Twilight smiled dreamily as she lounged on the smooth grass, splotches of green rubbing off onto her coat as she lay. Above her the sky was a pure, beautiful blue as it always was in Ponyville and the sun a perfect yellow, presiding on high over her wonderful village.
She stared at the sun, enraptured, for what felt like hours. At the back of her mind a voice was telling her that it should hurt, that staring at the sun could irreversibly damage her eyes. Twilight wasn't sure how this could be possible though; the sun wasn't bright, it was just a yellow circle of paint as it had always been, in the exact centre of that watercolour sky.
A small silver and blue pony cheekily leapt over her, eyes fixed on a butterfly that seemed to drift along on the breeze. Twilight gave a wry smile as Silver Crescent tripped and fell head-first into the ground, a look of surprise on her face as she became covered in the powdery green of the grass. The butterfly moved higher without even flapping its perfectly drawn wings, and flew into the far distance, to the mountains that were just barely formed scribbles and scratches of ink on the horizon. One day, Twilight was sure, she and her new friends would travel there and then the mountains would be drawn better and become just as detailed and real as Ponyville was.
She rolled onto her side to smile at the white pony that sat next to her, gazing down at the sleepy village of Ponyville in the distance. Yellowstar's bright white coat seemed to sparkle in the light, her yellow hair matching the colour of the sun and glowing with radiance. The roses entwined in her mane caught Twilight's attention especially; they were the most beautiful roses in all Equestria. Twilight felt safe when Yellowstar was around. She knew that Yellowstar was the best pony in Ponyville, in all of Equestria, and that she and Silver Crescent were lucky to be around her.
Yellowstar returned the smile, and it was the most wonderful and heart-warming smile that Twilight had ever seen. "Are you happy, Twilight Sparkle?"
Twilight just nodded in contentment, stretching out on the grass. "Oh yes!" she replied. "I don't think I've ever been so happy in all my life!" She furrowed her brow slightly. She couldn't actually remember anything else about her life, apart from this one moment with Yellowstar. But that didn't matter. She wasn't important. "I only wish that I could be as good as you."
Yellowstar just laughed. "Oh Twilight Sparkle! But I am the best pony."
Twilight chuckled at her own stupidity. "I know. Sorry. Can we have another race again? I know you will beat us but it is fun to watch you win."
Silver Crescent darted her green-splotched face upwards at the two larger ponies. "I wanna chase butterflies again!" she squeaked at Yellowstar. "You can teach me how to catch butterflies because you are the best butterfly catcher in all Ponyville!"
Shaking her head, Yellowstar looked between her two best friends. "No!" she announced suddenly. "There is a monster on the loose in Ponyville which we must defeat!"
"A monster?" Twilight and Silver Crescent both squeaked out at once, clopping their hooves to their mouths in shock as one. Twilight felt a swell of dread build in her stomach. She had never met a monster before (part of her felt that this wasn't true, but she pushed the feeling to one side, it was wrong). Looking at Yellowstar and how brave that pony looked, all her fear melted away. "You'll save us won't you Yellowstar?"
Yellowstar just nodded firmly. "Of course Twilight Sparkle my most faithful friend. I always save the day."
At once the three ponies were in the centre of Ponyville, standing amongst the ink-lined houses. Twilight didn't remember walking there, but that didn't matter, it was time for Yellowstar to be a hero. That was all that was important.
Twilight's mouth gaped open as she saw the horror that had befallen Ponyville. Curled on top of the town well was a huge creature with the body of a snake but the head and wings of a dragon, staring down at the ponies crowded around it malevolently. Twilight had never seen or heard of a creature like this before, but she knew instantly that it was a Green Gruff Greckle and that only Yellowstar was brave and clever enough to stop it.
"The Green Gruff Greckle is an evil creature of evil!" Yellowstar helpfully announced. "It is making the ponies of Ponyville dance and this is turning them to stone. The only way to stop it is to do the special Green Gruff Greckle Stopping Dance which no pony knows. Luckily I know it."
Twilight wiped her brow with relief at her good fortune, as Yellowstar started to dance backwards, swaying from side to side as she danced her magical dance. Yellowstar nodded towards her friends. "Quick!" she cried. "You must dance too! Follow me!"
Hesitantly, Twilight and Silver Crescent tried to copy Yellowstar's magical dance, but they were slow and clumsy, and not as good as Yellowstar. Twilight stumbled and fell onto her rump with a thud. Yellowstar didn't miss a beat though, she danced the magic dance perfectly, step after step, and the Green Gruff Greckle slowly turned to stone until it was nothing more than a statue at the centre of Ponyville.
Twilight clopped her hooves together in delight as Yellowstar stood in front of the statue, smiling in triumph. "You did it Yellowstar! I knew you could! You're the best!"
The cheer was taken up by all the residents of Ponyville, who surrounded the beaming pony, whooping and hollering in joy
"Oh Yellowstar!" A pony larger than the rest approached Yellowstar. To Twilight's eyes she was almost as beautiful as Yellowstar, though that seemed scarcely possible. The larger pony started to nuzzle Yellowstar, lovingly. "Oh Yellowstar, you are the best pony" she said softly in a voice that was like soft velvet. "I'm so very very proud of you. I love you so much."
Yellowstar hugged the larger pony back. "I love you too mother, you are the best mother, forever and ever." They stayed hugging surrounded by all their friends in the middle of that beautiful village on that eternally blue and sunny day.
Twilight awoke with a sharp gasp as the visage of Yellowstar stared back at her. Overcoming the sudden shock, she slowly became aware of her surroundings, and peeled her face off the book which had served as her pillow. She had been sleeping on an intricately painted scene of Yellowstar and her mother, standing proudly in the middle of Ponyville. Behind them was a fearsome statue of a monster that seemed strangely familiar.
"Oh of course!" Twilight gasped out loud. It was the Green Gruff Greckle; she hazily recalled reading about that adventure last night. She wasn't sure how long she'd spent reading, but she must have fallen asleep mid-chapter. She could remember most of the story, but there was something fuzzy in her head, something that she couldn't quite remember that felt like it should be important. She dismissed it. She could always reread the bits she'd forgotten.
The morning light streamed into the room, and Twilight recoiled slightly at the harsh brightness of it as she slowly hopped off the couch to trot across the room so she could pull the curtain shut. There was something too painful about the sunlight; it wasn't as warm and inviting as it was in her book. Ponyville wasn't as interesting; even her precious library seemed to have lost its allure, just dull shelves full of lifeless books.
She cantered back to the couch and carefully picked up the book. It seemed to be so solid and real, perhaps the only real thing that even mattered. She slowly opened the cover again to carry on reading when a loud voice made her wince and lose her concentration.
"Morning sleepy head!" Spike sauntered out of the kitchen, wiping off a soot-covered face with a rag. "You'd never guess why the fire place was playing up! Seems Sweetie Belle's been writing letters to Princess Celestia and stuffing them up the chute! And here we thought she'd become interested in books, eh?" He gave a blackened grin.
Twilight just scowled back at the intrusive dragon, instinctively hugging her book to her chest protectively. "Spike! I'm in the middle of some important studying! Leave me and Yellowstar alone!"
Spike raised a quizzical eyebrow, peering round the room suspiciously. Finally his eyes alighted on the cover of the book and the large, yellow star proudly displayed there. "Oh right, I get it" he muttered. "Cute."
Twilight shook her head as she turned away from Spike and marched upstairs for some peace and quiet, tutting loudly so the dragon could hear her disapproval. "That Spike, I swear!" she announced loudly to herself, her voice echoing down from the stairwell. "It's like he's stuck in a world of his own sometimes!"
As Twilight left, Spike gave an exasperated sigh and sat on the couch, unfurling a copy of the daily paper. "It's going to be one of those weeks..." he muttered as he started to read, brushing off a single rose petal that had somehow found its way onto a cushion.
Twilight slammed the door to her private corner of the library, muttering to herself angrily at the injustice of being unable to get a moments peace and quiet with Spike clattering about with his chores. "He doesn't understand" she found herself whispering to her book almost conspiratorially. "But he will, I'm sure."
Trotting up the stairs that led to the desk which sat beside her bed, Twilight swept aside the collection of carefully arranged copybooks, scrolls and half-finished potions to give herself some proper reading space. The Star In Yellow sat in front of her invitingly as she opened the cover again, an automatic smile twitching at the corners of her mouth as she felt her earlier annoyance melt away and contentment return.
"Now, where was I..." Twilight murmured as she flicked her hooves through the pages. She vaguely remembered that Yellowstar had fought a dragon and rescued the king of the trees, and built a balloon that took her to the moon, and-
Twilight paused mid-turn, her hoof underneath the curl of the page which had suddenly taken on a weight as if made from the densest steel. She pulled away with a sudden gasp as what felt like cloying tendrils of fear began to play at her heart.
The book lay open as before, the pages definitely paper, the words warm and inviting, the illustrations as emotive and beautiful as they had been. She recognised the picture of Yellowstar and Silver Crescent riding a falcon to the sun for a picnic, she knew she had read this far, she had to turn the page.
And yet she didn't want to.
She couldn't. As she stared at the innocent looking tome, she found her chest begin to pound, a tightening and twisting in her stomach that gnawed at her soul, as if something awful had happened. Twilight reached out again and instantly recoiled, a sick, dizzy feeling rising like bile in her.
She slumped to the ground in front of the desk in confusion, biting her lip. "Come on Twilight, pull yourself together!" she snapped as she willed herself to stand again. It was just a funny turn; she'd probably picked up a cold from sleeping on the couch all night. Slowly, the burning desire to read overcame the inexplicable apprehension she felt. Stepping forwards, her legs strangely shaky, she grasped the page with both hooves, and with what felt like a monumental effort, lifted it.
The page softly turned, belying the effort Twilight had made, as the purple pony leapt backwards as if something terrible would leap from the pages. When nothing happened, she slowly crept forwards and furrowed her brow at what was revealed.
It was just another page of story. Yellowstar was off on another magical happy adventure, her trusty friend at her side, ready to explore more of the wonderful world in which she lived in and spread joy. She and Silver Crescent had carefully packed their satchels ready for a hard day's adventuring when...
The pen broke.
At least that's what it looked like to Twilight. The words stopped mid-sentence. There was a smear of ink across the page as if the book itself had suffered a wound, splattering black rivulets like a spray of blood across the pristine page. Twilight was acutely aware of the awful silence that filled her room as she stared at that unsightly black mark that marred the page. Was it an accident? Was it on purpose? Some higher artistic expression? She creased her brow in concentration. There was only one more sentence on the page, written in a slightly different shade of ink, the neat orderly writing slightly crooked as if the author had begun to shake. Twilight took in the meaning.
And then Yellowstar's lovely mother fell asleep.
That was it. That one line, and yet seeing it brought back that flurry of ice-cold terror to Twilight, and she quickly turned the page so that she wouldn't have to look at those awful words again. The next page was just a mess of frantic scrawl. Yellowstar flew on the back of a giant moth to the furthest star to get some magical starlight and used it to wake her mother up and they lived happily ever after again.
Only they didn't. In the next paragraph she was still asleep so Yellowstar journeyed to the deepest mine and found a magical crystal and saved her mother and they lived happily ever after forever and ever.
But that didn't happen, because next Yellowstar had to swim to the deepest ocean and find a pearl that would wake her mother up so she could live happily ever after but in the next paragraph she was still asleep and...
Twilight recoiled bodily from the book as she realised what had happened, a cold sweat breaking across her forehead as she stared at the open book in shock. "T-that's not fair..." she whispered hoarsely, feeling the prick of an unwanted tear on her eye. "Why can't she live happily ever after? That's not fair!"
Staggering into a bookshelf, Twilight swept her hooves across the myriad books and arcane paraphernalia she had accumulated over the years, letting it all crash to the ground as she raged in frustration at the words of an invisible and unknowable author. "It's not fair!"
Twilight whirled around, staring at the open book with a mixture of fear and anger, tipping over an antique lamp which shattered as it hit the ground. "She's dead, isn't she?" Twilight cried accusingly at the book. "She's dead and you wouldn't let her come back! Why would you do that to Yellowstar, it's not fair!"
Leaning against the mostly empty shelf, Twilight caught her breath, feeling the frustration dissipate. It was just a story after all. It wasn't real.
From underneath the pile of fallen books, two little eyes blinked widely up at her.
"If Yellowstar is best pony..." squeaked a voice as Silver Crescent pushed her face out from the collection of discarded volumes "...then why can't she wake mummy up?"
The sounds of guttural, heartfelt sobbing drew Twilight to her bed. There was a shape under the quivering covers. Cautiously Twilight stepped closer, and in one moment, threw the sheets back to reveal a curled up white pony, her yellow mane wrapped around her like a comfort blanket, her eyes red-rimmed and trembling.
"Hey..." Twilight slowly climbed onto the bed beside Yellowstar, holding the pony tight to her. She felt the shaking resonate through her as she clutched that poor pony to her for what seemed like an eternity. Finally the sobbing abated and Yellowstar turned her tear-streaked face to Twilight sadly, a defeated expression etched onto her features. At once Twilight was struck by just how small Yellowstar seemed to be, stripped of all that earlier confidence and bubbliness.
"I'm not the best pony, am I?" Yellowstar sniffed, drying her eyes on her mane. "They all said I was but I'm not, I'm useless. "
Twilight just hugged Yellowstar again. It felt right, feeling her heart pounding away in her chest, the warmth of her body being strangely comforting. "It's okay Yellowstar..." Twilight whispered in her friend's ear. "It's not real, it's just a story."
Yellowstar shifted uncomfortably. "It's not a story, it's my life!" she squeaked back in despair.
"And what a poor life it is!" boomed a deep, rich voice from across the room. Twilight felt herself instinctively shrink back into her mattress as she saw a terrifyingly large stallion march towards her, looking down with utter contempt. "I am so disappointed in you Yellowstar! If you can't save everypony, then what use are you?" He turned his back on Yellowstar and began to walk slowly away.
Yellowstar leapt to her little hooves and stumbled her way clumsily across the mattress to chase after the larger pony, her face still stained with tears. "No no please, not you too! I did my best!"
The stallion just stood before Twilight's wardrobe, hanging his head sadly. "This is all your fault Yellowstar, never forget that. You couldn't be better than you were. Now I have to go away into the Smooze and it's all your fault."
He climbed into the wardrobe and shut the doors with a heavy slam. Yellowstar sprawled herself in front of it, banging her tangled mane against the wooden doors in frustration. "Please come back daddy" she whimpered. "I'm sorry I wasn't good enough." With that, she slowly sunk to the ground, a defeated tangle of limbs. "I don't want to be alone; I want to live happily ever after."
Twilight made her way over to Yellowstar and gently picked the pony up, rubbing her cheeks dry with the torn page of a book. The ink smeared over her face. Hesitantly, Twilight opened the wardrobe and peered inside. It was, of course, empty save for a few unloved robes.
"It's okay Yellowstar, it'll be okay." Twilight smiled down unconvincingly at Yellowstar. "I promise. This is just how stories work. You're taken to your lowest point and you have to deal with it and come out on top." She pulled Yellowstar close again.
Yellowstar just sniffled. "I don't want to be at my lowest point" she whispered back weakly. "I want to be happy like I was. When I was best pony. Why can't I be better?"
Twilight frowned and continued to just hold Yellowstar. The despair of the smaller pony was opening up what felt like a pit in her stomach, growing and growing until it threatened to devour her. There had to be something she could do. There had to be...
In an instant, Twilight had an idea. It was the best idea she had ever had. "Yellowstar," she spoke softly, gazing into her trusted friend's eyes. "Yellowstar, if you were a unicorn, if you had magic, then you would be a better pony, wouldn't you? You could help other ponies more, and be the best pony again."
Yellowstar didn't understand. She just sniffed and nodded. "But I'm not a unicorn, am I?" she mumbled back, eyes downcast.
Twilight's heart panged again at the hurt on Yellowstar's face. "But Yellowstar..." she began again. "What if you were a unicorn? What if I gave you my horn?"
Yellowstar looked at Twilight wide-eyed and confused, her mouth agape. "Y-you'd do that for me Twilight Sparkle? You surely are my most faithful friend!"
Twilight basked in the warmth of Yellowstar's words which sent a warm hug of comfort throughout her body. "Of course Yellowstar. You know I'd do anything for you." She placed her front hooves behind her horn and started to apply pressure, her eyes scrunched in concentration as she pulled harder and harder, a dull throbbing building in her skull as she tugged...
...Until finally with an almighty crack that echoed in her head and caused her to scream out, Twilight managed to break her horn off. She smiled triumphantly as Yellowstar took the horn and it dissolved into light, that same light curling around her head and sprouting a pure white horn from amongst her bright mane. Her complexion improved, regaining some of that earlier lost confidence as she smiled at Twilight.
"Thank you for your magic, Twilight Sparkle" she beamed, and that smile drove any doubts from Twilight's mind. Twilight touched a hoof to her forehead which was now perfectly smooth, without a tinge of pain. It was truly a wondrous thing.
In the corner of the room, the book began to crackle with purple light. Twilight did not notice.
"Twilight! Twilight!" The door to Twilight's room burst open and Spike leapt through, head twitching about wildly, a mop and bucket clutched offensively in his paws. "I heard a scream, what's wrong?" As the lack of any attackers, he looked about the room. Twilight's usually pristine quarters was a mess - the cover to her bed had been thrown off, treasured keepsakes and books were lying strewn across the floor, and he was sure that was Twilight's mother's lamp that lay smashed at Twilight's hooves. Twilight herself was just standing alone, her back to Spike, silent and unmoving.
Spike slowly stepped closer. "Uh, Twi..." he began nervously. "Is... is everything all right?"
"Don't panic Spike!" Twilight replied steadily. "I'm going to turn round and I don't want you to be upset at what you see. I've broken my horn off so I can give my magic to Yellowstar."
Spike took an involuntary step back at Twilight's words, at once confused and horrified, clapping his claws to his face. "But what... I... you..."He fell silent, even more confused as Twilight turned around to face him.
There, on her forehead, was her horn standing firm and proud as always.
Spike slowly waddled forwards, placing the cleaning utensils down on the ground and reached upwards to tap Twilight's horn. She didn't stop him. It was definitely real. "Are... are you feeling okay Twilight? It's right there!"
Shaking her head, Twilight trotted away from Spike, sorting through an open closet to pick out a hat. "Don't be silly Spike, I gave it to Yellowstar because she's my best friend and that's what best friends do. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you? Now, a hat will - "
Twilight never finished her sentence, because she received a bucket of water in the face.
Spike covered his mouth again as he raced over to the soaking and dazed Twilight. "Sorry Twilight, I shouldn't have let go of the handle!" he squeaked guilty, picking up the fallen bucket which had bounced off Twilight's face. "But you were acting pretty... mad. You were saying you didn't have a horn!"
Shaking off the water in confusion, Twilight brushed down her mane and glared at Spike, one hoof running over her horn to make sure it was there. "Of course I have a horn Spike!" she snapped. "Why would I say anything different, I've just..." she trailed off taking in the mess that her room had become, her face clouding in confusion. "I've just been a bit stressed, that's all. Tired."
Spike patted Twilight gingerly on the back. "Look Twilight, I'll clean up here, you go get some fresh air. Pinkie mentioned something about a party to me earlier; you should pop round and show your face, it'll do you good..."
Twilight slowly nodded. "You're right Spike. It'll do me good to spend time with my friends." She started trotting over to the door. Almost as an afterthought, she trotted backwards quickly to her desk to pick up the book and place it securely in her saddlebag.
Pinkie scrunched up her face in concentration. "Is it... cheese?"
"No!" Rainbow Dash giggled.
"Is it... hay?" Fluttershy ventured.
"Is it..." Pinkie Pie trailed off looking at her friends who were sprawled around Sugarcube Corner looking slightly mortified. It had been an hour and nopony had yet beaten Rainbow Dash in the 'Say what I am thinking, no questions allowed' game. "A... a cup of sugar?" Rainbow Dash just shook her head smugly.
"How about a cup of shut the hay up!" All eyes in the room swivelled at once to look on in shock at Twilight, who sat planted firmly behind her book in the corner of the room. Twilight stared at her friends before slowly sinking her head back amongst the pages.
It was Rainbow Dash who broke the uneasy silence that followed. "How did you know what I was thinking?" she squealed in annoyance, and then when no answer was forthcoming, marched over to the silent unicorn. "Hey! Twilight, stop reading and start socialising! What could possibly be better than us?"
Twilight lowered the book in annoyance. "If you must know Rainbow Dash" she snapped back "Yellowstar has just grown a magical horn and travelled to the upside-down land underneath Equestria where everything is backwards, so..." She trailed off and returned to reading, as if the truth of her statement was self-evident.
This wasn't enough for Rainbow Dash, who stormed forwards angrily. "Hey, Dainbow Rash grows a horn too, that book stole my ideas! Let's take a look!"
"No!" In a swirl of magic Twilight snapped the book shut and smacked it hard across Rainbow Dash's face. The blue pegasus flew backwards to crash heavily into a table laden with sweets and cakes. "You get away from my book!" She clasped the book to her chest, hugging it tight as if it was a small defenceless foal.
"Hey!" Pinkie bounded to Rainbow Dash's side, lifting the dazed pegasus. "That's not very friendly Twilight! What's got into you?"
"What's got into me? What's got into you?" Twilight looked over her friends accusingly. "You've all forgotten what's important, all of you! And what's important is Yellowstar!" She pounded the book to her chest proudly. "She's better than me at magic, and she's better than you Pinkie at parties, and she's better at loving animals than you Fluttershy, and..." she frowned at the fallen Rainbow Dash, who was struggling to her hooves, her face covered in trifle. "...And I'm sure she's better at flying than you even if she doesn't have wings! Now if you excuse me..." Twilight flung her head up and marched out of the door "...I'm going to spend quality time with my real friend!"
"...Now what the hay was that about?" Rainbow Dash mumbled, as Pinkie started to eat the trifle.
"I can't believe those girls, what's wrong with them?" Twilight continued to mutter as she stormed through the library doors. "They were looking at me like I was mad!"
"I know!" Yellowstar nodded back. "It was very unreasonable of them Twilight Sparkle, can't they see how much of a faithful friend you are?"
Twilight slumped into a couch. "I don't understand Yellowstar, what's wrong with them all, how can I make them realise?" She snapped her head up, and at the top of her lungs bellowed: "Spike! SPIKE!"
Her trusty companion bounded down the stairs two at a time, landing in a heap at Twilight's hooves. "I did my best Twilight, your room looks spick and span now, and..."
Twilight ignored him, pacing around the small dragon impatiently. "Spike, take a letter. 'Dear Princess Celestia, today I learnt that the friendship with my 'friends' pales in comparison with that of Yellowstar. Yellowstar is the best pony and-'"
Spike's claws shook as he hastily found a quill and parchment and began to scribble the words down. "Twilight, I don't think that's a good id-" He yelped as Twilight pushed her face right into his.
"I said, 'Yellowstar is the best pony and hopefully one day every pony will realise this.'" She placed a hoof heavily on Spike's shoulder until the little dragon had finished transcribing. "Now Spike, send that letter and..." Her eyes opened wide as if struck by a sudden burst of inspiration. "Letter, of course! Spike, send that letter, and fetch me as much paper as you can! It's going to be a long night!"
Spike groaned. At least things couldn't get much worse.
Saddle Stitch whistled merrily as he trotted along the pristine halls of the library's special collection, all lovingly restored. He stroked the neat shelves full of books and gazed proudly at the display cabinets in which he'd placed some of the more choice selections.
"Oh Saddle Stitch!" he purred to himself. "You are the finest librarian in all Equestria!" He passed a selection of antique pocket books that he had rescued from some foolish old mare who had ruined them from years of reading; now safely locked away in glass cabinets. "Princess Celestia will shower you in praises! You'll be famous, you'll be adored, you'll be..."
He turned the corner, coming face to face with a large plinth, empty save for the heavy chains which now lay draped uselessly along its front.
"...Sent to the moon!" he croaked, the colour draining from his face.
Feeling panic starting to bubble in his usually austere frame and sweat prick at his brow, the old pony darted around the room, frantically hoping against all hope that the book had simply slipped from its chains and fallen to the floor. Of course that was not possible; it was nowhere to be seen. "But who..." he paused in concentration, thinking back over the past few days. And then it hit him.
As the morning sun rose over Ponyville, a very tired young dragon pulled his rather battered cart back into the library. "I've done it Twilight!" he called up, rocking backwards and forwards. "All of them! All of your letters taken down to the Ponyville Post Office!"
There was no response from upstairs.
"I-it was very expensive!" Spike hinted. He was sure Twilight would reimburse him for the mountain of mail she had produced that night, but the longer he left it, the more likely she was to forget. Taking a much deserved seat, he began to relax.
Spike's calm was interrupted by a furious pounding on the door, which became more and more frantic until, with a series of several smashes, the wood around the lock splintered and the door flew open to reveal a familiar yet strangely worried pony.
"Spike, Spike!" Saddle Stitch announced as he marched through the broken door. "I hope you don't mind me letting myself in, but the door was unlocked." He fixed eyes with Spike as if daring him to say any different. "The most terrible thing has happened Spike, your mistress is in possession of one of the most awful books imaginable with the potential to destroy all of Equestria if it is read!"
Spike rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Oh that! Don't worry Saddle Stitch, nopony's going to read that thing, I locked it in Twilight's safe."
Saddle Stitch recoiled, his heart giving a flutter of joy. "W-what? Really? Oh Celestia be praised! Spike, I take back all the dreadful things I ever said about to you all of your peers behind your back! I'll just retrieve the book and we can pretend none of this ever happened, and you definitely don't tell the Princess and-"
"Hey, are you the royal librarian? I saw your cart outside!"
With an gibber, Saddle Stitch turned to see the pony who had arrived silently and unannounced, and who was standing a bit too close to him for comfort, her rainbow mane pushing into his face. Before he could respond though, Spike spoke up:
"Yeah, that's Saddle Stitch. He's here about your book, Rainbow Dash. He said it was awful and should be locked up forever."
"Hey!" Rainbow Dash pushed her face further into Saddle Stitch's who shrunk back. "You're just jealous of my genius, I bet Twilight's been working on you!"
"I no what where..." Saddle Stitch trailed off in confusion as he tried to regain his composure. "Who are you?"
Rainbow Dash straightened up and patted herself down as if presenting herself to royalty. "I'm Rainbow Dash, the famous author! I've already written one book, which Twilight is editing for me, and I'm working on many others!"
Saddle Stitch stared at Rainbow Dash suspiciously. "...If you've only written one book, and Ms Sparkle has the only copy, how are you a famous author?"
Giving a nonchalant shrug, Rainbow Dash sighed. "I don't know; isn't that how it works? You're the one who came here after my book! I was just passing to see if Twilight was all right after yesterday!"
Saddle Stitch attempted to move his mouth but no words came out. The three stood there in awkward silence. As they did so, a small white filly with a mound of curly purple hair trotted past them into the library clutching a letter in her mouth, and then trotted straight back out sans letter, her head caked in soot.
Clearing his throat, Saddle Stitch edged to the door. "Well. I think we need to start this again." He closed the front door, gave a polite knock, and then bounded in, as wide-eyed as he had started. "Spike, Spike!" he exclaimed. "The most terrible thing has happened Spike, your mistress is in possession of one of the most awful books imaginable with the potential to destroy all of Equestria if it is read!" He turned to an expectant Rainbow Dash. "And the book is called The Star In Yellow, which wasn't written by you!"
"Oh!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed. "You must mean that frankly suspicious looking book with the big yellow star on that Twilight's been clutching and stroking for the past few days!"
"Yes!" Saddle Stitch replied joyously, the simple act of being able to progress the conversation somehow being the happiest thing that had happened to him all week. It dawned on him at that moment why Twilight Sparkle was considered the most intelligent pony in Ponyville. There mustn't be that much competition.
"That book is evil, pure and simple." He looked between Spike and Rainbow Dash, a stern look on his face. "It has the power to drive any pony who reads it - even a few lines - completely mad. And if it is feeding off the magic of prodigious young Ms Sparkle, then I dread to think what will happen if she finishes it."
Spike clapped his claws to his mouth in wide-eyed shock. "She... she said she had given it her magic! I thought she was just being normal-mad though! She gets like that sometimes."
Saddle Stitch mulled this over in his mind. "We must get the book off her before it's too late. But the most important thing to remember is that this is all your fault Spike." He patted Spike on the shoulder like a kindly grandfather. "If Princess Celestia finds out what your actions which you took completely on your own have done, not even I can save you. Because this situation is all your fault. Not me, who is totally blameless in all this, the poor victim of your monstrous error."
Spike gulped, trembling as the old pony's words hit home. "There's no time to lose then!" he croaked. "She's upstairs in her room, we should just break in and take it!"
"Wait wait wait!" Rainbow Dash marched in between the two. "Twilight told us a bit about the book yesterday! It didn't sound evil, just some pony called Yellowstar having adventures. What's wrong with that?"
"Of course it sounds nice! It's a trap!" Saddle Stitch hissed back at Rainbow Dash. "Of course it's something everypony would want to read! Of course it will sound lovely and want to be your best friend! That's how it lures you in! The banality and innocence of the beginning only allows the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect! It has been entrusted to the royal librarians for generations, it is our sacred duty to the Princess to protect it and ensure it never falls into the wrong hooves!"
"Which it did," Rainbow Dash helpfully added.
"Yes, for which Spike is completely to blame." Saddle Stitch took the opportunity to guilt-trip Spike with another glare, the dragon shrinking back under his gaze. "Nopony knows who wrote it or why. Maybe it was an evil sorcerer, maybe a witch, maybe even a demon. But it shouldn't have been removed from the safety of Canterlot." He gazed upwards to the dark stairwell which led to Twilight's room. "This will be extremely dangerous. Spike, you're going first."
From the top of the stairwell, three ponies had been listening intently to the conversation below, none of them daring to speak a word in case they were overheard. Finally, Yellowstar turned to Twilight and Silver Crescent, her white face somehow drained and pale from what she'd overheard. "It's not true Twilight, none of it!" she pleaded to her friend. "I'm not evil! You've got to believe me!"
Twilight just smiled warmly and placed her hooves around her friend's neck. "Of course I trust you Yellowstar. How could you of all ponies be evil, you're warm and kind and generous, you're so much better than any other pony! They'll all see soon, it's just a matter of time!" She started to trot to her room, motioning for the others to quickly follow.
Once everypony was inside, Twilight quietly bolted the door and turned to her two best friends. "We can do this!" she hissed encouragingly. "We just have to hold out until my plan works, that's all. If we work together we can-"
Yellowstar and Twilight turned as one to look at the little form of Silver Crescent, who was usually so meek and silent. The small pony straightened and glared upwards at Yellowstar, bottom lip trembling. "No! I'm not helping you! Why do you get to be best pony? You weren't best pony when it mattered, were you Yellowstar? We're all alone and it's your fault. Why can't I be best pony!"
"This is not the time!" Twilight started forwards, but Silver Crescent had already scurried over to the window, awkwardly clambering through the frame with just one glare back as she vanished from view.
Yellowstar slumped against the closed door, eyes wide and staring ahead blankly as Twilight called futilely after the departing filly. "Leave her Twilight" she sighed in resignation. "I'm all alone again, I just wasn't good enough. When they come for me you should just let them take the book, lock it away again forever in a dungeon. Where I belong."
"Don't be like that!" Twilight slowly sunk against the door beside Yellowstar, half listening out for any hoofsteps outside. "We can do this Yellowstar, just you and me, together against the world! You don't need Silver Crescent if you've got me! You know what a silver crescent is? It's the blade of a knife, stabbing you in the back! Two friends falling out is just another literary trope, something that has to happen to the hero, I've got loads of books about it." She waved a hoof, pointing to a shelf on the far side of the room. "Gorwen and Charn, Theta and Koschei, even Celestia and Luna! It's just a familiar tale, a cheap and easy way to get a good reaction from the readers."
Somehow Yellowstar shrugged her shoulders even further as she hung her head, turning her neck to look at Twilight with large, watering eyes. "Is that all I am Twilight Sparkle? A bad story? Is that how it's supposed to work? A writer creates a happy land full of happy ponies and then just tears it down, spoiling it with horrible stuff just to see what happens?" She pressed her front hooves together, her voice lowered slightly. "Writers are evil. Writing the wrongs of the world. If I wrote stories, I'd write happy stories where the sun always shone and nopony was ever sad."
Twilight took this in, slowly nodding her head in agreement. She was about to reply when a soft knocking at the door caused her to leap into the air with a scream and skid across the room to the other side.
"Hey, Twi, are you in there?" Spike's voice drifted through the thick door. "I hope you're doing okay, the royal librarian's here for some overdue books, we can just pop in and out, you won't even know we're here..."
Twilight ignored the little dragon's voice, and motioned frantically for Yellowstar to join her. The white pony scooted across the room to her friend, and they sat huddled at the far end, staring at the door.
"That stuff with your parents" Twilight whispered. "What really happened? I mean, I saw stuff happen, and it was in the book, but it was like there were chunks of motivation and plot missing. Like the author assumed the reader knew, or didn't want to write about it. And what's Smooze, that wasn't in the book at all!"
"I don't know" Yellowstar sighed back. "I don't think that's how it actually happened, but that's how it felt." She looked up, haunted eyes locking with Twilight's. "I can't explain, but I still remember the Smooze, outside the castle walls. It was terrible." She rested a hoof on Twilight's, heavily. "The singing was the worst part, you know. That constant melody burbling up from its grey depths. But that's not in the story. How can I know that?"
The knocking on the door became heavier, this time it was the slightly bolder voice of Rainbow Dash that came through. "Hey Twilight, it's me, Dash. I thought we could swap books, you know? You have mine, perhaps I could have yours? Book club style? Hello?"
"Give me a moment!" Twilight called out as she gave Yellowstar a reassuring pat and slowly spread out the book in front of her.
Yellowstar sniffled, drying her eyes again. "I didn't tell you what happens when you finish the book, did I Twilight Sparkle? I become real. But I don't want to be real." She exhaled, pleading with her friend. "I want to go back to how it all was, when I was happy. Turn the pages back, it's over. Please. I can't touch the book, it's up to you."
"No!" Twilight slowly pulled Yellowstar to her feet. "You're a good pony Yellowstar, I know it; you deserve to be real like me! Life's full of bad things, they can define us, but you don't let them dominate you. You're better than this." With that, Twilight placed both her hooves on the book's cover, and grasping all the pages in her mouth, tore them out with a grunt.
This time there as a more frantic hammering on the door, and rather than the familiar tones of her friends, the low voice of an unfamiliar stallion swam through in another attempt to sweet-talk Twilight into seeing the error of her ways.
"OPEN THE DOOR YOU CRAZY BINT!"
Spike rolled his eyes as Saddle Stitch smashed his hooves against the door for all he was worth, to no effect. It was a particularly good door. "You said you were going to use guile and charm!" he complained to the old pony.
Saddle Stitch just shook his head. "Obviously Ms Sparkle is way past that stage Spike. We must be prepared for whatever deceit and trickery she has in store. Rest assured she won't give up the book without a fight to the death. We may not all survive but the fate of Equestria hangs in the balance."
"Fate hanging in the balance is my middle name!" Rainbow Dash smirked as she revved up her wings in the cramped corridor, before charging at full pelt at the sturdy door. The moment before impact, the door swung open to reveal Twilight's smiling face. Rainbow Dash just had time to turn a sharp ninety degrees and crash into the wall instead of barrelling into Twilight.
"Oh hi, I didn't hear you there" Twilight smiled sweetly as Rainbow Dash peeled herself from the wall. "Did you want this? I've finished with it now, it got boring. See you!" Twilight threw a battered white book at the feet of the assembled onlookers, and closed the door once more, solidly bolting it.
The three started down in dumbfounded amazement at the book that lay on the floor. The white binding and bright yellow star were unmistakable. It was The Star In Yellow.
"Well, that was anticlimactic!" Rainbow Dash sighed, reaching down to open the book. "What was it all about then?"
"No!" Saddle Stitch shot out a hoof to knock Rainbow Dash away. "Weren't you listening? Reading just a few sentences could send you mad! This books needs to stay shut!"
"I'll tell you what it needs! Spike, give me some proper fire!" Not giving the dragon time to answer, Rainbow Dash hoisted Spike into the air, and yanking on his tail caused a gout of flame to spurt out, engulfing the book in a blaze.
Saddle Stitch gaped as the book burnt to a crisp in front of him, frantically trying to put out the flames with his hooves. But it was to no avail as only a thin coating of charcoal was left. "Nononono!" he wailed. "You idiot!"
Rainbow Dash was too busy looking smug to be insulted. "I think I just saved all of Equestria!" she smirked. "And it was an evil book!"
"Of course, but you don't burn books!" Saddle Stitch cried. "It was supposed to be kept under guard, now the Princess will know that I - SPIKE - let it out!"
Spike twiddled his thumbs, sinking back against the wall as he let out a groan. "T-the Princess will forgive me, right? I mean, it didn't do Twilight much harm. Sure she's a bit crazy, but when isn't she? She got bored of the book fast enough, she even spent last night writing letters to every pony in Ponyville instead of reading it! So it's hardly that bad!"
Saddle Stitch had moved from anguish to frozen horror at Spike's words, his eyes boggling as he took in the implications of what he had said. "No, she wouldn't give it up that easily... Spike, what was in those letters?" He twirled to face the dragon, shaking him bodily. "Spike!"
"I - I don't' know!" Spike's eyes jiggled up and down as he was shaken. "I - it was light reading or something, she said!"
Saddle Stitch dropped Spike, ashen faced. "I really hope that doesn't mean what I think it does..."
The door creaked open again and Twilight's face peered out. She was smiling. "Oh, it's just something for all the ponies to read. Some of my favourite parts of the book, so they'll all get to love Yellowstar just as much as I do and realise that she is best pony." Her smile became wider. "And I believe the post gets delivered round about now. Won't be long!"
As Rainbow Dash lunged for Twilight, the door slammed again with the sound of a heavy bolt being drawn. Rainbow Dash began to pound on the door. "Twilight, this is crazy, what's going on? This isn't you; you wouldn't put ponies in danger!"
"I told you, whatever it is, it's pure evil." Saddle Stitch slowly pulled Rainbow Dash from the door. "It's sent Twilight mad. Everything she's doing seems right and logical to her, but it might just cause the end of everything. I don't even know what will happen if all the Ponies from Ponyville read from the book, it could be worse than even I feared." He glared down at Spike again. "We'll board up Twilight's room from the outside so she can't get out, she's probably not in the right frame of mind to use her magic to teleport. We can deal with her later. You - " He pointed at Rainbow Dash. "You have to intercept the mail. Not one letter can get through, understand?"
Rainbow Dash understood. She was already racing down the stairs, tumbling down the steps and outside into the morning light where without hesitation, she took to the sky in a multi-coloured streak. In the distance was the sight of a familiar grey mailmare clutching a large postbag. There was still time.
"I did it!" Twilight grinned widely as she made sure the door was sealed tight, turning back towards Yellowstar proudly. "I tricked them! I beat them all! Now they'll leave me alone and I can finish reading the story! I'm nearly at the last chapter!"
In front of Twilight lay a large blue book. Whilst the cover read 'The Adventures of Dainbow Rash', the hastily torn out spine betrayed the fact that the contents were from a different work entirely. She stroked the pages, looking up at Yellowstar. "It's a shame we had to lose the cover, but it's the contents that are important, right?"
Yellowstar gave a weak smile back at Twilight. "Please Twilight Sparkle, you can still turn the pages back, make me happy again, like I was." She pawed at the book, but her hooves just passed through the pages as if they were not there. "I can't, it has to be you!"
"I meant what I said Yellowstar." Twilight smiled back earnestly. "You're so much better than anything else in Equestria, you deserve to be real. I mean, not even Princess Celestia can hold a candle to you..." she trailed off, a thought striking her. "You know, when her test came, when she had to fight her sister who turned against her, she banished her to the moon! For a thousand years! How can anypony do something like that and still be Princess? You should be Princess!" The treasonous words came out of Twilight's mouth easily, and they just felt so right and true to Twilight.
Yellowstar trembled slightly at Twilight's words. "That's awful" she whispered hoarsely. "How could she do something like that? I never would, doing something so terrible would destroy me!" She raised her head, throwing back her mane. "You are right Twilight Sparkle, I should be the Princess, I would rule fairly and forever, and only have good things happen to ponies. The sun would always shine and nopony would ever be sad. Turn the page, Twilight Sparkle, let me fulfil my destiny!"
Twilight eagerly turned the page, the book sparking with purple light which engulfed her horn as the leaf of paper slowly but surely flipped over. Yellowstar herself began to shimmer, cast in an incandescent glow as her body began to grow before Twilight's eyes. Wings erupted from her back flapping powerfully, her mane burst into a plume of brilliant yellow star fire that billowed and whipped as if caught in an intangible gale. The roses that garnered her mane twisted and bloomed into an ornate tiara, a perfect medley of red and gold which sparkled in the magical light of her hair. Around Yellowstar and the book shone a maelstrom of power and energy the like of which Twilight had never seen before as she clutched onto the tome for dear life as if any moment she would be snatched up by the invisible forces raging in her bedroom.
As quickly as it had arisen, the supernatural tempest abated.
The new Princess of Equestria towered over Twilight, bathing her in the light that shone from her pure white coat, her eyes pools of infinite bright energy. "Oh Twilight, my most faithful friend" she proclaimed. "It is time. The yellow star rises once more."
"The final chapter has begun."