I stumbled into a strange, friendly world where I was oddly drowning in ponies and other small, sparkling equines.
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“I never meant for it to go so far. I never meant to hurt anypony.”
Twilight stepped aside to allow Luna inside, closing the door behind them as her mind tried to grapple with the situation and think of something to say. She had been thrown off by opening the door to find the young princess standing in the hall on the other side, and even more by her profuse apologies.
Twilight hadn't seen or heard much from Luna since the Nightmare Night when they first properly met after Luna’s return. Princess Celestia occasionally mentioned Luna in passing, but Twilight never heard or saw much from the Princess of the Night herself. Twilight had never given it much thought prior to now. Obviously both princesses were busy with royal duties.
And now she was standing there, head bowed in shame and apologizing. It took Twilight a moment to connect the events of the day. “What are you—“ she broke off but didn't get to continue as Luna spoke up again to stop her.
“I didn't mean to go so far, and then I couldn’t stop it again. I only wanted to teach her a lesson.” Luna stood there, looking down with a distant look as she spoke. “The things she said on that stage, it's like that all the time. Even now, everypony still fears me. When I show myself in public without my sister, ponies start staring and whispering. I have to walk in this disguise to avoid their looks; I can never just be me. It’s like I don’t have a friend in the whole world.”
Twilight felt her stance harden. She was furious. She couldn't easily put aside the fact that Luna would have killed Trixie had Twilight not been there to step in. “And you seriously thought killing an innocent pony, in front of a crowd no less, was a good way to make friends?” A part of Twilight felt that her words had come out a little harshly, but another part didn't care and thought she should have been even harder.
Luna to her credit did not flinch as she faced Twilight with a look of acceptance. “I know my actions were contemptible and wrong. I wanted to make her see how much her lies hurt me, and there's this side of me …” Luna closed her eyes as she turned around. “A part of me enjoyed it. A part of me enjoyed punishing her like that.”
Luna looked at Twilight in the glass of the window. “I try to fight it, but when I'm alone all the time with no friends, when I see how everypony thinks of me, it tries to take over again like it once did. I don't want it to take over, Twilight. I don't want to be like that.”
A long silence followed. Luna looked miserable, but Twilight stood her ground. Luna continued, “I hoped we could be friends. You are the only other pony I know who may forgive me and help me overcome this side of me. I can't hold back the Nightmare inside me alone. I need your help, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight looked at Luna. It felt like forever. Her muscles relaxed a little and her face softened. The pain and loneliness was evident in Luna's eyes. You could almost see those thousand years of crushing solitude in her eyes. Twilight stepped up next to Luna and placed a hoof around her shoulders. “Why didn't you come to me earlier?”
Luna looked at her. The expression on her face was hard to decipher. “I sent you a letter, but you never replied. I thought you didn't want to see me.”
Twilight’s brow furrowed as she tried to remember. She couldn't recall any letter from Luna. “I never got any letter from you, Luna.”
The princess turned her head and looked at the owl sitting in the window. “But the owl … I sent him to you with the letter. I hoped we could write to each other, like my sister and you. I thought you'd like the owl; he's been my only real friend since I came back.”
Owlowiscious made a little affirmative “Hoo” at Luna's words.
Luna returned a sad little smile. “You, indeed.”
Twilight felt her heart sink. Had she really missed a letter from Luna? She thought back to the stormy night she had met Owlowiscious. The owl had brought her the scroll she lost, but had it lost its own letter in the wind and found her scroll instead, thinking it was the letter?
“Oh Luna, I'm so sorry. I didn't know the owl was from you. He must have lost your letter in the storm. Had I only known, I would have been happy to write you back.”
Luna looked at her. “Really?”
“Really!” Twilight smiled and gently hugged the princess. “I don’t think all these ponies really fear you like you think. They are just curious because they don't know you that well.”
Twilight sat back down on her bed. It was late when Luna had left, taking Owlowiscious with her on a nightly flight. But despite her eyelids feeling like lead, Twilight found herself inexplicably reaching for the little book under her pillow.
She sat for a time, staring at the word on the cover while thinking of Luna. It was hard to get the princess and her conflict out of her mind, but finally she opened the book with a sigh.
The first hoof-written note was followed by a few articles from local newspapers, many generations old but all from the same period. Each seemed to concern the same controversial character, a local business mare and philanthropist by the name of Midnight Spindle.
The header of an early article drew Twilight's attention.
“Fillystata Funds Fillies
“On Monday, local celebrity and colorful character, Mrs. Spindle made a rare appearance to help celebrate the opening of the new schoolhouse and playground, the latest project funded by the local business mare for the betterment of Dappleshore and its growing community.
“The fillies in the schoolyard may whisper in childish fear of Fillystata the wicked witch, as she has come to be known to them, but they have much to thank the elusive yet generous Mrs. Spindle for.
“ ‘Our young fillies need the best care we can offer them. I am pleased that my fortune can help them grow and prosper, and through them also our fair town,’ she was heard speaking at the opening ceremony to much applause.
“Indeed, Mrs. Spindle is on everypony's lips these days. Between a reputation for being aloof and eccentric, certain insidious rumors surrounding her remarkable longevity, and the rare and increasingly brief sightings of her husband Mr. Cotton Yarn, Mrs. Spindle has undeniably done more than anypony else can claim for the prosperity of Dappleshore in recent years. Many are willing, indeed quite happy, to let rumors be rumors and vouch for her decency.
“ ‘Elderly mares are so often the subject of foalish rumors and fanciful tales. Mrs. Spindle is a fine and most upstanding citizen of our fair town, and we are ever thankful to her that she has done so much for our community and asked so little in return,’ the mayor spoke.”
On the next page, an official-looking letter bearing the seal of the Royal Court in Canterlot confirmed the official name change of one Nightwind, daughter of Midnight Spindle, to Daisy Sparkle. “An unusually cheery name”, Twilight thought to herself as she read it. “Was she the first Sparkle? The one who began the family tradition?”
On the opposite page, another official letter from a much later date denied a similar request from one Manna Sparkle to change her last name to Spindle. From the crumpled look of the second letter, Twilight imagined the message from the Court had not pleased Manna, but why had they denied her the old family name?
Twilight flipped the page and paused, running her hoof over a page adorned with a rough family tree. Near the bottom, the name Midnight Spindle had been supplemented with “Fillystata” in parentheses. Her lone daughter's name had likewise been altered with “born Nightwind” added under the name of Daisy Sparkle.
Twilight read it twice before her eyes continued up through the tree: Lilac Sparkle, daughter of Daisy Sparkle; Amrita Sparkle, daughter of Lilac Sparkle; Manna Sparkle, daughter of Amrita Sparkle. Twilight’s eyes lingered on Manna’s name. On this tree it had been scratched out and replaced with Midnight Sparkle.
Manna in turn had a daughter, Evening Sparkle. Twilight recognized the name of her own great-grandmother. The tree ended there, but Twilight mentally continued the branches that Midnight hadn’t known at the time: Sunset Sparkle, Daughter of Evening Sparkle; Silver Sparkle, Daughter of Sunset Sparkle; Twilight Sparkle, daughter of Silver Sparkle.
She sat for a while, staring at the family tree in silence before forcing herself to turn the page with a shaking hoof.
The old picture of a large mansion on the outskirts of the town, surrounded by marshy fields, almost leaped out at her from another newspaper cutout. Twilight glanced over the brief notice beneath the image and read the report.
“On Saturday evening, at least three presumed robbers broke into the mansion at 110 Pedigree Lane, Dappleshore, home of local business mare Mrs. Spindle and her husband Mr. Cotton Yarn. The robbers woke up the residents and fled before they could be apprehended or identified. Nothing was reported stolen, but the elderly couple described the incident as ‘disturbing.’ ”
Twilight's eyes remained on the ancient picture of the house until she succumbed to sleep.
Twilight spent the next day at the fair with her friends, barely aware of what went on around her. After managing to escape the watchful eyes of her friends, she spent a time in the shade of a large tree on the outskirts of the fair, absorbed once again by the book.
There were more accounts of strange events surrounding Mrs. Spindle and the house at 110 Pedigree Lane, more family records confirming among other things Manna's official name change to Midnight after her initial failure to secure the family name, and a strangely brief obituary announcing Mrs. Spindle's unfortunate passing. The old business mare had passed away at an exceptionally old age for a pony; she was 65 when she died.
Little was revealed about her death, and the recordings in the book seemed to end abruptly with the obituary. Had Midnight Sparkle abandoned the research of her ancestor, or had she perhaps hit a dead end? Disappointed but still undeterred in her pursuit, Twilight resolved to continue the digging where the book left off.
She needed to know. As strange as it was, she felt that there was no way she could turn back now.
As the evening came, Twilight greeted her friends goodnight and walked back towards town. But instead of heading back to the hotel room, she took a turn down one of the old lanes. She had to see it for herself. Was it still there?
Pedigree Lane had no doubt grown more crowded since those early days, but as it wound its way towards the edge of town, the houses grew sparser. As Twilight trotted along with determined steps she almost felt like walking back through time, and as she stopped and looked up at the mansion she felt for a moment like she was looking again at the old photograph.
The place had sustained a great deal of wear and tear over the generations since the photograph was taken. It was obviously long since abandoned, but there it was, 110 Pedigree Lane, the home of Fillystata more than a century ago.
Windows had been broken and barred, the roof was full of holes, the garden was a jungle, and in all ways the place looked miserable. It was a wonder, Twilight thought, that nopony had done anything to repair it or tear it down. It was a sorry sight indeed. Once the home of one of Dappleshore's finest residents, now left to ruin.
What had happened?
Twilight approached the overgrown lot. Something drew her to it, and as she looked at the broken and barred windows she thought she spotted a shadow moving behind one of them. Startled, but unable to resist the pull of mystery, Twilight moved closer, forging a path through the grass and weeds of so many ages.
A faint orange light sprung up in the window, causing Twilight to pause and shiver. Was it just the cold of the night, or something more? Admonishing herself for her foalish fear, Twilight continued up to the window and peeked through the cracks in the bars, narrowing her eyes at the light while her heart raced in anticipation.
In the light of a small kindling fire in the old fireplace, a blue unicorn was trying to drive out the cold from her bones. Draped in her cape and lying on a bed made of leaves and old newspapers, Trixie seemed almost as poor as the house within which she had sought shelter from the night.
But it was not this that drew Twilight's immediate and total attention. Mounted above the fireplace was the portrait of an elderly mare, and through ages of neglect and grime it seemed to Twilight as if she was staring now upon a near-perfect picture of herself!