• Published 2nd Nov 2013
  • 8,289 Views, 346 Comments

Alienation - Longtooth

I am not Twilight Sparkle. We share one body, one past, but not our souls. I do not know why I am here, or why I have done these terrible things. This is my story.

  • ...

Marital Strife

Shining Armor was something I had never factored into my plans. I had, stupidly, assumed he would remain in the Crystal Empire where he had plenty to occupy his attention while I dealt with everything in Canterlot. He had a new wife,a new title and a new kingdom to go with it, why would he come back?

Well, obviously, because a gang war threatened to tear apart his home city. Twilight would have done the same thing. I probably wouldn't have, but I've got a better sense of responsibility than they do.

In any case, he was on his way, and I was woefully unprepared for his arrival. I was fooling Twilight's friends just fine, but Shining Armor was family, and as I'd shown with my parents, I wasn't so good at keeping up the act around family. They were just so... pushy. Worse yet, if Shining took over the guard in Canterlot he would bring to it all his experience, training and, most importantly, power. He could shield the entire city if he wanted to, and the least effect of that would be to make my little teleportation setup worthless.

No, I wasn't prepared for him, but Gale Force had given me enough forewarning that I was able to throw together a loose plan. Actually, I could see where having my brother in charge of the Guard would be a good thing. Celestia had denied me an opportunity to get into the inner workings of the Guard's efforts, but Shining would be easier to persuade. I'd wheedle my way into investigating myself yet!

Or, rather, I wouldn't. But at the time I didn't know exactly how bad it would get. How bad it's gotten. I was being optimistic, and for a while I even convinced myself that my optimism was true. More fool, I.

Shining Armor arrived at noon the next day. I'd gotten word through Spike that morning, and I'd consciously failed to gather all of Twilight's friends for the visit. I didn't need their antics distracting me from convincing Shining that I was the same little sister as always.

Spike was with me, though. He hadn't mentioned what he had written in his letter, but I could see it in his thoughts. In the way he watched me when he thought I wasn't looking and the way he was quieter than usual. I didn't bring it up either. I don't think either of us needed to. I almost wish I had.

The train pulled up, the doors opened, and all of a sudden there were Guards everywhere. Ponies, both crystal and regular flesh, were swarming across the tiny train station, checking over every nook and cranny. I stood in dumbfounded silence, reigning in my instinctual response, which would have left most of those guards broken and bleeding.

"Whoa," Spike said, watching the activity from his place at my side. "Major security."

"Ma'am," a unicorn guard said as he walked up to us, a magical sensor floating in front of him. "If you could hold still, this will just take a moment."

The sensor turned towards me, running it's detection magic over my body. I didn't know what they were looking for, but I didn't particularly want my nominal privacy invaded either. I sent a surreptitious jolt of magic into the device, causing it to spit sparks and burst into shards. The Guard stared in shock at the broken equipment. I gave him a smile that I hoped was more sheepish than wicked. "Oops."

"Stand down, soldier," Shining Armor called out as he finally exited the train.

"But sir!" the Guard protested. "She broke the magic scanner!"

Shining chuckled. "Twilight is the Element of Magic, soldier. There isn't a scanner made that can test her power."

"Actually..." I began, at least three magical rating devices that could properly judge my abilities coming to mind immediately. I was interrupted in what would have been a very suspicion-divertingly Twilight speech by another pony emerging from the train.

"Twilight!" she cried, rushing towards me with the fluffy pink inevitability of an oncoming train with a poor paint scheme. Cadance, the greatest foal-sitter who ever lived. Princess of the Crystal Empire, wife of Shining Armor, sister in law. If I was unprepared for Shining Armor, Cadance was a curve ball heading straight towards me from a game I wasn’t even playing. The sparkle in her too-pretty eyes alone could power a home for weeks. They were filled with such honest delight that I was overwhelmed with an anger that froze my limbs. She wasn’t really happy to see me. But I wanted her to be.

Heh. You’d think I would be beyond such petty reactions by this point. That I would have habituated myself to subsuming them under a false persona. But, no, I’ve never really been able to get the hang of it.

You might be wondering why I felt this way, why I was so angry that Cadance was seeing exactly who I wanted her to see instead of the real me. Well, to answer that I’ll have to go back to the fact that I have all of Twilight’s memories, including her time with the greatest foal-sitter ever. I remember Twilight's feelings as if they were my own, and every time I remember Cadance those emotions come to the fore.

There's a kind of deep-seated reaction that Cadance brings out in me. It's something rooted in her time as Twilight's foal-sitter, in that magical period before she was Celestia's student, before she had fully vanished into her studies. Cadance was a friend, I suppose, but she was something more too. It's more than that she was part of my childhood. My feelings for her are stronger than they are for Shining Armor or Twilight's parents.

Perhaps it is the fact that she's an Alicorn. Winged unicorn, whatever. Perhaps in my mind she has been twisted up with Celestia, and all the intensity of that relationship. I wouldn't be surprised. But I don't fear Cadance like I do Celestia. I don't think she wants to kill me.

No, what I feel when Cadance is around is jealousy. Not of her, but of Twilight. Of Twilight's relationship with her, that I can only imprecisely mimic. I can't have that kind of... closeness. I am doomed to be held at length, a mirage of someone she used to know.

It's strange, I know, but it's not the only thing I envy Twilight for. And it doesn't hurt nearly as much as her greater skill with magic. Oh, yes. Nothing else hurts that much.

All of this flashed through my head in the moments it took for her to run up to me. When she suddenly dropped low to the ground, I was so caught up in the shock of the moment that I almost forgot the ancient ritual of greeting that failure to observe had, not so long ago, started the outing of another impostor.

Fortunately, I did manage to remember myself in time.

"Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake," we said in rough tandem. The steps of the dance came easily to me, a fortunate side-effect of the persistence of muscle memory. "Clap your hooves and do a little shake!"

Cadance laughed with the childish glee of doing something that violated her refined image, and I managed a nervous giggle of my own. "Cadance!" I said, then paused because I had no idea what to continue with. A standard-issue Twilight response was soon available. "I can't believe you're here!" Ugh, what a non-statement. The ultimate placeholder, banal in every respect. Yet it was definitely what Twilight would have led with, and it worked like a charm.

"Princess Celestia thought it would be best if I saw what was going on first hand," Cadance said, her smile dropping away.

"What is going on?" I asked, keenly interested in exactly how much they would tell me.

"We don't really know yet," Shining Armor said, giving his wife a significant look. "But we were hoping you could help us, Twiley."

The look Cadance gave Shining back spoke of more than a little marital strife, but she didn't contradict him. "Of course I'll help. Any way I can," I assured them.

"We got a report that there was some kind of dangerous, unnatural storm that nearly hit Ponyville a few days ago," Shining said.

"The report also said that you single-hoofedly saved Ponyville," Cadance said. The emphasis was clear, but I couldn't quite parse the meaning behind it.

Shining, however, knew exactly what the subtext was and the frown on his face said volumes about how much he cared for it. "Yes, you're always willing to dive head first into any problems."

"It's a good thing you're so resourceful that you can handle anything," Cadance said. They were barely looking at me anymore, too intent on their little not-so-private spat.

"But you really should be relaxing," Shining Armor replied.

"Am I missing something here?" Spike asked, leaning over to whisper in my ear.

"You and me both," I assured him.

"I'm sure you would relax, if it didn't leave ponies in danger!" Cadance snapped.

"It's a good thing it's under control then!" Shining practically shouted back at her.

As funny as this was, an emotional eruption here could only delay getting the two of them out of my mane. So I took a gamble. "Is this about the gang war in Canterlot?"

They froze mid-shout, giving me a worried look. "You... you heard about that?" Shining Armor asked.

"I just spent two weeks there," I said. "And I read the papers. It's kind of hard to miss."

Cadance gave Shining Armor another pointed look and he sighed in defeat. "It's about that," he admitted. "I'm sorry about dancing about the topic, Twilight, but I didn't want you to worry."

"I wasn't worrying," I said, deciding to apply a bit of pressure. "But now I'm not so sure. What's so bad that you and Cadance are getting into an argument over it?" This time both of them wore guilty little frowns, hesitating for way too long. "It's because of me, isn't it?"

"It's not your fault, Twilight!" Cadance rushed to assure me. "It's just... well we heard about how you had... um..."

"A mental breakdown?" I supplied.

She smiled apologetically and nodded. "We're worried about putting any more on you when you're already recovering from that."

"Cadance thought you would feel better helping," Shining Armor said. "But you're my little sister and I don't want you getting involved in some of this stuff. Especially with a murderer on the loose."

"The vigilante," I said. "You're afraid she'll come after me if I help?"

"We don't know what she'll do," he said. "Or how far this is going to go. If it's serious enough for Princess Celestia to ask for Cadance and I to help, you can imagine how bad she thinks it might get."

"I do want to help," I said, as earnest as I could be without looking too gleefully eager.

"You can help," he said. "By making sure you and your friends are alright."

"I... what? Are my friends in danger?"

There was another shared silence. Spike, of course, jumped straight to the inevitable conclusion. "We're in danger!" he cried out, his eyes darting about as if he was going to spot an assassin creeping up on us right then and there, in the middle of a trainful of the Guard.

"No, no! Of course not," Shining said. I gave him an incredulous look and he caved. "Maybe?"

"What kind of danger?" I asked.

"Remember the unnatural weather?" Cadance asked.

"You think that was a targeted attack," I said.

"We don't know," Shining said. "But there's a good bet it could have been. The report said you pulled a black crystal from the heart of the attacking cloud. Do you still have it?" I nodded. "We brought an expert on crystal magic. I want him to take a look at what you found before we leave."

"You think whoever sent that cloud will send others?"

"We don't know, Twilight," Cadance said, shaking her head. "I wish we did, then we could put you at ease or let you get prepared. All we can say is that Princess Celestia has asked that you stay in Ponyville with the other bearers of the Elements of Harmony."

"The Elements," I repeated. "She's protecting her trump card."

While Cadance and shining Armor were clearly unhappy with that statement, neither argued it. "There's a dark power in Canterlot," Shining Armor said. "The Princesses have sensed it, and they said it was getting stronger. Princess Celestia said that if we can't stop it, the Elements might be the only thing that can."

"I see," I said. This, at least, told me that Celestia had recognized the black crystal for the threat it was, even if she didn't yet realize how it had to be fought. It was a baby step, but at least it was in the right direction. I let out a dramatic sigh. "Well, I still want to help. I can help with organizing patrols, or researching evidence, and I can do a real mean data-analysis!"

They chuckled at that. "Just take it easy, Twiley," Shining Armor said. "I'm not too proud to ask for my little sister's help when I need it, but let's wait until I actually need it, okay?"

I gave him a disappointed little nod. "Okay, I'll try to not worry about you now."

"I didn't want..." he began, but Cadance gave him a light smack with her wing. "I mean, thank you, Twilight."

"You're welcome. Now, I've got the crystal back at the library. I'll teleport ahead and get it ready. Spike, can you make sure they make it to the library without getting Pinkie Pie’d?"

"Oh, sure, give me the hard job," Spike snarked. "No promises."

"Do your best," I said, then teleported away without another word.