• Published 30th Aug 2015
  • 2,712 Views, 389 Comments

Nine Days Down - JoeShogun



Celestia's latest game of Save the Princess gets more serious than she'd have liked when she gets herself thrown into Tartarus. It would be bad enough if she were alone...but it seems she'd picked up a straggler as well.

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Drifting

When Celestia had returned to the world in all her incandescent glory, Twilight hadn’t been there to see it. She’d been asleep.

After crying herself out on Luna, Twilight had simply collapsed, and she’d stayed collapsed for two full days. It had taken almost a week for her to do much more than stuff down whatever food they brought her and drink a bit of water and fall back into the welcome emptiness of sleep. She had only vague snatches of memory from that time. Celestia or Luna had been there just about every time she woke, and Spike too. Her friends had come to stay in Canterlot. A doctor had checked her over. That was about the only part she remembered clearly. He’d told her she had been gone for all of three days. Not even that long, he'd clarified. Three days, two nights, as she’d returned in early evening. He’d declared her about as healthy as a pony could be after ‘what she’d been through.’ She’d lost a few pounds to hunger and stress, but other than some scrapes and bruises, she had no significant injuries. Her only real maladies, he'd claimed, were exhaustion and a bad case of dehydration. He'd seemed to think both should clear up in a matter of days.

Twilight remembered all that because it had been utterly, absolutely absurd. Three days? No injuries? Impossible! She’d argued with him over it. What about her wing? It had been barely functional! And her leg? It had been crushed! She’d been falling apart, in more pain than she’d ever known! There was no way all that could have just gone away! It couldn’t be so simple! She’d demanded he check her again, and a third time, and then he’d given her The Look.

It had been a long time since she’d gotten The Look, but it wasn’t the kind of thing one ever forgot. Her parents had been the first to look at her that way, when she was being ‘difficult.’ A mix of pity and worry, with a dash of frustration. It was the look people gave her when they’d stopped listening, the one that meant they’d written off what she was saying.

Because she was obsessing again. Talking nonsense.

Acting crazy.

Goddess, she hated that look.

Celestia had stepped in when Twilight’s voice had started rising, but she had The Look too. Twilight hadn’t been able to stand it, not from her. Celestia had never looked at her like that. Had she? Twilight had flopped onto her bed, hunkered up under the sheets, and refused to speak to anyone until after she'd finally drifted back into uneasy slumber.

Another day passed, and Twilight was back on her hooves, more or less. Her friends came by, in groups or one at a time. It was obvious they wanted to talk, to hear about where she’d been and what had happened. She tried to tell them, but Twilight found she didn’t have much to say. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to tell them, not exactly. Just that she couldn’t find the words. They noticed. They dropped the subject and did their best to cheer her up, but Twilight couldn’t seem to find any enthusiasm for their antics. She couldn’t say what they wanted to hear, and everything else they talked about just seemed so…trivial. She hated that she thought of them like that, but she couldn’t see it any other way just now.

More time passed. It was suggested that Twilight move from the infirmary into her old observatory in Canterlot Castle. Everypony seemed to think that was a good idea. A bit of rest in a nice, familiar place would be good for her. She could just relax and take it easy and not worry about a thing.

Twilight absolutely could not stand it when ponies talked around her like that! Like she wasn’t there, or didn’t know anything. When they said things like 'Don’t you worry, little filly,' or 'Just take your time, Twilight,' and 'We’ll take care of everything, darling!' Ugh! It made her want to fling something (or somepony, in her worst moments) out a window.

She went along with it anyway.

~~~

A sort of nebulous discomfort came over Twilight as she opened the door of the observatory. She stepped inside, nonetheless.

“Can I have some time?” Twilight asked. “To, I dunno, look around. Reacquaint myself?”

Celestia smiled.

“Of course, Twilight.”

“Are you sure, darling? I’d be thrilled to help you redecorate. It’s been so long since you were last here, after all, and surely—”

“Ah, leave her be, Rarity.” Applejack tipped her hat to Twilight as she rounded up the rest of her friends. “Ya know where to find us if ya need anything.”

Twilight nodded, thankful for the reprieve. Her friends filed out, talking amongst themselves. The door clicked shut, and Twilight stood by herself in the enveloping silence.

She looked around the huge, open room. Everything was still there, right where she’d left it. Maybe a bit cleaner. There was her old telescope, and her shelves full of books on permanent loan from the library, and her bed. Just like she remembered.

And all of it, every single inch of the observatory she’d spent untold hours in, was utterly foreign to her.

When had everything become so different?

Twilight stepped across the immaculate, reflective floor, and it echoed strangely back at her. She had the unsettling feeling of being an intruder here. She felt unreal, somehow, like a ghost, drifting through the museum of her own life. This place wasn’t hers anymore. The Twilight who had once lived here was long gone.

She turned and hurried for the door, frightened of she didn’t know what, but stopped with a hoof halfway to the handle. People were still out there, probably. If she left now, she’d have to deal with them again. That was somehow even worse than staying. She was afraid to be alone anymore, but she couldn’t bring herself to seek out company, either. She just stood there, vacillating.

*Chirp?*

Twilight turned to look at Ben, perched on her back. She didn’t know what to say. She went to a bookshelf, grabbed something at random, and threw open a window. Without a look back, she leapt through it into the night air. Thus did Twilight Sparkle spend her first lucid night in Equestria: under a tree in the Royal gardens. She read until she dozed off.

~~~

A week passed, maybe two. Twilight eventually formed an uneasy peace with her old observatory, though she was never really comfortable there. Her friends kept coming to visit, but things were no less strained than before. Rainbow Dash suggested she should go home, if this place was making her feel, as she put it, ‘sucky.’ Twilight didn’t even consider it. She just…no.

She started making excuses when her friends came by, that she was tired or busy with some irrelevant thing. It got awkward. She did a lot of reading, and a lot of sleeping. They were the only things that gave her any real respite, if only because she didn’t have to think too much while doing them. Not that she seemed to be doing much thinking anyway, but still. It was peaceful, reading. It gave her thoughts direction. And sleep held simple oblivion, which was even better.

Twilight heard a soft knock at her door. She didn’t move to answer it. She was quite invested in this history of the writing quill, thank you, and didn’t especially wish to be interrupted.

“Twilight? May I come in?”

Everything in her froze at the voice, just as it had every time she’d heard it since returning to Equestria.

“We don’t have to talk. I just wanted to…”

Twilight stared at the page, not seeing the words.

“I brought tea. And coffee, and cocoa. I know you always loved that.”

The voice was so small and plaintive. So utterly unlike Celestia. And also so damnably familiar! She had heard that voice, but that was in…

It took Twilight a long time to answer, and she didn’t know why she said what she did.

“Okay.”

The door swung open, slow and quiet. Celestia stepped softly into the room, a full tea service rolling behind her in a field of golden magic. The door shut with a little click as she wheeled the set up to the pillow-ringed table that served as a guest room in the observatory. Twilight closed her book and trotted down from her bed to join her there. She took the book with her.

Celestia set up a pot of steaming water and cups and spoons and all the other tea things. She gave Twilight a smile. Twilight tried to return it.

“What would you like?” asked Celestia.

“Cocoa, please.”

Celestia nodded and poured the dark stuff into one cup. She set out milk and sugar and cinnamon before putting together her own drink. Green tea, by the smell of it. Twilight built her beverage as she liked it (lots of milk and sugar, a bit of cinnamon), and settled in. She took a sip. Celestia finished her own work and did the same.

“What are you reading?”

“Hm? Oh, it’s…” She found she couldn’t quite remember, just now. “Nothing much.”

“Ah.”

Twilight couldn’t think of a single word to fill the void between them.

“Well, don’t let me interrupt your reading. Do you mind if I handle a bit of correspondence while we drink?”

“No. Go ahead.”

Celestia nodded. Did she hesitate slightly before summoning in that first scroll? An ink pot and quill followed, and the subtle scratching of quill on paper practically echoed in the otherwise silent room. Twilight sipped at her chocolate and, not knowing what else to do, re-opened her book.

Minutes passed, and neither pony said a word. They’d done this all the time when she was young. Just sat together, silent and perfectly content with that. If something had upset Twilight, made her angry or sad or any sort of thing, these times were when they would talk it out. Celestia had never pushed her. She had always waited patiently until Twilight was ready. Often, Twilight hadn’t even known she was stressing out over something until afterward, only realizing later that Celestia had gently, subtly coaxed it out of her. She was doing it right now. Just...waiting.

They’d been so familiar back then! So comfortable with each other that they’d never needed to fill the space between them with unnecessary words.

So why does it feel like I’m stuck in a room with a stranger?

“I, ah…”

Twilight glanced up to see Celestia watching her. She looked, just for a moment, like she wanted to speak, to reach out and touch Twilight.

Just do it! Just say the words! Twilight wanted to scream, but not a sound passed her lips. Get up and come over here and hug me and break down like you did before! Do something!

“I’m sorry, it’s nothing.”

And the moment was past. She was the Celestia of old again. Calm, controlled, untouchably perfect.

“Princess?”

“Yes?”

“Could you please leave?”

There it was again! That tiny glimpse of doubt in her eyes. Goddess, it was so painful to see it! Why couldn’t she just remember! How could she have thrown away everything they’d been through!?

“I-yes. Alright. I’m sorry to have bothered you, Twilight.”

Then you do it! Twilight howled into herself. Tell her! Get up! Just say something! Anything!

There was hardly a sound as Celestia left the room. Twilight curled up around her book and pretended not to feel the gnawing tightness in her chest for the rest of the night.

~~~

Twilight didn’t leave her room after that except to eat for the next three days. She managed to mostly avoid other ponies by going at odd hours, skulking through darkened hallways in the hopes that no one would notice her. Alas, by chance or intention, Applejack appeared from around a corner as Twilight crept back from the kitchen.

“Howdy, Twilight.”

“Hi.” Twilight pretended to study her plate as she went, avoiding her friend’s eyes.

“Say, uh. I know you’re not much for talkin' right now…”

“What? No, it’s just I, um, yeah.”

“Right. And I don’t mean to press, Twi, but—”

Twilight frowned, already irked. An unpleasantly familiar pressure grew in her.

“Here it comes,” she groaned.

“Alright, fair enough,” said Applejack, raising both hooves and a conciliatory smile. “I’m sure you’ve had enough of this lately.”

The little spark of annoyance grew into something more.

“Yes! I have!” The first times had been merely awkward. Now it was getting annoying. The pressure swelled.

“Okay, sugar, take it easy. We’re just worried is all. This whole silent treatment thing ain’t like you. We’re all just trying to help you get—”

It blossomed into a thing of terrible rage.

“Maybe I don’t want your fucking help!”

Applejack blinked in surprise at the outburst. She backed up a step as Twilight stalked forward.

“Uh, I don’t know what—”

The crazed, volatile anger that had haunted Twilight since she’d returned dug in its claws, finally finding a target.

“Maybe I just want to be left alone for a while! Maybe you should all just back off!!

The ground shook as Twilight’s godly might erupted out. She stomped the floor and a wave of force blew through the hall, nearly knocking Applejack flat.

“Maybe you should all just mind your own business for once!!”

The walls trembled, and the cracks at her hooves grew into a rift.

“Twilight, wha—”

And Insight was there. This was the first time Twilight had felt her presence since she’d returned to Equestria. The blade sized up Twilight’s friend: a trivial threat. Easily dealt with, if that were what she wished. The blade requested that Twilight reconsider though, as she was no longer a weapon for killing.

Twilight gasped, staggered back as if she were the one who had been struck. She stared at the surprise and hurt and dawning fear in Applejack’s eyes.

And she ran.

~~~

Twilight spent that night under the same tree she’d found before. The one in the gardens. She hid when the patrols flew by, looking for her. She refused to think about what happened.

Yes, because that’s been working so well.

She silenced her inner critic as best she could.

Insight had left her at some point, and Twilight didn’t ask how or why.

Honestly, she’d thought the sword was gone forever. She hadn’t been able to summon her since she’d come back. The same with her Goddess-magic. She couldn’t for the life of her remember how she’d called that power the first time, and it maddened her. If she could just bring them out, if she could only feel what she’d felt in that brief, heavenly moment of divine insight, it would fix everything! But all that was gone. Maybe none of it had ever even existed.

But now she knew better. The sword, at least, was still there. Lurking. Waiting to remind her of—

Stop it! I’m not doing this! I can’t right now! I just can’t!

She curled up and shoved herself into a book and prayed for the sweet nothing of sleep, hoping for it so desperately that she was willing even to forget what came every time she woke.

~~~

Twilight had been having this recurring nightmare. Except it wasn’t really a nightmare, because it only came when she was awake. She was having it now, actually, just as she had every time she’d woken for the past weeks. She would emerge from the peaceful oblivion of slumber and be frozen, eyes closed, every nerve singing with fear. It wasn’t anything she dreamed that frightened her, though. It was waking that held her in this paralysis. The fear that this would be the time that she finally, truly awoke. That she would open her eyes, and see some horrid thing, and she would finally know that she had never escaped at all. That she was still there. That everything she’d seen over the past days and weeks had been the dream, and this, Tartarus, was her only reality.

“Ben?” she whispered.

He chirped immediate response. His eight legs pattered their way down the tree and onto her flank. Twilight slowly remembered how to breathe. She opened her eyes and saw only the pleasant organization of the gardens, the soft glow of a full Moon lighting the night.

Ben was the one thing that could calm her when this happened. Her goddess-hood had left her, her sword didn’t answer anymore, and the one pony whom she might have been able to talk to about all this was gone because Twilight had failed him. Ben was her only proof. He was a small rock on which she could rest, because he remembered. He had been there with her, and he made the rest of the world feel like it might be real. She knew it didn’t make sense.

She rolled over and picked him up with both hooves. He gave her a many-eyed look of understanding.

Twilight felt herself start to tear up. Again. She did this every time! Goddess, she was so sick of crying! In Tartarus, she hadn’t been able to cry even when she’d desperately needed to, and now she couldn’t stop herself! The tears made her angry, and the anger made her disgusted with herself, and that just made her want to cry again. She hated this.

She put Ben down, threw off the blanket of earth and grass that had grown over her, and stepped out onto a bank of clouds. She felt a momentary bit of disorientation before she remembered why she was here. Ah, yes. She was looking for something. Her telescope. She’d left it up here somewhere, she was certain. She just needed to find it, and then everything would finally become clear.

Off we go, then.

Twilight nodded to herself and set off through the decrepit, barely lit storeroom. Its ancient shelves were filled with boxes and books and junk. They lined its unending walls, creaking, on the verge of collapse. They slumped and leaned dangerously, often blocking her path, forcing her to backtrack through the labyrinth. Many of them were sunk partway into the cloud floor. The whole place seemed to be sinking like that. She searched through box after box, sure that this next one would hold what she sought, but finding only more useless detritus of a life she barely remembered. She wandered for a frustrated age before she finally saw it: a trunk, half submerged into a particularly dark cloud. A crest like a burning ring was its only adornment.

She needed to open that. It was in there, the thing she wanted. Lightning seethed around her as Twilight dredged the heavy, ugly thing up. The iron binding it was rusted. It was sharp and dangerous and lined with spikes. The chest was sealed with a massive, equally frightening padlock. There was no keyhole.

A sort of amorphous dread filled Twilight as she pulled at the lock. She twisted it this way and that, yanked it with all her might, hammered on the box with her magic, but nothing worked. She didn’t even really want to open it. Maybe that was the problem. But what she wanted didn’t matter. She had to do this. It was important! Even if she didn’t quite know why just yet.

The trunk started sinking back into the storm-cloud, and she was going with it. Twilight was already up to her knees when the panic started. The cloud had become something else, some growing, growling morass of bilious purple and green. Grasping tendrils reached up and out and wrapped around her, draggin h—

“That will be enough of that, We think.”

With a pulse of cool blue magic, the nightmare stuff pulled away, cringing in apparent fear. Luna strode forth from nowhere, eyeing the evil thing. She nodded to what appeared to be a spider, bigger than a pony and made entirely of silver and shadow.

Ben?

He was bigger here. Huge, even, but not at all intimidating. If anything, he seemed more friendly and expressive than ever. He leapt into the noxious cloud and tore it to shreds, reweaving its nightmare substance into a thing of gossamer beauty. Twilight watched in wonder as he attacked the rest of the infinite storeroom, dismantling it all into nothing more than a bit of soft, pleasant cloud.

“Yes, 'tis a much better dream. We thank thee, little one.” Luna stroked Ben’s head and he sang to her in melodious, happy music. “Be a dear and take care of that one over there before it gets out of hoof, won’t thee?”

Oh. I’m still asleep.

The spider gave a quick salute. He looked to Twilight, and sang again. It was a wordless tune of confidence and concern, and a plea for tolerance of his, and his mother’s, intrusion into her dreams. There was a note of wry humor to it before he scampered off to disintegrate another nightmare.

“He thinks the world of thee, you know.”

Twilight turned to Luna, her mind still trying to find some balance between dreaming and wakefulness. And of Luna's highly idiosyncratic, seemingly random use of old Equestrian.

Luna smiled, having seen that look before.

“Our apologies for intruding, Twilight Sparkle, but We fear you have Our dreamspinners working overtime lately, and We felt We should intercede. We understand that you desire privacy at this time, but, if you will forgive Us, We think that is nonsense. We suspect Our youngest Princess wishes to talk, but would rather not admit it.”

“Hm? Oh, yeah. Ponies keep telling me things like that. It’s getting old.” The cloudscape around Twilight thundered and shook, a glow of red suffusing it. Anger? Twilight was certain she’d be furious with Luna for doing this if she’d been awake, but apparently letting her subconscious do its thing down there let the rest of her be reasonable. Was that normal here? She was going to have to learn more about dream magic. But first…“Dreamspinners?”

Luna bowed in acknowledgement, watching the developing storm.

“We imagine it is, and so We apologize again. But sometimes a pony is free to say in dreams what she cannot elsewhere, and so We thought We should try. As to them...” Luna waved a wing to the silvery, shadowy beings in the distance. There were quite a few of them, flitting between the features of her mind on argent strands of web. “The ‘spinners are Our assistants in the Dreaming.”

Right! Ben was a dreamspinner! Celestia had called him that once. And she’d said Luna had created them, or something? Is that why Ben had, eh, not called her his mother exactly, but ‘said’ something to that effect?

“We have had a full nest assigned to thee since thy return. We trust they have been of help?”

“They’re…” Twilight watched the creatures dart about the rumbling storm of her subconscious, diving into the worst clouds and fighting the things that came out of them. They unraveled one horror after another, shaping them into something nicer. “They’re why I haven’t been having nightmares?”

Luna nodded. “Keeping thy sleep peaceful is the least We can do for thee, Twilight. And, We sometimes worry, the most. May We sit with thee a while?”

“Sure.”

They both looked down into the landscape Twilight’s dreaming mind had built.

It was a Sunless hell. The skyline was dismal with storm and scourged by whips of lightning. The clouds rumbled and growled, but held not even the promise of rain. Only shrieking wind and darkness. The earth was cracked and empty but for murky tracts of haunted forest, wracked with fire. Small enclaves of light remained, shining through the choking clouds, but they were embattled by things of horror and hopelessness, creatures of rusted iron and ruin and self-loathing. This place was tearing itself apart.

Goddess. Is it always like this?

“So,” asked Luna, knowing the answer before she spoke the question. “How are you, Twilight?”

Twilight spat a bit of a laugh at the absurdity of it. Was this first time she’d laughed since she’d gotten back? And had the skies just lightened a bit?

“You asked me that before.”

Luna grinned.

“We have become predictable, it seems. What did you tell Us?”

“I’ve been better. You laughed.”

Luna did so again.

“Very good! Tell me though. Did we speak, after that? Did you feel better afterward?”

“I…yeah. And I guess I did.” Twilight actually felt a little better just admitting it. But… “But it didn’t change anything. Things got even worse, afterwards.”

Luna nodded, saying nothing more for a time. Then, watching something far, far away, she asked,

“Why you?”

“What?”

“Why were you the one to make it out alive?”

The skies tensed, clouds growing taught, pregnant with annihilating fury.

“It should have been somepony else. You don’t deserve to have made it out. You failed, and everypony suffered for your weakness. You should have done more. If only you’d tried harder, you could have saved them.”

Twilight stared at her, and everything went deathly silent.

“It should have been you who died in Tartarus.”

The entire world shook with hate. But it only shook itself.

Luna turned a sad smile to Twilight.

“Do these words sound familiar, Twilight Sparkle? Are these the things you’ve been telling yourself up there, in thy observatory? Does it feel better, now that someone has accused thee? It did for Us.” Luna shook her head. “Truly, we are strange creatures.”

A single drop of rain struck the broken earth of Twilight’s psyche. Another followed. More. A torrent. A flood.

Because it did feel better, somehow. She thought she should cry, but she could only watch the rain fall, and see the truth of her own delusion.

“It sounds crazy when you say it,” she whispered.

“Yes.”

It was a long time before Twilight spoke again.

“Is that what happened?”

Luna looked at her, questioning.

“I went crazy out there, in Taratarus? Is that what I am now?”

Luna shrugged with a sly grin.

“We are all a little crazy, at the very least. But what is sanity, really? ‘Normal’ is a myth, Twilight. Tell Us, what would be the ‘rational’ response be to what you met in Tartarus? What possible argument could convince you that you are not to blame?”

Twilight pondered that.

“Don’t bother, child. There is no answer. And We do not believe you have ‘gone crazy,’ as you say it. But you have been wounded, Twilight. Deeply. It will take time to heal this pain, and the scars will change thee. We know only what your dreams and Our guards have told me, but take the word of one who has seen the worst that Tartarus has to offer: You may have been injured, but you have not been broken. You will rise from this and be stronger than ever.”

The flood calmed, drawing back to a mere shower as Twilight watched and listened. The little pillars of light grew. They were still weak, and the rain poured freely through them, but they grew.

“Okay. Thank you, Luna.”

The Moon Princess bowed her head.

“Might I impose more unasked-for wisdom upon you?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“A great story, they say, grows with every telling. But there is another kind of story. One whose grip weakens, bit by bit, word by word, as it is told. We think you know the kind of which We speak?”

Another long moment passed.

“Yeah. But. How? I mean—”

Luna didn’t interrupt as Twilight stumbled through the words.

“The things I saw out there. The things I did, or thought of doing...That my friends actually did do. I mean, I saw you a-and Celestia…You scared me! And what about…” Twilight licked her lips, nervous. Even here, where the feelings were hazy and distant, she couldn’t say his name. The dreamscape trembled, grew twisted and dangerous again. “How can I say those things? How could anyone understand?”

“Ahh. You think of your friends. You worry they will abandon you, after they hear what you had to do to survive.” Luna paused, let that terrible thought, finally given voice, sink in. “They will not. They will be there for you, Twilight Sparkle, as you have always been there for them. In truth though, they will not understand, not as you do. But they will try, and they will stand by you. And that will be enough.”

The dream smoothed itself out, if only a little. The rain still fell.

“You make it sound so easy.”

“I do not mean to do so. It may be the most grueling trial you have ever undergone, telling this tale.”

“Alright, let’s not get more melodramatic than we have to, Miss Moon Princess.”

“Hah! As you say. One further suggestion, before We go?”

“Are you just going to keep doing that forever? Adding one more thing?”

Luna smirked.

“This shall be the last, by Our word. We said before that your friends would not understand, but We happen to know of a few individuals who might have some inkling of your pain.”

Twilight nodded.

“Yeah, I get it. I’ll talk to you and Celestia first. Ugh. I was terrible to her.”

Luna tilted her head.

“Were you? No matter. You will resolve it. But as it happens, We refer to somepony other than Ourselves and Celestia. Silver Shine has asked about you on more than one occasion. From what We hear, you left quite an impression on the squad sent to rescue you. It would be their great honor to meet with you again, Twilight. Perhaps you would like to join them for dinner or some such? We think you will find that they have great insight into situations such as you have seen.”

“Oh.” Twilight hadn’t even thought of them since she’d come back. She’d just been terrible to everypony, hadn’t she?

“Indeed. Well, whatever you decide, We think it is time We ceased to interfere in your life. For the nonce, anyway. Sweet dreams, Twilight Sparkle.”

And then, with a wink and sparkle of moonlight, she was gone.

~~~

Twilight woke in her bed, with no memory of having put herself there. She had a guess as to who might have done it, though. She rolled onto her back and sighed.

“Ben?”

The spider chirped from across the room and scampered to her immediately. Twilight picked him up when he got there.

“Your mom is a meddling jerk with no respect for other ponies' privacy.”

Ben tilted his cephalothorax at Twilight, but made no particular commentary.

Twilight smiled. She wasn’t exactly happy about Luna getting into her business like that, but she couldn’t deny the effect: this was the first time she’d woken up relaxed in weeks. Relaxed, and maybe even a little motivated.

Twilight set Ben down. He gazed up at her. ‘So what now?’ he seemed to say.

Twilight pushed back her covers, petted the spider, and made her way to the antique desk that graced one corner of her observatory. She spread out a clean scroll, popped open a bottle of ink, and stared at the blank paper.

Where to even start?

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