• Published 26th Jan 2014
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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 19 - Fool's Mate

Twilight Sparkle was not an artist.

She had the technical knowledge; of form, of composition, of history. Her studies had included the basics of any number of art forms, and if she were so inclined, she could probably put together a passable imitation of somepony else’s work.

But she did not have a creative soul. No muse whispered to her at night, her eyes never flashed with the sort of brilliant explosion of inspiration that drove so many to create. She envied Rarity at times for her drive, determination, and her ability to sew her heart into fabric. And more recently, Fluttershy had shown a creative side of her she had never expected.

The wedding preparations had exploded into a flurry of activity, everypony busy trying to make the best out of the few hours they had. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash assisted Rarity and Applejack respectively, while Pinkie Pie had disappeared to Celestia knows where faster than she could say party.

Twilight was left to provide the couple with a suitable wedding hall. The mansion was spacious, but most of that space was used for bedrooms. There wasn’t even a grand auditorium or ballroom that could be converted on short notice.

So she stood outside in the freezing blizzard, staring at the banks of snow which would be her canvas.

In theory, it should be pretty simple; she knew spells that would allow her to easily shape and mold snow. She knew enchantments that would hold it in shape while keeping the interior warm.

But even if managing the technical aspect was easy, did she really know enough about the elements and principles of design and aesthetics? She had some ideas in her head on how she wanted this to turn out, but they were just reflections of the creations of others. She didn’t have what it took to imprint a portion of herself into this ice palace, nor to tailor the design to match the aesthetics of the brides.

Still, she had to try. As the clock ticked ever closer to midnight, she felt a burning need in her growing ever hotter. She was going to give Rarity and Applejack the wedding they deserved.

A storybook wedding for a couple in a storybook.


“It’s beautiful, Twilight,” Rarity said, her eyes sparkling with reflections of the carefully sculpted ice.

Twilight took in several short, ragged breaths, reaching up to wipe the sweat from her brow as she leaned against the wall for support. “You… really think so? I know you probably had a million different ideas and perfect pictures of how exactly your dream wedding would go, but I tried the best with what I had and—”

Rarity cut her off with a light touch to her nose. She wrapped a forehoof over Twilight's shoulder and pulled her into a tight hug. She spoke in a soft and gentle voice, “It’s beautiful, Twilight. As much as I’d love to get wrapped up in the intricacies of planning every last detail the way I want, for here, for now, and for her, it’s perfect the way it is. You did a wonderful job. Thank you.”

Twilight felt herself sag as Rarity supported her weight. Even with her vast magical talent and reserves of energy, the work had been exhausting. As unsure as the future was, she probably should have been more cautious about exhausting so much of her power, but she had no doubts that this was absolutely worth it.

“Thanks. I’m glad you like it,” Twilight said, smiling as she pulled away from the hug. “But right now, this moment is about you. I think the others are already inside.”

Rarity nodded, turning to the entrance. She held herself perfectly still, her expression wavering. “Do… do I look alright, Twilight?”

Twilight chuckled and glanced Rarity up and down. “Since when do you ask me for fashion advice?” Her dress glittered and glistened in the soft lights from above, but it looked very light, the fabric sheer and translucent. “It, um, accentuates your form well,” she said, doing her best to sound reassuring. “I was kind of expecting you to go for something a little more extravagant, like you usually do.”

Rarity titterered softly, bunching up some of the gossamer fabric with her hoof and shifting her weight from side to side. "I know where my designs usually take me, but this occasion calls for something different; Applejack is getting married to me, not my dress. So I wanted something that accentuates my best features without being too distracting."

Twilight nodded. It made a certain amount of sense. “Better watch out. If you’re not careful, your soon-to-be wife might mistake your dress for an ancient wish granting artifact and do something stupid.”

Rarity snorted in a very unladylike fashion and her eyes widened to stare back at her. “Twilight!” she exclaimed, raising a hoof to her mouth to try and hold in her giggling. “That was a very serious discussion and it happened literally hours ago. It is too soon.

Twilight smirked and raised an eyebrow, watching Rarity hold her breath as she shook with silent laughter, tears welling up in her eyes with the effort of it.

After a minute or so, Rarity finally calmed down, taking a few deep breaths and dabbing at her eyes. “Thank you, Twilight. I needed that.”

“Any time.”

Rarity gave another hesitant glance towards the door. “Twilight… am I doing the right thing?”

Twilight shook her head. “You’re the only pony who can answer that at this point.”

Rarity nodded, closing her eyes. After a few moments, a soft smiled played at her lips. “I’m ready.”

Twilight pulled aside the curtain, and the two entered into the chamber beyond.

Calling it an ice palace was really a bit over-extravagant. All in all, it was a single-roomed construct smaller than her living room.

The light in the room was cut off as the curtain closed behind them, leaving them in near darkness. Twilight slowly led Rarity down the steps to the small dais in the center where Applejack waited on the opposite side.

Drawing on her already taxed strength, Twilight fired up her horn, conjuring six balls of multicolored light. Each floated down to hover in front of the mare whose color it matched. The soft light cast a muted rainbow across the room, reflecting from the many sharp angles of the domed interior.

Applejack squinted at the light, raising a hoof to shield her eyes as she glanced around the room. “Kind of reminds me of the beaches where I first told you I love you.”

Twilight let out a small breath. That had been the effect she was hoping for, even if she’d never actually seen them with her own eyes.

Rainbow Dash started to snicker from her position across from Twilight, but Fluttershy leaned over and elbowed her in the side.

“Well then.” Twilight cleared her throat and glanced between the couple before her. “We are gathered here today, to celebrate the union of Applejack and Rarity, who…”

Twilight stared down at the dais before her, dumbfounded. She had spent the entire time while she was carving the ice working out what she was going to say when she officiated, and suddenly it was all gone. Of all the times she could possibly choke…

Rarity reached over and placed a hoof on her shoulder. “Twilight, darling, it’s okay. I’m sure whatever speech you had planned was rubbish anyway. Just speak from the heart. Even if you flub it up a bit, it’s okay.”

Applejack nodded, adding her hoof to Twilight’s other shoulder. “Ain’t that the truth. Look, Twi, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about love, it’s that it ain't just a bunch of perfect romantic moments. Ponies are ponies, and we ain’t ever gonna be nothing but ponies. That includes all the boring, mundane, occasionally gross and stupid things we all do on a regular basis. Love is about accepting all them parts of another pony and agreeing to make the best of it no matter what. I just wish I hadn’t taken so long to see it myself.”

Rarity giggled. “Did I ever tell you about how Applejack messed up her proposal? She did it in the middle of winter, and her lips got stuck on the ring!”

Rainbow Dash burst out laughing. “Wow, are you kidding me, AJ? Real smooth!”

Pinkie Pie started giggling herself. “You’re one to talk, Dashie. I still remember the time you—“

Rainbow Dash slammed her hooves over Pinkie’s mouth with a low growl. “I thought we agreed to never speak of that again!”

Even with half of them blushing in embarrassment, all six ponies burst out laughing in spite of it all.

Applejack shook her head, the edge of laughter still in her voice. “Shucks. Twi, it’s just the six of us here, together. Just like it’s been from the beginning. Me and Rar, we’re going to change things up a bit, but it’ll always be the six of us, ya hear me?”

“You guys…” Twilight closed her eyes. Fictional or not, these were her friends. This warmth, this magic, it mattered just as much as the real thing.

And at midnight it would all be over.

She could feel tears beginning to well up at her eyes and she brought her hoof up to wipe them away, trying desperately to push those feelings away. She had to be strong. As cruel as it might seem, she had a goal to see through til the end. There was a point to all of this.

There had to be.

She looked up to see Fluttershy across the table, wiping at her own eyes. It was a wedding after all. Getting a little weepy was to be expected, even if her own conflict was dissonant.

Twilight took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Right then. Applejack, Rarity, you two are some of the best ponies I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. That extends to all of you, really, but, for various reasons, the two of you have managed to find a happiness with each other that none of us could even dream of. I may not have much context or experience with your relationship as a couple, but it’s clear to anypony who looks that your feelings for each other are genuine, and that you’ll stick with each other through thick and thin. Even if you might need a friendly nudge in the right direction now and then.”

Applejack grunted under her breath, her face coloring slightly.

With a light touch of magic Twilight levitated both Rarity’s and Applejack’s hooves together across the table until they were touching. “I asked you girls this earlier, but do you swear, by the power of the friendship we all share, that you’ll love each other, be faithful, support each other, til the day you both… er, for all eternity?”

Their eyes didn’t leave one another as they spoke in unison. “I do.”

“Wonderful! Then by the power vested in me as a Princess of Equestria, and by the legal documents ordaining me as fit to perform a marriage ceremony that I registered for long before I became a princess because it turns out that pretty much all you have to do is ask, I pronounce Rarity and Applejack to be married. Now kiss.”

Their lips met under the soft rainbow of light, and the tearful cheers from their friends drowned out anything else.


“Wheee!”

Twilight watched as Pinkie Pie slid down the large bannister, popping at least half a dozen balloons on her way.

The entrance hall had been decorated rather extravagantly in Pinkie Pie’s usual style, complete with a large banner of a crudely drawn Rarity and Applejack with the words ‘Congratulations! :heart:’ painted on it. Twilight noted that it conveniently covered up the portrait of her nemesis.

Rarity and Applejack danced together at the bottom of the stairs, slowly and sensually; a series of clouds were kept in motion above them by Rainbow Dash, who circled around them in time with the music.

While Pinkie Pie’s parties were always something special, this one held a weight to it that few others had matched.

Of course, not everypony was enjoying the festivities so enthusiastically.

Twilight plopped herself down next to Fluttershy, who was sitting off in a corner sipping at a glass of punch. “Hey.”

Fluttershy glanced over at her, giving a faint smile. “Hi, Twilight.”

Twilight sat with Fluttershy in silence for a few minutes, grabbing some punch for herself and watching their friends enjoy themselves.

“You’ve been out of it all day, Fluttershy. Is something wrong?”

“Um, no, not really. I’m fine.”

Twilight turned to her and raised an eyebrow, fixing her with a level stare.

Fluttershy blushed, looking away. “Um, well, maybe. I dunno. But um, today isn’t supposed to be about me, right?”

If only she knew the truth. In some way or another, Twilight was doing all of this for Fluttershy. Just not the one in front of her. “Look, you might have a point, in that this is Rarity and Applejack’s special day, and that you don’t want to be a burden. I get that. But I’m free and ready to lend an open ear. It won’t be the first time tonight, and I really don’t want for it to end up being the last.”

Twilight winced. She really had to stop making such morbid remarks. She was only going to psyche herself out. “Besides, it’s what friends are for, right?”

Another minute passed, Fluttershy continuing to fidget and stare at her hooves. Finally, she spoke up in a quiet voice. “It’s hard to believe that after everything we’ve all been through together, that two of us could end up in love like that.”

Twilight followed her gaze to the couple on the dance floor, who had moved into a fast paced and complicated tango routine. She let her attention to Fluttershy drop for a second as she allowed herself to be impressed. They had some impressive moves. Rarity must have been making Applejack practice.

“Yeah,” Twilight muttered. “Hard to believe.” It would have been hard to believe in reality, anyway. With ink on a page, it didn’t stretch her suspension of disbelief very far. “Of course, as easy as they make it look right now, they had a pretty rough go of it.”

Fluttershy frowned, tilting her head in confusion, but then shrugged, dispelling her thoughts with the shake of her head. “Will our friendship really be able to survive such a drastic change? I mean, what happens if they break up? It would tear us all apart, wouldn't it?”

Twilight bit her lip. It wasn’t like Applejack and Rarity hadn’t skirted pretty close to that outcome already, without her intervention. “Honestly,” she said with a sigh, “I have no idea. I’m sorry.”

“Oh,” Fluttershy said, her face falling back to the floor.

“But,” Twilight said, reaching out one of her wings and pulling Fluttershy into a hug. “I believe in them. They’ve proven time and time again what capable, dependable, and downright good ponies they are, and I’m sure they’ll be able to handle anything that comes at them, especially together. And if not, they’ve got four other great friends who will be able to help to get things going again.”

Fluttershy looked up at her and smiled. “You’re right. Thank you, Twilight.”

Twilight closed her eyes. She should write these speeches down. She might have to use them in the real world some day.

“I still don’t really understand how you do it, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, her voice soft. “You’ve become so… wise. I still remember the day we first met. You were, um, really grumpy and unsociable. No offense. But now it’s like you’re a whole different pony.”

Twilight chuckled, her thoughts drifting back to those early days. “Well, the wisdom was a package deal with the wings. But seriously, back then you were terrified of your own shadow. We’ve all learned a lot of lessons, grown up, and changed in some way or another.”

Fluttershy nodded, settling down again in her corner.

Glancing over the four other ponies partying, Twilight frowned. “Hey, do you really think that Princess Celestia and Luna just randomly flew out the window while you were in the bathroom?”

Fluttershy blinked. “Um. I really don’t know. What other explanation could there be, Twilight?”

Twilight shook her head. Her own accusation of poor authorship didn’t exactly fly as an explanation on this level. There was at least one other option she could consider, but pushing at it right now didn’t really seem appropriate.

“Eh, don’t worry about it,” Twilight said. She raised her glass, drained the remainder of the punch, and then stood up, stretching her legs and wings. “I’m sure we’ll find out what the Princesses are up to eventually, but for now, how about we forget the heartfelt talks about friendship for now and hit the dance floor instead?”

Fluttershy giggled, standing up and dusting herself off. “Yeah, that sounds like fun. But, um, I’m not very good at dancing.”

Twilight grinned. “Neither am I.”

Twilight shifted back to the world above to give herself a break from it all.

To her surprise, the small tea room had been replaced by a large ballroom, and it was no longer just her and Golden Wish in attendance. Shadowy figures made their way about the room, sipping at punch and talking to each other in the low murmur of a crowd.

Golden Wish lowered a glass and raised a hoof to wave at Twilight from across the room. “So nice of you to join us, Twilight! Come on over and enjoy the party!”

So much for peace and quiet. As she made her way across the dance floor, a pair of unicorns spun past her, whirling together in a complex routine. A wave of intense heat followed by bitter cold swept past her, and it took her a second to realize the pair were the supposed familiars Golden Wish had summoned in the last book.

Golden Wish poured a rich looking purple liquid from a fancy looking bottle into a glass and floated it over to Twilight. "Here, you could probably stand to relax a little anyway."

Twilight grabbed the glass with her own magic and swirled it around, eying it suspiciously. "Do you just want me to dull my senses or what?"

Golden Wish rolled her eyes, then poured a second glass. "It's a wedding, Twilight! Let loose and live a little. Even up here it's okay to celebrate."

Twilight grunted in response, glancing out the large bay windows still adorning the wall at the party below. The clock was frozen, but there wasn't much time left for her turn. She'd played her hand already, and unless she could fish for more information now, it would be midnight, and time for ponies to start dying.

Golden Wish raised her glass to Twilight. "A toast, then. To love."

Letting out a long sigh, Twilight clinked the glasses together, then downed the whole thing in one gulp. "To love."

The fruity and slightly bitter taste washed through her, and she felt herself grinning in spite of it all. “So I see the unicorn twins, but other than a bunch of shadow ponies, is it really just you and me?”

Golden Wish frowned, reaching out for the bottle and beginning to refill her glass. “Well…”

“I suppose that’s my cue, isn’t it?”

Both alicorns turned to see Infinite Miracle walking up to the table. She stopped, nodded to both of them, and her horn started to glow as she poured a glass herself.

“I didn’t expect to see you down here,” Twilight said, raising an eyebrow.

Infinite Miracle glanced between the two of them, a soft smirk playing at her lips. “Even someone like me can stop to enjoy a party every now and then. Oh, you’ve been doing a wonderful job by the way, Twilight. It was an awful lot of effort to set up this whole scenario for you to play with. I’m glad to see it’s not going to waste.”

Twilight glanced over at Golden Wish, who seemed suddenly very interested in the contents of her glass, and refused to make eye contact. “Uh, thanks, I guess? I was half expecting to be criticized for trying to derail everything.”

“Fiction is a malleable construct, and while the word of the author is law, it is a law one can just as easily ignore. You’ve modified the original to suit your own tastes. Whether it’s better or not is irrelevant, but each story is filled with infinite potential.”

“But,” Twilight said, narrowing her eyes, “I can’t modify the story too much, or else it would defeat the point of this all, right? I can’t save anypony from dying.”

Infinite Miracle chuckled softly, her laughter as hollow as her eyes. “Conflict is the soul of a story. If you remove the murder, then you remove the need to detect, and thus the detective falls to the wayside as well.”

"Cake!" Golden Wish cried out shrilly, shoving her way in between the two of them. "I'm sure both of you would love to have some cake!"

Twilight bit back her words, the anger that had begun to boil in her throat subsiding. "That... sure, whatever. Cake."

Golden Wish waved a hoof frantically, and one of the shadows pushed over a cart with a large, multi-tiered wedding cake on top of it.

Twilight paused to look at the shadow pony more closely, and found that it didn't really do her much good. The thing was about as vaguely defined as she had remembered it being described in the novel, and it was starting to give her a headache just trying to wrap her brain around it.

In any case, she found that she was actually quite hungry, and that the cake looked positively divine.

Levitating a knife and a plate up from the cart, she began to carve herself up a slice. As she bit into it with the knife, however, a red, sticky liquid oozed out, reminding Twilight of blood. Despite her momentary shock at seeing it, however, she was positive that it was just strawberry syrup or something similar.

That was, at least, until the cake started screaming.

Before she even had time to cobble together a properly horrified reaction, the cake exploded, showering spurts of red and fleshy looking lumps all over the room.

“Surprise!”

A unicorn stood there in the center of the carnage, her pink coat stained a much darker red. She reached down and fished a soggy looking beret out of the mess, plopping it on her head with a wet squelch.

“Man, I bet you were wondering when I was going to show up again. Am I good at entrances or what?”

“You…” Twilight mumbled, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open. At the very least, it turned out that the red slurry currently sloughing down her face really was strawberry syrup, or at least something that tasted the same.

There was a pink flash of magic, and all of the candied gore vanished in an instant, leaving not a single trace or stain behind. With an ear splitting grin that reminded Twilight all too much of a far more wholesome practical joker, Absolute Certainty looked between the three of them expectantly.

The seconds passed by with blank stares and silence, and Absolute Certainty’s smile began to falter. “Aww, come on, guys. Not even a chuckle? Sheesh, is this a wedding or a funeral?”

Infinite Miracle grunted softly, and raised a hoof to brush her mane back over her shoulder. “I swear. Your sense of humor is about as elegant as your fashion sense.”

“Mirraaaaaaa,” Absolute Certainty whined, puffing her cheeks out and tugging on her beret. “Come on, we’re playing a game here, you don’t have to be mean about it.”

“What,” Twilight said flatly. She glanced over at Golden Wish, hoping for a smidgen of sanity. Golden Wish caught her eye, blushed, and lowered her head.

“Uh, Twilight, this is Absolute Certainty. She’s my… well, the best word to use would be ‘patron’. Just like Infinite Miracle is playing this game with you as her emissary, so it goes the other way around.”

Twilight pressed her hoof to the bridge of her nose as hard as she could. “We’ve met.”

Absolute Certainty slithered across the floor and threw a hoof around Twilight’s shoulder, pulling herself in uncomfortably close. “Hey, I’m always glad when I make a good impression on a customer! I had a feeling you were something special. Better watch out, though. When Mira sinks her claws into something she wants, she doesn’t let go easy!”

There was a hum of magic and Absolute Certainty was engulfed in a blue aura and lifted into the air off of Twilight and set down on the floor nearby. “When Twilight beats this silly game and tears this pathetic child’s mystery to shreds,” Infinite Miracle said, idly staring at one of her hooves. “I’m going to sink my claws deep into you, and only let go when it will tear out the parts of your insides you need the most.”

Absolute Certainty grinned, showing her teeth. “It’s a date!”

Twilight shook her head, taking a few steps back. “Is this all some kind of really tasteless joke?”

Golden Wish let out a long sigh. "Sorry. This wasn't exactly what I had in mind."

Absolutely Certainty turned to them and sucked in a deep breath but whatever she was about to shout was cut off by the blue aura of Infinite Miracle's magic.

"The two of you do have a game to continue, so I'll take this troublemaker back to where she belongs," Infinite Miracle said, locking her eyes with Twilight. "We'll be watching. Make sure you put on a good show. No matter what the outcome, it's no good if the story is boring."

There was a flash of light and the party was gone. Twilight and Golden Wish once again stood alone in the tea room.

Twilight closed her eyes, gritting her teeth. She felt so lost all of a sudden. It was one thing for her cat to turn out to be some weird sort of inter-dimensional being, but a random candy merchant she had happened to meet in the market? And what did it mean that she was the 'patron' of a fictional character?

Just what had she gotten herself into?

Twilight escorted everypony back to their rooms.

Under normal circumstances, it would have been seen as an odd gesture, but they were all drunk on the adrenaline of the night, love, and perhaps a few other things. So, promising to clean up the remains of the party herself, Twilight saw each of them to bed, and once the door was shut, sealed their doors with tape for good measure. She was no longer confident it would give her an advantage, but it might provide some ponies with an alibi and make her reasoning easier.

So she stood alone in the entrance of the mansion, the banner covering Golden Wish’s portrait beginning to slump off as the fastenings failed. The clock began to ring the chimes of midnight, and the game board was no longer in her hooves.

It was time for the nightmare to make its move, for this story to grow dark, desperate, and bloody.

Her friends were going to be the one who paid that price, while she could do nothing more than watch.

She wasn’t going to cry.


Golden Wish stood before the doors of the mansion, her teeth bared in an expression of wicked glee.

“I wonder what scenario I should go with this time; I have so many delicious choices. I could split apart the seed of love that I was able to help sow so long ago, or perhaps just one of them. We’ve never gotten to see Rarity react to her lover’s death, after all. It could be a nice change of pace.

“Ah, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with the others too. Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack. Maybe even Twilight! Ah, perhaps I should leave it to chance, up to the roll of the dice.”

Golden Wish threw back her head, cackling madly as the storm howled battered the shield around the mansion.

“No.”

Princess Celestia stepped out from behind a nearby pillar, moving to block the door to the mansion and spreading her wings. “I’m sorry, Goldy, but this has gone on long enough.”

Golden Wish raised an eyebrow. “How nice of you to join us, so late in the game! They were all very upset that you didn’t make it to the festivities. Not even a letter. Talk about a major faux pas.”

Luna’s voice rang out from behind her, filled with undisguised venom. “Our wedding gift to them will be their lives. We won’t let you play your game any further.”

Celestia took a step forward. “Please, Goldy. Pursue this madness no more. It won’t get you the results you seek, and if you continue, we’ll be forced to deal with you ourselves.”

“And if I refuse?”

Celestia’s horn began to glow a brilliant yellow. “So be it.”

Author's Note:

Expect the next chapter September 8th.

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