• Published 20th Aug 2012
  • 9,843 Views, 475 Comments

For I Have no Friends, and Must Scream - Richardson



Trixie's life hangs in the hooves of Twilight Sparkle after an encounter with a cockatrice.

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Knowledge

Twilight jerked awake from her dream, rubbing the sleep frantically from her eyes as she did. 'Trixie!' Her mental shout reverberated along their link, and a soft moan of pain and mental stiffness returned from the other side. Twilight softly sighed in relief as she felt the confirmation that the worst had not come to pass. 'Trixie, can you remember what just happened?'

The bearer of magic fretted in the dark as she waited for her- for her friend's reply. She hoped that Trixie hadn't been trapped mentally as well. A little part of her worried that her dream-spell might have partially broken the link between them. Oh Celestia, what had she been thinking, going to sleep so irresponsibly like that?

'Ooooooogh. Trixie actually found your dream, oh, enjoyable. It felt strange to think of herself as Princess Celestia's personal student, but Trixie could grow to like the idea. The part where Trixie began petrifying in the dream? Not so much. Why, Trixie's thoughts even started-'

'-Slowing down. Your spirit was under attack by the curse! I'm, well, partially a lucid dreamer, Trixie. That was all my mind's way of warning me what was happening. I think. The part where I'm Princess Celestia's personal student is real, though.' Twilight laid back in her bed from where she had partially sat up in worry. As the adrenaline from her dream began to wear off, she reveled in the softness of her mattress and wondered if the soul on the other side of her link could feel and be comforted by it. Twilight pulled the covers up to her chin, closing her eyes to try and visualize Trixie within her mind.

Trixie's mental 'voice' imitated the sounds and sensations of a pony swallowing back fearful bile at the thoughts presented. 'Trixie was... no- please no.'

'You're fine, Trixie. For now, and I think for as long as I live. I put, well, I don't know how to describe it. A shell of me, I guess, wrapped tightly around you. A barrier to keep the curse from touching any more of you. And since it doesn't have a foothold on me, it can't touch you. I can also siphon off little bits of my magic to empower you as well.' Twilight pulsed her magic to demonstrate, feeling and testing the sensation for the expected drain. Oddly, it seemed to be rather negligible.

For a moment, if twilight hadn't known better she almost swore that she could feel Trixie hugging her and trying to bury her face into the side of her neck. Maybe it was because of how muggy and warm it was in her room. The still air inside was choking off the coolness of the night outside. Wait. She had left the window partially open, and the fans blowing.

Twilight groped for her nightstand, feeling for the lamp on it. In the darkness, she couldn't figure out why it felt like there was an enormous stack of books between her and the lamp. She was mostly certain that she didn't sleep-read anymore.

'Sleep... Read? And your friends called Trixie crazy and filled with issues.'

Twilight ignored Trixie irritably, lighting up her horn to illuminate the situation. Oh. That was why it was so hot in her room. 'I think I know where the imagery of the Books of Flooding came from'. Twilight froze in an attempt to forestall the inevitable as she sent her thoughts purposefully to Trixie; wincing in thought of what was to come.

Trixie's mental voice sniggered at the images she received; glad for something, anything to distract her from her current state. 'No, really? This is too good. If Trixie was not already forced to stiff you for the bill, she would be dragging you kicking and screaming to the therapist.'

Twilight nodded weakly to herself, warily watching the towers of books all around her. The slightest breeze made the stacks shift ominously, swaying too and fro ever more purposefully, reaching a point of no return. An old phrase came to mind as Twilight watched the first book slip from the top of the stacks, landing between her legs. Her voice rose panicked and hoping for help before the full collapse, shouting one word. "Bookalanche!"

Pain. Pain became her very best friend as her shout of terror filled the air. The last bit of disturbance pressed the mountains of literature beyond their points of no return, toppling tomes in all directions. Spines of hefty books left welts upon Twilight's form, and sharp pages cut little grooves into her fur. Twilight's breath was slammed out of her as she found herself buried alive in her second-favorite thing on the planet.

"Twilight! Twilight! Where did all these books come from?" Spike' voice muffledly filtered to her ears after some time. The massive mound of books had pinned Twilight to her bed, and she was afraid that her number one assistant would finish squishing her if he crept too high upon the pile.

"Spi-i-ike! Help! I'm buried!"

The weight upon Twilight's chest began to lessen, and the sound of abused books sliding over one another echoed woodenly through the pile. Twilight couldn't even read the page in front of her as she tried to push on her burdens with her magic. It was just too dark to read, and too painful to concentrate. Book by book, though, she felt the crushing weight lifting from her slowly.

'Don't die on Trixie, she needs you!' A hazy bubble of blue magic forced itself from her horn, spreading out across her to protect against the weight. Somehow, Trixie's magic had squeezed out from Twilight's horn to cushion against the weight.

'Trixie! I'm not dying, I'm squishing.'

'Same difference.'

'It is not. And how are you casting magic through me?' Twilight reached up with a hoof as she thought her mental inquiry across the link. She pushed at as many points as she could, feeling for a weak spot in her tomb (or was it Tome?) of books.

'Is too! Shall Trixie send up a signal flare so that your Spikey-Wik- Wait. Did you say that Trixie was casting... through you?' The blue glow winked out, and Twilight felt what it was like to be a pillow once more as the pile collapsed upon her.

"Twilight!" Spike tossed the book on Twilight's face away, granting her access to fresh air after her brush with being proofread out of existence. Concern was etched upon his face as he cleared away more books to expose her so that he could drag Twilight out of her paper disaster.

'Yes. Oooow. You did.' "Spike, would you have happened to have been my number one assistant and remembered to get the Index number of the book that hit me?" Twilight wormed free of the dusty pile of books. Too many books. She had considered the concept impossible. An ill-placed hoof slid out from under her, tripping her to send her sliding down the slope of books on her back.

"No, Twilight. It doesn't have a library number. Or any kind of identification, actually. Where'd you get it from, Twi?" Spike's eager young enthusiasm found itself quickly dampened as Twilight glared up the pile from where she laid in the prone up to where he had become king of the book throne. He spoke again, much less enthusiastic as he did. "Wow. Uh, Twilight, I've never seen a book like this. Its, I dunno. The pages are weird."

'Wierd?'

"Wierd? Lots of books are wierd, Spike." Twilight slowly rolled over to her aching hooves, wincing as her entire body hurt. Spike clambered over the book pile to her, showing the strange tome to her. A cover made of some kind of silvery metal bound together hundreds of shiney and oddly smooth pages. And the words of the book seemed almost burned directly into the material instead of written onto the pages or printed on them.

"Have you ever seen anything like it, Twi?" Spike frowned with worry as his guardian shook her head. Ideas flashed through his head as he tried to figure out what it could be. The Zebrican Book of the Dead? Nightmare Moon's cookbook? The... Neighcromicon?

Trixie pitched in hesitantly, having felt what Twilight had observed about the book. As Twilight took the book, she spoke up across the link, making herself known. 'Trixie might have. She once saw something that fit such a description. It was in a museum, one of Starswirl's earliest works.'

Twilight fumbled the book in shock.

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Twilight looked over the titles of her new collection of books curiously; wondering who had brought them to her. Sure, one book she might have been able to attribute to her subconsciousness somehow locating that one all-night bookstore in Canterlot over the course of a night of sleep-walking. But that wouldn't explain Starswirl's book, or the 500 friends that came with it. Neither really, did a Wish spell explain any of her new-found collection. But if it had been she wouldn't be able to trust any of the knowledge before her; something she couldn't afford while Trixie's life was on the line.

But, the idea that Trixie might have a patron with a vested interest in keeping her alive seemed to fit the facts. The archaic note that fluttered out of the metal-clad centerpiece of the collection suggested that to be the case. Well, Twilight hoped it was a vested interest in keeping Trixie alive instead of feeding false information. The only way she even knew the note was about her current mare of study was the modern lettering which Trixie's name had been written with loving care compared to the rest of the note, in all seven instances where it had been written.

Either way, the books were enough for Twilight to start trying to figure out a cure, or at least a way to suppress or control the spell Trixie had been trapped within. Starting with the book that had been recommended to her in her strange dream. She had only recognized it by the cover and by how it had been the bottom book in the stack on her nightstand.

To say that page 182 was an eye-opening nightmare explaining the single nastiest spell she had ever seen couldn't even begin to describe it. She had absolutely no need to know that cockatrices ate souls, but a healthy dose of memory-erasure spells after everything was over would come in handy. Twilight could feel Trixie's mind shivering at her own mental commentary as she described what 'Practical Transmutation' had to say about the 'Glare of the Cockatrice'. She agreed with Trixie, as what she read had to be the single grimmest topic she had ever discovered.

'The Glare acts like a combination of spider bite, webbing, and porcupine needles in relationship to a body/soul. It is supposed to transform a victim in order to prevent escape before the spell injects itself into the soul after the body has been transmutated into a sort of 'feeding cocoon' Once injected into the structure of the soul, it latches onto the soul and prevents itself from being easily dispelled by draining... the life force from the soul and eventually shredding the soul in any attempt to remove it by any known school of dispelling.'

Spike tapped Twilight on her shoulder, startling her enough to cause her to throw her book with magic instinctively. "Whoa! Twilight, calm down!"

"Spike! You scared me half to death. How did you sneak up on me?" Twilight breathlessly apologized to him, her tail and nerves still twitchy from her dark reading. Her heart slowly eased it's racing in her chest as she retrieved her study material with a few strands of telekinetic force.

"Uh, I didn't Twilight. You were mumbling something about Cockatrices and your eyes were glazed over. I brought you some of that tea that Applejack brought for you from Granny Smith." Spike held up the steaming mug of tea he had brought for Twilight, who gratefully took it. "Say, why are you studying all these books, anyway?"

Twilight closed her eyes and looked away from Spike, trying to figure out what would be best for him to know. "It's for... a friend, I guess. I barely knew them, her, but she was caught by a Cockatrice yesterday. I just barely met her, and I can hear her. She's calling for help every second she can, and I-" Twilight broke off, unwilling to discuss the painful subject matter she had been discovering.

Spike stepped back, eyes widening with shock as he realized why Twilight was studying so hard. He saluted Twilight and straightened up into something resembling a military parade stance. "You can count on me, Twilight! Private Spike Sparkle, First Bookkeeping Battalion ready for Book Sorting action, m'am!"

Twilight could almost swear that she could see Trixie rolling her eyes in the corner of her vision. Twilight teared up slightly as she considered how lucked she was to have the single best #1 Assistant in the world; and that counted the fact that she was Princess Celestia's #1 Assistant. "Books on Stone Petrification on the right, all other forms of transmutation and soul magic on the left! Sort 'em by their title alphabetically, and leave the metal one for me. It's all mine."

Spike saluted Twilight once more, before getting to work in a flurry of activity. Twilight dragged over a pillow with her magic and curled up on it to give herself a more comfortable spot to resume her grisley reading. Finding her page once more in the book, she delved into the words and diagrams that described the sadistic spell of the cockatrices.

'Trixie wants to know if... if anypony has ever been saved before.'

Twilight winced, not yet knowing if anypony ever had been saved. From what she had so far read the answer seemed to be 'nopony'. Zecora's adamant belief that Trixie couldn't be saved had begun to make altogether too much sense. Then again, for all anypony knew Nightmare Moon didn't exist and Princess Luna couldn't have been saved. But it had to be possible, it just had to be. Every spell could be undone. Every spell had a structure, a weakness that could be exploited.

'Trixie would like to interrupt you and point out that it would take a mage who had a special talent of magic itself in order to find such a weak point and attack it. No matter how depressing that is.'

'Well, guess what? Its not so depressing. I dreamed about being Princess Celestia's personal student for a reason.'

'Trixie does not- wait. Oh.'

'My special talent IS magic. I've done the impossible twice before, why not make it three times?' Twilight had never felt as proud of being who she was before. This was the moment Princess Celestia had been inadvertently training her towards from the beginning. This was her chance to make a difference and create something that could help so many ponies.

Trixie seemed to splutter for a moment as she realized what she had been up against before. 'Wait. You are that.... you're that pony! The Bearer of Magic! And that means Trixie- oh Luna, what did I do!?'

'Nothing bad. My friends mean well, but sometimes they let their egos get the better of them. You didn't really hurt any of them, and if they're petty enough to use that as an excuse to hate you forever, then they're pretty horrible friends.' Twilight reassured Trixie through their link, giving the showmare some images of the interesting hijinks her friends had so far put themselves through.

Turning the page in her book, Twilight recoiled at the horrifying sight of a mangled pony, whom had been 'freed' body and soul from the curse. She had... died, if somepony could call it that, shortly after the procedure. Her, and the volunteer who had linked with her to defend against the curse. They just looked so hollow. Hollow and broken beyond what Twilight had considered possible.

'Oh. Okay, uh, I think we might want to focus on keeping you sane first. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.'

'Trixie agrees. Please stop thinking of that.'

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"Zecora!"

Trixie wondered how she could hear. The dead silence that had been her companion for an eternity had allowed no mortal noise into her ears. Beyond the pinkish glow of the six-pointed star that had swallowed her up she could see nothing but void. Void, and shapes and colors passing occasionally in what she felt to be the distance of the deep darkness beyond. Shapes and colors... that oddly reminded her of Cutie Marks.

'Souls.'

'What was that, Trixie?'

'I can see souls. Trixie can see yours all around her. She can see others passing by, represented by their Cutie Marks.' Well, they had been passing by. For some reasons the apparitions had faded away, leaving her with only tiny stars of light in the distance.

'Trixie, I uh- Well, I suppose it makes sense seeing as you're riding around in my body as a free soul.'

The darkness all about them seemed to slowly deepen as they continued onwards to wherever it was Twilight was taking them. It swirled about them, like the clouds of a wild storm before the dropping of a tornado. The sparkles of light, the tiny animal souls she had been seeing were slowly swallowed up by the dark void as it closed in around them. Like it was hunting them.

Twilight seemed to notice her passenger's distress, her soul soothingly pulsing around Trixie. 'Its alright. We're almost to Zecora's hut. Once there I'll see what spells I can steal or modify from Starswirl's book so you can at least interact with everypony again.'

'That isn't Trixie's problem. Something is hunting us, can't you feel that?'

Discontinuity. A moment of sensory disruption amidst a brilliant white light. As if she was in a tunnel and not in a tunnel all at once. It was like two points of the universe had conjoined long enough to move somepony.

And then Trixie began to wonder if she had already gone insane as the glowing black ribbon of arrows slithered into view all around her again.

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"I am not certain of what effect you intend to induce, this appears to be a book of most unusual use." Zecora frowned and lifted one of her drapes to look out into the forest. For a moment as she had looked at the mysterious metal-bound book she could have sworn something had rattled in the brush.

"Honestly? I have no idea. Starswirl was known for knowing things that we're only just now discovering and nopony has ever found his theories to be wrong. So it should be good for something." Twilight opened up Starswirl's tome, frowning at the incomprehensible text within. She gently prodded the strange angular letters on the page with a pulse of her magic, wondering if whatever enchantment Starswirl had used to make them was still active.

A pulse that was swallowed up greedily by the page, lighting up a letter. A tug that became a swirl of energy that sucked gently at her magic, pulling it in slowly and steadily. Another letter lit up nearby, then what appeared to be a whole word. After a few moments all the writing on the page lit up with a pinkish-white glow, pulsating with energy. "Uh, maybe we should stand back. All the way back, actually."

The two of them backed slowly away from Zecora's table as the pages of the book were all completely enveloped in the pulsing aura. Tiny tendrils of pink light snaked out from it, touching them in the head as the book began to flicker even faster. Little beads of light zipped in both directions along the tendrils, heading from the book to their foreheads and feeding back into the column of light that rose from the book. With each pulse, the column reached up and out until it stretched from floor to ceiling in a brilliant beam of light, pulsing ever faster and brighter as it grew. A slight wind kicked up as the sight grew too bright for Twilight and Zecora to look at, forcing them to shield their squinting eyes with a leg as they apprehensively tried to watch.

A final blast of light burst forth from the book, seemingly strong enough to be seen in Ponyville. The burst of wind with it disoriented them as the blinding light distorted their vision with it's glare and left them unable to see past the greenish afterimages. The pair's heads felt like somepony had opened them up and stuffed the full power of the Elements into them.
Twilight was the first to stumble back to the book, relying on her memorization of the interior measurements of Zecora's hut for guidance. She tapped out the exterior of the book with her hoof, wondering how it had closed itself as she did. Tears watered in her eyes as she blinked rapidly to try and clean the spots from her eyes.

A blue glow diffused itself through her vision; the strange tickling of Trixie's magic trickling through her form receding as her vision returned. 'A trick Trixie picked up for dealing with fireworks accidents. Happens more than she cares to admit.'

Twilight turned back to Zecora, who was grumbling under her breath in her native language. Twilight cast the spell Trixie had used on her, smiling as Zecora's confused head-shaking stopped. "Are you alright, Zecora?"

"Well, I do not think I am under a dread thrall; perhaps I should just be glad that I did not walk into a wall." Zecora unsteadily stumbled over next to Twilight, sitting down like a pony who had just rode Dash in the middle of one of the more enthusiastic airshows she put on. A frown of confusion creased her muzzle as she looked at the front page Twilight had opened the book to. "Why is it that I can look upon this page, only to find that it reads like some form of gauge?"

Twilight whipped her head back around to the book, pleasantly surprised to find that it had somehow transcribed its language into her head. Even though it was all still written in the strange angular symbols that she had found, she realized she could read and understand it now. A phonetic language, 26 letters and ten basic numbers... fascinating. She read each line, discovering that each was an individual test designed to introduce and explain the rules of the language in the form of a nonsensical poem. Well, except for the last line. "You now have a kazoo?"

Zecora blew a strange honking-buzzing note into Twilight's ear, startling the life out of the unicorn. The bookworm turned to her study companion as she steadied her heart-rate and noticed the instrument Zecora had acquired. The zebra twitched the kazoo the book had summoned, letting it bob between her lips as she struggled not to laugh at the way Twilight's fur and mane had slightly puffed out.

"Oh. Kazoo." Twilight shook her head ruefully, applying the same mental filters she often used on Pinkie towards the matter. One of her hooves idly rubbed at her forehead as she felt her companion cracking up enough for her and Zecora. "And Trixie finds us hilarious. Wonderful. She could have warned me about that spell, though."

'The last time Trixie encountered one of Starswirl's books it had been disenchanted by a fraudster disabling it. And there was not a paragon of unicorn power poking it with a metaphorical stick. Trixie believes, if she remembers right, that the books could read somepony's thoughts and could find the exact page they were thinking of. So, lets see if Trixie is right...'

Twilight yanked her hooves back as half the pages in the book flipped by, turning the displayed page to somewhere in the 500 range. With the way Zecora nearly pushed her out of the way to take a closer look at the small and densely packed words on the page Twilight inspected her closely. She wondered if the zebra was as adamant in her belief of the dim odds for Trixie's survival as she professed. Twilight joined her companion in reading the page, which was helpfully labeled as 'Start of Cockatrice Research'.

"I have heard of such a book; it changes to what you need whenever you do not look." Zecora lightly touched a hoof to the page, using its tip to mark where she was reading.

Twilight followed along with her, commenting to Trixie as she did. 'Oh, wow. Starswirl's wife was caught by a cockatrice. She... she had just given birth to his son. Starswirl killed it, but not before the spell had completely turned her to stone. Somehow, he managed to bond his soul to hers like we did to preserve her, but he wasn't able to reverse the changes. Oh. Oh no... A spell only works on a cockatrice curse once because the curse adapts to the spell to defend itself. He was able to get her moving with a 'come to life' spell, but it faded away after a few minutes.'

"Twilight, are you listening? I have been trying to tell you of how your horn has been bluely glistening." Zecora concernedly shook Twilight's shoulder as she stared at the blue-cored aura around the unicorn's horn.

"What? Oh, I was just talking to Trixie. Don't look at me like that, you know she needs somepony to at least try to save her. I think you would like her, Zecora. When she's humble the two of you have a lot in common." Trixie snorted in Twilight's mind at the idea, leading to a mental elbow to the ribs from her host. "When she's humble."

"Even if that may be; any form of relationship between us I cannot see. Despite all the stories she could tell; it is not within my mind that she does dwell." Zecora ruefully shook her head as she recognized that Twilight was willing to go to great lengths to protect the mare she had bonded with.

Twilight turned from Zecora back to the book; realizing that it had read her thoughts and shifted to a page that was exactly what she needed. She tapped the diagram on the page; a spell that Starswirl had developed for the victims of cockatrices and other immobile hard-luck cases. She gathered her magic, glad that she and Trixie had eye colors that were close enough to not raise questions after she was done. She would never have been able to explain how she had developed dichromatic eyes suddenly. Tendrils of magic spun from her horn into her senses, especially her sight and hearing. Her whole body twitched with imaginary inputs as her magic burned connections into her nervous system. Sparks arced from her into Trixie's stone prison, running down the stream of magic connecting their souls together. Across that link, she could hear Trixie gasping and grunting from the sensations as the magic played havoc with her mind, as it dove under the level of the curse and connected them on a deeper level.

And, borrowing some of Trixie's spells to weave into the matrix, Twilight completed the last part of the spell. Starswirl had never really gotten it right. A matrix of raw magic formed in midair, sparkling with light. Twilight held it together using every last bit of Trixie's talent in the subject that she could get her hooves on. Spells twitched as Twilight bound it to Trixie's control; the curse nearly defending itself against her for a moment as Twilight finished sculpting the new illusion spell and bridged a link to it for Trixie.

Zecora looked between the awkwardly posed pony turned statue leaned against her table, and the illusion that had just been completed beside it. Unnervedly, she turned to Twilight and tried to resist the urge to run out the door. "Twilight Sparkle, I believe your eyes the most; tell me that I do not see a ghost!"

"She sees a ghost?!" Trixie's hoof flew to her throat, marveling suddenly as she discovered that her senses worked again and that she seemed to have somehow discovered the ability to move again. She moved her head around, trying to spot what had panicked the zebra and struggled to figure out why her vision seemed to come from where Twilight was standing. And more importantly, she was nearly panicking herself as she tried to figure out how her body was still standing there next to her and why it was still petrified! Trixie dashed to the stone mass, finding to her horror that her hooves passed through its side in a hazy blue glow. "AAAAAHH! I'm a ghost!"

Twilight nearly fell to the floor laughing at Trixie's shock. "She's only an illusion."

Twilight sauntered over to Trixie with a bounce in her step. A cheeky hoof poked Trixie in the side, giving Zecora and Twilight something to laugh about as the showmare jumped into the air from the sensations of the hoof probing her eitheral form. At least they had made some kind of progress.

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