• 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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3|1 ◈ This Return

Empty words,

Lay strewn about.

Though the final gasp,

Was hardly a shout.


A loud bang filled the air as the ball of mana dissipated mid-air.

"Did I do it?" Emily opened her eyes. "Did I open a portal yet?"

"No, not yet. Keep concentrating." Starlight sighed. "Well, at the very least, you've been picking up on this stuff far faster than I ever did. Though, I'm half-tempted to say that that's thanks to the fact that your teacher is more or less yourself. You know what I mean?"

"Yup."

Emily nodded, clenching her eyes shut again. Even if she was able to experience the spell's casting firsthand when Starlight did it, actually doing it herself was still hard as ever.

"Think hard about the exit side of the portal. You don't want to phase into a wall, or any other object for that matter."

"Yeah."

The bathroom stall. That'd be a discreet place to open the portal to, just like the one Starlight originally opened. As long as nobody was in the stall at the moment.

"Alright, you've got your location. The portal spell I'm teaching you is adapted from an older, mirror-based spell that tied two mirrors together between two locations. The difference between that and this is that--"

Yeah, yeah, this spell doesn't rely on mirrors as waypoints, even if it's between two completely different planes of existence. Yadda yadda, inherently more unstable but also much more convenient. Wouldn't it make more sense for Star to use the mirror portal spell instead, then? At the very least, it would've prevented... well, any of this from happening.

"The mirror portal spell, while more stable, requires far more energy to be upheld for the same amount of time than a free-standing portal. I doubt your world has any readily-available external mana sources."

Fine.

"What attempt is this now? Eighth? Ninth?" Starlight cut in again. "Portal spells, in general, tend to sap up tremendous amounts of mana, and that isn't even counting the mana they eat up to be maintained for more than a few seconds. I think it's best to take a break now after so many attemp--"

Emily released another swirling charge of mana. She watched it careen forward, arcing toward the ground.

"Seriously, Emi. Before you burn yourself out. It is not a fun experien--"

A blast of light and dust burst from the impact point. Emily shielded her eyes with a hoof, cringing at the sudden irritation. That didn't happen last time she cast the spell. All those previous attempts popped mid-air! Did that mean...

She lowered her hoof, gasping at the wavering portal in front of her.

"Huh. You actually did it. Didn't think it'd be this soon, though."

Emily smirked. "Well, you did say I was picking up much faster than you yourself ever did. So, should I--" she prodded the portal with a hoof. "--y'know, just hop through again like I did last time?"

"No. Not in the body you have now, at least. Hold on a moment, I'm gonna borrow your horn."

Wait, wha--

Emily felt a spot on her forehead instantly go numb. Starlight's aura washed over her, momentarily tinting her vision teal as she clenched her eyes shut.

"You can open your eyes again, Emi."

She opened an eye. The portal was still in front of her, and she didn't feel any different. What even happened? She looked down to her... hands? Her eyes widened. She had hands again! She was back to her old human sel--

"Nope." Starlight countered. "Cloaking spell. I don't know any shapeshifting magic, let alone anything permanent enough to reverse whatever magic it was that turned you into a pony in the first place. The spell I cast is for the sake of keeping your pony self a secret. It's best not to look the way you currently look if we're going to venture into your world, after all."

Fair enough. Emily glanced at the portal, then to her hands again. She was still on all fours.

"It's a cloaking spell, like I said. You're going to have to stand on your hind legs to match your old body structure."

Oh.


"Home, sweet home!" Emily flopped against the stall door. Face-first. "Oh hey, they fixed the door."

As always, she could feel the presence of Starlight's eye-roll. At least this time, there wasn't going to be any worry of how to get back!

"Yeah, yeah. So anyway, you've got a day to do what you want in your homeworld. Flurry Heart told us that she'd likely be receiving the new copy of the scroll by then, don't forget."

Yup. Not forgetting that. Emily pressed her hoof... er, hand against the door's latch, fumbling the small metal piece.

"You know you can still use your magic under the cloaking spell, right? I returned control of your horn already. Not like I'm going to have the mana to do much else anyway, given how long I've made the spell last."

...Right. Magic. Emily lit her invisible horn, concentrating on the latch.

The door opened.

"There we go!" Emily cheered, stumbling out of the stall. She looked over her shoulder. Of course, the portal obviously collapsed behind her after she exited, but it was always good to check. "Alrighty. First order of business, escape the building. That... might be a little hard to do, since this is a school and all."

"Maybe it'd be more helpful if you stop talking so much, then. You'll only call more attention to yourself by making noise."

Fine, grouchypants.

Hey, bipedal locomotion was coming back to her!

Starlight groaned.

Emily peeked out from behind the bathroom door. All the lights were out, save for the handful of emergency lights illuminating the hallway. That was good--nobody would be there to see her. She pushed the door open, still shaky on her hind legs as she scampered out. Darn her horse legs for literally keeping her on her toes at all times.

She paused beneath the clock hanging at the end of the hall. "Huh. Almost five in the morning," Emily mused. "Well, I guess that means we'll have plenty of time to spend here before it's safe enough to return again tonight. Weird how it isn't the same time as it is in Equestria, though."

"I can open the portal back anywhere. It doesn't have to be in that bathroom stall. And timezones are a thing that exists."

Emily rolled her eyes. Starlight seemed to be hating every second of this.

"Because this is time we could be spending trying out ways to track things back in the Crystal Empire! Don't you understand? I'm only letting you do this because I know you need it! But me? I've been on edge ever since we learned that the scroll we destroyed was a copy! There could be thousands of scrolls out there!"

Man. Way to make her feel terrible for being homesick, Star.

"Sorry."

Apology accepted. Emily continued walking, turning the corner and making a beeline toward the front entrance. It was a good thing that these doors only locked on the outside, or else she would've been stuck in the school until the janitors arrived in the morning!

Emily grinned, her steps growing quicker as she reached out, slamming both forehooves against the push-bar on the first door. The familiar ch-click of its latch echoed down the empty hall, as did the second door up ahead when she got to it. Though, the echo in the latter's case was contained mostly by the little lobby area between the two sets of doo--

"Enough thinking about the doors, Emi. You wanted a day at home, and you got one. Don't waste it."

Right. She came here for a reason. Emily walked down the sidewalk, sticking close to the shadows. It probably wasn't a good idea to suddenly reappear after over a week of being missing. Especially when she still had things to do back in Equestria.

"Where are you going, anyway? I thought your house was in the opposite direction."

"That's 'cause it is. I'm not going home now, what do you think I am, crazy?" Emily threw up her arms... er, forelegs, and tipped over from the momentum. "Urk. Hooves are annoying. Being a pony is annoying."

"You're annoying."

Ouch.

Starlight snickered. "But anyway, where are you going, then? If you're not going home, where else is there to go?"

"Lisa's house. She can keep our secret." Emily's ears perked at the sound of an approaching car. "Aaaaand scratch that, gonna go hide now. I guess that's one benefit of going fully horse."

"You keep talking about hiding away and staying in the shadows. Is something wrong?"

Emily shook her head, peering out from behind a bush. "Nothing's wrong. It's just that in this world, if someone goes missing without explanation, you can absolutely bet that people are gonna have an eye out at all times. Being alone outside at night only makes me more suspicious. I'm not sure how similar things are in Equestria, but things seem pretty lax there based on that question."

That seemed to satisfy the mare for a bit. Emily emerged from the bush. All clear. She looked back to the school. From here, it was another... two blocks. There was definitely a turn somewhere along the way, wherever there was a stop sign next to a large pine tree.

Another car approached. Emily ducked into the bush again.


"Now what?"

Emily peered at the looming house in front of her. Ringing the doorbell was definitely out of the question, and so was knocking. That'd just wake Lisa's parents instead. She didn't need a second sleepover to know how lightly they slept.

Man. Would've been nice right about now to have her phone with her. Oh well. There really wasn't any other option but to wait at this point. Both of Lisa's parents worked from home anyway, so she'd be the only one leaving the house in a couple hours. The bushes lining the driveway would make for a good hiding spot until then.


"...Emi?"

Emily groaned.

"Emily!" Lisa's voice came again. "Emi, everyone's been looking all over for you! Are you hurt? Where have you been all that time? Why do you look like you just got a fresh change of clothes? Why are you sleeping in my front yar--"

"Okay, okay!" Emily burst. She sat up, rubbing an eye. At least, rubbing it the best she could with a hoof disguised as a hand. "I'm awake."

"You've been missing for around a week now." Lisa held out a hand. "Your mom and dad have been bugging me the entire time about whether or not I know where you went."

Well, time to see whether the cloaking spell made her hooves feel like hands. She reached out and let her friend grab her hoof.

"I--" Lisa frowned at Emily's touch. "Wait, what's wrong with your hands? They feel so... velvety."

"Er... new lotion?"

Lisa folded her arms. "Doubt it."

"Invisible gloves?"

"Sure. Anyway, I'm gonna call your parents now. You should probably get yourself checked at the doctor's office or somethi--"

"No!"

Lisa raised a brow.

"Here, hold on a sec. I have to show you something. All I can say is that I absolutely can't go home. At least, not yet. I'll have to leave again soon. Starlight?"

The spot on her forehead went numb again as Starlight let the spell dissipate. "And here I was thinking you weren't going to return to Equestria. Thanks for making good on your word."

The look on her friend's face said it all. Emily looked at her hands. Sure enough, they were back to the fuzzy nubs she'd gained a few nights ago.

"I--" Lisa stepped back. "No. This is beyond weird. You..."

"I know, I know," Emily hung her head. "I screwe--"

"You became a furry?"

Hm. Now was good enough of a time as any to try out Starlight's facehoofing technique.

"Wait wait wait, I'm joking!"

Emily lowered her hoof.

"So... uh, care to explain how you got yourself turned into a pony that looks like it came straight out of a TV show?"

"Long story. Portals, spells, buying a magical amulet that turned out to be stolen from a street gang, and a big explosion. Also a search-and-destroy mission centered around a time-travel scroll that holds the potential to destroy an entire universe. How's your week been going, Lis?"

"...Yeah, I think I might've gotten myself stuck in another simulation." she backed further from Emily. "I'm... just gonna go now."

"Wait! Just... if you think this is a simulation, why don't you play along for a bit? Y'know, decide for yourself. Just promise me you won't tell anyone about this, whether or not it really is a simulation. Besides--" Emily stood up, shaking the leaves from her mane. "--if you are stuck, don't you have to wait for your dad to disconnect you anyway?"

"...Yeah. I should really get to work on a failsafe exit routine instead of relying on family members."

Emily nodded. "So anyway, I was wondering if you'd like to head back through the portal with me."

"WAIT HOLD UP--" Starlight's voice screeched through her head. "NOBODY told me that you were going to bring your friend back with you to Equestria!"

Lisa rubbed her chin. "What's the chance that I end up getting turned into a pony like you did? I'd rather keep this body. I like it."

"So long as you don't get into a tussle with street gangs at night over black-market sales, I think you should be fine."

Emily convulsed for a moment as Starlight forced herself into control. "Now, young lady," she began, pointing a hoof at Lisa. "I do not want to be responsible for a second teen crashing through a country teetering on the verge of war! Emily's already enough of a headache at times, so you'd better not--"

"Sure, I'll tag along then."

Starlight screamed.

"Okay, okay, what's going on with you?" Lisa took her hands off her ears. "Just a week ago, everything seemed fine! Now, you're standing here, yelling at me as a small horse thing! Give me one reason to believe that this is not another random scenario I tossed into my headset."

"There are no reasons, so if you ask me, I would keep my adventures to myself, unlike a certain girl whose body I've been inhabiting."

"Oh, you're possessed now, too. Greeaaaat. Still gonna follow along anyway. Not like there's anything else to do half the time when I get stuck like this."

Emily felt Starlight retreat back into her head. What followed was the saddest, most frustrated-sounding screech she'd ever heard.

"Shut up, Emi."

"So," Emily turned her attention back to Lisa. "Uh, sorry about what happened just then. Did I mention that I've got the spirit of a powerful magus living in my head, too? She's... kinda why all this happened in the first place."

"Maybe if someone didn't jump through a portal in the first place, I'd just be a friendly personal assistant living up in your empty noggin."

Shut up, Star.

"Y'know, at this point, even if it wasn't a simulation, I'm still going to follow along for the sake of your sanity."

"Okay then... just know that you'll be in it for the long-haul. I'm still far from completing my quest. You can help out, of course, and I guess if you want to come back home, I could just open a portal back for you or something like that."

"Understood. I'm far enough ahead anyway in my classes that I don't really worry much over my grades, anyway. I have the time to watch over you."

"Well, I give up." Starlight sighed. "At least she seems more responsible than you. I'll... just open the portal again. This time, I won't be dropping us off into Old Guard territory."

Good.

Queue forehead spot go numb. Yadda yadda, spell-cast-y stuff, magic ball hit the ground and went boom. And there it was; a swirling portal! Lisa didn't react much, though that was probably thanks to her thinking it was still all part of a simulation.

Emily held out a hoof. "You coming? These portals aren't exactly the most stable things in the world."

"Yup, and I'm not planning on taking my eyes off of you anytime soon, Emi. This is gonna make for one heckuva story to tell the real you once all this is over."

Starlight snorted. "Just wait 'til she realizes that this really is the real deal. You're going to get an earful from her about dragging her into my problems."

Just... keep the portal open, Star.

Emily walked through the portal, with Lisa trailing close behind. Unlike last time, the portal remained open.

"Last call to stay behind," Emily looked over her shoulder. "Lisa?"

"You know I'm not budging. Also, what's up with all the apple trees?"

Emily shrugged. "Starlight decided to open a portal to Sweet Apple Acres, that's all. It's a good home base anyway... though... uh, hold on a moment--Star, why'd you bring us here instead of the Crystal Empire?"

"I think it'd be best to keep your friend away from danger. She can stay here with Granny Ambrosia while I teleport us up to the Empire. I've been itching to try out another long-range telepo--"

No. Lisa was coming with them, and that's that.

"Why are you so stubborn about bringing Lisa with us, anyway?"

She could help! Lisa had plenty of know-how on all sorts of technology. Surely she could help develop something as an alternative to the scroll, right? At least that way there'd be a less-existentially-dangerous replacement to weaponizing time travel. Just as a backup plan of sorts.

"You brought your friend... to develop weapons." Starlight scoffed. "I can't believe it! You've gone bonkers. Maybe I should leave you behind with Granny Ambrosia, and figure out how to manifest in Lisa instead! At least that way I'd be working with someone a little more level-headed!"

"Hey, hey, chill!" Emily muttered under her breath. "The weapons thing is more of a hypothetical. The main reason why I want her to tag along is 'cause I know that she's also into this sort of stuff as a side-hobby. Y'know, the whole fantastical, magical stuff? She's into that. She can help us find the scroll. I promise."

She felt Lisa's hand touch her shoulder. "Are... you--"

"Yes." Emily turned to her friend. "I'm fine. I was just talking to Starlight. My side of the mental communication becomes verbal sometimes. C'mon Star, let's head back to Flurry Heart."