• Published 28th May 2014
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Withdrawal - Raugos



Twilight has developed a taste for stealing magic.

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Chapter 1

“Yeah, that’s right. Kneel.”

“Not to a weakling like you. Not to a pony,” Tirek growled, spitting out a broken tooth.

Twilight glared at him from the air. Even after getting pummelled half a mile into the ground by the sheer force of her magic, after having all of his power evaporated like a puddle under the scorching sun, the monster remained defiant. Well, she couldn’t let that stand. Not after seeing him turn the library to splinters and ash.

She held his gaze as he struggled to stand upright in the bottom of the pit, scrawny and pitiful. She hovered in place for a while, waiting for him to take back his foolish words, but she soon realised that the monster had every intention of spurning her mercy.

“Then burn,” she said simply.

Tirek howled as Twilight channelled the power of the sun itself into a fiery beam of destruction. The surrounding rock in the pit began glowing cherry-red from the heat of the continuous blast, and the sound of bubbling magma quickly drowned out the monster’s voice.

She relented after a minute and watched the pool of lava glowing at the bottom of the pit as it slowly blackened and crusted up until it resembled a bleeding scab. Whether drowned or simply trapped beneath that crushing layer of formerly molten rock, it was no less than he deserved.

“That’s for Golden Oaks Library and my books! You hear me?” she screamed. “Nopony. Messes. With. My—”

* * * * *

“—Books!”

Twilight gasped and sat bolt upright in bed, instantly flaring her horn to pierce the darkness. She blinked several times, bewildered by the crystalline ceiling and walls, until she remembered that this was her new room. Even after two months since moving in, she still hadn’t gotten quite used to it.

It was pretty barebones as far as personal bedrooms went, with little more than a writing desk, wardrobe and a private bookshelf where she was attempting to re-acquire her collection of books. Spike lay curled up in his bed in the corner, still snoring softly.

She sighed and dimmed her horn before the sudden brightness woke him up and squeezed back under the covers in an attempt to go back to sleep. But it remained beyond her reach. She shivered in spite of the thick covers and quickly found that it had nothing to do with ambient temperature. Her bones and horn ached as if she’d pulled an all-nighter on top of running a marathon, and her head throbbed abominably somewhere behind her eyes.

Here we go again... she thought in resignation as she crawled out of bed and shambled over to the window. She paused for a moment to look at the clock – just past two in the morning – and turned her gaze to the moonlight drenched town of Ponyville. Slowly, her roving eyes focused on the dark mass of the Everfree Forest, seemingly drawn there against her will. Her heart rate shot up in anticipation.

After casting an uneasy glance at Spike’s sleeping form, she opened the window and leaped into the cold night air.

Twilight normally enjoyed night flights over town, but not like this.

She felt… hollow. Empty. Like an under-inflated balloon. Hunger gnawed away inside of her, the kind that mere food could never satisfy. And if it couldn’t get what it wanted, it seemed intent on trying to cannibalise her from the inside out anyway. She struggled to force a steady rhythm into her erratic wingbeats as she half-glided-half-tumbled in the air towards the Everfree Forest.

Some unicorns (and all alicorns) possessed some degree of awareness of magic in their vicinity all the time, but right now, hers was out of whack. Several magical hotspots like sleeping unicorns or minor enchantments about town glowed and resonated in her mind a little too brightly whilst others, at random, remained muted to the point of distraction. It did nothing to help her queasy stomach, and she had no desire to get reacquainted with her broccoli and asparagus dinner.

When she reached the edge of the forest, she quickly selected a reasonably dense area and dove straight in. After a brief search beneath the thick canopy, she found a nice place to comfortably sit down between the trunks of two weeping willows.

A manticore snarled at her from the shadows when she landed, but she quickly regained her composure after the initial surprise. Fighting a twenty-tonne thaumophage like Tirek had severely reduced her capacity for distress over trivial threats. She simply tapped into her reserves and used it to power a terror-inducing spell, much like the one that Sombra had used to booby-trap his secret chamber. The manticore fled, and so did a host of creatures within a thirty-stride radius.

Good. It was better for them that way. She didn’t want it on her conscience.

After casting a quick glance all around, Twilight positioned herself between the two willows and prepared her second spell. She had to delay it, though, when a wave of nausea smothered her senses in reaction to her recent expenditure of magic.

“Stop. Stop it,” she said through gritted teeth. “It was just a tiny spell. I’ll replace it soon.”

Once her body had settled somewhat, she went back to business. In her first few attempts, she’d had to bring along one of the books from Starswirl’s section in Canterlot’s Royal Library, but she’d memorised the spell matrices by now. She no longer needed focus crystals or reference materials to complete the entire sequence.

Twilight closed her eyes as the spell manifested, seeing in her mind’s eye the black tendrils laced with purple light lash out from her horn and disperse into the trees around her. The sounds of Everfree’s nocturnal wildlife suddenly died out, leaving her alone with her uncomfortably loud pulse. Then, after a minute or two, she felt the tell-tale trickle of the forest’s magic. It gradually thickened into a steady stream that pooled in the air around her, and when it reached critical mass, she began drawing it in.

Instead of absorbing the magic directly through her horn, Twilight channelled the stream towards her mouth and inhaled greedily. She shivered and nearly toppled over when the charged flow coursed over her tongue and down her throat, gathered in her lungs and raced like lightning through her nerves and veins. She stopped when her lungs were uncomfortably full, quickly expelled the useless air and then breathed in, eager for the next rush of energy.

Okay, that’s enough, she thought when she’d repeated the process four times.

But her body seemed to disagree, and she decided that maybe… just a little more wouldn’t hurt. She felt herself flush with the warmth that suffused her body, spreading from her lungs to her extremities. It filled her, resonated with her physical being, and it soothed the throbbing and aching in every bone, muscle and sinew.

Unfortunately, she’d exceeded the limit she’d set for herself tonight, and as she’d learned before, it came with a price. Opening her eyes, she beheld the wilting foliage of the trees around her. Everything, whether leaf, stalk, flower or vine bowed over or drooped as if the forest had gone through an extended drought. Not even the weeds and mushrooms were spared. A breeze rustled the treetops, bringing with it a light shower of shrivelled leaves. By her estimation, the damage extended at least a dozen strides in any direction from her place, and this blemish in the forest was the biggest one yet, bigger than all the other eleven patches she’d previously created.

Twilight grimaced at the sight. It’s getting worse, she thought, and gasped when pain dug its claws inside her chest.

She’d stolen magic, and it was rejecting the new form it inhabited. It writhed and coiled, surged and pulsed, as if trying to burst out of her and return to its true owners. She thought she could hear her bones grind and flesh creak as her body attempted hold itself together, leaving her natural magic to wrestle its foreign counterpart into submission. She groaned and stumbled, then curled up into a ball on the ground with her eyes shut tight when she felt as if her heart was being squeezed in a vice, raising the pressure in her veins until they were fit to burst.

Twilight had read about magical infusions gone wrong before, particularly ones that involved unwilling sources and casters who weren’t strong enough to contain the extra energy. The results weren’t pretty.

“No, not gonna happen. Not today,” she growled to herself, clenching every muscle in her body as if that could help to prevent it from being torn apart from the forces raging within.

Ever so slowly, the pain began ebbing away. When it had lessened to a minor itch in her chest, Twilight finally released the breath she’d held, panting like she’d just raced halfway across Equestria. She shivered again, but not from cold or weakness. Instead, a sense of euphoria flooded her as the foreign magic naturalised and integrated with her physical being, redistributing itself to all of her organs and extremities. She twitched involuntarily and suppressed a moan when the thaumaturgic current reached her horn.

Still alive. Looks like I win, again.

Twilight felt satisfied. Almost as satisfied as when she blasted Tirek in the face.

She was stronger than Everfree’s magic; she’d taken it as her own. She had overpowered the very essence of the forest, conquered that which struck fear into the hearts of Ponyvillians, and she could almost believe that none of the other princesses had ever accomplished such a feat. She chuckled giddily at the thought and relaxed, adjusting her position on the forest floor until she lay on her back, with her wings splayed out and her front hooves resting on her belly, staring at the moon through the canopy with a lazy smile on her face.

The surging current of magic in her nervous system gradually petered out, leaving a warm, fuzzy tingle underneath her skin. Her breathing and heart rate slowed accordingly. But best of all, she no longer felt so empty or useless.

It’s okay. Everything’s going to be all right…