Epilogue

by TyphlUpgrade


Chapter I

Twilight was in her element.

Nose deep in a book, curled up in a nice chair in a secluded library. She had a small pile of works stacked up on the corner of the desk. From experience, factoring in her average words per minute, she knew that the pile could last her for hours. That thought alone was enough to put a smile on her lips, though her eyes never left the page she was on.

It wasn’t that the alicorn couldn’t find enjoyment in other things, or other people for that matter. She might once have been a reclusive bookworm, snapping at anyone that might interrupt her studies, but she had long moved past that stage of her life, and she was proud to admit it.

It was just that old habits died hard. When Twilight needed to lose herself, she naturally gravitated away from people and towards the environment of study she had become accustomed to over the years.

In such a place, Twilight could almost forget that the library around her had not seen another pony but her in centuries, and that the rain outside was leaking through a large hole in the roof into a brackish puddle on the floor below.

The library had been rotting when she found it. Nestled between two other, equally dilapidated buildings, the library was a dignified establishment, decorated with stone pillars and vaguely plant-like engravings. The effect was diminished somewhat by the fact that half the roof had caved in directly on top of the front door, and the concrete had turned a distinctly undignified shade, the color of grime.

When she finally had removed the half ton of concrete from in front of the door, to her dismay she found that the books inside had fared little better. Most had succumbed to mold or nesting insects. It was a stroke of luck that she had happened upon as many readable books as she did, whose preservation spells had remained mercifully intact over the years.

She had searched the library for three hours, and all she had to show for it was a hoofful of books. They weren’t even ones she liked.

The words on the page in front of her began to blur. She shut the book with a frustrated grunt, ruffling her wings in annoyance.

“Ugh. The one time in a decade I find something intact enough to read, and I have to go and get myself too worked up to enjoy it.” Sighing, Twilight cast her magic out over the books, floating them into her saddlebags.

As she latched her bags closed, Twilight attempted to clear her head with a vigorous shake, putting on what she hoped was a determined expression. “No, no, no,” she began to mutter to herself. “You always do this. Remember, practice gratefulness. I’m… grateful that I actually managed to find anything at all here. No more pessimism.”

She took a deep breath, focusing on how it felt when the air filled her lungs.

“…Really, it’s a small miracle that any books survived at all. The last time someone came to renew the preservation spells on these was probably before the Exodus.” She managed a small smile. “Right, feeling better, I think. Placebo effect or not. Thank you, Sturdy Limb’s Guide to Meditation and Self Harmony.

Twilight stood from her chair, walking down the stairs, towards the front door. With every step, her mood lifted just a bit more.

She was almost at the door when she heard a thump behind her.

Twilight turned to see a book fallen in the center of the room, two meters from the nearest bookshelf. She stared confused at it for a few seconds. In buildings like the dilapidated library, things fell often. It was the nature of such buildings for things to fall at random, and seemingly arbitrarily, when some support structure somewhere decided that it was no longer going to fulfill its duty. But if the book were too far to fall from the bookshelf, then where...?

She looked up just in time to see a blur of movement disappear behind a railing above.

“Hello? Is someone there?” Her horn ignited, letting the magic illuminate the library with a dim magenta glow. She began to back trace her steps, up the stairs and to the upper floor where she had seen the movement.

Despite herself, her heart began to pound against her chest. The movement, the felling of the book, both could easily be attributed to some wild animal or another, though Twilight could have sworn that the blur was much bigger than any rat she knew. She wasn’t afraid of rats, in any case.

No, what excited her was the possibility that it could be another pony, as unlikely as that would be. She had not seen another pony in…well, she didn’t like to think about it. Such trains of thought inevitably led to dark places, and Twilight had resolved not to think about any of them. It was better for her mental health.

It would suffice to say that it had been a very, very long time. Twilight wasn’t lonely. She had Spike to keep her company. But… Celestia damn her if she wasn’t the Princess of Friendship, who wasn’t going to take the first opportunity in years to make friends.

So lost was Twilight in her thoughts, she almost missed the small yelp of alarm in the distance, or the sickening snap that followed.

“Oh, Celestia.” Before she knew it, she was running towards where the sound had come from, cursing every time she stumbled over the debris scattered across the ground. Her heart began to pound harder, and it became a deafening roar in her ears by the time she came across who she was looking for.

A filly was lying at the bottom of a flight of stairs, an emergency exit just meters away. The first thing Twilight noticed was that her coat was a sickly pale, which shone fiercely in the light of her horn. It was bright enough for her to notice even in the dim light.

She noticed soon after that the filly’s foreleg was bent, at a horrific angle.

She leapt down the stairs without thinking, wings flaring outwards to slow her descent. Twilight ran to the filly’s side, kneeling down to frantically look her over. “Oh my Celestia—I’m so sorry—are you okay—why are—don’t be stupid Twilight she’s obviously hurt!” Her first words came out in a panicked jumble. “No, Twilight, stop panicking. Panic later, fear first. No—I mean—” Twilight stopped when she met the filly’s eyes. They were a mesmerizing green, like freshly cut emeralds, and at that moment they were also filled with fear.

Not pain, from the broken leg the filly was harboring, but fear. It was the look that a child gave to their parents when they were being scolded and they didn’t yet know what their punishment was going to be.

She was afraid of Twilight, and that sobered her up more than anything.

The alicorn took a step back. “I’m…I’m sorry. I’m going to go get help, okay? Don’t move that leg, or else you might make it worse.”

She paused, struggling to think of something comforting to say. “…I’m not going to hurt you. Just…hang in there, alright?”

When she received no response, Twilight sighed, and filed the issue away for later. For this next part, she needed to focus. No room for dwelling on such things.

It was a spell she had cast thousands of times. She let her eyes close, seeing her target in the backs of her eyelids. Even with her eyes closed, she could feel her horn glowing, from the building pressure of the mana. In an instant, as the pressure crescendoed, she felt a sharp yank at the core of her being, followed by a loud crack and a flash of light.

***

In less than a second, she opened her eyes again to find herself at the entrance to a hospital.

Unlike the library, the hospital had made no efforts towards elegance. It was designed for functionality and nothing else, and even that was questionable. The hospital was built into a larger brick complex, which made up the other side of the alleyway. The alleyway itself branched off of a nameless side street, the only other notable feature aside from the hospital being a dead end. The only indication that there was a hospital here, or even a facility of any sort here at all, was the rusted door and the small, faded sign above it that read “Distant Shores General Medical Center.”

Twilight gave the door a quick tug, accidentally ripping it straight out of its frame and into the wall opposite, landing in a bundle of wild grasses which had sprouted from the cracks in the asphalt.

“I suppose that’s one way to save time.” She said to herself, as she walked into the Medical Center.

Twilight lit her horn, letting the familiar inside come into view. It was just as pathetic and utilitarian as the outside, white paint and white linoleum flooring.

Twilight didn’t know why the Medical Center was in such a sorry state. She had theorized before that it might have been some sort of freak accident, maybe a misplaced zero on a government budget sheet that the Medical Center had never quite recovered from. That, or it was a victim of embezzling.

Whatever the case was, it had two redeeming factors. One, it had medical supplies, and two, it was never frequented. Most of the other hospitals had been ransacked of their supplies long ago, but the Medical Center was so pathetic and unassuming as to have been overlooked by centuries of scavengers. Except for her.

It was perfect.

Twilight opened the door behind the receptionist’s desk, labeled “EMPLOYEES ONLY” in large, authoritarian letters. Immediately, she was greeted by the overwhelming stench of mold in the air. She attempted to breathe through her mouth, but then she ended up tasting the air, and that was much worse. Shining her light upwards revealed a blackish splotch where the water damage had marked the ceiling.

“That wasn’t there before.” The alicorn giggled nervously, the breath in her chest constricting uncomfortably. Examining the rows of shelves only validated her fears. Many of the shelves had been consumed by rust, some going so far as to collapse under their own weight. The supplies the shelves had held seemed to suffer something of the same fate, turning some shade of muck from the pristine sterile white they once had been.

As her search continued, however, she found that her first glance had been deceptive: while much of the storage room’s stock had been completely destroyed by the water, there was a significant portion which had been protected by the plastic packaging they were contained in.

Still, it was by no means what Twilight had been expecting. When Twilight had been here last, looking for anti-inflammatories for Spike, the storage room had been pristine. Everything exactly as it had been before the Exodus. What she was met with now made her wonder just how long it had been, exactly, since she had last visited.

Twilight picked up a few bottles of something she vaguely remembered as painkillers, some antiseptic fluid, and a packet of medical grade plaster. Her heart jolted uncomfortably when she realized that she had found no usable bandages. She felt the panic start to set in again.

“No, Twilight!” The room resounded with a loud smack, and Twilight ended with a growing red mark on her right cheek. “Don’t waste time, don’t think, just go!” She cast the teleport spell before she had time to decide otherwise. In a flash, she was gone, leaving the storage room and the Medical Center to rot in silence.

***

Twilight reappeared in the library, and, to her relief, saw that the pale filly was still where she had left her. The filly instantly snapped to attention, eyes wide and locked onto the alicorn. The sight was enough to clear any other thoughts from Twilight’s head.

“Um…hi there.” Twilight gave a little wave.

The silence spoke volumes.

Twilight took a step towards the pale filly. She flinched away.

“I’m just going to help you, alright?" Twilight sighed. "I’m going to say it again: I’m not going to hurt you. I’m not even going to ask why you were in the library. I just want to fix up that leg of yours. Does that sound okay?” She said calmly. Twilight realized that she didn’t even know if the filly understood Equestrian, but she hoped that her tone was enough to convey the message.

The filly didn’t appear any less afraid, but she did give a small, almost imperceptible nod. It was progress. And Twilight knew that she understood Equestrian, now!

Twilight smiled gratefully at the filly, approaching to kneel down by her side.

More composed, Twilight was able to more properly take in the filly that she had resolved to care for. She had missed the warmly colored mane that the filly had. It was quite a pretty shade, the color of honey, even if it was matted with sweat.

She had also missed just how young the filly was. If an adult pony was still eighteen years old, then the filly in front of her couldn’t be more than twelve. Too young to have a cutie mark, even. Which raised the question of what she was doing here alone in the first place. Twilight said she wouldn’t ask, though…

A question for another time, perhaps. There were plenty of other things to ask. Twilight figured some small talk couldn’t hurt. It might help relieve the atmosphere a bit, and she would get to satiate some of her curiosity while she was at it.

She spoke as she was taking the medical supplies out of her saddlebags. “Do you have a name? My name is Twilight Sparkle. But you can just call me Twilight.”

The filly’s lips moved, but no sound came out.

“I’m sorry?” Twilight leaned closer.

The filly grimaced, took a deep breath, and tried again. “Fate.” It was still barely audible, but Twilight definitely heard it.

That’s a rather grim name, isn’t it, she thought. Naming your child after deterministic philosophy. Though I suppose it makes sense, culturally. I remember naming conventions having a lot more…positivity, which I can imagine ponies nowadays don’t have a lot of.

“That’s a lovely name.” she said.

Twilight’s stomach dropped when she took out the bottle of antiseptic, and all pretenses of small talk disappeared from her mind. She hadn’t worried about her own wounds in centuries, but Twilight remembered how much it hurt when she had to disinfect one.

Twilight looked at the bent foreleg of the filly. It wasn’t pretty. The bone had punctured skin. She was not only going to have to disinfect the wound, but set the bone in the proper position, too. Both of which were not going to be easily ignored. The plaster would also have to set, and writhing in pain was really not conducive to the success of that sort of thing.

The questions were going to have to wait.

“Um, Fate? That’s your name, right?”

“…Yes.”

“Fate, I’m really, really sorry for this.”

A bolt of arcane energy shot out at the pale filly, and she went out like a light.