Sneak Peek · 8:54am
Going out of town this weekend to attend a wedding. In the meantime, here's a bit of the next chapter from the beginning. Bare in mind, everything is still a work in progress and subject to change.
She was running.
The buildings and ponies of Ponyville were all a blur. Her heart pounded against her chest as she frantically dashed to her destination. More than once she felt compelled to look back and see how far away it was, but every time she lost her nerve. It didn’t matter how far away it was, anyway. All that mattered was that it was behind her, and getting closer.
She turned a corner and her heart stopped; the Carousel Boutique was directly ahead, and even better, she could see Rarity and Spike through the front window, in the middle of a conversation. Sobbing in relief, she ran to the front door. She didn’t even remember opening it as she rushed inside.
“So, what do you think Twilight and Mort are doing?” Spike was asking. In one hand he was carrying a basket filled with pins, balls of thread, and a pair of scissors.
Rarity flipped the front of her stylized mane. She used the same hoof to flatten out the clothing on a ponnequin beside her. “Oh, I’m sure they have plenty to discuss.”
“Spike!” Twilight shouted, skidding to a halt between them. “Oh thank goodness, Spike! I was so afraid you wouldn’t be here!”
Spike put a hand on his waist, arching an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You were right!” Twilight cried. “You were so right! I should’ve listened to you, I’m so sorry!”
Twilight turned her head to look at Rarity. Unperturbed, the fashionista pouted her lips and hummed thoughtfully. “Well, they may have things to discuss besides magic.”
“No, we don’t!” Twilight said, spinning around. “Mort’s not who he says he is! He’s... he’s...” She knew there was something she wanted to say, but she just couldn’t form the words. It was like her mind was struggling to keep up with her mouth.
“Ew, don’t be weird!”
Twilight looked at Spike again, who was wearing a disgusted expression. “I’m not being weird! There is something wrong with Mort!”
“I’m sure you’ll understand when you’re older.”
“No I WON’T!” she screamed in Rarity’s face. “What is wrong with you?! Don’t any of you hear what I’m saying?!”
“In the meantime,” Rarity continued, “could you pass me those scissors?”
Spike reached in the basket and stuck the scissors out towards Twilight, coming within a hair’s breadth of stabbing her. She recoiled in fright. “For goodness sake, Spike, be careful! You could kill—”
“—somepony?” The scissors were lifted from Spike’s hand, and then were pulled straight from him to the air above Rarity’s head. They moved through a space that Twilight currently occupied.
Twilight stood there motionlessly, suddenly feeling frightened. She hadn’t felt the scissors at all, yet they had to have at least grazed her. She watched Rarity cut the cloth she was holding up, following a dotted path that had been drawn on it. She didn’t seem to notice Twilight at all.
“R-Rarity?” Twilight reached her hoof out, aiming for her shoulder...
She gasped when Spike emerged from her own chest, scampering towards Rarity. “So is there anything else you want me to do?” he asked, the basket swinging in his arm.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” Rarity said offhoofedly. “Go see what Sweetie Belle and her friends are up to. I’ll wait here for Twilight and Mort.”
“B-but I’m here.” Twilight tried to tap Rarity’s shoulder. Then she tried it again. And again. No matter how many times she tried it, though, her hoof would always vanish into her friend’s white coat, with Rarity none the wiser.
“No. No no no no...” She tried it with Spike, and met with similar results. She galloped ahead of him and turned to block his path. “Spike! Spike, you have to write to the princess! Tell her something went wrong! Please, Spike! Please see—”
“Hey, Sweetie Belle! Where are you?” Spike kept walking, passing through Twilight and continuing towards the stairs.
Twilight collapsed, her mind reeling. Her lips quivered and her eyes watered, signs of a dam that was about to burst. This couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t be real! She couldn’t be—
Something caught the corner of her eye. Something black.
She looked up and saw out the front window. Standing outside with its head bowed was a cloaked figure, its curved horn almost touching the glass.
It shuffled forward, passing through the window, and into the room. It lifted its head, red eyes peering out.
Twilight leapt from the ground and dashed in the opposite direction, a scream escaping her mouth. She passed through furniture and solid walls into the world outside. Trees, rocks, ponies, hills... all were now even less material than the air itself, offering no resistance as she ran through them. Even the ground itself felt like it was barely there.
She kept running, focused only on the waning hope of escape. Hours must have passed, because the next thing Twilight knew, the sun was gone, but in its place there was no moon or stars. There was only an inky blackness, far darker than she thought was even possible. She looked around to gauge her surroundings, and came to an immediate halt. It would’ve been a grounding halt, but that normally required some kind of ground to begin with.
Something had stolen away the world when she wasn’t looking. The beaten path and trees had all vanished, the void that had encompassed the sky having decided to encompass everything else. She was a lavender drop in a sea of nothing.
With literally nothing supporting her, she took a cautious step forward, half-expecting to plummet into infinity. Her hoof came down, stopping at the same level as the rest of her hooves. It wasn’t pushing against anything, it just... stopped.
It took her a few more slow steps to be certain that she wasn’t going to be falling anytime soon, and she started to trot. Each step was like walking on thin air, but something had to be supporting her, or allowing her to move forward. Maybe she was walking forward because she thought she was walking forward? It made her entertain the idea of walking “up”, but things were confusing enough as they were already.
Remembering her would-be assailant, she turned around, but didn’t see any sign of it. True, the cloak was just as black as this space, but those eyes would’ve stuck out like a cracked hoof. Is it possible it did actually catch her, and sent her here? What was “here” anyway?
Looking ahead—or at least what she thought was “ahead”, as XYZ motion was rather nebulous right now—she saw a green light that seemed to flicker and wave, reminding her of fire. And sure enough, as she got closer, she soon found herself standing amongst more torches than she had ever seen in one place. Each was made from old-looking wood, and were lit with a green flame.
The light they cast made her realize she was now standing on something. She looked down and saw the ground consisted of stone tiles, but no two were exactly alike in size or shape. Squinting, she also saw that each tile had something carved into it. She saw vultures, tigers, sheep, toads, salmon, timberwolves, and even an enormous tile that consisted of a dragon she found herself hurrying across.
The threat of the cloaked monster still gnawed at the back of her mind. Even now, when she seemed to be the only living thing around, its presence felt uncomfortably close. In spite of that, she couldn’t help but be a little intrigued by what surrounded her. There was air of sacredness to the place, like some ancient temple.
If this was a temple, then what was ahead of her was certainly the altar; an enormous pillar was coming into view, easily large enough to fit her library inside. As she got closer, she began to discern carvings in the stonework, depicting unique scenes that changed every second. Foxes hunting rabbits, bears eating fish, spiders crawling towards flies, armed ponies confronting unarmed ponies...
There was a disturbing theme to all of it.
A sudden chill sprang up, starting from her hooves and going all the way to the tip of her horn. Looking down, she saw a stone tile that was just large enough to hold her. Carved into it was a picture of an earth pony, a pegasus, and a unicorn chasing each other in a circle, like it was a game. Sitting between them was an alicorn, her head held high and her wings outstretched. They all looked to be at peace, a feeling that Twilight was envying very much right now.
A large shadow enveloped her. Confused, she looked up, and saw something that seemed to emanate darkness itself. Its shape was that of a large pony, easily twice her size. A pair of wings stretched out from its back, and as Twilight’s eyes travelled up the body, she gasped when she saw what could have only been a horn on its forehead. There was only one pony in all of Equestria who fit that description.
“Celestia,” she sighed, a wave of relief washing over. “Oh, you have no idea how happy I am to see you! Something happened at the library. I-I don’t know what, exactly, but all of a sudden nopony can see me, I’m walking through everything, and now I’m in this strange place!” She laughed, feeling her nerves unwind little by little. “This is going to sound so silly, but I really thought I was...”
She trailed off when she realized Celestia hadn’t spoken a word. She still stood above, looking down on her, rigid as a statue.
Something felt incredibly off. While Celestia would often remain quiet as Twilight spoke, the princess did so with an air of patience and understanding, her silence meant as permission to continue. Here, though, it felt like the princess was just tolerating her, and was becoming more and more irate as time went on.
“Princess?” Instead of answering, “Celestia” leapt from the top of the pillar, landing at the base with great force, the sound of the impact echoing around the chamber. The green light evaporated the darkness that hugged her, and Twilight’s throat tightened when she saw it was not the princess.
Celestia’s mane consisted of warm, flowing colors that you would find in a morning sunrise. This alicorn’s mane, meanwhile, was white like wax and flowed just as thickly down her back. Her cutie mark, rather than a sun, was a large, white candle, lit by a green flame. Her coat was gray like an old tombstone, almost making her look like a statue in motion.
When she looked down on her, Twilight saw golden eyes that almost glowed in the darkness. They showed a flicker of surprise, and then flattened into an accusatory glare.
“What are you doing here?” Her voice was slow and sounded like it was coming from underwater, but Twilight could still feel the prickly ice that encrusted each word.
Something flickered at the edge of her vision. Turning, she saw that a dark form had suddenly appeared several tiles away, looking like a small blob with rabbit ears and yellow eyes. Another form appeared a moment later, looking like a pair of wings with no body. One after another, more and more began to sprout from the tiles. Some were easy to make out, like the griffon in armor, or the highly decorated buffalo. Many, however, looked like a foal’s attempts at drawing an animal.
It wasn’t long before she was surrounded. The space that had been vacant except for her and the alicorn had populated within moments, and she now found herself the object of their attention. Countless eyes stared at her, their intentions unknown.
She slowly spun on the spot, trying to find an opening. Slowly they stepped, slithered, crawled, flew, and floated closer, packing themselves around her while never actually crossing into the tile.
Green magic began to crackle all around them, emanating on parts of their body or transforming into crude shapes above them. In the distance, something gigantic and covered in spikes opened its jaw, green flame illuminating its armored scales. The air was sizzling and so loud she almost couldn’t think. The alicorn shouted something, but Twilight couldn’t make heads or tails of what she said.
Twilight closed her eyes, terrified of what would happen. Was this the end? Was this all she got? She couldn’t even say goodbye to anyone. Hadn’t she earned at least that much?
The seconds dragged on into infinity. Twilight’s heart was pounding against her chest, as if wanting to escape. She couldn’t stand it anymore. The terror of not knowing was no better than the terror of facing it head on. Whatever did happen, she only hoped it wouldn’t last long. The dull roar around her grew and grew until all she heard was...
What she heard was the sound of glass being scratched.
Bewildered, she forced her eyes open. Instead of being greeted by the legions of monsters, she found herself back inside the library, looking up at the multi-ringed ceiling. She was laying in her bed, the covers pulled up to her neck. Several surprisingly comfortable pillows propped her head up. Somewhere she could hear the seconds tick away on a clock.
She leaned forward into a sitting position, unable to fully shake the anxiety she had experienced mere moments ago. She felt something slide down her forehead, and she reached up to find it was a moist towel. Where had that come from?
Again, she heard the scratching noise. She looked towards her balcony doors and saw Owlowiscious on the other side. He was scratching furiously at the glass, his screeches muffled by the pane. She was afraid he was going to hurt himself if she didn’t open them soon.
She was getting ready to throw the covers off when she heard her name. The voice sent goosebumps crawling along her skin. She snapped her head toward the stairs and saw Mort standing there. A tray of food floated in front of him.
“Um, hi,” he said awkwardly.