• Published 5th Dec 2015
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Step Right In and Start Again - shortskirtsandexplosions


Starlight Glimmer awaits her punishment at the hooves of Twilight Sparkle and her friends.

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Right Where I Left Off and Make a Friend

I pace and I pace in circles.

All of a sudden... I hear the heavy doors creak open behind me.

My body scuffles to a stop.

Blinking, I pivot around from staring at the crystalline walls of the castle.

Spike looks at me. He beckons with a wave of his claw, then steps back inside.

It is time.

I gulp... hard. A sullen sigh escapes my lips, and I trot through the doorway on heavy hooves, entering the throne room with my head hung low.

Seven colorful figures sit around the central table. I don't look at a single one of them. I can't.

"I know there's no excuse for what I did," I speak in as soft a voice as I can manage. "But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

"I've been thinking a lot about how badly Equestria fared without just one group of friends," the Princess says from her throne.

I tilt my head up... and I blink.

Everypony's faces are... surprisingly pleasant. Including Twilight Sparkle's.

"Because even when one friendship dies," she says, "the results can be disastrous."

I feel a sharp pain roll through me, and I hang my head. "I know first-hoof how true that can be."

Hoofsteps...

Twilight suddenly stands by my side. "And that's why I've asked you here," she says, her voice tranquil... serene. "If you're willing to learn, I'm willing to teach you what I know. You'll have the power to make Equestria an even better place."

I look up, jaw agape. "How do I start?"

She smiles. They're all smiling. A whole throne room full of ponies, staring at me... not even remotely gawking. It's almost as if...

...I belong.

"Starting is easy!" Twilight says. The twinkle in her eyes is indescribably soothing. "All you have to do is make a friend! And you've got seven of them right here."

And just like that, they all stand and approach me... surrounding... engulfing... welcoming...

Warming...

I breathe. I smile. And as the first of many tears start to flow, Twilight extends her hoof and I take it—


It is time.

I gulp... hard. A sullen sigh escapes my lips, and I trot through the doorway on heavy hooves, entering the throne room with my head hung low.

A bright table looms in the center of the place. I don't bother looking up. I can't.

"I know there's no excuse for what I did," I speak in as soft a voice as I can manage. "But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

Dead silence.

A grimace rips through me. The cruel seconds lurch by. My hooves squirm with each breath. I don't want to... but I force myself to look up.

And that's when my heart stops.

"Huh...?"

The table is empty—as is every throne situated along the circumference of the round platform.

"I... I-I thought..." Blinking hard, I look left and right at the crystalline lengths of the room. "Twilight? Twilight Sparkle?" I gulp. "Your Highness? Where did...?" A nervous shudder runs through me. "Spike? Forgive me, but... was I being summoned or wasn't I?"

Even more silence.

"Hello?!" I call out, hearing my own voice echo back towards me. "Anypony?"

And, just then—scraping noises.

I squint, craning my head to peer past the table.

A tiny purple figure waddles down the hallway along the opposite side of the room. He reaches into a basket full of rubies and takes a scrumptious bite. In mid-munch, he glances my way—then does a double-take. Spitting loose a smattering of diamond dust, Spike wipes his scaley mouth and stammers, "Starlight? Starlight Glimmer?"

"Spike?"

"What are you doing here?" He places the basket down and shuffles towards me. "Aren't you supposed to be at Sweet Apple Acres?"

"Sweet... Apple Acres?"

"Yeah! Y'know... AJ's home? Applejack?" He tilts his head aside, eyeslits narrow. "Her family did invite you over to their ranch for a nightcap, didn't they?"

"Uhhhh..." I raise an eyebrow. "Why would they do that?" A cold shudder. "Is... is this some kind of joke?" I look at the empty corners of the throne room. "Where's Princess Twilight? Where are her friends?"

A voice yawns from somewhere down the hallway. "Nyeeuuhhh... did you call for me, Spike?" Rubbing her head, the alicorn in question hobbles into the room. Her royal mane's a cowlicked mess. "I told you I needed to sleep in this morning. After all, I spent all of yesterday making friends with—" She looks up, and her violet eyes explode. "Starlight Glimmer!"

I feel my breath leave me. "Your Majesty...?"

"What... what are you doing here?" She gasps. "You're supposed to be at Sweet Apple Acres!"

"I... I..."

"Is something the matter?" She blinks, then moves in front of Spike, taking on a protective stance. "You... didn't teleport here, did you?"

"What?!"

"I know you're very proficient at magic, Starlight, but if you needed to have a word with me, just knocking on the Castle's front door would have done the trick."

"Twilight... Your Highness." I gulp. "There's been some mistake."

"'Your Highness?'" Twilight blinks, leaning back. "Starlight, we've been over this a dozen times. Just call me by my first name. It's what friends do."

"Friends?" I'm shivering now. None of this makes any sense. "Twilight, I... I-I thought I came here so you could judge me for my actions."

"Judge you for your actions?"

"Uhhh... for going back in time and..." A gulp. "...criminally altering history?"

"What?" Twilight gawks at Spike, then at me. "Starlight, I don't know what's gotten into you. I thought I made it clear all day yesterday! We're going to help you start out on the right hoof!"

"You... you are?"

She blinks, her muzzle hanging open. "... ... ...you don't remember any of that do you?"

"Twilight, please... if... if this is some sort of t-test, I need to know it! I mean..." I wince. "I-I know I don't deserve to know. But... b-but how am I going to learn anything from this sort of p-punishment if all it's going to do is confuse—?"


It is time.

I gulp... hard. A sullen sigh escapes my lips, and I trot through the doorway on heavy hooves, entering the throne room with my head hung low.

"I know there's no excuse for what I did," I speak in as soft a voice as I can manage. "But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

"Land's sakes!"

I jolt, startled. My head tilts up.

Applejack stares at me, her eyes as bright as her freckles. She's the only mare in the room, and she's standing off to the side of the thrones—instead of sitting at the round table.

"What is it, AJ?" Twilight's voice echoes from a nearby room.

"I plum found her!"

"Who?! Starlight?!"

"Y'all better come see for yerselves!"

In a blue blur, Rainbow Dash flies into the room. She brakes in mid-air, muzzle dropping at the sight of me. "Holy cow! She ain't kidding! Girls, you gotta come look!"

With thunderous hoofsteps, four other mares and a dragon rush into the room.

"Starlight Glimmer!" Twilight rushes straight towards me. Her horn glistens in the manalight.

I can't help but flinch. This is it. They've decided to execute me.

"Guh!" I clench my eyes shut. "Just... j-just make it quick—!"

"We've been looking all over Ponyville for you!" Her hooves grip my shoulders. I feel her panting breath... smell the sweat of panic, concern. "Why do you keep doing this?!"

"Uhm..." I squint one eye open. "Doing what?"

"Disappearing on us, darling!" Rarity exclaims. "First Sweet Apple Acres, and now the Castle!"

"We were really worried the first time," Fluttershy says, sniffling. "I had all of my animal friends searching far and wide for where you went off too."

"Like... really, girl..." Rainbow Dash folds her forelimbs, frowning down at me. "If you've had butterflies in your stomach about this whole friendship thing, you should just come out with it instead of pulling crazy-flank stunts!"

"Who... wh-who's pulling stunts?! I-I don't understand!" I look at Twilight. My breaths are heavy. Lungs quivering. "Is this some kind of joke?"

"Joke?" Twilight's muzzle contorts—almost painfully. "Starlight, we just spent the last six hours trying to find you! Why would we be making a joke out of this?"

"Rrrnngh..." I shake her limbs loose and step back, growling. "Really? Really?! You know, I put a lot on the line by letting you bring me here! I know I've d-done some terrible things... but if you're anything at all like the c-caring pony you make yourself out to be..." I feel my vision fogging, and I wipe the tears clean with my forelimb. "...then y-you'll at least explain to me what's going on h-here!"

"Wuh oh, Twilight..." Pinkie Pie gazes at her royal friend. "She looks quatruple confuzzled. Like... even more than last time!"

"You're right, Pinkie..." Twilight blinks. All of a sudden, her eyes widen. A gasp escapes her lips. "Spike! What time is it?"

"Huh?"

"You heard me!" Twilight turns towards him. "What time is it?"

The dragon whelp twiddles his claws. "Uhm... it's morning, Twilight. About a quarter after eight."

"A quarter after eight?" Applejack stammers.

"Oh my..." Rarity turns toward Twilight. "That can't possibly be a coincidence!"

"What can't be a coincidence?" I exclaim. When nopony answers me, I snarl: "Will someone please tell me what's going on?!"

Twilight's mouth trembles. She turns to me, gulps, and speaks in a low voice: "Starlight... tell me... what's the last thing you remember?"

"The last thing I remember?"

She nods. "That's right."

"Why..." I turn from her, facing the open doors behind me. "...I was right out in the hallway, waiting... trotting in circles. And then, only two or three minutes ago, Spike poked his head out and—"


I gulp... hard. A sullen sigh escapes my lips, and I trot through the doorway on heavy hooves, entering the throne room with my head hung low.

"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

"There she is, Your Highness," Twilight Sparkle's voice said. "Eight Fifteen. Right on the dot."

"Huh?" I look up—and immediately gasp at the shimmering spectacle before me.

Princess Celestia and Princess Luna stand in the throneroom. Their heavy eyes rest on me. Twilight stands in between them, ears drooping—along with her head.

"Just like the previous six days," Twilight says. "I... I've performed several close observations. But—for all of my magical prowess—I just... can't figure out what's causing this to happen to her."

"Hmmmm..." Celestia takes a deep breath. "How very fascinating."

"Oh my gosh..." I whimper. I kneel in an instant, legs rattling. "OmigoshOmigosh..." They brought the other Princesses here. This is bad. This is very bad.

Goddess help me with what they have in store...

...I've messed things up big time. They'll banish me to the moon... or maybe the sun... or maybe...

"At ease, my little pony," Celestia's voice says, coming closer.

"I'm so sorry..." Tears. Hiccuping sobs. I'm a melting, crying wreck. "Oh Princess, I'm so... so v-very sorry..."

"Of that, I have no doubt. Now please... rise." I feel a gold-plated hoof lifting me gently. My foggy vision fills with sunlight, and soon I see Celestia gazing down at me, caressing my cheek as she makes a careful inspection of my eyes... my horn... my aura. "Let me take a good look at you... Starlight Glimmer, was it?"

I swallow the mother of all lumps down my throat. "Yes, m-my liege..."

"Be at ease," she says with a motherly smile. "Everything is going to be alright."

Right as she says this, I hear Luna's elegant voice echoing in the background: "And you say she remembers nothing of the previous twenty-four hours?"

"Not one bit," Twilight says in a glum voice, shaking her head. "She's a normal, calm, responsive pony for eighteen hours—"

"And then she vanishes."

"Precisely."

"Huh?" My teary eyes jerk towards them—only for Celestia to turn me towards her again.

"Shhhhh..." Her eyes are close—full of stars. And love. "Be still." And just as she says this, I feel my body coated in a golden glow.

My shivers fade. A warmth overcomes me... but the tears are still there. Somewhere in the distance, the conversation between the other two princesses continues:

"And you are certain, Twilight, that she is not simply orchestrating this?"

"I'm positive, Princess Luna."

"But she has been deceitful before. Maliciously so—from your description."

"Yes. But that's the whole point. The only reason any of us are here today is because she's chosen to change her ways for good! It's just like with Discord!"

"True, but Discord has proven quite difficult to handle since his 'reformation.' Why should this miscreant be any different?"

"It is different," Celestia says firmly. She stands up, turns, and approaches the other two alicorns. "This situation she's going through isn't her fault... at least not directly."

"What do you mean by that, Your Highness?" Twilight asks.

"What I mean to say is that I know the side effects of abusing Starswirlian magic when I sense them."

"Oh no..." Twilight's voice takes on a squeaky tone. "The scroll. Do... d-do you mean to say that it's placed a permanent effect on her?"

"Then you must have suspected it myself, my good and faithful student."

"Pl-please, your Highnesses," I murmur. With a gulp, I trot anxiously forward. "What's wrong with me? Why are you all talking in that tone of voi—?"


A sullen sigh escapes my lips, and I trot through the doorway on heavy hooves, entering the throne room with my head hung low.

"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that—"

"—but if she can't even remember more than a few gosh-dang minutes," Rainbow Dash's voice cracks, "Then what's the friggin' point?!"

I jump. Startled. "Huh?" I blink forward.

All six mares sit around the table in their thrones, arguing with one another.

"The point is that she's a living, breathing pony, Rainbow Dash! And she needs to be treated as such!"

"Dashie does have a point, though! She becomes a Forgetful Forgetterson within minutes of showing up, right? So who's the mare we're talking to at half-past eight every morning these last two weeks?"

"I suppose if you think hard about it, it's almost as if she's a whole different pony. Even still, would that pony deserve any less friendly treatment?"

"Pffft... more like a shadow of a pony, if y'all ask me."

"Are you seriously expecting us to—like—become friends with her over and over again each and every day for ever and ever, Twilight?!"

"No! Of course not! Just... until I can come up with a cure for her condition!"

"A cure? How, Twilight? Even Celestia and Luna are clueless!"

"Hey! If I can make a spell that'll cure mixed-up cutie marks, then I can surely find a way to undo the damage that Starswirl's scroll has d—"

"Uhm... hello?" I utter.

Six heads turn toward me.

"Oh... oh no..." Fluttershy's ears fold back and her eyes grow moist. "It's happening again. Girls, look."

"Have we really been talking about this all night?" Pinkie remarks.

Rainbow Dash face-hoofs. "Good grief."

"I had to hoof-hold her all day yesterday," Applejack exhales, stifling a yawn. "Reckon one of y'all can take a turn."

"Applejack!" Rarity gasps. "How could you be so insensitive?"

"Over what? We done been through this a million times! She ain't gonna be anythang in eighteen hours, no matter what we do!"

"Huh?" I look at every body gathered around the table. "What... what are you talking about?" My breaths come and go in fitful squeaks. "Who's not going to be anything?"

Twilight bites her lip.

Everyone hangs their head.

Everyone but...

"There there..." Fluttershy trots towards me, a sweet smile on her face. "Think nothing of it."

"But..." I gulp, shivering. "But you were just—"

"Just a little quarrel. We'll get over it. That's what friends do." A wink, and she reaches forward, softly taking my hoof. "Now come. Wouldn't some warm morning tea sound nice?"

"Tea?" I follow her, gazing nervously at the melancholic table as we pass by. "You know, I-I can't even remember the last time I had—"


I trot through the doorway on heavy hooves, entering the throne room with my head hung low.

"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But—"

FLASH!

"Gaah!" I lean back, my vision full of stars. "Mmmmfff..." I rub my fuzzy face, blinking thinly into the chamber. "What in the hay...?!"

"Just stay still, Starlight," Twilight's voice says. Her figure comes into icy focus. I see several glowing crystals and lenses aimed at me—still pulsating with mana. She adjusts a lab-coat around her figure while levitating a clipboard before her face. "This will only take a second."

"Huh?! What will?" I rub my face again, peering into the throne room. It's full of lab equipment and instrument panels wired to one another. "Where... where are your friends—?"

"They're alright. And—soon enough—so will you be." Twilight turns to face the far corner. "Okay, Spike! Pull the lever again!"

"Wait... wait!" I gnash my teeth, stepping forward. "What's the big idea?! I didn't come here for a science experiment! Are you or are you not going to tell me what my punis—?"

"I said stand still!"

FLASH!


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

"There she is!" Twilight's voice rings across the throne room. "Give it to her, Zecora! Hurry!"

A striped forelimb thrusts a wooden mug full of a bubbling concoction into my face.

"Here."

I blink, my nose wrinkling from the pungent aroma. "... ... ...uhmmm..."

"There is no time to waste," a zebra mare says. "You must drink this with great haste."

"I... I don't understand." I look past her striped flank. "Where're Twilight's friends?" I raise an eyebrow. "What's with all the lab equipment and steaming kettles?"

"Please, drink, Starlight. We are attempting to make things right."

"Make what things right?"

"Drink the dang potion, Starlight!" Twilight's voice growls from the other end of the room.

I jump in place. Nervously, I swipe the mug from the zebra's hoof and drink heartily. I immediately feel like throwing up. "Mmmmfnnngh... unngh!" I bend over, tasting bile bubbling in the back of my throat. "So this is what you all had in mind—mmmfff!"

The zebra's hooves cover my muzzle. "Keep it down and wait for the nausea to come around." She shouts over her shoulder. "Twilight, what do you detect? Is the potion having an effect?"

"I... I can't tell. So far, the readings are as normal as ever."

"Mrmmmfff..." I pry the hooves off of me and cough... wheeze. "Readings? Readings on what?"

"Maybe if she drank another potion!"

"What's happening to m—?"


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to—"

"Now, Sunset!"

"Okay! Activating!"

Bzzz-zzzzt!

"Gaaa-aaah!" I fall to my knees, twitching all over. My insides are on fire. "Mmmfnngh—goddess!"

"It's not working!"

"Just a little bit longer!"

I grimace, eyes rolling, darting through a storm of electricity dancing all around me... through me.

"Twilight, she's in pain! It's even worse than the previous two mornings!"

"But if we just boost the frequency—"

"No, Twilight! It'll shatter her leylines completely!"

"But then maybe she'll be freed!"

"She'll be a vegetable! And that says nothing of the ones who'll appear twenty-four hours from now! I'm shutting it off!"

"B-but...!"

With a loud clap—like thunder—the brightness dims, along with the agonizing pain it brought.

I slump to the floor, smelling my own burnt mane. Bodies shuffle across the throne room before me—one bright, the other a dull lavender.

"Sunset?! Why did you—?"

"Because it's accomplishing nothing, Twilight. Just like the previous attempt... and the one before that... and two dozen before that!"

"We were getting close, though!"

"To what?! Burning her to a crisp?! Look, I brought this technology through the mirror because I thought it could help. But I was wrong. I can admit that. Can you?"

"I know it seems cruel—but we can't just give up on her!"

"Twilight..."

"She was so close, Sunset! So close to accepting friendship! If only you had been there to see her! To hear her! I'd think—of all ponies—you would appreciate that!"

"It's the byproduct of Starswirl's spell, Twilight. Nopony can undo that except for Starswirl himself."

"But... but..."

"And I do appreciate friendship, Twilight. Thanks to ponies like you. And that's why I know when it's time to admit that there's nothing we can do."

"We... we can cure her... we can."

"If you ask me, Twilight, all we can ever hope to do is be there for—"


I trot through the doorway on heavy hooves, entering the throne room with my head hung low.

"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

Sobbing...

Gentle... quiet whimpers...

I blink. I tilt my head up.

"Twilight...?"

She sits alone in the throneroom... surrounded by overturned tables... spilled sheets of papers... notes and data sheets...

My lips purse.

"Twilight Sparkle...?" I shuffle forward across the dim chamber, one pensive hoof after another. "Your Majesty?"

Her shoulders shake through one sob after another. She wipes her muzzle, sniffles, and looks up at me with teary eyes.

I stare back, blinking.

At last, a smile crosses her muzzle. It's a bittersweet thing. Like a star being reborn after a previous nova's dust. "Starlight... h-hey..." She stands up on wobbly limbs, brushing herself off. "It's a g-good morning, isn't it?"

"Uhhh... sure..." I turn, looking around. "Where is everypony?"

"They're not here right now. It's just us."

"I can see that. But why?" I grimace at the mess surrounding her... surrounding us. "What's with all of these notes and stuff?"

"Just... an experiment I was working on." She gulps... sniffles. "But not... n-not anymore."

"At a time like this?" I ask, muzzle twisting. "Twilight... I... I-I hate to be a nuisance, but c-could you explain to me what's going on here?"

"Yes." She takes a deep breath, nodding. "Yes... I-I think I can. Come, Starlight." She holds a hoof out.

Fidgeting, I reluctantly oblige. Hoof-in-hoof, we trot out of the throneroom and towards the far end of the Castle.

"Say, Starlight..." Twilight hums, her tail flicking. "How would you feel about pancakes?"

"Erm... well..." I gulp, gazing at the crystalline walls beside us. A tiny smile forms. "If... if you actually feel like sharing breakfast with me, then sur—"


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

"Starlight..."

My whole body freezes over.

That voice...

"Starlight Glimmer..."

I look up. I gasp, and I can practically feel my pupils shrinking painfully within their sockets.

He stands before me—no longer a colt—but a gold mountain of a stallion. His mane cascades in orange tresses. Below his horn—splashed squarely across his muzzle—is the same spot of white coat hair that I've memorized since fillyhood.

"Sunburst...?" A whimpering voice. Mine.

"Heh..." He takes a shuddering breath. His smile is a beautiful thing, but it takes immeasurable strength to maintain. "Just look at you..."

"Look at m-me?!" I exhale. A sniffle. "Mmmm... look at you! I mean... where..." I glance across the throneroom. "How did you get...?!"

I spot Twilight and her six friends standing before the throne. Half of them smile at me. The other half stare towards the floor, overcome with expressions that I... c-can't quite put my hoof on at the moment.

In the far corner of the room, there stands a mare. Dainty. Teary-eyed. She cradles an infant unicorn in her forelimbs. Squirming nervously by her side is a colt—about the same age as Sunburst when I last saw him... and bearing the same burning-colored mane.

"I... I don't understand..." Another sniffle, and I turn towards him. "I haven't seen you in ages! Did... did the Princess fetch you all the way here just to see me?"

He chuckles, or at least he tries to. There's a gloss to his eyes as he waves a hoof and smiles. "It's... it's a long story." He clears his throat. "Please... there's so much we need to catch up on... and so little time."

"So... little time?" I shake my head, quivering. "But... but what do you mean by—?"

"Shhhh... don't worry..." He trots forward, crossing the distance between us. His hoof brushes against my shoulder. I smell the scent of sun-kissed hay, and that's how I know. It's really him. "Everything's going to be just fine."

"Sunburst..." I shiver through a sob. He offers me a hug, and I take it. Crumbling. "Oh goddess... it's... it's been so long..."

"I know, Starlight. I mean... pffft... look at the crap you did to your mane."

"Pffft—heeheehee..." I giggle. I cry. I live. "Considering the last time you saw me, I figure it's an improvement!"

"You kidding me?" He leans back, rubbing his muzzle. "I always adored the pigtails. I always..." He grimaces.

With a gulp, I stare firmly at him. "Sunburst. There's... there's something wrong, isn't there?"

He takes my hoof in both fetlocks, giving me a gentle squeeze. After navigating the rough edges of a grimace, he finds the strength to smile again. "Hey... uhm... come over here..." He leads me across the throneroom. Twilight and her friends are watching, but I barely pay any attention. My eyes are locked on the family ahead. "I want you to meet some ponies very close to me."

"Oh my gosh, Sunburst..." I hold a hoof over my palpitating chest. My eyes dance between the two foals. "Are... are these...?" I smile. Wide... wider. "Are these your—?"


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

Warm hooves grasp mine. Fetlocks. Wrinkled.

Those colors...

"Starry..."

I gasp. Eyes wide, I look up.

Two warm sets of eyes stare back at me.

My breath is sucked out in a whimper.

"Mom...? Dad...?"

"That's our little Starry..." Dad caresses my chin. His voice is raspy. Fragile. Like his mane. When did it get so gray? "So clever. So proper."

I'm already hyperventilating. "But... what...?" My brow furrows. "Why are you...?"

"Everything's going to be okay, Starry," Mom says. "We love you, darling."

"We love you so much."

"But..." Another whimper. My eyes well up with tears. "What are you two doing here? Did Twilight...?" Almost instantly, those tears evaporate. I feel a raging fire in my chest as a deep snarl builds up in my throat. "She summoned you... she summoned you both to my own trial."

"Starry..."

"Isn't... mmm... it enough that I have to face all her friends like a lamb to slaughter?!" I gnash my teeth, shaking before them. "She has to humiliate them in front of you?"

"Starry, no—"

I bow my head, sobbing. "None of you d-did anything wrong! You don't deserve to see this! You shouldn't be here—"

"You are not being punished, Starlight!"

A gasp. I look up, eyes tearing. "I... I'm not...?"

It is only now that I realize how... dark it is in here. What's more, the thrones around the table are gone—same with the array of colored crystals that once clung to the ceiling. Every piece of furniture is piled up against one set of doors opposite of me.

"We just had to come see you one last time, precious," Mom says. She leans in, kissing my forehead... toying with my hair. "Before they overtake us and it becomes too late."

"Before... what?" I stammer.

A body trots behind them, through the shadows, looking in every which direction. "Mr. and Mrs. Glimmer, we have to go. Now. You can take her with you... at least for the next eighteen hours..."

"Just give us a damn second!" Dad grunts. "Can't you see she's frightened?"

"Daddy? What's wrong? Why are you so upset?"

He takes a deep breath, and his wrinkled smile returns. "I'm... not upset, dear."

"Not so long as we h-have you with us..." Mom adds... her voice cracking. Tears well up in her eyes. Oh gosh. "You're so beautiful, you know that?"

"We love you so much. Please... don't ever forget that."

"Don't ever forget our love for you, darling."

"But... b-but why would I ever forget—?"

Suddenly... loud thuds... all across the walls of the place. And growing louder.

"This is it!" The agile figure trots into the light. "The changelings are here," Rainbow Dash says, clad from head to tail in a Wonderbolts uniform. "I promised the Princess I'd get you safely past the front line."

"Front line?!"

"We're not going without her!" Dad says, frowning.

"Mrmmfff... fine." Rainbow Dash bursts down a set of doors and peers down both hallways. "Just stick close. If worse comes to worst, I'm only grabbing two of you! We all know where she'll end up when all is said and done."

"What... what is she even talking—?"

"Just stick with us, honey," Mom says.

"Yes. Do what the mare says," Dad adds, tugging me out of the throne room. "We'll have plenty of time to talk on the convoy out of here!"

"Convoy?"

"Scootaloo! Rumble!" Rainbow hollers down one corridor as we gallop in the opposite direction. "Stretch your feathers! We're bugging out!" By now, the thuds have blended into a maddening thunder "Yeesh... hope this old place friggin' holds—"


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want—"

"Make way!" A sweaty soldier gallops past me, carrying a bundle of supplies. "Coming through!"

"Aack!" I stumble backwards, blinking. All around me, ponies in combat gear are galloping left and right. "What in Tartarus—?"

"Hey Commander!" A guard glances at me in passing. He grumbles over the sound of distant thunder. "It's a quarter past eight."

"Told you we don't need an alarm clock in this place," rasps a familiar—yet unfamiliar voice. A scarred mare in a flight uniform trots past me, her colored mane faded, almost bleached. She faces the center of the chamber—only it's been spontaneously converted into a bustling war room, complete with large charted maps and desks full of hunched-over ponies relaying messages via mana-charged telegraph crystals. "Reports are in, Your Majesty. We've won back Fillydelphia and Manehattan. That just leaves Las Pegasus and San Franciscolt still needing to be liberated."

"Very well done, Rainbow," speaks a motherly voice. I see a figure with a large horn and even larger wings standing before a glowing map in the room's center table. "Chrysalis may be stubborn, but she doesn't have the same wits about her like she used to. Relay a message to my brother in the field. We'll be taking the western stronghold by week's end."

"Aye, Your Highness."

Squinting, I trot forward. "Princess Celestia...?"

She freezes in place. Then, with a shuddering breath, she turns around, facing the light... facing me. "Starlight Glimmer... but of course..."

I blink. Hard. "Twilight...?"

Her eyes are thin... tired... but the same spark remains. "I'm sorry that you had to arrive on such a... chaotic scene." A dull vibration rolls through the Castle. Bits of dust and flecks of crumbling wooden roots litter the ground around her. "But things are going well. I only... wish it didn't take so long to achieve victory."

"'Achieve victory?'" I look left and right, fighting to keep my lunch in. "Mmmm... one second, I'm on trial for misusing Starswirl's spell. The next minute... we're at war with Chrysalis?"

Twilight takes a deep breath. She's so tall. So majestic. "Yes... well..."

"Twilight..." I bite my lip. "Did... did we ever actually return from the spell—?"

"Twilight!" A large, purple thing slithers in. Green wings spread wide as a middle-aged dragon growls: "I just came back from the ashes of Everfree! We beat back the drones. The leylines should be open now! General Shining Armor is waiting on your word!"

"Good job, Spike."

"Spike...?"

"Erm... and would you mind?"

"Right." The dragon salutes. "I know the drill." In one fell swoop, he lifts me with a mighty claw and hoists me onto his back. "Hold on tight, Starlight."

"Gah! But... what...?!"

He carries me swiftly down the nearest corridor as the Castle shakes all around us. "And for Skyla's sake, don't throw up on me this tim—"


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

"Eheheheh... whoa nelly..." A raspy, frail voice echoes through the darkness. "Reckon I'll never get tired of hearin' that. Heh..."

I blink. I lean forward, peering into dust and shadows. "Who... wh-who's there?" I squint. "Why'd it get dark all of the sudden?"

"Well, Sparky, if yer so dag-blame'd curious, why dun ya switch on the light yerself?"

I bite my lip. I haven't performed magic since Twilight brought me back to the present. It just... hasn't felt right.

Nevertheless...

Taking a meditative breath, I channel energy into my horn. The throneroom illuminates in front of me. There's a shriveled orange thing seated on the edge of the center table, wearing a bonnet and toying with sewing needles.

"Ah... pretty as a picture." She winks a dull green eye from within a sea of wrinkles. "Mmmm... never fails. Golly me."

"Ma'am? I... I'm sorry, but... uhm..." I blink. "Who are you? And just where did Twilight and the Princess' friends go—?" My voice leaves me in a gasp. The throne room is in tatters. "My goddess..."

"Mmmm... Twilight? Oh... she's out and about. As alicorns do. As for her friends... well..." With a groan, the old mare sits up, crooked limbs crackling. "Ooooh... I can vouch for two of 'em."

"I... I don't understand." I gulp. "Something must have gone wrong."

"And why do ya say that, dearie? Hmmm?" She hobbles forward, smiling. "I, for one, am glad to see ya. Then again... I'm always glad to see ya. Heheh... barely anypony lives in this ghost town no more—much less anypony willin' to pay half a mind to a bag of old bones like me. But... can't be blamin' them folks—especially the ones who survived the war. Just my own dang fault that I can never leave the town where I was foaled. But you know the feelin'. Heck, you've told me so at least a hundred times!"

"I don't know what you're talking about. I mean... no offense, ma'am, but we've never met before."

"Mmmmm—you so certain of that?"

"I... uh..." I spin around, shining my light on dust, dust, and more dust. "I really gotta go find Twilight."

"What for?"

"Well, to be perfectly honest, she's—"

"—about to sentence you to some dag-blame'd punishment fittin' for a terrorizin' time mistress?! Bah!" She waves a forelimb. "I've heard it all before! Hogwash! If ya ask me, you've more than done yer time!"

"What... do you mean by that?"

"Ehhh... never you mind. Let's talk about more pleasant stuff. Like hoofball! Or old beaus long gone! Or apples! Hah! Them's a good topic!"

"Uhhh... I really must be—"

"Just how do ya know that Twilight wasn't fixin' to have ya give company to 'lil old ladies as community service for yer crimes?"

I gulp, nodding nervously. "Fair enough."

"Hot diggity! Works everytime! Heheheh... now..." She hooks her forelimb around mine, and the two of us slowly hobble out of the dilapidated chamber. "...how's 'bout we go step outside where it's a might bit prettier? I've got this purdy lil' garden that you'll just be tickled pink to see! Maybe you could help me plant a flower or two! Earn yerself a green hoof!"

"I... uh... I'm afraid I don't know much about gardening, ma'am."

"That's okay, sugarcube." She pats my fetlock as I help her along. "Ya won't for long... neither do ya have to, I reckon..."


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

Silence.

I blink.

Everything is dark ahead of me.

"Spike?"

No response.

"Spike, did you lead me into the right room?"

Still no response.

"Hello—?"

A loud crashing sound.

I gasp, spinning about.

The noise is coming from another part of the castle.

It's now that I realize that everything is dark... including the hallway I was just in.

What happened?

Did the mana lighting this Palace suddenly go out?

Once more, there's a loud crash... followed by heavy hoofsteps... and then even more crashes.

I crane my neck to see. But all is still pitch black.

I swore that I would never use magic again without the Princess' permission...

...but...

Holding my breath, I channel magic into my horn. A dim spotlight appears in front of me, illuminating a hallway filled with shattered furniture and wooden splinters.

"Sweet... Celestia..."

How...?

How did everything get like this...?

The loud rummaging continues. I trot towards it... dauntless. I pass several doorways until a large chamber opens in front of me. It's a library—but there are no books.

Wait... yes there are...

These... things...

Shreds of paper fluttering beneath me...

Such mildew... and dust...

"What... happened here...?"

Something crunches beneath my hoof.

I tilt my horn down to see.

It's a picture frame. Inside, there's a photograph. I spot five graying mares situated beneath the widespread wings of a towering alicorn. Lavender feathers.

"...Twilight?"

And just like that, the rummaging stops.

"...!" I look straight up.

My glow catches the outline of a body frozen in mid-rampage. The remnants of a library lie in tatters all around her. She heaves... shakes... then spins to face me. A pair of purple eyes burn bright... like fire.

I stumble backwards, but it's not enough. In a split second, the creature has crossed the distance between us. I feel myself being lifted up in a telekinetic grip. Magic closes around my neck like a noose. I hang before her—gurgling for breath.

Her muzzle snarls into the pale glow of my horn. Wild, frenzied eyes—laced with loneliness and tears.

"You..." A voice as young as ever—although tempered by bitterness. "I... sh-should have let you take it all away..."

"Snrkkkt... Princess... Tw-Twilight...?!"

"I should have let you!" She squeaks, like an infant. Purple pools. Melting. "We all started together. Why c-couldn't we end together?!"

The world shakes... or maybe it's just her grip.

I find out soon enough.

She collapses in front of me... drowning in an ocean of sobs.

I slump back onto my flank, rubbing my neck, panting for breath.

The alicorn buries her muzzle into her forelimbs. Bawling. "Should have known... sh-should have known..." A shudder. A yelp. "Starting is always the easiest part... always the easiest..."

I pant and pant. "Twilight..." I swallow past the pain, sitting up and leaning towards her. "Your Majesty, please, I wish—"


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for... whatever... ... ... punishment... ... ..."

I can't finish the sentence.

How can I?

My muzzle hangs wide open.

The Castle has changed... in that half of it is gone.

A huge chunk of the crystalline wall has fallen into ashen debris before me.

I gaze out onto a field of charred brown rock, devoid of vegetation.

The mountains are much lower than I remember.

Dull clouds of sand and grit hang over the desolation.

I can't see where the Sun as gone.

Where am I?

"Where am I...?"

I can barely hear my own voice from the howling winds.

"Spike?"

Nothing.

"Girls?"

Nothing.

"Twilight?"

The sound of shifting limbs.

"...!" I turn, looking to my left.

A shadow sits up along the edge of a round table—now crumpled into multiple pieces. I see the slender, long horn of an alicorn. Dull, tired eyes blink... glazed and purple.

She tilts her head towards me.

I stare back, breathless.

We share this fragile, fractious gaze for several seconds...

Until, at last, she moves.

On glacial limbs, she stands... then shuffles towards me. She's majestic... epic... eternal.

And yet she doesn't last long.

"I'm sorry..." She breathes. "I'm so... so sorry, Starlight Glimmer." She weeps, her muzzle twisting in pain. "But... I can't... I simply can't wait here with you any longer."

I gaze up at her, blinking. "Wait? Wait for what?"

She clenches her teeth. "I don't know anymore. I wish I did. But I never will. Not if I stay. Not if I continue pretending that... th-that..." She sniffs. She cracks. She collapses, enfolding her large forelimbs around me.

I shudder in her grasp. I look left and right. We're drowning in a wasteland. I have so many questions.

"Twilight..."

"I love you," she sobs. She squeezes me tight. "I love you all so much..." She nuzzles me. "I always did. Please... please find it in your heart to forgive me." A whimper. "There's an answer somewhere... but it's not here! I'm not sure it ever was..."

"Twilight, please..."

She stands up. Her wings spread. She can barely look at me now.

"I will remember you..."

"Twilight, don't—"

"Always, Starlight Glimmer." And she takes up, burning like a comet through the collapsed ceiling of the place.

"Twilight! Don't go! Please!" I reach a hoof out to her, but she's a candle in the distance, now. Fading quick. "Don't leave me! I have to understand!"

There's no response. There's never a response.

"Twilight, talk to me!" I gnash my teeth, trotting boldly into the miasma. "Is this it?!" My voice echoes against nothingness. "Is this what you and the girls had in store for m—?"


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever—"

I can't even finish the sentence. There's too much dust in my mouth.

I cough.

I sputter.

I collapse to my knees.

I try wheezing for breath, but my lungs fill with ash.

Eyes tearing, I squint into the maelstrom.

There is nothing but desolation and wasteland for as far as I can see.

I'm no longer in the Castle.

There is no Castle.

Just like there is no Sun... or Moon...

"Mrmmfnnghh—Twiliiiight?"

Or friends...

"Grnkkt—Twilight?! Spike?!" I cough and vomit. "Where are you?!" I shudder and look behind me. "Where am I?!"

My eyes twitch.

All is barren, featureless stone—save for a deep trench dug directly behind me, as wide as my hooves and stopping right where I'm currently standing.

My Goddess...

Panting... seething... I look straight ahead... but I don't know what for.

What—


"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

Darkness.

Author's Note:
Comments ( 180 )

Um... Like?

Whoa... there are no words for this...

Whew... well written, is what I'm saying here... well done, and... a depressing, but very interesting read. Years pass by, centuries even? And she never remembers... wow...

I have no words man...

Good work...

That was... frightening...

This is wild. I like this.

I'm pretty unsettled right now. That's... good?

...Oh god....that's so horrible...:ajsleepy:
Yeah...file this under "Fates Worse Than Death".
Also, I half-expected a certain brown/pink pegasus to show up at the end there.

That music was a bit of a mood breaker, though. The lyrics fit very well, but it feels too upbeat. I'll just run my own Afterlife here.

Everyone likes time travel, but when things go wrong, it can be for eternity. She go off easily by comparison. She will be free when time ends.

A well written, dark, haunting story. Poor Starlight Glimmer... I don't know what I had expected.:trixieshiftleft:

This some heavy shit right here.

Wow.... Holy dang, Skirts... That's, actually one of the most terrifying concepts of an existence I've ever thought about. Just as BP was. I'm just rooting for a happy ending to one of these stories of yours. An ending where everything works out, or at least the most horrifying parts do. I don't know if I'll ever get one, but I'll keep reading these until I do.... then I'll read some more.

...ouch, that was horrible. Not the story, I mean, but Starlight's fate. Definitely not something she deserved, though it did lead to interesting glimpses of the... centuries (at the very least) to come. Probably no way to fix it, and sounds like they had major problems that took up their attention later on. Though at least she's unaware, its arguably worse for anyone who tried to meet with her for years on end. I've read stories where time travel can end very badly, but this is one of the sadder, really depressing instances, so good job on that.

How long is Eternity...?

Eternity is but a single moment...

...the same moment...

...a moment that never ends.

Oh.

I has a sad now.

~Skeeter The Lurker

Ooh that's rough

An opposite groundhog day loop, where she resets and everything else continues.

"I know there's no excuse for what I did. But I want you all to know that I'm ready for whatever punishment you think is fair."

Starlight may have been ready but I sure wasn't. :ajsleepy:

This would have made for an interesting prologue to Hello, Sedna.

A haunting, chilling story... time travel really can have huge side effects.

That's... horrifying. :twilightoops:

I have to wonder if you've been reading Worm... :rainbowlaugh:

I just suddenly want hug her.

It sort of reminds me of last week's Doctor Who episode, Heaven Sent.

At least in Background Pony, Lyra got to die.

I see somepony's seen Fifty First Dates. Though, I prefer Memento...

I can't see where the Sun as gone.

has

Also, holy shit that is creepy.

...I think I need to go read some light, fluffy stuff for a while...try and forget this amazing nightmare fuel. Damn your incredible writing short skirts

Damn your incredible writing short skirts

6702282 Personally, I prefer looking up them...:twilightsmile:

God DAMN. This is as Grimdark as FUCK!

I actually feel sorry for Starlight; not even she deserves a fate like THIS.

...Like and favorite earned you absolutely magnificent so-and-so. :twilightoops:

The cover art, especially, will probably... no definitely add to the night mare....

I have to admit. I actually cried at the end.

This is not real. This is not real. This is not real.

Again, you take writing horsewords to the next level. That was horrifyingly... perfect.

Damn.

Good God that fic was dark :pinkiesad2: I mean that was properly depressing. Excellent idea though, and wonderful execution. Tbh, given the ending, I would have sided with Sunset Shimmer. Euthanasia may have been more merciful than infinite loneliness.

6701431
What pegasus would that be?

Good Heaven, nobody should have to face that. In the end, even Twilight couldn't take it anymore and left her alone.

6701650

Not what she deserved? She created multiple divergent timelines in which untold death and mayhem became the norm - at one point, where apparently the world was destroyed and Celestia and Luna must have been dead. She is responsible for an astronomical number of dead people in the course of unbelievably petty revenge. Just because they aren't part of the alpha timeline doesn't make them or their lives any less real.

No salvation.. even at the end.

That end... I feel sick. Gods, I feel sick.

6702025 and now she's going to wake up, find out she was basically dreaming for two billion years, and kill the princesses.

This.....this was dark. VERY dark. I've read alot of dark stories on here, but this tops all of them!

No one deserves to go through this. Not even Starlight deserves this type of fate. She's all alone now. All alone in absolute darkness.

I can't be the only one who feels sorry for what is happening to Starlight in this story. Now I wish I could stop this from happening to her. She may have done a lot of evil stuff to Equestria's timeline, but I would give her a second chance.

6702640
But she wasn't; she was only remembering the last 18 hours of it, and then resetting to the last few minutes.

That's okay.

I didn't need to be happy anyway.

Time traveling doesn't seem as fun anymore. But that was still a good read.

Rip heart out. Slap it on the wall. Use as dart board. See if it still works.

Thanks

Positively Chilling.

Very chilling story, though It's hard to believe even Zecora who has a magical cure for everything couldn't fix this.

Also, just a personal nitpick, why did Twilight end up becoming larger like Celestia? Cadence and Luna aren't Celestia's size yet have been alicorns for much longer.

6702544 Not really. When Teal'c from Stargate kills his own counterpart in a parallel reality he says that "only our reality matters".

And it's true. There's no point in caring about any reality other than your own because otherwise any time travel that inevitably results in a different timeline will cause infinite tragedies regardless.

The mechanic used in the season finale is wonky at best which is why I hate/don't use time travel in my stories. Regardless of how well it's executed most time travels create a paradox when one returns to the original one... It's never the original reality.

In any case my point still stands. There's no reason to worry about s timeline or any for that matter. In fact tgose timelines ALREADY existed in a way if there are multiple timelines.

What happened in the finale is that each alternative reality became the main one each time Twilight time travelled. Or at least that's the best way I can explain it right now. Its really something to avoid in your storytelling. Time travel that is.

Holy shit that was epic, haven't gotten chills like I did at the end of this fic in a long time.

:pinkiesad2:

Goddammit, Skirts.

Truly, poetic justice. Thank you.

Alondro #49 · Dec 6th, 2015 · · 12 ·

Every time they went back in time, they should have met their previous selves from each time they returned to that point.

Sheesh, even "The Amazing Adventures of Gumball" got that right!

In summation: I hated the finale. It hurt my mind in every possible way. Now I thirst for vengeance... :pinkiecrazy:

6702562 Meh, the universe ends and she's stuck in it. Kinda reminds me of Doctor Who always ending up at the end of the universe lately.

Well shit, if people want to be THAT nihilistic, then yeah everything's pointless and they might as well go blow their brains out.

I find it rather silly to place the apparent limitations of our own universe on a magical pony land where love is a tangible thing shape-shifting bug ponies can feed upon and a Q-like creature can alter reality and whatever cosmic laws exist in that universe with a snap of his talons.

Besides, our own universe may surprise us in the end, as we still don't even know for sure what makes up 96% of it.

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