• 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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Awakening

What Didn't Happen: After

by Zeg

Chapter VI – Awakening

The bright column of light that lit the night sky over the Everfree had drawn many curious Equestrians out of their homes despite the late hour. Even as far away as Canterlot, small crowds were starting to form in the streets as neighbors speculated on what the mysterious light from the forbidden forest could have been. There was also a flurry of activity within the walls of Canterlot Palace as the Nightguard prepared themselves to respond to a possible emergency.

In one secluded and relatively quiet corner of the palace grounds, a light breeze began to swirl about in a small circle. This breeze slowly spun up until the gust coming off it was blowing leaves loose from the nearby trees. There was a quick flash of light and one final strong gust of wind from magic discharging through the air just as Twilight arrived through a teleport spell along with her friends. Twilight shook her head and blinked her eyes before glancing around herself. “Oh good, we made it,” she said through a sigh. “Everyone is here, right?” she asked as she turned about to look to the rest of her friends. She found that all six had safely made the trip along with her.

“Oh my,” Rarity said in a quiet mumble as she glanced about at the tall towers of the palace. “You brought us all the way to Canterlot?”

“That was the plan,” Twilight said, still sounding a bit out of breath. She glanced to Rainbow Dash, who was carrying Chrysalis draped across her back. “How is she?”

Rainbow glanced back over her shoulder as she said, “Still out of it. We should probably get her some help.”

“Right—” Twilight voice caught in her throat as she suddenly stumbled a step to the side. She just barely managed to catch herself to avoid tumbling face first into the grass. Her legs trembled and she clenched her teeth as she felt the painful surge of a headache. She blinked her eyes barely open when she felt a soft touch against her shoulder, finding Fluttershy looking up to her with a worried look.

“Are you alright?” Fluttershy quietly asked as she gently patted Twilight’s shoulder.

“I’ve... felt better,” Twilight said through a pain-filled grimace. The headache was pounding away in her head full force now. Possibly magic deprivation, she thought to herself. She mentally recounted the symptoms, the heavy sweating, shortness of breath, lack of coordination, and the sudden onset of a very strong headache shortly after intense magical spell casting. It had been a very long time since she had managed to overtax her magic reserves by so much, but her head was definitely letting her know about her mistake. “I think I might have... over exerted a bit,” she said, lightly touching a hoof to the side of her head.

Fluttershy’s ears folded back. “You should lie down,” she said as she gently pulled at Twilight’s shoulder.

“Yeah, I think I will.” Twilight slowly laid herself down as to not aggravate the pounding in her head any further. She took a long, deep breath and slowly let it back out. The more she could rest, the quicker her magic could replenish itself and relieve the headache. After a brief moment of laying still, she was already starting to feel the painful throbbing subside. “I’ll just need a moment. And besides, my teleport should have set off quite a few security spells. I’m sure help will come to us if we just wait here.”

Only seconds later, they heard the clank of metal clad hooves thudding against the ground as a group of three armored pegasi landed near by. They approached the group at a full gallop at first, but the lead pegasus flared its wings and skidded to a stop, causing the other two to quickly stop as well.

“Hold on,” the lead pegasus said in a voice that was clearly feminine, but held a strong air of authority. As she cantered closer to the group, Twilight was able to make out more of the details of the armor that the pegasus was wearing, noticing the distinct silver, deep blues, and dark violets of a Nightguard uniform, emblazoned with the symbol of a crescent moon lying upon its side on the armor’s chest piece. It was still a bit too difficult to make out any discernible facial details beneath the helm by moonlight alone, but she was able to see the slight glow of the mare’s irises behind the enchanted helm’s night sight spell. Her pupils were not the cat-like slits that she had expected she might see. In fact, they all three appeared like rather normal dark grey pegasi. The lead mare among the group stopped only a few steps away, cocked her head slightly to the side, and then asked, “Princess Twilight?”

The sound of the voice stirred an old memory in Twilight’s mind. She smiled slightly and asked, “Is that you, Gale?”

“It is,” Gale said, quickly bending a foreleg to kneel before Twilight and her friends, a motion that the other two guards did as well. She stood and raised her head as she said, “Have to say I’m glad it was you that set off the alarms.”

Twilight glanced to each side at her friends as she said, “I wanted to get them back here from the Everfree as fast as I could.”

“From Everfree?” Gale said, tilting her head slightly further. Her eyes widened a bit in surprise as she asked, “You teleported all of them all the way from the forest?” When Twilight only quietly nodded in response from where she was lying on the ground, Gale stepped a bit closer as she asked, “Are you going to be okay?”

Twilight gently rubbed a hoof tip against her right temple as she said, “I feel a little light headed, and my head is still pounding a bit, but I’m not the one who really needs help.” She nodded to her left where most of her friends were standing and said, “I found them under attack when I arrived in the forest. I tried to drive the attackers away but Chrysalis got caught in my spell by accident.” Twilight’s ears fell back as she looked to her friends beside her. “I’m really sorry everyone.”

Applejack quickly shook her head before saying, “I think it’s safe to say things would have been far worse for us all if you hadn’t shown up and did what you did,” a notion that the rest of the Ponyville mares all quickly agreed with. “And besides, you said she’s only passed out. Shouldn’t be serious, right?”

“Shouldn’t be,” Twilight quietly said, glancing down to her forehooves and barely shaking her head.

Gale took a few steps closer near Rainbow Dash, lowering her head so she could see Chrysalis’s face. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, other than the fact that she was sound asleep while laid out across Rainbow’s back. “We should probably take her to the infirmary so she can rest. Doesn’t hurt to be cautious.”

Twilight nodded and waved a hoof as she said, “You all go on ahead. I’ll need to speak with the other princesses about what happened at Everfree.” When her friends glanced to each other with reluctant looks, she smiled and said, “Really, it’s fine. I’ll catch up later.”

Fluttershy lightly hooked a hoof over one of Twilight’s, her ears laying back slightly as she timidly said, “Well, if you’re sure you’ll be okay.”

Twilight smiled back and then pushed herself to sit up with her forelegs. Her head complained a bit at the motion, but not nearly as bad as what it had been a few minutes earlier. “I’m already feeling quite a bit better,” she said, despite the mild discomfort.

“You two lead them to the infirmary,” Gale said to the other two guards with her, making a quick motion with one wing toward Twilight’s friends. “I’ll stay behind with Princess Twilight and escort her to meet with Princess Luna.” The other two Nightguard responded with quick nods and took to their task, leading the others to a nearby entrance into the palace halls. Twilight watched after them as they left, noticing a few of the looks that they cast back to her, and put on a reassuring smile. Canterlot Palace was likely the safest location in all of Equestria for her friends. Even so, she still noticed the worried feeling welling up inside her as her friends walked out of view into the palace. She let go a light sigh, and tried to convince herself that her worries were simply over exaggerated emotions dredged up after having not seen her old friends for so long.

Twilight glanced to her side, finding Gale still patiently waiting there for her. She stood, quickly ruffling her wings before neatly tucking them back to her sides and giving her tail a quick flick. The headache was nearly gone now, definitely to the point that it could be easily ignored. She nodded to Gale, indicating that she was ready for her escort to meet with Luna, and together they too made their way into the halls of the palace. After quietly walking through the halls for a short while, Twilight broke the silence by saying, “I didn’t recognize you at first. Last time I saw one of the Nightguard pegasi here, you were all still wearing bat wings.”

“Oh that,” Gale said with a quick laugh. She nodded knowingly as she said, “Princess Luna decided to have the enchantment changed on our uniforms. Said it would be good if our appearance was toned down a bit.“ She fanned out her feathered, dark gray wings before tucking them back to her sides. “So, it’s been... what, more than three years now?” she asked, tilting her head back a bit to glance upward to Twilight. While she wasn’t as tall as either of the sister princesses of Equestria, Twilight was still at least one head height taller than Gale.

“It has... for you,” Twilight said with a quick nod toward Gale. She smirked slightly as she said, “It’s actually been closer to three hundred and fifty years for me since I last saw you.”

“Three-fifty?” Gale said, a shocked look on her face as she stumbled a short step to the side. “Well, that explains why you seemed so much taller than I remember. And you still remembered who I was? I’m honored.”

Twilight’s smirk faded a bit. She looked ahead down the hall, her ears falling back a bit as she said, “As much as I hate to admit it, some of the names of ponies I knew have faded from memory over the years. There’s even some that I can barely recall what they looked like.” Her smile brightened a bit as she glanced back down to Gale. “But, I doubt I’ll ever forget what happened in this timeline, or the ones who helped save this world.”

Gale let out another short laugh. “I think you deserve most of the credit for that.”

Twilight closed her eyes for a short moment, shaking her head. “The Nightguard played a very important part. You shouldn’t sell yourself short, Sergeant.”

“Ah...,” Gale began, a bit of a sheepish grin creeping in from the corners of her mouth. “It’s Captain now, actually.”

“Really?” Twilight said, her ears and brow perking up. “That’s quite the promotion.”

“Yeah, happened not too long after you left. Moondancer recommended me.”

“Did she?” Twilight asked, tilting her head to the side as a nostalgic smile overtook her. Another name she remembered, and rightfully so. If history had held its course in this timeline, it was very likely that Moondancer was now married into her family. “So, what’s she doing now?”

“Oh she’s still a guard captain, just not a Nightguard captain. She was a captain of Equestria’s guard force a couple years before the Nightmare Moon incident. When that happened, we were all given two choices. We either joined her Nightguard or got kicked out.” Gale trailed off for a short moment, her eyes staring somewhat blankly forward as she recalled memories from the takeover. Her voice carried a more somber tone as she quietly said, “Quite a few did quit, but I’m sure if Moondancer had left the guard back then, a lot more would have left with her. I know I would have. There might not have even been a Nightguard.” She let go a quick sigh and glanced back up to Twilight to show her a smile. “But, now the guard force of Canterlot is split between the two princesses equally as the Royal Guard and the Nightguard. Moondancer decided to go back to the day shift, so that left a night time captain rank open.”

“I see,” Twilight said with a small nod. A sly smirk crept across her muzzle as an idea formed in her mind. “I may stop by the barracks after dawn then and see if I can surprise her.”

“Ah, you won’t find her there,” Gale said, which drew a confused glance from Twilight. “She’s been on leave. I think she’s due to return within the week though, if I remember right.” Gale stopped her stride there in the hallway, lifting a single forehoof up and tapping it lightly against her chin as a thought occurred to her. “Actually, you could probably find her at her house here in Canterlot if you’re really wanting to talk to her. I know where she lives, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a visit from her legendary sister-in-law, if you think you can make the time for it.”

Twilight stopped and turned a step toward Gale, cocking an eyebrow as she asked, “Legendary sister-in-law?”

“Yeah,” Gale said with a bright smile and another short laugh. “Everyone knows what you did for us.” Before Twilight got a chance to ask what exactly it was that everyone knew about, Gale glanced off down the hallway when she noticed someone entering from one of the adjoining halls, spotting Luna. She quickly cantered toward the moon princess, stopping just a few steps away and quickly bending a knee before gesturing with one open, overturned wing down the hallway toward Twilight. “Princess Luna, you have a guest.”

Twilight’s smile broadened when Luna’s eyes found hers. She had almost forgotten just how different this Luna was from the moon princess that she knew from her own timeline. Her coat was a shade of glossy dark blue that could almost be mistaken as black. Her mane and tail didn’t simply shimmer like a star filled night sky but instead appeared as if they actually were part of one. Twilight’s eyes did wander a bit as they took in the full sight of the moon princess, but when Twilight noticed the very slight smirk tugging at the right corner of Luna’s mouth, she blinked and momentarily cast her gaze to the side. She quietly cleared her throat and crossed her right foreleg in front of her left, bending her knees in a curtsy and dipping her head as she said, “It’s good to see you again, Luna.”

Luna took a few steps, her long stride bringing her within reaching distance. She unfolded her right wing, sweeping it outward and using it to pull Twilight into an embrace as she said, “Yes, indeed it is.”

It took a few seconds for Twilight to get over the initial shock from the unexpected hug, but she soon unfolded her own wing to return the warm gesture.

Luna stepped a single step back, folding her wing back to her side as she said, “Would I be correct in assuming that you were responsible for tripping our alarm spells?”

“Yes, that was me,” Twilight admitted with a small smile.

Luna perked an eyebrow in curiosity. “You are allowed to enter through the front gates if you wish. I promise, you would not have been turned away.”

“Oh, well, I actually teleported the bearers back from the forest.” When Twilight saw that Luna’s eyes suddenly widened in surprise, she thought to add, “Was sort of an emergency situation.” Her eyes quickly glanced toward Gale for a short second, who was standing close to Luna’s side.

Luna noticed the quick glance and peered out of the corner of her eye toward Gale as well. She smiled and unfolded her wing to gently drape it lightly over her. “Whatever it is you wish to tell, you may speak of it in front of my guard captain. She’s already aware of the mission to recover the Elements, though we’ve kept knowledge of the mission’s existence and the reasons for it to a select few. Spreading panic through the ranks wouldn’t be wise.” Luna’s gaze seemed to sharpen as her eyes turned back toward Twilight and she asked, “Are the bearers at least safe?”

“They are, but they were under attack when I arrived, and unfortunately, Chrysalis got caught in one of my spells by accident. The others took her to the infirmary to recover.” Twilight visibly sighed, her shoulder sagging a bit and her ears folding back slightly. “The spell doesn’t cause any lasting physical harm, so she should be alright once she wakes up, and hopefully that’ll be soon. There’s something I really want to ask her about.”

Luna tilted her head slightly, causing her nebulous mane to shift about at the movement. “Does it involve a dream?” she quietly asked.

Twilight closed her eyes, furrowing her brow tightly as she recalled the events of the dream-vision that had led her to this timeline. “More like a nightmare.”

“What did you see in this nightmare?”

Twilight was silent for a moment, then she opened her eyes, glancing up to Luna with a serious look on her face. “A vision of our world disappearing all around us.”

“I see... anything else?”

“Chrysalis was there with me, and we were both surrounded by these... odd changelings.”

Luna slowly nodded. “It’s the same as her’s then.”

“When I arrived in the cave in the forest and saw the changelings there... for a moment, it almost felt exactly like the nightmare.” Twilight recalled the strange group of changelings that had attacked her and her friends in the forest. She had a strong feeling that hadn’t let go of her even after they had left. “I believe these changelings could have possibly been the same ones from the vision.”

“And what happened to these changelings?”

Twilight glanced off to the side toward one of the large stained glass windows in the hall. “Well, you might have noticed a light in the distance.”

“Noticed?” Luna said, a small laugh noticeable in her voice. “I think the better half of our nation noticed, and I felt its power all the way here in Canterlot.”

“I stopped them with that spell,” Twilight said, turning her serious glance back toward Luna. “We left them there at the cave, unconscious. I felt it was more important to get everyone to safety as soon as I could, since there was no way to tell if more would come.”

“You made the right choice, but if there is a chance that we could capture one of these changelings we should take it.” Luna turned her attention toward Gale. “Gather your pegasi and leave for the Everfree immediately, Captain. I want you to bring us back a few prisoners, the more the better.”

“Right away, Princess,” Gale said, quickly crossing a foreleg against her chest and bowing her head. She wasted no time taking off down the hall at a quick canter and then springing into the air, taking flight down the hallway.

Luna watched after Gale until she turned and left down one of the many corridors leading off of the hall. “So far, all we know is what we’ve been told by these visions that both you and Chrysalis share,” she said, drawing Twilight's eyes toward her. She kept her thoughtful gaze on the empty hall for a moment longer before glancing back to Twilight out of the corner of her eye. “Capturing one of these mysterious changelings could very well give us answers that we need, but failing that, perhaps if the two of you speak on what you both remember of the vision, something more may be brought to light.”

“That could be a while,” Twilight said, letting her head hang a bit lower. “I didn’t realize she was right behind me. All I could think of was that I had to do something to save my old friends.” Twilight gritted her teeth together as a frustrated feeling washed over her. She hadn’t been cautious enough in the use of her magic. She’d acted on impulse, instead of first fully understanding the situation. “I can’t get the sound of her screaming out of my mind,” she nearly whispered, laying her ears fully back.

Though Twilight didn’t see it, Luna’s thought-filled glance had slowly changed over to a worried one. She lowered her head and took a step closer, and when Twilight looked up toward her she quietly asked, “Perhaps we should check on her ourselves?” Twilight nodded, a sadden frown still etched across her muzzle.

The two of them began to walk together down the hallway. For a time, neither said a word to each other, and only the quiet clicking of their hooves against the floor echoed through the otherwise empty hall. Luna’s eyes had wandered toward Twilight many times as they walked, and she had noticed the vacant stare coming from the younger princess. Finally, Luna unfolded a wing and draped it across Twilight’s back. Twilight glanced up to her, seeming a bit surprised, but Luna only softly smiled back as she said, “Don’t be too harsh on yourself. You acted to save their lives. I fear to think of what may have happened had you not been there.”

Twilight seemed to consider Luna’s words for a moment before she looked off down the hall again. While the kind words had lifted some of the troubling thoughts from her mind, even if for just a moment, there was still one weighing heavily upon her. “I just hope she’ll be able to forgive me.”

Luna lifted her wing and curled most of the flight feathers back before bringing the tips of the few primary feathers at the end of her wing up under Twilight’s chin, gently drawing Twilight’s attention back up to her. They paused there in the hall for a moment. “Be sure to forgive yourself as well. Holding on to guilt isn’t healthy,” Luna said with a very serious look upon her face. She gently fold her wing back to her side, glancing off thoughtfully down the hall. “Trust me, I’ve learned that lesson.”

---

The infirmary was located at the near opposite end of the palace, which gave Twilight plenty of time to brood over her troubled thoughts as she and Luna made there way there. She had been led to a specific moment in this timeline, presumably by her own future self. Her arrival at the cave just as her old friends were being attacked was no accident. Why then had she mistakenly hit Chrysalis with her spell? There should have been a warning, something more written within the pages of her journal that could have led her to consider her surroundings before casting the spell, but there wasn’t.

Twilight did considered that even when crossing over multiple timelines, attempting to alter one’s own past actions was likely still impossible, or at the very least, not recommended. Attempting to alter your own past choices would mean potentially causing a cascade of different choices from that point forward. Perhaps that was the reason. The only way to preserve the events as they should play out was to simply let the mistake happen.

“Twilight?”

Twilight was pulled away from her thoughts and became more aware of her surroundings when she heard Luna call her name beside her. While she’d been vaguely aware that they’d arrived at the infirmary moments earlier, it wasn’t until that very moment that she realized that they were now standing just outside one of the recovery rooms. She hadn’t even noticed the nurse that had led them to the room, and was a bit taken aback by the fact that the nurse appeared to be a changeling wearing a simple, pure white nurse outfit.

“You can come inside whenever you’re ready,” the nurse said. Her voice — at least it sounded feminine — had a quiet, buzzing rezonance behind it when she spoke. Her solid blue eyes made it difficult to tell exactly who or what she may have been looking at, but the slight turn of her head made it appear that she looked back and forth between the two princesses before giving them a kind smile and making her way into the room.

Twilight’s ears twitched forward when she picked up on the familiar voices of her friends talking just inside. She found herself feeling hesitant, wondering what she could possibly say to Chrysalis to apologize. A simple ‘I’m sorry’ didn’t really feel like it would suffice. Still, it wasn’t the time to be apprehensive. Twilight drew in a long breath and slowly let it back out to calm her nerves, and then stepped through the doorway.

Just on the other side, Twilight found her old friends quietly talking with each other here and there, and one of them, Fluttershy, was speaking with the nurse and another unicorn that Twilight didn’t immediately recognize. Judging by the white lab coat he was wearing he was likely part of the infirmary staff.

Fluttershy glanced toward the door when she noticed the two princesses entering the room. “Oh, hello Twilight. And, um, Princess Luna,” she quietly said with a welcoming smile.

The conversations in the room died down. The unicorn took a few steps toward Twilight and Luna, politely bowing his head to Luna as he said, “Welcome, Princess,” and then smiling and bowing his head to Twilight as well as he added, “and welcome back, Princess.”

Now that she could see his face more clearly and had heard his voice, Twilight was able to recall the name of Canterlot’s infirmary doctor. “Hello, Doctor Heart,” she said as she smiled back to him, but the smile soon faded as she glanced over to the bed in the room. Chrysalis was quietly sleeping on her side with a plain white sheet pulled up over her. “How is she?”

“Physically, she’s perfectly fine. Still resting, though.” Doctor Heart pulled a clipboard from one of the large pockets on his lab coat with his magic, along with an ink pen. “I’d actually wanted to speak to you about the spell that was used on her. I didn’t pick up on anything that was lingering.”

“There won’t be. It’s a simple modification to a shielding spell, designed to stun anything that has changeling physiology. It was never meant to permanently harm them or leave any lasting effects.” Twilight took a few steps closer to the side of the bed as she spoke while Doctor Heart busily took down notes. “But, I did put a lot of power behind the spell, much more than would have been necessary against just one changeling. And she was very close to where I cast the spell when it hit her,” she said as her ears fell back.

“It was an accident,” Fluttershy quietly insisted.

Doctor Heart momentarily stopped his note taking, glancing up between Fluttershy and Twilight. “Alright,” he mumbled as he jotted one last note down before putting the clipboard away. “More likely that she’s suffering from the after effects of the magic surge than from the actual spell then.”

Twilight’s horn lit with her magenta aura, and her magic gently took hold of the stray strands of Chrysalis’s mane that had fallen across her face, lifting and laying them back out of the way. Even though it had been three and a half centuries, she still very clearly remembered the face of the first unicorn she had ever taken on as a student in advanced magical studies. She knew that this Chrysalis wasn’t the same one that had tricked her by using that particular guise, but she still felt the conflicting emotions momentarily well up inside her all the same. She sighed, gently shaking her head as she resolved to put the emotions aside for now. “I just really hope I haven’t done any permanent damage.”

Doctor Heart quickly shook his head and made a dismissive gesture with one hoof. “The vast majority of cases of magical surge don’t have lasting effects. A blackout with maybe a headache later are usually all you can expect. The unconsciousness usually doesn’t last this long, but a large dose of alicorn magic is likely to exaggerate the effects. I still believe the best treatment is to simply let her rest for now.”

Just then, nearly everyone’s attention was drawn toward the doorway at the sound of someone shouting something down the hall. Most of the words were hard to make out, but whoever the words were coming from wasn’t very happy. Not but a few seconds later, the nurse quickly cantered out of the room and down the hall, and Doctor Heart excused himself as he also left right behind her.

“Where is she?” the angry voice very clearly shouted only seconds later.

Luna turned and chanced a glance out into the hallway. “Oh dear,” she quietly sighed as she shook her head and walked back inside. “Brace yourself; this may not go well,” she said as she looked toward Twilight with a worried look.

The sound of rushed hoofsteps became louder until a hybrid changeling skidded to a stop at the door. His reddish orange mane and tail appeared to be a disheveled mess, and judging by his heavy breathing, was likely due to running as hard as he could. His emerald green eyes were full of shock and worry as he stood there seemingly frozen at the doorway, before he finally entered the room and cantered up to the side of Chrysalis’s bed.

“Easy now, Graphite. She’s resting,” Doctor Heart cautioned. He and the nurse had followed Graphite back to the room, and were standing just inside the doorway.

“I’m sorry,” the nurse said to Doctor Heart. “I just thought he should know. I didn’t think he would be this upset.”

“How did this happen?” Graphite said in a ghostly quiet voice. He glanced over his shoulder toward Doctor Heart, his eyes narrowing considerably as he lowly said, “Who did this to her?”

Doctor Heart raised a hoof in a cautioning gesture as he began to say, “Calm down—”

“Someone attacked our queen!” Graphite shouted, nearly screaming at the top of his lungs.

“Graphite.” When Twilight call his name, he looked to her as if he was shocked that someone else was in the same room. His surprised look became more of a confused one the longer he looked at her. “If you just give us a chance, we can explain what happened.”

Graphite glanced around the room, noticing for the first time that there were quite a few others there that he recognized, but his eyes returned back to Twilight as he asked, “How... how are you here?”

“I came back,” Twilight said with a brief smile. “When I did, I found them under attack.”

“By whom?” Graphite asked, furrowing his brow.

Twilight glanced to her side to Luna, and they both then looked to Doctor Heart and his nurse. Doctor Heart quickly picked up on the silent request for them to leave the room. “Come along, Lacey, they’ve got important things to talk about,” he said before the two of them turned to leave, closing the door behind them.

As the door closed, Twilight turned her attention back to Graphite. “There was another group of changelings already attacking them at the Tree of Harmony when I arrived.”

Graphite gritted his teeth in a sneer as he said, “So they set a trap.” He turned back toward the side of Chrysalis’s bed, letting out a heavy sigh as he looked over her. “I told her it was too much of a risk. What did they do to her?”

“They... didn’t do this to her,” Twilight said. Despite her best efforts, her composure seemed to wilt when Graphite looked back to her. “My spell hit her by accident.” Twilight averted her eyes when Graphite’s confused glance turned into more of a glare. “I only used an anti-changeling shield. She should be fine once she wakes up.” She forced herself to look Graphite in the eyes, and she could see the unmistakable anger behind them.

The tense moment was broken when Applejack cleared her throat and spoke up. “Well, to be fair, that other group of changelings wasn’t holdin’ anything back. The way they were throwin’ spells around....” She shook her head and let out a heavy sigh. “If Twilight hadn’t stepped in, we might all be dead now.”

“Spells?” Graphite asked. He looked to Twilight as he asked, “They had a caster?”

“From what I saw, they all appeared to be casters.”

Graphite’s expression paled, his ears falling flat back. He quietly asked, “How many?”

Applejack hummed to herself, scratching her head as she thought back to the chaise in the forest. “I think I remember Mystery sayin’ there were fourteen of them.”

Graphite soundlessly opened and closed his mouth a few times. Finally, he managed to say, “That can’t be possible. There wouldn’t be that many willing to work together, not without us knowing.” He quickly glanced around the room asking, “Where is the queen’s bodyguard?”

“She led them off so we could get the Elements,” Rainbow said, speaking up from where she was sitting off to the side. She shrugged her shoulders and visibly sighed and said, “We’re not sure what happened to her after that.”

“I hope she’s alright,” Fluttershy quietly added.

Graphite fell silent for a moment afterwards. He sat down next to Chrysalis’s bed, laying one of his hooves on the bed close to but not quite touching her. “I shouldn’t have let you do this,” he quietly said. He kept his eyes on her even as he asked, “How long will she be like this?”

“I’m really not sure,” Twilight said, shaking her head. “I’d hoped she would already be awake by now.”

A somber silence fell upon the room, and likely would have remained for quite some time thereafter if not for the quiet moan that came from Chrysalis. Graphite quickly leaned in closer to her, reaching out and taking one of her hooves in his. She stirred slightly at the touch, her ear flicking back and her eyes squeezing tightly shut. Graphite quietly spoke her name, just above a whisper, hoping to draw her back to the waking world.

With another quiet moan, she finally managed to barely open her eyes. She lifted her head from the pillow and made a fair attempt at pushing herself to sit upright, quickly blinking as she tried to focus.

Graphite began to smile, relieved that his queen appeared well enough to sit up on her own. However, his smile quickly faded when she fully opened her eyes and looked right at him. Not only was the confused stare that she gave him devoid of any recognition, but the irises of her eyes were violet, instead of the teal color they should have been.

“Who are you?” Chrysalis asked as her eyes took on an suspicious squint. She then glanced around herself at the recovery room and the many faces staring back at her, nervously holding her forehooves against her chest as she stuttered out, “W-where am I?”

“You had a little accident, so we brought you here so you could rest up,” Pinkie said, trying to offer up a reassuring smile.

Chrysalis focused on Pinkie for a moment, considering her words as she absentmindedly ran her forehooves over the long locks of her mane that hung down in over her shoulder. She happened to glance down at the bed she was sitting on, and then down at herself, and seemed startled by what she saw. She held her forehooves out in front of her face for a moment, staring at them wide-eyed as her breathing became quick and heavy. Her eyes quickly darted about again, searching the room like a scared animal trying to find a way to escape, but stopped when her eyes met with Twilight’s. “Where are we? How did we get here?”

“Take it easy, you’re safe here,” Twilight said in a gentle tone.

Chrysalis seemed to relax slightly as the moment of panic passed. She looked back down at her own forehooves again, staring at them with a confused look as she turned them over. “What happened?”

As Twilight stepped up closer to the side of the bed she briefly glanced to Graphite, noticing the harsh glare he had aimed at her. There was no doubt in her mind that he placed the blame for Chrysalis’s current state squarely on her shoulders. However, he still reluctantly stepped aside, allowing Twilight to set herself next to the bed.

Chrysalis was completely focused on her own hooves, slowly running one over the back of the other as she watched the short, dark fur lift and fall back in place. It wasn’t until Twilight reached her own forehoof out and placed it over Chrysalis’s that she finally looked up. Twilight could feel the slight trembling, and could see the underlying fear of something unknown or unfamiliar behind Chrysalis’s eyes.

Twilight gave her a reassuring smile. “Let’s start with what you remember.”

“Um,” Chrysalis began, closing her eyes to concentrate. She groaned and shook her head. “I-it’s... sort of fuzzy. I’m not sure what happened after I tried to help, but, I....” She trailed off as she opened her eyes and looked out of the room’s window. From where she sat on the bed, she could see a starry sky that faded to a violet color toward the horizon. She quietly stared out the window while quietly asking, “Is this the outside?”

Twilight considered the strange question, along with the rest of the strange behavior. She had thought at first that Chrysalis may have been suffering from amnesia, but now she wasn’t so sure. Obviously, Chrysalis recognized her, but at the same time didn’t recognize Graphite, reacting to him like a scared foal might react to a stranger they’ve never met. She wasn’t behaving like someone who had lost their memories, but as if she was someone else entirely. “This might seem like strange question for me to ask, but... who am I talking to right now?”

Chrysalis looked back from the window, and then back down at her forehooves, turning them over once again as if to test that they were actually hers. She hesitantly said, “I’m... I’m you. The other you.” She folded her forehooves together, resting them neatly on the bed before her as she looked directly at Princess Twilight Sparkle with her matching violet eyes.

“I’m Twilight Sparkle.”