An off-again-on-again writer and father of a pony-fan-nine-year-old-daughter. Incessant poking will make me write more/faster, by the way.
77w, 1dAuthor Support
78w, 6dTwilight is Best Pony
78w, 6dTwilight Sparkle
20w, 1dPony Fiction Vault
79w, 1dRead and Read Again
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61w, 2dfimfiction's favorites
51w, 3dOld Mares' Tales
45w, 6dCompleted Story Compendium
33w, 1dKing Sombra & Trixie Fanfic
29w, 3dMeri's Favorite Stories
29w, 1dEQD Story Compedium
17w, 1dMy reading list
15w, 5hThe 1000 Up Vote Club
13w, 16hDriz's Fanfiction Emporium
5w, 13h200 3 comments · 41 views
12w, 19hStill Writing 1 comments · 54 views
32w, 17hA New Story Begun 2 comments · 71 views
33w, 5dWords Failed Her Audiobook - Testing, Testing... 4 comments · 61 views
36w, 4dThe Hurricane is Over! 2 comments · 66 views
38w, 16hHow Many Licks - Chapter 7 of Rainbow Typhoon, Almost Ready 1 comments · 64 views
41w, 2dOuroborial Aid 3 comments · 112 views
66w, 6dAn Apple Family Fairytale 3 comments · 76 views
72w, 6dWonderful New Artwork 4 comments · 73 views
78w, 4dWord From Me 5 comments · 76 views
Twilight Sparkle's eyes flashed back and forth across the page, eagerly devouring the words. Piles of newly arrived books surrounded her, covering the library's floor in uneven stacks. She was curled up in a circle of open volumes now riddled with bookmarks, a page turning every few minutes with a violet glow of unicorn magic.
She loved how the library's tree always stayed comfortably cool even on a particularly hot summer day such as this. Staying inside and reading a good book—or maybe twenty—was the perfect way to pass the hottest mid-afternoon hours, and these new books had completely captivated her.
Spike was climbing up a ladder with a thick omnibus, trying to find a place to cram it into the packed shelves. "Why did the princess have to send so many? There's no room here for all these!"
Twilight didn't look up from her reading. "They need to be kept safe while they renovate the Star Swirl the Bearded wing of the royal library. It's an honor that she trusts us to look after some of them."
"Hah. An honor, she says. All I see is a lot more work for me!" Spike shoved the large book into a gap just barely wide enough and leaned against it with all the weight his small dragon frame could provide.
Twilight chuckled. "Don't worry, they started days ago. It won't be long before they're done. Now let me read. This book is amazing!"
"Twilight! Twilight Sparkle!"
She sighed. So much for reading. She looked up to see Mr. Cake, of all ponies—breathless and alarmed—running into the library and looking wildly around the room.
Twilight stood up from behind the piles of new books. Seeing her, he galloped over, eyes wide with panic. "It's Pinkie Pie! She's under some kind of curse. We can't stop her!" Too agitated to stand still, he trotted in place in front of her, his hooves beating an irregular rhythm on the wooden floor.
"Pinkie? And there’s no such thing as curses, Mr. Cake." Twilight frowned.
He shook his head, nearly losing his already-askew hat in the process. "I wouldn’t know about that, but I know bad magic when I see it. You’ve got to come to Sugarcube Corner and help her, right away!"
However, Twilight had already come to the same conclusion, based solely upon his current state of agitation, and was floating her saddlebags towards her back. "Spike!" she called out. "Find my copy of Malevolent Maledictions and Misspells."
Spike, as usual, had been listening and thinking ahead. He was already halfway up another ladder, reaching out for a squat black-bound tome that lurked there. "The curse book. Already on it!"
"There’s no such thing as—" Twilight began, but a glance at Mr. Cake’s anguished face stopped her. She just levitated the book out of Spike’s hand and into her bags. "Never mind. I’ll be back soon—I hope." Then she turned and followed the rapidly departing baker.
With his longer legs and nervous energy, Mr. Cake quickly outpaced her through the hot, empty streets of Ponyville. She had to teleport the final stretch so that she could be right behind him as he shoved his way through Sugarcube Corner’s front door.
Twilight immediately started coughing as she ran into a cloud of flour dust that filled the whole bakery. She could hear the sounds of falling pans and breaking crockery from the kitchen, along with Mrs. Cake’s plaintive cries of, "Please, Pinkie! Put the rolling pin down. No, don’t do th—Oh!" A fresh cloud of flour billowed out from the kitchen door.
Twilight ran past the now motionless Mr. Cake and rushed, still choking on the dust, into the large kitchen. She could see only shadows through the fog of flour, but a moment’s concentration and a sudden, all-encompassing violet glow—and the dust was gone. She coughed the last of it from her lungs and looked around the room.
Pinkie Pie, covered in white flour and globs of yellow cake batter, was moving from counter to counter as if in a trance, carrying bowls and measuring cups back and forth. She slipped and slid in the mess of spilled milk and other ingredients that covered the floor but didn't cease in her steady—if sloppy—preparations. Her eyes were unfocused and staring straight ahead.
Mrs. Cake hovered nearby, not getting in Pinkie's way but trying to stay near enough to catch anything breakable that fell.
Twilight’s nose twitched to the acrid smell of burning sugar, and she turned to look at the oven. It was jammed so full of muffin trays and cake pans that the door wouldn’t close, and thick black smoke was seeping out from between the batter-filled cookware.
First things first, she thought as she trotted over to turn off the stove.
As she did so and turned away, however, Pinkie was suddenly there, reaching for the knobs. "Preheat at three-fifty," she mumbled in a monotone, turning the oven back on and returning to her mixing.
Twilight started to reach for the knob again, but Mrs. Cake stopped her. "That won't work. She'll just turn it on again. I've tried several times!" She absently brushed a lock of her disheveled mane out of her eyes, smearing flour across her cheek.
Frowning, Twilight looked down the side of the oven and found the gas valve, twisting it closed with her magic.
She approached the nervous and worried Mrs. Cake, who was almost as messy as Pinkie Pie from her attempts to stop the mad baking. "What happened, Mrs. Cake? How did Pinkie get like this?"
"I don’t know! This was how I found her. I came down from putting the foals to bed for their nap and she was... like this!" She waved a hoof at Pinkie, who was cracking eggs onto the bottom of an upside-down bowl.
Twilight bewilderedly watched for a moment and then asked, "What was she doing before?"
"Before?" Mrs. Cake thought for a bit and said, "There was something about a new recipe she wanted to try."
Twilight’s ears perked up. "Aha! A new recipe. What was it for?"
Mrs. Cake shook her head. "I don't know. But it must still be here somewhere." She moved over to the counter and began rummaging through the piles of gooey utensils and mixing bowls that covered it.
Pinkie continued her "work," oblivious to the presence of anypony else in the kitchen, shoving another baking sheet into the jammed oven.
At least the smoke has stopped.
Mrs. Cake had found a pink card and, after brushing it clean, started reading it. "This is it. It's a recipe for cupca—" Her eyes suddenly went unfocused, and the card dropped from her hooves to the floor. She slowly turned, picked up a jug of milk, and began pouring it into a bowl.
"Mrs. Cake? Mrs. Cake!" Twilight called, but she was completely ignored. Both Mrs. Cake and Pinkie slowly moved around the kitchen in the same methodical, clumsy way, the same vacant expression on their faces.
"It’s contagious," Twilight whispered as she backed toward the door, only to bump into Mr. Cake who was standing there watching.
He started to push past her into the kitchen. "Honey? Dear, speak to me!"
Twilight’s horn glowed, and with a flash of violet light and an airy popping sound, the two of them were outside the front door. Mr. Cake staggered and looked around in alarm.
"Sorry about that, but it looks like whatever's going on, it's contagious. I didn't want you to get it too." She trotted over to the window to peer inside.
"Contagious?" he repeated, a worried frown on his face. Suddenly his head snapped around to look at her. "The twins!"
She immediately ran back over to him, asking, "Where are they?"
"In the nursery, right up there," he said, pointing to the second floor window.
Twilight’s horn glowed once more, and the window opened. A moment later a crib floated out to land between the two of them, the twins still fast asleep within.
Their father dithered over them for a moment, perhaps counting to make sure they were both there. Then he reached out as if to pick them up, but his parental instincts balked at waking a sleeping baby and he let them be. Instead he drew himself up and stood guard over the crib like a worried soldier.
Twilight had pulled the black tome from her saddlebags and was already flipping through the pages. "No... no... no... Could this— No. No... None of these bear any resemblance to what we're seeing!" Having looked at every spell in the book, she slammed it shut and shoved it back into her saddlebags.
She turned to Mr. Cake. "I'm going to have to go back to the library and do more research. With the gas off, I don't think they can hurt themselves. But don't let anypony in there till I get back."
Mr. Cake just nodded, obviously willing—even grateful—to let Twilight call the shots. He just looked back at his bakery with a worried frown. Twilight started galloping back towards the library.
"Stop right there, Ahuizotl!" came a shout from above. She skidded to a halt as Rainbow Dash landed hard in front of her, squatting tensely and scowling at Twilight.
Twilight drew back slightly. "Rainbow Dash. What's wrong?" Why is she upset with me?
Dash started to creep forward, eyes flashing with anger. "Return what you have stolen from me, Ahuizotl!"
"Ahuizotl?" Twilight blinked before remembering where she had heard the name: the Daring Do books. "It's me, Dash. Twilight Sparkle."
"You won't get away with this, Ahuizotl. That chalice is mine! Your minions can't help you now." Dash kept advancing with a fierce scowl, and Twilight had to slowly back away to maintain some distance between them. She wasn't sure what Dash would do once she got close.
She's acting out the books! It's just like Pinkie and the recipe... This is worse than I thought! Twilight stumbled over a rock. Think! I've read those books, and I know which ones Dash has read. I just have to—
She stopped her backpedaling and drew herself up haughtily, speaking in her best rendition of a royal voice, "I am Simurgh, keeper of the Gaokerena! You have earned my favor by your actions, Daring Do. For this, I give you," Twilight floated one of her feather quills out of her bags towards Dash, "one of my feathers. Burn it and I shall come to your aid. Take this boon and—" Twilight stumbled here, unable to remember the rest of the speech. She finished as best she could. "Take this boon and fare thee well!"
Fare thee well? That was awful! She held her regal pose and waited, hoping that the deception worked. She did read that book... right?
Dash stared long at the feather floating before her with a puzzled and unfocused expression. Then she shook herself and took a staggering step forward, plucking the feather from the air and tucking it into her mane. "Thank you, great Simurgh. It was nothing. It's just what I do," she said, then leapt into the air and flew unsteadily away.
"Whew!" Twilight plopped to the ground for a moment to rest, wiping the sweat from her brow. If Rainbow Dash had been reenacting the scene Twilight thought she had been, then getting her diverted to a different one just saved them both some major lumps. That was the start of a big fight between Daring Do and Ahuizotl. Luckily, though, it had worked, and now she could get home and figure out a cure for what was starting to look like an epidemic.
Twilight galloped the rest of the way to the library, bursting in through the door only to once again begin coughing, this time on thick black smoke. "Spike! Spike, what's burning!"
She ran towards the thickest concentration of smoke, near the fireplace, and found Spike slowly tossing a book into the fire. "Spike! Stop that!" She froze the book in midair and lifted him up with her magic. "What do you think you're doing?"
That was when she noticed that Spike's eyes were unfocused too, just like the others. He was muttering something, quiet and indistinct. Twilight immediately recognized the signs of yet another victim, but she risked bringing him closer to make out what he was mumbling.
"What? Mustn't read what, Spike?" He only repeated his utterance, however, and continued walking in place while suspended in midair.
Twilight looked around and into the fire, and to her relief saw that he had managed to only burn three books so far. She tried to lift them out of the flames, but the crumbling remains were beyond saving. She couldn't even tell what their titles had once been. It could be weeks before she'd be able to tell what was missing. Twilight felt her eyes start to water and wanted to blame the smoke, but she knew that the tears were for the books.
It's silly. They're just things. However, the thought that those things might have been originals—or worse, unique—was heart wrenching to her. The princess trusted us to protect these books! She felt a touch of anger grow inside her, and she turned back to the young dragon she held aloft with her magic.
Looking at him, however, the anger completely drained away. He was just a young dragon, after all, and under a—she couldn't bring herself to even think "curse," but that was what it appeared to be. Twilight lowered her head, an air of gloom about her she couldn't shake. This is spreading too fast!
It was then she noticed the charred and discarded remnants of a scroll. A message from the Princess!
"Spike, what did the Princess say? What was in her letter?"
Twilight blinked, and the answer rushed into her head. Words. Ponies are being infected by words! The recipe, the Daring Do novel, Princess Celestia's letter... And whatever you're reading when you get infected determines the form of your condition. Celestia was trying to warn me! I've got to tell everypony not to—
All of a sudden, she was deeply aware of the shelves and shelves of books right behind her, every one with a different title in clear, bold letters on its spine. If any of those books was infected, she would end up just like Pinkie and Rainbow Dash—and Spike. Perhaps the only thing that saved her as she had run into the library was the thick smoke, but now that was dissipating and if she turned away from the fireplace it could mean—
She slammed her eyes shut and her horn flared bright.
With a flash that she could see through her closed eyelids and a clap of sharp sound, she was outside the library, Spike still floating next to her. She started to open her eyes but had another realization: signs. Every shop and street corner has words, signs. They could be infectious too. I just don't know!
With another flash and pop, she cracked her eyes open slightly to look through her lashes. Seeing the edge of a grove of trees ahead, she teleported a third time.
Surrounded by thick trunks of wood, with not a word in sight, she could fully open her eyes and look at Spike. He was unchanged, still walking in place where he hung, still muttering the same two words over and over.
"This is for your own good, Spike. And for the library." She summoned a strong, wide ribbon of magic that wrapped around her assistant, binding him to the base of a tree. "That should hold you while I figure out what to do."
She sat down and pondered.
What she wanted to do most of all just then was research. To go through her vast library of reference material to find some mention of a sickness like this—with the hope of also finding the cure—but that was the one thing she could not do. In fact, she couldn't even return to town—not without finding some way to protect herself.
Twilight's desire to read her way to safety was such that even the black-bound tome in her saddlebags seemed tempting. I already read from that, didn't I? It should be safe. No, she couldn't trust that it was still safe, particularly after having had more encounters with the infected.
Besides, it was just a book of—
"Curses! Spike, it's a book of curses, and I just went through it cover-to-cover. There's a spell in there that can protect me!" She reached for the book with her magic, but stopped herself before its spine came into view.
"No... I have to just remember what it said about that spell—how to cast it." She gulped. "And I've got to get it right on the first try."
She closed her eyes again to concentrate, imagining the book open before her, flipping the pages.
She sat like that for several minutes before rising and opening her eyes. "Okay, Spike. Here goes..."
Her horn began to glow, its violet aura pulsing and giving off sparks of raw magic. This was a complicated spell, made more so by casting it upon herself. Curses—or malevolent spells, Twilight reminded herself—were never meant to be self-cast. She pushed her worries down and focused.
The aura twisted around her horn like a crawling thing trying to escape. It surged downward, engulfing her head in violet light. Twilight gasped, her eyes going wide and pupilless for a moment. Then the effect was suddenly gone, her appearance back to normal.
Twilight shook her head, dizzy. She dropped onto the patchy grass between the trees and panted. I think... I think I did it.
She swallowed and pulled herself together. There's only one way to find out.
Malevolent Maledictions and Misspells floated out of her saddlebags and came to rest on the grass in front of her. After only a moment's hesitation, she let the book fall open.
She stared at the pages and at the delicately scribed passages that filled them.
And they were meaningless to her.
The spell had worked, the very spell that could be lying open before her right now, for all she knew: the Illiteracy Spell.
The one spell she knew that wasn't in that book, however—the lack of which now causing tears to pour from her eyes—was its cure.
Because there was none.