• Published 26th Jan 2014
  • 4,493 Views, 513 Comments

The Heart of an Author - Oroboro



Mystery. Love. Magic. Murder. Truth. These are all important elements in the murder mystery Fluttershy has written, and is now asking Twilight to read. But she struggles to solve the mystery in which it turns out she's the protagonist.

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~Tea Party~

Twilight raised the tea cup to her lips. Rather than the soothing sweetness of tea, she was greeted instead by a mouthful of dust. She coughed, sputtering as she tried to wipe it off her tongue.

“Rarity, is this some kind of joke?”

She looked over to the chair where Rarity had been, but she wasn’t there. Where could she have possibly…

No. Was she even supposed to be here? Turning around, she saw that the room was completely devoid of ponies, a thin layer of dust having settled over the furniture. Just an empty room left uncared for. Why would she be having tea with her friends in a place like this?

Why did she feel like that they should all be here with her despite that?

“Hello?” Twilight croaked, her throat ragged from the dust she had swallowed. She spat, working her mouth again before calling out again, louder, “Is there anypony here?”

A whistle of wind answered in response, the faint howling of a distant draft. And on it, she could hear… voices? It was too faint to tell if it was real or just her imagination.

She took a step forward and the room swam around her, her perspective twisting and minor details flickering in and out of focus.

Wait, this was from Fluttershy’s novel, right? Another dream, just like before…

She continued forward, each step feeling like she was slogging through molasses. The way the world shifted around made her feel like she should be feeling nauseous, but there was no real weight to it.

Each passing moment brought her closer to her destination. Through the entrance hall and down the hallways to… Rarity’s room? Was this where she had been trying to go? She could hear the whistling of the wind more clearly now, the faint whisper of the voices still tantalizingly out of reach.

The door opened, and the light faded from around her. Shadows of ponies were silhouetted in the periphery of her vision, and she found herself stepping forward regardless of her desire to flee.

She couldn’t. This was a trap, she had to—!

The room closed in on her like the maw of a great beast, and she was enveloped in complete darkness.

Before she could fire up her horn to conjure a light, she heard the click of a spotlight and spun around. The ponykins had surrounded her, but one stood at the forefront in the center of the light, its eyes burning with a light blue flame.

“What does it mean to be in love, Twilight?”

The ponykin spoke with Rarity’s voice, but it was a harsh, distorted noise that came from where its mouth should be. The sound was echoed by the forms surrounding her.

“Rarity, you…”

The spotlight clicked off and back on again, highlighting a different rari-kin. “It’s like being generous, is it not? You give all of yourself to another pony. But what if you give too much and don’t ask for anything in return? What if they don’t like what they received, and they find your heart ugly and worthy of scorn?”

Twilight shook her head, taking a step back and bumping into one of the ponykins. “Rarity, how should I know? You’ve got a lot more experience with something like that than somepony like me.”

The ponykin behind her shuddered violently, and let out a shrill, weeping sound, like that of hooves on a chalkboard. “It hurts, Twilight. I don’t know what I did wrong. What did I do to deserve this? I thought I had everything figured out; my life was going to be perfect.

“It turns out you can’t ignore your heart after all.”

Twilight shrieked as an ice cold muzzle pressed into her side, and she jumped away, crashing into more ponykins. There wasn’t anywhere to go. They were everywhere, pressing in from all sides.

Suddenly, the mass of shapes wobbled and fell over. Red began to seep out of them, pooling on the floor and lapping against Twilight’s hooves.

“I’m sorry, Twilight.”

Twilight screamed and teleported away in a flash.

This was insane. It was just a nightmare. She needed to wake up, to escape, to—

Icy winds buffeted against her, and she realized she was outside in the howling blizzard.

Snow whipped around and obscured her vision, but she could still see the faint light of the mansion in the distance. Each step brought her the tiniest bit closer to the poisoned promise of warmth and safety, but it required the effort of swimming upstream in a raging river. It was like the storm had a mind of its own, and it wanted nothing more than to force her down into the snow and keep her there until she froze to death.

With a sudden jolt, she tripped over something hard and tumbled over herself.

As she tried to pull herself back up, she found her hooves caught in a curly pink mane. Glassy eyes stared out at nothing from beneath her under a layer of snow.

Before Twilight could scream again, she sensed movement behind her and spun, horn at the ready. A snowpony with a familiar shape stood before her.

“Hi Twilight!”

“Pinkie…”

The snowpony began bouncing around the corpse of Pinkie Pie. “You know, I’ve always heard that when you die everything gets cold. But it turns out when you freeze to death, you feel warm before the end! Weird, huh?”

Twilight blinked. “That’s called hypothermia.”

“Yeah, hypo-whatever! Hey, what do you think it means to make another pony smile?”

The snow-pinkie leaned forward, staring Twilight directly in the face with its empty eyes.

“Isn’t that your specialty?”

“It is! And I’m really really really good at it, too. But what if the thing that makes one pony smile makes another pony sad? I love smiling a whole lot, but I’d give it up in a heartbeat if it could make somepony REALLY happy! But maybe some ponies will have brighter smiles if I do nothing at all.”

Twilight bit her lip, trying to avoid looking at the corpse at her feet. “I don’t understand, Pinkie.”

“Neither do I! That’s the problem, isn’t it? Smiles are supposed to be easy, but this is complicated and confusing. It doesn’t make any sense to me, Twilight. I’ll just keep doing what I do best. I can’t really see the future, so I can’t really know if my actions will end up hurting the ponies I care about. No matter how much I want the opposite. But I’ve got to believe in myself anyway.”

The snow-Pinkie took a step back, and Twilight lunged forward, throwing her arms around it, ignoring the cold. “Pinkie, wait! Don’t go, we can still stop this somehow! I can save you, I…” Could she? How?

“Aww, Twilight, that’s really sweet of you, but too much warmth like this and I’ll just melt like a popsicle!”

Pinkie began to fall away through Twilight’s arms, melting back into the snow below.

“I’m sorry, Twilight.”

Before she could even let out a strangled sob, a torrential gust of wind whipped the snow around her into a whirlwind, blinding her.

Twilight closed her eyes tight and called upon her magic to create a shield that would push away the elements. Nothing made any sense. Holding on to her thoughts was like trying to sift oil from water using only her teeth. This was just a novel. No, a nightmare, and she needed to—

Everything became still, and Twilight peeked out of one eye. She stood in the middle of an unfamiliar grassy plain, a vast moonlit sky streaming above her.

Was this something in the novel? She couldn’t remember.

“Twili---, --- --- --- ----- ---ger! --- ---- -- --ke up!”

A strange voice whispered softly to her, unintelligible.

“Who’s there?” Twilight called out. Her voice felt strangely hollow, and her tongue was numb.

“-------- --- ---, do not ----- ----! They ---- --- ------- --- ----!”

Just as suddenly as the storm had lulled, it returned in full force, the wind flinging Twilight into the nearby wall.

Pain lanced through her right forehoof, and she jerked it back to find a sizzling doorknob steaming in the frozen air.

There, from the side of the mansion, a door loomed over her. Smoke curled from its edges, the handle glowing like a blacksmith’s iron.

In accordance with the lack of judgement afforded to her by the dreamlike haze she was in, Twilight reached out with her magic, pulling the door open.

A wave of stinging heat washed over her, the thermal energy rapidly reducing the snow covered grounds around her to a muddy mess. A stairwell leading down beckoned her forward; the shimmering air and the smoke offered her a warm welcome to step into the pits of Tartarus itself.

The staircase groaned as she made her way down, threatening to give way under every footstep. Down and down she went, far deeper than the basement of the mansion had any right to be.

What morose specter of her friends would she discover this time?

The stairwell opened up into a twisted maze of jagged metal. Pipes and towering mechanical monstrosities crisscrossed every which way, shuddering with grumbling roars as they spat out harsh gouts of smoke and steam.

She had a destination in sight, though any pony in her right mind would have turned and left long ago: the great boiler in the center of the room. Every few seconds, a sharp scraping would resonate from the inside, like that of metal against metal.

While ordinarily she would have dismissed it as the usual clanging and settling of a boiler system, Twilight had seen enough of this dreamscape to know it wouldn’t be something that mundane.

She reached up with her magic and twisted the handle of the door, the worn out hinges creating an awful shriek as she slowly pulled it open.

The door tore open with a great gout of fire and ash. Twilight raised a hoof to her eyes to shield herself from the wave of heat that washed over her. Sweat rolled down her sides as she tried to swallow, her mouth completely dry.

From the shadows cast by the flickering fires inside the boiler, Twilight could make out the shape of a skeleton. A glinting steel dagger was embedded in the inside of the door.

The ash began swirling around her, clumping together, and slowly taking the shape of an all too familiar pegasus.

“Twilight… what does it mean to be kind to another pony?”

Twilight pressed a hoof against her forehead, hoping the pressure would alleviate even the tiniest bit of haze from her mind as the sweltering heat pressed down on her. “Fluttershy, please. Enough of these cryptic metaphors and ridiculous riddles. I don’t want to see anypony else get hurt. There has to be a real answer here, doesn’t there?”

The flutter-ash lowered her head, peeking up at her through shimmering bangs of fire. “Twilight, please. This is important. I… need to know. It’s one thing to be nice to others, but does true kindness require that you be kind to yourself as well? If you make yourself happy, will that make others happy? I don’t know the difference between too far and not far enough. It’s easy to just curl up and hide away."

Twilight shook her head. "Fluttershy, you can’t give up like that. We've been through so much already. We've learned so much about the world, ourselves, and each other. Why would this be any different? We can overcome it, together.”

A lick of fire lapped at Fluttershy’s cheek as if it were a single tear. “I’m sorry, Twilight.”

Fire roared up from inside of her, and Twilight was forced to back away, choking on the updraft of ash and smoke. In just a flash of light and heat, Fluttershy was gone.

There was no time to mourn; the towering machines around her began to groan and snap, massive steel piles smashing into the ground and threatening to turn her into nothing more than a pony shaped stain.

Twilight leapt into the air, spreading her wings and flying straight up. She twisted and rolled from side to side while dodging the falling debris, the ceiling approaching fast. Calling forth her power, Twilight unleashed the full destructive force of an alicorn princess, obliterating anything that was unfortunate enough to be directly in front of her. Molten slag dripped past her, and she pulled her limbs in tight, shooting up through the makeshift escape tunnel.

Just as suddenly as it had begun, it was all over. Twilight burst from the hole in the ground right as she reached the ascent of her climb, twisting as she hit the ground and rolled over the wooden floorboards.

Groaning, Twilight righted herself and shakily stood up. There was a faint orange light coming from the hole, but in a few flickering heartbeats it vanished as if it had never been there in the first place.

She was in the mansion again. She had managed to see that much before the light had faded. It was pitch black, now.

Twilight reached for her magic to call forth light, but the loud chime of a grandfather clock rang forth, interrupting her spellcasting. It shook the ground around her as if it had been a massive thunderclap, rather than a simple chime.

Following in the wake of the chime, a soft white light filled the room, and Twilight could see that she was in the entrance hall, the stairs looming over her. That meant that looking down on her was the portrait of her most hated enemy.

No... the antagonist of Fluttershy's novel.

Shaking her head, Twilight looked up to see the portrait for herself. Only it wasn't. Instead, the wall was adorned with a massive stained glass window, depicting a stylized motif of somepony who she could only assume was Golden Wish. Moonlight poured through the glass, bright shafts of it like silver bars piercing the window and soaring through the air, all converging at a single point somewhere behind her.

The clock chimed for a second time, and Twilight slowly turned around.

Applejack stood there in the moonlight, scratched up and bloody. Her hat was missing, and her breath came in short ragged gasps as her eyes darted frantically about the room.

When her gaze fell upon Twilight, she pulled back in shock. Her brow narrowed in rage, but her expression quickly shifted to one of fear. In a manner of seconds, however, the fear was replaced with hurt and guilt.”

"Twilight, you... This ain't what it looks like!"

The broken form of Rainbow Dash lay at her hooves, freshly spilled blood seeping across the floor.

Twilight took a step back. "It was... you? That can't be right. I... I don't understand."

"I didn't... Golden Wish, I mean, she... no. There ain’t no more point in lying anymore. Just a bunch of excuses. Tired of being dishonest.”

"No... this isn't real!"

With the third chime of the clock, the silver light that had been filling the room turned to a radiant gold, as if it were cast by an unseen fire. A shrill, cackling laughter echoed across the room, a chorus of decadent glee that bounced from every direction.

Twilight turned back to the window. The shadow she cast, the winged and horned shadow of an alicorn, began to flicker and dance. It crawled outwards, spreading across the surrounding walls. The wings began to distort, becoming leathery, clawed, and batlike, and the horn gave way to a massive head, razor-sharp teeth casting their own shadows. Yellow slits opened where its eyes should be and stared into her own.

The clock chimed again, and there was a roar, fire, pain, and death.

Through the haze, Applejack smiled a smile that couldn’t reach her eyes and shook her head. When she spoke, her voice was joined by the echoes of those that spoke before her.

"I'm sorry, Twilight."

Her screams weren't enough to drown them out.

Author's Note:

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