• Published 9th Nov 2013
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Adjacency - Frission

Obsessed with uncovering the magic responsible for creating the portal mirror she used to recover her crown, Twilight eventually manages to create a gateway to a series of worlds one step removed from her own.

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Chapter 6: The Next Step

The first thing they noticed was the fog. While it did happen once in a while, it was very unusual for Ponyville to be blanketed in a fog as thick as this one. The air was chill and damp, and the girls could barely see to the edge of the square as they stepped out of the statue. Thankfully, the fountain base of this world’s statue was empty.

It was also strangely dark. Twilight knew it should be well past noon, but the buildings she could see were bathed in a dim violet light, like they would be during her namesake time of day.

“Well, I’m glad we dressed warm, now. This world feels so inviting already,” remarked Trixie, looking around as she took a few steps away from the fountain.

Twilight had to agree with her there, quickly trotting over before she lost sight of her partner. “We’d better stay close together until the fog lifts. I don’t want us to lose track of each other out here.”

“That's probably a good idea. If we do get split up, let’s pick a place to meet later. The library?”

“I don’t know, we might not want to run into my other self…”

“So what if we do, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Twilight wasn’t sure how to answer that. They were reality hopping, not time travelling, so there was no need to worry about silly things like paradoxes, or any of that other world-destroying nonsense she’d read about in certain sci-fi novels. Or was there? “I don’t know... it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. Let’s use Sugarcube Corner as our meet-up place instead.”

“We could just meet at the statue,” remarked Trixie, raising a brow at stating what should have been the obvious choice.

Twilight shook her head after considering that for a moment. “We don’t need anypony nosing around the portal.”

Trixie looked around at the lack of anypony else nearby, but shrugged. “Fair enough, Sugarcube Corner it is then.”

The showmare resumed trotting forward at a steady pace, leading the pair in a circle around the town square. She looked around carefully, examining buildings and alleys, while making a disapproving humm now and then behind her mask.

“I’m not feeling anything from my pendant.” Trixie looked down, tapping the sapphire gem which was dangling from a silver chain around her neck with a hoof. “How are these things supposed to work, anyways?”

“Hmm…” Twilight’s horn faintly lit up under her hood, which hid both her horn and any outward signs of magic-use save for a faint violet glow falling upon her eyes. She tried to send what little magic she had to her own pendant in the hopes it would activate, but it failed to respond to her probing.

“I… huh. I don’t know.” Twilight frowned, though her mask hid the expression.

“Hmph, these magic detectors are defective! Where’s the manual? Trixie demands a refund!”

“What?!” Twilight yelped, incensed by the remark. “Trixie, this is experimental magic here, and even then they were made by Celestia and Luna themselves! There’s no way that they’re—” She stopped abruptly, noticing her companion was shaking with giggles. “—aaaand you’re messing with me, aren’t you?”

“Aheh, hee, sorry Sparkle. You are just too easy.” She grinned.

Twilight smirked, then allowed herself a small chuckle too. “Alright, alright. Well maybe we should head back for a minute, so I can send a letter asking for more details?”

“Nonsense! We spent all morning getting ready for this expedition. I sat through hours of measurements, and I paid far too much for this outfit. We may as well explore for a while first.”

“Well we can’t just wander around town square in the fog all day, then. We’d better get somewhere indoors eventually.”

”That reminds me, we should ask your friend to make sure these boots are waterproof. We got lucky with the fountain being dry this time.”

Twilight nodded, pausing to think back to a conversation she had with Rarity once, not long after they’d met. Curious about all kinds of magic, Twilight had inquired about the spells the fashionista used in her dressmaking.

‘Waterproofing a garment requires a simple spell’, Rarity had said, ‘but since it’s permanent, it’s hardly ever as practical as it sounds. After all, how would you wash it? Now, if I could create a spell to dirt-proof clothing, I would be a very rich mare indeed!’

She smiled to herself at the memory, remembering the weeks afterwards in which she’d tried to find a spell to do that very thing for her friend, without any luck. Now she took note that her outfit didn’t feel damp, despite the dense fog around them.

“I’m pretty sure they are already, but if not we can always ask her to fix that when we get back,” she announced as she came out of her reverie.

Twilight blinked when she didn’t hear a response, looking over her back to Trixie only to realize the mare was no longer in view. “Trixie? Where did you go?” she called, but heard nothing.

“Oh come on, I only got all introspective for a minute!” she grumbled, then sighed. “So much for not splitting up...”

Twilight had been wandering through the fog for a solid twenty minutes without seeing hide nor hair of Trixie. Her pendant had yet to trigger in any way either, and to make matters worse, the fog was only getting thicker.

Barely able to see ten feet in front of her, Twilight was completely lost now. She had been heading in the direction she expected Sugarcube Corner to be, but was sure she must have passed it by now. She walked toward a hazy building to bring it into focus, only to find herself in front of Cheerilee’s home, in the middle of the residential district.

“Oh horsefeathers…” she muttered, looking around in thought. ’Well, at least now I have some bearings. So... wow, I missed Sugarcube by a quarter mile...’

She set off again in what she hoped was the correct direction this time, musing to herself on just how barren the town felt on a day like this, with nopony out and about. Just as she was thinking this, she started to hear a pair of voices a ways ahead.

“C’mon, Octy!”

“Vinyl, I’ll be fine on my own. But you shouldn’t be out here in the middle of all this!”

Twilight slowed down as she approached, peeking around the corner of a building. Up ahead she could make out the forms of two ponies sitting on a bench, in the middle of a rather animated debate. Well, the white one was rather animated, while the grey one was remaining cool and collected.

“Like I’m going to let you go off on your own an’ get into trouble with a bunch of strange ponies? Pssh, no way!”

“Why Vinyl my dear, is that a hint of jealousy I detect?”

“No!” Vinyl looked away from her friend, and Twilight could tell she was blushing. “...maybe. So what?!”

Twilight edged a little closer, but stayed behind the cover of some nearby boxes. She didn’t want to interrupt, or let them know she’d been eavesdropping, but these were the first ponies she’d seen since arriving in this world. ’They might be able to give me some answers...’

Octavia gently nuzzled her companion, which seemed to calm her down considerably. “Vinyl, I know you’re worried about me, but it’s okay. I’m used to this now, I’ll be fine.”

“But Octy…” she sighed. “I guess so… I’m still not letting you feed off some random hussy before me, though.”

’Feed?’ thought Twilight, peeking out of her hiding place curiously.

Octavia chuckled warmly. “Very well, but just a sip. You’ve given enough this month as it is.” She smiled, as that earned her a peck on the cheek from her marefriend. What Twilight saw next shocked her senseless.

As Vinyl Scratch leaned in close, Octavia gently tilted her head aside with one forehoof while opening her mouth wide. Twilight saw the glint of a pair of long, sharp fangs just before they were buried into the side of Vinyl’s throat, eliciting a soft moan from the unicorn. As a few drops of blood began to trickle down the side of her neck, the vampony clamped down her muzzle to seal around the wound, drinking slowly.

Twilight’s mind raced in a combination of curiosity, confusion and panic. ’Okay, vamponies are real. That’s fascinating! Now get a grip and run away, Twilight!’

Suddenly the grey mare’s eyes snapped open, the normal lavender now a deep, glowing blood red. Her gazed locked directly on Twilight’s eyes, staring at her expressionlessly as she slowly continued to drink.

‘I sense the presence of an outsider…’ The musician’s eloquent voice rang out directly through Twilight’s mind, freezing the surprised alicorn to the spot. The only thing she could do was to stare, wide-eyed, at the mesmerizing gaze boring into her own.

After a few more minutes Octavia licked her companion’s neck a few times, and then gently laid the now unconscious Vinyl down on the bench. Even from where she stood, Twilight could see the unicorn’s neck was no longer bleeding. The two telltale puncture marks were already mostly hidden under her wet and matted coat.

Twilight shook her head as the eye contact broke, still dazed from the experience. However, just when she finally regained the presence of mind to try to scream or run, Octavia appeared in front of her in a flash, those glowing eyes rooting her to the spot again. It had been such a sudden burst of movement that the princess couldn’t even track it. Twilight reeled instinctively, her wings flaring wide while one forehoof curled protectively in front of her chest.

“You are not from here, but you feel familiar somehow… Hmm, but you’re not one of us.”

Gone was the normally reserved mare’s usual poised and proper demeanor; This Octavia stalked slowly around her like a hungry predator. Those entrancing red eyes remained locked on hers, and her body hunched low with feline grace as she moved, as though ready to pounce at any moment.

“U-uh, I…” Twilight stammered, her mind felt as numb as her body.

“You chose an interesting day to visit Ponyville. Are you not aware of the Day of the Hunt? No, I can tell. You’re frightened.” Octavia finished a full circle around Twilight and stopped in front of her, staring straight into her eyes, then letting her gaze drift towards Twilight’s neck.

“Perhaps the stranger would like to make an offering? The hunt is about sharing, after all…”

Still speechless, Twilight couldn’t manage to form the words to say no. The academic portion of her mind wasn’t sure she wanted to, either. Firsthand experience with a vampony, she’d never read anything about it other than in fantasy novels, never in a proper scientific account. On the other hand, every other, rational part of her mind was screaming. She felt her scarf and mask being tugged away by the young vampire, and just when she was sure she was about to feel her neck pierced, instead she heard a shocked gasp.

“P-Princess Twilight?! Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize it was you! P-please, forgive me! Oh I’m so sorry! Please don’t kick me out of the orchestraaaa!” wailed Octavia, cowering and prostrating herself before her.

Twilight snapped back to her senses, looking at the sight before her in bewilderment. “Buh?”

Trixie vaguely registered a part of her mind telling her she should feel bad about wandering off on her own, that this was a bad idea, but she ignored it. Rather, she couldn't muster the willpower to heed its advice at all. Something was drawing her away, tugging at her consciousness and begging her to follow its lead. Faintly, she could hear her friend calling her name in the distance behind, but she couldn't even send enough control to her mouth to respond.

She had felt this something tugging at the corners of her mind while talking with Twilight, but for the life of her she couldn't recall what the conversation was about anymore. Soon the sound of her companion’s voice had tuned out into wordless droning, and she’d felt her eyes glaze over; Even her own voice had sounded distant. Her body had turned itself towards the source of the pull and started walking, which quickly sped up to a brisk trot.

Whatever it was also seemed to have an affect on her pendant, sending a warmth radiating through her chest from where the gem lay against it. ‘Perhaps this is how the pendant works?’ spoke up the analytical center of her mind. But that thought was rather frightening at the moment: It was like her body had been put on autopilot, mindlessly following this ‘voice’ to its source. Then another thought occurred to her. ‘Why wasn’t Twilight affected as well? If this is my mote calling me, does it mean they’re separated?’

Just before she turned a corner, Trixie momentarily caught her reflection in a store window, the disturbing sight leaving her with even more questions than she had answers for. Her eyes were glowing and pupilless, her glazed irises matching the same deep blue color of the glowing gem resting against her chest.

She recognized the direction she was moving in, now. The huts and structures of Ponyville were fading into the background, becoming fewer and far between. She was reaching the edge of the fog as well, and the sight of dark, wild growth and trees as thick as a jungle confirmed her fears. The Everfree Forest loomed ahead, its dark shadows yielding promises of monsters both imaginary and real. And yet, she was compelled to continue.

Trixie trudged through the dense underbrush of the forest’s border and strode into the darkness, the dense canopy of trees blotting out most of the light from the mid-afternoon sun. ‘Or maybe it’s later?’, she thought. With her peripheral vision, she had noticed the sky was an odd violet hue rather than blue, suggesting it was somehow nearly dusk already. ’That makes no sense, it was just past one when we got here...’

Nettles tangled around her boots at times, and small branches slapped and stung against her body as she moved uncontrollably forward, though thankfully neither really registered as more than slightly uncomfortable. It seemed that her expensive outfit was faring well against the forest’s thick brush, cushioning what would normally have been a painful experience.

At last a clearing opened up before her, marking the south bank of the river that bisected the forest. A huge rock face formed a small cliff in front of the river, with a gentle slope leading up from where she had emerged. As she began to ascend she could feel her senses slowly returning to her. Her body was becoming hers to control again, a little at a time, and she somehow knew her destination was upon her.

Her heart pounded in her chest, fear building up as she climbed higher and higher, still unable to will her legs to stop moving. Just as she reached the top of the cliff, terrified she was about to put the next hoof right over the edge, she was able to halt. Fifty feet below her she could see the river flowing past, nowhere near deep enough to cushion a fall from this height. Looking down, she noticed the glow from her gem intensify to almost blinding levels, forcing her to look back up.

That’s when she saw it. A glowing blue mote of energy drifted towards her from the other side of the river bank. She could feel the magic already connecting between it and her body, warmth flowing through every cell in her being as the mote made a beeline for her horn. As it connected at last, memories washed over her: Her parents on Hearth Warming Eve, telling her how much they loved her. Being seen off on her first day of school. The wonderful feeling she got the first time she ever performed a magic trick for her schoolmates. Love, pure and unbridled, flowing through her soul.

A spark encircled and rose from her horn, and for the first time since all this began, a single magical firework shot up into the sky, bursting in a brilliant blue halo of light. Overjoyed, Trixie’s eyes followed it upwards, but what she saw after it faded sent her into shock all over again.

The sun, hanging high in the sky. The violet sun. It looked like a twisted, nightmare image of its normal self, with black streaks emanating from its corona into the sky around it. Yet it was beautiful in its own way, casting a breathtaking purple-pink light upon the land. It looked almost as though the sun was eclipsed by a translucent celestial body. She realized she could even look upon the sun itself without having to shield her eyes, allowing her to see the mesmerizing dance of the orb’s internal fire across its surface.

Then she felt something impact the back of her head, and everything went black.

Exploration log of Twilight Sparkle and Trixie Lulamoon.

First Entry. June 11, 1002 CR
Coordinates: AR Orion Epsilon

There is a lot to say, but I should start with the immediate facts. This world is currently shrouded in a dense fog, and despite the time of day allegedly matching up with our own, the sunlight is much dimmer than ours. Whether that’s a result of the fog or not, I cannot currently say. I haven’t seen many ponies outdoors, but I suppose that’s to be expected considering the weather.

Unfortunately, Trixie and I got split up almost immediately upon arrival. We had the foresight to establish a meetup location if this should happen, deciding on Sugarcube Corner. We chose this location because the Library would have a high chance of an encounter with my alternate self. Whether there would be negative repercussions of such an incident, I cannot say.

My new companion, Octavia, informs me that the fog is temporary, put into place once a month for an event known as the ‘Day of the Hunt’. It’s a local tradition unique to Ponyville in this world, she tells me, in which volunteer ‘donors’ venture through the town to allow its few vampony residents to hunt them down and feed. Apparently, while most have a regular blood donor, being able to feed on multiple ponies once a month, in a more natural way, allows them to vent their predatory nature, keeping their minds safely grounded against their darker instincts.

I can’t believe I just put those words to paper. That’s right, in this world vamponies are real! I can confirm these facts firsthand as Octavia is one herself, and nearly bit me when I encountered her. She probably would have, too, if she hadn’t recognized me as a princess. It appears my other self still is one in this world. I’ll ponder the implications of that later.

They’re a fascinating species, or subspecies of pony. If I have time, I’ll conduct a full report on them. Or perhaps I can find one that’s already been written, and borrow it for study before we leave? According to my companion, they’ve been a known part of public society for centuries now, so somepony must have conducted appropriate research.

Though willing to answer, it’s clear Octavia finds my questions strange, as I should be well aware of these facts already. In fact, my counterpart from this world had a personal hoof in establishing this traditional hunt, and I feel some measure of pride in discovering that there have been no severe vampire-related injuries since its inception. Still, in light of these facts, I worry for Trixie’s safety.

Twilight looked up from the scroll levitating in front of her and rolled it up, tucking it away as she walked into Sugarcube Corner at last. A groggy and barely-conscious Vinyl Scratch lay sprawled out between her wings. Octavia followed just behind, helping Twilight set Vinyl down onto one of the many cots set up in the room.

The bakery had been specially set up as a recovery center for the victims of today’s event. Nurse Redheart was there, checking up on several groggy patients, and nodded in welcome to the two as they dropped off Vinyl. Pinkie Pie was helping out as well, bouncing between the cots and passing out cookies and juice to get the drained ponies back on their feet.

Octavia smiled warmly as she looked around the room, then turned her attention back to Twilight. “Thank you, pri—” she began, but was interrupted by Twilight putting up a hoof with a shake of her head. “—ah, right. Thank you for being so understanding with me, and for helping bring her here. You didn’t have to do any of that, and I appreciate it greatly.”

Twilight nodded, turning to her companion and pulling her mask down conspiratorily, so just Octavia could see her return the smile. “I’m happy to help. And don’t worry, sure it was a little scary at first, but I think I understand. Just try not to make a habit of greeting out-of-town ponies like that, please?”

Octavia blushed, pinning back her ears and nodding. “Right, sorry again, I was kind of caught up in my instincts… I’ve only been like this for a few years, it’s still hard for me to control.”

“Really? I’d love to hear about it sometime!” Twilight started excitedly, but her excitement was tempered when she saw her suggestion made her friend flinch. “...Ah, well, if it’s not too soft a subject that is.”

“It’s quite alright, perhaps another time. For now I must beg my leave, I’m burning daylight, as the saying goes.” Octavia smiled awkwardly, glancing over Twilight’s shoulder at Vinyl, as the princess was putting her mask back into place. “Keep her out of trouble, if you could?”

Twilight nodded. “I’ll try. Oh, if you see Trixie while you’re out there, can you help her find her way back here? We got split up almost as soon as we arrived.”

Octavia, who had already turned to walk out the door, halted in her tracks, her body unnaturally ceasing its motion mid-stride. “Did you say Trixie? As in, Trixie Lulamoon? You brought her. Here?

An icy ball formed in the pit of Twilight’s stomach, and she gulped worriedly as thoughts of the reputation of her friend’s counterpart began to play through her head. “...How bad is it?”

Octavia leveled a stern, yet terrified look into Twilight’s eyes. “There are ponies here who want her dead.

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