Every pony and human inside the Golden Oak Library kept their gaze on Twilight as she read the letter from Princess Celestia.
"You mean the Princess Celestia is coming here? Do you think that she’ll be able to send me home?" Andrew asked as he slowly placed the plate of cookies on the table and sat back on the couch. A sudden wave of both hope and fear came over him. He told himself that he had to remain optimistic about his chances of going home but the Princess's letter didn't give an answer to his situation one way or the other.
"It looks that way. Knowing the Princess, she already knows of a way to send you back home. She’s the smartest pony I know after all." Twilight responded while she rolled up the piece of parchment and made it disappear with her magic.
"Yeah, but what if she doesn't? What if I'm stuck here forever? What if I don't see my...." Andrew shifted his eyes to the floor and closed his eyes.
"I..I'm sure that you'll see your family before you know it." Fluttershy chimed in, trying to reassure the strange looking creature that she had just met.
"Fluttershy is right. Ya can't start thinking' like that. Ya got to stay positive. There ain't nuthin that the Princesses can't do. Ain't that right girls?" Applejack interrupted. The other ponies looked at their orange friend and nodded.
"Thanks Applejack, Fluttershy. I just hope that you're both right." Andrew smiled back at the orange and yellow ponies.
Before anyone else could say anything, there were a couple knocks at the front door.
"That must be her. I'll get it." Spike walked over to the door and opened it, greeting the alabaster monarch with a bow.
"Princess!" Twilight smiled excitedly at seeing her mentor. Like her friends, she lowered her head to show their respect.
Just by the way that Celestia carried herself, Andrew could tell that she was royalty. The Princess before him was much different than the one that he had met in his dream. For one thing, this one stood at least a head taller than he was. While Luna's coat was dark blue, Celestia's was pure white like perfect snow. Her mane flowed from her head like a rainbow of colors. On top of her head, sat a golden crown decorated with a purple gemstone which matched the breastplate and hung around her neck. Adorning her hooves were matching golden shoes that sparkled in the sunlight.
"Twilight, it is good to see you and your friends. I see that your guest is here as well." Celestia smiled at her little ponies. Her magenta eyes turned towards her faithful student's newest guest. It had been well over 1,000 years since she last saw a human. This one was certainly dressed differently than the ones that she remembered from long ago.
Andrew looked around and noticed that Twilight and her friends bowed their heads to the Princess. Not wanting to offend her, he dropped to a knee and lowered his head as well.
"Now, there’s no need to be so formal, especially when we're in private." Celestia held a hoof up to her mouth and chuckled.
"I'm sorry but I've never met royalty before." Andrew stood back up, rubbing the back of his neck. "Where I'm from, not showing respect to royalty would get you into big trouble."
"I can assure you that you won't get into trouble here." Celestia gave the human a reassuring smile. "Please stand."
"If you're sure." Andrew looked up at the Princess and sat back down in the chair.
"Princess Celestia, your letter said that you already know of Andrew's species. What did you mean by that?" Twilight asked her mentor.
Celestia sighed and sat down on the couch. "It was a long time ago, back when my sister and I were much younger. Back then, humans and ponies had lived together peacefully for many generations. Unfortunately, the peace didn't last forever. Trouble started to happen for the humans that wanted to expand their nation. They had disputes with the griffons which led to several conflicts. The human leader kept asking our father for help but he knew that we couldn't get involved since our own treaty with the griffons was very fragile at the time. He didn't want to risk destroying that."
"The humans were no match for the griffons and we couldn't offer them sanctuary within our borders without causing a war to break out. The human leader came to my father again to help the remaining humans but my father feared that if he openly aided the humans, their fragile relations with the griffons would crumble and could lead to open war. Starswirl took it upon himself to save the remaining humans but doing so required sending them away. He knew that the griffon nation would continue to hunt down the humans wherever they went. So, he created a portal to another world and sent the remaining humans through it."
"What happened to the humans then?"
"After things had calmed down with the griffons, Starswirl the Bearded tried many times to contact the humans. Each time he tried to reach them, he ran into problems. Whenever he created a portal into their world, it was always to a different period in time. His notes mention that the technology the humans were using kept evolving and changing back. Monuments to ponies that were once there, had simply vanished. Starswirl wanted to contact one of the humans but our father forbade it. The humans had suffered much during their fighting with the griffons. Our father believed that it would be best to leave them in peace in their new home."
"So, what happened to this bearded pony? Was he ever able to fix the spell?" Andrew leaning forward in his seat, his hands tightly closed around his mug.
Princess Celestia shook her head, "Starswirl the Bearded was a brilliant wizard but scholars have gone over his notes and journals many times over the centuries without finding any mention of him ever completing the spell. If he did, he never mentioned it to anypony before he disappeared."
"So, what you're saying is that you can send me back to my world but not to the moment of when I left?"
There was a long pause before Celestia responded. She looked at Andrew and replied somberly, "I'm afraid so. There's no way to determine when you would end up. It could be hundreds of years in your world's past or even it's future. I am truly sorry."
Andrew couldn't hear anything except for the loud pounding of his heart and Celestia's words repeating over and over in his mind. It felt like it was against his chest, trying to escape. He was lost in his thoughts, unable to think of anything except for Celestia's words repeating themselves over and over in his mind. To say that he was in a state of shock would have been an understatement.
The mug slipped from his sweating hands and landed on the floor by his feet. Cider spilled from the mug as Andrew held his head in his hands, staring at the soaked floor.
I can't go home? I'm stuck in a world of talking ponies? Why is this happening to me? This is bullshit! This isn't fair!
Twilight slowly padded over to the shocked human. She was as stunned as he was about what Celestia had just told everyone. She couldn't begin to imagine what was going through his mind at the moment. A feeling inside told her that she needed to be there for him, to let him know that he wasn't alone. Since moving to Ponyville, she would have done the same for any of her friends.
"Andrew, I'm so sorry." Twilight placed a reassuring hoof on Andrew's shoulder. She became concerned when some moments went by without a response from the human. "Andrew? Are you alright?"
Twilight's hoof broke Andrew out of his train of thought. His mouth felt dry and his hands were balled up into fists. He looked up at her, baring his teeth. "Am I alright? Are you serious?" Andrew shouted, causing Twilight to remove the hoof from his shoulder and step away from the human.
"Andrew, please. You need to calm down."
"Calm down? Calm down? I'm trapped in this stupid world because someone brought me here against my will and you want me to calm down?"
"Don't worry, we'll figure something out. I..I can look over Starswirl's notes. Maybe the scholars missed something. Maybe I can...."
Andrew stood up and turned to address her. "Oh, really? And what are you going to do that your idol couldn't, huh? Do you know of a way to magically send me home?" Andrew spat bitterly.
Twilight looked down in shame, "Well...no. I don't...but maybe we can all..."
"I didn't think so. Do you know what you can all do, Twilight Sparkle? Just leave me alone!" Andrew snapped back at the unicorn before he realized what he had just said to her. Those last words echoed through his mind before his hand quickly came over his mouth. The mental slap in the face caused him to slowly back away from the shocked faces of everyone before he turned and ran towards the door, grabbing his jacket before slamming it behind him.
The only thing that he could think to do was run as far from here as he could. There had to be someone else out there that could help him, he thought. No one from Ponyville was going to help him so he was going away from there. He then remembered that Twilight had told him where she had found him that night. He wiped the tears from his eyes with his sleeve and took off.
Dirt kicked up around Andrew's shoes as he ran as fast as he could. Some ponies stopped to wave at him but he didn't pay them any mind. All he could think about was his parents and his sister that he would never see again. As he thought about them, he could feel a lump in his throat forming but he did his best to hold it back. There would be time to cry later. Remembering that Twilight mentioned finding him by a hillside near the Golden Oak Library, he headed in that direction.
A part of him knew that was impossible but he had to check anyway. Maybe something was there to help him get back home. It didn't take him very long to reach his destination.
This has to be it.
Andrew looked around for anything but could not find any trace of the portal. All he found was a grassy field with some trees and bushes. He felt his heart beat faster in his chest. The more he turned around, the more lightheaded he felt and ended up collapsing at a nearby tree. As he sat there and gazed at the open field, catching his breath, all the feelings that he's been holding back since he arrived in this strange land finally exploded like it shot from his chest. He brought his hands to the sides of his head and yelled out as loud as he could. And finally, the tears came from his eyes as he wept. He never felt so alone and afraid in his life.
Throughout his career, he had been a problem solver. There was always something he could do, something he could try. He may not have had all the answers but he never gave up trying. The feeling of helplessness about his current situation was consuming him. As he rubbed the tears from his eyes onto his sleeve, he barely heard the sound of wings flapping coming from above him.
"There you are, Andrew. I'm relieved that I was able to find you." Celestia landed on her hooves and folded her wings back to her sides. She looked at the human and wanted to ask the obvious question but the human's demeanor told her what she wanted to know. "Twilight told me that this is where she had found you. So, I thought that you might be here."
"I don't mean any offense Princess Celestia, but I'd rather be alone right now." Andrew responded, not really looking at anything in particular.
"None taken." Celestia shook her head before continuing. "And please, just Celestia is fine when we're alone. You may not believe it but I have some idea of what you're going through."
"Somehow I doubt that, unless you've been trapped in another world who knows how far away from everyone you know." Andrew retorted with a roll of his eyes, still not looking at the Princess.
"Has Twilight told you the story of Nightmare Moon?"
"No, she didn't." Andrew shook his head. He was content in continuing to avoid the gaze of the Princess but there was something in her voice that made him finally lift his head. Was it sadness? Regret?
"In that case, I would like to tell you what happened." Celestia sat down across from the human and began her story.
"Over a thousand years ago, my sister and I both ruled over Equestria, protecting it during the day and night. Over time, Luna had become jealous of the ponies that played in my sunlight but slept under her starry sky. Then one night, she refused to lower the moon so that Equestria would be covered in an eternal night. The jealousy that had begun as a tiny seed, had sprouted and twisted her into becoming Nightmare Moon. All because I was too blind to see what was going on. "
"What happened then?"
Celestia looked up at the sky and let out a sigh. "No matter how much I pleaded with her to stop, she refused to listen. I had no other choice but to banish her into the moon. My little sister was there for a thousand years."
"For a thousand years? What did you do?"
"Back then, I didn't have anypony to rely on or that I could talk to about what happened. It was my fault and it was a shame that I had to bear on my own. For a thousand years, every time I looked up at the moon, I saw my sister's reflection on it. No matter how much I wanted to, I could never tell her how sorry I was and how much I missed and loved her." Celestia's regal composure broke for a moment as a tear rolled down her cheek.
"How did you keep going after that? I mean, I couldn't imagine losing my own sister."
"Believe it or not, I didn't really have a choice in the matter. I knew that my little ponies needed me and I had to put my personal feelings aside for them. But while I was alone in my grief, you are not as alone as you think."
"Well, even if you're right, what am I supposed to do now? I can't go home and I'm a complete stranger in your world. It's like everything is out of a damn children's book with pastel-colored ponies that are obsessed with friendship." Andrew threw up his arms in frustration.
Celestia gave the human a soft smile before responding. "I can't answer that for you but I know some ponies that can help you find the answers that you're looking for."
"You mean Twilight and her friends?" Andrew sighed. "I'm pretty sure that I messed that up. Hell, they'll probably never want to talk to or see me ever again."
"I wouldn't be too sure, if I were you. Ponies can be pretty understanding creatures. If I know Twilight and her friends, they've already forgiven you."
Andrew's thoughts went back to earlier with Twilight's friends. He remembered how they were very welcoming to him. They didn't judge or treat him differently because of what he was. The least he could do is go back and try to make up with them.
"I hope that you're right." Andrew stated as he stood up and brushed the dirt from his pants. "One thing that I'm curious about, Celestia. Why do you care what happens to me?"
"Caring about all creatures is what I do, regardless of where they come from. It's what friends do." Celestia replied.
"You ponies sure are big on this whole friendship thing, aren't you?" Andrew shook his head. "I never had many friends back home. I was more concerned with my job and reading my books."
Celestia raised her hoof to her mouth and let out a good laugh. To those ponies that knew her, they would not have expected to hear a Princess laugh like that.
"What's so funny?"
"Please, forgive me. Believe it or not, you remind of how Twilight used to be. When she was my pupil in Canterlot, she was always more concerned with her studies than making friends as well."
"Really? I would never have guessed that. She seems to have lots of friends. She even went out of her way to help me, a total stranger."
"A lot has changed since she moved to Ponyville. She has learned to appreciate making friends as much as reading her books. Although, sometimes she can get a little carried away with her studies." Celestia chuckled to herself. "Perhaps in time, you can learn to appreciate friendship as well."
She even went out of her way to help me. She put a tree...roof over my head, she shared her food with me, and looked after me after I arrived. I can't leave Twilight like this. At least not without trying to repay her.
"I think that I'm ready to go back now." Andrew decided.
"What is this?" Celestia asked as she saw something on the ground. Using her magic, she lifted it up to examine it further.
"What is what?" Andrew asked as he turned to face the Princess.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
"It can't be. There's no way that you could have..."
"It's from this book that I just found here. Is it yours?" Celestia held up an old leather book to the human who grabbed it with his hands.
"This is a book that my father gave me a long time ago. It's called Tales of Two Cities. I can't believe that this came into this world with me. I thought that it ended up getting left behind." Andrew replied as he brushed some dirt from the book.
"Then this must be yours as well." Celestia lifted up a leather messenger bag from a nearby bush.
"Thank you, Celestia. For everything." Andrew sincerely addressed the Princess as he put the bag across his torso and placed the book inside of it.
"You're welcome. Just because you can’t go home, doesn’t mean you can’t make a new one here." Celestia smiled as her horn was surrounded by a yellow aura and she disappeared.
Andrew sighed as he put his hands inside his jacket pockets and turned to walk back to the library, "Well, time to face the music I suppose. I just hope Twilight doesn't turn me into anything unnatural."
A little while later, Andrew found himself standing in front of the red door to the golden oak library. On his slow walk back, he had practiced what he was about to say to himself many times. He raised his hand over the candlestick engraving on the door for a couple of moments before he knocked a few times on it. Moments later, the door opened and Spike popped his head out. He was both shocked and relieved when he saw who it was.
"Andrew, there you are! We were so worried about you. Are you alright? Come inside." Spike turned his head and yelled over his shoulder. “Hey Twilight, it's Andrew!”
"He's back? Thank Celestia!" Twilight's voice from inside.
Andrew lowered his head as he walked inside the library. Twilight's head popped out from behind a couple piles of books and started to pad over towards the human. Both pony and human stood before each other saying nothing. This gave way to an awkward silence between the two of them. Both were unsure what the other was going to say after what happened earlier. Twilight rubbed a hoof along her other foreleg, until she finally spoke up. Andrew opened his mouth to speak as well.
"Twilight, there's something that I..."
"Andrew, I just wanted to..."
They both stopped and lightly chuckled over their embarrassing moment. Andrew took the initiative and knelt down to the unicorn's level and began. "Twilight, I am so sorry for what I said earlier. I had no right saying those things to you and your friends. This isn't your fault. To say this whole situation is stressful would be an understatement but I..I hope you can forgive me."
Twilight laid a comforting hoof on the human's shoulder with a warm smile on her face. "Of course I can, you big dummy. I might have acted the same way if I were in your situation."
Andrew breathed a sigh of relief and smiled at the unicorn. "Thanks, Twilight." He was done being angry for things that he couldn't control. It wasn't going to be easy but he knew that he would need to adjust to his new life in Equestria. Luckily for him, he had Twilight and her friends to help him with that.
"Here, let me help you with those." Andrew offered, standing up and grabbing a stack of books.
"Oh no, I couldn't ask you to help with this. You are our guest. That is, if you still want to be." Twilight looked down and scraped her hoof against the floor.
"Of course I do. If you will still have me, after everything that I said to you and your friends."
"We would love to have you stay. Right Spike?" Twilight gave a warm smile as she looked over at her dragon assistant.
Spike nodded his head and gave a scaly thumbs up. "You bet, buddy!"
Andrew smiled as he walked over with the books in hands and helped Spike and Twilight put them back on the shelves.
"Say, there wouldn't be any more of that cake that Pinkie Pie brought, would there?" Andrew asked.
Later that night, Andrew tossed and turned in his bed. No matter which position he tried, he couldn't seem to fall asleep. After what seemed like an eternity, he ended up rolling over onto his back and just stared up at the blurry wooden ceiling. The events of the past few days kept playing over and over again in his mind like a melody that kept repeating itself. Flashes of his family kept popping into his mind as well. After a while, he looked over at the alarm clock and let out a groan.
Crap. It's only 1:12am. That's the last time I have cake before bed. Maybe some fresh air will help.
Determined to get some sleep, Andrew rubbed his hands over his face and untangled himself from the sheets and got out of bed as quietly as he could. With his glasses and clothes on, he carefully maneuvered around Spike's basket and walked outside onto the balcony. He sat down and rested his arms over the cool metal railing. As he gazed out at the town of Ponyville, he couldn't help but notice how quiet everything was. Normally, the nights for him were filled with the sounds of car horns, screeching tires, and noise neighbors.
Andrew sighed as he looked up at the unfamiliar starry sky above. "It's hard to imagine that this world is going to be my new home. All things considered, it's not so bad. I wonder if anyone has even noticed that I'm gone yet."
After a while, Andrew closed his eyes to enjoy the quiet night. Even with his sweatshirt on, he could feel the cold night air against his skin but he didn't mind. His train of thought was interrupted by the sound of hooves padding towards him followed by a familiar voice.
"Andrew, it's 1:34 in the morning. What are you doing out here?" Twilight held a hoof to her mouth as she let out a yawn.
"Oh, hello Twilight. Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you. I couldn't sleep so I came out here to try to clear my head." Andrew turned to face her. "I hope that you don't mind."
"Of course not. I don't mind at all." Twilight shook her head.
"The nights here are very peaceful, not like what I'm used to back home." Andrew briefly looked up at the sky with a small smile.
"Sometimes, I come out here when I have a lot on my mind as well. Ponyville can be very quiet at night, not like what I was used to in Canterlot." Twilight admitted. Looking at his dejected face, she didn't have to guess what was on Andrew's mind. "Are you thinking about your home?"
Andrew let out a sigh and looked up at the sky. It hurt for him to think that he may never see any of them again but he had to hope that he might see his parents and sister again someday. "I'm trying not to think about what my family will do when they figure out that I've disappeared. My parents are going to get worried that they haven't heard from me. Not to mention my younger sister. They'll probably think that something bad has happened to me or that I'm dead. I just wish that there was a way to tell them that I was alright."
"I'm sure that they will miss you very much." Twilight walked over to the human and placed a consoling hoof on his shoulder before speaking again. "Look, I know that Spike, my friends, and I can never take the place of your family but it doesn't mean that you can't be a part of ours. Plus, the girls seemed to like you."
"Thank you Twilight, that means a lot. Who knows, maybe you'll be able to fix Starswirl's spell and send me home." Andrew let out a light chuckle
"Me fix a spell by the Starswirl the Bearded? Pfffft...like that could ever happen." Twilight rolled her eyes at the ridiculous notion. Sure, he was her idol but she knew that she was nowhere near as gifted with magic as he was. Fixing one of his spells would be like her trying to raise the sun or the moon for the Princesses. Deep down, she knew that letting this human down was not an option for her. Plus, a part of her was excited about doing more reading about Starswirl." But that doesn't mean that I won't stop with my research."
Andrew gave her hoof a gentle squeeze with his hand before releasing it. Here was this talking pony who was willing to do everything that she could to help him without asking for anything in return. By all sense of the term, he was an alien in her world but that didn't matter to her. Celestia's parting words to him about creating a new home here echoed through his mind. Perhaps she was correct. Maybe these ponies could help him do that. Without thinking, he gave her a hug.
A few days ago, Andrew wouldn't have thought about hugging Twilight or any pony for that matter. But here he was, wrapping his arms around her. The feel of her soft fur against his skin and her rhythmic breathing helped to put his mind at ease. Twilight gasped at the sudden contact but gave a soft smile as her forelegs around his shoulders in response.
After giving her a final friendly squeeze, Andrew opened his eyes and looked up at the starry sky above them. He stared at the brightest star in the sky with his tear-filled eyes and allowed the words to finally pass his lips.
Goodbye mom, dad, and Catherine.