• Published 25th Jun 2018
  • 275 Views, 32 Comments

A Tempest Tossed - LotusTeaDragon

Violet Tempest must stop a violent storm from destroying Equestria!

  • ...

Chapter Thirteen

Location Unknown

Twilight approached the edge of the forest, moving at a steady pace, the dull ache in her head growing into a constant reminder that her stress levels were moving beyond the occasional management lessons she'd been taught by her Cadance.

Things had not progressed. As she broke through the forest edge, her heart sank. It was the same clearing she'd encountered more than a dozen times at this point. Were there any visible source of daylight, she'd check it to see how many hours she'd wasted traversing this same forest and field over and over again, but there wasn't, and so she couldn't.
After the first few repeated appearances, she wondered if perhaps she was just dreaming, and had called out for Luna several times, not just to confirm her suspicions, but also to have her beloved nearby for companionship if nothing else. Unfortunately, she had not appeared, so either she was dreaming and her magic was being suppressed, or she was somewhere beyond Luna's reach, and the latter prospect terrified her deep inside.

She stepped further into the clearing and approached the small pond. The crystal clear water was inviting, and after what felt like hours of trotting, she felt the need to slake her thirst and cool her forehead. The weather wasn't so much hot, it was mild if anything, but the exertion had taxed her to a point where a few moments rest and some cool water would surely lift her spirits.

She ambled up to the edge of the water, and gently dipped a hoof into it, and splashed some of it onto her face.

The water was warm.

"Ugh," she said aloud, her words quickly swallowed up by the silence of her surroundings.

Ah well, warm water was still water, and so she splashed her face, and leaned down to take a drink.

She jerked back quickly, unsure of what she had just tasted. Leaning down once more, she took a tentative sniff and found nothing out of the ordinary. Once more, she took a small sip, this time allowing the water to swish around in her mouth a few moments.

She couldn't put her hoof on it, but something about the water tasted different. It wasn't any kind of flavor that stood out, it was almost a textural oddity, but even that didn't quite fit. If she could have called the water "thick" she would have. There was just something not right about it.

"That's because there is something not right about it, Twilight Sparkle, at least not from where you stand."

Twilight leapt straight into the air out of fright, only to fall back to the ground on her flank, and tripped over herself trying to turn around and face the new voice that had caused her heart to behave like a hammer smashing an anvil. She ended up laying on her back, and staring at an upside down figure she did not recognize.

She began to right herself. The upside down figure, once right side up, became the image of a small, brown furred field mouse sitting in the short grass. It looked as most field mice do, with large ears, a long tail, and a pointed nose. It was the first creature she had seen since she'd arrived wherever she was, which lead her to wonder if she was hallucinating.

"I'm quite real," said the field mouse, its tiny body belying its soft spoken baritone, "and I am quite pleased to finally meet you, Twilight Sparkle."

Twilight recovered herself, and held out her hoof, "just Twilight, please." The mouse looked curiously at her hoof for a moment, before making a small fist and bumping it gently.

"Very well, then," said the mouse, "Twilight it is, and you may call me Amari."

"Well, Amari, it's nice to meet you, but I have to ask how you knew what I was thinking," said Twilight.

The field mouse beamed. "That's because it's a gift, my dear! Knowing the thoughts of others is something that comes naturally to my species, but have no fear, I only see what's on the surface, the intentions of a pony. What you want to say is what I see, nothing more."

"Ah, I see. I guess I'll have to take your word on that for the moment," she replied, and then added, "privacy is very important to me, though."

The mouse nodded. "Fair enough, Twilight. Now, before we go any further, I do have one request for you, and that is if you could take a seat? Without intending any offense, it is rather difficult to get a proper look at you from all the way down here."

Twilight blushed, and adjusted herself into a relaxed position, lying on the ground, her hooves crossed.

"Thank you, Twilight," Amari said, being caretaker of this place, I sometimes forget that I am not the largest sentient creature roaming these woods."

Twilight perked up at this news. "Oh! Yes, I was actually hoping to ask you about that, you see, I don't know where this is, and I don't know how I got here. The ship I was on crashed, and I must have fallen unconscious. When I woke up, I found myself in a clearing, much like this one. Actually, exactly like this one."

Amari nodded. "Yes, I imagine the experience of waking here would be nothing short of surprise. While it may look the part, this isn't any ordinary place, Twilight. You have happened upon, by circumstance, a crossroads of sorts."

"Not to be impatient or impertinent," Twilight began, rubbing her foreleg, "but where are we?"

Amari smiled. "Your impatience is understandable, and impertinence only applies if I felt you were beneath my station, and that simply isn't so for many reasons, but before I answer your question, I would ask that you follow me back to my home, as a storm is approaching" he said, and beckoned her to follow him.

Looking around, Twilight noticed that clouds had indeed been forming at the edges of the clearing, which surprised her because up until then, she hadn't seen a single cloud in the sky anywhere.

She turned and saw Amari had already started along by several meters, and so she scrambled to her hooves and followed along, making the effort not to run ahead due to her longer gait. The urge to place Amari on her back the way she once did with Spike made her feel a bittersweet pang, the memory evoking a fondness cloaked in the melancholy that often comes with change. She no longer had to do that with the young drake these days.

"Ah yes, change, such a wonderfully expected, and yet woefully dreaded event," came a voice from just ahead of her. Twilight realized she had been staring at the ground as they had traveled along, and so she looked up in reflex. Around her, the forest had reappeared at some point, and had become more dense, and even looked a little different. It took her a moment to realize as she watched a bee bumbling around a rather lovely daisy, that there was a life, or at least one other instance aside from herself and Amari.

Again, none of this was visible even moments earlier. They couldn't have gone more than two dozen paces, and yet as though they'd traveled miles, here they were arriving at a straw hut nestled up against the base of a redwood tree that Twilight would have sworn hadn't been there moments earlier.

"Welcome to my home, Twilight," said Amari, as he indicated the small hut. "It may not look like much, but then appearances can be deceiving," he said as he opened the wood door and motioned her inside.

Stepping inside, Twilight could only agree. Instead of a small room with straw walls and a dirt floor, as the outside had implied, the room she was in was at least two stories tall, with a winding, spiral staircase in the middle of the room. She looked down and saw she was on a stone floor, the walls were a red brick, and there was a fireplace, something not recommended in a straw hut, but here would be perfectly safe. Couches, chairs, tables, and lamps took up the area surrounding the staircase itself, and shelves upon shelves of books lined the wall.

"This is amazing!" she whispered to herself.

"Thank you, as the decorator, I accept the compliment," Amari said as he grinned, and gestured Twilight to an overstuffed chair that was her size. Taking her seat, she waited as Amari climbed into his own chair, one more fitting of his stature.

"I'm certain you have many questions, Twilight," he began, "but let us start with your initial question. Where are we, you asked. Well, that is both simple and complicated. You see, we're not so much a where as we are as when we are."

Twilight nodded, "I see," she said. "Then may I ask when are we?"

Amari nodded, "a logical follow up. That, too, is complicated. Time, in a sense, does not exist here, even though we exhibit most of the same characteristics beings would as they travel in the 4th dimension. Rather, time is more of a suggestion, data that can be plotted on a map, were that map infinitely curved."

"You see, Twilight," he continued, "we are mostly outside of time, though we are still connected to the timeline in your universe."

"So like a pocket universe," Twilight offered.

Amari thought for a moment and then nodded. "Yes, similar, except this universe, the one you're in, connects to all universes."

Twilight's eyebrows shot up. "All universes?"

Amari nodded.

Twilight scoffed. "Come now, Mr. Amari, no universe is connected to all universes. That would be physically impossible."

Amari smiled. "Physically, yes. Temporally? No. This universe connects to all universes at all points simultaneously, because this universe was the first to exist."

Twilight sat back in her chair, frowning. "Mr. Amari,-"

"Just Amari, please," the field mouse interjected.

"Sorry about that, Amari," she continued. "You have to understand that the claim of inhabiting a universe that is connected to all universes simultaneously is, on its face, rather silly, and to tell me this without much in the way of preamble makes me wonder if you're not just pulling my leg. I love a good joke as the next pony, but if this is a joke, I feel I must tell you that I'm not really in a joking mood. I'm tired, I've been walking all day, and I've been looking for my friends, my crew, my airship, and a solution to a really big problem. So, you know, I'm not really in the joking spirit."

Amari's expression seemed to turn to one of pity.

"Oh dear," he said more to himself than anyone in the room, "I guess you don't know. Silly me, I forget sometimes. Linear creatures need a structured understanding of time in order to process information. Twilight," he said, looking directly at the mare, "you asked me who I was, and I told you my name, Amari. I assumed that you knew my vocation once I told you that name, and with my sincerest apologies I now realize you've never been out of your own timeline before. Most who timewalk know of me, for example, both Celestia and Luna know me quite well. As I said before, I am a caretaker, that is true, but more specifically, I am something more akin to a custodian. I clean up what is left behind by universes once their times have passed."

"What do you mean, times have passed?" asked the mare.

Amari took a breath, something Twilight hadn't seen him do up to to that point, and she started wondering to herself just what was real, and what was being presented to her as real.

"I apologize," he began, "if this seems difficult, but I want to state it correctly, in linear fashion, as it matters a great deal that you understand what I say when I tell you. Please understand that there is more to this than what I will say, and that you have no reason to be alarmed."

Twilight's frustration was growing. "Amari, please tell me what you're talking about, I'm starting to feel out of my depth."

Amari chuckled. "A fitting turn of phrase, truly. Very well then, I shall delay no longer.

Twilight, your universe is dead."