• Published 12th Apr 2015
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What Didn't Happen: After - Zeg



A Princess and a Queen share the same one dream, but on nights separated by over six centuries worth of time. Is the dream a warning of what is yet to come?

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Departure

What Didn't Happen: After

by Zeg

Chapter IV – Departure

“Saddlebags... check.”

One last strap pulled tight around Twilight’s barrel with a tug of her magic, securing her light blue saddlebags to her sides. At the sound of her voice, a nearby quill floated over the parchment lying upon her office desk and put a check mark next to the matching line of text.

“Journals... check.”

Twilight’s magic lifted two journals. She gazed upon the goldleaf lettering on the light-tan cover of the first, then carefully tucked it away within one of her saddlebags. When she glanced upon the blank, dark brown cover of the other journal, her sides heaved with a sigh before she stuffed the journal into the other saddlebag. At the same time, the quill once again found a line and placed a mark next to it.

“Dusk....” Twilight’s horn glowed as she called forth the staff, and in a bright flash it appeared before her clasped in her magic aura. She looked over the unfinished staff briefly before her magic sent it back to its resting place to be summoned later. “Check.”

Another mark on the parchment.

Twilight walked over to the desk and glanced over the simple time travel necessities checklist. Only a half dozen items were listed which she could have easily remembered on her own, but she always felt better having things written down on parchment, even if the act of putting ink to paper was a thing that had long since fallen out of common practice.

She looked to a small oval mirror sitting upon a silver wire-frame stand on her desk. Her horn lit again as her magic lifted two items from a pearl white bust only a few steps away; a plain silver peytral and a golden tiara. She fitted the peytral about her neck and set the tiara upon her head, turning her head side to side as she looked over her reflection in the mirror.

“Peytral and crown... check and check.”

Two more marks on the parchment.

“Well,” Twilight said quietly as she leaned over toward the parchment once more, taking note of the checked off items. “That’s almost everything.”

A quiet knock came at the door behind her. Twilight almost mistook it as some random noise, her ears only flinching back toward the door for less than a second. When the hesitant knock came a second time, she turned to look back over her shoulder.

“Yes?” The door to her office opened slightly at her call, and her assistant peaked in through the opening. “Julie? What’s wrong?”

Julie drew in a breath, letting it out in a sigh before stepping into the room with her head lowered. “I’m terribly sorry for disturbing you, Princess, but you have a visitor that is being very insistent that he be allowed to see you and I don’t think I can turn him away.”

Twilight’s eyes slowly closed as she hung her head. She shook her head just slightly before looking back to Julie. “It’s Spike, isn’t it.” Her comment was more than a statement than a question, but Julie still silently nodded to confirm her suspicion all the same. “Alright, I’ll take care of it,” Twilight said as she made her way toward the door.

Julie stepped back to the side as Twilight walked out into the hall, and then quickly cantered up to Twilight’s side. “Again, I’m so sorry,” she said as she looked up at Twilight with pleading eyes.

“It’s alright,” Twilight said, a small chuckle noticeable on her voice. She paused long enough to glance down and rest a hoof on Julie’s shoulder. “I know exactly why he’s here.”

“Oh, you do?” Julie’s ears raised a bit from where they’d been flattened back against her head. When Twilight smiled and nodded to her, she breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, I thought you’d be upset that I wasn’t able to handle it myself. Well, I’ll leave it to you then, Princess.”

“Don’t worry yourself so much, Julie.” Twilight gave her one last pat on the shoulder before she turned to leave toward the hallway that would lead her to the entry hall. As she approached the castle’s main chamber, her smile diminished until her mouth was little more than a thin, strained line. Her eyes took on a bit of a squint when her ears picked up on the noise of arguing just up ahead.

“...really don’t care! Just because you’re a dragon that happens to be a close acquaintance with the Princess doesn’t mean you can barge in unannounced whenever you feel like! She’s busy!” She recognized the angry voice of Stalwart, her castle’s gatekeeper, echoing through the halls. She could imagine the scene before she could even see it, that of a silver armored stallion pointing his pike at a less than pleased dragon.

Twilight stepped around the last corner into the main hall. Upon seeing exactly what she had thought she would, she rolled her eyes and let out a long, groaning sigh. There just inside her castle’s doorway stood her gatekeeper with pike in hooves as he took a threatening stance against Spike, who himself loomed over Stalwart by easily ten times the stallion's height. Most ponies probably would have at least found Spike’s size somewhat intimidating given that he was so tall that his head nearly touched the castle ceiling, but Stalwart definitely wasn’t like most ponies.

“Look,” Spike said sternly, pointing a claw down at the stallion. “You poke that thing at me one more time, I’ll use it to turn you into a pony pop-sickle.”

“Spike!” Twilight’s voice caught the attention of both Spike and Stalwart, halting their altercation. As Twilight approached the two of them, she kept her stern gaze locked upon Spike’s eyes. “What are you doing here?”

Spike crossed his arms over his chest and snorted a small puff of smoke from his nostrils. “You know why I’m here.”

“Princess, please,” Stalwart started as he stepped up before her. He bowed deeply before her as he said, “Allow me to take care of this. You have other more important duties to attend to.”

Twilight only shortly glanced to him before turning her eyes back toward Spike. “No, Stalwart, I’ll take care of this myself.”

Stalwart stood rigidly at attention, clacking his hoof armor loudly together. “I must insist! It is my sworn duty to protect your sanctuary from any and all intruders” — Stalwart’s voice caught in his throat when noticed Twilight staring at him with a not-so-friendly squint in her eyes — “but... if you insist on taking care of this matter yourself—”

“I do,” Twilight said flatly.

“Ah, very well then.” Stalwart wore a smile nearly as rigid as his stance as he took a few cautious steps back to the side of the hall. “I’ll return to my post, Princess.” He turned to make his way back to the castle’s main entrance, side stepping closer to the wall and glancing upward with a scowl on his face as he skirted around Spike’s haunches. Spike simply responded to the scowl with a quick snort that sent a stream of smoke shooting from one nostril that momentarily engulf the guard in a pony sized cloud of soot.

“Spike!” Twilight barked in a quick, sharp tone.

“Hey, he started it,” Spike said, making a motion over one shoulder with his thumb at Stalwart. Spike craned his neck around to glare and watch as the guard left the hall, folding his arms across his chest as he said, “Him and his stupid little stick.” Not but a second later, Spike suddenly lurched forward onto all fours when Twilight grasped one of his ear fins with her magic and gave it a strong tug. She turned and began walking down the hall, pulling Spike helplessly along with her. “Ow... ow ow. Ow? Okay, okay!” he complained, fully at Twilight’s mercy.

They finally stopped in the castle’s central throne room, and Twilight released her hold on Spike at the same time her magic closed the large chamber doors behind them. “Always has to be like that with you two,” she mumbled under her breath. Spike sat back up on his haunches again and rubbed at his ear, but before he could get a word out, Twilight quickly flew up to hover right in front of his snout. “Now, what are you doing here?” she asked in a demanding tone.

Spike crossed his arms once again. “I’m going with you,” he said in a simple, matter-of-fact tone.

“Spike, I said you couldn’t over the call.”

“Why not!?” Spike asked while tossing his hands up. He pointed one claw at Twilight as he said, “I went with you last time.”

“And last time you didn’t have the responsibility of leading your own dragon flock,” Twilight said, pointing a hoof back at him.

“Hey, that’s not fair. You’re leaving Ponyville behind—”

“The other princesses will be keeping an eye on things for me—”

“I’ve left someone else in charge while I’m gone—”

“It doesn’t matter anyways!” Twilight’s sudden shout brought the argument to a pause. She raised a hoof, stopping Spike before he spoke again. He made a show of how agitated he was, letting out a loud huff and balling his hands into tight fists, but he remained silent. Twilight glided down to land on the floor just before him, and after taking in and letting out a deep, calming breath, she glanced back up to him and asked, “Alright, just let me explain, please?” When she saw Spike make a quick gesture with one hand, she took that as her cue that he was ready to listen. “Last time we used a different spell to time travel.”

“So... what? This new one doesn’t work on dragons?” Spike asked in a somewhat sarcastic tone.

“No, not exactly, now hush,” Twilight said, giving him a stern look. Spike rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders before he laid down on all fours, resting his chin on the floor to bring himself closer to her level. “We can’t use my time tunneling spell this time because it only works when going a relatively short distance through time. It operates by connecting two points in time, creating something like a tunnel that you can walk through from one point in time to another. That worked fine when the distance between the two times was only two hundred and fifty years, but now the distance is over six hundred years apart, plus the added difficulty of it being in an alternate timeline that is drifting further from our own as time goes on. It’s just too far.”

Twilight quickly reached within her saddlebag with her magic, bringing out the tan journal and showing it to Spike. “The spell in this journal is very different. It can go much, much further. Where my previous spell worked by connecting two points in time and space, this one works by creating an arc of power that jumps from one point to another. You can sort of think of it as hitching a ride on a lightning bolt.” When she caught Spike grimacing at the notion of riding lightning, she added, “Yeah, it’s about as pleasant as it sounds. It’s the same spell that my future self used on me to send me back to you after I got myself lost in the distant past.”

Spike lifted his head a bit off the floor and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, that doesn’t matter. I’ll do it anyway.”

Twilight shook her head. “That’s the thing Spike, it won’t work.”

A deep, annoyed growl rumbled deep in Spike’s throat. “Why not?”

“Because, this spell has a different kind of limit.” Twilight opened the journal before her, glancing at the pages as she said, “The power requirements to send something to another point in time increase at a cubic rate in relation to the mass of what is being sent.”

When she looked over the journal at Spike, she found him just silently staring at her. He finally pushed himself back up so he was sitting on his haunches, taking on a thoughtful look as he drew one of his palms over the length of his snout. He tapped the tip of one claw against the tip of his closed jaws a few times before he finally looked back down. “Are you saying I’m too fat to time travel?”

Twilight opened her mouth to speak, but words failed her for a few seconds. She finally held a hoof against her chest and shook her head as she defensively said, “I did not say that.”

Spike glanced off to the side, scratching with his claws at his chin as he grumbled, “Sure sounded like it.”

“Spike, you’re a dragon!” Twilight said, pointing a hoof up to him, at which he responded by glancing down at himself for a second. “You’re slightly bigger than a pony, and that’s normal. Unfortunately, it also means I just don’t have the power to send you that far with this spell. I’ll be pushing it just to send myself.”

Spike furrowed his brow and scratched at his chin a bit more vigorously. He finally pointed a claw upward once he came across an idea. “Can’t you get the other princesses to help with it?”

Twilight shook her head. “It still wouldn’t be enough, and besides, it’s too late. I have to leave in just a couple hours. They’d never make it here in time.”

Spike gnashed his teeth together and scratched at his chin a few more times. He glanced out of the corner of his eye down at Twilight, holding up his index finger and thumb close to each other just in front of his eye as he asked, “Can’t you just shrink me or something?”

Twilight sighed. She raised one hoof and rubbed her forehead for a few seconds before glancing back up to him. “Spike, you know that shrinking doesn’t remove mass, it just condenses it.”

Spike’s cheeks puffed out a bit as he let out a defeated huff. “So, it’s just not possible.”

“I know you don’t like it,” Twilight said as she stepped up next to him. She gently laid one hoof against his side, drawing his attention down to her. “Honestly, I wish you could come with me.”

Spike once again moved to lay himself down upon the castle floor. As Twilight took a few steps back, he rested his chin upon the floor right before her. “I just don’t want you to be out there alone.”

“I won’t be,” Twilight said with a small smile. “It’ll be only three years after we were last there. I’m sure the other princesses will still be there and they won’t hesitate to help me solve this.”

Spike glanced off, seeming lost in his thoughts for a moment. His large claws tapped at the floor next to his head, and a deep rumbling sound echoed in his throat. Finally, his head tilted slightly as he looked back to Twilight. “Guess our old friends will be there too, huh?”

“I’m sure you wanted to see them.” Twilight took a few steps closer, reaching one of her forehooves out toward Spike’s hand. He turned his hand up and gently took her forehoof between his index finger and thumb. For a moment, he only silently caressed her hoof between his fingers as he blankly stared off at nothing.

“That would have been nice,” he finally said, glancing back to her. “But, I just can’t stop thinking of what almost happened last time.” His brow furrowed a bit, and his jaw tightened before he quietly said, “You almost died.”

“I’ll come back safe, Spike.”

Spike let out a strong huff, causing a draft throughout the room. “Of course you know I really want to just believe that, but I’m still worried about what could happen.”

“You should believe it.” Twilight stepped back and lifted her journal once again, this time opening it and turning the pages toward Spike. “See this? How could my future self come back and write this spell in my journal if I don’t make it back?”

Spike tapped a claw against the floor a few times before pointing it at the open journal. “You have a point.”

“See? And I seriously doubt that I’d be foolish enough to send myself right into the middle of a dangerous situation that I can’t manage.”

“You shouldn’t jinx it.” Spike chuckled when Twilight gave him a look that seemed to silently say, ‘Whatever, wise guy.’ “Well, I guess you’d know you better than anypony else would.” He pushed himself up so he was standing on all fours before glancing back down to Twilight. “So, when do you have to leave?”

“I was just about to head to the Everfree Forest. I almost have everything I need.” Twilight tucked her journal away in her saddlebag as she said, “I just have one more thing to do there and then it’s time for me to go.”

“Anything that I can help with?” Spike asked, lowering his head a bit.

“The last thing is to gather the Elements from the Tree of Harmony, then I’ll be leaving from there.”

“Then I’m going with you at least that far,” Spike said. He raised one eyebrow at her as he gave her a sideways, toothy grin.

She smiled back to him as she said, “Fair enough.”

---

The afternoon sun streamed in through the break in the canopy overhead, casting a long beam of sunlight down the stone steps. Twilight and Spike stood just at the top of the cliff looking down the length of the stairway leading to the cave below.

“It’s been awhile,” Twilight said thoughtfully, glancing back up to Spike before cantering a few steps to the edge of the cliff and leaping into the air. She unfolded her wings, holding them at a steady angle as she glided in a small circle toward the ground below. She quickly buffeted the air with her wings before she touched down, then cantered off to the side near the cave before looking back up the cliff side.

Spike leaned over the edge of the cliff, glancing about carefully for a landing spot below before unfolding his impressive wings and leaping from the edge. His descent was quite a bit quicker than Twilight’s had been, and he only had the time to give one powerful flap of his wings to slow himself before he landed. Dirt and pebbles shaken loose from the force of his landing streamed down the side of the cliff for a moment afterwards.

Twilight turned to walk inside the small cave, finding the Tree of Harmony just inside quietly giving off a soft blue light. She stopped just a step from where the roots of the solid crystal tree streamed out along the cave floor, gazing upon the uncountable shimmering facets of the tree’s trunk and branches. “Still looks exactly how it did the last time I visited,” she quietly said.

Spike ducked his head, following Twilight to just inside the cave’s entrance. The cave was a bit small for his size, forcing him to stay firmly planted on all fours to avoid catching his spines along the ceiling. “How long ago was that?” he asked as he casually reached one claw up and tapped it upon a large violet gem set into the cave’s wall.

“Too long,” Twilight said. She reflected briefly upon times long past, and when she had last visited this place to return the Element of Magic. It was a time that was literally lifetimes ago. The last time she had asked the tree for its power, it had only been to borrow the one Element. Never before had she asked to receive all six on her own.

Twilight took the final few steps to put herself close enough to reach out and gently lay one hoof upon the trunk of the tree. At her touch, the facet shimmered and glowed slightly brighter. “I need to borrow your power, at least for a little while.” She glanced up the side of the tree to the branches overhead. “You have my word that the Elements will be returned safely.”

For a moment, the tree’s only answer to Twilight’s request was silence, but then a quick shimmering of light ran from the roots up to the tips of the branches. A sound something like stone moving upon stone filled the air as the tree released its hold on the six Elements. Twilight gently lifted the Elements in her magic and guided them down so they slowly drifted about her in a clockwise circle. One by one, she brought the five smaller Elements close to her chest, setting them upon her peytral where they each attached with a quick flash that matched their color. The final six pointed gemstone, Magic, she guided up to her tiara, where it set itself into the matching empty socket.

“Thank you,” Twilight said as she bowed her head before the Tree of Harmony.

“You know,” Spike started, drawing Twilight’s attention back to him. “I’ve been wondering what you’re going to need those for.”

“Honestly, I’m not too excited about finding out,” Twilight said as she approached him. “I know it’s possible for an alicorn to use all six on her own, but it would be the first time for me if I end up having to do so. The last time I used Magic, I had my friends beside me to lend their power to the rest of the Elements.” She sat herself there before Spike, reaching one forehoof up and laying it upon her peytral as looked down upon the Elements set within its surface. “That was a very long time ago.”

Spike laid himself down at the cave entrance next to Twilight. “Maybe they’ll help you out again when you go back.”

“Maybe, but even so, taking the Elements with me still doesn’t make much sense.” Twilight furrowed her brow as she pondered the possible reasons for gathering the Elements. “That Equestria already has a bearer of Magic and its own set of Elements. I’m not sure why we would need another set and I have no idea if it is possible to use two sets at once.” Twilight’s horn lit as she called upon Dusk, and she reached her forelegs out to catch it as it appeared. “And, I’m really not sure how much use Dusk is going to be either. As it is now, it really isn’t much better than any old magical staff.”

Spike gazed at the single crystal set upon the staff for a moment before he looked to Twilight and said, “Sort of makes you wonder why future you didn’t just write all this down in that journal.”

“Oh, I know exactly why she didn’t,” Twilight said, rolling her eyes before looking back up to Spike. “Knowing too much can very easily affect what choices you make. If you knew something you were going to try tomorrow was going to fail, would you even make the attempt?”

Spike seemed to ponder the question for a few seconds before he shrugged his shoulders.

“I’m sure there are certain things that I’m going to need to do when I’m there, whether they succeed or fail either way, and there’s a reason why Dusk and the Elements are important.” Twilight let out a light sigh as she said, “I just don’t know what those reasons are yet.”

Spike smirked slightly and said, “Must be driving you crazy.”

Twilight let out a quick, weak laugh. “You have no idea.” She grew quiet for a moment, simply staring at Dusk’s crystal as she slowly spun the staff back and forth slightly in her hooves. She finally stood and took the staff up in her magic as she said, “Well, it’s about time for me to go.”

Spike nodded once, and opened one of his hands toward Twilight to offer her a hug. He ducked his head down next to her, gently nestling his head against her side and cupping his hand over her, nearly covering her completely. Twilight leaned against him, gently running one hoof against his cheek.

“You better take care of yourself,” Spike said. Twilight could feel the low, powerful rumbling of his voice as he spoke, and could also feel how his strong hand was reluctant to let her go. He finally released the hug, lifting his head and resting his hands together on the ground. “If you need my help, find some way to send a message.” His glance took on a more determined look as he said, “I don’t care how impossible it is. If you need me, I’ll find you.”

Twilight smiled up to him before she turned her attention to her saddlebags. She took out the tan journal, holding it in her magic at one side and opening it to the page containing the temporal coordinates while she held Dusk to her other side. She began casting a spell, focusing on the first set of coordinates on the page. A glowing orb of light left the tip of her horn and zipped a short distance away, coming to rest on the cave floor just before the Tree of Harmony. Twilight cantered over to the spot, stepping around it until she was standing nearly on top of it with the Tree of Harmony to her back. She glanced once more to Spike from across the cave and said, “Wish me luck.”

Spike nodded his head. “Good luck.”

Twilight looked to the journal, refreshing her memory of the spell just once more for good measure before putting it away. She brought Dusk before her, laying her fetlock against it and holding it vertical on the spot her locator spell had indicated.

She closed her eyes, concentrating on focusing her power for the spell and nothing else. Her mane and tail shimmered and began to drift around her as if caught in a light breeze. As she slowly opened her eyes, both her eyes and Dusk’s crystal started to glow brighter and brighter, filling the cave with white light.

The instant that Twilight’s power peaked, a flash of lightning struck the spot where she stood. The crack of thunder that followed echoed in the nearby woods for a short time after. Spike lowered the hand that he had been shielding his eyes with, blinking his eyes as he looked to the empty space where Twilight had been standing only seconds ago.