The sun was going down as you walked back to Ponyville. The leaves were orange as they rustled in the trees and decorated the dirt path. While you had gone exploring, searching for ideas for your stories, your maid had stayed home to clean.
Taking a deep breath, you inhaled the fresh autumn air. A smile stretching across your face at the sensation. It certainly was a nice day to go for a walk.
"Alright, I'm almost home." Even as you said this, you felt uneasy.
As you walked along the road, your ears twitched, as the sound of a twig snapping grabbed your attention. Looking to your right where you had heard the sound, you saw something orange quickly moving through the bushes.
It was drawing late and you were still a ways from Ponyville. Fearing that this might be some sort of wild animal, you slowly backed away from the sound.
Once you were certain that the creature was gone, you resumed your walk along the path, your ears on the alert. You made it a short distance before you heard the rustling of leaves. Turning you saw two teal lights flickering in a distant bush, like two wavering eyes.
Gulping down some saliva, you kept your eyes focused on the bush until suddenly the two eyes were gone. Even then you were certain that something was stalking you. A primal fear resonated through your bones.
Carefully, you began walking down the road, not wanting to aggravate this beast but also trying to make it back to Ponyville safely, or at least to some sort of sanctuary. Peering through the trees, you thought you spotted a metal structure in the distance. A ferris wheel?
"Must be that theme park Filthy Rich is working on,” you whispered in a hushed tone.
Perhaps somepony there could help you. As you considered this a sound caught your attention from behind. A sound that sounded like children giggling.
Slowly you turned around and saw two bushes on each side of the road, while there were other bushes around, these stood out because each had glowing eyes and flickering teal mouths. So there were two of them. As you watched them, the giggling stopped.
Suddenly there was a loud shriek as the creatures began to emerge from the bushes. Panic filled your head as the monsters began to race out of the brush. Immediately you broke into a sprint. You ran at top speed, fleeing to the theme park as fast as you could.
As you fled, the shrieking and more eerie giggling followed you. The beasts were on your tail and they were chasing you, hunting you, playing with you. Even as you ran, you knew your limits. If you didn't find someplace to hide, these monsters would catch up with you.
There was another shriek as something orange flew overhead and landed in your path, forcing you to side step it. The object splattered as it hit the ground, the scent of pumpkin filling your nose as you passed by.
Looking up, a spark of hope filled your heart as you saw the sign for the Weeping Willows Theme Park drawing near.
Another shriek resonated as another pumpkin flew above and came crashing down right in front of you. You tried to dodge the shattered pumpkin, only to trip over a small rock in the path and fell to the ground.
For a brief moment you were terrified as you turned around to face the monsters that were pursuing you. That eerie giggling growing louder.
Charcoal bodies wrapped in black cloaks that flapped in the autumn wind. Large bumps on their backs. Billowing from the opening in the cowl were teal flames. As you saw this, you suddenly recognized these figures.
"Flash Gloom? Gash Bloom? Is that you?" you asked.
With a few more giggles, the cloaks disappeared in a puff of green flame, revealing the two dullahan twins, teal flames emerging from their necks and their heads resting on their backs.
"How's it going buddy?" both of the twin's asked as they reattached their heads to their necks. The autumn breeze gently moved the dullahans' pink manes, the white highlights shifting slight with the motion.
After giggling a little more the twin on the right spoke. "Yes, it's me Flash Gloom!"
"And I'm Gash Bloom," said the other.
This was... a rather welcoming surprise, considering how just seconds ago you thought you were going to be potentially killed and eaten by some unpleasant creatures. "It's uh... it's good, I guess."
The dullahans giggled. "Would you like to play a game with us?"
That was a bit of a surprise.
"Oh, uh... I don't know," you replied, "it's late and I'm sure that Irisa is probably worried."
"Oh, you don't have to worry about that," Flash Gloom said.
"We've already talked with Irisa and she said it was fine," Gash Bloom continued.
"Really?" A part of you was skeptical that Irisa would agree to something like this.
"Yeah," Flash Gloom said, "she was a little nervous at first, but when we told her that we would make sure you made it home safely, she went along with it."
"Especially after the gift we gave her."
Judging from the mischievous smile on the twins' faces, you felt a little uneasy about this gift they had given Irisa. Not that you thought they would do anything harmful to her, more that the gift might have been something surprising for you.
"We heard that you like to ask ponies like us questions," Flash Gloom said.
"If you play with us, we'll answer any questions you have for us," Gash Bloom said, in a tone that was almost sultry.
Now that was really tempting. You had considered the idea of writing a story with a dullahan and who would be a better pony to ask then one or two ponies which were actual dullahans? Perhaps a quick game would work out just fine.
"Alright, I'm in," you replied, "what's the game?"
Both of the twins giggled with glee in response to your answer.
"Here's the game," Gash explained, "it's kind of an alternate take on hide and seek as well as tag. We're going to hide in the park and you'll come find us."
"Isn't that a little dangerous?" you asked.
The Weeping Willows theme park was still under construction so not everything was in working order. On top of that it wasn't necessarily safe to be playing around any of the moving attractions.
"Don't worry, none of the rides are on," Flash said, "and we won't hide anywhere that would be too dangerous for you to find."
Alright, that seemed fair.
"Okay, then I guess that will be fine."
"But there's more," Gash continued, "when you find us, you must guess what twin you've caught."
"If you guess right, then all you have to do is find the remaining sister," Flash said.
"However if you fail..." Gash smiled mischievously. "Then you have to close your eyes, caught to ten, while the sister you tagged can run off and hide once more."
Now that might be a little tricky, with both Gash Bloom and Flash Gloom being twins, it could be difficult finding out who was who. However, you had read a few detective novels so it might actually be a piece of cake. With a smile you gave the twins a nod.
"Sounds like fun."
The dullahan sisters gave you a wide smile.
"Then let's begin," the twins said together.
Following the twins' instructions, you closed your eyes and began to count to ten.
You heard the twins giggle a little before you heard the sound of their hooves as they trotted away.
The world was silent and still, save for the sound of the wind blowing and your counting. Eventually you reached the last number.
Opening your eyes, you found yourself outside the Weeping Willow Theme park entrance as before, only you were all by yourself.
"Let the games begin," you said, as you stepped into the park.
Carefully you looked around the park like a hunter looking for his quarry.
Aside from the few lamp posts set up along the various paths, most of the lights in the theme park were off, the only other light being the setting sun. In the autumn weather, the lack of lighting would have really suited a Nightmare Night event. You could definitely imagine a creepy mascot chasing you through the park or some ponies dressed up as zombies. The fact that you occasionally heard one of the dullahans laughing in the distance, definitely added to the atmosphere.
In the distance, you could see a couple roller coasters, though you were pretty confident that the twins weren't going to be hiding around those.
As you looked around, you were almost startled when you noticed a few shapes off to your left. A sigh of relief escaped your lungs when you realized it was just some wooden cutouts, that were painted to look like cartoon versions of Mister and Misses Rich, with a few circular holes carved where the faces were. A photo opportunity for any couple.
For a moment, you were about to walk away when you realized that there was something off about the cutout. Specifically the fact that somepony's head was peeking through the hole above Trixie's body. Upon closer inspection, you realized that it was one of the twins.
Now you just needed to catch her.
Quietly you approached the cutout, looking around the edge to see the twin smiling back at you. Immediately you tagged her.
"What's the hurry?" the twin asked.
Indeed, you had thought that the dullahan might run, but instead she just stood there looking at you, with a wide, clever grin on her face.
"Uh, no reason," you replied.
"So who am I?" The twin gave you a cunning smile.
Hearing this you remembered that there was one more twist on this game. You had to guess which twin was which.
Carefully you looked at the twin before you, trying to see if there was anything you could notice about the twin that stood out. Despite your efforts, you couldn't think of anything that might distinguish her from her twin.
"Uh… Gash Bloom?" You guessed.
The twin giggled, putting a hoof to her muzzle, her smile turning gleeful, clearly enjoying the situation.
"Nope." The twin shook her head. "Time to start counting."
Well those were the rules. Closing your eyes you began to count once more.
After you finished counting, you opened your eyes and resumed your search. While you were walking between the rides you were startled when you thought you saw the shape of something looking at you from behind one of the stalls, it's large form in shadow, a hairy beast with a mouth filled with sharp teeth. Fueling your horn with magic, you illuminated a cardboard sign of a friendly looking bugbear, with star shaped patterns in his fur. Upon seeing it, you quickly remembered seeing a commercial involving this character.
"Bigsy, the friendly bugbear," you mumbled to yourself.
While you were a little annoyed due to the sign's shape startling you, you were glad that it was just a cardboard cutout and not something actually threatening. Apparently Trixie had originally wanted to have the mascot be an Ursa Major, but due to an incident that had occurred in Ponyville involving such a beast, it was changed to a bugbear with some celestial iconography instead.
“Well, at least it isn’t a creepy mascot or a mannequin,” you said, as you touched the wooden cutout.
As you looked around the theme park, you thought you saw somepony near the bumper car ride. Carefully you stepped into the circular arena filled with metal cars painted different colors.
Some looked like different variants of Bigsy while there was one that looked like Trixie and another that looked like Mister Rich.
Looking at the cars, you saw a couple ears sticking out from one of them. Well, the ride wasn’t active so the area was kind of safe. As you approached the car that was modelled after Filthy Rich, you saw the twin scurry behind another one. It was a game of cat and mouse and you were the cat dealing with a very sneaky mouse.
If you knew any teleportation magic, you could just teleport to the bumper car that the twin was hiding behind or even into her path, however your skill with magic was limited so you have to resort to other means to chase down your prey.
Scrunching down, you tried to blend in the vehicles and approached the car that you had seen the twin run behind. As you approached the green bumper car, you saw the twin scurry behind a blue one. While you could certainly go over to that car, it was likely that the twin would run to another one. Looking around you noticed that there were two other cars that were close to the vehicle the twin had hidden behind, the green one you were at and a pink one. You also noticed a small metal bolt lying on the ground.
Thinking a move ahead, you moved stealthily over to the pink one. Picking up the bolt with your magic, you lightly threw it over to the blue car, hopefully causing the dullahan to run over to the car you were sneaking toward. A smile stretched across your face as you saw a shadow moving over to the pink vehicle.
Sneaking up to the pink bumper car that the dullahan was hiding behind, you stepped around the side of the tiny vehicle and tagged her.
"So you have," the twin replied, "now tell me, who am I?"
Carefully you looked over the twin standing before you, trying to discern anything that might be a little different from the other. Looking her over, you thought that her eyes might be a darker shade of icy blue, or was that just an illusion caused by the low lighting.
"Are you Flash Gloom?"
The twin shook her head in response to your inquiry. "Nope."
With a sigh, you closed your eyes and began to count. The sound of the twin's hoofsteps wandering away.
"One... Two... Three..."
Once you had finished counting, you took a deep breath, clearing your thoughts. Opening your eyes, you began to look around the park once more. Among the various stalls and rides, there was a fountain with a stone statue of Bigsy, holding a star above her head. As you looked about you spied one of the twins' heads just resting on a bench, next to a small building that served as a restroom. Were they teasing you now?
As you walked up to the bench, you saw that the twin's head was smiling at you.
"Alright I caught you," you said, "now let me guess…"
You were interrupted by a clicking of the twin's tongue.
"Not so fast. If you want to guess who I am, you need to find my body first."
Sure enough as you looked around you realized that the dullahan's body was in fact missing.
"Well, where is it?" you asked. The twin merely giggled in response.
"Why don't you look around and find out? It's not like I'm going anywhere."
Yes, it would seem that you would need to find the twin's body if you wished to finish this game. As you looked around you guessed that after what had happened during the Nightmare Night party at the Rich family's manor, that her body wouldn't be too far.
"Alright, where are you hiding?" you mumbled during your search.
Quickly you looked around the area, searching near the bushes and the nearby fountain. Yet you still couldn't find the dullahan's body.
You considered the idea of asking the twin for a clue, when you noticed a garbage can standing next to the restroom. You might have thought nothing of it, if it wasn't for something pink poking out from behind it. There was also a slight red glow behind the metal canister. Walking over to the garbage can, you stepped around the side to see the twin's body sitting there, a small scarlet flame flickering calmly. As you stood there you thought it might be good to try to see if there was anything that stood about about this twin's body.
Not wanting to be a creep, you gave her a quick glance, that was when you noticed something about the twin's left forehoof. At first you thought it might be a scuff mark, but after a closer look you realized that it was a small scar. Well, that might be useful.
Taking the twin's body by the hoof, you carefully escorted her body back to the bench where her head was resting, waiting with an expectant smile on her face.
"Well, took you long enough," the twin teased, the flame coming from her neck turning into a shade of lavender.
With both of her hooves, the dullahan picked up her head and placed it back on her neck.
"So now that you've found my body," the twin spoke, "now you may guess who I am."
The twin giggled. "I'm afraid your search continues."
You were starting to become a little frustrated at this point. In theory there should be a fifty fifty percent chance to guess which twin was which accurately, yet each time you had guessed incorrectly. Taking a deep breath you cleared your mind and closed your eyes.
As you began to count, you recounted what you had learned. The twin who must be Gash Bloom had a small scar on her forehoof. Also it seemed that the twin's eyes were slightly different, Flash's eyes were brighter when compared to her twin sister.
Opening your eyes, you looked around to see none of the twins in sight. As you walked around the park you spotted a building with a sign in front that read, the Great and Powerful Trixie's Maze of Mirrors.
Hearing the sound of giggling, you knew that one or both of them had gone into the mirror maze. After taking a deep breath you stepped through the entrance into the maze.
Since what had happened at the Rich family's Nightmare Night party, you had felt uneasy around mirrors. Entering your bathroom you had suspected to hear tapping coming from the glass surface or see his reflection instead of yours. Yet despite your worries, nothing of the sort had happened. Though you had been startled one time when Irisa used one of her shadow hands to fetch some cleaning supplies from the closet.
Stepping into the maze, you found yourself surrounded by mirrors, your reflection on both sides of you, walking through infinite hallways.
As you walked forward, you saw your reflection grow bigger as you drew near to a wall, however once you were closer to the glass, you saw the reflection of one of the twins' tails as it vanished down another reflective hallway. The eerie feeling caused by the reflective surfaces reminded you more of your brother, a faint memory coming to your mind.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Canterlot as you walked through the park. All around there were ponies playing games, having picnics or just enjoying the scenery.
You smiled as you spotted your brother sitting at one of the tables with a chess board setup in front of him. Upon noticing your approach, the unicorn stallion smiled and motioned for you to join him with a hoof. As you drew near, you noticed that his left foreleg was bandaged tightly.
"Hello," your brother greeted.
"Hello Note," you said as you sat down across from your brother. As per usual the white pieces were on your side of the board.
Note Niche was an interesting pony. He was smart, not bad looking and very well educated. Because of this, he was able to find a good job, which had taken up much of his time, that was until recently.
"What happened to your hoof?" you asked as picked up one of your pawns and moved it.
"Oh, I injured it while I was out running," Note explained, "the doctor said it should heal in a few weeks, so nothing to worry about."
With a smile, Note adjusted his glasses before he picked up one of his pieces with his magic and moved it. The blue magic gently holding the black chess piece.
Using your magic, you moved another one of your pieces. "I'm sorry to hear about what happened to your work."
"Yeah, the company went bankrupt." Note moved another piece. "But it's okay..."
Note stopped as if pondering something, a soft smile gracing his lips. It was strange how optimistic he was being, not that that was unusual for him, just that most ponies in his situation would be panicking. Yet here Note seemed completely at peace with what had happened.
"I think everything will be alright," Note continued, "it will be really nice to have a change."
You moved one of your pieces on the board. "Well, I'm glad you're feeling okay."
With a nod, Note took another piece and moved it. "So how is your writing career going?"
"It's been difficult. I still haven't found anypony who is willing to publish my work."
"They don't know what they're missing," Note said, "I'm sure you'll find a good publisher, just don't lose hope."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right."
A few more pieces were moved around the board. As Note moved another piece, his eyes lit up.
"Maybe you should come live with me in Ponyville for a while," Note suggested, "the ponies there are nice and the change in scenery might just be what you need."
"That might be kind of fun."
"Yeah, I have a nice little place," Note said, "and it even has a guest room that you can stay in when you come visit."
You sat there for a moment, considering his offer. A few days in a new town might do you some good. "Maybe I will."
After taking another look over the board, you smiled as you took one of the pieces and put it into position.
Note squinted as he looked at the board, then with a chuckle your brother took his king and knocked it over.
"Indeed it is. Good game."
I shook my head, pulling myself back to the present. It was time for you to resume your search.
Looking around, you saw the reflections move slight, the appearance of a tail flickering in and out from the various surfaces. It would seem that the twins were toying with you again. Following the left wall, you turned a corner to see the path split into two, one to the right and one to the left.
"Over here..." Came a whisper from the right.
"Over here..." Came another whisper to the left.
It seemed that no matter which way you went you might find one of the twins. Taking the path to the right, you turned another corner, to see one of the twins at the end of a hall of mirrors. As you drew near to the twin, you realized that the twin looked strangely... tall.
As you ran down the hall, you noticed that the twin before you was growing taller and taller. The twin let out another giggle before she ran in another direction, her appearance becoming smaller before completely disappearing. Drawing near to where she had been, you realized that it was her reflection that you had seen and that she had run down another corridor.
Looking around, you saw the path the twin had taken and resumed your chase. Even as you ran, you had the strange feeling that something was following you. The sound of deep growling echoing through the maze. Running through the maze, you saw the twin's pink tail and after quickly evaluating the numerous reflections surrounding you, you ran down another corridor.
Turning a corner, you saw the exit to the maze with one of the twins running outside. Picking up your speed, you charged forward, back out into the park. Sure the other twin might still be inside the maze, but if you could guess this twin's name then you knew you'd win the game.
Now that you were outside you could see that the sun had completely set.
Stopping next to a balloon stand, which was lacking any balloons at the moment, the twin turned around and smiled, her chest heaving with heavy breathing.
"Well, you caught me," the twin said, "so do you know who I am?"
Looking over the twin you noticed two things, one that she didn't have a scar on her forehoof and that her eyes seemed a little bright.
"You're Flash Gloom, aren't you."
The twin smiled and clapped her hooves together. "You win. Congratulations!"
Even as Flash congratulated you, you couldn't help but feel that the game wasn't quite over just yet.
"So where's your sister?" you asked.
At first, it seemed like Flash's only answer was a smile, until you realized that she wasn't looking at you, but at something behind you. A breeze blew by and a chill ran up your spin.
Slowly you turned around to find yourself face to face with a creepy bugbear-like creature, it's mouth dripping a thick, pink, foamy fluid.
"Want a hug?" the monstrosity asked in a demonic voice.
A feminine scream echoed throughout the park, after a few seconds you realized that it was you that was screaming. The sound of the disturbing mascot and Flash giggling, helped you realize what was going on. You let out a cough from your dry throat.
The demonic giggling and disturbing saliva disappeared as Gash Bloom took off the mascot's head, her laughter returning to it's normal tone.
"That wasn't funny!" you coughed.
"Really?" Gash asked.
"We thought it was pretty hilarious," Flash snickered.
The two dullahans laughed, before Gash waved a hoof. "Let me take this suit off and then we'll make it up to you."
You followed the twins to a nearby trailer where Gash Bloom stepped inside, her motions clumsy due to the large outfit. It was now very clear that much of the creepy features that you had observed was merely an illusion caused by the lighting and perhaps a few minor spells that Gash had cast.
"This mascot outfit is so hot," Gash panted, "I feel bad for anypony forced inside."
"It might not be so bad if you had another pony to share it with," Flash said.
"Like if I really was a monster and had eaten our friend here."
The twins snickered at their little joke, much to your bemusement as Gash closed the door to change. Once she was finished, Gash emerged from the trailer and stretched her legs.
"That's better," Gash sighed happily.
You followed Flash and Gash as they walked to an area with a bunch of wooden tables with umbrellas providing cover to each of one them, possessing yellow and brown fabric like a bee. On one side of the area there were a few vending machines, holding food and beverages.
Walking over to one of the machines, Flash put a couple bits in and started ordering food and drinks.
"Is it okay for you to do that?" you asked.
"Why not," Flash replied, "we work here."
"Plus I'm sure Mister Rich will refill the machines before the park opens in a couple weeks," Gash said.
Once the twins had bought the food they wanted, you followed them to a nearby table and sat down. The trove of treats that the twins had provided consisted of canned soda, candy bars and bags of sugary treats. While Gash Bloom sat down across from you, Flash Bloom sat on the table next to you, with her hindhooves resting on the seat. As Gash sat down she took one of the candy bars and tore the packaging open before taking a bite.
"Do you want one?" Flash asked, as she held out a candy bar to you. The wrapper marked it as a Silkyday chocolate bar.
"Uh, sure," you answered, taking the bar.
Peeling off the wrapper, you took a bite of the candy bar. The taste of chocolate and caramel gliding over your tongue.
"So what questions do you have for us?" Gash took another bite of her candy bar.
As you considered the opportunity you had been given, you began to ponder what questions to ask the dullahans. Immediately one question came to mind.
"In mythology, dullahans are undead ponies that drag sinful ponies into Tartarus," you said, "is there any truth to that?"
"Nope, we've never been to Tartarus," Flash said.
"And we're very much alive." Gash took a sip from her can of Shimmer-Cola.
"So then do you age differently than other ponies?"
Gash shook her head. "No, not that we know of."
You stroked your chin, as you took a bite of your candy bar. "Then I'm curious as to where the idea of dullahan being undead originated from."
"Well, our heads do come off," Gash said, before drinking more of her beverage.
"And our bodies are a bit more resilient compared to other ponies," Flash continued.
"However, we still feel pain," Gash interjected, "just like other ponies."
That made sense considering what had happened at the Nightmare Night party, how despite their heads falling off at the event they had only fallen unconscious and hadn’t gone completely comatous. Not only that but they had managed to recover later that night.
As you observed Gash drink the soda and Flash opening a bag of Gummy Elements and throwing a few into her mouth, another question appeared.
"Are you still able to eat and drink, even if your head is disconnected from your body?"
"Yep," Flash answered happily.
"So then how does your food go to your digestive tract?"
Gash shrugged. "Don't know."
Pondering what the twins had said, you had to wonder how such a thing was possible. Could there be some sort of extra-dimensional wormhole or some kind of teleportation magic involved? It was indeed an intriguing thought.
"Did both of you all always know that you were dullahans," you asked, "or did you find out later?"
Finishing her soda, Gash set the empty soda can down and picked up a candy bar. "I think we were maybe... five when we learned about our true nature."
"Once our parents learned, they were afraid that other ponies might hurt us," Flash continued, "but they loved us and wanted to keep us safe."
As Flash mentioned her parents, both of the twins went quiet, their expressions turning sullen. Had something happened to their parents? Perhaps it would be a good idea to change the subject. Thinking back to when you had first learned of the twins' secret, you remembered something that they twins had said.
"You mean the fire that comes from our necks?" Gash Bloom inquired, "those flames are completely harmless."
"Yeah, you can put a hoof in it if you wanted." Flash Gloom said happily.
"But please don't actually do that." Gash blushed slightly.
"I don't mind it." Flash smiled.
Considering this, you wondered about the spectral flames from the dullahans' necks and its nature.
"The flames coming from your necks," you inquired, "is it safe to touch?"
Instantly, Gash Bloom's cheeks turned crimson and she looked away. Flash Gloom's face on the other hoof lit up excitedly.
"Yeah, it's totally safe!" Flash said happily, before jumping off the table and walking around behind her sister.
"Would it be okay if I touched it?" you asked.
"Oh, it would be totally fine." Flash answered, a slightly mischievous smile on her lips. "Right sis?"
"W-what!" Gash stuttered, her blushing growing more intense. Flash's smile grew wider, clearly having fun teasing her sister. Softly, Flash placed her forehooves on her sister’s shoulders in a supportive manner.
"Well, you did startle him with the mascot outfit," Flash said, "so why don't you make it up to him by letting him touch your flame?"
"If it's a problem, then don't worry about it," you said, not wanting to cause any trouble.
Despite your protest, Gash Bloom let out a deep, nervous sigh before she leaned forward and reached up to her head with her forehooves. "It's... fine, just be quick about it."
Taking her head off, Gash set it down on the table, between her forehooves, the flame that was emerging from her neck was a bright yellow. As Gash's head lay on the table, she closed her eyes, clearly feeling a little uneasy about what was happening. Flash continued to hold her sister’s shoulders secure.
"Are you sure this is okay?" you asked.
"She'll be fine," Flash answered, "go ahead, touch it."
Following Flash's instructions, you reached forward and carefully moved your hoof through the spectral fire coming from Gash's body. At first you expected the flame to be hot, so it was surprising when the flame actually felt comfortably warm. As you moved your hoof through the flame, it felt like you were touching a cloud or at least how you imagined touching a cloud would feel. Gradually the fire changed color, turning into a soft velvet.
"Fascinating..." you muttered.
"Y-yes," Gash moaned. Seeing her reaction, you felt some concern for Gash's safety.
"This isn't hurting you, is it?"
"N-no," Gash replied, "i-it's just... really sensitive is... all."
Even if it wasn't actually causing Gash any significant discomfort, you figured she would probably appreciate it if you stopped touching her flame, now that you had learned your results. Cautiously you pulled your hoof away.
Gash continued to blush even after she put her head back on, the flesh connecting the sections of her neck, seemingly molding back together. Flash walked back over and sat down in her original position.
"So what did you think?" Flash giggled, eating a few more Gummy Elements.
"That was... an interesting experience," you answered, "are you okay, Gash?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Gash replied, her gaze turned away and her cheeks burning red.
While you were a little embarrassed by what had happened, you were also kind of curious as to why the color of Gash's flame had changed. This was something you had noticed before, but up until now, you really hadn't had the opportunity to ask.
"I noticed that the flames coming from your head can change color, is this something you can influence?" you asked.
"Sort of," Gash answered.
"The color of our flames are affected by our moods and how we feel," Flash explained.
"So kind of like a mood ring?"
Both of the twin's gave you a bemused smile. "Maybe..."
Clearly there was some sort of joke here that neither of them were fond of. Hopefully, you hadn't stepped on a nerve.
The twins were quiet for a moment, before they started chuckling. Once more their mischievous nature unveiled itself again. It was kind of nice seeing them happy like this.
"I'll be right back," Gash giggled, before walking off to the restroom.
Both Flash and you watched as the other dullahan walked away.
Once her twin was out of earshot, Flash looked at you. “Gash Bloom really likes you.”
"You really think so?"
"Oh, I'm sure," Flash answered, "I haven't seen her open up to any other pony like that before."
Admittedly Gash did seem a little more open then she had when you last saw her at the Rich family's Nightmare Night party.
"Well, I guess I'm glad to hear that."
"Yeah, she's never let anypony else touch her flame either."
You craned your neck at that one. "But weren't you the one compelling her to allow it."
Flash shook her head. "Sure, I might have convinced you to do it, but if she didn't want to, there would have been no way you'd be able to touch it."
That did seem a little strange, yet you were kind of glad that Gash Bloom trusted you like that.
Looking down at the table, Flash's expression became sullen. "My sister has always been the mature one, keeping me safe ever since we were foals."
"It must be nice having a sister like that," you said, remembering how your brother had often stood up for you when you were younger. Even as you said this however, you felt that something was different in Gash's place.
"Our parents used to work as adventurers," Flash continued, "they liked to travel and explore distant lands. However, due to our age, they couldn't take us with them. So oftentimes we would spend time with our aunt."
As Flash mentioned her aunt, you sensed a hint of anger in her voice. Instantly you knew that there was something wrong with this relationship.
"Did she know about you and your sister being dullahans?" you asked.
Flash nodded. "She hated us for it and because of that, whenever our parents weren't home and nopony else was around, she would find ways to... discipline us."
While you were aware that it was necessary to discipline children whenever they did something wrong, you also knew that there was a limit on how far a parent should go. You also knew that it was wrong for a pony to punish children unnecessarily or just for the fun of it.
"I'm sorry to hear that."
As Flash continued to speak, tears began to well up in her eyes.
"Gash did everything in her power to protect me," Flash said, "sometimes she would even pretend to be me and take our aunt's fury twice in one day."
Hearing this you felt sorry for the two twins, especially for Gash.
"Then when our parents passed away... and we were put into... our aunt's custody... Gash came up with a plan, so we could run away."
Flash's tears streamed down her cheeks.
"You have a really brave sister," you said, trying to settle Flash's nerves.
"I-I... I just wish I knew how to repay her," Flash Gloom sobbed. "She's done so much for me and has endured so much... I-I..."
In her sorrow, Flash's head popped off. Before it could hit the table, you quickly reached out with your magic and took hold of it. The flame coming from her neck was an amber color.
"A-are you okay?" you asked, concerned for her safety as you took her head and held it in your hooves.
Flash sniffled. "I... just wish she'd let me share the burden. Why does she have to take it all on herself!"
Tears streamed down Flash's cheeks, dripping onto your hooves.
It was a tough question. You had never gone through anything like what these twins had gone through, at least nothing that you could recall. Even as you considered her question, an answer did come to mind.
"But you have been sharing with her,” you answered.
Holding her head in your hooves, looking deep into her eyes. "You might not have felt all the physical pain that she has gone through, but you've been there for her and she has been there for you. You can empathize with her, because you have been with her the whole way and carrying her in your heart."
Flash sniffled, but her eyes seemed to clear, just a little at your statement.
"Yes," you said, encouraging her.
While there were still tears in her eyes, Flash smiled, joy filling her eyes. The flame coming from her body's neck changed to blue. "T-thank you."
"Ahem!" Looking up, you saw Gash Bloom looking at you, her eyes filled with anger. It was then that you realized that all she could see was that her sister had been crying and that you were holding her head.
Before you knew it, Gash separated her head from her body, holding it on her right hoof. The spectral fire coming from her neck burning a deep crimson, the flames moving in a frenzied manner.
"YOU JERK!!!" Gash bellowed as she flung her head at you.
The next thing you knew, a sharp pain was radiating from your nose.
"I'm so sorry!" Flash apologized as she tended to your broken nose.
"R-really, you don't have to worry about it," you tried to reply, a metallic taste in the back of your throat.
Thankfully there had been a fully stocked first aid kit nearby that Flash was able to use, to tend to your injured nostrils.
"Gash you should really apologize," Flash said.
"Sorry..." Gash mumbled.
"It's okay," you insisted, "this is just a big misunderstanding. There's nothing to worry about."
Even as you said this, you could tell that Gash Bloom really did feel bad for what had happened, her eyes looking down at her hooves.
"Well, I guess I have best be going," you said as you stood up to leave. As you did, the dullahans whispered something to each other before letting out a collective giggle.
"Wait," Flash said, "one more game."
"I really shouldn't," you replied, "I'm sure that Irisa will be really worried."
"Don't worry it will be a really quick one," Flash said.
"We'll even give you a little prize if you win." Gash added.
Well, maybe one more, quick game couldn't hurt.
"Alright, what's the game?" You asked. The twin's smiled in response to your answer.
In a quick motion, both of the dullahans detached their heads and began to move, their enticing violet flames dancing with the swirling motions of the twins' bodies. Their heads moved in a juggling motion. Then in a matter of seconds, the twins were standing before you, each holding a head.
"Guess which head is which?" the twins said simultaneously.
Remembering all the things you had learned before, you quickly examined the twins, discerning the differences in their eyes as well as the small scar on the left forehoof.
With a smile, you pointed to the twin on the right. "You're Gash Bloom, however Flash Gloom is the one holding your head."
As you said these words, you noticed a blush on Gash Bloom's cheeks.
"You're right!" Flash Gloom declared.
Quickly the sisters exchanged heads, Gash's cheeks still flushed pink. You weren't too sure why, however you were glad that you were able to use your deductive reasoning to identify the twins.
"Alright, so what's my prize?" You asked, a little curious as to what they had in mind.
Flash Gloom giggled. "Your prize is a kiss from one of us. Specifically the one whose head you guessed first.
Instantly you understood why Gash was blushing and now you could feel your own cheeks growing warmer.
"Well, go on," Flash insisted, "kiss him sis."
Looking embarrassed, Gash walked up to you, her eyes looking down at the ground.
"You know, you don't have to do this if you don't want to," you said trying to ease the situation.
"True," Gash replied, "but..."
Before you knew it, Gash leaned in and gave you a soft kiss on the cheek. Instantly you could feel your face growing warm.
Pulling away from the kiss, Gash joined Flash. Even as both of them gave you a mischievous smile and a giggle, you could identify Gash Bloom from the blush on her cheeks.
"Thanks for the fun." Both of the twins said simultaneously. "We should do this again sometime."
As you and the twins parted ways, you resumed your journey home.
A smile stretched across your lips as you saw your house and drew near. Before stepping inside, you carefully removed the bandages from around your nose, not wanting to worry your maid.
"Irisa, I'm home!" You called out as you stepped inside. It was good to be home.
Walking up the stairs to the main floor, you noticed that the lights were left on. Had Irisa been waiting for you all this time? You hoped that she hadn't been too worried for your safety.
"I'm sorry that I'm late."
Reaching the top of the steps, a familiar sensation swept over your mind as Irisa spoke to you.
'Hello master. Look at what the twins gave me.'
Turning you were surprised by what you saw. Standing before you in the living area was Irisa wearing an outfit that wasn't a part of her usual attire. Instead of the typical maid uniform that Irisa normally wore, a bunny suit with a green, coat tight leotard with an opening in the back where her tail came out, dark stockings on her rear legs, fluffy green bunny ears along with a white collar and green bowtie. The outfit showing off Irisa's curves.
Needless to say, seeing your maid in this outfit was breathtaking. So this was why the twins looked so mischievous when they had mentioned the gift.
'So what do you think master?'
"It... uh... it looks nice," you stuttered.
Hearing your answer, Irisa's face became downcast. 'Master... am I attractive?'
"Irisa, of course you are. You're a very beautiful mare."
'Really? Even with these scars?'
So that was what this was about, Irisa was feeling self-conscious about her scars, about the state her eyes took when they were dormant. To the world, Irisa was a shy, mute mare whose body was covered from head to hoof with scars. Yet you knew who Irisa really was. Sure she was a pony covered with eyes that could look in all directions and could create shadowy limbs when she wanted, but she was still Irisa, your wonderful, caring maid and friend.
"Yes, even with your scars."
As Irisa pondered what you said, a smile graced her lips, her cheeks growing a slight shade of pink. 'T-thank you.'
While you knew that it would still take time for Irisa to heal from low self image, you also knew that as long as she was staying with you, she would have a shoulder to lean on.
As you focused your attention back on Irisa, you noticed her eyes looking at you with concern. Her blush had also grown much brighter.
"What is it?"
'Your nose, it's bleeding.'
It was then that you felt a line of blood dripping from your nose.