• Published 4th Mar 2012
  • 3,466 Views, 95 Comments

Darkness' Embrace - Tricondon

Twilight has to save Equestria before time runs out.

  • ...

Taking Sides

Chapter 7

Taking Sides

Twilight ran into her room, slamming the door shut. With a despondent cry, she flung herself on the bed, burying her head in her pillow. A few minutes passed as she sobbed, muffled by the soft down of her pillow. Eventually, she found she had no tears left, and she looked up from her pillow. Twilight crawled along the bed, wrapping her hooves around her stuffed doll, Smarty Pants.

“Oh, Smarty, it’s not fair! I studied so hard! You helped me, too!” the young filly wailed.

“Is everything ok, Twilie?” A small gasp escaped Twilight’s mouth as she turned to the smiling face of Shining Armour. Her ears flattened against her head as she turned back, too ashamed to face her brother. Another gasp escaped her as she felt Shining’s hoof gently rubbing her back. “Hey now, little sis. What’s wrong?” Concern filled his voice, and Twilight felt more tears stinging her eyes.

“I...I failed the test!” Somehow, she had found her voice. “I was supposed to hatch an egg, but I couldn’t! No matter how hard I focused, it wouldn’t hatch! It just wouldn’t hatch!” She managed to choke out around sobs. “I didn’t get in! I’m not gifted enough!” Her voice got higher and higher, reaching octaves normally reserved for opera singers.

Twilight felt Shining pull her closer, embracing her in a tight hug. She sniffled, burying her head into his chest. The two siblings lay on the bed for a time, Twilight still sobbing into her brother’s fur.

Eventually, Twilight pushed her brother away, wiping a few errant tears from her cheeks.

“What am I going to do now?”

“I don’t know. But whatever you choose, I’ll be there to help you through it.” His ear flicked, and he turned to look at the door. “Mom’s calling. Dinner’s ready.” Shining climbed off the bed and started to walk out. He paused in the doorway, turning to look back. “You sure you’re okay, Twilie? I’m always here if you need it.”

Twilight merely nodded, only half-listening anyways. Satisfied with this, Shining left. Twilight listened to the clopping of his hooves as he walked downstairs. She gripped Smarty Pants again, resting her head against the dolls’ and looked out the window.

“Always here...” She murmured softly.

Twilight groaned as she rolled out of bed. With a yawn, she rubbed her head, looking around the dim room. She furrowed her brow, wondering why there was no light streaming in; she could have woken up before Celestia raised the sun, or perhaps the Pegasi had planned for a thunderstorm today, or maybe Spike had simply drawn the blinds shut. Shaking her head, Twilight turned to walk down the steps; even if she couldn’t see them, she knew her own house well enough to be able to find them in pitch-black darkness. Seven steps from the foot of her bed, or roughly one-and-one-third-pony-lengths then turn to the right and watch for the first stair. Sleep still bogging down her mind, Twilight counted out her steps, only to stop abruptly at four when her nose smashed into a wall; a wall that should still be four steps away.

Twilight unceremoniously fell backwards onto her rump, her mind reeling in bewilderment. She rubbed her nose gingerly; it hurt, but didn’t seem damaged otherwise. She blinked again and again, but this did nothing to brighten the room up any. Sighing at her own foolishness, Twilight snorted, lighting her horn to better see in the darkness.

At least, she tried. An all-too-familiar jolt of electricity coursed through her body, and the Unicorn was brought to her knees once more, crying out in pain. She ceased trying to light her horn, and the torrent of power ceased. All at once, memories of what had transpired the day before came rushing back to her, memories that she had hoped just seconds earlier were merely the result of a terrible nightmare.

Images of Pinkie, Ditzy, and even Fluttershy’s grave flashed through Twilight’s mind, and she blinked away a few tears, feeling the warm liquid running down her muzzle. She shook her head, trying to sort her cluttered thoughts, but only came up more confused – and slightly dizzy.

How could Fluttershy be dead? Why isn’t Pinkie happy? When did Rarity go blind? What happened to Ponyville? The questions raced through Twilight’s mind, taunting her with their unsolved mysteries. One particular annoying thought kept bubbling to the top of her mind, despite her best efforts to ignore it: Did I really do it? Is it all my fault?

The sound of hoofsteps and hushed voices caught her attention, and Twilight swiveled her head, pushing the unsolved questions to the back of her mind for now. She vaguely recalled a door somewhere, and inched towards the wall. She kept herself rubbing against the wall as she walked along its length, searching for the door. As she neared it, the voices became clearer.

“…my dear Pinkamena, I already told you, she’s of no threat to us.”

“And I told you, I don’t see any reason to trust her implicitly just yet. I’m not putting this entire community at risk on one Unicorn’s word. The necklace stays on, and that’s final.” Pinkie – No, Pinkamena, Twilight chastised herself – snorted and slammed her hoof on the ground. “I give you far too much leeway as it is already, Lady Rarity. I’m not budging on this issue unless you can prove that that Unicorn we picked up is not the same Twilight Sparkle we’re fighting.”

To her surprise, the door in front of Twilight swung open quite suddenly, an irate Pinkamena standing on the other side. She glared at Twilight quite fiercely.

“Enjoying the conversation? It isn’t polite to eavesdrop, you know.”

Twilight shrank back from this slanted version of the Pinkie she knew so well from Ponyville; there was clearly anger in her eyes, something which Twilight couldn’t remember seeing Pinkie ever express, save for that time Discord influenced her. A thought struck Twilight, yet as she tried to think on it further the pushy pink pony stepped closer, bringing her nose to meet Twilights, nearly touching.

“It’s common courtesy to answer when asked a question.”

Twilight nervously took a step back, pulling herself away from the irate pony.

“Uh, I…sorry. I didn’t mean to…I was just…” Twilight stammered, unable to think straight.

A grey Pegasus stepped between the two of them, and it took Twilight a few moments to recognize Ditzy; the grey mailmare had never looked so stern before, not even when reprimanding her daughter. Twilight vaguely recalled being led around yesterday by a grey Pegasus, but couldn’t recall being introduced to her.

“Captain, please. Don’t torment the mare. She’s had a rough couple of days.”

Pinkamena glared at her underling, and Twilight thought for a few minutes the two might come to blows.

Eventually, finally, the two officers backed away from each other, Ditzy nudging Twilight back into the bedroom. Pinkamena turned her back on her Commander, heading for the door.

“Fine, enlist her if you must. But the necklace stays on.” The captain paused at the door, glancing backwards. “And she’s your responsibility, Commander. You’re liable for anything she does.” With that, the pink pony trotted out, slamming the door behind her.

No one in the hut dared to speak for a time, until finally Rarity broke the uneasy silence.

“Well, dearie, I had hoped to give you your magic back, but it seems our dear Captain Pie would rather you be an Earth Pony for a little longer.” Her voice was light and airy, as if she were trying to diffuse the whole situation by herself. Twilight could only stare ahead blankly; the necklace bouncing against her chest suddenly felt like a hundred tonnes.

“Don’t feel so bad, dearie,” Rarity continued. “Just try to stay out of trouble, and I’m sure dear Pinkamena would allow me to remove that ghastly hex on you quick as can be.” Rarity laughed, a tinkling sort-of-giggle that made Twilight uneasy, though exactly why she couldn’t say. Ditzy walked up to Rarity, her head hung low.

“I appreciate your coming over here, Lady Rarity, but as I said, the Captain is not one to change her mind quickly.”

Rarity nodded sagely, closing her eyes, lost in her own thoughts.

“Yes, I know, Miss Ditzy. Pinkamena was never all that sociable before this horrid war began anyways. I shouldn’t think being forced to fight would make her more approachable.” The white mare sighed dejectedly. The room fell eerily quiet again, and although Twilight had a thousand questions she wanted to ask, she found herself unable to speak.

The silence was broken once more, this time by Ditzy clearing her throat.

“Well, I have taken up enough of your time as it is, Lady Rarity. I am sorry to have called you over here for nothing.”

“Oh, think nothing of it. I am quite pleased to see Twilight again. Glad to see you out of bed, dearie. You slept for nearly fourteen hours, you realize? We were getting quite worried about you, Miss Ditzy and I.” Rarity smiled at Twilight, and again a sense of queasiness made the lavender Unicorn shudder. “Well, I should be getting back to my duties. Ta-ta for now, dearies!” And with that, Rarity turned and trotted out, leaving Twilight alone with Ditzy.

“Well, Miss Sparkle, was it?” Ditzy asked as she turned to face Twilight. At her nod, Ditzy continued, “Well, I don’t mind taking care of you for another few days, but eventually you’re going to have to earn your meals.” Twilight must have looked confused or frightened, since Ditzy’s hardened features softened and she spoke a little gentler. “Nothing comes for free, you realize. I’m sure we can get you a job, once we figure out something you’re good at.”

“M…magic. I’m good at magic.”

Ditzy shook her head sadly.

“That necklace makes you functionally identical to an Earth Pony, Miss Sparkle. Although, I do admit, having another Unicorn around to help Lady Rarity with her enchantments would be a boon to us.” Ditzy said. “Now, as for what you can do right now…”

The wall-eyed Pegasus began eyeing Twilight, walking around her slowly and making soft ‘hmm’ sounds to herself.

“Slender body, dainty hooves…you have the look of a scholar about you, not a warrior.” It was a statement, not a question. Still, Ditzy was staring straight at Twilight, as if she expected an answer regardless.

“Uh, yes. I’m the…” Twilight stopped, wondering what she should say. Everypony here seemed to hate her, or at least another pony with her name. Still, even if Rarity knew her, no one else seemed to recognize her as anyone other than the destroyer of Ponyville. Even so, Ditzy was waiting for an answer.

“I’m a researcher. I study old and new spells and try to integrate them into daily living.” Twilight said, a hint of pride in her voice. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Twilight heard Applejack’s voice chiding her, Twilight, a lie of omission is still a lie.

Ditzy shook her head.

“Like I said, Captain Pie won’t let you take off your inhibitor. As a Unicorn, you’re fairly useless to us.” The words stung Twilight, and Ditzy, realizing her harsh tone, frowned. “I didn’t mean it like that. I meant, without your spells, you aren’t much help, are you?” Twilight shook her head, partly in answer, partly to try to get rid of the tears welling up in her eyes.

“OK, then, that settles it. Our only chance is to teach you to fight.” Twilight looked up at Ditzy, a strange smile on her face. “I mean it. You can’t loaf around waiting for Captain Pie to change her mind, and unless you start proving your loyalty, she’s not likely to anytime soon. I figure the best way to make friends with her is to show that you’re willing to fight for our cause.”

With this, Ditzy walked over to the table, motioning for Twilight to follow. As she neared, Ditzy swept her hoof over the table, knocking all the papers and folders onto the floor. Twilight’s eye twitched, a little miffed that the Pegasus would make such a mess of the room. Ditzy picked up a number of papers off the floor with her mouth, setting them back on the table.

“Here, I’ll sign you up for basic training. We’ll teach you the basics of fighting; swordplay, guarding, evasion, all of it.” She looked up. “Of course, without your magic, you’ll have to learn with the Earth Ponies. They have different lessons from the Pegasus recruits, after all. Flight adds a new level to one’s fighting techniques. But it isn’t always an advantage…” Ditzy’s voice trailed off as she glanced down, staring at her hooves for a time.

“Swords? How am I supposed to use a sword?” Twilight asked.

“With your mouth, just like Earth Ponies do. I know you Unicorns are used to using your magic for everything, but that won’t be an option for you for a while.” Or ever again, the cynical part of Twilight’s mind suggested, finishing Ditzy’s sentence.

Twilight brought a hoof up, rubbing the amulet hung around her neck. It hummed under her touch, and she reluctantly pulled her hoof away. No doubt it would shock me again if I tried taking it off.

Twilight sighed, turning her thoughts in another direction. Some mare out there was using her name, frightening all these other ponies, killing anyone who crossed her. Without her magic, Twilight couldn’t hope to stand against any opponent as she was now. Ditzy was right; she was a scholar, not a fighter. An image of Fluttershy forced its way into Twilight’s mind, and she blinked away a tear. She thought back to the previous day, finding Fluttershy’s statue, and felt her features harden. With a determined grunt, Twilight looked up, staring Ditzy in the eye.

“I’m in.”