• Published 18th Dec 2014
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Double Trouble: The Flaws Within - Masterius



Two Twilight Sparkles are not better than one, especially when each are stranded in the wrong world! With the Crystal Mirror broken, is there any way for them to find the way back to their respective homes?

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Chapter 11

Chapter Eleven

“Urgle.”

Sunset Shimmer slowly roused, feeling extremely wretched as she did. She did not remember coming down with a virus, but the last time she had felt this drained and miserable, she had come down with a case of influenza.

“Erf?”

She started stretching, but arms and legs went in unexpected directions.

“Ah.”

She started panicking for a moment, but then long dormant instincts and feelings roused. It had been years since she’d woken up as a unicorn instead of a human, and limbs simply stretched differently in that form.

Sunset Shimmer sharply gasped, consciousness breaching all the way up in moments from the torpid depths she had just been deeply submerged. Rolling onto her barrel, legs tucked under her, she groggily blinked the dregs of lethargy from her eyes. This time it was difficult to remain calm as she felt that unaccustomed weakness roll over her in dizzying waves.

Wha…what’s happening? she woozily thought. Where am I?

Within a few moments, her vision stopped swimming. Looking about the room she was in, Sunset Shimmer felt completely lost, having no idea where she was, or even how she had gotten there.

The room itself was cozily dim without being drearily gloomy. Circular in shape and roughly thirty paces in diameter, the walls were smooth, interlocking stones of varying sizes, fitted so close together a needle could not have entered their joins. The overall color scheme was deep blue and indigo with occasional deeper shadings of purple and lighter ones of ultramarine.

She was lying atop a round bed about five paces in diameter and shoulder height in elevation, the frame of highly polished ebony, the mattress—extremely plush and comfortable—resting within that frame and covered in sheets of sheer satin of a black so dark, so intense, it appeared blue.

The only spot of contrasting color was across the room: a rectangular painting, four times as high as it was wide, the frame of lacquered yellowheart, while the painting itself…

…was of Princess Celestia, her pose captured at the exact moment during the Summer Sun Celebration when she was hovering midair, limbs and wings outstretched to their fullest, the sun blazing directly behind her, a look of beatific joy on her face.

She was still trying to make sense of everything when she heard a soft cough at her side, followed by a decidedly masculine voice murmuring, “Feeling better?” Her head whipped around, and she found herself staring right at…

Oh, my.

Sunset Shimmer’s breath caught in her chest; her eyes widened, rounding into saucers. Standing at the side of the bed and gazing alertly down at her was a most unusual pony.

Except, she realized, it was not truly a pony at all.

“You’re…you’re…” she stuttered. His face tightened as golden eyes turned opaque, expecting the typical reaction. “You’re cute.”

Her face abruptly burned, while he…well, his eyes widened in astonishment, furred ears swiveling backwards as his professional composure took quite the unexpected hit.

She had not meant to say that at all. She had meant to say ‘You’re a thestral’…

Because that was exactly what he was.

There was a sharp bark of laughter at her other side. Sunset Shimmer jerked her head around only to see a second one standing there and watching her. This one, a female, openly grinned. “Not exactly the reception we usually get, I’ll admit.”

She was garbed exactly as the other, both wearing an ornamental chest plate emblazoned with an oval escutcheon whose design was of a light blue eye with a vertical‑slit dark blue pupil. Draped over their backs were their duty uniforms: saddlecloths of violet linen bordered in light cornflower and trimmed with a thin edge of blue so light it appeared almost white.

They were not just garbed the same, they looked the same. Unlike all the ponies—earth, unicorn, pegasus, and even alicorn—she was familiar with, these two were virtually identical in coloration, and in mane and tail style.

“Forgive me if I choose not to complain,” the first one drolly replied. His expression immediately returned to consummate professional, his voice shifting back to pure respect as he addressed Sunset Shimmer. “Allow me to introduce ourselves. I’m Crescent, that one over there is Harvest.”

“His sister,” she helpfully piped up.

A look of long‑suffering momentarily flashed across his face before he continued. “We’re two of Princess Luna’s personal guards,” he lightly but unmistakably emphasized. “And these are Her private quarters. Our Lady has ordered us to watch over you.”

Sunset Shimmer gave a little bob of the head in response. She heard what he was saying, true, but she simply could not look away from him. His eyes—well, hers, too; not that she was focusing on her—were this incredible, almost luminescent, gold, whose pupils were indisputably slit, exactly like a feline’s during the day. His coat was a luxurious taupe that just begged to have one’s cheek rubbed against it, while his mane and tail matched each other in coloration—in his case, both being a light blue—with the mane being rather short and rugged‑looking in a decidedly appealing fashion.

She knew what thestrals were, of course. What student of magic didn’t? But, until Princess Luna’s return, they hadn’t been seen in, well, centuries; well, there’d been no confirmed sightings, that is. There had been whispers about the reasons why there had been no confirmations…rather gruesome explanations, actually.

Then again, for Sunset Shimmer’s entire Equestrian life, Princess Luna had also been a legend, along with Nightmare Moon. And as it turned out, neither of them had been at all legendary!

But, although she’d been abstractly aware of Nightmare Moon’s defeat and Princess Luna’s subsequent redemption—Princess Twilight having updated her on recent events—she had never really thought of those events or personages except as historical bits of information. Which was why meeting Princess Luna face‑to‑face had come as quite the shock. But, even having now met Princess Celestia’s younger sister—the Princess of the Night, the co‑ruler of Equestria—Sunset Shimmer hadn’t thought much about what else that might have entailed.

Little things, like, oh, I‑don’t‑know…the return of Princess Luna’s own Royal Guards?

Unlike her older sister, Princess Luna’s royal guards were exclusively thestrals. Or, as they were more informally—and offensively and derogatorily—called, bat‑ponies, for their wings, unlike those of pegasus ponies, indeed resembled those of a bat or dragon: leathery rather than feathered.

Sunset Shimmer had never envisaged, not even in her wildest dreams, seeing an actual thestral. Yet here she was doing just that, and, instead of being panic‑stricken…granted, her heart was thudding like a bass drum, but it certainly was not out of primordial terror!

Suddenly she gasped. “Princess Celestia!” she cried out, lunging upwards. Before she cleared the bed, though, her legs collapsed under her weight, pitching her forward. Helplessly, she watched the hard stone floor rising up to meet her head…

“Easy, now!” Crescent sharply cried, leaping forward and grabbing her before she landed chin‑first on the floor. Gripping her just under the forelegs, he grunted as her weight hit him, but other than that it was like hitting stone, he was that powerfully muscled. Her head wound up just under his chin and against his chest, and even through her terrible fear about Princess Celestia, the first thing that went through her head was My goodness! He even smells nice!

“Easy, now,” he repeated, his voice softer as he helped her back onto the bed. Harvest moved up on her other side and assisted settling her down.

“But Princess Celestia needs me!” she cried out. She started to struggle, to force her way up and out, but stilled as Crescent held up a hoof.

“You’ve been down for the count for an entire day,” he bluntly told her. “Princess Celestia is being taken care of,” he assured her. “You, also, need being taken care of.” There was an odd glow of respect in his lucent eyes. “Our Lady commanded us to watch over, guard, and protect you,” he informed, then his voice turned wheedling, “You don’t want Her disappointed in us, do you?”

Sunset Shimmer gave rapid, tiny shakes of her head. No. No, one of the very few things she would ever wish on anypony was for Nigh—Princess Luna to be upset with them! Still…

“What happened to me? I…I don’t remember.”

Crescent looked at Harvest, who gave a short nod in reply. “The hour is almost nigh, anyway,” she said. “I’ll just let them know she’s awake. Besides, they wanted to be informed of that, anyway.” With that, she gave Sunset Shimmer a deeper bow of the head before exiting the room.

Sunset Shimmer gave Crescent a curious look. “The ‘hour is almost nigh’?” she asked.

The Lunar Guard nodded as he replied. “Your physicians have been examining you once every hour since your collapse.” He gave her a grave look. “Our Lady has been almost as attentive. And, while it might not be my place to say so, it is my belief that if she were not torn between duty to Equestria and love of her Sister, Our Lady would have remained at your bedside.

“Now, as to what has happened to you…,” he trailed off, looking thoughtful. Sunset Shimmer marefully struggled to ignore the thudding heart that merely gazing at his profile was inducing. “My understanding is that you had been, at Our Lady’s request, examining her sister, Princess Celestia, and that in the course of your examination you were struck down in a similar manner as had the Princess of the Sun.”

Pausing for a moment before gazing back down at her, there was no mistaking the respect in those eyes. “Our Lady, once the summoned physicians determined you were no longer in immediate danger of perishing, commanded that you be brought to her personal quarters and cared for. That, I am afraid,” he apologized, “is all that I know.”

She slowly nodded, half‑focused on his words as she concentrated on dredging up memories of what had happened. Then something he had just said struck her. Head jerking up and around, and staring at him with wide, alarmed eyes, “Excuse me,” she said, surprised her voice sounded so calm. “But did you just say ‘immediate danger of perishing’?” Her voice cracked at the final word, but she was not in the least ashamed that it had.

He simply nodded, his expression both grave and deferential.

What in the name of Chaos happened? she anxiously puzzled. I remember everything seeming perfectly normal—well, normal except that Princess Celestia was stone cold unconscious and completely unresponsive, that is! There was no sign of anything physically wrong. There was no sign of any active, or passive, magic. In fact, there hadn’t been any trace of magic about her. I remember thinking how wrong that felt. And then I’d…

She abruptly surged upwards, startling Crescent. “I know what the problem is!” she cried out. “And I think I can fix it!” She struggled to get her hooves under her, but simply could not find the energy to do so. Her legs felt like limp noodles, and the rest of her was not feeling any stronger.

She burst into anxious, frustrated tears. She had to, simply had to, get to Princess Celestia! But her body was refusing to rise to the demands Sunset Shimmer needed from it!

Lifting her head, she gazed at Crescent, tears filling her eyes. “Please! Oh please!” she implored. “You have to help me get to Princess Celestia!”

Before the Lunar Guard had a chance to reply, another voice spoke up, this one from the doorway that had just opened. “I am pleased to see thee awake, Sunset Shimmer,” spoke Princess Luna. And, in fact, even as exhausted as she looked, it was clear she wasn’t simply speaking the empty, formal words as a courtier might. Stepping to one side, she cleared the way for the two extremely senior physicians who trailed in her wake.

“Discourteous as this mayhaps be, imposing upon thee in thy distress, natheless I must press thee, for thy words bring lightness to mine heart. Doth this mean thou knoweth what is wrong with mine sister?”

Sunset Shimmer blinked, the rich, rolling, archaic cadence even stronger than before. Then again, Princess Luna looked even more haggard, exhausted, and stressed than before. Perhaps that was it.

Shifting up so she was resting on her barrel, legs tucked up beneath, she somberly gazed at The Princess of The Night who stood there before her. At each side of Sunset Shimmer was one of the physicians, both wordlessly muttering under their breath as they examined her. “I…I think so, yes, Your Highness,” she haltingly began.

Starting from when she had first commenced examining Princess Celestia, Sunset Shimmer related what she had done, how she had done it, and what she had discovered. “I couldn’t find anything wrong at all, Your Highness,” she admitted. “But something kept nagging at me. I wish I could tell you I’d actually reasoned it out at the end,” she confessed, “but I think it was mostly pure dumb luck.”

The physicians had finished their examinations by now, and were listening every bit as intently as Princess Luna was, and all three of them seemed to highly regard—based upon their expressions, anyway—that honestly.

And—again, based upon their expressions—they seem disinclined to believe dumb luck had anything to do with matters.

“It’s not easy to do,” she continued, “but it’s not hard to do either: I reexamined Princess Celestia using both normal and mage sight.” One of the physicians made a swift sharp inhale, while the other just nodded to himself. “When I did, I noticed something very odd about her cutie mark. With normal sight, it was clearly visible; with mage sight it was, well…” she trailed off, nibbling lower lip as she struggled with describing the experience. “It was as if it wasn’t really there. It looked like a heat mirage: shimmering and indistinct; there and not there.”

She paused then, this last part not all that clearly recollected. “Once I’d noticed that, I remember thinking I really wanted to take a closer look at her cutie mark using my mage powers,” she slowly stated then, frustrated, “That’s all I clearly remember.”

She looked back up then, a look of fierce determination in her eyes. “I might not remember exactly what happened when I did that, but nevertheless I know what happened.” She paused a moment before continuing, that fierce look even harder, her voice grim and determined. “I know why I feel the way I do: my magic; it’s all gone.”

The physicians blinked, quite startled, then hastened over and started poking and prodding again. But Sunset Shimmer had no attention to spare for them, her eyes never leaving Princess Luna’s. “That has to be what’s wrong with Princess Celestia: her magic has been completely drained, too.” Luna’s eyes widened, alarmed and a touch fearful. “There’s something about her cutie mark that’s doing it,” she continued. “Her magic was emptied through that; it’s most likely still being drained through that. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why,” she admitted, “but I think I can help stop that. Or, at the very least, mitigate the effects.”

Then she burst into frustrated tears, punching the mattress with a hoof. “Except I can’t! Because I’ve no magic anymore, either!”

Author's Note:

Updated and revised 02/08/2020