• Published 16th Nov 2012
  • 20,328 Views, 1,026 Comments

Address Unknown - remedy



Derpy's suffered scorn for a mold she doesn't fit. Will a chance meeting change her life for the better?

  • ...
53
 1,026
 20,328

24. A House of Cards

Chapter 24 – A House of Cards

Spike was sitting in the bedroom, glancing furtively left and right to make sure nopony was around. Secure in the knowledge that he was alone, he quickly darted to the closet to retrieve his hidden stash of jewels. It wasn’t very large, but it was enough to snack on when he was hungry and Twilight wasn’t in the mood to indulge him.

Searching through the satchel, he passed over the more common gemstones – emeralds and rubies were fine, but their flavors became mundane after a time. He had begun saving up a much more dazzling array for when he was feeling exceedingly hungry. He rummaged past a peridot, some citrines, a spinel or two, and paused for a moment to regard a sphene before deciding that its vaguely lemon taste didn’t sound appealing at the time.

His eyes settled on a beautiful rubellite tourmaline, his mouth watering with anticipation of the savory gem. His mouth wide open, he popped the light red stone toward it at the same instant a belch of green flame spewed from his mouth, producing a scroll that knocked his precious snack away and under Twilight’s bed. He grumbled in frustration at the interruption, aggravated more by the fact that his food was now likely covered in dust.

He walked over to the bed, clutching the ill-timed letter in his claw. He was just about to lay across the floor to retrieve his gem when his stomach gave a furious rumble, and he spat out a second letter. Oddly enough, the second scroll was bound particularly tightly and was addressed to Derpy. He swiped up the letter and tossed both of them onto the bed before crawling under to grab his sullied snack.

Wriggling out from under the furniture with his prize in tow, he unceremoniously wiped the grime off on Twilight’s sheets. It’s her letter that got crud all over my snack, so if she wants it, she can wash her own sheets. Stupid letter. He inspected the gem for leftover dust. Satisfied that it was clean, he quickly wolfed it down before he could be interrupted again.

He grabbed both scrolls and headed toward the door, before pausing. If the princess sent this one specifically for Derpy, she probably doesn’t want Twilight reading it… Patting himself on the back for his quick thinking, he deposited the second scroll in his bed for temporary safekeeping and headed out the door with Princess Celestia’s response.

Twilight took the letter from Spike, showing annoyance with his normal lackluster attitude. Her excited squeals earned an eye roll from Spike, and she unfurled and read it with anticipation. She seemed genuinely happy at the response, but Spike paid no more attention to her than usual – Princess Celestia’s letters were usually mundane and meant specifically for Twilight, meaning his comprehension of the notes would be minimal at best.

His lack of attention to her reading, however, meant that he had not noticed the sudden change in Twilight’s demeanor as she continued to read, her brow furrowing as she scrutinized every word it contained. He calmly walked back toward the bedroom, looking forward to another gem treat, completely unaware that behind him, Twilight was quivering with anger as she continued to read.

She paced back and forth heavily, shaking her head and muttering incoherently as she stared at the cerise-enveloped parchment she magically held in front of her face. Her eyes fell down the page to the end, and her cheeks burned red. A low growl began in her throat, Spike’s only warning of what was to come.

He whipped around quickly, just fast enough to see Twilight let out a bestial shriek. He dove for the corner as her mane and tail burst into flame, singeing the books in her immediate vicinity. Her coat flashed a fiery orange and her eyes burned crimson as she glared venomously at the document.

With one final flare of intensity, her energy reserves dwindled, and she collapsed in an extinguished heap, smoke still rising from the various charred pages surrounding her. Her head hung low, and she began sniffling and sobbing into her hooves, not moving from her solitary spot in the middle of the floor.

Spike cowered in his corner as Twilight’s fury subsided into despair, and his fear for his friend was outweighed only by his confusion at what had just happened. He heard a clambering noise outside, and turned to see Applejack and Rainbow Dash standing in the door, and Derpy slowly catching up beside them, a slight wobble in her step.

The three ponies looked around the room in alarm, noticing the smoldering remains of books, burnt bindings and pages turned to ash that surrounded Twilight’s crumpled form. They rushed forward, circling around Twilight. Rainbow Dash and Applejack quietly sat to her sides, and Applejack placed a hoof across her back in a futile gesture of comfort.

Derpy, however, knelt down in front of the broken unicorn and threw her forehooves around her neck, pressing her muzzle firmly against Twilight’s tear streaked cheek, and held her tightly. Without knowing the cause, she simply cried with her best friend, their tears mixing as Derpy offered her solace in the only way she could – by sharing the nameless sorrow.

Twilight’s response was subtle, noticed only by Derpy. She leaned into her marefriend, slightly moving her muzzle up and down Derpy’s cheek, seeking the warmth and support of the pony gently embracing her in her time of need. Her breath hitched with each sob, and her hoof instinctively reached around Derpy’s neck and pulled the pegasus closer to her. Time ceased its relentless flow to the couple, and they lay with regard to nothing but the soft caresses that they shared.

Rainbow Dash gave Applejack an awkward glance, and both understood the unspoken message. They were adding nothing to Twilight’s comfort at the moment, and it would be better for them to leave Derpy in charge of consolation. They quietly stood, not daring to move too quickly and risk disturbing the healing release of emotion. The two mares made their way to the side of the room, standing in a doorway and beckoning Spike to join them away from his huddled corner. The dragon rapidly complied, hurrying to join them in another room, away from Twilight and Derpy.

They entered a study room to the side of the library’s main chamber, slowly closing the door to muffle both incoming and outgoing sound. The privacy of Twilight and Derpy ensured, the mares turned to Spike with an expectant look.

“Spike, what in Equestria happened?” Applejack enquired. “Ah’ve never seen Twi so beside herself before.”

The dragon shook his head in confusion. “I have no idea what happened! I brought her a letter the princess sent, and the next thing I knew she went into spontaneous combustion mode. I thought she was going to burn the whole library down; even I could feel the heat she was giving off, and you know how dragons handle heat.”

He gave an exasperated sigh. “The next thing I knew, she completely deflated. It was kinda like seeing Pinkie Pie on her last birthday – livid one second, and then crushed into nothingness the next.”

“Well, whatever it was the princess sent her, it definitely wasn’t something she liked,” Rainbow Dash commented. “Unless we have that letter and read it ourselves, we’re not gonna have any idea until Twi tells us.”

Spike fidgeted, attracting the attention of both Applejack and Rainbow Dash.

The farmpony stared daggers into Spike’s eyes. “Well, Spike? Out with it – you know somethin’ more, don’t ya?”

Spike shook his head violently. “It’s just… Princess Celestia sent another letter right after the first one that I took to Twilight.”

He saw the sparkle kindling in Rainbow Dash’s eye, and shook his head again. “It was sealed tight and addressed to Derpy. I know whatever is bothering Twilight is probably brought up in that, but I’m not opening it.” Dash visibly deflated at the news. “It’s Derpy’s, not ours. We’re going to have to wait until she tells us what’s going on.”

Applejack nodded solemnly at the decision. “We ain’t got a choice on it, unless we wanna risk makin’ her more upset an’ gettin’ Derpy mad at us, too. Much as Ah don’t like it, we’re gonna have to wait.”

Rainbow Dash huffed impatiently, outnumbered two to one on a decision she knew wouldn’t change regardless of her protests. She resigned herself to slumping in a corner and staring at the ceiling, while Spike simply wandered aimlessly. Applejack stood near the door to wait until the muted crying in the next room died down.


****************


Derpy held Twilight tightly, continuing to lightly nuzzle her for comfort. Twilight’s sobs gradually diminished, and though her crying had died out to whimpers, she kept a silent hold on Derpy, her eyes tightly shut from the ordeal. Derpy lightly stroked Twilight’s mane with one hoof as she kept the unicorn in a hug with her other. She noticed as they embraced on the floor that her eyes were beginning their drift back to normal; the spell was wearing off, but she mentally shook the idea out of her head. She didn’t care if they stayed like that forever – Twilight was infinitely more important.

The unicorn slowly opened her eyes, and looked into the loving face of her friend. Her eyes drifted over Derpy’s features until they locked on the pegasus’ skewed gaze. In an instant, her eyes clamped shut again, a new torrent of tears flowing forth. Confusion worked its way into Derpy’s expression, and she grasped Twilight again with renewed strength.

“Twilight, please, just tell me what’s wrong…” she whispered, her voice cracking slightly. “Please, don’t hold it all in – let me know what happened.” She resumed stroking Twilight’s mane as the unicorn’s voice choked in her throat.

Twilight slowly nodded into Derpy’s neck, though her eyes remained closed. With a slight glow, a piece of parchment drifted slowly over from the desk, oddly unsinged amid the burnt wreckage surrounding it. Twilight’s magic held it in place before Derpy, who never lessened her embrace. Slowly she began to read.

Dear Twilight Sparkle, my most faithful student,

Congratulations on your newfound relationship! I am thrilled that you have found somepony you care for so much, and I think you’ll find that love is the greatest form of friendship there is. Take care to nurture it, cherish it, and let it bloom into the greatest blessing you are ever likely to receive. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting your marefriend, and hope that sometime soon you will introduce her to me. I am very interested to meet her and thank her for giving you the kind of love you have deserved for so long.

Though I am sorry to hear she has had a difficult past, I am positive that her life will take her in new directions she never thought possible with you as a partner and friend. From what you have told me in your letter, she possesses an amazing amount of the qualities present in the Elements of Harmony. Supportiveness and trust are kindred spirits with honesty, kindness, and generosity, and reliability shows a great deal of loyalty lies within her as well. Fostered with the magic you share together, and cultivated with laughter in good times as well as bad, you will no doubt see friendship as you never have before in this pony.

I am also intrigued by your report on her cutie mark; never before have I seen a cutie mark that has been incomplete at its time of appearance. From what you have described, your friend no doubt is the first documented account of a cutie mark changing in response to the actions of others. For it to happen once is amazing, but for it to happen in representation of the holders of the elements is nothing short of remarkable, though, like you, I am unsure of what the seventh mark may represent. I look forward to hearing more on her development as it occurs, and I hope you will let her know that she is indeed an especially unique individual, though not only due to her cutie mark.

Though it pains me to do so, I must end our letter in a less than happy fashion. Please bear in mind that I continue to hold you as my dearest student while reading what I must write. I am saddened that you took the one most dear to you and, though your goal was noble, knowingly put her directly in danger. The fact that you sought a spell to cure her does not worry me, but the fact that you accepted risking her safety for that cure certainly does.

As you have likely heard, the phrase is: “The road to Tartaros is paved with good intentions.” Your research, though appreciated, has brought your spell into review by the Equestrian Medical Association. It had been forgotten to time, but now that it has been found, they have deemed it too great a risk to still be kept, and its use will be forbidden. Along with it, the entire branch of the Canterlot Archives in which you found it will be subject to review; such spells should not be available to any but the most talented of physicians, and even then many of them will likely be removed from use indefinitely.

Understand that the ends do not justify the means – with this in mind, I must forbid you from using this spell again. I know you have worked tirelessly in your effort, and no doubt you were proud of your efforts when making your report to me. Please do not underestimate the value of your research, but in this instance it proved to be more hazardous than beneficial.

I ask that you relinquish the original scroll, as well as your notes, to me for disposal, and, once again, I stress that you are not to use this spell again.

Remember that you continue to be my most treasured and trusted student, and in no way does this incident diminish that fact.

I remain your most proud mentor, and hope you will forgive me in this decision.

Princess Celestia

As Derpy finished reading, her heart had sunk to the depths of her stomach. Twilight had been officially reprimanded by the most important pony in her life, not to mention the ruler of Equestria, and to add insult to injury, her work was being confiscated for destruction. The words from the princess, though phrased as kindly as possible, were likely pulling the unicorn apart. Derpy felt sick to her stomach that she was ultimately the one responsible for the despair Twilight was going through – after all, it was her suggestion to find a spell in the first place.

In addition, she felt a tremendous amount of disappointment rushing through her. She had been closer than ever to being normal – it was within their grasp, and then it had been yanked away like a lure. As she looked into Twilight’s pained face, the unicorn admitted the most hurtful consequence, and it broke her heart to know that Twilight had seen her thoughts through the expression on her face.

Twilight stared at her with anguish and whispered, “I’ve let you down. I failed, and because of that, I can’t give you the thing you deserve the most.” With that, she broke down, burying her muzzle into Derpy’s chest, crying silently over the lost chance to offer her marefriend the most meaningful gift she knew.

Derpy could only gaze blankly ahead, incapable of speech or movement, trying desperately to sort out her thoughts and feelings, and unable to give any comfort to the mare she loved the most. She had no comfort left to give.


****************


Rainbow Dash returned to sitting in the corner of the trio’s makeshift, self-imposed prison and rubbed her temple, grimacing slightly at the small throb it gave. She threw a dirty look at Applejack, who had resumed standing at the door after whapping the cyan pony in the head.

“You coulda just told me to be quiet, AJ. You didn’t need to smack me.” She glared at Applejack accusingly.

Applejack gave a derisive snort. “Ah did tell ya to be quiet. Last count Ah had, Ah told ya seventeen times. Now shush, or Ah’ll whap ya again. Ah’m tryin’ ta hear if Twi’s calmed down, an’ your whinin’ an’ huffin’ an’ compainin’ ain’t makin’ it any easier.”

She scowled at Rainbow Dash, who harrumphed one last time before folding her forehooves and turning away in defiance. Applejack simply rolled her eyes and returned to her post.

She stood mutely near the door, her ear cocked to the side, listening for any trace of sound. A few short moments ago, just before whacking Dash over the head, the sobbing sounds from the central room of the library had begun to ebb. Now that all three of them were quiet, Applejack couldn’t detect any cries at all. She quietly motioned to Rainbow Dash and Spike.

Her whisper was barely audible. “Ah think she’s stopped cryin’. Let’s go an’ take a look to see if they’re doin’ okay. Just, stay behind me, an’ follow my lead.” Her voice raised just a little as she stared at Rainbow Dash. “An’ for the love of Celestia, stay quiet. We don’t wanna startle or upset ‘em.”

Rainbow gave a curt nod, and she and Spike followed Applejack as the farmpony eased the door open and slipped out into the hall, careful not to draw attention to their reappearance.

Applejack crept to the corner and peered around the edge. She saw Twilight and Derpy in the center of the room – Twilight had her muzzle buried in Derpy’s chest as the pegasus held her close, and Derpy was concentrating on a purple-tinged parchment hovering just over Twilight’s shoulder. From her vantage point, she could see Derpy’s face, absorbed in the letter Twilight was sharing. Applejack turned back into the hall.

“They’re sittin’ there lookin’ alright,” she whispered. “Derpy’s readin’ the letter Princess Celestia sent, but Ah could see her eyes are back to normal, so it might take a smidge longer than we’d like.”

Rainbow Dash facehooved, and Spike just sat back down on the floor to wait. Applejack gave Rainbow Dash a reproachful look at her edginess; at least Spike was patient. Then again, he lived with Twilight, so patience was something he had probably developed long ago.

Applejack crept back, this time halfway around the corner. She wanted to stay aware of what was going on, and she also wanted to let Derpy notice on her own that they had returned. Twilight had calmed down, at least for the moment, so there was no reason to stay hidden, but it would still be best to not walk in unacknowledged. She lay down and waited for Derpy to take notice, watching the pegasus’ face as she read.

Derpy’s head slowly followed the lines down the page – her skewed vision took extra focus in order to read. Applejack noticed that Derpy’s head was still aimed toward the top of the page, so she must have just begun. Oddly, a small smile washed over her face while she read; obviously the first portion of the letter was not the source of the problem.

However, as Derpy’s head dropped further down the page, her demeanor changed, darkening initially. Applejack watched with mounting tension as the pegasus’ mouth dropped agape, her head darting back upward occasionally to reread portions as though they were simply too much to believe. Derpy’s gaze lowered still, and her countenance altered yet again – to a horrified expression.

Applejack noticed Derpy’s glare shift from the letter as she tried to process her thoughts, her face taking on a crestfallen and depressed look, and Applejack could make out the slight glisten of tears in her eyes.

Then, Twilight lifted her head, gazing at her marefriend with regret, and Derpy slowly looked down into her eyes. Twilight whispered something to her, and then collapsed back into Derpy’s chest with a cry. The pegasus looked devastated, an agonized expression crossing her face.

It was all the farmpony could do to keep from rushing in to comfort both of them now – Twilight’s cries had resumed, and Derpy lay vacantly staring ahead as though something in her mind had snapped and was furiously attempting to mend itself. Applejack shifted slightly and gave a soft cough in an attempt to draw Derpy’s attention.

The ploy worked, as Derpy shook herself from her stupor and turned to the side to see the concerned gaze of her friend. She slowly nodded assent to Applejack, realizing that the others had been kind enough to give them space, but they undoubtedly wanted to know what was going on.

Applejack stood and nodded silently behind her to Rainbow Dash and Spike, and the three cautiously made their way into the room.

Derpy turned back to Twilight, giving her a tight squeeze. “It’ll all be okay, Twi. We’re all here for you.” She placed a hoof under Twilight’s chin and drew her head upward, giving her a loving kiss on her trembling lips.

The others approached, and Derpy took the initiative to quietly ask Twilight, “Would you like me to tell them what she said?”

Twilight gave a nod and a cracked-sounding “mmhm,” before returning her muzzle to the crook of Derpy’s neck for comfort.

Without getting up or even moving, Derpy softly addressed Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Spike. “Princess Celestia’s letter…” She tried to find the right words. She had to get the point across, but also needed to be succinct. She did not want Twilight to dwell on everything the letter had said. “She told Twilight that she was disappointed in her for putting me in danger. She was concerned that the spell was too unsafe. Twilight is not allowed to use it again.”

Twilight gave a loud sniffle at the words, and the ponies and dragon gasped at the decree the princess had given.

Derpy struggled with how best to phrase her next thoughts. She needed to let Twilight know how she felt. It was a risk, but they needed to talk about their feelings or nothing would improve. She took a deep breath and continued.

“I won’t lie. I don’t like the decision Princess Celestia made.” She made sure Twilight was looking her in the eyes as she spoke. “Twilight worked tirelessly on this spell for me, and I know it means a lot to her that she could help me. But, Twilight, you mean so much more to me than just a way to make my eyes better. I know Princess Celestia means a lot to you, and I don’t want you to ruin your relationship with her. My vision is not as important to me as making sure you’re happy.”

She closed her eyes. “Twilight, I may not like it, but I’ll support the princess’ decision on this.”

Twilight stared back at Derpy, her mouth hanging open, completely speechless as her friends waited nervously for her reaction.