• 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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III...

Queen Twilight stared at the burned devastation that remained of the farm in a mild state of shock. Here was the barn, once huge and red, now burned black and sagging. The hen house was a charred wreck, and what had been a sprawling ranch house was now a mass of sad kindling, new plants growing up through the ruin. Whatever had happened, it had been months since the fires had died down.

Reluctantly, she moved into the orchards, walking among the charred corpses of the Apple family’s pride and joy. Nature had already been at work, using the dead wood as nests, food, and shelter. Even the comforting smell of old trees and apples had vanished, replaced by the scents of new grass and young saplings. The land and its life cycle was still alive and well, but the orchard was gone.

At length, she stood before a charred stump, once shared by two trees. It stood in the middle of a clearing marked by other charred and crumbled remains. This was where the worst of the devastation was, and so probably where the conflagration had started. Then the winds would have fanned the flames, turning it into an inferno. Firefighters must have had their hands full just containing the blaze to the orchard and homestead.

And no one had told her, because she was ‘the Queen.’ And ‘the Queen’ hadn’t wanted to be bothered.

With a sigh, she collapsed into a sitting position before the scorched remains.

Wait. She frowned. Why hasn’t any of this been repaired? With a terrible suspicion, she rose again and began spiraling out from the center of the glade. It was only then, when she regarded the small clearing specifically for the telltale shapes in the grass, that she saw the bones of those who had died in the blaze.

Damn it, she thought. I’m so sorry, Applejack. Your family, your traditions, your descendants…

Shaking herself, she took in a breath, then released it. Fine. Deal with what I can do now. If nothing else, I can bring the murderers to justice. Her horn glowed a soft magenta as she concentrated, time itself becoming slightly softer in the area. Grass shrank down, fire flowed backwards, ponies rose and un-coughed smoke. Then, she let it run forward again.

And stared, horrified.

One of the Apples, a young stallion with a rifle, all of maybe thirteen, surrounded by corpses. His mother and sister, still alive with a few other foals. His mother begging him to spare the young ones, to just tell her why…

“It don’t matter, Mama,” he said. “Nothing does.” And he threw down his lighter, the accelerant he’d spread around catching in an instant inferno of blue.

As the flames leaped higher and the ponies screamed, Twilight could hear the oldest Apple speaking softly to the crying child in her arms, trying to comfort her.

“Just stay with me, honey. It’s okay. Breathe it in. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Just breathe, baby. Breathe.”


The commissioner’s office was disorganized, the stallion himself terrified. That suited Twilight’s mood perfectly.

After watching the deadly fire start, Twilight had gone back further. Young Pippin Apple had been fiercely intelligent, dedicated to his studies, dutiful at home, and loving to his family. For a few months, he had been less diligent at school and home, but nothing to explain the atrocity she had seen. There had also been no sign of magical interference, possession, or impersonation. No poisons, no unusual animal activity, no strange weather. No jilting would-be marefriend or coltfriend, no major troubles at home. He’d just gone insane, apparently.

And no one, in Twilight’s experience, ‘just went’ insane.

So, law enforcement files had seemed the next logical step. The outer police had been helpful enough. Likewise the receptionist: a young green-colored foal, probably working as an intern. However, when she’d found and queried the pony in charge of the department, Twilight had discovered something completely other than logic at work.

“What the hell do you mean there was no investigation!?” She roared, looming over his desk, wings unfurled and eyes ablaze.

The walls groaned softly, corners of the room seeming to melt away into shadow as she went on, “What is this, the Stillwater PD? Are you fucking Barney Fife!? The most well-known farm in Ponyville history destroyed, over a dozen ponies dead, an entire extended family burned to death, and you didn’t look into it at ALL!?”

In the distance, lightning flashed in a clear sky, and the winds lashed at the building’s outer walls.

“SINCE WHEN IS PONYVILLE GUARDED BY THE KEYSTONE FUCKING COPS?!?”

But instead of answering, the commissioner just fell to his knees, eyes screwed shut. “Oh, Celestia,” he whispered. “Lorraine, I love you…”

Twilight blinked, then looked down at him, shame flooding through her. What was she doing? He wasn’t the enemy. Not to mention that he’d never studied parallel worlds, so most of what she’d just said was probably just gibberish to him anyway.

So much for my vaunted intellect, she thought ruefully. Poor guy probably thinks he’s got some crazed demon in front of him, when actually it’s just me just being stupid.

She forced herself to calm down, at least externally. She pulled in her wings and her power, the room’s natural geometry reasserting herself as she did, the weather abating once more. In front of her, the stallion still cowered.

Damn it, she winced. Twilight, you screaming bitch.

She focused, and a small crystal cup appeared in the air before him. An instant later, a miniscule storm cloud materialized above it, pouring fresh rainwater into the container while it popped and flashed its tiny lightning bolts. Simultaneously, she reached out gently with her mind, reducing his fear of her as well as she could.

“Here,” she said. “I’m sorry. Drink this, and try to calm down. I’m not angry at you. I’m angry at what happened. You’re not in any danger, I promise. I never harm the messenger. And really, I’m sorry I frightened you.”

He took the cup gratefully, drank the water in a few hasty gulps, hooves still shaking slightly.

“When I saw the farm… it re-opened some old wounds,” she went on. “Things I’d thought I’d dealt with, and I hadn’t. Plus I’m still dealing with another matter, even closer to home. Then, add that to what happened, what I saw there…”

She sighed. “I should have monitored myself more closely, and I didn’t. I really am sorry. It won’t happen again. I promise.”

The Queen peered at him. “Are you going to be okay?”

He nodded.

“Can we start over?” she asked.

He nodded again.

“All right,” she said evenly.

She took a deep breath, released it. “There was no investigation into the Sweet Apple Acres mass murder. Can you tell me why?”

“We’ve…” he started, then lapsed into silence.

“Yes?” she prompted, in what she hoped was an encouraging voice.

“It’s just… we’ve been so swamped,” he said, miserably. “There have been so many strange deaths, suicides, homicides, mixes of both…”

She stared. “What? How many? For how long?”

“In retrospect, we figure it started in tiny amounts, around ten years ago or so,” he said. “Maybe as far back as twenty, in truly rare, isolated events. We can’t be sure. But it only became a noticeable pattern – or, rather, a lack of pattern – about a year ago. Here.”

Most of his fear now replaced with sadness and fatigue, he got up and led her further down the hall, to a much larger room. The walls were covered with charts and maps, boxes of files stacked on much of the floor. It was filled with other officers who, seeing Her Dread Majesty, quickly bowed and left the two of them the room. Their expressions matched their commissioner’s, creased with exhaustion and despair.

“Look for yourself,” the commissioner said. “We have crimes we’d classified as accidents or tragedies from years ago we’re having to reexamine now, because of the sheer senselessness of them.”

He reached down, grabbed a file at random.

“Here’s one. Auric Bilious, earth pony, Millionaire. Ninety-five. Dismissed his household staff, gave each one a savings account of a hundred thousand bits for their years of service. Then he dressed in his best suit, sat in his favorite chair, and drank poison. Went to sleep, never woke up. He’d redone his will earlier that day, ordering that his estate be given to anypony who wanted it.”

He picked up another file, also at random. “Starling Crest, pegasus, age thirty. Cloudsdale resident, unemployed. Borrowed ten thousand bits at twenty percent interest, said he’d bring it back the next day. Went to a casino, put everything on boxcars. Everything. On one roll.”

The stallion shook his head. “He lost. Not a shock, really. It turns out the odds are about thirty to one. But when he did, he just walked out of the casino, happy as a clam. And then he kept walking, right off the edge of the cloud.”

The stallion looked up at her. “Fell the whole way, never opened his wings. Never even tried.”

He grabbed another file from a different box. “Here’s Maple Vine, unicorn, age fifty. Ethics professor. Murdered her husband of thirty years in his sleep. Then she just ran off. Location still unknown.”

The lawpony looked at her, his eyes haunted. “We’ve got hundreds of these cases. Hundreds. That we know of. And they’re getting more frequent.”

She stared at him, horrorstruck. “What do they have in common?”

“They’re all educated, intelligent ponies.”

“And?”

“That’s it. All kinds, all incomes, all backgrounds. Just not a dropout or a fool among them. At least,” he gestured to the boxes helplessly, “not on record. There’s no way of knowing who may be just falling through the cracks.”

The Queen stepped forward, laid a gentle hoof on his shoulder. “Well, as of right now, those cases just became my top priority.”

The room glowed purple for a moment, then subsided. “I’ll work off the copies I just made in my sanctum. I’ve left you the originals. Will you keep me up to date if you learn anything new?”

He nodded.

“Good.”

As she reached the door, he spoke again, “Your Majesty?”

She turned.

He bowed. “Thank you.”

She nodded, managed a grim smile, and left.


Back in her sanctum, Twilight applied any number of algorithms to the data she’d taken from the commissioner’s files. When that failed to shed any light, she’d determined she needed more expansive data. Not just on Ponyville and Cloudsdale. On Equestria. Maybe the whole empire. But on her way to the Royal Archives, she happened to overhear two of her noble ponies conversing before they rounded the corner. The discussion died as soon as they saw her, both ponies dropping to one knee as she came into view.

“Your Majesty.” Their voices blended perfectly.

“Please rise,” she said. “I would like to hear more about what you were just saying.”

“It was nothing of consequence to Your Dread Majesty, surely,” the older mare said.

The younger stallion nodded, obviously following her lead. “Be assured, Your Majesty, we will handle the situation with full diplomacy.”

“I know you will,” Twilight answered, noting the quiet look that the mare gave him. “And I assure you, in turn, I have no intention of interfering. But it remains: I would like to know more about it. You mentioned a war.”

The stallion hesitated, looking to the mare – probably his mother, Twilight noted, they had the same eyes – who sighed and answered for him.

“As Your Majesty wishes. We have received word that the Yaks and the Panthers are amassing private armies, something which is strictly against imperial law. There are concerns that they may be planning rebellion against the Pax Equestria.

“But I assure you,” she added with a practiced blend of confidence and concern, “We will not let it come to war. And I am certain their leaders will not either. Whatever their grievances are, they will be addressed.”

Twilight frowned, nodding as she considered this. Then, she asked, “Are they the first?”

The noblemare frowned. “My liege?”

“Is this the first time that unrest has shown itself in such a manner?”

In the moment while the mare searched for an answer, her son spoke. “No, Your Majesty. Not exactly. There have been occasional revolutionary forces, guerillas, even terrorists throughout the empire for several years now. But always in small numbers, too small to achieve their goals. This is the most blatantly militant and most large-scale defection, as well as the first time such a resistance has been formed by a subject government.”

She cocked her head. “Hm. Do you know why?”

The mare cut her son off smoothly, saying, “Thus far, they haven’t been terribly specific regarding their grievances, Your Majesty. The small uprisings had seemed almost random, as if they didn’t even care. This is, I will admit, something new. But I’m sure that as soon as we sit at the table and discuss things, we’ll work it all out. The larger would-be rebellion, and the smaller skirmishes.”

The queen nodded. “Of course. Just the same, this might tie into something else I’m researching. So I’d like to speak to some of those other revolutionaries. Where are they being held?”

Both of the nobles looked uncomfortable.

“They… are being held, aren’t they?”

At last, the stallion spoke again. “No, Your Majesty. None of them were taken alive. They fought to the death, in every case.”

He looked down. “In… in those instances when they were in danger of being captured, they—”

“Ermine,” his mother said. Her voice was quiet and deliberately calm. “Give us this space, please.”

“But…”

“I said go.”

After a second, he looked form his mother to his monarch, the latter becoming more puzzled and concerned by the second. Then he bowed again, “Your Majesty,” and went back the way he came. Only when he was out of earshot did his mother raise her terrified eyes to Twilight again. Still, the noblemare’s voice was level when she spoke again, though her words were quick.

“Your Majesty, I take full responsibility. I submit myself to whatever punishment you see fit. I ask only that you please leave the rest of my house blameless. None of this was their fault.”

Twilight blinked. What was this about? She could have sworn that she’d stayed calm this time. “Um… look, I’m not a Sith Lord… you don’t need to…”

At the look of confusion joining the fear in the old mare’s eyes, she sighed.

“Never mind.” Glancing around the hall, she added, “I think we should discuss this in private. Would you come with me, please?”

Resigned, the mare bowed. “As Your Majesty wishes.”


After a few hours’ discussion, Twilight was again alone in her sanctum. She sighed. It hadn’t even occurred to her to ask the noblemare’s name until they were in the sanctum.

And how do you like your tea… I’m sorry, what is your name?

Noblesse Oblige, Your Majesty.

Another failing. When had people – ponies or otherwise – become so unimportant to her that she didn’t even learn their names?

Still, once they’d started actually talking, Noblesse Oblige had been remarkably helpful bringing light onto several topics. For one thing, it seemed that the starting points for the few terrorist activities on record had been media hubs and universities.

Which was strange, since higher education had always been associated with a decrease in violence before. And globalization had also led to higher quality of life in every region of the empire. Noblesse had also been invaluable in helping Twilight find the specific documents regarding all known incidents in their various kingdoms, as well as the beings involved.

But there was another matter, the matter of how Twilight’s people perceived her. Here, as well, Noblesse was informative, though more reluctantly.

Queen Twilight, it seemed, was a demigoddess to her people, a creature of mystery, an alien force of nature best appeased and left alone. Never to be called upon lightly, her aid being almost as dangerous as her wrath. Still, she came into view once a year to hear those mortals beneath her who would dare seek her aid. Then she would vanish again to her unassailable abode, leaving the world to its own workings for another year. Something more than mere mortal kind, many times more dangerous and unpredictable than anything else under the sky she ruled.

Glumly, Twilight reflected that she shouldn’t have been surprised. Celestia and Luna had always gone out of their way to be cordial and kind, and still ponies had seen them as all but unapproachable. Twilight, by contrast, had always been remote since the day of their deaths. It had been she who had removed herself from her subjects. She’d known this perfectly well, though admittedly she hadn’t considered all the ramifications until now.

But I should have, she thought. And if my subjects have, in kind, removed me from their world… well, I’ve got nopony to blame but myself.

She thought back through the centuries, to Cranky and Matilda’s wedding. She’d heard every word of the final speech, for all that she and her friends had been peeking in through a window at the time. And Mayor Mare had been right when she’d said that in everypony’s lives, each pony was the main character in their own story. In her selfishness, Twilight realized, she had forgotten that. She had become aloof, separating herself from her people and her world as though only she had mattered. Outside of her beloved Scouts, there were so few she actually knew by name.

And now, she had to wonder… how many lives? How many lives had been cut mercilessly short, their stories left forever unfinished? How long had this senselessness been going on, slowly building up to this point, while she devoted herself to anyplace and everyplace but here?

Initially, Noblesse Oblige had been convinced that Twilight would punish her for the violence that had been plaguing the empire of late. The noblemare had expected to be killed or worse, simply because she had been looking for a solution with her son’s help, and had therefore been there to tell her queen the news. It had taken nearly twenty minutes to convince her otherwise.

Twilight covered her face with her hooves. That. That was what her subjects thought she was. Something to be so feared, they wouldn’t even risk telling her when they were on the verge of war. And that was very telling of the kind of queen she had become.

More than that, it was telling of the kind of pony she had become.

Twilight sighed miserably. For years, she’d told herself she was honoring Celestia and Luna’s lessons, even as she was creating her own path. But, had she honestly been true to her mentors’ examples? No. She’d buried herself in her studies, leaving her empire to run itself.

And now it was on the brink of self-destruction, and her people were dying for reasons unknown. And what had she been doing instead of ruling them, guiding them, teaching them? Only glutting herself on greater and greater knowledge—

Power, she corrected herself. Let’s be honest about this. Knowledge may have been what I sought at first, but I’ve been gathering power undreamed-of, by any standards.

So. As a queen, what qualities had she been demonstrating most of all, over the years? A beloved mare with orange coat and golden mane hovered before her mind’s eye.

Tellin’ other folks the truth is one thing, Twi. Tellin’ yerself the truth about yerself… that’s miles harder.

Determined, Twilight turned her gaze inwards. What had her qualities as a ruler been? Wisdom? Hardly. Care? Certainly not. Justice? Perhaps, once a year. The rest of the time, she’d been walled up in her lab, with her project and her research.

But… negligence? She winced. Absolutely. It was clear she had no idea what was going on in her empire, even regarding the descendants of her dearest friends. Near-absolute power? Without a doubt. She’d never sought to conquer anypony… but one kingdom at a time, the entire world had surrendered itself to her unbidden, just to keep her appeased.

Nor could she blame them. Her power wasn’t just formidable, it was dangerous to everyone around her. That little episode at the commissioner’s office had certainly demonstrated that. Granted, she hadn’t lost control of herself like that since Applejack had died. And, of course, it would never happen again.

But that was hardly the point. Neither Celestia nor Luna had shown such qualities, nor had ever desired them. Nor, for that matter, had they ever used their magic with such abandon as she had on Dark Day.

Twilight sighed. She had done her best to fill the void that the Two Sisters’ deaths had left. For decades, she’d thought she had succeeded. But now…

Now, she wondered if she had replaced someone else, instead.

The thought was mildly horrifying. But, there were undeniable parallels between herself and the former Lord of Chaos, and she could no longer afford to ignore them. After all, here she was, combing the multiverse for infinite knowledge about its very nature. Infinite power, in a sense… some might even argue, ‘godlike’ power. What Discord, before his reformation, had once called the ‘deepest truth.’ Power without purpose. Without meaning.

Against her will, she remembered when they’d turned him back to stone, so very long ago. Just prior to his re-imprisonment, Discord had remained infuriatingly calm in that superior manner he sometimes had, while all the world went mad around him.

“Oh, Applejack, don’t lie to me. After all, I’m the one who turned you into a liar.”

He’d grinned as he’d pulled her friends to him by their amulets. “You see, in the end, the deepest truth of all is power. And chaos, of course.”

The draconequus his finished his glass and thrown away the milk, adding, “Nothing else matters, if even that does.”

Twilight frowned. But I do matter, she reminded herself, because I have purpose. More than that, I have given life, order, and hope.

She’d never wanted to rule anypony, much less the world. Never. But once she’d found herself in the throne, she had changed the world for the better, time and time again.

Yes, like Discord, reality itself was hers to shape as she desired. But unlike him, she did so with care and deliberation. She had shaped a reality without famine, war, or disease. Small wonder the other peoples of the world held her in such awe, she supposed. If she weren’t seen from time to time, they’d probably be worshipping her.

Then again, according to Celestia and Luna’s records, ponies had sometimes tried to worship Discord to appease him, when chaos had still ruled the world.

But Discord had been a creature of uncertainty, she reminded herself. By contrast, she was seeking ultimate knowledge. Ultimate knowledge, ultimate understanding of the universe’s mysteries. It was her passion, her great love. Her way was nothing like mad Discord and his random magical transformations, punctuated by the idiosyncratic gibberish he would spout as though it were an in-joke only he could understand.

And yet…

Hello, Twily. You’re looking well. Care to stay?

Might his lunacy actually have been a knowledge she could not yet understand? Come to that, how insane did she seem to those around her, even now? How would she know if she did? She shook her head to clear it, but the idea remained. There was a symmetry to it, the thought that cosmic knowledge might appear to others as madness.

Focus, damn it! She chided herself. There’s time enough for philosophy later. Ponies are dying. People all over the world are suffering! The empire is on the brink of war!

With Noblesse’s information, plus the records she’d gained from the archives, surely she had the data she needed now. With renewed resolve, she began her calculations.