• Published 28th Jan 2012
  • 6,809 Views, 249 Comments

No Matter How Dark - Picardy Third



Attacks and destruction in Ponyville occur on top of Twilight's recent incidents of memory loss

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Reparation

CHAPTER 4
Reparation

“Well, she won’t be able to walk for quite some time,” A doctor explained to the small crowd of ponies gathered around Applejack’s hospital bed, “That much is obvious. We were able to put everything back in place, however, and there isn’t any permanent damage.” He moved his hoof from Applejack’s wrapped-up leg to her flank, where there were still bandages covering a large spot.

“The burn on her flank was quite serious, but not enough to require a graft. It will most likely scar, but damage will be minimal.”

Applejack was still unconscious. Big Mac was directly beside her bed with Apple Bloom next to him. Beside the pair were Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle. At the foot of the bed was Pinkie Pie, and on the side opposite Big Mac and Apple Bloom were Rarity, Fluttershy, and the doctor. They all wore worried and glum expressions for the condition of their friend.

“All in all, I believe she will make a full recovery as long as she takes it easy.”

“You don’t know mah sister.” Big Mac commented. “She don’t know the meanin’ of ‘take it easy.’”

“Well, if she wants to buck trees ever again, she should take my advice.” The doctor said flatly, “Now, I do have to tend to other patients. I would expect Applejack to be awake soon enough, but I won’t make any promises. If she does wake up, please call me and tell her to take care with her leg and don’t move it too much.”

“Will do, doc.” Mac said. The doctor nodded and walked past Pinkie Pie and out of the room.

“Ah told her it was dangerous ta go outside.” Big Mac said solemnly.

“Is she gonna be alright?” Apple Bloom asked softly, putting her front hooves on the edge of the hospital bed.

“Your sister’s gonna be just fine.” Rainbow Dash chimed in. “Applejack’s strong, I’m sure she’ll be back on her feet applebucking in no time!”

“Ya think?” Apple Bloom said happily.

“Twilight, you don’t think there’s anything you can do, is there?” Rarity asked across the bed. She looked down on Applejack with concern, “I really hate to see her like this.”

“I don’t know, Rarity… construction is one thing, but medical spells can go wrong very easily, and even the smallest mistake could have terrible results.” Twilight said with all seriousness. She had never tried a medical spell that was more difficult than healing a scratch on Spike’s knee. A broken bone was something different entirely.

“Are you absolutely sure, dear?” Rarity pleaded, placing her hooves beside Applejacks’ head and looking at her with despair.

“I don’t want to risk it, Rarity…”

“I think we should listen to Twilight, Rarity.” Fluttershy insisted.

Twilight Sparkle…

Twilight’s head shot up and she looked around frantically. She could have sworn she just heard…

Twilight Sparkle, can you hear me?

She wasn’t imagining things. It was certainly Princess Celestia’s voice. Twilight looked at the other ponies, who were now looking at her curiously, apparently having not heard the same voice Twilight heard.

“Uh… I just need to step outside for a moment.” Twilight said, smiling innocently. She scooted out of the room, followed by Rainbow Dash.

Once out of the room, Twilight noticed Rainbow Dash standing behind her.

“Erm… can I help you?”

“I… just… I’ll go back in.” Rainbow Dash said.

“No, it’s fine, just…” Twilight glanced around quickly, “I just heard Princess Celestia trying to communicate with me.

“Like… in your head?” Rainbow Dash asked in awe.

Twilight nodded.

“Cool! Tell her I said hi!”

“I don’t know if this is the time for casual conversation, Dash.”

Twilight Sparkle, please answer me.

“I’m here, Princess.” Twilight spoke aloud, getting an odd look from Rainbow Dash until she realized what had just happened and watched Twilight with interest.

You do not have to speak aloud. Just answer me with your thoughts.

Oh… okay.

Twilight Sparkle, I do not wish to disturb your visitation of your friend Applejack, but it is absolutely imperative that we meet in the library again.

Twilight was about to ask how the Princess knew that Twilight was at the hospital, but she remembered that the princesses were ‘watching over’ (aka ‘spying on’) her.

What’s happened?

I will explain everything when you arrive. Please, I need you there in no more than five minutes. I will be waiting.

Twilight looked at Rainbow Dash with a worried expression. Princess Celestia usually only visited Ponyville when there was something very important, though she had begun to enjoy more casual visits. It was something that happened rarely, however, and did not appear to be the case with the urgency of Celestia’s voice. When Twilight was about to ask Rainbow Dash to come with her, she heard the Princess’s voice once again.

Please, come alone.

***
***

Twilight took a deep breath and entered the library, the place she called her home. She walked inside and saw Princess Celestia standing in the middle of the main floor. Celestia was a master at keeping a royal presence at all times, which included a firm and solid posture that demanded attention and asserted her power.

This time, however, Celestia looked a bit off. She stood straight, but did not command the presence she usually did. Her mane even seemed less shining as usual. She wore a frown rather than the usual friendly smile, and over all she just looked… miserable.

“Is something wrong, Princess?” Twilight asked once she had closed the door.

“As much as I would love to deny it, I’m afraid that yes, something is very wrong.”

“I’m guessing it has something to do with the attacks in Ponyville.” Twilight said. The princess nodded and sighed.

“Do you know who the evil pony is?” Twilight asked.

“We do.” The princess said grimly.

“Well… that’s great news!” Twilight said excitedly, “We can turn that horrid pony in and never let this happen again!” But, Celestia was shaking her head slowly and had closed her eyes. “Why are you shaking your head?”

“Twilight, you need to know something. When you have learned of the situation, you will know who the attacker is.”

“…Okay.” Twilight said, a little unsure of whether the Princess would be right in her assumption.

“Do you remember, Twilight, your lesson on artificial magic?”

“I do, very well Princess. I have also read many books on the subject.”

“D you remember what I said about curses?”

“That curses can’t exist because they do not come from within. Curses are but old mares’ tales and scare tactics.”

“Very good, Twilight Sparkle.” Celestia smiled for the first time, “You really are my most faithful student.”

Twilight blushed, “What do curses have to do with the situation?”

“Well, that lesson isn’t completely true.” Celestia said uneasily.

“What?” Twilight said incredulously. “You aren’t saying there are such things as curses, are you?”

“I’m saying… there are no artificial curses. Curses themselves… do exist.” Celestia said, closing her eyes and slowly shaking her head, “They are mostly out of our control and can happen at the most random of times to the most undeserving of ponies.”

“That’s impossible, Princess, none of my books have ever…”

“That’s because they are largely unknown and are thought to be, as I told you, nothing but a myth.”

“Okay, so…” Twilight recollected herself, “What does this have to do with anything?”

Celestia frowned and refused to look at Twilight, opting instead to look out one of the windows that faced Ponyville. She sighed and said, “Twilight Sparkle, you have been afflicted with a curse.”

It took a moment for the words to register before Twilight began to breathe quickly. She was immediately skeptical, but couldn’t help but think of her memory loss episodes of late and how she was unable to find any solution. Still, a curse? It couldn’t be possible.

“I… don’t think so, Princess.” Twilight said, heart pounding, “I mean, I…”

“Twilight, why do you think my sister and I wished to observe you?”

“I…”

“And why we took Spike?”

“You said he was just undergoing special training!”

“Twilight, I need your undivided attention.” Celestia said, “The curse that has befallen you is a dark curse that predates even Luna and I. The last known occurrence was hundreds of years before we came to power.”

“Then how do you know I have it?!”

“Please, Twilight.” Celestia put up a hoof. Twilight silenced herself and listened again.

“It was hundreds of years before our rule began. My mother and father were king and queen. My mother shared the story with me while I was training.” Celestia said sadly, “The curse affects a unicorn of high magical potential. The curse stays dormant for the first part of its life, but will come out as the unicorn matures and becomes stronger magically. The curse will initially make the unicorn stronger in magic, stronger than what should be considered possible… but at a price. The cursed becomes dark, committing terrible acts and losing itself to the darkness.”

“B-but… I haven’t done anything!” Twilight said, “Celestia, really! I’ve never…”

“My mother’s best friend was a unicorn that was afflicted with this curse.” Celestia said, stopping Twilight, unable to listen to the student defend herself, “She had warned me of it… teaching me the signs… I had hoped that I would never have to see it in my life.”

“I’m not cursed, Princess!” Twilight finally yelled. The princess looked at Twilight and wished that she were telling the truth, but the princess knew that to think that would be folly.

“Tell me, Twilight. Have you yet learned why you have been losing your memory?”

“I… I haven’t.” Twilight said, still finding it odd how Celestia seemed to know these things, even if she were observing Twilight.

“And your magic has been getting stronger and stronger… you said yourself that you created a house and barn from nothing but an image in your head.”

“I… did, yes.” Twilight said hesitantly.

“Twilight… I am so sorry…” Celestia said. Twilight looked into Celestia’s eyes and saw absolute sadness and despair. The princess was tearing up! Twilight hadn’t thought it possible for the princess to cry… but those tears made the final pieces of the puzzle fit together in Twilight’s head.

“No…” Twilight muttered.

“I’m so sorry…” Celestia repeated.

“No, it can’t be!” Twilight hollered.

“I’m afraid… what you are thinking is correct, Twilight.”

Twilight was now beginning to cry. Celestia looked straight at Twilight this time.

“The pony that burned down Sweet Apple Acres… The pony that destroyed Carousel Boutique… the pony that attacked Applejack in the dead of night… was you, Twilight Sparkle.”

“No…” Twilight choked out. “I would never! I couldn’t have! This doesn’t make sense, Princess!”

“Twilight, please…”

“No, Princess! You’re accusing me of hospitalizing my friend!” Tears welled up behind Twilight’s eyes as she spat out the words. “It’s not true! I wouldn’t dare hurt Applejack!”

“But you know it’s true, Twilight, and as much as I truly hate to tell you, I do know it’s true.” Celestia said in her unwavering, calm voice.

“Wh-what?” Twilight stammered, “Th-there’s no proof, you can’t just… say it was me because of the magic! That’s what this is, right? Just a confusion because the attacker has the same magic color as mine!”

“I personally observed you destroy Carousel Boutique.” Celestia said with a pause between every other word.

Twilight almost stopped breathing. Though she had been denying it this whole time, she recalled once again that the princesses had been watching her. The princess must have been watching the attack on Carousel Boutique…

“Wait a second…” Twilight suddenly thought, “If you were watching, then why didn’t you stop the attack?!”

“By the time my sister and I realized what was going on, the attack was over. I’m so sorry, Twilight…”

“And what about Applejack?!” Twilight barked. Celestia now looked slightly angry. “Were you just going to see how far the attacker went before Applejack DIED?!”

“Twilight Sparkle!” Celestia returned with double force. Twilight backed up a step, but still wore a determined expression. Celestia’s face softened again, “If you must know, my sister and I did not witness that particular attack, though we cannot simply leave Canterlot whenever a pony is in danger.”

“So once again you’re just having other ponies do the dirty work for you!” Twilight yelled. She then widened her eyes in shock and stepped back, covering her mouth with a hoof. She hadn’t meant to say that, only think it! She would never speak to the princess like that! She looked up at the Princess’s face, which was simply one of disapproval. Twilight began to shake her head quickly.

“P-princess, I didn’t mean to say that, I swear!”

“I understand, Twilight.” Celestia replied calmly. Twilight felt weak and fell to her knees, her head starting to feel light. Celestia sat beside her student and draped a pure white leg around her compassionately. Twilight now began to sob lightly, the weight of the situation falling on her like a great tidal wave, drowning out all that once lived happily within her.

***
***

Rainbow Dash left the hospital and flew across town to the library. She had hoped that Twilight was done with Princess Celestia so she could come say hello to Applejack, who had woken up shortly after Twilight left.

Dash landed on the front porch of the library and opened the door.

“Twilight!” Rainbow Dash called out, “You there, Twi?”

No response. Rainbow Dash walked in and glanced around. The place was empty, which was uncommon. Usually at least Spike was there, but with him gone for his special dragon training, the place was left unoccupied. Rainbow Dash rubbed her head with a hoof, wondering where Twilight could be, but then spotted in the middle of the ground a medium-sized folded piece of paper with a note scribbled inside.

Rainbow Dash picked up the letter and gazed over the neatly-written cursive upon the page. It was definitely from Twilight. Rainbow Dash did her best to make out all the words as she read aloud:
To whomever finds this letter –

It is with my deepest regrets that I have to come to this. Princess Celestia has revealed truths to me that have changed who I think of myself to be. I do not wish to divulge any explicit details, but know this: there will no longer be any attacks on Ponyville. However, in order for this to remain true, I must leave Ponyville forever. I am sorry, but I must. Please, do not come after me. It is for the best. I will miss you all dearly. I wish Applejack a smooth recovery, and I ask that Rainbow Dash reveal all that she knows about my recent memory issues. Goodbye, everypony. Thank you for showing me the magic of friendship. I love you all.

Twilight Sparkle.

Rainbow Dash read and re-read the note in her hoof, trying to process the information.

“Leave Ponyville?” Rainbow Dash said aloud. “Forever?”

***
***

“Leaving Ponyville?” Applejack asked quietly. All the ponies had gathered Applejack’s bed as she read the note to herself.

“Leaving Ponyville?” Rarity echoed, “Who’s leaving Ponyville?”

“It’s… Twilight.” Applejack said, confused. The ponies remained silent, a look of confusion spreading to their faces. Applejack shook her head, “But she can’t be serious, right?”

“I don’t know, Applejack…” Fluttershy said, “Twilight’s never been one for jokes.”

“And who would joke about something like this anyway?” Pinkie Pie added, “It’s so not funny!”

“Was this all there was, RD?” Applejack asked Rainbow Dash, who had been silent since she arrived with the letter.

“Oh, uh… yea.” Rainbow Dash said emptily, “The library was empty.”

“Whatever could that pony be trying to pull?” Rarity asked, “We must go find her.”

“Wish Ah could…” Applejack muttered, pointing at her back legs that were covered in a light blue blanket.

“You think she’s in Canterlot?” Fluttershy asked, the note having landed in her hooves at some point. She was now examining its contents with detail.

“Ah bet she’s at the castle with the princesses.” Applejack said.

“Well, if we catch a train soon, we can get there by tomorrow morning. There is simply no time to lose!” Rarity said.

“Wait a minute!” Rainbow Dash said. “Let me go get her.” Rainbow Dash said suddenly. The ponies gave her a strange look.

“Oh don’t be silly, you can’t expect to leave us behind.” Rarity defended.

“Well… if she’s in Canterlot, then I can probably fly there and make it by nighttime.” Rainbow Dash explained, “And besides, it’s easier to sneak one pony into Canterlot castle than four.”

“Not at all. We simply must travel together to bring back Twilight.” Rarity concluded. “It wouldn’t be right if we weren’t all there.”

“A-hem.” Applejack grunted.

“All that… can make it, anyway.” Rarity clarified with a little grin.

“We can’t just wait around!” Rainbow Dash argued, “We need to get her back.”

“Must you be in such a hurry all the time!?” Rarity demanded.

“Maybe Twilight just wants to clear her head…” Fluttershy suggested.

“Yea! Who wants to be cramped up in this tiny hospital room anyway?” Pinkie Pie added.

Applejack huffed and crossed her arms.

“Well…” Rainbow Dash groaned, “Fine.”

“Thank you, Rainbow Dash.” Rarity said, happy to have avoided conflict.

“But,” Rainbow Dash quickly interjected, “I can’t sit around this hospital room all day. I need to get some air.” Rainbow Dash lifted off the ground and started heading for the open window.

“Hold up, sugarcube!” Applejack stopped the energetic pegasus. Rainbow Dash stopped and lowered back to the ground. “Aren’t ya fergettin’ something?”

Rainbow Dash shrugged.

“Says here that y’all have some things ta tell us ‘bout Twilight.” Applejack said, pointing to the note by her back hooves.

“Oh, that.” Rainbow Dash said.

“What could Twilight have told Rainbow Dash that she can’t tell us?” Pinkie Pie asked cluelessly.

“She just didn’t want you guys to worry about her.” Rainbow Dash said, “But… she was having some problems with her memory.”

“Problems with her memory?” Fluttershy repeated, “Oh, that’s not good at all.”

“When was this happenin’?” Applejack asked. “Ah don’t remember Twi ever fergettin’ anythin’.”

“Actually, you do.” Rainbow Dash said. All ponies gave her a confused look. Rainbow Dash nodded and continued, “When Twilight fixed your farm, Applejack.”

“She seemed fine.” Applejack pointed out.

“Maybe at first, but right before she left, don’t you think she looked a little confused?” Rainbow Dash asked Applejack.

“Well, now that you mention it, she did look a little off.” Fluttershy chimed in.

“And I remember her asking where the barn had come from.” Rarity said.

“Exactly. She forgot that she had done those spells completely.” Rainbow Dash explained.

“Tha’s amazing.” Applejack commented.

“And scary.” Pinkie Pie added.

“The poor dear, what was she thinking?” Rarity worried, “She should not have been doing magic of that level with such problems!”

“That’s exactly why she wanted to keep it a secret.” Rainbow Dash said flatly.

“And what were you thinking?!” Rarity suddenly turned on Rainbow Dash, “Did you once think that maybe Twilight’s actions could be harming her?”

“Wh-what? No, I, she just…”

“Of all the foolish things!” Rarity continued, “What if Twilight had hurt herself?!”

“I was just trying to make her feel better, okay?!” Rainbow Dash shouted. Rarity glared at her intensely for a few seconds. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie glanced back and forth at each other nervously a couple times before Applejack finally spoke up.

“Fightin’ ain’t gonna get us anywhere, girls.” Applejack said, “Nopony’s to blame here. If Twilight really thought we had somethin’ ta worry about she’d tell us.”

“No, she’d tell Rainbow Dash…” Rarity muttered.

“That’s enough!” Applejack scolded. Rarity ground her teeth between closed lips and turned away from Rainbow Dash with a huff.

“Is that all there was ta know?” Applejack asked Rainbow Dash calmly.

“Yep.” She replied.

“Good.” Applejack said.

A doctor then entered the room with a smile and greeted the ponies. “Afternoon, I hope all is well.” The friends all answered affirmatively, to which the doctor nodded, “Good, good.” The doctor seemed almost nervous, most likely because he had heard the commotion from outside the room.

“Well, I hate to break up the party, but I’m afraid Applejack needs to get some rest. You can all come back tomorrow morning.”

“Sure thing, doc.” Applejack agreed. “Thanks fer bein’ here, girls.”

“No problem at all, dear.” Rarity said.

“Hope you get better soon.” Fluttershy added.

“We’ll have to throw a ‘get well soon’ party!” Pinkie Pie said excitedly, “There’ll be games like wheelchair races and a piñata that’s shaped like a pill and…”

As Pinkie Pie rambled, Rainbow Dash was already sneaking out the window. “Hold on there, Rainbow Dash.” Applejack called. The group became silent and Rainbow Dash stopped in her tracks.

“Y’all can leave, but Ah need to talk to Rainbow Dash fer a few minutes.” Applejack said to the girls. Rainbow Dash gulped. Something about Applejack’s tone didn’t ease her. The friends agreed and left the room together. All except for Rainbow Dash, who was left alone in the room with Applejack and the doctor.

“You mind?” Applejack asked the caramel-colored doctor.

“Only a few minutes, please.” The doctor said, then walked out the door and closed it. The room fell silent and Applejack looked at Rainbow Dash, who was looking away nonchalantly.

“So how long have ya had that little crush on Twilight?” Applejack asked casually.

“Crush on Twilight?! You can’t be serious… you…” Rainbow Dash stammered, but figured that if she was going to tell anypony, it would be Applejack, “Is it obvious?”

“Well, wasn’t until you told me right now.” Applejack said with a grin.

Realization suddenly sunk in and Rainbow Dash realized that she just fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book, “Shoot!” She shouted, kicking the ground.

“So how long?” Applejack asked with a twinge of pride in her voice. Rainbow Dash seemed to mull over the answer, then replied.

“Since I started reading.” Rainbow Dash said. “Started spending time with her in the library, getting new books to read and learning about stuff… she just grew on me, I guess.”

“And that’s why y’all have been so different around her. Oh, Celestia, it makes sense!” Applejack cried out happily, “Well no wonder ya don’t wanna wait ta go get her!”

“She can’t leave! I can’t have my heart broken again, I mean I’ve never even had feelings for anypony else except y-” Rainbow Dash stopped dead and clamped her mouth shut. Her eyes widened as the error of her word choice sunk in.

“What did you just say?” Applejack asked slowly, a little amusement in her voice.

“Nothing!” Rainbow Dash said quickly.

“You had a crush on me?” Applejack asked incredulously.

“I never said that!”

“You never really did like helping me on the farm, did you?” Applejack accused Rainbow Dash.

“Gah!” Rainbow Dash shouted, “Fine! After the iron pony competition, I was totally head over hooves. I liked you so much that I put aside my training just to spend time with you on the farm.”

“Aw, shucks, sugarcube, that’s sweet.” Applejack said with a little chuckle.

“But you started telling me about some of your crushes around town… I knew you weren’t into mares, but…” Rainbow Dash shook her head, “It was stupid.”

“Now, don’t say that sugarcube, I’m flattered. But yer right, I reckon I’m as straight as an arrow.” Applejack admitted.

“And Twilight probably is too.” Rainbow Dash said.

“Ya don’t know that, RD, just have faith. Who knows? Maybe it’ll work out.”

“Yea… maybe.” Rainbow Dash said. She hopped up to the window again. “Hey, thanks Applejack.”

“Don’t mention it, sugarcube.” Applejack replied. Rainbow Dash smiled and took off into the late afternoon light.

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