The Ballad of Twilight Sparkle

by Gravekeeper

The Summons

“...And that's how I learned to stop worrying, and love the Bomb. Always your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle,” finished narrating the lavender pony with a content flourish, satisfied with her most recent report. It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon, and Twilight stood in the middle of the Golden Oaks Library's common room, basking in the glory of another finished Friendship Report.

“Twi...” began her young scribe, “Do you really think Princess Celestia needs to hear about you guys getting tanked on Pink Jägerbombs?” he asked, holding the latest scroll in his hands and prepping it to be sent. Spike just couldn't shake the feeling that this letter was a bit lacking in overall academic merit, especially when compared to the previous week's 40-page Ralneigh Scattering Friendship Report—a lesson that Rainbow Dash had been less than enthusiastic to learn but had ultimately saved Ponyville from certain destruction.

Twilight trotted over to Spike and gave him a playful noogie across his head scales (well, as much of a noogie a pony can give a dragon, anyways). “Come now, Spike; Pinkie taught us all a very important lesson in Friendship! Granted, I was somewhat skeptical at first when she called alcohol a 'Friendship Lubricant', but you can't argue with results!” she replied, giggling at the look Spike was giving her.

Spike hitched an eyebrow. “Results, huh?” he said, his voice dripping with the sort of skepticism only someone raised by Twilight Sparkle could possibly muster.

Horn glowing with magic, Twilight smiled and levitated Spike over to her desk, placing him near the open window. “You weren't there like I was, Spike; you should've seen Applejack and Rainbow Dash—they were acting like they were super best friends all night,” she beamed, gently nudging him with her nose towards the nearby window. “Looking at them at the party, you wouldn't have known that they spend all day bickering and one-upping each other—in fact, Pinkie told me that after I passed out, AJ and Dash left the party to hang out with each other for the rest of the evening!”

Spike sighed, still not entirely convinced. “I guess...” he agreed, reluctantly giving up on his misgivings. As he prepared to fire up the scroll and send it to Canterlot, he couldn't help but muse over the one glaring omission in Twilight's report: the fact that she spent all morning twisting and moaning on the floor, wretchedly mired in absolute despair over her first hangover and asking repeatedly to be taken out of her misery. “Please Spike, if you truly love me you will light the sacrificial rite and end my suffering!” he recalled her saying not six hours ago.

Twilight looked on as her latest missive went up in smoke, as it were, being magically delivered to her mentor. “Thanks Spike. Now, could you fetch me the mop? I've got some... mopping to do,” she asked her friend with a wince, dreading the clean-up that awaited her in the bathroom after her stomach oh-so-kindly jettisoned last night's food and Friendship Lubricant in a fit of teenage rebellion.

Spike winced a bit as well. Hopping down from the desk and padding his way to the broom closet, images of the previous night started to rush back into his head. In retrospect, he had to begrudgingly admit at being quite impressed with the forcefulness and distance Twilight could put into the art of upchucking. Spike was certain that, if it hadn't been such an unpleasant experience for her, Twilight would've certainly turned the event into a scientific lesson about fluid dynamics. Spike smiled at the thought of a Friendship Report on that.

He was, however, much less impressed with the location Twilight chose to regale him with the live demonstration. 'If she thinks I'm cleaning that up, she must still be drunk off her hooves!' he thought, retrieving the mop and bucket and walking over to the kitchen sink to fill it with water. Along the way he passed by the front door, now lovingly adorned with three unicorn horn-shaped holes where a certain somepony had tried to ram it open in her drunken stupor.

“Here ya go, Twi—” began Spike, moving to hand over the mop and bucket before and uncontrollable fiery belch made his body quake, making him lose his grip on both items in the process. “What the...?” A scroll materialized and dropped into his now empty, outstretched claws; fortunately, Twilight had caught the bucket in her magical grasp before it hit the ground.

“Oh my!” Twilight happily interjected, clopping her hooves, “That was a quick turnaround!” she exclaimed, removing the ribbon on the scroll with her magic, then levitating it to her line of sight. “Oh, this isn't from Princess Celestia...” she added after a quick glance, immediately noticing that the letter was not horn-written.

Spike waddled over to Twilight's side, peering around her and trying to read a letter from his low vantage point. “But who else would send a letter through dragonfire? And who else would know my own fireline? Is it Princess Luna?” Though he could perform it naturally, the spell was notoriously difficult for a pony to master and involved signing magical contracts—in blood—with dragons for the use of their leylines. The end result was a spell known by very few ponies; very few ponies who lived rather luxuriously from the exorbitant going rate for a letter that needed to be delivered instantly.

Twilight's eyes darted from left to right as she quickly scanned through the letter, her mouth moving soundlessly as she read—a small habit she still couldn't fully suppress from time to time after an entire fillyhood spent reading so many books aloud for herself, and then for her little brother. “It says it's from Metro Goldmane Brayer, Legal Affairs...”

Spike was now intrigued; he'd seen the name wrapped around the famous roaring Manticore at the start of enough films thanks to Pinkie Pie's weekly movie nights. “That's the famous movie studio, isn't it?” he asked, climbing up to Twilight's withers to attempt to read the letter over her head.

Twilight nodded absently, still reading. “Says I'm to meet with them and a... 'Great and Powerful Trixie, The'?” And that's all it took; the unicorn's face went quickly from a look of relief, to a look of happiness, to a contorted look of disbelief in the space of a few seconds. “Is 'The' supposed to be her title? What in Equestria is a 'The' supposed to even mean?” she asked no pony in particular as she stomped a hoof in annoyance.

'Aaand we lost her. Again.' Spike rolled his eyes as he hopped back to the floor. “Focus Twi, why do you have to meet with them?” he asked, knowing how Twilight got whenever she started thinking about the blue unicorn. 'Rarity would totally be proud of your theatrics, that's for sure.'

Twilight shook her head, shaking off her disgruntlement. “Right, right.... Well,” she said, taking a moment to compose herself and finishing reading the letter, “they want to talk to me about Author's Rights and royalty payments...” she answered, trailing off and dropping the scroll.

Spike brought his tail to his mouth and chewed it unconsciously as he pondered on that bit of information for a few seconds. “But Twilight, what for? Are you writing a book or something?” He already knew that wasn't the case though, seeing as he spent most of his waking time at her side. 'Unless she's been writing one at night with that owl guy!' he thought, sudden feelings of jealousy resurfacing momentarily as he pictured that evil, evil bird of prey... preying on his time with his loving big sister/heartless taskmaster. Suppressing his long-held suspicions, Spike picked up the scroll and started reading it.

The young mare shook her head again, beginning to pace around the large bust that adorned the common room. “I've no idea what this letter's about, Spike; the only things I've written since starting college are my research reports and dissertations, and I send all of those to Celestia. The letter said that they would send a carriage for me today to take me to Manehattan,” she explained, making her way to the stairs that led to her loft. “I... I'm going to pack,” she announced unsteadily, glancing back to where her assistant still stood.

Spike blinked. “W-wait, you're actually going?!” he sputtered, dropping the scroll. “Is this because of Trixie? I don—”

Both Spike and Twilight were startled out of their impending argument by a knock at the front door. Twilight's ears flattened against her head and she bit her lip as she considered whether to explain herself to Spike again or ignore him and just tend to the door. The decision was as easy as the Trixie debate between them was old; Twilight trotted past Spike and towards the Library's lobby. “Uh, coming!” she called as she reached the door. With a small burst of magic, she opened it and came face to face with a dark gray pegasus mare. The somewhat tall pony had her short black mane slicked back; she wore a black coat and a tie, as well as a chauffeur's cap.

“Miss Sparkle?” asked the professional-looking pegasus with an even tone.

Twilight blinked dumbly a few seconds before finding her voice. “Uh.. yeah—I mean, yes, that's me!” she chuckled nervously, standing aside to let the pegasus in.

The pegasus bowed her head lightly, then regarded Twilight with serious, but kind eyes. “Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Holly Diver, and I've come to pick you up on behalf of Metro Goldmane Brayer Studios,” she explained, extending her right front hoof.

Twilight met the pegasus's hoof with her own. “Twilight Sparkle. Pleased to meet you,” she replied, bowing lightly as well. “You're ah, you're here a lot sooner than I expected,” she admitted sheepishly, scratching the back of her head.

Holly Diver shook her head. “My apologies, I know this is all very sudden but as I understand it, this matter requires your presence as soon as possible,” she said as she glanced from side to side. After making the sure the coast was clear, Holly's face took on a mirthful, somewhat malicious grin as she regarded Twilight with conspiratorial eyes.

Twilight was taken aback and resisted the urge to shy away as Holly stepped closer to her and started whispering in her ear. “Your bratty little friend is in a heap of trouble thanks to you!” she breathed, almost giggling. Holly stepped back and steeled her face, once again donning her professional decorum. “Ahem, as I said,” she began, looking around again, “it is imperative we depart for Manehattan with haste; as far as I know, this will all be resolved rather quickly, and you should be back home by nightfall.”

Twilight Sparkle was more confused than ever before, but she quickly found her wits and nodded vigorously. “Yes! Yes, uh, let me just grab a few things and I'll be right out!” she stammered, hurriedly retreating back into the library and almost tripping over Spike as she did so. “S-sorry Spike!” she called, already halfway up the stairs.

A few minutes later, Spike was waiting for Twilight near the front door, stern look and crossed arms at the ready. “And just where do you think you're going, young filly?” he asked, clearly quite unhappy with Twilight's hasty decision to just up and leave once Trixie's name was mentioned.

Twilight, saddlebag secured at her side, stopped in her tracks at the sight of him, but her eyes grew defiant. “Look, Spike, I have to go, you know I have to—Holly said Trixie's in trouble,” she declared and, softening her gaze, continued, “Can I count on my Number One assistant take care of the Library for today?” she asked, pleading with her eyes.

Spike's gaze hardened.

Twilight grinned inwardly; Spike could never hope to match her own petulance when she was his age—he was an easily-broken amateur. “Maybe you could invite the Cutie Mark Crusaders to keep you company?” she offered, her eyes glittering. 'Almost there...' she thought. “Hmm, you know? The Cutie Mark Crusaders will need a babysitter... Perhaps you could invite Rarity over as well?” she added ever so innocently.

The purple dragon gulped as his eyes wavered. “I... uh...” he replied, uncrossing his arms.

'Gotcha!' Twilight celebrated internally. “Thanks Spike, you really are the best!” she said, telekinetically bringing him up to her face and nuzzling him before plunking him on the floor dashing out the door and closing it behind her.

Much to Twilight's embarrassment, her 'carriage' had been parked in the middle of town, where the ostentatious and unnecessarily-large 5-pegasus limousine was drawing quite a crowd. Though humble by Canterlot standards, the gaudy thing was a conspicuous enough sight to probably make the headlines in tomorrow's paper, along with a photo of herself accompanied by Holly Diver, who carried herself with quite a bit of presence. Twilight wondered if a week would ever go by without her appearing in Ponyville's gazette for some reason or another.

“Twilight, Darling! Is that you?!” Rarity exclaimed, her melodious voice ringing from somewhere within the crowd of curious bystanders.

Twilight's ears perked as she heard the familiar voice call out to her. Scanning the throng of ponies, she managed to catch a white horn and a shock of indigo hair quickly carving its way across the sea of manes like the world's most fabulous shark fin. Rarity gave the last pony she shoved out of the way a tight but polite smile as she dusted herself off and approached her friend. “Twilight, sweetie, I simply must know what marvelous, marvelously-rich stallion has sent for you with such a fabulous stagecoach!” she grinned widely, her eyes glittering.

Twilight chuckled sheepishly. “No, Rarity, it's not—”

“Gasp!” gasped Rarity, “And why are you carrying that saddlebag? Shouldn't the hired help be, well, helping you with that?” she asked, glaring at Holly Diver, who glared right back. Rarity turned to Twilight once more. “And Twilight, why didn't you tell me you would be holding audience with an esteemed member of high society? We could have done something—anything—with your mane and coat!”

Twilight blinked. “I uh... What's wrong with my mane?” she asked, somewhat worried as she turned her head and gave herself a once over.

“I feel I must remind Miss Sparkle that we are needed in Manehattan today.” Holly interjected, still glaring at Rarity, who huffed and turned her muzzle upwards, closing her eyes indignantly.

“Sorry Rarity, I have to go now—this was very short-notice; if I had known, I would most certainly have sought your help getting ready,” Twilight reassured, putting a hoof on Rarity's shoulder.

Rarity brought her hoof over Twilight's own and gave her a smile. “Oh, I know you would have, Darling,” she replied as her thoughts ran wild, wondering if she'd seen Twilight in the company of any extremely rich pony lately. Had Twilight been sneaking out and meeting somepony under the cover of the night? Had Twilight found the Altair to her Vega? 'Now Rarity, you know Twilight better than that...' Perhaps she had found the Juliet to her Rodeo? The Guinevere to her Prancelot? The Haylen to her Paris? 'Well, at least she's gotten over that cheap little magician and her cheap little tricks!'

Twilight smiled back before noticing that Holly Diver was holding the carriage door open for her. She gave Rarity an apologetic look. “I'll see everypony later, OK? Oh and Rarity, I know this is quite sudden, but I was wondering if you and your sister could perhaps keep Spike company while I'm away?” she asked as trotted away and she stood on the carriage's step.

“I would love to, Twilight,” Rarity replied, hoof on her chest, chin held high. “But you simply must tell me everything about Manehattan and the beautifully rich pony you're meeting there when you come back! Do we have a deal, sweetie?” she asked, her eyes shimmering with barely-restrained gossip-lust.

Twilight chuckled awkwardly. “It's a deal, Rarity,” she agreed, stepping into the carriage.

Holly Diver closed the door and made her way to the front of the luxurious vehicle, taking her position forward of the five other pegasus ponies that were already rigged to the spacious chariot. After donning her own rig, she turned to the pegasus mare to her right. “Preflight checklist?” she asked with a smile.

“Complete,” replied the white, red-maned pegasus, sporting similar attire and manestyle as Holly.

“Winds aloft?” Holly continued, watching as the crowd parted to give them room for take-off.

“25-knot tailwind at 5,000.” continued the white pegasus, her tone all business.

Holly nodded; that would save them at least thirty minutes of flight time! “Perfect. Flight plan?”

“Filed. Ponyville Flight Service will provide vectoring,” she replied dryly as she stared on straight ahead.

Holly rolled her eyes at the display; 'Time for some applied CRM!' she thought as she turned to face her First Officer with a grin. “Care to take the command for this flight, Rafale?”

“WOULD I?!” beamed Rafale, her wings flapping excitedly as she blushed brightly and trying to train back her serious face. “Er... Yes, it'd be my pleasure, Captain.” Behind her, the rest of the flight crew chuckled at her expense.

Inside the carriage, Twilight listened as each one of the six pegasi started flapping their wings one after the other, until a steady, reverberating hum permeated the cabin. Resting her chin on her hoof, elbow on the windowsill, she watched as the scenery started accelerating past, before retreating downwards and giving way to the blue skies, pockmarked with small clouds, a rare sight this time of day.

“I guess Rainbow Dash must still be hanging with Applejack.” Twilight concluded. She wondered what became of her other friends as the carriage climbed even higher. “Maybe they're still hung over?” she asked herself, watching as the miles and miles of Sweet Apple Acres became less distinguishable with the ascending height. She felt slightly bad for her friends; she'd woken to a mind-rending hangover because of her—in hindsight—terrible alcohol tolerance and she had been the first to pass out at the party. Twilight couldn't even imagine how the rest were faring if they actually kept on drinking through the night. She was slightly amazed that Rarity looked as beautiful as ever, not trace of a bad morning on her.

'Speaking of beautiful unicorns...' Twilight mused as Manehattan's skyline became visible towards the horizon. Twilight blinked. “Whoa, where did that come from?” she chuckled nervously, eyes darting left and right, even though she knew no one else was in the carriage. Twilight sighed heavily. She had spent a few months looking for Trixie, but her duties at the Library meant that she couldn't wander away too far or for too long. She felt compelled to find the magician, and was worried about the fact that Trixie had left all of her mostly-destroyed belongings back in Ponyville. 'How did you make do without your stagecoach? Your bits? All of your things?' she wondered idly, a pained look of worry clear on her face. 'You didn't have to run away, Trixie, we could have helped you...'

During her search, Twilight had come across evidence that Trixie had managed to get back on her hooves again—nearby towns spoke of the dazzling showmare and her amazing stories about the great unicorn that defeated the Ursa Major, but Twilight always managed to miss Trixie by a day or two. Just as she did in Ponyville, The Great and Powerful Trixie seemed to just roll into town without previous announcements, put on a show, and then continue on to the next one.

Twilight's eye twitched at the thought. 'How can anypony live without a schedule? She could be maximizing her exposure and audience if they actually knew when her shows were going to happen!' she mused, bringing a hoof to her face as she rubbed the bridge of her muzzle. Thinking about Trixie and what she could do to be all the greater and always put Twilight in a mood. She could understand why Spike was worried—she had no reason to care that much about a pony that acted like a jackass to her and her friends. “But I do...” Twilight admitted in resignation. “Trixie, what in the world did you get yourself wrapped up in now? Haven't you learned your lesson?” Twilight asked the empty cabin, which refused to reply.

Twilight retreated from the window and rested back on the plush seat of the carriage, her eyes closing as she let her thoughts lull her to sleep.