as she pulled the blanket off her once sleeping form. Once she was up, there was no going back to sleep for her.
“Spike!” she groaned as she wearily trudged towards the bathroom. “Wake up: it’s sorting day.” With a gentle prod of her magic, the air was soon filled with the moans of a sleepy baby dragon. He grumbled and silently cursed death towards the mare that woke him. “I don’t like it either, but if we don’t get it done today, the entire library will be nothing but chaos inside of a week!”
After taking care of her normal morning chores, Twilight felt invigorated and refreshed: almost as if she had woken up of her own free will! “I’ll get breakfast going,” she added to Spike who grumpily made his way into the bathroom next. It was the least she could do for making him get up so early. Walking down the stairs, she got a good look at the mountain of work that they had to do that day.
While, by most standards, the library was considered clean, it was actually in a state of great disarray. It was mostly her fault, but partially that of her patrons who did not understand the basic concept of putting a book back where they found it when they were done! There was history with the geography and politics, ‘A’s with the ‘G’s and so forth. It was a weekly practice, but a few extraneous circumstances had left her unable to do so for about a month!
Once the mare and her young draconic assistant (who suddenly got into better spirits once full) finished breakfast, they set to the task before them with no dilly-dallying. Due to the effort required, conversation was kept to a minimum and on professional subjects only, since there would be time to chat once they finished. After all, Applejack had invited them to have lunch on the farm and they wanted to be finished before they left: hence why they had woken up at the unknown hour of seven thirty in the morning.
Twilight’s thoughts turned back to her experience in the Pool of Midnight, specifically to the changes it caused then and those she discovered later, even two months and twenty-seven days after the fact! For example, before her misadventure, she would have delayed something as trivial as a total reorganization of the library until at least after lunch with their friend. Now, however, she had woken herself up early in order to get the job done and savour the feeling of a completed task, even if it did require her to actually get up in the morning.
As well, the ponies of Ponyville began to see her as more of a leader, some even suggesting she run for mayor once their current mayor’s term was up. Twilight had never had a head for politics, so she respectfully declined and asserted that she was happy being a humble librarian and student. Other than that, and her slightly improved magical abilities, there was not much more different that she had discovered.
After a couple of hours, she let Spike take a break while she continued to sort. After all, he was still a BABY dragon, even if he acted like a bratty teenager sometimes. He was grateful to go and she was glad to let him, since he would be of no help whatsoever if he was cranky. She ignored the gentle patter of rain on the window, since it was probably just a rain cloud that had escaped the Everfree. Nor did she notice that the water it spilled was brown...
“Twilight!” Spike called out, slamming the door open. The unicorn jumped about a good meter into the air before she landed flat on her stomach, turning her neck to give him a glare. However, she noticed he appeared to be covered in chocolate. “You gotta come see this! Quick!” That was not a shout of joy, but one of panic and fear. Twilight jumped to her hooves and cantered over to the door, worried about what could set him off like that.
Majestic clouds of pink hovered over the town of Ponyville, raining down sugary milk upon the confused and scared citizens below. “Get back here!” Rainbow Dash cried somewhere above them as a cloud flew past with supernatural speed and agility. To say that Twilight was dumbfounded would have been a massive understatement. She shook her head to clear her thoughts.
“I... I don’t... even...” she stuttered.
“It looks like they are heading for Sweet Apple Acres! Come on, Twilight. Don’t you think you have a spell that can fix this?” Thinking about it, she DID know of a spell that she had practiced that could disable errant magic such as this. All they would have to do is get all of the side-effects to congregate and then the spell would fix them. A smile came across her lips and she nodded to her number one assistant.
“Yes, Spike. Yes, I do. Come on! Let’s go clean up this mess!” She strode forward, pulling a spell book off of the shelf with her magic. No matter what happened, she knew that she would come out on top, for she had conquered her own inner demon and her self doubts. With a confident stride, she marched with her assistant at her side, ready to tackle whatever the future had in store!
It was time for a new adventure!
--- The End ---