• Published 26th Jan 2014
  • 4,473 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 3 - The Legend of a Golden Wish

“Once upon a time, in ages long forgotten, there was a kingdom whose name nopony remembers…”

Rainbow Dash was standing on the table in the center of the room, delivering her narration with wild gesticulation. Her frame was cast with the flickering shadows from the roaring fireplace. After drying off, the six had retreated to the comfort of the parlor, where comfy pillows and refreshments awaited.

“The ruler of this kingdom was known as ‘Princess Wishlight’. She was a kind, but strict ruler, and had many enemies. For you see, the princess had a power nopony else did. She could grant wishes, give anypony what their heart desired most. As long as their wish was true, no boon was too great.

“But the power came with a terrible curse.”

Rainbow Dash punctuated her story by stomping her hooves, causing Fluttershy to gasp slightly and Pinkie Pie to squeal with anticipation. Applejack and Rarity simply smiled, sharing a look as they snuggled closer under a blanket.

Twilight frowned, her mind already racing with questions. Something about this whole thing felt off, but she just couldn’t put her hoof on it. Pulling out a quill and parchment, she started scribbling down notes, prompting Rainbow Dash to roll her eyes.

“Geez Professor, I hope I get a good grade on my speech!” Rainbow Dash said in a mocking tone before she cleared her throat to continue. “Anyway, terrible curse. The princess had the ability to grant wishes, but the power did not come from the princess’ magic. Instead, one’s heart’s desire could only be granted by enacting an equal and opposite amount of suffering on somepony else. Usually just some poor random schmuck you’ve never met before. Other times, somepony close.

“In her youth, the princess abused her power with reckless abandon, ignorant to its backlash. She sought to make as many ponies happy as possible, and her kingdom flourished, even as tragedy continued to strike seemingly at random. But when she finally discovered the great cost her magic has wrought, she was heartbroken. She swore never to use her powers again.”

Twilight quickly scribbled down a new set of notes. Rainbow Dash is using vocabulary way above her. She must have practiced this with somepony else’s guidance. Could it be Fluttershy? There weren’t exactly a lot of options. With a sinking feeling in her gut, another thought occurred to her. Maybe Rainbow Dash has simply become more well read, and I didn’t realize because we never see each other.

“But her powers were not so easily forgotten,” Rainbow Dash continued. “When the wishes dried up, other ponies demanded to know why, but she dared not say, for she could not admit to inadvertently causing as much suffering as she already had.

“Having long coveted her power with jealous greed, the other nations banded together, invading her kingdom and inciting a revolt in her populace in order to gain her power and grant wishes for themselves.” With a mock sigh, Rainbow added a quick aside. “I guess the magic of friendship wasn’t a big deal back then, y’know?”

Twilight focused on the story, still taking as many notes as she could. The details in this legend were incredibly vague. Was it left like that was on purpose because the details would be superfluous to the meat of the narrative, or because they were actually lost to time?

“Betrayed by her people, surrounded by enemies from all sides, the princess fought until the end. While her magic was still formidable in its own right, without using her ability to grant wishes she stood no chance. Wounded, she barely escaped her castle with her life. Running away and leaving everything she loved and cared about behind, she flew and flew until she couldn’t go any farther and dropped from the sky, ready to lie down and sleep forever.”

With a dramatic pause, Rainbow Dash added, “The spot where she fell was this very valley.”

Pinkie Pie shot up from her seat, interrupting and waving her arms around. “And she still haunts this mansion to this very day! Oooooooooh”

Rainbow Dash buried her face in a hoof before stepping down from the table. “No, Pinkie. The story isn’t over yet. Anyway, I’m going to let Fluttershy take over this next bit.”

After a few awkward moments where Rainbow Dash stood still, waiting for Fluttershy to take her place on the makeshift dais, Fluttershy squeaked, realizing everypony’s attention was on her and hesitantly spoke up. “Um, if it’s okay, I’d like to just tell the story from here…”

“Suit yourself,” Rainbow Dash said with a shrug, moving to an empty cushion and getting comfortable.

“Okay. Um, let’s see. Well, uh, the princess didn’t know how long she was out for, but she eventually awoke in darkness. She was in pain, but still alive,” Fluttershy said, continuing the story.

Twilight had to strain her ears a bit to hear, especially compared to Dash’s enthusiastic narration. She started to scoot closer to hear a little better, but thought of a more practical idea and instead cast a quick spell to modify the acoustics in the room.

“The princess quickly realized she was not alone. The sound of heavy breathing reverberated around her along with gusts of hot air. Struggling to stand up, the princess tried to cast a simple illumination spell, but could only produce a few sparks before she felt a terrible backlash, a sharp pain in her horn that nearly caused her to pass out again.

“A deep voice rumbled from nearby, the very ground seeming to shake with its magnitude. ‘Your magic will not work here, Pony Princess. On a strange whim I, Xzorak the Mighty have saved your life. The forkroot I have treated you with is a very powerful regenerative, but has rather strong anti-magic properties that should wear off in a few days.’”

Twilight had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing. Fluttershy’s ‘monster voice’ was simply too adorable. The contrast in storytelling styles between the two pegasi was certainly quite stark, but it was hard to say if either was really better than the other. Rainbow Dash had a good sense of action, adventure and dramatic timing, while Fluttershy reminded her of a mother reading bedtime stories to her foals.

“Groaning slightly, the princess turned to face her foe, trying to command as much presence as she could muster even as her knees buckled underneath her. ‘Do not toy with me, beast! If you have truly saved my life, then I am grateful, but I will be no prisoner of yours, and I shall grant you no wishes. Show me the exit and stand aside.’

“‘My my. Such fire, such passion. You are no prisoner of mine, pony. You are free to go whenever you please. However, you must find the exit on your own. And be careful –’ Xzorak let out a huge yawn, the blast of hot, rancid air nearly knocking the princess off of her feet. ‘You might just wander into my open mouth, and I’d hate to swallow you by accident. Never been a fan of pony.’

“The princess sat down on her haunches, already exhausted from standing, and considered her options. As her eyes adjusted to the lack of light, she could barely make out the silhouette of her captor. She wasn’t sure, but her gut told her she was face to face with a dragon, and a large one at that. She could wish herself out of here easily enough, but that was what had caused this whole mess in the first place. She would never use her power so again.

“Cautiously extending her wings so she didn’t walk face first into a wall, the princess made her way towards what appeared to be a mound of something. When it turned out be a mound of hay, she collapsed on top of it, the itchy straw somehow beating out the most comfortable down she had always slept on. After a moment’s pause, she spoke up. ‘Dragon – if that’s what you are, anyway. Tell me why you have brought me here? Do you know of who I am?’

“‘Truly?’ replied the dragon. ‘I do not know. It’s not every day an alicorn lands on your doorstep. I suppose it was a strange fancy of mine that brought me to save you. Perhaps I will change my mind, and gobble you up in the morning.’”

Twilight glanced up from her note taking, looking around to see how her friends were taking in the story. Pinkie was still vibrating in her seat, barely able to contain her excitement. The new couple was still snuggled close together, Rarity resting peacefully on Applejack’s shoulder with her eyes closed. Far from enjoying herself though, Applejack seemed nervous, her ears laid back and her attention focused intently on Fluttershy’s story.

Applejack happened to catch Twilight staring at her and quickly looked away, then back and put on a fake smile. Well, that was certainly convincing, thought Twilight as she narrowed her eyes suspiciously. It was clear she was going to have to talk to Applejack later, and find out just what had her so – with a mild start, Twilight realized she had lost track of what Fluttershy was saying.

“…and after 4 days of food and rest, the princess finally felt her magic returning. ‘Beware, Princess,’ the dragon warned. ‘For my visage is a fearsome one. You may not like what you see.’

“The princess laughed, feeling her magic flow through her body again as she focused it to her horn. ‘You sure make an awful lot of empty threats, Dragon. But I will not hide down here in the dark forever. It’s not like you’re the first dragon I’ve ever – Oh my.’

“The princess’ breath caught in her throat as her eyes adjusted to the newly conjured light. The topaz dragon before her was indeed massive, but broken. His eyes appeared to be nailed shut. His teeth were removed; and only scarred stumps marked where his wings should have been. His legs and tail were twisted and hobbled.

“’What could have possibly done this to you?’ asked the princess, her voice tinged with shock and pity. With a low, pained laugh, the dragon responded. ‘This is how dragons deal with their traitors.’

“Tenderly, the princess reached up and put her hoof on the dragon’s scarred snout, thinking about her power. ‘How much would you give to be whole again? To fly, walk, eat massive gemstones? To see the glorious light of this world?’ When he simply regarded her silently, she added ‘Would you accept such a gift if it meant somepony else would get hurt in your place? Probably a being you’ve never met before and likely never will.’

“‘No,’ the dragon said after a slight pause. ‘There has been enough suffering at my claws.’ And with that, the princess made up her mind and decided to stay after all.”

Twilight smiled, noticing that Fluttershy seemed really into her storytelling by now. She had gotten up from her cushion and was pacing around as she talked, now oblivious and uncaring about all the attention. The illusion would pop like a soap bubble if her current state was pointed out, so Twilight decided to keep those observations to herself.

“So the princess stayed with the dragon, partly because she had nowhere else to go, partly because in him she had found a friend and an intellectual equal. As the years went by, friendship turned to affection, and affection into love. It was a strange sort of romance, two exiles brought together in misery. And they lived happily… for a while.”

Fluttershy let out a sigh, her eyes drooping slightly as she looked down. Twilight supposed this must be the part where everything went wrong.

“Eventually, the odd couple turned their thoughts to the future, and towards children. They had built quite a nice life for themselves. The princess even arranged to have this very mansion built in secret, so she didn’t have to live in a dragon cave. Children would normally be impossible, but her power had no limits. Such selfishness however, even to create the miracle of life, was an abuse she could not allow.

“But her heart betrayed her mind, and made the wish for her. The princess was with child.”

Twilight scrunched her face slightly at the idea. She supposed with the portrait she saw in the manor hall the story was bound to go in this direction eventually. But was this really supposed to be a true story, as opposed to some silly legend?

With a low voice, Fluttershy continued. “It’s unsure exactly who the curse targeted with its backlash. The princess herself perhaps, when she died giving birth? The dragon, having known a brief happiness and had it snatched away? Or the young filly, who would never know her mother, and who had a father that could not give her the love and care she deserved?

“Devastated by his loss, and unable to properly raise his daughter given his crippled state, the dragon arranged for servants to come to this mansion to bring her up properly. But the measured hand of a servant is no substitute for a loving family. The young filly grew up isolated and alone, with no real friends. Her heart soon became cold, and later cruel. The servants began to resent their charge, and the negative feelings only multiplied from there.”

At this point, Rainbow Dash jumped back up on the table spreading her forehooves and wings as she cast a shadow over the gathered ponies, speaking ominously. “When she came of age and gained her cutie mark, her talent turned out to be very similar to her mother’s. And that’s when the servants began to disappear, one by one. Some began to recognize the pattern and tried to flee, but was too late. Soon, she alone remained in this mansion, as isolated and alone as her heart had always been.

“Months later, when a lone pegasus stopped by to deliver supplies, he found the mansion completely deserted. Everything was in exactly the same place as the last time he’d visited, except for one small detail. The lifelike portrait of the dragon mare in the entry hall!”

Rainbow Dash finished the story off with a maniacal laugh, and Twilight shuddered involuntarily at the thought of that creepy portrait. The story wasn’t even as remotely terrifying as it had been hyped up to be, (And had some plot holes besides) but it was entertaining regardless.

Of course, she was certainly glad that the painting was out in a hallway as compared to say, her room.

Fluttershy let out a long sigh and visibly deflated as she switched from storyteller mode back to her regular self. “Thanks for listening. I hope you girls liked it, and that it wasn’t too long or anything.”

Twilight smiled, and stomped her hooves appreciatively. “You two did a great job. It was very entertaining!”

Leaning in, Rainbow Dash suddenly spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. “Just so you girls are aware. I mean, a story’s a story and all, but I’ve seen some spooooky stuff the few days I’ve been staying here already. Windows open when they were bolted shut before. Strange shadows. A hoofstep echoing down the corridor, out of step with your own… Shy’s seen it all too, I’m not just messing with you.”

“OOOOOOOOOOOOOH,” interrupted Pinkie, actually on cue this time.

“Well um. I mean, I may have seen a few things, but I’m sure it’s just a coincidence really… the mind can play tricks on you if you let it, and I can be pretty careless when it comes to locking things properly and…” Fluttershy trailed off.

Rarity tensed up, wrapping her forehooves around Applejack’s neck. “Oh I am not walking back to my room alone tonight.”

“Mmmhmm. Sure thing, darlin’,” Applejack mumbled. For some reason she still seemed pretty nervous, and Twilight suspected it wasn’t the story that had her spooked. At least, not for the obvious reasons.

“Uh, hey, sugarcube. Y’all never said exactly what the name of that there dragon filly was. I mean, y’all were pretty vague on the names anyway but,” Applejack said as she fidgeted with her hat.

“Hmm? Oh, sorry Applejack. Her name is Golden Wish.”

“Er, right. Thanks Shy.”

Twilight could swear she heard Applejack swallow at that. Just what was going on with her?

“Man, I’m beat. I mean, this is great and all, but I was busy doing all that cloud stuff earlier, so I’m gonna hit the hay,” Rainbow Dash announced, yawning loudly for effect. “Although you girls should be careful. I mean it. Just keep an eye out, okay?”

“It is about that time I guess. I should really go check on the princesses, to see if they want a midnight snack or something,” Fluttershy said.

“Oooh, I have such a fun party planned tomorrow for your brother and sister when they get here Twilight! I mean I know it’s all official business and everything, but there’s no reason you have to be serious when being serious!” With a wide grin, Pinkie bounced out of the room, humming the first few notes of a song Twilight had yet to hear, but suspected she soon would.

“A lady does need her beauty sleep,” Rarity yawned as she glanced up at the large grandfather clock in the parlor. “Are you coming, dear?”

“Uh, yeah. Just gimme a sec, I wanna ask Twi something.” Applejack moved over and slung her forehoof around Twilight’s shoulder, whispering softly. “Listen. All that stuff about that wish grantin’ alicorn princess is just some crazy legend right? Nopony could really do anything like that.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow, surprised by Applejack's interest in the subject. “Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve certainly never heard of such a legend until coming here, but I can’t rule out the possibility. Something about the story feels off to me though, and I was planning on checking out some of the books here in the library. Oh, would you care to join me?”

“Eh, no thanks. Rar’ is all spooked so I better be there, and I ain’t no good with books anyhow.” Applejack backed off, and moved over to Rarity’s side. “Alright hon’, let’s get back to our room.”

Twilight let out a small sigh as Rarity lit her horn up and the two left the room. It’s not like it was anything new, but nopony else ever seemed to appreciate the joy of research.

Twilight groaned, slamming her head into the desk before her. These books were worthless! Well, fascinating really. But nothing matched the story Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy had just told her. She had found some vague historical footnotes about a princess rumored to grant wishes. Some accounts of dragon history detailing ancient methods of dealing with traitors. There was even a short story about a unicorn and a dragon falling in love. Nothing about a child though, and nothing that really matched.

Her eyelids drooping, Twilight pulled another book off the shelf and began to read. Why was she so interested in this in the first place? As the night waned on, the darkness of sleep began to call.

Princess Luna stood at the study window, looking out into the blackness of the storm below. With a deep sigh, she closed her eyes and spoke. “Sister… It is time. But must things really be this way? She is no longer your student.”

“Everypony is my student, and I am theirs, dear Luna. We should always do our best to continue to learn and improve, day by day. And there are many lessons that even Twilight Sparkle has yet to learn.”

“But… must it be like this? These methods, this plan? I do not agree with this, Sister. It is… wrong.”

With a patient sigh, Celestia arose from her cushion, walking over to her sister and laying her head over Luna’s neck, nuzzling her affectionately. “Her path ahead will be fraught with obstacles the likes of which she has never faced before. But I believe in the end she will be able to reach out and find the truth. What she does with that knowledge afterwards is up to her and her alone. We cannot guide her anymore, but I have faith in Twilight.”

Luna bit her lip in frustration, but said nothing.

Twilight stood up, putting the book down in front of her. “Just need to get up and walk for a bit, and grab some more water while I’m at it.” With an acknowledging nod from Fluttershy, she made her way to the kitchen, stretching her legs out.

This certainly was… something. Being inside her own head like this… Fluttershy captured her voice well enough. Maybe sometimes the fictional Twilight would think of something in a way she herself might not have, but overall it meshed up well. She even found her own thoughts conforming to match those on the page, rather than wallowing in the dissonance.

She wondered about the state of Fluttershy’s mystery as it had been presented so far. Mystery novels were said to be like a game between the author and the reader. In many novels, there’s always a point right before the end, before they announce the culprit or whomever, where the detective might as well stop, turn to the audience and say “All the clues have been presented so far – can you solve it before turning to the next page and seeing what the answer is?”

At least, if it was a fair mystery it did so. Twilight had read her fair share of mysteries that obfuscated all the clues from the reader, or pulled a solution so far out of left field nopony could see it coming. Or ones that go too far in the other direction, where the clues are so blindingly obvious that when they turn out to be correct, it’s just a huge letdown. She wasn’t a huge mystery buff by any means, but she was proud of her ability to solve a good mystery just in time, right before the author pulls back the curtain.

So how would Fluttershy stack up?

Shaking her head to clear away that thought, Twilight started back. She’s a friend who wants you to critique her novel, not play the grand game.

Fluttershy perked up when Twilight re-entered the room, but her doubts still remained. And something about the direction of the novel was setting off vague feelings of dread in the back of Twilight's mind.

Just where was Fluttershy going with this?

Author's Note:

A story about Twilight reading a story in which Twilight is being told a story? Can I go any deeper? Absolutely yes.

As a fair warning, after this chapter, bad things start happening.

Thanks to Sereg, Kalan, and JeffCvt for editing!

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