It’s been months since you last scryed them. Since you’ve last seen something wonderful, something astounding…
And something that’s not yours.
Anonymous… when you first met him, stumbling out of the tundra and into the city, he was almost totally swallowed by his loneliness. He was, and still is the only human in Equestria. Just thinking about his old situation tears into your chest like claws of ice.
You wanted to comfort him, to show him that there was somepony willing to reach out and show him love. Something, ANYTHING to make the wistful, longing melancholy on his face GO AWAY.
You went to him, just to talk about anything really. Most of the time he would keep the conversation going, as you found yourself too enraptured with the tales of a whole new world. It was all worth it, because he would smile, forgetting that he was talking with a pony in a reality not his own.
His eyes, though. They would light up brighter than any stars, snaring you with their beauty.
But Shining was fearful, afraid that you would leave him. He would go on and on everytime you came back from visiting Anon about how much he loved you and how ‘it’s not right’ for you to stray so far away from him.
So you did like any good wife would; you bowed your head and agreed.
No matter what, though, you couldn’t leave Anon. Not when one of the few things he had to look forward to was to see you. But luckily, there was a way around that.
The mystical Mirror Pool provided your answer. Said answer was a perfect clone of you.
You break from your musing to look up and gasp, finding your bedroom around you.
“I...I said I wouldn’t…”
No matter how much conviction you put in your voice, it still wavers like a leaf in a howling gale. You swallow a lump in your throat that may as well have been sand. You’ve been avoiding this room, and by proxy, the hurt and confused stallion who also called it home. Your eyes gravitate towards the vanity mirror with the large jewel set in the top, still as clean and tidy as last time, as if mocking you.
With an un-princesslike growl, you debate smashing the damnable thing. It’s caused all your problems. All of them!
Your horn never tingles with magic, however, leaving the mirror unmolested.
With a tired sigh, you look elsewhere. Just… anywhere else.
The once-grand bedroom is now spartan and dusty, all your personal effects missing thanks to your self-imposed exile. The only thing that stands out is a picture on one of the nightstands, but strangely, you don’t ever remember one being there.
Trotting closer, you pick the photo up in a corona of blue, noting that the glass frame is cracked and the wood frame is flimsy. It’s you and… Shining. You’re in a dress fit for royalty, smiling wide and with pure happiness. Shining is next to you, dressed in a red coat you vaguely recognize.
For whatever reason, this picture stirs up old memories. Where is it..!
Your stomach churns and tightens. Oh Celestia, you almost forgot your own wedding!
A wave of self disgust forces you to sit, sending up a cloud of dust from under your rump. You didn’t honestly forget that, did you?
Another dull spark in your mind and a twist of your gut are your answers.
Gingerly putting the picture back down, you turn around and find the mirror staring you in the eye again.
No. You can’t. Not ag-
“Just a minute won’t hurt…”
That clone, it had better be treating him right, or else.
Your horn begins to glow as the energy inside you twists and weaves, making the jewel set into the vanity frame glow brightly under its layer of dust. Your image in the mirror fades away, replaced with an overhead view of Anon’s kitchen, where a striking copy of you, minus the regalia, hums an unfamiliar tune as she keeps a watchful eye on a boiling pot.
Even now, it’s unnerving to see such a thing. To be there in all but sensation.
It makes it easier to imagine you instead of her.
Not-Cadence idly stirs the contents of the pot with practiced ease as she sways to her own hummed tune, not at all knowing that she’s being watched. Oh how much you’ve watched. You’ve seen it all. The fights, the love, the leisure, the pleasure, and everything in between.
Was it wrong to fantasize, you wonder. No. Of course not. Everypony does it. But…
Your heart tightens in your chest as you watch Anon walk in through the door, smiling when he catches a delighted Not-Cadence, who pulls him into a deep, loving kiss.
You’re the princess of love… so why won’t anypony love you like that? Why can’t you do what you love all day? Not-Cadence got all of that and more.
Meanwhile, you’re busy running an empire you never asked for. It’s frustrating. Oh so frustrating.
You look back to the mirror and blink. Your introspection must have lasted a while, as Not-Cadence and Anon are settled on the loveseat together and the table has been cleaned up.
You look closer the mirror with a squint. Has Not-Cadence gained weight? That lump on her midsection was not there before…
Anon smiles down at your contently dozing doppelganger, rubbing a hand on her swollen stomach as he...did...so.
Without warning, the image begins to blur, but your grip on the magic is still there.
You take a short shaky breath as your knees shake and your eyes burn. What’s happening?
You… you’re crying. But that’s not possible. You can’t do that. Your life is happy! The whimper that comes out of your quivering mouth is pathetic. What would Anon say?
No. You’re not jealous. Somepony will love you like that. You’re the princess of love! It’s your destiny! It has to be! Somepony even better than Anon will be here for you, then it’ll be Not-Cadence’s turn to suffer! She will be the one watching day in and day out! Always wanting, but never getting!
You snap your head up to the sudden noise, flinging tears off of your muzzle.
At the bedroom door, standing tall, is none other than your sister-in-law Twilight Sparkle. At her side is a young unicorn colt with strangely bright eyes.
You let out a muted hiccup and a warbling, nervous laugh. “Oops. I, uh, I’m sorry you had to see that.”
If Twilight cared, then she hid it well behind a cool, professional look, making you squirm.
“Cadence,” she starts, voice full of authority, “why did you seal the door for so long?”
You wipe at your eyes with a foreleg. “W-what? A mare can’t have a little privacy?”
The answer only made Twilight narrow her eyes as she walks closer. When did she get so tall?
“I going to have to ask you to step outside for a moment. I need to check something in here.”
You can only nod meekly, but not before you let the magic on the mirror fade.
Now alone, Twilight seats herself in front of the inert vanity and pats the spot next to her, where the colt settles himself without a word.
“Star, you did see the image on the mirror before it faded, correct?”
The colt nods. “Yes, Miss Twilight.”
“And what did you see?”
Star rubs a foreleg uncomfortably. “Something being scryed?”
Twilight shakes her head, ignoring the slowly rising sobbing coming from outside. “Almost. Take a look at the jewel in the vanity stand. What purpose could that serve? Remember that gems and the like are regarded best as storage mediums.”
It only takes Star a moment to connect the dots, and when he does, his bright eyes widen.
“We came here to retrieve Cadence, Star, but I wanted to turn this into a lesson for you as well,” Twilight continues without missing a bet.
The crying alicorn outside slowly becomes louder, her cries turning into hair raising shrieks of loss.
Star shivers and moves closer to Twilight, who wraps comforting a wing around him.
“Never let your emotions and desires consume you, or you’ll lose sight of what you already have, what is important to you, in the worst way possible…”
The colt is silent for a moment, the only sound being the hysterical alicorn just outside, then: “Miss Twilight? Who was on the mirror?”
“Your ancestors, Star. They passed away hundreds of years ago…”