• 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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Chapter 17 - Fiction

“Well well well. It looks like little Twilight has finally come back to the world of the ‘living’. You managed to pull yourself up from oblivion all on your own, did you? The game kept going without you, I’m afraid. Shame you missed it. It was really quite the event.”

Cackling laughter rang out, and Twilight slowly opened her eyes, blinking her blurred vision away. She was in a well furnished sitting room with large windows looking out into nothing.

Just like it had been described in Fluttershy’s novel.

Yawning, Twilight stood up, stretching out her wings and cracking her neck. Well, this was what she agreed to, after all. It was one thing to visit these locales in her dreams, but now she was here for a given definition of real and could take in every detail with extreme clarity.

Including, of course, the golden alicorn at the other side of the room.

“You’re a little shorter than I expected,” Twilight blurted out as she tried to suppress another yawn. It was weird; here she was, standing in front of a fictional character. It was like meeting Daring Do in real life or something. Except even when that had actually happened, it hadn’t really been comparable to this.

“I… what?” Golden Wish blinked, turning her head slightly and staring at Twilight.

What was the proper response? Golden Wish was the villain of Fluttershy’s story, sure, and she was by no means someone Twilight could get along with, but everything villainous she had done had been done to another Twilight, not her. Should she hate her for it? Or should she, at the very least, play along and pretend like she did?

“I’m, uh, going to defeat you, Golden Wish! For the sake of my friends, I’ll solve your last game, no matter what!”

Golden Wish stared at her blankly. It looked like her acting skills weren’t exactly up to par.

“You’re… the ‘real’ Twilight, aren’t you?” Golden Wish asked, her voice soft and tinged with awe.

Twilight stared back. Well, that was unexpected. “Um… yes?”

Golden Wish turned around, facing away from Twilight and muttering to herself. “So you really came all this way just to play a game with a fictional character like me. Guess I must be doing something right after all.”

Twilight frowned. Something was missing here, but she couldn’t place it. “I’m not exactly sure how this is supposed to work, but don’t get me wrong; I’m not here for you. I’m doing this to find out the truth. For my sake, and for hers.”

“Is that so? Well, I’ll take what I can get. If I can beat one Twilight, I can beat another.”

Twilight smacked herself in the face with a hoof as what was missing suddenly dawned on her. “You don’t have a cutie mark!”

Golden Wish whipped around, positioning her rear behind the table as her face turned red. “I m-must have left it on my other flank!”

That didn’t make any sense. She should have one, right? It had been described in the novel, she was sure. What was it again…?

To her surprise, two books materialized in the air in front of her with a flash of energy. Well, that was convenient. Twilight quickly pulled them open and began skimming for relevant descriptive passages.

After a minute of searching, Twilight closed both books. How had she not noticed the omission before?

“Did Fluttershy just forget to give you one or something?”

Golden Wish snorted, glaring daggers at her. “How should I know? Maybe it’s a metaphor about the infinite and shapeless nature of my power, hmm?”

Twilight shook her head, her mind reeling. She was standing here, arguing with a fictional character about aspects of her own visual design. Could things possibly get any crazier than this?

“Let’s focus on the game. The meta-particulars aren’t really that important.

A soft voice whispered in Twilight’s mind. It seemed that whatever sort of stake in this her mysterious ‘benefactor’ had, she was focused on getting to the point.

“Well, Golden Wish, it’s an honor to meet you, but I think the time for pleasantries is past. Fictional or not, you’re determined to hurt me and my friends. So, we have a game to get to, don’t we?”

Golden Wish closed her eyes and took a deep breath, a slight smile creeping onto her face. “Very well. I do have another game prepared for you, but do you really think you can handle it, Twilight? Let’s make no mistake here. You will be watching your friends die horribly; there’s no stopping it. Only a crime to solve after the fact. This doesn’t have to be your fight. Turn around now, go home to your warm and cozy bed, go play with your real, living friends in the sunlight. Leave this realm of fiction and death to those who belong in it.

Twilight bit her lip. Well, if she was going to have second thoughts, now would probably be the last chance to make them count. She had agreed to this insane proposition perhaps a bit too hastily. Reading about it was one thing, but to stare these horrors directly in the face… Would she be able to handle it?

Those nightmares she had gave her a small taste of this world, even if they were as muddy and disjointed as dreams usually are. But with her full mental capabilities behind her, would she be able to divorce herself from her emotions in order to search for clues in a crime scene when the glassy eyes of one of her friends was staring at her from the world of the dead?

For that matter, could it even be considered right to start such a game knowing full well what will happen to those who participate in it?

No. Whether or not she opened the box, the cat would still be either alive or dead. Refusing to check wouldn’t change the truth. Only obfuscate it.

“I’m ready,” she said. Fluttershy had been so adamant that it was all there already. If only she was competent enough to see it herself without bothering with all of this in the first place. Just what new truths would this final tale lead her to uncover? “Where will the story be starting this time? Another flashback?”

Golden Wish let out the breath she was holding. “Very well. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. No flashbacks this time. Today, we’ll simply jump straight into the narrative.

The image beyond the window shifted, and Twilight saw herself walking up to the front door of the mansion. Just a few hours before the storm would blow in, trapping them all in the nightmare yet to come.

“Right at the beginning, huh? I remember last time a few bits were glossed over, stuff that happened in the same way, but would be redundant to cover again.”

Golden Wish shrugged. “Who knows? Perhaps those slice of life bits have all sorts of juicy, important clues you’ve totally overlooked. Or maybe they just add a sort of happy atmosphere to the setting to starkly contrast with the part where everypony dies.

Twilight grimaced, but a retort didn’t come to her quickly enough, so she let the statement hang in the air and watched herself open the doors to the mansion.

“You have the ability to explore this story from every perspective.”

Did that mean...? Closing her eyes, Twilight concentrated on the image in front of her, and felt the world slip away.

“Twilight, darling, it’s so good to see you!”

Twilight’s senses were suddenly assaulted by Rarity grabbing her in a tight hug. So she was able to see the board from the perspective of the pieces as well. This was going to be a very different game.

“Rarity, I, uh, oh wow, you really do look older.” Twilight winced as soon as the words left her mouth.

Rarity’s eyes softened and she drew back, her gaze dropping to the floor apologetically. “Well, I guess time makes fools of us all, although I try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise. Still, neither of us are that old yet, Twilight. You’re getting a few lines yourself.”

Twilight smacked herself in the face with a hoof. “I’m sorry, Rarity, I didn’t mean to say that. If anything, age has only added to your beauty. I’m, uh, just a little out of sorts at the moment. Mind is shooting in all sorts of different directions.”

Rarity held a hoof to her chin, frowning, but then nodded and turned it into a smile instead. “I guess I’ll take what I can get. I know how it goes sometimes. You must have had a long journey. Set your bags down, we’ll get some tea, and you can relax a bit, okay?”

Twilight nodded, lowering the bags she hadn’t realized she was carrying. It was as good of a start as any. She needed some time to process everything.

Here she was, playing the part of a Twilight Sparkle an alleged five years into the future. Five years wasn’t too long of a time, but the fact that there were subtle differences in the appearances of her friends impressed her.

Or at least, the fictional characters who looked and acted like her friends. How was she just supposed to stand around and pretend to be oblivious, knowing that most, if not all of them would be dead within twenty-four hours?

What would happen if she told them? Warned them of the danger, or just flew everypony away before the storm hit? Locked them all in a room and stayed up all night watching to make sure nopony killed them?

I imagine it would look like this.” An image came into her mind of a pony flipping a chessboard off of a table and storming away in a huff.

Of course. She would have to play by the rules if she was going to play at all. Still, actually doing so while being powerless to do anything to stop it… Maybe she could find ways to gain an advantage without blatantly destroying the core premise.

“Now then,” Rarity said, pouring Twilight a cup of tea before sitting down and raising her own to her lips. “Just take in a deep breath and relax. We all have our problems, and stress is never healthy.”

Twilight watched as Rarity sipped on her tea. Even if she couldn’t confront it directly, there were still other things she knew about this version of Rarity from reading both novels.

“So, you’re getting married, huh?”

Rarity choked on her tea, sputtering and nearly dropping the glass. “I, how did you… Applejack didn’t tell you, did she?”

Twilight grinned, levitating a nearby cloth for Rarity to clean herself with. “I have my ways,” she said with a wink. “But seriously, congratulations. And don’t worry, I'm the only one who knows. That I know of, anyway.”

Rarity’s and Applejack’s romance had been featured so prominently in Fluttershy’s stories, but its importance had always been lost on her. There was the whole backstory with Golden Wish and Applejack’s wish, but whatever it led to was lost with the missing ending. That dream she had seemed to imply more, but whether that was some sort of hidden truth or merely the product of a diseased nightmare she had no idea.

Rarity coughed a few more times and dabbed at her lips before she sat up straight, regaining her composure. “Well, I guess the cat is out of the box. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. It was just Fluttershy I let it slip to. We were planning on making a big announcement tonight, but, well, it’s all rather silly anyway.”

Twilight nodded and sipped at her own tea as she watched her friend closely. The emotions reflected in Rarity’s eyes - love for her partner, joy at spending time with a friend, and a subtle pain from the secret Applejack was keeping from her. It was all captured magnificently in a way not even the greatest painter could hope to replicate. For all intents and purposes, she was staring into the soul of a real pony.

“Twilight, what’s wrong? You look a little pale.”

Twilight kept sipping at her tea, refusing to make eye contact. It was all real. Too real.

Twilight shifted above, back into a significantly less friendly tea room.

Golden Wish snorted. “And here I thought you had more resolve than that.”

“Shut up,” Twilight muttered, taking deep breaths to steady her pounding heart. “Seriously, would you do any better in my situation?”

Golden Wish opened her mouth to say something, but paused, raising a hoof and frowning. “No, I suppose not.”

“I just need a minute, that’s all.”

She held a hoof to her forehead, squeezing her eyes shut and muttering under her breath. Immersion. It was something she had always felt when reading a good book. When Fluttershy had approached her with a book starring herself and her friends, she was pulled into that world more thoroughly than any before. Now, however, her immersion was entirely literal at the behest of some higher being she didn’t fully understand.

But the real world and fiction were two entirely different things; in stories everything was always convenient, held together with a single theme, and stuff happened for a reason. In reality, stuff just happened.

But how many protagonists went into their stories knowing that they were the protagonists and already knowing the plot? She had a golden opportunity here, if she could just pull it off.

Twilight focused her magic, shifting the scene in the window to highlight different parts of the mansion. “Running around this mansion until a crime happens… maybe it would be against the rules to stop it entirely, but I’m going to arrange the pieces on this board the way I want whether you like it or not.”

“It’s only fair, right? From now until midnight, the board is yours. Feel free to arrange things the way you like, but when the clock strikes twelve, the mansion will become my domain.”

“I see.“ Twilight frowned, then conjured the previous books again to quickly check something. “If I remember correctly, in both novels Twilight was still awake and active well past midnight, to some extent.”

Golden Wish nodded. “That’s true. But since you’ll be taking so much more of an active role, it’s not exactly an unfair change of rules.”

Midnight, then. As Twilight stared down at the image of the mansion, a plan began to come together in her mind. There were pieces she could use, angles she could attack, and mysteries she could uncover long before blood was shed.

This game was going to be hers.


Fluttershy squeaked in alarm as Twilight threw her arms around her, having snuck up on her from behind. “Hey Fluttershy! Long time no see!”

“O-oh, it’s you… You startled me Twilight, I didn’t see you there. But, um, it’s good to see you too.”

Twilight pulled out of the hug, stepping back and grinning. “Sorry. I just couldn’t resist.”

She had already gone around and greeted everypony else by now, along with picking up a few tools she might need later. Her acting was starting to feel more natural, even if there was still a thrum of worry gnawing at her conscience.

Everypony else with some noted exceptions, anyway.

“Hey, Fluttershy, do you have a minute? I’ve got some questions for you.”

Fluttershy blinked, slowly looking around. “You do? Um, okay, Twilight. I don’t know if I can answer them or not, but you’re welcome to go ahead and ask.”

Twilight grimaced inwardly while keeping her face a smiling mask. If you wanted something from Fluttershy, it didn’t take much leaning on her to get it, but doing so deliberately wasn’t exactly nice, and the thought of it left a sour taste in her mouth. Still, she had to start tugging at threads if this was ever going to get unraveled.

“What can you tell me about the Legend of Golden Wish and this mansion?”

Fluttershy’s mouth dropped and she stared at Twilight for a few moments before she shook her head rapidly. “Um, I could tell you some things, I guess. What exactly do you want to know? I kind of had a story prepared I was going to tell everyone later, but I didn’t think you already knew something about it…”

Twilight waved a hoof dismissively. “I’m a history buff, remember? I did all sorts of research on this mansion before coming here. Princess Wishlight, something about a dragon, yada yada. The source has to have all sorts of interesting clues and treasures. Do you have anything like that? Like, say, I dunno, a book?”

There was a flash of recognition in Fluttershy’s eyes, and Twilight pressed forward before she could respond. “Yeah, a book! That’s perfect, thanks! Lemme guess, it’s up in your room? Is it okay if I take a look at it? I’m interested in the historic value of the book as much as I am anything else.”

Fluttershy shrunk back, clearly looking corned by Twilight’s onslaught, but she worked her mouth slowly as she managed to catch back up with the conversation. “I… have a book, yes. I worked really hard on the story, though, I wouldn’t want to spoil everything for later.”

Twilight put on a wounded look. “Aww, come on, Fluttershy. I really want to see it! Just a quick look should be fine, right? I won’t read the whole thing, and I promise I won’t spoil it for the others either.”

Fictional Fluttershy or not, Twilight definitely felt like a jerk.

“I, um, I guess, but…” Fluttershy stammered, trailing off. “Oh! Um, that’s right. I lent the book to, uh, Princess Celestia because she was interested in reading it. So you’d have to ask her.”

Twilight frowned, scratching her chin with a hoof. That was an unexpected dodge, but it led her to part two of her plan anyway. “Well, can you take me to see her, then?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “I’m sorry, but the princess told me under no circumstances was she to be disturbed until tomorrow.”

“Oh come on, Fluttershy,” Twilight said, rolling her eyes. “She obviously didn’t mean to include me with that. We’re all princesses here, and she’s my mentor besides. Whether she’s busy or not, I can at least ask for a book, if not a spot of tea.”

“Even you, Twilight. She was very specific.”

It was odd. In both previous games, Twilight never once got a chance to sit down and talk with Celestia or Luna. The narrative seemed to indicate that they knew something else. If she tried to force that confrontation, would the game push back at her?

“Ask her again, for me. Please? If she gets mad I promise I’ll take the blame.”

Without waiting for a response, Twilight grabbed ahold of Fluttershy and teleported the both of them to directly outside of the princesses’ study.

Fluttershy stumbled around, disoriented by the sudden movement. When she finally regained her balance, she shuddered, quietly mumbling, “Okay, Twilight. I’ll try. But don’t expect much.”

Twilight watched carefully as Fluttershy pulled out a key from her mane, unlocking the door and quickly slipping inside before Twilight could so much as take a peek. A few seconds later there was the loud clunk of the auto-lock going off.

So they were back to that set up, were they? In the last game, the auto lock was removed, presumably to allow the fourth closed room to exist in the first place. If it was here now, she supposed that meant that the study wasn’t going to be featured as a closed room this time around.

Golden Wish snorted, an odd look on her face. “Is that how it is? You can’t figure it out on your own, so you just run crying to dear old Celestia. Do you really think you’re going to accomplish anything, pushing your friends around like this?”

Twilight barked a short laugh, rolling her eyes. “I’m here to play a game, not hear lectures about friendship from somepony like you. If there wasn’t anything in this study to hide, then it wouldn’t be a problem for me to just go in and talk to her, would it?”

“Fine,” Golden Wish said with a grimace. “Have it your way.” With a golden flash the scene changed to the interior of the study, as Fluttershy walked through.

Fluttershy let out a long sigh, then did her best to stop her hooves from shaking. She knew Princess Celestia was a kind pony and wasn’t likely to banish her, or even raise her voice for a minor transgression like this, but to disobey her authority, even at the behest of another, sent chills down her spine. Twilight was acting weird, and she wasn’t quite sure what was going on.

Raising a hoof, Fluttershy knocked softly on the interior bedroom door. “Um, hello? It’s Fluttershy. I know you didn’t want to be disturbed, but…”

Even though her squeak of a request was barely audible even to herself, the door glowed with a soft magic and slowly opened. Fluttershy peeked her head in to see Celestia curled up on her bed, wearing a pair of reading glasses with the book she had lent her in front of her. A warm fire in the hearth cast a comforting glow about the room, and Fluttershy could feel her tension draining away already.

Smiling slyly, Celestia raised a hoof to her mouth and whispered “Sssshh. My sister is sleeping. What can I do for you, Fluttershy?”

“Oh. Um, I’m sorry for disturbing you, Princess, but Twilight really wants to see you,” Fluttershy mumbled, keeping her head low.

Celestia clicked her tongue, shaking her head with a sigh. “Five years a princess, and my former student can still be as impatient and impulsive as ever. How come you haven’t had a more tempering effect on her?”

Fluttershy’s cheeks turned scarlet, and she found herself stammering. “I didn’t, I mean, it’s not really my place to--”

Fluttershy’s protestations were cut off by Celestia’s laughter. “I’m sorry, I’m just teasing! It’s one of the many qualities that makes Twilight so special, even if she can get a little out of hand sometimes.”

“O-oh.” Fluttershy kept staring at the floor. “She, um, was also really interested in the book I lent you.”

Celestia levitated the book into the air, looking over it. “This old thing? Fascinating, really. Twilight never could leave a stone unturned when it came to history.

With a mischievous grin, Celestia set the book down on the bed and looked back up to regard Fluttershy. “But, as I said before, I prefer not to be disturbed. If Twilight wants to talk to me so badly, she can wait until later. Not to mention, I’m still reading this book myself. She can have it when I’m done.”

“I see.” Fluttershy turned away, that knot of tension already beginning to build itself back up in her mind. “I’m sorry for disturbing you, Princess.”

Fluttershy turned to go, her heart weighing heavily in her chest. Twilight would be upset, but she had tried her best. Would it be enough? She needed some more time to compose herself.

“Um, Princess? Is it okay if I use your washroom?” Fluttershy called back into the bedroom.

Celestia nodded, and Fluttershy slipped into the small room, closing the door behind her.

“We don’t really need to watch this part, do we?” Golden Wish said, flicking the image off with her magic. “See? Nothing objectionable going on here at all. I don’t know what’s got you so worked up, Twilight, but you’re going to have to try harder than that if you want to win.”

Twilight threw back her head and laughed. “Maybe you’re right, but, quite frankly, I’m just getting started.”

Twilight’s laughter hung in the air, leaving a silence between the two until Twilight frowned, raising a hoof to her chin instead. “Is there something else I should call you? Golden Wish is a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? Gold? Goldy? Wish? Miss Wish? Princess? Dragon-Mare? Although you’re not really as draconic looking as I thought you’d be.”

“Hmph.” Golden Wish turned her nose up, looking away from Twilight. “My name is my name. Call me whatever you like. It doesn’t matter to me.” With a slight grin, she caught Twilight’s eye and hissed, baring fangs that weren’t there before.

Twilight found herself laughing again, her mirth genuine this time. The absurdity of this whole situation wasn’t lost on her. “I still can’t wrap my head around this whole thing, Goldy. Just how real are you, anyway? You said you’re a fictional character. What does that even mean?”

Golden Wish’s smile fell. “How real are you, Twilight? I know my place and purpose in this world, yet your origins are a mystery. Beyond that, however, what’s the difference?”

Twilight nodded, frowning. Pony philosophers more talented than her had pondered such questions for generations. What must it feel like to know you were merely the product of a wandering pen and an idle fancy?

A worthy question, but one, perhaps, for another time. She had a game to play and a move to make.

Fluttershy slipped out the door, closing it behind her as quickly as she had entered.

“Um, Twilight…” Fluttershy began, keeping her eyes on the floor.

Twilight raised a hoof and put it on her shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay. Celestia’s just being difficult, right? It’s not like I’m not used to her mischief myself. It’s not your fault, Fluttershy. I understand.”

“Oh.” Fluttershy glanced up, smiling and looking relieved. “Thanks, Twilight.”

“Sorry for dragging you around so roughly, I get a little carried away sometimes,” Twilight said, rubbing the back of her head with a hoof and doing her best to look sheepish. “You were working on dinner, right? I’ll let you get back to that.”

Fluttershy nodded, turning and walking a few steps down the hall before stopping. She turned back to look at Twilight. “Um, are you coming?”

Twilight shook her head. “Nah. I wanna explore the mansion a little bit more. I’ll catch up with you in a little bit, I promise.”

Fluttershy looked worried, but didn’t protest any further as she rounded the corner, leaving Twilight to her devices.

Twilight turned back towards the study door, readying her magic with a grin. “Alright, Princess. Let’s push at the boundaries a little bit, shall we?

With both raw power and considerable skill, Twilight split the spell she was about to cast, forming half of it into a contingency. Short ranged teleportation was normally pretty simple, but if, like in the stories, the study was warded…

Her guess was accurate, and her teleportation attempt rebounded violently, hurling her through the air. Her contingency kicked in at that point, teleporting her just a few feet, arresting her momentum and setting her right side up, hooves touching down solidly on the ground.

“Well. I can’t say I expected anything else,” Twilight said, wobbling slightly due to the disorienting experience. So the room was just as impenetrable as she had thought. She could probably tear the door open if she really tried, but she was trying to bend the scenario, not break it entirely.

Twilight grinned, looking the door over one last time before she started pulling out some of the ‘tools’ she had obtained earlier. It was time to enact phase two of her cunning plan. Golden Wish was going to have no idea what hit her.

“Twilight, I really don’t see what the big deal is,” Applejack said, her protests falling on deaf ears as Twilight dragged her through the halls.

It was evening now, and Twilight had allowed the usual events of the book to play their course. The dinner, the engagement, the hot springs, and Fluttershy’s story. But now it was time for another change.

Twilight stopped in front of the door, opened it, then roughly pushed Applejack inside.

“Just what in the hay is… oh. Hey, Rar. She got you too, huh?”

Rarity sat on the bed, raising an eyebrow in mild amusement. “Twilight asked me to wait here, yes, though she didn’t have to literally drag me through the halls. So. What is it you wanted?”

Twilight grinned, closing the door behind her and locking it. “You two are going to sit down and have a nice, long talk about your relationship. I want you to be entirely honest. I’ll be watching over you to make sure things don’t get out of hand.”

Applejack glanced back at Twilight, swallowing nervously.

“Uh, listen, Rar, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you...”

Author's Note:

Expect the next chapter on August 11th.

And keep an eye out, I'll be releasing a new one-shot this week. It won't have anything to do with murder or mysteries I'm afraid, but I think its pretty neat anyway. :3

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