• Published 7th Feb 2019
  • 1,393 Views, 129 Comments

Princess Twilight Sparkle and the Fortress of Egress - kudzuhaiku

Twilight Sparkle never knew just how much she wanted to adventure with her mentor.

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Chapter 1

The application of governance demanded persistence and determination. Twilight Sparkle, facing a potential avalanche of paperwork, began to question her persistence and determination. Questioning her persistence and determination, she sat in her hard, uncomfortable chair, wondering if she had the wherewithal for the application of governance. Slumped over in her chair, distracted, disturbed, distraught, Twilight knew that she had reached some sort of self-defeating circular repetitive cycle from which there was no escape.

Being a princess sounded awesome, until one realised that it was a public service position, one with lousy hours, and hardly any thanks or gratitude for a job well done. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy the work—she did—it was just that, lately, the work was all that she had been doing. It had swallowed her, consumed her, it had left her bereft of all comfort and satisfaction.

She was bored.

No monsters attacked. Time travellers ceased their temporal disturbances and offered no dire warnings of disasters that might be. The dreadful and terrible war in the Midreach had concluded, a war that had changed the entirety of the world, a war involving mechanisation, industrialisation, leveraged economies, and entirely new tactics. An unwanted, yet unavoidable paradigm shift for multinational conflict. Now, it seemed as though the world itself was panting, trying to catch its breath, perhaps realising that a whole new era was upon it.

While peace was pleasant, it was also boring.

Ponyville’s economy was operating at a surplus. The new cash crops, planted at her request, had done exactly as she had predicted. Hemp in particular brought considerable wealth to the region. It provided farm jobs, fibres, textiles, oils, paper, soaps, foodstuffs, and more importantly, money. Twilight was quite pleased that the economy thrived with her guidance, but now that everything was doing well, there wasn’t much to do. She could only watch as the plotted points of data that formed a beautiful curve continued to rise.

There was no point in committing to high-risk ventures for a little excitement.

“Come on, Twilight,” she said to herself. “This paperwork isn’t going to do itself. And hiring somepony to do it for you would be wasteful government spending.” After rolling her eyes, she looked up at the towering piles, and regretted that she had let it pile up. Perhaps if she was more attentive and did it before it became a towering heap of bureaucracy, this wouldn’t be such a chore.

But she had been busy, during a long stretch when there had been a famine of boredom.

Now, she faced the feast and found it quite unappetising.

“Perhaps… perhaps there are spelling errors, or maybe grammatical errors that I could find,” she said to herself, trying to entice herself into action. “Might be fun… a little light spell-checking.”

When her self-directed pep talk failed to motivate her, she threw her hooves up into the air and let out groan that turned into a shrill whinny near the end. Hooves still in the air, she waved them around, grunting and whickering, all while making the sort of faces that her mother warned her not to make, because her face might freeze that way.

“Horsefeathers!” she swore.

It did nothing. Her expletive failed to satisfy. First, she looked left, then, in a sneaky, furtive manner, she glanced right. The coast seemed clear. Left again, then right again. When she looked left, her left eyebrow rose into a fine arch, and when she turned her gaze rightward, her right eyebrow arched while her left eyebrow fell. Her ears, too, acted in concert with her eyes, and she had somehow magically transformed into the wily filly that she once was.

Then, when she was satisfied that she was, indeed, alone, a devious smirk caused wrinkles to appear upon the bridge of her muzzle, and in the voice of a sneaky, devious filly, she said, “Fronking horseapples—”


Utterly panicked, Twilight’s wings sprang out, unleashing a minor windstorm indoors. The piles of paper on her desk quivered, the bastions of bureaucracy, the bulwarks of beadledom, all of it teetered in the most alarming way. Whole fractions of a second took place, stretching out to small, bite-sized infinities that no amount of vigorous chewing would allow one to swallow.

“No! No! No!” Hooves still raised, she pleaded with her paperwork, with the hopes that she could prevent the inevitable through the repetition of a monosyllabic utterance.

“Twilight, there’s an emergency,” Spike said as the fortress of paperwork toppled atop Twilight’s desk.

Papers drifted on unseen currents like autumn leaves, many of them circling around Spike’s head. The baby dragon held a scroll clenched tight in his claws, so tight that the parchment had wrinkled. If Twilight had not been frozen in abject horror, she might have scolded him for it, but she sat unmoving, wide-eyed, as the paperwork unsorted itself.

Cosmic punishment was swift and merciless.


The colour drained from Spike’s scales as he flinched from the unbelievable expletives.

“Spike! What’s the emergency? It’d better be a good one!” Then, almost as an afterthought, she added, “By the way, Spike… would you mind helping me sort out this paperwork? It seems to have unsorted itself. I’m probably going to be busy with that emergency.”

“Twilight,” she read aloud as she paced in a broad circle. “Moon Rose has been abducted and there is a crisis of the highest magnitude. Please await further instruction.”

With an annoyed sniff, Twilight turned the parchment over, but found nothing on the back. Moon Rose? Abducted? This wasn’t good. Little Moon Rose had disturbing dream magic. More to the point, little Moon Rose could pull things from the dream realm into reality, which allowed for all kinds of nightmarish possibilities.

How had this happened? Moon Rose was watched over. Protected. Her every move was tracked, monitored. Twilight wondered who was responsible for this. Catrina? Belladonna? Dark Desire? It had been done with no army, it seemed, no catastrophic series of events unleashed to create opportunity. Just snatch and go. At least, Twilight was fairly certain that an army hadn’t invaded Canterlot. She hadn’t been paying much attention, but she was confident that even in her distracted state, she would have sensed the magical disturbance caused by an invading army.

As Twilight continued to pace, she was almost bonked in the head by a massive hammer that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. This hammer was every bit as enormous as its armor-clad owner, who also suddenly appeared from right out of the blue. Twilight, always one for etiquette, offered up the traditional greeting when one was accosted by an armored, unannounced, gargantuan guest in one’s own domicile; she screamed, and what a scream it was.

Princess Celestia was larger than life, and clad in black armor that did not seem to reflect light. She was a terrifying figure, truly intimidating, and her horn—also encased—almost scraped the ceiling. The hammer hovered mere inches above Twilight’s head, but made no sudden moves, as one simply did not make sudden moves with a hammer of this size, not without consequences. Dreadful consequences, such as collapsed castles or puddles of equine jam.

With Celestia, there were two unicorns, one of which said, “Hello Twily. Overreact much?”

The other offered up a far more traditional and respectful greeting; he tipped his grey, broad-brimmed, conical hat.

Like a teakettle with no water left to boil, Twilight’s ear-piercing shriek trailed off, her uvula ceased to wag, and she slowly managed to recover her composure, due in no small part to the sound of her brother’s voice. Though, perhaps not due to her brother’s sarcasm, which would have to be dealt with later. When the time was right and opportunity presented itself.

“Twilight Sparkle,” the armored alabaster behemoth said to the much smaller alicorn.

“Contrary to popular rumours,” Twilight said as she cowered, “I did not say your name in vain.”

Whatever reaction Celestia had was invisible behind her helmet, which was the worst. Twilight sucked in a deep breath, pulled herself together, and kept one wary, weathered eye on the hammer floating mere inches over her head. She had tried to lift it once, and had failed. It was said to be heavier than the sun, which might have been true. Which made the fact that Maud Pie had once lifted it with her bare hooves a scarily exciting factoid that Twilight did not enjoy being reminded of, like right now.

“What’s he doing here?” Twilight asked while pointing her hoof at the unicorn adjusting his grey woollen hat.

“Twily, don’t you trust him?”

“I trust him,” she replied to her brother. “Trust isn’t the issue. Dim can’t be away from the Crystal Heart. Which means he shouldn’t be here, in my castle, in Ponyville. He has that insidious curse of his.”

“Twilight, we have a crisis to deal with.” Princess Celestia’s words cut in with smooth effectiveness. “Dim is needed. As for you, you shouldn’t worry. His transformation is slow—”

“But can’t be undone.” Twilight’s ears pricked as she interrupted her beloved mentor. “There is no means to turn back the progression.”

“That is a topic for another time, Twilight. For now, we must go to a dangerous place and recover Moon Rose. Fetch your armor, Twilight. We must depart at once.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Twilight noticed for the first time that her brother was wearing his armor. Her eyes drifted to Dim, who wore no armor, just a faded grey hat and a nondescript grey cloak. She blinked once, twice, and thrice, all while trying to remember which closet she kept her armor in. It was magical stuff, impossible to conjure because it had been crafted by Luna to be exceptionally magic resistant.

It was just the sort of gift that princesses made for one another, as they had all agreed to never purchase presents.

“Hang on,” Twilight said with all of the princessly politeness she could muster. “I have to go look for my armor. Before I go, mind telling me what we’re doing and where we’re going?”

Celestia, still holding her hammer aloft, replied, “Why, Twilight Sparkle, we’re going to the Fortress of Egress.”

Twilight struggled to put on her armor, which couldn’t be manipulated with telekinesis. Well, it could, just not very well, and she kept dropping the various pieces, fumbling them to the floor. Celestia was busy casting some complex spell that Twilight couldn’t even begin to make heads nor tails of. As she struggled with her barding, she turned some of her attention to Dim.

“How’s Blackbird?”

“She curses my name daily,” Dim replied, wheezing out each word.

“How are you adjusting, Dim?”

“Work keeps me busy,” was his casual, nonchalant response.

Twilight’s tongue slipped out as she did battle with a strap beneath her belly. The damnable thing was slippery, and located in a rather difficult to reach place. This would be so much easier with telekinesis. She tried not to think about the fact that she was getting dressed in front of her brother, which was weird for some reason, and she did not wish to ponder the reason why.

“Sunburst tells me that you and he are becoming fast friends.”

If Dim had something to say, he kept it to himself.

“Just wondering, but why are we bringing Dim, anyhow?” Twilight asked of her brother.

“I asked the same thing,” replied Shining Armor, “When Celestia came to abduct me. She said something about the potential for sanity damage where we’re going.”

“Oh.” The strap cinched into place, but was far too tight, and Twilight found it difficult to breath. Now, she would have to somehow loosen the cinch she had fought so hard to tighten. She wondered if, perhaps, this armor was Luna’s idea of a practical joke.

It was black, reflected no light, and had a dull, matte finish. Twilight wasn’t sure what sort of metal it was, and when asked, Luna had offered no answer. The armor was very much like Celestia's, but not nearly as ornate. It was imposing, intimidating, and wearing it made Twilight feel very much like a badass—though she would never, ever admit this to anypony.

“So we’ll be fighting something that can probe minds?” she asked.

“I guess?” Shining Armor shrugged. “I pity anything that probes Dim’s mind. Even the Wardens won’t do it.”

Her brother’s words caused Twilight to shiver, which made her armor clank and clatter.

“How’s Flurry? And Skyla?”

“Flurry”—Shining Armor blew a raspberry right after her name—“the less said about Flurry right now, the better. The little pain in the plot poured hair removal tonic into her sister’s shampoo.”

Twilight accidentally kicked a piece of armor that went on her leg. Which one? She had no idea, as her armor training was equivalent to her knowledge of wearing fancy ballroom dresses. Blinking, she stared at her brother, and did everything she could to avoid thinking about what her niece, Skyla, might look like right now. She failed, of course, and it took all of her willpower, all of her concentration, and all of her focus to avoid smiling.

“Here, let me help you with that—”

“No!” Twilight almost squealed the word. “I’m a big filly. I can dress myself.”

“Twilight, you have your crupper plate tied to your neck.”

“I do not!” She didn’t, did she? If she did… that’d be embarrassing. Almost as embarrassing as the time she put her gown on backwards and Rarity had to help her fix it. She hated wearing armor, as it pinched and bunched in unmentionable places. Heaving a sigh of defeat, she hung her head and surrendered.

“Shiny, help me.”

A door stood in the middle of the room, which was odd, as doors typically did not stand alone in the middle of the room. Celestia had conjured it into existence and now, Twilight was stuck trying to make sense of it. It had a stone archway around it, and the door itself was wood, with black iron bands to hold the rough hewn timbers together. The magic it radiated made her feel uncomfortable, her feathers tingled, her skin prickled, and there was a strange, weird fire in her hooves that made her want to dance around.

“Pay attention to me.” Celestia’s schoolmarm voice caused every ear in the room to prick. “The Fortress of Egress is a dangerous place. There is great peril there. It is a fortress, a mighty bastion that connects various worlds, places, and realities. It is constructed almost entirely out of doors, most of which are dangerous. My sister uses these doors to access various locations within the dream realm.”

Twilight, ever the eager school filly, nodded to show she was paying attention.

“The mirror, Twilight, is a shortcut that connects two doors together, so one does not have to traverse the dangerous location in between.” The big mare drew in a deep breath, and then continued, “Moon Rose has been taken. Whomever took her fled to the Fortress of Egress. I’m not sure how, which troubles me. Moon Rose could potentially be on another world, or in another when. She might have been taken to another where. We must recover her.”

“Which means facing otherworldly horrors,” Dim muttered.

“That’s why we brought Dim.” Shining Armor cast his clever gaze around, as if seeking his schoolmarm’s approval. “Otherworldly tentacles. I’ve played enough Ogres and Oubliettes to know where this is going. I don’t have good saving throws versus otherworldly tentacle attacks.”

“Meanwhile,” Celestia said, cutting in, “tentacles must make a saving throw when encountering Dim.” If she smiled, it was obscured by her helmet. “Twilight, we’ll need your quick mind, your understanding of magic, and your plucky sense of determination. Shining Armor, we’ll need your shields. As for myself, I can sense Moon Rose’s soul with animancy. No matter where she is taken, I will find her.”

“Are we leaving?” Twilight asked.

“Just step through the door.” Then, after a pause, Celestia added, “All of you are free to back out. I won’t make you go. Through that door, there lies dangers beyond your understanding. We might not recover Moon Rose alive… or whole of mind. I’m confident that I can bring all of you back, but what comes out of that door might not be the same as what goes in. This is a risk.”

“Sure beats boredom.” Twilight took a moment to adjust her helmet, which was hot, sweaty, and obscured much of her vision. The narrow slit only allowed her to see what was directly in front of her. Her belly was clammy with sweat and cold metal.

“I am being paid… handsomely. I care not about risks.” Dim smoothed out his grey cloak, which had gleaming metallic threads woven through the wool.

“What sort of brother would I be if I let my baby sister go without me?” Shining Armor lifted his head and stood in a proud, martial pose. “We have a filly to save.”

Bowing her head, Celestia nodded. “Go then. Dim, you first, as you’re the one most familiar with Luna’s foyer. Don’t let Twilight or Shining step on the traps.”

Author's Note:

This is a short. I love sharing my shorts with you.