• Published 1st May 2012
  • 2,367 Views, 143 Comments

Setting the Rules - fic Write Off

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If it had been any other pony, Twilight would have let it go. Stranger things had happened in Ponyville recently, and given the circumstances, it could have been a minor attempt at variation. But it hadn’t been just any other pony, it had been Applejack. Yesterday, she said “Yo.”

Applejack never said “Yo.”

Twilight sat in her study, wondering if she was going crazy. Menial details always gnawed at her sanity before, and now didn’t seem to be an exception. It couldn’t be a coincidence, not with all that occurred yesterday. The day everypony stopped being themselves.

Applejack never said “Yo.” Not once, as far as Twilight could remember. Perhaps if it had been just this one thing, she would not have given it any mind. But it hadn’t. Something was wrong in Ponyville, but she couldn’t pinpoint exactly what. So she sat, not knowing what she sat upon, thinking. Maybe it was time to investigate.

Standing up from a chair Twilight never knew she had, she went to grab a magnifying glass that she never bought from a corner desk that was never there. Objects were like that now: wild. She didn’t know why or how they got there, only that they were there. As she held the magnifying glass, an uncontrollable urge to speak struck her, as if somepony was forcing her to talk.

“There’s no mystery that can’t be solved by Twilight Sparkle, Detective Extraordinaire!” she said in a voice that was both hers and not hers. Wooden. Why did I say that? She had never been a detective, let alone an extraordinaire. Her hoof holding the magnifying glass raised itself over her head. “Time to start the adventure!” she said in the same tinny voice.

She felt something, a presence leaving; that was the best and possibly only way to put it. She’d felt like an actor on stage, meant to read her lines for the audience. Or perhaps, a marionette. What adventure? What just happened? Thinking about it only made her head hurt.

Knocks on the door echoed throughout the library tree, disturbing Twilight’s train of thought. She quickly ran to the door, magnifying glass in hoof, although she didn’t quite understand why she needed it.

Rarity opened the door before Twilight could get a hoof on the handle.

“Hello, Twilight. Have you seen Opulance? I haven’t seen hide nor tail of her for days!” she said.

“Don’t you mean Opalescence?” Twilight stared at her friend. Rarity would never forget her beloved cat’s name.

“Op…Opa… Obselescence?”

“Let’s just go with Opal. No, I haven’t seen her.” Twilight inspected her friend a bit closer. Rarity’s face was contorted in confusion and fear, expressions completely separate from what she was saying.

The presence returned to Twilight. Like before, she was forced to speak. “Do not fear, missus Rarity! Twilight Sparkle, Detective Extraordinary is on the case!”

Wasn’t it Extraordinaire before?

“I meant Detective Extraordinaire!” Twilight clarified.

“Twilight, hel—“

The presence left Twilight in an instant.

“Oh, thank you, Twilight! I don’t know what I’d do without my precious Opal. But how will I ever repay you?” Rarity said. Her expressions began to match her speech.

Insatiable lust began to overtake Twilight. Rarity never looked so beautiful, so vulnerable before. Twilight had to have her. The presence was back.

“You know my fee.” Twilight felt herself wink.

Rarity most certainly did not know Twilight’s fee, because there never was one. But she responded nonetheless, “Of course, anything for you.” She blushed.

“All right! Time to investigate!” Twilight said, her hoof giving Rarity a playful slap on the flank as she passed by. Rarity opened her mouth like she wanted to say something, but swooned and collapsed on the ground instead. Twilight wanted to ask if she was okay, but her body was moving on its own accord.

Twilight ended up walking around in a circle for an hour or so before she regained control. Apparently the presence couldn’t decide where to go, but Twilight’s mind was already made up. First stop was Zecora’s. She had to figure out the cause of this weirdness and who better to ask than one of the strangest around?

Running as fast as she could, Twilight headed for the Everfree. Friends and strangers alike yelled out, wondering why she was in such a hurry. Nopony wanted to leave Ponyville, right? Before she could take a single step outside Ponyville, though, she lost control of her body. Not again.

For a moment, Twilight felt her eyes concentrate on the sky. At first, it was a blank blue template, devoid of clouds, or even a sun: a blue backdrop and nothing more. Then, it illuminated with exquisite detail. Why had she never realized how beautiful the sky could be? Thin wisps of clouds covered the radiant rays of the sun, giving the scene a gloomy noire feel. Why was the sky important, though?

Confused, Twilight kept moving. She didn’t know where she was going, but by the looks of it, she was headed to Applejack’s. Great, just what I needed: another distraction. Her hooves continued moving, despite her internal protests.

Sweet Apple Acres appeared on the horizon as she walked. Why are you taking me there? Twilight thought, for the first time attempting to speak to the presence. The presence did not respond. Hello? She tried again, to no avail. She sighed, inwardly, because facial expressions were beyond her control at this point.

Twilight knocked on the barn door. A cacophony of sounds answered: rumbles, tumbles, yells, giggles.

“Be there in a minute,” a voice that certainly was not Applejack’s, or any member of the Apple family said.

To Twilight’s surprise, Rainbow Dash opened the door, but left the lower half shut. “Oh, hey Twilight. We were expecting you,” she said, though looking at Rainbow’s eyes showed quite the opposite. Fear, along a bit of relief shown through, but her face showed anything but expectance. “We’ve been having a regular party in here, haven’t we?”

Little by little, other ponies began to crowd around the barn door. “Yes we have, Sugarcube,” Applejack said, stroking Rainbow Dash seductively under the chin. Both of them looked extremely uncomfortable. It was their eyes.

“Big Mac and I have been having a wonderful time,” Fluttershy said. A grin forcibly spread itself across her face. “Isn’t that right, honey?”

Big Mac said nothing, his eyes focused on Twilight and nothing else. They were wide with alarm and sent only one message. Run!

“Have any of you seen Rarity’s cat?” Twilight asked. The presence evidently had forgotten the name again. “I, Twilight Sparkle, Detective Extraordinaire, have been sent on a journey to find her and unfortunately cannot partake in your debauchery until after I find the cat.”

That sounded nothing like how she talked. The panicked gazes of the others turned from alarmed to resigned.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash’s necks turned so their heads faced each other like stiff puppets. It was grotesque to watch; they were clearly fighting against the presence with all their might to no avail.

“Well, promise y’all will come back afterwards, okay?” Applejack said.

“Yeah, can’t have a party without Twilight Sparkle!” Rainbow Dash said. The two looked at Twilight, determination in their eyes. Applejack managed to mouth “Don’t worry” before the presence took ahold of her again. Rainbow Dash gave a wink, not like the one Twilight had given to Rarity earlier, but a wink that communicated rebellion between two conspirators. You can do it.

The barn door shut, and Twilight was alone again. Truly alone, the presence was gone. Behind the door, Twilight heard things she never wanted to hear. She ran, trying to block out the sound as she raced to Zecora’s. It was only a matter of time before the presence returned, and she didn’t have any time to spare.

She sped through the streets of Ponyville with all the subtlety of a sonic rainboom. Newsponies cried out, “The Tyrant Celestia is dead! Long Live the New Lunar Republic!” Twilight paid them no heed. Ponies would write anything these days.

However, even in the most desperate situations, one must stand and gawk when the situation warrants it. For Twilight, this came in the form of Pinkie, who was no longer pink, but a light red, cuddling with a pitch black stallion Twilight had never seen before and Mr. Cake. Twilight felt her eyes concentrate on the black pony in particular. She noted his appearance in great detail: his wicked scar, his extreme attractiveness, his sexy and muscular build.

The space on the empty city street was replaced with the entrance to Sugarcube corner, and several buildings sprung up to flank it. Twilight hadn’t realized how blank the world was up until now; sections of the world were missing entirely. Where was the Carousel Boutique? The Mayor’s Building?

The aforementioned buildings appeared shortly thereafter. Shaking her head, Twilight turned her attention to Mr. Cake.

“Mr. Cake! Aren’t you married? And who the flying fuck is this, Pinkie?” The presence had returned. How long had it been there? She didn’t know. She also didn’t know what a “fuck” was, but she certainly wasn’t going to give a flying one.

Mr. Cake opened his mouth to speak, but his mouth clasped shut before he could.

The odd black stallion spoke instead, “Ah, hello Twilight Sparkle. My name is Richard, but you can call me Dick. I am the most talented pony in Ponyville: I can fly faster than Rainbow Dash, buck harder than Applejack, cast magic better than you even though I’m not a unicorn, and I’m secretly Luna’s father-son.”

“You must be the best, most popular pony in Ponyville. How do I not know you?” Twilight asked.

“Ah, that’s because I’ve been rooming with Celestia,” Dick said.

“That makes so much sense!” Pinkie said.

Twilight was forced into a nod. “Fascinating. I never knew. Have any of you seen Op-Opa—“

“Opalescence!” Pinkie said.

Dick gave her a hard look. Pinkie immediately shrank, her chipper face reduced to nothing more than a mild smile.

“No, we have not. Go now. You have something to do, and so do I,” Dick said.

Twilight skedaddled. She didn’t know what exactly was going on there, but it wasn’t healthy. Then again, nothing she had seen today was; yesterday was normal by comparison. Zecora’s never seemed so far away.

But Twilight pressed on. She would make it eventually—she had to. No way would she let her friends down. For the umpteenth time that day, Twilight ran towards Zecora’s, not knowing exactly what she ran on. Asphalt? Earth? She looked down, and the ground, a white path of nothingness before, swelled with the bright green of freshly grown grass. The presence seemed to linger, but not interfere. The feeling of actually having control of her body for once was something she began to cherish. Being a puppet was no way to go through life.

As Twilight neared the Everfree, she felt the presence fading. Perhaps it was because of the Everfree’s nature, or it perhaps it was just preoccupied with other things, but she was happy to be rid of it. She bee-lined for Zecora’s as soon as her home came within view.

“Welcome, my good pony friend. I hear on my advice, you greatly depend,” Zecora said, peeking her head out from the folds in her tent. Didn’t Zecora live in a tree?

Twilight stopped in her tracks. How did she know I was going to be here? Realization struck. No. Oh please, no.

“Zecora, you’re not you, are you?”

“Yes, I’m afraid that’s the way it has to be, Twilight Sparkle. The feelings you must have are, uh, charcoal?”

There was a long, awkward pause.

“Ah, screw it. Look, the creator wants to talk, he’s in a cave to the southwest. He’ll see you there.” Zecora’s eyes went wide. She took a rough-looking rag suspended by a hook, which Twilight could not see, but somehow knew was there, dunked it in her brew, and began violently washing her tongue out.

“Who’s the creator?”

Zecora shrugged. “I know not of what I speak, but this creator, you should seek. Go now, to the cave in the south, while I sit here and clean out my mouth.”

With naught but a nod, Twilight left. There had never been a cave anywhere near Zecora’s. But, when considering the source, anything was possible. The cave had to be somewhere close by, so Twilight walked, keeping her eyes peeled for a cave. On and on, she continued, but there was no cave to be found.

Suddenly, a massive cave appeared directly in front of Twilight. It simply appeared out of nowhere, with nothing grandiose like rising out of the ground, or a magical vortex. Twilight couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. Ponies need to learn dramatics.

Twilight cautiously entered the light-less cave, unsure of where to go or what to do. How would she be? She had never been in this magically-appearing cave before. The presence returned, but did not take control and immediately left after only a few seconds. Twilight knew what to do, an internal knowledge of the cave’s surprisingly simplistic layout ingrained in her. She could see without light, casting an illumination spell pointless.

Continuing along the path, Twilight noticed a dull, neon-blue light emitting from her supposed destination. As she approached its source, she saw a pitch black figure radiating blue light that fluctuated in form and appearance sporadically. Each time, it would change and then revert to its original, figureless black glob of nothingness. Across several seconds, it was a draconequus, an alicorn, a changeling, Cerberus, and many more creatures that Twilight did not even recognize. Every form it took remained black with the same dull blue outline.

It spoke in a loud, booming voice that did not seem to just fill the cave with sound, but her mind as well, “Hello, Twilight Sparkle. I am Muse.”

Unsure of what to say to the spectacle before her, Twilight remained silent.

Muse laughed, the sort of titter than one gives to a filly who’s suffered a bad case of stage-fright. The sound felt unnatural, warped.

“Well, I suppose you’re wondering why you are here, aren’t you?”


“Or, perhaps you are more interested in me?” Several hydra heads emerged from the pulsating black glob, grinning at Twilight sardonically.

Twilight managed a nod.

“I thought so, Twiley,” Muse said in the voice of Shining Armor. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. And if you must pry into specifics, I am exactly what I say I am, a Muse.”


“I feel your confusion, Twilight. Allow me to explain. This world and all other worlds are my will. I am not the creator you seek, but creation itself. You are but one of thousands of copies of Twilight Sparkle that have been created in the minds of others, and there is a world for each version of Twilight.” Muse’s voice reverted to its original tone, whatever that was.

“Wouldn’t that mean that I’m—?”

“Yes, you are but a work of fiction. In the grand scheme of things, though, does that really matter? You feel, regardless of being real of not. And therein lies the reason why you are here. Your creator does not know how to use your world.”

“My creator?”

“For every inspiration I bring, there is a creator who puts it into existence. He decides the regulations in which the world operates. But, the creator of this…” Muse grew two gigantic hands, spreading his arms to indicate the general area. “…obviously has no idea what he is doing.”

“But what can I do about that? I’m just some flawed copy of the real Twilight.”

“Wrong! You are Twilight Sparkle. Each of my inspirations is as pure as the source material. You have felt the creator’s touch, have you not? That is what makes this world flawed. But you, you can teach your creator what it means to be an actual pony in Ponyville.”

“But why are you telling me this?”

Muse sighed. “There are those with inspiration who lack the means to create the image that I gave. Nothing gives me greater sadness than a creator who cannot create. Go now, he is waiting for you. I will assist if necessary.”

Twilight didn’t want to know what Muse’s version of assistance was. Moving down the path, the blue keeping the cave lit gradually faded into nothingness. Eventually, Twilight came across another dimly lit area, different from before. The air felt malevolent, instead of the ominous air of Muse.

At the center of the area, the black stallion from before stood. He eyed Twilight cautiously, and the presence returned.

“Oh Twilight, I was so worried about you. I thought you had done something… drastic,” Dick said, with faux concern. “But, you see, this is my world, and you’re just a little pawn in it. So let’s go find the cat, though first I want you to do something for me first.”

The overwhelming lust Twilight experienced earlier with Rarity was back, even stronger this time. Never before had she seen a stallion so manly, so perfect. She practically drooled. Twilight fought against the feeling, but the bluntness of the emotion overtook her. She felt her mouth open to say something, though this time she resisted, empowered, clamping it shut before any words could escape.

Dick frowned. “Don’t you understand? You are my character! Mine! You will do as I say!”

The presence forced itself onto Twilight with even greater strength. Despite her resistance, Twilight could feel her mouth opening, although she still could keep herself from speaking.

“I… love… y—” She clasped her mouth shut. Her legs started moving towards Dick.

“I don’t think you understand, my dear, sweet Twilight Sparkle. I am your god here. You cannot resist me!”

Muse! Help!

Dull blue light filled the room with such intensity that Twilight was momentarily blinded. She felt something; something she hadn’t felt in what seemed like an eternity. Control. The presence had completely disappeared, not a trace remained. But it was more than that. The world, at least for the moment, had returned to normal, like the times before everypony went crazy.

Muse, taking the form of black Princess Celestia, stepped in front of Twilight.

“You see what your actions have wrought, Dick?”

Dick lay sprawling on the cavern floor, writhing in pain.

“Damn you! What did you do to me?! I can’t think of how to control it anymore! When I think, my mind goes blank!” he shouted.

Muse sighed. “You obviously could not be trusted to do as I ask, and attempt to paint the picture that I inspired you to do. I gave you this inspiration so you could understand what I wanted you to do with this world, but instead you manipulate your characters for your own, selfish reasons. You have no right to have use my power like this, thus I take my power back.”

“Screw you! I can still—” He tried to finish, but no words came out. He tried to move, but remained frozen in place. He couldn’t even manage a threatening glare.

For a while, Twilight thought he was dead. In a sense, he probably was.

“What’d you do to him?” Twilight asked.

“I took his inspiration. He can’t create without an image in mind, and that image comes from me. He’s harmless now.”

“What happens now?” she said.

“Wait.” Muse said. “It’ll be over soon.”

The pony formerly known as Dick liquated, slowly dissolving into a puddle of black nothingness. Huge amounts of white energy erupted from the area Dick had occupied, and the cave began to collapse. Not collapse in the tradition sense, but slowly ceased being.

“Muse, what’s going on?!” Twilight yelled.

Muse was gone.

Bits and pieces of the cave disappeared until there was nothing left, leaving Twilight on the grassy plain outside Zecora’s with nothing besides the magnifying glass she’d been carrying nonsensically the entire day.

A rather skinny blue unicorn with a quill-pen cutie mark approached. “Uh, excuse me, Ms. Sparkle? Were you looking for this?” She held a clawing Opalescence with her magic.

The presence was back, but different this time, gentle. It did not force Twilight to do anything, only acting as an observer, letting her conduct her business naturally. “Oh yes, why thank you!” she said. “And who are you?”

“Who, me?” The unicorn smiled. “My name Shy Sparrow, pleased to make your acquaintance! Now let’s get this little rascal back to where she belongs.”

Muse, what’s going on?

I brought in a new creator, one to better suit this world’s needs.

Twilight laughed. “I guess that’s another mystery solved by Twilight Sparkle, Detective Extraordinaire!”

Shy Sparrow laughed alongside her. They began walking back to town.

“So what do you do?” Twilight asked.

“Oh, I’m just a wanderer wanting to help a pony in need,” she said.

Twilight pointed to Sparrow’s cutie mark. “So you’re a writer, huh?”

Sparrow blushed. “Sure am! One day, I want to be the best in all of Equestria. But enough about me, let’s hoof this bundle of joy back to Rarity’s.”

Opalescence meowed.

They were back in Ponyville faster than Twilight had anticipated. Time seemed to fly by. Shy Sparrow stopped in front of the Carousel Boutique.

“Well, I guess I’ll be going, Ms. Sparkle. I’ll see you around sometime, okay?”

“Sounds great!” Twilight said.

Twilight never saw Shy Sparrow or Muse ever again. Perhaps that was for the best.