• Published 4th Mar 2014
  • 18,427 Views, 1,154 Comments

My Little Apprentice - Starscribe



When a remarkable spell summons a human mind into the body of a unicorn filly, Princess Twilight Sparkle does the only thing she can think of: Take on an apprentice.

  • ...
47
 1,154
 18,427

Chapter 1: The Filly With No Name

Chapter One: The Filly with no Name

It was an ordinary day in Ponyville, if any day in Ponyville can be said to be ordinary. Ponies went about their peaceful business clueless to the significance of the danger all around them. As usual there was only one pony for miles aware of the significance of the occasion, and that pony was Princess Twilight Sparkle. This wasn’t the first time Celestia had trusted her with something critically important. As she paced back and forth in the library, she ran over the text of the letter again and again, afraid that she might’ve missed something.


Twilight -
A visitor will be arriving in Ponyville who desperately needs your attention. She has the potential to do great damage if not properly dealt with. I don’t expect danger tonight, but keep the elements nearby just in case. There is no greater trust than placing the future of somepony in your hooves. I expect you to give her all the care and attention I gave you.

The letter went on to describe a very particular spell in exquisite detail, something Twilight couldn’t remember Celestia having ever done in any of her letters before. The diagrams were enormously complex, beyond the capabilities of most unicorns. Twilight had spent nearly the entire morning going over the spell, referencing half a dozen different books to try and figure out what its purpose might be. As well-stocked as she kept the library, Twilight had found nothing. It was all she could do to suspect it might very well belong to a school of magic she had never actually learned.

Even stranger had been Celestia’s instructions to go with the spell, giving her an exact location and time it needed to be performed, without a word on what it was supposed to do. It obviously had something to do with the mysterious visitor Celestia had hinted at. Her mentor could sure be infuriating sometimes, giving very little information in order to give her the “opportunity” to figure things out for herself.

A loud knock startled Twilight from her reverie, and her concentration abruptly faltered. The sheaf of papers scattered, and naturally it was completely out of order. It was all she could do to stay calm as she carefully lifted each back into the air, trying to rearrange them in the correct order.

“I’ve got it!” Spike called from somewhere over her shoulder.

“Hi Spike! Is Twilight here?” Spike didn’t have time to reply. Next thing Twilight knew, her friend Pinkie was peeking out at her from behind a nearby bookshelf, startling her so badly that the instructions she was struggling to gather slipped from her grip again. “Hi Twilight!” Pinkie tilted her head to one side. “I thought you had something really important tonight! Shouldn’t you be getting ready or something?”

Twilight sighed. “Yes, Pinkie.” With great effort, Twilight exhaled, scooping up the scattered sheets before looking back to her friend. She was pleased to see Pinkie had remembered her instructions, and was wearing her Element. Whatever else might be said about the earth pony, she could be relied on when it really mattered. “Less than an hour, actually. You didn’t see any of the others on your way here, did you?”

Pinkie stepped calmly into the center of the room, shrugging. “Nope, but don’t worry! I’m sure they’re all on their way over. With how important you made this sound, I’m sure everypony is galloping here right now!”

“How important Princess Celestia made this sound.” Twilight corrected, though she didn’t expect Pinkie to appreciate the distinction much. Still, it seemed her friend was right, because no sooner had Spike returned to his chores than the doorbell rang, in a faint and dignified sort of way. She turned to answer, but as she had expected, Spike darted ahead of her to answer it himself.

“Hello dear!” As usual, Rarity showed no sign she even recognized Spike’s unusual behavior. “Is Twilight in, by chance? It’s just that she visited the boutique this morning, and mentioned something about needing me for some secret assignment from the princess.”

“Yeah…” Was all Spike said, staring at the mare in the doorway.

Twilight very calmly pushed him out of the way with one hoof, opening the door the rest of the way. She was relieved to see Rarity wasn’t alone, but the other Elements had come as well. Even Rainbow Dash, who was notorious for being late to everything. “Please, come in Everypony! We don’t have much time to get ready. According to the princess, everything happens in less than an hour!”

They filed in, crowding around the center of the library in a disorganized gaggle. Twilight faced them, straightened the stack of paper she was still carrying in her magic, trying not to feel as frazzled as she looked. Of course her friends could see the signs of a very stressful day for her, and she smiled at the worry and concern she saw from them. Even if nopony else could understand how serious things were, at least they were there for her. She could always count on the magic of Friendship.

“Would you mind explainin’ exactly what we’ll be doin, sugarcube?” Applejack asked, perhaps the foremost in her concern.

************

They had arrived just in time. As they neared the location Celestia had described in her letter, Twilight could already feel something was different. Even Rarity seemed uncomfortable as they moved in the near darkness, for all that she lacked Twilight’s magical sensitivity. Once they got within half a mile she no longer needed Celestia’s instructions to guide her. She could feel something like a pressure building in the air as if there was already a powerful spell in progress. It was a little like watching Celestia raising the sun, at least in scale.

This magic was nothing like what the princesses wrought, though. This magic was wild and uncomfortable, like someone rubbing against the grain of her fur. As they got closer, Twilight kicked herself into a canter and then a gallop. She had felt magic like this before, but not from the princesses. From Discord. The closer she got, the more glad she was that she had heeded the Princess’s counsel and brought the Elements along. And it wasn’t as though she had anything to worry about, right? Celestia had never put them up against anything they couldn’t handle before.

“Alright girls, just like we talked about.” Her friends surrounded the focus of the strange energy, which at this distance was visible to magical and mundane senses both. They stood in the center of an open, empty field, perhaps a quarter mile from the edge of the Everfree and at least that far from the path that eventually led to Zecora’s hut. A light breeze had changed to a wind blowing away from the center of the field, bending flowers and grass and sending fallen leaves and other debris scattering. Twilight herself could see… what was it?

It was not so much a living thing as it was a pattern in the air, of immense complexity. Her magical senses behind it as a sphere of sorts, with thousands of onion-like layers. At the same time it was no solid object at all but a wave, like water creating its own shape by reflecting endlessly inward. The thing was absorbing the latent mana of Equestria like a sponge, soaking it up the way a pony that had gone without water for days might drink. It was clear why Celestia had dispatched her so urgently. Magic was absolutely necessary for life to exist. As this object grew, even the grass of the field began to look gray and brittle. She would probably have felt weak herself were it not for the torrent flowing into the object from all around them, sustaining her and her friends.

Aside from the wind the night was almost silent, but Twilight found herself practically shouting as she took careful steps toward the object, her friends looking on with clear apprehension. “Get ready!” She told them all. “I’m only strong enough to try this once. If it looks like I’m losing, use your elements! We can’t let this thing get any closer to Ponyville!”

“Got it!” Rainbow Dash called, shouting to her from perhaps twenty meters away.

“Don’t worry dear, we’ll be right here watching. We won’t let that dreadful thing get the better of you!”

Only Pinkie looked less than her best. The strange magical effects in the clearing looked to be wreaking havoc on her. Twilight could see from the center that her mane had lost much of its usual volume, and she watched the exact center of the circle with immense fear and suspicion.

Twilight stood perhaps ten hooves from the structure. This near, she could feel it pulling the strength from her. She hoped she hadn’t delayed too long, that she wouldn’t get even the one chance. Twilight gritted her teeth, and cast one of the most difficult spells of her life.

It became clear immediately that however strange the spell Celestia had given her, it was exactly what she needed now. The purple glow from her horn began very faintly, not much brighter than the light spell she had used to help illuminate their way here in the dark. As she twisted her mind and concentration into the patterns she had carefully memorized, the light began to shape itself into a structure of its own, growing brighter as it wrapped itself around the thing in the air. As the spell grew, she became conscious of something else passing between herself and the structure. Thoughts.

“Another! It’s just like the nightmare said!”

Twilight had easily lost concentration earlier, but she would not lose it now. The spell demanded every fiber of her conscious mind, so she could not reply. She could only ignore the profound feeling of being watched, analyzed and catalogued by something vast and alien. The spell drained her strength faster than any she had before attempted, but Twilight muscled through the pain. Each of her friends had something to contribute to the Elements of Harmony. For her it might be well said that her contribution was magic.

“You’re wrong.” The voice said. Twilight had no spare mental energy to contemplate how strange it sounded, lacking gender or emotion. It was even stranger than Discord, though thankfully she had never had the displeasure of that being invading her head. “It won’t work, I already tried. Over and over and over. I-“

Twilight released the spell. All the energy, the greatest investment of power she had ever produced, went blasting from her horn. Her eyes glowed with the reflected light of phenomenal power, which illuminated the center of the field in a column of purple brilliance that stretched up and up into Luna’s perfect sky. The thamatalogical force took every ounce of her strength, and Twilight was unconscious before the light had faded. Still, she had done it. The invisible structure of energy and intent was gone from the field, as well as the spiraling magical dead-zone. Ponyville was saved, and perhaps all of Equestria.

************

“You were right.” The voice sounded different than the first time Twilight had heard it. No longer was it remote and strange, but very near. She opened her eyes to find something that should’ve been impossible waiting for her. She rested in pale grey sand. She felt drained and weak, completely exhausted from the spell, but forced herself to sit up anyway.

She sat at the crest of a hill, which slopped off dramatically into an enormous depression unlike anything she had ever seen on Equestria. It was a crater, the likes of which she might observe on the surface of the moon using a telescope. The dry gray sand under her was finer than any she had felt before, and seemed to reflect the light of some distant source. Her seat was stable, which was very fortunate. As she saw the strange figure beside her, she jolted and struggled to right herself, finding her coordination was somewhat lacking.

“Careful. There’s not much gravity here. Might go bouncing right down into the crater.” The being had an indistinct outline that was more shadow than form, but the outlines formed there were not Equestrian. It sat on a large stone not far from her, and looked to be quite a bit taller than she was, perhaps nearly at a height with one of the princesses. Even as she watched, the thing reached one long appendage down to the ground beside it, lifted a rock in spindly fingers, and hefted it over the edge of the crater. The stone flew much further than she would have naturally expected, soaring a quarter of a mile or so before it came to a rest near the bottom far away.

The being seemed to sense it was being watched, though Twilight could not see enough of the details to make out a face or what emotions it might be feeling, assuming it even had them. “I always aim for the lander, but no matter how hard I throw, I can’t hit it. Suppose it wouldn’t be hard to alter gravity, but that feels like cheating. Like it would make the simulation less real if I didn’t use the same constants.”

The being was speaking Equestrian flawlessly. If anything, it had a little of a Canterlot accent, like the neighborhood where Twilight Sparkle had grown up. But though she understood its words, she could not comprehend its meaning. Still, she could follow the way it seemed to be looking, even if she couldn’t see any eyes. Far away, on the other side of the crater, Twilight could make out strange metal shapes, like a four-legged animal covered in reflective gold. Beside it was a flag, too small and distant to make out what symbols might be there, and something like a cart without anywhere to hitch a pony to it on the front. At least, she thought she saw that. These objects seemed strange and unimportant, and she quickly returned her attention to the speaker.

“Princess Celestia told me you would be coming.” She said, trying to sound braver than she felt. Was it her imagination, or did the figure seem to be getting smaller? It was hard to tell, but the more scrutiny she gave it, the more the shadows seemed to be melting. It was like watching the snow after the Winter Wrap-up. The melting was very slow, but it was definitely happening. “Who are you? What are you doing in Equestria?”

There was a pause, and she felt the scrutiny of the strange being upon her again. Now that she wasn’t spellcasting any more, it hardly seemed so frightening. It was more fearful than anything, like an animal she had startled that was debating a speedy retreat. “I can only answer one of your questions.” It said after a pause. “Because I don’t remember the answer to the first question. I know…” There was another pause. The voice seemed to shift up in pitch slightly when it resumed speaking such that it was distinctly female now. “I like coming up here. Looking down at the earth. It’s right there, see? Not like it looks now, but how it used to. The blue, the green. It’s beautiful.”

That wasn’t an answer, but Twilight followed the being’s gesture. It might have strange thin limbs and a stretched body, but some forms of communication seemed universal. There was an object of some kind far away, a round something in the far distance. Twilight had no word for “planet”, since in her world there was only Equestria. It was unlike anything she had seen, it defied the very laws of the universe she had come from. There was a sort of beauty in the glowing sphere of blue and green as it reflected a distant sun. Seeing it just made Twilight long for home. Just how had she gotten here, anyway?

“I don’t remember how I left. That thing you did, just now. It’s… I’m changing. Forgetting.” The figure was barely taller than she was now, and seemed to be changing in other ways now. The longer she watched, the more it seemed the outline hadn’t been so unfamiliar after all. Had she been completely sure she wasn’t talking to another pony? “I’m not mad or anything.” She reached down, seeming to struggle to lift another stone, and heft it into the crater. It didn’t travel half as far before impacting the dirt and rolling to a stop. The figure seemed to stare at the object in the sky, which gradually changed. Blues and greens changed to grays and browns. Was this what it looked like to see a world die? “I’m not sure, but I think I wanted to leave.”

Even as she watched, the figure finally seemed to grow definitive. It had been a pony sitting on the stone. A filly in fact, with a soft green coat and yellow mane. Twilight felt herself relaxing as the shadowy presence vanished. If anything, she found herself wondering just how she could have mistaken the poor creature so badly. The light of the dead gray world cast everything in gray, made it look like the color and strength had been drained from her somehow. Only Twilight herself retained her natural hue as the light began to fade.

“I hope… you’ll help me. But no matter what, thanks. For the second chance.”

**********

“Twilight! Twilight, you’ve gotta get up!” The voice was worried and urgent, and also familiar.

“S-spike?” Twilight moaned. Unlike her vision on the strange moon, her exhaustion and soreness was almost crippling in the real world. The effort it took to open her eyes was monumental. Once they were open, she was greeted with a familiar face. Spike looked seriously concerned, and behind him were all her best friends. “The Library? How did we…” She was in her own bedroom. The window was still open, and it was clearly still night outside.

Pinkie Pie was the first to speak. “It was that thing! Everything was getting heavy, but then you were like, BSHWWWWWW! And it was like, VWWWWWW POW! And you were like, ahhhh!”

“Uh…”

“You collapsed, dear. Once you had put on that dazzling display, it seemed as though you were simply exhausted. Applejack here carried you back, and we’ve been here worrying about you ever since.”

Her strength seemed to be coming back, however slowly. She managed to rise into an awkward sitting position so she could get a better look around. Everypony looked happy to see her awake, but she could tell at a glance there was something she wasn’t being told. Like they were hesitant to upset her by telling her something they knew she wouldn’t like. “What?” She asked, as if by staring at their faces long enough she might pierce their hesitation and figure out what was really going on. “Did that spell turn me blue or something?”

“That would be awesome!” Rainbow Dash broke the silence, though she looked as nervous as any of the others. “But…”

“Fer’ cryin’ out loud.” Applejack sounded a little frustrated, and she stepped forward to explain. “That spell of yours, did you know it was gonna make a pony?”

As her faculties began to return in earnest, Twilight noticed that her friends were all standing together, as if they were trying to shield something from her vision. As Applejack spoke they parted. Somepony had spread a blanket on the ground. Resting atop it was. “Second… Chance…” She repeated the little filly’s last words as she stared, remembering the crushing depression she had seen as the filly watched her planet die on the alien moon. In the candlelight of her bedroom her pastel green fur was exactly the shade of the green planet Twilight had watched fade to gray.

The little unicorn filly was curled up tightly, her coat looking as though it had been recently groomed. She had no Cutie Mark, nothing that might hint at her identity other than her last words in that other universe she had reconstructed in Twilight’s mind.

“You know her?” That was Spike, standing beside the strange filly. Her friends all seemed to be keeping their distance from her, but he showed no sign of their fear. He hadn’t felt the magical riptide, or the alien shape made from magic in the air. To him she was just another filly, with a sad expression on her sleeping face.

“I, um… don’t think so, Spike.” Fluttershy spoke very quietly, though none of them had any trouble hearing her. Even addled Twilight was too used to this to miss a word of it. “See, this, um… this…”

Twilight startled them all by rising to her hooves. She felt stronger by the moment. She wasn’t going to be casting any more major spells tonight, but at least she had the strength to move again. She had a good feeling that before too long she was going to be in for a nice long sleep. Tomorrow she would probably outdo Rainbow Dash’s capacity for sleeping late. But for tonight, she walked past her friends and to the edge of the blanket. Both Applejack and Rainbow Dash looked as though they were about to reach out and prevent her, but neither did. Twilight Sparkle felt no fear anymore, and she bent down to nuzzle the little creature like a mother might do. The filly opened one tired eye, and gazed up at her with the gray of her dying planet. Her frown turned to a smile and she closed her eye again, peacefully asleep.

“Celestia said we would be getting an important visitor, not an invader.” She turned to face her friends, standing between them and the strange new filly. “I don’t know much about her yet. But when I cast that spell, I saw into her thoughts for a second.” She glanced once behind her, at the little sleeping filly. “I know what Celestia meant. She’s from another world. Somewhere sad and very far away.”

“Like the Everfree?” Pinkie asked. “Wait, no. I wish the Everfree was further away. Can’t be.”

“Much further.” Twilight confirmed. “I think she was trying to get away, so she came here. She wanted my help…” That last she muttered very quietly to herself, even more than Fluttershy.

Her friends still looked skeptical, but far less fearful than they had seemed earlier. Applejack voiced the objection that seemed to be on everyone’s mind. “What about when she first got here? That business with the magic was mighty unsettlin’.”

Twilight nodded. “I know. I still don’t really understand that, or why she needed Celestia’s spell to stop.” She paused, collecting her resolve. “She can stay here with me. Until I can figure out what’s going on, I don’t see any reason not to make her feel as welcome as anypony else in Equestria.”

Author's Note:

A/N: Hey everybody! Never written MLP Fanfiction before, so I hope you’ll go easy on me at first as I figure out what I’m doing. I’ve read so many different Equestria/Earth connection stories, but I never found a story that was quite what I was looking for. I’m excited to begin this literary journey with all of you! I look forward to your comments, and hope to be prompt in my responses.

Oh, and an extra- special thanks to the wonderful Zutcha for the fantastic art!