• 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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Misunderstood

Twilight sat on her haunches in a bush, doing her best to remain inconspicuous. At some point in her wild run, twigs and leaves had embedded themselves in her mane and tail, mussing them, which she was attempting to remove with little success. At least it seemed her pursuit, if they had indeed followed her, had given up.

She had her doubts on that point, considering how her duplicate had manipulated the crowd. If she was as like Trixie as she seemed to be, the mob probably fell apart without her to lead it. This did bring to mind why Twilight was still sitting in a dank bush, of course.

Despite not feeling followed, Twilight didn't want to be spotted while she sat and thought. Without the refuge of her library, this just happened to be the closest, next best thing. As crazy as that might sound to anyponies mind but her own.

At the moment however, crazy, odd, whatever you might call it, seemed to be the normal thing for Twilight. Her deductions had been confirmed in what might be the most spectacular way possible, which only lead to a larger question: What was she going to do next? Now given a few moments to calm down, the unicorn's wonderful brain started to sort things through.

Wherever she was, the key difference seemed to be that herself and Trixie had traded places somehow, early in life. Trixie had apparently become Celestia's student somehow. There were a thousand possibilities as to how that could have happened. It also appeared that her counterpart here had taken up the same path the Trixie from Twilight's home had. There were another thousand reasons for that one, and several more major hitches, given that the other Twilight still had custody of Spike here.

The only conclusion that she could come to was that this was another world. However, all the books she'd read had only ever speculated that worlds, universes besides their own might exist. The implications of seeing such proof first hoof were at once exciting and terrifying.

Twilight had to halt her thoughts, despite her curiosity. It wasn't going to get her anywhere dwelling on the might-have-beens of this world, when she had established the only fact that mattered. That this world was very close to her own, meant that attempting an audience with the Princesses might take forever. (It gave her pause to think that she didn't have the Princess's ear.) Twilight wasn't sure how much time she had. And honestly, it wasn't her place to impact this world anyway. No, better to concentrate on getting back home by herself.

This in mind, she set to mentally retracing her steps. Despite being only from the morning, her memory felt fragmented. Stress had a way of doing that. Nothing jumped out at her until she got back to waking up. The mare had remembered something then, like part of a dream. The more she poked at it, the more artificial that memory felt, like she had been forced to remember something else. With that realization, it came back to her in a flash. Not a dream, a nightmare. About a sinister mirror in the Everfree Forest.

But it had been real, she was now sure of that. It baffled the mare that she could forget the experience, now that she had remembered it. It was unsettling, in a way. Whatever the mirror was, it was certainly magically powerful enough to nearly cause her to forget about it entirely. But it was also her best chance to find some answers.

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The Everfree Forest was no less foreboding than when she had entered it the day before. More so even, with the revelation that there was something new and sinister at work in the woods. Fighting a rising urge to go back the way she came, Twilight forced her way deeper down the path.

Once she had gone as far as she dared, the unicorn stopped and took a calming breath. As silence began to build in the still air, Twilight closed her eyes and focused. Her horn began to cast a soft lavender glow into the deepening gloom.

Detecting the casting of a spell was a simple task. It didn't even require a spell of it's own. Instead, the magic in the air produced a tingle at the fore of the mind, the base of the horn, proportionate to the power and proximity of the spell. Finding a particular magical signature, like that of a unicorn, on the other hoof, was much more difficult. It required a rather complex spell, and considerable concentration to use over large areas. In a place like Equestria, there were many possible magical signatures to sift through. Put simply, the more power put in, the greater the results, for better or worse..

Given her predisposition to magic, Twilight had rarely ever had any problems finding what she needed. Given the size of the forest and lack of even a general direction to search, Twilight put a considerable amount of power into the finding spell. With a strain of effort, she lowered her head, letting a flickering glow of magic form over her horn.

With a breath, Twilight released the spell, sending magical energy outward in a semi-visible dome all around her. She didn't have to wait long for results. Some of them, anyway. Behind her, she could feel the flicker of a contact with magical sources back in Ponyville. She tuned them out even as they came to mind. What she found curious was that she was unable to feel much from further inside the forest. Certainly the Everfree defied modern magic, but she had been able to sense things before, this far from the forest center!

Then something hit her, almost literally. A few snatches of a something hidden, but no direction. Just a sense that it was... there, she supposed. It felt like a static was preventing her from feeling anything rebounding her magic back to her from the wrong directions. What was worse, it stung on the return. Whatever was doing this, it made her head ache.

All the same, Twilight had felt something. Not just the static, but she was sure that a little more power would give her some grip in this slippery signature. Again she cast the spell, this time with even more power. A double overglow formed on her horn. The pulse was translucent this time, but well visible. It swept away, and in lesser time, responded again, The feeling of static was more intense, the direction a little clearer, but the pain also doubled in intensity. The sheer force of the returning magic pushed her back a foot, digging furrows into the ground in front of her hooves. Twilight stepped forward again, shaking her head to clear the feeling of pins and needles at the base of her horn. She almost had it! Just a second more would give her a good location.

No pony could say that Twilight was reckless, but she could be... enthusiastic. At least when it came to magic. The possibility of a problem that was so tantalizingly close, so solvable, pushed at her curiosity in all the best and worst ways. What could do this, she wondered. She had to see for herself.

The unicorn closed her eyes in concentration. Another double glow, and a wave of a spell pushed forth, channeled only in the direction of the forest. No sense in wasting the energy where it wasn't needed, she reasoned. The spell was very nearly opaque, passing over and through the trees until she felt it hit a barrier. Unlike the previous times, nothing was slipping through, she could discern nothing of what she had felt before. It was as though her magic had hit a wall, and was struggling to break through it.

Generally frustration breaks concentration, and thus it is a poor emotion to use in spell casting. Here, however, the spell was so focused that the emotion merely gave Twilight more drive to complete it. She was the Element of Magic, after all. Something magical shouldn't be able to best her, right? Twilight opened her eyes, and a flicker of white light shone from them, trying to break through whatever it was that was stopping her.

With a crack like thunder, the two forces of energy broke apart with a dazzling light. Before Twilight could even prepare herself, she was blown off of her hooves by her own magic. Twilight was hurled backwards, as though a buffalo had slammed into her. She didn't have far to go. A dead tree at the edge of the path blocked her passage with a sickening thud.

The impact knocked the breath from the unicorn. Her magic faded more slowly than normal, leaving her with a dull ache. There was barely time to understand that she had hit something before Twilight flopped to the base of the tree.

She blinked slowly, trying to get her bearings, even as dry twigs and dead leaves rained down on top of her. As it was she was far too shaken to care. Twilight lay there for a long while, drawing in deep breaths to right herself, before she attempted to move again. Her mind though, was working at top speed.

She was curious as to what had just happened. The unicorn had never encountered something like this: so powerful, but so... she supposed the word was tame. It had barely responded to a cursory inspection (other than a slight headache, but Twilight felt that was par for the course with intensely powerful magic), but had responded so forcefully to a more directed investigation. It felt more natural, in a way, more in tune with the forest and the world, rather than an intense source like Princess Celestia or the Elements of Harmony.

At least she knew without a doubt that this was what she was looking for. Now all she had to do was find a way to deal with an intense magical phenomena if she wanted to get home. More preferably, a way around it. That made it easier to grasp in a way. Here she had concrete proof of something, she could take what she learned and study it.

Of course, that meant go to her-- rather, getting in-- the library to do some research. Twilight grimaced. This wasn't going to be as easy as she had first thought.

By the time she had once again pulled her roaming thoughts into line, the pain in her body had subsided to only a dull ache. She had a new plan. A tenuous one to sure, but a plan gave her a direction. And besides, it appealed to the scientist inside her to discover something so wholly outside her realm of experience. Twilight pulled herself to her hooves, wobbling slightly, wincing at new little pains that seemed to appear.

Despite wanting to take a long nap, Twilight forced herself to limp slowly out of the forest. She did not want to pass out anywhere inside its limits. After some sleep, this would all probably seem easier. Hopefully. All she had to do was convince her friends, who currently had no knowledge of her and probably downright disliked her double, that they should help her. Nothing simpler. Then research an unknown magical force, without raising any suspicion, which she would have to get passed to get home. Easy.

Had the others been there, it might have formed a sarcastic conversation. Complete with sage advice in guise of common wisdom and probably a spontaneous argument besides. As it was, all the unicorn managed was a weak chuckle as she struggled to safety.

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Evening found Twilight collapsed in her makeshift hideout, sleeping off the effects of the day. The unicorn rolled over, which would be reasonable on a bed, but here earned the mare a jab in the ribs with a stick. She bolted upright and, for the second time that day, regretted the action.

She made a face as she sat down again, slightly dizzy, and tried to take stock.

Twilight felt sore in a few places she could barely name from half remembered anatomy texts. Otherwise, she felt she was in remarkably good condition for having slammed into a tree with considerable force earlier in the day. Now that her mind was slowly clearing, she returned to the last plan that was running through her mind before she fell asleep: Find a way into the library to do some research. To do that, Twilight knew she would have to talk to her friends. Or Trixie's friends. However that worked out, relationship-wise, given the current state of her travels.

Even after some sleep and recovering her senses, that plan still seemed workable. The real question she had to answer was: “Who would she ask?” It presented a real problem. Certainly with whatever background she could glean from Trixie's diatribe and the actions of her double, the other Elements of Harmony probably wouldn't give her a warm welcome. She would have to take in all the facts and see which pony was the best to approach.

Rainbow Dash was out of consideration almost instantly. Celestia bless the mare, she was loyal, but that was the very thing that would make it difficult to talk to her. She would likely not listen to a word Twilight said, but rather try to pick a fight to regain some of her pride. When she didn't want to listen, there was no real way to get through to her. Besides, who knew where Dash was, and if she was napping on a cloud or at her home, it would be impossible to reach her anyway. Worse, trying to find her might even attract more attention, which was something she really didn't need.

Rarity quickly followed on the 'do not approach' list. While she was reasonable, she had probably been humiliated by Twilight's double. If anything, the white unicorn was a bit prideful, so there was little chance of her not shutting the door in Twilight's face. If there was some other pony to vouch for her, it might be different, but that was the point of the whole plan, anyway. Further, Rarity was the most likely to call down some from of law enforcement if she persisted. Something Twilight would most certainly have to do to get anywhere with the mare. There wasn't much call for police in Equestria, with nearly non-existent crime, but she still couldn't afford to be detained.

Pinkie would certainly hold no grudges (it simply wasn't in her nature), so she would be easy to talk to and explain the situation. The only problem was her inherent... Pinkie-ness. Given what Trixie already thought of the unicorn, Pinkie's crazy manner would probably do more harm than good. She could imagine that conversation: “Hey Trix! This is a Twi! She looks just like that big meanie Twilight, but she's really nice! She wants to get into the library and look at stuff! So, can we? Can we huh?” Trixie would probably assume Pinkie was crazy, or that it was part of an elaborate prank. Which, to be fair, was not exactly unlikely where the pink party pony was concerned.

That left Twilight with both Fluttershy and Applejack as friends to convince. She had her doubts about Fluttershy, having only been able to get into her confidence through Spike's (though unwitting) help the first time. Still, it was better to try than not, since the timid pegasus wouldn't risk making a scene. Applejack, on the other hoof, she had a good feeling about. The farmyard mare had a sense of honor and country wisdom she could appeal to. At the same time, she would probably be willing to hear the unicorn out before passing judgment, if she pleaded her case well. Of course, she was ultimately loyal to her friends in a fierce way and stubborn sometimes, but Twilight had little to lose in asking.

Her plan now solidified, Twilight rose from her protective hedge. With a quick glance around for any observant ponies, she slipped out and into the dimming evening. It was almost dusk, the stars would be out sooner than later. The mere thought made her wish to be curled up next to her telescope at home. Or really, doing anything to take her mind off this situation she found herself in. With a sigh, the mare turned to the edge of town, angling towards a certain yellow pony's cottage.

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The journey was quick, given that being on the outskirts of town let Twilight move a little more freely without risking prying eyes. The unicorn emerged from the woods onto the path that lead to her friend's house, and took it in for the first time.

Unsurprisingly, it seemed much the same as she remembered it. There might have been a few more homes for small critters on one side, less birdhouses on the other, but really, nothing far out of place. If Twilight gave it more thought, she might realize that most of the structures in Ponyville tended to have a few little inconsistencies upon repeated viewings. It would be fascinating, had she thought of it, rather than being focused on her destination.

Twilight trotted up the path, noting the absence of any animals outside. Fluttershy had probably already seen them to sleep, which meant she was home, relaxing. At the door, the unicorn gave a sharp knock and a brief call of her friend's name.

“Fluttershy?”

The response was instant. A delicate crash was heard from inside. It baffled Twilight as to how the pegasus managed to do that. Knocking something over was most often noisy, but she managed to dampen the effect somehow. The unicorn made a mental note to discover the correlation between timidness and physical laws later. After further thought, she added a similar note for essentially everything her friends did. There had to be some magic behind it all. Maybe.

She was shaken from her reflections by a little sound to her left. Turning quickly, she caught the briefest flash of yellow and pink in the window, followed by a small 'eep'. Twilight was about to say something more, when a little voice from the inside spoke up.

“Umm... I can't talk right now... I'm... I'm...” The pegasus' voice dropped lower as her confidence faltered.

“I know how it looks, but I really need to talk with you.”

“I'm sorry... but can you please go away?” Was the only answer.

“Fluttershy, please, I just want to talk to you, I want to explain!”

Twilight fell into silence, searching her memory for something, anything, that would at least let her talk to the timid pony. There had to be a way to get Fluttershy to talk to her face to face. So engrossed was she in her thoughts, she missed the subtle sound sound of the pegasi's voice inside.

“...explain...” The unicorn barely caught the tail end of the statement.

“...Explain?” Fluttershy's voice seemed to get closer still. Twilight perked her ears, staring at the door.

“Explain!?” The door flew open with such force that it rattled the small structure. Twilight wanted to bolt, but realized the peril of talking to Fluttershy face to face. It also meant eye to eye. And in this case, her infamous 'Stare' was in full force, rooting her to the spot. The unicorn could only listen as she was tossed around like the proverbial pegasus in a verbal storm.

“Explain? What do you want to tell me? How you humiliated my friend? How you broke her confidence? Made her scared to even talk to us? You've done enough!”

Twilight could see, out of the corner of her eye, a variety of animals clustered behind the yellow pony. They seemed agitated, responding to their caretaker's emotions. In particular, one pure white bunny was stomping his foot menacingly, with a cross expression on his face.

“You're upsetting my animals, and I just don't want to hear anything you have to say. Please, just go back to where ever you came from, and leave us all alone...” The force of her words and intensity of her gaze slowly slipped into what Twilight recognized as Fluttershy. As she finished speaking, the unicorn chanced to speak. Before she could, the pegasus noticed and the full force of her stare returned.

“No. I don't want to hear it, Miss Twilight. Please leave as soon as you can.” She pulled the door closed with another, softer bang.

Twilight sat in silence on the door step. She had been right, Fluttershy wasn't going to listen to her anytime soon, and time was what she needed most. But what had her double done that had such a profound effect on the pegasus? It must have been rather horrible in order to get the normally shy pony to confront her like she just had.

Fluttershy's soft voice broke into her musings: “...Um, if you don't mind, I mean...”

Those few words brought a smile to her face that would surely confuse the look-alike of her friend on the other side of the door. It was good to know that her friend was still in there. The same sweet, baby-dragon loving pegasus, even if she didn't care for her as a friend. It brought a sense of normalcy to what was otherwise a maddening day.

Fighting the urge to laugh at her predicament (she was sure that it wouldn't help the situation to frighten Fluttershy),the unicorn got to her hooves and turned away from the quaint cottage. Despite her expectations, she still felt profoundly sad that one of her friends (or at least a pony that looked so much like them) would not let Twilight even make a case to her. After walking a short way, she ducked back into the trees, taking a shorter path towards the orchards of Sweet Apple Acres.

Passing the unvarnished truth before AJ might be her last option. The mare valued the truth; after all, she was the Element of Honesty. And while Twilight had never been able to get any conclusive proof, her time with the bearer of that particular gift made her believe that it gave Applejack some insight into the truth in others. The farmpony's ever-present country wisdom and knack for seeing through everypony testified to that. At least that was her last, best hope as she walked on.

Author's Note:

Hi everypony! This story isn't going to be exactly as it appears forever... I love alternate worlds, so this is going to encompass a lot more than just this one place (though you never know about revisiting a favorite... *grin*). Anyway, I'm glad people like the Trixie/Twilight swap going on here. Honestly, I've never heard of the Lunaverse... maybe I'm not up on my fanfic. I just write what I want to.

Anyway, I hope it was a good read and, if you like, please leave a comment/review. I like hearing from ponies.