• Published 19th Oct 2014
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Bookworm's Delight - naturalbornderpy



Twilight Sparkle tries to pry herself from a book that she cannot stop reading. The author of such text would love nothing better than to watch her die.

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Chapter 1: The Gift/The Curse

CHAPTER ONE:

THE GIFT/THE CURSE

1

Twilight Sparkle watched as another page in her new book flipped open as her eyes instantly went to the upper left corner to start the new paragraph. With a horn that was no longer hers to control she had turned the page. Her eyes were not hers, either—dry, bloodshot, blinking in intervals as she continued further and further into the book that had been sent to her three days prior.

I should have read in the library, she reminded herself again, a part of her scanning the latest page and reading every single word carefully and articulately while another part of her disparately clawed at any possible solution to her plight. No one will find me in here… if only they had noticed me that first time.

For three days now Twilight had been hunched over the thick tome, legs curled up underneath while both forelegs rested on either sides of the book. That had been the position she had taken when first cracking open its front cover and reading those first few lines directed to her specifically. Once she completed just a few odd lines, her body had seized whole while her eyes only continued on with the small additive of her horn to turn pages.

Maybe they’ll try again, she hoped. There’s still time. I trust them. I know they’ll find me.

She could tell she had started three days ago when the light cascading through the bare windows went dark and then repeated hours later. Even in near pitch black her weary eyes read on, seemingly knowing just where the next series of words would be found.

For another, far more looming fact, Twilight could already tell it had been three days.

She had never been more hungry or thirsty as then.

2

Since the decimation of Golden Oak Library and the creation of Twilight’s eyesore of a castle in the center of town, the donation of new and old books had been a constant occurrence. All those ponies that had bared witness or simply heard of how Princess Twilight had defended them all in the vengeful presence of Tirek had more than eagerly donated their books or purchased ones anew in hopes of jump starting the small Ponyville library again.

Each day dozens of books were left in helter-skelter stacks by the doors, waiting to be sorted in the newly built library on the first floor of the castle. If Spike felt a tad more alert than usual, he’d search the new piles for possible comic books or adventure stories. On the morning Twilight had found the book that was slowly killing her, he had placed it right on top of their latest arrivals. He was only trying to help.

“I placed the biggest one on top, Twilight,” he told her that sunny morning, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow. “I think you’d like it. The title’s practically written for you!”

Twilight tried to blink the sleep from her eyes and stared at the closest stack of precariously leaning books. On the very top was a heavy brown text with thin gold lettering near its top. She read the title and then tried to remove more of that sleep that seemed to hang from her. And still the title remained.

“Bookworm’s Delight!” Spike said helpfully, both short arms working away on a pile that had recently collapsed. “I can’t think of anything you’d like more than a whole book about bookworms, Twilight. And it’s thick, too. You love thick books.”

“I love all books, Spike,” Twilight said bluntly, scooping the tome up to search for its author. When none became evident, she said, “Perhaps it’s a joke book. Several authors or something—writing about a single topic.” She shrugged and placed the book under her wing, trotting to the kitchen in search of her morning tea.

She had thought some light reading before breakfast might prove the best start to the day.

3

With steaming cup held in a thin purple aura, Twilight first went to her reading room before trying her bedroom near the top of the castle. Both she turned away from soon after entering. “Why so cold?” she asked no one. After checking both sets of windows for leaks, she gently nudged open a few of the guest bedrooms in search of a less drafty space. Since not a single room had been fully furnished yet (complete with bare windows), the golden morning sun poured brilliantly in the lone room, touching a corner of the wide bed near the wall and giving the room a welcome breath of fresh air.

For a toasty moment Twilight stood in the rays of sun before setting her lemon tea on a nearby nightstand. Fluffing the pillow behind her, she settled in and once again checked for some author of note. But I’ve read hundreds of books without authors, she thought, before remembering that most of those books had names like “The Arcanean Discovery of the Fourth Dynasty,” and were usually several hundred years old.

She thought of sipping her simmering tea but put in on hold. It was still far too hot. (Only hours later, when her tongue felt close to sandpaper and any attempt at swallowing came close to choking her, would she abundantly regret such a decision.)

“All right. Let’s see what you’re all about.”

She eased open the heavy cover and the oddest of sights greeted her.

“Hello, Twilight Sparkle. Long time fan, first time writer. I hope you’re seated comfortably, because I guarantee this is a book you won’t be able to put down. It’s my first, and it’s taken me quite awhile to get right. I’m very excited for you to read it. I don’t think I’ll be able to get much of a response from you about it, but just the knowledge that this’ll be the last book you ever read warms my small heart. You’ve always been a bookworm, wouldn’t you say? Then what better way to go then with your head buried in a book?”

Twilight wanted to raise her head—to try and blink the sleep from her eyes once more or attempt to shake loose the thick cobwebs in her thoughts—but her skull only remained rigid where it was, carefully scanning each word before dropping down to the next sentence. She tried the same for the rest of her body, each leg and her torso. All were strictly held in their spots—her natural reading pose.

It continued on:

“Did you find a few spots in the castle drafty this morning, Princess? A simple spell. Anything more and you might have been curious. Where did you go, I wonder? You never like to read around Spike, because he’s the type that likes to talk or distract. So where did you settle down this morning? Did you have breakfast before you started? Or simple tea as always? I’d like to think I’m above such redundancy as lines such as these, but I have a very long book to finish and several pages to cover, so why not? Living in the public eye as you do, anyone can read you like a book, Twilight Sparkle. I’m sure your face must decorate the walls of many young fillies, wishing to save the day and turn into a beautiful Princess when the time comes. How perfect your life must seem. How irregular this little detour must look during your beautiful, blissful morning. All things come to an end, Princess. Only know that you’ve lived a far better live than most could ever dream.”

Feeling something very cold enter her stomach, Twilight unwillingly flipped to the next page.

4

The strong urge to panic gripped her chest like a vice. It was there—a tight-knit ball that desperately wanted to expand to the rest of her—but she held it in place with some comforting thoughts. I still have my horn, she reassured herself. I could knock the book away. And there’s still Spike. I could call to him or he’d find me eventually and then get help. This writer thinks they might know all there is to know about me, yet they could never imagine what’s all inside. I bet I could crack this wide open before my tea even gets cold.

Such a triumphant speech helped ebb away some mild anxiety. The series of events soon to follow only proved to scoop out what little hope she originally laid claim to.

The first test was of her horn, which every few minutes eagerly flipped to the next page. It was such a small amount of magic she could barely consider it a blink… and yet it was happening without her consent. Tightening her already hardened expression she felt the outlines of the thick book in her mind’s eye. Now the next step was tossing it to the floor and out of her sight. She pictured its rectangular frame and every page that lay within; she imagined its concealed cover pressed against the bed sheets and gave weight to it all. In her lifetime she had lifted thousands of novels and texts and far heavier things than this with her magic—it would be as simple as breathing, she knew.

And away it GOES! she screamed inside while pushing with everything she had.

Along the soft covers of the bed, the book did not budge an inch.

“Not all villains are monsters that claw out from the earth, Twilight. Some only want to prove a point to the world. I like watching stars as much as most, but I’ve always wanted to see one fall to the ground more than anything.”

As much as she had tried to control that ball of panic deep in her chest, tiny threads started to spread to each of her legs, which had already become restless from lack of movement. When that came to her attention, a throbbing sore in her lower back made itself known. Her body was scared and was acting accordingly. Her mind would not, though.

The wide text ate up most of her vision, but she had known the room well enough to picture what lay beyond her dull frame of view. She could smell the cooling cup of tea only a leg’s reach from where she sat, so she concentrated wholly on the small object. With the same amount of force that she gave to the book, Twilight tried to knock it from its perch. More than anything she wanted to hear it smash against the ground; possibly stain the carpet near the bed. The most it moved was a few millimeters towards the edge of the table. And behind that push she had given everything.

Someone has thought about this for a long time, she hurriedly thought. Someone has studied me and this type of spell. She flipped another page, eyes already darting to the new paragraph. A horrible notion found her. Why haven’t I called for Spike yet? Why haven’t I said a single word since this all started?

Like her eyes and every ligament she held dear, her mouth and voice had been taken from her. It seemed whoever had sent her such a book only wanted her to read and keep on reading.

So she did.

5

“Two cups flour mixed with three whole eggs. Whisk together then add four drops of vanilla. Combine with a quarter cup of oats and a quarter cup shredded carrot. Pre-heat oven to…”

When the author of the book grew tired of rambling directly to Twilight to tease her during her anguish, they slipped in whole pages of muffin and bread recipes as well as entire chapters of history texts that the alicorn could remember reading some time ago. Back when reading used to be for leisure… and not something altogether malevolent.

Trying to forget about the cold cup of tea near her side or the pains that were slowly coursing their way through her thin limbs, Twilight took the book to heart to try and determine who might be behind it all. Continually she reassured herself that Spike would come look for her sometime in the afternoon. Already he had called up to her about breakfast—something about waffles and fruit. Twilight moaned internally as her stomach finally gave out its first cry of emptiness.

The number of worthwhile villains she eventually surmised was brutally short and lacking sufficient evidence. Tirek had just recently been placed back in Tartarus; Queen Chrysalis and her hive would never bother for such an elaborate death of a Princess; and although the book contained many jabs of mockery towards the alicorn, Twilight had never thought Discord would go so low as to try and actually hurt her. He would probably find the whole thing laughable once he heard about it, but that would only be if she stopped reading from her magnetic book.

So that leaves no one, she thought sourly. Someone new—someone I’ve hurt in the past or possibly not at all.

Such little evidence crippled what small glimmer of hope Twilight had of uncovering her wrongdoer, even while a good portion of her attention was still directed at the steadily flipping pages right in front of her eyes.

“I have yet to try a single one of these recipes but I hope they keep you satisfied for the moment. Did you skip breakfast this morning? I hope not, otherwise you must indeed be hungry by now. How are you feeling, Princess? Helpless? That must be new for you. But I wouldn’t fret just yet. I’m sure another purple alicorn is waiting just around the corner—ready to save the day and trot off towards new and breathtaking adventures! Unless, that is, she has her head stuck in a book…”

Faintly, Twilight heard the tap of footsteps ascending the stairs. She could not look up but could make out the quick patter of small feet on marble floors.

“Twilight?” Spike called out.

Oh thank Celestia! Twilight thought. He’ll find me and then he’ll get the others. He just needs to stop in here and then he’ll see me!

Spike creaked open a door down the hall—her bedroom or reading room. “You in here, Twilight?” He pushed open another. “You didn’t come down for breakfast so I thought maybe you’d want to spent the afternoon in town, grab a bite to eat. You around here?”

He paused in the opening of each room, obviously not glimpsing the mare. A few quick paces afterward placed him in the doorframe of the room she was in. He nudged it inward. “Twilight?” he said.

Head bent and neck sore, Twilight kept reading and waited for her trusty assistant to come enter the room. Once he would see her on the bed and not responding, he’d need to come pester her. That was in his nature and at that moment Twilight was so very thankful of that nature. If it could pry her dry eyes from all those hateful words then she’d stuff his face full of gems until he couldn’t walk straight. Any moment now, she ruminated. Any moment—

“I guess you went out without telling me,” Spike said at the door, before turning around and heading back down the stairs. “I’ll see if she’s in town,” she heard him mumble as he left.

No, she told herself, as something large slipped from her solid grasp of the situation. He must have seen me. There’s only one thing in this whole room and that’s a bed WITH A READING ALICORN ON IT! So why didn’t he—

She flipped to the next page.

“The bread dough will be ready to enter the oven when it is one inch above the baking pan and sinks when prodded. Oven should be pre-set to four-hundred degrees and a small dollop of oil so be used to help make removing the bread easier.

“Hello dear, Twilight. Are you ready to get cooking yet? Or has that always been Spike’s job in your odd relationship? I’m still curious as to where you’ve ended up in your lavish castle to read for a spell. Or are you on the toilet? Wouldn’t that make for one embarrassing obituary column? ‘Alicorn Princess that’s saved everyone and their mother countless times found dead in washroom of own unnecessary castle. Doorknobs, one—Twilight Sparkle, zero.’ Has Spike come to find you yet? I hope so. You might have been nervous before but I’m sure now things are starting to sink in a little deeper. As long as you continue to read the pages of this book (and you will—I guarantee you will) not a single soul will be able to see you. You are now invisible to everyone that might clamor to your aid. But don’t feel alone, my friend from a distance. I’ll be there for you. I may only be a series of words but I’ll be with you until the end. How many days does it take to starve? Or will thirst claim you first? Sorry if I seem a little longwinded, but you and I have time to kill. Now the biggest curiosity of all becomes when you’ll break down and stain this book with your tears. I know you so well, I’ll say a few hours from now.”

Twilight did not cry that first day, flipping and reading through that horrendous book. Only at night did the tears come, when the sun seeped from the horizon and left her shivering on her lumpy bed, the small shakes painfully agitating each of the sores that were beginning to rise on her legs.

In the dark she read on.

6

With the early morning sun came renewed hope. Twilight had time on her hooves—plenty of time. Her tormentor wanted to antagonize her during her long and overwrought ordeal, but going down such a route meant she had ample opportunity to solve her dilemma and uncover the cause of such pain. The writer of said book had made a very powerful enemy that day.

I need to make a noise. I need to let the world know someone’s here.

Twilight refocused her attention on the cold cup of tea on the nightstand. Using the same amount of force from before, she mentally shoved it towards the edge again. By the sounds it made, it must have moved a millimeter at best. It would do, she thought, as she slowed her breathing to try again. A few hours later and the cup must have been nearing the tipping point. More than anything she did not want to send it over while being the only pony in the room. She would hedge her bets and hope as best she could that a few more strong shoves would be all it would take.

“I’m sure your friends will be arriving soon, but will they find you? I’m sure you’d love to yell to them—to call to them and say you’re in here or over there or anywhere at all. Maybe they think you’ve left the castle? I could have made this worse, you know. I could have left an open envelope in your room explaining how you’d been suddenly summoned to Canterlot. I could have done that and removed what faint chances you have, but risks have always added to what I set out to accomplish.”

Twilight could hear a good many sets of hooves on the stairs—the springy sound of Pinkie Pie heading up the rear.

Spike was already explaining things. “So I don’t see her all day yesterday, and this morning she’s nowhere to be found. Not in her bedroom or any other room! Did she mention she was going anywhere to any of you?”

“Nope.”

“No.”

“Nadda.”

Her friends collectively disagreed as they parted at the landing. A few went to her bedroom down the hall, while the rest walked closer to the room.

“Did anyone see her outside, yesterday or this morning?” Spike asked them.

The same shower of disagreements followed.

“I do hope she’s all right,” Fluttershy said in the doorway to her room. “Maybe she only forgot to write and had urgent business that needed tending to. She would never want to leave us worrying about her.”

From the all consuming view of her book, Twilight heard as Fluttershy and another entered the room. One went towards the window while another came closer to the bed. It has to be now, she thought, as she mentally shoved against her cup.

It crossed another fraction of surface but did not topple to the floor. It must have been close, though.

“Did you even know Twilight had so many spare bedrooms?” Rainbow Dash asked Fluttershy near her bed. “And to think I could’ve been crashing here this whole time!” The blue pegasus stopped near the nightstand, while Twilight mentally prepared to push the glass again. “Wait a minute. This is odd.”

Yes. Yes! Please say you can see me! Please Rainbow, PLEASE!

“Twilight would never leave a full cup near the edge of something. If it spilled she’d probably go into a coma.”

With horrific clarity of what must have been happening, Twilight could only listen and read as Rainbow Dash pushed her cold cup of tea back to the middle of the stand. All that morning’s arduous work undone by the simply flick of a leg—a leg that thought it must have only been helping.

So close to rescue, Twilight soon discovered she was almost in tears once more.

“I just have such a bad feeling this time, Rainbow,” Fluttershy said, while she crossed the room. “What if she’s somewhere that we don’t know about and needs our help right this moment?”

“You always think like that,” Rainbow reassured. “I’m sure she’s fine. Maybe she went out yesterday, spent a night on the town, and is only sleeping a night of bad decisions off right now. A gal like her could use a break once in a while. I’m sure it’s all nothing, Fluttershy.”

“I hope so,” Fluttershy mumbled, before she collapsed against the edge of the bed. “I really do.”

Out of the corners of her eyes, Twilight saw a hill of soft pink mane spread out across the lower half of the bed. Splayed out on her stomach, Fluttershy softly moaned into the sheets, only picking her head up to watch as Rainbow Dash continued to circle the room. Being a far too large bed, Fluttershy was still a few leg’s reach from the concealed Twilight, but something had entered her space.

They must see this—oh please see this, Twilight thought desperately, as she scanned over the corner of her book that now had a few inches of pink hair draped over it. If the book and myself are invisible to everyone, then Fluttershy’s hair should be levitating at least an inch above the covers. Come on, Rainbow. Notice! COME ON!

“Over here, ladies! I think we’ve found something!”

That was not the voice Twilight had wanted to hear.

“There’s a book wide open on Twilight’s desk!” Rarity called again. “Maybe there’s something to it!”

Fluttershy quickly left the bed and trotted to the door with Rainbow Dash, unobserving as Twilight mentally flicked at her hair with what marginal amount of magic was left to her. A few moments later and all of her friends chatted briskly from the end of the hall, believing there to be something to the book she had (carelessly) left open. It would lead them nowhere close to the truth.

Once they’d reached an agreement, a series of fast hoofs raced down her stairs in search of the next clue. The only set that remained was the steady bounce of Pinkie Pie, as she hopped to each room on the landing one last time.

“You comin’, Pinkie?” Applejack yelled to her from below.

“Just a minute!” Pinkie answered.

For close to thirty seconds, the pink Earth pony skipped in the doorframe of Twilight’s room, not entering but not exiting either. Twilight had always been skeptical of her unexplainable senses, yet never before had she wanted her to use them right then and sense her somewhere in the room.

Before Twilight could even get enough energy to try her cup trick again, Pinkie hopped from the room and directly down the stairs, her squeaky springs slowly fading to nothing. Twilight had never felt as emotionally crushed as following that moment, when each plan of rescue only ended in a silenced whisper. But of course she still had that one friend that would hold her close until the end.

“Do not believe your friends will not be included in this, Princess. They were part of your creation as much as you were, as they will meet their ends, same as you. Now let’s get back to some good old Equestria history…”

7

Following those stark statements, Twilight silently raged internally while her body remained motionless. When that eventually abated, an overwhelming wave of despair sent as many warm tears to her eyes as they could. No longer was she afraid for herself—she still had time; solutions could still be uncovered—only now she was scared for her friends; friends that had done nothing to deserve such retribution unknowingly coming their way.

In the last few hours of light during that second day, Twilight noticed the tome coming to an end. The pages that she read she placed gingerly into the growing pile on the left, while only a few slips of paper remained before its heavy back-cover. Either the author of such a terrifying thing thought the alicorn must have been one of the slowest readers in Equestria, or that she’d somehow perish in a single day and a half.

Finally looking forward to something written in the book before her, Twilight turned the second last page and found the two most beautiful words in existence. “THE END”, it said, in thick block letters. She read those words and waited for the hold on her to let go—no more sentences to devour, no more spell to keep her in place. But her eyes only went to the upper right corner of “THE END”, where a small black dot menacingly sat.

No. Celestia please, no.

It was an asterisk.

Her dry and tired eyes found the faint hoofnote in the lower corner, where this time no willpower could stop the tears from seeping onto the open page.

“For more information, please turn to page one.”

So she did.