• Published 27th Oct 2014
  • 1,330 Views, 30 Comments

Silver Star Apple and the Search for More Money, Love, The Meaning of Life, and Magical Cards - SilverStarApple



He arrived in Canterlot a few years ago with a sack of bits, good eyes, and a greater vision. Now he's the sixth-richest, third strongest, and most handsome. But when even gold loses its lustre, Silver must embrace friendship and- WOAH, MAGIC CARDS?

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5 - Stacking The Deck

Clop, clop, clop, clop...

It was around that time in the afternoon when everypony was either outside for the next four hours, or ready to stay inside for the rest of the day.

Clop, clop, clop, clop...

Twilight Sparkle was all alone.

Clop, clop, clop, clop...

Which meant there was only one thing left for her to do.

Clop, clop, clop, clop...

To magically carry a tray of food and some books with her as she walked briskly from her personal library to her bedroom, two locations that seemed to get further apart every day.

Clop, clop, clop, clop...

She wasn't normally the type to think about the downsides of things, but she needed something to occupy her mind besides the loud, hollow, echoing clops of her hooves across solid crystal floors.

Why? Why did fate have to take her treehouse away from her? Right when she'd gotten used to using her newfound wings to fly from the books of her ground-floor public library to her own personal and private bedroom, fate had decided things were too simple, too nice, too perfect. So her perfect library-home, a place that reminded her of her observatory-home in Canterlot, had to be taken away from her and replaced with some stupid and gaudy crystal palace she thought she'd only ever see inside Rarity's head, if she ever faced one of those villains that trap you in your dreams forever, and that villain forced her to enter a dream where Rarity was having, a dream where Rarity was Princess Platinum and she lived in a castle of solid diamond with golden doorknobs and magical toilets and ten billion butlers.

Fate had decided that she had to go from living amongst the ponies of Ponyville and serving as their hero and occasional leader, to living high above those ponies in something that felt a thousand times more conspicuous than an ivory tower.

Was her status as the Princess's favourite and de facto town leader in times of crisis not enough? Was her incredible magical power not enough? Were the wings on her back not enough? No, fate had decided at some point, she needed to REALLY stand above everypony else, not just mentally, financially, and even physically, but by having the biggest and fanciest house.

This didn't feel like the house a hero would have. This felt like the house an out-of-touch Princess's Favourite would have, and she couldn't shake the feeling that every day, she lost a little more of herself and the pony she was and the pony she wanted to be, losing it all to The Alicorn the ponies of Equestria wanted to see.

She didn't want to mope. So she wouldn't think about this in front of others. But alone, as she had nothing else to occupy her thoughts, no immediate disasters or world-threatening problems on the horizon, she needed something to think about.

Perhaps, she decided, if she set up a system of perpetual portals that only she, Spike, and their new special little roommate could use, it would make the place easier to live in. After all, stepping through one portal and finding yourself in a new place, without having to bother casting the teleportation spell she'd copied from a Princess, was always nice.

Yes, she thought, that could help her change how much time she had to think about how much this new home just didn't suit her, but it just wouldn't solve any of the underlying problems that caused this sensation. It wouldn't solve the problem of how this house physically elevated her above everypony else in this otherwise charmingly old-fashioned-looking town. And perhaps, she never would. After all, it wasn't as if she could just demolish the whole crystal castle and put her old treehouse in its place.

She missed it. She missed feeling like she belonged in this town. She had grown up in Canterlot – She was born there, she was raised there, and she hadn't left until she was a teenager, on the orders of Princess Celestia herself. She wasn't sure how to put this into words, but she missed the way she used to find this town refreshing, bewildering, and a little bit exhausting.

She missed when ponies around the world treated her the same as any other pony in Equestria, while the ponies around town treated her with just enough respect, the kind you'd give to a good friend who'd stuck up for you once or twice. And it was real respect, not the fake admiration you had for some celebrity you only saw in bleached light, surrounded by spun stories and white lies.

She missed the days when a new adventure arose every day, be it a monster attacking Equestria, an apocalyptic disaster, or even just one of her friends getting into a fight with another one. She missed running around, she missed fighting monsters, she missed doing stuff, instead of feeling like a passenger in a story written about some other characters and their lives and their quests and how they were more relevant to the world than she'd likely ever feel again.

She missed when redeeming villains and befriending countries and building up Equestria's defenses felt like something exciting and a little terrifying, she missed when it felt like a sign that they would soon be needed for something incredible, rather than a sign that her life was changing, and not in a way she liked.

She missed feeling like the main character in the story of her life, and not some background character, some NPC straight out of Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons, who existed to be that one Alicorn in the background who gave quests to others.

She missed not having to bite down on her feelings and clamp down on her excitement every time it threatened to overwhelm her and send her into another “Gleefully springing around, repeatedly chanting 'Yes'” fit.

She missed feeling like she could call something good or bad or amazing or inefficient or even completely and utterly stupid without the less trustworthy reporters in the world jumping on it and trying to grab attention and stir controversy with headlines like “TWILIGHT SPARKLE HATES CORN!”.

She missed her books, she missed her cozy little treehouse, but most of all, she missed...

She missed feeling like Twilight Sparkle.

She was grateful for the life she'd gotten to live, and she knew many ponies out there dreamed of being a pretty little princess in a massive glittery castle that sparkled beautifully in the morning sunlight, but that had never been her dream. Her dream was to become an amazing scientist, the head of a thousand different fields at the same time, getting her name in the history books so future fillies could read about her and see that smart ponies could be cool too. She wanted to use science and magic to make Equestria a better place than it was before she entered it. She also dreamed of having a school of her own, and she was pretty sure that some time in the future, perhaps when things settled down and all her friends had foals of their own and they were the ones dropping everything and flying across the world to solve some far-off problem at a moment's notice, she'd make a school of her own. A school that would take anypony, rich and poor, pony and nonpony alike, and give them all the best education her billions of patents could pay for, staffed by the best teachers and trainers and masters of the art in the world.

After all, she knew, it would simply be irresponsible to open up a school now, when she could be forced to call lessons off for a day or more at any moment. And as tempting as the thought seemed at times, she couldn't have her friends as the school's main teachers. As object lessons and speech-givers, perhaps, but she couldn't imagine Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, or many of the others would really make good teachers. Perhaps the reliable and dependable Applejack, with her education from Manehattan, and Rainbow Dash, with her mysterious memory abilities, could handle the job better than others, but Pinkie Pie... Hiring her to teach anything other than Music and Baking would be like hiring Starlight Glimmer as her student counsellor!

Starllight Glimmer... She wanted to say the mare had shown signs of wanting to redeem herself, but these days, it felt more like the mare had just... gotten used to being forgiven. She was content to forget all about the horrible things she'd done, and everypony else had just gotten used to that. To the point where now, she felt that if she brought the topic up, she'd just be re-opening old woulds. Perhaps, she thought, if she'd been less lenient on her, and if she'd made more of an effort to make the strangely apathetic and self-centered mare fully understand how awful her actions were, and why others might not be as willing to forgive and forget as her... Then again, perhaps she could never understand that, and perhaps she was just better off as somepony quietly resented by everypony. She didn't want to push the mare too hard and risk her attempting to destroy the timeline again. She didn't want her first real redemption project as a Princess to turn out badly, not after Fluttershy, of all ponies, redeemed Discord so quickly, efficiently, and easily. Making a beast who feeds off chaos emotionally dependent on a mare who dislikes it... Genius! There truly was a strange sense of poetic justice there. Still, she always good at taming and training wild animals.

Finally, she made it to her bedroom, and she sighed. This might not have been the life she wanted, but after all the nice things destiny had thrust upon her, it just seemed ungrateful for her to complain. To anypony, even to herself.

Besides, it wasn't as if things had really changed for her. She was still named Twilight Sparkle. She was still purple. She still had purple eyes, just like her mother-

She blinked. That wasn't right. Her mother had blue eyes, and her father had golden eyes.

She sighed, and chalked that brief moment of confusion of stress, while a stab of guilt struck her heart. That shard of raw guilt weighed her heart down for forgetting a main facial feature of her parents, even though it was only for a second.

Putting the food and books down for a moment, she spread her wings out, and she pounced through the air and onto her bed, shutting her eyes and burying her head deeply into her pillow.

It wasn't as if there was much of a difference in what she did for the world. She still saved it from sure destruction every few weeks. She still fought monsters, every now and then. And yet, despite her increased physical, magical, and political power, she found herself feeling more and more like she had less and less power over what mattered. She felt like a pawn. She felt like she was being used in some grand and repetitive variant chess game where some pieces evolved into stronger and gaudier-looking parts over time whether they liked it or not, and other pieces were left in the dust.

The newspapers of Equestria, she thought, could be divided into four categories: Those who loved her because of all the times she'd saved Equestria, those who wanted to curry favour with her, those who saw her as an overly-pampered rich brat in Celestia's pocket, but wanted to curry favour with Celestia, and those who saw her as an overly-pampered rich brat who needed to be taken down a peg. She wasn't too concerned about the spite the latter category put into spinning her actions, decisions, and words, and Celestia promised she'd take care of things if the papers went too far or went from negatively spinning her good deeds to outright lying about her, but she had to wonder... Who was next? How many ponies would come to resent her?

How could they not resent her? It was bad enough when she was the richest, magically-strongest, best-educated, and most insufferably more-special-than-thou pony in a tiny and traditional little farming town stationed over Equestria's only doorway to Tartarus. But now, she was everything she used to be and more. She had wings, she was called a Princess, and she had a big dumb Crystal castle she really, really wanted to hate. She wanted to hate it, and call it the physical representation of the path destiny had Spider-Marched her down, but something added even more sadness to her confused and conflicting emotions, and it was

She didn't feel like a regular Pony from Ponyville, or a Canterlot pony in Ponyville, she felt... Out of place. She felt really out of place, and she hated that. In fact, she felt more out of place than an incredibly rich pony coated in finery and jewelery and who knew what else, eating cake as starving orphans around her starved or ate grass. She felt like that one Period-Inappropriate and Setting-Inappropriate mega-princess character in a Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons gaming group, a character made by that new girl who just wanted to play pretend princess and didn't yet understand that the game could be, and should be, any deeper than that. She missed feeling like she belonged in this town, and not on some Public Service Announcement poster.

She flipped over, saying goodbye to the odd comfort of the pillow squishing against her face, and she teleported herself under her bedcovers, her pillow resting against her face.

Was she done? Was she done moping about her situation? What had she even done today? She didn't go out and smell the flowers and eat some nice Burgers. She didn't check on any of her friends, or hang out with them. No, she stayed inside like a good little nerd and read some Lore Craft books all day. Waiting to be called upon by Celestia or some horrible apocalyptic disaster that completely blindsided Celestia, without even realizing it.

What aspect of her life could she change? How could she solve the problems that haunted her during moments like these? She couldn't get into anything scientifically important, for fear that she might be pulled away at any moment. She couldn't say no to the next letter from Celestia that insisted she needed to fly over to the Griffons or Dragons or gaudy Good Changelings and smile at stupid behaviours she privately wished she could get away with, even though she'd never act in such a manner. She couldn't tell that stupid Yak prince that if he declared his stupid Yak species the best one more time, or if he threatened to attack Equestria one more time, she'd do to him what she did to Tirek. And finally, in her personal life... She didn't know what to do about her Crystal Castle. She didn't think anything could be done about her Crystal Castle. And now that she thought about it, she didn't think anything could be done about her life, either.

It wasn't even as if she'd really changed her daily routine. She still argued with her friends sometimes, she was still Celestia's first and only solution to pretty much any problem more complex than a cake shortage in the Castle pantry, and... Wow, she never thought she'd think something like that about the Princess. Then again, Princess Celestia did just want her to call her Celestia these days.

But... Despite all these physical changes, home-related changes, and other shallow surface-level changes, nothing about her life really felt like it had changed in a meaningful way. She still solved friendship problems, she still solved “Equestria's in danger!” problems... How could her life change so little, and yet change the way she felt about it so much?

Perhaps it was how she felt she had to set an example for the foals of the world, and for her unexpected apprentice. She certainly needed an example. She also, for some reason, needed to make herself an object lesson in what not to do every few weeks, when it came to learning lessons most foals learned before they reached six or seven years of age.

“Destiny just loves dropping random things in my lap, doesn't it?” She asked nopony in particular.

And then Silver suddenly crashed through her bedroom wall, crystal shards practically fleeing from him as he landed on her bed, his hooves pressing down upon the fabric that kept her bound and trapped. He was breathing heavily, a few faint beads of sweat had formed on his face, his eyes urgently locked with hers and she felt like he could see right into her soul. She didn't even have time to let out a slight squeak of shock before Silver spoke.

“Twilight...” His voice was a low, strong purr, his refined Canterlot accent no longer an announcement of class and refinement, but instead a subtle spice that accentuated every syllable, and her protests died in her throat. “I need you.”

Twilight opened her mouth and tried to speak, but a thousand thoughts fought for dominance inside her head, their cries of war heard outside as only a faint, choked-up squeak from her throat.

He got off the bed, and with a grand sweep of his hoof, flung her duvet away, leaving her nude. In a manner one would expect from Fluttershy, or Rarity, or perhaps even Pinkie Pie, but never a Princess, she pulled her limbs up to cover herself, feeling impossibly naked under his all-seeing gaze.

Suddenly, sharply, with incredible swiftness and purpose, he moved closer to Twilight, their faces just inches from one another. “I need something from you,” His voice rumbled alluringly.

“Anything,” She breathed.

“Get the books,” He said.

She blinked once, twice, three times, her mind and heart racing until she passed out.

“Well, fine!” He declared like a moody teenager, turning around and spawning twelve copies of himself into existence, all but two sprinting out of the room and down different crystal paths with their peculiar vulpine gait. “I didn't need your help anyway!” He declared to the world around him, and grumbled to himself, “Alicorns. Am I right, lads?”

The two who remained muttered in wordless agreement, the one to his right nodding. “Always face-down on the ground when things get hard.”

The one to his left breathed in deeply and aggressively screamed in Twilight Sparkle's sleeping face, waking her up with a jolt. “I'm up!” She shouted in shock.

“Good, Equestria's in danger and I need your help,” The original Silver explained. “Do you have any books on magical tarot cards?”

“They'd be in the reference section-” Twilight began, and Silver's horn lit up. Determination flared in his eyes as he cast a spell, horn blazing with a bright blue light. Four blue spectral apparitions, long and stretched like doughy teardrops, with all-yellow solid blobs in the shape of sad-looking eyes where their eyes should be, spun around him once in a protective manner. And then they took off, flying straight at her private library, flying straight through walls and floors as though they were mere illusions.

She blinked, peering closer at his horn. “Normally, when I look at spells, I can easily tell what magical energies you're using and in what quantities, and what mixture of spell words you're using, allowing me to replicate a spell perfectly, even if I only saw it performed once. But when I look at your magic, I... can't tell how it works.”

“There's a simple and scientific explanation for that,” Silver explained. “You know that thing where, in some trashy vampire novels, one girl will be immune to the vampire's hypnotic powers because she's special, or she'll have the best-smelling blood and she'll make the strongest vampire because she's special? Or that thing where, in action novels, the hero will be immune to magic because he's special?”

“Yes?” Twilight asked uncertainly. Well, she was certain that she'd read those things once or twice and hated the vampire-related things, but she wasn't certain where he was going with this.

“That's not happening here, I just wanted to know if you actually read that trash,” Silver admitted with a cheeky grin, pronouncing it as reed, not red.

“I only read them out of academic curiousity,” Twilight insisted, pronouncing it as red.

“To see what all the hype was about?”

“Yes,”

“And to see why so many other mares loved them?”

“Yes,” Twilight answered. “So, why can't I read your magic?”

“Once I'd gotten to an acceptable level in all things, I trained hard in highly specific ways, while intentionally letting other aspects of my magical training fall by the wayside. After all, I've always been more the type to dodge an attack, redirect it, or power through it than to make a magical shield and hide from it. It worked for me, and I became one of the fastest spellcasters who ever lived. Offensive spells, defensive spells, utility and summoning spells... Even when I'm summoning the big bosses, my magic is pretty much instantaneous.” He semi-lied, to make himself sound cooler. Well, he wasn't lying about his speed with magic, something that, he believed, made up for his comparatively lesser magical power a hundred times over. But that speed... While it made his spells harder to read, it wasn't what made his magic so unreadable. The truth was that every week, he would recast an illusion spell on himself that he'd been using non-stop for many years, an illusion spell that made his magic untraceable, undetectable, and unable to be copied or analysed, when he wanted it to be any combination of those things at once. After all, when you were an incredibly famous wizard and magical duellist, you didn't want your opponents to obtain the ability to steal your best spells just by purchasing a Moving Photograph copy of your most recent arena match.

“How can you make so many Mirror Images appear at once?” Twilight asked.

“I'll tell you once we're closer,” He said suspiciously, “I don't know you well enough for that just yet.”

“Hey, boss!” A Silver Spare shouted from downstairs. In a flash of blue light, he appeared between them, horn aglow, carrying a thick purple book twice the size of his head, unknown secrets hiding within its greying pages. He tossed the book to Twilight, her purple magic took the book, and he vanished.

Silver suddenly frowned for some reason Twilight didn't know of, but he dismissed the smile and walked to her side, peering over her shoulder like a cat as she read.

The camera looked up and saw darkness, darkness slowly illuminated by candlelight. Faint and old-sounding music started to play. Old-looking parchment filled the screen, and a single image could be seen: A floating purple card deck, wreathed in golden light.

“The Cards of Destiny are-” Twilight began.

“That's a terrible name,” Silver interrupted, judging it visibly as the camera turned to him, and the music stopped.

She took a calming breath as she pointed her hoof to her chest, and exhaled while sticking that hoof forwards. And then, she gently put it down. “It has a suitably exotic name, in a dead language nopony knows how to pronounce any more. Translated directly, these cards are called the Cards of Destiny.”

On a page of yellowed parchment, illuminated poorly by candlelight, a new simple image of pointy ponies and simply-drawn items appeared

“They were invented during the Warring Tribes Period, a long period of pony history before all three types of ponies put their differences aside to live together in almost-harmony and started the Three Tribes Era, which eventually led to the founding of Equestria.” Twilight read aloud. “Twenty-One cards were created by the Purple Hermit, the magical advisor to an ancient and noble Unicorn king whose name was lost to history. Until a time-traveller went back and checked, and found out that his name was King Crystalord. Out of all the wildly-different future-telling devices Hermit Purple created in her time through trial and error, these cards were the most accurate, trustworthy, and reliable. She used these to aid and advise King Crystalord as he conquered tribe after tribe, and she was quickly invited into his castle to serve as the first official and formalized Court Magician. Victory after victory was achieved, and the Castle Armoury was filled with magical weapons and magical books stolen from defeated tribes. But when the fortuneteller warned King Crystalord that his next battle, against a small and seemingly helpless tribe known as the Longshots, would end in disaster, he laughed at her. He cast her out of his court, banned fortune-telling from the land, and attacked the tribe.”

“What an idiot,” Silver muttered. “Everypony knows your future becomes unchangeable if you look too far into the future, unless you cheat destiny by making that bad fortune come true in some harmless way.”

Twilight kept reading. “The war began, despite the Purple Hermit's warnings, and she was sent into Crystalord's Castle Dungeons, along with ten of her friends. With their help, she escaped and brought her last deck of tarot cards into the Castle Armoury, magically Disenchanting every magical item she could find to gather the magical energy she needed to turn each of her twenty one Cards of Destiny into powerful magical items. With the last remnants of spare power, she converted the images on every card into darker, twisted images. With all twenty one cards, her power was nearly limitless... And she used that limitless power to teleport herself and her ten friends to the attacked Longshot tribe. She gave her final ten cards to different members of the tribe, granting each one an incredibly powerful ability. She kept one last card for herself, and nopony is sure what card it was, but experts theorize that it was The Tower, the Card of Destruction.”

“When King Crystalord was defeated and about to be turned to stone, he performed a cursed spell. The darkness consumed him and the bearers of all twenty-one cards. The Purple Hermit performed a forbidden spell of her own, sacrificing herself so her cards could leave the Realm of Darkness and re-enter Equestria, seeking out those they deemed worthy.”

“For the rest of ponykind's history, no matter how many treasure seekers searched for the cards, nopony could find them. To find a card, that card had to choose you. And no matter what, that card would stay inside you, granting you a new ability until your time was up. Nopony was ever able to collect more than one card each, according to the books, but it's possible that some treasure hunters found a few cards while claiming they hadn't found any, to prevent rivals from taking theirs.”

Twilight frowned. “The book goes on to assume that because card sightings grew rarer over the course of pony history, and because they haven't been seen since Luna was sealed away, the cards were eventually lost or destroyed, or they ran out of magical power.”

Silver walked away, deep in thought. “Those cards seek out the worthy, correct?” He asked.

Twilight opened her mouth to say something, and thousands of long orange blobs of spectral energy shot out of his horn like raindrops from a shower, each one bearing dark blue circles for eyes, each one phasing right through solid objects and flying out of her Crystal Castle. After four seconds of this, he spawned four Silver Spares, who vanished in flashes of blue magic. "Thank you, Twilight!" He shouted emotionally, and pounced at her, hugging her in a shockingly tight grip. "Thank you!"

She blinked in shock, blushing. "A-Any time!" She stammered.

He vanished in a flash of blue light, leaving her alone in her room.

She smiled, stopped, nervously looked around, reassured herself that she really was alone, and squeed harder. "I just got hugged by Silver Star!" She shouted gleefully, prancing around the room.

And outside her Crystal Castle, in an identical but lifeless hollow echo of this universe outside of Quarter Parallel Universe Alignment, Silver squeed where nopony could see him. "I just hugged Twilight Sparkle!" He shouted victoriously.