• Published 20th Nov 2019
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Dividing Infinity - Coyote de La Mancha



When Cadence destroys the Crystal Palace, Queen Twilight must find out why... before her world tears itself apart.

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Queen Twilight was in her sanctum when she heard about the destruction of the Crystal Palace. Then again, she was rarely anywhere else.

With her mortal friends and family passed on, her apprentices and their grandchildren dust in hallowed graves, only her fellow princesses had remained for her. Even Spike, powerful as he had become as an adult, had ultimately fallen in battle. And many years later, when her soul-weary mentors had finally faded into oblivion, only Cadence and Flurry had remained. But with them both living so far away, and so busy ruling their own empire and dealing with an ever-expanding family, even they hardly counted anymore.

Thus, no longer did Twilight Sparkle have her teachers, her students, or even her friends. Nor, she had determined, did she need any. Mentors left. Apprentices caused heartache. And friends…

Friends… kept dying.

Additionally, the world and its various peoples just kept changing, faster and faster. The old ways were too faded, and the new ones too transient, too protean. Withdrawal therefore was the only logical choice.

So, for the second time in her life, Twilight had retreated from the world and into her studies. In preparation for her reclusion, she had placed the sun and moon into co-dependent matrices. The stars would be omnipresent, she’d decided, hidden during the day by the sun’s superior brightness.

Then, her planetary responsibilities finished, she’d finally been free to seek the shelter of books and scrolls, especially regarding the dimensional magic she had been refining for the last several centuries. It had been with a certain sense of relief that she’d closed her castle door behind her, looking forward to the aeons of isolation that lay ahead.

Yet, it had seemed that the world of ponies was not done with Princess Twilight Sparkle. For after the departure of the princesses Luna and Celestia, the other Equestrians had come to a kind of consensus that she was now the sole ruler of Equestria. Irritated at first, but wanting to be true to the memory of her beloved teachers, she’d grudgingly agreed to hold an annual court in Canterlot. On that one day, her voice could be heard by any in attendance. Anyone could ask for a hearing, and her word would be law. Otherwise, the Princess of Friendship was not to be disturbed.

It was wisdom she had been seeking when she’d shut first herself away in her sanctum. Wisdom, through ultimate knowledge. And she’d continued seeking it even as her legend had grown. The former map room of her castle – now her study, her sanctum sanctorum, call it what you might –was her place of knowledge and power. The walls were lined with shelves crammed with books and artifacts, and tables covered with lab equipment stood everywhere. And in the centre, where once the map table had been, stood the Apparatus.

It had been Luna’s last words as she’d faded completely into shadow that had inspired the grieving alicorn to begin its construction:

Don’t be so sad, Twilight, please… there are worlds beyond this one.

It had been as though a thunderclap had cut through Twilight’s mind, jarring her awake from a grief-induced slumber. Of course there were other worlds! Other worlds, other Equestrias, all with their own stores of knowledge and lore. And she could learn from them all!

There had been limited dimensional travelling before that point, of course. Starswirl the Bearded, Sunset Shimmer, and a few others. But that had always been small scale, and often accidental. Uncontrolled, and therefore with minimum educational value.

Hence, the Apparatus.

The Apparatus was the means by which Twilight had made the impossible, possible. A massive fifth-dimensional device combining cutting-edge dimensional sorcery and time magic, the Apparatus was perpetually being improved by its mistress, upgraded with the science and sorcery gathered from hundreds of different worlds. It tracked and calculated the probability membranes between a virtually infinite number of divergent and parallel worlds, allowing travel thereto with ease.

The Apparatus did not open a gate; that might risk something from the other side coming through. Instead, it allowed a pony with a personalized amulet to teleport from their home dimension to another, and back again.

At first, the Apparatus had been comparatively simple. After completing the first amulet, Twilight had enjoyed visiting these other realms alone. It had been fascinating, speaking with other Twilights, learning the history and lore of other Equestrias and exploring the various might-have-beens these new worlds represented.

But, there had also been other Celestias. Other Lunas. Other Spikes. Other everypony. Sometimes, the pain had been more than she’d wanted to bear.

Additionally, Twilight had often been recognized when she travelled, which had caused problems on several occasions. Once she’d even met an undead version of herself, sustaining itself on the blood of those it ruled. Ravening for the lore that had led Twilight there, the thing had hunted her with all its power. And although Twilight had escaped, the encounter had left her shaken to her very soul.

Additionally, there was the question of her own traitorous heart. What if she found an Equestria where everyone she loved was still alive, but there had never been a Twilight born? Could she bear to leave? After a time, she realized she wasn’t completely sure.

The Royal Order of Interdimensional Scouts had therefore been the perfect solution. Their service had staved off both the pains and the temptations that other worlds might offer. It had also helped avoid unnecessary conflict… as well as evading another, even more personal fear.

The Scouts always travelled in teams of three, one Scout to represent the strengths of each of the pony tribes. She trained each of them herself, making them experts at survival, magical lore, investigation, and research. Then, once their training was done, the Scouts swarmed through the dimensions, finding and exploring timelines at a rate that their queen never could.

Their amulets, based on Twilight’s original design, would work only for the Scouts. Further, the Scouts were armored with special harnesses to protect them from hostile environments and allow them to blend with their surroundings, as well as being armed with hidden weapons of fire and frost.

Being thus equipped, Scouts were able to brave any terrain, accelerating their queen’s learning curve even further. And for many years, the Scouts had spread across the infinite possibilities like locusts of pure curiosity. They would explore, they would learn, they would record, they would gather data and artifacts. And ultimately, they would return to their monarch with their treasures. Treasures over which, along with her Scouts’ reports and downloaded amulet recordings, Twilight would endlessly pore.

Always a devoted scholar before, she had quickly become obsessed, amplifying her already unprecedented knowledge and power by many times, again and again. Twilight’s magic had continued to grow with her understanding of the universe and its workings, and that knowledge had come to a large extent from her studying the other worlds her Scouts explored. Her sanctum had expanded its inner volume slightly each year, filled with relics from divergent worlds, bursting with wisdom from other, varied dimensions.

Some of those dimensions were almost idyllic, like the ones where the Two Sisters had never fought and still lived on in endless joy, or where Discord was a hero and more ponies become alicorns with each generation, or even where a noble Sombra used his pure magic to protect his people, keeping the evil princesses at bay. The scrolls and books from such places had allowed Twilight to completely dispel hunger and disease from her world, as well as extend life dramatically for sapient creatures in every clime.

Other dimensions, meanwhile, were more dystopian. Here, a world where Nightmare Moon ruled alone. There, an empire where the Two Sisters had fallen before Sombra’s might. The dark magic tomes recovered from such places held forbidden lore undreamed-of, their twisted rites of binding keeping unnamable shadows at bay. Such knowledge protected Princess Twilight’s planet from out-world invasion, as well as from those Elder Things of which mortal ponies were best not knowing.

Likewise, not all the realms that Twilight discovered had much to offer her. Some Equestrias were lifeless, their lands barren and howling with unbroken, poisonous winds. Any artifacts from these worlds had to be kept behind specially leaded glass to block their deadly radiation, examined only through telekinesis. Other Equestrias were found completely destroyed, fragments of broken worlds drifting silently in an empty, starless void.

Others still were pure madness: Discord having never been cast down, or having fallen but later reclaimed his throne of chaos. In those worlds, there was no order, no plan, no hope. Only Discord, reveling in the random insanity that he wrought as he danced and writhed, surrounded by the music of idiot flute players and biped beavers.

Twilight Sparkle had visited only one such world, when the Apparatus was still new and she was the only explorer. When she’d appeared, the chaos god had paused just long enough to wink and leer at her, Hello, Twily. You’re looking well. Care to stay?

Terrified, she’d fled back to her own Equestria and powered the Apparatus down, shaking uncontrollably.

The Discord she had known had retreated to the Castle of the Two Sisters when Fluttershy had died, so many years ago. He had been many things, but so far as she knew he was never omniscient. So when Twilight had regained her composure somewhat, she had gone to where he’d dwelt, asked him how his other self had known her.

But Discord had only laughed.

She never sought out the Lord of Chaos again. Instead, she had founded the Scouts, training ponies to explore dimensions in her place. Nor was Discord seen by anypony afterwards, his legend fading gracefully into myth. It was only when, decades later, she’d asked one of the Scout teams to seek out the draconequus in his lair that she had been tactfully informed of his disappearance.

It seemed that while Her Highness had been busy with her own concerns, the castle had been converted into a museum. The Everfree Forest had been tamed, rebuilt, and ultimately absorbed into the growing and thriving metropolis of Ponyville. All that remained of the forest was a large and well-maintained park. And throughout that process, of the draconequus there had been no sign.

Yet, even then, Discord’s fate was of little concern to the monarch. Twilight had just discovered a new breakthrough, allowing the Apparatus to reach into even more dimensions. And while the Lord of Chaos’ input would have been helpful in her current research, it was hardly vital. Of much greater importance, more dimensions being discovered had called for more Scouts.

Many, many more.

When Twilight had first begun recruitment, there had only been one team of three. By the time she’d heard about Discord’s having vanished, years had passed, and there had been nine teams. With her new breakthrough increasing the Apparatus’ reach exponentially, she’d increased her beloved Scouts likewise. The flow of knowledge coming to her had increased geometrically from then on.

Now there was hardly time for anything else. Not that Twilight minded, of course. Aside from her annual court, the outside world held little to interest her anyway.

Such disinterest, however, had not been mutual. Rumors of the immense power that Princess Twilight was gaining had inevitably spread. Terrified of what such undreamed-of power might mean, the northern kingdom of Yakyakistan had declared war. Equestria had responded in kind. Armies had been amassed, diplomacy attempted and failed. Lives were lost.

Finally, word had reached the princess in her sanctum that people were dying. Twilight had frowned, and thanked the young messenger. Then, turning her attention to the Apparatus, she’d summoned her Scouts back to their own world. After all, it wouldn’t do for one of her teams to suffer because she was distracted with local matters.

Once they were all safely returned, Twilight had ascended to her highest tower. She’d looked out to the north, her ancient senses piercing the distance as though it were nothing. The Alicorn Queen’s horn had glowed a soft violet, and a great wind had blown over both armies. Every one of the thousands of combatants on both sides had simply frozen in that north-bound wind, unharmed but unable to move, even as each weapon and piece of armor on the battlefield had crumbled into a purple-colored dust. Above them, the sun had burned a dark indigo and violet, the newly-revealed stars spelling out two words from horizon to horizon:

GO HOME.

Had she still relied on spells, such an act would have been a taxing affair, even for her. But thanks to her continual research, Twilight had by this time transcended the need for mere enchantments. Magic, even reality itself, simply re-ordered itself to her liking. So, once the conflict was dealt with, Twilight had simply alerted her Scouts that they might return to the worlds they’d been exploring. Then she’d gone back to her own interests, and put the matter out of her mind.

But where she had seen a simple solution to a bloody and needless war, the rest of the world had seen a demonstration of power beyond anything in legend. In the face of such terrible might, the Yaks had almost immediately sworn themselves to Equestria’s banner. Sending diplomats and tribute, they had pledged themselves to the Queen of Light and Darkness for a thousand-thousand moons. In the months that followed, other kingdoms and nations had begun to follow suit. By the time Twilight re-emerged to hold her annual court, she’d found herself suddenly dealing with the concerns of a sprawling empire.

Five years after that, Queen Twilight’s empire had spanned the world.

Within twenty years of what historians eventually came to call Dark Day, every tribe, clan, and nation had been integrated into the Great Hierarchy of Power, with Equestria securely at the top. Travel across great distances had become commonplace. And with such travel, of course, came trade. Soon afterward, currencies had become standardized and translator amulets had spread throughout the realm. Books were translated into dozens of languages, universities and magical centers of travel and communication were planned and built in scores of kingdoms.

Thus had war been brought to an end throughout Twilight’s world, within a single generation. And, less well-known, thus did Her Dread Majesty also learn to tread carefully when dealing with the mortals around her.

Meanwhile, there were by this time exactly one hundred teams of Scouts, a community unto themselves. They were constantly moving in and out of phase, materializing in pre-arranged adjoining chambers within the World Queen’s own castle. There they were debriefed by Twilight or one of her hoof-picked research assistants, later to rest in their apartments in her castle, eat, talk, live and make love… and then leave again a few days later when a new world was found.

And there were so many worlds! As Twilight’s excitement mounted over time, she became more and more driven. If there was a limit as to what timelines could be found and entered, she had yet to discover it. Theoretically, there was an infinite number of worlds being created with every passing second, multiplied by the infinite choices made and the infinite random factors influencing them, multiplied again by how many infinities of worlds there had already been, only a second before… a literally immeasurable multiverse to explore, with all its endless lore unfolding before her!

At first, she had communicated with her Major and Minor Domos when necessary, and avoided conversing with her Royal Guard or the nobility whenever possible. But as the years had slid past her more and more quickly, even that much contact with the outside world had almost completely faded away.

Now, she spoke with nopony else unless holding her annual court. She did not even emerge from her sanctum. There was no reason to waste her time thus. Magic sustained her without the need for food or drink; she had a cot in her lab when she needed rest. Meanwhile, the flow of Scouts and the data they brought was endless. They were almost the only ponies she spoke to any more. Usually as part of debriefing them, though occasionally simply talking to them about their journeys and experiences.

Meanwhile, the Apparatus was reaching more timelines than ever. Twilight was preparing to increase its reach again with more freshly-trained recruits, as soon as her newest improvements to it were complete. Limitless, universal understanding was almost within her grasp. And every day, it grew closer.

Every day, until the news came that Princess Cadence had destroyed her own castle… with herself, her daughter, her grand-children, and everypony else still within.