• Published 13th Feb 2015
  • 934 Views, 37 Comments

Too Much Love Will Kill You - A Hoof-ful of Dust

How much do you trust what you can see? What you can touch? What you experience? How sure can you be that all you have lived through, all you have loved, is not a dream that will fade at daybreak? Twilight must end the spell.

  • ...

The Night Mare

Twilight blinked. She remembered everything she had been doing.

She remembered the tension of excitement at the exhibit housing rare and previously-unseen personal items of Starswirl the Bearded, undampened by how even she could tell her friends (especially Spike) were humoring her. She remembered the momentary nervous stab as Princess Celestia took her aside to show her an unmarked dull box in the museum's storage area, and the fierce swell of pride as she explained it contained Starswirl's collected scraps and notes of half-completed spells, waiting for the right pony to examine them and perhaps uncover something useful, something yet to be discovered. She remembered Celestia cautioning her, that she, Twilight, knew first-hoof how dangerous incomplete spells could be, and Twilight remembered saying she would be careful but thinking of the potential well of knowledge that might lie within that box.

Most of the notes had been dead ends. Some fragments Twilight recognized as ideas that would later be completed and codified by other unicorns later in history, and while it did add to Starswirl's legacy of being remarkably ahead of his time in terms of magical thinking, these were mysteries already solved. The spells that showed the most promise were the ones with rhyming segments accompanying them, a spell-shaping trend long out of fashion way before a brilliant young unicorn was even old enough to have been called "the Bearded". Rhyming and chanting and things of that nature had been seen as unnecessary mysticism that obfuscated the true underpinnings of magic, but there were too many spells with couplets or verses for it to have just been eccentricity on Starswirl's part to include.

Also, as Princess Celestia had observed correctly, Twilight had seen it work once before.

The first spell, which read as if it would aid in seeing in the dark, produced a localized but unfocused greenish light source that dissipated after a minute. Twilight, cataloging the effects, wrote down functional -- possible to refine? The second, as far as she could tell after thoroughly testing, seemed to have no effect. The verse itself was so marred with quill scratches and corrections that Twilight was barely able to make it through the "finished" product. This she deemed inert. The third, a sharp couplet, gave her a perfect view of the back of her head through only her right eye, which vanished after she blinked. This was functional, but of little practical application.

She went on and on through the night testing the proto-spells, feeling like she was uncovering some great buried monument, scraping away centuries of dirt layer by layer. And then she came to the spell that called for a mirror.

Props and ritual were other extraneous parts of magic discarded in the modern era, and apparently Starswirl would have agreed with the sentiment if not for this one spell. It was, as far as Twilight could glean by quickly rifling through the pages and pages of notes, the only spell that required something other than spoken words and magical force. The caster was to obtain a free-standing mirror and circle around it three times counterclockwise, then position themselves where they could look into it but not see their reflection, then to speak the spell:

Alone forever, nevermore
The window forms the open door
Step through where the world is thin
I am without, I find within.

And that is what she had done, and that is what she had said.

And then...

Just what had that been? Had Twilight seen visions? Predictions? Alternate timelines? Secret desires? Or was there no truth at all in what she had experienced? As far as she knew, she hadn't been harboring any hidden attraction to her friends -- she loved them all, but she wasn't in love with them. It had never even crossed her mind.

But that was difficult to be sure of. The memories from the... dream? vision? experience, she settled on, were still active in her mind, fighting for dominance over each other and over the truth of the real world. She knew she had never considered any of her friends as romantic partners, but she also knew what it felt like for Rarity to press her lips against her own, how comforting it was when Applejack held her, what sounds Rainbow Dash made when she--

Twilight swallowed. She could feel her cheeks turning red.

Did she know these things? If she were to approach Fluttershy and ask her on a date, how similar would her reaction be to what Twilight remembered happening? Even if she somehow recreated the exact circumstances and allowed for minute variances of chance, was there any guarantee she had any insight into how the real thing would go? It was all just educated guesswork. It had to be. Twilight knew her friends, their personalities and their quirks, and so the spell conjured false relationships from that. But she had never seen them be in a relationship, not really, so any data she had to form a hypothesis from was soft at best. She couldn't call any of what she had experienced useful; it was nothing more than an elaborate hunch.

But it felt real. She knew it wasn't, but that didn't make it any less so. The memories were a part of her, and she was real.

Twilight glanced out the window at the night sky. When the sun came up, and it was day, and she met with her friends, how would she see them? How much would be the real ponies she knew, and how much would be the figments she had loved in turn?

She didn't know.