• Published 9th Jul 2015
  • 1,884 Views, 106 Comments

Their Variables - Meta Four

A collection of short one-shots about alternate universes and "What if?" scenarios.

  • ...

When all you have is a spell book ... [T]

Starlight Glimmer hummed a light tune as she trotted down Mane Street. Lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t notice as the street gave way to a grassy park—and she barely stopped herself from walking face-first into a tree. She gave the trunk a suspicious glare, before …

“Oh, Starlight! How fortunate!”

Starlight prepared her mental notecards for Interacting with friends — chance encounter (public), plastered a big smile on her face, and turned. “Oh, hi, Rarity. How are you doing?”

“Not so well, I’m afraid.” Rarity raised a hoof and pointed up at one of the tree branches. A white cat perched there, not deigning to look at the ponies below. Rarity continued, “As you can see, my poor, sweet Opalescence climbed up that tree and won’t come back down!”

“Hmm,” Starlight said. “Have you tried—”

“Everything, Starlight! I’ve tried everything! Calling her name, bribing her with treats, shaking the branches, bucking the tree itself …” Rarity threw a hoof to her forehead and swooned dramatically. “But nothing is working!”

Rarity abruptly regained her composure. “And now you, Starlight, are our salvation! I must stay with Opal, to make sure no harm befalls the poor dear. But can you run and find Fluttershy, and tell her of our predicament?”

“I can do even better.” Starlight smiled, genuinely this time, as her horn glowed. “I can get Opal down myself.”

She cast the spell. A white sphere of magic floated from her horn, up to the tree branch. Opal glanced indifferently at the ball—just before it collided with her face and exploded in a blinding flash of light.

After the light faded, Opal stood up. Her eyes were wide open, while her pupils were pinpoints.

“Come on down to Rarity, Opal!” Starlight called up.

The cat obeyed, silently and mechanically climbing down the trunk. Upon reaching the ground, she walked over to Rarity and sat in front of her hooves.

Rarity wore a deliberately neutral expression as she glanced between her cat and Starlight. “Well! Starlight—”

“Oh, no need to thank me! Helping each other is just what friends do!” Starlight turned and trotted away, already imagining Twilight Sparkle’s congratulations for acing this particular Friendship Lesson.

“No, no, no!” Starlight ground her teeth, leaning out her front door as menacingly as possible. “I wasn’t signed up for the Pinecone Of The Month Club the last three times you asked! Why do you think this time will be different?”

The delivery stallion glanced dully at Starlight, then back at the crate full of pinecones he had placed on the castle’s doorstep. “It’s your name on the box, isn’t it?”

“No! I’m Starlight Glimmer, and this is addressed to …” She crouched down to read from the crate’s label. “Stupidlight Glimbutt.”

“So, are you absolutely positive you didn’t sign up for—”

“Aaaaaauurgh!” Starlight fired off her spell. The flash of light faded, revealing the delivery stallion, standing rigid and staring wide-eyed at Starlight.

Starlight smirked. “That crate is not mine. Take it away.”

“Sure thing, Starlight Glimmer.”

The flask on the lab table was filled with a clear liquid. Starlight stared at it, willing the contents to react properly, but they stubbornly refused.

“It’s supposed to turn purple,” she muttered to herself as she consulted the chemistry text. “What went wrong? I added the reagents in the correct proportion, and the correct order … Aha! Heat! I need to heat the solution!”

Starlight frowned as she turned away from the table. “So, how do I do that?”

There was a window on the other wall of the lab. A book rested on the sill: 101 Thermal Spells: Heat and Cold Magic for Any Occasion.

“Of course!” Starlight smiled as she trotted over to the window. She picked up the book.

She set it on the floor and stood atop it as she opened the window. Sticking her head out, she shot her magic spell at the first pony she saw.

“Pony!” Starlight declared to her new thrall. “Tell me where I can buy a bunsen burner.”

The wide-eyed, smiling mare answered back, “Lab Supplies & Stereos. It’s on Bridle Boulevard, Starlight Glimmer.”

Starlight stood on the front step of Sugarcube Corner and scanned her surroundings. A few ponies were trotting here and there, on business of their own—the usual number for this time of day, and none of them were paying attention to Starlight. She was reasonably certain she hadn’t been followed here.

Starlight examined the letter one last time, desperately hoping to find some clue she had missed. No such luck: there was still no return address, no information about the sender, just the mysterious instruction to be at this place, on this date, at this time.

She took a deep breath and opened the door. The interior was dark as night. But as the door swung all the way open, the lights inside came on—revealing a dozen ponies lying in wait.


Aaaaaaaaugh!” Starlight screamed as she fired her magic through the door. Then she stepped in. The ponies—Trixie, Twilight Sparkle, Spike, the five other Elements of Harmony, and a smattering of other Ponyvillians—stared back at her with wide eyes and frozen smiles.

Above them hung a banner, which read:



“Starlight, we need to talk.”

Starlight glanced up from her book at the voice of her teacher. Twilight hadn’t come alone—Spike and the other Elements of Harmony trailed into the library after her, although Fluttershy was strangely absent.

Starlight’s heart sank. “Talk about what?”

“About your reckless use of that mind control spell,” Rarity answered.

“Sugarcube,” Applejack said, “this here’s an intervention.”

Starlight dropped her book. “Intervention? Why? There’s nothing wrong with my mind control.”

Twilight smiled. “Of course. A little bit of mind control between friends is perfectly normal and healthy. But …”

Rainbow Dash finished the thought: “But you’re going way past ‘a little bit’.”

Starlight snorted. “You’re exaggerating.”

“You mind controlled that stallion in the park to make him stop flirting with you.”

“Please! He wasn’t flirting, he was trying to strike up conversation and distract me from my book.”

“Right …”

Pinkie Pie cut in, “And then at Sugarcube Corner, you mind controlled Mrs. Cake while you were paying for your eclairs!”

Applejack added, “You ‘helped’ with applebucking by mind controllin’ Caramel to buck the trees for ya!”

Rarity grabbed Spike and rubbed his head affectionately. “And who can forget the time you mind controlled poor Spikey-wikey to make him clean up your spilled milk?”

Spike ignored the head-rub and deadpanned, “Or the time I was already cleaning up your spilled tea, and you mind controlled me to do it faster.”

Starlight gulped. “I, um, you see …”

Twilight added, “I’ve seen you use mind control instead of telekinesis to move furniture. Starlight, that’s not healthy.”

“Ah! I’ve been meaning to ask you about that!” Starlight perked up. “I can’t help but notice that mind control magic affects some furniture in the castle but not others. Do you have any idea why?”

Twilight flinched and glanced back and forth rapidly. In a too-loud and not entirely convincing voice, she said, “I have no idea what could be causing that!”

“Oh, okay—”

“I’m sure all the furniture in this castle is perfectly normal furniture! But that’s not important right now!”

Starlight looked down at her hooves. “I guess ... now that you point out all the times I used mind control this month, maybe that does seem like a bit much.”

“This month?” Rarity said. “Darling, you did all of those yesterday.”

Twilight continued, “You can’t keep using mind control to solve all your problems, or you’ll never really learn anything.”

“I’m learning flexibility!” Starlight replied. “How to get a lot of different uses out of just one spell! Doesn’t that count for something?”

Twilight rested a hoof on Starlight’s shoulder and said, “Perhaps your resistance is itself a sign that you really do have a problem.”

Starlight snorted and pushed the hoof away. “Look, I appreciate your concern, but I don’t have a problem. I can quit any time I want.”

Applejack cut in, “Darn it, Starlight! Yer mind controllin’ Pinkie Pie right now!”

“Here is your tea, Starlight Glimmer,” Pinkie said, balancing a full tea set atop her head and smiling vacantly.

Starlight!” Twilight zapped Pinkie with her own mind control nullifier.

Pinkie shuddered as Starlight’s spell was expelled from her mind. The platter tipped and fell. Teacups shattered, tea leaves scattered, and hot water splashed across the floor.

“Ugh, what a mess,” Starlight muttered. “Hey, Spike! Be a dear and take care of that, please?” Without waiting for a response, she fired off her spell again.

“Aw, hay no!” Spike shouted as he dove behind the nearest chair. The white sphere of Starlight’s magic flew straight towards him, but collided with the chair first.

The chair started walking towards the dropped tea set. “Nope!” Twilight shouted as she fired her nullifier spell at the chair. The chair stopped moving. “That didn’t happen! Nopony saw that!”

Twilight’s mane was distinctly frazzled as she turned back to Starlight. “Starlight! This has gone on entirely too—”

Starlight’s spell filled the entire room with light.

“Now,” Starlight said, “the only problem I have right now is ponies bugging me when I’m trying to read. Can you all please just leave me alone for a few hours? Except for you, chairs. You can stay.”

The five mind-controlled ponies (and one dragon) gave their assent in flat voices, then quietly walked out of the library. As they filed out, Fluttershy entered.

“Oh dear,” Fluttershy said. “Starlight, did you mind control all your friends again?”

Starlight was in the middle of picking her book off the floor, and groaned at Fluttershy’s words. “So what if I did? Are you going to guilt trip me, too?”

“Oh, no.” Fluttershy trotted over, right in front of Starlight. “I’m not angry, I’m just—”


“—a little sad that I missed out.”

Starlight blinked.

Fluttershy continued. “I think I understand why you like that spell so much. The ability to hold another pony’s mind in your hoof, to shape them like clay—that power must be …” She leaned forward and placed a hoof on Starlight’s chest. “... intoxicating.”

“Uh …”

Fluttershy lowered her voice, but in the stark silence of the library she was still clearly audible. “Why, a pony like you could take over my mind so easily.” She traced little circles over Starlight’s chest with her hoof. “You could bend me to your will—make me do anything you can think of. And I wouldn’t be able to resist at all, or even call for help. I would be helpless and completely under your control.”

Starlight was hyperventilating now.

Fluttershy leaned even further forward and whispered into Starlight’s ear, “It’s so nice to be the pet for once.”

“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” Starlight blasted Fluttershy with her spell.

Fluttershy had been uncomfortably close to Starlight before. Now she was uncomfortably close and wearing the wide eyes and vacant smile of the mind-enchanted. But she looked slightly different from the others: her pupils were a little more dilated, and there was a distinct blush on her cheeks.

“Get back!” Starlight’s voice was almost, but not quite, a shriek.

“Certainly, Starlight Glimmer.” Fluttershy walked backwards until her backside bumped into the far wall. Her blush deepened, and her wings flared.

“Spuh— bluh—” Starlight sputtered. “Stop that! Stop doing that!”

“I’m not doing anything, Starlight Glimmer.”

“Uuuuughhhhhh!” Starlight shuddered, then fled from the library.

“Sun and moon!” she said as soon as she had put enough distance between herself and that pegasus pervert. “I’m never casting that spell again!”

Author's Note:

Thanks to KuroiTsubasaTenshi for pre-reading.