• Published 21st Oct 2017
  • 4,907 Views, 337 Comments

Sparks Catch - Tale Swapper

Sunset Shimmer has emerged from the events of Anon-A-Miss with deeper bonds with her friends- and a proper home for the first time in a decade. The fires of friendship burn brightly within her. But Friendship is magic, and fire tends to catch...

  • ...


To any casual observer, the front of Canterlot High School would seem to be an example of a picturesque winter photo. The school building was blanketed in white, lights gleaming cheerfully in the windows, with a group of students gathered on the front steps.

To to anyone who actually bothered to approach the school, it would become obvious that the scene was far less picturesque. Melted patches of snow and deep footprints thrusting through steaming slush revealed the battle which had recently concluded. Any listener would also fail to hear any sounds of winter cheer over the exasperated voice of the school's principal- and the scattered giggles from the small group gathered in front of the statue.

Celestia groaned, planting her hand in her face. "Discord, I am not disparaging the help you gave us today. Nor am I objecting tot he use of your new magic to aid our students, rather than torment them." She raised her gaze to fix on the widely grinning face of her most obnoxious, if effective, janitor. "However, I have to strongly object to the... modifications you made to the statue."

Discord rolled his eyes. "Oh come now- I put it back, just as you requested, didn't I?" His grin grew even wider as her turned to study the formerly animated statue. "Besides, I made certain it was standing on it's hind legs, same as before. What's the problem."

As Celestia opened her mouth, Luna cut her off with a frown. "One, I'm concerned people will question how a stone statue had its position changed without extensive construction work. Two, I believe Celestia is confused about where you got the stone sunglasses." Peering up at the statue, she frowned. "And third, Gangnam style is horribly outdated. It seems a bit beneath you to make such an... overused reference."

Discord looked up at the posed statue and frowned. "Hmm... you may be right." Glancing back at the sisters, he grinned at Luna. "What do you think I should do, then? Maybe something appropriately retro? Disco, perhaps?"

Luna frowned at Discord, then shook her head. Glancing at her sister, she frowned. "Honestly, Tia. If you're going to drag Discord into an argument, at least wait until we've resolved this crisis. I think these considerations could wait until later. I believe Ms. Scootaloo is waking up- and this world's Twilight Sparkle appears to have had a major adrenaline crash."

Across the battered yard, Scootaloo slowly stirred to life in her brother's arms. For a few moments, she merely luxuriated in the lack of splitting headache- before the memories of what had happened-

Scootaloo screamed, springing to her feet. No, no, no- Glancing across the grass, she quickly took a headcount. Sunset, Rarity, Pinkie, Mr. Discord, other Twilight... before nearly collapsing, falling to her knees. Her brother was on her in a matter of seconds.

"Scootaloo, are you-" Flash began, before the little girl beneath her began to shake. Kneeling down, Flash found himself facing his sister's trembling face.

Scootaloo's voice shook. "Is- is everyone okay?"

Flash glanced around. "No one's injured, I think." looking back at his sister, he frowned. "Scoots- what happened? I'd heard you tried to get magic, but..." His voice trailed off as Scootaloo whimpered, curling up into a ball on the ground.

"I did. I did get magic- but..." A small head shook back and forth. "I didn't have any control, it was like something was driving me forward. And-" she swallowed "There's something there, thoughts that aren't mine. Whatever it was that did it- it's not gone."

Footsteps crunched through half-melted snow, and Flash glanced over to see Sunset's boots standing a few feet away. Sunset knelt down, looking into Scootaloo's eyes. Narrowing her gaze, she seemed to focus for a moment, then a red glow appeared around her hand. Scootaloo recoiled from the glow, but Flash held her firmly. As the red light passed over Scootaloo, Sunset's frown deepened. Sighing, she let the magic drop. "It looks as though there's still a touch of magic in you; most likely the manifestation of your own power. I can't tell what type of magic, but it's there. Whatever possessed you, it seems to have left something behind."

"Magic?" Sunset stood, turning to look at the source of the familiar voice. This Twilight Sparkle, however, was mouthing the word with unfamiliar hesitation. Other differences stood out in Sunset's mind: tapping feet and drifting eyes gave away the anxiety this Twilight wore openly, something her counterpart had slowly brought under control. Twilight swallowed. "I mean- I'm not sure I should be the one to contest it, but isn't that a little unprofessional? It's just some branch of physics we don't understand, so calling it magic..."

Twilight stopped, glancing around. Everyone except Shining Armor was looking at her with a mixture of disbelief and exasperation- or in the case of some of the girls, open amusement. She turned back to Sunset as the red-haired girl began to speak. "Twilight, there's a reason I never bothered to document magic, or tried to publish any research on it." She gestured at the base of the statue. "I may have the most training in what magic is in this world, but magic, and those that really understand it, come from another. That's why I haven't done any research; up until the last few days, what you think is something new was something I studied for years."

Twilight stared at her, blinking a few times. "So when Ms. Celestia told me that you weren't going to publish your findings, she meant they weren't yours to begin with. But, wait, but if you're not, then who was I supposed to..."

"Oh, I am the most qualified to explain magic. In this world, at least. But I called in an expert- someone with more recent and complete understanding of magic- to come and help me figure out what's been happening recently." Sunset looked back at the statue plinth, which was starting to glow with a familiar magenta light. Inside, Sunset felt her tense anxiety vanish. Things were stabilizing, and even better, help was finally arriving. Then a cheeky thought wandered into her mind. "Still, I didn't want you to meet her. It would be a little weird. No help for it now, though."

Twilight hesitated, ignoring Discord clapping a hand over Shining Armor's surprised exclamation, and the looks of relief and amusement which appeared on the faces of the gathered Rainbooms and CHS staff. As a familiar figure approached Twilight from behind, Twilight spoke. "Weird? Why would meeting some fantastical magical expert be weird?"

"If I had to guess, it's because it would raise a lot of questions." Twilight Sparkle froze, then slowly turned- coming face to face with a very familiar visage. Princess Twilight Sparkle smiled at her. "Hello, Twilight Sparkle. I'm Twilight Sparkle. It's a pleasure to meet you."

Twilight Sparkle opened her mouth, staring at the princess for a few moments. Closing her eyes, she shook her head. "Who- wait, what?"

Sunset sighed, then spoke up. "The portal leads to an alternate dimension, where individuals from one side are reflected across to the other. In the other world, Twilight Sparkle is the foremost researcher into Interpersonal Bond Magic-"

"Colloquially known as the magic of Friendship." The Princess was looking around, a slight glow absently gathering around her hands. "What happened here, anyway? It feels like right after a magic surge; there's a lot of raw magic still floating around."

Twilight swayed on her feet. "Parallel dimensions? I mean-"

Shining Armor put his hand on Twilight's shoulder. "It would fit with the sightings of your doppelganger we've gotten in the force." Shining glanced at his sister, whose eyes were wide open. "We've been keeping an eye on the activity here, Twiley. There've been three major incidences here since the beginning of the school year, and a girl matching your description showed up during the first two. It's only because I knew you had an alibi that we haven't tried to track down the one unregistered person from the whole affair."

Princess Twilight glanced up, then smiled. "I'm glad to hear that you're as competent as my brother, Captain Armor."

"Thank you, miss. But um, I'm not a captain."

"Really? That's interesting." The princess glanced at Shining, then frowned. "I wonder what else is different? Are you dating Cadance in this world, by any chance?"

Twilight laughed. "My brother, dating the dean? That would be crazy, right?" She looked up at her brother. "After all he would have told me, wouldn't he?" Shining's look of dismay only grew. "Shiney?!"

As the younger Sparkle began to harass her brother, Pinkie Pie glanced around. She put her hand to her lips and gave an ear-splitting whistle. "Alrighty gang, everyone's here! So, we should probably go ahead and saddle up. I've got refreshments waiting at Sugarcube corner. Let's go!"

Everyone stared at Pinkie for a moment. Finally, Rainbow Dash spoke up. "Wait- what?"

Pinkie glanced around, then muttered under her breath "Nuts. I was hoping for an easy scene transition this time." Clearing her throat, she explained. "Last night, I got a shaky in my left foot, right hip, and spine, which means prepare for extra gauests, so I reserved Sugrcube Corner instead of just expecting our table to be clear for Twilight. So, instead of talking about he highly important, kinda-secret, maybe-magical stuff in front of the school, I figure we can all go over to the corner, get some snacks, and warm up. Sound good?"

A round of affirmations rose form the group, save from Vice-Principal Luna. "Ms. Pie, I'm sorry, but Celestia and I can;t just leave the school behind-"

Celestia shook her head. "Luna, I already put our out-of-office on. We've got a one hour break before we need to be back in class- and I, for one, am not going to pass up a chance to get some immediate answers for once. We're going."

Shining was about to speak up, when he felt a small hand grab his elbow. His sister sighed. "Shining, I need to go. This- I went to far, but I still need answers." She paused, then glared up at him. "And I want to find out how my brother started dating my favorite teacher behind my back."

Shining groaned. This was going to be along car ride...

Shining Armor staggered in through the front door of Sugarcube Corner, a haunted expression gracing his face. Looking around, he wasn't surprised to see most of the restaurant empty, save for the slowly growing group of people gathered in the back. Even more surprising was the array of sweets and snacks laid out across the counter, the mulling station located in the back of the room, and the grinning face of Pinkie Pie bouncing out of the kitchen.

As Shining watched, Pinkie bounced over to the gathering crowd, setting down a tray of sandwiches. "Eat up, guys! Magic makes you hungry, or so Twilight told me, so I guess it might be different here than in the other world. Oh, hey Twilight!" Bouncing over to the entering twins, she began to bounce in place. "Or, hey Twilights? I mean, I know one, who's the princess, but the other's new and not-a-princess, but calling one Princess all the time would get really weird, and I can't just call you both Twilight. Calling one old-Twilight or not-Twilight seems wrong, but-" Pinkie's voice was cut off as one of the Twilights slapped their hand across her mouth.

Twilight Sparkle (Princess) glanced at Pinkie for amoment, opened her mouth to speak, then hesitated. She looked around the room att he gathering crowd of her friends. "You know, Pinkie does have a point. How should we differentiate between the two of us? Verbally, I mean." Glancing over her counterpart, she frowned. "Why do you wear glasses?"

The human twilight glanced back at her counterpart, and frowned. "I... I think the better question would be, why wouldn't you?" She paused, then said "I mean- I know the energy-"

Sunset cut her off. "You mean magic, right?"

Twilight flinched. "...well, yes. But, please, this is strange enough already. Whenever you call... whatever it is you do magic, it makes the scientist in me scream." She adjusted her glasses. "Anyway, I know... magic," she said, barely choking out the word, "has a reinforcing effect on the body. So, maybe it repaired your vision as a matter of course?"

Princess Twilight blinked. "I didn't think of that. Still, my friends- Rainbow and Pinkie, mostly- call me Twi. Do you think that would work as a proper nickname?"

There were murmurs of assent from the entire group. Twi took a moment to look around, quickly taking in the decor, the food, and the people gathered. Besides the Rainbooms, Shining Armor, and the Crusaders, several unexpected additions had joined the proceedings. Flash Sentry sat next to his sister, occasionally shooting her a glance which hovered somewhere between relief and anger. Principal Celestia and her sister were sitting in the corner, watching the proceedings. Celestia looked tired, while Luna simply looked exasperated. Discord had already helped himself to two cheese danishes and was layering slices of cheddar between them to make an impromptu sandwich, ignoring the normal sandwiches sitting in front of him. Aria, meanwhile, was not, her half-eaten ham and Swiss clenched in one hand, a mug of hot cider in the other.

As Twi was about to open her mouth to speak, she heard the bell over the door jingle. Turning, she saw a familiar face enter. Big Mac pulled a hat off his sandy hair, quickly moving past the two Twilights. Within seconds he'd crossed the distance to the Crusaders, and lifted Apple Bloom away from her friends, glancing over her. He carefully positioned her in his grip, then dragged her into a hug, careful to avoid her bruises. As he let her go, he spoke in a soft voice. "...heard you were in the thick of things this time, Bloom. Glad you'e okay."

Applejack glanced at Sunset- then frowned. "Sunset? Did you let Mac know what happened?"

Sunset shook her head. "No. And I know Celestia and Luna didn't have the chance either." Pausing, she glanced at her big brother. "But I think that question can wait. We've got bigger issues to deal with."

Coming to her feet, Sunset cleared her throat. As she watched, the small conversations that had begun to rise up slowly settled down. "Alright- now, I'm sure you all have a lot of questions-"

She paused, then glanced back and forth. "...I'm suprised." She said after a beat. "I expected you all to dump every question on me at once."

Flash spoke up first. "I trust you, Sunset." He looked down at his little sister. "And besides, I saw what happened to Scoots- all I want to know is why."

There was a nervous gulp from two tables down. Twilight looked down at the cup clenched in her hands, the cocoa held within barely touched. "I- I have a lot of questions. But- I-" She shook her head. "Wanting to know about this caused a lot of damage. If you don't want to tell me..."

Sunset opened her mouth, but was cut off as Shining Armor spoke up. "Twilight, I told you before that you were being too reckless. But I also know how much this means to you." He reached over and tilted up his sister's chin. "You didn't listen earlier. But this- it seems big. You're already involved, and you need to learn more. Still, I think we need to lead with an apology."

"Apologies." All eyes gravitated towards the small purple-haired girl sitting next to her brother. "I didn't know," Scootaloo said softly, "What would happen when I tried to get magic on my own. I didn't mean anyone to get hurt. But-" She shook slightly. "There was something alive there. Something which wanted out. When I was hurt- it took over. To protect me, and itself. But I- I let it in. And I'm sorry."

Twilight nodded. "I should have known better than to stick my nose into this, to not even listen to someone with practical experience, if nothing else. I wanted hard data, something i could submit to a paper, but that doesn't excuse me barging in." She hung her head. "Scootaloo, you got hurt because of me. And a lot of you guys fought for us, even though I'm the one who caused this."

Applejack spoke up. "Ah get that both of you wanted somethin'. Neither of you coulda predicted what would happen, but you were both damn fools for rushin' in. Scootaloo, this is the second time you've run headlong into somthin' stupid; the only reason Ah ain't more upset is because this time, you only thought it could hurt you, not anyone else. Twilight, you took a bigger jump then Scoots did, but you didn't mean no harm either."

"Well said, darling." Rarity glanced up over her tea. "Do we all concur?" Murmured assent came from across the room. "We will have more to discuss with each of you; I know Flash is going to want to have words with you, Scoots. However, I admit to still being enthralled by this notion of living magic. Do we have more details?"

Sunset cleared her throat. "I suspect that the new magic isn't really alive, as such. It didn't really think when we were fighting it." Looking over at Twi, she gave a small shrug. "I haven't run into sentient magic before, but I think you mentioned magic that had a will before. Like the elements, or that Inspiration Manifestation, right?"

Twi nodded. "Yes; magic is heavily influenced by emotions, and the will of those that create magic can influence the caster. However, I'm not certain that magic could take on a mind of its own. It seems-"

"Hmph. I guess that's something you guys forgot." All eyes turned towards Aria as she took a bite out of her sandwich. Swallowing, she continued. "I've only seen it a few times before, but in Equestria, the first Windigo was born of a magic spell gone wrong. Some idiotic Unicorn spellcaster tried to create a self-sustaining weapon fueled by his hatred for Pegasai, and the spell got away from him. Happened a few times after, whenever a Unicorn tried to cast spells in hatred; the Windigos would eat the spell, then use it to make a new member of the herd." She took another bite, then swallowed. "Still, I don't know how it happened. Just that it did, and within a century there were enough Windigos to really threaten the tribes."

Twi's mouth opened and closed. "Wait, what? Windigos were-"

"Something that needs the emotions of sapients to propagate would need to come after the development of intelligence." Sunset mused. Then her eyes widened. "Wait- so does that mean-"

"Yeah. Changelings were an attempt to make a counter-weapon to Earth Pony hearth magic. Something that ate love was a perfect weapon against a tribe whose tight-knit communities were their main strength. And of course, some Earth Pony ritualist bound Seapony captives to create a weapon capable of turning Pegasai against each other, leading to the first Sirens." She looked down at her sandwich, then took another bite.

Twi shook her head, glancing at the confused looks at those around her. "Okay- back on track. So, self-directing magic can create intelligence. I guess the original magic surge had strong enough survival instincts to "imprint" on Scootaloo."

"Seems 'bout right." Apple Bloom spoke up. "When that thing was in my head, it didn't wanna hurt no one- it jus' wanted ta get to Scoots, make sure she was safe." Bloom frowned. "Still, why didn't this happen before? After the formal, or the Battle for the Bands?"

Twi looked around. "Do we know if the magic here's been increasing? I have a couple of theories, but without data-"

Twilight spoke up "I've been tracking the relative and absolute levels of- magic," she nearly choked on the word, "Over the last three months, the levels surrounding the school have increased, and it's starting to spread. Is that going to cause trouble?"

"Short answer? Yes." Twi glanced at Sunset. "Magical surges can have complex and long-lasting effects; if it weren't for Princess- I mean, my tutor, my parents might have remained houseplants for a while." Shining Armor looked a little green. "But, I have a theory why Sunset was able to use magic now, and not before. Sunset, could you stand up for a moment?"

Puzzled, Sunset complied. Twi stood up, and looked Sunset up and down. "As I thought- you've filled out a bit. You were a little on the scrawny side last time I saw you."

"That's what granny keeps sayin'." Rumbled Big Mac as his adopted sister blushed.

"I thought so. Sunset, do you remember the Kalorie-Whistle connection?"

Sunset thought a moment, her embarrassment overcome by her urge to know more. "Well- wasn't that the conservation theorem, where ponies under bodily stress would be unable to use their magic?" As Twi nodded, Sunset figured it out. "You think that my malnutrition kept me from using magic when it was more difficult, then when I was healed there was a stronger magical field in place?"

"Exactly. It was suddenly much easier for you to use your magic, resulting in the magic surge you expressed. Still, it doesn't explain why magic works so differently here."

"Maybe cause it's a different race?" Everyone turned to look at Pinkie Pie. "I mean, you told me that your magic over there was shaped by the Tree of Harmony and Cutie Marks, and the Solar-Lunar Convergence Array, and Ley Lines, and all that. But we don't have that here! So why wouldn't it be different?"

"That's true." Sunset muttered. She pulled in a deep breath. "Scootaloo's rider stabilized the magical connection between this world and Equestria, so there shouldn't be any more headaches. And it seems as though magic has stopped bonding to everyone it meets."

"So, things go back to normal?" Celestia said hopefully.

"No." Twi looked pensive. "The magic stabilized itself. It's survival instincts won't force it to seek out new people, but it's still present, and the flames of magic are now here to stay. This world is slowly getting magic- and I have no idea what that will do."

Author's Note:

3 Months. I'm sorry, but classes were hectic, my muse abandoned me, and Breath of the Wild stole my time.

Still, my muse came back. Expect less frequent updates, but the show will go on!

This chapter originally had a lot more involved; I planned on having Cadance, Adagio and Sonatra show up before the end. However, that was one of the reasons my muse abandoned me; I tried to force too much into one chapter, and paid the price.

Still, we now know a little more about how the magic is sinking into this world. Everything from here on out is going to be different, simply because Sunset's been a little better fed. I told you something I said back at the end of Myriad Thoughts was important!

The next chapter will probably be out in a week or so. Sci-Twi and Scootaloo have some more explaining to do; but so does Aria, Big Mac, and Discord. Get ready for more world-building, more deep talking, and more Pinkie madness, because-

We're having a slumber party!

Oh hell no- get back in my story!

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