• Published 8th Jun 2016
  • 8,122 Views, 410 Comments

Student of the Night - Nadir



After a plague sweeps through the city, life is hard for the lower class. But, there are always those who can claw their way back, fight for every inch of success. With her determination and intelligence, Twilight hopes to be one.

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A Trip to the Library [E]

When the assembly had settled in, the night had just begun. But the gears of time shifted quickly, fast enough to sap Queen Luna of her succor. Yet, the ongoing debate was not what tired her so; no, the wails that drifted on the winds drained her more than a meeting ever could. Before her gathered a myriad of ponies from different backgrounds, crafts, and masteries; one would never have expected to see them all gathered here tonight. Yet, events conspired against them. The plague had come with such virility, so suddenly and with such purpose--to have expected it, one would have to have caused it. Thus, it was with singular intent that the ponies had gathered there, night after night, all in search for a cure. They were close, at last, to an end. Not for a cure, but a solution.

As the argument continued from hoarse throats and weary lips, Luna sighed and slowly made her way to the open window behind her, the soft moon's light illuminating the gathered masses. She gazed into the distant night, drawn at once to the light above before falling down to the flames below. Smoke billowed from the raging blaze, a breath away from Canterlot proper, the fifth this year. Ponies garbed in soot and ash tended to the pits, and she grimaced as they dumped yet another pair of bodies into the burgeoning flames. They did so mindlessly, like tossing tinder. Another night, another job.

Another sacrifice.

She closed her eyes. Another, gone. Two ponies. What were their names? What were they like? What were their dreams? She sighed again. Dreams--how long had it been since last her ponies dreamed of anything but death and decay...

Save me. A whisper rose from the lower city.

“I’m trying.” Her voice came out quietly enough that none could hear.

She clenched her teeth. She could scarcely believe it. After all this time, all the meeting of great minds, all the masters of magic and medicine. After all this, how could they have come to nothing? How, after all this time was there no cure? Bitter tears stung her eyes, threatening to spill over. She felt like screaming, like tearing the city apart brick by brick. She would find this dreaded disease, and torture it, make it suffer for all the evil it had wrought.

Tears finally poured from her eyes, though she wiped them away with a hoof, trying her best to regain composure. She glanced behind to see if anyone had noticed, but no one had. They were enraptured still in their talk of magic and alchemy. The ponies, though weary, had persisted night after night, all in search of hope. They had persisted all this way, with her. All in the search of some kind of answer, some kind of cure. They were the very best, and they tried their very best, and in the end--in the end, there was nothing. They’d failed.

We’ve failed.

She turned back to the window, eyes trailing down to the quiet of the city muddled beneath shades of black and gray. The moon did little to highlight the suffering ponies trapped within their homes turned crypts. But their cries, their nightmares clung solely to her mind--simple whispers only she could hear.

“Enough,” Luna muttered, the pall of her voice silencing all.

“Princess?”

“Queen,” Luna corrected. She paused a moment before shaking her head despondently. “Seal it off.”

There was a silence while the words hung in the air. She was giving up. At first, there was an outcry, but that was quickly abolished by the lack of better options. Magic was useless, medicine pointless, and research was proceeding, but had made no headway against how fast the plague killed. There were simply not enough resources, not enough time. Luna gazed up at the clock and watched it tick; she could hear in her head, her ponies in pain, and she could feel their nightmares crawling up her skin.

Time...there was never enough time. Luna had simply come to that realization faster than the others, or rather, she simply realized what needed to be done despite the guilt and the pain. “The lower quarters are to be quarantined.”

“But prin--”

“It’s Queen,” Luna commanded; her voice growing in strength. She knew what she proclaimed, knew it would mean the death of many in the lower cities. She was abandoning them, her ponies, for what she could only hope to be the greater good. This would be her command, her judgement, and hers alone. She scanned the room, her gaze crawling upon each face, frightened or understanding, and let her resolve consummate her words. She alone, would bear this burden. After all, she was Queen, sister to princess Celestia, the light of their world--and she was the dark.


-------

Ten Years Later

-------


Twilight bolted through the streets of Canterlot, darkness bearing down on her. Mist robbed her of her clarity, scattering the lights of the houses and shrouding the night. She ran desperately, her legs utterly screaming as they strained to keep momentum and somehow stay silent at the same time. Four minutes till the bakery and two till the town square. She would make it, just barely but she would. Seven minutes until things got bad.

She still had seven minutes.

Her brother had wasted time. A lot of time. He always loved talking to her in the evenings, just before bed--he called it a brother-sister thing, though often, he would be the only one really talking, and often, he would fall asleep mid-sentence. She never really minded so long as he finished early, early enough for her nighttime endeavors. Tonight, however, he had talked for hours and hours, his voice electric, his excitement so clear. It’s a wonder that he didn’t wake everypony up; an even greater wonder he ever fell asleep.

His new found enthusiasm was driven by the news that Queen Luna would come to meet her ponies, and soon, though nopony knew when just yet. Still, it was enough to make Shining burst with life, his dream of becoming the first knight from the slums one step closer. He just needed the chance to prove himself, the chance to show his strength. He knew he could succeed with just one opportunity, and this could be it. Shining had searched for a chance all his life and now would be the moment for him to prove himself in front of royalty.

Twilight couldn’t believe it.

Twilight slid to a stop, resting against the side of a building. She gave an audible sigh, her dark lavender eyes blinking away at the pessimistic, dreadful thoughts. She had simply seen too much, read too much, experienced too much to be so damn naive. Gently, she rested a hoof against her chest, trying to calm her rapid breathing.

In two days time, the Queen would come. Twilight knew this, every pony knew this. Thje exam happened every years, after all.

And in truth, she did hope. Twilight was still young and with nothing to her name, but she still hoped. With a sigh, she turned and opened the bag that rested on her flank, setting it on the cobblestone. Carefully, she placed a solemn hoof on the one book that remained inside, her expression calming from the touch. The book was old, pages raw and yellow bound by broken spine, but it was strong, and it had survived. She removed her hoof and absorbed the red mark upon its cover as she always did, a little more faded, a little less there, but always present.

Her friend, her only friend, her dear friend and teacher, away and distant. She traced the mark with the tip of her hoof in the dying twilight of the light-shattering mist. The red mark consisted of three lines, two that extended from the top right to the bottom left and top left to bottom right, and a single third line that split the two down the middle, extending down like the handle of a staff or spire; the symbol of the plague and of her teacher.

She re-slung the bag across her flank with practiced effort. With a gentle shrug, she managed the bag better onto her side. Her chest felt tight against the strap despite it being large enough to have fit two Twilight Sparkles in its grasp. For a moment, she turned and pondered what she would do if Shining ever caught her--one night, he may just wake up and find that she was not there and that he would be waiting for her in the morning, or even worse, go out in the night and actually look for her.

Shining kept her company in day and night as best he could. She suspected he knew and if he ever caught her would certainly ask to accompany her. In truth, walking the night would be safer as a duo, more secure. But Twilight couldn’t subject him to that, not for her life. Even if walking alone was near infinitely more dangerous.

And Twilight was alone.

Around her, the city slept, candles kept lit within homes, the quiet, abating darkness invading every corner. There were no lights proper on the streets, only lights from inside homes, glimmering in the mist. Each small light guided her way, kept her hooves on the path. But with how often she had travelled this way, she didn’t need it, not really.

There were no other ponies here, only shadows of what used to be. Twilight’s mind caught glimpses of the Doctors, of the Plaguewings that lived in the night. The city slept soundly, lifeless and rough, but Twilight could still hear its heartbeat rumbling from the earth. The sewers ran all the while, grinding, scratching. Even those in their homes could hear it, the night’s peace invaded by the corrupted sound. The plague nestled there, swept out of the city through the great pipes; or so they tried.

Twilight had grown weary from the senseless noise, the sound having interrupted her studies and kept her away. So distracting, she often questioned its necessity. After all, the plague still ravaged many parts of the lower districts, latched on like a fat tic. But Twilight’s own territory provided it had some measure of success, and it did muffle her hooves as she walked.

Twilight scowled. The seven hundred odd nights irritation had grown on her. Seven hundred and thirty-one nights, to be exact, and not a single night softly endured. At times, even during the day, she could hear the sewers run, running at the back of her mind, long past when they had ceased their nightly function. And it was only getting worse. For Twilight, there was but one escape from the incessant noise, her mentor.

Twilight checked the time, mentally. She was quite good at tha-

The soft rumble under the earth came too early.

Twilight quickly checked and double-checked her bags contents: a book, two bits, a piece of bread, and a makeshift leather mask stuffed with leaves and garlic. Quickly, she ran through preparations in her mind, recalling the schedules of the tremors. A rupture broke off in the distance, followed by a dim hissing and a bolt of soundless green that, for the briefest of moments, dispelled the night-embracing mist. A whirring began immediately after, and then the ambient noise of the sewers returned. Relief washed over her if for only a second, before she snapped back to reality and hastened her pace. It was too early. The rupture had come too early. The next would be worse.

Twilight maintained her path by the walls, keeping away from the center of the roads. As she rushed, she kept a careful count of each and every step. Her mane stood on end. One was coming. It was hard to see in the mists, but she could feel it, the massive set of veins that existed below the city, magic pumping the sewage. She would make it. It would just take time.

A plume of vile gas erupted near her, brown yet still sickly green distinct against the dark fog. Twilight shuddered, her skull tingling, barely standing not to gag. She kept a hoof to her nose to help abate the smell of plague that proliferated from the earth, the sewer even now tearing new rifts into the above world. Magic pulsed through the sewers, pushing the plague out from the city like a heart and its veins. Twilight shuddered. Only nights smelled this putrid, only at night did the earth rend in two.

Twilight kept away from the center of the roads, preferring instead to stay by the walls. As she walked, however, she kept a careful count of each and every step, a hoof to her nose whilst she counted them. Five thousand paces from the orphanage now, only a hundred more to go.

Suddenly, a crash tore through the ambiance, making her fur stand on end. She paused, breath held, waiting, simply waiting for the plague doctors, dressed in black garb and of blacker countenance, to appear within the mists, for them to tell her that they had known all along about her nightly excursions. At long last, she’d be brought to justice. She shuddered, reliving the night Aqua Melody had been taken. They had come without warning, ripping her out of her bed, her arms flailing. She’d even dug in her hooves before Twilight’s door, screaming for help before she was knocked out, taken away without a word. The eyes of the orphanage had done nothing, Twilight had done nothing. Nothing could be done.

Time passed and no other sound had been made, no trap had been sprung, no plague doctors approached her in their masks expressing nothing. She was, at least for the moment, safe. She breathed out, sweat dripping down her back, cold in the night’s air. Only a hundred left. She smiled to herself, holding back laughter. She walked with confidence every night on this selfsame path, and she would do it again tonight as she would the next. She had already come so far. She had been scared during her first few excursions out at night, but she was much more confident now.

Careful.

Confident, but careful. The danger remained in losing her way, in having the others find her out when she didn’t belong. It was not, however, in finding another pony out at night, or rather, another pony finding her.The law forbade anypony from coming out at night. Shining wouldn’t be able to protect her then, she knew. Shining could only do so much. Twilight walked alone and the fact bothered her not one bit. The others hated the night, hated the mist that followed--plague-bearer, they called it. They were scared, scarred, but not her, no, not her. For her, the night was paradise--isolation from distractions, isolation from bullies, isolation from adults. It was her time and hers alone, and damn whatever foalish superstition that tried to stop her.

She rounded the turn after some hundred paces, following the walls until they reached the market stalls, and there, she let go of the wall and walked straight into the square, her eyes closed, breathing in. Fifty paces exactly and she stopped, open her eyes and watching the mist fall away around her. The square lifted up as it approached the hill the library sat on, there the library waited, seemingly at the edge of the world.

Her face lit up like fireworks. She loved this feeling, being beneath the night sky, surrounded by a glorious silence that always seemed to provoke a restlessness within her. A restlessness she could only taste where she was, when she was. She galloped to the library, hoofsteps still light as can be. She made use of her experience from the prior nights, still as quiet as she could be.

As she approached the stone steps of the library, she bowed her head slightly, giving thanks. She was always worried about the decrepit thing, anxious that one day it might just disappear, Once upon a time, the others had told her, from before the plague, the library was an absolute bastion of knowledge. The nobles would come down from beyond the gates and study within its walls. Back then, the Queen had its shelves adorned with books from even far off lands, from beyond the borders of Equestria and in languages only the most adept in linguistics could understand. Its architecture was of a new age, completely symmetrical with beautiful arches rising from pillars of white stone, decorated with stained glass that converted light into a palace of color, painting light on the canvas of white stone. At the back was a wall composed primarily of stained glass that faced off against the endless sky, filling all with warmth and color, a scene so powerful that it was said to have made even the most grown stallions cry.

But, the past had passed. Chill permeated through the library, death penetrated its walls. The stems of the bouquet were cut, the stone broken. Rags remained hung like tourniquets, slung across irreparable divisions where banners used to hang. The stained glass had long since been shattered, and only replaced by glass stained yellow. The details cut in the stone had all but worn away, and most of the books were missing now, destroyed, burned, or sold. Despite the poor showing, the library still welcomed Twilight, knowledge the only opulence she needed.

She entered the library slowly, handling the great wooden doors with tender care, opening them without a sound. As she stepped inside, she basked in the musty smell of old books, papers in leather bound. Across from her was the great window from the stories, letting in the gentle light of the full moon despite the grime. She would get around to cleaning it eventually, but that was a big eventually, littered with ifs and buts.

Besides, she liked the way it set the mood. Despite its breadth, it couldn’t quite light the library at night. Twilight herself could do better. With a small grunt, light spilled from her horn. The violet light was needed to see within the dark walls, giving illumination to a bubble around her.

The entryway alone spoke of neglect. Nopony managed the front desk of the library anymore, nopony had in years. A small host of tables stretched out directly in front of her, although many had fallen to pieces through the years. What had once been study spaces for scholars, or meeting areas for groups to work together, had now become naught more than scrap. There would be no more voices discussing the finer points of Aristotle.There would be no more foals listening with rapt attention to the words of a school teacher on a field trip.

None of these would ever come back, and the tables would remain eternally empty. Who would brave the nights, who would come into the lower districts, just to use a broken-down library with tables that could barely even remember their better day? Few remained, their integrity a merit to their craftsmanship. Truly, looking at them in depth would reward one with a wealth of knowledge of the craft. Even among the benches were tiny little figurines engraved and carved along the sides, decorating and turning into a work of art what would usually be functional at best. The tables themselves were magnificent, rich mahogany wood inlaid with simple but beautiful designs of varying colors. At least, a few still held it. The rest lay in shattered heaps from looting or carelessness.

She began perusing through the stores of the library, taking care not to step on any of the books that remained littered amongst the dirt and the rubble. Even now, when they truly were broken and beaten down into the literal dust, Twilight couldn’t help but see each one as a friend, or some adventure, or a hidden tryst that nopony must speak of. Such was the power of books.

Like the broken tables, these too would remain here. Any book worth coin had already been stolen long ago, and nopony had any interest in reading anymore. There were scant few in the lower city that even knew how to read at all, and among those, barely any had time to do what she was doing now. What pony besides Twilight would have the drive to crack open a tome of justice? What pony besides Twilight would read a romance of a kingdom from far away? There were none now. And thus, Twilight trotted on, leaving the books to their new homes. Some day, she’d reshelf them all. It had been some day for two long years now. But, with the Queen as her witness, she swore she’d do it. Some day.

Despite the disrepair, the library remained massive. Three upper floors lined the walls, closer to open hallways than actual floors. It was a very open sort of architecture, with each floor able to look down into the practical courtyard that was on the first. Save for the second floor, they met up against the wall that outlined the great window, with steps that led down to the former hall. The second floor, instead, went around completely, the great window in place right above it. It truly would’ve been a glorious place to sit back in the library’s heyday.

Below the window on the second floor sat a pedestal with no host, separated completely from the books that otherwise adorned everything. For those few shelves that still contained their treasures, the books and the pages held within were never guaranteed to be complete. Twilight knew this from experience. There was many a time when the climax of a work or a necessary page would simply be missing, abruptly halting her from any conclusion or possible understanding. She hated those times the most.

Twilight had moved to the other side now, closer to the great window, approaching the stairs that led to the second floor. As she made her way up, she glanced towards the center of the library, a mess of broken pillars that used to support the roof. They were truly massive, Corinthian style pillars, each one suited to seemingly bear the weight of the world on its shoulders. And Twilight had no doubt that each one could’ve at one point. Where they were once impenetrable fortresses of stone, now they were crumbling. Chunks of rock were missing entirely in all of them, and the majority had ruptured cracks running up the sides. Where there were formerly eight, there were now only five, and though Twilight was the sole Queen to this forgotten castle, she dared not venture to where the pillars had fallen. There, the ground had become unstable.

A more curious and much more naive version of herself had ventured there once. And only once, as the first time she’d meandered that far out, the floor had collapsed, leaving behind a dark, deep pit. If a pony got close enough, they’d just be able to make out the sound of the sewers, the great underbelly of the city, churning away every night. Close enough, and you could just smell the scent of the plagued water rushing underneath. Even worse, the tables had been piled high with books, only to have those tumble down into the abyss as well. The books left there could wait another day. Perhaps when she didn’t have other things already planned. Or perhaps when she was stronger. Or perhaps never.

On the second floor, she made her way down the path, away from the great window, taking just a second to look towards it. Under the window, a pedestal still stood, with just the half shattered legs of a pony on top of it. At one point, the statue had clearly been something majestic; the hooves alone were adorned with the kind of shoes that only a noble pony would wear, or one of royalty. She turned again and headed back down the path, the shelves lining the right side, the railing on the left, broken in several places. Her eyes avoided the black pit that loomed below, preferring instead to look to the right. Between each shelf was a thin dull window, looking somewhat yellow in the light of her horn, blocked from filth.The end of the floor had an alcove set into it, with a few benches surrounded something quite extraordinary.

Put simply, a beautiful statue of an alicorn dominated that space, wings outstretched, wide and accepting, embracing what should have been the moon if only the window had been cleaned, just a little. Her mane appeared majestic, cut to simulate movement even as it remained still as stone, and a gentle smile graced her lips, completing the look. A name, crudely worn away, adorned the base, but from how the effigy seemed, how she simply carried herself, Twilight could tell she was a goddess. She appeared absolutely radiant, even in the dark. Twilight always loved the look of the alicorn, so kind and welcoming, radiant, motherly even, but she could never quite shake the feeling that the alicorn was lonely, the pedestal on the other side being bare. Twilight honestly believed the lack of symmetry to be off putting, but she shrugged it off and continued.

Somepony had cut a small recess behind the statue, barely noticeable, which she pressed herself into. At first, there was a little resistance, but easily enough the compartment gave way. Twilight had to fight to fit herself inside, but she managed it eventually though it meant taking her saddlebags off entirely. Ever so gently, she levitated in her books and closed the compartment door behind her. The stone here looked and felt significantly different from outside, being composed of large, equally-sized rocks that appeared to be stacked upon each other as if without care. Narrow steps flowed along the side of the wall, leading to a door that opened upwards. With the practice of hundreds of night she flicked attic door open with magic and made her way inside. Here, Twilight called home, her true home.

Twilight squeezed her way through the narrow corridor, towards the attic. The passageway pressed against her tightly, constricting around her. When she had first came here, Twilight practically pranced through with room to spare, but now-a-days it grew harder. Oh, the joys of growing older. She popped her head through the trapdoor at the top first, and then slowly fought the rest of herself through. The saddle bag followed along like a duckling following its mother, her magic guiding its path carefully. More books were piled up here, almost lovingly sorted into stacks. Some pony had sorted them long ago, by subject and then by author.

Finding anything in one was easy, getting one out? Not so much. Thankfully, the secrecy of the area had preserved these books. None of the looters from the plague had managed to find their way into this sacred area. These were the last real books in the library. They were books of magic, and true history. They were books of great power, with words that could turn the very world to stone. They were books with stories of terribly powerful artifacts, that would let you hold infinite power in your hoof. Twilight’s own hoard.

There was a window in this particular room, though Twilight couldn’t figure out how. She’d come here during the day, and where this one was slotted, there existed nothing on the outside. Nevertheless, one small window was set into the wall, giving a tiny porthole into the world beyond. It was just enough to provide a scant ray of moonlight to peek into the room. Twilight often spent nights reading under that ray. A statue, much like the one from before, lay in pieces below the window. Its wings were shattered, only rough gouges remaining where they had once been. All four of its legs had been shorn off at the knee, or lower. The chest of it was pitted with missing stone, and the crown and horn had been torn off by some great force. Yet, the face remained whole.The statue lay on its side, pointed out towards the window, staring out into the night sky.

Something about it’s look welcomed Twilight in, capturing her attention with the two lifeless eyes. Whereas the first statue had felt off-putting and slightly lonely, this one felt much more friendly and caring. Which was strange, as the expression the statue wore could best be described as a grimace. It wasn’t exceptionally detailed, or crafted to perfection, in fact, it was destroyed, and the only care given to it was by Twilight’s amateur hooves. Yet, to Twilight it was perfect; this was her teacher.

Beside the statue,Twilight had built her nest. She had ‘commandeered’ some blankets and a little bedding from the orphanage to make a place to lay. They wouldn’t miss it, not really. Oddly enough, blankets were one of the few things they never ran out of it. It was somehow fashionable in the upper city to donate that kind of thing. Beautifully crafted blankets with stitchwork the naked eye could barely see? They had a hundred. Food? Not so much. Burnt out candles littered the area as well, tokens from her other late nights. One day, she’d clean it all up, yet another list on her long, tedious list.

Most importantly, her prized possession, a brass telescope, pointed out the window. Her teacher kept it under close guard, the only pony that she could truly trust in this world. Often times she would use it just to gaze at the night sky. Despite knowing next to nothing about it, gazing into that void with its star-studded landscape entranced the mare. She had spent many a night doing no reading and just staring off into space. She imagined some day she might go there, though to say it was a pipe-dream wasn’t strong enough. Notes and neatly stacked papers were arranged for her to record anything new she discovered, from different constellations to interesting bits of magic. All of it lay there, nearly a collection of its own. For now, they were dominated with discussions of teleportation, both from ancient tomes and her own, personal thoughts.

On the other side of the alicorn statue, Twilight stored her special collection. They weren’t just books, but special books. They had graduated from simple treasure to words of the goddesses themselves. These tomes were those marked by her teacher, specially designated for her to read. She was still unable to tell why they were marked, and that had even been the subject of many night’s studies. There wasn’t a real rhyme or reason as to which books were chosen, no underlying thread. She had tried nearly everything from authors, to subjects to certain key words. The books ranged in all sorts of subjects, from alchemy, to history, to magic. Everything. Their time periods were even different, some written within the past fifteen years and others dating back centuries. It just didn’t make sense to the mare, but it didn’t have to. Her teacher knew best, and that was all that mattered.

There was only one thing they did share, what marked them as her words of gospel. Every single one of them shared one thing; the red mark of the plague. Sometimes, the mark could be found quite easily. On the cover, or the spine, or where the author’s name would be. A simple sweep of the library proved sufficient to find those. Other times, her master liked to add a challenge to it. Twilight had found marks inside the books, on totally different pages. She had even managed to find one inside of a letter. One special book, the one that had led her towards teleportation had the plague mark inside of an ‘o’. That one had taken her weeks to find, and quite honestly, she only found it due to luck. She had time though, and was patient. No matter how hidden they were, Twilight managed to find one. Once a week, always.

No matter their subject, Twilight ravenously devoured their contents. These books were Twilight’s little treats. These were the things that kept the mare going, the carrot to the stick that was life. They were the balm on her weary soul, and the things that woke her up in the morning. She could imagine it now, when her teacher finally showed herself, the discussions they would have on why these books were chosen. What they were about, and how they could improve the filly and make her stronger. The mystery would be solved, and her teacher would be so proud of her. When they finally met, Twilight was ready, ready to prove her devotion. And what better way to do that then have a spell ready? Something that would really impress her master.

Twilight had studied for many moons now, preparing her ultimatum. A teleportation spell would surely impress her teacher. Something that could show her power. In terms of fit, she could think of nothing better— nothing else would show off her mastery quite as well. And of course it had to be this spell. Why else would her master have hidden the most difficult mark in a book on the subject? It was the only thing that made logical sense, after all. There was no reason why that one would be special, unless her teacher wanted her to learn that spell. Tonight would be the night she finished it, she had to. And so, Twilight nestled down into her bedding, beginning to pick a nearby reference guide. Studying would be the key, as always.

But, from downstairs, a voice filtered into the attic. That was...interesting. Nopony had ever been here with her before. For once, Twilight let hope light up her bosom. Was this it? Was that her teacher? What other pony would be out this late? What other pony would come here, where her hideout was perfectly hidden? Nopony else could know of her secret hiding spot. It could be nopony else, she felt sure of that. Her ears perked up and she started her way back down the stairs, giddiness keeping her steps light. She hesitantly smiled. Tonight was finally the night. It had to be.

Twilight stopped at the bottom of the stairs, right in front of the hidden opening. She peered out, into the small alcove where the statue rested, searching for the sound of the voice. Twilight had to get a peek of the mare - she was sure it was a mare- before she greeted her in the flesh. With the levity rising in her, it was hard to keep herself from shouting out, but somehow the young mare managed it. It would all be worth it in a few moments, when she spoke to her master for the first time. Twilight could practically smell the payoff, so very close now.


But instead of the single mare she thought it would be, two ponies stood, one mare and one stallion. The mare was the picture of classical beauty, long pink mane, against white coat. Twilight couldn’t particularly make out her cutie mark; the night was too dark and the alcove was cloaked in shadows. Perhaps this could be her teacher? She was certainly elegant enough, and her beauty unrivaled. Yet, Twilight couldn’t help but fight the feeling that it should’ve been somepony… more. That wasn’t to say the unicorn was worthless, or somehow a lesser pony, but she wasn’t what Twilight expected. Despite having no clear expectation, she just knew that she'd know when she saw her. Twilight knew with startling clarity that this mare could not be her master. Across from the mare, the stallion looked about as sophisticated as the outside shanties. He still wore clothes straight from work it seemed, a stereotype of a dock worker. Twilight’s nose wrinkled. Definitely not him.

“You’re absolutely, positively sure that there are no more of our books here?” the mare asked in a refined and cultured voice. The mare stared the stallion down, her horn radiating a dim, golden glow, although Twilight couldn’t tell for what purpose. Despite the external beauty, Twilight couldn’t help but feel a niggling sense of wrongness from the mare. Even her soft, melodious voice didn’t ease the edge away. Twilight suddenly wanted to be very far away from her, but yet… something also told her to stay close, and listen. And that something reminded her of her mistress’s voice, so stay close she would.

The stallion wilted under her gaze and took a step back. “Yea! Positive! We’ve looked, and look, nothins still here,” the stallion answered, looking anywhere but the mare’s eyes.

“Very well. Be careful, and be quick. You know what to do. There are infiltrators in our ranks, so think twice before talking to another. It won’t be the royal guard; my head is still attached to my shoulders after all.” The mare continued with a mirthless chuckle. Twilight could barely catch the edge of the mare’s count as she turned to leave and Twilight watched her go. Twilight’s eyes stuck on the form, her gentle gait reinforcing her beauty. Yet, Twilight would be careful with one like this: to plot so deeply that guards would kill on sight… Twilight couldn’t imagine. Despite wanting to push the night from her mind, Twilight committed the mare to memory. If only so she could stay far, far away from her in the future.

The stallion stood alone for a moment before shaking his head. He rubbed the back of his neck, head drooping low, before following the mare into the darkness.

Twilight waited, holding her breath in silence. Minutes passed, and slowly, ever so slowly, the sound of the hoofsteps faded away. Finally, Twilight emerged from the hole. She looked around, nothing looking awry at first. Twilight hesitantly stepped forward, taking her time to glance around. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She turned back to the hole, ready to get back to her studies when she spotted the difference. The statue’s chest had been split, the mark of the plague rending it open.

Author's Note:

Hope you enjoy.

Newly edited 12-7-2016

Chapter 2 is being edited now.