• Published 10th Jun 2020
  • 801 Views, 31 Comments

Splintershard - TheMajorTechie



Once upon a time, Equestria flourished. That time is now long-gone.

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2|2 ◈ The Fire

"Even in this broken body, I won't let anything hold me back. I'm going."

"No--you'll die if you push yourself any further!"

"I know. I'm not doing this for myself."


Emily yawned, flopping onto her bed. Another boring day came and went, and she had almost nothing to show for it. School wasn't much trouble, save for falling asleep... again... but that was beside the point! She did her work, she even did some of her homework! So what if she fell asleep in class again? Everything that needed to be done was done!

She flipped over onto her stomach, pulling her phone out from under the pillow. With all the tinkering she seemed to always be doing, Lisa would probably have something interesting going on. Emily winced as the bright light of her phone's screen hit her eyes. It always seemed to take a couple of seconds before the light sensor thing in it figured out that it wasn't the freakin' middle of the day in her room. After letting her eyes (and the phone's brightness) adjust, the girl let out a little huff, scrolling through her messages.

Nope, nothing. Guess that whole reinvent the world thing she was doing in virtual reality wasn't getting anywhere. Or maybe she got herself stuck in it again. Her dad had to unplug the headset more than a couple times in the past, though how she got stuck in VR was still a mystery to her.

An amused smirk formed at the edge of Emily's lips. Lisa always seemed to be doing big things. It'd be nice if... well, if something big happened to herself--Emily Ashton--for once. Just something to break the monotony of the week. There's a whole world out there, and all that she'd ever done is go to school, come home, go to school, come home. Breaks and vacations were nice, yeah, and so were the times she hung out with friends... especially tagging along to Lisa's robotics competitions from time to time, but it was always so... temporary.

A sigh. Emily turned over again, letting her phone fall onto the bed again. Her eyes began to close.

Nothing ever seemed to happen to boring ol' Emily Ashton.

Nothing.


Sunlight. Did she oversleep again? Whatever. Perfect attendance awards were overrated anyway. She brought a hoof to her face, shading herself from the light.

Wait just a freakin' second.

Emily's eyes snapped open as she heaved. A... hoof? She had hooves. She sat up, immediately flopping onto her face instead.

But still--she was a pony! What the heck, universe? She was fine struttin' around town as a human, but suddenly, wham! Out of nowhere, she's suddenly a small horse!

She grunted, planting both forehooves on the ground in front of her and pushing. This did not feel right. None of this felt right! All her human parts were now pony parts!

Also, there was rubble absolutely everywhere. At least her backpack was fine over in the corner, though.

...

...

But still, she's a--

"Okay, we get it, Emi," Starlight's groggy voice deadpanned. "You turned yourself into a pony. Not sure how, but you did."

Emily rolled her eyes. She aligned her hind legs beneath her, pushing the same way she did with her forelegs, however shaky the stance was. She was standing! That's accomplishment number one in this new body!

"Well that's quite a reversal on the whole 'I just turned into a pony' thing. At least you're taking it well now."

Oh, be quiet, Star. Only reason why she's taking it 'well' is 'cause there isn't any time to waste. Get the scroll, learn portal magic stuff, and go home. That's what she needed to do.

"Emily, I think you might be forgetting about something."

...and figure out how to turn herself back into a human, too. Either way, she didn't have time for this. Freaking out can happen later.

"Seriously though. That was a serious change in attitude in only a matter of seconds. You sure you're alright?"

"Mm-hm. Never been better. Except for being a horse."

Emily set a shaky hoof forward. "See? I'm already walking! Relax, Star, I'm a fast lear--"

"Falling muzzle-first over absolutely nothing isn't going to help with that image. Just be glad that my own senses are still a little muted as well from being out of mana last night."


Well, this is awkward.

"Tell me about it. I haven't walked in a pony body in ages. Just be ready to catch your balance in around fifteen minutes or so. I can't keep the possession spell up forever, though having an actual horn again definitely helps."

Yeah, a horn with weird crystal shards sticking out of it. The darn thing still hurt after tripping earlier. Though, now that she'd had some time to think of it, why didn't anyone come after the craziness that went down last night? The small crater she'd woken up in and the alley full of rubble definitely meant that some destruction happened.

Out here in the day, everything seemed so... normal. Ponies and other creatures were just going about their day, and even that old shopkeeper mare that sold her the stolen amulet was open for business again! Emily made sure to glare extra hard at that old hag as she passed. Granted, it didn't exactly seem like there was any sort of law enforcement around either. Not like the outer city. Either that, or she just happened to be extremely unlucky last night. Also, that amulet on the necklace was a scam anyway. The thing broke like glass when she tripped. Pretty sure that's not how emeralds work.

"I'd lean more towards 'they're just slow as molasses' to be honest. There's some coming our way."

Starlight watched the police pass by. They were saying something about an explosion last night. Must've been pretty bad if they're talking about it now.

"Wha--" Starlight shook her head. Emily must've hit her head extra hard last night for them to be having thoughts like that.

"Hey, it was your head too, Star! If I hit my head, then that means that you hit your head as w--"

"HHhhhhokay," Starlight groaned under her breath. "Calm down now, Emi. You're making a scene. Everyone around us is looking at us weird now no thanks to you."

"Fine."

Starlight glared at the startled creatures around them. It took a moment, but soon enough everyone went back to minding their own business. "Anyway," she started walking again. "We need to find someplace to rest. You've already put enough strain on yourself as it is."

"Again, fine. Still think I'll be alright though, but you're the one piloting, so I guess I'm gonna have to roll with it."

The mare weaved through the sea of creatures filling the streets. So much had changed since the last time she'd been around... no. Starlight shook her head. Now wasn't the time to reminisce on the past. Emily's still hurt from... well, whatever it was that happened last night, and the girl wasn't exactly familiar with quadrupedal movement, either. It'd help if there was a mirror around, though. If she was lucky, Emi's new body could be something that resembles herself a little bit--Starlight frowned at the tufts on her fetlocks. So much for looking like Starlight Glimmer.

For now, their best bet would be on finding a place to stay awhile and recover. At the very least, now that she was in a pony body again (albeit one that looks like it had an unfortunate accident in a gem mine), there was less of a chance of raising any suspicion based on being human.

Maybe it was best to just return to Ponyville. Granny Ambrosia could take them in for a couple more nights, perhaps. Maybe even restock a little on things like food, however tired Emily may be of candied apple pieces. Starlight hastened her pace, breaking into a light trot. If she was fast enough, she could perhaps hitch a ride back on Aero's train, even!

Now then. So long as Aero was still in town, all she'd have to do is find and wait by the train. He'd understand.

Probably.


"Okay now. Left forehoof forward. Easy now, steady--" Starlight's voice still sounded fuzzy in her head--"there we go. Now your right hind leg. Raise it up, just think of it as crawling on your hands and feet when you were still human. Unless you want to take a half-hour break every fifteen minutes of walking, you're gonna have to learn how to be a pony."

Emily fell over again in the shadow of Aero's train. She grunted, pulling herself up again and taking another shaky step forward. At least she could hop onboard and sit the rest of the way back. Just a few more steps... aaaand nope, guess that wasn't going to happen.

"Well... at least you're getting there," Emily felt the familiar sensation of Starlight's possession spell washing over her. "I'll take it from here. Aero's likely going to be back soon anyway, and I think it's best if I do the explaining this time."

Right.

Starlight nodded at Emi's remark, climbing aboard. To be honest, it surprised even her to see that Aero hadn't left yet, regardless of their earlier hopes. The stallion was likely off spending his cash in the city. She settled in on the seat she'd taken on the first trip, curling up against the wall. There wasn't much else she could do besides waiting, anyway.


"Hey. Wake up."

Emily yawned, cracking an eye. How long was she sleeping? A good... fifteen? Twenty minutes? Whatever. She sat up.

Aero loomed over her, glaring. "You'd better have a good explanation for this. I don't want to see folks like you sleepin' in my train just 'cause I leave it for a night at a hotel."

Hoo boy. Time to do this all over again.

"Hey Star, you're up," Emily whispered. "--Star? C'mon--" her body seized for a moment as the mare rushed a possession spell.

"Hello, Aero. This is Starlight Glimmer... again. As you can see, I am once again reincarnated. Apparently."

Aero raised a brow. Wow, way to bungle things, Starlight. What a performance. He'll totally believe us now.

"Ah, your backpack--" the stallion picked up the beat-up bag sitting on the floor--"If you're really who you say you are, then tell me what you were complaining about eating yesterday."

"Candied apples," Starlight groaned. "Listen--last night, Emily and I were jumped in the street markets for buying what turned out to be a stolen necklace from a merchant. The necklace itself is long gone now, but Emily did something with the wand she'd made for herself, and... well, you can clearly see what happened to us because of that."

"Oh."

"So anyway, would it be possible for us to return with you to Ponyville?"

Aero shrugged. "Yeah, sure. Don't exactly have much anything else to carry around, anyway. I thought you were looking for a scroll or somethin'?"

Starlight avoided his eyes.

"I see," he stepped away from the mare. "Well, I wish you luck in finding it soon! Faust knows the last thing we need is a second civil war."

His hoofsteps echoed lightly in the car as he left for the engine itself. Starlight sighed, dropping the possession spell as Emily closed her eyes. It was time for another long ride back.


Darkness.

Emily sat up, rubbing her eyes. She paused.

Hands.

She had hands again.

"Wh--" the girl peered into the darkness all around her. "--where am I? What's going on?"

No response.

"Star?"

Still nothing. She stood up. "Starlight? You there?"

Emily squinted as a gust of air blew past her face. She stepped backward in surprise, shielding herself from the wind with her arms. Her eyes widened as she lowered them; a dimly-lit path now stretched on before her, its blue glow emanating from stout flames that lined each side.

"Starlight," she muttered under her breath. A careful step forward seemed to intensify the flames momentarily. "Now would be a good time to start talking, y'know. I know this is a dream."

Another step. The flames died down to their original size moments after. Another gust of wind blew overhead, rustling some leaves that hadn't been there before.

A bright light erupted in the sky. Emily shielded her eyes, squinting at the moon that'd just appeared.

"Okay, Star. You turned this place into a weird forest. Can I wake up now?"

She jumped at the sound of a breath in the distance. Not just a normal breath, but... Emily frowned, starting towards the noise. Something about it didn't seem right. The breath was strained--like it was struggling.

Bright, dim, bright, dim--the flames pulsed with every step she made. The breath echoed over her again, but it sounded quieter. Weaker.

Emily's steps hastened into a jog. Around her, dark trees began to spring from the ground, their dark silhouettes reaching into the way of the path. She ducked under some of the rapidly-growing branches, gritting her teeth as she began to sprint.

"Em...i...ly--" a disembodied voice came alongside the breath this time. "Emm...i..."

"I'm here!" Emily burst through the branches, landing in a clearing. Glowing leaves of blue drifted to the ground around her. "I'm..."

There was something else in the clearing. Some... crystal of sorts--the same color as the leaves at her feet. She narrowed her eyes. There was something inside the crystal. It was a little hard to see even as a silhouette in the crystal's glow, but there was definitely something there.

Or rather, someone.

Emily gasped. No doubt about it, there was somebody inside the crystal. They looked... scared, in a sense, with the way that they were curled up. She took a tentative step towards the crystal, ignoring the intensifying whispers and pleads echoing in her ears.

She took another step. "...Hello? Is... anybody there?"

No response. Though it was hard to see in the position they were in, it was clear that their eyes were closed. A gentle rise and fall in their chest was the only indication that they were still alive. A chill ran down her spine as she walked closer. This... this was her! But...

Emily's eyes turned to her own hands. How could she be both here, looking at the crystal, yet simultaneously trapped inside said crystal, in some sort of deep sleep?

"Honestly, I've got no idea," another voice--her voice--came from behind.

She whirled around to face herself. The third Emily smiled, slipping her hands in her pockets as she strolled up to the crystal.

'Who are you?" Emily demanded, ready to pull the spoon from her pocket. "I'm not afraid of you. Why are you pretending to be me?"

"Oh, I'm not pretending, just..." her clone draped an arm around her neck, leaning Emily against the crystal's surface. "...guiding. You've gone through quite a bit of change these past few days."

"What? I--"

"No worries! No worries--sit down, girl, we've got some talkin' to do."

Emily sat down. "I still don't understand. Why are you me? Why am I here? Did something happe--"

"Geez, this must be how Starlight feels, being stuck in your head and all. First of all, you're safe. Nothing's happened to you. You're sleeping on the trip back to Ponytown, or whatever that place is called."

"I--"

"Secondly--" the other Emily cut in. "I don't know what's going on, either. I doubt you'd get an answer out of ol' sleepyhead there in the crystal if that's what you're gonna ask next."

Emily shook her head.

"Hm. Fair enough," the third her shrugged. "It was a bit of a weird question anyway. As far as why I'm you, or why you're here, I don't really know either. I can say for certain though that you're very confused."

"You think?"

"Mm-hm. Man, you're actually confused, aren't you? I don't feel a trace of sass in the words coming out of your mouth."

"...Yeah."

Her clone paused to glance at a watch that'd materialized on her wrist. "Well, I've got to make things quick this time around. I don't have much time left."

"Wait wha--"

"Oh, you hush, me. Listen--I know you aren't really yourself anymore, in the physical sense. You're unfamiliar with your new body. Scared, even, but you can't let that hold you back. No matter what body or form you take, you're still you. It might not be something that you're worried about, or even something that you've thought of yet, but do not let anything or anyone else define you. You define yourself. Your actions are your own. Move with intent behind every action. Think with intent behind every thought."

Emily raised a brow. "What about Starlight? She does stuff using my body sometimes."

"...Ignore Starlight's thoughts and actions. They don't count."

"Okay, so what was this whole conversation for, then? It's not like I was going through an identity crisis or anything before I took a nap."

"You'll find purpose in our talk when the time comes. Knowing who you are and what drives you will serve you well." Her clone turned away. "I must go now. It's time for you to wake up, Emi."

"Wait! You never said anything about what drives me! What are you doi--"

The girl's eyes widened as her duplicate flashed a smirk over her shoulder.

"You'll see in time."


Emily groaned, bringing her hooves to her face. It felt weird not having fingers again. At least the train had stopped. That other Emily in the dream was right about it being time to wake up.

"That was weird."

She sat up. "Yeah, no kidding, Star. Where were you that whole time?"

"What do you mean, 'where were you'? I was there that whole time you were sleeping! Did something happen?"

"Weird dream," Emily shrugged. "I'm... guessing you didn't see it, then. You weren't in it, and you didn't answer when I called for you. Just--" she slipped her seat and made some shaky steps toward the door. "--don't worry about it. I didn't really understand it either."

The mare stopped in front of the door. Earlier, when Starlight was in control, she'd just grabbed the doorknob with some magic to open the thing. Maybe... Emily stepped back, aiming her new horn at the doorknob. Splinter was probably in a million pieces somewhere after that whole explosion-transformation craziness happened, but now, she had something better to use for magic!

...

...

"Star, how do I cast spells?"

Starlight's mental facehoof echoed in her ears. "You have to focus on the intention and the method. You're trying to turn a doorknob, so first, focus on the doorknob itself. You got it?"

Emily nodded.

"'Kay," Starlight continued, "so I want you to think about how a doorknob turns.

"Take a look at the doorknob and what shape it is. What part of it would be best to grab onto? How does it turn? Do you need to apply a lot of force or only a little, and where? It's all a matter of fine control when it comes to spellcasting. I know it sounds pretty complicated, but do it enough and stuff like this will eventually become second-nature to you."

Another nod. Emily narrowed her eyes. The doorknob was one of those lever-style knobs, so it'd be best to grab close to the middle. That way, nothing would slip from her grasp, but at the same time she wouldn't need to apply so much force. Based on the positioning, she'd have to turn it clockwise to open the door. She shut her eyes and concentrated.

Nothing happened.

She tried again.

Nope.

And again.

Nada.

And aga--

"Here," Starlight grumbled, forcing Emily from control, "I'll handle it for now. Just... think about what I told you for now. Maybe you're just not ready yet."

Starlight lit her horn and opened the door like it was nothing. So much for learning basic magic.


"Took you long enough." Aero sipped his coffee. "You didn't drink the coffee I made you last time you were here, just so you know. By the way, did you realize that the clothes you had as a human are still on you?"

Starlight rolled her eyes. "Well, it's a bit late now to remind me, sherlock. Anyway--" she sat down across from him--"We'll be staying here in Ponyville for another day or two while we restock on supplies and plan out what to do next. We have a reasonable suspicion that the scroll was taken to the Crystal Empire, so our next journey's likely going to be a long one."

"...And your point is?" the stallion peered over the rim of his mug.

"The point is that we need a ride up north. I have no idea if the lines connecting Canterlot to the Crystal Empire are still operational," Starlight blinked, "...though now that I think of it, we probably should've checked while we were still in Canterlot. Either way, I don't think it'd be a good idea to risk a chance with Canterlot's public transport after so many years have passed."

Aero set his mug on the table. "So you want me to give you a ride up north."

"Yes."

"Or--" Emily mentally blurted--"we could buy a plane with our bits, and then Aero could fly us over the Crystal Empire! Star, you could just levitate yourself down or something, so that we wouldn't even need a parachute!"

Starlight let out a sigh.

"Something bothering you?" Aero cocked his head.

She kept her head down. "Emily's asking if you know how to fly a Whirlybird."

"Nope, sorry."

Welp. There went that idea.

"Well," Starlight continued, "I guess that leaves no option but to hitch a ride with you. So..."

"Eh, sure. You've done plenty enough for me anyway, given... y'know, the crystals and all... the ones that we--" he picked up his mug again and took a sip--"I'll stop talking now."

Starlight shook her head. "No no, continue. What do you know about the Crystal Empire? Are they still alleyed with the Ashen?"

"Yup. Princess Flurry Heart's the last known-living alicorn around, and she takes security seriously up there in the permafrost. You said you think the scroll you're trying to find is up north?"

"Yeah. Wait--last known livi--"

"Well, there's your reason." Aero set down his mug again. "Flurry Heart's been a security freak for longer than I can remember. I've never met her face-to-face, but the messages I've had to pass along from time to time while I was still with the Whirlwind company definitely pushed the image. As far as your surprise... I think I remember learning ages ago in history that Cadance was among those counted missing-in-action like you, Starlight."

"Oh."

"No remains, no sign of a struggle where she was last seen. Well," Aero sighed, "I suppose I could forge some papers for you or something. I know that my former standing in the company should allow at the very least me to enter, so if forging your papers doesn't work I could always try smuggling you in with some cargo instea--"

"Sorry, sorry, but my mana stores are beginning to run a little low now," Starlight's voice wavered as she interrupted. "You'll have to make do with Emily for a while."

Slowly but surely, Emily could feel control over her body returning. Slight insult aside, Star handled that whole conversation pretty well!

...

...

Oh. Right. Switching off isn't exactly the prettiest process to look at.

"Alright, Aero, you can stop freaking out now. I promise you, getting possessed and un-possessed by Starlight doesn't hurt one bit. Haven't you seen this happen before already? Or is it just that you're paying close attention to me while it's happening for once? Actually, come to think of it, being possessed in the first place might not be as freaky as--"

Starlight's facehoof interrupted her rambling.

"Ahem. So anyway," Emily continued, "did you have anything else to say?"

Aero shook his head.

The mare hopped off the couch. "Great! I'll be heading out then. Gotta restock and stuff. See ya! Thanks for agreeing to take me into the Crystal Empire!" she backed into the wall, letting out a surprised squeak before flipping around, fiddling with the doorknob.

"Emi..."

Shut it, Star.


"Eh? Who're you?" Ambrosia Cider squinted at Emily.

The mare sighed. Time to do this all over again... again. "I'm Emily Ashton," she began. "Y'know, the girl who helped you pick some apples not too long ago? You gave me more tins of candied apples than I'd imagined I'd ever eat."

Ambrosia snorted. "Ya don't look like the Emily Ah know. When'dya get so short?"

Emily rolled her eyes. "Long story. Got turned into a pony by some weird magic in an alley, came back to this place to rest up a little before leaving for the Crystal Empire with Mister Aero. Do you want me to pull out one of the cans you gave me or something to prove I'm the real deal?"

"Nah. Ah believe you. Didn't hear a single lie in whatcha said anyway. Come on in, Emily."

Well that was certainly a relief to hear. At the very least, it wasn't nearly as awkward as the trip from Aero's train station to here. Starlight really went out of her way to keep her walking.

"You're welcome for that, y'know."

"Yeah, yeah, thanks again, Star. Now rest up," Emily muttered, stumbling in behind Ambrosia. "So... uh, do I need to pick apples for you again or something? I don't really have hands anymore at the moment."

The old mare shook her head. "Not tonight. You just rest yourself up for the night. You eat anythin' yet?"

"Nope."

"Well, let's get that fixed! Ah've got an old recipe Ah've been wantin' to try anyhow."


So.

"Apple dumpling pie?"

Emily snorted. Star knew what went down. Short to say, that was something she didn't think she would ever eat until now. At least it didn't taste nearly as weird as it sounded.

She sat up in bed.

"Something up, Emi?"

Emily glanced at her hooves, then at the scrunched-up blanket at the foot of the bed.

"Oh. You don't know how to use your hooves still, let alone magic. Here, I--"

"No," the mare shook her head and hopped out of bed, wavering on her hooves. "Star, walk me through a spell. Yes, it'll take a while to get used to this new body, but I've already had some experience with magic. I can do this."

"Are you sure? It's pretty late now. Wouldn't it be better to try this in the mor--"

Emily stamped her hooves. "I said no. Please--I want to be able to do at least something by myself still. I can't use these hooves nearly as well as I was able to use my hands. At least let me be able to hold things again. Don't leave me trapped in this body. Please."

An audible sigh rose from Starlight in the back of her mind. "Alright then. What would you like to learn first?"

"Telekinesis. Or levitation. Whichever is closer to having hands. I hate how I had to be spoon-fed by Mrs. Ambrosia during dinner while your mana was still recharging. Man. I took my body for granted all this time, didn't I?"

"Yeah, you kinda did. Anyway, I'd recommend that you step in front of that mirror in the corner. Being able to watch yourself helps a lot in increasing your awareness."

Emily shuffled to the mirror, her eyes locked on the floor. "Okay... what comes next?" She raised her head, staring at her reflection and frowning. "I don't want a repeat of what you said back on the train, either. That didn't work."

"Drive."

"What?"

"Drive--" Starlight repeated--"Casting a spell isn't as simple as pointing something at another thing and willing for stuff to happen. You have to drive the spell, so to say. What motivates you? What's your inner drive?"

Emily rolled her eyes. "You could've told me that on the train, y'know."

"Well excuse me for forgetting. Anyway, what you need to do is not only focus on what you want to have happen, but also why you want it to happen. Mana stores are the energy that spellcraft runs on, but you still need something to direct that energy." Starlight paused. "Think of it as a fire. Mana is the fuel, but you need a spark to get the flame going. Find your spark and you'll light your fire."

Emily nodded, stumbling for one of the pillows on the bed. She took a deep breath before biting down on the corner, dragging it back to the mirror. Starlight's words rung through her head. The pillow was on the floor. She wants it to hover in the air, just below her chin. The best way to lift it would be at its center, where the majority of its weight is located.

Breathe in, breathe out. Why did she want this pillow to float? She racked her mind for an answer. 'Because she wants it to' wouldn't work, that's for sure. She shut her eyes. If only she hadn't jumped through that portal in the first place. She'd still be at...

Home.

That was what she wanted. That--she opened her eyes again--was why she wanted to make this freakin' pillow fly. To learn magic was the only way she'd be able to get home. Starlight couldn't help even if she wanted to. Going home was all on her--Emily.

"Levitate, dangit," Emily muttered under her breath, tilting her horn a little closer to the pillow. "Let me find my way home."

She felt something wash over her. A dim light sparkled from her crystal-studded horn, steadily growing in intensity. A similar aura of light enveloped the pillow in front of her. "I--" she gasped. "I'm doing it! Star, look, I'm doin--"

The light flickered out, leaving the pillow to sit once again in the dark.

"Dangit."

"No no, you did well, Emily! There's a first time for everything, and for you, this is how you start."

Emily glanced at the pillow, then to her reflection in the mirror. "You sure?"

"I'm sure. C'mon now, let's get some rest. We've got a long trip ahead of us."