• Published 26th Jan 2014
  • 4,471 Views, 512 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 6 - Missing

Twilight stared down at the letter, her hooves shaking as her blood boiled in her veins.

This was real. Somepony had actually written this. They had taken a pen to this piece of paper, and written these words on it. Words that bragged about the murders of her closest friends. Words that taunted her. Words that expected her to play along in some kind of sick, twisted game.

She suddenly had a very strong desire to set something on fire.

Taking a deep breath, Twilight closed her eyes and slowly began counting backwards from ten as she clenched her teeth as hard as she could. In a way, this made things easier. Now she had a clear antagonist against whom she could focus her efforts. All she had to do was find this so called ‘Golden Wish’, stop her, and avenge Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie.

“Is that for real?” Rarity asked, her voice faint.

“As real as anything else in this mansion,” Twilight growled, handing the letter over so the others could take a look at it.

Twilight began pacing back and forth, her heart fluttering with… excitement? She had a target. Now she just needed a plan.

“And you found this letter right here on this table?” Applejack asked, gesturing towards the furniture in question.

Twilight stopped, frowning. How had the letter gotten there? “Rainbow Dash… I know for a fact that this letter wasn’t here when we came in. Did you see anything at all? Maybe a flash as it was teleported in?” No, this room is shielded, remember? “Or did you see some movement out of the corner of your eye?”

Rainbow Dash shook her head. “Sorry, Twi. I didn’t notice anything until you pointed it out.”

A thought occurred to her and with a flap of her wings, Twilight flew up to the top of the room, inspecting the ceiling in the area above the table. To her dismay, she didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

“Uh, Twi? Mind telling us what’s up?” Applejack asked as Twilight returned to the ground, looking ornery.

“That letter can’t exist,” Twilight snapped, jabbing a hoof at the offending paper.

“I’m pretty sure it does,” Applejack said, raising an eyebrow.

“But it can’t! There’s no way it could’ve gotten in here! This room is practically a fortress. Even if she was strong enough to force her way in, there’s no way she could’ve done it stealthily. Even if she had a key of her own, and, I dunno, turned invisible or something, we would’ve heard the door open and the loud click of the lock, and Rainbow surely would’ve noticed something. And there’s no crazy trick involved here either, no timed hidden compartment in the ceiling for a letter to mysteriously fall from,” Twilight said, taking a deep breath after her rant.

“Is it really that important, Twilight?” Rarity asked. “If this fiend is who she claims she is, than can’t she just wish the letter up here?”

Twilight snorted in response. “A power like that only belongs in old pony tales. There’s no way something so unrestricted and freely able to ignore the rules of magic could exist in real life. And if she did have this kind of power, why are any of us still alive at all? Why not finish us and be done with it? Nope. This letter being here is impossible.”

A heavy silence fell over the room as nopony really wanted to object to Twilight’s assertion, despite how ridiculous her conclusion was.

After a minute Rarity finally cleared her throat and spoke up. “So, Twilight? What are you going to do about this letter? She seems to be directly challenging you, after all.”

“I’m going to…” Twilight paused, considering. “Do nothing.”

“Nothing?!” all three ponies answered at once, looking to each other in confusion.

“Nothing,” Twilight repeated, feeling more confident. “At least, nothing that she suggests. I’m not going to play into the hooves of some sick murderer. We should be safe as long as we stick together. I don’t care how powerful she thinks she is – I won’t let her hurt any more of my friends. We’re going to find Princess Celestia and Luna, and together we’re going to stop her.”

Applejack came over and clopped Twilight on the shoulder, nodding. “Sounds like as good of a plan as any.”

“Will we really be safe out there?” Rarity asked, fidgeting slightly.

“Shoot, hon. If anypony tries to mess with us, we’ve got Twi’s magic, and then Rainbow and I will buck them into next week,” Applejack said, puffing her chest up.

“Right then. Rainbow Dash, you probably know this mansion better than the rest of us. Will you be able to make sure we search every room?” Twilight asked.

“Huh? Oh, yeah. I guess,” Rainbow Dash said, her voice distant.

After a few minutes of gathering themselves, the group of four exited the study. Before they began the search however, Twilight had a few more things she wanted to confirm.

“Rainbow, is that the only key to this door?”

“I think so? Well, no, I’m sure the princesses have their own set. But other than that, probably. I could be wrong though,” Rainbow Dash said with a shrug.

Nodding, Twilight turned to face the ornate door which had locked behind them. She fired up her horn, allowing her magic to flow gently against the door. She felt for the various spell matrices that protected it. They were too complex and powerful to destroy or alter on her own, but she could add a spell on top of them.

After a few more moments of focus, the spell was complete. Twilight wiped the sweat from her brow and stood back, admiring her handiwork. “There. I’ve set a simple alarm spell on the room so that if anypony enters it while I’m gone, I’ll know immediately.”

Travelling a short distance and opening the door to the nearest guest room, Twilight called out, her voice echoing down the halls. “Princess Celestia? Princess Luna? Are you in here?”

This particular room wasn’t occupied, so the four searched through it quickly, checking wardrobes, underneath beds and in bathrooms, but finding nothing out of the ordinary.

The trepidation and determination they felt at searching a mansion while an admitted murderer lurked somewhere just out of sight slowly gave way into boredom. Each room they searched turned up nothing out of the ordinary. No sign of the princesses and no clues to the location of their enemy.

After two hours, Twilight finally closed the door to the library, giving an exasperated sigh. “Well, that’s every room. This mansion is just so big; I can’t shake the nagging feeling that there are all these hidden doors everywhere we’re just missing.”

“I dunno,” Applejack said. “I think if there were secret doors like that all over the place, we probably would’ve stumbled across at least one of ‘em by now.”

“In any case, we should probably be getting back to the study. Just because we haven’t found anything so far doesn’t mean we should let our guard down,” Twilight said.

There was a loud gurgling sound, and Twilight turned to see Rainbow Dash blushing slightly as she patted her stomach. “Actually Twi, can we swing by the kitchens first? None of us really ate breakfast this morning.”

“I’m not so sure about…” Twilight paused, realizing for the first time that she was pretty hungry herself. The events of the morning had certainly killed her appetite for a time, but whatever was to come, they shouldn’t be doing it on an empty stomach. “Actually yeah, that’s a good idea.”

“Are you sure that the food will be safe?” Rarity asked.

“Poisoning the food at this point seems like it might be a bit out of character, but better safe than sorry. I know a few spells that can detect both natural poisons and magical curses, so between those we should be safe,” Twilight said as they made their way down the hall.

The four of them quickly got to work at preparing a meal. Twilight inspected the food to make sure it was safe while the rest worked on preparation and cooking.

Eventually, Twilight found herself next to Rarity while they worked the stove, watching the pots boil in silence. She felt a fresh stab of agony as she remembered helping Fluttershy make last night’s dinner. It already seemed like a lifetime ago.

Eager to still the fears in heart by talking about something normal, Twilight spoke up. “So um, when we went through and searched your room earlier, I noticed some of the dresses you were working on. I didn’t know you brought them here, but they were really nice.”

“Oh, those…” Rarity said, a distant look in her eyes. “Thank you Twilight. I…”

Rarity choked sniffling as tears began to run down her cheeks.

Twilight winced at the sudden change in mood, and scrambled to offer a comforting hoof. “Rarity! Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s quite alright Twilight,” Rarity said with a pained laugh, wiping at her eyes. “I just… I hadn’t even started it yet, but I had such a wonderful dress in mind for Fluttershy to wear as a bridesmaid. She’s always had such a divine grace to her, don’t you think? And this really would’ve accented it perfectly… And I’m sure Pinkie Pie would have thrown us one of her best parties yet. But now… we’ll never get to see that, will we?”

Twilight tried to fight back the tears welling up in her own eyes. “Rarity...”

Rarity closed her eyes, weeping softly. “What are we supposed to do, Twilight? Even if we make it out of here, stop this villain and bring her to justice, how are we supposed to move on? They’re… dead. There’s going to be a giant hole in our lives that will never go away.”

Twilight found herself staring at her hooves. “I can’t shake the feeling that this is all just a terrible nightmare. That once this is over, I’ll wake up and everything will be back to normal, and we’ll see each others smiling faces again. I know that’s not true, and it never can be anymore. But my heart isn’t willing to let go of that delusion.”

Taking a deep breath, Twilight looked up, staring into Rarity’s eyes with determination. “But we are going to get through this. I’m going to stop her. And afterwards… it will be hard. Harder than anything we’ve ever had to do, but we’ll all be there for each other. Consider it a Pinkie Promise.”

Rarity smiled, laughing slightly as she wiped away her tears. “Oh Twilight. You really are amazing, you know that?”

Twilight reached over and pulled her friend into a close hug. She honestly had no idea what she was doing, and could barely even keep herself together. But she had to keep trying, for the sake of her friends as well as herself.

“Right then,” Rarity said. “I think those fritters are about done, can you get them out of the oven for me?”

The group ate their meal in relative silence. The food was good, but for all of them the recent tragedy had dulled the joys of a tasty meal.

When everyone was done, Twilight began levitating the plates from the table, ready to start cleaning up. As she moved towards the sink, she paused, noticing something odd. “Does… anyone else smell that?”

The others started sniffing at her prompt, looking around in confusion.

“There does seem to be a certain… unpleasant odor in the air,” Rarity said, wrinkling her nose. “It smells kind of like… something burning?”

“Ah hay,” Applejack cursed, jumping up from her seat. “You don’t think there’s a fire, do you?”

“Blech,” Rainbow Dash said, covering her nose with a hoof. “It smells like burning garbage.”

Twilight hesitantly poked her head out into the hallway, looking back and forth. There wasn’t an immediate conflagration or inferno waiting to greet her, so that was a plus, but the smell only seemed to get stronger.

“I think it’s coming from out here, you guys,” Twilight said in between coughs, her voice adopting a nasally tone as she tried to block the smell.

Motioning for the others to gather close around her, she cast a quick spell to create a bubble of clean air around them, and they set off down the hall.

Twilight had a faint inkling as to where the smell might be coming from. As she made her way there, her intuition was rewarded; faint strands of black smoke began to drift past her shield, becoming more noticeable as they got closer to the source.

“This is the door to the basement, right? Is the boiler broken or something?” Rarity asked, straining to see through the clouds of black smoke wafting up from the stairwell.

Twilight lit her horn, focusing it into a strong beam of light to at least pierce the cloud somewhat. “We were just down there earlier when searching the place, but I didn’t see anything weird.”

Worried about the structural integrity of the staircase, Twilight instead spread her wings, floating down into the basement below.

There was neither a wave of immense heat nor roar of flames, and once she got a clear view through the smoke it was as Rarity had guessed. The large boiler unit in the back was spewing clouds of smoke, a soft light emanating from within.

“It’s safe,” she called up the stairs, and the others quickly trotted down.

“I remember there being a back door to the garden in here,” Applejack said as she moved through the room. “I’ll go open that up, and Rainbow can give us a little wing power to blow the smoke outside instead.”

As the two set to clear out the room, Twilight moved to inspect the boiler itself. Would a machine like this just start randomly malfunctioning? Now of all times? Or was this more foul play?

Swallowing, Twilight gripped the handle with her telekinesis and pulled the boiler open, releasing a fresh wave of obscuring smoke.

As Rainbow’s wind power kicked into full gear, the contents of the boiler were revealed.


The inside of the boiler was littered with charred bones, ash, and scraps of what was most certainly once organic material.

No, this can’t be…

Twilight stood there with her mouth open, feeling numb. Was this really happening again? Even after everything she had promised herself and her friends, was some other pony dead? Was it…


Twilight blinked, taking a closer look at the scattering of bones inside. They were of all different shapes and sizes, ribs, femurs, flanges and hip bones. None of them really matched.

These are just animal bones.

Twilight felt a surge of relief wash through her body at her observation, followed by a pang of guilt at feeling relieved. These animals surely didn’t deserve their fate either.

“What’s in there, Twilight? I can’t see from here,” Rarity asked, trying to wave the smoke out of her face.

“Burned animal carcasses,” Twilight answered. “Mostly bones at this point.”

“You serious?” Applejack asked as she came back from the door. “Who the hay would stuff a bunch of poor critters into a boiler like that? That’s just sick.”

“I think we know who,” Rarity spat.

“I’m fairly certain that the animals were dead before they were incinerated. Whether our culprit killed them herself or not is up for question as well. But judging by this rather macabre display, and the fact that we didn’t notice anything when we first came through here… she wanted us to find this,” Twilight said.

Applejack growled, her eyes darting around the room. “This is gettin’ mighty ridiculous. First that darn letter tauntin’ you, and now a buncha dead animals. And fer what? She tryin’ to scare us or something?”

Taking a deep breath, Applejack called out loudly, “Why don’t you get yer golden behind out here and show yerself so we can all settle this mare to mare!”

Her words hung in the air, echoing faintly in the enclosed basement, and as expected, had no response. Rarity simply moved over and nuzzled her fiancé, her proximity causing Applejack to blush slightly and simmer down.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Twilight said, frowning. “She’s trying to play some sick game with me, but I don’t even know the rules, or what she’s after. Even when I-“

Twilight froze, her breath catching in her throat as she caught sight of a strange bone out of the corner of her eye. That couldn’t be... could it?

Gingerly, she reached out with her telekinesis and lifted the long, cylindrical, pointed object out of the ashes. Even though it was slightly melted, the ribs along its length and its dark color spoke volumes about where it came from.

It was a unicorn’s horn.

In a panic, Twilight began sifting through the rest of bones, looking for another horn of similar size. Her frantic telekinetic grabs kicked up dust and ash, which skimmed across her shield and around the room, prompting coughing fits from the ponies too far away to be protected by her shield.

“There’s only one…” Twilight said, letting out a sigh of relief as she finished searching through the bones, even as tears began to well up in her eyes again.

“Just what is it you found in there that’s got you kicking up all this dust, Twilight?” Applejack asked in between sneezes.

Wordlessly, Twilight turned around and levitated the horn up so everypony could see.

“Is that…” Applejack said, her mouth falling open in shock.”

“Princess Luna?” Rarity finished with a small voice.

“It certainly seems that way,” Twilight said, letting her head sink. Compared to the sheer terror and sorrow she had felt when discovering Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, this new discovery bruised a dull aching into her heart. She really had failed.

“They… she could still be alive… right?” Rarity asked, her eyes pleading for a tiny hope.

“It’s possible, I suppose,” Twilight said, shuddering involuntarily at the thought of her horn being chopped off. “And I checked. It’s just the horn; none of the other bones in there belong to ponies. And there was only the one horn.”

It was slim, but without knowing the true fate of both sisters, it was possible anything could still happen. As long as that tiny sliver of chance still existed, Twilight could hold out for a miracle.

“What are we supposed to do now?” Applejack asked, her voice wavering.

“First… we should clean this mess up. I don’t know what exactly happened to these animals, but the least we could do is give them a proper burial,” Twilight said.

The four of them quickly got to work, Twilight and Rarity used their magic to clean out the boiler while Rainbow Dash and Applejack dug some quick holes outside. While normal winter conditions would make the ground nearly impenetrable, the natural hot springs in the garden left the soil soft and pliable.

Thirty minutes later, the group stood around the hole as Twilight slowly began to levitate the dirt back into it.

“Should… somepony say something?” Rainbow Dash asked.

After a few moments where no one spoke up, Twilight nodded and stepped forward herself.
“I can’t say I knew these animals… but I’m willing to bet that Fluttershy did. For whatever reason, she loved it here in this mansion. She loved this garden, and I’m sure that these animals were a big part of that. I’m sure that Fluttershy showed them the love and kindness they never would have normally received in an isolated place like this, and I’m sure they were happy.”

The four hung their heads in silence as Twilight filled the last of the hole, marking the spot with a small cairn of stones.

“I… don’t mean to sound insensitive or anything, but does it seem off to anypony that we’re burying these animals when we haven’t even buried our friends yet?” Rarity asked, her eyes watering.

Twilight shook her head. “It’s fine, Rarity. Even beyond the need to keep the crime scene intact… I don’t want Pinkie Pie or Fluttershy to stay here. They deserve to be laid to rest in Ponyville.”

The shed was visible from where they all stood, still covered in the shield Twilight had put over it earlier. They were all doing their best to ignore it.

“We should… probably head back to the study for now,” Twilight said, her voice low.

She levitated Luna’s horn along with her. She couldn’t bring herself to bury it. There was the chance that Luna was still alive, and if so, she might want it back.

She had to hold on to that hope.

Twilight let out a sigh, sniffling slightly. This was certainly heavy stuff. It hadn’t taken her by surprise this time, but it still weighed deeply on her heart, fictional narrative or no.

When Twilight looked up from the book to glance at Fluttershy, the pegasus winced, ducking as if she expected another outburst.

Twilight found herself laughing slightly at her friend’s reaction. “It’s okay, Fluttershy. I’m not mad.”

“Oh. Um, that’s good,” Fluttershy said, blushing slightly and allowing a small smile to return to her face.

Glancing back at the book, Twilight found herself frowning. The more she read, the more puzzle pieces were introduced, but it was like she was trying to put together a puzzle without having the picture on the box. And there weren’t any edge pieces.

“Oh, just a note on something I noticed earlier,” Twilight said, turning her attention back to Fluttershy. “Bones don’t melt.”

“Huh?” Fluttershy asked, looking confused.

“There was a passage earlier that described Luna’s horn as ‘slightly melted’. But bones don’t melt, they just burn. Especially at the temperatures you’d find in a standard boiler unit,” Twilight said.

“O-oh…” Fluttershy stammered, her eyes going wide. “Is, um… that so?”

Twilight nodded, launching into explanation mode. “Right. Bones are actually quite durable, and the calcium and other inorganic materials make it so they don’t melt. They’ll turn to ash at a high enough temperature, otherwise just blacken and char.”

Fluttershy continued to stare at Twilight for a few moments, before forcing a smile. “Um, thank you for noticing?”

Twilight blushed slightly, looking away. “I mean, it’s a minor descriptive thing really. You can edit that out easily enough later.”

A silence fell in the air and Fluttershy continued to regard Twilight as if she were expecting something more. When nothing came, her forced smile disappeared and she nodded softly.
“That’s, uh, an interesting observation Twilight. I’ll keep that in mind.”

Twilight let out a sigh. Why was she being so nitpicky about something like this? She needed to focus on the things that mattered in the novel, scope out the clues, and solve the mystery.

But was it still a mystery? Sure, there were murders and mysterious happenings, but everything in the novel seemed to be shifting more into the slant of an adventure story where she would defeat the evil alicorn, Golden Wish. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it kind of pulled the rug out from under what the story had been building up to.

Twilight almost thought to ask Fluttershy for a hint, or maybe some clarification to set her on the right path, but that somehow felt like cheating. She should approach what was written with an open mind, and figure it out on her own terms.

Fluttershy would certainly appreciate it.

Author's Note:

Thanks to Sereg, Kalan, and JeffCvt for editing!

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