• Published 31st Dec 2020
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Pearanormal Encounters - Roundabout Recluse

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Appearitions

Something woke Twilight.

At first, she didn’t know what it was. Her mind was fuzzy, and it was dark, but she’d only been back in Canterlot for a week; she figured she hadn’t readjusted to the castle’s atmosphere yet. Any sound or draft could have woken her.

But then she heard a distant crash from somewhere below her.

She couldn’t stop the instinctual flinch, but the rational part of her knew that a guard on night patrol had probably just dropped something. Like a plate. Maybe he was getting a midnight snack.

Another crash. Maybe a few plates. Maybe the guards were all having a snack.

Twilight released her breath and rid herself of her duvet. She was entitled to see what they were up to. Now that she thought about it, she was a little hungry, too. Maybe they had a snack to spare.

There was another shattering sound; she began to worry about the safety of Celestia’s old kitchenware. She stumbled into her new slippers and bathrobe and swung her door open, stepping into the corridor.

It was dark; she registered that much. The tile floors would have echoed eerily if it weren’t for her slippers. There were no guards in sight.

Twilight ran through the layout of the castle in her mind. The kitchens were where snacks would be. Down the hall, down the staircase, left past the ballroom, third door on the right. Third door on the left? Twilight couldn’t remember.

She lit her horn and proceeded down the hall. Shadows flickered around her, but she resolutely ignored them. Light created shadows. It was basic physics.

Unless Discord decided to get involved. But he certainly had better things to do than bug her at one in the morning. Probably. Most likely.

And the crashes – she heard another, sounding closer – were most likely plates dropped by guards. Maybe they were plate juggling. Maybe that was a thing guards did. Twilight nodded to herself, suppressing a yawn. She could tell them to practice later, and then she could go back to sleep.

Down the hall, around the corner… no, down the hall, down the staircase. With another yawn, she entered the stairwell, brightening her light to watch her step. Canterlot Castle had an overabundance of stairwells, mostly in the towers that led to sleeping quarters. This particular staircase had a creaky step near the bottom, and Twilight remembered asking Celestia years ago if it could be fixed. If all the steps creaked, it would have been fine. But one step, and not the others… Shuddering at the thought, she gingerly avoided the step.

Slam.

Twilight jumped, flared her wings, and narrowly avoided falling on her rump. Sleep fled all corners of her mind.

The door at the top of the stairwell, which she had left open, was now very much not open.

The slam reverberated in the silence until all she could hear was the thudding of her heartbeat, and it took a few moments before she could will herself to calm down. But it was okay, completely normal, because drafts were known to slam doors. Maybe not usually from inside towers, but maybe there was a window open that she hadn’t noticed.

Maybe there were too many maybe’s. Twilight frowned – she preferred certainties. Just in case, she called out, “Discord?” but her words dropped into the air without effect.

Okay. She furled her wings and left the stairwell, for there was no other rational thing to do. And she couldn’t go back to bed, because there – another crash, like a mirror shattering. Much closer than the kitchens would be, and she now realized that of course it was closer, because how else could she have heard it from her bedchamber?

Also, how could she even be sure guards were making that noise? Twilight slowed her steps. Now that she was properly awake, it occurred to her that the sound could be anything. A burglar could have broken into the castle for all she knew.

But in that case, guards should have shown up. They would have subdued a thief. Unless it was worse than a thief, in which case the newly-crowned Princess of Equestria was in terrible danger.

Twilight stopped altogether. No, she could fight off any nefarious creature, even at night. But the idea left ice in her stomach. She should have woken Spike to join her, at least.

Another crash – and Twilight turned slowly, away from the path to the kitchens. It had come from the throne room.

She considered her options. In imaginary list form, which calmed her best:

1. Go back, find Spike, and sort this out together.
2. Look for some guards, and see if they know anything.
3. Go to the kitchens and hope it’s gone when you get back. (She was still somewhat hungry.)
4. If it’s a thief, they’ll steal something if you don’t do something. Just open the door.

It was a risk she was willing to take in order to preserve what, in her eyes, still belonged to her former mentor, but not without caution. She brought to mind a shield spell and creaked open the doors.

No shadows, no panicked hoofsteps, no bolts of magic arcing through the air. The room was dark and silent. Exhaling soundlessly, Twilight conjured lights to fill the room.

Something was definitely amiss. There were some stacked gala chairs and a table knocked over by the left windows, and – oh, the windows.

Twilight’s heart plummeted. The princesses had renovated the throne room a year ago, complete with nine new stained-glass pieces – the old windows were now located in Canterlot Library, as per Twilight’s request – but these new windows –

Numerous panes from each window had been smashed. Glass littered the floor. Twilight could feel the cold air from outside.

This didn’t make sense. How could somepony… actually, that was an important question. How was this actually possible? There was a protection spell –

“Princess Celestia,” a feminine voice proclaimed, nearly scaring Twilight out of her slippers. She whirled around, searching for the source, but it seemed to come from everywhere at once. “I have somethin’ important to tell you, and you’d better listen, y’hear?”

…Nothing of this world could break a protection spell.

Twilight cleared her throat. “I’m… not Princess Celestia.” An admission she’d made many times lately.

“Oh.”

Something began to take shape in front of her, as though a pocket of space were siphoning color from the room. The colors coalesced into a mare’s shape, with voluminous, tousled orange curls that glowed ethereally.

The pony didn’t look dangerous at all. She just looked lost.

“Who are you?” Twilight tried to sound gentle. She could barely breathe; this pony was see-through. See-through ponies didn’t exist. Ghosts didn’t exist.

The mare tilted her head. “Buttercup,” she said, lashing her tail against the ground. It passed through. “My name is – was Buttercup, and I sure as sugar didn’t come all this way to go belly-up. When will the princess be here?”

My name was Buttercup. Was.

She really was a ghost.

“I… can get a message to her,” Twilight said, because that was easier than explaining that Celestia was no longer Equestria’s ruler. There was no telling how long the pony had been a ghost, and ghosts probably didn’t read current events. Also: ghosts… existed. Ghosts existed. “Where did you come from?” Cautiously, “And why did you break the windows?”

“Windows?” Aquamarine eyes exchanged intensity for confusion. “I… oh. I was just tryin’ to figure out what I can and can’t do. And I was hopin’ to cause a ruckus and get the princess’s attention.” If a ghost could flush, she would have. “Sorry ‘bout that.”

Well, that had certainly worked, to an extent. “But where did you come from?” Where did ponies go when they died? How did this pony come back? This was completely undocumented. Possibly even unprecedented. Twilight wished she had a notebook.

“Well.” Buttercup frowned. “The afterlife. I crawled and bucked my way back into this world, floated around fer a bit, and finally worked up the energy to manifest, and now I’m here.” She waved a translucent hoof. “But that’s beside the point. You haveta tell the princess that she has to get her horseapples together and stop the Marefia.”

…Twilight blinked. “I’m sorry. Say that again?”

“The Marefia.” Spoken matter-of-factly. “Those no-good crim’nals who run the underside of this here city? Those ponies. The princess needs t’stop them, and she needs to do it now.”

Twilight knew about the Marefia; everypony did. But if there was any message she’d expected a ghost to impart, that was not it. Especially since…

“The Marefia – Princess Celestia rounded them up years ago.” Twilight was seven when the last member was banished and/or thrown into a dungeon.

“I – what?” The ghost’s ears flattened. “That’s not possible. They were after us. Apples was a boomin’ business, so they extorted us… when we didn’t comply, they wanted to send a message… our family’s still in danger!”

As Buttercup’s voice rose, the air seemed to hum. Another pane of glass cracked.

“Okay, wait,” Twilight broke in hurriedly. “I – er, Princess Celestia – can get guards to protect your family. It’s all going to be okay.” She hesitated. “Can I ask… when did you die? Sorry if that’s…”

And Buttercup told her.

“Oh.” That cleared up a bit. “That’s… I think you’ve missed a lot.”

Ghosts could cry, interestingly. Buttercup sat down hard on the marble floor. “You’re sayin’ the Marefia really is gone? But what about my family? What happened to them?” Her image flickered.

Twilight automatically reached out a hoof before remembering: ghost. She floundered for some way to comfort the mare. “The world is a safer place now, and your family is probably okay. I’ll find them, and I’ll do whatever I can to protect them, just in case, all right?”

Buttercup rubbed her eyes with a sniff. “Right. I hope you’re right. I hope they’re safe.” She looked up, meeting Twilight’s eyes, and said, “Thank you, sugar cube, fer helpin’ me.”

Something pinged in the back of Twilight’s mind. She furrowed her brows. “Of course.” She studied Buttercup’s face, trying to look at her and not through her.

What if… no. Twilight gave her head a little shake.

Buttercup sighed, lowering her gaze to the floor. “It sure figures that I spent years in the other realm. Explains why it was so hard to get here. Even with the energy of another spirit holdin’ me up, it feels like I’m tryna stay afloat in a pond that wants t’drag me under.”

Her aura dimmed further. Twilight reached out again, farther, and her hoof passed through chilled air.

Buttercup glanced up, and Twilight could tell that that pond was close to winning out. The pony looked exhausted.

“Tell me where to find your family.”

Buttercup spoke. Said the names of her three children, and of her mother-in-law. The name of their home, and the name of their town.

The whole time, Twilight’s body was frozen. Heart, lungs, muscles, and mind. The little what-if in her mind became words, and those words were coming from the orange-maned pony who had been dead fourteen years.

Buttercup asked what was wrong. She was hardly visible now, but she didn’t seem to notice.

“…Nothing’s wrong.” Twilight worked her vocal cords until they mustered up more words. “The… opposite, actually. I – I know your family, I know your children, and – they’re safe. They’re more than safe. And they love you.”

That was the most important part. “They love you, and they miss you.” And… and that was all Twilight knew to say. If only she had asked Applejack questions. If only Buttercup had manifested in Ponyville. If only –

Buttercup’s despondence melted away, leaving her face alight with pure, unbridled hope and joy. She rose to her hooves, maybe even floating a hair off the ground, and brought her face close to Twilight. “You know them? Really?”

“Applejack is one of my best friends, Apple Bloom is a leader in the Ponyville community, and Big Mac just got married.” Twilight searched her mind, wanting, needing to fill the mare in on everything. “You would have loved his wife, Sugar Belle. Oh, and Granny Smith is still running the Acres!”

Tears welled in Buttercup’s eyes. “I’m so glad. I’m so…”

Her form blurred for a moment, as though she was out of focus. “…Tell ‘em I love ‘em. Tell ‘em… their Ma and Pa are so darn proud of who they’ve become.”

“Wait!” Twilight flared her wings. “What’s happening? Are you fading? Why are you fading?”

“I…” Buttercup looked down at her hooves curiously. “I don’t know. My grip on this world is slippin’ mighty quick. I think…”

The last expression on her face was one of peace. And then she was gone, leaving Twilight alone in the vast, cold throne room.


Three members of the Royal Guard tumbled out of the closet at the sound of their princess’s voice. The guards exchanged looks and scrambled to stand up properly before she rounded the corner.

Princess Twilight hardly spared them a glance. “Wake up Spike and tell him I’m going to Ponyville,” she called as she galloped past.

The guards looked at each other.

“…D’you think she c-caught the ghost?”

Comments ( 7 )

First 2021 story, I see. Congrats.

10607929
Well, depends on your time zone--for me it's still 2020.

But hey, don't let me take that away on a mere technicality. :pinkiehappy:

Don't forget to submit this to the Original Pairings Group in order to be eligible for the contest.

10607973
Well, it says "1st Jan 2021" in date posted. :rainbowlaugh:

Oh wow so Buttercup is still roaming around to tell Princess Celestia about the mafia but that's been so many years that happened when Twilight told her and Twilight found out this Buttercup is Applejack and Applebloom and big mac mom so she told her that they are OK so now her soul can finally rest in peace this was a pretty interesting story nice job

“…D’you think she c-caught the ghost?”

Equestria's finest, everybody. :ajbemused:

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