The Face of Remembrance
You will not forget....
The sound of splintering wood followed by a loud thud and a pained grunt woke Twilight who had fallen asleep at her desk. Her penned letter sat in front of her, already sealed. All she needed to do was wait for Spike to get up and send it.
The purple Unicorn rubbed herself sleepily, smearing ink across her face. The recent nights of studying had taken their toll. Even Twilight needed sleep and she barely had any ever since Ash arrived.
With a yawn and a stretch, Twilight slowly went upstairs to discover what had happened. Burglary was unlikely and Heaven help any criminal foolish enough to threaten the books of the most powerful Unicorn of Equestria. Perhaps Rainbow Dash had snuck in to read again. Or Pinkie Pie doing whatever Pinkie Pie did at these hours. Certainly not sleep.
The little clock that ticked quietly on her nightstand struck five thirty. It was still dark outside, Twilight noted. The window was unopened and intact, ruling out Rainbow Dash. Now Pinkie, she had other ways of getting inside...
A quiet groan that floated through the room interrupted Twilight's thoughts. It was too masculine to be Pinkie. Could it be Spike?
The Unicorn lit her horn with a simple illumination spell. No, Spike was still in his basket, clutching his blanket and sucking his claw. Twilight had no time to enjoy the adorable scene as she grew more alarmed. Was there really an intruder in her home?
Another groan came from behind her. Twilight swung her head around, her horn revealing a scene she did not anticipate.
Her spare bed had been crushed. Splinters of the wooden frame surrounded the mattress. On the remains laid a furless ape-like creature, save for a mess of black hair. The creature's nakedness was covered by a stitched robe bearing the work of a certain seamstress. With a hand, he covered his face to protect his eyes from Twilight's blinding beam.
"Yeah, you mind pointing that somewhere else? God, it's bright."
"Sorry." The piercing beam dimmed down. "That better?"
"Yeah." Ash let his arm fall to his side. Slowly, he removed his other arm from the debris and got off the squished mattress.
Ash stood to examine the destruction only to once again underestimate his own height and the overestimate the distance between his head and the roof. Ash drew in a sharp breath in pain and opened his mouth.
"Shh." Twilight lifted a hoof to her lips the. pointed at the basket next to her own personal bed. "You'll wake Spike."
The baby dragon turned in his sleep but made no indication that his slumber had been disturbed.
Clutching his head, the Human got to his knees. "Um, sorry about the bed."
"It's alright, it's just a spare and it won't take long to fix. What's more pressing is why..." The Unicorn pointed a hoof at the Human. "...you're a Human again. What's going on?"
Ash shook his head and shrugged. So much easier with actual arms and shoulders. "The spell was something unprecedented. I doubt we could have predicted the actual results."
"But I've never failed a spell. Not since I got my cutie mark." Twilight began to sound discouraged. "Did I do something wrong?"
"You didn't fail, the spell did," Ash assured her. He sighed deeply. "That's the problem with experiment spells. If we had the original design we could figure out what went wrong but..."
"...But Spike erased it. It'll take forever to rebuild it from scratch." With a groan frustration, the purple Unicorn head down the stairs to the main library area. Ash followed.
"If only we knew where to start." Twilight began pulling books off the shelves at random. "Any clue would be helpful."
Ash yawned. "What was the spell we used as a base?"
"It was a temporary transformation spell. The effects only last till midnight."
"What time is it now?" Ash asked, rubbing his eyes.
"I don't know, something around six maybe." Twilight lifted her head from her book. "Why?"
The Human stroked his chin in thought. "Even with all the modifications and ideas we've added, it would still have been very difficult to alter the base spell so that the effects are different. If it's temporary, it will probably remain temporary. We may have simply prolonged the effects by a few hours."
"Huh, I guess that makes sense." Twilight levitated another large textbook from the shelves. "At least now we know where to start."
"Hold on." Ash intercepted the book and placed it back in its place. "I don't think we should work on this right now."
"You're tired. I'm tired. We've already spent nearly a week without decent sleep working on this project." Ash crossed his arms across his chest. "As much as I'd like to get this thing done and over, there comes a time for a break." He turned to the stairs. "Let's work in the morning, after the both of us get some adequate sleep."
"I guess you're right," Twilight said with a yawn. She began to shelf books until she came across one already opened.
Maybe just an hour. An hour of studying never hurt anyone.
Ash slowly ascended the stair, quietly so not to awaken Spike. Let sleeping dragons lie went the old saying.
He considered trying to sleep on the mattress but decided against it. He already owed Twilight a new bed frame, the least he could do was keep the actual bed intact and usable. At least most of it was still salvageable.
Before curling on the rug to sleep, Ash saw himself in Twilight's mirror. The white-haired pale youth stared back at him with just as much intensity. As if to touch the Human in the glass, Ash reached out. Their fingers touched but all he felt was the cold mirror.
"Not gonna let me forget, are ya?"
The reflection did not respond.
Celestia's Sun arose as did Spike, despite his best efforts. As exciting as his life was in Ponyville, it wasn't anything impressive compared to what awaited him in the realm of dreams. After all, what could top a date with Rarity while they took a stroll through an candy garden?
Speaking of candy... Spike's little belly roared like a lion. Wonder if Twilight's made any breakfast yet.
Spike got his feet and, in his hurry, almost tripped over Ash. The dragon scratched his head, wondering why anypony would choose to sleep in such a position on the cold hard floor. Spike struggled and ran down the stairs, where hopefully a giant plate of breakfast would meet him. He had considered waking Ash for breakfast but decided instead to let him sleep. The early pony gets to the party first, or at least that's how the old saying went according to the sagacious Pinkie Pie.
His hopes fell like a rock at the sight of how messy the library was downstairs. The stacks of books meant there would not be any stacks of waffles to greet him in the kitchen. "And I just cleaned this place up," the baby dragon muttered to himself. Spike shook his head as he picked a book up that had been left on the floor, open. As big a bibliophile as she was, Twilight Sparkle didn't seem to treat her books very well after they failed to answer her questions.
Said Unicorn sat at her desk where she scribbled furiously.
"Huh?" Twilight lifted her head and turned to the little dragon that had spoken. "Oh, good morning."
"What are you still working on?" Spike picked up one of the fallen parchments that littered the floor. They'd have to order more soon. "I thought the transformation spell worked."
"I thought so too. I can't figure out what exactly went wrong." Twilight let out a frustrated sigh. "I have no idea how to fix this."
"Fix what?" Spike gave the Unicorn a puzzled look. "Why was Ash sleeping on the ground anyways? I thought he accepted the spare bed."
"He did but the bed's broken."
Twilight shook her head in annoyance. Normally, the 'why' game would provide both the purple Unicorn and the green dragon amusement for hours but right now she simply was not in the mood.
"Because it was made for ponies, not Humans."
"Because--wait." Spike's response surprised her. How was easy to answer and why wasn't too difficult but so, Twilight didn't have much experience with this one. "So that means Ash can't sleep in the bed."
"Because," Twilight answered with slight irritation, "Ash is too big. Because he's a Human." she added quickly as Spike opened his mouth. Despite her fatigue, Twilight grinned triumphantly. She had won this round.
Spike scratched his head, thinking. "I dunno, he sure looks like a pony to me."
"You mean looked. Past tense. 'Looks' means he looked like a pony recently."
"Yeah I know." Spike crossed his short arms in impatience. "And I meant 'looks'."
Before Twilight could investigate further, her thoughts were interrupted by a loud thump from upstairs.
Sometime after Spike went downstairs, Ash had awoken. With a yawn and a stretch, he had gotten to his feet. It didn't take long before Ash had lost his balance. As a Human, standing on two feet was almost as natural as talking. As a pony, however...
And now before Twilight's astonished and Spike's amused eyes, as a grey white-maned Unicorn, Ash laid on his back with his legs sticking in the air. He waved them uselessly. Spike struggled to hid his smirk.
"Help!" he cried to them. "I've fallen and can't get up!"
Ash was sulking. Red with embarrassment, he sat in the corner and tried to repress this incident to the deepest parts of his subconscious. No such luck. Twilight's assistant's attempts to cover his laughing face served as a constant reminder.
The purple Unicorn meanwhile dove into a study frenzy.
"I don't understand. First the spell didn't work then it did. What's going on?"
Ash ducked as the book flew past his head. "I'm just as clueless as you right now. But you know, there's a saying among Mages from my world."
"It's magic. Some stuff just can't be explained." Twilight gave him a dubious look to which Ash responded with a quick shrug. He was getting better at those.
"If that's the mentality you Humans have on magic I'm surprised you're so advanced in the subject."
"I told you, what I've given you are mostly theoretical. In theory they should work but in practice they don't. Why?" Another shrug. "Magic."
"That doesn't make sense. All the theories in my books seem to work fine when applied. Why won't they work now?"
"Who knows? We're adding a bunch of unprecedented factors to the equation, me being a Human and all."
"Argh, you know what?" Twilight groaned and placed her hooves on her head. "Whatever. At least you're a pony now, right?"
Ash gave himself a quick look over before answering. "Right."
"So we got what we wanted in the end," Spike piped in. "Case closed, let's get breakfast."
"Whoa, hold it." Twilight grabbed Spike back from the door. "Just because we've got the end result we hoped for doesn't mean I'm satisfied. I don't think we're done yet."
"Agreed," Ash said. "We don't know what exactly went wrong with the spell and if it could be a big problem or not."
"But I'm hunger! Come on, I know the perfect place."
"Spike, you can wait a little longer. You don't hear me complaining." Twilight's argument was undermined by her stomach's untimely growl.
"Oh, I hear you complaining alright," Spike said with a smug little grin.
Twilight laughed nervously as she felt her cheeks glow red. "Eh, heh heh, maybe we should go out to eat, right Ash?"
"You two go ahead," Ash responded, though his decline sounded rather reluctant.
"Are you sure?" Spike teased. "Hay fries, sandwiches, pancakes with lots and lots of syrup, yum yum yum." The baby dragon rubbed his belly in emphasis. Ash was not amused.
"I told Twilight we couldn't predict every single detail of the spell's final results but that doesn't mean we can't study them now. This lack of information could prove dangerous. What would happen if I became a Human again in public in broad daylight?"
"That could be a problem," Twilight admitted. "Ponyville doesn't need another riot of panicked ponies."
"Ponyville goes through one every week," Spike argued.
"Well I'm not going to be the cause of one," Ash said defiantly. "Let's wait a week to figure out the kinks to this enchantment then I think I'll be able go out in public."
"An entire week in the library? Even Twilight would go nutty if she stayed inside here for that long."
"Hey, I don't go nutty!"
"It'll be worth the information." Ash flicked his mane out of his eyes. "You two go on ahead. I'll--"
The door swung open and in stepped Rarity and Rainbow Dash. The white Unicorn wore a frilly saddle bag that fit her perfectly.
"Good morning Twilight dear. And to you too, Spike of course. Oh, and hello to you too Ash."
"Oh, hi girls," Twilight greeted in response. Ash nodded to each of the entering mares in silent salutation. "What's up?"
"We were gonna get something to eat," Rainbow replied. "You guys wanna come?"
"Sure, I'm famished. Actually, Spike and I were just about to decided where to go."
"Oh, before I forget..." Rarity pulled out a piece of folded garments from her bag. "I had another reason to visit. Here, this is for you." She handed the present to Ash who took it awkwardly in his mouth.
Sweating in concentration, Ash slowly and carefully unfolded the fabrics. It was a blue cloak, similar to his own Mage uniform. Adorning the beautiful robes were arcane symbols stitched in a darken shade of blue.
"I was quite intrigued by the design of your clothes and just had to try and replicate it," the seamstress explained. "The patterns were worn and faded on the original but I think I've managed to do a pretty good job, if I say so myself."
Ash stood there, speechless.
"They look beautiful Rarity," Twilight complimented for the surprised stallion.
"Of course they do, everything Rarity does is beautiful."
"Oh, Spike, you're really too much."
"I, I can't accept this." Ash had found his voice. "I have nothing to pay you back."
"Darling, it's a gift. There is no cost, no cost at all."
"That real generous of you but I don't deserve a gift."
"Since when do you need to deserve a gift to get one?" Rainbow Dash asked. "Isn't that the point of a gift? Just something you get for free? When was the last time you got a present?"
"Or is it that you don't like?" Rarity's lower lip began to quiver slightly. "Oh, you don't like it, do you?"
"No, no." Ash shook his head frantically. "It's just, well." The stallion rubbed the back of his head in discomfort. "How do I put it on?"
"I thought you said Humans wore clothes." Rainbow Dash sounded confused. "Plus you were wearing stuff before."
"Before I was a Human. Now I'm a pony and I haven't got a clue as to how to get dressed."
"First, let's get something to eat, then we need to get you cleaned up." Rarity gave Ash a hard and thorough scrutinization. The examination made him rather self conscious of his lack of clothes, despite his deep grey and natural fur coat. He silently prayed that no pony would notice how red his face was. "One should always be properly cleansed before trying on new garments and please take no offense when I say that you look like you've been sleeping on the floor."
The white Unicorn turned to Twilight. "Twilight, how could you treat your guest like this? What happened to your spare bed?"
"It broke," And with that, the purple Unicorn launched a summary of the early morning's events and a brief explanation of Ash's predicament.
"Wait, so you're gonna stay in the library for an entire week?" Rainbow Dash shook her head. "Geez, you're a bigger bookworm than Twilight."
"It just until we've got a full analysis on the spell's results."
"But a whole week?" inquired Rarity. "What about bathing?"
"Hey! I do own a bathtub!" Twilight protested.
"Then why do you always borrow Pinkie Pie's tub?" Rainbow asked.
"...Spike uses all the hot water."
"I do not!" Spike placed his claws on his hips. "Well, except for bubble baths."
"I've haven't bathed since I've got here. Another week won't hurt."
Rarity grew faint. "Are you meaning to say, you haven't bathed during your entire stay in Ponyville? But it's already been a week at least!"
Ash thought for a minute. "Technically, I haven't washed since I've arrived in Equestria so I haven't bathed for a couple of millennia, give or take a few years. Kinda hard when you're stuck in a tree."
"Haven't bathed...millennia..." Rarity's eye was twitching.
"Uh Rarity, are you--"
Twilight was cut off as the white Unicorn leaped over her and began to drag Ash toward the door.
"Hey, where are you taking me?"
"What, you mean in public. Are you crazy?" Ash began to panic and clawed at the floor, an act difficult to do with hooves.
His struggles had no effect. "What if I end up transforming back into a Human out there? There'd be mass panic, chaos!"
"It'll be worth the risk."
"I can use Twilight's bath! I don't mind cold water."
"That's not enough. You sir are in need of a proper spa treatment and cleansing."
"Think of what could happen! I'm a danger to society!" Ash held onto the door frame. Even as he spoke, his grip weakened. What I would give for hands right now. "A danger to the peace!"
"And I will not have you destroy the tranquility of Ponyville dirty. It will be worth the risks, I assure you."
"HELP!" and with that, the grey Unicorn was pulled out into the streets and toward the spa.
It took a few moments before Twilight managed to take in the entire event. "He's going to cause a scene just by yelling."
"I'll say. Poor guy, sent to the spa, the place where grit and toughness go to die." Rainbow Dash shivered in terror. "I was lucky; Rarity just threw me into the reservoir after a week."
"Maybe I should stop taking baths..." Spike wondered out loud. "What?" he said as the two remaining mares stared at him. "Didn't you see how Rarity kept dragging and pulling him? What a lucky guy."