• 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 4

Chapter Four

Something…something wasn’t quite right, Twilight Sparkle sensed. She wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but she was certain it was something. At first, she thought she was having an extremely vivid, incredibly bad dream, and so struggled to wake up from it. But, as time passed, it gradually became clear that the intense throbbing pain and visceral queasiness were real and not imaginary.

At which point, she desperately started wishing she was dreaming!

She sensed being sprawled atop something flat, hard, and chill; sensed as well her limbs awkwardly spread akimbo. Whatever it was she was lying atop felt as if it was rocking to‑and‑fro like a wallowing scow, her stomach quite predictably reacting to that perceived motion. The back of her head was throbbing, a slow, steady drumbeat keeping time with her pulse and contributing to the nausea.

Something about the way she was sprawled and how her limbs were spread didn’t feel right. Fighting to control the fear rising at the back of her throat, and struggling to make sense out of things, at the moment she simply couldn’t remember anything. Shreds of thoughts, feelings, and memories kept fluttering past as if fragile streamers shredded by a strong wind, always just beyond her grasp.

That fear abruptly surged stronger; Twilight disliked anything—especially herself—being out of her control. Swallowing, she felt the physical effects of that simple action, cataloging it.

Check One.

Focusing next on listening to her pulse, feeling that slow, steady throb…which, unfortunately, was echoed by that lump on the back of her head.

Check Two.

Listening to the sounds of her respiration, feeling each inhale and exhale.

Check Three.

Somewhere off in another country, someone was urgently calling to her, over and over.

Princess Twilight! Princess Twilight! Oh please!

Well, maybe they were calling to her. But what was up with that ‘Princess’ nonsense?

Twilight Sparkle cautiously cracked open an eyelid, wincing at the stabbing pain of light piercing through the slit, then hissed as that wince made her gorge heave. Gritting teeth and forcing innards to behave, next she—carefully!—opened both eyes.

She hadn’t a clue where she was because she didn’t recognize anything. But, truly, she had only a moment to spare for her surroundings because that wasn’t what immediately drew her attention. No. Not that at all.

Currently filling her—albeit limited—point of view was a head; a head which had just lowered down and blocked most everything else from sight. Actually, what was mostly blocking her view was the thick, tumbling mass of hair billowing down from aforementioned head. Eye‑watering hair, at that; Twilight cringed, squeezing eyes shut in protection from the visually painful combination of brilliant canary yellow and dazzling vivid scarlet.

That annoying voice once more urgently called out, Twilight feeling pretty confident deducing the origination of that. Undoubtedly the speaker thought they were being soothing and helpful but, frankly, her head was hurting too much for any sort of sound above a whisper to be comfortable.

And then the rest of what she’d seen in that short glimpse percolated through to her consciousness.

Good Heavens! Twilight thought in panic. Something must be dreadfully wrong with me. I must be very badly injured! Or I’ve had some sort of nervous, mental breakdown!

The next‑to‑very last thing Twilight Sparkle wanted to do at that moment was reopening her eyes, for doing so would then compare what she’d imagined seeing versus actual reality, while the very last thing she wanted was truly confirming she’d suffered a nervous breakdown and was hallucinating. However…

Carefully peeping through half‑slit lids, Twilight flinched as now-current sight verified moments-past memory. No. No, obviously she had cracked up.

The blazing mass of hair billowing down in silken ringlets was just as eye‑watering as she’d remembered. The only mistake she’d made was in identification, for it wasn’t hair. Well, not precisely.

It was a mane.

Said mane artfully descended from the head peering at her. And that, too, wasn’t quite accurate. True, if you wanted to quibble about it, it was a head. Just one with a muzzle. A decidedly unmistakable equine muzzle. Twilight might never have gone through the pony‑crazy stage most little girls did, but even she couldn’t mistake a horse when it was looking her in the face! Except—

Stee‑rike three!…

Twilight swallowed, closed her eyes, and rested her cheek against the chill stone…or tile—or whatever!—beneath her. A unicorn? There was a unicorn looking at her!?

I know Professor Harmony said I might be working too hard, and that I should take a break now and then, Twilight mentally wailed, But he only said, “might!” This can’t be happening, it just can’t!

“Princess Twilight? Please, are you all right? Don’t worry; I’ve called for help. Spike said help will be here real quick. Just…hold on. Please?”

Spike? Spike? What did Spike—her pet; her dog; the best friend and most perfect companion Twilight Sparkle ever had or known—have to do with anything? And Spike said? Spike didn’t talk; he was just a dog. And why was Spike suddenly ‘appearing’ in this fevered dream of hers?

Twilight cried out in distress, suddenly terrified that—in addition to whatever had happened to her—something dreadful had happened to her dearest, most treasured friend. That terror overrode any sense of disorientation, suffering, or nausea. She surged to her feet, in one exceptionally awkward motion…

…and realized, with the sickest feeling she’d ever before experienced in her entire life, something was terribly, horribly wrong.

Standing directly in front of her was, indeed, a unicorn. That would have been bad enough by itself to assure Twilight she was either suffering a major breakdown or was seriously injured. Of course, for some reason her damaged psyche wasn’t satisfied with the delusion of an archetypal mythical unicorn. Instead, for some unknown maleficent rationale, it had upped the stakes by a considerable margin, for Twilight wasn’t being favored by a magnificent, snowy‑white, spiral‑horned equine with cloven hooves, bearded chin, and tuft‑tipped leonine tail.

Instead, the unicorn in front of her was much smaller; about Twilight’s own size, in fact. Its coat looked normal…normal for a horse, anyway: a rather plain yet pretty amber. However, normality ended right there.

Twilight hadn’t been mistaken about the mane: it truly was crimson and yellow—with matching tail, no less—both colors so garishly bright and dazzling her aching head made eyes tear up and water. Its horn, oddly enough, wasn’t a pure white, but, instead, matched the buff coloration of its coat. Its eyes were huge, set in the front of the head, and gazed back at Twilight with an uncanny semblance of intelligence.

She staggered a step; then another, arms windmilling for balance. The landscape seemed to tip, roll, and oscillate—unsurprisingly considering how badly her head was throbbing—and there was also something…wrong…about her sense of balance. Something unnatural about her body.

That was when she took a good look at her hands. Or what should be her hands. She didn’t have hands any more. She had…

Twilight quite audibly swallowed as she stared down at her hooves. Hooves the same as that…that thing standing across from her. And her arms…they were covered in fine hair, dense enough to properly call a coat. She was still wobbling, teetering as she fought for balance—and sanity—then whimpered hearing the audible ‘clip’ and ‘clop’ as she took two wobbling, backpedaling steps. A distant part of her mind gibbered there was no need to look down to confirm she was standing on hooves.

What she hadn’t immediately recognized was whatever it had been that had flared out either side of her peripheral vision, so Twilight took a moment to dart a sideways glance.

Wings.

Of course.

Her breathing grew ragged and shallow, feeling panic rising inside. No hallucination could, or would, be this real, not even if she’d truly lost her mind.



Sunset Shimmer had still been reeling in shock the first time the Crystal Mirror had erupted in a terrible explosion of raw, untamed energy, feeling as if lashes of fire had whipped her. Seeing Princess Twilight lying unconscious on the floor, looking as if she’d been flattened by whatever had just happened, had sent a jolt of sheer terror through her that cut right through that shock.

It hadn’t helped seeing the device Princess Twilight had constructed looking as if it had been beaten with clubs. Nor had it been comforting seeing the Crystal Mirror still hissing and spitting, especially since Sunset Shimmer had no idea what had happened or, worse, what might yet still happen.

Even with the omnipresent danger of that infernal device, her immediate and most important concern had been for her friend, and Sunset Shimmer had felt an incredible flood of relief wash over her when Princess Twilight began to stir. That relief had lasted just long enough for the dazed alicorn to open her eyes, and then she just…went berserk.

That was the only word Sunset Shimmer could think of at the moment to describe what had happened: Princess Twilight had just went crazy, like she’d been possessed! And before Sunset Shimmer could do anything to help…

She gazed over at the shattered Mirror, shuddering as she did. When Princess Celestia’s Book had sailed through the gateway—after having clobbered Princess Twilight on the head—the Crystal Mirror had truly exploded. The last time Sunset Shimmer could honestly say she’d felt anything close to that level of power had been when Princess Twilight had unleashed the combined power of her Crown, her friends, and herself upon Sunset Shimmer’s then‑demonic form.

And this had felt even worse!

She wasn’t sure if she’d actually been struck unconscious or had just been stunned. She didn’t think she’d been knocked out, but she couldn’t be positive. There had been no doubt, however, about Princess Twilight: she’d been laid out colder than a mackerel, a visibly rising lump at the back of her head.

Sunset Shimmer woozily made it to the door of the Portal Room, then nudged the door open before staggering outside. The Portal Room was at the end of a short, well‑illuminated cul‑de‑sac whose other end terminated in a T intersection. There hadn’t been anypony in the corridor at that precise moment, but immediately after Sunset Shimmer had stepped through the door, a passing pony happened to glance down the corridor and spotted her. Seeing her standing there, the pony had looked extremely surprised, pausing a moment before rapidly trotting off before Sunset Shimmer could call out.

Before the frantic unicorn could decide whether to go for help or stay behind with her injured friend, the matter had been solved by the appearance of a small, baby dragon skidding around the corner then rapidly scurrying her way. Sunset Shimmer wanted to sob with relief at Spike’s appearance.

She’d recognized him, of course. She’d even seen him as a dragon before, although at the time things had been a bit hectic, what with her stealing Princess Twilight’s crown and all. But even if she’d never seen him before as a dragon, she would have known it was him by his coloration—which matched the dog he became in the other world—and, well, that and the fact there simply weren’t that many baby dragons around!

“Oh, Spike!” she sobbed as the little dragon slid to a stop right in front of her. “Princess Twilight needs help! Something went wrong with the Crystal Mirror, and she’s gotten a fearful knock to the back of her head!”

Don’t leave her!” Spike yelled back over his shoulder, stubby tail whip‑cracking as he did a one‑eighty, dashing back down the hallway at a flat‑out run, little legs and arms pumping like pistons.

Spike still hadn’t come back with help by the time Princess Twilight stirred the second time, and Sunset Shimmer’s hopes that whatever had possessed her had vanished in the interim were dashed to pieces. She knew help was coming, but she didn’t know what shape that help would take or when it would arrive, and all she could do until then was try reassuring her friend with soothing murmurs.

There was…something…about the way Princess Twilight was behaving; something elusive. At the moment, Sunset Shimmer couldn’t put her hoof on it because things were happening too fast, too chaotic, for her to puzzle that out, but she instinctively sensed far more was going on than could be attributed by a simple bump on the head.

“Easy,” she calmed. “Easy now. It’s OK. Everything’s going to be fine. I promise. Just…just take a deep breath. That’s it. Now another. Good. Good. Help is on the way. You had a little accident and got a bump on the head and that’s why you’re feeling dizzy. It’s nothing serious, so don’t worry. Easy now!

*PAMF* *pamf*

Sunset Shimmer froze in place, dreadful horror kicking her in the barrel. She hadn’t meant to raise her voice, but Princess Twilight had abruptly staggered, about to fall. Startled, she’d called out as she’d stepped forward to catch and brace her friend…

Who had promptly winked out, reappearing a body-length back and away from a now very spooked Sunset Shimmer.

“Shhhh…easy now. Easy,” she crooned, desperately hoping fear wasn’t noticeable in her voice. That had been wrong. Very wrong.

Oh, not that Princess Twilight had teleported; she was an alicorn, after all, and alicorns possessed the same traits and innate talents of their unicorn relatives. And one of those traits all unicorns possessed—although to differing and varying degrees—was the ability to teleport. Some never managed doing so except under extreme duress, while others achieved great distances without batting an eye. But teleportation had two major restrictions: you needed to see where you were going, and there couldn’t be any physical obstructions between you and your objective.

In hushed whispers, young unicorns often traded spooky horror stories about winking. Ghastly tales about foals who didn’t listen to their parents about the dangers of teleportation, like the disobedient filly who tried winking through a wall, or the brash colt to the other, unseen side of a hill.

Stories that always ended rather gruesomely, sending chills through them.

(Naturally, pegasus foals traded similar stories, just about the hazards of flight)

But Princess Twilight hadn’t looked where she was going, and had almost clipped the side of the mirror and damaged device in her traversal. Worse, she’d reappeared only a few paces from the wall now behind her, which was cutting far too fine a line for an alicorn as skilled as Princess Celestia’s prized, most faithful, student.

And that wasn’t just wrong…it was dreadfully, horribly dangerous.

Before she could calm her friend, somehow talk her down off the deadly‑dangerous ledge she was unknowingly perched on, the door behind her flew open. Sunset Shimmer had an instant to realize Princess Twilight, out of whatever fear she was experiencing, was about to commit the fatal mistake of winking out…with nowhere clear to go.

Lowering her head, her horn blazed as she leveled it at her friend, casting the most powerful sleep spell she could remember. Princess Twilight’s body was briefly outlined by green‑blue fire before slumping to the ground. She leapt forward to catch her friend and ease her down, but from behind her rang out deep, angry voices.

“Treason!”

“It’s that traitor! Seize her!”

Before she could turn around and try explaining, Sunset Shimmer was hit by two very similar lances of magic. Unlike hers, neither were at all gentle. Twisting in agony, Sunset Shimmer hit the floor in a deep, coma‑like unconsciousness.

Author's Note:

Revised 02/08/2020