Griffonstone, a small little village long since fallen to ruin which now stood a testament to a fallen king’s greed and fall from grace because of it. Wooden shacks crumbling with neglect dotted the city between ancient crumbling airies where the citizens had once live high above the ground. There was little left in this town beyond the most stubborn or proud griffon’s who stayed only because their ancestors had been born there. The village itself was almost forgotten and so where it’s secrets and one of those secrets are what had brought Twilight there to visit.
The village of Griffonstone sat nestled in a valley between two large peaks along the Griffonstone Mountains and high up above the village on the slopes of the southern peak was a valley. Long ago in a time before ponies, before griffons, before anyone called these mountains home a great glacier had carved away the side of the mountain and melted as it dug closer and closer to an ancient magma chamber.
The magma had long since cooled but the shoots that had fed it still brought up heat from beneath the surface and warmed this small valley. So amongst the frigid peaks, hidden beneath the deadly ever shifting winds sat a picturesque valley few dared even try and reach. History says the kings of Griffonstone in its peak used the valley as a personal retreat and the griffon mages had created the winds to guard the king while they were there.
This is what brought Twilight to Griffonstone this day. She felt she was in desperate need of a vacation and because she was so close to Griffonstone she decided it was high time she visited the city. Two of her friends had gone and she had missed out because of her duties but those weren’t an issue now. She had arrived two days ago and after searching the village and coming up empty she had decided to brave it herself based on what she knew.
Twilight had taken a parka and some other cold weather gear from a shop in town and was now trekking up the mountain. The blizzard presented only a small issue as she used her magic to scop large swathes of it out of the way like she had with the dust back in the mine. Scoop, walk, scoop again. It was methodical and monotonous work that left her mind to wander.
A glint from the snow caught her eyes and a deep sense of loneliness filled her heart causing her to pause. “Why can’t everything be as simple as climbing this mountain Spike?” She shook her head and finished moving the snow. “I wasn’t even asking that much, it didn’t have to, well, it didn’t have to go like that. Don’t you agree?”
She continued on for a few moments before freezing wrinkling her brow then laughing. “Of course not Spike, that’s just silly. Pinkie would....” Slowly her words came to a halt and she started cursing under her breath and stomping her hoof in the snow. “No Twilight, don’t do this. It’s okay to be alone. You don’t need her, them, him....” She threw her head back and screamed in frustration.
“I am me. I am Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, Bearer of the Element of Magic. My mind is my weapon, my strength is my own. A tear fell down her cheek. “My pillars are gone but I am still Twilight Sparkle. I am Twilight Sparkle.”
Each breath she took was slow and deep as she gathered herself again, each exhale she said something about herself. After a long while she stopped shaking and the tears stopped flowing and she took a few shaky steps. “I am alone, she left me, I left her. Together we were....together we were...what were we Applejack?”
Twilight stumbled and caught herself again. “I’ll be fine. Yea, I am just fine without her. I am Twilight Sparkle and I don’t need her.” Her eyes seemed to focus again and her steps grew more confident as she started moving up the mountain again. Slowly her mind started to wander again and she found herself daydreaming.
“Tartarus.” Twilight managed to catch herself by snapping her wings open just as her hoof went over the edge. She stared down into the deep crag and breathed a sigh of relief. “I need to focus that was way to close. Moving away from the edge she took a moment to collect herself before she started again.
As she made the next scoop it happened. Stark line along the ground. One side white powdery snow and on the other vibrant green grass. Along the walls sparkled crystal clear eyes that brought in the light from outside the valley. Warmth radiated up from the lush ground beneath her hooves as she stepped into the valley and shed her coat and scarf. Along the eastern side she could a bubbling brook probably from the runoff of the melting ice. Great big willow trees dotted the embankments of the brook and flowers of every color dotted the valley floor. It was more beautiful than she could have ever imagined.
As she moved deeper into the valley the crisp air filled her lungs and tall grass tickled her knees inviting her to break out into a trot that slowly turned into a gallop. She whooped and hollered as she galloped through the valley. The beating of her hooves drowning out all her worries until she was completely carefree as she ran.
Like a child she romped through the lush valley. Her eyes closed in bliss and she imagined the gentle breeze that she was certain would be tickling her mane if time wasn’t frozen. “Oh you would love this.” Her smile spread wider as she went, all worries forgotten. “If you hadn’t been so stubborn we would be seeing this together, like we should have been.”
Her gallop slowed to a trot as she approached the brook and stepped across the smooth pebbles into the frigid water and let it caress her ankles. “It’s so amazing, just like I thought you were.” Her smile faded a little and she splashed in the water with her hoof. “But what’s past is past, I’ll solve this problem and then, then it’ll be over.”
Twilight made her way to the beach, exhaustion slowly catching up with her as she moved. Beneath one of the large willow trees she spied a small hovel made by two roots. Smiling with exhaustion she languidly made her way over and nestled into it. “Oh how I wish you could be here to see all this. You might be the only thing that can outmatch the beauty of this valley, only you.” Her eyes started to drift closed, exhaustion setting in.
Without warning Twilight felt her world violently shake and pain lanced through her side and over her wing. Groaning she tried to move her hoof and was greeted with agonizing pain.
No she was fine she needed to rest. She was under the willow tree, resting in—pain, oh the pain. It interrupted her thoughts again and she tried to voice her pain but it hurt to much. This was wrong, she was warm under the tree so why was it so cold. Why did everything hurt?
“Please Twilight answer me. Say something, anything.”
The voice needed a response, some sign she was okay. The voice, the voice was really important and it cut through the fog and oh she needed to say something to it, anything. Why was the voice important, why did it make her chest hurt, what was going on?
“Oh Fate, please hang on Twilight and I’m sorry for this.”
Twilight’s world seemed to shift violently and she felt the comfort of her resting place leave her. Groaning in pain she tried to open her eyes but she couldn’t. There was too much pain and squeezing her eyes closed was the only thing that kept her from passing out.
“No, no, no. Hang in there Twilight, we’re almost there.”
The pain, she need to think of something else, anything else. Why did it hurt so much? The voice, her answer. Focus on it, not the pain. Listen for the sound of the voice, tell the voice you’re ok. Her lips cracked and it felt like her chest was on fire. She squeaked out a groan.
“That’s it, hold on, fight it. Stay awake.”
Slowly the pain faded enough to loosen its grips on her and she cracked one eye open just a little. A familiar shape was above her. Familiar colors, familiar mane, same gravelly voice. “You came, you really came.” Twilight coughed and she saw little droplets of a crimson fluid spray out in front of her. “What, is that mine?”
Rainbow’s wings slowed but the tension didn’t leave her body. “Twilight, please. You fell from the mountain, please hang on. Please.”
“I don’t remember falling.” Twilight barely managed to whisper, breathing deeper to talk louder hurt too much. “I was...the valley, it was so pretty, so warm. You would have loved it, it was almost as pretty as you.”
Rainbow’s wing faltered for a second but she caught herself and bit her lip as a tear threatened to escape her eye. “Yea Twi, I bet it was wonderful. Maybe, maybe once you’re better you can show it to me, take me there.”
“Yeah.” She angled down without Twilight noticing as she coughed again.
“I...I want to say...I’m sorry.”
Rainbow’s flying grew frantic as she tried to both pick up speed and slow down for landing. “No,no,no,not yet. You can be sorry soon, but please not right now, please hang on to that thought.” She alighted on the front stoop of a small, sturdy cabin. With her landing gust, she blew the front door open and glided inside with the grace of a feather.
The cabin looked larger on the inside than it did from outside, with a fireplace and a kitchen in one room and a door leading to a bedroom. Just inside the bedroom door there was a door to the lavatory. The owner was relatively clean and a baker judging by the dozens of bread loaves in the kitchen. Rainbow was pretty sure she knew the owner, but it didn’t matter, she had more important concerns. “Hang on for second Twilight, I’ll get you some more blankets.” She gingerly laid Twilight in front of a warm fire and darted for the other room, returning a moment later with several blankets.
Twilight smiled and stared at her savior as she worked. “Hey Rainbow, thank you. Thank you for everything.”
Rainbow looked up while she was cocooning Twilight in blankets. She caught Twilight’s eye and bit her lip bashfully. “It’s nothing Twi. Hey, you can rest now. I’ll be back in a little bit with some supplies and we’ll take care of your wounds right away.” Rainbow hesitantly planted a gentle kiss on Twilight’s forehead as she left. The warmth and love in the kiss lingered as Rainbow vanished from sight. Murmuring to herself and smiling happily Twilight drifted off before she had a chance to say anything about the kiss but in her dreams she played it over and over.
~ ~ ~
There was a fuzzy quality to the pain, enveloping her limbs, her wings, head, everything, yet it remained indistinct and uniform, as though she were slipping into a hug that embraced every part of her body at once. Beyond the pain was something else. Warmth.
How long had it been since she’d felt something so nostalgic? It felt like the warmth you found by the fireplace with a friend on a cold winter evening. A feeling she had all but forgotten in the long years she’d spent in the timeless place she was trapped. It begged her to stay asleep but she slowly rose from her slumber despite the comforting warmth that wrapped around her.
“How did I get here?”
Twilight blinked the sleep from her eyes and yawned as she tried to get her bearings.
“Where is here?”
Her whole body felt stiff but to know where she was she’d need to move. She grit her teeth and tried to stand up. The instant she started standing her whole body seemed to catch fire and she gasped in pain, slumping back to the floor with a whimper. “Okay, not getting up, definitely not getting up.” Slowly she tried lifting only her head to get a better look around .
“Okay, I’m in a cabin. That’s something at least.” Gingerly she dropped her head back down with a huff. “But how? Think Twilight, think.” Twilight chewed at her lip and closed her eyes in thought. “I was hiking through the blizzard. Spike was being....Spike wasn’t there but I was talking to him and....then what?”
“You fell. Down a ravine.”
“Right right right. Why don’t I remember that?” Twilight pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. “And how did I get to this cabin if I fell?”
“I brought you here. I...I saw you going up the mountain and I followed you”
“Well of course you did, you’re just one of the voices.” Twilight rolled her eyes. “Great now my voices are getting even weird—Tartarus. Why am I indulging myself, I need to stop talking to myself and figure out how I got here.”
A sniffling sound gave Twilight pause and she felt something rest across her back.
“I’m so sorry, Twilight.”
Twilight tried to jump up, fear gripping her. “No, no, no, no. This isn’t real. I must have hit my head and this is all a dream. That’s it, I’m finally dying.” The pain made her vision swim and she felt the grip across her back tighten as it tried to keep her in place.
Her mind raced as she tried to understand. On the one hoof, she’s been hearing voices for a while but on the other; she’d never felt something before. Auditory hallucinations where one thing but physical was something completely new.
“What do I know? I know I fell, I know I seem to be in a cabin, I know I was asleep. None of that helps me.”
“Twilight, it’s real.”
“No, this is, this a dream. I am still dreaming.” Twilight refused to turn her head to the voice. “I just need to dream something else.”
“Please look at me Twilight.”
Twilight took a deep breath. “No, you’re not real. None of this is real. It’s just a very real dream.”
The feeling on her back faded and she felt something shift. A gust of wind ruffled her mane and she heard a stomping sound.
“Tartarus Twilight, stop being a fool.”
The sound of hoofsteps circled around her and she watched as four blue legs entered her vision. They bent at the knees and Twilight watched in awe as Rainbow’s face came into view. Tears fell from her magenta eyes and a soft smile curved the corners of her lips slightly upward.
“It’s me Twilight. I’m back.”
Twilight’s mind froze as it frantically scrabbled to understand what it was seeing. This wasn’t possible, this had to be a dream, but he'd never dreamed of Rainbow looking so much older. Dreams didn’t hurt this much. Carefully she lifted one hoof, ignoring the pain of the motion, and cupped Rainbow’s cheek with her hoof.
It was warm, and a little wet from the tears. Twilight’s breath hitched as Rainbow nuzzled her hoof and she felt the coolness of her Rainbow’s breath tease the hair on her leg.
“But this, you, how?”
Rainbow grabbed Twilight's hoof tightly. “It’s real Twilight. I’m back.”
Tears streamed from Twilight’s eyes as the words filled her. She lurched forward, wrapping both forhooves around Rainbow’s neck and burying her face in Rainbow’s shoulder.
“Woah careful Twi, you took a pretty nasty fall.” Rainbow patted Twilight on her back. “I’m not going anywhere so just take it easy.” Twilight’s grip tightened and she shook her head and she mumbled into Rainbow’s neck. “It’s real Twilight, I’m real”
It took Twilight awhile to calm down enough for Rainbow to pull free from her grasp. Her smile was warm as she looked Twilight in the eyes. “How do you feel right now?”
After taking a few deep breaths Twilight had composed herself enough to respond. “Everything hurts, or tingles, or both.”
“Understandably, that was one heck of a fall you took.” Rainbow stood up and gingerly pulled the blanket covering Twilight back. “I...if I hadn’t seen you leave Griffonstone for the mountain I don’t think...I don’t think...” Rainbow left her sentence hanging and busied herself checking over Twilight’s injuries.
What Twilight saw when the blanket was pulled away froze her thoughts. One wing was in a splint the other bound to her side, the swelling of the joint visible even through the bandages. Large patches of gauze covered dozens of wounds all across her sides. The leg she hadn’t moved was also splinted from her fetlock to her knee while the other was wrapped in bandages that were stained red in several spots.
Every now and then Twilight hissed in pain as Rainbow prodded something or moved something that clearly didn’t want to be moved. Twilight ignored all the pain and instead felt her eyes drift closed as she focused on the feeling of Rainbow’s caring hooves moving across her body. Each time a hoof trailed across her fur it left a warm tingly sensation in its wake that made all the pain fade into the background.
“All done, everything looks like it’s still good. I don’t think I need to change any of the bandages right now.” Rainbow laid herself back down next to Twilight and sighed. “I missed you, I missed you so much.” She looked over with a smile. “Oh Twilight.” Chuckling to herself she pulled the blanket back up with her wing and snuggled up against Twilight’s side. “Sleep well Princess, we can talk later.”
~ ~ ~
Twilight couldn’t help but smile as she watched Rainbow move around the kitchen. Ever since she’d first seen Rainbow lying beside her the smile refused to fade. It was more than she could have ever hoped for. She didn’t much care for the dull ache that covered most of her body—but the doting, she could live with that.
Heaped beside her was a pile of bandages, stained with her blood and sweat. Next to that was bucket and sponge, the water in the bucket was surprisingly clear but all Twilight had been doing lately was sweating. She could move her wings again though, that made both of them happy.
“Hey Rainbow, how long till we can take the splint off my leg?”
Rainbow trotted back from the kitchen, a tray of food balanced on her back. “Well from my experience, another week or so.” She slid the tray from her back and onto the floor in front of Twilight. A small salad and some roasted fish was tonight’s dinner. “Which would be a lot easier to measure if we had some way to keep track. Are you in rush to get moving again?”
Smiling, Twilight shifted and laid herself against Rainbow’s side with a sigh. “I don’t know if I ever want to move again. You make a great maid.”
“Laugh it up Princess but this won’t last forever.” Rainbow stuck her tongue out and wrapped her wing over Twilight like a blanket. “And I expect you to repay me for all this kindness.”
Twilight smiled mischievously. “You’ll hafta wait till I’m all better for full payment, in the meantime-” Twilight tilted her head back and gave Rainbow a peck on the chin. “You’ll hafta settle for small installments.”
Both of them laughed and settled into a comfortable silence as Twilight ate her meal. The atmosphere between them was serene and full of loving warmth. Twilight’s eyes kept flicking back to Rainbow every now and then until Rainbow started humming a song. She couldn’t place the tune but it settled Twilight’s unease.
Twilight stiffened up momentarily and pressed up against Rainbow as though she was trying to prove she was still there. “It’s not your fault Rainbow. I...I was being pig-headed and obsessive. Part of me still thinks I’m right but, but you are too. You might be more right than me honestly.” Her fork landed on the plate with a clink as she lowered her head. “I should have listened to you more.”
Silence hung between them for a moment before Rainbow leaned down and kissed the top of Twilight’s head. “I still feel like it was my fault. You needed me to be there for you and I ran away because I was scared. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and, I wish I’d been more level-headed about it.”
Twilight reached out with her magic to her saddlebags that Rainbow had gone back for. The flap flipped open and a faded brown journal floated out. The cutie mark on the front was cracked and so worn as to be unidentifiable but the interior was remarkably well preserved. The inside cover simply read ‘Clover the Clever’, Starswirl’s missing student.
Twilight opened the book to one of the later pages and stared at the words.
I tried everything. Nothing works, no matter what angle I approach the problem from I can’t find a solution. I went back to my original notes, the basis of the spell and tore it down as far as I possibly could. There was nothing, no possible way to counteract the spell. I’ve lost count of how many years have passed but I know it’s been at least a lifetime. I’ve built a cabin, started a garden—though I realized shortly after I planted everything, it’s never going to be more than seeds. Old age seems to be creeping up on my bit by bit, nowadays my bones creak when I walk and I can see the wrinkles in my reflection and little details keep slipping past me. If my family could see me now, would they recognise me?
Twilight shook her head “I remember how scared I was that that would be our fate. It terrified me, the idea that I would never see the others again.” She sighed heavily and Rainbow wiped the tear from her eye and pulled the book from Twilight’s grasp.
She flipped several pages further into the book and read it aloud.
I thought of something else I could have tried today. I reviewed it a few times and at least in theory it seems possible. If only I had thought of it sooner I might have been able to put it into practice.
Who am I kidding, I would never be foolish enough to try this method. The laws of energy conservation make it suicidal. Only a fool would ever consider this kind of option, a desperate suicidal fool. Even now after all these years I don’t find myself that desperate, but I do miss them all so much. I just want to see them one more time, one last time before the end.
“Then you found this passage and it gave you hope. I didn’t understand it but it scared me.” A smile wormed its way onto Rainbow’s face. “It wasn’t till after I left that I understood why this passage scared me.”
Twilight shifted and pulled Rainbow’s head down close with her magic. She pressed her forehead against Rainbow’s with a warm smile. “And I think I know exactly why, something I didn’t discover until I had you in my life again.” Twilight fidgeted, her cheeks felt warm. “Hey Rainbow, why did you come back? I know you followed me from Griffonstone but, why?”
Rainbow pulled away from Twilight a little, her cheeks flushed. “I...I was worried.”
“Why were you in Griffonstone?”
The blush on Rainbow’s cheeks deepened. “Coincidence.”
“No.” Rainbow sighed and looked at Twilight, her heart racing. “I remembered that one of the places you needed to cast the spell was near here and I was hoping that you might pass through Griffonstone.”
Twilight smiled and her blush deepened. “You were waiting for me?” Rainbow nodded and rubbed her hoof against her leg. “Why didn’t you say something before I left to climb the mountain.”
“I was afraid.”
“Afraid?” Twilight shifted a little to get a better look at Rainbow. “Afraid of what?”
“How you would react to seeing me again? Afraid you were still angry.” Rainbow shook her head. “It was silly I know, but... I missed you.”
Twilight bit her lip and looked from side to side. “Rainbow, I stopped being angry a long time ago. I missed you and everyone else so much I was hearing you even when you weren’t there.” Twilight lowered her head and blushed deeply. “I used to dream of seeing you again, of holding you in my hooves. Of so many things, things I forgot I dreamed about until I saw you again and it made the hurt rise up again. Rainbow, I stopped being mad at you the day I realized I’d fallen in love with you and that I’d lost every chance I had with you.”
Silence fell between them for a moment before Rainbow pulled Twilight’s head and locked eyes with her. Slowly the leaned forward and their lips locked. It wasn’t passionate and full of fire like so the first kisses Rarity loved to dream about, no it was gentle and warm. It was full of love and hope and longing.
When the kiss finally broke both of them felt like a weight had been lifted from their chest. The fires they had both tried to smother roared to life and the rest of the world burned away. All the worries, the sorrows, none of it mattered now.
Twilight snuggled up against Rainbow and smiled as she became wrapped in Rainbow’s wing once more. If she tried, she could almost forget what it had been like when she was alone, almost.
“Rainbow, can you promise me something?”
The smile on Rainbow’s face faded just a little and she held Twilight a little tighter. “Please don't make me promise something that would make me lose you again.”
“Nothing like that, I want you to promise you won’t leave again. I don’t think I would survive if you left me again.”
“I promise Twilight. I promise never to leave you alone again as long as I live. I swear to stay by your side in sickness and in health. Until the day I die I will never leave you again.”
Twilight felt herself drifting off but just before she fell asleep she smiled. “And I promise that I will never leave you again.”
~ ~ ~
For the second time Twilight had convinced Rainbow to take her out of the cabin and onto the front porch. It hadn’t been long since Rainbow had taken the splint off and Twilight felt confident enough to start moving again. Together with Rainbow Twilight limped back and forth across the porch, from one end to the other. Her movements were stiff and she tired easily but without fail Rainbow caught her whenever she stumbled.
“I think that’s enough now, Twilight.” Rainbow smiled warmly and helped Twilight into one of two chairs on the porch. “We don’t want to push it too hard without a professional around.”
“Well, look who’s talking about not pushing it!” Twilight rolled her eyes and leaned back in the chair. “I get it Rainbow, you’ve been saying that since before you even took the splint off.” She smiled at Rainbow. “I’ll take it easy and follow your orders. Now sit down and let's relax out here a little, I was starting to get cabin fever and this change of scenery is amazing.”
Around the cabin was a pristine field of untouched snow, not a single hoof or foot print as far as the eye could see. A few trees dotted one corner just a little ways from the cabin. The peak of the neighboring mountain loomed up overhead to the right, reflecting the sunlight in a beautiful display or rainbows. Twilight sighed happily as she looked around the field, relishing the feel of the cold air in her lungs and the lack of walls.
“Hey Twilight.” Twilight opened one eye and looked at Rainbow. “I’ve been wondering for a while now, how is it that some things still seem to work and others don’t? Like, we can move things around, but we can’t seem to start a fire. That seems really weird, doesn’t it?”
Twilight hummed to herself in thought for a minute before she shrugged. “It’s magic, Rainbow.” A coy smile lit up her face as she watched Rainbow gasp. “Yes Rainbow, I the great Twilight proclaim that it is simply magic.”
Rainbow laughed lightly and shook her head. “Finally it seems there is something not even the Great Princess Twilight understands! Will the wonders of this world never cease.”
Both of them broke into a fit of giggles that slowly became full-bellied laughs. Finally Twilight wiped a happy tear from her eye and took a deep breath. “Ow.” She took another deep breath and leaned back. “I can’t remember the last time I laughed like that.”
“Neither can I.”
Twilight let out a deep breath slowly, composing herself and settling back into her chair. “Honestly though, I tried to figure it out at one point. I figured out it was a feature of the spell, probably from how I applied magic sentience. Unfortunately, the nature of the spell makes it difficult to perform experiments with accurate results. I think the selective movement is somehow related to the safety factors I initially integrated with the spell.”
“So you tried but until the spell is broken you can’t solve that riddle.” Twilight frowned and huffed. “For what it’s worth I think if anyone could have solved it, you could have.
Twilight tapped her hoof impatiently on the chair as she thought about it. “I know but it, it’s another one of those reminders I don’t want.”
Rainbow laid her hoof over Twilights to stop it from tapping. “Hey, we still have time to undo the spell.”
Twilight squeezed Rainbow’s hoof and smiled. “I know we do, and I think, maybe, I should but I don’t think it’s what I want now. I miss everyone so much that it feels like my heart is being torn apart, but even if we went back we aren’t the same mares who left. They won’t have changed at all while we lived an entire life inside this frozen world.” A tear rolled down Twilight’s cheek and she sniffled. “I don’t think I could handle that and I also found something else worth living for.” She smiled at Rainbow with a little blush on her cheeks.
“I know exactly what you mean Twilight.” Rainbow traced the tip of her wing on Twilight’s cheek and squeezed her hoof back. “Our friends will always be our friends but we’ve change so much, so so much since the accident. They are still our friends, but we haven’t seen them in a lifetime. Picking up where we left off might not be possible anymore.”
Rainbow leaned forward and used her wing to pull Twilight forward into a kiss. They held it for a moment before parting. Twilight wrapped a wing around Rainbow’s back and Rainbow did the same for Twilight as they settled into a comfortable silence together. They played good memories in their heads as they held each other comfortingly. There on the porch time felt more precious than ever with all the time they could ever want.