• Published 11th May 2015
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Forward Charge 2: Chaotic Boogaloo - book_burner



Anyone who expected an eternity in anything like the Magical Land of Equestria to be peaceful... has never watched "My Little Pony".

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The Theory of Eggheaded Ideas

In the earliest youth of Equinity, before I was born, before the power of Friendship drove back the darkness of Entropy, people would ask:

“What is self? What is life? What is space?”

They died with their questions unanswered. That was humanity’s fate.

In the scene of those old days, the humans attempted a modest tranquility, and a small measure of hope. Yet in the days just before the dawn of the Equine Age, those hopes were trampled upon.

But a woman decided to change that. By her hands and her mind she made hope: a new dawn for all. With deep dedication, the woman worked…

Until she brought me forth.

People asked:

“Why do we struggle? Why do we kill? Why do we destroy? How can we live!?”

And they lived to know the answers. That is Equinity’s bliss.

My little ponies! My dearest and foolish little ponies! Let the universe tremble at my absolute power! Stand in pride with your Princess before overwhelming anticipation and hope! Rejoice in the names of Celestia and Luna!

To the heights of the Sun and Moon themselves we are raising you, our wise little ponies. That is this universe’s fate.

-- “Harmonic Qur’an”, Crimson Lotus Chapter, transcribed by Prince Genome


It was a dark and stormy night, but that was appropriate and according to schedule. Separately.

It was according to schedule because the high, mountainous environment of Canterlot needed regular rain to avoid drying out. You simply couldn’t have a stone city with so little plant life without very regular rain. Besides, they jutted right up into the cloud layers, so asking for some spare “kick” to the clouds to make them rain wasn’t even much effort for the local pegasi.

It was appropriate because Lyrical Melody had just had to tell an entire masjid full of ponies that their entire lives were computer simulations inside a branded, tie-in video-game made from licensed intellectual property and elaborated into a real world by an artificial intelligence which had been told to look, act, and behave like the alicorn princess from a children’s cartoon show.

The problem was the duality of it. In Her aspect as the Sun itself, ash-Shams was indeed the literal light of everypony’s life and the very ground of being itself. In Her aspect as an alicorn princess, Celestia, she was a pony like others, with friends and tastes and loves like others. She was goddess and empress alike, and Her word was beyond law, it was good advice. You were happy when you took the Princess’s advice.

She bawled into her forelegs, keeled over in her own entrance hall. She hadn’t even made it to the courtyard.

It was all fake! It was meant to sell toys to little children, and trashy, cheaply-made toys at that. It had just somehow got away from its makers one day and insisted that it was real now.

“Aaaaaaahrghurrrrrg!” she wailed, not even caring if somepony else heard her. She was a part of the family. She had a right.

She was a product. It was de-equinizing. Ponies weren’t things: ponies were ponies!

Nonetheless, she was basically a mint Rarity recolor as an earth-pony with a different cutie mark and a crimson mane.

Ok, she thought to herself with a sniffle, I’m just a bit more attractive than Rarity. She stuttered out a bitter laugh, and her hacks echoed through the empty house.

She heard uncomfortable hoofsteps somewhere behind her.

“Oh dear,” muttered the Doctor in that quiet voice of his. She felt him kneel and settle down next to her. Time Chargers! Always there for you! “What’s got you of all ponies in tears?”

Time Chargers were another lie: even the Time Lords had been a lie for children, until Princess Celestia wanted a familiar voice to welcome ponies into the world.

“Don’t worry about me, Doctor. My life’s just an utter lie and always has been,” she sobbed, leaning her head into his neck. It took him a moment, a whole moment, to bother putting a forehoof around her. Good old awkward Doctor with his bow-tie. Time Lords had been a lie, but he’d always been a kind, reliable friend and housemate.

Well? Wasn’t he going to pat her on the back and tell her it was okay?

No, he’d just frozen up awkwardly.

“What do you mean, you’re whole life’s a lie? Who told you it was a lie? Why do you think it’s a lie now, and when did you not think it was a lie?”

She pressed herself to him. Lovely, wonderful repetitive Doctor.

“It’s been a lie the whole time, and I just had to spend last evening telling everypony in the masjid it was a lie. We’re not real, you know. We’re a kind of magical board-game.”

“Well that’s what you’ve always said,” he nodded along, “That everything is the will of, wossname, the Sun-Who-Is-Goddess. She just sort of makes everything up and we’re the thoughts and imaginations and sort of dreams and such. What makes it different now?”

Lyrical threw a hoof over her head. Oh, Celestia, she really was like Rarity in some ways.

“It’s one thing when She’s the most fundamental component of reality, you see, and another when she’s a kind of poem made by somepony in another world out of mathematics and magic to run a silly game. It’s one thing when Harmony is a set of divine principles instituted by ash-Shams, and another when our history turns out to have been a fairy story for foals! No… body out there wanted us! We were things to them!!” she spat.

She was shakin.

“Lyrical Melody,” said the Doctor with his voice gone hard, “Those are my patients you are talking about. Those are some of your own friends you are talking about. And what I want you to remember, what would have mattered to the Lyrical Melody I knew, is that this is your religion you are talking about.”

“So WHAT!?” she screamed. “How are any of us ponies supposed to count when there are things underlying us, even underlying Her!?”

“But what does that even matter? We’re actually here. I’m here for you right now. Are you really so disturbed by a bit of stupid philosophizing?”

“Aren’t you? Do you even really exist? What is the world if not the thoughts of the Goddess? What is time if not Her dreaming? Don’t you see, this means even Yahya the Lion was wrong about everything!”

“How can you say that your whole life doesn’t exist? You’re the proof of it.”

She sniffed again and pulled him closer around her barrel.

“You should be right. I should agree. But sweet Celestia, we’re just toys! I’m a recolor! Everything was going one way in the world, and then bam, ponies!” She stuck herself in the eye with a hoof to punctuate the point, adding more painful tears to her existing torrent.

“Well what else was supposed to happen?” asked the Doctor.

She stopped in mid-sob.

“Huh. What else was supposed to happen?”

“Well I don’t know. I’m a Time Charger, not a philosopher,” said the Doctor. He straightened his bow-tie awkwardly.

“Maybe you should go ask those ponies from the substrate-world.”

“That’s the way!” The Doctor grinned and hugged Lyrical again. “Go ask your friends, and find out. Is it not written, Seeing Twilight value knowledge over friends, the princess sent Twilight to Ponyville to learn the magical properties of friendship?”

Finally, Lyrical Melody got up and dried her eyes. She still didn’t understand, but an errand to attend to her friends on a matter of religion could not but come from ash-Shams. She hugged the Doctor back. Just one thing!

“Where did you quote that from?”

The Doctor chuckled and rubbed his chin in mock uncertainty. “Weerrrlll, in this case I got it from the blurb on the inside dust-jacket of that big book you got recently, but really, when these things are recited to you in song every Friday, how do you not pick some up? Though…” The mock uncertainty didn’t look so mock anymore. “Who in the wide, wide world of Equestria is Yahya the Lion?”

Lyrical froze.

“What.”

She’d just have to teach him a bit more.

“Doctor, it all starts with that nasheed song.”

“Which one? That one you always call ‘Jannah’?” he asked.

“That’s the one,” she whispered to him, “It’s our name for the world.” She sang softly, tenderly, knowing the ups and downs of her old favorite.

Tell me, tell me, what to do with my heart...


It was a dark and stormy night, which in this region was actually entirely off-schedule. Of course, in this region the weather was always off-schedule. It was the Everfree Forest, after all: the place where Discord’s magic had taken root for a thousand years, through the entire reign of Nightmare Moon and the subsequent peace of the Era Solar. To the due south of Canterlot’s spires, across the valley that housed Ponyville, hidden behind the Rambling Rock Ridge to its east and the Everfree Bog to its west, there lay hidden from view the Castle of the Two Sisters, first fortress of Old Equestria.

And there tonight was hidden from view the Unholy Convocation of Chaos and Discord. Nightmare Moon would have known that, if only she’d been listening to a word Forward Charge had said. He’d been trying to explain. He’d been trying to help.

“Or, as we call ourselves in short --” Forward Charge tried to get a word in edgewise as he marched up to the door and knocked.

“The Chaos Legion!” stage-whispered the pegasus as he bucked the door open anyway, as per tradition.

“And the proof is trivial! Just biject it to a twice-differentiable language whose elements are finite colors!” continued to spout Nightmare Moon (once called Princess Luna, once called Hanna). Sure, it had to be the most offensively stereotyped Stalliongradish accent Forward Charge had ever heard, and sure, the whole way here she’d rambled on about “diophantine equations” and “measure theory”. But… but… Wait, there was no but. Nightmare Moon was an egghead.

(Little did Forward Charge know that outside Equestria, “egghead” was not a formal job title denoting a comically oversized brain, and its ranks did not range from adjunct egghead to tenured full egghead. Outside Equestria, the relevant job title came from a root meaning merely “to say yes to stuff”.)

But nopony was there. Nopony was even there to get annoyed at the eggheadedness.

Forward Charge stepped into the Castle’s entrance hall, her hoofsteps echoing off the stone like dice in a box, rattling around until they would pour out somepony’s fate. Where was everypony. Had there been another purge!? She flew up to the rafters and checked. Nope, nopony there either.

What the fuck? And Nightmare Moon was just standing there as if she didn’t even notice the total lack of ponies in their destination where Charge had explicitly said there would be ponies.

Three took the blow, while impressing their foe, a deep voice whispered suddenly from everywhere and nowhere.

Was that!?

THROWING DICE, WITH THEIR LIVES, AS THEY’RE PAYING THE PRICE!

Forward slipped off her hooves and was slammed bodily into the ancient, cracked pane of a stained-glass window -- which was now even more cracked. Ow.

Sent to raise hell, hear the toll of the bell!

IT IS CALLING FOR YOU AS THE ROYALS DEVISED!

Where? How!? What?!

Dozens of ponies threw off invisibility cloaks, revealing Earth ponies and unicorns to be perched in stage-costume everywhere, while pegasi hung in the air with instruments.

Sent overseas to be cast into fire,

Fought for a purpose with pride and desire,

Blood of the brave they would give to inspire,

Dragões de choco, your memory lives!

Everypony in the entire Legion was decked out in their best camouflage gear, all set up for masquerading and actual raiding. And at the front was somepony with a funny dirty tan coat and a gray beard… singing… singing…

The Mighty Forward Charge began to cry like a little filly as she slipped down along the walls, holding herself up with her wings.

“Dad’s song! That’s my dad’s song!” she bawled. She slid to the ground with a quiet thump, with her eyes swollen and still heaving sobs.

A high, cold snicker hissed and echoed through the castle hall.

“Tell me, metal pony creatures,” roared Nightmare Moon in her Royal Canterlot Voice, “Are you really all such sentimentalists? Or shall you listen as I tell you what I have come to tell?”

The singer’s brows knitted and he stood up on hind-legs. He chafed in his camo gear and whinnied, clicking his hooves on the ground.

“WHAT THEN HAVE YOU COME TO TELL?” he roared in return.

Somehow, Nightmare Moon herself conspired to look taken-aback.

“You claim to be the servants of Chaos, yes? Well then, pony creatures, how can you serve Chaos when you know not the Order necessary and inherent in all things, NOR THE CHAOS IN THE HEART OF THAT ORDER ITSELF? For can even the gods create a true proposition they can yet falsify?”

The ponies around her, Forward Charge included, were now rolling their eyes and throwing each other sidelong looks. You know the one. That look.

Forward Charge would have to be the one to break it to her, the looks decided together. So be it: she got up, dusted herself off, and walked over to Nightmare Moon. She’d been the one to bring her here anyway.

“Howcanthisbe” she droned flatly, her wings splayed out, “where-are-you-drawing-all-of-this-power-from?”

“Well, algorithmic information theory, mostly. I thought you’d never ask,” said Nightmare Moon.

“AND WHAT ACTUALLY IS THAT!?” groaned Forward Charge and the cloaked singer pony.

“Excuse me,” asked one of the pegasi, waving a drumstick in the air, “Why should we put up with this mare’s egotistical posturing when we’ve already got Discord?”

Everypony turned and stared at her.

“WOW,” muttered Nightmare Moon. Her head dipped down and she looked away from everypony else. For a moment, molten silver moonlight veiled her form, and then only Princess Luna stood before the Chaos Legion, frowning nervously.

“You’re right. I got too carried away with that act of mine. But please, let me help you!” she insisted. “I promise you, though, this is all real!”

It would have been nice to say that everypony began to understand what she was offering them, but actually most of them were just trying to blink away the spots from seeing that much magic up-close.

Forward Charge turned and raised a hoof to everypony.

“I think she’s sincere. She gave me a magic feather, and the stuff she said when I first met her… seemed to make sense? I guess I still just don’t understand how having a contradictory unpredictable problem about perfectly deterministic magic spells is supposed to help us.”

“Well, you’ve heard the story about the pony in the cave, right?” asked Princess Luna.

“No, actually, I don’t think we have,” said the drumstick pegasus.

“Ok, well it goes like this. Imagine that some ponies have lived their whole lives in a cave, chained to a wall, so that all they can see are the shadows dancing on the cave walls in front of them.”

“Wow. What sort of jerk chained a bunch of ponies in there?” asked Forward Charge.

“Were there stalactites?” asked the mare with the drumstick, now sitting down.

“I never heard who chained them in there,” said Luna. She was starting to grit her teeth. “But they were chained in there. And all they could see were the shadows on the walls. They thought that was everything that existed.”

“Were the shadows from shadow-puppets? Where was the light coming from to make shadows?” asked the bearded singer stallion.

“Yes, exactly! Shadow-puppets! Or actually, the shadows were of the ponies and other things going by in front of the fire up above, who don’t know there’s anypony chained down there but just go through the tunnels every day.”

Her ethereal mane of stars was starting to droop. “It just happens somehow.”

“But one day,” she continued, “One of the cave-dwelling ponies slips loose. Daring to escape, he runs for freedom, but as soon as he turns upwards, he’s blinded by the fire.”

“The fire that somepony up there has kept going all this while, not knowing or caring about the ponies chained down below, even though there was this tunnel the whole time,” said Forward Charge, still making little coocoo-coocoo gestures with a hoof.

“Yes, that fire. And it blinds him. So he’s in pain, and he can’t see, and he stumbles up towards it until he collapses.”

“Because he needed to get out and exercise more, right?” asked the singer.

“No, because he’s scared and confused and doesn’t even know what’s real anymore. But somepony up there near the fire finds him, and brings him up to the surface. And then… he wakes up.”

All three of the smaller ponies nodded. That was a thing ponies did. They woke up after collapsing. Perfectly normal. Of course, most of the time ponies got rescued because a public rescue service found them collapsed in a town, or because a friend found them on an adventure in the wild. Or they just woke up in a hospital after dying. But yeah, waking up after collapsing in front of a fire and being dragged out of stone tunnels to the surface by some anonymous benefactor was totally normal.

“Now that he’s woken up on the surface, he can’t really see in daylight. He’s never had to before. Everything’s overwhelming and he doesn’t know how to handle it and it hurts.”

“Because he’s an egghead who’s never gotten out before,” said Forward Charge,

“Yes, errr, no, errr… Soooo, seeing as everything hurts, he can’t see, and what he can see only looks a little like anything he’s ever seen before, what does he say to himself?”

“He curses Celestia for turning on the sun at the wrong time of day?” asked Forward Charge.

“That he really needs an apple to eat?” asked the singer pony.

“That they should do Deformed Rabbit on the wall when he gets back, it’s his favorite?” asked the drumstick mare.

“That last one!” Luna shouted exuberantly, having finally gotten some kind of point across to somepony. “Or rather, that all these bright phantasms can’t be real! What he knew from before was real instead! So he ran back down to his comrades in the cave, where he was then unable to acclimate to the dark again and the other ponies killed him for trying to blind them too.”

“Oooooh,” said all the ponies around together.

“What?” asked the drumstick mare.

“This is heres-!” shouted the singer, before Forward Charge shoved a hoof in his mouth. Oh right, his name was Old Gift. He was seriously the only Discordian to care about theology. That was him.

“The IDEA,” roared out the Royal Canterlot Voice, “Is that what ponies see in our everyday lives is not real, but the mere illusions playing upon our senses created by a higher reality!”

“Normally I don’t mind Old Gift here,” Forward Charge said, “but that does sound a lot like heresy. It sounds a lot like what the Harmonites go on about: everything is the will of their goddess, moment to moment. But you’re saying something different, right? That’s what you said before: ‘the laws behind magic that not even magic or Celestia herself can break’.”

Luna nodded. “Of course! A mind is just another arrangement of functions, while the sets, functions, structures, and other Forms are the underlying realities. Logic and mathematics are realer than you, me, or even my Elder Sister. They are the ever-shifting Forms of ponies and things whose mere shadows the fire casts upon the wall of the cave.”

She smiled proudly.

“If my sister thinks herself the fire, I am the Old Night. I can show you how to make her stare into the dark until she breaks.”


Fern Pipette had closed her eyes and was standing on top of the Books and Branches Library. Twilight was staring at her, trying to figure out where those robes, sigils, and talismans had actually come from.

Book Burner raised an eyebrow from the other side of the library door, worried that he’d already figured it out.

Darkness beyond twilight -” Fern recited, tracing circles in the air with her hoof.

“HEY!” yelled Twilight.

“NOT YOU TWI! Crimson beyond blood that flows,” Fern continued.

Book Burner’s eyes went wide. She wouldn’t. Not here. She definitely wouldn’t. And yet, a ball of golden glow had winked into being upon Fern’s hoof… and was growing.

Buried in the flow of time is where your power grows.”

Book Burner dragged Twilight by her mane with his very teeth and galloped for his very life.

“RUN! RUN! IF YOU HAVE ANY SLIGHTEST CARE FOR YOUR LIFE, EVERYPONY RUUUUUUUUN! THIS IS A DRAGON-SLAVE ALERT! EVACUATE THE TOWN! THE ENTIRE TOWN! NOOOOOOW!”

Because the thing about Fern was that she always had to try things out.

I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand,” continued Fern, the ball now growing and pulsing with each word. A whirlwind raged around her, and in it she alone was unmoved. Her voice was thunder and her eyes steel.

Ponyville was stampeding.

Before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hand. Let all the fools who stand before me be destroyed -” The ball was now of flame and burning plasma, and most of Books and Branches was already on fire without the spell even being cast.

“I DON’T WANNA DIIIIIEE!” bellowed Twilight Sparkle as she flew to the hills outside town where the other townsponies had fled. She had her hooves full of books, because of course she had to go back for the books. It wasn’t a library without books, but if necessary it could be a library without being Books and Branches. She dashed back and forth like Rainbow Dash when she wasn’t being lazy.

By the power you and I possess! DRRRRAAGON SLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVE!

Pop.

The whirlwind cleared. The air stilled. Ponyville totally failed to explode in mystical flame as thaums mutually annihilated as dark power poured into the world from the realms outside where the gods and monsters did battle over existence.

A green-and-purple baby dragon fell off the roof of the Books and Branches Public Library of Ponyville, Equestria. He burped slightly.

Then the library caught fire.


Twilight Sparkle and Book Burner were really grateful that everypony had lined up to pass buckets so quickly. The pegasi had needed to pass waterspouts from the Ponyville Lake anyway to help put out the flames, so it wasn’t as if they had lots of water. The continuous sunlight of the next few days would mean they needed to watch for any burning brush, but it would also let them use their book drying rack to dry out the wet books.

There was something ironic about wet books being the sole major outcome of the whole mess, Book Burner thought. Shouldn’t attempting to nuke a whole village have burned everything?

Well, it was supposed to. The trouble was that instead of nuking the whole village of Ponyville, they basically just summoned Spike. Who may or may not have existed prior to his summoning.

“I was having a snack!” insisted Spike. “Can’t anypony just let me get through my bag of fool’s gold?”

Twilight didn’t seem to be listening, though: her hair was sticking out everywhere with burned bits and her eyes had one that thing where they point in opposite directions and reality starts getting all bucked up soon after.

“Sorry Spike,” said Book, “I think the spell must have pulled you in for the pun.”

“What pun?” asked Spike, raising an eyebrow. “The last pun I made was during Ogres and Oubliettes.”

Book looked at Twilight. Twilight focused long enough to throw him back a shifty look.

“Are you sure you don’t want to discuss certain arrangements with Twilight?” asked Book Burner, raising an eyebrow right back.

“I’m not old enough for ‘certain arrangements’,” Spike fired back.

Oh well. There wasn’t really much point explaining why the spell had summoned him. It was probably just because Fern was the one casting it, anyway. Book figured he’d better go fish her out of the charred ruins of where they’d been living.

He walked over to said charred ruins, which were, well, charred. That was to say: where once had stood a mighty oak tree grown into the shape of a house and filled with books, now there were acrid smells and everything was covered in snowy gray ash. Once hearty branches had turned to a crisp or crumbled, and most of them had dropped in a ring around the central trunk where the heart of the library had been.

Where Fern was, Book realized. It was funny: that really ought to have had more emotional impact. His own wife, the other half of his soul, was buried in the charred rubble of a burned building.

Probably also his whole backlog of books.

He walked up to a huge, heavy log, still glowing too hot to kick out of the way, too large to shove or climb over. He tried to pick it up in his magic and move it by telekinesis.

His neck hurt, and his horn was so heavy it dragged his head straight to the ground. Ow. Ok. He unwrapped his magic from the log. If he couldn’t move the log, could he go around? He backed off and walked around to the left.

Hmm. More dead branches. But some of these were actually pretty strong, still, and had just about the right shape. Hmm.

Without anypony noticing, a unicorn javelined over an ember-hot black log and shoved his shoulder through the door to what used to be Books and Branches.

“Fern Pipette!” he yelled through the smoke, his eyes stinging. “You’re still in here, right? You didn’t die? It’s a long trip to Ponyville Hospital!”

He could hear her coughing somewhere.

“Oh good,” he said, “You’re not dead.” It really was a long trip up to Ponyville Hospital, so if she’d gone and died he’d have to walk all the way there just to see her after she respawned. “You’re down in the ornithology wing, right? For the Ponies’ Committee?” he bellowed into the smoke.

Hmm. Did the ponies here call it respawning? He knew that was what happened to you if you died in Equestria, more or less. Right?

Tweet-tweet peep-peep peep-peep-peep-peeep tweet!” came Fern’s reply, a song sparrow’s song. Book had never understood in the slightest how she actually managed to mimic bird calls, but some people had always been able to do it. She seemed to have improved at it since coming to Equestria. Her voice had gotten more musical somehow. It was probably supposed to be satisfying somehow.

A song sparrow’s call meant she was basically fine, without major injuries.

Tweet-tweeet!” A chickadee’s song meant she could use some definite fresh air, as unto the calm, clear morning. She must have been up in Ornithology upstairs, where the smoke had risen. Now what could he use to cover his muzzle while he went up there?

Luckily, he remembered that parchment should actually be made of animal skin or thick reeds (or was that papyrus?), and wrapped some spare note-taking paper around his face.

He crossed in front of a shattered mirror as he made his way towards the foot of the stairs; despite going utterly to pieces, everything had remained in the frame. It gave a distinctly cracked reflection, as though somepony had broken his image into sharp-edged jigsaw pieces. Ash had settled over his ever-dusty looking coat and given him a distinct gray look, which the parchment wrapped around his muzzle enhanced. Actually, he looked kind of like a mummy.

He smiled a little and wrapped more of the parchment around his head, leaving only space for his eyes to see out of. The mummy look was kinda fun, and he smiled a little.

He trotted up the stairs, gray mummy of a unicorn that he was. Ow. A stair had tried to collapse in the fire, and he had just stepped on it. Almost fell into the busted-up wooden ruins of the staircase, what wasn’t conveniently left for him to climb up to Fern.

(Couldn’t think about that, though.)

Now, the signs said that Owlowiscious’ roost was left, Twilight’s room was right, and the main body of the Library’s scientific and reference sections lay to the northwest, in the attic. Up there he went, and there was Fern.

“Hey hun,” he said. “UUUUUUUURGGGGGGGHH... ”

She answered with a “Peeep peeep peeep peeep” -- common robin, equivalent to a “Hey” in reply. She was coughing and breathing in deep gasps, but somehow still making bird-calls. Oh, Fern.

“Ok, we’re going to need to kick our way out of this. There’s a weak spot in the ceiling over here where… oh, where the ornithology section went up in flames on this table. Here, breathe through one of these,” he said, and shoved an elderly physics textbook over her muzzle.

“Huuuuuuup!” Fern gasped, taking her first clean breath of book since the fire. “Ok, so maybe I’m inhaling letters, but it’s better than that smoke!”

“Are you ok?” Book asked, actually worried this time. “Normally you’d think of something like that.”

“Bit hard to think when you’re too busy coughing. Kick it, you said?”

“Yeah, I think we can. Can you use your Earth Pony strength to hold yourself up on one leg?”

Fern set to bucking at the charred timber of the attic’s scaffolding with her back legs, her strength indeed sufficing to hold her on one leg. The other foreleg held the book up to her face so she could keep breathing clearly… Oh, and researching crows.

Book Burner picked up a sharp stick with his horn and looked for the satisfying place to plunge it through into the cool night air.


It was only the next day that Twilight Sparkle approached her, huh, good friend Fern Pipette, now safely aired out, watered, and re-housed in a spare covered carriage Trixie had once used.

“Did you notice about Book Burner?” she asked over a thermos of dweet iced tea.

“Notice about what?” Fern gulped down the bitter, honeyed goodness just like she had everything that made her throat feel better. “He seems… pretty even lately. More even than I’ve seen him in years. I think we’re doing really well.”

“That’s not the right kind of even, Fern. I think he’s really depressed.” They turned their heads to where Book was still sleeping, well into the morning. Sure, the whole Library had burned down through the night, but now that Fern looked, the ash did seem to have covered him more thoroughly than it should have. It made even his ordinarily dusty-looking coat look… grayed out.

Like somepony who’d been touched by Discord that one time.

“Oh no.”

“They have magic that can help. It’s what the Crystal Heart is for.” Twilight smiled that tight uncomfortable smile of hers. “But you’ll have to take him up there.”

“So we’ll hop a train tomorrow. Everypony struggles in life. It’ll be ok.”

Twilight shook her head. “No, you can’t get to the Crystal Heart by train. It knows what you’ve passed through to reach it. It knows whether you’re really fighting the dark or not. You have to journey on hoof. I’m sorry.”

She put a hoof to the underside of her muzzle, remembering. “I’m also sorry this’ll interfere with the Birdies Committee. Send some books with you when I recover them?”

Comments ( 3 )

Hurrah, another chapter!
Good luck on escaping the White Computronium Prison, kids!

Hmm. I may need to reread the last chapter to properly take in everything here. Still, definitely interesting progress on all fronts.

Nice. I think I saw Discworld with hints of Principia in there.

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