66w, 1dWriting Gold
60w, 6dThe Writer's Group
58w, 5dOrganized Shipping (Most Common)
61w, 2dTwilight is Best Pony
- Show All Groups
46w, 2hTwilight Sparkle
54w, 6dF/F ships
53w, 3ddark soul
47w, 6dgood stories
19w, 5dTwilight's Library
48w, 14hThe Usual
So we live, you and I, either side of the edge
And we run, and we scream, with the dilated stare
Of obsession, and dreaming
“Welcome back to paradise, sugarcube.”
Rainbow Dash groaned; the world inside her closed eyelids was a watercolour supernova, the colours painting themselves into kaleidoscope patterns in the darkness. An immense pressure bore down upon her head, and she blearily opened her left eye. Above her, the face of Applejack swam into focus, evidently torn between concern and exasperation. As Dash’s senses returned to her, she realized that she was lying on the damp dirt road leading from Ponyville to Sweet Apple Acres, and a gentle drizzle was picking at her fur.
“AJ?” Dash murmured, and the Farm Pony looked relieved, holding out a hoof to hoist the bedraggled pegasus back onto her feet.
“Now what in tarnation were you tryin’ to do this time?” Applejack demanded.
“Seven-twenty invented corkscrew flare,” replied Dash, a little of her usual bravado creeping back into her voice at the mention of her newest creation, despite the slur in her voice and the unsteadiness with which she stood. She rubbed at the top of her head, and winced at the painful egg-shaped lump that she felt there. It was a relief when she inspected her hoof to see that her head was, at least, not bleeding.
“Uhh, you what now?” Applejack raised one eyebrow, bemusedly.
“Nevermind. Didn’t work.”
“Fair do’s," Applejack clearly had decided not to press the subject. "Now, come with me if ya feel okay with walking. We need to get ya’ll cleaned up.”
Gratefully, Dash fell woozily into step beside her friend, and the pair began to head in the direction of the farmhouse. As they walked, it was obvious that the pegasus was not her usual, talkative self, seeming almost subdued. Inside her head, she was running back over the last few minutes, trying to work out where the stunt had gone wrong. She remembered getting her spins up to speed as she plummeted towards the ground, and executing the main part of the stunt perfectly, but then, without intending to, she had remembered the events of this morning.
The story in the newspaper.
It had felt as if her chest had crumpled like a tin can all over again. In the brief moment of distraction, she had failed to account for a rogue patch of turbulence, and it suddenly buffeted her, throwing her off course before she could pull up. There had been no time to adopt a crash position, all she remembered was the ground rushing up to meet her, flaring her wings desperately out like a parachute, then feeling the blackness take her with a sickening thud.
She was staring blankly ahead of her, and started slightly when Applejack tapped her on the shoulder.
“Everything okay, sug’?”
Tell her, just tell her what’s happened! a small voice in the back of Dash’s head shouted at her, but her already injured pride forced it into silence, and instead she let out an airy chuckle. “Me? ‘Course, why wouldn’t I be? I’ve had worse crashes than that!”
Applejack clearly wasn’t buying it. “Ah dunno, ya’ll seem kinda… Off.”
“I told ya, I’m fine!” Dash had not intended to snap, but the words came out angrily nevertheless.
“Okay, okay, sheesh. Sorry Ah asked.”
The dejected pegasus looked at the ground with a sigh of resignation. “Sorry, AJ,” she muttered, “I didn’t mean to yell at ya. I’ll be fine once my head stops aching.”
Being the Element of Honesty had its advantages. It did not only instill truthfulness into its bearer, it also ensured that Applejack was quite adept at knowing when she was being lied to. It was perfectly obvious to her that Dash was not telling her the whole truth, but she decided not to press the issue, particularly not when her friend was in such a weakened state. Actually, the very fact that Dash was weakened was partially the cause of Applejack’s concern. She had seen her shrug off much worse injuries than this one, often laughingly, but now the silence that fell between them had a gloomy pall to it. Fortunately, the Sweet Apple Acres farmhouse was coming into view through the thickly-planted trees that surrounded the road, and a short while later they were at the front door.
“Sorry, I don’t wanna mess your day up,” Dash said, sheepishly, “I’ll clean up a bit and get out of your mane.”
“Don’t you worry none, Rainbow,” the Farm Pony waved an airy hoof, “you’re in a state, even if ya’ll don’t wanna tell anypony what’s up. Least I can do is make sure ya’ll get cleaned up properly.”
“Thanks, AJ.” Dash smiled genuinely for the first time that day, and gave Applejack a quick hug. Then, she trotted through the door into the farmhouse, looking briefly around at the light, terracotta-tiled interior the kitchen, dotted with Apple family heirlooms and sporting a few disassembled plough parts leaning up against the wall, probably a project of Big Macintosh’s. Deciding to locate the shower first, she headed towards the stairs at the far end of the room.
“Anytime, sugarcube. Bathroom’s second on the left!” Applejack called after her swiftly disappearing form. “Now what in the hay is up with that pony?” She added to herself in a concerned undertone.
Half an hour later, a dry and mud-free blue pegasus could be found heading draggingly along the cobbled streets into the centre of Ponyville. Despite Dash’s insistence that she’d already taken up enough of Applejack’s time, the ever-understanding Earth Pony had insisted on giving her a healthy helping of apple pie before she left, and had waved her off with a look of concern still etched clearly on her face. Rainbow Dash knew that she had worried her friend with her gloomy behaviour, and guilt weighed heavily on her, knowing that she had been too cowardly to even tell Applejack what was actually wrong. A vicious internal battle was raging inside her, and every time she closed her eyes she saw the newspaper article, heard the words echoing inside her head, saw his face smirking back at her.
She’d laugh at me if I told them, they all would.
Of course they wouldn’t, they’re your friends.
They’d think I was being petty. They’d think I’m big-headed and stupid.
You are being petty! Why are you letting this bother you so much?
I don’t even know…
“You are so useless!” Exclaimed Dash, halting in her tracks, her angry voice echoing off the buildings to either side of her. The overspill of her anger burned hot in the corners of her eyes. There was silence. Looking around, she realized with cringing embarrassment that she had spoken her final self-addressed thought aloud, and that several ponies in the street had stopped to stare at her, assuming that she was addressing one of them. Dash closed her eyes, cheeks burning. The lump on top of her head was still aching in violent pulses, and she wished that she had taken up Applejack’s earlier offer of a bandage.
“Are you okay, miss?” A gruff-voiced brown stallion with a long, curly mane had sidled up to her, and was looking askance at her as if worried about her sanity. Dash did not stop to reply. She needed to get out of here, now. Her pride meant a great deal to her, and for the third time in one day it had taken a beating. Flaring her wings, she lanced off into the sky, straightening the stallion’s mane with her downdraft, and leaving him thoroughly confused.
As she flew, seeing the town spread out like a cobweb below her, the pain in her head doubled with the exertion, making her groan aloud.
I need a headache cure, she thought to herself, rubbing the sore patch in irritation. Below her, in the middle of town, the library stood out alone in the square, surrounded by dots of moving colour as Ponyville’s population went about their daily routine. Making up her mind, she began her descent. After all, she reasoned, maybe what she needed right now was a dose of magic.
The library was dimly lit, window shutters closed despite the cheerful midday sun beating down outside. A trestle table had been set up in the centre of the room, and was covered in books, beakers, and the paraphernalia of a student of the magical sciences hard at work. Owloysius flapped confusedly about overhead, surprised by the sudden presence of his native darkness, and hooting in puzzlement. The librarian herself was standing at the table, gazing with rapt attention at the concoction bubbling in a glass cylinder in front of her.
“Okay, that seems reasonable,” Twilight Sparkle muttered to herself, levitating a pencil and jotting down a few notes on a clipboard held also in midair. She looked around for her assistant.
“Yup?” The diminutive dragon popped up beside her, eager as ever.
“Experiment four worked out okay. Now, can you get me sealed beaker of crude Rainbow Seed, and a cylinder of potassium dichromate?”
“Will do!” Through the darkness, Twilight heard Spike clumping around, and there were a few muffled crashes from the next room.
“Ouch!” Came the dragon’s voice, irritated. “Why’s it gotta be so dark in here?”
“You know how photosensitive unrefined Rainbow is, Spike. Remember last time? You’ll get used to the dark, you’re supposed to live in caves, after all.”
“I guess so,” came the grudging reply, as if caves were not at all what they were cracked up to be. There were a few more moments of thumping and muffled muttering, then a noise of triumph. “Ah, got it! Here we go.” Spike tottered back through the door, holding various items of glassware several sizes too big for him, and nursing a stubbed toe with the other claw.
Twilight relieved him of a few of the more precarious items with a giggle. “Thanks, Spike.”
Spike dumped the vial of muddy, viscous liquid that was unrefined Rainbow onto the table with a sigh of relief. He was about to place the tall cylinder too, when the shutters covering the tall window on the wall above them were pulled aside. Light flooded the room, shining directly onto the beaker of Rainbow Seed.
“Oh, brilliant,” sighed Twilight, with resigned cynicism, in the second of silence that followed. Then the light did its rapid and inevitable work.
The rainbow liquid exploded into sudden, vivid colour. More impressively, it also expanded a hundredfold in size, shattering the beaker and filling the room with ricocheting lances of coloured light. Concentrating hard through the sound of the rainbows pinging off the walls, Twilight’s horn began to glow. In her head, she ran through a complex multiple vanishment spell, feeling the red sparks crackle against her forehead. In a second, the rainbows, the broken glass, and the cacophony were all vanished into thin air, leaving behind only echoes and small clouds of purple smoke.
There was silence. Spike was lying on his back, tail vertically stuck out behind him, a look of blank shock on his face. Twilight’s heart was hammering. An accusatory rebuke rising in her throat, she looked up at the window, to see a guilty-looking blue pegasus hovering just outside. Despite the situation and property damage, not to mention the cost of crude Rainbow liquid, she felt her anger ebb slightly. She found it difficult to be irritated with Rainbow Dash for long, despite her overconfidence and over-excitable attitude. Perhaps it was the cheerful colour scheme, she thought idly.
“Oh look,” she remarked sarcastically, “another rainbow-coloured disaster. Do you always come in pairs? Oh, and have you ever heard of doors?”
“Uhh, sorry Twi’,” Dash said, quietly, not meeting Twilight’s eyes. She looked ashamed, and did seem genuinely apologetic, but Twilight could tell that there was something else wrong. Spike’s eyes at last returned to their normal size, and he stood, shaking his head, and set about opening the other shutters, the enforced darkness no longer being necessary. Owloysius returned sulkily to his perch, and eyed Twilight with a baleful gaze as if he suspected her of pranking him.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. It wasn’t important.” Twilight waved a hoof dismissively, aware that something was the matter and not wanting to make Dash feel worse about whatever it was. “No harm done!” She noticed that despite her deliberately blasé attitude to Dash’s slip-up, the pegasus was still avoiding her eyes.
“Are you okay, Dash?” She asked, concerned.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m fine.”
“Hmm.” She looked at her friend quizzically. Something was up, that much was obvious.
“I kinda had a bit of a disagreement with the ground just now.” Twilight saw Dash’s hoof gingerly tap the top of her head, and hearing this distracted her from her previous train of thought.
“What, you hit your head?” exclaimed Twilight, in concern. “When? Are you okay?”
“About half an hour back, AJ helped me out though, got me cleaned up and stuff. I was wondering if ya had a headache spell anywhere?”
“Of course!” Twilight replied quickly, and rapidly began cycling through spells in her head, trying to settle upon the most appropriate for the situation. “Does it hurt anywhere else?”
“Nah, not really,” Dash shook her head. “Look, Twi’, do ya mind if I come in?”
The unicorn blinked, suddenly realizing that Dash was still standing out on the window ledge. “Oh, sorry!” she gasped. “Come in, come in! Some host I am, it’s just I was so worried I completely forgot to ask you in, and I-” Twilight realized that she was babbling, and Dash chuckled slightly, gingerly edging in through the window.
“Hey, no worries,” Dash smiled, hovering gently to the floor. Then she sighed. “Look,” she began, “I…” Her voice tailed off. The lavender mare opposite looked at her in concern.
“Yes?” she prompted, unsure what Dash was trying to say to her, but hoping that she could help.
Just tell her! Dash urged herself.
She’ll think I’m weak...
You’re weak if you don’t!
Okay, fine, fine.
“I need to tell ya something,” she began, looking at the floor.
“Is this what’s been bothering you?” Twilight asked, gently.
“Yeah… I was too nervous to tell AJ, I thought she’d think I was being stupid. I think you will too, but maybe you’ll be able to help me out with this.”
“You know I’ll do my best to help you, Rainbow. We all will.”
“I know, Twi’. Thanks, it means a lot to me.” Dash’s voice carried an uncharacteristically genuine sincerity. Twilight smiled encouragingly at her.
“So, what’s up?”
Dash took a deep breath, steeling her pride for a hammering. “Ya know what? It’ll be easier for me to show you.”
Twilight looked at her, bemusedly. “Sorry?”
“D’you keep newspaper archives here?”
This came as a surprise to Twilight. What could be in her archives that was obviously causing Dash so much concern? Her friend was downcast, depressed, a world away from the overconfident, loud pegasus that they all knew so well. Were the papers circulating some rumour about her? Anger bunched in Twilight's stomach at the idea.
“…Sure, they're down in the basement,” she replied at length, recovering from her surprise. “Don’t you want that headache remedy first?”
“Nah,” Dash shook her head, wincing at the motion, “I wanna get this over with, I’d probably just chicken out again if I waited around.”
Dash was already trotting over to the door leading to the basement stairs. Twilight also stood, following her.
The basement was dark, illuminated only by a few bracketed candles, kept alight indefinitely by enchantment, which cast an eerie glow over the circular stone room. Twilight went first, walking down the steps at perfect ease, unconcerned by the bizarre and slightly creepy room. Dash did not seem nearly so certain, and followed gingerly down the steps, looking this way and that with increasing unease. She had never even realized that this place existed below the library. She halted on the stairs when she noticed the room’s contents. Most of the centre was taken up with large amounts of complex scientific equipment, including what appeared to be an inverted metal dish covered in multi-coloured lightbulbs and incomprehensible information dials, evidently designed to be strapped onto the head. Dash chuckled, more out of nervousness than humour.
“What’s that, Twi’? A brain-fixing machine?”
Twilight turned distractedly, halfway through unlocking a large row of filing cabinets where she stored newspaper records. “Something like that,” she replied, “it’s never really worked too well ever since I hooked Pinkie up to it, if I’m honest.”
Dash shook her head. “Heh, yeah. Makes sense, I guess.”
Twilight returned to opening the filing cabinet as Dash caught up with her.
“Okay. Which paper are you looking for?”
Dash thought back for a second, before replying. “Cloudsdale Bugle, if you’ve got it. It’s from a couple of weeks ago, though I only got round to reading it today.” She shook her head, sighing in self-annoyance. “I dunno why I’m showing you this, it’s so stupid, really.”
“No, it’s not,” insisted Twilight, “whatever’s bothering you, I need to see it. Now, the Bugle? I think we’ve got them, should be in this one… Hang on, no, this one.”
Twilight pulled out one of the cabinet’s drawers, revealing a row of neatly stacked newspapers, steadily progressing to greater states of age-administered yellowness the further they were towards the back of the cabinet. Dash trotted forwards, looking into the drawer, ears drooping slightly at the sheer mass of paper to be sifted through. She had never been one for jobs that took much time.
“Great,” she said, unconvincingly, “okay, fine. It should be in here… somewhere…”
Dash began riffling through the papers, glancing at the front pages one by one.
“They’re all out of order!” she exclaimed, in annoyance.
Twilight rolled her eyes. “Sorry,” she said, sheepishly, “that’s the last time I get Spike to re-archive the papers late at night.”
“They’re not that bad,” Dash shrugged, her voice muffled because her head was inserted halfway into the drawer.
“You know, Dash, I never really had you pegged for the type who reads the papers,” remarked Twilight.
“Hey, what can I say? I like to keep up with the news as much as the next pony. Just ‘cos I can’t plough through Shetlandspeare like you doesn’t mean I can’t read, ya know!”
“I suppose. Seems a bit low-intensity for you though?”
“Are you kidding? Low intensity can be cool. You seen how much I sleep?”
Twilight could not really think of any way to reply to this. It was a reasonable point. Dash seemed to spend half of her life charging around the sky like a madmare, and the other half snoring. She was clearly not a pegasus who went in for half-measures.
“Aha! Got it.” Dash’s head emerged, dusty yet triumphant, from the cabinet, a relatively new-looking newspaper clutched in her teeth.
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” smiled Twilight.
“Great, now can we get out of here? It’s creeping me out.” Dash muttered, eyeing the bizarre head-apparatus uneasily.
A short time later, Twilight and Dash were back in the main library, with the newspaper spread out on the table in front of them. The sun was streaming into the room, illuminating the dancing dust motes caught in the lanced beams, and Twilight could not suppress a librarian’s instinctual pang of horror at the damage the bright sunlight would do to the archived newspaper.
“Here’s the article, look,” said Dash, having followed a reference on the front page. “I know you’ll think I’m being petty, Twi’, it’s so stupid of me to be bothered by this. I wish I knew why it’s messing with my head so much. Sometimes I wish I had your brain.”
“We’ll get this sorted out, don’t worry.” Twilight smiled reassuringly at Dash, who looked extremely on edge. Then she ran her eyes over the article, glancing over the headline, set below an image of a grinning white pegasus stallion with a square jaw and a frizzy shock of bright gold mane. With a sinking feeling, Twilight began to read.
Earlier this week, history was made when aspiring stunt flyer
Lightning Flare was recorded travelling at a speed of
1100 miles per hour during the famous Nova Academy’s
Fifty-Mile Sprint. We asked Flare, a pupil of the academy,
if he had any ambitions of joining a racing team, or perhaps
even applying for the Wonderbolts. “Maybe I’ll go for the Bolts,”
He told our reporter yesterday. “If they’re lucky, that is.”
In what is swiftly becoming his signature move, when he breaches
the sound barrier, Flare creates a sizzling shockwave of electricity
to accompany his sonic boom. His growing fanbase is reportedly
referring to the stunt as ‘The Sonic Thunderclap’.
Flare’s remarkable achievement has placed him ahead
of Miss Rainbow Dash, the previous record holder, who was
the driving force behind the famous incident at last year’s
Young Flyer Awards, in which she saved the lives of several
Wonderbolt members, along with that of her friend Radiance.
During this remarkable feat, Miss Dash was calculated as
travelling at a maximum speed of about 900 miles per hour at the
base of her dive, after the replay had been analyzed by experts.
This extreme burst of speed made her the first recorded pegasus
to break the sound barrier, creating her signature ‘Rainboom’,
which many pegasi have since tried to emulate, without success.
But, while her performance is not likely to be soon forgotten,
it would appear that, at least for the moment, there is a new
champion in the skies. After all, you never know where
Lightning is going to strike next.
For our exclusive interview with Lightning Flare,
please turn to page 21.
For a few moments, Twilight was speechless, a twang of sadness for her friend burning in her chest. She remembered only too well the over-the-top celebrations the previous year, when Dash had come bursting eagerly into her library, a week after the Young Flyer’s Championship, waving the letter informing her of her record achievement. Pinkie Pie had thrown a particularly raucous party, and the levels of exuberant boasting must have woken most of Ponyville.
Twilight could understand a pegasus of Dash’s pride being thrown into depression by having one of her crowning achievements trodden into the dust. Dash was looking at her, almost pleadingly. In that moment, she understood why the pegasus had not wanted to tell anyone. It was not because she was afraid of admitting to being defeated, it was because she was afraid that the others would think her juvenile for being bothered by her own defeat. Twilight cast around for something to say, wanting to tell Dash that it did not matter to her, that she could completely understand her disappointment, that she would do her best to help her through it. She failed to find the right words, glanced down at the article again, and exasperately blurted out the first thing that came into her head.