• Published 18th Dec 2011
  • 4,174 Views, 72 Comments

A Tale of Two Ponies - Silicas

Luna is pregnant with a colt sired when she was still Nightmare Moon. What will come of this?

  • ...

Chapter 6: Investigations

Chapter 6: Investigations

Tantalus stretched against the soft blankets of the bed, extending his legs and twisting his torso in an attempt to restore blood flow to his extremities. Eyes still closed, the stallion snuggled in closer to the bed sheets and yawned. He could feel the warm rays of the sun on his face. They felt so good. He did not want to wake up.

Tantalus lethargically opened a single eye. After a split second of pain, the lid snapped closed. Twisting his head away from the sunlight, Tantalus reopened it. The unicorn looked at the enchanted hourglass on the bedside stand. Half-past nine. Not bad, all things considered. With another yawn, the stallion’s thoughts strayed to the mare he had met the night before.

With a push of his back hooves, the unicorn removed the sheets that covered his body and rolled off the bed. His legs were still sore from his trek out of the Everfree Forest.

Tantalus quickly descended down the curved stairs outside his room and headed for the cottage’s exit. He trotted through the threshold and down the short path that led to the edge of the property. Sunlight illuminated the empty plots of soil that had once nourished a garden. Beside those vacant beds, a single red chicken coop stood empty, longing for the activity of its former residents. As he followed the thin unpaved path that led from the cottage into Ponyville, Tantalus could only wonder what was keeping Fluttershy in Canterlot for such a long time.

Spike listened to the metallic clicks as he stacked the bits that were Cobalt’s payment. Twilight had only withdrawn four hundred bits from her account; the rest of the payment was recorded on an embossed slip of paper that bore the mare’s name and an account number. The baby dragon had trouble understanding why anypony would value any piece of paper, but Twilight had insisted that it was worth what the stallion was owed. The purple dragon shrugged and continued stacking the coins. The dull click of the metal discs filled his ears. Now that was proof of worth! Not some official-looking scribbles of ink on a flimsy scrap of paper.

“How’s it coming along, Spike?” Twilight chirped from across the room. “Do you need any help?”

“I don’t think so,” reassured the mare’s number-one assistant, “I’m almost done.”

“Alright.” As Twilight spoke, however, her brow furrowed. “Spike, do you think Cobalt has a bank account? I didn’t really consider that he might not but now that I think of it, he really didn’t have anything to bring into Fluttershy’s cottage. I wonder if he even owns anything at all. Well, except for that zebra bracelet. But he did sure seem quite ready to part with it, didn’t he?”

The baby dragon just shrugged and continued stacking the bits, mumbling something unintelligible.

As she continued thinking, Twilight Sparkle became increasingly concerned about Tantalus’ history. She had just assumed that the stallion’s trip outside of Equestria explained his sudden appearance and lack of property. There was, of course, a quick way to verify the stallion’s story. I need to take this to Zecora. She’ll be able to tell me if it’s authentic.

The purple mare’s thoughts were interrupted as the door to the library swung open. Cobalt was standing in the threshold, looking around intently before his eyes fixated on the stack of coins that Spike was organizing. After a second, the stallion’s gaze snapped to Twilight.

Opening his mouth, Tantalus said, “I’m sorry I’m here so late. I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“Oh, no,” reassured Twilight, “Spike was just finishing up your payment for that Zebra bracelet.”

“Thanks,” said the stallion. A moment later a quizzical expression formed on his face. “Is… is that it? I guess I expected seventeen hundred bits to look a little more significant.”

Twilight frowned. How long, exactly, had the stallion been gone? The stack of coins was so small that it clearly could not be the full payment. After a moment, she explained that she had written a check that he could bit at a later date.

“A check?” asked the stallion, repeating the term that Twilight had used.

Twilight nodded. “Yes.” At Tantalus’ continued look of confusion, the mare elaborated, “You know, a signed note that says that I owe you thirteen hundred bits.”

“Oh, yes. Quite right.” The stallion’s expression of confusion only slightly yielded.

The mare was now positive that something was amiss with the newcomer.

After several silent seconds, the stallion asked, “So… What about that tour, Miss Sparkle?”

“Ah, yes,” Twilight said. Turning to Spike she asked, “Spike, do you think you could take those bits to Fluttershy’s cottage and put them in the chest at the foot of bed in the guest bedroom?”

“Sure,” grumbled the dragon, gathering up the neat stack of coins into a nearby box. “I’ll wait for you back here at the library once I’m done.”

“Thank you so much, Spike.” The mare turned to Tantalus. “Now, why don’t you follow me and we can get this tour started. Oh, and I hope you haven’t eaten yet; Pinkie Pie’s already planned a party for you, food included.”

“A… A party?” asked the stallion, concerned.

“Don’t worry. It’s just Pinkie being Pinkie; she throws one for every new pony when they come to Ponyville. I was kind of scared when she surprised me, but it turned out to be really fun. Besides, you’ll get to meet everypony else. Come on, though, we’ve got a lot to see before we head to Sugarcube Corner.”

Tantalus nodded hesitantly. “Whatever you say.”

Tantalus looked around hurriedly, his heart pounding. So many colors, so many ponies, and too many questions.

Why did Twilight Sparkle leave me here?

Galloping past several ponies gathered around a punch bowl, he dove into Sugarcube Corner’s kitchen.

The stallion had been afraid of the building the moment he laid eyes on its imitation-gingerbread roof and saccharin cupcake spire. With its walls covered in colorful decals illustrating a strange confectionary stock and its shelves lined with all manners of sugary treats, it was a truly startling place of business.

It was a strange world he found himself in.

The stallion shrunk towards the back wall of the cooking space as the room’s swinging door opened at the bidding of a white-coated mare that Tantalus recognized from earlier.

“Cobalt?” asked the purple-maned mare, “Is everything alright, dear?”

The stallion hung his head and, ears folded back, mumbled his answer. “Uh, Yah. It’s– It’s just so much happening. I needed a moment to catch my breath.”

“I know, dear. Sometimes Pinkie can be so overwhelming. She means well, though. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Just, uh, don’t tell anypony I’m in here.”

“Well, if you insist. You are the guest of honor, you realize. It’s not proper for you to languish back here while everypony else is celebrating your arrival in town.”


Tantalus’ reply was cut short as another head poked its way into the kitchen. This one was sky blue and sported a mane striped with the colors of the rainbow. She was also flying. Indoors.

She’s going to ask me if I’m doing chilled things again, isn’t she. What does she even mean? It’s summer; it won’t be cold for months!

Rainbow Dash looked around the kitchen, her forelegs dangling idly. “You ponies doing anything cool back here? I saw you all head in and I figured something awesome must be going on.”

Rarity waved her hoof. “Oh. Nothing, Rainbow. Cobalt here was just getting a breath of fresh air.”

“Alright,” said Rainbow Dash, “I’ll head back out then. Pinkie’s just about to start a round of pin-the-tail-on-the-pony.” Pointing a hoof at Tantalus, she continued, “You should come, Cobalt. It’ll be awesome.”

“Yah. I’ll try to catch up in a bit,” he lied.

An orange-coated mare stepped into kitchen. Carefully positioning herself beneath Rainbow Dash’s flapping wings, she eyed Tantalus worriedly.

Rainbow Dash looked down at the earth pony standing under her. “Applejack, what are you doing back here? Did you think something awesome was happening too?”

“Naw, Dash. I was just comin’ to tell y’all that Pinkie’s startin’ a game o’ pin-the-tail-on-the-pony. Any y’all interested? Especially you, Mr. Rooks,” the mare added with a nod in the direction of the stallion, “This here party’s for you, after all.”

Rarity extended a hoof to stop Tantalus from answering and said, “Now, my dears, we will be out in just a minute. Cobalt is taking a little break and shan’t be disturbed. He will be out when he feels like it.”

As the other ponies exited, Tantalus mouthed a silent “thank you” to Rarity. The white unicorn nodded before turning and following her friends out of the kitchen.

Twilight Sparkle trotted through the Everfree Forest. Though it was only an hour or two past noon, but the interior of the forest was as dark as ever. Insects and other small critters scurried in all directions throughout the canopy above, all hurrying away from the intruder in their home.

Before long, the unicorn arrived at Zecora’s hut. Checking to ensure that the golden band was sill in her saddlebags, Twilight raised her hoof and knocked on the door. After a few seconds, Zecora was at the door, already beckoning Twilight inside. Twilight followed her into the wooden and straw home. With the exception of the missing cauldron above central fire pit, the hut’s interior had not changed much since she had last visited.

The unicorn’s eyes flicked about the space for a moment and snapped back to Zecora. The zebra was sitting on her haunches just in front of the door. Twilight did the same, inspecting the golden rings that encircled one of the Zecora’s forelegs. They did not look much like the band she had received from Cobalt.

Zecora spoke first. “So Twilight Sparkle, why to me do you return? I see in your eyes a look of concern.” The zebra’s turquoise eyes inquisitively scanned her visitor.

“It’s nothing big. I was just wondering if you could identify something for me,” answered Twilight.

Rummaging through her saddlebags, she extracted Tantalus’ golden ring and presented it to the eager zebra.

“The pony I got it from said it was zebra-made, but I’m not so sure.”

“Ah. So about this band you seek my advice? I can tell you already that it is quite nice.” The golden ring held securely in her hooves, Zecora turned away from Twilight Sparkle and examined the object more closely. “But upon closer inspection, I fear, a zebra’s handiwork this is nowhere near. The gold is far too pure.” Zecora turned about and faced Twilight, using a single hoof to indicate the edge of the band as she spoke. “And observe this smooth contour. In a zebra forge this was not struck. That the pony who gave you this did not lie, I’m afraid you’ve no such luck.”

After she had finished speaking, Zecora passed the circlet back to Twilight. The unicorn mumbled a word of thanks, her full appreciation for Zecora’s insight not evident behind her furrowed brow.

The zebra addressed Twilight more firmly. “Twilight Sparkle, are you sure this is a matter of little concern? For there is one more thing about this trinket that it appears you have yet to learn.”

Twilight looked up. “Is there something wrong with it? I mean, besides that it’s not zebra-made.”

“Lean in close and you will sense something quite cryptic. Can you not feel the remnants of strong magic?”

As she moved the band close to her head, Twilight realized that she could indeed sense some residual energy in the band. The circlet resonated with a low magical ring that was difficult to identify. Twilight had no idea how the zebra apothecary had sensed it too.

Looking up at the zebra, Twilight asked, “Do you have any idea what form of magic might have caused this?”

“About that, Twilight, I am confused – for with magical energy, you see, this band is entirely infused. Perhaps it was made with magic, and not crafted in a forge of stone and brick.”

Made with magic? But from what? Something either already quite pure or very massive. Either way, that only leaves more questions than answers. There’s only one way to get to the bottom of this: I’ll have to confront Cobalt.

With the stallion’s motives even more in question, Twilight became acutely aware of the possible danger that her and her friends were in. She shook her head. They can handle themselves, but there’s definitely more to him than I first thought.

Zecora frowned. “Is there something wrong with what I’ve said, my dear? If so then please, speak it so I may hear.”

Twilight realized that Zecora had seen her shake her head. “Oh, I’m sorry Zecora. I think you are absolutely correct; this band does seem to be completely infused with the energy. I was shaking my head at something I thought of.”

“There’s no harm done,” reassured Zecora. “But let me tell you that I, for one, am interested in this band’s origin. When you are willing to speak more could you come again?”

Twilight turned the bracelet in her hooves, her thoughts still distant.

After a moment she said, “I think I will. Thank you for your time and insight, but for now I’ve got to ask somepony a lot of questions.”

Twilight pushed open the door to Sugarcube Corner. Slipping inside quietly, she skirted past several ponies and glanced around the building’s ground floor. Cobalt was nowhere to be found. The unicorn also noticed something else out of place. Though there were several ponies that were happily playing game of pin-the-tail-on-the-pony, a dejected Pinkie Pie was sitting in a wooden chair in the corner of the room. The pink mare’s head was hung limply and Twilight detected what might have been the slightest hint of tears in her sky-blue eyes.

Pinkie Pie looked up as Twilight walked towards her. “Hey Twilight,” she mouthed. Her voice was barely audible above the background chatter of the guests.

“Hello,” chirped Twilight, smiling. “Is everything alright?”

“Yah. It’s just that Cobalt is hiding somewhere in the kitchen; I think he doesn’t like my party.”

“Really? Did anything happen? Did he do something?” Twilight glanced around the room again, checking for any signs of damage.

“No, not that I noticed,” Pinkie answered. “I don’t know why he doesn’t like it. I put up balloons and streamers and I even made some cupcakes with little chess pieces on them. I’ve always been able to make anypony happy when they come to my parties. Cobalt just looked really, really scared.”

Twilight shook her head. “Come on, Pinkie. You can’t possibly be saying that you haven’t ever had a less-than-perfect party before?”

“No,” admitted Pinkie Pie, “but in the end they always seem happy. I just don’t know how Cobalt is supposed to be happy if he spends the entire party hiding in the kitchen. But I’m too scared to go in there and get him; it might frighten him even more. Rarity, Dashie, and Applejack went in there earlier to talk to him and it didn’t work for them either.”

“Here,” offered Twilight, “why don’t you let me go in there and see if I can’t talk to him? Cobalt seems like a really overloaded pony, perhaps all he needs right now is a calm voice to talk to. I’ve got a few questions I’ve been meaning to ask him, too.”

“Okay. Just don’t be too pushy with the questions. I remember him saying something about how ponies were asking him too many before he galloped off in there.”

Twilight nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind. In the meantime, why don’t you join in on that game of pin-the-tail-on-the-pony? Let me worry about Cobalt.”

“I think you’re right,” Pinkie Pie said, her mood brightening slightly. “Go and talk to him; I think he knows you the best of any of us, anyways. I’ll make sure nopony else goes in after you.”

Twilight turned to the kitchen’s door. The careful mare pushed aside the swinging panel quietly, trying to not alert the stallion to her entrance. She stepped around the table in the center of the room and into full view of Tantalus. The stallion was lying on his belly, legs curled up beneath him.

He eyed Twilight Sparkle with an expression of extraordinary relief which quickly turned into embarrassment. “Did everything go okay?” he asked.

“Actually, Cobalt, I’m afraid it did not.”

The stallion glanced around nervously, ears laid back, before fixating his gaze on the mare all the more intently. “I– Is everything alright, Miss? Is there anything I can do to–?”

Twilight cut off the dishonest stallion. “Yes, actually.” She sunk to her belly and brought her head level with his. “Would you mind telling me how you got that bracelet, again? I have it from a zebra herself that it’s not zebra-made.”

“Oh,” mumbled Tantalus, head sinking closer to cold tile floor. “You just seemed so interested that it might be. I really didn’t mean to deceive you; I just needed to make sure I got the money. I don’t have anything to my name, you realize; that band is all I had to start this new life here in Ponyville. You offered so much.” Looking up at Twilight Sparkle with his green eyes, Tantalus asked unsteadily, “Do– Do you understand?”

Twilight nodded, but continued frowning. “You still haven’t answered my question, though. Where did you get the bracelet?”

Tantalus looked around nervously. All he could do was to tell the truth and hope that the unicorn mare would understand. “I made it,” the stallion began, his words increasing rapidly in tempo as he continued speaking, “from a nullification ring placed on me by Celestia for a crime I committed a thousand years ago. I aided Nightmare Moon in her rebellion.”

The look on Twilight Sparkle’s face went quickly from one of concern to one of shock. Her jaw hung open slightly while she tried to find a response.

Tantalus looked at the stupefied mare, a weak smile dragging the corners of his mouth upward.

At some length, Twilight said, “I– I’m really not sure that I believe you. Tell me, though, why did you do it? Why would you want to destroy Equestria with eternal darkness?”

Tantalus looked quite wounded at the accusation, even if it had been entirely true. With a sigh, he admitted, “I– I did what I did for Luna.” Looking directly into Twilight Sparkle’s eyes, the stallion continued, “Tell me, haven’t you ever loved somepony? And loved that pony so much that you would do anything they asked you?” Tantalus broke his gaze with the mare and stared off somewhere into the distance as he spoke. “I don’t know what Celestia has told all of Equestria for these thousand years, but I gather that it wasn’t the full story. We didn’t want to see the world destroyed forever; we wanted to see it reborn.”

“Celestia wouldn’t lie to me. Or Equestria,” Twilight retorted.

“A thousand years ago, I would have argued that. But now, I realize that Celestia really did take Luna’s cause to heart. Not Nightmare Moon’s,” Tantalus clarified, “but Luna’s.”

Twilight Sparkle let out an uneasy scoff and shook her head in disapproval.

Tantalus ignored the attack. “It is – for the most part – entirely true. I watched as Luna wrote journals with ideas that are ancient history to you; I discussed each and every sentence with her and even added a few myself.” With a sigh at disbelief on Twilight’s face, the stallion finished, “Can you possibly understand?”

Twilight Sparkle looked away. “You aren’t the first pony who an alicorn has confided in. I understand and I think I’m willing to believe you.” The mare, now more concerned for Tantalus himself than for her safety or Ponyville’s, stretched out a hoof to straighten the newcomer’s head. Speaking firmly, she asked, “Do you want to destroy Equestria?”

“No, I do not. I have nothing left of that time but my life; all I want now is to make sure that I can keep it.”

Twilight Sparkle nodded and rose to her hooves. Offering a foreleg to Tantalus, she said, “I can’t see anything wrong with that, Cobalt. I have many more questions to ask you, but I don’t think that now is the time. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll head back into Pinkie Pie’s party. I promise I’ll stop ponies from asking too many questions; and I also promise that you’ll come out happy. Pinkie never lets a pony leave her parties unhappy, especially when that pony is the guest of honor.”

Tantalus hooked his foreleg around Twilight’s and pulled himself to his hooves. With a sigh and a forced smile, he followed Twilight Sparkle through the kitchen’s swinging door and into the milling party guests.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!