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Have you ever had one of those days when your entire perspective of the world is shifted? I don’t mean something like finding out a big secret one of your friends was keeping from you, I mean something that shook your beliefs to the very core, something that you thought was impossible becoming reality.
What’s most funny about those days is that they start out like any other one. Take me for example. My day started with me waking up after a long night of studying. The smell of breakfast floated from the kitchen and tempted me out of my comfortable bed. As I entered the kitchen, still in that half-asleep phase, guided only by my nose, I heard the charming voice of my assistant, Spike.
“Good morning, Twilight! Finally managed to drag yourself out of bed, eh?” he asked looking up from his delicious smelling work.
“Why, what time is it?” I asked rubbing a hoof against my eye.
“About half past ten.”
My eyes shot open, as worry began to cloud my mind. “Oh, no! It’s already past ten?! I’m late! I promised Rarity I’d join her at the spa thirty minutes ago!”
“Chill Twilight, I’m sure she’ll understand,” Spike said as he brought a large plate of pancakes over. “Seriously, you get way too worked up over little things.”
I calmed down a little and began eating Spike’s beautiful breakfast. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“And that’s why I’m the number one assistant!” he said proudly. “By the way, what were you researching?”
“Oh, I found an old book in the archives. It’s got a few spells I’ve never even heard of before. The last one I was looking at was for finding spies. It was supposed to tell the caster how many ponies are in the room with them. I tried casting it last night, but I was alone, so I only found myself.”
“Seems like a weird thing to research,” Spike said while rolling his eyes.
I quickly finished my breakfast and headed for the door. “I’ve gotta go! I’ll be back later this afternoon.” I closed the door behind me and trotted in the direction of the spa.
It was a very pleasant day in Ponyville. The Pegasi had scheduled a partially cloudy day with lots of sun and low winds. I took a moment to enjoy the gentle breeze before I entered the spa. Rarity was already laying back on a massage table, some stallion working at her back, and she smiled when she saw me walk in.
“Ah, so glad you could make it, Twilight. I was afraid you had forgotten.”
“I’d never miss a meeting with friends,” I smiled. “I just slept in.” I trotted over to Rarity, getting onto the table next to her. Aloe, or maybe it was Lotus - I could never really tell them apart, to be honest - came over. Slowly she began to work on my shoulders and lower back, causing me to let out a long sigh of pure bliss. I hadn’t realized how tense I was.
“So, Twilight, how is my little Spikey-Wikey?”
“Oh he’s doing fine, although I think he’s trying to get good Samaritan points.”
“Perfect! Then you wouldn’t mind letting me borrow him tomorrow?” Rarity pursed her lips, taking on that I-have-a-huge-favour-to-ask pose. “I need a number of gems for a new dress I’m designing, and Spike is so much better at digging them up than I am.”
“Sure, I’m not overly busy tomorrow. Just make sure not to wear him out.”
Rarity squealed with delight. “Oh, thank you Twilight, thank you thank you!”
We spent close to two hours at the spa before finally exiting. It felt really good to have all that tension released. I said my farewell to Rarity and headed back to the library. On the way I decided to stop by the market to pick up some more ink and parchments.
As I walked in the front door of the library, I saw the tell-tale sign of green smoke fluttering out the window. I was confused, since that only happens when Spike sends a letter to Princess Celestia.
“Spike! I’m home!” The little dragon soon came bounding down the stairs.
“Heya Twilight! You’re home early. Everything go ok?”
“It was relaxing. Did you send a letter to the Princess?”
Spike shook his head. “No, I didn’t send a letter to anyone. Why do you ask?”
“Never mind. I was just curious.” I placed my supplies on the table and brought the book I had been reading from my room. “So, you want to help me test this spell?”
For a brief moment, I could have sworn Spike looked worried, but the moment passed as quickly as it had come, and he nodded, a large smile plastered on his face. “Sure, Twilight, I’ll help. What do I have to do?”
“Just stand perfectly still in the center of the room.” Nodding, he did as I instructed. I began to channel magic into my horn as I concentrated on my senses. The book instructed me to expand my natural abilities to their fullest potential.
It is so hard to describe what I felt next; I felt the wood beneath my hooves, stretching out to the walls. I felt the leaves in the tree blowing in the wind and the bees outside in their hive. I felt the beating of Spikes heart, as it slowly rose and fell like the tides. I felt the air moving as both of us breathed, heard the beating of my heart against Spike’s.
Wait, something wasn’t right. I was getting another feeling, another presence. It was small, and very strange, but also intelligent. I focused my thoughts, searching the room for this new life. Owlicious was in my room, sleeping, so it couldn’t be him. Again and again, my search led me to Spike, but I kept ignoring the dragon and continued to search for the third life.
Finally I was able to lock onto the foreign presence. Its level of intelligence was on par or even surpassed a pony, but from what I could tell it was very simplistic. But what shocked me about it most was where I found it: wrapped around Spike’s brain, seeping into all the dips and cracks.
I broke the spell and looked at Spike. He was looking back at me, but I saw something different in his eyes. They no longer were the kind eyes of the dragon I had known my life, but dark and sinister. With a strangled hiss, he leapt at me. I ducked instinctively, causing him to impact with the wall. He was back on his feet in a flash, as steam began to form around his mouth and nostrils.
“Hold still, Twilight!” he taunted, “this won’t take long.” With another hiss he sprang forward, claws outstretched and gleaming fiercely in the light. Quickly I ducked my head as he lunged and thrust it back up with as much force as I could. Spike went sailing into one of the book shelves, knocking over all its neatly organized contents.
Rage was now boiling in the little dragon's eyes. He climbed to his feet, and with another hiss a small jet of purple fire sailed towards me. Quickly I conjured a barrier to repel the flames as he slowly advanced upon me. I didn’t know what to do, out of fear of hurting Spike. Unfortunately for me, he seemed to lack that restraint.
Suddenly the stream of fire Spike was hurling at me stopped, and I risked a glance; he was panting for breath and seemed to be struggling with himself. His claws were trembling, and it seemed like every move he made was as if he were resisting.
I took a chance to look around the room. The floor around me was burnt from the flames, but was otherwise undamaged. Books from the shelves had been scattered along the floor, and the far wall possessed slight cracks from impact. My gaze finally fell on a piece of fabric lying on the ground. Another look told me it was the window curtain, which I guessed must have come loose during the struggle. An idea quickly formed in my mind.
I flashed a glance at Spike, who seemed to be regaining control of himself. Seizing my opportunity while I still had one I captured the curtains in my magic. Using my horn as a director I wove them tightly around Spike’s arms and legs. He was tightly bound in seconds, though he still didn’t seem to be aware of it. I then levitated him onto a chair and wove another set of curtains tightly around his waist.
It was only once Spike had been placed on the chair he managed to recover.
“Hey! Lemme go, Twilight!” he said in such a sincere tone that I considered letting him go. But his eyes flicked back to that sinister look, so I stopped myself.
“Spike, I think there may be something wrong with you. I’m worried.” To my surprise, Spike glared at me, his voice taking on an eerie and forbidding tone.
“You should be worried little unicorn. You won’t be much of a threat soon enough.”
Now I knew what was going on. “What are you, and what have you done to Spike?” A thought crossed my mind. “Are you a Changeling? Can you copy dragons now?”
He let out a small humourless laugh. “No, I am part of something else.”
“Then what are you?” I asked angrily.
‘Spike’ laughed again. “I see no reason to tell you.” He looked up, those cold hardened eyes staring straight at me. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
I’m not sure why, but his last words frightened me. The library suddenly felt restrictive and confining. I decided to gag him so as to not listen to any more of his words, and to stop him from burning the curtains.
Satisfied that he couldn’t escape, I headed for the door. I had to get out, find my friends. Maybe one of them knew what had happened to the real Spike, although that also made me pause. If any of them knew about Spike, why wouldn’t they tell me? Unless they were also spies...
“No,” I said to myself. “I can’t start suspecting everypony right now.”
I walked outside, shut the door behind me, shutting off Spike’s plaintive wails, and crashed right into Pinkie Pie.
“OMIGOSH TWILIGHT! There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you! My Pinkie Sense was acting up again, just like last time! There’s a big doozy coming, and since last time it was about you, I figured it’d be about you this time too, so I’ve been running all over but nopony has seen you all day except for Rarity but she said she didn’t know where you were so I thought you went over to Applejack’s but you weren’t there...”
“Pinkie!” I yelled, partly to break through her unending rant, but mostly to relieve some of the stress regarding Spike. For once, Pinkie actually quieted down. I sighed. “Sorry, Pinkie, I didn’t mean to yell. I actually need to speak with you. It’s about Spike.”
“Oh! Is Spike hurt? Is he in trouble? Did he hurt his little paw? Maybe we should go get Fluttershy.” Pinkie paused, staring at me. “Hey, Twilight, why is your head bleeding?”
“What?” I lifted a hoof up to my head, and brought it back down, stained red. “Oh, wow. I didn’t even realize...I wonder if Spike did it.” Noticing Pinkie’s confused expression, I filled her in on everything ‘Spike’ had done.
“I knew it! I knew my Pinkie Sense was right about you! It is a doozy! Spike’s been kidnapped and replaced by a meanie copy!” She brought a hoof to her chin. “Only...that can’t be it. I’m still getting that feeling that something big is gonna happen.”
“What? How is Spike being kidnapped not important?”
As if in response, a huge crack of thunder split the air. Everypony in town looked skyward, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
“Twilight! Over there, look!” Pinkie yelled at me. I considered telling her there was no reason to yell, since I was right next to her, but as I turned towards her, I saw what she did, and felt like yelling myself.
Up in the sky above Canterlot Castle, a huge ball of fire was heading straight towards the mountain. I watched, unable to move; the ball of flame was dead on target for the castle. I felt weak in the knees; Celestia could protect the city, but if she didn’t know where the danger was...
To my surprise, the ball shifted direction in midair. It struck one of the towers of the castle, and even at this distance I could see large chunks of stone falling away, but nothing else seemed damaged. My worry for the castle dissipated, however, as I realized the fireball was now headed for Ponyville.
I felt my mouth open in a scream, but no sound came out. As the fireball neared us, the flames around it died out, and I saw that it was more like a giant metal wagon flying through the sky.
Once again, the strange object changed directions, flying just above Ponyville. Everypony on the ground followed it attentively, while any Pegasi unlucky enough to be in its path flew out of the way, too afraid to see if it missed them. We all watched the metal thing fly over the Everfree, eventually crashing into the side of the mountain beyond. Moments after, the sound hit the town, with ponies everywhere cupping their hooves to their ears, trying to block it out.
Once the sound died, I felt a reassuring tap on my back. I opened my eyes, finding myself staring into Pinkie’s face, an uncommon frown on it. She motioned towards the mountain, and I looked over at it. There was a big hole in the side, with a small fire and thick black smoke wafting from it. I found myself uncertain about the whole scenario, Spike’s case momentarily forgotten.
“Twilight,” Pinkie said softly. “That was the doozy.”