Through the Mist

by puddingskinmcgee

Chapter 4: No Clue

"Any minute now!"


"Any minute now..."


"Come on map, do something!"
Twilight stared intently at the map, waiting for something significant to happen. The map was, indeed, where she thought it would be and in working condition. However, it didn't seem that it would give her important information any time soon, and sat there unmoving.
"Are you supposed to do something to it, or does it just work when you're near it?" Sparkle asked.
Twilight grumbled and said, "It seems to more or less work on its own. Whenever a problem comes up somewhere, it will call me and my friends to go and solve it automatically. But in order to go back and forth in time, Starlight and I have both been using it in conjunction with the spell scroll. Now that I don't have the scroll to use with it... Well, I'm not sure what to do."
Twilight slammed her head down on map and said, "I've always been good to you, map!"
Spike, meanwhile, was busy looking at the differences in this Equestria. On the surface level, many things were similar, but there were a few notable differences. For one, the Crystal Empire seemed to not exist at all, instead replaced with a furious snowstorm. Cities like Cloudsdale and Los Pegasus also seemed absent, and the entirety of Equestria was more thoroughly populated with more industrious city areas. There are also seemed to be fewer port cities, as if ponies never ended up bothering to explore the seas.
While Spike picked out the differences in the map, Sparkle eyed it curiously.
"So," she said, "you said that the map is connected to you and your friends, right? And you also said that it's connected to the 'tree of harmony', and the 'elements of harmony'. So, maybe to get it to work, you need one of those three things? After all, the way you describe it makes it sound like it's not really interested in working with just one pony."
Twilight raised her head from the table and stared at Sparkle, forming a plan in her mind.
"Oh my gosh, I think you're right!"
"I am?"
"This timeline, the summer sun celebration, landing right next to you -- it's all connected! I couldn't defeat Starlight on my own, just like every challenge I've faced has been thwarted with the help of my friends. This all can't just be a coincidence, maybe everything is the way it is because the map wants us to find a different way of fixing everything!"
Twilight turned to Sparkle and pointed a hoof at her.
"And maybe you're the one to find it!"
"Woah woah, wait a second," Sparkle said, "what do you mean me? You're the one who's the magic princess here! I'm just a scientist!"
"In my timeline," Twilight said, "this is the very day I met the friends that helped make me into the pony I am today and stood with me at every challenge. And now it's time for you to do the same!"
Sparkle rolled her eyes dramatically and said, "And how am I even supposed to do that? Go up to some random ponies and say 'hey, there's an evil sorceress threatening all of time, come with me to this magic map where we can meet up with myself and save the multiverse!'"
Spike said, "Um, yes?"
Twilight gave Spike a bop over the head and a glare.
"Don't listen to him. How about this; just go into town for a while, mingle with the ponies, maybe help out with the festivities, while I investigate the tree of harmony and come up with a better plan going forward?"
Sparkle groaned.
"Ugh, do I have to? I'm willing to accept a lot of things right now, but this just seems kind of... silly."
Twilight smiled and put a hoof on Sparkle's shoulder.
"I know friendship doesn't seem worth it -- after all, I was once quite literally in your horseshoes -- but I think you'll find that everything will start to come together once you try. Just go and make an effort to be friendly while I figure things out over here. I'll meet back up with you by sunset, and maybe you can find some ponies that can help us, too!"
"Ugh... Alright, I suppose I'll try. But I'm still not exactly clear on how this will help me, it's not like anyone here will be some sort of magical maestro. And besides, who am I even supposed to be looking for?"
Twilight smiled and gently led her away towards the town, and said, "Just go and be friendly, and I'm sure you'll know who you're looking for once you meet them!"
Sparkle glared at Twilight and said, "Wow, you're really leaning into this whole 'cryptic sage' role, aren't you?"
Nevertheless, Sparkle continued on her way towards Ponyville.
As they parted ways, Twilight called out to her and said "I'll catch up with you soon!"

Sparkle was suddenly having second thoughts about this whole affair. Some weird, alternate-reality version of herself comes into her life, takes her name, interrupts her daily life to take her to some podunk country village in order to find a map that doesn't work, and then sends her off to make magic mystery friends. In retrospect, she didn't know why she went along with all of this. She was still having a hard time believing this wasn't some sort of elaborate fever-dream.
She was so busy brooding over her thoughts that she barely noticed that she had entered the town proper. The townsponies were going about their day, occasionally giving the glowering Sparkle a concerned look and giving her a wide berth.
The townsponies were busy preparing for the festival, busying themselves with cleaning up the streets, hanging fliers, and setting up various booths and activities around the towering town center. They seemed overall cheerful and didn't seem to need any particular directions or authority in order to work together to complete the work. At the very least, Sparkle could appreciate how well organized they all were and how much they cared about their community.
She almost wished that she had stayed back in Canterlot to enjoy the celebration with her own family, but even forgetting the... exceptional circumstances, Sparkle knew that she probably wouldn't have anyway. Now that she thought about it, she had only isolated herself more after graduating, and now she was ignoring her family too. Great, now her bad mood had turned from anger into guilt and sadness. Really making progress.
She didn't have time, however, to ruminate on her feelings before somepony else appeared to have noticed them for her. Sparkles hooves practically skid across the ground as she came to a screeching halt, her entire field of vision suddenly assaulted by a sea of pink and frizzy hair.
"Hi there!" Said the atrociously pink pony with a fittingly squeaky voice, "My name is Pinkie Pie, but you can call me Pinkie, or maybe Pinkamena, but the only ponies who really call me that is my doctor and my mom when she gets mad when I put googly eyes on the mattocks. So what's your name?"
Sparkle stared at the approapriately-named pony in front of her, unable to process everything she had said so quickly. "Pinkie Pie" just stared right back at her, never losing her smile or the excitement that practically oozed off of her.
"Um," Sparkle said after a long moment, "my name is Twi- er, Sparkle."
"Nice to meet you, 'Twi-er Sparkle!'" Pinkie said, contorting her face with every syllable of the name.
"Are you here for the Summer Sun Celebration? I've never seen you in town before, and you looked kind of mad, or maybe kind of sad, or maybe you were more like smad, so I decided to come and introduce myself because I thought maybe you were smad because you didn't know any pony, and if I didn't have any friends I would be smad too, or even smonely, but now you can be happy because now you have a friend and it's me!"
Sparkle was starting to get a feeling about how this whole interaction was going to go. Pinkie Pie seemed almost unnervingly energetic, and Sparkle might have suspected that she was playing some sort of prank on her if it weren't for how genuine she seemed.
"Um... Thank you?"
"You're welcome!"
"And yes, I'm here for the celebration. Uh, could you tell me where I could find the town hall?"
Pinkie Pie put her hoof above her eyes and dramatically scanned around the area before pointing towards a large tower further into town and saying, "That big tower right over there! Just follow the road!"
"Oh, thank you." Sparkle said as she began trotting away.
"Bye!" Pinkie Pie called out, "See you at the party tonight!"
Sparkle didn't look back, but silently wondered what Pinkie Pie meant by the "party tonight". The celebration didn't start until early tomorrow morning, was there some kind of eve party happening tonight? She didn't remember it being mentioned.
She figured that she probably shouldn't worry about it too much, as Pinkie Pie seemed to be the kind of pony that operated entirely by her own rules. Sparkle sincerely doubted that she was one of the ponies that Twilight thought could help save the world, so she decided to focus on scoping out the rest of the town. Surely the ponies around here would be more considerate of her personal space than Pinkie Pie.

After several unsuccessful spells and lots of pleading, Twilight came to the conclusion that the map wasn't going to provide her with any useful information yet. So, she decided to look for the tree of harmony out in the everfree forest.
Going through the everfree forest here was strange. It lacked the wild and dangerous magic that had become iconic of it, though it was still distinctly dark and dense. Twilight was mildly surprised to find that the Castle of the Two Sisters actually exited here, worn-out tapestries of earth-pony style Celestia and Luna still hanging morosely from the walls. Though she would have loved to explore it and pick out the differences, she had a job to do today.
It was a quick trip around the side of the castle before Twilight found her prize; a serene silver glow emanating from within a ravine below the castle. And within that cavern was the Tree of Harmony, the elements of harmony attached to the branches.
The area around the tree, however, appeared to be partially dug up, as if someone attempted to uproot the tree but gave up halfway through. Its crystalline roots sprawled out across the cavern, and the entire tree was tilted slightly to the side because of the disturbance. However, it remained just as regal and serene as ever, waiting for worthy wielders of the elements.
"Woah," Spike said as the two approached the tree, "I guess the tree of harmony does exist here. And it looks like someone tried to mess with it a long time ago, too. So wouldn't that mean that there is magic in this world?"
Twilight stared hard at the tree of harmony and said, "Possibly. There's so much we don't know, so I don't want to make any assumptions. Besides, it seems just a little bit too convenient for the entire tree of harmony to just be sitting here and nopony's ever noticed."
Twilight experimentally flew up to the center of the tree, hoping for some sort of response. When it gave her none, she lightly tugged at the elements of harmony with her magic. To her surprise, they came out easily, and the center of the tree opened up to reveal the element of magic. She plucked each element carefully into her grasp, orbiting them around her slowly as she decended back onto the ground.
"So," Spike asked, "What do we actually do with them?"
Twilight touched back onto the ground, pondering the elements that moved around her while feeling their serene power course through the air.
"I have no idea."