• Published 2nd Mar 2013
  • 1,455 Views, 26 Comments

Shades of Twilight - RoyalCoat



Everypony has a cutie mark, a destiny, but one might just learn that hers encompasses far more than her own world. Everypony wants to believe in the good in themselves, but can Twilight face the truth of what might have been?

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Twilight awoke with a start.

'What a dream.' Was her first thought, followed closely by: 'Why is my bed so stiff?'

Still slightly groggy, she blinked, taking in the decidedly un-bedroom like scene around her. She lay at the base of a tree, that seemed to not be all that far from Ponyville. Her saddlebags, unharmed, sat nearby. A carpet of green grass stretched away from her. It was picturesque, really. The real problem was that it seemed to be nearly noon.

“Did I fall asleep on the way back? Spike might be worried about me.”

She jumped to her feet, and regretted it almost instantly. She had aches and pains everywhere, confirming that she had, in fact, slept on the ground. After wincing for only a moment, she grabbed her bags and took off on the path into town.

The unicorn crested a hill, and was relived to see that Ponyville was not on fire, being devoured, or sucked into an evil mirror. Then again, it was only noon. She was much less happy to see a familiar cart parked on one side of town. Dealing with an egotistic show-mare was the last thing she needed today. Twilight gave it a wide berth, making her way towards the main road on the opposite side of the village.

It was a strange experience as she trotted down the street. Many of the ponies nearby looked at her curiously, while others seemed to be making it a point to ignore her. Twilight, of course, failed to notice any of it, pressing on towards the library.

She breathed a sigh when she arrived. Everything seemed fine. It was still closed, so she supposed Spike must still be asleep, possibly taking advantage of her absence. She didn't like to think ill of her friend, but he did have a tendency to oversleep.

As she entered, she found the door unlocked. This might have been a more pressing concern, were it not for the state she found her shelves in. Books and papers lay everywhere around the room, forming huge piles, making navigation difficult.

Stumbling over the debris to reach a safe clearing, Twilight looked on and rolled her eyes. How had anyone managed to do this in one night? And where was Spike?

She put it out of mind with a calm smile. She had been meaning to reorganize, and this might give her a chance to find some books on dream interpretation. What fragments she could snatch from the night before were not exactly comforting.

The unicorn set to digging into the nearest pile, inspecting then levitating them to their proper place. She sighed. This might take a while..

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Twilight was nearly finished with the first of her shelves when something new made itself known.

“Who's down there?”

The unicorn jumped at the unfamiliar voice from above. Who would be on the upper floor, in her home, without her permission?

A pony appeared at the balcony, a book levitating before them in the distinct glow of magic.

“If you didn't see the sign, the library is closed right now.” The speaker was definitely familiar to Twilight, clearly a mare, with a slightly sarcastic tone. “I suppose I can take some time from my research to...”

The speaker trailed off as she lowered the book to get a better view of her visitor. The mare up above looked down, eyes widening for the briefest of moments, mirroring Twilight's below, before shifting into a thinly veiled mask of annoyance.

“Oh, it's you.” Came the delayed response.

There was a silence as the mare descended the stairs, during which Twilight looked over the intruder in her home. She was definitely recognizable, if not welcome. The powder blue coat and pale mane could only belong to one pony. Her cutie mark, a wand with a curve of magical energy trailing from it, only confirmed it further.

The Great and Powerful Trixie alighted from the stairs with a strange air that it took Twilight a moment to identify. Humility. It was something she would never associate with the unicorn. The mare stepped over piles of books and scrolls, entering the clearing where Twilight stood. An obviously false smile curved over her snout.

“But where are my manners? To what do I own the honor of a visit from the Wise and Powerful Twilight?”

The purple unicorn barely noticed the comment. Her thoughts were still focused on the puzzle before her. Why was Trixie, of all ponies, here? In her workplace, her home? She certainly appeared to have turned the library upside down. The piles of books, that had been so neatly shelved the day before, attested to that. Could she have done the same thing upstairs?

Trixie, looking on, took the silence as an insult.

“So you want to waste my time? It's not enough for you to humiliate me in front of the entire town, is it? That you proved how much stronger you were than me?”

Twilight stayed lost in thought, looking puzzled as she tried to make sense of the situation. Trixie's smile gave way to a smirk.

“Well, if you want to listen, fine. I've got a few things I'd like to say...”

The blue mare launched into a triad of comments, thick and vengeful. When the first several made no sense, and more of them were downright incorrect, Twilight started to tune them out. Thought they pressed on the unicorn's thoughts like an annoying buzz, her selective hearing was well trained from much time spent around Pinkie Pie.

She had not, however, bargained that Trixie would continue for ten minutes straight. Pinkie would probably have gotten distracted by something: a new pony, food, or a world destroying (though undiscovered and incomprehensible) set of physical laws. Something like that. Here though, the continuous background noise made it hard to think, and it wasn't going to go away anytime soon. So Twilight boiled her investigation down to a single question.

“Trixie...” Twilight tried to cut across the torrent, with little success.

The unicorn tried again:

“Trixie! What are you doing in my house?”

Trixie instantly stopped talking, her jaw a little slack. An angry red touched her cheeks.

“Your... your house? Have you been listen to a word I've been saying?” She fell silent, waiting for an answer. None came.

“I see. It's not enough for you to show me up, now you want my job too? Tears were forming in the unicorn's eyes.

“It's bad enough that you trot into town and declare yourself wisest pony in all of Equestria. You claimed to be able to defeat an Ursa Major.”

“Then, because of your boasting I might add, an Ursa appears. A minor one, but still. It fell to me to defend the town, but I failed. And who picks up the pieces? Only Twilight, with some of the most powerful raw magic I've ever seen! Half the town loves you, and you started the whole mess!”

Twilight stood still, dumbfounded at the incredible amount of emotion pouring from Trixie.

“And where does that leave me?” Trixie was crying now. “Me, the favorite student of Princess Celestia, trained personally in magic for years! How do you think it feels, being shown up at everything you thought you were good at?”

The blue mare was breathing hard, hot tears streaming from her eyes. Her whole body was tense, like she might tackle Twilight at any moment. Then she went slack and slid to her haunches, her voice rivaling Fluttershy's in quietness.

“You've taken my dignity and my respect, and you want my job. What's next? Do you want my friends too?”

“I... Waa...?” Was the most intelligent comment Twilight could make.

“I'm not a foal. I know why Celestia sent me here to Ponyville. I was arrogant and needed friends to help me see that.” Trixie seemed to have forgotten Twilight was in the room.

“It's just my luck that the one pony who could help me in that regard, was worse than I could ever hope to be.”

Twilight finally caught up to her words.

“Trixie, what in all of Equestria are you talking about?”

The blue unicorn's eyes snapped back up, slightly bloodshot. Her mouth worked soundlessly, trying to form a response through her anger. Something (probably offensive) came to her, but she seemed to change it at the last moment.

“Get. Out.”

When Twilight made no moves, other than to open her mouth, the blue mare saw fit to force her. Leaping up, Trixie started to bodily shove the purple unicorn towards the door. Books and scrolls scattered every which way in their wake, some taking to air and forming a storm of paper. All was accompanied by Trixie's rising words:

“Out... Out... Out!”

A few moments later, the purple mare was deposited on the front step, debris swirling behind her. The door nearly closed, then opened enough for a blue hoof to snatch the offending papers. That done, the library door slammed with enough force to rattle the windows on the surrounding buildings.

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Twilight stayed still for several moments, facing away from the library in confusion. Half of her wanted to turn and break down the door in an effort to find some answers. The other, more logical, portion wanted her to slowly take stock. Both agreed something very strange had happened here in Ponyville.

Mental gears that had been slipping throughout her previous conversation were slowly locking back together. The conclusion they seemed to be grinding towards felt improbable. To somepony less read and experienced in the nature and ways of magic, perhaps impossible.

The purple mare might have been content to remain seated on that step, oblivious to some rather curious passersby, if not for a familiar voice.

“Twilight! There you are!”

Pulled instantly from her thoughts, the unicorn looked up. Running down the street, as fast as his little legs could take him, was a pleasantly familiar sight. Spike, her faithful dragon assistant, seemed to be acting normally enough.

He quickly reached her and stood, catching his breath. Twilight smiled softly down at the little dragon.

“Twilight. Where have you been? I was looking everywhere for you.” Spike asked, head bowed, panting. When he finally looked up, the little dragon went abruptly stiff.

“Uh... What's with that look? Did I do something wrong?” He paused for a moment, during which Twilight once again descended into confusion. Her assistant's eyes darted back and forth before they dawned with realization.

“Oh! Uh... I mean, The Wise and Powerful Twilight...” He trailed off into a weak chuckle, running a claw against his spines.

“I suppose what you do in your spare time isn't any business of mine. But we're gonna be late if we don't get back to the wagon! Come on!” Without another word, Spike turned back the way he had come.

Twilight blinked in puzzlement, but got up and trotted after the retreating dragon before he got out of sight. She might as well see if she could get any confirmation of her predicament, given that she wasn't getting back into the library anytime soon. And besides, ponies were gathering to see what all the commotion was about. It could only lead to awkward questions being asked.

By the time she was near to him again, Spike seemed to have taken up muttering under his breath, his pace slowing slightly. If she strained her ears, she could hear snatches of what he was saying: “preparations”, “audience” and (somewhat incongruously) “hoof-polish” among them. The dragon barely seemed to acknowledge her presence, seemingly deliberately. In fact, after his initial greeting, he had seemed far more distant than she had ever seen him.

She took the walk as a chance to give Spike a once over. The baby dragon looked much as he had the last time they were together, when he was asleep in the library. There were, however, some differences that only she might be able to see. Long days tending to her faithful assistant gave her a unique insight into his personality and mannerisms, which seemed... a bit off. His scales seemed a bit less shiny, even the purple and green a touch more muted than she was used to. Twilight caught a glimpse of his claws, some of which had small chips in them, as though they hadn't been properly cared for.

The joy that had covered her deductions in the wake of seeing Spike was fading. In its place, the same improbable notions were returning. So absorbed in their own thoughts, both kept moving in relative silence. As time wore on, Twilight's mind settled on the only solution, however fantastical it might be. As the pair rounded a corner, she opened her mouth to ask Spike a few questions. It was to her surprise then, that she was the interrupted by her own voice.

“Spike! Twilight is ready to begin the performance, her audience his here. Where have you...” The speaker trailed off quickly.

Despite her own conclusions, Twilight couldn't help but stare. The scene before her was eerily familiar: A wagon transformed into a stage, with a crowd of ponies arranged before it. The only thing out of place being the carbon copy of herself standing above them all.

The other mare was frozen in a strikingly similar pose, staring slightly open mouthed at Twilight. She wore a familiar wide brimmed hat and matching cape, both blue and covered in stars. The only oddity being that the clasp was a crystal gem with six points. Ignoring that, and the fact that her mane and coat were a bit more sun bleached, the two were twins. Spike, for his part, shared a deep look of confusion with the audience around them.

The Twilight on stage recovered first, snapping her mouth closed, looking around covertly. Satisfied that her lack of control over the situation had gone unnoticed, she proceeded to do what entertainers do best: Use the situation to their advantage.

“What have we here? My dear, you may look like Twilight, but there is much more too it than that.” She called attention back to herself, her expression smug.

“The Wise and Powerful Twilight wonders if you, my little doppleganger, have even the tiniest hint of Twilight's power. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

The hatless unicorn started to say “You don't understand.” but barely got out the first syllable. The mare on stage cut her off ruthlessly.

“I thought not. But your motive is obvious.”

The Twilight on the ground arched an eyebrow. She was surprised when the silence stretched on, and chanced an answer.

“And I suppose you're going to tell me?”

“Of course! How could one not wish to emulate perfection?”

Twilight rolled her eyes, and heard a snort from the direction of Spike. She stole a glance and saw the dragon stifling a laugh with a claw. She smiled. The not-Twilight failed to notice, in what the grounded mare could only assume was normal fashion. The show-mare's voice dropped to a low tone as she continued.

“Be that a it may, we can not have anypony trying to take our place.”

Her voice rose again as she turned her head back to the crowd.

“Everypony! This impostor of a mare wants to take the Wise and Powerful Twilight's place! Hem her in, so that we may take her to the proper authorities!”

While much of the audience remained dubious, at least a few took her seriously. Some ponies stepped forward to help. The result was perfect proof of mob mentality. Twilight found herself surrounded on all sides by well meaning citizens of Ponyville.

“No! Please, you have to listen to me!” She said, shrinking back as they pressed closer.

The mare, crouched low, spotted Spike among the surrounding ponies. He was trying desperately to avoid being stepped on, as the number of hooves around him swelled. Their eyes met, and Twilight was certain Spike seemed very torn. For a moment, she wondered just how her alternate treated him, if a single, heartfelt smile was enough to win the dragon over.

Then Spike vanished into the sea of legs, leaving her alone once again. She pressed her ears back, her body nearly level with the ground, fighting a rising feeling of panic. If she was right, explaining her situation would be difficult, if not impossible, so being captured was not an option. Besides, she wasn't sure if she had a limited amount of time to figure things out. No, best to flee. On the other hoof, these ponies were only misguided, and regardless of where she was, still her neighbors. She couldn't simply start throwing magic around.

“What do I do? What do I do?” The mental chant was going at lightspeed through Twilight's mind, her eyes closed.

The simple answer her mind turned up made her blush in embarrassment. She was over complicating things again, when a simple teleportation spell would see her away. Though she might need to go a bit further than she was used to.

A plan now forming, Twilight rose, her horn glowing slightly. The ponies gathered around moved back a little in surprise, bracing themselves for whatever magic might come from a cornered unicorn. As they looked on, the purples mare concentrated and, with a quick pop, vanished from sight completely. The crowd looked around in confusion, barely noticing another pop from behind them.

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Twilight reappeared at the top of a hill some distance away, stumbling slightly, her saddlebags shifting dangerously. Teleportation could be magically taxing, but could also have a strong effect on coordination when used over long distances. She shook her mane. At the least she had bought some time to hide and figure things out. As soon as the thought crossed her mind, a familiar magical buildup around her signaled another teleporter.

Sure enough, her alternate appeared, a smug look on her her snout. This was offset by the fact that she was facing directly to Twilight's right. The mare's cheeks burned briefly red before she corrected herself.

'Well, it would seem you do know some of Twilight's tricks.”

When Twilight only looked back with a blank expression, the doppleganger continued:

“You are an interesting pony, miss marepostor, but the Wise and Powerful Twilight must take you in now. She has a reputation to protect, after all.”

The hatted mare's horn glowed, but Twilight could only match her opposite's smirk. She had expected this. Given what she knew of herself, any spell she cast would be easily countered. At best, they might fight to a standstill. At worst, some other pony might arrive and get caught in the crossfire.

Fortunately for her then, she also knew Pinkie Pie. If the pink party pony had shown her anything, it was how to be unexpected. And if this Twilight had never know Pinkie, as seemed to be the case, a crazy plan might be just the thing.

The other unicorn tensed, horn aglow, ready for another chance to prove her mystical superiority. Her smirk dropped as Twilight unexpectedly gripped her saddlebag in her mouth and flung it sidelong. It was all the be-hatted mare could do to turn before she was struck upside the flank, her look now a mix of shock and puzzlement.

Then the bottles inside broke.

The concentrated joak soaked her coat through the bag. Meanwhile, a cloud of the humorous substance formed, blocking her from view. The air smelled strangely of seltzer water and cream pies to Twilight. It was unexpectedly pleasant... Or at least it would have been, were she not galloping away from Ponyville as fast as she could.

The other Twilight stumbled, coughing, from the cloud. Between deep breaths, she looked around, hoping no pony had seen her defeat. Seeing nothing, she calmed a fraction.

“Ooo, that filly! Who does she think she is?”

It was only a moment later she realized her magic was no longer responding. The mare crossed her eyes, only to see her horn limp, covered with blue spots. Her eyes shrunk to pin-pricks.

Dash might have been hard pressed to keep up with the unicorn as she broke for her wagon. And more importantly, a mirror.

The resultant scream of intermingled annoyance and horror reached even to where Twilight was hiding at the edge of town.