• Published 4th Mar 2014
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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.

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Chapter 2: Pancakes

Chapter 2: Pancakes

The filly named Second Chance had never slept so soundly in her life. Not that she had much to compare it to. As a matter of fact, she could remember very little of anything, and nothing about sleeping. Most of what she could remember was from the night before. A field lit by a full moon, with tall grass swaying under a breeze. Being burned and sore and weak. A bumpy ride on the back of something pink and warm. Then some healing cream for her burns and a bath in cool water.

That was it. As she began to stir in her makeshift bedding, she struggled to put together anything more than her immediate memories. But when she reached back, all she could grasp was an endless blackness spotted with stars. This was not a pleasant memory, so she stopped trying to think about it and focused on what had roused her in the first place: the smell.

She kept her eyes closed and inhaled deeply through her snout, smiling at the buttery scent. Pancakes. She knew what pancakes were, and it was a fond knowledge. Besides, she was hungry! At least, she was pretty sure that was what that feeling meant. There was something strange and unfamiliar to the sensations she was feeling. As if her limbs weren't where she expected them to be. She felt like something was painfully, obviously missing, but she couldn't figure out what it was. Did it have something to do with how warm she felt? She couldn't remember her name, but she knew she wouldn't lie here all day when there was food nearby.

The first thing she did was open her eyes and look around. The soft shades of living wood were all around her, the ceiling high and far away. She could not see the sun, which must mean she was inside. The sky outside was gray, and rain was pattering comfortably on the roof above her. Almost everything she saw seemed to be made of wood, more than she had ever seen in one place before. She felt like there was something valuable about all this wood together in one place, but for her it just made her feel safe.

When it was clear to her that she was in no danger in her present position, she tried to sit up. Her body responded and she struggled to a standing position. Unfortunately, she swiftly learned that standing purely on her hind-legs wasn't as easy as she expected. Rather than rise gracefully from the bed, she tried to stand and fell on her belly, her hooves crashing on the wooden floor. A few more attempts proved no more successful, though made plenty of noise on the wooden floor. It was only on her last attempt that she managed to catch herself with her forelegs. Once in this position, she didn’t wobble or fall over as she had expected. Indeed, it seemed going on four legs was natural for her. Why did that bother her so much?

“Ummm, is everything alright?” The voice came from behind her, so unexpectedly that she squealed and fell over sideways, whimpering. “Guess not.”

She kicked and struggled, having never righted herself from such a fall before. As she did, a figure came into view from beside her. A bipedal creature, with purple scales and bright green spines. His eyes were quite large, along with his head. His claws were sharp, and were very close to her face. He might’ve been frightening despite his size, were he not wearing a pink apron and holding a spatula. She stopped struggling and giggled instead.

The lizard-creature stopped, eying her warily. “Oh, sure. Laugh all you want. Bet you’ll stop when you try my pancakes.”

Her giggling stopped at once, eyes growing intent.

“I thought so.” He folded his arms, looking down in mock soberness. “Say you’re sorry!”

She opened her mouth, trying to reply. But the words seemed slow in coming, almost as though she had forgotten how to speak. This discovery turned quickly to fear. Maybe she had! Maybe she wouldn’t be able to communicate with the people of this place, wherever it was. She would be trapped forever in her own mind, and they would think she was awful and mean and abandon her and she would freeze out in the cold. Heck, she couldn’t even walk!

This fear proved in vain. With a little effort, she managed to coerce her lips into forming the word. “S-sorry.” Her voice was higher than she had expected, but it was unmistakably hers! Her grin got bigger, and her legs twitched a little in excitement.

It wasn’t as though she could stay lying here all day. With renewed confidence, she pulled her legs close to her body and rolled, standing more confidently this time. The motion seemed to come naturally when she didn’t fight it, as though her body knew what to do better than she did. And perhaps it did. Maybe the less she tried to control her movements, the easier they would be. That was confusing.

The lizard-thing watched her apprehensively, seeming quite relieved when she didn’t fall over again. “You can walk, right? Ponies still walk in whatever world you come from.”

The lizard spoke casually, but the words held so much meaning they gave her pause. The word ‘ponies’ meant something to her, but not the same thing the lizard seemed to mean. The way he used ‘world’ seemed to imply he knew she was from somewhere else. That had to be good! Maybe he knew how to get her home! She closed the distance between them rapidly, and standing seemed to be a little taller than he was.

Her motion was so abrupt it seemed to take the reptilian being off-guard, though he didn’t move away from her. “Yes!” She said, nodding vigorously. “I walked all the time! Do you know what world I’m from? How did I get here? What are you? Why is everything made of wood? Why do I have four legs?”

It was the lizard’s turn to laugh. “I think most of that’s for Twilight to tell you, she’s the magic expert. I can tell you about me though! I’m Spike! The ferocious and powerful dragon!” He stood a little taller and more erect, but rather than making him look more imposing this only emphasized the lacy white-and-pink apron. If Spike the dragon noticed her stifled giggle, he took it impressively in stride. “What’s your name?”

Her smile faded, and she looked back blankly. She remained in this position for several awkward seconds before muttering. “I… can’t remember.”

Spike frowned. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. Twilight said it might be Second Chance. You talked in her mind… more magic stuff, I guess.”

The name was new to her, but at the same time, it seemed to fit. She wondered what her friends might think if they could see her. Then she wondered what a friend was. “Yeah!” She nodded vigorously. “That’s it!” She looked away from Spike, walking past him toward the stairs. She was walking fairly easily now, so long as she didn’t think about it. “Those pancakes smell ready.”

The dragon nodded. “Yup! We better get down there before they get cold!” He took off down the stairs, moving on two legs all the way. This seemed like the way she ought to be moving, and thinking that made her stumble and fall again. She was fortunate that she hadn’t actually started descending the stairs, or else she might have made it down faster than was probably safe. Even so she whimpered, shaking away the strange bipedal thoughts before rising again. Whatever her befuddled memory might be telling her, it was abundantly clear she was meant to walk on four legs. What had Spike called her, a pony? Ponies moved on four legs, so far as she remembered. A brief image of a brown furred animal came to mind, along with the image of bales of hay and rolling fields of something green and brown called corn.

Then the vision faded, and she returned her attention to the stairs. At the bottom of those stairs she could see shelves covered in books, and a large open space probably meant as a peaceful area to read in. Very slowly Second Chance took the steps, one at a time. She kept her thoughts focused on the hunger she felt, and the promise of buttery relief only a few meters away.

Her hooves proved to grip the rough wood better than she expected, and she did not slip or fall all the way down. Maybe her balance was getting better the longer she remained awake, or maybe it was the hunger. Either way, she made it down to the landing and the wide open area with the books. There was an open doorway not far away, and the smell seemed to be coming from beyond. She trotted eagerly inside.

The little dragon seemed to be an adept cook, even if he had to stand on a stool to reach the burners on the stove he was cooking with. A large metal tray had already been piled high with round, perfect-looking pancakes. There was a table against a wall already made up with all the condiments and accessories Second Chance expected to find there, along with low benches around it and one tall chair she guessed was for the dragon. She didn’t have to be told to take one of the three places that had been made up, plopping herself down on the bench.

“Twilight should be here any second. I made an extra-large batch since she’s always hungry after doing magic.” He carried the tray over to the table, placing it in the center where they would all be able to get to it easily. There seemed to be two separate piles on the tray. The largest seemed to be made with berries, and the smaller with… rocks? Little red stones, glinting in the grey light from outside. The rain was still coming down, and it obscured Chance’s view of whatever might be out there. From her low vantage point so close to the ground, all she could see was sky. “I bet she wouldn’t mind if we started without her. There’s no telling when she’ll get back from Canterlot.” The dragon leaned a little closer to the tray, his eyes focused on the top of the smaller stack as though it were his prey about to make its escape.

For some reason it seemed wrong to her to begin eating without her host. No doubt this person named “Twilight” was the one whose house this was. The name seemed familiar to her for other reasons, even if she couldn’t precisely identify what those were. Something with lots of grey rock and a distant blue-green ball, but that image didn’t make any sense so she dismissed it. “Spike?” She knew it would’ve felt nice if people had held a meal for her. Maybe she could do the same thing for Twilight. “Who is Twilight?”

This seemed to startle the dragon, who straightened at once and dropped his spatula. He glanced over his shoulder, as if he expected to see someone standing right behind him. There wasn’t anyone there though, and he looked back to her, relaxing. “Oh, yeah. Twilight. Her full name is Twilight Sparkle. Or Princess Twilight Sparkle, since she’s the newest Princess of Equestria. You’re very lucky Twilight was the one to find you. Except for Celestia, there’s nopony better at magic, not anywhere! I’m not really sure what happened last night, but apparently it was all pretty scary when you got here. Twilight made sure nothing bad happened.”

Second Chance listened intently, distracted from her hunger and its potential relief only hooves away. She began a mental list of everything she knew about Twilight. She lived in a library, which probably meant she was smart. She was apparently really good at magic, whatever that was. She had touched her mind somehow. She was a princess, which meant royalty. That was like a ruler, right? “Do you think Twilight Sparkle can tell me why everything’s messed up? It’s like… I try to remember, but everything isn’t where I put it.” She reached up, scratching the side of her head with one hoof. The motion jostled her unruly mane, part of which went tumbling down in front of her eyes. It was bright yellow. That seemed strange, though she couldn’t say why. “If that makes any sense.”

“No, not really.” Spike answered, honestly. “But if anyone can tell you, I’m sure Twilight can! That’s actually why she went to Canterlot! The Royal Library has some of the oldest and rarest books in Equestria. So maybe she’ll come back with a book that can help!”

Second Chance sighed, letting her foreleg fall to where it had been resting before. Then she sat up, looking suddenly intent. “Are all books written by dragons?”

Spike seemed taken aback by the inquiry. He took a moment to collect himself, giggling a little before hopping up into the chair that was clearly his. “Not most of them. Most dragons just sorta collect jewels and gems and gold and stuff. Why?”

The filly lifted one of her hooves above the table again, thrusting it toward Spike to make her point clear. He just stared at her. After a few seconds, she grew exasperated and supplied the obvious answer. “I couldn’t write like this! It’s almost flat… I couldn’t hold a pen!”

Spike burst out laughing, and kept it up long enough to make her blush, sagging a little into her seat and trying to hide under the lip of the table. Her ears drooped, though she barely even registered that was happening. “W-wait, you’re serious?” His tone communicated absolute disbelief. “Is that what your world is like? Do none of the ponies there know how to write?”

Chance shook her head somewhat nervously. It seemed half of what she said ended up with her being laughed at. As friendly as the dragon seemed to be, she couldn’t help but be painfully reminded of her ignorance when in his company. “It’s just… I dunno how anyone would write with hooves.”

He seemed to realize what he was doing, because he didn’t laugh at what she said, not even a giggle. “If you needed claws to do stuff, everypony would be in trouble. I don’t know how to explain it, since I’ve got claws. But you’re a unicorn, so you’ve got magic to make it easy.” He gestured at her head, as if something there would explain everything.

She hardly felt like that explained anything. “I don’t have magic.” She repeated that last with disdain. When she thought about magic, she remembered cheap tricks and slight-of-hand. She remembered silly things, something people used to explain away the parts of the world that didn’t make sense. It wasn’t something real, not like Brownian motion or Hawking radiation was real. “Nobody does. There’s no such thing as magic.” She sounded confident then, perhaps the most confident she had sounded so far.

Spike did not have a chance to reply. He opened his mouth as though he were about to, but then there was a loud popping sound from a room over, along with a brief flash of white light from the open doorway. In from the library walked Princess Twilight Sparkle.

She was big, even from where Chance sat upright at the table. The purple mare wore matching saddle-bags heavily stuffed with books, and she looked a little scorched around the edges. Like she had just walked too close to a bonfire. As she watched the Princess named Twilight walk calmly into the room, her eyes abruptly went wide and she fell backward out of her seat, landing painfully on her back.

Second Chance saw through the world. For a second everything was gray, transparent. She saw through the table, through the pancakes, even through Spike. The purple Alicorn stretched to incredible height, a brilliant halo of energy burning from her horn and radiating from her eyes. This was not a creature of matter, not entirely. She stood as it were in higher and lower realms both, dangerously close to where her own existence was concealed. Before this torch she was an ember, eclipsed and in danger of being swallowed.

Then the moment passed. Her sight returned to normal, and she was sprawled on her back. She couldn’t see the being of frightening power she had briefly witnessed, though she could still sense the power nearby. She did hear another voice, one she could only assume belonged to Twilight. She expected something loud, angry, something to shake the house all around her. That was not what she heard. “I’m sorry if I startled you, are you alright?”

Something strange happened then. A slight lavender shimmer seemed to engulf her, tingling on her skin. Force lifted her slowly through the air, setting her upright on the bench by the table. Only when she was stably planted did the shimmering fade, and with it the light emanating from the horn on Twilight’s head. So that was magic, huh?

She didn’t look so frightening now, so long as she didn’t look with anything but her eyes. She did look… regal? Second Chance couldn’t say what made her feel that way. Her eyes went to the horn, then to the wings folded at Twilight’s sides. Somehow she knew that was a reflection of something bigger, though she lacked the language to properly describe it.

Of course, she’d also been sitting there staring, and Twilight smiled awkwardly. “Uh… is that a no?”

She shook her head hastily, though she was afraid to meet the Alicorn’s eyes directly. “N-no! I… I mean yes! I mean…” She stopped, whimpering. Why could she talk to the dragon so easily but not to the pony who had apparently saved her life? “I’m fine.” She leaned back, bracing her hooves on the underside of the table so she wouldn’t fall backward.

“So you can talk.” Twilight relaxed visibly, shrugging out of the saddle-bags and levitating them back into the other room.

“She sure does!” Spike supplied. Now that Twilight had arrived, he began serving the pancakes flipping them expertly with his spatula onto their three plates. “You wouldn’t believe the things she’s told me about the world she came from, Twilight! She said nopony has any magic and all the books are written by dragons!”

“Really?” Twilight raised an eyebrow as she sat down, seeming to suspect what Chance was about to say.

“That’s not what I said!” She defended, though in truth the dragon was only half wrong. Still, there had been something she didn’t like in Spike’s expression when she had mentioned magic. Somehow she’d felt as though she had misspoke, and she didn’t want to make that same mistake with such an important pony. The pony to whom she apparently owed a great deal.

Spike looked hurt, but Twilight raised a hoof to silence him. “Later Spike. We’ll have plenty of time to talk about where you’re from after breakfast. You wouldn’t believe how hungry I get after teleporting so far.” She smiled sheepishly, even as the pitcher of syrup lifted itself from the table and poured itself richly over the stack of pancakes on her plate.

Second Chance stared openly at this open display of magic, watching in absolute amazement. Her memory might be a mess, but it was very clear on this point: levitation should not be possible.

Twilight seemed to interpret this glance completely differently. “Oh, how rude of me! Would you like some?” At a weak nod, the syrup levitated over to her plate, pouring a liberal portion down for her. That done, the knife and fork lifted into the air above Twilight’s plate. It was exactly how Chance expected someone to eat, except that there were no hands holding the utensils and that was apparently a big deal.

“How do you…” She muttered, trying to find the most polite way to express what she was thinking. It was better than just staring at the Alicorn eat. Besides, she wasn’t exactly sure how she was supposed to eat, under the circumstances. Spike and Twilight were using utensils, so it wasn’t as though she had any other ideas about how ponies were supposed to eat. “Do that?” She gestured with a hoof at the floating fork and her glowing horn.

Twilight grinned, and tried to reply with her mouth full. “Muhmumh?” Then she paused, realizing what she had done. She held up one hoof, and took her time in swallowing before replying. “So you didn’t do magic where you come from, Second Chance?” The filly shook her head, and Twilight went on. “We can fix that, don’t worry. Levitation is almost universal to unicorns. I think it’ll take a little longer than we have at breakfast, though.” She smiled. “Your pancakes are already getting cold.”

They were already cold. For lack of anything else to do, she simply lowered her head to her plate and started eating. It felt incredibly awkward, but neither Twilight nor Spike gave her a second glance, so she decided this must be a pretty common way to eat. She wasn’t so close to the table as an adult pony would’ve been, so she had to stretch a little. That didn’t take away from the taste, nor did how cool the pancakes had become. She found herself thinking that she was eating the best thing she could remember. The buttery flavor, the sweet savor of the syrup, felt more genuine than anything she could remember. Actually, it was the only meal she could clearly remember.

**********

When it was done and Spike had started on the cleanup, Twilight took her into the library proper and sat her down to have a proper conversation. “On behalf of the princesses, I’d like to welcome you to Equestria.” She smiled as warmly as she could, the way she imagined Celestia might do in her place. Except in the defense of Equestria, Twilight had never observed either princess in any attitude other than kindness toward her fellow beings. If she was going to fill in for them, she ought to have the same attitude. “We do have a few questions for you. I hope you don’t mind. It’s not every day we get a visitor from another Universe!” She levitated over a stack of paper and a quill, preparing to take note of the filly’s responses. She tried to ignore the way Second Chance stared at every little display of magic, and even considered writing with her mouth in the earth-pony way instead, since magic seemed to frighten and amaze the unicorn filly. In that way as well as many others, she seemed not unlike a foal. She made a mental note of that inference, though she wouldn’t write that down in the filly’s presence. She knew from experience that most fillies and colts hated anything that connected them with youth, and would feel deeply wounded at any comparisons between them and foals. She wouldn’t take the risk that Chance would somehow spy out her notes.

Still, when she had been in Canterlot this morning Celestia had been very clear. She was to find out everything she could about the Filly without upsetting her, and return that information to Celestia immediately. Most importantly, she had been assigned to determine if their visitor was dangerous, or heralded some malicious intent. Celestia hadn’t said as much, but Twilight’s mind immediately jumped to the Invasion of Equestria by the Gryphons. Of course she hadn’t been alive back then, so she had no personal memories of the event. But she had read plenty about it, and the misery it had brought to ponies before the eventual peace. If more of the strange magical-devouring objects from the night before starting appearing all over Equestria, it would mean disaster for all three of the tribes.

“I’ll try. I don’t remember very much.” She fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat and refused to meet Twilight’s gaze. Mentally, the Alicorn had already prepared the little spell she had been considering all morning: A truth detection cantrip. The pretext of taking notes meant that the Filly probably wouldn’t think twice about why her horn was glowing.

“Well, we might be able to fix that eventually.” She offered, levitating a few different volumes from the shelves around them closer for Chance’s inspection. “This one’s my favorite.” The filly looked on without comprehension. “Whoops. Don’t know why I thought you would understand Runes if you didn’t learn magic in your world. It’s called ‘A Resourceful Unicorn’s Memory Secrets’. I don’t know how I would’ve passed some of my classes back at Celestia’s academy without some of these spells.”

Her smile did little to reassure the filly. If anything, the green pony only looked more nervous, withdrawing a little into her chair. She never took her eyes off the levitating volumes, as though they were making fun of her. The instant Twilight made this realization, she put them away. “We can worry about that later. It does lead into my first question, though. Magic. Your arrival had some strange effects on the local magic. Do you know why?”

The questioning went on for well over an hour, and by the end she had filled several pages. Unfortunately none of what she was most interested in, concrete information about the world that Second Chance had come from. She had learned plenty of other information though, and it was this she diligently prepared and gave to Spike to send to the Princess immediately.

She had learned the filly was honest, as her truth spell never alerted her to deceit once during their conversation. Even so, it was clear that causing her to remember even minute details about whatever life she had lived before caused her extreme discomfort. Twilight had no desire to cause the filly distress or to interrogate her, so hadn’t pressed. Some answers had come quickly, like the one about whether she or anyone else Chance knew about wanted to harm the ponies of Equestira.

That question had actually provoked a smile, though it hadn’t lasted long. “I couldn’t hurt a world this cute.” She had said, glancing into the kitchen behind them at Spike as he finished the dishes. “Anyway… I don’t think I was the sort of… pony… who hurt things, back there. I wouldn’t know how to do it if I wanted to.”

“What sort of pony were you?” She had asked, excited to explore a realm of questioning that didn’t cause Second Chance discomfort.

Still the filly took a long time to reply, closing her eyes and wrinkling up her face in obvious concentration. Eventually she reached over and took a book from within reach, holding it up with her forelegs. She was very clumsy about the gesture, but Twilight could see what she meant. “The kind who read lots of books.” She sounded very proud, either of the statement itself or her ability to recall it. “And I made lots of…” The book slipped from her hooves into her lap. She hardly seemed to notice as she spoke, totally lost in thought. “Constructs. There were physical, but not. Invisible, but present. Very useful.”

“Magic?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. Maybe, though.” She shrugged. “I don’t really remember.”

In other ways Second Chance was not unlike any other filly. After twenty minutes of questioning she started to fidget. After an hour, it was clear her attention was wandering and her answers were getting less focused. Still, her last question had got her attention. “Do you have any plans, Second Chance? Now that you’re here in Equestria.”

She shook her head, looking suddenly nervous instead of simply bored. “I… don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I don’t have money to pay for a house or anything…” She paused, looking around suddenly. “Equestria has money, right?”

Twilight nodded, smiling. “Don’t worry about that, Second Chance. You’re too young to be expected to fend for yourself. There are plenty of wonderful ponies who would love to take in a little filly in need, but I don’t think that’s for the best.” She didn’t want to say as much, but it was abundantly clear the filly was seriously helpless. She stumbled when she moved, she couldn’t handle objects, had no understanding of magic or the wider world. Most parents would simply be unequipped to handle her. Besides, she was an ambassador from another universe! Even if she didn’t remember much about it yet, she had clearly come for a reason. Twilight had felt that powerfully on that moon as she watched that strange world die in the night. Maybe she had ran away to escape it? Or maybe she had been sent as a warning that whatever had happened there would eventually come to Equestria? After all, if someone from her dead world could come here, surely the danger could too.

Twilight had a bad habit of letting her mind extrapolate to the worst possible situation, as she had during countless royal visits and many of her own personal misadventures. She dismissed the frightening thought for one based much more concretely in reality. “If you’re okay with it, Spike and I would be happy to let you stay here with us. I’ve always wanted an apprentice! Spike’s a wonderful assistant, but he couldn’t help with magic. Maybe you could!”

The filly beamed, and in that moment it seemed very difficult for Twilight to tell she wasn’t a native Equestrian after all. Without hesitation or apparent reservation she sprang across the distance and weakly embraced her. “Really?” She seemed practically beside herself with excitement. “You would do that?”

She felt a little awkward returning the filly’s embrace. Twilight had a feeling she had more to learn than Chance did.

Author's Note:

Hello again everybody! For my first story ever on this site, I had no idea of the level of feedback I was going to get. Thanks everyone who took the time to read or rate or comment. I appreciate those who give me feedback very much, either positive or negative, and I try to implement every suggestion I can. Which isn't to say that I'll change the direction of the story, but I sure will fix the mistakes people point out. I intend to keep a consistent weekly update schedule, so long as projects or finals don't get in the way in a month or two.

Thanks again for your tolerance as I try and wrap my mind around this whole fanfiction thing! Another thank-you to my wonderful artist, Zutcha!