A fan-fiction author and computer programmer that lives in Pasadena. ======> TIp Jar <======
10w, 2dWriting Gold
10w, 2dThe Writer's Group
67w, 11hDoubled Fun
65w, 1dAuthor Support
- Show All Groups
67w, 13hTwilight is Best Pony
67w, 15hTwilight Sparkle
67w, 15hThe Hero... Nightmare Moon?
67w, 15hPast Sins
67w, 13hMy Favourites
67w, 12hProtect Celestia
60w, 2dTwilight's Library
10w, 2dOh god! The FEELS!
10w, 5dAmerican Bronies
67w, 13hThe Usual
66w, 6dRead and Read Again
10w, 2dI Just Want A Comment
66w, 5dLong Fics
10w, 6dNightmare Realm
60w, 5dStories I've read
41w, 2dMind Control/Hypnosis
55w, 1dThe Epics
40w, 1dMary Sue
60w, 2dSt. Xavier Bronies
58w, 6dFimFiction Gold Archives
53w, 3hMLP: Motherhood is Magical
48w, 4dVillains of Equestria
24w, 6dy8happy`s read later pile
46w, 4dCompleted Story Compendium
10w, 2dAuthors Helping Authors
37w, 12hThe Nyxian Alliance
44w, 4dNon-fiction Fanfiction
10w, 6dNightmare Moon's Nightmare Order
25w, 3d20% Cooler Stories
41w, 1dChildren of Equestria
35w, 6dGLS/Possible YouTube
23w, 2dBest Stories Ever
39w, 2dVallett's Private Library
39w, 2dFallen Heroes
24w, 3hMy Queue
24w, 6dSuper Best Friends
10w, 6dNightmare X
10w, 2dGood Grammar Directory
19w, 1dEquestria Daily
18w, 4hDramatic Stories Group
18w, 7hPancakes with Syrup
17w, 6dLife Experiences
17w, 1dMy reading list
16w, 3hThe 1000 Up Vote Club
15w, 21hssokolow's Recommendations
14w, 6dDriz's Fanfiction Emporium
12w, 2dDaemon's recomendations
11w, 4dBaby Villains
9w, 2dIncredible Reads
7w, 3dThe God Stories
4w, 5dTwilight's Choice Stories
3w, 4dThe Bureau of Happy Endings
1w, 1hHidden library
5w, 6dNew Story and Thanks To Editors 3 comments · 346 views
6w, 1dHelp Wanted 58 comments · 506 views
10w, 2dPast Sins Printing Release Party 61 comments · 635 views
11w, 1dMy copies of Past Sins have arrived 131 comments · 1,388 views
12w, 1dNew story arriving on Friday 36 comments · 617 views
14w, 2dSimple Status Update 18 comments · 571 views
17w, 2dNyx & Little Pip Want Your Votes 106 comments · 1,317 views
18w, 1dOkay, which one of you did it? 68 comments · 890 views
18w, 2dBronycon Aftermath 18 comments · 428 views
19w, 13hBronycon & 4000 Watchers 16 comments · 394 views
“Oh Twilight, I just heard the news! Did those ruffians hurt you? Are you okay? Oh, I just can’t imagine what it must have been like! I mean, it was probably similar to when I was ponynapped by the Diamond Dogs. Still, that’s just not the same as getting taken by other ponies, and I, for one—”
“Rarity!” Twilight half-shouted. She was sitting at the library’s main table and looked as if she had been reading when Rarity chose to barrel in. Spike was in the main room of the library as well, working to organize and clean the shelves. He hung back from the ladder he was standing on and wore a smitten look as he waved a claw. “Hi Rarity.”
“Good day, Spike,” she said before she turned her attention back to Twilight. “Now, what is it you wanted to say, dear?”
“I wanted to tell you to relax,” Twilight assured her. “I’m fine.”
“Fine?” Rarity echoed dramatically, “how can you be ‘fine’? After such a harrowing ordeal you must be positively petrified, and I heard they had you tied up! Oh, you must have such horrible rope burns.”
Twilight winced and looked down at her hooves. “I’ll admit, it does hurt a little where they had me tied up, but Nurse Redheart already took a look. It's just some minor irritation that will go away by tomorrow. So, Rarity, believe me when I say ‘I’m fine’.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,“ Twilight repeated, though her voice betrayed her minor annoyance. “I appreciate your concern, but everypony has already been here to check on me.”
“Everypony!? Even Fluttershy?”
“She was actually the first.”
“Oh, what a horrible friend I must be!” Rarity voiced. She put a hoof to her head and wore a pained, theatrical expression. “Being the last to arrive to check on you. I would have come earlier, but I was working in my shop all day. I only just stepped out to get a late lunch when Rainbow Dash found me and told me everything, and I rushed right over.”
“Rarity, it’s okay.”
“No, no, it’s completely unacceptable. I officially owe you, Twilight Sparkle, a favor.”
“A what now?” Twilight asked as she cocked an eyebrow.
“A favor. Pinkie Pie has her promises; I have my favors. You just come to me if you need anything, and, if I can help, I will do my very best to assist.” Rarity paused, glancing anxiously away from Twilight while batting at a few strands of her hair. “Just as long as it doesn’t involve excessive amounts of dirt.”
Twilight giggled a little at Rarity’s usual discomfort. “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, but you don’t have to worry about me, Rarity. I’m fine, really. Yes, getting ponynapped wasn’t exactly how I intended to spend my evening, but everything turned out all right. If anything, I’m just a little annoyed. I’ve been trying to get some reading done all day, but because everypony keeps coming to check on me, I haven’t even gotten past the first page.”
“Then I shan't take another moment of your time, dear. You just read, relax, and recover from your traumatic ordeal,” Rarity said as she headed for the door, only to turn back one final time. “And remember, if you need anything, I owe you one favor.”
“I got it,” Twilight replied as she watched Rarity leave, using her magic to shut the door after her. Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and now Rarity… she had been visited by all her closest friends, and she had told all of them she was okay. She had also received letters from her parents and Shining Armor, and she had assured them of the same.
That was everypony she could think of that would be panicked by the news of what happened, so maybe now she would be able to read her book.
“Spike?” Twilight called a few hours later, after finally reading a good distance into her book. “Can you bring me that book I had yesterday? Mountain Valley’s Geographic Guide to Equestria?”
Spike, who had been feeding his pet baby phoenix Peewee, paused from his work and glanced in Twilight’s direction. “Didn’t you have it with you yesterday?”
Twilight looked up from her book and stared at the ceiling as she tried to think back. “Well… I didn’t think… but maybe… No, wait… I did have it, didn’t I? Yeah, I put it in my saddlebags so that I could have it when I read this book at the park, but then I realized I had left this book here.”
Twilight began to point her hoof at different spots in the air, mentally retracing her steps. “So I came back, but then Pinkie Pie grabbed me to help decorate for her party. That took all afternoon. So, the book was still in my saddlebags when I went to the party, and then I left the party to come back here… and then I got ponynapp—”
Twilight quickly twisted her head around as her eyes darted about the library. She jumped to her hooves and began galloping around the room in a panic while rummaging through drawers and checking every nook and cranny she could find.
The sight made Spike sigh and shake his head. He gave Peewee the last of the birdseed he had in his claws before he began jogging after Twilight. He waited, and, when he had the opportunity, he leapt in front of Twilight just as she was turning to gallop in another direction.
“Whoa, easy, Twilight. What’s wrong?”
Twilight craned her neck around Spike, trying to look at the part of the library he was stopping her from reaching. “My saddlebags! Where are they?”
“How should I know?” he asked with a shrug.
“Oh no! No no no no no no no no no!” Twilight rattled off while shaking her head from side to side. “I had my saddlebags with me when I was ponynapped, and that means that either those cult ponies took them, or I lost them somewhere along the way! No no no no no! I can replace the copy of Geographic Guide to Equestria, but I had books in that bag Princess Celestia loaned me from the royal library! I can’t lose those books! No no no no—”
Spike grabbed the sides of Twilight’s head and brought her eyes to his. “Twilight, breathe… and think. Can’t you just use your locator spell?”
Twilight paused for a moment before a smile of relief burst onto her face. She closed her eyes and focused as her horn started to shimmer and blink. The locator spell was a charm Twilight put on her saddlebags after losing them one too many times. The charm would allow her to find her bags based on similar magical principles to the spell Rarity used to find gems.
After the spell had been cast, Twilight waved her head around while crossing her eyes so that she could gauge how fast her horn was flashing. She set off in the direction the flashing was the most frequent and soon found herself drawn to a window. Beyond that window she could see the Everfree Forest.
Twilight groaned and put her hooves up on the windowsill. “Great, that’s just great. My bags are in the forest.”
“Then you should probably just forget about them, Twilight,” Spike said. “They’re just books after all.”
“But that’s just it, Spike,” Twilight argued. “They aren’t ‘just books.’ Some of the books in those bags were on loan from the Royal Canterlot Library, and Princess Celestia loaned them to me herself. Do you realize how disappointed she’ll be if I tell her I lost those books? No, I can’t just leave them there. I’m going to get those books.”
With that Twilight began to trot towards the door, only for Spike to quickly cut her off. “Nuh-uh! No way, Twi. Princess Celestia would have my scales if she found out I let you go back into the Everfree Forest the day after you were ponynapped!”
“Well then, she won’t find out,” Twilight replied before she levitated Spike out of the way. He, however, ran right back into her path.
“But what if those crazy ponies are still in the forest? Do you want to get ponynapped again?”
“Princess Celestia’s guards scoured the forest last night with Zecora’s help. I doubt that any of those ponies are still there,” Twilight rationalized. “Besides, I need to get those books back! They’re irreplaceable.”
“Then I’m coming with you.”
Twilight shook her head firmly. “No, Spike, I need you to stay here in case somepony comes by. The last thing we need is everypony thinking I got ponynapped again. And what if somepony comes by to check out a book? This is a library. We can’t just close it whenever we want.”
Spike was not convinced. He crossed his arms and eyed Twilight. “I still don’t like it. Can’t you find somepony to go with you?”
“Everypony else is busy, especially after taking time to come and see me. Besides, I’ve been to the Everfree Forest before, Spike; I know how to keep myself out of trouble.”
“Says the pony that got turned to stone by a cockatrice,” Spike pointed out.
Twilight smiled weakly. “I’ll admit, that wasn’t one of my better moments. Still, if I’m not back in three hours, you can tell the princess that I left. You can even say that I put you to sleep with a sedation spell so you couldn’t stop me.”
“Twilight, I don’t want you to go because I think it’s dangerous, not because I don’t want to get in trouble.”
“Spike, I promise everything will be fine,” Twilight reassured Spike as she walked around him and continued towards the door. “Now, just keep doing your chores, and I’ll be back before you know it.” She glanced at the clock. “It’s just after three, so if I’m not back by a little after six then you can tell Princess Celestia, but I promise I’ll be back before then.”
Twilight swallowed nervously, stepping slowly through the forest as she kept her head down, following the light of her blinking horn. The threatening trees of the Everfree Forest surrounded her, their mangled and twisted branches reaching down from the canopy like deadly claws. The silence of the forest was also strangely unnerving. Twilight’s ears swiveled constantly to pick up any trace of sound as shivers ran up her spine from both the tension and the chill in the air.
“Okay, maybe it won’t be fine,” Twilight muttered, finally admitting to herself that she wasn’t ready to brave the forest alone. Logically, she tried to convince herself everything was fine, but her mind was still playing tricks on her. She couldn’t keep herself from believing every pony-shaped shadow she saw was one of the cult ponies coming to ponynap her again. She even charged off the forest path a few times, trying to get a jump on a would-be assailant, only to discover it was a bush or tree branch.
The situation was only made worse by the dark, gray, threatening clouds that were rolling in over the forest; it was the Everfree Forest’s first spring thunderstorm. Twilight could only imagine how horrible it would be to be caught in one of the forest’s infamous wild storms. They were rumored to have winds strong enough to pick a pony off her hooves and throw her halfway across Equestria. They were also supposed to have lightning that could—
Twilight shook her head and tried to clear away her panicked thoughts. She was getting close to her saddlebags now, the rate at which her horn was flashing was a sure indicator of that. She just needed to get those bags, and then she could just teleport herself back to the library.
“Just hold it together, Twilight. Just hold it together a little longer,” she whispered to herself in a half-hearted pep talk. However, as she rounded a bend in the path, her pep-talk died in her mouth, her pupils shrank, and her breathing quickened. Her locator spell had led her back to where she had been the night before, the place where she had been held captive by the cult ponies.
For a moment, Twilight had to fight the overpowering urge to teleport back to the library and leave her saddlebags and the rare books they contained to their fate. That urge, however, subsided when Twilight noticed her horn was blinking faster. She was close, so very close, and, with a nervous swallow, she mustered the courage to continue. She trotted along the edge of the clearing until she found the spot where her horn was flashing with the greatest frequency. She then rummaged through the bushes, and, with a triumphant smile, found her saddlebags.
Needing to be sure the books were okay, Twilight carried the bags to the center of the clearing and opened the flaps. A wave of relief swept across her body. None of the rare books were missing. In fact, nothing was missing, not even the more common texts she had been carrying. It was a discovery that brought a smile to Twilight’s face as she levitated the bags over her head and settled them down on her back.
“Perfect! Now to just teleport myself back to the library, and—”
Twilight froze, her eyes narrowed, and her ears stood erect.
She turned her head and focused on the source of the noise. It was a single bush located on the edge of the clearing. Something was moving around inside the foliage just out of sight, causing the leaves to rustle. Almost instantly, Twilight’s mind jumped to the worst case scenario. She could imagine a cultist leaping out of the bush to hogtie her again, and this time, when they cut her, they would do far worse. They’d use something bigger than a dagger, like a sword, and they wouldn’t just make a little paper cut either. They’d—
Twilight shook her head firmly. No, she couldn’t think like that. That bush was too small to hide a full grown pony. It’s probably just an animal. Yes, it was just a rabbit or something. She’d just get a little closer, and the little furry creature would pop out and scamper off, and she could finally breathe.
Unless it was a snake. Oh, if it was a snake, she was going to scream.
Inching closer to the bush, Twilight made each hoofstep as silent as possible. She strained her eyes to see into the darkness and kept her ears pointed forward to pick up any sound that might clue her in on what was hiding there. The branches rustled again, but whatever animal was inside had yet to jump free.
Twilight leapt, screamed, and galloped in the exact opposite direction of the bush before she dove behind a tree on the far side of the clearing. Her heart was pounding so hard it felt like it would burst out of her chest, and Twilight put a hoof over her ribcage in a panicked attempt to make sure that didn’t happen.
She began breathing deeply, trying to calm down while she looked up at the sky. “It was just the storm… It was just thunder… it was just thunder… thunder that scared me half to death… but it was just thunder.”
As Twilight tried to calm herself, she began to hear something. It was soft at first, but as Twilight managed to calm her breathing, she began to hear the sound more clearly. It was… crying. Somepony nearby was crying, and, from the sound of the voice, it was a young filly.
“Hello?” Twilight called out, her ears swiveling as she tried to pinpoint the sound. “Is somepony there?”
The crying quickly fell silent, as if the voice’s owner was trying to hide. However, Twilight had been able to figure out the general direction it was coming from. She moved back into the forest clearing and continued to listen. “It’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you.”
Twilight heard no voice call back to her, and she could only sigh and shake her head. “I must have just imagined it,” she told herself quietly. She closed her eyes and began to prepare her teleportation spell.
Again, the storm caught Twilight by surprise. It wasn’t as bad as the first time. She was able to keep herself standing in the center of the clearing instead of galloping off to hide. She did, however, throw an annoyed glare up at the clouds for startling her twice.
The thunder had also brought with it another sound, the crying Twilight had heard earlier, and it was close. Her first instinct was to call out again, but she decided against it in fear of the pony falling silent again. Instead, Twilight swiveled her ears forward and listened. The crying was now accompanied by some rustling, and it took Twilight only a few moments to pinpoint its source. It was the bush from earlier, the one Twilight had feared hid some horrible danger.
More concerned about the other pony than the possibility of being attacked, Twilight crept over to the bush as quietly as possible. As she drew close, she reached out with her magic and began to carefully grasp at the branches. If whatever was inside the bush decided to run away, Twilight wanted to at least get a good look at it before it escaped.
Once she was standing beside the bush, Twilight swallowed nervously and braced herself. She shoved the branches away and shut her eyes tight, a small part of her still expecting some pony in a cloak to jump out. When that didn’t happen, Twilight cracked open her eyes and looked into the interior of the bush.
What Twilight found, however, was nothing like she had expected. A filly as young as Apple Bloom was tangled up in the branches. It looked like she had been there for a few hours, if not longer. She also had nicks and scratches all over, which Twilight could only guess had been caused by the bush’s long, sharp thorns.
Normally, Twilight would have reached out to help the filly, but instead she found herself frozen in place. Her mind locked up, unable to process the filly’s appearance. Her coat was a regal black. She possessed a long, rich purple mane that was currently tangled in the bush’s thorny branches. And lastly, the filly had not only a pair of pegasus wings but a unicorn horn, making her an alicorn.
Yet, it was the filly’s eyes that held Twilight’s attention and filled her with fear. Those eyes were not shaped like a normal pony’s. The turquoise orbs, which should have had round pupils, instead had dagger-shaped pupils. The whites of her eyes were also off. Instead of white, they were a lighter color that closely resembled the color of the irises.
Above all, they were eyes Twilight had seen before; they were the eyes of Nightmare Moon.
Twilight felt her breathing quicken as her memories slipped back to the night before. The cult said they were the servants of Nightmare Moon, and they were obviously trying to cast some kind of spell. She’d admit, she hadn’t gotten a great look at the clearing, but she had seen spell lines, bowls with powders, and—
The spell they were attempting, it wasn’t some simple bit of magic. To need that much setup, the spell had to be powerful, possibly the most powerful spell Twilight had ever seen. On top of that, they said that they were servants of Nightmare Moon.
Yet, there was more to it than that. When they started to cast the spell, Twilight could feel it in her horn. The air became saturated with magical energy, and, as the spell began to progress, the magic began to change, to feel familiar. It was a kind of magic she hadn’t felt since… since…
Twilight’s pupils narrowed into fine points from the horror of the idea she had formulated. What if the spell cast was supposed to bring back Nightmare Moon? And what if it worked?!
It was insane; it was something that shouldn’t work. Yet, how else could she have felt such a strong aura of magic in the air? Why else would a filly she had never seen before, an alicorn with such a strong resemblance to the infamous Mare in the Moon, be in the same clearing?
Was that their goal? To resurrect Nightmare Moon? Did it work? Had the cult succeeded in bringing back Nightmare Moon? Was this Nightmare Moon?
It had to be. There wasn’t any other explanation for the intensity of the spell nor the appearance of the filly. That crazy cult had actually brought back Nightmare Moon, and Twilight had to warn somepony, anypony. She had to write to Princess Celestia immediately.
Or, better yet, she had to confront this… thing before it could get away and hurt somepony. Even if she was the size of a filly, Nightmare Moon was a master of deception and trickery. As far as Twilight knew, this was all just a trick. The alicorn could have simply been attempting to lure somepony into a trap, lying in wait for somepony to get close before attacking.
Twilight bristled, furrowed her eyebrows, and glared at the filly. “I know—” Twilight began harshly, only to stop abruptly. With just those two words, the filly shrank away whimpering, shutting her eyes as the bush's thorns left fresh cuts and scrapes on her body. When the filly dared to open her eyes again, she was looking up at Twilight like she was some hungry, pony-eating monster.
Twilight had never had anypony look at her like that, and it caused her indignation to cool. She lifted her hoof and reached out as slowly as possible. The result was the same. The filly shied away, whimpered, trembled, and succeeded in injuring herself further on the bush’s thorns.
It was a reaction of pure fear.
Twilight’s brain did a flip-flop trying to process this. Nightmare Moon was one of the greatest threats to Equestria, second only to Discord himself. She was a monster that tried to, at best, scare Twilight and her new friends away, and, at worst, get them killed. She was supposed to be the worst part of Luna’s psyche brought to life. At least, that’s what Twilight thought the insane cult’s spell was supposed to do.
Yet here she was, just a filly tangled in a thorn brush, and Twilight was unable to look away. The eyes that had once looked down on all ponies as if they were nothing but lowly insects were now filled to the brim with fear and pain. Some of the scratches from the bush were bleeding. The filly was terrified, hurt… and she needed help.
“I-it’s okay,” Twilight soothed shakily, “I won’t hurt you.” She wasn’t at all sure of what she was doing, but she had to, at the very least, get the little filly out of the bush before she injured herself further.
Taking hold of the bush magically, Twilight began carefully snapping away branches piece by piece. The filly winced a couple times during the process. Any small movement led to a thorn pricking her, but she kept her eyes locked on Twilight. The filly’s eyes were still filled with fear, but behind that fear was a flicker of hope, hope that the unicorn who had appeared was not a monster.
A few minutes later, with a final snap, enough branches were cleared away for Twilight to gently levitate the filly out of the bush. She brought the filly Nightmare Moon out from the edge of the clearing and set her down in the center, where they both proceeded to stare at each other.
Twilight’s mind was spinning at a million miles an hour, cycling through the same thoughts over and over again. Was this really Nightmare Moon? Was that the purpose of the spell last night? Did it work? How did it work? How could there be a Nightmare Moon without Luna? Weren’t they one and the same? Why was Nightmare Moon so small? Did the spell not work? Was Nightmare Moon just trying to trick her into taking her back to Ponyville? Was she only pretending to be so small and helpless? Was she dangerous? Was this really Nightmare Moon?
Round and round the thoughts circled. Twilight was unable to stop herself. It was the storm that finally managed to break the endless loop. Another wave of thunder cut through the air, snapping Twilight back to reality. Just as quickly, she noticed that the filly had rushed up to her. Trembling like a leaf, the filly clung to Twilight’s leg, eyes shut tight.
She was scared of the thunderstorm… Would Nightmare Moon ever be scared of a storm? Could she just be playing a trick, trying to lull her into a false sense of security? Twilight just couldn’t be sure. Her mind was telling her that the filly couldn’t be trusted. That she should just leave her in the forest, tell Princess Celestia, and let her deal with it.
At the same time, if the filly was Nightmare Moon, Twilight couldn’t just leave her in the forest. If she did, then there was a chance that the filly would disappear. No, if the filly was a danger to Equestria, Twilight had to keep track of her, if only to be sure she couldn’t hurt anypony. That, and Twilight couldn’t deny it didn’t feel right to leave anypony alone in the dangerous forest, even a pony that was arguably an enemy.
“Um… would you like to come back to Ponyville with me?” Twilight asked, unable to think of a better way to try and ask the filly to come along willingly. The little pony remained silent, but her eyes spoke her reply even before her head did. She nodded shakily and clung even closer to Twilight, looking upon her like she was the grand savior from a storybook. Twilight might have smiled at this if it weren’t for the raindrops that were starting to fall on her head.
“Oh, great…” Twilight muttered, flinching a bit as the rain started to worsen. With the storm coming quickly, Twilight did the only thing she could think of. She picked up the filly and nestled her between her saddlebags. Twilight then turned her magic above her head, projecting a transparent barrier just in time to shield them from the rain.
Twilight then took in a deep breath and tried to cast her teleportation spell, but she couldn’t get it to work. To teleport herself and others, Twilight used not only her magic, but also the magic that occurred naturally in Equestria. Yet, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t draw in enough magic from around her and the filly. The air had been leeched dry of all magic, even though the evening before it had been over-saturated with mystical energy.
Finally, Twilight was forced to give up. If she strained herself any further she wouldn’t have enough magic to power the barrier spell separating her and the filly from the rainstorm nor enough energy to walk all the way back to the library. With a sigh, Twilight began to walk. She could only pray to herself that she’d get back before Spike panicked and sent a letter to the princess.
Spike anxiously finished writing the letter to the princess and glanced at the clock to see it tick to the next minute. Twilight had been gone for two hours and fifty-nine minutes. That left her with one minute, just one minute, to get back to the library before he sent his letter to Princess Celestia. Spike watched the clock anxiously before he dared to glance out the window at the raging thunderstorm.
Dash had come by the library earlier to warn that the weather team was letting a storm from the Everfree Forest roll over Ponyville. The storm wasn’t scheduled, but the weather team had decided to let it pass over to save themselves the trouble of preparing another just two days later. It made sense, but the storm was still pretty nasty. Thunder, lightning, wind, and pounding rain all came together at once, and Twilight was out in that weather, possibly hurt or even ponynapped.
Spike glanced at the clock again and watched as the minute changed. It was official; it had been three hours and Twilight hadn’t returned. Spike began to breathe in, the message to Celestia mere moments from being magically sent to Canterlot when the library door suddenly swung open.
“Spike! Don’t you dare breathe out!” Twilight yelled, pointing a commanding hoof at him. She was covered in mud and grime up to her neck, little leaves and sticks were caught in her mane, and a tired expression was on her face. Still, Spike couldn’t help but smile. He tossed the letter aside and ran up to Twilight.
“Where were you?” Spike asked in a combination of worry and relief. He would have hugged her leg, but he’d noticed how muddy she was.
“In the Everfree Forest, like I told you. It just took longer to find my bags than I expected, and then I had to walk back in the storm,” Twilight said. She did her best to wipe her hooves clean on the welcome mat before stepping inside.
“Why couldn’t you teleport back? Did something happen? Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Twilight reassured him. “There was just something wrong in the forest, I couldn’t get a strong enough magical charge to teleport. It was like almost all the magic had been sucked out of the air. I’ll be fine. All I need is a bath and some dinner.”
“Well then, you go straight upstairs and take a bath,” Spike lectured her. “I’ll make dinner. How about some soup and sandwiches?”
“Can you make it celery soup and daffodil sandwiches?” Twilight asked as she levitated the books from her saddlebags and placed them in Spike’s waiting arms.
“Of course! One order of celery soup and daffodil sandwiches coming right up… after I get these books put away,” Spike said. He then turned and began the quick task of putting the tomes Twilight had just retrieved back in their places. While he did that, Twilight headed to the second floor of the library. She crossed her bedroom and entered the bathroom. It was small and cozy with a bathtub that doubled as a shower and all the basic amenities. Nothing fancy, but it got the job done.
Twilight shut and locked the door before breathing a sigh of relief and looking over her shoulder. Still lying on her back, nestled between her saddlebags, was the filly Nightmare Moon. She had curled up and fallen asleep halfway to the library. Thankfully, Spike hadn’t noticed the breathing black mass that was partially hidden by Twilight’s mane and saddlebags.
For the moment, Twilight just let the filly sleep while she turned on the bathtub faucets. The tub began to fill, and, as it did, Twilight opened the medicine cabinet to gather some first aid supplies. While most of the injuries the filly had from the thorny bush were tiny, there were a couple Twilight wanted to bandage.
Twilight waited until the tub was almost full before shutting off the faucets. The perfectly warm water gently steamed in the cool bathroom air, and a shiver of relief crawled down her body just from sinking her hoof into the water. Still, Twilight couldn’t go jumping in until the filly was off her back and she had taken off her saddlebags.
Looking back at the filly, Twilight bent her head close and gave her a nudge. It took a few tries, but the little pony finally began to wake up. She lifted her head off Twilight’s back and took in her surroundings before looking at Twilight, who offered a gentle smile.
“Don’t worry; you’re safe here. This is where I live, and you won’t have to worry about the storm or anything else here,” Twilight assured her. “Still, I need to get cleaned up. Would you mind getting off my back while I take a quick bath?”
The filly shook her head once before very carefully and cautiously getting to her hooves and jumping off Twilight’s back. Her little wings slowed her descent to the floor, allowing her to land gently. She, however, didn’t stay on her hooves for long. She lay down and curled up into a small ball on the soft bathroom mat below the sink.
With the filly off her back, Twilight was able to remove her mud-splattered saddlebags and climb into the bathtub. She winced a little as hot water came into contact with colder parts of her body, but she eventually sank in with a relieved sigh. After tromping around in the storm, Twilight wanted nothing more than to soak in the warm water. She, however, needed to make it a quick bath.
She picked up a brush and worked to remove the mud, twigs, and leaves that clung to her. Once they were all gone, she climbed out of the tub and let the now dirty water drain away as she toweled herself off. Then, once the tub was drained, Twilight opened the faucets and began to fill the tub again, this time only a quarter of the way full.
It was a very shallow bath, but it was perfect for the small filly. Twilight levitated the miniature Nightmare Moon lookalike into the water. She winced a few times as the water came in contact with her cuts and scratches, but otherwise the filly didn’t protest. She just stood there, being as complacent as possible as Twilight carefully used a brush to clean her.
Once the filly was clean, Twilight lifted her out of the tub, toweled her off, and began using the first aid kit to bandage the worst of her cuts and scrapes. All the while, she was amazed with how cooperative the filly was, despite acting sad and tired. Would Nightmare Moon really allow herself to be bathed and bandaged without protest? Yes, such a regal and royal pony might expect to be waited on by servants, but that wasn’t what Twilight was doing. She was treating her like a foal, and the real Nightmare Moon wouldn’t accept being treated like a foal, no matter how small or young she actually was.
Again, the question of whether this filly really was Nightmare Moon rose up in Twilight’s head. She was becoming less and less sure. The resemblance was undeniable. If the little pony had a flowing, magical, star-dotted mane and tail, then she’d look exactly like the Mare in the Moon.
Yet this filly just wasn’t acting like Nightmare Moon, at least in Twilight’s opinion. She didn’t talk down, nor did she make threats. She hadn’t even said anything yet, and the silence was even stranger. Twilight would expect Nightmare Moon to be vocal, and the filly’s odd behavior only raised another question: If she wasn’t Nightmare Moon, then who was she?
Twilight was drawn from her thoughts by a knock at the bathroom door. She finished placing one last bandage on the filly and then turned in the direction of the door. “Yes?”
“Hey, Twilight, I’ve got your dinner.”
Twilight glanced over her shoulder, both to speak in Spike’s direction and to make sure he wasn’t coming into the bathroom. “Thank you, but… you know, I’m really hungry after hiking through the Everfree Forest and the storm. Would you mind making me another sandwich and bowl of soup?”
“No problem,” Spike proudly assured from the other side of the door. “I made a big batch of the celery soup, and we have plenty of stuff for sandwiches.”
“That’s wonderful, Spike, but I only need one more.”
“You got it, Twi,” Spike replied before departing.
Twilight waited for her assistant’s footsteps to reach the bottom of the stairs before she opened the door. She checked the bedroom, making sure Spike, Owloysius, and Peewee were all downstairs before she stepped out. The filly followed close behind, not getting more than a few inches from Twilight as she crossed the room and moved towards the bed.
The meal Spike had brought in was sitting on her bedside table. It looked good, and Twilight was starving. However, instead of digging in herself, she levitated the filly up onto her bed and set the food out in front of her.
“Here, you go ahead and eat this. I’m going to go downstairs and talk with Spike,” Twilight said, her words coming with a comforting smile. The filly, again, didn’t offer more than a simple nod in reply. She leaned forward and took a bite from the sandwich. It was a small bite, but it was quickly followed by another, and another, and another as the filly eagerly devoured the food.
It was the first real sign of life Twilight had seen from the Nightmare Moon lookalike, and it was encouraging, to say the least. For now, however, she had to leave the filly to her meal. She needed to go downstairs and tell Spike the truth before he discovered the filly for himself, assumed the worst, and sent a letter to Princess Celestia.
It had taken a couple of hours to convince Spike not to write to Princess Celestia and tell her about the filly. He, like Twilight, at first assumed that she was Nightmare Moon reborn and that the princess had to be told. He had even written up a letter and was about to send it before Twilight snatched it away and threw it in the garbage.
Twilight’s arguments were weak. All she could really say was that the filly really didn’t seem to act like Nightmare Moon. In her logical mind, Twilight knew that Spike was probably right. They needed to tell the princess, but, once again, Twilight’s imagination betrayed her. Princess Celestia had banished Nightmare Moon to the moon for a thousand years. Twilight feared she would do the same to the little pony, and that just didn’t feel like something the filly deserved.
In the end, Twilight only got Spike to agree to silence by promising that she’d go buy him a large sapphire from Rarity as a bribe. It wasn’t how she would have liked to obtain his silence, but Spike had Pinkie Pie promised that, if she got him the gem in the morning, he would keep quiet about the filly until she wanted to tell Princess Celestia.
Having eaten her own dinner during the negotiations, Twilight made her way back up to the bedroom. She was a little worried about what she would find. There was a chance that, in the past two hours, the filly had grown into an adult Nightmare Moon and was ready to attack. Yet, after she opened the bedroom door, Twilight saw that the filly was still sitting on her bed, the sandwich and soup long eaten.
Taking a moment to steady herself, Twilight approached the filly and again she found herself torn on just how she was supposed to act. Nightmare Moon had tried twice to plunge Equestria into eternal night, but filly didn’t seem like a danger. She should have consulted Princess Celestia already, but she just wasn’t sure enough. It was a stalemate between her fear of what the filly could do and her fear of what the princess would do if she found out. She wasn’t convinced enough to tell the princess, but she couldn’t let her guard down either. If she did, there was a chance the filly would show her true colors, transform into Nightmare Moon, and attack.
It was better to be safe than sorry, and Twilight chose to keep her guard up. She’d watch and be ready to bolt out of the room should things become dangerous. At the moment, however, she needed to find out more about the filly. She needed to see if she remembered being Nightmare Moon or maybe had other memories, something to prove who she was.
“Are you feeling better?”
The filly nodded only once, barely meeting Twilight’s eyes.
“That’s good,” Twilight replied before taking a seat beside the bed. “So, uh… do you know where you are? Do you remember where you were before I found you?”
The filly shook her head, the first of many such replies. Twilight asked the filly what she did remember, what she knew, and a whole slew of other questions. Yet, while there were a few nods here and there, most of Twilight’s questions were met with a shake of the filly’s head, and each shake seemed to cause the filly’s eyes to tear up a little bit more.
The breaking point came when Twilight asked the filly if she remembered her name, which caused her to break down and cry. It wasn’t wailing or outright sobbing, but a quiet cry where she sniffled as tears poured down her cheeks.
It was a sight that helped Twilight understand why the little pony had been so quiet and subdued; she was scared and confused. The only memories she seemed to have were the ones of the past several hours. She had no memories of her own, yet possessed some common knowledge, like an understanding of Equestrian language.
Twilight found it difficult to even imagine having so few memories. It did, however, support her theory that this little filly had been produced by the spell cast by the cult. It would make sense for her to only have a few hours of memory as the spell had only been cast the night before.
Again, the question of whether or not the filly was really Nightmare Moon reared its ugly head, but it was a question Twilight chose to shelve in her mind for later. The filly was still crying, and it was pitting Twilight against herself. She had every desire to keep her guard up in case the filly was truly dangerous, but, at the same time, she couldn't in good conscience ignore how scared the filly was.
So, despite her own anxieties, Twilight crawled up onto the bed and lay down beside the young alicorn, doing her best to comfort the crying filly.
It took about half an hour for the filly to finally calm down and cry herself dry. The tears seemed to have a good effect on the filly, for she looked less scared then she had been. She lay right next to Twilight and was working to dry her eyes as she rested her head against Twilight’s shoulder.
“Feeling better?” Twilight quietly asked.
“Y-yes,” the filly shakily answered: the first word Twilight heard her say the entire night. Her voice had a musical quality, but a fragility to it as well. It reminded Twilight of the time she had seen an earth pony playing crystal juice glasses filled with water: a glass harp. It was a feat made easier by the special horseshoes the pony had on, but it was still impressive to watch and listen to. A voice like a glass harp… certainly not the voice Twilight would pair with an evil, fallen princess bent on creating an eternal night.
“That’s good,” Twilight replied before falling silent. She struggled to find something to say. When nothing came to mind, Twilight glanced at the clock and noticed the late hour. “So, uh… it’s been a long day. How about we get some sleep?”
“Can… can I sleep here?” the filly asked as she looked up at Twilight, a question that brought fresh unease to Twilight’s mind. Letting the filly sleep in the same bed was asking for trouble. If she was Nightmare Moon and just playing some cruel trick, Twilight was just asking to be attacked in the middle of the night. At the same time, Twilight couldn’t bring herself to refuse. It was like her mouth had forgotten how to form the word ‘no’ in the face of the filly’s pleading eyes.
“Yes, you can,” Twilight finally relented, “but how about I make it so we’re both more comfortable?”
With that Twilight lit her horn and used her magic to shift a few blankets and pillows around. She first tucked herself beneath the covers, then she set the filly down on top of the bed’s blanket and gave her a spare blanket and pillow. The blanket and pillow were meant for Spike’s basket, but they were the perfect size for the filly.
Soon, both Twilight and the filly were stifling yawns as the long day caught up with them. It was still relatively early, barely close to ten o’clock, but Twilight was more than willing to call it a night. Another yawn gripped her, and her eyes were just starting to droop when she heard a small voice whisper to her.
Twilight was drawn back from the edge of sleep. She lifted her head, and met the filly’s gaze with her own. “I’m sorry, I guess I never introduced myself. My name’s Twilight Sparkle.”
“Okay… Miss Sparkle, can I ask you something?”
The filly snuggled into Twilight’s side, as if fearing she’d be pulled away. “Do you want me to leave in the morning?”
“What makes you think I’d want you to leave?”
The filly bit her lip for a second before continuing. “You… were mad when you first saw me. I just… didn’t think you’d want me around.”
“It’s not your fault. I just thought you were somepony else for a while,” Twilight assured her, “but… no, you don’t have to leave in the morning.”
Those words made the filly smile, the first honest smile she had given all evening. Then, with that concern put to rest, the filly yawned, closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep with Twilight following soon after.