• 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 23 - The Heart of an Author


It was all way too obvious. The clues were everywhere, and they had been staring her straight in the face since book one. She should have put the dots together a subjective eternity ago.

And, on some level, she thought she had done just that, at least unconsciously. But rather than fully examine the implications of what a truth like that might bring into the light, she had constructed a theory that threw Princess Celestia of all ponies under the bus in an effort to divert the story in a direction she preferred.

And even now, she thought that she might prefer the comfort of her version of the story that had been so savagely denied.

“And the last pony crosses the finish line! Give her a round of applause, everypony!”

A familiar voice interrupted Twilight’s inner monologue, and she groaned, straining to return to full consciousness. As her eyes fluttered and her vision cleared, she came to the realization that she was in the void. A soft red light reflected off the mirror in front of her.

She could see that she was trussed up in thick red chains, hanging in a position that would have been absurdly uncomfortable had gravity been doing its job. She was bruised and battered, and her eyes showed her a soul deep weariness.

That is, until her mirror self scoffed and rolled her eyes.

Twilight blinked in confusion, and as her depth perception kicked in, she realized that it wasn’t a mirror she was staring into at all. Her doppelganger was trussed up directly in front of her, in a manner reminiscent of...

“You’re Twilight! The one from Fluttershy’s second novel. The Meta-Twilight that was beaten down by Golden Wish. Since the novel never ended, we never learned what happened to you.”

“Call me Sparkle,” she said, letting out a light sigh, “it’ll be less confusing that way.”

Twilight frowned. “But what are you doing here? It’s not like anything that happens in the world between worlds makes much sense in the first place, but this is pushing it a little bit, isn’t it?”

Sparkle’s face lit up with a pained grin. “Maybe I’m not really here after all,” she said, coughing. “I could just be an aspect of your subconscious here to guide you on your final path to the truth. A metaphor for your internal struggles.”

It was Twilight’s turn to roll her eyes. “I know for a fact I’m not this obnoxious.”

“Maybe not,” Sparkle said, shrugging. “Fluttershy was the one who wrote me, after all.”

That reminder was a sobering weight on her chest. “Fluttershy, she…“

Sparkle fixed her with a hard stare. “Spell it out, Twi. You’ve got nothing to hide from anymore. Not even yourself. We’ll work through the whole thing together.”

Twilight bit her lip and looked away.

“Start from the red truth you got. Celestia and Luna were never a part of the story to begin with. What does that mean?”

“That every scene featuring Celestia and Luna was a complete and utter fabrication,” Twilight said. She tested the bonds holding her own legs taut, and found them nearly immoveable.

“But even if those scenes were fantasy, we were still told of their existence, weren’t we?”

Twilight swallowed. “It means that anything Fluttershy, or on at least one occasion, Applejack, said in regards to interacting with them was a deliberate lie.” A bit too hastily, perhaps, she added, “But that doesn’t mean that Fluttershy is the culprit!”

“Maybe,” Sparkle said, waving a hoof dismissively. “But it’s about as suspicious as you can get. And come on, this is end game. How many other options do you have? Six ponies total. We didn’t murder anyone, so that leaves five suspects. And it can’t be Rarity and Applejack, so that leaves us with three.”

“Wait, hold on,” Twilight said. “What do you mean it can’t be Rarity and Applejack? I mean, I don’t really think it is, but we can’t just rule them out as a matter of course.”

Sparkle took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “Second closed room. Applejack and Rarity didn’t commit suicide, nor did they kill each other. Somepony else murdered them. The culprit is the same in every game, and is a pony who deliberately commits an act of murder. Therefore, neither Applejack or Rarity can be be the culprit.”

Twilight let out a low whistle. “Wow, I didn’t even catch that. You’re pretty good.”

“I’d like to think it comes from judiciously applied study habits.”

“Seriously! It’s something everypony takes for granted, but it really takes a lot of work to get to where I am.”

Twilight felt herself smile, even if the situation wasn’t one that warranted levity. It quickly faded.

“But still… Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, or Rainbow Dash? Are those really our options?”

Sparkle let her head sag a bit. “Simple process of elimination, really. But… you know as well as I do where it all really leads.”

“But Fluttershy died in every story! How can she be the the culprit if she’s dead, huh?”

Sparkle rolled her eyes. “When the detective investigates something, it’s as good as the red truth. But in the first game, I never looked closely at her body. In the second, I never saw it at all. The third is on you, but I’m sure you can figure out that puzzle if you think about it.”

Twilight’s stomach began to twist itself into knots. “There’s a still a chance that it could be…”

Sparkle just shook her head.

She could feel the tears beginning to form in her eyes. “But that just can’t be the answer. It can’t!”

“Do you really believe that, Twilight? Or do you just not want it to be true!"

"You don't understand what that would mean!" Twilight screamed, her voice breaking. Days of pent up frustration and unease at what she was now forced to confront were taking their toll. "If Fluttershy really is the culprit, if she wrote herself in as the culprit..."

Twilight paled and felt like she wanted to empty the contents of her stomach. "Anypony else, I could begrudgingly accept as the murderer. I wouldn't like it, but I could at least accept that as being fiction."

Sparkle continued to watch her in silence, her eyes filled with pain and understanding.

"But are you really trying to tell me that Fluttershy spent Celestia knows how long agonizing over a story, begging me to solve it, pleading for me to give it a chance and find the answer, driving herself half mad; only for the answer to be that Fluttershy callously murdered all of her friends? How am I supposed to take that? How should anypony possibly respond to something like that?"

"That's part two, isn't? We're finally forced to accept that the culprit was Fluttershy. Now, like Golden Wish asked, we have to figure out why."

Twilight grunted, the sound strangely hollow. "Does it even matter? Would I even really want to know the answer to that?”

Sparkle shook her head. "You're missing something here, Twi. Those books; my story. There's more to them than ponies getting murdered, isn't there?"

Twilight frowned. That was true, and yet...

"You're talking about stuff like the love story between Rarity and Applejack, the weird stuff about Princess Wishlight and the dragon, and the meta-narrative between you and Golden Wish, right? I could just be a cynic and assume it's all just there to give flavor to the tragedy."

Sparkle nodded slowly. "You could do that, yes, but even as down as you are right now, I know that isn't how you want to approach the world."

Twilight bit her lip and said nothing.

"Look, the way I see it, there are three possibilities. One: Fluttershy is absolutely bonkers, and she wrote this in order to hurt you, or as a cry for help to stop her for doing something terrible, or as a warning, etc. Whether or not it's true, do you want to believe it?"

Twilight found herself unable to meet her own eyes. "Even though I can't think of the alternatives... I still don't want something like that to be true. Fluttershy is one of the sweetest ponies I know. At least, that I thought I knew."

"Right," Sparkle said. She moved one of her hooves as if she were checking off an item on a list. "I don't want to believe that, either. "Option two: Fluttershy is a victim in this too. You've gotten involved with some pretty shady characters in all of this, and it's possible that Absolute Certainty roped her into this from the beginning, that Fluttershy was just another pawn in their game."

Twilight frowned. "It would certainly make a good deal of sense. The extent of their involvement is pretty vague, and Fluttershy has definitely been acting strange since the very beginning. But at the same time... Free will isn't subsumed so easily, and above anything else, Fluttershy was so utterly sincere in her desire for me to find the truth. Even if she was only pushed into it a little, there would have to be something there to start from."

Sparkle grinned, her eyes glinting in the soft red light. "And that brings us to option three: You're missing something here, and there's something that Fluttershy was trying to convey to you that extends beyond a mere murder mystery, the ultimate theme and point of the story as a whole. Maybe a little bit of ‘all of the above’ thrown in for good measure."

Twilight almost started to grind her teeth, but stopped herself. "And what, might I ask, could that possibly be?"

Sparkle's insufferable grin morphed into something even more insufferable. "Figure it out for yourself. You’ve come this far, haven’t you? It’s just a little bit further.”

“If I remember correctly,” Twilight said, rolling her eyes, “you’re the protagonist of the novel, here. Why don’t you tell me what it looks like from your perspective?”

“But that’s just it, Twilight. We’re all the protagonists of our own story. But this one in particular is all meant for you. The setting, the themes, the murders, the love story, the legends. The mystery of who lies behind the mask of Golden Wish. It all leads to one singular truth. An insanely complicated, insanely stupid, insanely desperate, simply insane truth. One of the simplest of them all, really.”


Twilight froze. Her heart thundered in her chest, and her body began to heat up. She opened her mouth to speak, but her mouth was suddenly dry, and it took her several tries to get started. “It… it can’t really be that simple, can it?”

Sparkle let out a soft giggle. “I’m pretty adorable when I’m flustered.”

“Why couldn’t she have just said something?”

“Beats me,” Sparkle said, shrugging. “Who am I, to know the heart of an author?”

“What am I supposed to do, with a conclusion like that? I don’t know if I can even… it’s just too much.”

“Talk to her, obviously. Use your words like an adult. Would have been great if that’s what happened from the start, but we’re already here, and now all we can do is move forward.”

A giggle erupted from Twilight’s chest unbidden. It sounded almost mad to her ears. “I’d have to get back first, I’m a little tied up at the moment.”

“You know the truth now. You should be able to focus and break your bonds at any time. But while whatever happens in reality is up to you, you still have a story out there that needs an ending.”

Twilight nodded, lifting her head up and staring into the void. Somewhere, her body slept in a hospital bed. Her friends were there, worried for her and waiting for her to come back. And Fluttershy… she would have to burn that bridge when she came to it.

“Golden Wish,” Twilight said. “She’s out there too. The battle you started and lost; I need to finish it. But how am I supposed to approach her, knowing that she’s really…”

Sparkle flashed her teeth. “Regardless of how you actually feel, wouldn’t it be a lot grander if you faithfully play the role of the hero for this one?”

Twilight could already picture it in her head. “Yeah… that sounds about right. Thank you for everything. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“No problem, kid.”


“I’m written to be five years older than you, remember?”

There was a golden flash of light, and the chains around both of them disappeared, leaving them floating in the void unrestrained. “You… can’t come with me to help, can you?’

Sparkle shook her head. “My story has already ended. I don’t have the freedom to go beyond that.”

Twilight took a few tentative steps forward, finding solid ground underneath her hooves and then threw her forelegs around her fictional self in a tight hug. “Anything you want me to say to Golden Wish for you?”

Sparkle squeezed her back. “Just make it flashy.”

Twilight stepped back and took a deep breath. She wiped at her eyes, stretched, cracked the bones in her neck, and took another deep breath for good measure.

It was time.


Absolute Certainty paced back and forth in front of the stands, eying each pony sitting there one by one. She stopped in front of the Celestia simulacrum and poked it with her hoof. It went straight through, and the image flickered slightly before disappearing entirely.

“Say, Goldie, now that we’ve won, I bet there’s all sorts of different games we could play with these five. I’m sure I can convince Mira to do a few more, and I’m sure she can dig up some other pony willing to play with us for a while. Might even be more competent than poor little Twi-Twi.” She punctuated her final statement by purposefully glancing towards the solid red ball of truth that sealed Twilight inside.

“I don’t know,” Infinite Miracle said, idly pushing her mane back over her shoulder. “This was fairly entertaining, but it might get boring if we let it drag on too long.”

“Aww, come on!” Absolute Certainty teleported, her eyes wide and pleading. “Miraaaaa, we just didn’t get enough mileage out of these two!”

Infinite Miracle leaned over and bit down on Absolute Certainty’s ear, hard enough to draw blood, eliciting a cry that probably had nothing to do with pain. “You shouldn’t underestimate me so, dearest Abby. We still have to close this gameboard up with an epilogue, don’t we?”

Golden Wish stirred from where she sat in the corner, looking over at the mismatched pair with hollow eyes.

Absolute Certainty squirmed, bursting out into a fit of giggles. “If you’ve got a last trump card left to play, then play it! I absolutely cannot accept it if everyone doesn’t go all out!”

Infinite Miracle snorted, releasing her grip. “If that piece of mine was truly beaten by such a weak counter, then she didn’t deserve my blessing in the first place.”

A thunderous crack split the air, resonating from the sphere that held Twilight Sparkle. A torrent of wind whipped across the courtroom, kicking up dust and debris in every direction. A glorious golden light shimmered from the crack that appeared in the sphere, which was quickly followed by more, like the hatching of a giant egg.

“You really do have good timing, Mira.”

“Hmph. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

There was a blinding flash, and Twilight Sparkle returned from oblivion. Power radiated from her, and her eyes glowed with a solid golden light. When she spoke, her voice echoed with a radiant energy. “Golden Wish. It’s time to face your judgement.”

Absolute Certainty teleported over to Golden Wish, giggling hysterically. “You see that light, don’t you? You know what that means, don’t you? It’s game over, sweetheart. She’s got your number, and there’s nothing left for you to do except face the firing squad. It’s checkmate!”

Golden Wish rose to her feet, her legs wobbling slightly. She slowly walked over until she was standing in front of time, raising a hoof to shield her eyes from Twilight’s brilliance. “Do it.”

Twilight stared at her impassively, the thrum of her power an audible buzz in the air.

Infinite Miracle floated down behind her, to the point where she was hovering over her shoulder. “I knew you wouldn’t disappoint me. I task you as judge, jury and executioner. Tear out her ugly soul for the whole world to see. Than pronounce her fate. I’ll leave the exact punishment up to you.”

Twilight’s horn flared, and a golden longsword materialized as pure energy in front of her. “I’m going to start from the beginning, and cut the truth from the fiction. Do you have anything you’d like to say for yourself?”

Golden Wish shook her head.

“First Game, First Closed Room:

A golden lie of peace buys misguided loyalty.

A rainbow lie locks an illusion.

A bloody lie hides the culprit with a discarded feather.”

Twilight shot forward, her sword cleaving through Golden Wish in time with her words. Each stroke cut her very essence, scattering motes of gold like thousands of burning embers across the room in wide arcs.

Golden Wish howled in pain, but remained standing.

“First Game, Second Closed Room:

A bitter fight is hidden behind the lie of a happy couple.

A familiar face begets a trojan horse.

A culprit with bloody hooves leaves Loyalty conflicted.”

Her assault was relentless, each word striking to the core of the truth. There wasn’t any need for reds or blues. It simply was.

“First Game, Requiem:

A prop consumed in fire creates the illusion of sisterhood.

A flash of golden steel in the darkness interrupts the coming of the storm.

The cleansing flame wipes the slate clean, sealing events forever to fiction.”

The motes of light now filled the entire room, floating like flower petals dancing in the breeze. There was a sort of haunting, destructive beauty to it all.

Golden Wish coughed, falling to her knees. She took a deep breath, preparing for the next onslaught, but it didn’t come as expected. “What are you waiting for?” she growled.

Twilight took a deep breath, closing her eyes. The radiant light in the room dimmed for a brief moment.

“Second Game, First Closed Room:

Surrounded by red herrings, a friend beats a friend bloody.

An envelope full of lies handed out by a liar.

The mis-identification of the true key leads eyes to false truths.”

“Second Game, Second Closed Room:

Golden lies corrupt Honesty with promises of love returned.

An illusion of battle, a lie of ambush.

A scene shows what it is meant to show, no more, no less.

A truth given in the future hides a gap in the past.”

“Second Game, Requiem:

A golden conflict brings truth to light.

Colorful truths dance like couples at a ball.

An ending lost in the oblivion of memory.

Conjured in part by nightmare, only tragedy remains.”

“Endgame, Closed Room Loop:

A circle, infinite, can only end where it begins.

Defense of self and of loved ones can strike a powerful blow.

A sealed window behind, a deep wound, and all that’s left is to bleed until life fades away.”

After each strike and truth revealed, Golden Wish had faded, and only a transparent flicker now remained. Twilight held the sword at her side, walking forward until she was face to face with her opponent.

Golden Wish smiled, and closed her eyes.

Twilight raised the sword far above her head.

“Endgame: Requiem.”

Twilight shot forward, letting the sword dissipate into nothing and locking her lips with Golden Wish.

Her eyes widened in utter shock as she faded completely, flickering into a final mote as she vanished.

Her own radiance gone, Twilight watched as the thousands of scattered lights across the room suddenly flared, coalescing into the shape of a pony in front of her, one far smaller and significantly less menacing than Golden Wish.

Her own cheeks still burning, Twilight met Fluttershy’s eyes as the illusion covering her was finally dispelled.

“I don’t understand,” Fluttershy mumbled, looking away. “You should just finish me. I’m guilty, Twilight. I killed all of them with my own hooves.”

Twilight fidgeted back and forth on her hooves. “I know that, Fluttershy. It’s not even that I’m okay with it or forgive you or anything, but what kind of story would this be if I just executed you on the spot? In the end, the heroine is supposed to save the day, and the guy. Or girl, in this case.”

Fluttershy’s eyes narrowed, and she let out a snort. “You’ve made a mistake. I’m not Fluttershy, Twilight. I’m just a fictional character, written in her image. Whatever her own feelings are, I don’t love you. I’m just a poorly thought out tool of the narrative meant to guide you towards reaching the truth about the real Fluttershy. And I even failed to do that much.”

“O-oh.” Well, it wasn’t quite the answer she was expecting, but it would have to do. “I told you from the beginning, didn’t I? That I was going to take this story on myself, and achieve the ending I wanted. Even if everything has changed since then, I won’t give up on that dream.”

“Twilight…” Fluttershy stopped, shaking her head. “I don’t understand. Your place is with the real Fluttershy. Go to her. You deserve a lot better than her, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter what you do after this. I’m not a part of it anymore. You should just finish me off and let me rest in oblivion.”

Twilight shook her head and took a step back. “I have every intention of having a nice long talk with Fluttershy when I get back, but to do that, I’m going to need your help.”

The eyes on her back felt like cold daggers digging into her spine, and Twilight spun to face Infinite Miracle.

“Where’s Luna?”

“She left as soon you went under the last time. Guess she didn’t care enough to stick around. Some friend she is.”

Good. Luna was more than competent enough to find her way back on her own.

“In that case, I found out the truth; Fluttershy was the culprit, she wrote the novels because… because she’s in love with me. It’s as messed up as messed up can be, but I’ll deal with that myself. I’d like to wake up now.”

Infinite Miracle narrowed her eyes. “I wanted you to entertain me, Twilight Sparkle, and while this twisted tale certainly wins in concept, I find it somewhat lacking in… execution.” The way her eyes flickered towards Golden Wish as she spoke told her all that she needed to know.

Twilight moved to block her gaze. “I wanted a happy ending. That’s all I’ve really ever wanted since the beginning. I’m going to get one, and I’m going to do it without becoming your pet monster.”

Absolute Certainty let out a high pitched squeal from somewhere in the bleachers. “She’s on to you, Mira! Your motivations really are quite transparent, you know.”

Twilight turned to face Absolute Certainty, a wordless challenge in her eyes.

“Ooh, so scary!” With a wave of her horn, a small bucket of popcorn appeared in front of her and she began shoveling some into her mouth. “Don’t mind me!”

A small smirk played at the corner of Infinite Miracle’s lips. “Are you really sure you want to play it this way? You won’t like the results.”

Fluttershy placed a hoof on her shoulder. “Twilight, please, don’t. I’m not worth it.”

Twilight lifted a hoof of her own to cup Fluttershy’s and turned to meet her gaze. “There’s been enough bloodshed here for a thousand lifetimes.”

Infinite Miracle’s eyes flashed. “So be it. Something like this is pretty fun, too.”

The room began to shake, and with a flick of her horn, the shadows in the room coalesced into an empty scythe that floated above Infinite Miracle. With a callous swing, reality itself began to tear open like the pages of a book, and the void yawned beyond. Hungry eyes stared out at them from the darkness, and her horn began to glow a fierce scarlet as her voice shook with fury and thunder.

“As the Arbiter of Miracles, I do solemnly declare…”

Author's Note:


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