• Published 13th Mar 2012
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Inner Glory - Erindor


A utopian society cannot exist without the corpses of the revolutionaries.

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Chapter 45: The Mirror Cracks
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Chapter 45: The Mirror Cracks

Twilight's eyes flew open. She righted herself immediately, trying to get her bearings. She seemed to be in an endless void, filled with gray mist. She had been here before. It was the Natural Plane, home to the oracle Bright Eyes. But what was she doing here?

With a start, she remembered what had happened just before she got here. She looked over herself in panic. To her relief and confusion, she was perfectly whole. Not even a droplet of blood remained to testify of her struggle. She stood for a moment, then began walking in an arbitrary direction. There wasn't much else to do.

As she walked, her thoughts turned to her friends. Where were they? Had her sacrifice meant anything? Or were they now captured by the changelings? Twilight shuddered at the thought of dying over and over again. Dying was like throwing up, she decided. The actual event was a relief, but the leading moments weren't particularly fun. If she could, she'd like to avoid experiencing it again for as long as possible.

A shape appeared in the distance. As she neared, Twilight realized it was Bright Eyes herself.

“Bright Eyes! It's only been a couple of weeks, but it feels like a year.”

“The true passage of time often goes unnoticed wen you're distracted by your work. Good to see you in person again, Twilight Sparkle.”

“If you don't mind me asking, why am I back here all of a sudden?”

“Because you've died. This is the afterlife.”

Twilight looked around slowly, taking in the featureless expanse. “Really? All this nothing?”

“It appears like nothing to the mortal eyes, but tucked away between the very gaps of reality lie endless worlds. This plane is the beginning and end of all existence. All of time, every event and life is somewhere here, if you know how to look. You do not know how to see because you've experienced a false death. Until the worlds are merged, all are doomed to this fate of, as you call it, nothing.”

Twilight frowned. “But then... how many are trapped here?”

“Millions. It's not as bad as it could be, however. The light personalities have been granted unnaturally long lives due to their living conditions, and of course, until the light personality dies, the dark personality has pseudo-immortality. Reproduction rates were slowed as one world focused on experiencing life slowly and calmly and the other had no choice but to experience it a hurried, yet just as lengthy manner. Regardless, the natural course must be restored, as terrible as it sounds.”

“It does sound pretty bad. If we merge the worlds, everybody will feel pain.”

“But how much greater the joy, because of it.”

“Pardon?”

“Twilight, have you ever felt closer to your friends than in your time here?”

Twilight chewed on the thought for a moment. “No. I haven't.”

“Your shared trials have made you far stronger than you could have ever hoped to be before, haven't they?”

“Yes, they have.”

“Why deny the opportunity to others? Without pain, your joy is muted, if not silenced entirely, because you have nothing to compare it to. Furthermore, you have no reason to strengthen yourself, because nothing is challenging you.”

“Well, if you're right, why did Celestia split the worlds?”

“Perhaps she didn't have the perspective at the time.” Bright Eyes smiled softly. “Don't get me wrong. The natural, unadulterated course of life is challenging, and at times, oppressive. She was justified in her mind. She was saving them all from the pain she was feeling. But after a certain point, you have to stop acting in other's interest, and let the act for themselves.”

She turned and beckoned with a crane of her neck. “Come, walk with me.”

Twilight complied, running the short distance to catch up quickly. “What of the dark personalities? The signs point to the fact that we'll have to merge with them.”

“Take faith, Twilight. You are not exactly splicing yourself with a different person. Lustrous Revolt is, at the core, a kind-hearted bookish unicorn with a lust for discovery. She's simply lived a life that forced her to be cruel for her own survival. Do not think of it as sharing your brain with another person. Think of it as taking on new memories, for that's essentially all that it is. We base our actions on our past, and our hope for the future. Lustrous Revolt is not inherently evil; had you been switched at birth, she likely would have grown up much as you have; wanting nothing more than to please her parents, her teacher, and her friends. If you can reconcile with her, you will have found an ally of unparalleled support. For there is no better friend than yourself.”

Out of the mist rose a familiar object. It was the mirror that had allowed Twilight and her friends to arrive in the Forgotten Realm in the first place. Something about it had changed, however.

“Tell me, Twilight. What's different about this mirror?”

“It's been cracked.” Twilight's brow knit up in consternation. The mirror looked like it had been dropped from the top of a building, yet somehow remained in its frame. She was afraid that if she touched it, it would fall apart instantly.

“Yes, indeed. Your actions in the Forgotten Realm are taking their toll on the separation between the worlds. Intentionally or not, you've already begun to merge them with your actions of compassion and understanding. At this point, you are correct. A simple push is all it would take for the pieces to come tumbling down.”

“So why show me this?”

“Simply to make you aware. You have a choice to make, Twilight. Will you allow the mirror to shatter, pick up the pieces, and make something even more beautiful, or will you repair the cracks, though it could never be as whole as it once was?”

“Which would you choose?”

“Come now, that's cheating, asking a prophet their opinion.”

“No, really.”

Bright Eyes seemed taken back. “Well... I honestly am not sure. I see how the events will turn out no matter what path is taken. That makes making choices easy. Were I in your place, I would be afraid of the future of a world of light and dark. I don't know if I would have the willpower to take that leap of faith. The brutal truth is that merging the worlds will corrupt Equestria. But simultaneously, it will uplift a world of equal weight and merit, and furthermore, unlock so many wonderful opportunities. Technologies will advance, factions will rise and fall, but most importantly, the race will progress. Some will fall by the wayside. That is the simple truth in a world that is not black and white, but many shades of gray. But so many more will live a fulfilled life, and they'll be able to pass on a legacy to their children, one that makes life worth living.”

Bright Eyes began shedding her aura of neutrality, her voice rising with excitement, her wings fluttering, her intelligent, golden eyes gleaming joyfully. “Twilight, it's the biggest opportunity I've ever seen. So many future paths lead to such wonderful things. There will be villains, yes, but so many more heroes! Anger and hatred, yes, but so much compassion and bliss! Death, yes! But life! A reason to live!

“Twilight, it's your choice, and I've already said more than I'm supposed to. But understand that good things will come from your actions. No matter how cruel the world becomes, or how pointless your efforts may appear, remember that you have changed lives. And that is never worthless.”

Bright Eyes cleared her throat. “As much as I like to pretend, Twilight, I am not the master of this dimension. I am simply a servant. As you have been killed, you must wait for the midnight rebirth. You are welcome to do as you like until then. I cannot grant you time-sight, but if you'd like to observe current events, you may do so by concentrating on the place or the person. You be will be allowed to see what you desire, but you cannot interact, and if you do not know the place or the person, you will not be able to lock on. Now, I apologize, but I fear I must leave. If nothing else, my continued presence will influence you in ways that will the decision not yours, but the foolish hopes of my heart.”

“Thank you, Bright Eyes.”

“Of course. Good luck, my friend.”

She began away into the mist. Twilight had a sudden thought, and called out before she disappeared.

“Bright Eyes!”

“Hm?”

“What will become of you if the worlds merge?”

Bright Eyes froze. She turned to Twilight slowly, carefully, trying to remain composed, but Twilight could see the fear in her eyes, and the slight tremble in her legs.

“O-oh. Don't worry about that. I... don't worry about me. I'll be fine.”

She ducked and nodded quickly, then turned and ran off. Twilight ran to stop her, but she had already been lost to the void. Twilight looked to where the oracle had been standing. There was a small puddle of water. Tears.

{- - -}

Many hours later, Twilight had exhausted her ideas for the viewport. She had checked up on all her friends, who had died as well, it seemed. Each of them was in the same misty expanse, and when Twilight had spied on Rarity, she saw her talking to Bright Eyes as well. Spike was alive and well, it seemed, but for the ten minutes she watched him, he was pacing in a bedroom of some sort. She couldn't change the angle as she didn't know the place, but it comforted her that he was alright. She had then looked at each of the reflections, who had died as well. They seemed much less fascinated by the process than Twilight was. Most looked bored or annoyed, and a couple were simply sleeping.

Pinkie was a special case. When Twilight had scryed her, she was shocked to see that it wasn't just Pinkie or Pinkamina, but both. There they were, two separate entities, chatting quietly about something. They were harder to distinguish than they had been before, Twilight realized. Pinkamina's dark coat had grown lighter, and Pinkie's, darker. Their manes had likewise creeped towards the middle-ground between curled and bouncy and straight and heavy. So too had their countenances shifted. Pinkamina actually smiled and laughed occasionally, and Pinkie could sit and listen for minutes on end without feeling the need to interrupt. They were like well synchronized twins.

Twilight smiled at thought of how twins must work in the Forgotten Realm. A reflection for each of them, of course. Two pairs of closely-bonded ponies.

Twilight had an epiphany. She could use the viewport tactically. She could technically do the same in the normal world with a scrying spell, but she had been so distracted by other things, she had never had the chance.

She focused on Luna, remembering everything she could recall about her. The viewport morphed to reflect her thoughts. Once again, the viewport was locked on the subject, as she didn't know the place where she was, but Twilight sighed in relief. Luna was okay, so the Metaspectre had been keeping his promise. It was odd, though. Luna was wearing some kind of battle armor. It was more practical for combat than Nightmare Moon's minimalistic armor had been, but that only made Twilight more confused. Was Luna getting ready to fight somebody?

Luna was talking, but Twilight couldn't see who she was talking to. Twilight quickly became bored, so she focused on the Metaspectre next. The ambiguous background didn't change much, so he must have been near Luna. Twilight couldn't tell if it was speaking, though, since its mouth didn't move.

So far, it seemed like the subjects of her spying didn't know they were being spied on. The Metaspectre, however, turned to look directly at Twilight, staring into her eyes despite the physical disconnect. She got lost in the flickering flames of his eyes for a moment, before she realized how uncomfortable she felt. She cleared the viewport to avoid his gaze.

She turned her attention to Gilda. Gilda was flying somewhere, and Twilight caught glimpses of other griffons in the air. Not too much going on.

Out of boredom, she checked up on the bartender that had introduced them to Spectral Slash, what seemed so long ago.

He was out in a snow-covered field somewhere, talking with other ponies. Most of them were armed, and it looked like the group was listening to a few fully-armored ponies. Some sort of military excursion, she surmised.

Ah, Seren. Twilight focused on the Moon Pool. The lake was as large and dark as it had always been. But something had changed. There were four hovering energy balls twinkling above the surface, in the approximate middle of the lake.

Twilight's eyes widened in wonder and horror. She remembered what he had said so long ago, when she had been pulled into his domain.

”As Revolt was able to surmise, I released the four stars that you saw in Reality. In doing so, I lost almost all of my power, but it was a sacrifice that I was willing to make. It had some unforeseen consequences, however. The four energies were tied to the four strongest Atrocities, and my abandonment of them threw them abroad. Four ideas that you're beginning to understand. Famine. War. Plague. Death. Bringing them back to me would be beneficial for all, as a matter of fact. By restraining them once more, you'll end up saving this realm from its troubles. But to have any control over them, you'll have to experience them for yourselves.”

Twilight grimaced. It seemed they had inadvertently restored Seren's power. Thankfully, he wasn't, or likely couldn't, use it just yet, but by the size of energy orbs, quite a lot of power was contained in them. Likely a good deal more than the Metaspectre's crystal. She could only hope he wasn't planning to do anything evil with them, but Twilight knew it was an empty hope. How would Celestia react to this?

Twilight blinked. She hadn't thought to look at Celestia. How foolish of her.

She focused once more, and the viewport changed to Celestia's bed chambers. Twilight had only been here once or twice during her studies under the sun goddess. There were other places to study, and if they needed something from it, a servant was only a call away.

Thankfully, seeing it only once or twice was enough to give the viewport mobility. Celestia was bent over some papers, writing furiously with a quill. Her normally awe-inspiring mane was tangled and frayed, and while it maintained its flowing quality, it seemed Celestia had been neglecting appearances for something more important. Twilight moved the viewport until it was hanging over Celestia's shoulder, so she could see the papers.

Twilight skimmed over the papers, only to sit back for a moment and then return with scrutinizing care. The papers depicted some sort of magic Twilight had only seen rudimentary versions of before. A mind-wipe spell. The effects were only temporary, length based on the energy poured into the spell. Twilight had used one herself on the parasprites, which had, of course, led to disaster. But the spell Celestia was working on was on a far grander scale, and if she was interpreting it correctly, it was meant for ponies. One word in particular caught her eye. Considering it was underlined, Twilight couldn't really miss it.

Solstice.

Celestia suddenly stopped writing. Her ears flickered as if she were listening for something. She hurriedly turned the papers over, and looked about the room. Her eyes lingered on Twilight's position for a moment, then passed on. Celestia mumbled something, and Twilight could guess the meaning well enough.

“Just to be safe.”

Celestia's horn flared up with a golden aura, and Twilight groaned. An anti-magic field. Celestia was about to cut off her video-feed.

Sure enough, moments later, the viewport blanked once again, leaving Twilight with her thoughts. Solstice. That was in three- no, wait. She had been dead for the entire day. Two days. It was also the Metaspectre's deadline.

What was Celestia planning?

With a start, Twilight felt herself being pulled away. It was a mental tug, not a physical one, but it was strong enough that it scared her. She tried to resist it, but it only made the tug stronger. She felt herself black out.

She woke up almost immediately, eyes still foggy. She was in a hospital room of some sort, in a comfortable, though sterile, bed.

“Ah, you're awake,” an extremely familiar voice called. “My name is Flare.” Twilight looked over at the pony who was speaking. She was a beautiful white unicorn with soft pink hair. “I am the master of the Abbey. It's a pleasure to meet you.”

Twilight roused herself awake. Lying in the beds next to her were her friends, who seemed to be just waking up. Twilight tried to get a better view of the friendly visitor.

Flare, seeing Twilight's scrutiny, turned so Twilight could see her cutie mark. “They're broken shackles. Without trying to sound trite or self-centered, it's because of my merciful nature.”

Twilight's eyes grew wide with recognition. She knew where she had heard the voice before. It belonged to none other than Celestia herself.

“Is something wrong?” Flare asked, tilting her head in concern.

It was something Celestia had asked many times. Twilight was certain. She didn't know how it was possible, or what it could mean, but she was looking at some sort of alternate version of Celestia.

She looked to her friends. They were just as wide-eyed as she was.

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