Chapter Two - Princess Celestia
"Spike! Spike!" Twilight Sparkle cried as she burst into the library, hair, eyes and voice wild. The image of the tear had burned itself into her mind and she could not stop replaying the moment it had revealed itself to her in the fullness of her vision as she had moved further from the puddle. Words flew madly around her head as she tried to find a way to describe it, always returning to impossible, horrible and dangerous, before being thrown haplessly aside as lacking the kind of power she needed to be able to properly press the sheer importance of what she had seen. She needed to contact Princess Celestia and let her know what had happened, but she couldn't even begin to think of how she would do that.
Dashing around the ground floor of the library, she continued to call for the young dragon, but continued to get nothing in response. She headed upstairs and found his bed dishevelled and upsettingly empty, the same in the bathroom and kitchen and she had just pulled herself to a stop once more in the main room of the library when the basement door opened and out walked the same assistant she had been searching for, a pair of ear muffs pulled firmly over his head and held in place with a piece of rope.
"Oh thank Celestia, you're here!" Twilight cried as she approached the young dragon, who began to undo the rope and remove the ear muffs.
"There you are Twilight" he said irritably. "When I saw you'd gone after being woken by that awful noise, I figured I wouldn't be seeing you for the rest of the day. What is going on-"
"No time to explain!" Twilight interrupted. "We need to get a letter to Princess Celestia as fast as possible! It's terrible!" she said as she drew a quill and piece of parchment from across the room and threw them somewhat heavily into the dragon's arms.
"Ow! Ok, ok, calm down" Spike replied, taking hold of the instruments he had been rudely given and walking over to the dictation podium to begin writing. "Sheesh, you'd think the world was ending..." he continued carelessly, drawing yet another burst of panic from Twilight as he did.
"That's precisely it, Spike! It might just be ending!" she turned to one of the numerous shelves the library had to offer and began to magically draw down books in quick succession, moving them into three distinct piles. "Dear Princess Celestia..." she began and looked back at the dragon briefly to see if he was writing. He wasn't. He was staring at her with a look that made her insides turn.
"Is this another one of your overblown reactions to a minor problem?" he asked cynically. Twilight couldn't even sigh in response.
"No Spike, this is... it's... Just take the letter!" she returned to her book sorting and began again, but the dragon still refused to write. "Spike! Please! The whole of Equestria could be at stake here!" despite lacking her usual manic fervour in her voice, the dragon remained still as she sorted through the books. "History of Equestria, no... Time Magic and Its Uses, probably not... Space and It's Mysteries, that'll have to do..." After a few moments of silence, he finally spoke up.
"Are... are you serious?" he watched her carefully as she performed these frantic acts and had clearly begun to understand what the unicorn was saying. "The world is ending?" Twilight stopped what she was doing halfway through pulling another book down and let it fall as her magic abruptly ended. She turned fully to the young dragon and looked at him with what she hoped was a look that showed more concern than fear.
"Might be..." She said softly and trotted closer to the podium and the dragon that was stood upon it. "Something very bad is happening in the centre of Ponyville and I have no idea what it is... Yet... But we need to let the Princess know so that she can help us" she noted the way Spike remained still, the quill held tightly in his claws didn't quite touch the parchment beneath it, and a slight shimmer had begun to appear in his eyes.
"Twilight, what's going on?" he asked, softer this time than before. "What is that noise? And why are you so frantic? I've never seen you like this before" with a sigh Twilight lowered her head. She could see the dragon was scared - and she knew he had a good reason to be, even if he didn't know it just yet - but she needed him, she needed him to keep calm and stay strong.
"I don't know..." she admitted, eliciting a soft gasp from Spike, but she followed it by fixing him with the strongest look she could muster."... But I will, I'm going to figure all this out and put it right, I promise you, but I need you to stay strong, Spike, I need you to help me" she smiled weakly in the solid stare he was giving her and hoped he believed her. Perhaps his belief might inspire her own.
"Ok..." Spike replied after a drawn-out moment. He drew one chubby arm back across his eyes, clearing them of their previous sheen, and held the quill more resolutely over the parchment. "Ready" Twilight gave him a gentle nod and smiled a little more surely.
"Thank you" she replied, turning back to the piles of books she had begun building and once more picked up the one she had dropped. "Princess Celestia, something terrible is happening in Ponyville, this morning a strange sound began to come from the town square, and upon my investigation I found many of the residents caught in some sort of trance, staring up at an unseen entity in front of the Town Hall" she lay yet another book on one of the two bigger piles she had made and looked back to see if Spike had been writing. When she was happy that he had been, she continued her search. "Using a method of reflected light I was able to view a strange tear in the space in front of the Hall, it's strange, invisible properties lead me to believe that this is an event of extra-dimensional origin, and I urgently request that you hurry immediately to Ponyville so that we can look into this together. In the meantime, I will be researching everything I can find that might help shed some light upon this mystery, but I fear that my efforts alone will not be enough in stopping it. Please hurry, I will await you at the library, your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle" she listened for his characteristic repetition of the last words she dictated, and when they came, it was not with the usual proud tones she was used to. His downtrodden tone belayed his once-again increasing fear, making her stop her activity once more to turn to him.
Twilight watched as the young dragon carefully rolled the parchment up, took a breath, and set it alight with his green fire, after which it flew out one of the library's open windows and was out of their hands.
She approached him again, slowly, and nuzzled him gently.
"Thank you, Spike" She said softly as the dragon wrapped his short arms around her neck in an embrace. She felt a warm wetness against her mane which caused yet another turn of her insides at her part in his misery and deeply wished there was a way of instantly consoling the dragon but fell distressingly short. After a moment he pulled away again.
"Well... I guess you should tell me what you're doing so I can help" Spike said at last, again wiping at his eyes with the back of his arm but looking altogether slightly more in control than he had been. Her heart went out to him.
"I'm finding all the text books I can find that deal with space phenomena" she motioned to the smallest of the three piles with one hoof. "Sadly, we're a little scant on that topic, but it'll have to do for now. Do you mind going into the other rooms and seeing if we have more?" Spike nodded. "Ok, I'll get on that now" he turned from her, hopping down from the small podium, and turned back again. "By the way, you should probably do something about your mane, it looks like you were dragged through a bunch of bushes backwards" they both giggled at this, and though it felt a little hollow, it was enough to instil a little more strength into the two of them. Once it subsided, he turned again and left the room. Twilight watched him for a moment more, before returning once again to her search.
Fifteen minutes into her research found Twilight already sporting the signs of an oncoming headache the likes of which she had never experienced in her years of study. Despite the vast collection of books the library had to offer; only a measly 32 had any relation, mention or sub-category that concerned space anomalies, and at least half of those spoke about it in a passing or uninterested fashion. Twilight found herself cursing Equestria's scientists and great historians for their lack of interest in anything outside or beyond the world they all knew and somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind she resolved that, should they find a way to deal with this new issue, she would make time in her future to write a few books on the topic herself.
Spike was also having no luck. Understanding less about what was going on that Twilight did (and, she admitted many times, she knew next-to-nothing herself) he was almost always at a loss when trying to find answers, and instead charged himself with simply locating and marking any pages or passages he came across that contained the word "space" or "anomaly". His mind was also whirling, but more in the manner of trying to cope with what he was gradually learning from Twilight's mutterings on the subject of "universal collapse and the total annihilation of everything". Though he could not quite grasp the meaning of this phrase, it upset and disturbed him greatly.
It was amongst these reveries that a new sound cut through the still-present wailing that Twilight assured Spike was emanating from the tear. This new one was far more pleasant, uplifting, even, in comparison to the soul-crushing sound that had been hanging over the town for the past hour, and it caused Twilight to burst out of her makeshift book fort and charge for the door, which she threw open with such force that it almost broke from its hinges.
The galloping, clanging sound that had previously fill the air slowed as the two royal chariot pegasi came to a halt and the chariot upon which the shining goddess of the day sat stopped a few yards from the library's door.
"Princess!" Twilight exclaimed as she approached and her tutor dismounted gracefully from the plush seat of the chariot to her greeting.
"Twilight Sparkle, please, tell me what is happening" Celestia said as she approached the unicorn and, in an unusual sign of concern and affection, bowed to gently nuzzle her student. "As we flew over the town I could see the crowd of ponies at the town square, but also, my guards handled a little difficulty in that area, it seems that whatever you have found is affecting the very air over it, and what is that awful sound!" the princess seemed at almost as much of a loss as Twilight did, switching from topic to topic with almost panicked confusion. It seemed even the great Celestia wasn't immune to the anarchy that appeared to be brewing in the quiet Equestrian town.
"Everything I know was in the letter I sent you, I'm afraid..." Twilight replied with an embarrassed bow of her head. "And though I have been researching ever since, I'm afraid I am no nearer to finding a solution than I was before" the princess frowned pensively and looked about the library and the road on which it stood.
"This place is deserted, were it not for the fact that I had seen the town square myself, I would have thought Ponyville abandoned!"
"I know, Mayor Mare is trying to gather those who are currently unaffected in order to calm them down, and my friends, oh Princess, Pinkie Pie is... She's..." Celestia raised a hoof for silence.
"Don't work yourself up too much, we have a lot of work ahead of us, and we need you at your clearest to perform it" she lowered her leg again and Twilight gave an exhausted sigh. She marvelled at that, she had been out of bed for barely an hour and already she felt as if she had been up for several days, and if this was just the beginning, she didn't want to even think about what the next few days would bring, if they brought anything at all.
"Now" Princess Celestia said in a tone that brought Twilight back to attention. "First, I want you to take me to the town and show me this thing, this tear, so that I might see if I know it" Twilight nodded.
"Right away Princess, just let me tell Spike to gather my books, it might be better to have them with me" Celestia shook her head.
"No, my guards can do that, they will bring them to us in the chariot, we must head there at once, before it gets any worse" she looked at the two stoic guards who stood before her chariot and they both nodded in understanding. "Lead the way"
The situation in town was exactly the same as when Twilight had left earlier, except now there were fewer ponies milling around the inexplicable crowd, clearly the Mayor had managed to corral them into another location and was working on a way to explain things to them. Instead of heading straight for the infamous puddle Twilight had now grown to fear, Celestia insisted that first they see what could be done with the crowd.
Together they approached the edge of the crowd of ponies that had fallen victim to the invisible danger above them and Celestia examined them as best she could, attempting to draw their attention and obscure their view with her wings, but to no positive effect. All the while Twilight scanned the crowd to see who was there. Here she saw Lyra, next to her stood Colgate, and beside her was Mrs Cake. Across the way were Aloe, the spa pony, and Berry Punch, Carrot Top and Gizmo, to name but a few, but the one her eyes kept going back to was her hyperactive friend with the signature pink mane. She sighed deeply as Celestia motioned that it was time to move on.
I'm so sorry Pinkie, I promise we will have you free of this soon... she thought to herself as she led Celestia away from the crowd and towards the stationers.
Knowing the correct angle made it much easier to see the tear this time, and she led Celestia to the optimal position almost straight away, stepping aside while Celestia gazed long and hard into the muddy water, then lifted her head up to gaze at the empty space as it stood before them, then looked back into the puddle again. After about a minute of this, she finally spoke.
"This is indeed something I have never seen before" she said, though whether to Twilight or just herself, Twilight could not be sure. She did not feel it prudent to say anything just yet. "Invisible to the naked eye from here, but it can be seen here... And with no ill effects... Perhaps..." Celestia raised her head once more and began to walk back towards the crowd, causing a brief burst of panic to shoot through Twilight.
"Princess, I wouldn't..."
"It's ok Twilight, I think I know what I'm doing" the princess interrupted, not slowing her pace. Twilight started to follow, feeling protective of her tutor, but Celestia seemed to have predicted this. "No, you wait here, in case I can't come back. If I don't you can assume that my theory was right and that this thing is only visible from certain angles" Twilight hesitated briefly, letting Celestia's words sit on her a moment, before nodding, knowing she was right, and that that had also been her theory. Celestia would just be better at proving it due to her height, being able to look over the ponies that already dominated what was clearly the optimal line of sight to the strange occurrence.
She watched anxiously as Celestia neared the crowd, and slowly circled it, looking for the shortest pony to stand behind and make her sightline easier. When at last she found one, she positioned herself behind them and leaned forward very slowly, looking upward the whole time. Time seemed to slow as Twilight watched the princess's neck slowly extend out, until the tip of her nose was almost brushing the mane of the pony she was behind, where she stopped and remained motionless.
Twilight waited. Her heart pounded in her ears until the dreadful noise that never ceased was pushed to the back of her mind. To an observer, she looked as mesmerised as the ponies in the crowd as she stood watching and waiting for her tutor to return. The princess remained unmoved.
Twilight felt a tear begin to well in her eye as thoughts of her only able ally in this mystery also being caught within it cascaded through her mind in a torrent that threatened to drive her mad. She couldn't make herself look away, until a familiar sound came from behind her. She turned to see the princess's escorts, pulling the chariot now laden with books and her beloved dragon helper, land in the road behind her. As Spike jumped down and ran towards her, she dropped her head.
"Oh Spike, it's got her too... Celestia, she..." she looked up in time to see Spike's eyes widen and her heart took yet another leap. She knew that if this carried on, she wouldn't make it through the day, let alone to the resolution of the mystery. "Celestia is..."
"It's just as I thought" came the princess's voice, startling Twilight to the point of heavy breathing and heart palpitations. She turned to see the princess walking slowly and sadly back towards them and the tear that had threatened her was freed, but from relief rather than sorrow.
"Princess! You're ok!" she cried, running to Celestia and furiously throwing herself into her. This time Celestia was startled. "I was worried you had..."
"It's ok Twilight, I'm fine, and I see Spike and my guards have arrived, perfect" Twilight removed herself from her embrace with Celestia and turned to her dragon, embracing him also. The relief was almost as unbearable as the fear. Spike, taken aback, stepped away.
"What have the two of you learned?" he asked, playing with his tail gingerly.
"Not much, I'm afraid, but it's a start" Celestia replied. "Is there anywhere nearby where we can set up? We're going to need some space nearby to work on this issue, also, Twilight, I would like you to bring me your friends Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, they may be important to us learning more about the anomaly" Twilight nodded, thinking quickly.
"We can probably set up in Sugarcube Corner, provided Mr Cake is still there, it will be open and likely unused today" Celestia nodded at this and told her guards to take their cargo there immediately. "As for Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, I haven't seen either of them yet today, though I did tell Applejack and Rarity to speak to Rainbow Dash earlier, so perhaps I should go to Fluttershy's cottage and get her myself" she turned to Spike. "Can you go and find AJ and Rarity and tell them to meet us at Sugarcube Corner? That would be the quickest way"
"Sure thing" Spike replied, immediately turning into the town and running off to complete his mission. Together they wanted him leave, until Twilight turned back to her tutor.
"Princess Celestia, if you would go with your guards, I'll have everypony with you soon"