• 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 20 - Lunar Apocrypha

Twilight watched the princesses square off against Golden Wish below. “Is this supposed to be new? Or did a grand battle like this happen off-screen in the previous novels?”

Golden Wish glanced her way, her eyes dancing with delight. “Hmm, I wonder. The mentor willing to risk everything to protect her student and her friends. It’s a pretty compelling image, don’t you think?”

"Compelling image." Twilight spat on the ground, and had to fight to keep herself from grinding her teeth to dust. "Is that really all you care about? Telling a good story? Do you have any empathy at all for those forced to participate, or read it?"

Golden Wish snorted and rolled her eyes. "Just shut up and watch. This is the best part."

The air hummed with power as Celestia and Luna began to slowly circle their foe.

Golden Wish shifted to the side, positioning herself so she could watch both alicorns out of the corners of her eyes. Her own horn began to glow with a soft golden light. "You know, if we go all out here, there might not be a mansion left for them to wake up in."

Luna snorted and flicked her tail. “Power like yours does not belong in the hooves of someone who is so clearly still a child. I learned the lesson of over-indulgence once, and it cost me and my sister dearly.”

“Blah blah blah,” Golden Wish said, waving a hoof in circles. “Nopony cares if your experiences are relevant, moonbutt. This story isn’t about you. All in all, I think the narrative would be much richer if you two weren't in it.”

“Enough!” Celestia’s words were undercut by the crack of thunder, and arcs of blue and gold lightning surged forth from the sisters, cascading around Golden Wish and forming a crackling prison of electricity.

Golden Wish gingerly reached out a hoof before flinching back as the lightning violently rebuffed her. “Neat trick,” she mumbled through gritted teeth, “but you’re going to have to strike more decisively than that!”

With a golden flash of her horn, two circles inlaid with overlapping runic patterns began to glow on the nearby walls. “Flauros! Cryos!”

There was a howling gust and a roar of fire as two streaks of light shot towards the sisters. Celestia and Luna met them head on, locking their horns with the elemental unicorns, a savage fury burning in their eyes.

“You think these pathetic doppelgangers can stand against us?” Luna growled, forming a silver spear of magical energy and bringing it down hard on Flauros. She twisted to one side to dodge, but Luna still scored a glancing blow that struck with a satisfying crunch and elicited a yelp of pain.

“It’s still a distraction, isn’t it?” Golden Wish lashed out with her power, pulling apart the cage of lightning and taking off into the air.

Celestia looked up, eyes cold, as she wrapped her telekinesis around the neck of Cryos and casually tossed her to the side. Cryos hit Twilight’s shield full force, breaking through it with the sudden rush of storm and crashing into the snow banks beyond.

“Luna, take care of the clouds for me.”

Luna nodded, bracing herself as she began to channel energy. The ground started to shake around them as a small sphere of black energy formed above her horn, air rushing towards it. With a grunt, she fired it into the sky, the small mote of darkness disappearing into the clouds. After a few seconds, there was a deafening boom that rattled the mansion to its very foundation. Then suddenly, all the clouds for at least a mile in every direction vanished, absorbed into the void. Golden Wish had to anchor herself to the roof with telekinesis to keep from being blown away by the backlash of the vacuum.

With the storm dispersed, the soft silver light of the moon shone down upon them, and Luna basked in the source of her power. She began to call forth the ancient magic that would allow her to end this in one swift stroke, but her sister stopped her with a hoof on her shoulder and shook her head.

“Allow me, Luna. It’s my fault for letting things go on for so long in the first place.” Celestia’s magic crackled through the air, and the moon shrank below the horizon, the bright light of day taking its place.

Golden Wish shielded her eyes from the sudden light, glancing up as she shakily took back to the air. “Oh mighty smiter of the sun!” she called out, her voice echoing down below. “You’d better watch where you aim that thing. You wouldn’t want to barbeque poor little Twilight, would you?”

Celestia smirked and lowered the sun to to where it was just peeking over the horizon. As it leveled with the horizon, there was the faintest flash of light from the sun, then a roar as a lance of solar energy streaked directly towards Golden Wish.

She barely managed to throw herself out of its path in time, the heat searing her flank and setting some of her wing feathers alight. Wide-eyed, she bit off a curse as she rolled down the roof and dropped down behind it, putting the mansion in between herself and the sun.

Her relief was short lived when she found the sun to have shifted its position to find her.. Light and energy began to rain down on her once more with simply ludicrous precision.

Golden Wish lunged forward, taking the offensive and charging straight for Celestia. She twisted her body in flight and used short range teleports to dodge the attacks pouring down on her. As the waves of heat washed over her and the ground torn up below, she felt like a mouse somepony was trying to kill with a sledgehammer.

She fired up her horn to cast a spell, then positioned herself directly over Celestia and dived straight down. The princess would be defenseless while aiming the orbital bombardment, and she could—

Luna cut off her charge with the presence of a particularly deadly spear, and Golden Wish had to twist back once more, a shallow cut landing on her side. She teleported away just as quickly as another horizontal beam of energy threatened to turn her into a pile of ash.

She reappeared on the ground, making eye contact with Celestia as she panted heavily. “Hey now, can’t we slow down a bit? We’re not even getting in the requisite banter.”

Luna touched down behind her. “Of all the crimes you’re guilty of, the constant running of your mouth ranks abnormally high on my list.”

“Okay, time out,” Twilight said, slamming a hoof down on the table.

Golden Wish bit her lip. “Kind of an important part, you’re really killing the momentum.”

“What is this?”

“It’s a fight scene,” Golden Wish said, raising an eyebrow. “I thought that was obvious.”

Twilight began to grind her teeth again. “I’m not sure how much you actually know about Princess Celestia or Princess Luna, but whipping the sun around the sky and using it to rain pinpoint death upon her enemies isn’t actually something she’s capable of. And I doubt she would even if she could, for that matter.”

Golden Wish threw back her head, laughing jovially. “Come on, Twilight! It’s a story! Suspend your disbelief a little.”

“Call me crazy,” Twilight said, letting out a long sigh, “but with the current situation, that’s just not really high on my priorities.”

“But Twilight,” Golden Wish said, twisting her face into a pout and her voice dripping with false sincerity, “I worked really hard on this presentation! You’ll love it, I’m sure!”

“Not to mention that destructive power like that would wake me up, along with everypony else sleeping in the mansion.”

“Psh. Details.”

Golden Wish swallowed and licked her lips as she glanced between the two sisters, her throat dry. The air shimmered with the oppressive heat of the sun, and she could see steam rising from the snow banks.

Celestia continued to regard her with cold eyes. “The path you’ve embarked upon leads only to self destruction.”

“I’ve come this far, haven’t I? Why stop now?”

There was a flash of light, the roar of fire, and then only a crater remained where Golden Wish once stood.

Luna let out a sigh, shaking her head. “It is done. Truly, I have heard of poor decision making, but she really took it to a whole new level.”

Celestia lowered her head. “The actions we take to get the results we dream of are not always rational ones, whether the intentions are noble or self serving. It is merely something to pity.”

A chill, damp wind began to blow from the north, the distant storm unwilling to relent despite its earlier magical obliteration. Luna glanced up into the sky, shielding her eyes. “Sister, can you turn that thing down? It is getting a little warm over here.”

Celestia cracked a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Of course, dear sister. How clumsy of me. I’ll — Look out!”

Luna turned to see a golden flash of light streaking towards her. She threw herself to the side, avoiding what would have most assuredly been a fatal blow, but she still felt a hot flash of pain across her flank.

Biting off a curse, Luna spun, twirling her spear through the air and cleaving straight through her would-be attacker. It cut through Golden Wish like paper, the cackling sneer of the alicorn fading into dust.

There was another rush of movement from behind and Luna jumped back to see Golden Wish coming down at her again, a long dagger in her teeth. She caught the blade with her spear, grunting as she braced herself against the force.

Before she could conjure up an effective counterattack of her own, there was a flash of fire, and a blast from Celestia’s horn reduced Golden Wish into nothing once more.

A high pitched cackle rang out from somewhere up above, which was quickly joined by a second, a third, a fourth, and dozens more voices. Golden alicorns littered the mansion and the grounds around the sisters, howling discordantly like a pack of hyenas.

“Isn’t this fun?” they all called out in unison.

“Sister, leave it to me!” Luna yelled, diving into the air as the horde began to converge upon them. She swatted two of them out of her way and blasted a third, emerging past the crowd into the skies above. Calling forth on her special talent, darkness fell as the sun sank beneath the horizon, replaced by her own silver radiance.

The moon’s power filled her, and she conjured a dozen small orbs of white light which began to spin around her, humming as they began building energy.

There was a roar and Twilight’s vision was suddenly full of a blinding silver light where the table in front of her had been. A wave of concussive force hit her and she was thrown across the room, slamming into a piece of furniture.

Her ears rung, and as she blinked tears out of her eyes, she could see that table was gone, completely obliterated. There was a sizzling trench in the ground where it had stood mere seconds before. Golden Wish was picking herself up from the shattered remains of her chair on the other side of the room, her eyes unfocused as she shook her head.

“Twilight!”

She heard a voice call out to her, the sound muffled and distant. Her vision spun, and as she slowly managed to focus, the world and sound came rushing back to her.

“Twilight, quickly, we have to go!”

Twilight slowly stood up, taking a moment to make sure nothing was broken and turned to see Luna of all ponies standing in front of a hole in the wall leading to a formless void beyond.

“What?” Twilight stared at Luna. Her brain seemed to have short circuited. Maybe she had hit her head a little harder than she thought.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Golden Wish asked as she shakily stood back up.

Luna glanced over at Golden Wish, blinked a few times, then quickly galloped over to Twilight. “Are you hurt? I am sorry, I was aiming blind. Come now, we must leave immediately.”

Twilight reached up to run a hoof against the back of her head. “I think I’m fine, but…” She looked up into Luna’s eyes, then glanced over at the fight scene below, where Luna was frozen mid-scene. “What are you talking about? Go where? What are you doing here? Which Luna are you even supposed to be?”

“It is me, Twilight. The real Luna. You are in grave danger here. You have been asleep for nearly three days now.”

Twilight blinked, and she felt her heart speed up in her chest and her throat tighten. Three days? From her perspective she had only been here for a dozen hours at most. And sleeping? “That’s… if I’m asleep, where am I now?”

Luna glanced over her shoulder, looking back and forth. “You are in the hospital on life-supportive magic. Your friends have been taking turns watching over you. It has taken this long just for me to be able to reach you. Listen, the creatures that lured you here have nothing but ill intentions.”

“Well, I didn’t exactly think she was doing it out of the goodness of her heart,” Twilight muttered. She felt herself shiver at the thought. Life support? The idea that her body was slowly wasting away while she played this game was a chilling one. If it had taken three days already, how much longer would she be unconscious before she reached the conclusion?

Luna kept glancing back at the entrance she made, and motioned for Twilight to follow. She took a step forward, hesitant.

“Um, Twilight…” Golden Wish said, her voice low, “where are you going?”

Twilight bit her lip. Even with the risks… “I did come here for a reason, Luna. I want to find out the truth. For my sake, and for Fluttershy’s.”

Luna shook her head. “There is no need. Fluttershy told us absolutely everything. She is not a pony who easily bares her heart, but when she found out that your life was in danger because you went searching for the answers, it tore her apart.”

“I… I see.” Twilight swallowed, a thick lump in her chest. “So, uh, what is it then?”

Golden Wish drew in a deep breath, her eyes wide as she trembled in the corner.

Luna’s mouth twitched up into a grin. “It is actually quite simple, though there are some rather clever bits to it as well. You see, ********** ** ** **** **** ***, ********. ** *** **** *** **** **** *** ***** ****** **** *** ** ******* *** *******.

Twilight reached up to rub at her ears as Luna’s voice came out in a discordant jumble of nonsense.

“Now now. Those would be spoilers. You wouldn’t want to ruin all the fun, would you?”

“I see,” Luna mumbled, her face twisting into a grimace. “I suppose I should have expected as much. Show yourselves, demons!”

“Demons? That’s really a gross and ugly word, if you ask me. If you’re going to call us anything, I prefer ‘Ethically Challenged Narrative Aficionados.’”

Absolute Certainty dropped down from the ceiling, materializing out of thin air and landing with a quick sweep of her hat and a low bow. Her face lit up with a bright smile as Infinite Miracle walked in through the hole Luna had left in the wall.

Luna took a few steps back, positioning herself in front of Twilight and spreading her wings, her horn at the ready. “I am the Guardian of the Night, and I will not let you take Twilight Sparkle!”

Infinite Miracle walked over to stand only a few feet from Luna and turned her eyes up to meet her gaze. “We’re only borrowing her for a bit. I’m sure she’ll come out of it in more or less one piece. You have faith in your own abilities, don’t you, Twilight?”

Twilight shook her head. Everything was happening so fast, and her head was still spinning. “This situation is getting a little out of scope, but I came here for a reason. Luna, how dangerous will it be for my physical body if I stay here?”

Luna bit her lip. “It is not your physical body that I am worried about. Between the doctors and the efforts of my sister, you could theoretically sleep for years. It is your mind, and that is what I have come to rescue. These beings prey on the vulnerable, the needy, those who seek something they could never obtain on their own. Or at least those who believe as much.”

Absolute Certainty let out a high pitched giggle. “Aww, you know us so well!”

“This is a private function, you know,” Infinite Miracle said, narrowing her eyes. “Unwelcome guests, by their very definition, do not belong.”

“How very ominous,” Twilight said dryly. “Look, how about we clear the air about all of this, and skip past all the half-truths and mixed metaphors. If I were to change my mind and decide that playing this game was no longer worth it, and to just talk things out with Fluttershy instead, would you allow me to leave?”

Infinite Miracle turned to regard her with cold eyes and a stare that lingered uncomfortably long. When she finally spoke, it was with a sigh of resignation. “Authenticity emerges when the actors are free to make their own decisions, with maybe a little bit of guidance in the right direction. But, if you wish to cast aside your purpose and cast me as the villain of this piece… I will perform that role to the best of my abilities. Even if not ideal, it can still be a salvageable narrative.”

Twilight felt a shiver run down her spine at the casual indifference with which Infinite Miracle continued to treat her life. Just what sort of perspective did she really have? “I see. Luna, if we were going to force our way out, do you think we could do it?”

Light flickered in the room, and the shadows cast across the faces of Absolute Certainty and Infinite Miracle made their relatively passive expressions seem far more sinister than they actually were.

Luna shifted her weight from side to side. “I… do not know.”

Two options were presented before her. Both seemed to have their risks. However she actually felt at the moment, it might be better to fall back on a simple cost-benefit analysis.

“And what about me?” Golden Wish asked, her voice bitter. She walked over from the sidelines where she had been watching herself and put herself in the middle of the antagonists, facing Twilight and Luna. “You feel it just as much as I do. This game, this story, deserves to have a proper ending. Are you really going to run away with your tail tucked between your legs before that can happen?”

Luna twitched slightly, giving Golden Wish an odd, sort of pensive look as she worked to keep her mouth neutral.

Twilight closed her eyes. It wasn’t something she liked to admit, but Infinite Miracle and Absolute Certainty scared her. Although she had gotten into this mess herself, she was starting to have doubts about how freely she had really made the choices she did. Whatever they were, they had at least some sort of influence in the real world. Had they gotten to Fluttershy in some way, too? Maybe even before any of this had started.

The very thought caused a surge of white hot anger to boil up inside of her, and her hooves trembled as she tried to keep calm and continue her deliberation.

This story, however, wasn’t theirs. While Infinite Miracle may have given it shape and form, and in some sense, literal life, the heart of the story was still one written by Fluttershy. It wasn’t like she had it spelled out for her in red or anything, but she knew it to be true all the same. In turn, that included Golden Wish, the villain Fluttershy had penned in order to give a different Twilight something to face off with.

She felt a small smile playing at her lips, and had to try in order to stifle a laugh. It occurred to her that she had been asking herself the same questions at least half a dozen times over the past few days. Just how far was she willing to go to see everything through?

Her answer could only be more of the same.

“I’m going to finish this. No matter what.”

Luna let out a held breath. “I see. I cannot commend the wisdom of the path you have chosen, Twilight Sparkle, but I also cannot ignore the passion and determination that drives you. If anypony can pull out of this mess intact, it is you.”

Absolutely Certainty rolled her eyes and blew her bangs out of her eyes. “Yeesh. Enough with the heroic introspection and sappy declarations and yada yada. This is still a private party, and moonbutt over there doesn’t exactly match the décor.”

Infinite Miracle began to walk to the side, slowly circling around Luna. “You made it here, Princess, but the void is a vast and dangerous place. I wish you all the best of luck in finding your way back home. In one piece.”

Twilight thought she caught the glint of feline eyes somewhere far in the darkness through the hole Luna had made. “Luna is my friend,” she said, her voice a low growl. “If leaving would be so dangerous, then she’s welcome to stay here under my invitation. Detectives are supposed to have sidekicks anyway, aren’t they?”

“She already has been told the answers. Spoilers are never any fun.”

Twilight grit her teeth. “So keep her censored, or whatever it is that you did. General advice, moral support, and maybe a cryptic hint or two should still preserve the mystery, shouldn’t it?”

Absolute Certainty bounced over to Golden Wish and threw a foreleg over her shoulder. “What do you think, Goldie? If little Twi-Twi gets an assistant, especially one that knows all your precious secrets, will you be able to keep it together?”

Golden Wish snorted, her face a little pink. “I’m not so easily cowed. Besides, Twilight needs all the help she can get. It might behoove me a little to actually try.”

“Uh-huh. Sure,” Twilight muttered. She had spent enough time around Rainbow Dash to recognize empty bravado when she saw it.

“Very well,” Infinite Miracle said, turning around, “just try not to be disappointing. You kids play nice now.”

And with that, the two were gone.

Twilight let out a sigh of relief and fell back onto her haunches. She ached in numerous places and she would be feeling the effects of that explosion for days.

Or, maybe not. Since her real body was in a hospital somewhere, it would likely be a different problem she would have to deal with when she woke up.

“Are we going to get on with this or not?” Golden Wish asked.

Twilight glanced up at Luna and shook her head. “If it’s okay with you, can we take a break? The momentum’s kind of lost at this point anyway, and there are some things I need to discuss and think through.”

Golden Wish pursed her lips. “Very well. I’ll leave you to it.”

There was a flash of light, and Golden Wish vanished, leaving Twilight and Luna alone.

“How is everyone?” Twilight asked softly.

Luna sat down next to her and then extended a wing to pull Twilight into a quick hug. “They are all very worried about you. They take shifts to watch over you at the hospital. Applejack and Rarity have been studiously avoiding each other.”

Twilight blinked, then burst out laughing. “Fluttershy really explained everything, huh? Wow, I am really never going to be able to look those two in the eye ever again. I just married their fictional counterparts to each other in a dream, after all.” Biting her lip, she added, “What exactly happened to me, anyway?”

Luna shook her head. “The details come from others, as I did not learn until later, but as I understand it, Fluttershy came over to apologize the next morning, and she and Spike were unable to wake you. After some brief panicking, they got the rest of your friends involved, and eventually you were moved to a hospital. After which my sister and I were contacted.”

“I see,” Twilight said, nodding. “And me, trapped in this crazy dream world. Is that something you’ve dealt with before?”

“Not directly, but I have heard rumors. Every story written leaves an imprint on the minds of those who read it. Each dream is a story, a little world of its own, in a sense. Sometimes the denizens, fragments of stories given life in dream, find themselves passing from one dream to another, floating thoughts on the wind. Most simply fade into background noise, but very rarely some will continue to wander, each story leaving its mark. They might grow in form, shape, in sentience, until they can seek out further power with intent, whether malicious or benign.”

Twilight frowned. “That’s what you’re saying those two are? Fragments of fiction grown into sentience and maliciously enabled to wander around and cause trouble?” She glanced over at the table. “Could something like that happen to Golden Wish?”

Luna shrugged. “Perhaps. Like I said, it is only rumor. There could be an entirely different explanation, for all I know.”

Well, it was better than nothing. “How is Fluttershy?”

Luna made an odd face, and it looked like she was choosing her words carefully. “Distraught, to put it mildly. I don’t think she’ll ever forgive herself for putting you through this.”

Twilight winced. “That’s not really fair… I could have stopped this at any time if I wanted to, but I decided to keep going, for her sake and my own.”

“Perhaps,” Luna said, her expression distant. “I am not one to judge the actions of either of you. It is something you will need to work out with each other when you get back.”

Twilight grinned. “When I get back, huh? You think I’ve got a good shot at winning?”

A wry smile played at Luna’s lips. “I think you are in for a challenge unlike any other you have dealt with in your lifetime. And it will likely be a major turning point for the rest of it.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “More vague and ominous musings. Is it too much to ask that anypony anywhere just tells it to me like it is? Where’s Spike when you need him?”

“****. *** ****** ** ****, ********.

“Oh, right. Sorry.” Twilight stood up and made her way over to the table. “Wait, didn’t this blow up?”

They glanced over to the hole where Luna had entered only to find it gone, as if it had never been made in the first place.

“The world of dreams cannot be altered permanently, no matter how strong I might be. Given time, it will return to the form it remembers.”

Twilight shrugged. “Whatever. Looks like the chessboard is exactly how we left it. I suppose it’s time I get back to the story.”

Golden Wish reappeared in a flash of light, a brush floating in the air beside her working its way through her mane. “That was a shorter break than I expected, Twilight. Are you sure you’re ready?”

“Just get on with it already.”

The horde of Golden Wishes crashed towards Luna like a wave. She dove in response as the orbs of light surrounding her began pulsing out short bursts of moonlit power. The attacking alicorns were speared through by the dozens, but for every copy that fell, two more seemed to take its place. It took every scrap of agility Luna had just to avoid the flashing knives of the oncoming sea of gold.

Luna called forth even more of the moon’s power into her, until she felt like she was bursting at the seams. The orbs around her shifted to her front, where they began to spin faster and faster, forming into a giant silver drill that—

“...”

“W-What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

Twilight turned to face Luna, her eyebrow raised as high as it could possibly go. “Princess Luna, are you capable of powering up using the full moon and then forming a giant energy drill to defeat a horde of evil alicorns?”

“I’m afraid not,” Luna said, her voice full of mirth. “I could maybe pull something off on a smaller scale, but it wouldn’t be very practical.”

Golden Wish stomped a hoof and flicked her tail around, her face bright red. “I am trying to tell a story here!”

Twilight leaned on the table, resting her face against one of her hooves. “Look, I appreciate a superpowered fight scene as much as the next pony, but are we even in the same genre anymore? What could you possibly be expecting me to get from this tawdry display?”

Golden Wish started to grind her teeth together, and Twilight was almost sure she could see steam coming from her ears. “Maybe if you’d shut up and keep watching, you’d find it out…”

“What do you think I’m supposed to take from this scene, Luna?”

Luna raised a hoof to her chin. “Hmm. When the night is over and morning is come, do you think you will be able to find evidence of a titanic battle that took place outside while everypony slept soundly?”

“It certainly scars the earth a bunch. Although I’m expecting some cheap excuse about resetting everything back to normal with wishing magic, or something to that effect.” When she looked up, Golden Wish refused to meet her eyes.

“Precisely. And even if what she is showing you is really what happened, without physical evidence you would be safe in dismissing that reality. Do you remember the last time a crazy fight scene featured prominently in the narrative?”

Twilight frowned. “That would be the closed room where she summoned those goons to kill Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, but I found evidence there.”

Luna shook her head. “You found evidence that matched the story you were told.”

“Are you saying it was faked?”

“I am saying it could have been.”

“Fine!” Golden Wish stood up, her expression livid. “If neither of you care about what's going on, then we’ll just skip to the end! After a long fought battle I win, killing Princess Celestia and Luna. Guess it’s morning now. Oh no! I wonder which pony died horribly!”

Twilight’s eyes snapped open, the ceiling of the mansion in front of her.

With a frown, she sat up and looked around. It was definitely her room in the manor. The storm raged outside, but there was a faint light that indicated it was morning.

Gritting her teeth, she prepared to shift back above. That conversation wasn’t over.

Only to find that she couldn’t.

“Ah, ponyfeathers.”

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