PonyFall: The Dawning of Twilight

by MrBackpack

Chapter 12: What's in a Name?

        CHAPTER 12: What's in a Name?

I woke from a sleepless night with a jolt, and groaned as my body protested the early hour, hard ground, and the foot that Michelle had lodged into my back. I rolled away from the offending appendage and looked around the tent. Luna was sleeping cutely on top of her sleeping bag, Noodle gripped tightly in her little arms, Twilight was off on her side, and Michelle was next to me, half in her bag and half on mine.

I climbed out of the tent as quietly as I could, squinting in the new morning sun, and pulled up short. The fire pit in front of my tent wasn’t the one that I had constructed, and there was a mysterious tent across from mine.

I was dumbfounded for a few seconds before the entire previous night came flooding back in a rush.

Trying to not think too hard about more impossibilities than strictly necessary, I set about bringing the fire back from the embers that were left from the night before. Thanks to the ample supply of wood nearby, my hatchet neatly buried into a larger log, I was able to get a good cook fire going.

Coffee was a first priority now that the fire was going, and I retreated to my tent to fetch the large tin of coffee grounds from the tent. I paused after grabbing the tin and kissed Michelle on her cheek before clambering back out of the tent.

I saw Fluttershy sitting on one of the logs near the fire. She was staring into it, and didn’t notice my approach.

“Morning Fluttershy,” I said with a smile.

The pink haired girl jumped, startled, and then something I did not expect; her eyes hardened, her brows furrowed and she turned away from me.

“O-okay,” I said with an arched eyebrow and a shrug. I went about getting the coffee started.

The fire crackled and spit as I settled the percolator into the coals and sat down with a sigh; I hate sleeping on anything other than a real bed.

“How’s Angel?” I asked after several minutes of intense silence.

“Fine,” was the terse reply as she glared into the fire.

“Good,” I said with another smile, hoping to lighten the mood. “Just let me know if there’s anything else that I can do for you, Fluttershy.”

“Thank you,” she said, her eyes softening for the first time. “Matt.”

I kept the shock off of my face as I leveled a steady, neutral gaze towards my breakfast companion.

“How much did Twilight tell you?” I asked, having assumed that Twilight would tell her friends everything. She didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, not in terms of her current reality.



“Everything. Who you are, who the other mare, er, woman with you is. How you found her, what happened at the hospital. Everything.”

“Oh,” I said, staring into the fire, my mind working furiously. “How late did you girls stay up?”

“You lied to us,” snapped Fluttershy, ignoring my question. “How could you?”

“Because I place Luna and Twilight’s safety over the trust of people that I meet in the dead of night in a country that I’ve never been to before.”

Fluttershy was noticeably mollified, but opened her mouth to continue speaking. I cut her off.

“Not to mention, the number of laws that I broke in my country alone, not counting international law and the laws of Australia, are more than enough to see Luna being taken away from all of us, and could end with Twilight, Michelle and I in prison for the rest of our lives.”

I paused, wondering where the sudden flash of anger had come from, but couldn’t stop myself from continuing.

We stared at each other for a long moment in silence, and would have continued to do so if the percolator had not percolated.

I tore my eyes away from the girl in front of me, silently fuming. Who was she to question what I did to save Luna? I did what I had to do, and I would do it again if given the choice.

I took my time in preparing the coffee, letting my hotter emotions run their course. There was no need to upset Fluttershy; it would only come back to hurt me later. First with Doug, and then with Twilight and the others if and when we ever found them. No, better to not say anything at the moment, and have a long chat with my unicorn friend later in the day about keeping other people’s secrets.

“Coffee?” I asked, turning to my companion. I hoped to rekindle the conversation, maybe even put our harsh words behind us.

The pink haired girl gave me another steady look before turning away from me without saying a word.

I shook my head and sat back down onto the log and stared into the fire, content to ignore and be ignored by one and all.

After a few moments of silence between the two of us, the lumberjack from the night before emerged from his tent.

He was even larger that I remembered, the morning sunlight seemed to magnify his already impressive height; almost a full head taller than me. He had kind brown eyes that blinked blearily over a thick brown beard.

“Morning, Nathan,” he said as he zipped his tent up behind him.

“Morning, uh…” I replied after a pause, my mind scrambling, trying to remember his name. “Doug, right?” I asked and he nodded. I gave a silent sigh of relief and took a drink of my coffee. Fluttershy had her back to us and had not greeted her companion.

“Thanks for helping Angel out last night,” he said, breaking me from my thoughts. “Him and Apple Bloom have been through a lot since they arrived on Earth.”

“No problem,” I replied after another swallow of coffee. “Do I need to take a look at Apple Bloom once she gets up?”

I passed him on a mug and he sat down after pouring his coffee. “I reckon she could do with it,” he said. “Though she won’t admit it. Apple family pride, and all that.”

I opened my mouth to reply but was interrupted by an explosion of pink emerging from their tent. Pinkie had pulled the tent flap open and hopped out mid-yawn. She was clad in her pyjamas and barefoot. She paused and stretched, her yawn growing even larger.

“Hey, Captain. Hi, Fluttershy,” she greeted with a sleepy smile before turning to me and saying: “Howdy, Matt.”

I was mid swallow and gasped as she said my name, the coffee burning my airways. I coughed, spat the last of my mouthful into the fire, and dropped the mug, staring at her in shock. I quickly glanced at Doug before returning my eyes to the smiling face of Pinkie.

“You’re so silly Matt,” Pinkie laughed as she sat next to Doug, still smiling. “Is there any Coke left?

Doug’s face was unreadable as he cocked one eyebrow at me “We should have some left in the cooler. Care to grab her one Nathan?”

I swore under my breath. The cat was out of the bag. I muttered, “Of course this is where my luck would run out.” I looked down at my coffee stained shirt and pulled the hot, soaked fabric off of my chest and looked up to the rest of the group. “Yeah, my name’s Matt,” I said with some reluctance. “You understand why I’d want to keep things low-key; its’ not like I should automatically trust somebody just because they’ve found a pony or two.”

“Mm,” he replied “We do what we have to do.”

“We most certainly do,” an unfamiliar voice spoke suddenly. From behind Doug’s tent emerged the cloaked and hooded figure of a man. He moved slowly until he was standing near the campfire. “Oh, don’t allow my arrival to disturb you.” He clasped his hands and tilted his hooded head slightly. “You were just about to do some bonding, yes? I admit it freely, you’ve been doing so well lately. Even Pinkie is happy, in her own little way.”

To say that I was confused would be putting it lightly. I felt every muscle in my body tense up, and I groped for my hatchet.

“Hey, who’s the new guy?” Pinkie asked.

I looked at Doug and asked. “Do you… know this person?”

“We’ve met,” he replied. I could see that his mind was whirling and grinding.

“We all have–” the cloaked man stated “–at one time or another.” His smile made me very uncomfortable. This man was dangerous in a way that I had never experienced before. He spread his arms wide, as in welcome, and said, “Although, you will know me better by my former name: Ashton.”

Doug’s coffee dropped from his fingers.

“Ashton!?” Fluttershy, Pinkie, and Doug said in unison.

The man, or Ashton or whoever, grimaced at the sound of the name. “Do not get into the habit of calling me that,” he demanded, his voice cold. “F.A. is my name, and has been for a very, very long time.”

Pinkie frowned and began counting on her fingers. “Your name was Ashton…” She ignored the sudden look he gave her. “But your name is now F.A. and has been for a long time.” Her eyes lit up. “Ooh, I get it! You’re Future Ashton! That’s really clever."

Doug and I groaned at Pinkie’s reasoning, and I wasn’t surprised to see F.A. practically seething in anger. “No!” he growled, his eyes murderous. “It’s not clever, it’s stupid, and is something only the buffoon that is my former self could have come up with. Even now his foolishness continues to ruin my plans, so I will not be associated with him any more than need be. F.A. will do, thank you very much.”

This man was absolutely insane, unhinged, and more than likely dangerous.

“Doug, what is all this about?” I asked as a jumped to my feet. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the way this guy talks.”

“I’m not really sure,” he admitted, not taking his eyes off of the man.

“I am here for the noblest of causes, I can assure you,” he said as he began to pace around the camp, stepping over supplies as he moved. “Everything I have done has been to ensure you succeed in returning your little Equestrian friends to their rightful home. The problem has been you lot.” He waved a hand in our direction. “You’ve failed time and time again. I’ve lost count of the number of years I have been trying to make things right, but be assured there have been many. But none of that matters now, because I have some pleasant news.”

All of us looked around at each other, then back to F.A.

“You’ve won,” F.A. said. His unsettling grin returned. “I’ve checked and re-checked the possibilities. You, as you all are now, are finally on the right path to succeed. In other words, you will all successfully complete your missions, and Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, the Cutie Mark Crusaders and the princesses, even Discord will all be returned home without harm or foul. We have all done so well that I felt compelled to pay you one last visit and offer my congratulations.”

Something was off with the way that he said his latest statement. He wasn’t being serious. Obviously Doug, Pinkie and Fluttershy knew who this man was, and maybe had some kind of inkling as to what he was talking about. I had no clue, and wanted nothing to do with him.

“This… isn’t some kind of joke?” Doug asked uncertainly.

“If I ever had a sense of humor, it faded away a long time ago,” F.A. replied curtly.
The young man from the previous night, John if I recalled correctly, emerged from Doug’s tent at that moment. “Hey guys, what’s going on?” he asked.

F.A. beckoned for him to sit down and have some breakfast. “Oh, we’re all just having a pleasant day out here. Grab a plate and join in the festivities.”

As John looked around quizzically and took a seat, Pinkie and Doug shared a look. She was holding her left hand to her head and her face was scrunched in intense pain. All of a sudden, she grabbed her right hand with her left, as though the pain had never been there, and looked up with wide, terrified eyes.

“Yes, may as well wake everyone,” F.A. raved, growing more and more extravagant in his praise as he continued. “We’ve finally succeeded after many long, hard years. It is most certainly a time for celebration.” He stopped and tilted his head a moment. “Oh, but wait. Do you hear that? Who might that be?”

I heard the unmistakable sound of voice approaching from the forest behind F.A. and Doug’s tent.

A lean, Middle Eastern man that would not stand out in a crowd emerged from the treeline, followed by a good-looking woman with long brown hair and grey eyes at his elbow.

“Victoria,” I heard Doug whisper at the very edge of my hearing.

The man and woman both stopped and looked up as if they hadn’t expected to find a campsite in this location. Almost immediately, the Middle Eastern man grinned and said, “Ah, you see, my friend? I told you we were headed in the right direction, did I not?” His eyes lit up at the sight of Fluttershy and Pinkie, but his smile faded a bit after a moment, and he swallowed and fell silent.

“Who are these people?” I demanded. Pinkie, Fluttershy, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and the two humans I could deal with. They could possibly understand what I did and not turn Michelle and I into the police. The addition of these three new people added far too many complications to an already complicated situation. F.A. was dangerous and I really didn’t want to know any more people at the moment.

F.A.’s grin widened. “Ah, it all works out in the end,” he hissed, his voice silky. “Everything turns out just fine. In fact, I’m no longer needed here.” He turned abruptly and started to walk away. My heart felt lighter, and a feeling of relief crept up my spine. “I’ll leave you all now to savor this fine moment,” he called over his shoulder. He had just reached the two newcomers, who looked at him questioningly, when he stopped and turned slowly back around.

“Only… it isn’t all fine,” he said, all pleasantries gone from his voice. The grin vanished. “There is just one small problem that remains.”

“Doug,” Pinkie whispered. I hadn’t noticed her moving closer to him. “Doug, we need to leave. Right now.”

I was about to agree with her. To stand up, gather everyone and get as far away from the strange man as possible. As I moved to stand I found that I was frozen in place and not matter how much I strained and willed my legs to move; I could not. My eyes quickly scanned the others, they were frozen in the same way as I.

Everyone but F.A.

“Ah, it really isn’t fair,” he said, venom creeping into his voice. “You see, we finally have a happy ending for everyone.” His lips suddenly curled downward in a sneer. “Everyone but me. What a great, cosmic joke it is that I should find out that the only way to save you all is if I allow myself to never come into existence.” Suddenly, he was right in front of Doug and Pinkie, his face inches away from Pinkie’s. “I spent centuries trying to work out what, exactly, it was that I had to do to keep you from throwing yourself into the ocean to drown!” he spat at her. Within a heartbeat, he was in Fluttershy’s face.

“And you! All you ever did over and over again was run away like a pathetic cur!” His hand shot out and grabbed her by the jaw forcing her to look into his eyes. “Trying to guide you to become brave for once in your life cost me decades of work, and even now I’m not entirely sure how I managed to succeed with you!”

Not only was this ‘F.A.’ dangerous, but he was very much insane. He had no concept of reality in any way, shape, or form.

“Countless years I dedicated my life to preventing a future I was almost certain was unavoidable! And now I find that I must throw what’s left of my life away in order to succeed?” He was shouting and gesticulating randomly as he paced around the camp, he was wild and unpredictable. “Way back in the beginning, when I tricked Discord into granting me some of his power, I knew I had made an error. Perhaps not consciously, but deep down inside I knew something had gone wrong, and I was determined to fix it!” He turned and looked Doug in the eyes. “We weren’t meant to fail in the way that we did. Nobody was supposed to die!”

F.A. reached into a hidden pocket in his cloak and drew a long, gleaming dagger from within. My entire field of concentration centered on that knife and the way that he was waving it about. If things hadn’t been bad before, they had now gotten much worse.

"Ah, but it doesn’t really matter,” he said, stopping in front of the man with the woman. “All I need to do is kill off one of the main players and both time and this reality get reset.” The way that he emphasized ‘main’ did not bode well and I began to strain even harder against whatever bounds held us. “Don’t worry, you won’t remember a thing. This version of you will simply cease to exist. Observe!” The dagger twirled between his fingers before he suddenly gripped the hilt and plunged the blade deep into the man’s stomach. He let the blade remain in the man’s abdomen for a long few seconds, seemingly savoring the pain that I could see in his eyes, before thrusting the blade over and over again. I wanted to shout, to cry, to do anything but sit there and watch this man be murdered. With one last thrust and twist, F.A. yanked the blade out and the man dropped to the ground; if he was not dead before hitting the ground, he would be dead within moments.

“Oh, I forgot,” F.A. hissed as he watched the blood drip along the blade. “He isn’t a major player at all.” He turned back around and stalked back over to us and observed our faces. “Come off it,” he growled, his anger still boiling. “He’ll be alive again the moment I reset you, so don’t give me those looks. It’s all in good fun, really. I haven’t had a chance to enjoy myself in a long time.” His demented grin returned. “In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a reason to try resetting–” he turned his head slowly towards the woman“–her before.”

The robed bastard took slow, calculated steps toward the woman, the bloody dagger at the ready. I could feel my muscles strain harder and harder, my heart rate going through the roof.

He whispered something and then said, in a louder voice. “Are you a major player?” He made to raise the weapon, but a sudden, massive concussive force blasted him backwards, slamming his head against a tree, where he crumpled unceremoniously into a heap at its base.

From behind the tree emerged a tall, thin.. creature. He was part man and part other things. He seemed to grow taller and taller with every step that he took. His hair was wild and blew in an unseen wind and his eyes blazed with unbridled fury as he glared at the fallen man.

“Death is the very opposite of chaos, it’s stagnation!” the man-thing hissed. “You have made a very grave error.”