• Published 4th Oct 2015
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Broken Heart - Tale Weaver


Spike finds a spell that can age him one hundred and fifty years, but when he tries it, he finds himself in a future where the ponies are at war with the dragons.

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Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Princess Luna and Princess Twilight returned to Luna’s royal chambers after raising the sun and lowering the moon. It had been two days since Twilight brought Spike through the castle gates. All of Canterlot was still a buzz about Spike’s return and word was now spreading throughout Equestria. The sight of their ruler, Princess Luna, tearfully hugging a dragon in the royal hall was unbelievable to both guards and civilians.

The three of them had spent the best part of the day in joyous celebration. Princess Luna had ordered that the best gems be set out in the royal dining hall for Spike. “Especially the emeralds,” Luna ordered. “He really likes the emeralds.”

They feasted and caught Spike up on events, especially those involving the war with the dragons. But as the day passed, Luna noticed that there were questions Spike seemed hesitant to ask. He veered away from historical events that would have been more personal to him. As she and Twilight sat down to breakfast, Luna broached the subject with Twilight.

“I am not surprised Spike had a lot of questions,” Luna started. “but I am rather surprised at the things he didn’t ask about. After I reconciled with my sister I had many questions about the ponies we had known together.”

Twilight set her tea down and stared into the empty cup. “I’m not. He has a lot to absorb. A hundred and fifty years of history, an ongoing war and the fact that you and I are the only ones left he knows. He knows how much her hurt me by casting that spell. I’m sure guilt is preventing him from asking what he really wants to know.”

“I scarcely believe he has returned myself!” Added Luna. “I was the one who officially pronounced him dead. I have never been so glad to be so wrong.”

Twilight stood and looked out the window to her apartment. As she had returned from raising the sun, she had flown by and seen that he was still asleep on the lower level. “I can’t believe it either. I woke up several times during the night. I thought I was having one of those nightmares I use to have when it first happened. Remember?”

“Yes, I remember all too well.” Luna sat back and pushed her plate away.

Twilight tried to find a comparison for what she was feeling. “It’s like… It’s like…”

Luna found it for her. “It would be like me having my sister back.” She closed her eyes and let out a sigh.

Twilight came to her side and embraced the Princess. “Yes, that’s exactly what it would be like.”

For over half a century, Luna and Twilight had ruled over Equestria in much the same way Luna and Celestia had. They both missed the Princess of the Sun dearly. Luna was thankful for Twilight’s friendship and support, but no pony could every replace her sister. Just like no pony could every replace Twilight’s Number One assistant.

They broke their embrace and stood up from the table. “As for our friends,” Twilight continued. “He’ll ask me when he’s ready and I think I have a way to help him.”

* * *

It was early afternoon before Twilight flew back to her apartment to check on Spike. The palace staff had brought him a lunch, but it remained untouched. He lay on the lower level, awake, but unmoving.

“Spike?” Twilight ventured.

He sat up and turned to her. “Hi, Twilight, was I out long?”

“About a day and a half,” she answered.

Despite all that time, his voice still seemed tired. But Twilight suspected it was more than that. “Well, I’m not surprised. When you cast that spell, it was morning, but you arrived here late at night. To your metabolism, it was like you teleported to the other side of the world. Plus, you have a new body to get use to and, well, the stress of everything.”

“Yeah, about that,” Spike started, but didn’t know how to continue.

Twilight sat down by his legs and looked up at him. Despite being so close, she felt far away from him. She got up and climbed the stairs to the main level. There, she could sit down and be eye level to him. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I’m not sure where to start.” He struggled with a myriad of emotions as he tried to form his questions. Sadness, loss, guilt, curiosity, and Twilight understood them all.

She stood up and rested her cheek on his. “Come with me, Spike. There’s something I want you to see.”

* * *

Twilight led Spike to the back of the castle to what was now called the Garden of Heroes. From his new, higher vantage point, Spike first noticed that the garden labyrinth was gone. In its place were walls of hedges that stood as backdrops for various statues. The first statue they came across caught his attention.

“So Discord went back to his old ways?” asked Spike. “What trouble did he cause?”

“That’s not Discord trapped in stone,” Twilight corrected. “That’s a statue of Discord. Early on, the dragons attacked Phillydelphia. They must have known that no guards were there. But Discord was. He fought them off alone before help could get there – but it cost him his life.” She stepped up to the statue and rubbed off a bit of dirt that was on the plaque that proclaimed Discord the savior of Phillydelphia. She lifted her head straight up and looked at the mischievous grin on his stone face. “The sculptors wanted to give him some heroic stance, but Fluttershy insisted that this is how he would have preferred to be remembered. I think she was right.”

They continued on down the winding path, passing several statues. Some Spike didn’t recognize. Others, like Starswirl the Bearded, he did. They finally arrived at the center piece of the garden. A half circle, larger-than-life monument to the Elements of Harmony. Below each of the six podiums were the symbols he knew well; butterflies, balloons, a lightning bolt striking down from a cloud, diamonds, apples and a star. On five of the podiums were five statues of the friends he loved well.

He sat down in front of the monument and just looked from one to the other. He spoke not a word for a long time. Twilight put her hoof in his claw and let him have his silence. She could think of nothing to say to comfort him.

After many silent tears, he finally found his voice again, “So… they’re all gone, I guess.”

Twilight leaned in against him and answered gently, “It’s been a hundred and fifty years, Spike. Yes, they’re all gone.”

“But you’re not.”

“As I reached new levels in my studies, Princess Celestia transformed me into an alicorn Princess. That was her plan for me all along. That’s what she meant when she spoke to me about fulfilling my destiny.”

Spike became agitated and rose up, “So if I just had waited…”

Twilight stood, putting both front hooves on his shoulder. “No, Spike! Don’t! You didn’t know. Neither of us did.”

“She never told you?”

“No.”

“Why not? You were her faithful student!”

Twilight sat down again, facing Spike. “Partly to keep me from getting a swelled head. But mostly out of caution. Princess Clelestia had had a student before me, a very promising one. But she grew hungry for power. When the Princess wouldn’t transform her into an alicorn, she turned her back on her studies, the Princess and Equestria.”

Spike sat back down again and hung his head. “Still, if I had waited…”

“Spike, no. There is no point going down that road.”

Spike took her pleas to heart and dropped the subject. He then looked back up to the statues before him. “So what happened to all of them?”

Twilight got up and led him to the first of the statues on the left. “Fluttershy was not the first one we lost,” she explained. “But we placed her here, in the first position so she could lay in rest next to her husband, Big Macintosh.”

Spike’s eyes widened in surprised as he noticed Big Mac’s statue for the first time. So mesmerized was he with the Monument to the Elements of Harmony that he didn’t recognize it standing nearby and just as large. “Fluttershy and Big Mac got married?”

Twilight smiled. “Their courtship drove everypony in town crazy!” The smile turned into a laugh, confusing poor Spike.

“For months everypony knew those two were sweet on each other,” she continued to explain. “But both of them were so shy that neither one of them would make the first move. Fluttershy confided all her feelings to Rarity, so Rarity tried to help. So found reasons to get them in the same room together, she coached Fluttershy into having more self- confidence, she dropped hints to Big Mac that Fluttershy was interested. But nothing worked!”

“Finally, Rarity had enough. One day she grabbed Fluttershy and sat her down in Sugar Cube Corner and told her not to leave. Then she went out, found Big Mac, dragged him back and sat him down beside Fluttershy. Then, in a loud voice, right in front of Fluttershy she asked him, ‘Well, Big Macintosh, are you going to ask my friend out or what?” When Big Mac just stared at her in shock, Rarity screamed out in frustration. She then went to the counter, grabbed a milkshake, put two straws in it, and ordered everyone else out of the store. She then turned back to the two and yelled, “There you have it, your first date. You have your drink, you have each other, you have this whole place to yourselves. Now, be romantic and get on with it!” She then stomped out of the store and slammed the door behind her.

Spike smiled for the first time. “Wow. That does sound like Rarity.”

“We all thought those two would die of embarrassment right then and there,” Twilight continued. “But six months later, they were married. “

Spike laughed. And Twilight laughed with him. Twilight has so missed their times together. And for those few moments, it felt like he had never left. As the laughter died, Spike continued to hold on to her. It was so familiar, yet strange. She now only came up to his neck. Finally, Spike spoke. “So what about the others?”

Twilight sighed and broke the embrace. She moved over to the next statue. The one of her pink, bubbly friend. “Pinkie Pie wasn’t so lucky. She was the first one we lost. When the Dragon Wars started, we found that she was surprisingly good at diversions.”

“Diversions?” asked Spike.

“Yes,” Twilight continued. “She would walk right into the path of the dragons and just be Pinkie Pie. The dragons wouldn’t know what to make of her and would get distracted. Then one of us would just swoop in and pull her out before things got ugly. She confused our guards as much as she confused the dragons. They could never figure out if she was fearless or just crazy!”

“So which one was it?” asked Spike.

“The truth is, Spike, I never really knew. What I did know is that she was always there when we needed her.” She fell silent for a moment, then continued in a more serious tone. “But diversion was a tactic the dragons learned from us, then used against us. There was a surprise attack on Manehattan. Pinkie, Rarity, Apple Jack and I were there and fought them off. But their real target was Cloudsdale.“

“They figured that if they could control the weather over Equestria, they could drought us out. I have to admit, it was one of their best plans. Rainbow Dash was the Commander of the Wonderbolts by then. She had turned them into an elite aerial fighting squad. Nopony would have thought that the dragons would attack with the Wonderbolts at their home base. But they did. Vilmax himself lead the charge. Nopony had ever seen so many dragons in the sky. Not even during the great dragon migrations that use to fly over Equestria.”

“Rainbow Dash and her squadron fought them off for more than an hour before we were able to get there. Fluttershy was there too, visiting. We had each learned to use the power of our Elements individually. But it was nowhere near as powerful as when we used them together. Finally, we had to call up every bit of power in the Elements to defeat the dragons. We lost the Five Elements that day, in more ways than one.”

“Pinky was seriously injured from the battle in Manehattan, but she hadn’t said anything. When the Elements exploded, she wasn’t strong enough to survive.”

Twilight walked over to the third statue of Rainbow Dash. As Spike looked at it, he could tell she was wearing her Wonderbolts Command uniform, even though it was a design he had never seen before. In her hoof she held a flag pole flying the banner of her squadron. He was glad to see that Rainbow was able to fulfill her dream.

Spike drew close to Twilight as she continued. “Rainbow had been severely injured as well. The surviving members of her squadron rushed her here to the Royal Hospital. But there was nothing the doctors could do except make her comfortable.”

“She died a hero,” Spike added. “I’m sure she would be proud of that.”

“Rainbow became more mature after she joined the Wonderbolts. She was still the fun-loving prankster we all knew, but when she put on her uniform she was all business. She died protecting Equestria. That was what was important to her. But she did live long enough to nominate her successor - Captain Scootaloo.”

Spike looked down at Twilight, raised an eyebrow. “Scootaloo? Do you mean our Scootaloo?”

Twilight smiled and nodded.

“I never said anything, but I was beginning to wonder…”

Twilight finished his thought, “She had a very rare condition that can affect Pegasus born to two Earth ponies. Basically, her wings were stunted. Once that was diagnosed, Celestia and I were able to help her.”

Twilight turned her attention back to the statue. “Princess Celestia was well aware of Scootaloo’s record and didn’t hesitate to swear her in right there at Rainbow’s bed side. In her last moments, she was the proudest she had ever been in her life. Not of herself, but of Scootaloo. It was a good way for her to pass.”

Twilight cleared the lump in her throat and continued down the line. “As for the others, Fluttershy, Rarity and Apple Jack, they lived their lives, raised their families and were at my side whenever there was a battle to fight or a crises to manage. There have never been any truer friends in all Equestria. In the end, they were fortunate enough to grow old in relatively peaceful times surrounded by their families.”

Twilight looked up, expecting to see her tall friend right behind her. Instead, he had stopped in front of the statue of Rarity. She should have expected he would. She turned back and placed a comforting hoof around his arm. “Are you all right, Spike?”

It took him a while to find his voice again. “I just spoke to her a couple of days ago. Well, to me, anyway.”

“I know it’s difficult. I lived through it and it’s still hard for me to come here. I’ve been to too many funerals, Spike. Having the lifespan of an alicorn when others around you don’t is not a blessing.”

Spike continued to look at the statue of Rarity in full armor. “I get the sewing machine, but what’s with the anvil?”

A sewing machine in front of Rarity was no surprise. But it sat atop an anvil and Rarity’s hoof stood on it. Twilight explained. “There were times when we went into battle in full armor. Aside from finding it highly unfashionable, Rarity found it cumbersome and restricting. She left a successful career as a fashion designer to move here and become the Royal uniform designer. She then spent years studying metalwork and came up with armor that was lighter, stronger and allowed for more movement. All of our armor today is still based on her designs.”

Twilight pointed to the neckline of the statue. “Look at the collar of any of the guards and you’ll see that little “R” in a circle. Most Ponies today think it stands for “Royal Guard”, but it doesn’t. It’s Rarity’s stamp. Even though she’s gone, she still protects us. She tugged gently on his arm. “Come on. I think that’s enough history for one day. Let’s get something to eat before I lower the sun.”

They started walking again and she tried to lighten the mood. “There’s a Hay Burgers up here. It’s probably not a good idea to walk you through town yet, but they deliver!”

Spike had stopped again. This time in front of the empty podium. The one with the symbol of a large star surrounded by five small ones. He looked down at her, questioningly.

“That’s where I’ll be buried some day as the sixth Element of Harmony,” she explained. “But don’t worry. That’s not going to be for a long, long, time. I intend to win this war, then grow old in permanent peace.”

Spike could feel a pregnant silence between them. A thought left unfinished. Twilight had taught him long ago that what a pony doesn’t say can be just as telling as what they do say. He ventured into the silence. “Surrounded by your family?” and instantly regretted his words.

Twilight’s expression froze. She did not answer. Instead, she turned away. Her oldest friend had inadvertently touched on her second true regret. At first it was because of her self-imposed isolation. Then, it was because of her single-minded dedication to protecting Equestria. For these two reasons she had never allowed herself the time to find a special somepony of her own. Somepony to share a life with, to build a home with and to have a family with. Some Canterlot scholars called her the second Starswirl the Bearded, many in Ponyville called her aunt. But not one of them called her mother.

New tears came to her eyes. Tears she now tried to hide from Spike. She tried to be casual and wipe them away, even though she knew Spike was watching. He had placed a gentle claw on her shoulder.

Finally, she leaned against his arm and looked up to him, “Now that you’re back, yes.”

* * *

Twilight and Luna had finished dinner and were going over the reports of the day. Over the years it had become their custom to spend the evenings together when their duties allowed. They would sit and spend a quiet evening reading, or walk the grounds, or take a flight. They often walked through Canterlot and talked to other ponies. They wanted to be accessible to their subjects and it reminded them of what they were fighting to protect.

In the past three weeks Spike had begun to join them and Luna was glad for it. He would often leave early, needing more sleep than alicorns, then Luna and Twilight would finish off the evening together.

There had been times that Twilight would get involved with a project or a study and spend most of her free time in her apartment. Now had become one of those times.

Spike was now too big to live comfortably in their old apartment with Twilight, so a small warehouse near the guards’ barracks had been converted into an apartment of his own. Twilight now had all the room she needed to spread out her charts and chalkboards.

Twilight excused herself to go back to her research.

“How are you doing in your studies?” asked Luna. “Are you close to divining how Spike was able to cast the spell that brought him here?”

Twilight came back around and took a cushion next to Luna. “That part I’ve already figured out. Spike really did his research before he cast that spell, and what he told me was very useful.”

“Then what is it you continue to research?”

“There’s a bigger magical principle at work in that spell,” explained Twilight. “One I don’t think even Time Watcher was aware of. If I’m right, it could change our perception of relative time.”

“You are spending a great deal of time on this endeavor. I have noticed that you have even been spending less time with Spike. What is the end of your research?”

“I know I get carried away sometimes, but I’m not abandoning Spike,” assured Twilight. “We still spend a lot of time together. And now that he’s learned to fly he usually accompanies me on my rounds. As for my goals, I’m not completely sure. Or rather, I don’t want to say right now. There are still too many variables I haven’t locked down yet. When I’ve completed my research, I’ll give you a full report.”

“I look forward to it,” said Luna.

“As for Spike, he’s building a new life here. He’s even making new friends among the Guards, which I’m grateful for, but I don’t want him to lose touch with his past. My past is very important to me. The roots of all my friendships lie there, and I think the same is true for Spike. I want to take him for a visit.”

“Of course,” answered Luna. “I think it would be very good for him.”

* * *

The next morning after breakfast Twilight flew down to Spike’s quarters. He was trying out his new equipment with Sure Hoof. Spike had decided that he wanted to help defend Equestria, so the Royal Blacksmiths had made him armor and a sword. The sword was six feet long, but felt perfectly balanced in his now larger and stronger claw. He practiced his swings as Sure Hoof levitated his sword and countered his moves.

Twilight landed and kept her distance as the two practiced. But when Sure Hoof noticed her, he stopped and bowed to her. “Good morning, Princess.” To Twilight’s surprise, Spike bowed as well.

“Good morning,” answered Twilight. “You seem to be getting the hang of that, Spike.”

Spike planted his sword in the ground. “I’m starting to get the feel of it. But I have a long way to go before I can join the Guard.”

“Spike is in a unique position,” added Sure Hoof. “He can fill in as a real dragon during cadet practices. I look forward to his assistance.”

“I’m sure his help will be valuable,” said Twilight. “But I would like to borrow him if you don’t mind.”

“Of course, Twilight,” answered Sure Hoof. “Then, with your permission, I shall be tending to my duties.” Twilight nodded. Sure Hoof sheathed his sword and teleported away.

Twilight turned her attention to Spike. “You don’t have to bow to me. We’ve known each other too long for that.”

“Well, if I’m going to be in the Royal Guard, I need to act like one.” Then he whispered conspiratorially. “At least when I’m around other Guards!”

Twilight laughed and gave him a bump with her hoof.

“So what’s up, Twilight?”

“You’ve been here a while now, and there is someplace I want you to see. It’s someplace I often go to when I need a break from my duties.” She levitated her crown off her head and placed it in her saddle bag.

Spike watched in confusion, “You’re not wearing you crown?”

“Where we’re going I don’t need it,” she said. “I may not have a family of my own, but I’m part of a family. And so are you.”

* * *

Twilight fought back a tear as she thought about the irony of what she was doing. Holding onto Spike’s back, Spike was fulfilling his promise to repay her for all the rides on her back. And she had fulfilled her promise to live long enough to have that ride. She knew Spike was feeling the same. But being flanked by two escorts, they remained quiet and enjoyed the flight to Ponyville.

It was more than just a ride, it was a silent act of love.

They set down about a quarter mile away from Sweet Apple Acres. The last time dragons flew over this land was ten years ago. The whole farm had been destroyed and many lives were lost. Twilight had told everyone they were coming, but she knew many would find this meeting difficult.

The barn was much larger than the one Spike remembered. Above it was a small living quarters. Twilight’s sanctuary, her home away from home.

The Apple family was gathered in front of the main gate. About twenty five in all. None of them looked too comfortable having a dragon in front of them. Twilight led Spike to the center of the group and made introductions.

“Spike, this is the Apple family. They’re all descendants of the Apples you knew.” She pointed to two ponies in the middle of the group. “This is Apple Tree and his wife Sugar Blossom. They are in charge of the farm and Apple Tree is the Commanding Officer of the Civilian Militia. She held out a hoof and encouraged them to come up to meet Spike.

None of them moved, except for a young filly who pulled away from Apple Tree as he desperately reached to pull her back.

Spike sat as he watched this little girl approach him without hesitation. She was wearing a red cape, the kind that he had seen before. This one was professionally made, the others he had seen were not. It had the blue coat-of-arms of the CMC on each side.

She stepped up to Spike and introduced herself, “Howdy, Mr. Spike. My name is Apple Seed, resident of Sweet Apple Acers and member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Herd Number One!” She was proud of her heritage, and she had every right to be. She was a direct descendant of the CMC founders. The twang in her voice reminded Spike of Apple Bloom. Her confidence reminded him of Scootaloo. Spike had never met an Apple that was a unicorn, but the fact that she was came from Sweetie Belle.

“This here’s my Papa, Apple Seed.” Apple Seed extended out her right hoof and found nothing but air. She looked over, her father wasn’t there. Neither was her mother. She turned and looked at the crowd in surprise. No pony had moved. They all stared at her in wide-eyed alarm.

A low growl escaped the back of her throat as she gritted her teeth. “What’s the matter with y’all?” She shouted to the crowd. “This here’s Spike. Y’all have heard the stories of Spike. He’s Aunt Twilight’s Number One assistant! The hero of the Crystal Empire! A friend of the Royal Sisters! What are you afraid of?”

Apple Seed was too young to remember the horror of the dragon attack. To her, it was a vague memory of hiding in the cellar with her young siblings and cousins. But Twilight did remember.

She stepped up next to Apple Seed. “I know what you’re all thinking, and I know what you’re all feeling. I was there, too. I remember the destruction and the deaths. But Spike had nothing to do with that. He comes from a time when ponies and dragons lived in peace. I had hoped that you would welcome him. Won’t you at least say, ‘Hi’?”

Apple Tree and Sugar Blossom looked at each other, their fear turned to regret. They had always trusted their Aunt Twilight even through the most trying times. But now, they had doubted her. It was their youngest filly who shamed them by being the only one to take Twilight at her word.

They approached Spike and found nothing to fear. He bent down to greet them eye to eye and extended a gentle claw. One by one, the other Apples started to relax, and by lunch time, a picnic was on the way.

Everypony was amazed at Spike’s cooking skills. The barbeque utensils now seemed tiny in his claw, but he still managed to flip burgers and toss veggies on the grill.

Spike was enjoying another barrel of cider when Apple Seed approached him again. She smiled widely, she was enjoying having a huge dragon as a friend. She had taken off her cape and was carrying saddle bags instead. “Aunt Twilight says you knew Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie Bell.”

“Yeah,” answered Spike. “We use to hang out and play together. They’d come over to see Twilight and I’d make us all snacks.”

“Would you like to see some pictures?” She levitated a scrapbook out of the saddle bag and carefully took it out of its cloth cover. “My Mama’s our herd leader. She said I could borrow these from our clubhouse. This here is Apple Bloom’s.” She started turning the pages. Spike remembered several of the faded pictures. Twilight moved closer to look on as well.

They came to some pictures of an Apple family reunion. “Hey,” Spike said. “I remember her. That’s Babs Seed.”

“That’s right,” confirmed Apple Seed. “She started herd number two in Manehatten.”

Twilight and Spike laughed as they reminisced over the old pictures. But Twilight’s demeanor suddenly changed as Apple Seed was about to turn to a page of newspaper clippings. “No!” she said abruptly and put her hoof on the page. She closed her eyes as all the joy drained out of her.

Spike was confused, but Apple Seed knew why Twilight had stopped them. She apologized, “I’m sorry, Aunt Twilight. I didn’t mean to…”

Twilight took a deep breath. “It’s all right.” She got up and turned away. “I’m sorry, Apple Seed, continue. He has the right to see.”

She walked a few steps away. Apple Tree and Sugar Blossom came up to Twilight and hugged her. It was an interesting relationship Twilight had with them. She was by far their elder, yet they treated her more like a niece. Spike could see why this farm was her sanctuary. Here she didn’t have to be a general. Here she was just family.

With Twilight being taken care of, Spikes attention went back to the scrapbook. Apple Seed slowly turned the page. It was filled with newspaper clippings, all from an article about Spike’s funeral. Spike was stunned. This was something he never would imagine reading about. He was amazed by what the lengthy article said about him, “The town’s beloved baby dragon”, and all the quotes from the townsponies. There were many pictures of the service and the procession. It seemed like everypony in town was there, and may from the Crystal Empire and Canterlot.

What shook him the most was a picture of Twilight carrying a child size coffin on her back. “Twilight?”

Without looking back, she knew what picture he was looking at. She continued to hold onto Apple Tree. The pain of that day came back, but it now seemed to be getting lighter. “As we were leaving town hall, the ushers were going to put you on a cart. But I said, ‘No’. I wanted to give you one last ride. It was the least I owed you!”

Spike got up and took Twilight in his arms. “I’m sorry, Twilight! I’m so sorry!”

Twilight hugged him back. “You don’t have to keep apologizing, I told you I’ve forgiven you.”

“But I have to,” Spike insisted. “Every time I think I understand how I hurt you, I tell you how sorry I am. But then, something comes up and I realize how I hurt you goes even deeper. And it just doesn’t stop! I hurt everypony! And I can’t even apologize to them.”

She pulled herself away from Spike enough to look into his eyes. “We may not have known what had happened, but we knew it was an accident. No pony would have blamed you.” She pulled away, held a hoof to her chest and drew a deep breath, then extended her arm as she let it out. “Come on, there are a lot more pictures to see. Now that you’re back, I need to start getting over it.”

They turned back to Apple Seed, who laid with her head turned away from the scrapbook.

Twilight stroked her mane, “It’s okay, Apple Seed. I should have dealt with my feelings a long time ago. It’s my fault, not yours. Why don’t you show Spike some later pictures? I’m sure he’d like to see what happened to our friends after he left.”

But Spike interrupted her before she could turn the page. He fumbled with phrasing what he wanted to ask, “Wait… Twilight… It’s just that… Well, I’m here. What was there to bury?”

Twilight explained. “When Princess Luna examined the crater left by the explosion, all she found were three scales. The ones ripped from your back.” She held up the heart-shaped locket and opened it. Two, we buried. This one I kept.”

Spike stared at it, not knowing what to say. Finally, his voice came back to him. “You kept it all this time?”

Twilight closed it and held it to her heart, “It’s where I go when I need to find strength.”

The two of them stared at each other, Spike hesitantly, Twilight patiently. Finally, Spike let his shoulders sag, “Okay, I won’t say it.”

“Good,” said Twilight. “You’re learning.” She turned her attention back to the young filly. “So what else do you have there?”

Apple Seed turned to Spike and smiled. “Spike, would you like to see some pictures of Rarity?”

Spike was caught off guard by the question. “Ahh, yeah, that would be nice.”

Now it was Twilight’s turn to be apologetic. “Over the years I’ve told them everything about you. I’m sorry, Spike. I just never thought you’d return to be embarrassed.”

“It’s okay, Twilight. It wasn’t exactly a secret back then, either.”

Twilight laughed, “No, it wasn’t.”

Apple Seed pulled out another, well preserved, scrapbook. “This one belonged to Sweetie Belle.” She flipped through the pages to about half way through the book. She showed Spike many pictures of Rarity in her shop, with her friend, and even on stage with pop singer Sapphire Shores. But in all those pictures, there was something missing.

“Twilight told me how Rarity became the Royal uniform designer and how she redesigned the armor, but was she happy? I mean…”

Twilight flipped towards the end of the book. “After a while, Rarity stopped looking for her prince charming and dedicated herself to her work. A lot of us started to think she would never get married. But when she moved to Canterlot, she met a tailor, Dapper Cumber Bum. They fell in love, got married and opened a shop together. That’s where she spent years designing the Royal uniforms and learning metal work.”

Spike smiled as he looked at the pictures of Rarity and her husband in their shop, on vacation and even receiving the Canterlot Medal of Service from Princess Celestia. He was glad that she had found somepony to love her.

He continued flipping through the pages, but stopped at a particular picture. Rarity was sitting up in a hospital bed, holding a new born baby. She was surrounded by her husband and friends. “They had one baby together, a colt.” Apple Seed explained. “His name was Spike, too.”

Spike froze. A sea of emotions overcame him. Some happy, some sad, some he didn’t know how to categorize. But none of them he knew how to express. He just sat and stared at the picture.

Twilight put a gentle hoof on his claw, “Mine wasn’t the only heart broken that day. None of us ever forgot you.”

* * *

The rest of the day was filled with more laughter and games. But the flight home was silent. The pain he had caused truly had no end.

Twilight tried to comfort him, but Spike just wanted to be alone for a while. Twilight let him return to his quarters, and said she would check on him later. She then returned to her own apartment and to the research she was about to complete.

* * *

It was nearly midnight and Luna was deep into one of her favorite books when there was a knock on the door, “Enter.”

A Royal Guard entered and bowed, “My Princess, Princess Twilight asks if you would come to her apartment. She says she is ready to report on her research.”

Luna landed at Twilight’s front door and entered. She was amazed at all the charts and chalk boards that lined the upper level. Luna’s method of magic was mostly organic. She would feel her way around a spell until she got it to work. Twilight’s method was more logistical. Because of that, she could notate variant degrees and classifications of magical energy. As she rose to the upper level, Luna tried to take in the various calculations written down. Half the symbols she didn’t even recognize. They were specifically used in temporal magic. She also noticed that there was a distinct division in the notes. Some were on the side of the room near Twilight’s desk, but most of them were on the opposite side.

“Your research appears to be exceedingly complicated,” commented Luna as she approached Twilight.

Twilight turned in her chair. “Temporal magic always is. To travel in time, one has to transverse five dimensions, not four as traditionally thought. It is absolutely astonishing that Spike was able to accomplish what he did with just Time Watcher’s rudimentary calculations.” She pointed to a chair beside her. “Here, let me explain in brief. “

It took Twilight two hours to explain all the symbols and formulas Luna needed to follow the flow of logic. It took all of Luna’s concentration not to get lost in Twilight’s explanation. She finally came to her conclusion. “This outdates all our traditional concepts of time. Time is not just a singular, linear flow. It is a multitude of event threads generally flowing in the same direction. That is why time travel to the past is so limited. The way we’ve accomplished it is by creating an artificial thread in the wrong direction. The flow of time rejects it and sends it back.”

“I understand, now,” said Luna. “Traveling to the past is so limited, it is thought to be of little value.”

“Yes,” concurred Twilight. “And traveling to an uncreated future was thought impossible, but Spike proved that wrong. It was also thought that if one could travel forward, it would take exponentially more power than traveling back. But if done correctly, in a way that would actually be useful, the exact opposite is the case.” She turned Luna around to the chalkboards on the opposite side of the room.

Luna stood and drew closer to the boards. She now had the understanding to read the formulas. What she saw in those formulas made her tremble. A cold shiver ran down her spine. She staggered back. “I cannot be reading these correctly.”

Twilight left her desk and joined Luna. “You are reading them correctly. You understand the formulations well enough.”

“Twilight, no,” Luna protested. She shifted on her hooves nervously. “The magnitude of this much power is unimaginable! And these formulas would change our very reality!”

“Yes,” replied Twilight in an unsettlingly calm voice. “Which means we could potentially use it to end the war.”

“But this much magical power! Controlling it would be nearly impossible! If anything were to go wrong…” Luna couldn’t even finish the thought.

“It could blow up all of Canterlot and the mountain it stands on,” finished Twilight.

Luna was horrified. Not only at what Twilight was proposing, but at her calmness.

“But with further research, I believe I can…”

“WE FORBID IT!” The words came suddenly and without warning. Luna quickly put a hoof to her mouth and shut her eyes tightly. Never in all the time she had known Twilight had she spoken to her so harshly. Only as Nightmare Moon had she had used such a harsh tone. Never as a friend, and certainly never as co-rulers of Equestria.

Luna came up to Twilight and put an arm around her neck. “Twilight, forgive me. I did not mean to speak thusly with you!”

Twilight did not return the embrace. She stood there with her head down and ears sagging in resignation. “It’s all right. I expected this reaction. Luna, believe me, I do not make this proposal lightly.”

Luna broke the embrace. “You expected my reaction and yet you continued this research.” It was more of an accusation than a statement. She left Twilight’s side and walked over to the large window. She looked out over the Royal grounds and down to Spike’s quarters. “Have you spoken to Spike about this?”

“No,” answered Twilight, still resigned. “I didn’t want to say anything to him until I was sure I could make this work, and… until I had your permission to conduct the experiment.”

There it was, the unasked question. Luna tuned to Twilight in astonishment. She wanted to scream at her, ART THOU MAD? But for the sake of their friendship, she remained silent. She turned back to the window and fought to control herself. It was a long time before she spoke again.

Finally, when she was able to speak in a calm voice, she addressed Twilight. “The current situation with the dragons is a precarious one. Something is building, but we know not what. We cannot afford the resources to delve into the theoretical. When the current crisis has passed and we are in relative calm, I will grant you an audience to formally set forth your proposal. Until then…” Luna lowered her head and finally looked at Twilight, “Leave it, Twilight. Please.”

She turned and headed for the door.

As she passed by, Twilight spoke up. “I know how this all looks to you! But I just want to end this war!”

Luna held a hoof up to stop her. “Let us not speak of this any further tonight!”

She continued for the door. She opened it, but paused. She shifted nervously on her hooves. Inside her mind, she fought with herself. The side of her that was Twilight’s friend wanted to say she understood her desire to end the war. But the side of her that was the ruler of Equestria wanted to make clear her position. But surly Twilight already understood her position. Yet, as ruler, she had to be decisive.

Finally, the ruler side of her won out. It always had to.

She closed the door and turned back to Twilight.

Twilight knew what was coming. She descended to the lower level and sat on the floor with her head hanging down.

Luna remained as detached as she could as she pronounced her edict. “PRINCESS TWILIGHT SPARKLE, WE ARE GREATLY DISTURBED BY THE RESEARCH THOU HAS DONE. WE UNDERSTAND YOUR AFFECTION TOWARDS SPIKE AND YOUR DESIRE TO END THIS WAR, BUT THIS IS NOT THE WAY. YOUR METHOD HAS THE POTENTIAL OF DOING FAR GREATER DAMAGE TO EQUESTRIA THAN ANY DRAGON ATTACK THUSFAR. AND SHOULD IT WORK, ART THOU TRULY WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE? THOU WILL NOT CONDUCT ANY EXPERIMENTS WITHOUT MY EXPRESS PERMISSION, DOEST THOU UNDERSTAND?”

Twilight could barely speak through her tears, “Yes, my Princess.”

“WE WILL KEEP OUR WORD AND ALLOW YOU AN AUDIENCE IN MORE PEACEFUL TIMES. BUT WE WARN THEE, DO NOT EXPECT A MORE FAVORIBLE RESPONSE.”

“Yes, my Princess,” responded Twilight. Then she added, “Luna, I’m sorry.”

Luna’s demeanor softened. “As are we.” She did not bother with the door, but teleported away.

Twilight spent the next hour in tears. Not for the reprimand, but for the damage she had done to their friendship. The next few weeks proved her correct. She remained Luna’s trusted general, and they still spend many evenings together, but there was now an invisible wall that prevented complete ease between them. As hard as she tried, Luna could not completely get over the horror of the plan Twilight had set forth. Nor the fact that Twilight was willing to carry it out. Luna could still trust Twilight only because of her undying loyalty to her. She thanked Celestia for that, the first ruler of Equestria who had had Twilight’s undying loyalty.

When all her tears were spent, Twilight dragged herself off the floor and wandered through her apartment. Through the window, she noticed that a light was still on in Spike’s quarters.

* * *

Twilight gently tapped at Spike’s door. “Spike, are you still up?”

“Yeah, I’m still up.”

She entered to find Spike sitting up in his bed, staring out at the nearby city. He spoke as she approached, “I really messed up, Twilight. I hurt everypony I ever knew. Everypony I loved and that loved me.”

She sat down on a cushion near Spike’s bed. “I messed up, too, Spike. This war is my fault. All I want to do is end it. But, I can’t!”

“So what do we do now?”

“What we should always do,” she answered. “We learn from our mistakes and do the best we can with what we have.”

“You make it sound easy.”

“I know it isn’t, believe me. But what else is there?”

Neither one had an answer. They sat there, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Twilight got up. “It’s late, Spike. We should both try to get some sleep before I have to raise the sun. Good night, Spike.”

“Good night,” he replied as he lay down and wrestled with his pillow.

Twilight headed for the large door. But as she opened it, she hesitated. “Spike, I really don’t feel like being alone tonight. Can I stay here with you?”

He turned to her and lifted a wing.

She closed the door and snuggled in beside him.

* * *

Over the next few weeks, they did do their best with they had. Spike started training with the recruits, and Twilight increased patrols over Equestria. There was tension throughout the land, but otherwise, all seemed normal.

That is, until the day Sure Hoof burst into the grand hall with his report.