• Published 2nd Mar 2013
  • 1,456 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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Enduring Friendships

Twilight shifted aside a last few branches, very happy to find a break in the underbrush. She emerged just at the edge of the Sweet Apple Acres, the tree tops outlined in the glow of the setting sun. She almost felt normal, standing here watching her mentor's hoof-work, if it were not for the leaves and twigs clutching to her mane from travel through the forest.

If she had calculated it correctly, given the time of year (and knowledge of one of her best friend's habits) Applejack should still be finishing up tending to some older trees here at the far end of the property. It served Twilight well, because she knew Applejack often did this work alone so, with luck, the unicorn would be able to avoid any other members of the Apple family. Her story was tenuous enough to explain to one pony, much less three or four. With a sigh, Twilight trotted into the apple fields themselves, listening for her farming friend.

She had not gone far when a familiar sound of hooves on wood reached her. Following the familiar sound of somepony bucking trees, she stuck to the long shadows of the lowering sun. Best to see who was out here, rather than run headlong into Big Mac, or some farm hand.

Her fears were unfounded, though, when she peered out from hiding to see Applejack bucking at what looked to be a sickly tree. With each connecting hit, dead branches fell down, collecting into a sizable pile of semi-rotten wood all around. Twilight watched the other mare turn and give the tree a calculated glance, before rearing back for another full force kick. With a loud crack, something in the tree gave way, causing both ponies to jump back a foot. There was a loud thump, and a cloud of dust kicked up that the unicorn couldn't see through.

As the air cleared, she could make out the shape of Applejack running a hoof over her forehead, breathing heavily. Directly next to her was a huge branch that had just fallen, jagged edges clearly showing where it had broken free from the trunk.

“A'm sorry Ah had ta do that Auburn, but that's no reason ta go and throw a branch at me!” The mare said in a playful tone.

Twilight smiled. Here was more proof that her friends were still... themselves. Applejack was one of the few ponies she knew that could brush off nearly being crushed by a branch. It was all just part of the days work for her. She knew that AJ would at least talk to her, and just might believe her story.

Mustering all of her courage, Twilight stepped out of the shadows.

“Um, Applejack?”

The other mare jumped a foot in the air. In hindsight, it might have been a better idea not to sneak up on a pony, alone out in the middle of the fields.

“Who in tarnation was that?” Applejack replied shakily, turning to face her direction, a weary smile on her face.

When Twilight fully exited the shadows, her face fell considerably. It turned into a wary gaze that had her glancing left and right, as though looking for traps.

“Oh, it's you.” Her words dripped with distaste. “Why are y'all here?”

Twilight flinched. “I'm sure I deserve that Applejack. Well, not exactly me, but I'm a close enough … As far as I've heard, the other me did some terrible things to you girls. But I'm not me, I'm another me . Err, that is to say, the me that you know isn't me, here in front of you, but rather somepony else. I'm here to get your help to help me figure out why I'm here and keep me away from the other me. Understand?”

By the time she looked up, it was clear that AJ's head was spinning. She was giving the unicorn a distinctly blank look.

“Uh, what?”

Twilight put a hoof to her face. “Celestia, this is complicated.”

Applejack gave her head a little shake, returning to a wary expression. “Yer tellin' me! Ah don't know what the hay yer talkin' about!”

The unicorn wilted. “You're the only one left I can talk to. I wanted to get you to understand before you stormed off. I know none of you are probably happy to see me.”

“Well, yer doing a great job of it.” The farm pony deadpanned. She turned away from Twilight, who started to tear-up.

“I'm sorry. I know you don't think I deserve a chance to explain myself, but that's all I'm asking. Please?”

Applejack stopped short, her expression shifting between indifference and outright concern. It just wasn't in her nature to ignore a pony in need, even if they had hurt her friend something fierce. With a sigh, she turned back around to find Twilight with her head down.

“Al'right, Ah might regret it, but Ah'll hear ya out. Ya sure are actin' a whole lot differn't than the last time Ah saw ya.”

The unicorn shot up, her eyes aglow with fresh tears. For a moment it seemed like she might tackle the farm pony, but she settled for a soft smile as she wiped her eyes. AJ grinned back nervously.

“Thanks Applejack. I knew if anypony would let me talk without chasing me off it would be you.”

AJ quirked an eyebrow at her familiarity. “Err... Right. Now, how's about ya tell me what yer tryin' to say?”

Twilight smiled wider and sat on her haunches under the tree she was next to. She motioned with a hoof for her companion to do the same. With a noticeable hesitation, Applejack did so.

“You might want to get comfortable. This story is going to be difficult to explain...” the unicorn said, before launching into a story of other universes, alternate ponies, and how she had ended up in this situation.

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“...and after I tried to talk to Fluttershy, the last pony I could think of to ask for help was you AJ. You're the Element of Honesty and either because of that or by just being the caring farm pony that you are, you've always been able to tell when me or the others aren't telling the truth.” Twilight concluded, chancing to look up (as she had done very few times during her time speaking, as she struggled to keep all of her facts straight), trying to gauge the other pony's reaction.

Applejack seemed contemplative, her eyes slightly furrowed as she gazed into the distance. When she finally spoke, her voice was measured, as though she was weighing each word carefully.

“So, yer tellin me that y'all come from another place, alot like this, but where me an' Dash an' the others were friends with you instead of Trixie?”

Twilight only nodded, not daring to speak and break the moment. The other mare fell silent again.

“An' you sure as sugar don't act like the pony that came inta town like a bad stampede a' while ago.” She said after a moment of contemplation.

The unicorn chanced a small smile.

“But from another universe? How do Ah know this ain't a load of horse apples?” AJ concluded.

Twilight wilted, her ears folding back against her head. Applejack didn't believe her either. What was she going to do now? She frantically searched for something to prove herself. In a moment she lit up again.

“I told you a bunch of things about all of the girls. Things only somepony familiar with you all would be able to know, right?” She started.

“Well...”

“But Twilight hasn't been here except for that one time, right?” Twilight interrupted.

“You coulda been sneakin' around...” AJ answered rather distractedly.

“From what you've seen of her, do you think Twilight could really sneak around? She's too much of a show-pony that wants everypony to think she's 'Wise and Powerful'.Besides, does she seem inclined to make a big plan to confuse all of you? I think she's much more straightforward than that.”

“Ah...”

“And in this entire conversation, have I ever refereed to myself in the third person? Do you think any force in Equestria could prevent her from calling herself the 'Wise and Powerful Twilight' every other sentence?”

Applejack stopped trying to respond and just stared at her for a moment. Then she started laughing. By the time she calmed down, the farm pony was wiping tears from her eyes.

“Well, that tears it. Ah may not rightly completely believe ya, but the Twilight Ah had the displeasure a' meetin' wouldn't a' known a joke if it bite her on the hind end.”

Twilight grinned. It felt almost like she had one of her friends back, even if she was insulting her double.

“I think I know a way I can prove it all to you, but we need to get back into town. I... sort of caused a stir the last time I was there.”

Applejack quirked an eyebrow, but then settled into a smile. “Nope, Ah'm not gonna ask.” She looked contemplative for a moment, then spoke again. “It's gettin' late , so the ponyfolk should be goin' ta bed any time now. Ah've still got a cloak stored in the barn, Ah think, from that time the girls went inta tha Forest a while ago.”

Twilight looked blankly at her. AJ shook her head.

“Right, right. Somehow 'er the other I got you mixed up with Trix. This new you an' her are a lot alike, now that Ah think about it.”

The unicorn nodded, not sure what to make of that information. Instead, she followed her friend as they made their way over the orchard to the Apple Family's barn. When they reach the edge of the tree line, AJ motioned for Twilight to stop.

“Ah'll go an' grab the stuff. The rest ah the family might take a bit more convincing. An' I'm not up ta that when I only half believe ya'll myself.”

Twilight nodded glumly. It wasn't a surprise that she still didn't fully believe her story, but it still hurt a bit. AJ noticed and gave her a weak, yet compassionate smile.

“But Ah'm getting there sugar cube. If this here proof is as good as you think it is, Ah'm sure we can work somethin' out.”

The unicorn brightened again just a bit. More and more of the friend she knew and cared about was surfacing in this foreign version of Applejack. She might just get through this yet!

Twilight watched as her friend trotted over to the barn, opened a side door, and disappeared inside. For several long moments, everything was still. The light cast from the farm house showed Big Mac and Applebloom talking in the kitchen, the smell indicated they were doubtless making a late supper for the family. Though she couldn't see Granny Smith, it was likely that the old mare was asleep in her rocking chair.

She watched as a smaller light appeared on the second story of the barn. Twilight bit her lip, a little nervous. Hopefully the rest of Applejack's family wouldn't notice anything. After a while, made ever longer by Twilight's furtive glances at the Apple homestead, the light in the upper portion of the barn dimmed. Moments later, AJ reappeared at the barn door, closing it softly behind her. In the intervening time, the moon had risen, letting Twilight see some bulky cloth slung over her back.

When she was close enough, Applejack shrugged off what she carried, holding it up for the unicorn to see. It was a hooded cloak, sized for any one of the mares that composed her group of friends. She thought it might have been colored a dark forest green, but the moonlight alone was not enough for her to determine it. The edges were frayed, and it looked rather worn, overall..

“Y'all think this'll work to keep ya outta sight?” AJ inquired

Twilight eyed the covering a bit.

“Where did you say this came from? It looks sort of like something Zecora might wear.” (Or did wear, she reminisced, on the first trip she had seen the zebra take into town) Twilight deflected for a moment.

“Tha' gal that runs the potion shop in town? Nah, this here came from the Everfree Forest. My sister an' her friends got lost in there...” She rolled her eyes. “Not that Ah ever tell 'em to stay the hay away from it— But when they came out, the lot of them had this here thing wrapped around them. Applebloom still hasn't rightly told me what went on in there.”

Still eying it, Twilight made a motion to put it on, while Applejack helped her do so. It was snug, but comfortable, and seemed warm, despite its apparent age. Pulling the hood over her ears with a hoof, she turned back to AJ.

“I think this will be great Applejack. Can we head into town now?”

“Ah don't see why not. The family doesn't expect me back til' a little later on anyways.” Applejack replied, shooting a glance back to her house.

With that, the two mares started on a slightly more direct path than Twilight was now used to. Her identity protected, she lead her companion towards the edge of town, and a certain show-mare's wagon.

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Luna's stars were shining down on them as they walked (or at least, Twilight hoped they were Luna's), and their peaceful twinkle served to calm Twilight. She glanced at AJ, only to find her looking distinctly uncomfortable. Better to engage her again, just so she didn't have second thoughts. Her first question died on her lips, which served to cause Applejack to look at her quizzically and Twilight blush. It would be a dumb idea to ask the only pony who was helping her about the other version of herself.

She searched for something else to fill the awkward silence. The answer was surprisingly simple.

“How did you meet Trixie? Well, not you specifically, I suppose, but how did you and the others meet her?”

Applejack looked at Twilight, seeming contemplative, before continuing down the path. Just when the silence stretched out enough that the unicorn thought she might have said something wrong, the other mare spoke.

“Ah think it had ta be a year or two ago now... Nah, it was two, applebucking season had almost started. We were all preparing for the longest day ah the year, Ah was supposed ta make all the food fer all the ponies that would show up. T'was alotta work, I'll say that much.”

Twilight nodded in time with her explanation. It sounded familiar enough.

“Then Trixie showed up, an' started barking out orders. Said Celestia had told her to run the whole show.” She paused a moment, collecting her thoughts. “Now, I didn't think at the time that she might try to do it all on her own. But that's what she tried ta do. Organize every little thing, an' get everything just perfect. The rest of the time she was holed up in tha library, trying to find some proof for what happened next... not that the lot of us knew about it.”

Twilight frowned. She knew exactly what happened next: the apparent capture (or orchestrated capture, she had never been sure, and never asked outright) of her mentor, the return of Nightmare Moon on the longest day of the thousandth year, and the rebirth of the Elements of Harmony. Only... with Trixie as the leader and instigator of the incident. It was boggling. AJ continued, oblivious to her internal conflict.

“Nightmare Moon showed up, captured the princess, an' wanted there to be eternal night. Trixie knew what was goin' on, an' told her so, which lead us on a big ol' chase into the Everfree Forest. We had ta overcome a bunch of tasks...”

“Some of this I know, kind of.” Twilight interrupted. “Like a cliff collapsed, and you saved Trixie by asking her to trust you, or Pinkie singing that silly song about giggling. They proved your strength and Elements of Harmony.”

Applejack gave Twilight a funny look. “Yer right on the second one, but not tha first. It was Dash that saved Trix when the cliff fell out from under the lot of us. Proved her loyalty by not abandoning her when she promised to save her. What kinda test of Honesty would that'a been? Nah, I got tested when we had to cross this spooky bridge closer ta tha castle. All a' the others didn't make it through, but Ah promised them Ah'd find a way for them ta cross. Then these ponies appeared...” AJ shivered a bit as if from a bad memory. “They told me the lot of them could make the farm bigger and better, all the apple we could sell, but Ah had to leave the others.” She shivered again. “Ah feel bad about it, Twi'light, but Ah nearly considered it.... But Ah couldn't do that ta my friends.” She perked up again and looked at her traveling companion. “An' that's how Ah became the Element of Honesty.”

“But why was Trixie sent here in the first place? You don't seem convinced that it was just for planning the Summer Sun Celebration.”

The realization of just how much she had been talking seemed to hit Applejack in that moment. She became more tight-lipped almost immediately.

“Ah don't think Ah'm the one who should tell y'all that. If we do meet Trix, then maybe ya can ask her all about it.”

Twilight nearly frowned. She settled for doing so internally. She had been so close to having some trust. It went to show how much one question could change the dynamic of a relationship.

The rest of their trip passed mostly in silence. The pair slipped around the edge of town, but didn't see so much as a hoof of another pony. Despite the oddity of her errand, Twilight had to force herself to remember that this really was just another night in Ponyville. Not for her maybe, but as far as it went for the citizens of the town.

After passing down several side streets, Twilight's destination came into view. A wagon covered in banners, shut down for the night. A soft light outlined the form of a unicorn at one of the windows, relaxing. Twilight pulled back her hood and leaned closer.

“Spike!”

A voice disturbingly like Twilight's own called out. It didn't have the long drawn out familiarity that she normally used to call her assistant. It was instead phrased as a command, and a seemingly well used one at that.

She watched as a small figure shot up at the front of the wagon, nearly falling off the seat. It hurriedly climbed down and sprinted for the backdoor of the cart. Spike opened and closed it with a bit of care.

“Yes, what do you need?” Twilight could hear Spike say through the open window.

“Twilight needs further ingredients for her potion. Go and fetch them.”

“But... everything's closed. Where should I go?”

The only answer he received was silence. It wasn't difficult to imagine the grimace of displeasure on her alternates face. She realized suddenly that her double was probably still suffering the effects of the Joak that she had thrown at her earlier, and was attempting to brew an antidote. Twilight had to stifle a giggle imagining the sight. Then, the door popped open again, and Spike was bucked out into the street, where he landed on his back.

Before Twilight could act on her instincts to help her assistant, the dragon was on his feet. She watched him kick at a few loose pebbles and mutter something under his breath. The unicorn could only imagine it was probably a few unkind words about her double.

Beside her, Applejack let out a low whistle. “Y'all weren't kiddin'. Ah wouldn't have believed it unless Ah saw it fer myself. Everything ya told me's true, ain't it?”

Twilight turned to her friend with the most genuine, simple smile she'd displayed in days. “Yes it is. So now I need your help to get into the library. I'm not sure how else I'll be able to get in to do some research. I doubt Trixie will just let me in, now. With you there, I at least stand a chance.”

Applejack was about to answer, but suddenly looked past Twilight. Following her gaze, the unicorn turned around, and found Spike not more than a few paces away, looking at her with the most curious expression. It looked almost... hopeful.

Twilight have him a deep, genuine smile. The baby dragon's face lit up, then clouded with confusion.

“Twilight...” He flinched, realizing his mistake. “Uh, I mean...” Twilight felt a wave of sadness. He really expected anger from her. When no tirade was forthcoming from the unicorn, he looked at her again. She still smiled softly. “What...?” The two locked eyes, and the care she wanted to show seemed to flow out of her towards him.

Twilight then snapped from her trance. It was so easy, so familiar, to fall into her big sister relationship with the little dragon. But she had to remind herself that this Spike had no idea of who she was, and it would complicate things endlessly for him to get close to her.

In that split second she made a decision. With almost a monumental effort, she pulled away from his eyes and rounded on Applejack. Catching her fore-hoof, she pulled the two both of them into a gallop in the opposite direction.

“Wait!” She heard him call out, his voice now fading behind her.

Despite her own best efforts, she looked back. Spike's eyes seemed to plead with her, holding a hurt he probably wouldn't be able to explain. With a terrible struggle, she hardened her heart and tore away, looking back down the street. She heard no sounds of the baby dragon trying to follow, but hurled headlong through the town anyway. By the time she stopped, they were clear across town and, conveniently, very near to the library.

Applejack, after catching her breath, very tactfully declined to ask Twilight what had just happened. It was clear the matter would upset Twilight, and AJ wasn't the sort of pony to pry. Instead she lead the unicorn on in silence to the library door. Once there, the pair hesitated for a moment, before Twilight knocked a hoof lightly on the door.

Author's Note:

Hi Everypony!

Thanks for your comments and likes. I love hearing from everypony, so drop me a comment or review if you feel so inclined.

Comments ( 5 )

MOAR! :flutterrage: , also Poor Spike :pinkiesad2:

Despite her own best efforts, she looked back. Spike's eyes seemed to plead with her, holding a hurt he probably wouldn't be able to explain. With a terrible struggle, she hardened her heart and tore away, looking back down the street. She heard no sounds of the baby dragon trying to follow, but hurled headlong through the town anyway. By the time she stopped, they were clear across town and, conveniently, very near to the library.

Ah! right in the feels!:pinkiesad2:

Dammit feels! I need more! :flutterrage:

Trix of the Sun's Light
Replaced her in her own home.
Now Twilight needs help.

I think that Haiku sums up this world quite well. Am I right in guessing that Twilight will have a bit more control with what works she goes to than Sweetie Belle, of The Sweetie Chronicles? I would assume as much, if only because the mirror from chapter one has multiple fractures that, I'd bet my bottom dollar, hold a world within each fractured piece of mirror. Either that, or it's something to do with the mirror's room.

Very good story, a shame it is dead.

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