Twilight discovers the crystal mirror, and all of the worlds that have been created as consequences of her actions are suddenly open to explore. What will the Archmage discover?
The crystal mirror is a strange device. Through it, Twilight is able to explore alternate worlds, each one of which has been created as a result of her decisions. As she soon finds out, some of her past decisions really were for the best. And others still could have been better. The former Archmage learns how her decisions could have impacted Equestria, and grows through them. She learns what would have happened if she had become a goddess, if she had denied the position of Archmage, and many other situations. What's more, she discovers the impact some other ponies' decisions have had on Equestria's well-being, and how they have effected those she loves.
“Hello Cadance. I came as soon as you called.” Twilight beamed as she entered the Crystal Kingdom’s main throne room, where she was waiting for her. Her smile soon wilted, though, when she saw the dour look on Cadance’s face. “What’s wrong?”
“You need to see this, Archmage.” Cadance said in a quiet, somber tone. Twilight stiffened when she was called by title. Her sister had never called her by title. Not outside of a teasing joke, anyways. A quick glance at Cadance’s serious expression affirmed her suspicions. Something was ahoof.
“Okaaayy…” Twilight said guardedly, tucking her wings against her back. “Lead the way.” Cadance turned away, leading Twilight away from the main room and down a side hallway. She was completely silent, which was unnerving to say the least. Twilight’s frown intensified as she followed her down one corridor after another, and after a while into stairwells that cut back into the ground, until she was sure they were at least four dozen feet beneath the floors of the palace.
“I don’t remember there being any subterranean passages here.” Twilight muttered. “Save for the one, but I thought that was sealed off after we retrieved the Crystal Heart?”
“It was.” Cadance shot over her shoulder. “But these were recently re-discovered. By chance, as it were.”
“I wonder who made them…” Twilight mused, looking over the roughly-hewn walls and floors, frowning still. “This clearly isn’t Crystal Pony architecture. It’s too rough; almost like it was rushed.” They had transitioned from furnished halls and corridors to this cave-like system upon descending the first set of stairs, and Twilight could tell the difference almost immediately. Still, Cadance’s somber expression made Twilight hold most of her questions until they arrived wherever it was they were taking her.
“Here.” Cadance said at last. They had descended another rough set of stairs into another cavern, but around the first corner was a sight Twilight wasn’t entirely prepared for. “We discovered this just last week.” She continued, approaching the center of the largest chamber they had seen since leaving the castle proper. Twilight wondered why she hadn’t sensed it before, but this entire place hummed with an energy she was completely unfamiliar with. It was alien to her. And quite frankly, frightening. All over the rock walls, she could see skittering lines of energy as they shot all over, vibrating, humming, and scintillating with their power.
“Cadance, this is so strange.” Twilight breathed, her ears pinned flat against her head. This place made her skin crawl. She wanted to leave, to seal this place off and never allow anypony else to enter again. But her curiosity and Cadance’s determined pace kept her pressing on. She swallowed her fears and doubts and continued walking. It was near the center of the chamber that Cadance stopped, turning back to her.
“Tell me what you see.” She said gruffly. Her expression was serious. Twilight raised her head a little more, looking about the chamber slowly. She didn’t see anything, aside from the lines of energy shooting across the walls at blinding speeds.
“I don’t see anything.” Twilight said softly. Cadance didn’t respond, but continued to frown intently at her. Twilight gave the chamber another look-over before arriving to a conclusion. She had missed something. Something was amiss in this chamber. It wasn’t the alien energy or the multi-colored lines of energy shooting all over. It was something else entirely. She mulled it over, trying to piece together all the bits of information she had. Which wasn’t all that much. At last, she realized it.
“This is a temporal warp.” She breathed. “This place shouldn’t exist in the universe. In fact, it shouldn’t be on this plane of existence. By the heavens, they were right! Cadance, they were right!” Excitement welled up in Twilight’s chest, and she beamed at her sister brightly.
“Who was right? What are you talking about?”
“The summit! The summit of unicorns! Oh, come on! Didn’t you read the dossier I sent you?!”
“I don’t read anything you sent me. If I did, I’d sleep better than I do now.”
“Fine. I’ll summarize. You remember the library I uncovered? About two hundred and twelve years ago?”
“I remember.” Cadance nodded.
“Well, in the records section was a set of notes. Bolt discovered them, and had copies sent to Canterlot a few years back. It was minutes from a meeting of unicorns long, long ago. Not just any meeting, though. A summit. The greatest minds in Equestria met to hypothesize, theorize, and speculate. They determined that, alongside Equestria and the world we know, were hundreds; maybe even thousands of different worlds. Different planes of existence, similar to our own, but different in their own way. They went on to theorize that these different worlds were created due to changes in magical energies in our own world. Specifically, those that revolved around prophecy.” Twilight turned in a slow circle, looking over the room intently.
“They went on to speculate that one could reach those different worlds through points in our own where the magical ley-lines bisected, or where two energies were most congruent. But the summit came to a close, or our records are imperfect. I had Bolt look into it further, but he couldn’t find anything in his library, and none of the others in Equestria had any documentation. Not even Celestia’s. She says she remembers the summit, but she was embroiled in some conflict with the dragons to remember anything about it. But I can feel it, Cadance…” Twilight turned to her sister, frowning at the expression she wore. “You can feel it too, can’t you?”
“Y-yeah.” Cadance muttered. “It makes my body vibrate and crawl. I don’t like it, Twilight. I don’t like this place at all. I want to leave.”
“I don’t blame you.” Twilight sighed. This place was unsettling to say the least. In fact, she very much wanted to leave as well. But curiosity drove her further. “I wonder… Do you know any time spells?”
“Only a few.” She muttered, kicking the ground with a hoof. “I’m pretty rusty, though. I wouldn’t feel confident casting any.”
“Hmm.” Twilight’s frown intensified as she gestured her to move aside. Cadance stepped back, letting Twilight step into her place. Almost as if she were a puzzle piece, Twilight could feel something click. It felt like she was a child’s ball that had settled into a small hole in the ground. She felt something in the energy around her click into place, settling and falling into a sort of order. She didn’t understand the pattern or the way the energy pulsed, but it wasn’t unfamiliar to her. She could say she had never felt anything of the sort before, though.
“I felt it.” Cadance breathed. “Twilight, what are you doing?”
“Hang on.” Twilight breathed. “The summit… They theorized not just that you could travel to other worlds… But how you could travel between them.” Twilight’s horn began to glow with her signature lavender aura, and she breathed out softly. The spell came to her almost by itself. The form and invocations became clear. Twilight shuddered before raising her head once more, lighting the entire chamber with her magic. Cadance took a step back, watching with wide-eyed rapture at the scene before them. Twilight’s own eyes went wide in shock at what she saw.
The lines of energy skittering across the walls began to converge. Twilight watched as they drew towards the center of the room, a spot just a few feet before her hooves. As the spell began to go through the motions, she watched the jagged lines lump together, pulse, and grow. They began to take shape. A corporeal form. Before their very eyes, an oval-shaped aperture took form, growing larger and larger as Twilight’s horn continued to blaze with energy. When her magic finally faded away, the humming energy around the room had died. There was no longer any unsettling sensation of displacement. She didn’t feel like running anymore. Instead, she felt something else entirely.
Wonder. Amazement. Curiosity. A whole slew of other emotions that she knew was less-than-healthy to anypony who wanted to continue living.
Before the two of them stood a mirror. It was perfect. The smooth oval shape of the border bore no flaw, and hovered a few inches above the roughly-hewn stone floor. The surface of the mirror was pure crystal, and had been polished so thoroughly that Twilight could have sworn she was looking at a perfect copy of herself. Not a mirror image, or a trick of the dull lighting, but somepony else entirely. Somepony standing off and away in another cavern somewhere in another world. Somepony just like her, but forged when a critical decision had been made, or one prophecy had failed or been fulfilled. To her left stood Cadance, both of them staring with rapt attention at the image in the mirror. The sound of hoof-falls drew her attention. Glancing to her left, she saw Cadance standing at her side.
But in the mirror, that Cadance stood back.
It clicked then. Twilight wasn’t looking at a mirror. This WAS a different world! A different realm! The four ponies froze with the sudden realization of what this meant. Twilight wasn’t looking at a mirror. She was looking at herself and Cadance, but in a different world. One not their own. She took a hesitant step forwards. The Twilight in the mirror took a step back. She spread her wings. The Twilight in the mirror didn’t have wings.
“Explain it to me one more time.” Cadance groaned, rubbing a hoof into the bridge of her nose. “And for once, let’s assume I haven’t read any of your reports.”
“Fine.” Twilight huffed, pulling a chair up to the table where Cadance sat with a steaming cup of tea. Twilight herself was rather shaken. But alongside the fear and questions was a sense of excitement and happiness. Discovery. Progress! She collected her thoughts before speaking.
“The spell I cast down there wasn’t anything that’s been researched or developed. Not yet, anyways. But it was already built into the mirror. A mechanism, if you will, to stabilize itself. It needed a princess to work, so it had to have been cast by somepony on-par with a princess’ abilities long ago. Now, it’s been determined that a large group of skilled unicorns can achieve a level similar to that of a princess’, so it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that both Celestia and Luna have no knowledge of this mirror. Then again, they just might. I sent a message to them just a moment ago, so they should be here within the hour. I’ll need their input before I make any real determinations, but I can guess.” Twilight took a breath before launching into her hypothesis.
“The mirror stabilized itself with my power, turning from the lines of energy we saw into the mirror that stands there now. How or why it changed into the lines is beyond me, but I know it used my energy to turn into the mirror we see now. What we saw was no illusion. Instead, it was another world, one that had been created when one prophecy failed or was fulfilled in this world. The Twilight in the mirror didn’t have any wings, but she was with you, in almost the exact same position we were. So we can assume that that world, whichever one it was, was a world where I did not become a princess, or hadn’t just yet. Follow?”
“I think.” Cadance looked haggard. “Essentially, each time a prophecy comes to pass, fulfilled or failed, another world is made. That thing… That mirror… Is a way to travel between them?”
“I think so, yes.” Twilight affirmed with a nod. “When Celestia and Luna arrive, I can get their input and say more on the matter. But I’m fairly certain that this mirror is a convergence of worlds. A portal, if you will, between different planes of existence. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be prophecy. It could be anything. Even small details, like whether you decided to buy milk or orange juice this morning.”
“I got eggs.” Cadance frowned. “But that’s not the point. You’re saying these worlds can be made by any event? Not just prophecy?”
“Well, think about it… It’s arguable that my own prophecy said I was supposed to become a princess. The Twilight in the mirror didn’t have wings. She was still a unicorn. So either the prophecy hadn’t come to pass, or something else changed. Something minor. Something small and insignificant to make that world different enough. Maybe the prophecy hadn’t even been made in that world. Maybe we weren’t even standing in the caverns, but in the castle proper.”
“If what you say is true, then there are an infinite number of possibilities. All over the world, every new second, hundreds of thousands of worlds are being created. By decisions ponies make in their everyday lives.”
“That’s what’s so frightening about this.” Twilight swallowed. “Who’s to say this is the root world? The world all of these other ones are being made off of? For all we know, we’re just a copy of a different world. We could have been made when Celestia decided she wanted tea instead of coffee four hundred years ago. Or we could have been made when Luna decided she’d become Nightmare Moon instead of rationalize her feelings. Any number of possibilities can be true.” Twilight shuddered, but it was with a giddy grin. “Exciting, isn’t it?”
“Terrifying.” Cadance offered weakly, taking a sip of her tea. “I don’t want to think about this world not being real…”
“But it is real.” Twilight tapped her hoof on the table. "Can you deny your feelings towards Shining, or the reality of the tea you’re drinking? What about your children, or the castle around you? What about myself, Luna, and Celestia? Aren’t we real?”
“True.” Cadance smiled at last, the first Twilight had seen since she arrived. But it quickly faded. “What about these other worlds, though? Are they real, too?”
“One would assume so.” Twilight sat back again, frowning with thought. “They seemed real enough to me. But we need to wait for the princesses before I can say any more. I want to ask Celestia about something, and Luna as well.”
Luna and Celestia arrived promptly, both of them looking very serious as they landed in the courtyard outside of the castle. “We came as quickly as we could.” Celestia tucked her wings against her back, both of them breathing moderately heavy. Twilight nodded and turned, talking as she walked. She didn’t waste any time.
“Cadance has discovered a convergence. Do you remember those notes on the unicorn summit I had Bolt send me, about six years ago?”
“Vaguely.” Celestia frowned, looking to Luna. The princess of the night shrugged. “Something about different worlds.”
“Well they were right.” Twilight shot a grin over her shoulder as she led the princesses down the same halls Cadance had taken her. “We’ve discovered something. A portal of sorts. When I stood in the center of the spell, it triggered, and used my energy to reform itself. What we thought was a temporal disturbance turned out to actually be a mirror. Well, what can best be described as a mirror. It shows you things. Other worlds. When we first looked at it, I thought I was looking at myself and Cadance. But it turned out I was looking at copies. Somewhere else. The Twilight in this mirror didn’t have wings. She wasn’t me. She was somepony else. Somepony on another plane of existence.”
“That’s impossible.” Luna said with a frown. “We haven’t heard anything about the Crystal Mirror in over fifteen hundred years. Since well before Sombra began his reign.”
“You know about this?” Twilight turned to Luna with wide eyes. The three of them stopped in the middle of a short hallway. “You knew about the crystal mirrors?”
“It’s been a long, long time.” Luna sighed. “Celestia wouldn’t remember, since I was handling most affairs involved with magic at the time.” She sat on her haunches, her eyes closed as she fought to remember all that had happened. Twilight waited anxiously. At last, Luna began to talk. “Five hundred and eighty-seven years before Sombra was ever even born, I went to the Crystal Kingdom to investigate claims of a convergence. Not uncommon at the time, since magic was still young and raw. But it wasn’t anywhere near here. It was further West, about forty miles or so. In an open plain, a herder said he saw his wife. But she had been dead for twenty years. Upon investigating, we found a mirror. A portal, as you said. It opened to another world, a world where this herder and his wife were still alive and happy. The wife had stumbled across it during her daily routine, and came through to this side.”
“Wait.” Twilight frowned. “You can go through these portals?”
“Of course.” Luna nodded. “It wouldn’t be a portal if you couldn’t. But there’s a catch.” Luna raised a hoof. “You don’t belong in that other world, so you can’t interact with it. You can only observe.”
“Did you go through?”
“I did. But only to investigate. Now, this is all speculation, and it’s been a long, long time since this all happened, but I remember rather well… The herder was distraught because he could see his dead wife, but he couldn’t hear anything she was saying, and he couldn’t touch her.” Luna waved a hoof. “I saw her as clearly as I see you now, but when I went to lay a hoof on the herder’s dead wife, it went straight through. Like a ghost, or a phantasm.” She continued on, still frowning with intense thought. “Through a vague series of gestures and signs, we managed to direct her back through the portal, and I followed her through. I saw another world, almost unmistakable from this one, but with the herder’s wife alive. They could see me, but I couldn’t talk to them. No matter what spells I cast on myself, I couldn’t get my voice to reach them. I could only watch as they panicked and ran about, trying to figure out what was happening. Eventually, I came back through and destroyed the portal. It was too confusing and too strange to be left open at all. I thought that was the end of it. It never resurfaced, and hasn’t been an issue since.”
“Hmm.” Twilight frowned with thought, rubbing her chin with a hoof. “Well, let’s take a look at this one, see if there are any similarities.” Twilight turned back to the hall, leading them further down into the caves where the mirror was. The princesses shared a look, but remained silent as they followed. Upon arriving in the chamber, they both frowned intently.
“This is almost exactly the same.” Luna said quietly, sitting opposite the mirror. The surface was blank, and didn’t show their reflection, or anypony else. “But the energy is different.”
“How so?” Twilight asked, sitting beside her.
“It’s more intense. Prevalent. It fills the air, like it’s suffocating me. The other mirror was smaller, too. I think. Yes, it was much smaller. Just big enough for maybe me alone. This one…” Luna breathed, looking up the length of the thing. “Two or three of us could fit through at a time. It’s uncanny.”
“I know nothing of this.” Celestia offered, sitting on the other side of Twilight. “This is an entirely new experience for me. But I can speculate. It’s as you say, Twilight. This is a portal to another world.”
“Not just one other world.” Luna breathed. Both the other princesses looked at her. “All of them.”
“All of them?”
“Yes. See.” Luna’s horn glowed, and she pointed it at the left edge of the mirror. Twilight watched, mesmerized, as she slowly turned to the right. The surface of the mirror wiped clean, following the motion of her horn. Beyond the new surface was a peaceful-looking forest. Twilight could see small animals scamper away, and soft, muted light filtering through the leaves above them. Luna repeated the motion, and Twilight saw a busy street, somewhere in a major city, with ponies bustling to and fro. Again, and this time Twilight saw lava. They were near a volcano. Once more, and Twilight was looking at a mass of changelings, hissing and skittering away from the mirror.
“As you can see,” Luna said somberly, finishing the small journey with one last motion of her horn. “This isn’t just a portal to one other world. It’s all of them. Every world available to us. We can visit any one of these as a spectator. To see and observe the changes that have been made.”
“Unreal.” Twilight muttered in amazement. “I can’t believe it…”
“Nor can I. Not until I see for myself. Luna, turn it to somewhere safe.” Celestia stood, taking a few steps towards the mirror. Luna obliged, wiping the surface of the mirror over to what looked like a wide, grassy meadow. It was bright and sunny, with no visible threat anywhere nearby. Celestia boldly strode forward, stepping head-first into the mirror. Twilight watched as the surface rippled around her large frame, but didn’t stop or hinder her. The only difference Twilight could see was that she disappeared on the other side. Worry and concern almost made her lurch forward to enter the mirror after her mentor and sister, but Luna stopped her with a gentle hoof.
“She’s okay.” Luna whispered. “Just give her time. The passage is different on either side of the mirror. You can spend hours or days there, while only seconds pass here. Watch.”
“Haah!” Celestia emerged from the mirror, her mane frazzled and her eyes wide. “You’re still here?”
“What do you mean?” Twilight asked. “You were gone maybe ten seconds.”
“I was gone a whole week.” Celestia breathed, her wide eyes bloodshot and furtive as she looked about. “A whole week, no sleep, no food, no nothing. You cannot grab anything in that place. I didn’t sleep, because I didn’t want to miss the portal.”
“Unreal. Come on, let’s get out of here.” Twilight looked over Celestia’s shoulder at the mirror. The meadow still looked peaceful and calm, but the way Celestia looked, she dreaded ever setting hoof in that place. She must have seen things beyond comprehension.
“A whole week… That’s incredible.” Twilight shook her head at Celestia’s story. The princess had arrived in that same meadow, and done a little exploring. She found a nearby town, and spent the day watching ponies go about their lives. When she tried to go back to the mirror, though, she found it was gone. So she spent an entire week searching, watching, not sleeping or eating. When the mirror re-appeared a week later, she dashed through it to return to her own world, just ten seconds later.
“That mirror is dangerous.” Celestia sighed, rubbing her temples with her hooves. She had eaten a rather large meal, but hadn’t rested yet. After discussing things with Luna and Cadance, they agreed to raise and lower the sun and moon from the crystal kingdom and rest there for the next day. “But it’s also very intriguing. Twilight, how do you feel about entering another world?”
“Apprehensive.” Twilight frowned. “But if I go prepared, take some things with me, I don’t think I’d be entirely opposed.” She looked back up at both princesses, nodding firmly. “I think, for the betterment of magic and Equestria, I should explore at least a few worlds. Can you tell the difference between them?”
“I can.” Luna said softly. “The world I sent Celestia to had been created when Sombra’s reign never occurred. The Crystal Kingdom had been alive and prosperous for a thousand years, instead of hidden in a slumber. It’s… A strange process, but I can usually tell what’s different in one world or another.”
“Amazing. So, you could send me to a world where, for instance, I had chosen to become a god rather than return to Equestria?” At Twilight’s question, Luna swallowed. Obviously, the very thought pained her, but in the end she nodded.
“I can. A word of warning, though. Those worlds technically don’t exist for us. You would be visiting. Just that. You couldn’t impact it in any way, shape, or form. You can hear, see, and smell things in that world, but not feel them, taste them, or interact with them in any other way. Also, it stands to reason that in other worlds, we have discovered other mirrors that function similarly. You might encounter copies of yourself, or one of us. It’s not advisable to touch any of them, either. The result is unpredictable.”
“I understand.” Twilight nodded. “With your permission, princesses, I will begin exploring these other worlds.”
“You don’t need our permission, Twilight.” Celestia said with a weak gesture. “You’re free to do as you please. I thought we had established this.”
“Right. Sorry.” Twilight muttered with a blush. “Would you suggest anything else, though?”
“Take food.” Celestia sighed, rubbing her tired eyes. “Enough for at least a week, if not more.”
“And a means of finding your way back to the portal. I don’t think putting an item behind you, like a stake or a flag of sorts, will affect the world around you. Others might be able to see it, but they won’t be able to interact with it. That way you can find your way back whenever you need to.” Luna frowned with thought for a few moments. “Also, consider sleep spells.”
“I surely could have slept if I wanted to. With the aid of a spell or two. But the energy of that world made natural sleep almost impossible. It’s easy to stay awake for days at a time, but it is unhealthy. If you must sleep, do so near the portal, and be very careful about being stumbled upon by a visitor from another mirror.” Celestia offered once more before yawning widely. “For now, though, I must rest. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry.” Twilight shook her head. “I will begin exploring this evening, while you rest. I will be careful about this. Trust me.”
“I do trust you, Twilight. Now goodnight. I look forward to hearing about your journeys in the morning.” Celestia stood and plodded off. She looked exhausted. Twilight had seen her stay awake for months on end before, with little to no impact on her life. But now and again, she would seem completely exhausted, as if she were an earth pony after a hard day’s work in a field somewhere. Twilight could identify, though. Being relatively new to being a Princess, she was subject to the same physical stipulations Celestia, Luna, and Cadance were. There were times she felt completely exhausted, and other times when she was able to stay up for almost a whole year without resting. Celestia left the chamber, leaving Luna and Twilight alone.
“So…” Luna sighed. “I’m guessing you want to see how some of your decisions have impacted Equestria?”
“Can you blame me?” Twilight blushed. “I just want to know, Luna. It’s not like my knowing will have any impact on my feelings for you. They are different worlds. Different times. Different ponies. You and me, we’re still very real.” Twilight scooted closer, smiling warmly. “And very, very much in love.”
“True.” Luna smiled, kissing Twilight’s cheek tenderly. “I’m rather interested to hear the differences myself. Promise me you’ll tell me when you return?”
“Every detail.” Twilight promised. “Dirty or otherwise.”
“Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that.” Luna shuddered as Twilight gave the edge of her ear a teasing nip. “You could watch us in a different world.”
“Hmm. I’ll be sure to take detailed notes.”
“Okay, stop.” Luna panted. “We can’t be doing this here.”
“You’re no fun.” Twilight teased, giving Luna’s neck a quick kiss before pulling away. “But you’re right. Come on, help me pack.”
“Let’s go down the list one more time.”
“Fifteen days’ worth of shrunken food, ready to be resized when I’m hungry. Two empty journals, a stack of quills, seventeen scrolls, a red scarf to serve as a flag for return, and supplements for sleep spells. Oh, and a bedroll. And lest we forget, I have this.” Twilight laid a hoof over her necklace, smiling warmly at Luna.
“Yes you do.” Luna smiled, giving Twilight a quick kiss. “Don’t forget.”
“I couldn’t if I tried.” Twilight returned the kiss in kind, groaning just a little. “I’m going to miss you.”
“You’ll be gone for a few minutes at most.” Luna teased.
“Or it could be days on my end.”
“Right. Well, you have your necklace. I’d give you another parting gift, but I think committing coitus in front of an inter-dimensional portal isn’t very wise.”
“Don’t tempt me.” Twilight teased, nipping the edge of Luna’s ear once more. “Promise me you’ll stay here for my return? It’d be nice to know I’ll have your smiling face to come back to.”
“I brought a book.” Luna levitated the dusty tome forward, smiling as she waved it in front of Twilight’s face. “I’ll be fine, whether you’re gone ten hours or ten seconds.”
“Let’s hope for the latter.” Twilight grumbled. She smiled at Luna once more before hoisting her saddlebags onto her flanks. After tightening the strap and flexing her wings, Twilight nodded to Luna. “Ready.”
“I’ll send you to the world where you decided to become a god first. In this world, you never returned to Equestria as Twilight. Instead, you became the god of magic, on-par with the day and night in power and influence. You’re no longer Twilight Sparkle. You are Ephemira, all-knowing, all-powerful god of magic and knowledge.”
“Okay.” Twilight shuddered at the thought. Ephemira. The name was haunting. It fit her. Luna’s horn glowed, and she wiped the surface to another world. Beyond, Twilight couldn’t see anything. “Is it safe?”
“You’ll be fine, Twilight.” Luna nodded. “I promise.”
“Okay.” Twilight looked over her shoulder one last time, excitement and apprehension welling up in equal parts inside her chest. “Luna. I love you.”
“I love you too, Twilight. Be safe.”
Twilight nodded and took a step forward. In a breath, she was in another world.
Twilight had to remind herself to breathe. The first step through the mirror was both disorienting and frightening. She thought there had been a mistake made somewhere. That Luna had sent her somewhere else. But when she looked at the landscape a second time, she realized she was in Equestria.
If one could call it that anymore.
The ground beneath her hooves was scorched black. Jet-black. To the point Twilight could have sworn she was walking on a sea of ink. What remained of the vegetation was brittle and shuddered in the wind, the thousands of charred husks making a terrible, bone-charm like sound in the stiff breeze. She could smell the sulfur in the air. It permeated her senses, clinging to the back of her throat like a stray popcorn kernel. She nearly gagged on it. After steeling herself, Twilight took the first few steps forward into this new and dark world. She remembered, however, and withdrew the stake and red scarf from her saddlebags. Using magic to drive it into the ground next to the spot she had appeared, Twilight returned her attention to the new world.
She couldn’t feel the wind that ruffled the charred grass, nor could she feel the husk-like remains of the vegetation beneath her hooves. But she could smell the destruction around her; the sickening stench of a dying world. What madness was this? What had happened here? Twilight shuddered at the thought of what had occurred to cause such widespread destruction. She walked for a long ways, knowing she would have about a week or so to spend here. The entire time, nothing changed, and nothing was different. It was the same charcoal-black landscape from horizon to horizon, broken only by the vaguely familiar shape of the mountains. Canterlot should have been around here someplace. But as Twilight searched the peaks, she found no trace of her home. It was almost as if Canterlot had been wiped from the face of Equestria.
What was more disconcerting than the blackened grass and lack of any other sort of vegetation, though, was the sky. Twilight looked up at the dull grey cloud cover, frowning intently. From horizon to horizon, the entire atmosphere was overcast. The clouds, if she could call them that, weren’t even pearly-grey. They were dark and leaden, shot through with veins of even darker almost-black colors. The entire world, it seemed, was cast in this terrible, depressing pall. Twilight didn’t want to be here anymore, and she had just arrived. But there were questions that had to be answered. First and foremost among them being: Was this really what would have become of Equestria if she had chosen to become a Goddess?
Twilight walked for a very, very long time. She left the vaguely familiar mountains around Canterlot, intent on reaching where Ponyville should have been. As she entered the hills surrounding the quaint farm town, she saw no sign of anypony. No homes, no farms, no pastures or orchards or even the railroad. The entire world had been wiped almost completely clean, leaving nothing in its stead but ashes and the burnt husks of fields of grass. There weren’t even any trees.
She came upon it by accident. Her hoof passed through something solid, hidden in a larger stand of charred grass. The act of passing through a solid object was shocking in and of itself. She felt as if her hoof had fallen asleep, much like it did if she stood up too suddenly from sitting down for a long time. But the effect was so sudden it was almost painful. She gasped and jumped back, shaking the sensation out of her leg. “What in the…”
Upon closer inspection, Twilight saw the dark edge of something that appeared to be a brick jutting out of the ground. She leaned in, squinting at it. It was, most definitely, a charred and burnt brick. She looked around the landscape once more and realized she was standing where the outskirts of Ponyville began. This brick was all that was left of Pinkie Pie’s bakery. The closer she looked at the ground, the more she realized. The remains of all of Ponyville lay scattered throughout the dark, charred grass. What had once been happy and bright homes were now nothing more than a scattered collection of burnt bricks and charred wood. None of it stood taller than six inches out of the ground, and none of it was distinguishable from the rest of the black and ashen grass.
“Wiped from the face of Equestria. By the heavens, nothing is left.” Twilight breathed. “It’s all gone… Ponyville, Canterlot… None of it exists anymore.”
“She blames you, you know.” Twilight gasped at the sound of another’s voice. It was hauntingly familiar, but the tone and delivery was so sad and melancholy, she knew it couldn’t possibly be who she thought it was. As she spun about, though, her fear turned out to be true. There behind her stood a very depressed-looking Celestia. Her mane had been liberated from the vibrant and colorful hues of the mid-day sky, and instead hung limp and grey around her neck. She was thinner than Twilight remembered. And smaller. The solar princess was maybe the size Twilight was before she herself became a princess. Her wings looked ratty and shrunken, and her horn was broken. But she was still unmistakably Celestia; from her cutie mark to the irises of her eyes. Twilight took a tentative step forwards.
“I cannot hear you.” Celestia muttered in a sad, tired voice. “But I can see you. The memory is vivid. I remember the day you died. You looked so peaceful and calm. We suspected you would come back. The prophecy said you would. Well… It said you’d live forever.” Her bloodshot and sad eyes began to well with tears. “Why didn’t you live, Twilight? Why did you leave us?” Her head hung low, and she dripped tears into the charred, black earth. Twilight watched, unable to do a thing, unable to console this poor pony. She could only stand there and watch as Celestia, her mentor, her sister, sagged with the weight of this terrible tragedy on her shoulders.
It took her some time, but Celestia finally recovered. She sniffed and wiped a hoof over her eyes, frowning at Twilight. “I know you cannot speak, or if you can, I can’t hear you. But you can hear me. Do you want me to tell you what happened? Why our world looks like this?”
“Yes.” Twilight choked, her throat tight with apprehension. She almost didn’t want to. The story of how this place came to be the way it was almost certainly wasn’t a good one. Still, she needed to know what happened here. She needed to know why the world was burnt away, why there were no more trees, or ponies, or anything. Celestia was still frowning at her. Twilight remembered she couldn’t be heard, so she nodded her head and sat down. Celestia sighed and mirrored her, though the act of sitting obviously pained her. Twilight realized, then. Celestia looked old. Very, very old.
“The day you died, Banner was named Archmage. Nopony celebrated. There were no cheers. We didn’t even make an announcement. Luna was utterly distraught. No one could console her. She locked herself away in the chamber we held your body, locking herself in behind barriers and shields. I tried to reach her, but when Luna wants to be alone, there isn’t much I can do. So I went at it alone. I handled the problems of Equestria, guiding Banner as best I could. But I knew I would fail him. In the end, I failed everypony…” Celestia’s frown intensified. Her eyes glazed over as she recalled something that had happened long, long ago.
“It appeared in the sky a week after you were sent to the stars. Your constellation never came out, by the way. That was the first sign… We were shaken by it, but the night had been flawed and imperfect ever since your passing anyways… But this. This was something else entirely.” Celestia visibly shuddered with the memory of what had happened. Twilight leaned in, silently urging her to continue. “It started small, but began to grow more and more. I had our astronomers look at it, but they couldn’t define it. It was almost as if there was just a void in the sky. A large, black gap in the space and time of the world. And it was growing. More and more each day.
“I finally managed to rouse Luna. And upon seeing it, she placed it almost immediately. She knew what it was, and when she spoke it, I realized something myself. The day had been lacking of late. The sun hung further away from Equestria. Its light is muted. Almost as if it were sick, or apprehensive. Like it didn’t want to be there anymore. And Luna said she felt the same thing about the moon, that it had shrunken away from Equestria. That would explain why I felt so weak at the time, too…” Celestia’s drawn expression became even more stressed. “But this blackness wasn’t about the sun or the moon. It was the fallout of your prophecy.”
“You know a magical imbalance occurs when a prophecy fails. Well, you died. We don’t know how, or why, but you died. And as such, the prophecy failed. This void, this blackness… It was the void left in the world when your prophetic influence left Equestria. Instead of being violent and quick, like many are, this was slow, and very deliberate. Luna and I watched as it grew larger and larger, so large in fact, that it touched the ground. And where it touched, it left this.” Celestia kicked a hoof through the brittle grass, sending up another bone-chilling, rattling sound that Twilight was coming to despise.
“It spread, far and wide. Everypony that was touched by it disappeared. Just gone. In the blink of an eye. Luna and I were okay touching it, but if we tried to cast any spells on it…” Celestia gestured to her horn. “You can imagine. It’s an excruciating process, particularly for a princess. To have your magic taken from you. To have it ripped away.” Celestia spat the word, several tears dripping from her eyes. “I was powerless. I am powerless. So I get to watch as she tortures herself. I get to watch as she dances to and fro trying to find a cure, or a way out, or something. Something to turn back the tides of time, and restore what we’ve lost. All the while, she gloats and boasts. Saying she told me so.” Celestia hung her head further. In the silence that fell, Twilight heard something. Something other than the bone-rattling sound of the charred grass around them. It was flapping. Like wings.
“She’s coming. She can sense you. Just like I did. You don’t belong in this world, Twilight. You don’t need to see the devastation that we’ve subjected ourselves to. If I were you, I’d run away, go back to where you came from. Don’t return here. Don’t ever come back to this wretched, miserable place.” Celestia looked up at her then, eyes brimming with tears. And unless Twilight was mistaken, hatred. “Leave. Now.”
Just then, Twilight turned her attention to the sky. Through the leaden grey cloud cover came a figure. Winged and darker than the skies it came from, the beast descended from the clouds, falling fast. Twilight watched, awestruck, as whatever this creature was fell faster and faster still. It curved its path, turning towards the two of them. She figured even Celestia’s dull coat stood out like a sore thumb on the bleak and desolate landscape. Twilight winced as the thing landed before them, raising its head high and proud.
She knew what this was.
No, she knew who this was.
“Princess.” Luna’s voice reverberated with the power of the night. Twilight shuddered at the feel. Only this wasn’t Luna standing before her. This wasn’t the warm and loving, mysterious sister she had loved in the other world. She was Nightmare Moon; night incarnate. If Twilight had a corporeal form, she just might have been afraid for her life. There was an aura of energy radiating outwards from her, a palpable feel of magic and power in the air. When that power washed over Celestia, the solar princess winced and began to cry harder. Twilight realized that, without her horn to guide her own magical energy, Celestia was being hurt by the mere presence of Nightmare Moon. It had to have been excruciating. Agonizing, even. Nightmare Moon spoke, her voice deep and filled with mysterious energy.
“Are you some shade conjured by my sister, or a visitor from another plane?”
Twilight rose her head to look at Nightmare Moon fully. She wore the inky-black hoof-cuffs and crown that Twilight remembered so well, but her coat was a dark, ashen grey, only slightly lighter than the blackened ground around them and marginally lighter than the dark, leaden sky. The way the hoof-cuffs covered her legs, she seemed to almost melt into the landscape. Where Celestia’s mere presence seemed to fight her surroundings, Luna appeared to have adapted to it. She could stand on the horizon and be almost completely invisible. Twilight reminded herself she had no connection to this world; that it wasn’t real at all. She found solace in that fact. That she had a real home to return to. That gave her courage. She raised her head to look straight into Luna’s serpentine eyes.
“I come from a different world.”
“Good, you can hear me, not like the last one.”
“Last one?” She managed to choke.
“Oh yes, Twilight. You’re not the first memory come to haunt us.” Nightmare Moon grimaced at her, her hooves padding through the husks of grass in a slow circle around the alicorn princess. “I doubt you’ll be the last, either. You see, my sister was foolish enough to try and fight the coming tide of darkness. I welcomed it. After all, I’m more at home in the dark. Where you left me.” Twilight didn’t turn her head to follow the lunar princess, or at least, what remained of her. Luna continued to speak, even as she walked a circle around her.
“When you passed, both Celestia and I expected you to return. After all, the prophecy said you would. That you’d live forever, just like us. Instead, we get this. Not that I’m complaining, mind you…” Luna emerged into Twilight’s view once more, but disappeared at the other edge as she continued her circular pacing. “I accepted our new fate. Welcomed it, even. Celestia tried to fight it, and look at what good that did her.” Twilight looked at Celestia once more. Truthfully enough, Celestia looked more like a regular pony than she did a princess. With her shattered horn and pitiful wings, she might have even passed for an earth pony at a distance. Luna, on the other hand, looked like something else entirely. She wasn’t a princess anymore, she was a monster. Twilight swallowed as Luna continued speaking.
“I held out hope for you, Twilight. That maybe, just maybe, you might return to us one day. That you would set things right.” Luna chuckled. “I have that hope up six millennia ago… Instead, I tried to take matters into my own hooves. To right the wrong that you blighted the world with. You see, the last visitor opened my eyes, Twilight. She let me see things I never knew possible.” Luna grinned at Twilight. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel it, burning into the back of her neck. “Other worlds, Twilight. Parallel dimensions where things never went wrong. Where you and I lived a full, happy life. I want those worlds, Twilight. I want to live in them, to see my sister smile again, to feel the blessed moonlight on my coat… Is that too much to ask of you? Of the gods?” Luna emerged into Twilight’s sight again. Her serpentine eyes brimmed with tears. She was crying.
“I just want to have a home again, Twilight. I want to feel your embrace again, to touch you, to kiss you and hold you and listen to you tell me everything will be okay again. Oh, by the moon, I want to make love again, Twilight! To know you’re alive and well and here, in my hooves, where I can hold you forever.” She sobbed then, the tears breaking free to trace long lines down her face. Luna sobbed for a few long moments. Twilight almost felt sympathy for her, but one small, nagging doubt kept pestering her. She spoke quietly.
“What happened to the other visitor? The other Twilight?”
“Oh,” Luna sniffed. ”Her. Well, let’s just say there’s a reason I can speak with you, Twilight.” Luna straightened up and wiped a hoof over her eyes. Gone was the sadness, replaced instead with a look Twilight was completely unfamiliar with, at least on Luna’s face.
“It turns out, we may not be able to touch you, or some of us might not even be able to hear you speak, but magic works just fine against one another. You can cast spells on us, and we can cast spells on you. See?” Luna lifted her torso up. Twilight saw a long, pale scar on her chest, previously hidden from sight. “Your counterpart was skilled. She didn’t have wings like you, though… Which makes me wonder…” Luna grinned at her again. This grin was pure evil. Twilight felt the hackles raise along her spine. “If obliterating that shade will grant me the ability to speak and touch you, what will destroying you do?” Luna rose to all four hooves. Both Celestia and Twilight shared a look of shock and panic.
“Maybe, Twilight… Just maybe…” Luna’s horn began to glow with a dark, ominous aura.
“I can go home.”
She barely reacted. The first bolt of dark energy sliced through the air, whistling as it passed through the finest layer of Twilight’s coat. The razor-thin line would have cut her in half if she hadn’t moved. Using her wings to propel her forward, Twilight took off. More magic screamed after her, and she followed her instinct.
Shadow bolts, indirect, requires aim and precision, weave left and right to throw her off. Twilight’s hooves dug into the earth, but didn’t leave any prints. But Luna’s magic did. Long rivulets of black soil were torn up to her left and right as she dodged. She had to jump over the ruts left behind when she weaved back towards the direction she had gone. Still, Luna fired projectile after projectile at her.
Vaguely, Twilight remembered a memory long, long ago… Hundreds of years past. Of a lesson in humility and unstoppable power. Instead of the Canterlot gardens, however, she was running through the scorched ruins of Ponyville. And instead of a kind and benevolent mentor, she was being assaulted by a very deadly and serious Luna.
Oh how the times change.
Huffing, Twilight decided it was time to test out Luna’s demented hypothesis. She couldn’t touch or interact with the world around her, but her magic could. With a grunt, her horn became a blaze of lavender light, and she lifted a massive wall of earth from the ground. Luna’s spells crashed into the earth, cutting partially into it, but not penetrating it. Twilight took refuge behind her earthen barrier, to catch her breath. Her pack was weighing her down, so she shrugged out of it and hollowed out a small hole to deposit her supplies in. She was exhausted from the long hike to Ponyville from wherever it was she had come into the world at, and after running from Luna, she felt even more fatigued.
But she couldn’t die here. Luna was waiting for her. Six days left until the portal opened. Six days until she could leave this world and go home.
When Twilight bounded around the barrier, her horn was already glowing.
“Turning the offensive, Twilight?!” Luna roared at her. Twilight grimaced and poured the heat on, galloping faster towards her lover. Her mentor. Luna just cackled and summoned a black veil around her. Twilight focused her mind and began casting the necessary spell.
The pillar of light came as if from the heavens. The dirty grey clouds parted as she cast the smite spell on the ground where Luna stood. The veil burned away like cobwebs before flame. Luna screamed and writhed in the light, cursing as she, too, was burned.
“What did you do to me?!” Luna screamed, stumbling out of the pillar of light. Twilight stood in front of her, lathered in sweat, panting and crying.
“I’m not like the other Twilight you met, Luna.” Twilight grunted, slowly walking towards the nightmare-esque Luna laying on the ground. Her coat was burned away, leaving only charred flesh and pink, mottled skin behind. She had survived the onslaught, albeit barely. Twilight saw her horn had been shattered. She didn’t have to fear the imposter’s magic anymore. “Where I come from, I’ve studied magic to the extent that even your counterparts have come to respect my power. I am considered their equal in many aspects. But I surpass them in this one.” Twilight closed the distance between her and Luna, looming over the shade of her lover with a dangerous expression. “I am the most powerful being in Equestria. And you… You are but a shadow of my Luna. Your moon is veiled, and the night’s presence here is weak. You are weak, Luna. Almost as weak as Celestia.”
“T-twilight, please…” Luna whimpered. “I-I just want to go home-“
“This is your home, Luna.” Twilight shot back. “Your plane of existence. It’s dismal, and terrible, and everypony you know and love is dead. But it’s your home. I cannot bring you back with me, nor can I fix what has been done here.” Twilight felt the tears build up in her eyes. She knew what had to be done. Celestia had been wrong. The Celestia in her world. Luna, as well. Twilight could interact with these worlds. She could cast spells within them. And with some experimentation, she might even be able to feel the black, charred ground beneath her hooves.
Celestia had warned her against interacting with copies of them. But this was pathetic. Seeing Luna and Celestia like this hurt more than Twilight could ever hope to express. She had to do something. She had to…
She had to end it.
“I can’t fix your world or bring you to a new home.” Twilight nearly whispered as her horn began to glow. A brilliant bolt of lavender energy materialized before her, humming with power. She looked up at Luna, tears spilling from her eyes. The energy began to get thinner, more and more dense. It hissed malevolently. Soon, Twilight’s magic had formed itself into a sword, razor-thin and powerful. Luna’s eyes went wide. Even Celestia was shocked.
“But I can bring you peace.”
The blade screamed through the air, cutting off more than Luna’s words.
“Welcome back, Twili- oh.” Luna stopped mid-sentence. Twilight looked up at her with red, bloodshot eyes. Her coat was ruddy with the black ash from the charred world. Her tears had cut long streaks through the blackness on her face. Twilight looked like and felt like a complete mess.
“Luna-“ She croaked. Her voice was gone from long hours of crying. “Kiss me. Please.”
“O-of course.” Luna set her book aside; she was barely a page into it- before stepping into Twilight’s embrace. They kissed then, a sweet and simple motion. They had done it hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of times before. But it was more sweet and meaningful than any they had ever shared before.
This. Twilight thought to herself. This is real. This is the reality. This is what’s true. Not that other world. Not that Luna. Not that Celestia. This. This right here.
“What happened?” Luna asked once the kiss was over. “What was that world like?”
“Please,” Twilight shook her head, fresh tears spilling from her eyes. “Please don’t ever ask me to tell you that story. Luna, I will raise the sun and moon for a millennium… I’d fly around the world a hundred times… I’d do anything you ask of me, but please… Don’t ask me to ever tell you that story.”
“Twilight.” Luna lifted her chin, and even she was crying. Her Luna. Beautiful and serene. Understanding. “Don’t worry. I won’t ever ask you about it again.”
“And please,” Twilight grasped at Luna. “Please don’t ever send me back there.”
“Twilight, I promise.” Luna didn’t shy away or break Twilight’s hold on her. If anything, she pressed closer. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.” Luna gingerly led Twilight out of the chamber, back up into the castle. Twilight looked over her shoulder at the mirror, its surface clear and serene.
Archmage: Beyond the Crystal Mirror - “Determination”
“I’m not asking you to tell me what you saw, or what you did,” Luna and Celestia sat opposite Twilight, looks of concern painted across both their faces. Celestia looked especially worried. “But we need to know what you learned while you were on the other side of the mirror, Twilight. Anything you can and will share. If not for your own benefit, than for anyone else who wishes to use it.”
“No.” Twilight lifted a hoof, cutting Celestia off right then and there. “No one other than us should ever be permitted to use that mirror. There are things on the other side nopony should ever see. You want my advice? Destroy this mirror like Luna did the last one. Or barricade it off with the same shields we use to protect the crystals beneath Canterlot.” Twilight was quivering in her seat. Her coat had been cleaned of the black ash that she had accumulated during her five-day-long wait on the other side of the mirror, but she still wore a haggard, worn look. The things she had seen; or more accurately, the things she had done still weighed heavily on her mind.
“Is this mirror really that dangerous?” Celestia asked quietly. “What happened on the other side that impacted you so, Twilight?” She had suffered this same question for three days straight. Luna had promised she would never pry, that she wouldn’t ask Twilight what she had done. But Celestia hadn’t made that promise. Her sister was determined to discover what had happened, and had been asking Twilight day in and day out ever since her return from the nightmarish parallel dimension. Now, it seemed, Luna was taking Celestia’s side. She wasn't asking directly, but Twilight knew her lover wanted to know just as badly as Celestia did.
Twilight had had enough of their pestering.
“You want to know what I saw, Celestia? You want to know what nightmare lies behind the mirror, in the world I visited?” Twilight’s jaw was set, and her expression was angry. Celestia had braced herself for Twilight’s wroth, but it seemed she wasn’t quite prepared for this reaction. “Fine. Follow me.” Twilight spun about and left the hall. Celestia and Luna hadn’t quite been expecting that reaction, but they followed her nevertheless. Twilight led them out of the well-furnished halls and passages of the crystal kingdom’s main castle and down into the roughly-hewn passageways and corridors that led to the crystal mirror. The three princesses made a silent procession, the only sound being the hoof-falls coming back to their ears off of the walls.
When they emerged into the chamber with the mirror, Twilight felt a sense of dread and terror wash over her. She shuddered visibly and turned to the other two princesses. It was Luna she addressed. “Send her there.” Twilight grimaced, her jaw set. “Send her to the world I visited last. Let her see what I did to you two if I had chosen to become a Goddess.”
“Twilight, you can’t be serious-“
“I am.” Twilight glared at Celestia. “She wants to know what has me so ‘shaken.’ So ‘disturbed.’ Show her, then. You’re going to arrive just outside of Canterlot, Celestia. Walk to Ponyville and see what happened there. See what I did. See what I had to do.”
“Twilight, let’s be reasonable-“
“I am being reasonable, Luna.” Twilight cut the lunar princess off with a stern look. “Celestia wants to know what I saw, and I cannot possibly convey that horror in words. She wants to see what happened to her world. She wants me to tell her what I did while I was there. I can’t tell her. So you show her.” There was a long, tense silence between them. Luna looked helplessly between Celestia and Twilight several times before dropping her gaze to the floor.
“I can’t. I vowed I would never send you back there. If you can’t handle it, what makes you think either of us can?”
“Fine.” Twilight huffed and turned towards the portal. Her horn blazed to life, lighting the chamber with her powerful, lavender glow. With a hissing sound, she wiped the surface of the mirror clean, recalling the arcane signature she had felt passing through the portal both ways. Luna might be the one who could tell the differences between worlds, but Twilight could revisit any world she had been to by remembering the specific resonance. After thirty seconds, she had it. She glared back at Celestia.
“Go, sister. Step through the portal and see what I saw. Remember. Go to Ponyville. What’s left of it.” Luna was shocked, but Celestia’s jaw was set determinately. She cast one sidelong glance at Twilight before stepping through the portal. Twilight unceremoniously threw her own saddlebags, still filled with supplies, in after her. Then she turned to Luna. “Why must you defy me like this?” Twilight asked. She advanced on Luna, her eyes already brimming with tears.
“I’m not defying you, Twilight, I’m-“
“I asked something of you, Luna. Something reasonable.”
“You asked me to send my sister to the same world I sent you, and by the heavens, Twilight, do you remember the nightmares you’ve been having the past few nights?” The question took Twilight by surprise. Truth be told, she didn’t. Not that she wanted to, so at least there was that, but still. She couldn’t recall any of her dreams since she returned from the other world. Luna could. Her realm was that of the night, and dreams. From the look on her face in that moment, Twilight’s dreams had been anything but enjoyable.
“I don’t want any of us to suffer through that, Twilight.” Luna continued. “The things you see in your dream… If they’re anything like what happened in that world, I don’t want anypony, least of all my sister, to see what you did.” Luna’s look was frightening just then. She wasn’t being caring or compassionate just then. She was being defensive. Defensive against Twilight.
“Luna, you don’t honestly think I’d-“
“I do, Twilight.” Luna cut her off, stepping forward. “You did it to the Luna and Celestia in the other world. Is that what you call ‘peace?’ Twilight, you killed Celestia and I. How can I forget that? Do you honestly think there will be justification for your actions?”
“I do.” Twilight lifted her head high, looking down at Luna. “I know what I did was right. There was no solace for you two, not in that world. Death was a release for you.”
“Twilight, we can’t die-“
“Can’t you?” Twilight’s horn began to burn again, this time casting the same magic she had just a few days prior. The brilliant lavender light pulsated off of the walls, even as she began to hone to blade. In a few seconds, Twilight held a lavender sword, the hum of energy filling the chamber they stood in. Luna’s eyes were wide, and she began to slowly back away.
“Twilight… What are you doing…”
“Relax, Luna.” Twilight’s face was sad, even though she held the magic blade between the two of them. Its edges were difficult to define, with all of the magical energy it was emitting, but Twilight knew it was a wickedly-curved saber, thinner than a razor and lighter than air. She could swing it with unbelievable speed and cut through even diamond. Not to mention other spells. In fact, that’s what it was designed to do.
“I designed this spell shortly after becoming a princess… The gods I met when I nearly died told me that if I were to return to Equestria a Princess, I would have to face a lot of pain. Suffering. There might even come a day when Equestria itself was going to perish. When it would just be the four of us alone in the world… I developed this spell for a release. If ever we felt like we could no longer shoulder the burdens of immortality, I would… I would…” Twilight’s tears spilled over, falling to the stone floor one by one. She closed her eyes, sobbing softly as the spell dissipated.
“Shh. It’s okay.” Much to her surprise, Luna came to comfort her. “I can understand your reasoning. I didn’t know they told you such things. You never really told us anything about that encounter…”
“I’m sorry.” Twilight sniffled, burying her face into Luna’s mane. The tears came fast and free as she collapsed against her love, crying helplessly. “That place… It’s so terrible.”
“Shh. I know, I know.” Luna’s hoof gingerly stroked through her mane, slowly calming her down. It was then that Celestia returned through the mirror.
“By the sun,” She panted, stumbling a few steps before coming to a shaky halt before Twilight and Luna. “You… You… You killed them. How?” Celestia’s normally-brilliant white coat was wreathed in ash, and her eyes were bloodshot. A world devoid of sun had to do that to her. She looked worse than when she had visited the first world for a week without food. She looked dirty, tired, and above all, frightened.
“Twilight developed a spell,” Luna said quietly. “To give us release if we ever… Felt like we couldn’t go on.” That seemed to take Celestia by surprise even more. She looked at Twilight, held in Luna’s embrace, like she were impending doom. She looked truly scared for her life. Almost as if Twilight would kill her then and there.
“You discovered a way to kill us?” Celestia asked apprehensively, backing away a step. “H-how?”
“It’s… Complicated.” Twilight sniffed, slowly pulling away from Luna. She wiped a hoof across her eyes, looking at Celestia miserably. “But I had to find a way to sever certain links in spells. The easiest way to envision it was with a blade. And, coincidentally, the link I had to sever lies right here.” Twilight’s horn glowed as she raised a hoof towards her neck. Right where Luna’s pendant rested against the hollow of her neck, a glowing point emerged. If one were to look closely, they would see a very intricate and complex spell diagram, one that mystified even Celestia and Luna. But Twilight understood it.
“This is our immortality. This is what keeps our hearts beating, and allays the effect time has on our bodies. If I were to stab or cut this with that blade… We would die. Just like the Celestia and Luna in that world did. I couldn’t leave them like that, Celestia. I just couldn’t. You were miserable, your magic ripped away from you. And Luna… You were… You were a monster.” Twilight swallowed past the lump in her throat, looking at her lover with tear-filled eyes. “Another Twilight from a different dimension visited that world, and you… You killed her.”
The look on Luna’s face said it all. She could see herself doing such a thing, even in that other world. Twilight continued.
“The fallout of my prophecy robbed the world of sunlight and moonlight. The day nor the night held any sway there. You two were devoid of power, and driven mad with thousands of years of neglect. You were alone in that wasteland. Celestia, Luna, believe me. I had to grant your counterparts peace. I couldn’t go on knowing they existed like that.”
“Twilight, we’ve been over this. Those worlds… They don’t exist-“
“But they DO.” Twilight interjected. “They’re alive and real! At first, I couldn’t interact with that world. And it was easy to believe that it wasn’t real. That it was just a projection or a shade of the mirror. But when Luna told me what had happened after she had killed the other Twilight, I knew it. These worlds, they’re… They’re real. Everypony there lives, breathes, loves, and cries just like us. Just like the ponies here. They can feel, and they have a form. Celestia, Luna, these worlds… They exist. And they are very, very real. That Luna, she killed a Twilight from another world. That Twilight is dead, and will never go back to her world. She wasn’t a princess. She didn’t have wings. It stands to reason she had friends. How do you think the other elements of harmony feel? They probably watched her go into the portal. How long will they wait for her? A year? Two? Ten? How long until they realize their friend is dead? How many other worlds are like this?”
Silence fell after Twilight’s little speech, each of them considering the weight of her words. Celestia stood after a while, looking sadly between her two sisters. “I need to clean myself. Please excuse me. We should discuss this further.” She slowly plodded away, leaving Twilight and Luna standing in front of the portal. The two of them were silent as well, each of them not looking at one another. Twilight couldn’t handle the silence. She had had enough of that after she had killed Luna and Celestia in the parallel world. Five days of it.
“How much do you hate me now?”
“I don’t hate you, Twilight.” Luna said quietly, walking forward until she pressed her forehead against Twilight’s. Their horns sparked when they touched, sending a quick flash of dark-purple light through the chamber. “I’m honestly just surprised. You did something neither Celestia or I could ever have imagined possible. If we did, we just might have tried ourselves.”
“Why would you want to die?” Twilight asked sadly. “Was Nightshade’s betrayal really that bad?”
“No, it wasn’t,” Luna sighed, pressing a little closer. “But the punishment for what I did afterwards was. A thousand years alone, with nothing but a bleak, grey moon to keep you company? I tried several times to take my life, Twilight. Falling from great heights didn’t do it. I couldn’t burn myself, or blast myself to pieces, or cut my own head off, or anything. I either healed, or it just plain didn’t work.” Tears dotted Twilight’s coat where Luna shed them, but she let the lunar princess continue crying. “That was all before I met you, Twilight. Before I saw the light.”
“I’m not done.” Luna pulled away, looking at Twilight with bloodshot, red eyes. “Once you became Archmage… No, when you became my lover… That’s when I realized. I’d have you forever. Maybe not in body, but at least in my heart. Twilight, you made my life. I had your memory to keep me going. I could have lasted throughout eternity with your memory in my heart. But then it got even better. You’re here with me, body, mind, and spirit, and I have you forever. I don’t care about anything else. If the world burned away, even if Celestia were to leave us… I’d still have you.” Luna reached out to her, clinging to her desperately. “Please don’t leave me, Twilight. I need you.”
Twilight didn’t sleep that night. She couldn’t. She knew the nightmares would be seen by Luna, and her lover was sleeping peacefully for the first time in who-knew-how-many nights. Twilight lay with her, keeping Luna wrapped in her legs from dawn to dusk. Only when it was time to raise the moon did Twilight kiss her awake.
“Hmm.” Luna blinked and woke, looking up at Twilight with a faint smile on her lips. “I dreamt of you.”
“You did?” Twilight smiled right back at her. Luna dreaming was a rare thing. “Do you remember it?”
“Only parts.” Luna muttered, nuzzling into Twilight’s neck softly. “But they are good parts. I remember our first time, or when you came back from the library…”
“That sounds lovely.” Twilight stroked Luna’s ephemeral mane gently, closing her eyes as Luna began to slowly wake up.
“Did you sleep?”
“I was too busy looking at your beautiful face.”
“Oh shush.” Luna didn’t look up, but Twilight could feel her blush nevertheless. “But honestly, did you?”
“… No.” Twilight admitted. “I don’t want you to see my nightmares. And besides, you were sleeping so peacefully.”
“Hmm. Well don’t do that.” Luna kissed Twilight’s cheek. “I don’t want you missing out on rest.”
“I’m fine. I slept plenty the past few days.”
“Speaking of sleep…” Luna craned her neck to look out the nearby window. “We ought to relieve Celestia.”
“Yes, lets.” Twilight gave Luna a quick, soft kiss before rolling out of bed. She stretched her legs and wings, which were tight and sore from holding herself in the same place all night. She was still somewhat unused to sleeping with wings. Still, being a princess came with certain sleep deprivation perks. She felt awake, lucid, and energetic despite not having slept all night. She could go for months like this. Celestia only recently went two hundred years without rest, and when Luna was on the moon, she seldom slept more than an hour in a hundred years. The only reason Twilight and Luna even slept regularly was for the novelty of sleeping with one another.
Celestia was waiting for them on the crystal palace’s upper-most balcony. Cadance was with her as well. Together, the four princesses stood in a circle.
“Shall we talk before or after the cycle?” Twilight asked quietly.
“I think afterwards.” Cadance stepped forward, her expression determined. Celestia and Luna nodded their agreement. Twilight acquiesced by throwing up a powerful shield between herself and Celestia and Luna. Cadance came to stand by her side, looking through the transparent barrier as Celestia and Luna went about cycling the sun and moon. Once night had descended upon Equestria, Twilight let the shield drop. Cadance and Celestia stood off to one side, while Luna stood beside Twilight. It felt almost like they were divided. Almost.
“Twilight, I saw what you had done in the other world.” Celestia began. “And while I might not agree with what you did exactly, I can see your reason for doing so. Bringing change about in that world is difficult, and in places, all but impossible. Without my own power, Luna herself never would have been able to do it. So changing the world back to the way it had been and starting again would have been impossible. But there were other ways to put their minds at ease. Perhaps you could have taken them to a different world or-“
“She couldn’t.” Luna interjected, shaking her head. “I’ve been studying the portal the past few days. I don’t know about other portals in other worlds, but ours doesn’t tolerate interference. Nothing can come into our world from the portal. It stands to reason that nothing from other worlds can come in as well.”
“How would you explain the ash, then?” Twilight chimed in, gesturing to herself and Celestia. “Both of us were veritably covered in it when we returned. If substances like ash can come through, why not organisms?”
“The magical interference.” Luna returned. “Ash is dead. Deader than dead. In a magical sense, it has no importance. To magic, ash doesn’t even really exist. Material things that have no magical influence inside of them can pass freely. Food, even raw materials like dead wood or steel, these things can come through. But anything that has magic in it cannot. Will not.”
“I’m sure there’s a way.” Twilight frowned with thought. “Perhaps a barrier… If I could mimic the portal’s aura, and cast a barrier implanted with it, anyone within the barrier might be able to pass. The portal would just recognize it as its own energy.”
“Perhaps.” Cadance tapped her lower lip with a hoof, frowning down at the crystal floor beneath them. “Her theory is sound. We ought to give it a try.”
“But,” Celestia stepped forward then, looking intently at Twilight. “This would mean re-entering the portal. Not just once, but multiple times. Twilight, can you handle it? Can you handle seeing other worlds, some of them similar to, or maybe even worse than, the one you visited previously?”
Her words sent a shiver up Twilight’s spine. She dare not think about visiting such a world again. The nightmares, both real and in her dreams, were almost unbearable. Idly, Twilight lifted a hoof to her breast. She felt the pendant there, cool and heavy. Luna gently pressed against her side. She couldn’t help it. In light of all the terrors plaguing her mind, Twilight smiled.
“I can handle it; no, I have to handle it... For Equestria. For all those other worlds.” Twilight smiled at Luna.
Tags: Normal/Erotic (Sex will be involved this chapter)
“Right then,” Twilight grimaced at the clear surface of the mirror before her. “What’s different about the world you’re sending me to now?” Luna stepped up beside her, the princess’ face just as serious as Twilight’s.
“You decided to deny the position of Archmage and return to Ponyville. To live a normal life.” At Luna’s words, Twilight frowned with thought.
“Wouldn’t that cause the prophecy to fail? What sort of fallout can I expect?”
Luna shook her head slowly. “I’m sending you to a world where that prophecy was never made. There are several like it, but I think this one would be the best for you to return to after… After that first one.”
“Right.” Twilight sighed and gave Luna a gentle kiss on her cheek. “I will be back shortly.”
“I’ll be waiting for you.” Luna pressed into the kiss eagerly, smiling at Twilight. “And I expect stories.”
Twilight smiled right back and stepped into the portal.
After the initial vertigo, Twilight looked around at the world. She found herself in a grassy meadow, bright with early-spring flowers. The world was vibrant, alive and well. She almost had to remind herself that this was a mirror world, that it wasn’t her home. After marking the spot of the portal with the stake and scarf, Twilight began to expand her mind. This trip was her first expedition where she wanted to begin testing the differences between her world and the others. Specifically, how much she could interact with them.
She had landed on the edge of what appeared to be the small forest outside of Ponyville. There wasn’t anypony about, so she took a few moments to analyze the world around her. The texture of the magic in the air was not unlike Canterlot. There were only very few differences between her world and this one. In fact, she didn’t see any reason why her magic wouldn’t interact with this world. Cautiously, she found a small pebble in among the grass and gingerly gripped it with a telekinetic field. The pebble levitated up and out of the ground, hovering in front of her as if she had gripped it normally.
“Odd. I thought I couldn’t interact with this world.” Twilight frowned at the pebble before dropping it and turning to a nearby tree. She closed her eyes and laid a hoof on the trunk, feeling for the tree’s core. It responded readily. This tree was healthy and friendly, and was home to a small family of squirrels. Twilight smiled and dropped her hoof. The only conclusion that she could arrive at was that this world wasn’t terribly different from her own. Unlike the last world, which had been all but destroyed, this one was as close to parallel as could be. So she fit here better than she had in the other world. Thereby, her magic was more compatible and she could cast spells almost freely. She did so then, cloaking herself in an invisibility field. She was a princess now, and the sight of a winged Twilight in a world she had declined the position of Archmage in would most likely cause an uproar.
This time around, Twilight would observe. She glanced back at the red scarf and the stake before trotting off towards where she figured Ponyville would be. After maybe an hour or so of walking, she arrived in the outskirts of town, not terribly far from Fluttershy’s cottage. The yellow pegasus didn’t appear to be home, so Twilight bypassed the place and made for Ponyville proper. The town was alive with commerce. It was market day, and all the farmers had their stalls set up, hawking their produce and wares. Applejack’s stall was the first she visited. The homey farm pony was all smiles as she handled business with her usual weekly customers, laughing and chatting with all of her fellow farmers. Big Macintosh was absent, as was Applebloom. Memories came back to Twilight, of a different time and an almost completely different life. The Cutie Mark Crusaders running around getting into all sorts of mischief, all of Pinkie Pie’s parties, watching Rainbow Dash practice tricks, helping Rarity with dresses and Fluttershy with her animals…
Twilight used to have it so easy. She had graduated from handling the minor problems of a small town to saving Equestria from the hidden threats it never even knew existed. While in Ponyville, she had had the support of her friends. In Canterlot, she had that and the support of the princesses, her staff, assistants, students, advisors, and council members. In Ponyville, she was just another unicorn.
In Canterlot, she was the Archmage.
As Twilight weaved through the market traffic, she was unable to make up her mind as to which she preferred more.
After a day of exploring Ponyville and re-acquainting herself with all the sights and sounds she had missed out on for almost two hundred years by now, she finally settled on an objective. Twilight needed to find herself. She had passed her library home a short while ago, but didn’t take much time to look inside. This time, Twilight returned to her old home and began to seek a way inside without being detected. She may have not been a princess in this world, but under-estimating her past self would be the first mistake. Carefully, Twilight squeezed herself through an upstairs window that somepony had left open.
Inside, the library was just as she remembered it. From the vast collection of books to the dust motes floating through the late-afternoon sun, Twilight remembered the finest details. Below, her past self was sorting through a small stack of books. She would pick one up, scan the title, and levitate it to one bookshelf or another where it belonged. Twilight gingerly flapped up to the top of one such bookshelf and perched there, watching herself go about the mundane tasks of a small-town librarian. In her observations, Twilight found a profound sense of calm. There was something relaxing about watching her past self sort books, update ledgers, place orders, and clean up. Though no matter how much she seemed to dust, the motes still swirled in the air. Twilight was glad she had had a strong resistance to allergies.
Eventually, daytime began to give way to the night, and the almost-alien purple mare went about making herself breakfast. The delicious scents made her mouth water, so Twilight decided it was time to rustle up some food of her own. Slipping out of the same window she came in, Twilight went to the Sweet Apple acres, and surreptitiously plucked three ripe-looking apples. She had food of her own, but she didn’t know how much longer she’d be here. Feeling guilty, Twilight ate the delicious dinner and returned to the library.
What she saw when she returned nearly blew her mind. Twilight was sitting at her dinner table, but she wasn’t alone. And the guest wasn’t one of her friends. A handsome stallion, slight of build, with delicate-looking wings was seated opposite Twilight, both of them laughing and chatting amicably. Who was this colt? Twilight had never seen him before. Curiously, she inched into the dining room to listen to their discussion.
“I dunno. I find Starswirl’s earlier work to be far more profound than his later papers,” The stallion waved a hoof as he spoke, and Twilight’s alternate body nodded sagely.
“I’ll have to agree with you there. But the 5248 paper about compound extrapolation theory was-“
“Absolutely unparalleled! I was astounded, considering the relative mediocrity of his previous findings! I mean, before that, nothing could hold a candle to his papers on changeling behavior.”
“Thank you! Someone who finally agrees with me!” Twilight began to connect the dots here. This pegasus was a friend of hers in this world. Perhaps more than that, but that remained to be seen. Twilight sat in the shadows, watching as the two conversed late into the night. Well after everypony else would have gone to sleep, the two of them appeared to only just begin tiring. After cleaning the dishes, they both retired to the library, bending their heads over the same book. They seemed awfully close. Twilight wondered how long this had been going on. Still, the night wore on, and under the candlelight the two powered through one book before getting started on another. It was well past two in the morning when the pegasus stretched his wings.
“I think we should call it a night.” He yawned.
“Aww. We were just getting to a good part.” Twilight pouted, but smiled shortly thereafter. “Are you staying here tonight?” That caused Twilight to tense up. She herself had been nodding off, not having been close enough to read whatever it was they were reading. But this new development had her at full attention.
“I was hoping you’d let me… You know…”
“Oh! That. Y-yeah, we can… Come on.” Twilight’s blush could have lit up the room more effectively than the candles burning all around. With a small glimmer of magic, Twilight extinguished the candles and made her way up to the balcony bedroom. Once there, the two were lost in the shadows. But Twilight didn’t miss the heated moans and passionate noises they were making. Blushing rather furiously herself, Twilight left the library, allowing the two a little privacy. As she found a solitary cloud close to the edge of the forest to sleep on, Twilight reflected on the day’s events.
How long had the romance between herself and this stallion been going on? Who was he? What was his name? How serious were they? All these questions and more harried Twilight into her dreams. Still, as she drifted off, it was with a smile on her face. It was nice to know that in some worlds, she was able to find peace outside of her duties as Archmage. With or without the title, it seemed, she had hope for a nice life.
In the next few days, Twilight learned more and more about her alternate self than she might have wanted to. Twilight had become a go-to pony for much of Ponyville’s problems. The mayor, her friends, and just about everypony else sought Twilight’s assistance on a daily basis. She seemed to be their catchall solution. While she had learned to handle stress while becoming the Archmage, it seemed this Twilight hadn’t acquired that particular skill. She suffered frequent breakdowns because of it, and while everything appeared to be peaceful on the outside, Twilight could find her alternate sobbing helplessly almost every day.
She still managed, however, and her triumphs were greater than her downfalls. Not only that, but she found enjoyment in helping others. Hers was a life of service. And Twilight discovered that, be it in the position of Archmage or otherwise, she was naturally inclined to assist other ponies. Maybe she handled it a little less well in this world, but she still helped everyone where she could.
And she had found love as well. While twilight had found Luna, this Twilight had discovered her partner in the meek pegasus named Quill. He was an author and an avid reader, and began to stay with Twilight more and more over the next few days. Before Twilight even knew it, her week was coming up. She returned to the clearing where the portal was, standing at the spot with the scarf and the stake. She frowned at the spot for a long while, but a strong sort of conviction came over her. This world was so much more pleasant than the last she had visited. She wanted to see things out to the end. Turning away from the portal, Twilight made her way back to Ponyville, back to the library.
Her alternate was out that day, but Quill was in. He was diligently writing in his journal on the main library floor as Twilight surreptitiously slipped into the window, and didn’t appear to notice her. She looked over his shoulder as carefully as she could, trying to peer at his writing. What she saw nearly made her blood freeze.
Flitter has been more and more aggressive of late. Last night, she cornered me on the street on my way home from buying groceries. I almost didn’t have the chance to pull her up to the nearest cloud before somepony else passed us. Trying to keep up with her, Blossomforth, AND Twilight is beginning to wear on me. But I swear. The three are as different from each other as possible. Twilight is reserved and almost shy between the sheets, but once she gets ramped up, she’s open to anything. Flitter is wild and unpredictable, but there are certain things she will never try. Blossomforth is… Well, she’s something else. That’s about all I can say.
This bastard! He was cheating on her! Twilight very nearly revealed herself then and there, but only barely managed to stop herself. She felt the flush rise to her cheeks as he went on detailing several heated encounters with the three mares, going into such depth that would have made even Luna falter. He certainly was a talented writer. Twilight just wished he was writing something other than the truth. Her heart was pounding in her ears as she watched him pen almost two whole pages in his journal before flipping it shut. Done with that, Quill spread his wings and fluttered out of the same window Twilight had come in herself. She followed after him, intent on seeing if his journal entry had any credibility to it.
Sure enough, Quill was hardly a few minutes away from Twilight’s library home before another pale pegasus tackled him mid-air. The two turned over several times, but managed to veer towards a nearby cloud and negotiate a crash-landing onto the dewy surface. Twilight watched, her heart pounding in her ears, as they got right down to some of the filthiest, hardest sex she had ever had the displeasure of seeing. He even had the audacity to kiss her after they had finished. And just like that, Quill was off again, flying towards the forest where Twilight’s portal was. She felt sickened that her poor counterpart could have fallen in love with such a dishonest and lying pony such as this, but the portal had already closed. She had another week to wait before she could return.
Quill stopped just outside of the tree cover, going towards a spot not too far removed from the stake Twilight had placed marking her entrance to this world. Much to her surprise, another pegasus mare emerged from the treeline, beckoning Quill over. She didn’t have to poke her head into the bushes to know what was going on. But she did catch snippets of the hushed, panting conversation.
“Seen Flitter already today?”
“She says hi.”
“We really should do it together again sometime-“
“Uhn! Not after last time!”
They were at it for almost half an hour. Twilight hovered nearby, feeling her anger rise more and more. In the end, she just couldn’t take it. With several powerful flaps, she left her alternate self’s coltfriend behind and went to find the poor, victimized Twilight of this world. It didn’t take long, though the place she found her clone wasn’t entirely ideal, either.
Twilight was seated at an outdoor cafe, sharing an early lunch with none other than Flitter, who still seemed to be flushed from her encounter with Quill. Twilight swooped into an alleyway and inched as close as she dared. Invisible as she was, she didn’t want to be bumped into. She managed to find a spot close to the railing that separated the outdoor café’s patio from the street and prayed to the heavens nopony decided to stop nearby, or cut the corner she had claimed too close. She was just close enough to make out the conversation the two were sharing.
“Oh he was very energetic today. It almost hurt.”
“Ooh, I love it when he gets like that.” Twilight sighed, laying her chin on her hoof. “Are we still on for this weekend?”
“You betchya! I think it’s time we drop the ball on him. That poor fucker.” Flitter and Twilight shared a laugh. Stranger and stranger still. Just what was happening here? Listening intently, Twilight leaned in closer.
“Where is he now? Do you know?”
“I think he went off to his ‘thinking spot.’ So Blossomforth will have him nice and worn down tonight.”
“Hmm. Perhaps. You know, he’s been entranced with this thing he found last week, though.”
“Oh? What is it?” Flitter leaned in, making Twilight get even closer. She was uncomfortable being this close to the street on a busy afternoon, but this whole business with Quill had her intrigued. The way they were talking it was almost as if…
“He said there’s a mysterious red scarf tied to a wooden stake in the clearing where he and Blossomforth usually meet…” At that, Twilight had to excuse herself. She nearly bowled over some young filly in her haste, but managed to recover with a graceful twist. The filly looked up curiously, but his mother tugged him along insistently. Twilight breathed a sigh of relief and flew fast as she could. She had some tracks to cover.
The clearing was easy to find, and the portal easier still. Twilight recovered the stake and the scarf as quickly as she could, hoping Quill wouldn’t note its absence. Even if he did, it wouldn’t be of consequence. She just had to be more careful than this in the future. But the entire way there and back, Twilight replayed the conversation in her head. Flitter and her counterpart appeared to be in league, even though Quill was technically cheating on both of them. Not to mention this other mare, Blossomforth, was in the mix as well. The way they made it sound, she was in on it as well. Twilight was glad she had elected to stay longer. This was beginning to get not just interesting, but she found herself actually kind of enjoying it.
She returned to the library after retrieving the stake and scarf she had left in the clearing. True to her word, Twilight was in deep with Quill. This time, they were doing the deed in the kitchen. Twilight allowed herself only a moment to watch before leaving once more. She decided it was time to check on her other friends.
Late in the afternoon as it had been, Twilight wasn’t surprised when the only pony who was even remotely active was Applejack. She was busy packing away some apples in her cellar. Ultimately, it was boring to watch her. Twilight ended up just taking a short flight around the town, letting her mind wander. As night settled on Ponyville, she found another cloud to sleep on and drifted off into the night. Surprisingly enough, sleep came easy to her. And it helped her mark the passage of days and nights. Twilight snoozed well into the morning and woke feeling refreshed and relaxed. It was Saturday night, and the little she had gleaned from the conversation with Flitter and her counterpart seemed to indicate they were going to make their move this weekend.
Rather than try to keep track of two ponies, Twilight settled for one. Quill would be on the receiving end of whatever cruelty herself and the other two pegasi had planned, so she sought him out first. Luckily, he was found enjoying an early-morning flight over town. Twilight followed him, flitting from cloud to cloud, watching him carefully. After his exercise, he lighted in the town square and went into a café. Twilight stayed there until he finished his breakfast. When he re-emerged, Twilight followed after him, thankful her transparency spell had thwarted anyone from discovering her thus far. As an extra precaution, Twilight added a muffling spell to her aura, further quieting her hoof falls. She didn’t want to risk detection at all.
Quill finished eating promptly and returned to the library. Twilight slipped into the window that seemed to always be conveniently open and perched atop a corner bookshelf. Quill seemed to be engrossed in a fairly large book. She wondered if he’d be reading it all day. Her counterpart was absent, but that didn’t matter. She stayed atop her bookcase, watching Quill read.
The hours stretched on. Quill took two breaks, one for the restroom and one to eat lunch. Yet, with evening approaching, Twilight and her friends remained mysteriously absent. Quill had nearly finished the large tome when he marked his place and shut the cover. If the look on his face was any indication, he was wondering the same thing Twilight was. Where were the others? He appeared to be debating whether or not he should make dinner for two. Just as he went towards the kitchen, a soft knock came from the front door. Quill put a smile on his face and went to answer it. This was a library, after all. While they might normally have been closed right now, Twilight had been known to make several exceptions for late-night intellectuals.
“How can I help- Blossom?” Quill started as soon as he saw who was on the other side of the door. Blossomforth glanced around furtively before slipping inside and kicking the door shut behind her. “What are you doing here? I thought we agreed we wouldn’t do this in to-“
“Take me.” Blossomforth’s blush could have warmed Twilight from her perch atop the bookshelf.
“Take me. Right here. Right now.”
“WHAT?! Blossomforth, I can’t! Twilight could be back any minute!”
“She’s gone.” Blossomforth reached into the saddlebags she wore, pulling a piece of parchment out and shoving it into Quill’s face. “That was on the door.” Quill read the note quickly, blushing a little.
“Canterlot? Three weeks? Why didn’t she tell me?”
“I told you, that was on the door. What, did you come in through the window and not see it?”
“Y-yeah, actually.” Quill flushed, re-reading the note. “Well then, I don’t see why not. Come here.” Quill tossed the parchment aside and wrapped a leg around Blossomforth. They made it maybe six feet inside. Twilight grew still as she watched Blossomforth assertively push Quill over and pin his back to the ground. Right before her eyes, Blossomforth and Quill did the deed right there on the library floor. Blossomforth didn’t hold back even a little. She rode him hard and fast, moaning loud and long.
When she peaked, it was actually a rather admirable sight. She was incredibly flexible, and the way her back arched and twisted was mind-blowing. Twilight watched, completely enraptured, as she came down from the orgasmic high with a grin. The way Quill was panting, he had reached his limit as well.
“Did… Did anypony see you come here?” Quill muttered.
“I don’t think so.” Blossomforth smiled and stood up, slipping him out of her. Twilight’s suspicions were confirmed by a thin stream of milky-white liquid dripping out of Blossomforth’s core. She still straddled him, though, grinning knowingly.
“Let’s move this somewhere else, then.” Quill began to get up, but Blossomforth held him in place with a firm hoof.
“Not yet, stud.” She panted, her half-lidded eyes betraying lust and desire. “I’m not done with you.”
“What are you- hey! Woah!” Quill gasped as Blossmforth slid onto him once more, her hips already gyrating. “You’re insatiable! Alright then, let’s do this!” He went into round two with gusto, his hips bucking in time with Blossomforth’s own movements. They kissed and panted and groaned all the while. It wasn’t until they reached a fever pitch that Twilight realized something.
The two weren’t alone. Perched on the windowsill, watching with a blush and the same half-lidded eyes as her partner in crime, Flitter observed the goings-on. Just as soon as the two ponies on the floor reached their peak, she flapped down off of the sill and onto the floor. Her landing caused Quill to jump up with shock. His eyes were as wide as dinner plates.
“Flitter! What are you doing here?” Quill tried to sit up, but Blossomforth kept him pinned. Flitter closed the gap between herself and the two copulating ponies, a wicked grin on her face.
“We decided with Twilight out of town for three weeks, we’re going to have you to ourselves for as long as we’d like. Now just lay there and let me…” Flitter straddled Quill’s face, flattening her crotch against his face. Quill gave several muffled cries and squirmed to try and get away, but between the two dominant mares atop him, he could do little. Flitter’s throaty moans signaled Quill’s acquiescence. The two mares began to ride him, mouth and stallionhood, kissing and moaning just as loud as they dared. Twilight was made to watch as they went at it hard and fast. At one point, they switched positions, and even later on, took turns letting Quill take them from behind. By the time the sun sank beneath the horizon, all three were lathered in sweat and panting.
“That… That was…”
“Oh my Celestia…”
“I can’t feel my legs.”
The three lay spread-eagle on the floor, where a healthy mixture of sweat, orgasmic fluids, and feathers littered the warm wood planks. Pegasi were accomplished squirters, and Flitter and Blossomforth were no exception. Twilight might have been able to count the number of orgasms the two had shared by the arcing dark spots on the ground. Quill appeared to be at the brunt of the exhaustion, though. It was then that Twilight remembered he had been involved with all three mares for the past… Well, who knew how many days? He had to have been tapped.
But several questions still nagged her: Twilight had been speaking with Flitter about Quill’s exploits at the café just yesterday. They had mentioned ‘dropping the ball’ and revealing their knowledge. Why had Flitter said her bit about Twilight being out of town? Where was Twilight now? What did these three have planned?
It was then she felt it. A bubble passed over her, a field of magic. She recognized it almost immediately. It was the precursor to her teleportation. Thankfully, Twilight had thought ahead and cloaked her own magical interference. Her counterpart wouldn’t be able to tell she was there. Still, the other Twilight flashed into existence in the middle of the three pegasi, causing Quill to jump. Flitter and Blossomforth stayed where they were, unsurprised by Twilight’s appearance. Quill began to back away, stuttering.
“Twilight! This isn’t-! They-! I-!”
“Oh, trust me, Quill.” Twilight followed him, her steps slow and measured. “I know.”
“What? Are you telling me you three are in league?” Quill stuttered, his wide eyes flickering between the three of them.
“Have been for three weeks now. But that’s not as long as you’ve been playing me, is it Quill?” Twilight continued to walk towards him. Quill backed up against the bookshelf Twilight had perched herself on, so she got to look straight down at the proceedings. Her counterpart loomed over Quill, while Flitter and Blossomforth stood to her left and right. The silence stretched on for a few moments before Twilight smiled.
“You should have told me sooner. I’d have arranged a foursome for you.” Twilight’s horn glowed, and she gripped Quill firmly. “Instead, you backstabbed me, lied to me, cheated on me.” Quill was turned over in mid-air, and his rear thrust into the air. It was then that Twilight realized her counterpart wore a strap-on, the large thing dangling between her legs lewdly. “So we’re going to see something, Quill.” Twilight held the poor brown pegasus in place with her magic, while Flitter and Blossomforth flanked him. They lifted his tail out of the way, and in their mouths they held several bottles. Twilight was just able to make out the labels. One was a numbing agent, the other was lubrication. Twilight reared up onto her legs just as Flitter and Blossomforth began pouring the liquids onto Quill’s tight pucker.
“We’re going to see how you like to be the one getting fucked.”
What followed was probably one of the most debauched and arousing things Twilight had ever had the pleasure of witnessing. She tried her hardest to not think about it, but the whole scene had been among the most erotic things she had ever seen. Twilight and the two mares had taken turns violating Quill, who actually appeared to enjoy himself. After he had been exhausted beyond reproach, the three mares set in on each other with different strap-ons, while Quill was forced to sit in a magical hold and watch them reach orgasm over and again. The following morning, Twilight had packed his things and threw him out. She said the entire reason they had made him watch was so he knew Twilight didn’t need him to find her pleasure, and neither did the other two. One of her counterpart’s lines struck Twilight the most, though.
“It wasn’t that you’ve been fucking two other mares, Quill. It’s that you did it behind my back.”
Honesty, it seemed, was inherent in all of the wielders of harmony. Following Quill’s departure from Twilight’s household, word spread around town rather quickly. Quill was all but ostracized, and in the end flew away ‘back to Baltimare’ he had said. Somehow, Twilight felt justice had been done. In the days following Quill’s exodus, Twilight, Flitter, and Blossomforth were more involved than ever. Twilgiht decided to give the three their privacy, and instead went about catching up with her other friends.
She discovered that Applejack had actually settled down with a mail stallion. He stayed at Sweet Apple Acres alone with her. Big Mac still worked there, but he lived with his own wife, whom Twilight was shocked to discover was Fluttershy. The four of them had dinner together many nights, and it was witnessing one of those that Twilight discovered all that. The mail stallion’s name was Fleet Hoof. He was a skilled flyer, but strong. Whenever he wasn’t delivering for the mail service, he would work the farm, or relax with Applejack at home. Applebloom had moved to Manehattan to attend a school for mechanics there, and Granny Smith had regrettably passed away. The two lovers had the old farmhouse to themselves, while Big Mac and Fluttershy stayed together in her cottage.
Applejack was awfully happy, and during the same dinner Twilight had eavesdropped on, discovered she was expecting. The thought made her smile. Applejack would soon have a foal of her own to deal with, and Fleet Hoof struck her as a kind and supportive father. Fluttershy had already had a foal of her own, named Sprout. The young pegasus attended school, and already showed a talent for handling animals the way Fluttershy did. Big Mac couldn’t have been more proud, and Twilight was awfully touched.
Rarity, on the other hoof, was suffering. She had had several lovers come and go in the years, and none of them had stuck. It seemed Cross Stitch wasn’t in this alternate dimension, and if he was, he had left Rarity for one reason or another. Instead, the fashionista spent her time alone. Sweetie Belle had left for Canterlot to attend school alone some time ago. The boutique was awfully quiet. Rarity seemed rather withdrawn. She still went to the spa every week with Fluttershy, and reached out frequently to Applejack and Twilight and her other friends. Still, she seemed to be sinking lower and lower. Twilight was loathe to leave her friend in such a miserable mood, but she was compelled to see how Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash were handling themselves.
The bakery was as lively as ever under Pinkie Pie’s management. The cakes, it seemed, have moved to Baltimare a few years ago. Pinkie Pie had expanded on the bakery, offering a larger space for parties and social events. Ponies sought her out for wedding receptions, birthday parties, and other large events. She could even host concerts in the bakery’s large hall. She was always busy, hardly sleeping much at all during the nights. She would wake early, open the bakery for a small-ish crowd of coffee-drinkers and bagel-munchers, and spent much of the day cooking for lunch and dinner. If she wasn’t handling party business, she went to go be with her friends.
What was even more shocking than Pinkie’s success, however, was her choice of mate. Rainbow Dash had taken up official residence in the bakery, and the two loved one another fiercely. Rainbow Dash had moved up to the spot of local weather captain, and expanded her territory to several neighboring farming villages. Ponies like Flitter, Cloudchaser, and Blossomforth worked for her now, and seemed to be happy. Dash herself handled the responsibility well, and if the whispers were to be believed, Princess Celestia wanted Rainbow Dash to transfer to Canterlot’s weather team. Between that and being an alternate for the Wonderbolt’s touring team, she stayed busy but always made time for her friends.
Twilight was pleased with this alternate dimension. Things here were simple and uncomplicated. Her counterpart was happy with Flitter and Blossomforth as her two lovers, Fluttershy and Big Mac made wonderful parents, Applejack and Fleet Hoof were successful farmers, Pinkie Pie was a phenomenal baker, and Rainbow Dash was a star weather pony. But Rarity… Well, she was something else. On the eve of Twilight’s return to her own world, she went to visit the white unicorn once more.
Sadly, Rarity was alone in her bedroom, crying hysterically. Twilight stood outside of the door, listening to her friend’s miserable wailing, teetering on the edge of doing something very, very foolish. What had happened to Rarity? In her own world, Rarity had been beautiful and strong. She and Cross Stitch had a beautiful child and worked their way to the fore of Equestrian fashion. Their home in Trottingham was quaint, but from there, Rarity exported hundreds of beautiful dresses that made waves from Horseshoe Bay to Canterlot, and Appleoosa to Baltimare.
More than that, what had happened to the pony that followed twilight into the heart of death itself?! Rarity had been with Twilight at the library, and had nearly died. But her strength and support had helped Twilight the entire way there and back. Where was the generous, kind, loving soul that Twilight knew lived within this beautiful, hard-working unicorn?
Twilight emerged from her illusion spell with a flourish, and forcibly kicked the door down. Rarity jumped up from her bed at the sudden splintering sound, looking at Twilight in the doorway. “Twilight?! What are you- wait… Those wings. You’re not Twilight! Who are you?!” Rarity was on the defensive, her tear-stained face twisted with doubt and anger. Twilight lifted a hoof, her horn glowing as well. Gingerly, she lifted Rarity off of her bed and set the white unicorn on the floor in front of her. Rarity tried to fight it, but her meager magic was no match for Twilight’s.
“Hush now, Rarity.” Twilight whispered gently, standing in front of her friend with a gentle smile. “I am not the Twilight you know and love, but I am indeed Twilight. Come here.” Twilight opened her forelegs, smiling at Rarity knowingly. Rarity considered her for a few moments, but when she recognized her friend, broke out into tears and rushed into the embrace. Twilight held the sobbing unicorn close, stroking her frazzled mane slowly and carefully. Rarity cried long and hard, sobbing into Twilight’s coat all the while. It was only after she calmed down that Twilight began to speak again.
“I come from a different world, Rarity.” She began, still holding her friend close. “Do you remember when the Twilight here in the world had been selected to become the new Archmage?”
“Y-yes, I remember that. Seven years ago…”
“Well, in the world I come from, I accepted that position. I spent many years in service to Equestria, and upon my death, the gods above decided to grant me the same power Celestia, Luna, and Cadance all share. That is why I am this way. I am an alicorn now.”
“That’s incredible. But… You keep saying ‘other worlds…’ How did you get here?”
“There is a portal in the crystal kingdom. I’m afraid it’s been many years since any of you last drew breath in my world, so this may or may not happen a long time from now. But through that portal, I am able to cross to different worlds. These worlds are created when decisions are made, Rarity. You see, when a pony makes a decision, another world is created where they had chosen differently. This world, the one you and I stand in now, was created when I decided to decline the position of Archmage.”
“Amazing.” Rarity breathed. She appeared to have calmed down, and was content to listen to Twilight’s story. She continued.
“I came here simply to observe. Forgive me, but I couldn’t help but notice how miserable you seem lately…”
“It’s true,” Rarity sniffled, looking down at the floor. “I can’t find love, no matter how hard I try. All my friends have their loves, and are so happy. Why, Fluttershy even has a foal. Applejack has one on the way. Twilight had Quill, and now she has Flitter and Blossomforth… Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, even. I just… I feel so distraught. I can’t find anypony.”
“Hey,” Twilight gingerly lifted Rarity’s chin, drawing her eyes up until they met one another’s. “You’re the element of generosity, Rarity. You have more love to give than anypony else. It breaks my heart to see you saddened so. Please, for my sake, and the sake of your friends… Keep your head up?” Rarity looked into Twilight’s eyes for a long while before breaking into tears again. She sobbed and collapsed into Twilight’s embrace, so Twilight held her close until she calmed again.
“It’s so hard, though…”
“Oh Rarity.” Twilight smiled and patted Rarity’s shoulder patronizingly. “If only you knew the amount of ‘hard’ things you have accomplished in my world.” Rarity sniffed and looked up at her with wide eyes.
“Really?” Twilight nodded. “Could you… Could you tell me about them?”
“It would be my genuine pleasure, Rarity.” Twilight smiled and slipped up onto Rarity’s bed. There, the two of them talked the night away…
The day came for Twilight’s return to her own world. She flew around town once more, just to see how everyone was doing. This early in the morning, Fluttershy was still asleep, as was Fleet Hoof, but Applejack and Big Mac were hard at work in the orchard. Pinkie Pie was serving breakfast while Rainbow Dash slumbered upstairs. Twilight, though, was responding to the summons of a friend in dire need. At the café in the town square, she met with a distraught and tear-stained Rarity. Twilight looked on to the meeting with a soft smile.
“Rarity, my goodness… Pardon me for saying, but you don’t look so well…”
“It’s fine, darling. Truth be told, I’m not doing so well.”
“We figured. I heard about your most recent catastrophe… What was his name?”
“Does it matter?” Rarity waved her hoof dismissively. “I can’t get him back. Or any of them, for that matter.”
“I’m sorry, Rarity. I didn’t mean to upset you…”
“Don’t’ worry about it, love.” Rarity managed a smile. “I know I still have you five here with me.”
“We’re more than five now.” Twilight mused, tapping her lower lip thoughtfully. “With more on the way.”
“You’ve got to envy that mare,” Rarity sighed wistfully. “Married with a foal on the way. And Fluttershy, too. I heard Sprout got her cutie mark last week.”
“A paw, so I hear.” Twilight chuckled, both of them smiling. “We know what her talent will be.”
“She takes after her mother, that much is for sure. I’m happy for them… For all of you.” Rarity sighed. “But I don’t really have any happiness to call my own…”
“Rarity? What are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying that… Well.” Rarity straightened her back and looked seriously at Twilight. “I think a change is in order. I’m done searching Ponyville for my special somepony. I think it’s time I leave. I’m moving to Canterlot in one month’s time.”
There was a silence between them for a short while. Twilight looked like she was on the brink of shock and denial, but eventually, her look dissolved into a warm smile. “That’s great! You always loved Canterlot, and there are certainly more ponies there than there are here. I’m happy for you, Rarity. Why, I think I might know a certain somepony who can help you get your hoof in the door, so to speak.” Twilight produced a quill and paper from her saddlebags. She always seemed to have stationery on her wherever she went. “I’ll tell Celestia of your arrival right away.”
“Twilight, that’s asking too much… I couldn’t possibly-“
“Nonsense, Rarity.” Twilight finished penning the page-long note in short order, and rolled it up smartly. Her horn glared for a few moments before wrapping the note in a blinding light and sending it away. “I’m certain Celestia would be pleased to have an element of Harmony in Canterlot. Why, last I heard, she was looking for a seamstress that could make a dress large enough to fit her.”
“Y-you don’t say…” Rarity appeared awestruck. “I don’t-“
“Ah. Her response.” Twilight smiled as a roll of parchment appeared in midair before them, glimmering faintly as Twilight spread it open. “Hmm. I think you’d best read this yourself.” Twilight passed the scroll off, and Rarity began reading it. At the end, she looked up, her expression awestruck.
“That’s more than I make in a year… Twilight, this is… This is incredible!”
“I’m happy for you, Rarity.” Twilight beamed, laughing as Rarity rushed forward to wrap her in a hug. “I’m sure the others will be as well. We’ll miss you, but you’re going to do incredible things living in Canterlot. I have to ask, though,” Twilight pulled away from the embrace with a worried look. “Who gave you this idea of moving?”
“Oh, you know…” Rarity waved her off, but she looked almost directly at where Twilight sat, watching the conversation. A smile crossed the unicorn’s face. “A friend.”
“Welcome back.” Luna beamed as Twilight emerged from the portal. In her absence, it seemed Luna had made the chamber housing the portal more comfortable. Several candles sat burning warmly in scones burrowed into the wall, and there was furniture, as well. A bed large enough for two, a writing desk, two comfy chairs, and several book cases as well. Luna was busy stocking one of the cases when Twilight emerged.
“How… How long was I gone?” Twilight breathed, shaking her head. Going through the portal was rather disorienting at times.
“One whole day.” Luna responded absently, placing books on the shelf as she scanned the titles one by one. “It’s mid-afternoon on the fifteenth. You left the morning of the fourteenth.”
“You don’t say…” Twilight regained her senses and stepped down off of the dias the mirror rested on. Behind her, the meadow she had originally went into showed for a few seconds before the mirror gave her her own reflection. Shrugging out of her saddlebags, Twilight approached Luna.
“How was it? How long did you stay?”
“Two weeks.” Twilight slowed, taking her time to admire Luna’s graceful body. Two whole weeks without any release. She let her eyes linger on Luna’s rump.
“So you decided to stay an extra week. Any particular reason?” Luna seemed distracted by the books. Twilight silently crept up behind her.
“My counterpart was having some… Interesting love problems. I decided to stay and see how they went.”
“Oh? You say that almost like-“ Luna turned, but froze when she was nose-to-nose with Twilight.
“Put it on.” Twilight lifted a strapon between them. “And take me. Right here. Right now.”
“… Remind me to send you back to that world sometime.”
Archmage: Beyond the Crystal Mirror “Out of Time - Part 1”
Twilight had resolved herself. She needed to explore more diverse worlds than the ones she had visited already. Granted, the first world was a doozy, and visiting it had been a rather eye-opening experience. But there were millions of more worlds out there, and plenty of them had promising prospects. She conferred with Luna the morning after their most recent visit. Twilight was still sore from the all-night romp.
“I’ve been thinking,” She nuzzled Luna’s wet mane. They were showering. It seemed the two of them had some of their most important discussions while bathing. “I want to explore more complex and different worlds.”
“Oh? So soon?” Luna mused, setting the bottle of shampoo aside.
“Yeah,” Twilight nodded as Luna began scrubbing her mane thoroughly. “Specifically, I want to try a world where I had decided to become a god.” Luna stopped her scrubbing, but Twilight urged her on with a gentle nudge. “I want to see what happened if I tried to save Equestria.” That seemed to put Luna at rest, but she seemed reserved as she continued tending Twilight’s mane.
“I don’t know which one to send you to… There are a few dozen where you chose to become a goddess and tried to save Equestria. Not all of them might be ideal…”
“I trust you.” Twilight smiled as she leaned back into Luna’s scrubbing. “And I could handle it if you send me to a world that isn’t all that good. I survived the first world, didn’t I?”
“True.” Luna was frowning. Twilight didn’t have to look to know. She smiled and nudged her hip once again. “I’m just concerned. Your dreams after visiting that world have been troubled. They still are.”
“Really?” Twilight wilted a little. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine, Twilight. You cannot control your dreams. At least, not directly. But do you really want to take the risk and put yourself through that torture again?” Luna stopped her scrubbing, letting Twilight rinse off the white suds.
“I know I can handle it,” Twilight said quietly. “But can you?”
“I’ve seen worse nightmares.” Luna admitted, running her hooves through Twilight’s mane, helping her smooth the long purple strands out. Twilight arched an eyebrow quizzically.
“Yeah,” Luna’s whisper was almost inaudible. “She’s read some prophecies not even I’ve dared to look at. They give her dreams the likes of which I don’t wish anypony to see.” Twilight gnawed on her lip as the water buffed away the last bits of shampoo. Luna pulled her out of the stream and began applying the conditioner, but Twilight’s mind was elsewhere. Part of her wanted to read these prophecies Celestia had, but for the most part, she was thinking about the world she wanted to visit. As Luna finished with the minty-smelling conditioner, she stepped back under the water with a smile.
“I have faith in you, Luna. I know you’ll send me to a world I can handle. And I’m sorry in advance if my dreams are troublesome for you.”
“They never really are,” Luna’s smile was genuine, and she kissed Twilight gingerly. “As long as I have you to wake up to.”
“Twilight,” Celestia’s voice stopped her hardly an inch from the portal. Twilight paused and turned about to look at her elder sister. Celestia’s look was troubled, but she wasn’t in any position to stop her. “A word, if I could.”
“Naturally.” Twilight stepped away from the portal, where Luna had it focused to send her to a world where she had agreed to become a goddess, but had tried to save Equestria from the fallout of her prophecy. Celestia stayed where she was, almost as if she were afraid to enter the portal herself. Twilight honestly couldn’t blame her.
“I’ve just come to inform you that I’m returning to Canterlot straightaway. I cannot afford to be absent from matters of state any longer.”
“I understand.” Twilight smiled and stepped further away from the mirror, going to embrace Celestia. She returned the hug with a warm smile, though there was still trouble in those magnificent eyes of hers.
“Please be careful in your experiments, Twilight. I worry for you.”
“No need to worry.” Twilight smiled at Celestia confidently. “I know I can handle whatever comes my way.” She cast a sideways glance to Luna, her smile turning from confident to warm. “With a little help.”
“Truer words…” Celestia smiled and leaned in to give Twilight’s cheek a gentle kiss. “Be careful, Twilight. My thoughts and prayers go with you. And you as well, Luna.”
“Safe journey, sister.” Luna advanced for a gentle embrace of her own. Celestia looked between the two of them a few times. She appeared to want to say something to them, but in the end she closed her mouth and nodded solemnly. When she turned to leave, Twilight and Luna shared a questioning look. Both of them wondered what it was Celestia wanted to say, but they weren’t going to bother her with it. At that moment, they had more important things to focus on.
“Right.” Twilight turned back to the mirror, her jaw set determinately. “So in this world,”
“You become the goddess of magic and use your newfound powers to save Equestria from the fallout of your prophecy. In addition, your relationship with me was stronger than ours has been. You decided to forgive me for my mistakes much sooner than you did in this world, and we’ve ah… Well…”
“We’ve what?” Twilight asked, glancing at Luna questioningly.
“We’ve picked up some rather… Rough… Tendencies in the bedroom. It’s led to the two of us trusting one another more and more.”
“Rough tendencies?” Twilight was intrigued now. Sore from last night, but still intrigued.
“Chains and hoofcuffs.” Luna’s blush was radiant. Twilight felt her own cheeks heat up. Rather than inquire further and invoke the wrath of a princess, she decided to call their attention back to the present.
“Ahem. I’ll be going.”
“I’ll be here when you return.” Luna kissed her softly, a faint smile on her lips. Twilight returned the smile before turning to the mirror once more. This time, nothing stopped her as she stepped forward into a world unvisited.
“Another one? Sheesh.” The voice was alien to her. Twilight blinked her eyes and shook her head, lifting a hoof to her swimming vision. “Wings, horn, alicorn. Here’s your number.” Twilight hardly had a chance to orient herself before a slip of paper was thrust towards her. It held the number eighteen on it, in thick, bold lettering. Hesitantly, she took it from the guardpony holding it out to her.
“You’re in Canterlot.” The guard sounded bored, and she found herself being shooed towards a door. “Now hurry up, you’re the eighteenth one of you to come through.”
“Through? Through what?” Twilight looked behind her, and her blood nearly froze.
There stood the crystal mirror, and on the other side, Luna.
“Welcome!” Twilight blinked at the sight before her. The entire room she had just been shown into was filled with other Twilights. Some of them had wings, most did not. One in particular looked old and withered, and others still had scars or ugly-looking wounds. About five of them, though, were identical-looking, with no scars or telltale signs of struggle. Twilight rubbed her eyes in disbelief, groaning at what she saw.
“Well, why don’t you have a seat.” Another one of the princess-Twilights gestured to a nearby empty chair. “I”ll explain it all for you.” Twilight went to sit down, her mind still reeling at all that she saw. Some of her counterparts looked her way with curiosity, while others shrugged it off and went back to looking out of windows, reading one of the several books in the room, or spending time watching the dust motes float through the sunlight. The other princess-Twilight sat opposite her, beaming happily as she launched into an explanation.
“We’re all visitors to this world through the crystal mirror. We’ve managed to deduce that we all come from separate dimensions, alternate realities, though we’re not entirely sure what made them, or why they even exist. But we’re here anyways. Some of us, like that one there,” She pointed towards one of the bored-looking normal copies. “Can only come and go to and from this world. Others, like myself, can change the mirror to go to different worlds. She’s been here about a dozen times. This is my first. What about you?”
“First…” Twilight answered off-handedly. The bored-looking copy seemed disinterested in all that was happening. For somepony who’s been through it a dozen times, Twilight figured this world had to be safe enough. At least that much she could be thankful for. She turned her attention back to the princess before her. “Why so many of us, though?”
“Well, this world is awfully popular.” The other shrugged nonchalantly. “It’s really ideal, from what I hear tell. Apparently there’s a sort of temporal rift, you see… Twilight, that is to say our counterpart, chooses to become a god, and goes back in time to warn the princesses what it is she intends to do. I don’t know if that’s credible or not, but it sounds like it is. I mean, who knows what we could accomplish with godhood, right? Well, the princesses understand, and our counterpart also tells them of the crystal mirror. They re-locate it here, and open the portal for visitors to come and witness what happened. That’s what the numbers are for.” The other mare proudly showed off her number five, written in the same bold print that her own eighteen was. “You’re the eighteenth visitor this time around.”
“So, wait,” Twilight shook her head. “You said that one over there has been here eleven times before. Wouldn’t we be seeing all eleven copies of her visiting this world before?”
“That’s what I thought, but I guess it isn’t true. It’s funny, she says she’s seen each of us eleven times before. She even knows when we’ll arrive. Ah, look.” Twilight raised her head, watching as the counterpart who had been here a dozen times lifted her hoof. The door swung inwards, and number nineteen arrived. She had several long, pale scars along her side, and her right foreleg was missing. Twilight arched an eyebrow quizzically, and got a glare in return. She was about to open her mouth to ask what had happened when the counterpart grunted.
“I dodged left instead of right.” Unasked questions answered, the mare limped over to the dozen-visit Twilight and nodded knowingly.
“It seems those two know eachother. Perhaps she’s visited here before?”
“Ugh.” Twilight’s head was swimming. This world was so surreal. She had expected to have to conceal herself and survey the goings-on surreptitiously, like she had in the last world. Here, it seemed, visitors through the mirror were commonplace. “This world is so confusing. I never expected this.”
“Tell me about it. The last world I visited wasn’t half as crowded.”
“Last world?” Twilight looked up at her counterpart. “How many have you been to?”
“This is my eight-hundred and fourth.” Her counterpart smiled warmly at her. “But I’ve never really gone to any world that anything went wrong in… I always visited worlds that had minor differences from my own. It’s better than-“ She stopped suddenly, drawing Twilight’s eyes up. She had originally struck Twilight as a cheery copy of herself, someone who wasn’t so burdened by the stressors of her station. But in that moment, this particular counterpart looked much more world-weary and exhausted than normal.
“Nevermind.” The other offered a weak smile. “Sorry I said anything. What about you? What world do you come from?”
The next few hours were spent watching the visitors arrive one by one. After a few short hours, they were up to twenty-eight copies of Twilight from different worlds. Some were whole, others were scarred, and one had to use magic to support her hind legs, which were shriveled and crippled. Twilight almost asked her what had happened, but decided against it. In some other worlds, it seemed, she wasn’t quite as able as she was in her own. She actually began to enjoy hearing the other Twilight’s stories. None of them could really put words to how their world differed from others, save for the ones who had been to this particular world a few times over. One of them, and older version who appeared to be on the verge of death, said she had visited this particular world almost six hundred times. Twilight overheard this much, because as soon as she tried to talk with the elderly mare, she was spit upon.
“Curse your eighteen.” The other Twilight snarled, turning and stalking away angrily. Twilight wondered what had caused her to be the brunt of so much anger when she realized the other Twilights, the ones who had been there multiple times, had all given her a wide berth as well. Some of them were giving her some rather nasty looks. She was about to confront them all when a guard entered the chamber.
“Pardon me, eer… Archmages. The ceremony is beginning. We have prepared a place for you.” Twilight stiffened at the mention of a ceremony. She realized what particular time she might have just arrived in. She had returned to Equestria as a princess shortly after the ceremony that would commend her body to the stars. Her burial, so to speak. If she had chosen to become a god instead, the fallout would have happened immediately.
She was about to witness her own ascending to the stars. Her own death.
In a solemn procession, the guard led all of the counterparts into the courtyard of Canterlot Castle. They were all greeted by a mixture of looks. Some smiled at them warmly, others stared with wonder at them, and some cast wary looks at the scarred and broken counterparts. None of them spoke, though. This was a somber day for this world. Their Archmage had died, and was about to pass the proverbial torch to the next Archmage. The procession of Twilights were shown to a spot not far from the central dais. A hush fell over the audience as Banner, Celestia, and Luna emerged. Banner carried in his grip one very old and very withered-looking Twilight. Twilight felt tears begin to well up within her eyes at the sight of Luna.
She wondered if they had had a relationship in this world. And if so, how meaningful it was to either of them. For Luna, seeing all these copies of Twilight, some of them a princess, others scarred and broken, must have been a very confusing experience. She looked so torn. She must have wondered if Twilight was going to return a princess, stay dead, or come back broken like some of the others. None of them had no way of telling her. None of them could grant her solace. Instead, each of them bowed their head. Banner paused for a moment, looking at all of them. Even the real Twilight had to bow her head to her counterpart. They were paying homage to a life well-lived. For some of them, this was a vision of things to come. For fewer of them, a memory of things past. And for others still, a grim reminder of what the future held.
Banner passed them by and gingerly laid the body on the dais. They went through the motions, the spell erupting into life with a brilliant light. Banner cast the spell that would commend Twilight’s body to the stars, and all of her counterparts watched as the glimmering pinpricks of light began to ascend to the heavens. Twilight wondered what her Luna had gone through just then. The prophecy had said she would live forever, but she had seemingly passed away. To know that the hopes and dreams you had for an eternity with your loved one were false, and wonder what sort of fallout to expect from the prophecy. A mutter began among the gathered Twilights.
“This is where I came back.”
“Me too.” Twilight had to join in. The other princesses, the ones with wings, remembered this moment. They would have descended from the heavens to the cheers of hundreds, and the embrace of Luna, provided they had a relationship prior to this.
But this wasn’t their world. In this world, Twilight chose to become a Goddess. And her prophecy had failed.
It started as a low rumble. So low, in fact, Twilight felt the need to hush her counterparts. They all fell silent as they listened. Before long, the ground began to shake. Twilight wondered what sort of manifestation the prophecy might have taken, how it would affect Canterlot and the world. Then she realized that all of them were corporeal. If Twilight failed, or only partially succeeded, some of them might die here. In a world that wasn’t their own. Twilight began to fear for her life, until she saw one of the scarred counterparts yawning boredly.
They didn’t have anything to fear. In fact, they seemed almost like they were waiting for a long and boring ordeal to be over with. For her, this was a new experience. Her heart thundered in her ears, and she felt almost as if she should make a run for the portal, back to her world. But those feelings were all squashed as ponies began to lift their heads to the sky. Cries of ‘Look!’ and ‘What’s that?!’ rang out. Twilight followed their gazes, looking up into the mid-day sky with wide eyes.
“By the heavens.” She breathed, her heart pounding even harder. Floating high above Canterlot, dwarfing mountains and indeed the entire city, was a brilliant, shining visage of Twilight. The goddess was so massive, Twilight had to turn her head side to side to see all of it. She was still equine, but had the body of an alicorn. Her horn alone had to be the size of one of Canterlot’s towers, and her wingspan stretched from horizon to horizon. The ground still rumbled beneath them, and only when Twilight followed the line of sight from her goddess self to the horizon did she see why.
Far to the North, a massive black orb had materialized. Its surface was streaked through with red, making the whole thing seem like some foreboding, sinister bowling ball. Twilight would have laughed at the thought if she wasn’t completely shocked by what happened next. The goddess above them lowered her horn, and the day was dwarfed by the magnificent lavender glow. A shockwave washed over them, making Twilight’s mane whip around her neck. The goddess was using magic! Not just any magic, but the kind that echoed across the entire world!
The black orb on the horizon had to have been the fallout of her prophecy. But this goddess was fighting it. Her horn erupted in a brilliant blaze brighter than the sun, shooting a razor-thin line of energy directly at the orb. Twilight watched with wide-eyed wonder at the fallout as the energy struck it. Time and again, the goddess cast brilliant world-rocking blasts at it, and each one ripped chunks from the orb. The shards whirled through the air, dissolving into nothingness one after the other. Before long, nothing remained of the orb. The rocking sound of the goddess’ magic echoed back to them from the mountains, but soon everything was still. Twilight knew what had happened, and so did her counterparts, but for everyone else in this world, this was a new and wonderful experience. A cheer went up, building until it hurt her ears.
The goddess fell to the earth, shrinking as she dove. When she landed in the courtyard, she was maybe the size of a house, and absolutely regal. Her mane wafted about her head, crackling with magical energy. Her eyes glowed with an intense energy, and her wings almost covered the entire square. Still, ponies cheered for her, screaming and hollering. None of them knew it, but she had just saved their lives. Twilight knew what happened when the fallout succeeded. She knew what sort of world this could have become. They didn’t know the hell her counterpart had just saved them from.
”Everypony.” The goddess’ voice boomed out over them, causing everyone to fall still. Her crackling eyes looked over them all, and her lips spread in a warm smile. Twilight had seen many things, and accomplished many great feats of magic, but she knew in an instant this creature dwarfed her greatest arcane achievement without even trying. She was in awe. ”You know me as Twilight Sparkle, your former Archmage. I retain my name, but I am far more than a simple advisor to the princesses now. I am a goddess. I hold as much power as your sacred night and your beloved day. Those who find solace in the arcane, in the mysteries of magic and the allure of knowledge will find a new deity to worship in me. However.” The goddess’ head swung around to the small group of Twilight and her counterparts, huddled together. Suddenly, Twilight felt very afraid.
”Your presence here is causing disturbances. Some of you have been here multiple times. Your continued involvement in this world could lead to catastrophic events. The easiest solution now is for you to leave. The Root is here, and that is all I need. I suggest you all leave now.”
“Here it comes.” Twilight was shaken out of her reverent stare by a muttered curse next to her. She recognized the voice as one of the few who had visited multiple times. She was getting looks from several of them, including the elderly mare who had spit at her.
“What? What do you mean?” Twilight asked.
“She means us.” The one who was missing her right foreleg sighed. “We have to leave now. Still, that was a nice show. It makes me wonder what I’m going to choose when my time comes. Oh, before I forget.” She met Twilight’s eyes, her gaze flickering down to Twilight’s paper with the number eighteen on it. “I hope you visit my world and let me know what it is she keeps you over for.”
“What? Keeps me over?” Twilight arched her eyebrow. All of the copies who had visited this world multiple times were looking at her now. Some with envy, others with disdain. “What’s happening?”
“We’re leaving.” The elderly mare sighed and began trudging off towards the castle, back towards the portal.
“She said there was intereference… Shouldn’t we all leave?”
“Not all of us.” The elderly mare shot her another glare over her shoulder. “She always keeps you behind. Six hundred and twelve times I’ve witnessed this phenomenon, and every time, she keeps you over.” Her eyes flicked down to the number once again. “Fuck you, eighteen. I could learn so much from this world.”
“What?! Hey!” Twilight went to confront the older counterpart, but a presence stopped her. On instinct, her own magic swelled to life, ready to defend herself against being suppressed. She was an alicorn now. She had leveled mountains and performed arcane tasks that even some of her gathered counterparts wouldn’t be able to comprehend. But it was to no avail. This magic, whatever it was, was supreme and absolute. Twilight had erected barriers that could protect entire cities. She had once bore two miles into a mountainside just for practice. Later in her life, she had leveled one mountain that threatened to collapse in on itself and create a terrible earthquake. She should have been able to break any bond. Even Celestia’s and Luna’s.
But this magic was stronger still. She couldn’t move. She could only watch as her counterparts began to shuffle out of the square, leaving her, Celestia, Luna, and the goddess behind. When they had all left, Twilight was finally released. She gasped in relief, collapsing to the cold tile ground. “What- what happened?”
”Be calm, number eighteen. I have much to discuss with you.” The goddess’ face loomed closer, and a gentle hoof lifted her off of the ground. When Twilight stood, the goddess had shrunk to approximately Celestia’s size, but she was still as intimidating and awe-inspiring as before. ”But not here, not in the company of so many. Come, follow us.” Twilight could only nod and follow along as the goddess, Celestia, and Luna left the plaza. The other ponies shuffled away, recounting their stories of what had just happened.
What had just happened? Twilight came here to see how Equestria fared when she had chosen godhood. Instead, she was chosen by the goddess to be discussed with? Why her, and not one of the other counterparts? Hundreds of questions whirled through her mind, but Twilight knew they would be answered. She had to content herself with following the three back into the castle.
Only when they were in the throne room did the goddess turn and fix her with its piercing, intent gaze. ”You are the Root.”
”The Root. The world from which all the other worlds branch off. Your world was the first and the last. This world, where we live, is but a copy of yours. It’s no less real, but it is still a copy.”
“What do you mean, a copy?” Celestia stepped in, her expression drawn and worried. “Are you saying this world exists only because-“
”Several specific choices were made, drastically effecting the timeline of events. This world, this copy, was made when I chose to become a goddess, and with the knowledge I had, decided to save Equestria rather than move on. This Twilight, the counterpart I told you would come-“
“About that.” Luna stepped forwards now, her face a mirror to Celestia’s. “You approached both of us in our dreams three days ago, and told us of the mirror. How?”
”I have a friend.” The goddess smiled at all of them. ”I am powerful, but admittedly, I do not control the sands of time. There is another being who pulls those particular strings. Twilight, I ask you this.” The goddess stepped up to Twilight, their faces hardly six inches apart now. Her brilliant, glowing eyes bore straight into Twilight’s own. ”What drew you here?”
“I… I wanted to see a world that I had chosen to become a goddess that didn’t end in destruction… Luna told me this was the ideal world.”
”No.” The goddess stepped back, her beguiling smile disarming Twilight.
“What do you mean ‘no?’ What brought me here?”
”There is a presence from your world. From the root world. It makes its home here, though it has many forms. You know it well. A memory from long, long ago. I know him as Chronos, God of Time, and my good friend. But you know him by a different name.”
“What, I don’t understand.” Twilight racked her brain, trying to place her counterpart’s words. “Who?”
He appeared suddenly. As if stepping out from behind a curtain, the massive dragon emerged into the throne room, smiling faintly at them all. Twilight’s eyes went wide. Despite his size, she knew this dragon.
Archmage: Beyond the Crystal Mirror “Out of Time - Part 2”
“What… How… I don’t…” Twilight’s mind was reeling. This massive, hulking form was most definitely Spike. He lacked the wings that most other dragons had, and his brilliant scales were still their deep, amethyst purple hue. What’s more, his face was very similar, although it had lost its baby-like qualities and matured into something Twilight would go so far as to call dignified, maybe even handsome. At least, handsome for a two-hundred-foot-long dragon. His spines had grown to sharp points with black tips that ran down the length of his spine, and he stood on all fours. Though as Twilight watched, he reared up to his full height, standing on his hind legs.
“It’s been a long time, Twilight.” His deep, rumbling voice made the ground beneath Twilight’s hooves shake slightly, and vibrated inside her chest. Not only that, but there seemed to be some sort of arcane resonance with his voice. She could feel the soundwaves washing over her, pulsing and vibrating in time with the words that flowed from his mouth. “Although, I’ll admit, this isn’t the first time in the past two hundred years we’ve met.”
“This is the first time I’ve met you.” Twilight plopped onto her rump, her eyes wide with disbelief. “Ever since you left for the century-long nap. When did you wake up? Where did you go? What happened? I don’t-“
”All will be explained in time, dear counterpart of mine.” Twilight had almost forgotten about the two other princesses and the goddess in the throne room with her. Her counterpart drew her attention away from Spike for a moment, and she swallowed several times to try and regain control of her heart.
“Sorry, I hope you can identify with just how shocked I am…” Twilight breathed, shaking her head and pressing a hoof to the bridge of her nose. “I haven’t seen spike since well before I became Archmage. I thought he’s return to me after his century nap, but he never did. I began to fear the worst.”
“Come on, Twi.” The massive dragon rumbled, his grin spreading as wide as a small road. “I didn’t die.”
“No, I didn’t think you’d died.” Twilight waved a hoof. “I thought you might have forgotten about me… I mean, so little was known about dragons. And our studies are still inconclusive. We’re not sure what happens when dragons take their century-long naps…”
“I think I can answer a few questions for you.” Spike chuckled and slowly lowered down to all fours, his massive, muscular neck pulsing as he swung his head down towards them. “But not here, and not now. I’m afraid we have to go back to your world, Twilight. The root world.”
“What? Why?” Twilight peered around, noting that the goddess had the same grim look Spike did just then. “What’s happening?”
“This world will collapse before long.” Spike’s solemn tone made her shiver. She knew he wasn’t immature enough to joke about something like this. Celestia and Luna appeared to be equally as shocked to hear the news. Twilight’s face turned serious as she nodded.
“Alright. Let’s leave. Immediately, if possible. I don’t know how or why, but I guess we must leave.”
“I’ll tell you along the way.” Spike grumbled, his body beginning to glow with a golden aura. Twilight gasped as Spike began to shrink down to a more manageable size. Before long, he was roughly double her own size, but at least this way he could fit through the portal. “Ladies, lead the way.” Spike gestured with a claw, and Celestia and Luna turned to leave. Spike began to talk as they followed the two princesses.
“Why do we have to leave?”
“There’s too much interference in this world, I’m afraid.” Spike sighed. “You see, my coming here was almost completely by mistake. Unfortunately, I managed to trap myself here. But I didn’t belong in this plane of existence. This is their world, and I am a visitor. The portal is what anchors me here, and the energy that’s shared between myself, you, and any other visitor to this world is causing an imbalance.”
“That’s not good.” Twilight knew from experience that imbalances when concerned with magic were dangerous. It’s what caused the fallout of prophecies, and many major spell failures resulted in imbalances, hence the dangerous explosions and catastrophic side-effects. She couldn’t imagine what any planar imbalances might result in, though by the sound of Spike’s voice, they were none too pleasant.
“Not good indeed. It seems the influx of visitors from other worlds through the mirror helped agitate a condition I had created. You see, I came to this world ninety-eight years ago by your standards, but thanks to my magic, I was able to lessen my impact on this plane of existence by fixing my essence at a point in time. That way, I was technically only interfering with the mirror’s imbalance for about a year and three months. But you don’t possess that power, and neither do any of the other visitors. Your ascension, and, heh, descent, drew much more attention to this world than there should have been.” Spike’s intent gaze swept around to the goddess behind them, his smile knowing and rather foreboding. “That massive black sphere you fought back there wasn’t the product of your prophecy failing. That was the imbalance of all the visitors.”
“You’re joking.” Twilight breathed. “What’s the fallout of my prophecy, then?”
“It won’t manifest for another two weeks.” Spike gestured vaguely. “We won’t be able to see it. Or rather, we can’t.”
“I see.” Twilight was downtrodden. “So my coming here was a waste.”
“Hardly.” Spike scoffed. “You see, I came here by my own means. Unfortunately, I was a young god, and didn’t really think to leave a way out. I was stuck here in this world, a place I couldn’t call home.”
“What about your counterpart?” Twilight asked.
“He’s living his life, happily raising a brood somewhere past Saddle Arabia. It seems he never returned after awaking from his nap in this world. I had free reign of most Equestria and the surrounding areas.”
“Caused quite a bit of a stir, I must say.” Luna scoffed. “It was right around the time Celestia and I had the dream from the goddess that he showed himself.”
“Hey, yeah.” Twilight narrowed her eyes slightly. “How could you two have been visited by the goddess in your dreams before she was technically a goddess?”
“A little help from your friend there.” Celestia sighed. Spike chuckled again.
“Being the God of Time, I took a little liberty to explore this world’s timeline. I was able to bring a visitor from the future back with me, and helped her sort some things out with the princesses. To help ease your passing, and brace them for what was to come. I transported your deity counterpart into the past exactly one year, where she was able to warn Celestia and Luna of the events that would transpire.”
“Fascinating.” Twilight shook her head in disbelief. They were approaching the room with the portal in it. Twilight recognized the hallways they were walking down. She knew her time was short, but she still had so many unanswered questions. She picked up the pace to walk next to Luna.
“This may seem overtly personal and incredibly out-of-left-field, but… How is your relationship with… Well, me?”
“With your counterpart?” Luna glanced over her shoulder at the goddess. Her expression seemed torn. “I honestly don’t know… I mean, this is the first time we’ve experienced this particular chain of events for ourselves. It seems so surreal, what with the warnings and all the counterparts, I… I honestly just don’t know.”
”I’ll have you know, Luna…” The goddess smiled warmly at Luna. ”I still feel love and desire. I may be immortal and powerful, but I am still madly, deeply in love with you.”
“There’s your answer, then.” Luna’s smile warmed them all, spreading infectiously. “I don’t feel any different. I was concerned at first that the change would make her more like the night… Aloof, cold, and indifferent. But it seems I’m lucky enough to keep Twilight forever.” Luna’s smile turned into a devious grin for a half a moment. “Though I might have to get used to learning how to please a goddess. I bet her orgasms could split a mountain.”
They all laughed at that, some of them raucously, others a little more conservatively. But still, the grim mood was lightened considerably. Twilight didn’t even feel saddened as they entered the room with the portal. There were still so many questions Twilight had about this world, like what the fallout of her prophecy actually looked like, and her counterpart’s plans for Equestria now that she had a considerably larger amount of power… But Spike appeared to be growing concerned for the safety of this world, and Celestia and Luna didn’t seem all that happy to have two visitors that jeopardized their very existence either. Twilight paused to smile at Luna as they stood at the threshold of the portal.
“I’m sorry for all the trouble this has caused you. Please, once Spike and I leave this world, destroy this portal. I’ve seen some bad worlds. This is a rather nice one, and I’d rather not have it vanish.”
“I’ll do what I can, Twilight.” Luna smiled. “Gosh, you’re so like her it’s eerie.” Luna looked between Twilight and the goddess, her smile warm and happy. “I couldn’t possibly imagine living with two of you.”
”I can make that happen.” The goddess smiled and nudged Luna’s side. ”I can make many things happen, but not if this world is destroyed. Twilight, you are a strong and able counterpart of mine, unlike some of the other versions I’ve had the displeasure of seeing. I wish you much luck and happiness in your travels to other worlds. And be cautious. Some of them are as grim and dark as you may think they are. But others, like this one… Well.” The goddess smiled and kissed Luna’s cheek. The tender display nearly made Twilight cry.
”They make you happy for the things you have, and the things you could have. Farewell, Twilight. I hope someday I can see you again.”
“Someday.” Twilight nodded with a warm smile. “Until then. Good-bye, everyone.”
“Come on, Twilight.” Spike nudged her playfully, turning both of them back towards the portal. “Let’s go home.”
“Welcome back, Twili- WOAH!” Luna gasped and flapped backwards until her back hit the far wall, her wide eyes panicked. “Twilight, it’s a dragon! Get back!”
“Relax, Luna!” Twilight dashed forward, placing herself between Luna and Spike. “Don’t you recognize him?” Luna looked between Twilight and Spike several times, her chest still heaving excitedly. After a short while, though, she calmed and squinted at him cautiously.
“No… Is that… Spike?”
“The one and only.” Spike grinned and rose to his hind legs, offering a claw to Luna. “It’s good to see you again, Princess.”
“How did you… No one else can come through the portal except those who originate from here.” Luna took his claw in a semi-traditional hoof-shake, her expression still tense and shocked.
“I am from here.” Spike said nonchalantly. “I have a story to tell, and boy is it a doozy.”
“Even I don’t know all the details yet.” Twilight explained to Luna. “I met him in that world. Apparently he came from this world, and was trapped in that one. At least… I think that’s what happened. Is it?”
“Like I said.” Spike grimaced back at the portal. “It’s a doozy.”
“O-okay. Right. Can you… Do you sit?”
“With some difficulty. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll just lay here.” Spike scuffed a spot on the stone floor with a claw before slowly lowering himself. Even reduced in size as he was, he still took up quite a bit of the chamber Twilight and Luna had called their impromptu home. Twilight fetched two chairs while Luna began to boil water for tea. Twilight was slightly parched from the whole ordeal in the parallel world, so tea sounded wonderful. Spike respectfully declined, waiting for the two of them to get settled before he began.
“Where should I begin… I guess with my exodus from Ponyville, eh?” Spike smiled and closed his eyes, as if he were recalling a long-lost memory. Twilight realized his eyes were actually glowing beneath his eyelids, and whenever they would flicker open, a faint golden light would leak out. He inhaled deeply and began talking. “I left Ponyville intent on reaching the dragon’s home. It’s the same place you, Pinkie, and Rarity came to when I was a little bit lost about who I was.” Spike sighed wistfully. “I found a cozy little cave and settled down to begin my nap. But for one reason or another, as tired as I was, I couldn’t fall into a full, deep, magical sleep. I kept waking every few hours or so, and couldn’t sleep again for another hour. It was strange, but I discovered that I wasn’t supposed to nap where I was. Apparently dragons are drawn to one specific place for their nap. They can be dissuaded, sure, but they don’t like to be told what to do for the most part. So I started roaming. Searching.
“My search actually led me North, into the Crystal Kingdom. It took a little fine-tuning, but the ponies up here still think me some sort of hero after that whole ordeal with King Sombra and the crystal heart. Anywho, I tried napping all over the place, but I never could quite find it. It seemed like I would settle on one spot, only to be pushed into another. But that one spot was always roughly the same.” Spike pointed directly up to the ceiling, smiling at them. “It was exactly three hundred and fourteen feet above where we are now.”
“No way.” Twilight breathed. “You’re telling me your nap was calling you to this chamber?”
“Precisely.” Spike nodded. “I made my way down here with a little help from the palace staff. A skilled unicorn was able to find the way down here and keep it a secret from Cadance and Shining Armor. I followed the cave and arrived here, almost a hundred and eighty-three years ago. That’s when I entered my nap. I was too tired and too young to think about the spell-form on the walls around me, or what effect they might have had on me.” Spike scoffed and shook his head, almost as if he wished he could scold his past self.
“When I awoke, I was like this. And I had quite a lot of magical power. When I left here, everything was standing perfectly still. When I thought about how strange it was things seemed to be frozen in time, they jumped ahead at a blinding speed. Before long, I was standing in the ruins of the Crystal Empire, and when I thought about how terrible that was and how I wanted to go back, I was watching Equestria be terraformed by these massive bolts of arcane energy.” Spike sighed wistfully and looked up at the two of them.
“I had complete and total control over where I existed in time. So I began to use my powers to explore. You see, Twilight, Luna.” Spike lifted a claw to rest over his heart. “I’ve lived millions of years by your standards. Tens of thousands of lifetimes. I’ve watched Equestria be created, destroyed, reforged, and destroyed again so many times I could write the unabridged history of the world. In that time, I’ve collected knowledge and skill. I learned my name, my purpose, and many, many other things.” He lifted his head proudly. Twilight was awestruck. Here was Spike, the baby dragon she had hatched from an egg, a god. He wasn’t some two-hundred-year old dragon, or even an old friend. He was a being to be respected and revered. He was likely smarter than all four of the princesses combined, herself included. Twilight swallowed as he continued.
“I am called many names by different groups of ponies. The earth ponies call me ‘watcher of sands.’ The pegasi call me ‘The gold one.’ But the unicorns… They know me by a far more formal and ancient title. My birthright, the name given to me by the two gods who fathered Celestia and Luna.” Spike’s eyes began to glow with a golden light, illuminating the entire chamber.
“I am Chronos.” The glow died down, and a shudder passed through Twilight’s body as he smiled at her. “But you can call me Spike. I might be a god, but I am still your friend, Twilight. And yours as well, princess. I would hope so.”
“It’s my honor.” Luna breathed, laying a hoof over her heart. “I’m just so astounded that you’ve… You’re… You used to be so small and unassuming. The last time I saw you was-“
“Nightmare Night. At least, that was the last time you actively saw me. I was at Shining’s wedding, but you were too busy talking with everypony else.” Spike smiled at Luna. Twilight remembered the last time she had seen Spike. He had looked so tired, but so determined. Something magical had taken ahold of him. She woke up one morning to find him looking at her sadly. He had simply said ‘goodbye’ and left. Not even her own magic stopped him from leaving then. They had made quite the ordeal… A tiny little purple dragon dragging a sobbing purple unicorn out of town, until Twilight had given up and let him go. She had been inconsolable for a week until Celestia sent a letter explaining what had happened. The memory wasn’t entirely comfortable, but Twilight was happy for Spike.
“Still, though…” Twilight’s serious voice brought them all back to the present. “Why were you called to take your century nap here? Why did sleeping here for a hundred years turn you into a god? And how did you get into that other world? There are still so many questions that need to be answered…”
“Well, let me see…” Spike tapped his jaw with a long claw. “I can’t say for certain what it was that drew me here, but I do know that Chronos’ power moves from dragon to dragon. There’s a text in Celestia’s private library detailing some of the effects. I guess you could say I was selected to be the next recipient of his power. When I die or don’t feel like guarding the timelines of this world and the others, another dragon may very well be called to take his century-long nap here.”
“You’ve been in Celestia’s private library?” Twilight asked, her eyes wide with wonder.
“Yes indeed.” Spike smiled. “In six thousand, four hundred and eighty-seven years, Celestia makes the library free to access for all unicorns able to pass a relatively difficult series of tests. I have some pretty powerful magic of my own, so I disguised myself as a pony and went to visit. I read many wonderful and insightful, albeit terrifying things there. One such thing being the text talking about Chronos’ power being transferred from dragon to dragon.” Spike nodded at her. “I’m willing to bet Chronos’ power transfers to whatever dragon is called to take his nap here. I don’t remember dreaming anything, so I can’t say for sure what happened for those hundred years, but when I awoke I was like this.”
“Fascinating…” Twilight shook her head in disbelief. So much had happened! She had witnessed herself become a god, saved a world from destruction, re-united with Spike, and learned so much about the mirror in just one eventful day. She was exhausted, but curiosity fueled her. She had to know at least one more thing before getting some rest. “But how did you get to that other world?”
“Aah. That one is relatively easy to explain.” Spike rubbed his claws together and grinned happily as he launched into his explanation. “There are points in time where worlds converge; where series of events make the two planes of existence so similar that the two worlds almost co-exist for a moment. They’re exceedingly rare, incredibly difficult to find, and once they’re gone, the two worlds separate once more. For something like me, I can slip inbetween those cracks in time, where two worlds become one. But once I’m on the other side, I have to come back immediately, or I’m trapped there.”
“Wow… So our worlds intersect at times?” Twilight found that difficult to believe.
“It’s not as easy as that.” Spike leaned forward a little. “Twilight, the parameters are incredibly specific. Every single molecule of existence has to coincide perfectly. Every blade of grass, every breath, every hoof-fall, every blink of your eye… All of these things have to happen at the exact same point in the timeline, in the same place, in the exact same way, for exactly one-point-three-eight miles in radius.” Spike leaned in further to emphasize. “Think about it. Think about a place in this world that another world could act the same way, the same exact way, for exactly one-point-three-eight miles. Where everypony breathes at the same time, talks at the same time, takes all the same steps… Where the beads of dew on the grass and the insects buzzing through the air take the same path. Do you know how rare an occurrence that is? When two worlds are, for all intensive purposes, exactly the same?” Spike sat up straight again, his eyes slightly dark.
“It’s nearly impossible. And in the history of this world, from dawn to destruction, it’s happened only four times.” Spike lifted his claw, ticking each one off. “Once, very early, where for that circular sphere of exact totality, a lava flow on a mountainside progresses the exact same between three worlds for point-zero-zero-two seconds. The second,” He ticked another off. “Happens during the birth of a poor farmer’s foal, where a convergence of four worlds lasts for point zero eight seconds. The third.” Another claw. “Is during the end of the world. And that moment, all worlds share in common for all of twenty-eight seconds.” They were silent for a few moments while Twilight considered all this meant. It was Luna who broke the silence.
“You said there were four…”
“The fourth one…” Spike’s eyes turned a little misty, and he smiled at Twilight. “Happens for eight-point-six-four seconds, and is a convergence of sixteen million, eight hundred and forty-three thousand, two hundred and nineteen worlds.”
“What is it?” Twilight asked. “What’s happening in all of those worlds for so long?” At her question, Spike’s smile widened.
“It’s right here in Canterlot, in the busiest, most crowded square on one very special, particular day. You want to know what’s happening? What has so many ponies acting so perfectly in sync that over sixteen million worlds are converging at the same time?” Spike leaned in until his intent, golden eyes were all Twilight could see. His next words made her shiver.
“You’re being announced as Archmage.”
They took a break after that little revelation. Twilight wondered why, in all of the archmages throughout all of history, her announcement was the most memorable that it would cause sixteen million worlds worth of ponies to act the exact same, perfect way for eight whole seconds. Spike explained how keeping his essence frozen at a point in time so he didn’t destroy the world he had been in was a rather exhausting and taxing experience. He excused himself from the castle to go find a suitable spot to slumber ‘for a few hours or years. You can never tell with dragons.’ His words still made Twilight chuckle, even as she shared a dinner with Luna.
“That’s fascinating.” Luna offered. “I can’t believe Spike became Chronos…”
“Have you ever met him?” Twilight asked idly, feeling surprisingly famished. She was eating ravenously.
“Who? Chronos? No, not at all. Though I hear Celestia has, and the night has mentioned him in passing a few times. I can’t believe I didn’t pay better attention to her during those times…” Luna sighed and shook her head. “It’s mind-boggling.”
“You’re telling me.” Twilight, despite her hunger, had to sit still for a moment to contemplate all that had transpired. “I wish I could have asked him more… I get the feeling we’re not getting the whole story from him, regarding his involvement with the other worlds.”
“You too, huh?” Luna teased, smiling faintly. “Like, if he can travel back and forth in time, why didn’t he return to the convergence, and come back to this world? Why did he stay in that world for… What, over two hundred years?”
“Exactly. I want to know why he didn’t return to this world when he knew his presence in that world was going to eventually destroy it. Something smells fishy here.”
“I’m sure he had his reasons. Maybe he couldn’t, or risk throwing the balance out too much?”
“Why didn’t the imbalance destroy that world the moment he entered, then?” Twilight groaned and shoved her plate away. “It’s mind-boggling. What possible reason could he have to stay there?”
“Twilight! Luna!” Cadance burst into their chamber, huffing and lathered in sweat. She looked panicked. Twilight steadily rose to her hooves, ready for the worst. “There’s a dragon in the palace.”
Twilight and Luna both laughed at the same time.
“So you’re back.” Celestia smiled as Spike emerged from seemingly nowhere beside her.
“Indeed I am.” Spike’s voice made her mane tremble around her shoulders. Celestia rather enjoyed that about him.
“Thank you. A million times over, thank you, Chronos.”
“Hey, I can understand.” Spike sighed. “I’m just glad I picked right between the two.”
“Two worlds out of sixteen million,” Celestia sighed. “Two worlds in that convergence where Twilight becomes a goddess and tries to save Equestria. You’re certain she didn’t stay long enough to-“
“No.” Spike cut her off. “I made certain to remove her, and all of the other visitors, from the world before she… Before it… Dies.”
“Is killed.” Celestia corrected him, albeit with a frown. “She killed it.”
“I know. I just find it so hard to believe.” Spike shuddered visibly, his spines clacking with a bone-like sound.
“What ruse did you use to get her to return so promptly?”
“I told her she and all the other visitors were creating an interference with the energy of the world, thanks to the portal. I even told her I was endangering that world by being there.”
“So you could play the chivalrous one.” Celestia shook her head as if in disbelief, though a ghost of a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
“In all seriousness, though… Did she destroy that world? Could she have?”
“I know she could.” Celestia sighed and plodded from her office out onto a nearby balcony. “She’s done worse…”
“Really? Worse than annihilating an entire world?”
“She’s killed us before.”
“No way. She can do that?” Spike seemed shocked.
“Ineed.” Celestia sighed again. “Twilight’s discovered a way to kill an immortal being. She says she did it in case we ever wanted closure, from all the pain and suffering.”
“Oh. Well.” Spike sighed and rubbed the back of his spines. “I can’t say I blame her. Even in this world, there’s a lot of pain and suffering.”
“Yes, but nopony should have to suffer that. Celestia turned her gaze North, towards where Twilight and her sister were likely discussing Spike’s return even now. “Nopony should have to know there’s nothing they can do to save the world from the fallout of their prophecy.”
“She could have…”
“But she hasn’t. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it… I’m sure Luna will see it in time, too.” Celestia’s gaze was dark and brooding. “There’s not a single world where Twilight becomes a goddess that Equestria is saved.”
“Well,” Spike sighed as he stepped up beside Celestia. “At least I managed to spare her that much. If she had stayed for even twenty minutes more, the fallout would have claimed her. And even if she managed to survive, the portal would have been destroyed. She would be stuck there. So at least we managed to save her from that much.”
“At least there’s that.” Celestia sighed and gently leaned against Spike’s side. The dragon gingerly lifted his arm and draped it over her back. “I missed you.”
“And I missed you too, my love.” Spike smiled and kissed Celestia’s cheek. “It’s good to be back.”
“How long has it been?” Celestia leaned into the tender kiss, her eyes closed blissfully.
“Four hundred and eighty-three years, two months, twenty-eight days, fourteen hours and seven seconds.”
“Close enough.” Celestia smiled up at Spike, or rather, Chronos. The one creature she could honestly say she loved.
The one creature that could possibly understand her torment.
The two turned into Celestia’s quarters. That night, even the Solar Princess found solace in the arms of her lover.
Archmage: Beyond the Crystal Mirror “Out of Time - End”
“Twilight,” Cadance drew her attention with a soft utterance. Twilight looked up from the book she was currently taking notes on, blinking at her pseudo sister a few times.
“What’s up, Cadance?” Twilight noted the pink alicorn’s somber expression and her drawn look of melancholy contemplation. Slowly, Twilight closed her book. Something was amiss.
“I… Well, I have something to tell you. And a request.”
“Erm, okay…” Cadance was usually rather open about her feelings, and very approachable. She seemed reserved just then. Quiet. Withdrawn. As Twilight watched, Cadance drew a deep breath to steady herself.
“About the crystal mirror, and Spike, and all that’s happened recently… I… Well, I may have been keeping the truth from you. And I may have lied.”
“Okay…” Twilight frowned. While she didn’t appreciate being lied to (By Cadance, no less) It seemed her sister was about to come clean. Cadance’s eyes began to well with tears, and she was trembling.
“I… I was approached by Celestia a long, long time ago. She had… Had some visitors. Or a visitor. From the future. And they… They needed some help from me.”
“Cadance…” Twilight was beginning to see some dots, and they were beginning to connect themselves.
“Celestia knew Spike would become the god of time.” Cadance shuddered. “And I… I granted him access to the chamber with the Crystal Mirror. When you first came here at my behest, I lied… I said the caverns had recently been re-discovered. They hadn’t. They were discovered shortly after the Crystal Kingdom was restored. I swear, Twilight, I didn’t know how the mirror worked or what it would do to Spike, but Celestia knew it was pivotal in transforming Spike into Chronos…” Cadance sniffed as the tears began to flow.
“I agreed to let Spike have access to the chamber. And then I sealed him in. After that, I… I don’t know what happened or where he went. But if his recent return is any indication-“
“Celestia knows.” Twilight growled. “She sent him there to turn into Chronos. She’d know where he went. If he went anywhere. I need to go back to Canterlot.” Twilight ground her teeth in frustration. She turned to the closed book, but Cadance cleared her throat. Twilight peered back at her.
“Take the mirror with you.” She choked. Twilight blinked at that.
“Take the mirror with you.” Cadance re-asserted herself. “Take it and go, Twilight… You and Luna and that damned mirror. Take it and leave, and don’t ever bring it back here again.”
“JUST GO!” Cadance suddenly shouted, her tears returning in force. She spread her hooves and looked pleadingly at Twilight, who was shocked beyond belief. “TAKE YOUR MIRROR, TAKE YOUR SECRETS, AND LEAVE!” She choked the next words, quieter than a whisper, but more serious than anything Twilight had ever heard before. “I’m done playing the pawn in Celestia’s game.”
Twilight didn’t hesitate in packing her things and preparing the mirror.
An angry princess was something she didn’t feel ready to deal with just then.
“Celestia!” Twilight slammed the doors to Canterlot’s throne room open with her lavender magic. Celestia, looking just as regal as ever, sat at the head of the throne room, surrounded by her aides and advisors. At the look on Twilight’s face, though, she quietly dismissed them all. As Twilight stormed across the throne room towards her elder sister and fellow ruler, the gathered ponies scrambled faster. Some of them were still wary of Twilight and her mysterious power. Rightfully so.
“No more secrets, Celestia.” Twilight called out as she stomped towards the throne. “No more lies, no more deceit.” She mounted the ramp leading up to the regal seat, her wings flared with anger. “You’re going to tell me every last thing you’ve plotted behind my back, and you’re going to tell me-“ A flash ignited in the room, and Celestia gasped. The surreptitious defense she had cast the second Twilight blasted the doors open evaporated. Twilight had dispelled one of her most powerful shields in the blink of an eye. She suddenly stood in front of Celestia, her head held higher than the solar princess’.
“O-okay, Twilight. Okay.” Celestia resigned with a melancholy bow of her head. Twilight felt the energy crackling through the room die down in intensity, resigning itself to a low, moderate hum. “I’ll tell you everything. I’m sorry-“
“Don’t apologize.” Twilight cut her off once more, this time lifting her hoof to thump into Celestia’s chest. “Don’t. It’s hollow, and low, and meaningless. You’ve already kept enough secrets from me that nearly sent us over the edge of a world-altering prophecy failure. Don’t apologize for your mistakes. Own up to them.”
“Alright.” Celestia’s face took a hard cast as she looked Twilight straight in the eye. They were no longer mentor and student.
They were princess and princess. Equal. Sovereign. And most importantly, upset.
“What do you want to know?”
“Start with the Crystal Mirror and Spike.” Twilight lowered herself to her haunches, her own face dark. “I want to know how you knew Spike would become Chronos, and how the Crystal Mirror played into it.”
“We’re going to have to visit my library for that.” Celestia said quietly. “Unless you trust my word on prophecy.”
“More prophecy?” Twilight shook her head. “Tell me this much has passed, at least…”
“Mostly. There’s one part that has yet to pass-“
“The Crystal Mirror is on its way here.” Twilight explained. This much of the prophecy, she was familiar with. She had stumbled across it about a decade ago, explaining about the ‘root’ having to ‘flee the wrath of its keeper.’ Twilight never would have guessed the ‘root’ would be the Crystal Mirror (And the root of this world) and its keeper to be Cadance. “Luna is seeing to its safe transport.”
“Oh. Well then. You seem to know at least that much of the prophecy.”
“What I know is flawed, but it did seem to be the terminus. I didn’t think the mirror would be the root, but once it’s here, that prophecy should fulfill. What was the original part of it?”
“I can show you, or I can tell you. Your choice, Twilight.” Celestia said quietly. Twilight pondered her choices for a moment before standing.
“Show me, please.” She didn’t want to say it, but she distrusted Celestia. It seemed her elder sister and fellow ruler couldn’t get past the habit of excluding information from her. During her upbringing as the Archmage and even for a few incidents over her short-lived career, Twilight had discovered helpful information that Celestia had kept secret from her; information that otherwise might have saved lives or resolved an issue should she have had access to it earlier.
Quite frankly, Twilight was done unfurling these mysteries Celestia wound around her. It began with her parents, then the prophecy regarding her ascension, and now this whole debacle involving Spike and the Crystal Mirror. Twilight wasn’t some impressionable and fallible filly anymore. She was a princess, every bit as powerful as Celestia and Luna and Cadance. She was entitled to the same information, or at the very least, the ability to keep said information secret from her counterparts.
But she trusted and loved Luna too much. Despite her anger at the situation, Cadance still remained Twilight’s greatest friend. And, like it or not, Celestia was still her elder. Some measure of respect was due to her. Twilight wasn’t exactly in the position to withhold information. But that meant none of the other three should be able to either. Celestia seemed to have recognized that, and as she led Twilight into her sealed personal library, she had resigned herself to revealing all of her secrets. At least, those Twilight had a mind to ask about.
“Here.” Celestia paused in a wide expanse of dusty bookshelves in her massive library. She still kept the corpse of Blaze, an Archmage from long, long ago, hovering in suspension high above the floor. Twilight had come to see the ancient, suspended corpse as less of a creepy memento and more of a grim reminder of her mistake. But Twilight wasn’t focused on that. She was focused on the text Celestia picked out. Immediately, Twilight opened it and began scanning the pages.
What she saw nearly made her heart stop.
“Celestia.” She whispered, barely controlling her rage and awe. “How long-“
“Well before you were born.” Celestia responded. “It broke my heart the day you were brought into this world. I knew you’d suffer so much, and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing but stand by your side, and try to soften the blow.”
Twilight stared at the text, her eyes wide with disbelief.
’The Archmage’s decision echoes through the worlds, and will manifest differently. Should she discover her failure personally, her life will end and her loved ones will be forfeit. Should the Archmage transcend a physical form and accept the worship of millions, they will perish in the fallout of her own Whispers of Fate, and she will fail to see the good in life and love.’
“I get it.” Twilight closed the book, her tears darkening the cover. Inside, she could feel the magic as it began to take effect. The text vanished, its omen fulfilled. “How many others-“
“Only one other.” Celestia whispered. “There’s only one other world where you try to save Equestria after you become a goddess… And…” Celestia pulled another book from the shelf, its pages already blank. “That’s just been fulfilled as well…”
The worlds where Twilight became a goddess and tried to save Equestria from her own fallout ended in tragedy. She knew that now. She had discovered it without witnessing it. And as the now-gone prophecy said, if she had discovered it first-hoof, had been there as it happened, the world as she knew it would be ruined. If the words were to be believed, she’d put everypony she cared about on the line. Luna, Celestia, Cadance, her niece and nephew… Everypony in Canterlot, to be perfectly honest.
“Do you see now why I try to do these things, Twilight?” Celestia whispered, stepping up to her side. “The prophecies involving you aren’t just about you. They involve everypony. All of us.”
“You’re trying to protect the world from me.” Twilight choked. She shrugged away from Celestia, cowering.
“No.” Celestia insisted, re-asserting herself with a gentle touch. “I’m protecting them from prophecy. The only way I know how. By keeping you from meeting the parameters at all.”
“So Spike was-“
“He understood the severity of what I asked, even before he became Chronos. And afterwards, he rose to the challenge admirably.” Celestia cupped Twilight’s chin, pulling her around into a gentle embrace. “He went into that world to bring you back before you could witness the fallout. There was no interference of energy from the mirror, no imminent doom… It was just to keep you from witnessing the fallout of your prophecy. To keep this prophecy from coming true.”
“Prophecy,” Twilight pulled away from the embrace with a sniffle. “It’s so damned contrived… We’d do just as well without it.”
“I don’t argue that.” Celestia nodded her agreement. “But, for what it’s worth, the worst of it is over. We won’t see prophecy if this caliber for another six thousand years.”
“When I open this library,” Celestia nodded, looking around at the multitude of books; knowledge from ages lost. “There are many prophecies regarding its contents and how available they become to the unicorns who pass the test.”
“I’m guessing Spike never did have to disguise himself and take your test, did he?”
“No,” Celestia chuckled. “I brought him here myself, as Chronos. By then, he knew what he had to search for.”
“Did he reveal what he read at all? So I might know?”
“You just did.” Celestia hefted the two empty books of prophecy. “These are the same two books he sought and read. Shortly after, he used the Crystal Mirror to enter that world and wait for you.”
“How?” Twilight furrowed her brow. “How did he manage all this? Half the time, the Crystal Kingdom was locked away…”
“You forget, he’s Chronos. He goes where he pleases in time. He could have gone back to before the Crystal Kingdom ever even existed, to when the Crystal Mirror was brand new. Then he could have skipped ahead to the very minute you arrived in that world.”
“No…” Twilight shook her head slowly. “He had dealings in that world… He dealt with a lot of my counterparts and their involvement with that world. He brought my goddess-self to the princesses before she had died.”
“Messing in affairs he has no point in messing with.” Celestia shook her head with a slight smile. Twilight narrowed her eyes at the elder princess.
“How well do you know Chronos?” She asked quietly. Celestia looked at her for a few moments before heaving a soft sigh.
“He’s… Well, he’s my partner. Much like you and Luna.”
“Wait a tick,” Twilight’s mind whirled. “You mean to tell me-“
“I’m effectively fucking Spike?” Celestia’s lips split in a devious smile. “Yes indeed I am, Twilight.”
“Okay. Done.” Twilight shook her head and turned to the staircase leading out of Celestia’s library. “Maniuplating prophecy, I can handle… Can’t handle you fucking Spike. Nope. Not today. Uh-uh.”
“Oh, come back!” Celestia called after her teasingly. “I haven’t even told you how good his tongue is!”
Luna arrived with the Crystal Mirror in two days time. They had to be careful transporting it, as none of them were willing to take any risks. But before long, the mirror had been re-located to the Observatory Tower in Canterlot. Twilight could come and go to the mirror whenever she pleased, and it was under a much closer guard than in the Crystal Kingdom. That, and having the cursed thing away from Cadance had put her at ease. She was no longer irritable, though Twilight was certain it’d take time before she got over being used by Celestia. That was the case for all of them, it seemed.
But Twilight was just relieved to have the mirror close at-hoof once more. That, more than anything else, made her happy. That, and having Luna back in their regular bedchambers. Needless to say, Twilight got a good workout when her lover finally returned to her embrace. It was in the sweaty aftermath of their reunion that the two of them stood on the balcony, looking out at a slumbering Canterlot.
“Glad to have the mirror back?” Luna asked, nuzzling Twilight’s neck gently. Twilight nodded and returned the affection readily.
“Glad to have you back as well. Glad to have a lot of things back.”
“… I have some questions of my own for Chronos.” Twilight admitted quietly. “Mostly about how his power works. How he’s able to take others through time with him.”
“You want to go back to the birth of the world or something?”
“Or something.” Twilight leaned into Luna with a soft sigh. “Mainly, I just want to talk to my parents one more time…”
“Oh. I see.” Luna stilled herself for a while before nudging Twilight’s neck. “He’ll do that much for you. I’m certain.”
“I’m sure he will.” Twilight nodded. “I’m sure he will…”
“Chronos? He’s asleep.” Celestia addressed Twilight’s question the following morning at breakfast. “He does this time to time. He could sleep for two hours, or he could sleep two centuries. Time doesn’t really matter to him, but when he wants to spend it as he sees fit, it’s spent that way.”
“I see.” Twilight sighed, hanging her head a little. “So we have to wait for him to get up.”
“Nothing wakes him when he sleeps like that.” Celestia chuckled. “I tried dropping a mountain on him one time…”
“I remember that year.” Luna’s lips mirrored Celestia’s. “That’s how the Diamond Dogs found their first gems.”
“Too true.” Celestia sipped at her tea before looking back at Twilight. “I’m certain Spike will honor your request when he wakes.”
“You have no idea when he’ll wake up?” Twilight probed, looking at Celestia hopefully. The princess just shook her head once more.
“No clue. Pardon my crass explanation, but the last time I fucked him that hard he slept for a decade.”
“Okay, enough.” Twilight blanched. “I’m seriously on-edge about you ‘fucking’ Spike.”
“And I don’t feel ‘on-edge’ when you ‘fuck’ my sister?” Celestia shot right back, grinning teasingly. “Relax, Twilight. I love Chronos, not Spike. He may have Spike’s memories, but they are but a drop in the bucket of his wealth of knowledge. Chronos is one of the few beings that can boast as long a lifespan as my own. I identify with him more than I do even Luna.” Celestia closed her eyes as she inhaled a deep breath. Twilight saw something in her, then. Something she didn’t think she’d ever have seen were it not for that mysterious god.
Celestia truly, magnificently was glowing. Not like a sunrise, but like a mare.
“I truly, honestly, and deeply love Chronos. In much the same way you love Luna. I won’t say our relationship is stronger than yours, but it is longer. I’ve loved Chronos since long before I can remember. Far, far back into the reaches of time, where the earliest memories I have are of the founding of Canterlot and Equestria as a whole.”
“Wow.” Twilight had come to see Celestia’s point of view on the matter. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you.”
“No harm, no foul.” Celestia scoffed a little. “It pales in comparison to what I’ve done…”
“You had your reasons, sister.” Luna chimed in quietly. “I see why you did what you did. Even the ones I wasn’t a part of. I hope Twilight will come to forgive you like I have.”
“I might have already forgiven her,” Twilight looked down at her plate with a soft sigh. “It’s just… So much to absorb. So many plots and devious little secrets…”
“No more.” Celestia spoke boldly, putting her hoof in the middle of the table. “I’m done keeping secrets from you. And I’ll ensure Chronos does the same.” She looked between Twilight and Luna then, her expression serious. “We’re an allied front. The rulers of Equestria. No more shadowy secrets. No more deceit. No more plotting. Whatever we do, we do with the perfect knowledge of the others.” Her hoof tapped the table.
Luna laid her hoof atop Celestia’s.
Twilight looked at the sisters… Her sisters, if she were being perfectly honest with herself. Celestia was vowing to never hold anything from her again. No more hidden prophecies, no more hidden truths about her parents, no ascensions veiled in mystery. She was a ruler now, equal in power to Luna and Celestia. Their counterpart. The third part of a whole.
Twilight woke to the sound of plates clinking together. She blinked a few times, clearing the cloud of sleep from her mind. She stretched atop her covers and yawned widely, feeling awake and energized. And, as the smells of last night came to her, a little aroused. She blushed and hopped off of her bed, stripping the sheets with a smile.
“Are you making breakfast?” Twilight called out of their bedroom.
“I am indeed.” Luna emerged, wearing a rather cute apron and wielding a spatula. “Good morning, my love.”
“Good morning to you, too.” Twilight bubbled and went to go kiss Luna. “Sleep well?”
“Foals don’t sleep that well.” Luna moaned, her own cheeks flushed in the aftermath of the warm kiss. “Doing some laundry?”
“You don’t smell that?” Twilight grinned as she lifted the rumpled sheets up, though she had to laugh as Luna scrunched her nose. “You really ought to learn how to control yourself, Luna… I don’t think there are enough linens in Equestria to soak you up.”
“Hush, you.” Luna growled playfully, swatting at Twilight’s flanks with the spatula. She got a yelp and another furious blush in return. “You act like you didn’t contribute any.”
“Not nearly as much as you did.” Twilight’s horn glowed as she scooped Luna up, pulling the lunar princess around and into another hot kiss. When it broke, she was breathing heavily, matching Luna’s pants. “You forget, I’m not the one who was on bottom last night.”
“Twilight,” Luna complained, writhing in her magic. “Not right now, the hash browns will burn…”
“Fine,” Twilight sighed and let Luna go, though she didn’t miss the chance to pass her magic over Luna’s flanks very pointedly. “You go finish our breakfast, and I’ll get started on these.”
“Might as well just put them back on,” Luna turned towards the door, her hips swaying rather provocatively. Twilight could catch glimpses of her more intimate bits when her tail swished to the side. “We’re going to make a mess anyways.”
Twilight watched Luna disappear through the door towards their kitchen before slowly putting the sheets back on the bed.
“No sense in making more work for ourselves… Hey Luna, do we have any strawberries?”
“Haa… Haa… That was… Amazing.” Luna whimpered, laying spread-eagle on their bed. Twilight lay next to her, both of them lathered in sweat and panting.
“I can’h… Feeh mah ‘ongue…” Twilight worked her jaw, drooling a little more.
“Silly,” Luna rolled on top of her, pressing against Twilight with all of her slight weight. “Open your mouth.”
“Aah,” Twilight obliged, fighting a smile as Luna laid the tip of her horn against her tongue. She felt Luna’s magic pulse into her, massaging and healing her aching tongue. “Better?” Luna asked, raising her head with a smile.
“Much.” Twilight smacked her lips a few times before nuzzling into Luna’s neck. “Thank you.”
“Can’t have you damaging valuable property now,” Luna tucked her head against Twilight’s gently. “I need that tongue.”
“So I’m your property now?” Twilight teased, her hooves teasing Luna’s ribs. “Is that it? Hmm?”
“Twilight!” Luna giggled, squirming atop her. “St-stop! You know I’m t-ticklish! PFFT- hee hee!” They devolved into a playful tickling match, rolling around on their rumpled bed, kissing and laughing together. When they finished, Twilight stood atop Luna, her lips hovering a mere inch from the princess’.
“I love you, Luna.” Twilight whispered, pressing their lips together once more. “With all my heart.”
“And I you, Twilight.” Luna smiled up at her. “I’m glad we’re back in Canterlot.”
“Me too.” Twilight admitted, standing up to stretch languorously. “I missed this bed.”
“And our shower?”
“Ooh yes.” Twilight groaned audibly. “The shower too… Shall we?”
“Why don’t you go get it started, and I’ll strip these sheets?”
“Gonna have to burn these ones.” Twilight leaned in to sniff the soiled fabric, scrunching her nose. “You really can’t hold back at all, can you?”
“Not when your tongue’s involved, no.” Luna gave Twilight’s neck a quick, teasing kiss before playfully pushing her off. Twilight flapped several times to land on the floor, her cheeks still red. Luna rolled off of the bed and began stripping the sheets. Twilight looked at her for a few more moments before padding towards their bathroom.
Shortly after Twilight had accepted all of her duties as Archmage, she and Luna had issued an official statement about their relationship. Their schedules were far too busy to facilitate a wedding or celebration of any sort, but they were effectively married to one another. Before Twilight had left to the library in the East, they had more-or-less come out in public with one very heated, passionate kiss. Since then, the two had been a staple of love in Canterlot. Ponies everywhere looked up to them for their excellent example of timeless love.
Therefore, shortly after Twilight had assumed all her duties, the two of them had made it official. She was wed to Luna, and Luna to her. Therefore, the two of them had to live together. Twilight’s old quarters had been converted, and Luna’s had been refurnished into a new library. Many of her books had been allocated to the small library in Twilight’s quarters, but a few had remained behind in the newer library, along with the less-important tomes that Twilight had among her own collection. She remembered organizing and cataloguing all the books Luna owned warmly.
But the new quarters weren’t quite big enough for the two of them. Twilight had been given permission to take over the few small storage rooms and one guest bedroom next door to her own, and had renovated her quarters to be large enough to accommodate both of them. The new addition had given her and Luna room for a small alchemy laboratory, more storage for personal effects and books, a larger kitchen and a formal dining room, and their balcony had been expanded to fit a decently-sized garden.
The two of them had lived here for almost three hundred years by now. The entirety of Twilight’s career as Archmage and the past few years since she had become a Princess herself had been spent laughing, loving, and living in these warm, comfortable rooms. As Twilight cranked the shower on, she heaved a soft sigh of welcome. Being home was a wonderful feeling. Her whole life had been spent here, in Luna’s embrace, stretched out on one of the chairs in their den, eating meals from her kitchen… She ran a hoof over the lip of the shower, feeling the sunken-in alcove for all the warm, passionate lovemaking and tender mane-care that had been done here.
“You look happy.” Luna whispered in Twilight’s ear, barely audible over the kiss of water on tile.
“Why, did you expect me to be angry?” Twilight smiled and pressed her lips against Luna’s tenderly. “I’m just happy to be home.”
“You and me both, Twilight.” Luna nudged her into the shower. “Come on, now… Can’t let that beautiful coat get dirtied any more.”
“Hey no fair.” Twilight stepped under the hot stream of water. “You got just as dirty as I did.”
“And I fully expect you to clean me.” Luna was already delegating soap and shampoo. “After I’m done with you.”
“Long morning?” Celestia asked with a teasing smile. Twilight shot her a grin in return as she and Luna entered the balcony.
“You could say that.”
“I could hear it, too.” Celestia rolled her eyes, getting a hearty laugh from both Twilight and Luna. “For what it’s worth, I’m glad you two are back.”
“So are we.” Twilight smiled and went to hug Celestia warmly. “What’s on the agenda this morning?”
“Nothing, actually.” Celestia shrugged. “A rare day off from any obigations.”
“Rare indeed.” Twilight gave a soft ‘huh’ of interest before Luna chimed in.
“Do you have anything planned, Celestia?”
“Not really.” Celestia shrugged once more, looking out over the balcony at the shadowy, pre-dawn Canterlot. “I’m probably just going to catch up on some reading, might take a flight somewhere. The apple trees in Ponyville ought to be in bloom.”
“That’ll be lovely.” Twilight smiled at the thought. She still remembered Ponyville fondly, even though the old elements of harmony had passed long ago.
“What about you two?” Celestia asked, looking between them. “Certainly you can’t ruin any more linens…”
“What? Fine Saddle Arabian cotton costs, you know.” Celestia winked at the two of them playfully. Twilight just blushed and went to nuzzle up against Luna tenderly.
“I don’t know… It’s odd, now that the mirror is in Canterlot, I don’t feel this need to explore anything… I’m just glad it’s here.” The mood darkened a little, the three of them sobering up at the mention of the dangerous artifact. Twilight pulled away from Luna with a contemplative expression. “It’s almost like I don’t even want to touch it again…”
“Hmm… We’ve certainly discovered much about it in the past few weeks.” Celestia nodded. “Even I don’t fully understand how it works, and I sent Chronos through it… He might know more, but we won’t be hearing from him until he wakes.”
“Which could be in millennia.” Twilight rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh. “It’s strange, though… My first time through the mirror, I was in a world that had existed for thousands of years after my change… And then again after that, there was a world where it was only six or seven years after I had been named Archmage. Time seems like a pretty open variable when visiting other worlds.”
“It could be because of Chronos’ influence.” Luna offered. “Spike allegedly slumbered in that chamber for a hundred years. Perhaps during that time, when he became Chronos, he altered the mirror?”
“Or maybe the mirror was altered in the first place.” Twilight mused. “Perhaps we can visit different times AND different worlds?”
“There’s only one way to find out.” Celestia sighed. “Back into the portal?”
Twilight and Luna shared a somber look.
“Back into the portal.”
“Any idea what you want to explore this time around?” Luna asked quietly. The three of them stood in front of the mirror once more, frowning at the smooth, flawless surface. Twilight slowly rose to her hooves, closing the distance to the mirror tentatively. She stared at her disapproving reflection, her mind working.
“We need to find someplace that’s changed, but not drastically… No failures of prophecy or anything majorly world-altering, but enough that I’d easily be able to tell them apart. With any luck, I can tell what time period we’re in… And it won’t be too far back, or too far forwards…” Twilight sighed and turned to Luna. “Is there any way you can control what time I end up in?”
“There’s a mechanism on the spell interface,” Luna frowned at the mirror intently. It’s new, and I’ve never experienced anything like it before. I can make an attempt, but I doubt I’m going to send you exactly where you want.”
“Did you mess with it before?” Twilight asked, glancing back at the mirror. “When I asked to go to the world where I was Archmage?”
“I touched it, but I didn’t adjust it.” Luna’s frown intensified. “Do you think that would have been enough to set it off?”
“Possibly.” Twilight sighed and turned back to the mirror. “Just send me to a world, and adjust that mechanism as you see fit.”
“Alright. Which world do you want to see?” Luna’s horn was already glowing. Twilight thought for a few moments.
“… Send me to the world you both decided to tell me about my parents, rather than keep it a secret from me.” She could almost feel Celestia and Luna tense up behind her. They were clearly on-edge about doing such a thing. But as Twilight stood adamantly in front of the mirror, neither of them complained. Twilight blinked as the surface wiped aside, revealing a dark, nondescript cave. She stepped forwards, feeling the mirror slide over her coat, like oil in a bath.
She emerged in the other world with a soft breath. Glancing around, she couldn’t immediately tell where she was. This place was dark, and smelled faintly of mildew. Yet at the same time, it seemed hauntingly familiar. Twilight’s horn glowed with a soft, faint light, casting enough illumination about the room that she could finally see where she was.
Only that there was a slumbering dragon here.
“Why in the blue blazes of everything beneath the sky,” Twilight’s horn died down immediately, her heart thundering in her chest. “Does a dragon have the crystal mirror?” The dragon gave a snort, a blast of hot air shooting into the room. Twilight jumped back, very nearly having missed getting roasted. Her wings caught the wave of heat, propelling her further back. She skidded to a stop, trying hard not to cry out from the sudden blast of super-heated air. She could hardly see, and every part of her body was hot. She began to sweat, looking between the dragon and the mirror with a soft whimper. Half of her wanted to go back, to ask Luna to pick a different world. But half of her was curious…
“Have to find out.” Twilight bit back the pain and focused her horn, lighting the chamber once more. Her light manifested in an orb, casting a very slight, small bit of illumination, and only in a small area. She guided it forwards, passing over the dragon’s rising and falling flanks… “I knew it.” She let the spell die away, a smile across her lips.
“Sleep tight, Spike.”
Getting out proved to be a bit of a hassle. Twilight found the entrance to the chamber with the mirror easy enough, but the cave system up to the palace was broken and twisted in areas she wasn’t familiar with. This world must have changed enough that the way back to the crystal kingdom proper was much more different, filled with dead-ends and junctions that confused and disoriented Twilight. It took her many hours of wondering if she’d ever even get back to the mirror before she finally found a roughly-hewn staircase leading up and out of the caves.
“Okay,” She grumbled, willing her tired legs to carry her up the stairs. “Let’s not do that again…” Twilight had had enough of interfering with other worlds, so she decided to go with a sleuthing, invisible approach this time around. Better to observe than let anypony know she was there. As she came upon the barricaded, hidden entryway to the cavern that held the mirror beneath the crystal palace, Twilight prepared several long-term invisibility, muffling, and anti-detection spells. She even included a ghosting spell she had learned that helped her move through minor objects like thin walls and treetops with moderate ease, provided she was going slow enough.
While she had never thought of a use for the ghosting spell before, it was nice to have now. Aside from several very sturdy-looking bars and a few locks, the wall that concealed this cavern seemed to be relatively thin. Cadance was likely relying on anonymity and good disguising to help conceal the entrance. As Twilight disengaged the bars and unlocked the locks, she found the cave really was incredibly well-hidden. The wall she slipped through melded perfectly with a nondescript corridor in the castle. There were a few large, well-made paintings to either side of the wall, and one opposite it. Anypony taking a leisurely stroll would very easily glean over the minute differences in the wall in favor of some rather tasteful art. Twilight herself stopped to look at it for a few moments.
But the grumbling in her stomach would not be denied. Twilight sighed and made for the castle proper, intent on finding the kitchens and swiping something to get her by. A few guards patrolled by here and there, none of them really close to her position. She moved slowly and carefully, checking around each corner before rounding it. Being invisible was actually kind of fun. She enjoyed slipping past guards and walking through protected archways that likely nopony was allowed to go through on normal occasions.
Thankfully, Twilight found the kitchens before dark. Dinner was being wrapped up, it seemed, and there were plenty of table scraps to be had that were on the verge of being thrown away anyways. The crystal berries were delicious. She ate her fill and swiped a small tote bag that wasn’t being used to carry some more supplies she snuck out of the pantry. She didn’t expect to make the flight to Canterlot as she was, so a bit of rest was in order.
After taking the bag of supplies past a curious guard pony, Twilight was out of a back door and off into the late-evening sky. She thanked the powers that be Luna sent her to a time of the year that was nice and hot. Clouds were scarce, but she cornered a of cirrus a few short miles away and curled up peacefully.
Tomorrow, she would be in Canterlot, and would investigate the differences between this world and the others.
The castle sprawled beneath her hooves as Twilight wheeled around, the mid-day air feeling otherwise still around her. There were no drafts or currents for her to worry about, and only very few pegasi in the sky. Twilight made for Celestia’s private garden, landing with a flutter of her wings. The old oak tree was half-barren and massive. Twilight laid a hoof against it with a soft smile.
“Hello again, old friend… Fancy meeting you here.” She sighed happily, feeling the whispers of the tree’s dying soul press against her. Like an old friend come to say goodbye. “I hope my counterpart gets around to sending you off soon… I hate to see you suffer.” She rubbed the trunk whimsically and stepped back, giving the rest of the garden a quick glance before making her way to the service hallway nearby.
That was when she had the most difficulty. Twilight wasn’t exactly a small pony anymore. Maneuvering around the servants and guards who used the back corridors proved tricky, and at one point, downright impossible. Twilight resorted to re-entering the main hallways and using them to fly above the heads of everypony. She drew many comments about open windows and stray breezes, but nothing too curious or concerning.
She was on a mission. And that mission was to find herself. Or rather, her counterpart. She started in high-traffic areas where she might find herself on a busy day, beginning with the libraries she frequented. Sadly, she wasn’t in any of them. She checked Luna’s quarters next, and found no sign of either the lunar princess or herself. Next came her own quarters, the dining hall, the palace grounds, and Celestia’s private office. She was nowhere to be found.
“Only once place left I’d possibly be,” Twilight muttered to herself. She made her way into one of the more obscure basement levels of the castle and waited beside a rather nondescript door. As if on cue, her counterpart and a very much younger-looking Bastion emerged from the door leading into the caverns beneath the palace with a glimmer of powerful magic and a smile.
“So, you see, the anterior arch of the fourth bi-node is-“
“Not fractured. See, I thought it would be, since- hey, do you smell that?” Her counterpart picked her head up, sniffing the air tenuously.
“Ugh, my allergies… I can’t smell a thing.” Bastion sniffed, sounding rather congested. Twilight stilled herself, pulling her wings in tight and flattening herself against a corner.
“I swear I smell something…” Her counterpart sniffed the air some more, closing her eyes to concentrate on the smell. Twilight gave a soft breath, praying she hadn’t given herself away. Her exit was blocked by the other two ponies. “Huh. Oh well.” She shrugged and turned to Bastion, continuing their chat about fractured nodes and their impact on the stability of long-term barriers. Satisfied she had remained anonymous, Twilight cast a quick particle-dispersion barrier around herself, to help nullify any more wayward smells.
“Stupid cupcakes,” Twilight cursed the scent that had clung to her since her quick jot by the kitchens. “Mental note: Cupcake scent nullification smell…” Sighing, Twilight followed herself up and out of the basement and into the castle proper. It seemed they were headed for the banquet hall, as Bastion kept making passing mentions of his ability to eat a whole bale of hay. Twilight seemed uninterested.
“Aah, at last.” Bastion stopped short of the banquet hall doors, glancing at Twilight.
“Any idea why Luna and Celestia keep dragging you to these things?”
“Ugh. No clue.” Twilight shook her head slowly. “Part of me feels as if they want me to grow closer to them… It’s strange, and I don’t like it.”
“Heh. True. You and Stardust probably get all the attention you could ever want.”
“What can I say?” Twilight chuckled, pushing the doors open. “It’s not everyday somepony gets to say they’re married to the Archmage.”
Twilight nearly tripped and fell.
’Married to the Archmage?! And it isn’t Luna?! What in the name of all things beneath the sky is going on here…’ Twilight and Bastion pushed into the banquet hall to the sound of laughter, merrymaking, and conversation. Twilight followed after slowly, using her ghost spell to walk through the wall beside the door. Her counterpart had separated from Bastion to chat with a small group of unicorns before moving on to banter with a rather bulky pegasus and an earth pony who appeared to be from Saddle Arabia. Twilight couldn’t possibly get close enough to eavesdrop, so she settled on simply watching.
Her counterpart seemed rather well-received. She was social, laughing and talking with ease. She could swing from serious and matter-of-fact topics of conversation to lighthearted joking in the blink of an eye. If she were being fair with herself, this Twilight was a much better speaker than herself. But she seemed to be avoiding something. Twilight wondered what in the world she might possibly be stalling for when her counterpart finally arrived at the head table, where Celestia and Luna sat. The conversation in the entire room seemed to die down, giving Twilight a chance to slip in close and eavesdrop.
“Princess Celestia, Princess Luna.” Her counterpart bowed respectfully, and was greeted with a pair of stoic nods.
“I trust your survey of the shields went well?” Celestia inquired. Twilight nodded confidently.
“Bastion’s input was invaluable. I had had a question about that particular node a few months ago, but he had been too busy. Alas, the issue is resolved and we are safe once more.”
“Very good.” Celestia nodded. “Well, it was nice speaking with you, Twilight. But we have an appointment with Warden and Night Dancer Enjoy the rest of the party, Archmage. We’ll see you in the morning.”
“Good night, princesses.” Twilight bowed respectfully as Luna and Celestia departed. Twilight frowned as they left, obviously off to go set the sun and raise the moon… Twilight had just emerged from the caverns, so she had likely made arrangements to be replaced for the evening on account of her exhaustion. True enough, Twilight’s other self turned from the head of the table and began to make for the exit. Much to her surprise, her double was stopped near the door by a rather exuberant Gable.
“Long time no see, Twilight! How are you?”
“I’m fine, Gable. It’s good to see you too. How’s Warden?”
“Oh you know, same old same old. He and Night Dancer are getting along well. It’s actually because he was covering for you this evening I came at all, I wanted to catch up a bit. It’s been, what, two years? Three?”
“Coming up on three now, yeah.” Twilight smiled. “I can’t believe we haven’t spoken since I took my last lesson and the Canterlot Preservation Society from you.”
“The time sure flies. And speaking of, there’s no time like the present to catch up. Do you have a moment?”
“I’m sorry, Gable.” Twilight hung her head. “I just got back from surveying the shields… I’m actually quite exhausted, and I was looking forward to going home.”
“Well, if it’s not too much to ask, might I walk you home?”
“That would actually be quite lovely. Shall we?” Twilight offered a hoof, and Gable swept in front of her smoothly. Twilight clipped through the door on her way out, following the eccentric duo. Gable prattled on about the goings-on of the castle gardens and Twilight seemed content to listen quietly. They didn’t move to her quarters, though. Instead, Twilight led Gable away from the castle and out into the city streets. Though not very far.
Twilight watched as her counterpart was greeted on the front lawn by a rather handsome-looking stallion. He was a dark blue unicorn with a black mane, highlighted with white stripes. His cutie mark was that of a single wand, standing straight up with a few glimmers of magic around the tip. Twilight embraced him warmly, a genuine smile across her lips.
“Gable, allow me to introduce you to Stardust, my husband.” Twilight watched as the two ponies shook hooves, smiling at one another. Just as Stardust was about to open his mouth, though, the damndest thing happened.
A small mare galloped from the house, squealing with delight as she flung herself at Twilight. Her counterpart picked the young filly up and spun her in a circle, laughing warmly.
“Oh, and who’s this?” Gable asked, a smile of his own on his lips.
“Gable, this is Dusk.” Twilight smiled down at the young pony.
Twilight was in the library once more, her nose buried in a genealogy book. All of her family’s medical records were stored here. She had just found this particular tome after a full night spent searching. “A daughter. Incredible.” She sporadically muttered to herself, shaking her head now and then. “The things you learn around here… A daughter. Wow.”
Sure enough, the elusive tome had information about the Sparkle line straight up until her counterpart.
“Let’s see… Twilight sparkle, born of Orion and Glimmer, preceded by one brother, Shining Armor… Yada yada, blood type, mane and coat color, whatever… Aah… Here we are. Married to one Stardust. Born one daughter, Dusk, just two years ago… Fascinating.” She set the book down, staring blankly at the page for a few long moments. One thought kept crossing her mind, boring into her psyche:
“Who goes there?”
“Shit.” Twilight cursed and took off, flitting to the top of the nearest book case as a librarian rounded the corner.
“Damnit,” The librarian cursed as he stepped into the aisle. “I thought I told Measure to stop leaving books out… What does she want with genealogy anyways?” Twilight snuck off as the stallion picked up her book and replaced it on the shelf. Not that she minded, she had learned all she needed to know. At least, from the book. She was going to have to do some more digging to discover how such a drastic change could have taken place. The best place to start would be in the marriage certificate department.
She found her own certificate in the folder for March, two years prior to this world’s current date. It even had a list of attendees, and at the very top were two names that made her heart skip a beat.
“Mom… Dad… So you got to see me marry somepony.” Twilight fought off tears as she continued scanning the list. There were many ponies in attendance for the wedding, including Cadance, Shining Armor, Bastion, Gable, and quite a few names she recognized from her past endeavors. Even Regal had shown up, along with all of the other Elements of Harmony. It must have been incredible…
And fast. Unless this world had changed the timeline drastically, Twilight had married Stardust only a month after being named Archmage, and Dusk had been born eight months later. ’She must have been conceived on the honeymoon… I wonder if Luna had any pull in this, since she’d have needed me to learn shadow magic as soon as I had been named Archmage…’ Twilight decided to get to the bottom of things. There were only a few other ponies who might have known Orion and Glimmer before they passed, and as such be able to answer the questions regarding Twilight’s involvement with Stardust and how it revolved around the princesses telling her the truth about her parents illness.
She began to think of a clever disguise that would get her close to the princesses.
Turns out it didn’t take much. Twilight simply had to pose as a columnist from Trottingham to be able to set an appointment with Princess Celestia. She had done both of these under a disguise and an alias, and had summoned some stationary to take notes on.
“Good morning, Quill.” Celestia smiled as a disguised Twilight slipped into her office, already wielding a quill and paper.
“Good morning to you, Princess Celestia.” Twilight’s gruff, stallion voice sounded alien and out-of-place, but she liked to think she had pulled it off well. “Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”
“Anything for somepony so interested in the Archmage’s family.” Celestia beamed and swept a hoof towards one of the two chairs opposite her desk. “Shall we?”
“Right to it. I like that.” Twilight grinned and slipped into the seat, smiling at Celestia before launching into her first question. “The Archmage’s husband, Stardust, how did the two of them come to meet?”
“Aah, a good question.” Celestia smiled and leaned in, launching into her explanation immediately. “Stardust and Orion actually worked together for a short while when Orion visited Trottingham for a little auxiliary research. Inversely, Stardust made a trip to Canterlot a few months after that, and was offered a position on Canterlot’s Heavenly Observation Committee. He accepted, much to his family’s surprise, and had since been living in Canterlot. He maintained a close, friendly relationship with Orion, but… Well…”
“Yes. Such a tragedy.” Celestia hung her head sadly. “They were still very young… But at the very least, they got to see their daughter marry a good friend.” She brightened a little then, and Twilight made a show of jotting down notes. “Nevertheless, Stardust was introduced to Twilight on behalf of her parents. She had, thankfully, been informed of their sickness as soon as it manifested. Despite the unfortunate timing with her new position, Twilight was able to spend some time with her parents; and with Stardust. The two of them hit it off, and the rest is history.”
“Aah, but not everypony’s got the full story.” Twilight tapped the quill to her paper. “How did Twilight learn of her parent’s illness? One would think with all of her newly-acquired professional obligations, she’d have little time to spend doing much of anything other than assuming the responsibilities of the Archmage.”
“Aah, now allow me to shed some light on that situation.” Celestia gave a slight chuckle. “Pun intended. Ahem. Luna and I had maintained a moderately close relationship with Orion and Glimmer, and their sickness did not go unnoticed by us. Shortly after Twilight had been named Archmage, we discovered their predicament, and immediately informed Twilight. Together, the three of us came to a solution. Losing one’s parents to illness is not a nice thing for a mare as young as Twilight to have to endure. So Luna and I more-or-less solidified the council during her mourning period. The councilpony’s regular duties were delegated evenly among their peers, while they were asked to spend more time covering for Twilight while she spent as much time with her parents as possible.
“As it turned out, that was all for the best. Twilight was able to come to terms with many of her feelings towards her parents, met up with Stardust, married, and all-in-all got to enjoy life some more. Funny thing,” Celestia shook her head a little, chuckling patronizingly. “Orion and Glimmer originally didn’t want to bother Twilight with their illness. They were content to pass on quietly, if only it meant seeing Twilight prosper as the Archmage. Now, three years down the line, I can’t possibly imagine Twilight as the ARchmage without having spent those three months with her parents.”
’Oh if only you knew, Princess…’ Twilight finished scrambling some faux notes before looking at the page.
“That’s very informative, princess. Thank you very much for your input on this situation. I dare say this article would make the headlines back in Trottingham. ‘Archmage explained: The heartfelt truth behind Archmage Twilight’s three-month absence.’ Again, thank you, Princess.” Twilight smiled at Celestia before slipping off of her chair. “You’ve, heh, shed some light on some very important facts. Thank you.”
“The pleasure’s all mine, Quill. I’ll be sure to send for a copy of the Trottingham Inquirer so I can read this article.”
“I’ll send you one personally.” Twilight grimaced and turned for the door.
“Have fun?” Luna smiled as Twilight emerged from the portal, but her smile quickly faded at the sight of Twilight’s serious expression. “What’s wrong?”
“Stardust.” Twilight clipped. “Does the name ring a bell?”
“Stardust?” Luna blinked a few times, her eyes indicating how badly she was wracking her brain just then. “I know of him… No, I do. I know that pony. Unicorn. A, uuh… An astronomer. From Trottingham! Yes, he and your father studied together quite a bit before he passed… Oh. Oh I see.” Luna connected the dots with a slight smile. “You met him while in that world, no?”
“Not just met him.” Twilight shook her head slightly. “My counterpart in that world loved him… More than that, she married him. Gave him a child.”
“No.” Luna’s playful tone feigned disbelief. “You’re kidding me.”
“I’m not!” Twilight blushed. “That Twilight married Stardust and had a child. Her name was Dusk. Luna,” Twilight bubbled a little, grasping her love by the sides of her neck. “She was… She was…”
“She was what?” Luna raised her eyebrow questioningly. Twilight finally broke down with a gleeful giggle.
“SHE WAS SO CUUUUUUUTE!”
“But you don’t regret it, do you?” It was several hours later, and a very tired Twilight and Luna were preparing for bed. Twilight looked up at her love as they tugged a new fitted sheet over the mattress.
“Not knowing your parents before… You know.” Luna appeared guilty. Twilight just smiled at her and slipped around the bed to embrace her lover.
“While I will admit the two of you keeping it from me wasn’t very nice, no… I don’t regret it at all. You did what you thought was best. Heavens know I’ve had to do the same myself sometimes. It might not be the best solution, but it’s all we had at the moment.”
“Still,” Luna sighed, wrapping Twilight in a tender embrace. “Not knowing your parents in their final moments…”
“It’s done now, Luna.” Twilight pressed a hoof against Luna’s lips. “What happened in the past made me the pony I am today. Do you not love me the way I am?”
“No, I do! It’s just-“
“Then shush.” Twilight pulled her close, their lips brushing ever so softly. “And kiss me, Luna. I think I need you to remind me how much better you are than any ‘Stardust’ I might encounter.”
“Consider it done.” Luna moaned and pulled Twilight down to their bed.
Come morning, she was very thoroughly reminded how much better than any other stallion Luna was. At least, if the sheets were any indication.
Archmage: Beyond the Crystal Mirror “Saddle Arabian Nights”
Tags: Erotic, Normal
Fair warning: These chapters do have erotic elements, up to and including sex. To be fair, the impact on the overall story has been reduced. You’re welcome to skip these chapters, and you won’t miss much.
“Honestly, you two.” Celestia brandished the latest cost report. “Your midnight dalliances are actually costing us money!”
“What? You’re joking.” Luna and Twilight shared a look as they entered the balcony where Celestia waited for them. The pre-dawn sun was just barely behind the horizon, casting the faintest bit of light across the dusky sky.
“I am not! Look!” Celestia slapped the folder down at their hooves. Twilight frowned as she picked the sheets up and began looking them over.
“This is incredible.” She muttered quietly, her eyes gone wide at the sight of the figures. “I… Wait, how much does a new bed cost?!”
“One that sleeps both of you? More than our monthly budget can keep up with. And don’t even get me started on the importation costs!” Celestia huffed.
“Laundry, Fabric, Importation, Cleaning… Celestia, these have got to be wrong. There’s no way we’ve been using that many sheets.” Luna chimed in, looking over Twilight’s back.
“But you have! Look! Twelve sets of high-cost Saddle Arabian cotton sheets ruined over the course of two months.” Celestia tapped the page intently. “Not to mention a new bed frame, custom-made from Baltimare’s forests, on top of importing all of them here to Canterlot. Look,” Celestia sat down and rubbed the bridge of her muzzle with a sigh. “I’m all for you two expressing your love for one another so… Passionately. But we simply cannot keep up with these monthly costs!”
“I had no idea,” Luna shook her head and sighed. “I’m sorry, Celestia.”
“What’s done is done.” Celestia glowered at them. “But we need to find a new arrangement. You two are literally fucking your way through our savings.”
“Well,” Twilight shuffled all of the papers back into their folder. “We’ll certainly find a solution to this problem. It’s not like we don’t have the room for a second… Ahem… ‘Playground.’ We could use premium sheets and a cheaper, smaller bed.”
“Aww, that’s no fun.” Luna pouted. “I like our bed.”
“Small sacrifices, love.” Twilight smiled at Luna before turning back to Celestia. “I promise, this won’t happen again. And we’ll do all that we can to help put us back in the green this quarter.”
“And how do you plan on doing that?” Celestia sighed, tucking the folder away under her wing. Twilight looked to Luna with a flick of her tail.
“I had planned on visiting Saddle Arabia sometime soon. I’ll have a quick talk with their leaders to see about looking the other way in favor of some magical help.”
“You want to visit Saddle Arabia?” Celestia arched her eyebrow. “What for?”
“Never been.” Twilight shrugged nonchalantly. “And besides, Regal was from Saddle Arabia, wasn’t he? For as much trouble as he caused, I kind of want to touch base with his family, to see what they may or may not have planned.” She had wanted to visit Saddle Arabia ever since the library had been uncovered, but aside from a few brief visits from their dignitaries, Twilight had only read about Saddle Arabia.
“I urge caution, Twilight.” Celestia frowned. “They’re not exactly the most trusting of other ponies, especially when it comes to Equestria poking its nose into their affairs.”
“And yet Regal can come and try to make an attempt on your life with no repercussion.” Twilight countered. “I think it’s about time we take a closer look at their affairs anyways.”
“Twilight,” Celestia sighed as she hung her head. “I cannot condone your actions… Saddle Arabia and Equestria have held a tenuous alliance from the very beginning. Doing this now may upset a very delicate and hard-won balance. I urge caution above all else.” A silence fell between them as Twilight and Celestia pondered her request. Twilight really did want to look into Saddle Arabia, that mysterious place past the Gryphon territories that she had never really understood.
“I have an idea.” Luna broke the silence after a short while. Both Celestia and Luna peered at her cautiously. “A trial run. We send Twilight through the mirror, and she visits Saddle Arabia under a disguise. That way she can get a feel for the cultural norms and how things are ran out there, and upon her return, she can go inquire about these sorts of things in a more professional and stealthy manner, if need be.”
“That’s not a bad idea at all.” Celestia pondered. “These worlds have no impact on our own, so even if you mess up or are discovered, you’ll only impact that world. Disastrous as it may be for them, I’m sure they’ll survive.”
“I dunno,” Twilight pondered. “I’d hate to have that on my consciousness… But in light of the other things I’ve learned from the mirror, I think I can manage.” She nodded to the other two princesses. “Alright. I’ll take a trip to Saddle Arabia via the mirror and see how it is things are run over there. Who knows? I might just enjoy myself while I’m there.”
“Just beware the sand.” Celestia sighed as she turned towards her horizon. Luna joined her opposite, their horns already glowing. “It gets everywhere.”
“I like it.” Luna nodded her approval, even as she walked around Twilight in a slow circle.
“I feel short.” Twilight complained, frowning into the mirror in their bedroom.
“You look cute.” Luna teased, kissing her ear. The princess had to lean over quite a ways to accomplish that, not helping Twilight’s predicament. She pouted up at Luna, her brow furrowed.
“I don’t like it.”
“I do.” Luna insisted, kissing her ear once more. Twilight shuddered and turned back to the mirror before her. She was disguised as a relatively unassuming unicorn, much smaller than her usual self. If she had to guess, she was maybe half her regular size. Her coat was a dusky, sandy color, as she was assured many Saddle Arabian’s coats were. Her mane was virtually the same color, but boasted a few white streaks for accent. Her cutie mark had even changed to six black stars arranged in no particular order on her flank. (Luna insisted it was the constellation for Canis Minor, but Twilight knew better. Even from her over-the-shoulder perspective, the stars were closer to Io than anything else.)
“You’re absolutely sure,” Twilight turned to look herself up and down once more. “I look okay?”
“Yes, ‘Dusk Hoof.’” Luna teased, using Twilight’s newly-formed alias, flimsy as it was. “You look fine. Perhaps not quite as cute as Twilight, but I might be persuaded for a quickie-“
“Hey!” Twilight flushed as she batted at Luna playfully. She got a full-hearted laugh and a warm kiss in return.
“You’re so cute when you’re angry.” Luna nibbled Twilight’s ear. “You know I only have eyes for your true form.”
“But this is nice, isn’t it?” Twilight deadpanned, despite the fire in her core at Luna’s insistent lips.
“Well…” Luna moaned, pulling her teeth along the ridge of Twilight’s ear. She drew a gasp and a shudder, as only she seemed to be able to do. “You know what they say about variety in the bedroom.”
“O-okay. Enough.” Twilight managed to quell the inferno in her gut and step back, albeit with a furious blush. “We’ll talk more about illusionist tricks between the sheets when I get back.”
“Leaving me high and dry?” Luna pouted. Twilight laid a hoof on her breast, keeping her lover at-bay.
“You forget, I’m doing this in an attempt to get Saddle Arabia to look the other way on some importation costs. We don’t want to add anymore to the load.”
“Nothing saying we can’t do it in the shower-“
“Luna…” Twilight rolled her eyes. “I promise, when I return, I’ll show you the time of your life. For you, it shouldn’t be anything more than a day or two. You forget; I’m the one who’s going to be gone for a week or more.”
“True.” Luna smiled down at her once more, though this time without the teasing hint of desire. “You be careful over there, Twilight. Saddle Arabia is a strange place. Their customs are vastly different from our own. What might seem like a private affair between two ponies here is a common public display over there. And what others may perceive as normal in Equestria might very well be taboo over there. Tread cautiously.”
“I will. I promise.” Twilight smiled up at Luna once more before laying a hoof on her pendant. Even in her disguised form, Twilight would wear it. She leaned in to kiss Luna one last time, standing on the edge of her hooves to reach Luna’s lips. Their necklaces clacked together for a brief moment before Twilight pulled back, feeling the reassuring thump of the metal against her breast.
“And, you know, should you run across some pretty mare over there…”
“I’d never!” Twilight looked up at her love with wide eyes. “Luna, I only love you.”
“Relax, Twilight.” Luna teased. “I know you love me. Just because you relieve some stress with somepony else doesn’t change that. Not even a little.”
“But…” Twilight looked Luna up and down. “You wouldn’t do the same, would you?”
“Why would I? I’m only here for a day or two; at most three before you return.” Luna smiled again. “It’s you who’s stuck over there for a week or more. I’m just saying, Twilight, don’t be afraid to live a little. Saddle Arabia is… Different. I think you’d enjoy your time there if you weren’t so…” Luna inhaled deeply as she thought the next word over carefully. “Traditional.”
“We’ll see.” Twilight deadpanned. She really didn’t feel comfortable with the thought of making love to anypony other than Luna. Yet her lover seemed okay with the idea. True, Twilight loved her fiercely and nothing was going to change that, but there had been a few moments when she had caught herself looking. And Luna as well. Twilight frowned as they turned towards the door.
’Maybe we could change it up, just a little…’
“Ready.” Twilight nodded as Luna led her out of their quarters and into the castle proper. She swung her cloak off of its peg by the door and threw it over herself, shrouding her saddlebags and alien form. To anypony else, it’d appear as if Luna were escorting a student or perhaps a lost representative through the castle. They walked quite a ways, since Twilight didn’t have wings to fly over the castle. She had almost forgotten what it was like to tread these halls, walking to her destination like a regular unicorn.
One of the interior hallways of the castle was guarded on both ends by a full contingent of guards. They snapped to attention as soon as Luna approached, but leveled their spears at Twilight.
“At ease.” Luna commanded. “She is my guest. This is Dusk Hoof. She has my permission to be using the Crystal Mirror. Should you see her in the vicinity, offer her any assistance she requires.”
“Yes, Princess!” The guards snapped to attention and saluted. Twilight smiled at them from under her hood. It was reassuring to see the guards were taking their duties seriously. The Crystal Mirror was too powerful and too dangerous to be taken lightly at all. The fact she had been reacted to so quickly was a comforting thought. They slipped past the guards and down the hallway to the lone door here, where Luna pushed it open and ushered her inside. Twilight felt a chill pass over her body in the presence of the mirror. The things she had seen and experienced here were both frightening and wondrous.
“Would you like me to wait for you?” Luna asked, breaking the almost solemn silence of the room. Twilight glanced up at her before shaking her head.
“I ought to be fine.” She smiled warmly. “Not like I’m going to see the end of the world or anything.”
“Not at all.” Luna chuckled. “I’m sending you to a world that’s almost identical to this one, in a time that’s well before you were even named Archmage. In fact, you’re nothing more than a foal at this time. At least, I can guess.”
“Are you getting the hang of that mechanism, then?”
“I think so…” Luna frowned at the mirror, standing atop a simple dais. “I can probably land you somewhere within ten years of a target date.”
“Oh well that’s a nice sentiment.” Twilight rolled her eyes and nudged Luna’s side. “I’ll either be a baby or an adult.”
“Have some faith, will you?” Luna grumbled, giving Twilight’s ear another playful tug. “Shall I aim for when you were ten years old, then?”
“No…” Twilight frowned at the mirror. “Sombra’s curse would still be in effect. I don’t feel like emerging into whatever nightmare that might be. Just aim for when the curse was lifted, if a little after. I think I can manage as long as I don’t, I dunno, run into Spike on his way down into the mirror’s chamber.”
“Sounds fair.” Luna nodded as her horn began to glow. Twilight watched as the surface of the mirror wiped aside, revealing yet another dark and foreboding cavern. She looked back up at Luna with a warm smile before stepping forward.
The oily surface of the mirror was becoming less and less alien to Twilight. She slipped through it without a second thought, and found herself in a musty-smelling cave, not unlike the last time she had been through the mirror. Luna, it seemed, had nailed the timing. Spike slumbered peacefully, his hot exhalations quickly making the cave oppressive. Twilight made for the far end, smiling back at the massive serpent that had once been her close friend, and was now a god, on-par with the night and day she drew so much power from.
The cavern wasn’t nearly as complicated as last time. Twilight found her way up and into the palace with ease, using a quick and easy spell to undo and redo the locks concealing the cavern. She was stopped by a guard a short ways into the castle, but she managed to get by on her excuse of curiosity. When she emerged into the brilliant, shining light of the Crystal Kingdom, Twilight held high hopes for this world.
The trip to Saddle Arabia was rather eventful. Twilight decided to expedite the process by following the range of northern mountains all the way there. The Timber Wolf territories were a slight challenge, but Twilight managed to get by with a few cloaking and shielding spells. Once inside the Gryphon Territories, Twilight let her hood down so the high winds could blow through her mane. She skirted the mountains, making good time with the light load she had brought. Most of it was food, which she ate little of since she knew supplies were scarce this far away from Nest.
She did, however, take some time to slip into the library. In this world, it seemed, she had managed to save the library the exact same way she did in her own world. Bolt greeted her warmly, and understood when she said she wasn’t there to read, simply to refuel and rest for a while. She had read most every book in this library anyways, having spent whatever free time here she could. Then again, that was in her own world, where she had wings and the flight to this library could be made in a day.
Once she had restocked on supplies, Twilight left the library and made straight East, for the Saddle Arabian desert. Half a day’s hike past the valley was the beginning of the desert. Twilight shed her cloak as the oppressive sun beat down on her, scorching the sands all around. She was a sweating, panting mess within moments.
“Okay,” She panted, shrugging out of her saddlebags. “Gonna have to figure something out…” She kicked open one flap of her bags and pulled a book out, scanning the table of contents. “Let’s see… Hydra charm, Hydrative properties… Here we are; Hydration spell. Hmm… Curious…” She frowned at the formula for the spell, picking out some minor inconsistencies. The spell was designed to keep a pony cool and refreshed in extreme environments, but was fallible. It didn’t put up with outside interference well, and would run out once every two hours. While it was easy to cast, with a few modifications, Twilight could make it last longer and survive better against interference.
“Then again, not everypony can cast spells… Let alone one as strong as this.” Twilight re-constructed the formula so that it was more complex and more difficult to cast, but would perform much better. The oppressive heat of the desert faded away instantly, replaced by a surprisingly cool, refreshing sensation. Twilight sighed happily as she slipped back into her saddlebags. The desert was no longer too hot. In fact, it felt rather pleasant. She continued her walk, keeping an eye peeled on the flat, distant horizon.
Wavering shapes began to appear before long, and Twilight smiled as she cross-checked her heading with the map she had brought. Just short of a full-day’s hike into the desert was Saddle Arabia’s capitol, the Sandstone City, jewel of the desert, and home to the political seat of power in the desert country.
“Neighgrabah.” Twilight tucked her map back into her pouch as she crested a dune looking down into a surprisingly lush, verdant valley. Green grass wove into the sides of massive, magically-erected sand dunes, keeping them rooted and in-place against the high winds that kicked up at night. Nestled in the valley between the dunes was a collection of grottos, wells, and springs, the livelihood of Neighgrabah. While Twilight didn’t know much about the culture or custom of Saddle Arabia, she had read up on the history extensively.
Long, long ago, well before the founding of Equestria even, the ponies of Saddle Arabia had been roving traders and tribes of warring bandits. From the far-eastern coast of the world to the Gryphon Territories, the Saddle Arabian desert spanned thousands of miles, and boasted a lot of coastline. But the land was inhospitable and harsh. Ponies wishing to cross the desert either skirted the sea to the south, or relied on blind luck and grottos to make it across.
In the thousands of years of its development, though, the warring tribes had settled down peacefully and began to cultivate cities. Neighgraba was one of the first to sprout up, where one powerful unicorn well-learned in the ways of nature magic had hallowed out the valley, struck water, and then woven grass into the sand dunes to solidify the place. Now, Neighgrabah sat nestled in the massive valley, a collection of hundreds of sandstone buildings and tents pitched on the lush, green grass. The natural wells and springs made the whole city a verdant haven and a must-stop place for any traveler wishing to make it to any of the other cities in Saddle Arabia.
Twilight found a moderately-traveled path down through the grass and into the city. She was joined by a few other travelers trickling in from the desert, though none paid her any mind once she pulled her hood up. They all remained quiet and intent. Twilight wanted to get some rest before she explored Neighgrabah proper, so she made for what looked to be a rather well-appointed tavern at the edge of a small lake of clear water.
The sun was sinking low across the horizon, and the entire valley was soon shrouded in shadow. Twilight watched in awe as a small group of unicorns walked down the main road, their horns sparking now and again as they lit magical lanterns. The lanterns used fire to stay afloat, casting light across the path. Another larger group stood at the edge of the lake beside the tavern and lit a few dozen lanterns, casting light all over the shallows so ponies could bathe and swim still. Indeed, many of the travelers sharing the road with her were intent on that same tavern, so Twilight followed the flow of traffic. Some of them peeled off to go wash the dirt and sand from their long trip, while others made straight for the candlelit entryway to the tavern. Twilight joined the latter, though she did want to bathe sometime soon.
“Hello there! Welcome, welcome, come in! We’ve fresh pepper salad and cool mugs of Equestrian ale for the weary traveler! Welcome!” The hostess was a bright and cheery Saddle Arabian pegasus with a pale coat and brilliant, flashing blue eyes. Twilight approached her cautiously.
“Forgive me,” She whispered. “But I’ve not been to Neighgrabah for some time… Do you accept Equestrian bits?”
“Of course, my dear! Of course! Welcome home, I might add.”
“It’s good to be back.” Twilight smiled at her. “Where might I get a room?”
“Speak with the cute stallion behind the desk there.” The hostess pointed Twilight across the cool lobby towards another dusky-colored stallion sitting attentively behind a desk. “Though I’d like to hear your story sometime.”
“It’s one for the ages, I assure you.” Twilight winked at the pretty mare before pulling the hood of her cloak back up once more. At least her money was good here, and it seemed she would be well-received. She paid for a small room and two meals in advance before taking her leave to go bathe. The sun had completely set by the time she re-emerged into the night, shedding her cloak and saddlebags at the waterside. She was not alone, but not crowded either. She slipped into the cool water and watched as other ponies groomed one another. It seemed it was custom here in Saddle Arabia to communally bathe one another, and as she watched, a pretty Earth Pony mare with a dark tail and light almost off-white coat waded towards her.
“Your mane?” She offered, holding up a bottle of shampoo and a rag.
“Thank you.” Twilight turned her back to the pony, smiling faintly as her new acquaintance began tenderly scrubbing and washing her sandy mane.
“Where do you come from?”
“Equestria,” Twilight answered off-hoofedly, glad for a chance to exercise the story she’d been constructing on her journey here. “I went to study enchantments in Canterlot.”
“That’s amazing! You’re coming back home, then?” She remained occupied with Twilight’s mane, but the pleasant banter was rather relaxing. Twilight felt the stress and fatigue melt away bit by bit.
“It’s been a long while,” Twilight nodded gently. “Thirty-four years, to be precise.”
“You don’t look that old…”
“Why thank you.” Twilight smiled at her unofficial spa pony for the evening. “I have an easy lifestyle.”
“I envy you,” The pony scrubbing her mane sighed. “Being the daughter of a tradepony… There’s much travelling involved. And the deserts are much more inhospitable of late than I can ever remember. My poor mother, she has to cast my hydration spell almost hourly.”
“You know,” Twilight mused. “I’m somewhat of a spellsmith myself, and my time in Equestria was well-spent… May I try casting a hydration spell on you?”
“I don’t see why not.” Her partner shrugged nonchalantly, and Twilight stood up in the shallow water to face her properly. “I’m Emerald, by the way.”
“Dusk Hoof. Dusk for short.” Twilight offered her hoof in greeting, shaking Emerald’s with a warm smile. “Now relax. It’s a relatively new spell, but I used it myself on the way here.” Indeed, it was still in effect for Twilight. That coupled with the chill night air and cool water was rapidly making her cold. She shoved the shivers to the back of her mind and focused on casting her new spell on Emerald.
“Wow. I can feel it.” Emerald smiled at Twilight warmly. “This is powerful magic. My mother is talented, but I don’t think she could cast that. You are very good!”
“A lifetime of practice, I assure you.” Twilight chuckled as her horn died down. “I’ll be around for a while. If you see me later on, tell me how long your spell lasts.”
“I shall, Dusk. Thank you very much… Now, would you mind?” Emerald turned around, exposing her flanks directly to Twilight. She even flicked her tail aside, completely baring herself.
’Talk about different customs.’ Twilight blushed, but managed to catch on anyways. She settled to her haunches and began scrubbing Emerald’s tail, which she could tell in the warm light of the candle lamps, was indeed a deep, vibrant green. Her cutie mark was a series of three red hearts, and offset the white and red of her coat and tail well.
Emerald stood still while Twilight scrubbed her tail, but she did not remain silent. She had many questions about Equestria, and Twilight was obliged to answer them as thoroughly as she could. They spoke of many things, ranging from daily life to the customs and practices of ponies. Twilight’s cover story rendered her unfamiliar with Saddle Arabian customs, so Emerald was happy to answer her own questions about ‘what has changed.’
The answer to which was almost always ‘not much.’ Twilight had to remind Emerald twice that she had left Saddle Arabia at a very young age. As far as anypony was concerned, she might as well have been an Equestrian citizen. Emerald apologized and went on to explain in detail some of the differences between Equestria and Saddle Arabia.
Chiefly was the openness of intimate relationships. While it wasn’t customary in Neighgrabah, ponies elsewhere in Saddle Arabia openly engaged in sex or semi-erotic displays of affection. In Neighgrabah, it was allowed and not frowned upon. But elsewhere, it was promoted and indulged in traditionally. Twilight was shocked to learn that public orgies and shows of two or more skilled lovers were commonplace. Here in Neighgrabah, such things were done perhaps on balconies or behind thin screens, but not necessarily in pain view.
“In fact,” Emerald glanced back at Twilight. “I’d offer to make love to you here and now. You know, an unofficial ‘welcome home.’”
“In the pool?” Twilight blinked at her. “I thought you said it wasn’t exactly-“
“Look over there.” Emerald pointed with a hoof. Twilight followed her line, spotting two ponies not that far away stretched out in the sandy shallows, their lower bodies submerged by the thinnest layer of water. They were very obviously going at it, and now that Twilight was focused on something more than Emerald’s luxurious tail, she could hear their thin moans from here. “And there, too.” She pointed opposite them, and another pair of ponies were kissing heatedly, though their hooves were beneath the water, moving surreptitiously against one another’s nethers. Twilight felt her cheeks heat as she glanced back at Emerald.
“I… I didn’t realize… How prominent it was.”
“Relax, Dusk.” Emerald smiled, though she did step closer. “I know you’re unfamiliar with your homeland’s customs, so I’ll not pressure you. But you are a very beautiful mare, and the offer stands.” Emerald winked at her, the corner of her mouth turned up in a teasing grin. “Whenever we might run across one another.”
Twilight had never been more sorely tempted in her life. Emerald was a very beautiful mare herself, with a curvy body and full flanks. What few glimpses Twilight had caught of her bathing partner’s marehood had been rather arousing, and the memory of Luna’s lips on her ear sent a shudder through her system. Twilight closed her eyes and took a deep breath, raising a hoof to the pendant on her neck.
“I’m sorry, Emerald.” She managed to breathe. “I’m promised to another.”
“An Equestrian?” Emerald pouted, her own hoof cupping Twilight’s as she lifted the pendant from the water.
“Yes, she is…” Twilight sighed, smiling as Emerald surveyed the pretty teardrop pendant.
“A very lucky mare, then… Though I’ll have you know,” Emerald leaned in to kiss Twilight’s cheek gently. “Being promised to another might not mean as much in the eyes of a Saddle Arabian. You’ll find many of the marems even in Neighgrabah scoop up promised ponies without a second thought.”
“Marem?” Twilight shuddered, scooting just a little bit away from Emerald. Not that she didn’t like the kiss, it was actually quite nice. But she had never heard that word before. “What’s a marem?”
“You don’t know?” Emerald blinked before grinning wide and shaking her head. “You poor soul, you’ve been gone for far too long… Dusk, a marem is a group of ponies whom are more-or-less promised to one another. They share a love for all the members of their group, either emotionally or passionately. They’re dominated by a chief mare, whose role it is to lead the group and make important decisions about their livelihood. Under her, any other pony is free to come and go. Some marems own their own homes, others are large enough to constitute entire pavilions.” Emerald lifted her other foreleg from the water, revealing a previously-unseen golden bangle. “My mother’s marem is one of the largest travelling ones in Saddle Arabia.”
“Your mother’s?” Twilight blinked. “You mean you’re promised to your… mother?”
“Well, I don’t make love to her. At least, not intentionally. Too much wine, you know.” Emerald winked teasingly before lowering her hoof back into the water. “But I share a love for her nevertheless. Our marem is eighty-five strong, and more join with every city we travel to. Marems can be loose coalitions of mares and stallions who are simply friendly to one another, or they can be large and serve a purpose, like ours.”
“What purpose does yours serve?” Twilight asked curiously, looking down through the water at the golden bangle. “And what does the jewelry signify?”
“Well, to answer your first question, our marem trades. We offer services and goods to all Saddle Arabian cities, and each pony in our marem serves the whole. We’re expected to make a certain amount of money no matter what we offer, and it all goes into a collective fund. That fund helps feed and clothe us, and whenever one of us feels the need to settle down, their home is bought from the fund.”
“That’s actually really nice.” Twilight smiled.
“Mmhmm. I’ve joined only recently, since I’m still very young. But I love everypony in our marem fiercely. The bracelet,” Emerald lifted her hoof once more. “Signifies the love we share. Some marems use jewelry to signify ownership or allegiance to one marem or another, while others are small enough they don’t need it. Here,” Emerald brushed a sodden lock of her mane aside to reveal her ear. She had a golden ring and a silver ring pierced through both ears, previously unnoticed by Twilight. “You can belong to more than one marem at a time… As long as you love everypony involved. While my bracelet signifies my loyalty and devotion to my mother’s trading business, these earrings are from another, more intimate marem.”
“I see.” Twilight nodded, admiring the beautiful jewelry. They lent Emerald an exotic, mysterious quality, one that Twilight was loathe to admit made it more and more difficult to deny the beautiful mare. “Which marem is that?” She asked, trying to distract her thoughts.
“Well, like I said, I offer my services to my marem. And my services are best used between the sheets.”
“A whore, yes Dusk.” Emerald winked teasingly. “Though I do make exceptions for pretty mares like yourself. Free of charge.”
“I… Wow.” Twilight blushed. Whores were not uncommon even in Equestria. Canterlot itself didn’t have a brothel, but Ponyville did, as did several other town and cities. What shocked her most was Emerald’s brazen admittance of her title. The ponies Twilight had had the pleasure of speaking with in Equestria preferred the term ‘contractor’ or ‘escort’ or something else. She had never met a pony who had so openly admitted to being a whore. “Culture shock, I suppose.”
“Does Equestria not have whores?” Emerald asked curiously. She idly returned her hoof to Twilight’s mane, scrubbing the silken strands once more. Probably to keep herself occupied in the rapidly-chilling night. Twilight was beginning to shiver.
“They do,” Twilight answered carefully. “But I’ve never heard of any of them admitting to it so openly.”
“Well, you’ll find we’re unashamed of our titles. Some would say it’s actually rather prestigious to do what we do. I know my mother’s recruited many to our marem with her own skills.”
“I see… So your mother, she’s a-”
“… Right.” Twilight chuckled as she shrugged out of Emerald’s tender scrubbing, but only to turn her attention to the earth pony’s mane instead. Emerald giggled and let Twilight scrub her. “This is all so new to me… My memories of home were so long ago, I… It feels like a new world.”
“Don’t be so off-put, love.” Emerald groaned, leaning back against Twilight gently. “You’ll come around, I’m sure.”
’I hope not,’ Twilight thought, tensing a little as Emerald’s warm body pressed against her chest in the water. ’For Luna’s sake… And my own.’
After leaving the pool and kindly refusing Emerald two more times, Twilight was finally able to retire to her room. The salad and ale were wonderful, and Twilight ate her fill before slipping under the heavily-woven fabric of her bedding and closing her eyes. The cool night air melted away into wonderful warmth, and Twilight slept through the night.
When she woke, the sun had yet to rise. The air was cool, but not cold, and Twilight’s hydration spell had run out. She called for her second meal and sat on the balcony of her room, watching the sun rise over the dunes of Neighgrabah while drinking a delightful, heady tea. She washed it all down with cool water before re-casting her hydration spell, donning her cloak, and entering the streets. Today, she’d fling herself full-on into Saddle Arabian culture, to learn as much as she possibly could. She left many of her possessions behind in her room so she had space in her saddlebags for any purchases she might make.
Neighgrabah’s market was already busy by the time Twilight arrived. The sand had been hard-packed into a dusty road lined on either side by a multitude of stalls, shops, taverns, and spas. Twilight was just another pony in the crowd as she followed the bustle, surveying the multitude of mystical and exotic wares. The gryphons had a healthy trade relationship with Saddle Arabia, it seemed, as there were actually a few gryphons with heads wrapped in turbans that had set up stalls at this market. They sold intricate pieces of jewelry and strong clothing, as well as mysterious books Twilight had never seen before.
Some of these books were simply recipes for Gryphon cooking, but even more were history books and even a few spell scrolls here and there. Twilight had to tear herself away from them, though she did scoop up one mysterious-looking scroll for fifteen bits. The rest of the market awaited, and it wasn’t like she couldn’t come back tomorrow or later on that week. She had time to spend. All down the rest of the street, merchants hawked their wares, hollering and shouting at passersby to look at their latest piece of jewelry, new produce from the gardens, or beautiful dresses woven with beads and ribbon.
Half the day had passed before Twilight could even think about it. The sun was high in the sky overhead, but Twilight’s spell kept her cool and refreshed. She was hungry, though, so she found an open-air pavilion ringed in by brightly-colored bolts of cloth strung between sturdy poles. She was treated to a spicy dish coupled with juicy greens that complimented one another well, and washed down with sweet-tasting, clear juice.
After lunch, Twilight returned to the massive, dusty market. She purchased two books from the gryphons and a sturdy-looking, well-designed belt of woven beads from an elderly Saddle Arabian unicorn mare. The belt was joined by a beautiful bracelet with a curious gem embedded in the center, and a small sheaf of rare roots dug up in one of Neighgrabah’s gardens.
The night began to descend, and the paper lanterns floated up into the air to light the way. Many of the usual stalls began to close, though some cleared the way for a different set of wares. Twilight saw bottles of aphrodisiacs and powerful love-centric potions for sale, intricate pieces of clothing to help stimulate and arouse a pony, and one very obvious shop for dildos and other devices.
Twilight was loathe to admit, but she was rather enjoying herself. She and Luna had never engaged in some of the things she saw advertised, and the mere thought of such deviancy had Twilight squirming with delight. She was getting some very naughty ideas about what she was going to do to her lover when she came home from this trip, and she was on the cusp of buying a pink-colored lotion to be used for erotic massages.
Just as she was about to bring the bottle to the stall’s owner, though, a hoof laid on her shoulder. She was spun around to be greeted by none other than Emerald, grinning ear-to-ear.
“I knew that was you, Dusk.”
“H-hello, Emerald!” Twilight flustered, her eyes darting between the curvaceous earth pony and the massage lotion before she hastily replaced it back on the stall.
“You’re such a sly little minx, turning me down in the pool last night. And here I find you in my own stomping grounds, looking to buy my lotion.”
“Y-your lotion?” Twilight backed away a few steps. “You made it?”
“I told you, Dusk,” Emerald beamed, snatching the bottle of lotion Twilight had just replaced. “Every mare in my mother’s marem brings something to the table. This is my contribution. And it sells well. Would you like to see why?”
“I… I… No, I was just going to-“
“Oh right.” Emerald’s eyes flickered down to Twilight’s pendant, and her expression fell. “You’re promised to another. Such a shame, you’re very beautiful… I’d love to see how you reacted to this little product. But that does remind me,” Emerald replaced the bottle once more before smiling warmly at Twilight. “I have somepony I want you to meet.”
“O-okay.” Twilight blushed ever-deeper as Emerald hooked her hoof, drawing her away from the stall and the well-lit market. “Emerald, where are you taking me?” Twilight complained, feeling almost as if she were being dragged along.
“Here,” Emerald gestured ahead of them. A large sandstone building rose before them in the night, only the arched entryway lit by several hovering candle-lamps. “This is my mother’s home whenever we travel through Neighgrabah. You see, Dusk.” Emerald smiled back at her. “Your spell has yet to fade. When I mentioned it to my mother, she expressed interest in seeing you. She wanted to know how you cast it, and if she might be able to accomplish the same.”
“Oh.” Twilight frowned as Emerald released her, a few steps away from the arched entryway. She nearly gasped when two intimidating stallions swooped in out of the tall shadows just inside the archway, but they backed away as soon as Emerald showed them her golden bracelet. Twilight followed cautiously, staying wary of the two guardponies.
“We’re a little famous,” Emerald explained as Twilight looked back at the two shadowy guards. “And some marems have a bit of a rivalry. Old habits die hard, huh?”
“I guess so…” Twilight muttered, keeping her wits about her as Emerald led her across a wide courtyard. The building was constructed of pale sandstone, and this main courtyard was dark. A series of poles with colorful drapes lashed between them covered the open air above them, and Twilight knew during the daytime this place would be a haven of cool shade. Now, though, it was all but abandoned. Twilight could hear the trickle of a pair of fountains to her left and right, but the source of the noise remained naught but a vague, shadowy pillar lost amongst the others of the arched walkway surrounding the courtyard.
The sound of conversation reached her next, and Twilight could make out the shadowy, hulking figure of two large wooden doors set back in another archway. Emerald led her towards these, which she pushed open. Twilight blinked as a bright wave of light greeted her, followed by a swell in the conversation and the strains of music beneath it all. Twilight followed Emerald cautiously, her magic at the ready just in case anything happened.
Just inside of the double doors was a very wide, low lounge, and what appeared to be a rather festive party in full-swing. The lounge consisted mainly of sunken-in booths and couches, where ponies were stretched out or curled up, laughing, talking, or in two very obvious cases, making love. Twilight surreptitiously pulled her hood up over her head and scooted closer to Emerald. Every one of these ponies had a golden bangle on one of their forelegs. She was the outsider here, and whenever a pony would look up from their conversation, she drew curious looks.
“Over here, Dusk.” Emerald drew her attention around with a gentle touch. At the far end of the lounge was a draped archway, and behind it another cushioned booth. Emerald parted the drapes and ushered Twilight inside. The larger earth pony blocked her view of whomever it was seated on the lounge, chiefly because she cheerily jumped on them, wrapping them in a gleeful hug.
“Hello again, Mother.”
“Hello to you too, Emerald.”
Twilight froze at the sound of the voice. It was hauntingly familiar, but she hadn’t heard it in over three hundred years… ’No, not three centuries… one of the times I went through the mirror.’
“And who’s your friend? The unicorn you told me about?”
“Mother,” Emerald disengaged herself from the gleeful hug to step back. “This is Dusk Hoof. Dusk, this is my mother-“
Twilight’s blood turned to ice in her veins. She stared wide-eyed at the beautiful white mare stretched out on the lounge, her coat as white and pristine as the last time Twilight had seen her. Her purple mane… Her cutie mark.
Archmage: Beyond the Crystal Mirror "Saddle Arabian Nights"
Tags: Erotic, Normal
Fair warning: These chapters do have erotic elements, up to and including sex. To be fair, the impact on the overall story has been reduced. You’re welcome to skip these chapters, and you won’t miss much.
“Wait!” Emerald cried out to Twilight as she dashed across the dark courtyard, her hooves drowning out the sound of the fountains. “Wait! Dusk, please!”
“No!” Twilight returned, pouring on the heat. She hardly even reacted as the two guardponies loomed out of the dark archway. Her horn sparked a bright bolt of blinding light, throwing them both aside as she slipped through. Behind her, she could hear Emerald pounding across the dirt path, and she was gaining. Twilight ran from the pavilion – from Rarity – but she could not out-run Emerald. With a cry of triumph, Emerald launched herself through the air, tackling Twilight to the dirt road. They tumbled over a few times before Twilight landed on her back, Emerald standing over her.
“Get off!” Twilight’s horn sparked as she summoned what strength she could to push the earth pony off. She gasped with surprise when Emerald’s bracelet hummed intently next to her ear, loud enough to hurt.
“Woah! Alright, alright!” Emerald leapt off, her other hoof scrambling to pull her bangle off. She tossed it into the dirt, rubbing her foreleg with a grimace. “You didn’t need to use magic on me, sheesh…”
“Just leave me alone.” Twilight looked between the humming bracelet and Emerald.
“Why? What’s your problem? All I did was introduce you to my mother!”
“Oh by the heavens, I refuse to believe Rarity’s a whore in ANY world.” Twilight spared a hoof to rub the bridge of her muzzle exasperatedly. She was half a mind to make for the portal that night.
“What?” Emerald arched an eyebrow inquisitively.
“Nothing. Forget about it. Just leave me be.”
“Dusk, wait!” Emerald reached out just as Twilight was about to leave. “You’re from Equestria, and you know my mother. Please, don’t go.” Emerald was pleading now, and as much as Twilight hated herself for it, she couldn’t let such a pretty mare look so miserable. Besides, Emerald’s bracelet had her intrigued.
“Fine.” Twilight said with a sigh. “If we’re going to talk, we’re going to do it far away from here.”
“Your room at the inn, then.” Emerald suggested. Twilight pondered it for a few moments before nodding her agreement. She led the way, making sure Emerald retrieved the now-dormant bracelet before walking the shadowy path. Not many lanterns lit their way, but Twilight had been mapping Neighgrabah throughout the day, and she more-or-less knew the way back. Emerald followed quietly, though she did remain close. Twilight was tense and ready for her, just in case she tried to do anything else. Thankfully, she didn’t. The two of them slipped into Twilight’s room, where Emerald promptly jumped onto her bed and sat down. Twilight narrowed her eyes, but sat in a small chair opposite the bed. Before she could speak, Emerald cut her off.
“How do you know my mother?”
Twilight frowned at the question, but chose the high road.
“Rarity is well-known in Equestria. She used to be a part of a magic known as the Elements of Harmony. She and Twilight Sparkle, along with their friends, have done many things for Equestria. Those things have been very well-documented. I’ve read about her, that’s all.”
“So why did you react like that?” Emerald asked. “You bolted the moment you said her name. Why?” At that, Twilight didn’t really have a response. She furrowed her brow and scrambled to make something up.
“I… Well, shock, I guess.” Twilight sighed. “It’s… Rather difficult to explain. I guess I just read so much about Rarity that I had an opinion of her; I thought she’d be… I don’t know, I thought she’d still be in Equestria, at least.”
“Wow,” Emerald shook her head sadly. “You really know nothing of your homeland, do you?” Twilight scowled at her, but Emerald just shrugged it off. “I suppose I could tell you. Not many know this, so I’d appreciate it if you kept this a secret.” Emerald ran a hoof over her bracelet, which Twilight could tell was still faintly humming. She spun it in a gentle circle around her hoof as she spoke.
“I’m only half Saddle Arabian, as you could tell now that you know my mother’s name. But my father… Well, I never knew him. I didn’t really get the chance. He was killed before I was born. My mother fled, me in her womb, here to Saddle Arabia and his family. They took her in, and eventually she formed her own marem with my aunt. That same marem grew until it is what it is today, and I’ve joined in on it.”
“Your father…” Twilight mulled those words over. “You say he was killed?” ’Impossible. Regal lived. Shattered his horn, but he still lived…’
“Murdered, really. My mother tells me that he was a strong stallion, bold and passionate about what he believed in. He was trying to help Equestria, to restore something called the… Uuh… The Preservation Charter-“
“That’s it.” Emerald shot Twilight a look that said ‘you know more than you’re letting on,’ but she continued anyways. “He was trying to restore the Preservation Society when he was killed.”
“How?” Twilight asked. Her question sent a flash of pain across Emerald’s face, and she nearly took it back. But something was amiss in this world, and Rarity’s presence in Saddle Arabia, to say nothing of her daughter, was disconcerting. What’s more, Rarity had a child with Regal. She must have completely alienated Cross Stitch after she left him. A quick pang of sadness and guilt shot into her, but Twilight shook it off. Emerald took a deep breath before looking Twilight dead in her eyes.
“Princess Celestia murdered him.”
Twilight heard a thump from just outside of the room. Her eyes flickered to the door, and then back to Emerald.
Who was still twirling her bracelet.
In a rain of splinters and dust, the door to Twilight’s room blasted inwards. She dove off of her chair and made for the balcony, but Emerald was in the way. She was body-checked to the side. Her magic sparked, to try and recover, but the bracelet screamed out loud. Emerald quickly tossed it onto the bed, still standing in the way of the door. By then, Twilight was surrounded. Three unicorn stallions surged into the room, their horns blazing intensely. Twilight squared off with them, the bracelet still humming loud enough to hurt her ears. These three stallions all wore similar bracelets, and Twilight knew she didn’t stand a chance against them. Not without harming them, anyways.
“Alright.” She huffed. “I’ll go peacefully. No need for more violence.”
“Clever girl.” One of the stallions pulled his bracelet off, advancing towards her with it. As she watched, the thing shrunk until it was about the size of her horn. “Put this on and we’ll be going back to the pavilion.”
“Do what you will with me, but I’ll not have my magic locked off.” Twilight growled, her anger rising.
“Just do it, Dusk.” Emerald pleaded. Despite her treachery, she looked pleadingly at Twilight. “Don’t make them take you by force. It isn’t pretty.”
Twilight looked at the golden ring, the three stallions, and then Emerald. With a sigh, she closed her eyes and lowered her head.
“There we go.” The ring slipped onto her horn, and Twilight collapsed. She fought the encroaching blackness for as long as she could, but it came over her in the end. The last thing she saw was Emerald, and the tears in her eyes.
“Wake up, Dusk Hoof.” Twilight whimpered as the voice came to her as if from a great distance. She felt warm, and surprisingly soft. “Easy, now… Don’t do anything rash.”
It was Rarity’s voice. Twilight’s eyes flickered open at last to reveal the same lounge from last night, though this time it was absent the multitude of ponies talking and making love. Twilight was laying wrapped in a warm blanket on one of the softer-looking booths. Rarity sat opposite her, a soft smile on her face.
“There we go, no need for violence, see? Your magic has been returned. Aah.” Rarity lifted her hoof, revealing another bracelet. “Just don’t do anything to me. These things can be awfully noisy when they fight strong magic.”
“What are those?” Twilight grumbled, rubbing her horn tenderly. It wasn’t sore, but having her magic locked away had been an awful experience.
“Just a little device of my own making,” Rarity waved her hoof nonchalantly. “Gold embedded with enchanted jewels. They offer limited protection against spells and strong telekinesis. But, as you can see…” Rarity’s own horn glowed as she lifted three bracelets from beside her. Each of them were ruptured at four points, the jagged edges of the metal blackened. “They’re imperfect.”
“What happened to those?” Twilight asked curiously.
“Well this one,” Rarity hovered the first one over to her, and Twilight hesitantly took it. “Was Emerald’s. After you tried to throw her aside at the balcony in your room, this happened a few minutes later. These two,” Rarity presented the others. “Belonged to my guards, whom you unceremoniously threw against the wall. You overpowered their bracelets.”
“I see.” Twilight frowned. “Imperfect indeed. Was anypony harmed?”
“No, not at all. The discharge is actually quite harmless. The gold’s still valuable, but the gems have all shattered. Such a pity, Emerald’s had the cutest little peridot in it…” Rarity set all three bracelets aside and looked to Twilight intently. “But that brings me to why I had you brought here. I’d have asked this last night, but you foolishly ran off with my Emerald.”
“Ran off? She followed me.” Twilight complained.
“Did she now?” Rarity glanced to the side, where Twilight spotted a meek-looking Emerald between two shadowy pillars. The earth pony melted back into the shadows, hoping not to be seen. “She always likes to play the victim. I told her not to lie, especially about these sorts of things. No matter, I just suppose an apology is in order.” Rarity turned back to Twilight with a soft smile. “I misunderstood. Had I known Emerald went with you willingly, I’d not have sent three of my best after you. But, when she activates her bracelet like that, we really have no choice but to scramble.”
“Activates it?” Twilight frowned. “So they have more than one use?”
“Indeed. If spun about the hoof four times, the bracelet will call out to any other nearby holders, directing them to its position. It’s a handy little ‘save me’ feature.”
“I see.” Twilight had to admit, it was an ingenious bit of magic. Rarity had out-done herself. Then again, her specialty always had been in gemstones. It’d make sense that she would engineer some neat devices with gemstones embedded in metal. To anypony else, the bracelets would seem like a fashion statement. To any members of Rarity’s marem, they were a defense against unicorns, and a nifty way to call for help.
“Now, about this proposition.” Rarity leaned in a little, smiling at her. “I hear tell you studied in Equestria for quite some time.”
“So you know all about imbuing devices with magical properties.” Rarity surmised. She shuffled her hooves a bit before settling to look at Twilight seriously. “I’d like you to join my marem, Dusk. You’re obviously powerful, having overpowered three bracelets thus far. Furthermore, if Emerald is to be believed, you know a lot about Equestria and its society. That’s a damn sight more than I can say for anypony else in my harem, save perhaps myself.”
“You want me to join your marem?” Twilight furrowed her brow at Rarity.
“I’d be honored if you would.” Rarity nodded with a smile. “Your skills would be very valuable to us. When the day comes you no longer feel like helping, I’ll buy you your home, anywhere you please.” Rarity sat back, waving a hoof dismissively. “You’re welcome to deny me and walk out, of course. But I’m a very adamant pony, Dusk. I will pursue your skills. I won’t force you to join us, but I will pester you about it.” Rarity gave her a teasing wink. Twilight mulled it over for a few moments.
“I’m guessing Emerald neglected to tell you I’m promised to another.” Twilight grumbled, laying her hoof on her pendant.
“Oh? You are? I suppose she did.” Rarity sighed. “Such a shame… Though you know we’re awfully open about that sort of deal. Your partner is welcome to join-“
“I don’t care much for Equestrians anymore, to be frank. Still, I could really use your skills. Should your partner be willing to travel out here, they’re welcome to join as well-“
“Rarity,” Twilight sighed, shaking her head. “I’m not going to join your marem. I love somepony else.”
“I couldn’t ask you to love any of us, tempted as I may be…” Rarity spared a moment to look Twilight up and down very pointedly. “But I have an idea. You see,” her horn glowed, and Twilight’s saddlebags emerged from behind the lounge cushion. The flap opened, and the bracelet Twilight had purchased yesterday floated out. “One of my own.”
“Is it now?” Twilight asked, her eyes narrowed suspiciously. It was different from the relatively plain golden bracelets the other ponies in her marem wore, in that the gem was large and set on the filigree, rather than embedded inside the metal. “It’s not enchanted, is it?”
“No, not at all… Not yet, anyways.” Rarity beamed at Twilight, hefting the bracelet gently. “Would you like to learn how?”
Twilight very nearly scoffed at her. She could enchant gems a hundred times better than Rarity could ever hope to. She didn’t want to let that on, though. There were ways to improve the bracelets her marem wore, to make them even more powerful in defending against magic. But Twilight rather liked the idea of keeping the bracelets weak. Giving Rarity even more tools to use against whatever rivals they might have didn’t sit too well with her.
Instead, Twilight kept her cool and glanced between the bracelet and Rarity.
“I think I already know how to enchant gemstones.” A playful smile tugged at Twilight’s lips, and she cast a half-lidded gaze to Rarity. “What else can your marem offer me?”
“Offer you?” Rarity seemed shocked. “I… Usually, it’s the pony who offers something to the marem-“
“You know full well what I can offer.” Twilight’s horn glowed as she lifted the bracelet from Rarity’s grasp. She turned it over a few times before closing her eyes. She ran through the formulas for a hydration spell, but she weaved a little bit of synthetic magic to help it meld better with the metal of the bracelet, and rooted the whole equation with a bit of earth magic to make it all more stable. Getting water and earth to mix was tricky, but Twilight pulled it off well. When she handed the bracelet back to Rarity, it was with a warm smile.
“A permanent hydration spell. Now dear Emerald can cross the deserts without complaint.” She crossed her forelegs in a very business-like manner as Rarity surveyed the bracelet with a dumbfounded expression on her face.”
“Dusk Hoof…” Rarity breathed, her eyes wide. “That’s amazing… I thought… I thought I knew a lot about enchanting… I couldn’t cast a hydration spell of this caliber, even without attaching it to an object!” She looked back up at Twilight. “Anything. You name it, I’ll do my best to give it to you. Please, Dusk… We need your skills.”
Twilight looked at Rarity for a long while, working over the possibilities slowly. Rarity still felt like a dear friend to her, even if she did give a child to Regal and flee Equestria. Then again, she didn’t exactly know everything about Regal’s death. As far as she knew, Rarity could have lied to everypony about it. Regal very well might still be alive in this world. Or he may truly have been killed by Celestia. He did try to take her life, after all, and the amount of force exerted on his horn back in her world had been monumental. Anypony could very easily have succumbed to such a wound. That Regal survived mostly intact was a miracle in and of itself.
Still, Twilight found it difficult to believe Regal was any less nefarious in this world. One way or another, he had made Rarity leave Equestria. Either that, or Rarity truly had fallen for him and forsaken Cross Stitch entirely.
’Then again, Cross Stitch very well might not exist in this world. There’s no telling how much is different. I’m going to have to have a discussion with Luna when I get back… Preferably with some rope and a few vibrators involved.’
“It’s clear to me…” Twilight began slowly, choosing her words carefully. “You need my assistance. Your bracelets are imperfect, though useful. And you’re as close to another Equestrian as I’m going to get. My own homeland seems foreign and mysterious to me. Associating myself with you might help me… Ease into it, so to speak. And I hear tell you travel frequently. It’d be good to see more of Saddle Arabia.” Twilight sighed and reached a hoof out to Rarity.
“I’ll join your marem. Just don’t expect me to take part in any orgies.”
“Don’t expect me to give up the hope that you will.” Rarity beamed at her. “Emerald, fetch another bracelet for Dusk. One of the good ones, from the third rack if you will.”
“Yes, mother.” Emerald trotted off happily, casting a warm smile back at Twilight before disappearing into a shadowy archway. She re-emerged hardly a minute later, carrying a smooth golden band. Rarity took it from her and carefully slipped it around Twilight’s hoof.
“I doubt I have to tell you what all the bracelet does, since you’re bound to find out on your own.” Rarity let go of it, and the bracelet shrunk as Twilight had seen it do before. It hugged her foreleg snugly, but without being too tight. She could slide it up and down her leg with ease, and she found its weight rather reassuring. It seemed to pulsate a little bit, too, almost as if it had a heartbeat. She’d have to take a closer look at it that night.
“I’m unsure if there’s any other tradition involved in joining a marem,” Twilight blushed a little. “Are there any words I have to say, or…”
“Usually the deal is sealed with a kiss.” Rarity waved a hoof. “Though I’d be willing to let that slide. Just this once.” She winked playfully, but Twilight felt a slight blush creep up onto her cheeks. The past few days were beginning to catch up on her, and she felt a slight twinge of regret at not accepting Emerald’s advances before she knew so much about the beautiful mare.
“I… Well, a kiss would be okay…” Twilight mused, glancing between Rarity and Emerald. Luna’s words came back to her then. ”I’m just saying, Twilight, don’t be afraid to live a little. Saddle Arabia is… Different. I think you’d enjoy your time there if you weren’t so traditional.”
“Very well.” Rarity blinked but seemed to be okay with it. She leaned in a little, but Twilight raised a hoof.
“Is… Is it tradition that it be the head mare?” She was okay with ‘living’ a little, as it were… But ‘living’ with Rarity was probably the furthest thing from her mind. In another world, the two of them had been friends. While Twilight still cared fiercely for Rarity, no matter which world she might be in, kissing her wasn’t the highest on her list of priorities.
“Not necessarily,” Rarity mused, leaning back. “It’s usually whomever you have the closest connection to. In this case, that’d be-“
“Me!” Emerald butted in, beaming wide. “That’d be me! I’m the one who found her. She’s mine.”
“So you did. Well then,” Rarity rose to her hooves with a languorous stretch. “Just as soon as Emerald here seals the deal, your things will be moved here. We’re in Neighgrabah for a week before venturing to the Sapphire Shores, followed by Diamond Bay and the Saffron Providence. After that, we’ll move through the grottolands back here.”
“How long will this trip take us?” Twilight asked. She had to find a way to make for the Crystal Kingdom and the mirror in a week or at most two.
“About ten days.” Rarity shrugged. “After we leave here, that is. I have business in Diamond Bay, but not until we stop at the Sapphire Shores. After that, the most direct route back here is through the grottolands. Have you ever been?”
“No,” Twilight shook her head. “I lived in Neighgrabah my whole life before moving to Equestria.”
“Oh, darling…” Rarity sighed wistfully. “You’re in for a treat. Well, I’ll leave you two to it. Emerald, Dusk. Good day.” Rarity hopped up and out of the cushioned lounge, smiling back at the two of them before disappearing out of the double doors leading to the courtyard. Twilight watched her go before turning back to Emerald.
“So about that kiss…” Emerald leaned in, laying a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder.
“I know you love me. Just because you relieve some stress with somepony else doesn’t change that. Not even a little.” Luna’s words came back to Twilight once more, even as she inhaled the slight, almost spicy scent of Emerald’s mane.
’Best not to think about it too much. Remember, this world has no bearing on your own. And Luna said she’d be okay with it… Besides, it’s just a kiss, right?’
Twilight closed her eyes and leaned in, meeting Emerald halfway. It was almost like opening the floodgates. Relief like a wave washed through her, loosening all of her muscles and relaxing her beyond measure. Emerald’s lips were soft and petite, curling beautifully underneath Twilight’s own. She was the larger mare, but seemed almost passive in her assertion. The kiss ended with a soft moan shared between the two of them, and Twilight’s eyes fluttered open with a slight blush on her sandy-colored cheeks.
“You’ve no idea how much I’ve wanted to do that.” Emerald breathed, her lips curled in a giddy smile. “That was amazing, Dusk… May I… Have another?”
“S-sure.” Twilight’s blush intensified as she leaned in once more. The second kiss was just as good as the first, even as Emerald gingerly pulled Twilight closer. Their chests pressed close, and Emerald’s lips parted just a little. Twilight accepted the invitation, her tongue sliding out to greet the lusty earth pony’s. The dance started, swirling back and forth with practiced ease. Emerald was an incredibly skilled kisser, each subtle movement of her tongue making Twilight whimper and squirm a little.
“Okay. Okay.” Twilight broke the kiss with an almost explosive breath, panting a little as the blush intensified all the more. “Let’s not… Get too carried away.”
“Aww no fun.” Emerald pouted. She leaned in and took Twilight’s ear between her lips, playfully licking the very edge. “Getting carried away is the best part…”
“Uuuhhn…” Twilight closed her eyes with a soft moan. ’Damn these ears of mine, they make me hornier than I’ve any right to be.’ “Emerald, we’ve got all the time in the world before us…” Twilight pulled away, sending a brief flash of pain through her skull as Emerald’s teeth pinched her ear just a little. She closed her eyes and shuddered at the divine feeling. “Let’s just… Take it easy.”
“Suit yourself, Dusk.” Emerald chuckled and kissed her cheek. “But you’re in the marem now. There are many others who’ve had their eye on you since last night. Just think,” She leaned in, whispering into her ear now. “You could do much more than kiss every single one of them…”
“Haah…” Twilight gasped. “Okay. Alright. Noted. Thank you.” Twilight stood up, her tail curled tight around her haunches. “I’ll see you around, Emerald.”
“Goodbye, Dusk.” Emerald winked at her, even as she leaned back in the lounge. She idly traced a hoof over her stomach, giving Twilight just a peek of what lay nestled between her thighs. “I’ll see you around.”
Twilight was, very thankfully, able to avoid most interactions with everypony else in the marem. Rarity put her to work enchanting everypony’s bracelets with the hydration charm, so that they might have it on them no matter where they went. It was a tricky bit of magic, considering Twilight had to calibrate it so the enchantment could be turned off to avoid freezing the wearer during the chilly nights. She had settled on spinning the bracelet twice in the opposite direction they spun it to alert nearby wearers. It was a rather time-consuming process, and between that and reading the book she had bought from the gryphons, her schedule was rather full.
She had been given a rather nice room at the pavilion. She even had her own private balcony to look out on the market from. That, along with a private bathroom and a wonderfully-large bed, Twilight was rather happy there. For the first three days, she remained busy enchanting everypony’s bracelets as they came to her room, and they thankfully didn’t pressure her as Emerald did. They understood she was working on an assignment straight from Rarity, so they came, got their enchantment, made a brief introduction, and left. For that, Twilight was thankful. But now, on the fourth day, Twilight was finally able to explore the pavilion.
It was rather large, able to house all eighty-five of them individually, with plenty of rooms leftover for expansion. There were nightly congregations in the main lounge, dinner at the banquet hall, and several miniature grottos and gardens that helped grow their food, or were simply there for decoration. She discovered that two of the ponies in their marem stayed here permanently, to help look after the place while the rest of the marem was away. One of them was a rather eccentric unicorn who tended the gardens and minor repairs, and the other an older pegasus stallion who arranged a lot of the business deals in Neighgrabah while Rarity was away.
The rest of the pavilion consisted of private quarters and a few storage areas. It was near the back that Twilight stumbled upon the wagon train. There were twenty-eight of them in all, along with two more that seemed to be in repair at the time. A few of the wagons were large enough to hold anywhere from ten to twenty of them at a time, while the others were very obviously for storage. Poking around in interest, Twilight discovered lotions and salves that she assumed Emerald would have been in charge of. There were also crates of herbs and oils, bundles of wheat and other vegetables, enchanted so they wouldn’t spoil in the heat.
There were books and scrolls, clothes, rugs, fine fabric, and even three chests filled to the brim with precious gems, and another that housed gold bullion. Rarity seemed to have accumulated a rather large amount of wealth, and the wagons were busy being loaded with even more crates full of goods. Twilight helped load a few, given her magical lifting prowess, before returning to her room for a little light reading.
There were two days remaining until they left, so Twilight resigned herself to exploring Neighgrabah some more. Emerald insisted on tagging along as soon as she got wind, so Twilight let the bubbly mare escort her around the city. They visited the market, several beautiful grottos and gardens, and the capitol buildings of Saddle Arabia. These interested Twilight more than anything, but Emerald seemed bored beyond comprehension. Twilight understandably left the business and government districts largely unexplored, though she wanted to come back at some point.
Sooner or later, of course, they wound up back at the market, with Emerald insisting she buy some of the massage lotion from her first night at market. Twilight did so, but only because she was interested in seeing how Luna would like a nice, long massage when she returned. The return to the late-night market did stir her up, though, and by the time they re-entered the pavilion, Twilight was seriously considering Emerald on her offer.
Thankfully, she wasn’t the only one. Another mare by the name of Hemlock appeared, eager to have Emerald to herself that night. Twilight thankfully slipped into the shadows and made her way to her room. The night passed uneventfully, though Twilight did settle to some analog means of stress relief in the bathroom. Feeling at least like she had broken even, though still a little riled up, Twilight slept until the next morning. She had a mission today, and that mission involved Rarity.
“Hello, Dusk.” Rarity was where she could almost always be found, in the main lounge accompanied by a few other mares. “Glad to see you out of your cave.”
“Old habits.” Twilight shrugged nonchalantly. “I wanted to ask if you had anything you wanted me to do in preparation for leaving tomorrow?”
“Now that you mention it, I do…” Rarity stood from the lounge and beckoned her to follow. Twilight did, keeping an eye peeled for Emerald’s not-so-surreptitious ‘tackle hugs.’ They plodded the warm corridors of the pavilion until they arrived at the wagon train, where a bustle of activity greeted them. “As you can see, we’re very nearly ready to go. But, I’m also sure you’ve heard, we have a few rivals in Saddle Arabia.” Rarity glanced at her with a smirk. “Old habits and all. So, I know it’s not exactly what you joined for, but I’d appreciate it if you would help guard our valuables. Coming in, we were set upon by some of Scorch’s unicorns. We sent them packing smartly, but not before they damaged some of our goods.” Rarity gestured to one of the carts that had been under repair yesterday.
“I can guard our things.” Twilight nodded. Keeping watch was not unlike reading. It involved attention to detail and concentration. “But who is Scorch?”
“Another lead mare,” Rarity leaned against the archway with a soft sigh. “She’s one of a few who’s of the inclination lead mares need to be full-blooded Saddle Arabians. For ponies who’ve progressively embraced sexuality since the olden days, they can be awfully traditional when it comes down to it.”
“And they react violently?” Twilight asked.
“No, not towards us… They just want to harm our livelihood.” Rarity gestured towards the wagons. “None of us have been directly injured, and neither have any of them. But fending off the constant attacks is becoming tiresome. I’m hoping with somepony of your caliber we can send a message; one that I’ve wanted to send since Regal’s death.”
“What kind of message is that?” Twilight asked cautiously. Rarity looked her straight in the eyes.
“That I’m not to be trifled with.”
It didn’t happen until nightfall. Twilight had spent much of the day atop one of the pavillion’s large walls, in a shadowy alcove of one of the towers. There were two entrances to the pavilion, one up front that faced the market, and another out back that led towards some of the other grottos and gardens, leading up to the sand dune bowl. The back entrance led directly into the wagon’s staging area, and boasted a road for ponies to come and go, and would supposedly be their exodus route. Watching the shifting fronds of palm trees and rippling waves on the water’s surface led to many false alarms, but Twilight was beginning to grow accustomed to what was a trick of the wind or the light, and what might be a pony moving through the dense vegetation.
At least until night fell. The chill air crept in upon her, and the shadows grew deep on either side of the road. There were still suppliers and traders coming to haggle down below, or to load goods that Rarity had purchased. Twilight didn’t watch them as much as she watched the gardens. She was beginning to wonder if anything would happen at all when a sudden bright streak of light shot out of the shadows. She grunted as her horn blazed to life, intercepting the particle with one of her own. The two met just in front of the wagon that had been targeted, erupting into a bright ball of blazing flame. The wagon was unharmed, as was the driver. But Twilight was too busy defending against the next two bolts to care.
They streaked in, low and fast, and she had to react quickly lest the wagons be destroyed. Shouts and screams of shock erupted into the night air, accompanied by the dull impacts of magic on magic. Twilight was on the defensive from the start. She could hardly cast her own spells before another would scream towards the wagons. Eventually, the shadowy attackers learned where she was. Three streaks of light shot towards the tower, and Twilight couldn’t block them all. She hurled herself out of the window, grimacing as the tower behind her erupted in fire and scintillating energy. She slowed her descent enough that she didn’t stumble upon landing.
’Alright, enough of this.’ Twilight growled as she landed, sprinting straight for the shadows. Her cloak flapped off into the night, and her horn blazed with brilliant purple light as she shielded two more bolts on the fly.
“Run!” She heard somepony shout from the shadows. As she approached, three figures materialized and began sprinting for the water’s edge. She followed after them, batting aside two more feeble attempts to throw her off. She was hot on their trail, sprinting through bushes and along garden paths on their tails.
“Stop her!” One of them cried out. Twilight heard the whispers of the night, and she smiled.
’Please don’t. They very nearly hurt somepony.’
“Oh did they?” The shadowy mare Twilight knew so well materialized beside her, floating through the vegetation with ease. ”Would you like me to stop them instead? Say, I don’t think I’ve seen you before…”
’You have, my friend. I’m known as Twilight Sparkle in another world.’
“Oh? A visitor? No matter, I’ll assist you…” Twilight grimaced as she heard a painfully audible snap and a pony cry out in pain from up ahead, followed by the scuffing sound of somepony stumbling into the dirt. ”Anything else?”
‘No, thank you. Though I appreciate the help. If you’re curious, we could chat sometime later tonight?’
“I’d like that very much.” The night smiled and disappeared, leaving Twilight to catch up to one of the assailants from before. Their horn sparked as she approached, but the feeble bolt dissipated moments before it hit her. She stepped over him, her horn glowing brightly.
“Th-the night! She left me!” The stallion whimpered, clutching his hind leg. “And then she… My leg! By the heavens, help me, my leg!”
“Oh, I don’t know…” Twilight sighed, picking the stallion up in a telekinetic field. “I think I’ll leave you like this, at least until Rarity’s done talking to you.”
The stallion whimpered, but fell silent. Twilight carried him back to the pavilion, and a waiting Rarity.
“He’ll recover, and I’ll have him returned to Scorch in the morning.” Rarity slipped into Twilight’s room without a knock. Not that she minded; she’d grown accustomed to ponies entering with questions or requests the past few days. Privacy didn’t seem to matter much in marems. Understandably so.
“I’m glad to hear he’s okay, and that nopony else was harmed.” Twilight closed her book and turned to Rarity with a worried expression.
“I’m just glad you’re okay, Dusk.” Rarity wrapped her in a warm hug. “Jumping from the tower like that, and then chasing after three assailants? You’re either awfully brave or incredibly stupid, not to mention lucky.”
“I try.” Twilight chuckled, nuzzling Rarity affectionately. “The shipments are okay, too?”
“It was just a wagon of lettuce, nothing to worry about. But yes, they survived unhurt. Diamond Bay will thank us; they do love their salads.” Rarity pulled away from the hug with a smile. “You’re awfully powerful, and very resourceful, Dusk. I’d like you to ride with me to the Sapphire Shores.”
“I’m guessing Emerald rides with you as well?” Twilight inquired with a soft sigh. Rarity chuckled and nodded.
“You really ought to pay her a little more attention. She fancies you something fierce.”
“Would that I could return her affection.” Twilight grimaced, raising a hoof to her pendant. “She’s very beautiful, but… Well…” Twilight shook her head sadly. “Old habits die hard.”
“Well, keep kissing her as you have been, and I’m sure you won’t have a say in the matter.” Rarity winked and turned to leave. “The offer stands, darling. We’ll be leaving soon.”
“Thank you, Rarity. I very well may take you up on that.” Twilight watched her old friend leave with a soft sigh. She had been worried about Rarity recognizing the pendant, since in her world she had worn it while the two of them went to the library. But it seemed Rarity either didn’t recognize it, or she had never seen it in the first place. For all she knew, Luna had never given her one in this world to begin with. Though a question was raised about Rarity and the library. If things had happened similarly in this world, did Rarity go with her at all? Or did she flee as soon as Regal was killed? She didn’t seem to have the limp from the creature in the sandstorm, but that could mean she just managed to make it through unscathed.
With a sigh, Twilight turned to her saddlebags and began packing the remainder of her belongings away. She wouldn’t be back in Neighgrabah for ten days at the very least. That left her four to return to the Crystal Kingdom as soon as she got back. If not, she’d miss the portal and have to wait another week after that. As much as the curios and relics of Saddle Arabia interested her, Twilight did not want to be weighed down. She had very nearly finished the book from the gryphons, and the jewelry could just as easily be left behind. They were pretty, but she had little use for such things anyways.
When she left the room, she felt largely alone until she reached the wagon train. Ponies were singing and laughing, dancing in the dirt courtyard, or loading up for the long trip. Twilight was beginning to wonder how the wagons would be pulled when several members of their marem hitched up, each of them wearing canteens on their flanks. The bracelets they now wore would keep the hydration spell on them, but they still needed to drink water to have something to sweat out. Twilight wondered if she could engineer a spell that hydrated a pony from a container.
Nevertheless, Rarity caught sight of her and waved frantically.
“Dusk! We’re over here!”
Twilight waved back, smiling faintly as she made her way to one of the wagons that looked to be near the front of the train. Emerald and a few of the other mares that Twilight had seen accompanying Rarity peeked out curiously, giggling and whispering to themselves. Twilight ignored them as she pulled her hood up over her face and boarded the carriage. Inside, it was remarkably cool and laden with cushions. Rarity reclined against the front of the wagon, looking rather comfortable on her bed of pillows. There were quite a few all over, so Twilight made her own little space, close to Rarity, but opposite Emerald.
“Dusk, this is Peridot, Harmony, High Note, and Fig Leaf. They share Emerald and I’s profession.”
“Somehow I feel out-of-place.” Twilight blushed when she realized she had just hitched a ride with six whores. The other mares all giggled at her, even as they arrayed themselves in a circle upon the cushions.
“We’ll be at the Sapphire Shores in two days, where we’ll stop do some gemhunting.” Rarity explained, leaning a little closer to Twilight. “The sands there are chock-full of gemstones, some of the most beautiful diamonds and rubies you’ve ever seen. Not to mention the namesake for the beach, the sapphires. I once discovered one that was as large as my own head!”
“Ooh! Tell her about the one that was shaped like a heart!” The one called Fig Leaf, a seemingly young mare with a braided, black mane peeped up.
“Ooh, that’s my favorite!” Peridot echoed her.
“Well, it had been a long and hot day…”
Twilight zoned them out after that. None of them seemed to begrudge her for it, either. She simply opened her saddlebags, pulled the book from the gryphons out, and began to read. Meanwhile, the carriage began to rock and sway on its way out of the pavilion. Before long, they would be in the desert, on their way to the Sapphire Shores.
Despite the mind-numbing prattle, Twilight actually found herself smiling. Rarity seemed happy in this world, despite the dark reasons for her being so far removed from Equestria. She had a daughter and a successful business, not to mention a loyal following. Each of the mares and stallions in her marem were fiercely devoted to her, willing to even lay down their lives for the betterment of the marem.
For that, Twilight had to admire this world’s Rarity. The wagon left the city, swaying back and forth as they made their way out onto the sands, into the greater part of Saddle Arabia.
Archmage: Beyond the Crystal Mirror "Saddle Arabian Nights"
Tags: Erotic, Normal
Fair warning: These chapters do have erotic elements, up to and including sex. To be fair, the impact on the overall story has been reduced. You’re welcome to skip these chapters, and you won’t miss much.
The searing heat of the Saddle Arabian desert had little to no effect to the wagon train. Twilight was worried how much body heat and odor six mares riding through the hundred-plus degree heat would fare, but much like many of the other things in Saddle Arabia, the wagons were enchanted. Twilight made it maybe halfway through the first day before she commented on the prevalence of magic.
“Saddle Arabia has a larger concentration of unicorns.” Rarity waved her hoof dismissively. “Pegasi are exceedingly rare, and earth ponies make up maybe a third of the population. Thus, many of the Saddle Arabians are magic-users. I’m surprised you didn’t know that already, I’d have figured you’d study social structure while you were in Equestria, Dusk…”
“I studied enchantments almost exclusively.” Twilight shrugged Rarity’s implication off nonchalantly. “You know how easy it is to devote years of your life to one field of study. I’m just surprised that so many things in Saddle Arabia are enchanted. The amount of magic in any one area is astounding.” She waved a hoof at the wagon around them. “The wagon, our bracelets, even some of the clothes and books you have in supply are enchanted, either to protect against the heat or decay over time.”
“Saddle Arabia has existed for much longer than Equestria.” Emerald chimed in. “The ponies here have had much more time to perfect their magic and make living in such an inhospitable climate easier.”
“I suppose that’s true.” Twilight tapped her lower lip thoughtfully. “It’s just strange when you get to thinking about it. How many thousands of spells have existed for this long? How many of them are new? When you take into consideration things like degradation or the decay of the fourth arch, or-“
“Hon, you’re getting into specifics now.” Fig Leaf purred. She was an Earth Pony herself.
“Right.” Twilight furrowed her brow and thought of a better analogy. “Spells are not unlike ponies. They grow old and die. I’m just surprised that so many enchantments exist for so long. There’s a bolt of fabric in your collection that shows signs of aging from sixteen hundred years ago. It’s still enchanted, though, so those sixteen hundred years are probably much longer. It’s ancient, yet still very strong. I’m amazed.”
“I can’t answer your question, Dusk.” Rarity shrugged. “You’ll probably learn more in Diamond Bay. It’s the oldest city in Saddle Arabia.”
“I didn’t get much of a chance to explore Neighgrabah as it were.” Twilight shot a look at Emerald, who blushed faintly. “I’d love to walk around the city.”
“Just be cautious, Dusk… Diamond Bay is a lot more rough around the edges. And let’s just say anypony not willing to perform cunnilingus on the street will stick out like a sore hoof.”
“Great.” Dusk sighed as she laid a hoof on her pendant once more. The days spent around the alluring Emerald and all the other beautiful mares in Rarity’s marem wer beginning to wear on her. “I’m going to walk alongside the caravan for a while, clear my head.”
“Alright, dear. Don’t stay out too long, the bright sun hurts your eyes.”
“Will do.” Twilight slipped past Fig Leaf and Peridot on her way towards the back of the wagon. She hopped down onto the hard-packed sand, quickly trotting to the side of the wagon so she wasn’t run over. Some of the stronger stallions and mares of the marem were tasked with pulling the enchanted wagons to their destination. They were given heavy-duty hydration spells and allowed plenty of water in enchanted canteens. Twilight went to relieve one of them. The switch was handled on the fly, and Twilight was soon pulling the lead wagon. The wide-open desert was actually rather refreshing with the comfort of the hydration spell. Twilight kept her gaze focused on the wavering horizon, enjoying the physical strain. It felt good to work her muscles once more.
Her relief came two hours in, switching out with ease. Twilight didn’t feel quite ready to re-join Rarity, though, so she stayed and chatted with the bulky stallion happily. He was a weaver by trade, and had many stories to tell about how he enchanted his own works. He made baskets and bags that were enchanted to keep the dust out, allowing a long shopping trip at market without fear that the sand would harm your purchases.
Twilight chatted for close to half an hour before she realized the sun was beginning to dip lower in the sky. They would arrive at the Sapphire Shores by nightfall, and spend the next day gemhunting. She re-joined Rarity then, glad to find her little group had settled down for a mid-afternoon nap. She quietly read while they slumbered, smiling at Emerald’s soft snoring. When nighttime fully descended outside of the cart, Twilight gingerly roused Rarity to inform her it was time to set up camp.
When Twilight emerged into the warm night, she was astounded. The late-evening sun had just touched the horizon, dousing the sky in crimson red. The other side of the night sky was dark blue, showing just the faintest touch of twinkling stars. Between the two was a vast, expansive ocean of deep amber-colored water, twinkling faintly. Waves lapped peacefully at the shore, and the only sound was the faint whisper of wind in her ears, and the crashing of breakers out past the surf.
The silence was soon broken by loud cheers. Twilight watched with a slight bit of glee as everypony emerged from the wagons to sprint full-tilt towards the surf. After a whole day of being cooped up in shaded, rocking, uncomfortable wagons, they were all relishing the chance to exercise and play.
“Go on, Dusk Hoof.” Rarity nudged her flank. “Go swim. Enjoy yourself.”
“But what about camp? I wanted to help set up…”
“Dusk, go now.” Rarity chuckled. “Before me and my girls join the fray. Trust me, you don’t want to be in the water when that happens. Those who are usually have no choice but to join in.”
“Oh.” Twilight blushed as she turned away. “I’ll go have my fun now, then, I suppose.”
“You do that.” Rarity swatted at her flank, making Twilight yelp and blush even deeper. She shed her cloak and jewelry, save the pendant, and made for the water with a little bit more restraint than most of the other ponies. She waded in, feeling the surf tug and pull at her hooves, making the sand shift beneath them. In all her years, she had yet to visit the ocean. She had seen it from afar, and traveled over it by boat a few times, but never once had she had the chance to actually experience the vastness of the ocean.
The tension of the water passing over the sand literally scooped it out from under her hooves, making Twilight feel almost as if the whole world was slipping away. She waded further until the surf was up to her knees, pushing and pulling at her with each ebb and flow. She let the feeling of the water and the wind carry her away, her eyes closing as she took a deep, relaxing breath. The world was so calm to her just then, nothing but the breaking surf and stiff breeze. The water was delightfully warm, but carried with it a hint of night’s chill.
Twilight opened her eyes with a snap and charged forwards, thundering through the shallows until a breaking wave picked her up and slammed her into the water fully. She tumbled with the wave, losing track of up and down as she flipped over and over. Losing herself to a wave like that was intoxicating. She surfaced with an explosive breath and a giddy smile before wading far enough back into the shallows to take another headlong charge at the incoming waves.
She lost track of time for a while, dashing through the knee-deep water, kicking up spray and thoroughly enjoying herself. It was only when she noticed Emerald and Fig Leaf making their way towards the water did Twilight actually remind herself that there was something greater about to happen here, and she didn’t want to be a part of it. She hastily scrambled out of the water, blushing furiously as she dried herself off with a spell and donned her cloak once more.
“You really should join us, Dusk!” Emerald called out from the very edge of the lapping waves. “You might just enjoy yourself!”
She waved patronizingly at the alluring earth pony before making her way back to the wagon train. Their procession of wagons had been circled, and in the middle a massive tent erected. Twilight knew it would sleep all of them comfortably, but she wanted to do a little exploring anyways. An area had been sequestered off for cooking and dining, but it seemed the rest of the tent was bedecked in thick rugs, comfortable pillows, and a wide assortment of blankets, sheets, and small mattresses. These were all scattered about haphazardly, meaning they would all communally sleep under the same tent tonight.
Twilight helped herself to one of the early bits of food and settled down in a shadowy corner with her book. As she read, ponies began to trickle in, some still wet, others wet from different means. A steady drone began to build up as more and more sought the shelter of the warm tent. Conversation and sporadic cries of pleasure kicked up here and there, until Twilight could hardly concentrate on her book anymore. Rather than subject herself to the incessant drone of everypony in her marem, Twilight went for a walk.
Outside, it was surprisingly quiet. The black night sky shone with millions of stars, and a chill wind bit at her withers. She spun the hydration spell off of her bracelet and huddled down in her cloak, making her way around the interior and exterior of the wagon train. At each of the cardinal directions was a guard, keeping steady watch over their livelihood. Twilight held a brief conversation with each of them, even settling for a kiss from one of the cute unicorns who had seemed genuinely interested in her bracelet.
But something about the night unsettled Twilight. She couldn’t pin it down. ’Maybe it’s the conversation, or I’m just cabinsick… I was in that carriage for what felt like a week. And I’ve hardly been doing anything that active, save for pulling the cart… Why do I feel so… Eerie?’
She stopped halfway between two of the guards, standing and looking out at the rolling waves of the ocean. The moon hung half-full in the sky, casting a beautiful, healthy glow over the sands, turning them into molten silver and the waves into frosted steel. She inhaled the cool air deeply, smelling water and salt and wet sand.
“This is a nice place.” She said quietly, closing her eyes.
The sound was almost lost on the whispers of wind and crashing of waves. Twilight very nearly dismissed it. But a nagging suspicion that she had heard something out of the ordinary caused her to open her eyes…
And find herself staring down a silvery bolt of energy.
With a clipped cry, Twilight ducked, grunting as the bolt seared through a healthy portion of her mane, catching the hood of her cloak on fire. Panic erupted in her gut, making her cry out in pain and shock. Her mane was on fire, as was the cloak. She shook off the latter, her horn sparking to quell the growing flames. Her scalp throbbed in the aftermath, but she had no choice but to act as another bolt of dark blue energy jetted through the night, intent on hitting her. She rolled to the side, kicking up a plume of sand in her wake. The bolt followed her halfway, slipping through the thinnest hairs of her coat and impacting the sand directly behind her and to the left.
She scrambled to her hooves and ran around the back of the carriage, her eyes wide as she stared at the water. As she watched, another bolt of silver energy and a red one streaked out of the shallows, aimed straight for her.
“Bastards!” Twilight cursed as she ducked back around the cart. “They’re aiming for me, not the wagon!” Indeed, the spells had been keyed directly to her. They would seek her out, though they held inertia and could be dodged with good timing. Both streams of light bounced off of the wooden planks of the cart and curved off into the night, hissing as they went. Twilight cursed once more as she broke cover, leaping over a third, green bolt of light that shot right under her stomach. There were at least four of them, possibly more. Twilight couldn’t see her assailants, but they were aiming at her from the water’s edge.
“Fuck this.” Twilight glanced back at the tent, where nopony seemed to quite notice the danger just yet. To her far right, one of the guards had noticed and was making his way towards her curiously. She waved him off as she dove underneath one cart, wincing as the wheel immediately to her left exploded in a rain of splinters and scintillating magic. Several slivers of wood imbedded themselves in her flanks, sending another sharp jolt of pain into her system. She rolled out from underneath the now-imbalanced load of what appeared to be vegetables, just as the whole thing tipped towards the destroyed wheel. She had a moderate barrier now, which served to block two more projectiles.
“Alright, you fuckers.” She shoved the pain into the back of her mind. “Time to see where it is you got this hook…” Certain spells could be keyed to a recipient. A skilled unicorn could manipulate these keys into specifically-targeted spells, ones that banked and curved and followed their quarry. Twilight settled her mind, her horn glowing as she sought where it was these ponies had hooked their magic into her. Two more bolts impacted the cart as she worked, but she paid them little mind. She was searching inside of herself for the whispers of power that were directing this magic towards her. Sure enough, she felt them. Five hooks, each of the embedded in her horn. These ponies had undoubtedly read her magical energy from the one unicorn she had detained and brought to Rarity for questioning just yesterday. They were now using that signature to target her and her alone.
“Haah…” Twilight’s horn sparked brilliant orange for a moment as she plucked the five strings from inside herself. They broke apart in thin air and she tossed them aside. No more pre-existing advantage. Twilight grimaced as she flung herself from out behind the upended cart, her horn glowing brilliantly.
“What?!” One of the assailants cursed as his green spell missed wide, not even bothering to turn towards her.
“She’s figured them out! Get her!”
“No more running, eh?” Twilight grinned as she watched two ponies emerge from the shadows at the water’s edge. They sprinted towards her, casting disjointed and weak spells. She dodged one, blocked the other, and cast two of her own in rapid succession. One pony sprawled into the dirt, his mouth and hooves bound by a glowing, brilliant wire of energy. The other one reared up, clutching his bloody nose. Twilight dashed past them, intent on reaching the water and whoever else was waiting for her.
“Bail!” One of them cried, casting a panicked stunning spell to slow Twilight. She side-stepped it and poured on the heat, closing the distance to the other attackers. Last time, she had settled for one. This time, she’d have all five. Her magic pulsed into the night, impacting the air and driving a shockwave of sand before it. The three remaining ponies cried out in shock as she gripped them all, dragging them back through the sand towards her.
“Please, spare us!”
“Pathetic.” Twilight spat at them, her horn pulsing yet again as she pulled the earthy sand into iron-hard cords around the three ponies. “You’re bested, and all you can do is beg for your lives. Quit squirming.” The sand clamped around the three assailants, keeping them and their horns plastered tight into the desert floor.
“P-please, just let us go! We’ll leave you be!”
“Pah.” Twilight grimaced. “Twice now you’ve attacked me specifically. You’re lucky I haven’t beseeched Scorch to have your hides on this matter. How’s the leg, by the way?”
“F-fine, Miss Rarity healed me right, b-but, you’re just going to leave us here for the night?”
“For now.” Twilight surmised, finishing her spells. The three unicorns were entombed in rock-hard sand, their horns clenched tight with suppression spells. A skilled unicorn could break free in a few hours, but she didn’t plan on leaving them there that long. Instead, she returned to the two stallions she had left groaning in the sand a ways back.
“Break your nose?” Twilight asked, nudging the one stallion whose hooves were clamped against his bloody muzzle.
“Fuggin’ bihh.” He managed to choke out. Twilight just grimaced at him and turned to the other, still bound tight with glowing spellthread.
“You look comfy. Let’s get you two to Miss Rarity. I’m sure she’ll want to know why Diamond Bay won’t be receiving any carrots this time around.” Sure enough, the camp was in an uproar by the time she returned. Twilight hoisted her quarries and carried them both back towards the burning, upended cart, and everypony trying desperately to douse the flames around it.
“Dusk! Thank the stars!” Rarity sighed in relief as Dusk emerged into the circle of light provided by the flames. “I feared the worst when we couldn’t immediately find you… Who are these?”
“Scorch’s followers.” Twilight replied, dumping both stallions onto the sand at Rarity’s hooves. “I’ve three more incapacitated on the shore.”
“Five of them?” Rarity looked at her dumbfounded. “Dusk Hoof, I thought you were a simple enchantress…”
“Yeah, well…” Twilight blushed, rubbing the back of her neck with a hoof. “Adrenaline and all that…”
“Very good. I’m glad you’re unhurt. This one, however…” Rarity kicked the broken-nosed stallion roughly. “That’s twice now you and yours have attacked us. If it weren’t for Dusk here, we’d have lost much more. Not to mention some, aah… ‘Unwanted’ injuries, hmm?”
“Fugg you.” The stallion choked, glaring up at Rarity. “Ou don’ deserff to bee ‘ead mare. Filheh haff-bood.”
“Now, now…” Rarity stood over the stallion, one hoof planted on his foreleg. “That’s no way to speak to a lady, is it?”
“What are oo- AUGH!”
Twilight winced as the stallion’s leg broke, twisting and a disgustingly wrong angle. Rarity bore her entire weight on the joint of his knee, breaking his leg in one of the worst ways imaginable. Everypony gathered around seemed to shrink back from the sudden cries of the wounded pony.
“I’ve dealt with your attacks long enough.” Rarity growled, loud enough for everypony to hear. “You tell Scorch if she has a problem with me being head mare, she can say it to my face. I’ve had enough of your under-hoofed night time raids and your ‘innocent’ injuries against my ponies. I’ve lost more bits than I’d care to count to you and yours, and I think it’s about damn time I start taking back what I lost.” Rarity glanced up at Twilight, her eye twitching a little at the sight of the bloody splinters and her singed mane.
“What’s more, you harmed my best mage. If I were a less forgiving pony, I’d have her skin your hide and leave you bleeding and dry in the middle of the desert. Instead,” She shifted her hoof, moving to his other foreleg.
“I’ll send you back to Scorch on a litter. And tell her should she send another night time raid my way, I’ll send her back to Tel-Applebim on a stretcher of her own. Dusk, fetch the others. I want them to watch.”
“Yes, mistress.” Twilight bowed her head and went to fetch the other three unicorns from their place in the sand. When she deposited them in front of their wounded brethren, Rarity stood on the injured stallion’s hind leg.
“I was just telling your friend here,”
“How I’m not terribly keen on you constantly raiding our wagon trains, and in tonight’s case, very nearly killing my most skilled mage. Thus,” She shifted to his other leg, even as the four ponies watched her with wide, horrified eyes. “I’m making Scorch a promise. Should she send more of you my way, I will send you back…”
“In pieces, if I must. You’re going to return to Tel-Applebim and tell Scorch that if her quarrel is with me, then with me she shall settle it. Furthermore, for all of my assets she has destroyed, I’ll take their price out of this dear stallion’s hide.” Rarity’s horn glowed as she lifted his foreleg, bending the broken bone at another excruciating angle. “Hmm…”
She spun his hoof around in a full, slow circle, eliciting the highest-pitched, most tortured scream Twilight had ever heard. He writhed on the ground, his mouth open and drooling with delirium.
“There we go,” She dropped his leg unceremoniously. He whimpered and cried on the sands, unable to move any of his legs for fear of worsening the breaks. “That ought to make us even. Hammer, Daffodil, fetch a stretcher for our crippled guest. He and his friends have a long walk ahead of them tonight.”
“Rarity?” The one named Hammer spoke cautiously. “They’ll freeze before they reach their destination-“
“Such a shame.” Rarity frowned at the four remaining unicorns. “If only there were some sort of magic they could use to shelter and warm themselves… I’m sure they’ll manage, considering they’re perfectly fine using magic to harm others.” Rarity glanced at Dusk, a sort of rage boiling behind her eyes. Twilight had never seen her act this way, and after that night, she had trouble equating this world’s Rarity to the memory of her dear friend.
She turned away from the group then, stalking back towards the tent.
“Get them out of my sight. If I see them anywhere near this caravan, I’ll do much more than break some legs. It’ll be necks next.”
“Rarity.” Twilight approached her old friend cautiously. Her scalp still tingled from the healing spells that had been cast upon it, and her left side was sore from the splinters removal, but she was otherwise unharmed. Her primary concern in that moment was Rarity and how well she was taking the most recent development. “Rarity?” She was behind the tent, opposite the largest group of her marem as they helped see the five assailants off into the night.
“Dusk Hoof, sorry.” Rarity wiped a hoof over her face as she turned towards Twilight, sniffling a little. “I don’t mean for you to see me like this…”
“Nonsense.” Twilight stepped forth, cupping Rarity’s chin tenderly. “It’s only natural for us to cry when we’re hurt…”
“I’m not the one who’s hurt here, Dusk…” Rarity sniffled, though she nuzzled into Twilight’s hoof gently. “It’s that poor stallion. He was only acting on his orders…”
“Orders that were flawed and hurtful in the first place.” Twilight wiped away one of Rarity’s tears with her other hoof. “I think that’s the difference between you and Scorch. You’d never order any one of us to do anything that would hurt another. You’d rather do that on your own.”
“Still,” Rarity choked, stepping closer to Twilight. She obliged and wrapped her hooves around Rarity’s quivering form, stroking her mane tenderly. “I shouldn’t have gone so far. He’ll never walk again…”
“I’m sure he’ll recover.” Twilight cooed to Rarity. “One of the stallions was the one whose leg I broke just last night. He’s already walking, so I’m sure Scorch has a skilled healer in her marem. And you shouldn’t blame yourself, Rarity. You needed to send a message. And send one you did.”
“Things are different here, Dusk.” Rarity shook her head slowly. “Scorch will be out for blood now, more so than she was tonight. We’ll be lucky to make it to Diamond Bay unmolested, but she has ponies in her marem there too.” Rarity pulled away, looking at her with wide, teary eyes. “I may have more need for you now than ever, Dusk…”
“I’m here to help.” Twilight whispered, cupping Rarity’s chin once more. “Nopony will be harmed, not as long as I draw breath. I promise you.”
“Until we reach a solution.” Rarity sighed, nuzzling Twilight’s hoof eagerly. “Considering your trepidation at being involved in a marem, I’ll gladly release you from your obligation to us after Scorch’s marem has been dealt with, one way or another.”
“I’ll consider that a promise.” Twilight nodded, pulling Rarity into another hug. “But right now, you need some sleep. Come on.” Rarity didn’t protest as Twilight pulled her into the tent, searching for a quiet, shadowy corner. There were close to a dozen ponies inside, but they were quiet and somber. Twilight nodded understandingly to each of them in turn, taking Rarity to a comfortable-looking pile of pillows. She deposited her old friend there, smiling when Rarity immediately closed her eyes and drifted off.
“We’re going to want to double the watch tonight.” Twilight spoke to the first pony who arrived at her side. “I’ll take the first shift. Give me seven others, all of us at eight intervals. No fires outside of the ring, I don’t want us too easily visible.”
“Of course, Dusk. I’ll send you our best seven.”
“Split the best in half. I want the other half to rest now, and relieve us at two in the morning. Understood?”
“Thank you.” Twilight nodded as the mare slipped off, gone to find Twilight’s requested watchers for the night. She took her place outside of the ring of wagons, next to the smoldering wreckage of the vegetable cart she had used for cover. She was exhausted beyond measure, her whole body throbbing with pain. But she needed to remain vigilant. There were ponies out there who meant them harm.
As quiet descended upon the camp and the other seven ponies posted to take watch, Twilight pulled her bracelet off.
It hadn’t hummed even once when she was attacked by Scorch’s assailants.
“I guess there are some spells I don’t coincide with in this world…” Twilight grimaced and slipped the bracelet back on, looking out over the ocean. A thought came to her, and she smiled as a presence appeared beside her.
“Hello again, old friend.”
”So, Twilight Sparkle…” The Night whispered as it sat next to her. ”Another world, eh?”
“Are you familiar at all with the Crystal Mirror?” Twilight spoke quietly for fear of waking anypony, or alerting he guards to the night’s presence around her.
”I cannot say I am. Please, enlighten me.”
Twilight spent the rest of her watch chatting with an old friend, almost as if it were just another night spent in Luna’s hooves.
She was relieved promptly at two by a sturdy unicorn mare who assured her the rest of the night would be safe without her. She retired to a pile of pillows not too far removed from Rarity and her little clique, but not far from the entrance of the tent either. Thankfully, nothing happened. She slept into the next day, and was one of the last to rise mid-morning. Breakfast had been left out for her, and she nibbled on fried cactus and oatmeal, washed down with delicious crystal berry juice.
When she emerged into the bright sun, almost nopony was around. There were a few tending the baggage, and they pointed her out into the desert. She followed the well-worn tracks of well over sixty ponies out into the sands. After about a half an hour of hiking, she saw dark dots appear on the horizon, and some curious-looking holes littered throughout the sand. They burrowed deep, going into the hard-packed sand as far as seven or eight feet. Some of them went even further than that.
The dots became larger and more distinct as she followed the trail of deep holes, and she saw nearly all of the unicorns in their marem with their heads bowed low to the sand. Now and then, they would mark a spot, and another unicorn would come by, shoveling sand away from the mark. Twilight realized now what was happening. Rarity was leading them on a gem-hunting expedition. Each pony wore large saddlebags, and as she watched, two of the mares filled theirs up and made their way back towards camp. They passed Twilight with a wide smile, which she returned readily.
“Hello, Dusk!” Emerald greeted her cheerily, a shovel stuck in the sand next to her. “You’re awake, I see.”
“Much to my chagrin.” Twilight joked, going to give Emerald a quick hug and a tender kiss. “Gemhunting?”
“My mother’s trade,” Emerald nodded, offering Twilight a pair of saddlebags. “It’s mostly magic, so you’ll have to talk to her to learn the spell, but this is how we make the majority of our money in trades. Sapphire Shores is aptly named, since we owe the majority of our claim to the gems taken from the sand here.”
“Why so many gems in one place?” Twilight asked curiously, watching as one unicorn hauled up a large ruby, roughly the size of her hoof.
“Legend tells of a great dragon that once roamed these shores.” Emerald began, leaning against her shovel with a smile. “He was known as Ilyragos, Scorcher of Sands. He terrorized Saddle Arabia for many, many generations. He would swoop in on whole marems, decimating them with terrifying blasts of fire and sand. Then he would pick through the remains, taking all of the gems with him. His hoard was second to none, and he kept his den to the South, on the Fire Isles. Some say the Fire Isles were his creation.”
“But that doesn’t say how the gems arrived here…”
“Well, let me finish, silly.” Emerald stuck her tongue out at Twilight with a wink. “It’s the one time in all of history there was a documented case of an Equestrian assisting Saddle Arabia. A great unicorn named Starswirl from Canterlot travelled out here, and using his powerful magic, destroyed Ilyragos and the Fire Isles in one massive blast of arcane energy. Ilyragos’ hoard was scattered to the bottom of the ocean, flung hundreds of miles up and down the coast. Some of it reached the mainland, while most of it was cast out to sea.
“But the tide in this area is very strong, fluctuating hundreds of miles within a few short years. Once, this whole part of the desert was underwater. Now, it’s been barren for the past six years. Every time the tide shifts to cover the desert, it brings remnants of Ilyragos’ hoard here. Then, when it subsides, the gems are left, and we reap the benefits.” Emerald gestured with a hoof to the wide expanse of pockmarked sand.
“We came to the area west of here just six weeks ago and took one of our largest hauls yet. Now, we’re on to an even larger portion of Ilyragos’ wealth. Rarity’s certain we’re going to hit the jackpot this time around. Normally, it takes us a full day to even fill a half-dozen saddle bags. As you saw already, we’ve filled two and we’ve hardly been here an hour. So get to it.” Emerald swatted at Twilight’s flanks, making her yelp suddenly. She drew many curious looks from nearby ponies, causing her to flush brightly.
“I’m going to get you back for that.” Twilight growled playfully at Emerald.
“I look forward to it.” Emerald waved her off as Twilight looked for an open portion of the sand. She remembered Rarity’s gem-seeking spell from long, long ago, when she had ‘saved’ her friend from the Diamond Dogs. She put it to good use now, finding and excavating small pockets of gems. They weren’t very large, but they were numerous. Twilight enjoyed testing her elemental magic in pulling the gems from the sand, digging as deep as nine or ten feet in some cases. She lost track of time in pulling them out, and before the sun had reached its zenith, she had filled her saddlebags to the brim.
“Good work, Dusk! I knew I could count on you for a full bag.” Rarity met her on the way back to the caravan, where close to a dozen of them had already finished filling their bags. “This is our best take yet.”
“You’re sure Ilyragos is dead, though, right?” Twilight asked carefully. “I don’t remember reading anywhere that Starswirl ever even visited Saddle Arabia.”
“He never did,” Rarity shrugged. “He took a boat from a very early Horseshoe Bay straight to the Fire Isles. Never set hoof in Saddle Arabia.”
“Still,” Twilight shook her head. “I don’t remember anything about it, and I’ve read almost all there is to read about Starswirl the Bearded.”
“The bearded?” Rarity arched an eyebrow. “There’s no such thing as Starswirl the Bearded. Wherever did you get that notion?”
“I thought-“ Twilight paused. ’So there’s something else that’s different in this world. In mine, the Fire isles were swallowed by the sea in a storm… And Starswirl was most definitely bearded.’ “I must be mis-remembering.” Twilight muttered. “That’s right, it was Blaze the Bearded. I go the two mixed up.”
“Well I don’t remember any Blaze the Bearded either, but I remember next to nothing about Equestrian history anyways.” Rarity smiled and nudged Twilight’s flank, their bags pressing against one another. “Come on, let me show you the proper way to clean a gem.” Rarity led Twilight past the wagon train and straight for the ocean edge, where Twilight was surprised to see a portion of the sandy shore had been hallowed out and filled with seawater. Everypony who had fished gems up out of the sands dumped their load indo the shallow wading pool and then jumped in, picking up brushes and taking them to the ever-growing pile of gemstones. Rarity and Twilight followed them, taking two brushes of their own and picking one out of the pile of sparkling, beautiful gemstones. Rarity carefully and tenderly caressed the gem before scrubbing and rinsing all of the clingy sands off of it.
They spent most of the rest of the day cleaning gems, placing the clean ones in one of the baskets brought to them, and saving one out of every ten for a smaller pile, left unscrubbed. “Why aren’t we cleaning those?” Twilight asked, depositing her own moderately-sized sapphire back on the pile.
“A tribute,” Rarity shrugged, buffing one last grain of sand from a pretty, circular peridot. “We offer one-tenth of all we take back to the ocean, to please Ilyragos’ spirit. Some say he still lives under the waves, and if we incur his wrath, he’ll flood all of Saddle Arabia with terrible storms. It’s an old mare’s tale, but it’s still tradition with all the gemhunters who come to Sapphire Shores.”
“I see.” Twilight grimaced at the pile of sandy gems, each of them to be returned to the ocean. She smiled then, realizing that traditions, silly as some of them may be, were actually quite nice. She returned her attention to the dwindling pile of gems to be scrubbed, working hard as the sun began to sink towards the waves. At long last, they had finished them all, leaving nine baskets filled almost to the brim, and another pile to be returned to the ocean.
“Dusk Hoof,” Rarity drew her attention quietly. “We usually just carry the gems into the sea and drop them, but I have a better idea.”
“Oh? Do tell.” Twilight smiled as Rarity approached the pile of gems, her horn glowing faintly. She cast some sort of spell on them, each of the gems taking a measure of the light from Rarity’s horn and amplifying it. As she watched, the gems grew brighter and brighter until each of them sparkled as brilliantly as if the mid-day sun itself were shining on them.
“Launch them.” Rarity turned to her with a smile. “We’ll get a nice little light show, and none of them will wash ashore on tonight’s tide. How far do you think you can send them?”
Twilight grinned as she took Rarity’s place beside the gems. Everypony gathered around her, watching with wonder in their eyes as Twilight’s own horn began to glow a brilliant, dark purple. She cast two spells, the first was a ball of energy nestled in the center of the pile, ready to expand quickly and smoothly in an instant. The second was to clump all of the gems together, forming a loose sphere of glimmering light.
“Ready?” Twilight asked, smiling at Rarity.
“Ready.” Rarity and everypony else in the marem nodded their approval, and Twilight gripped the ball in her magic. She paused for a moment, looking out over the waves and the stormy horizon. The ball hovered in front of her, dripping sand down into the lapping shallows.
“Ilyragos,” She spoke loud enough for everypony to hear. “We thank you for your boon. We offer the fruits of our labors back to you, as thanks for your parting gift to this world. Your fury was great, and your legend lives on. Spare us your wrath, and slumber peacefully tonight.”
With a great vocalization, Twilight shot the sphere of gems off into the evening. The setting sun caught the ball, further illuminating the multitude of gems. Twilight smiled as the second spell took effect, dispelling the first and propelling all of the gems out in a circle.
“Woah!” Everypony gasped as the glittering gems fanned out into the evening sky, glittering like a million stars falling from the heavens. They winked and wavered as they fell, landing out past the swells in the calm parts of the ocean.
As Twilight watched, the storm clouds on the horizon dissipated. There would be no anger this evening, for Ilyragos had been sated.
Diamond Bay loomed on the horizon, like a glimmering jewel set in the sands of the desert. Twilight breathed a sigh of wonder at the sight of the city, like a tear drop on a dark mare’s cheek. They had been travelling from the Sapphire Shores since that morning, and even the ponies who hadn’t pulled their wagon train were wearing thin. There had been no resting for them, not since they left the Sapphire Shores and turned for Diamond Bay. The city loomed closer and closer as they trodded along, and before she knew it, they were on the dusty outskirts of the city. The wagon train wound its way through a full mile of what looked to be off-set sandstone blocks, rising as high as twenty feet above them.
“They’re for sandstorms,” Emerald explained when Twilight brought it up. “The way the blocks are staggered, the winds die down between them before ever reaching the city proper.”
“Genius.” Twilight muttered, noticing how as they continued on, less sand and more pavestone could be seen between the massive blocks. Indeed, after a full mile of winding through the sandstone blocks, they left them behind for paved streets and homes, businesses, and taverns. Diamond Bay was the outlet by which almost everything reached the south-eastern reaches of Saddle Arabia. Further north along the shore was Diamond Bay’s sister city, Onyx Bay, bordering the North-Eastern edge of Saddle Arabia and the impassible mountains. It was named Onyx Bay for the ever-present shadow the mountains cast, and the dark waters there. The shore between the two cities was unmarred by city or structure, thanks to the harsh weather that plagued the Eastern seas. But further inland by a few miles were several other cities, chiefly Tel-Applebim and The Spire, which Twilight knew would be one of the only places to find Pegasi in Saddle Arabia.
Intrigued as she was by Saddle Arabian geography, she was more interested in getting out of the sun and getting into a nice, cool bed for the evening. She had spent almost the whole trip on top of one of the carts, using a hastily-erected platform to keep an elevated eye on the sands around their caravan. Thankfully, none of Scorch’s unicorns attacked them, and they made it into Diamond Bay unmolested, save by the high winds that picked up around the coastal city.
Their wagon train approached a rather large charter near the Northern edge of the bay, where Rarity paid healthily for the protective services of a warehouse owner. He would keep their livelihood safe during their stay, and Rarity could barter their goods without having to worry about them being ransacked in the middle of the night. Scorch could attack them all she liked out on the sands, but here in the city, there were laws in place. One marem specifically targeting another was almost expressly forbidden, and punishable by death or exile.
If Scorch wanted to harm them here, she’d have to do so through legal means, and Twilight didn’t think the rival marem’s head was that patient. She would wait for them to leave Diamond Bay once more. Here, each one of her marem was known, as was Rarity’s. Twilight herself had to visit a registrar who held books on each marem and its known members. She allowed the registrar to sketch her cutie mark and showed her bracelet as proof she belonged with Rarity.
After that, it was night time. Rarity knew of several inns and taverns that would fit them all, and sought one near the heart of the bustling coastal city. The rooms were spacious and plentiful, and several had been reserved for them in advance. Much to Twilight’s chagrin, she was given a room with Rarity and her daughter, along with the other mares she had shared her first day with. She wouldn’t be getting much sleep, and if she did, it wouldn’t be unmolested.
Then again, after all the stress and fatigue of the past few days, Twilight felt like she could certainly use a little company in her bed that night. As she joined the others at the communal bath underground, she found it hard to resist seeking Emerald out for a little foreplay. In fact, too hard. She spotted Emerald slipping into the steamy, wide bath at the far end of the room, and went to go join her. Halfway there, she bumped into another pony she didn’t recognize.
A flash of pain lanced through her side. Twilight looked back, spotting a wickedly-curved blade sticking out of her flanks. The mare who had just bumped into her had her hoof on the hilt, glaring back at Twilight viciously.
Archmage: Beyond the Crystal Mirror "Saddle Arabian Nights"
Tags: Erotic, Normal
Fair warning: These chapters do have erotic elements, up to and including sex. To be fair, the impact on the overall story has been reduced. You’re welcome to skip these chapters, and you won’t miss much.
The knife stung. Twilight inhaled slowly as the pain finally caught up to her, radiating into her entire body from her side. As she watched, the mare pulled the blade out and reared back, intent on driving it into her once more. Twilight saw red and green on the blade.
’Poison.’ Twilight grimaced, her horn lighting up brilliantly to send an echoing shot of power into the bathhouse. The surface of the water rippled outwards from her, and everypony screamed. There was a breath of a moment that Twilight saw the mare, her eyes wide with shock as Twilight’s magic streaked straight towards her neck.
Blood shot into the air, followed by the attacking mare’s head. Twilight watched as her body fell to the stone floor, oozing blood into the bath water. Then her legs gave out, inexplicably dumping her onto the floor. The knife clattered away, just as the mare’s head landed with a splash in one of the other tubs.
As pandemonium broke out in the bathhouse, Twilight felt consciousness leave her.
She fell into the blackness.
’So this is death.’ Twilight thought. ’Kind of warm. And it’s not what I expected…’ She felt like she was floating. The fact that she could feel anything spoke volumes in and of itself, but still, she was in no state of mind to think properly just then. Her head reeled and she felt sick to her stomach. The more she thought about it, the worse it got. Twilight lurched forwards, upending her stomach as hooves pulled her mane aside.
’Wait, hooves? I can feel my mane? Wha… What’s going on…’
“Delirium.” A voice came to her, echoing as if she stood in some great, empty hall. It made her head hurt and her stomach churn even more, and she hurled once more. Her eyes fluttered open, revealing confusing shapes and colors that meant nothing to her. She heaved once again, coughing fitfully as a cool rag was passed across her face.
“She’s purging the venom from her system, bit by bit. She’s in for a long night, but she’ll be fine. She’s lucky she wasn’t cut by that blade again; this is serious stuff. I’m amazed her heart hasn’t stopped yet.”
“Bluergh.” Twilight spat up once again, shuddering in the aftermath of the stomach-emptying ordeal.
’Being dead sucks. I wish I could stop vomiting. Or see straight.’ Twilight began to whimper, her entire body quivering.
“Give her another dose. She needs to get it all out, else it’ll just linger and grow worse.” Twilight grunted as a fresh wave of nausea passed over her, and she hurled once again. “By the stars, how much did she eat?”
“Urg,” Twilight spat a few times, trying to clear the taste of vomit from her mouth. To no avail, it seemed, the prevalent taste was on her tongue and wouldn’t leave.
“She needs to sweat it out. Get more blankets. You two, lay on top of her.”
A great weight descended on her, and she fought it off.
“Hold her down.” The voice commanded, echoing in her head. “She doesn’t know who you are or that this is good for her.”
“Fig Leaf, dear, leave this to us.”
“URGH!” Twilight upended once more, strings of saliva dangling from her snout. The rag wiped them away, and another rag wiped her face calmingly. She shuddered and whimpered, tears streaming from her eyes as even more nausea rocked her. When she wasn’t sure that she could handle any more, her strength reached its end and she fell into the darkness once more.
’Still dead? No, I feel warm… Very warm…’ Twilight came back to the realization that she was under covers, and feeling rather stifled. She squirmed a little, whimpering again. She felt hot, impossibly hot, and sweaty.
“I think she’s awake.”
“About time. Up you go, Dusk…” Two voices came to her, and the stifling sensation lifted momentarily. Then it was gone completely, replaced by marginally cool air and the feeling of the floor beneath her hooves.
“Wha… What’s going on?”
“You were poisoned.” The voice said quietly, leaning against her side fully now. Twilight groaned and stumbled forwards, following their guidance. “We’re going to bathe you now, and this should cure the last of it. The doctor says you’re through the worst of it now, and this should be the last bit…”
“O-okay…” Twilight nodded, still stumbling and feeling rather light-headed. She kicked the edge of the tub, eliciting a wince from her before scrambling over the edge and falling into the hot water. The two mares with her hauled her up, pulling her head above the water so she could breathe. She inhaled the scent of oil and herbs deeply, feeling an odd numbing sensation wash over her body. The scent cut into the back of her nose, clearing her sinuses and biting hard enough to make her eyes water.
When she blinked the tears away, the room was finally thrown into relief. She blinked unevenly at the bright light of the candle before making out everything at long last.
“Rarity… Emerald…” She moaned. The two mares were the only other ones there, both smiling faintly. “What… What happened to me?”
“Scorch sent an assassin after you.” Rarity said quietly, hooking her forelegs over the edge of the tub. She gingerly cupped water, picking it up and dropping it onto Twilight’s mane. “She used a poisoned blade, and you’ve been fighting the venom for the past two days.”
“Poisoned… Huh…” Twilight could hardly remember anything since coming to Diamond Bay. The last cohesive memory she had was of packing up their camp and leaving Sapphire Shores. Since then, it had all been a blur. “What of the assassin…?” Twilight groaned, soaking up the heat of the bath. After feeling so stifled, she thought she would hate being in this hot bath, but the herbs and oils were making her feel all numb and floaty. She could hardly feel anything below her neck anymore, and as Rarity spread more of the water on her, even that was fading.
“Well,” Emerald shook her head. “Rarity wasn’t there, but I was… They’re still draining and cleaning all the tubs.”
“What? Why?” Twilight whimpered, looking between the two. Rarity grimaced and continued rubbing water into her mane.
“You kind of decapitated her. Her blood was everywhere, in the water, on the floor… It was gruesome, darling.”
“I… I’m sorry.” Twilight whimpered. She was greeted with the ghost of a memory, of blood and a blast of magic.
“No matter. I’ve made sure that the assailant was equated with Scorch’s marem, and she’s being billed for the cost. I’ll be damned if I let her get away with this without taking a hit to the pocketbooks, at the very least.”
“At least there’s that.” Twilight sighed, relaxing into the water a little.
“I’m just glad you’re okay, love.” Rarity began rubbing the water onto Twilight’s face and head, further numbing her muscles. “You very nearly died.”
’I have got to be more careful.’ Twilight thought with a grim look. ’If I die here, I die in my world too… I’d never get to see Luna again… A pang of sorrow shot through her, piercing even through the numbing oils and herbs. Rarity and Emerald she could trust, but everypony else in Diamond Bay could very well be the enemy. Suddenly, Twilight did not want to explore this city. She didn’t want to see what else this cruel and inhospitable world held for her. Saddle Arabia had bared its teeth at her, and she couldn’t handle the bite. As the bath water lulled her into unconsciousness once more, Twilight made up her mind.
’I’m leaving this world – and Saddle Arabia.’
She was in her bed once more, though thankfully not stifled with five blankets and two mares. Instead, a slight sheet and one mare took their place. Twilight gave a soft groan as she woke up to Emerald slumbering beside her. While Emerald wasn’t exactly a bad thing to wake up to, Twilight wondered why she was sharing her bed with the curvaceous earth pony. Then she remembered the inn they were staying at, and how the rooms were communally shared. She supposed Rarity and Emerald had shared her bed the past few nights, whether to keep her warm and tend to her or simply because there was nowhere else for them to stay.
Twilight extricated herself from the sheets and drew a cool bath, submerging herself in the lukewarm water with a sigh. She let the fresh water cleanse the last bits of fatigue she felt, and checked herself for wounds. The dusky coat of her alter-ego had been scarred a few times since her arrival in Saddle Arabia, chiefly on her left side with the splinters, and her right flank where the knife had pierced her. She was lucky her kidney wasn’t hit; since the knife wound seemed awfully close. That would have made for an excruciating experience.
Still, Twilight wasn’t keen on remaining in this world much longer. Dusk Hoof had made a name for herself, and Twilight couldn’t handle the ire she’d earned from Scorch’s marem. She had to leave, and leave soon. This world was strange, and had changed in more ways than she expected. The fact that Rarity was in Saddle Arabia was enough to have her leery, but that Starswirl – one of the most iconic figures of her academic upbringing – was so drastically different had set her over the edge. She idolized that pony, and all of his feats and accomplishments. Twilight wasn’t about to let that particular bit of information go. As she finished soaking in the cool water, Twilight made for the small balcony the inn had provided them. It was night time, shortly after sunset. Emerald being asleep was rather strange; since this was usually the hour she was most active. Rather than press her luck, Twilight decided to wait.
She sauntered back to the bed, curling up with her back against Emerald’s flanks. The earth pony gave a soft moan, but didn’t rouse further. Twilight felt like she had slept plenty, so she pulled one of the books Rarity had brought with her from the bedside table and lost herself in the tale for a short while. It was a nonsensical romance book, telling tales of valiant mares rescuing their loves from evil overlords and combating magic the likes of which didn’t even exist. Twilight felt so much more removed from reality, considering she wasn’t even in her own world, or was even herself, and she was reading fantasy.
Rarity entered the room, very nearly startling Twilight. She smiled at seeing her charge awake, and came to give her a gentle hug.
“I’m glad you’re awake,” She whispered gently, slipping onto the bed so as not to wake Emerald. “I was terribly worried.”
“I’m okay, thanks in no small part to you.” Twilight smiled and nuzzled Rarity’s neck. “You saved my life.”
“I just had to pull some strings with a few local doctors.” Rarity smiled in return, stroking Twilight’s mane gingerly. “A small price to pay to keep you breathing. Dusk, I know that you’re-“
“Rarity.” Twilight cut her off with a hoof, pressing it softly to the white unicorn’s lips. “Save your words. I have something to say to you, but it’d be best to share it when we aren’t in the presence of your daughter.”
“Very well.” Rarity seemed crestfallen, and with good reason. Twilight intended on telling her she was leaving the marem. Her original plan had been to slip away quietly, but the bracelets could just as easily been used in reverse function to track her down. She would either have to abandon or forfeit it to leave Diamond Bay without alerting the other members of Rarity’s marem.
“You know, I promised to buy your ho-“
“You never even asked if I had a home to begin with.” Twilight chuckled. “My family’s home is in Neighgrabah. I don’t need a home from you, Rarity.”
“Mom?” Emerald muttered, stirring beside them. Rarity and Twilight both closed their mouths, looking to the sleepy-eyed mare. “Oh… Dusk Hoof… You’re okay. I’m so glad.” Emerald smiled at Twilight, tears leaking from her eyes. “I was so worried…”
“It’s true, you know.” Rarity said quietly. “She hasn’t left your side since the first night.”
“I…” Twilight frowned down at Emerald, her heart throbbing in her chest. ’That’s something I’d just as soon expect from Luna, not Emerald…’ “Thank you, Emerald…” Twilight forced a smile onto her lips as Emerald opened her hooves, urging Twilight into a soft embrace. She sunk down beside Emerald, wrapping her own hooves around her warm friend. Rarity pressed against her back, the three of them cuddled up close.
“I do hope you’ll reconsider, Dusk…” Rarity whispered in her ear. Twilight grimaced to herself, even as her hooves stroked Emerald’s mane soothingly. Emerald began crying, her gentle sobs shaking all three of them.
Twilight sincerely didn’t want to hurt Emerald or Rarity by leaving, but she honestly doubted she could survive in this world. She had let her guard down for but a moment in the bath house, and had very nearly paid for that mistake with her life.
Hurting Luna would be much worse than hurting either of these ponies. Twilight hated to admit it, but she was much more fearful of the former. As Emerald and Rarity slowly drifted off to sleep, Twilight closed her eyes and focused her magic.
In the wake of her passing, she left everything. Her saddlebags with the books she had read and the jewelry, and on the night stand was her bracelet. The only thing she kept was her cloak. She’d need it to hide herself in the shadowy streets of Diamond Bay.
On her way out of the door, Twilight heard Rarity mumble one word. She spoke it so soulfully, as if it were the last thing that would cross her mind on her deathbed.
The night was much colder than Twilight remembered it being. She hadn’t cast her hydration spell, and wasn’t wearing the bracelet, but still the cool night air bit into her exposed coat, sending shudders down her flanks. She stomped her hooves on the cobblestones to return feeling, even as she left the city proper and made her way into the winding stone blocks bordering Diamond Bay. It was only the middle of the night, and yet Twilight was already on her way out of the city. Nopony had seen her depart the inn, and Rarity wouldn’t learn of her abandoning the marem until the morning.
She had a whole night to get a headstart on whatever opposition would be coming her way, be it Scorch’s assassins or Rarity’s seekers. Despite the lingering fatigue from the poison, Twilight pushed herself hard. The night was even colder out on the dunes, with the wind kicking up miniature frozen sandstorms and no shelter to be had. Twilight huddled tightly in her cloak, keeping herself warm with periodic blasts of fire. Even those did little to allay the effect of the bitter, prevalent cold. It was all she could do to make it until the morning.
When the sun at long last peeked over the horizon, Twilight could have cried. She spurred herself on harder, shedding her cloak bit by bit as the heat began to rise. Before long, she had tied her cloak around her head in a makeshift turban, and had cast a hydration spell for good measure. The one thing she had stopped to do was consult a map, and it was towards the north-east she walked now. When Rarity and the wagon train had entered Diamond Bay, they did so from the south-east, coming almost straight in from the Sapphire Shores. Now, rather than cross the inhospitable desert between her and the shores, she made for the grottolands, a stretch of oases and grottos that were a boon to any travelling Saddle Arabian.
A pang of sadness crossed her heart as Twilight realized there would be no Emerald here to tell her how the grottolands came to be. The fact that there were any non-ponymade water sources in the middle of the desert seemed suspicious to Twilight, but as the first green scar appeared on the horizon, Twilight wasn’t about to complain. She made straight for it, making sure the green strip of vegetation on the horizon didn’t waver, indicating a mirage of sorts. It was indeed solid, and as she neared the small stand of trees, she gave thanks to the powers that be she finally had water.
“Stupid mistake, Twilight.” She moaned, wading into the small pool cloak and all. “Should have at least brought some canteens…” In her haste to depart Diamond Bay, Twilight had forgotten quite a few things. Food, for one, and water for another. She paused to have a relaxing soak in the pool of her first grotto before chopping down a nearby palm to fashion makeshift canteens out of the wood. She chewed on some tough Reedgrass to sate her hunger, hoping that there would be ripe coconuts at the next grotto, or maybe a stand of watercress. She strapped her cloak over her neck and tucked the canteens into it, dunking the whole thing in water until it soaked through, keeping her relatively cool on top of the hydration spell.
“Alright, Twilight.” She hoisted her small pack and scanned the horizon. “There we are.” Another grotto, markedly larger than the one she stood in, lay not two miles away. The chain of grottos and water sources had been a loose road for Saddle Arabians to follow for ages now. There were times when marems had laid claim to one grotto or another, and held turf wars with other marems. Now, the grottos were peaceful and tranquil, as the marems had chosen to settled their disputes in a slightly more civilized manner. Twilight looked back the way she had came – to Diamond Bay – with a slight grimace.
“Old habits die hard, I suppose…” She made a note in the back of her mind to remain wary of any other travelers she might come across. Be they from Rarity’s marem, or Scorch’s.
As she turned her trail towards the next grotto, Twilight thought of home, and the pendant pressed against her breast beneath the canteens.
“I’m coming home, Luna.” She grimaced. “Wait for me just a little longer… Just a little bit more.”
That evening brought with it uncertainty. Twilight had been following the chain of ponds and oases from one to the next, stopping at each one to scan her surroundings thoroughly. As far as she could see, nopony else had followed her trail through the chain of lakes and ponds. Then again, the light played tricks on her eyes throughout the day. Furthermore, when night fell, the shadows deepened, concealing the movements of anypony who might be on her trail.
She had left a rather obvious one through the sands, but there really wasn’t any other alternative. Twilight knew flying in the thin, stale air was all but impossible for any but the strongest, most skilled fliers; particularly over the grottolands, where the air currents and thermals were interrupted by pockets of low pressure rising up from the water. Besides, she didn’t feel like dropping her disguise just yet. She could have disguised herself as a different pegasus, but she still wouldn’t have been able to fly very well, if at all in the stale desert air.
So Twilight trudged on until nightfall, when the last grotto lay before her. It was smaller than the last few she had been to, and as the chill of night came to her bones, she sought fuel for a fire. The trees and bushes surrounding the still water of this grotto were all wet and lush, none of them dried or dead as she had hoped. Feeling remorse for killing such beautiful palm fronds, Twilight sliced a few off of the nearest tree, and set about to drying them off by drawing the water from them.
When she had a healthy blaze going and had banked enough fuel to last her the night, Twilight settled down for a long sleep. She still felt fatigue from the poison and its taxing ordeal on her, and she needed as much rest as possible. Curled up in her cloak beside the fire, Twilight closed her eyes and drifted off peacefully.
When she awoke the next morning, the fire had burned out, but the desert was uncharacteristically overcast. She frowned up at the pearly-grey clouds, stretching from horizon to horizon.
“Rain in the desert. I’ll be damned.” Twilight sighed. While she wasn’t sure the effect rain would have on the sand beneath her hooves, she knew she couldn’t wait here. As the first few droplets of water pattered against the surface of the grotto, Twilight filled her canteens and set out. The steady pitter-patter of raindrops soon evolved into a full-on cloudburst, soaking her through to the bone. It was a warm rain, but the dunes soon turned into sloughing, shifting mountains of mass that threatened to twist her leg or sweep her away on ever-changing tides of earth.
Just as soon as it began, it was done. Twilight pulled her hood back as the rain came to a rather abrupt and sudden end. The last clouds scudded away on high winds, leaving nothing but blue skies and a baleful, hot sun. What moisture had accumulated on the sands quickly dried, leaving her parched in its wake. She took a moment to re-cast her hydration spell and look around.
And then she saw them.
A dark line on the horizon, easily a hundred feet across or more, did not waver or flicker as the sun was wont to do. The last grotto was well behind her by then, so it couldn’t be that either. Twilight paused atop a slight incline to view the black line a little more intently, until she saw the trail of dust it kicked up, and the joined mass of a hundred ponies or so.
“Oh no…” It was either Rarity’s marem, or more likely Scorch’s. Twilight turned her back to the black line and made her way down the far side of the dune, eager to put as much distance between herself and them as possible.
She didn’t last the day. Every fifteen minutes or so, she would look over her withers at the dark line, frowning as it grew larger and larger, and she couldn’t put enough distance between them. She made it to the next grotto, and upon leaving that one the line had doubled. She could almost make out the individual ponies, and they begun to take on definition in the form of different colors and clothes. By the time she was halfway to the next grotto, she could start counting them.
By the time Twilight made it to the relative safety of the grotto’s shaded edge, the line had formed into a mass of two hundred or more ponies, hot on her tail and numbering well over one hundred. She could hear their cries of triumph. They began shouting orders, spreading out to surround the oasis she was running into.
“Okay, so…” Twilight splashed through the shallows of the pool, thankful for the cool relief it offered her taxed muscles. “Keep running, or stand and fight?” She deliberated for a few moments as the water calmed around her, and she sunk into it up to her neck. Her muscles relaxed and her heart slowed. She closed her eyes, taking several deep breaths to help further calm herself.
When her eyes opened, it was with determination. Smoothly, Twilight popped the clasp on her cloak and let the makeshift canteens fall into the water. She dripped cool liquid as she stepped out of the oasis and onto its sandy shore. She stood there, calm and collected, as the mass of ponies emerged from the greenery all around her. The whole pool was surrounded. Both unicorns and earth ponies circled her in, leaving her nothing but the small pool and her wits to defend herself. The largest portion of them were right in front of her, and from them a single mare emerged.
Twilight knew who she was before she ever spoke. Her mane was a brilliant, fiery red, and her coat the color of ash. Her eyes gleamed dangerously, a deep blue the same color as the heart of a roaring fire. Twilight glared at her as she advanced to stand opposite, the two mares staring one another down intently.
“So,” Scorch sniffed. “You’re the one who’s been making so much trouble for me.”
“Scorch, I presume.” Twilight locked her gaze on the mysterious, fiery mare.
“And you would be Dusk Hoof. I’d say it’s a pleasure to meet you, but I’m certain that’s a hollow sentiment.”
“I’m glad I’m not alone in that regard.” Twilight slowly lowered herself to her haunches. The water from the pool began to evaporate on her coat.
“Well, you know why we’re here. You’re clearly at a disadvantage, and there’s only one thing you can do to get us to leave.”
“And that would be?” Twilight flicked her tail. She could see it in Scorch’s eyes. They flashed brilliantly, even as her horn began to glow with the same color as her fiery mane.
“To die. HAH!”
The bolt of energy never reached Twilight. She dispelled it with hardly a blink of her eye, feeling the shockwave of energy wash over her hide. Scorch snarled and cast another bolt, but this one ricocheted off, streaking out into the water, where it kicked up a violent, hissing plume of steam.
“What’s the point?!” Scorch snarled, casting another bolt. “You’re out-numbered! Even you can’t withstand all of us!”
“On the contrary,” Twilight’s horn sparked brightly, reflecting the bolt once more. This time, it shot directly back at Scorch, catching the unsuspecting mare right in her chest. She stumbled backwards, her eyes wide at the sudden impact. “I think I can.”
“Who ARE you?!” Scorch panted, raising a hoof to her breast. “You’re no ordinary unicorn…”
“Well,” Twilight sighed, closing her eyes slowly. “Considering none of you are going to leave this place alive, I suppose it’s fine for me to tell you.”
“What?! What do you mean, none of us are leaving here alive?!”
“I mean,” Twilight’s horn began to glow. A dull hum filled the air, building in intensity until even her own hair stood on-end. The grotto rippled and pulsed, and her voice rang out above all.
”I’m going to kill you all.”
A barrier erupted into existence, roaring with intensity as it spread. Twilight watched as everypony scrambled, running away from the epicenter of power. She waited until the barrier had expanded to an adequate degree before solidifying it. Several unicorns tried to dispel it, to stop her, but they were unsuccessful. An opaque globe soon encased the oasis, and as the first wave of fleeing ponies reached the edge, their hooves and spells fell upon it uselessly.
“Wh… What are you doing?”
“Sealing us all in here.” Twilight sighed. She stood on all fours, slowly advancing on Scorch. “I can’t have any of you escaping. And I certainly can’t have any travelers seeing us.”
“What… What ARE you?!”
“The proper question, dear Scorch…” Twilight’s horn glowed, and her form began to waver. Scorch’s eyes went wide as she grew taller, more full-bodied. “Is who. Who am I?” Her coat began to change from dusky grey to something marginally lighter. “I am your doom.” Her horn grew longer, more pointed. “I am your end.” Wings sprouted from her back, even as her cutie mark changed from three white stars to six, with the purple and pink sunburst in the middle.
“I am your worst nightmare.”
Twilight spread her wings, frowning down at Scorch.
“I am Princess Twilight Sparkle, Archmage of Canterlot, and I am going to kill every one of you.”
“What?! An Equestrian?! No-“ Scorch never got to finish her sentence. Twilight’s horn erupted in light, wrapping her in a powerful field of telekinesis. Twilight launched Scorch straight upwards, watching as her flailing body hit the roof of the barrier hard enough for the impact to be audible. Broken and bleeding profusely, Scorch slid off of the barrier, turning over slowly before landing dead on the sand.
Pandemonium erupted. Twilight whirled about, her horn blazing as she shot down everypony charging towards her. Spells shot through the air, burning hot ozone and magical fallout as she smoothly side-stepped or blocked them. The clash of spells and bodies rang out as Twilight blasted, burned, kicked, gored, and trampled everypony that came her way. Some of Scorch’s marem begged. Others of them cursed her name or the name of her princesses. One of them dared insult Luna.
She locked him underwater, letting him drown in an iron grip of magic just out of reach of the air. Razor-thin lines of magic sheared ponies in half, separating heads and limbs in equal measure. Scorched corpses of ponies lay slumped on the sands, floating face-down in the water, their blood spattered on the walls of the barrier and the trees.
Twilight was a whirlwind of death, hunting down everything and everything with four legs and a pulse. To the ponies who met her face-first, she dispatched them quickly. When only the cowards were left, pounding helplessly against the barrier or begging at her hooves, she let their torture last. These ponies were bound to the sound with brilliant, glowing bands of magic, or suffocated underwater, or had their legs sheared off.
When it was all over, Twilight stood in the middle of the oasis, just at the edge of the blood-tainted water. Her chest heaved, her eyes gone out-of-focus and her legs quivering with exhaustion. All around her, the broken and ruptured bodies of Scorch’s marem lay. Their blood was on her hooves, her flanks, dripped into her eyes from her horn, and clumped in her mane. Twilight felt sick to her stomach. The realization of what she had just done settled on her, and she felt something in her fall into place.
Sanity returned, and with it came the nausea. Twilight stared down at Scorch’s broken body at her hooves, her glazed eyes staring, unblinking, up into nothing.
“What… What have I…”
Her horn began to glow darkly. Twilight felt her power come to life, shaking and angry.
“No… Nooooo…” She shook her head, tears coursing from her eyes. “Why?! Why did I… NO!”
The air began to crackle. Twilight’s wings flared wide, electric energy crackling between her feathers. She felt the strands of power waft about her horn, undulating as if on some unseen breeze.
“NO! NO, PLEASE, NO!”
The shadow erupted into existence, pooling around her hooves. Everything it touched burst into black flames, even the water.
Archmage: Beyond the Crystal Mirror "Saddle Arabian Nights"
Tags: Erotic, Normal
Fair warning: These chapters do have erotic elements, up to and including sex. To be fair, the impact on the overall story has been reduced. You're welcome to skip these chapters, and you won't miss much.
Darkness. Twilight couldn’t see a thing, but this wasn’t an unfamiliar darkness. It was like coming home from some function or another in the middle of the night, with no moon or candles to light her way. She knew this place, she could walk it blind. The night stood opposite her, defined only by her starry mane and eyes, and even those didn’t cast any light into this place.
”I know you are not of this world, Princess Twilight.” The night spoke coolly, its eyes narrowed at her. ”But my power is sovereign. You’ll show me the proper respect you know I’m due, or I will end you.”
Twilight frowned at the shadowy mare, slowly lowering herself to her haunches. Her horn began to glow faintly, and a scintillating sound began to fill the darkness.
”What? What are you- no! Stop it! Don’t! NO!”
“I’m sorry, old friend.” Twilight sighed as the light began to overflow, to cover even the darkness. The mare writhed in agony, her head thrashing to and fro as Twilight wrested power away from her. “But this world holds no sway over me.”
”You fool! You’re making a mistake! One step in either direction, one slip-up, and you’re done! I’ll kill you!”
“I told you,” Twilight stood and stepped forwards, looking down at the night, in all her infinite glory and power. And Twilight, standing over her with all her own strength. “You hold no sway over me. You cannot harm me. The night in my world, she can… But you…” Twilight shook her head slowly, the darkness fading away until they stood in the midst of a crater, blackened and smooth.
“You are not her. I am no part of your world, and as such, your sway over me matters not. But my control of your power…” Twilight’s horn blazed once more, the tendrils of shadow leaping to life to wrap around the night itself. Twilight hardened them until they were stronger than steel…
Strong enough to hold a goddess.
”What are you…”
“I am leaving.” Twilight snorted. All around her, the glassy surface of the cratered oasis glimmered faintly. It was night time, with stars and a half-full moon hanging overhead. “This place sickens me. I pray the Saddle Arabia in my world isn’t so despicable. If it is, I very well may have to make some changes.”
”You’re leaving?” The night feared Twilight, and rightfully so. The night may have had sovereign reign over the shadow, but all of those things manifested themselves with magic. And in that field, Twilight was unparalleled. None could best her, not even the goddess of the night herself. Twilight controlled the manifestation of the night, and as such, all of the power the night had over the living world. While the goddess before her still remained sovereign, Twilight could manipulate and control the way that goddess exerted herself. It was a neat little loophole she had discovered in her own world through extensive experimentation and some very in-depth discussion with the night itself. The same could be said of the day. Twilight could harness either of their energies and direct it as she would.
But doing so was a direct violation of that goddess’ power. Twilight had sworn to both of them she would never do it. She would never violate their trust and use their own power against them. She knew her mind was fallible. She could make mistakes or grow weary, and when she did, her control of that power would be wrested from her, and the gods would do with her as they pleased.
But that was in her world. Here, the two beings were completely separate. Twilight could control either, and retain that control as long as her mind would allow. Should she allow her control to waver for even a moment, though, she had no doubt the night would kill her for her sacrilege. Now that she had stepped over that line, she needed to make for the crystal mirror as soon as possible.
“No more disguises.” Twilight frowned as she released the night. It drew back, eyes wide with fear and wonder. “I’m leaving this world. You’ll never see me again. I’d apologize for what I just did, but it doesn’t matter to me.” She looked around at the crater, and knew that all of the ponies she had murdered had been burned away into nothingness.
“Just like none of them mattered. Not in the long run… Here, in this world, I’ve done something unspeakable. But in my own, I might as well have just speculated about committing such an atrocity…”
“You can’t escape the guilt of what you’ve done, Twilight Sparkle.” The night growled at her. “Your guilt will follow you through the portal and into your world. Be it my counterpart or your own subconscious, you will answer for what you’ve done here today.”
“Of that I have no doubt.” Twilight shrugged. “But I know a really good way to cope.”
”Oh? Do tell.”
“Now, now…” Twilight tsk’d at the night, smiling as she cupped her pendant. “You know full well of what I speak. I need to return home, to my world. No more disguises, no more limitations.” She spread her wings, casting one last sad look at the black crater that had been left in the wake of her psychotic meltdown.
“Farewell, old friend. Oh, and my counterpart in this world… She doesn’t need to know of what I’ve done. She remains reverent.”
”If there’s one thing I’m good at,” The night swallowed as it looked at Twilight. ”It’s keeping a secret.”
In the night’s eyes, Twilight saw something. There was anger and rage, to be sure, but there was something else there as well. Something surprisingly mortal for a being so powerful.
She was gone in a blink, leaving Twilight alone with her ghosts. She shuddered once, feeling the chill night air pass over her flanks.
“Alright, Luna…” She sighed, flapping to gain height. “I’m coming home…”
Flying in Saddle Arabia was exhausting. Twilight could hardly find purchase in the thin air, and it seemed for every five flaps, she equated to maybe one in her home skies. She had never been a skilled or accomplished flier. Practicing was a valuable timesink, and she had better things to do than flap about the sky all day. She was passable, but that was in Equestria, where the air was full and even a filly could soar with ease. Here, she struggled. The flight away from the black crater was the worst, when she had to fight the pockets of low, cool pressure. But after that was the wide expanse of desert, with still air and very few thermals in the chill of night.
Twilight left Saddle Arabia behind with a sigh. The Gryphon Territories stretched out beneath her now, with strong winds and thick air. She could feel the change in the air as she struggled through the border, her flaps carried her higher, and it became easier to glide for longer. She relaxed a little, thankful for the break. It would be easy flying from here to the Crystal Kingdom, and the mirror. Indeed, she covered twice the distance in half the time, and the wind roaring through her ears was rejuvenating. She was able to think ahead to seeing Luna again, to being back home so she could wash off the dried blood and tears.
She was going to be a fright stepping through the mirror. Luna would probably faint at the sight of her. Or worse, panic. The thought of seeing Luna freak out, dragging her out of the hallway and into their quarters to clean her up fueled her further. She pumped her wings, passing the North-Western border of the gryphon territories, and into Timberwolf territory. The pine forest slipped underneath her quickly, replaced with the wide, rolling hills of the Crystal Kingdom. Daybreak lay just beyond the horizon, and ponies were beginning to wake. Twilight cloaked herself with an invisibility spell to avoid suspicion, and winged for the glimmering capitol.
The night was right behind her as Twilight entered the castle. She knew one brief moment of relaxation would be her last. Twilight forced sleep from her mind, focusing on the task of slipping unnoticed past the guards and other crystal ponies going about their routines. Thankfully, it seemed the castle was busy sleeping in this day. There were few guards and fewer hoofservants, thus she was able to find the corridor with the passage to the mirror unmolested by anypony save the deity at her back.
”Hmm, so it’s in the Crystal Mirror…” The night muttered softly. Twilight cast her a quick glance as she slipped into the chamber with the mirror. The night seemed to have forgotten Twilight for a moment as she stared in reverence at the gleaming surface of the ancient artifact.
“Indeed it is. I think you might even be able to use it, should you please.”
”Now that would be interesting.” The night mused, stepping up to Twilight’s side. ”I would like to see how my counterparts are faring in their own worlds…”
“Just don’t come to mine.” Twilight grumbled. She shot a glare at the goddess at her side, making the mysterious being flag a few steps behind. The implied threat was enough. Twilight might not be able to kill the deity that was the night, but she could do some serious damage. At the very least, Twilight was comfortable with her ability to force the night back through the mirror, should she try to follow Twilight into her own.
“Hello again, little buddy.” Twilight beamed at the sight of the slumbering dragon, his breath still puffing hot blasts of flame into the cavern. He hadn’t moved an inch from what she remembered, save maybe his left foreleg having curled up a little differently. “Well, old friend, it’s been an experience.” Twilight turned to the night once more, her horn glowing faintly. “As I said, don’t come to my world. I promise you neither of us will like what happens there.”
”Fair enough, Twilight Sparkle. But allow me to say this: Come back to this world, and I will watch you. Every second of every minute that you spend drawing breath in this world, I will spend trying to kill you. I don’t much appreciate my magic being harnessed and used against me like that. I’m sure you know this already, hence your haste to depart. While I’m a little sore that I can’t punish you fittingly here and now, I’ll hold out hope that you’re foolish enough to come back through that portal one day.” Her eyes flashed with meaning, and Twilight knew she was being serious.
”I’ll be waiting for that day, Twilight Sparkle. The day I make you pay for what you’ve done to me.”
“Yeah, well…” Twilight stepped back towards the portal, her hind legs already melting through the silvery surface. “Don’t hold your breath.”
“Twilight! Heaven’s sakes, you’re covered in blood! What happened?!” Despite Twilight telling her she’d be fine on her own, Luna was waiting on the far side of the mirror. As Twilight backed the rest of the way through, the exhaustion and fatigue of what she’d done caught up with her.
“Urgh,” She moaned, flopping onto her stomach roughly.
“GUARD!” Luna roared, rushing forwards immediately. Twilight smiled up at her lover as the princess fell at her side, cupping her head gingerly. “Hang in there, Twilight. The guard’s on their way, we’ll bring you back.”
“I’m fine, Luna… I assure you.” Twilight mustered enough strength to push herself forwards, her lips seeking Luna’s. They met gingerly, sharing a soft breath between the two of them. When it broke, Twilight could have cried with relief. “I’m just exhausted… It’s a long story.”
“It had better be.” Luna frowned down at Twilight. “You look like a nightmare… I swear, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were attacked.”
“I was…” Twilight chuckled, nuzzling Luna’s mane tenderly. “Several times, in fact…”
“Oh dear.” Luna sighed as she turned towards the guards rushing into the crystal mirror’s chamber. “Well, you can tell me all about it after we get you washed up, and get some sleep under your belt.”
“Sleep. Yeah, that sounds good.” Twilight moaned, her eyes closing on their own volition. “I could go for some slee-“
Darkness once more.
When she awoke, it was in the peace of her own bed. Luna lay at her side, and as soon as she inhaled deeply, the princess lifted her head to smile down at her.
“Good morning, sleepyhead.” Luna teased, kissing Twilight’s nose.
“Good morning to you.” Twilight groaned, her own lips seeking Luna’s. She was blessed with a tender kiss, the simple motion sending a wave of relief through her she had feared she’d never get to experience again. She clung to it desperately, savoring every last second they spent with one another. When the kiss ended, Twilight was crying again. Luna didn’t ask any questions, or press her in any way. She simply stroked Twilight’s mane, holding her close.
Twilight cried to her heart’s content, sometimes even screaming with the hot pain in her chest. She had come so close to losing Luna, to losing this simple embrace. What’s worse, she had very nearly abandoned her one true love. She would have been dead; there was no way to feel when you were dead. But Luna would have had to endure that loss, and for that, Twilight cried harder than ever. She clung to Luna, shaking and sobbing until she felt like there was nothing left.
When all her strength had left her, Twilight felt a pair of lips against her own, snapping her out of her depressed reverie and straight back into reality. Luna kissed her then, simple and sweet.
It was like all of the wrong in the world had just been set right. Twilight inhaled through her nose as she returned the kiss, pulling Luna’s lithe body tight against her own. The heat of desire coupled with the fire of passion in her breast, making Twilight quiver with anticipation.
“Shower.” She groaned, breaking the kiss off with a breathy pant.
“As much as I love kissing you,” Luna nipped at her ear teasingly. “It is an awfully salty ordeal right now.”
“Come on.” Twilight tore herself away from Luna and rolled out of bed, casting a glance over her withers to make sure her lover was following. Luna was hot on her tail, the two of them making for the bathroom post-haste. Twilight cranked the water on hot and slipped under the hot stream, groaning as she felt the tension and sadness melt away. She let the anger and rage at Saddle Arabia go with it, watching as the ruddy red ribbons of the dried blood on her coat swirl the drain.
Just like the dirt and blood left her coat, Twilight let the guilt for what she had done slip from her mind. It was a different world, so different in fact that Twilight began to equate it with a dream.
’Rarity never bore Regal a child, nor did she abandon Equestria and her friends for Saddle Arabia.’ Twilight let even that thought slip her mind as she looked straight up into the stream of water. Her eyes closed blissfully, even as she felt Luna press against her side.
“Let me clean you?”
“Please.” Twilight nodded. She felt Luna shift, her magic fetching the soap and rag from their place on the side of the shower wall. She stood perfectly still under the hot water as Luna began lording attention over her, tenderly scrubbing away all of the grime and filth from her trip to the other world.
“Celestia was right,” Luna chuckled. Twilight spared her a quick, quizzical glance.
“What do you mean?”
“The sand DOES get everywhere.” Luna pulled the rag from under her stomach, showing off a small array of gritty sand. Despite all the things that had happened, Twilight had to laugh. She let the soft chuckle develop into a full-bodied laugh that mirrored Luna’s, the two of them raising their voices in joy. When their laughter died away, it left a smile on their faces. Twilight stepped close to Luna, their necklaces snapping together.
“You’ve no idea how much I missed that.” Twilight groaned, immediately pressing her lips against Luna’s. They kissed for a long while, until Twilight’s lungs burned for air. She pulled away with a gasp, her cheeks flushed even in the hot shower. “How long was I in there?”
“Two days.” Luna returned, leaning in to kiss Twilight’s cheek. She continued tracing kisses up the side of her face to her ear, moaning as she nibbled on the soft cartilage. Twilight felt her knees grow weak. Her ears were her one true weakness, and Luna knew how to exploit them wonderfully. As she stood under the hot stream, she felt the fire build in her core once more. She stepped closer to Luna, her own lips seeking the soft flesh along Luna’s neck. She nibbled it softly, making her love moan directly into her ear.
It was a vicious cycle, one that grew more intense the longer Luna toyed with her ear. Twilight could feel her arousal building to a head, and a trickle of liquid that didn’t come from the shower traced down her thigh.
“Twilight,” Luna panted between kisses and nibbles. “I missed you so much…”
“And I you, Luna…” Twilight returned, kissing her way along the nape of Luna’ neck, her muzzle buried into her love’s magnificent mane. “So very, very much…”
“Did you… Do anything while you were over there?” At Luna’s question, Twilight paused. She gave a sigh and pulled away, looking Luna in the eyes.
“I very nearly did, Luna, and I entertained many thoughts about making love to a pony that wasn’t you. For that, I apologize.”
“Twilight,” Luna teased. “I told you, I don’t mind if you do… It’s not like you don’t love my anymore, right?”
“Of course not!” Twilight pulled back, appalled. “I love you more than anything! I’d never violate that trust-“
“Twilight.” Luna silenced her with a hoof to her lips, her own spread in a slight smile. “I never said you would, or that I believed you did.” She stepped forwards, their necklaces snapping together once again. “Sex and love, to me, are two completely different things. You can have sex with somepony and not love them. Therefore, should you make love to another pony…” Luna’s form glimmered and shifted, almost like it was a mirage. Twilight gasped as Emerald took her place, smiling coyly up at Twilight.
“Like this one, I wouldn’t hold it against you.”
“Luna! How did you see her?”
“In your dreams.” Luna teased, leaning forward to kiss Twilight’s neck. Emerald’s beautiful body was a fresh reminder of the long ten days Twilight had gone without, and her insistent lips were making Twilight quiver. “You see her quite often. Who was she?”
“Th-that’s not important.” Twilight panted, trying to reconcile Luna’s sudden change. Since Twilight had become a Princess, she was marginally larger than Luna, though not quite as large as Celestia. Now, Luna’s new curvaceous form was much shorter than her, coming up maybe to her breast. But that didn’t seem to stop her. She smoothly stood on her hind legs, wrapping her hooves around Twilight’s neck. Her lips moved higher, teasing Twilight’s ears once more.
“L-Luna, I- Ah!”
“Hmm,” Luna moaned, nibbling on Twilight’s ear enough to send hot flashes of pain through her skull. “You seem to be enjoying this… Tell you what.” Luna pulled back, looking up into Twilight’s eyes with a lusty, heated fire inside. “Why don’t you turn back into Dusk, and we can have some fun?”
“Luna! I-I couldn’t-“
“Twilight, my love…” Emerald chuckled as she cupped Twilight’s cheek. “I never told you how much I liked Dusk. Maybe I want it…” She glanced down between them, where Twilight’s chest heaved with each breath she took. “Just as much as you do.”
Twilight couldn’t hold out. In a flash, Dusk took her place, dropping Emerald a good couple of feet. When her hooves impacted the slick tile, Luna slipped and fell with a cry. Twilight seized the opportunity, pouncing on Luna, straddling her head-to-tail.
“Well,” Luna panted, laying sprawled on her back. Twilight’s haunches were spread just above her head, her sodden tail dangling down far enough to tangle into Emerald’s. “Can’t say I don’t like this view.”
“Shush.” Twilight growled dangerously. She leaned her own head down, kissing Emerald’s soft, warm stomach. She felt it twitch beneath her mouth, further spurring her to kiss and tease it.
“Ooh, Dusk.” Luna teased, writhing underneath her. “You’re so naughty.”
“You sound just like her,” Twilight grumbled. “I’m beginning to wonder just how much I dreamt of her.”
“Quite a bit, my love.” Luna’s voice, disguised as Emerald, sounded from between her thighs, coupled with a warm breath against her dripping marehood. “I enjoyed watching her in your dreams, almost as much as I’m going to enjoy this… Aahn~”
“Woah!” Twilight gasped as Luna’s mouth plastered to her slick love hole, her tongue immediately sliding inside. After so long without, it felt like a lightning strike. Twilight’s whole body went rigid as Luna fervently licked her core, hitting all of the right spots one right after the other in no particular order. The way she flawlessly switched from her g-spot to her clitoris was enough to send Twilight over the edge of bliss.
“Pwah!” Luna pulled back as Twilight let loose a shower of her own. Her cum spurted forth readily, running down her thighs in rivulets and soaking Emerald’s face and mane. “My my, Dusk, you’ve been holding back haven’t you?”
“Sh-shut up, Emerald.” Twilight panted. The fire was far from quenched, and instead roared to life as Twilight caught sight of Emerald’s marehood. Even that was just as she remembered from the few times she had seen it. She wanted to taste it, to feel it against her tongue. She wanted to hear Emerald cry out, to cry her name and cum from her ministrations.
“AHN!” Emerald’s first cry echoed off of the walls, even as her whole body tensed up beneath Twilight. Dusk’s tongue wasn’t quite as dexterous or practiced at Twilight’s, but that didn’t stop her. She dove in on Emerald with a hunger that was borne of ten days of denial. For somepony who wasn’t exactly in a committed relationship or used to regular sexual interaction, that may have seemed like a paltry amount. But to Twilight, that might as well have been a millennium. Furthermore, Emerald had been an incorrigible tease. She would flash Twilight or make lewd jokes implying the two of them could just as easily be involved in some intricate and sweaty positions of their own.
Twilight was hungry, and not for food. Her tongue delved deep between Emerald’s soaked lips, tasting parts of her that Twilight was certain her usual customers never got to feel. Emerald showed her appreciation with several more loud cries, enough to hurt Twilight’s ears. She ignored her partner’s screaming and continued licking, alternating between sucking her clitoris and hitting her g-spot.
“D-DUSK!” Emerald screamed, her entire body quivering. “I’M CUMMING! I’M CUMMING! UHN!” With one last upward thrust, Emerald reached her orgasm. Twilight felt a fresh wave of delicious, musky cum flood her mouth, and she lapped it up eagerly. The musky fluid was thin and went down easily, and Twilight drank her fill. When she pulled up, a thin trickle of it spurted out onto the tile, and the pulsating sight of Emerald’s pink, tender vagina made Twilight seriously consider round two.
Instead, she turned around, plastering her mouth tight against Emerald’s. Their lips met with enough force that Emerald’s head drove into the tile, and her mouth opened wide. Twilight lashed out with her tongue, cupping and wrestling Emerald’s into submission. They stayed like that until neither could breathe properly, and when Twilight rose her head again, it spun like she had just gotten off some amusement park ride.
“Dusk…” Emerald panted, looking up at her lustily. “I’m not nearly fucking done yet. I hope you’ve got enough in you for another go.”
“Don’t you worry yourself.” Twilight chuckled. She sat down on the tile floor between Emerald’s creamy thighs, lifting one of her legs to rest on the earth pony’s stomach. When she scooted her haunches forward, her marehood plastered tight to Emerald’s. Both mares flushed brightly, catching on to the other’s desires. Smoothly, Twilight began rubbing her pussy against Emerald’s, the wet flesh sliding and moving in a most alluring way. When she dragged her clitoris through the soft tendrils of fur on Emerald’s stomach, it sent a shock of pleasure through her body that threatened to make her cum right then and there.
“Oh yesssss,” Emerald moaned, her eyes closing as she lay back. “This is good… Keep going, Dusk.”
“Haah… Ahn…” Twilight’s hips began moving faster, bit by bit. She fell into a rhythm, their wet marehoods making erotic and delightfully naughty noises. Twilight’s needs couldn’t be denied any more. As her hips moved faster and faster, she came to one shuddering apex of bliss.
“Easy, girlie…” Emerald groaned, rising up to wrap her hooves around Twilight. “Don’t overdo it… There we go…” Twilight felt the cool tile press against her back, and Emerald lay her down easily. The sultry mare loomed over her, smiling faintly as she kissed up and down Twilight’s neck. “Let me return the favor, hmm?”
“O-okay.” Twilight’s addled, lust-filled mind could only numbly agree. Emerald’s lips began to trail lower, kissing up and over her breast, down her stomach, and between her thighs. Twilight’s tail twitched as the first brush to her sensitive cunt shot through her system, making her eyes flutter closed and her stomach twitch. Emerald went right to work, doing things to Twilight that she had ached for the past week and then some.
When she came, Emerald rode it out masterfully, rubbing her stomach to keep her relaxed. Twilight breathed deep in the aftermath, smiling as Emerald worked her way up to her mouth. The musky taste of her own cum was delightful and musky, sparking yet another fire in her core.
“Emerald.” Twilight groaned, stroking the earth pony’s luxurious, green mane. “I want something inside of me…”
“Oh so do I, Dusk…” Emerald’s eyes glimmered wickedly as she stood to her full height. “You stay right there, and I’ll go get something. Don’t be afraid to stay warmed up, either.” She winked deviously, stepping over Twilight on her way out of the shower. Doing so gave Twilight another good, long look at the pink lips of her marehood, glistening and pulsing with desire still. Twilight decided to take Emerald up on her offer, turning so her thighs pointed straight back at the door. Her hoof descended from her neck to her stomach and down between her open legs, gingerly rubbing her swollen clitoris. The low blaze had erupted into a full-on firestorm by the time Emerald returned, carrying one of their more devious toys in her hooves.
“Enjoying yourself, I see.” Emerald teased, hoisting the double-ended dildo. “Don’t let me stop you.”
“Hnn~” Twilight watched Emerald watching her, her hoof turning into a blur of motion. She was a long ways from reaching orgasm like this, but damn it all if she didn’t enjoy the sensation of being watched. Emerald wasn’t wasting time, either. She sat with her back against the shower wall, her legs spread wide to display her own dripping hole. She began licking and sucking the dildo, spreading a fair bit of saliva onto the floppy, delightful toy. Twilight was blushing furiously. She had felt like such a deviant when Luna bought the thing, and using it made her feel so dirty.
But dirty fit the mood just then. Emerald slowly lowered one end to her dripping cunt, rubbing the glistening toy up and down her flared lips. She smoothly pushed it in, her eyes closing with a long groan. When it reached the end, the other half stood up and away from her body, just begging for Twilight to take part.
She couldn’t deny herself, or Emerald. Panting with desire and excitement, Twilight scrambled to her hooves and straddled Emerald. The flared head of the toy pressed against her own hole, building in pressure until Twilight felt it spear her insides.
“AHN!” She cried out, having forgotten how petite Dusk was. The toy hurt, but only for a moment. She flexed around it, growing accustomed to the sensation of being penetrated once more. Emerald’s hooves rested on her hips, slowly guiding her down, inch by agonizingly slow inch. “Haah… By the stars, it feels so tight… Like I could burst at any moment.”
“Ooohh,” Emerald moaned, kissing Twilight’s breast. “That sounds nice… Go on, Dusk… Enjoy yourself.”
“Don’t mind if I do.” Twilight kissed the top of Emerald’s head as she bottomed out on the toy. Her clitoris brushed Emerald’s, the toy buried between the two of them. A shudder of pleasure ran through her as she slid upwards, her walls clenching in to fill the space vacated by the delightfully thick shaft. She slid back down once more, taking the whole thing until her dripping hole met Emerald’s.
From then out, it was easy. Twilight rode the shaft, sliding up and down, in a circle, and side-to-side with practiced ease. She’d had over a century to use the thing, after all. Emerald was enjoying herself, if the eager kisses and loud cries were any indication. Twilight smiled, her own mouth open in breathy, lust-filled exhalations of ecstasy. She lost track of the amount of times she came, but each shuddering, eye-clenching experience coaxed even more liquid from her pulsing cunt.
When exhaustion took its toll on her, Twilight felt like she was glowing. She slid off of the toy, pulled it gingerly out of Emerald, and lit her horn with magic.
“Hmm,” Luna smiled up at her as the two of them emerged once more, their bodies whole and natural once more. “That was delightful.”
“I love you, Luna.” Twilight whispered, her lips brushing her love’s.
“And I you, Twilight.” Luna returned. They shared a sweet, simple kiss, the only sound the beating of their hearts and the hiss of water on tile. When the kiss ended, Luna smiled up into her eyes. “I won’t ask you what happened in that other world, Twilight, or where all that blood came from. It’s a different world, and it doesn’t matter to us any.”
“I know it doesn’t,” Twilight sighed softly, stepping back so Luna could stand beside her. “I’m hoping I can forget what I did in time.”
“Well I’ll be here to help with that.” Luna chuckled, kissing her neck. “Though I hope you don’t forget about Emerald. Gosh, that was fun.”
“Yes it was.” Twilight giggled as she kissed Luna once more. “Now we need to get cleaned up again.”
“Aah, I got dibs.” Luna winked, grabbing the rag and soap. “You stand there and relax. You can get me next.”
“Boo.” Twilight stuck her tongue out, but subjected herself to another scrubbing anyways. The second Luna started on her neck, though, she pulled away with a sigh.
Luna held the rag up again, and Twilight fought to keep from bursting out then and there.
Twilight stood before the Crystal Mirror, her lips turned down in a frown. She heard somepony enter the chamber, but their hoof-falls couldn’t tear her eyes from the perfect, glossy surface. She was watching; waiting.
“Three weeks.” Luna’s voice settled beside her as the lunar princess pulled up. “Three weeks you’ve been sitting here, staring at the mirror.”
“You know why.” Twilight muttered.
“I know your excuse… I’m just wondering why you remain adamant on not budging. Twilight, you haven’t slept in three weeks.”
“I don’t need to, Luna.” Twilight felt her lips turn down. “Not when it’s out there.”
“Have you spoken with her yet?”
”Oh she has, my love.” The night’s voice joined the other two, all three entities sitting opposite the mirror now. ”I condone her actions in that world. As long as she vows to never replicate them in this one.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it. This is my home.” Twilight sighed. “I’m not going to violate your trust or harm our relationship like that. Not now, not ever. Still, there’s a problem.”
”The other night in that world, where Twilight murdered Scorch’s Marem. She might find a way through to the root world.”
“I already told you, that’s impossible.” Luna scoffed, standing and advancing towards the mirror. “Let me show you.”
“Luna- no!” Twilight jumped up as her lover approached the mirror, but couldn’t stop her as Luna’s horn glowed brightly. The surface wiped aside, revealing a shattered landscape. The world through the mirror was dark and depressing, a jagged landscape of wrecked earth stretching away as far as the eye could see to meet a black sky. But Twilight could only see flashes of that world through the being before her.
“Is that… Is that the night?”
“This is the same world you just came back from.” Luna explained, turning to her with a frown. “Six thousand years down the line.”
“By the stars.” Twilight breathed. “Is it really?”
“And this,” Luna pointed at the snarling, thrashing beast before them. “Is the night, trying to come to our world. Look. She’s decimated her world in an attempt to get to you. Here we are, the portal open between us… Yet,” Luna dropped her hoof. “She cannot come through. Your fears are irrational, Twilight. She cannot harm you.”
They remained silent for a long while, watching as the night in the other world thrashed the mirror again, her magic lashing out to impact the glass surface. Twilight could see the shockwaves of her rage radiating outwards, further breaking and scarring the world. She turned away then, the first time in three weeks she’d torn her eyes from the Crystal Mirror.
“Stop it.” She grimaced, tears welling behind her eyes.
“Very well.” She heard the mirror wipe aside, and felt the tension leave her muscles. It was almost like burying a corpse. Gone but not forgotten, though Twilight could begin healing the mental scars of condemning that world to its fate. She didn’t exactly have a choice; she had to defend herself. But there were other avenues than murdering Scorch’s entire marem, and losing control of that darker, innermost part of her being.
“Twilight,” Luna approached, laying a hoof on her side. Twilight flinched away, turning to Luna with wide, fearful eyes.
“Don’t touch me!” She whimpered. “I’m a monster.”
“Twilight, please…” Luna appeared wounded. She had every right, of course, but she hadn’t seen what Twilight saw. Done what she did. “Listen to me… I want to help you.”
”Relax, child. I hold no malice in my heart for what you’ve done in that world.” The night joined Luna, both of them standing opposite her with faint smiles, though their eyes betrayed their true emotions. In Luna’s, Twilight saw hurt. A pain the likes of which Twilight should never have impressed upon somepony she cared for.
And in the night’s infinite gaze, Twilight saw something that made her truly scared.
She saw fear.
In a flash of light, Twilight was gone.
Celestia was the first to find her, atop a seldom-used tower, sniffling with her wings over her face.
“You two are always so curious to me.” Celestia spoke quietly, gingerly nosing her way under Twilight’s wing until she was curled up at her side. “You hold such reverence for the night, and claim her to be some all-knowing, mysterious being who would just as soon smite you where you stand than listen to your troubles. I doubt I’ll ever understand the night and the turmoil it puts you through.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to,” Twilight whimpered. She didn’t curl against Celestia, but she didn’t push the solar princess away, either. “The day is so much easier to understand. Probably because he’s so simple. ‘Use your strength to seize mine.’ The night, she’s… She’s so much more difficult.”
“Because she offers her power readily. I don’t begrudge her for it, but it is an alien concept to me.” Celestia chuckled as she began nuzzling Twilight’s mane, using her cheek to gingerly stroke the luxurious strands. “I understand the things you’ve seen, Twilight. Luna and I, we’ve seen and done things ourselves. Things neither of us are proud of. The gryphon wars, and the formation of Horseshoe Bay… Well, I don’t need to tell you the horrors that went on there. You’ve probably read the texts extensively.”
“Jormungand, Io, and Tiamat… Drowned in the ocean, or at least swept out to sea. You stopped just short of Nest and the Eyrie…” Twilight sniffled, lifting her head. “It’s one of my favorite stories.”
“Well your ‘stories’ never told of the atrocities both sides committed against one another in the war. The waters of Horseshoe Bay were red for a decade after we sunk the land into the ocean.” Celestia spoke quietly, though her face was dark. “Luna and I both attributed our fair share of violence to that accursed soil. Some believe it was the war that attracted the three great serpents there. Others say it was the thousands upon thousands of lives lost in the fighting. Others still say it was the great storms born of the ferocious magic either side unleashed upon the other. Me, well…” She sighed and stood up, offering a hoof to Twilight.
“I’m of the former group. I think the three came because of the blood and the death.” She helped Twilight to her hooves, using her wing tips to brush Twilight’s face free of tears. “I understand what you did, Twilight. What you had to do to survive. Yes, there may have been another way to handle the situation, but violence often speaks volumes on Saddle Arabian soil. Luna told me what happened to that world, but I think she left out a certain other part. Will you let me show you?”
“I don’t want to see that thing aga-“
“Please.” Celestia cut off Twilight’s weak complaint, cupping her chin so their eyes met. “For my sake.”
“You see,” Celestia’s horn glowed as she swept aside the surface of the mirror. “This is two short weeks after your departure from that world. Everything is calm and quiet.” The cavern was dark, though Twilight could see the red glow of Spike’s snoring flare out on the glistening cave walls sporadically.
“Another seldom-known feature, Twilight…” Celestia began casting another spell, though this one was rather familiar to her. “Is that constructs can enter the mirror, and come back through.” She finished creating a small metal sphere with an aperture in it, the size and shape of an iris. It looked like a disembodied, sphere eyeball. Twilight knew it to be a scrying orb, one that could observe what it saw and play back an image for the viewer. It was a powerful spell that only very skilled unicorns and the princesses themselves could cast.
“Since you fear the night’s promise to destroy you should you ever re-visit that world, I’ll not ask you to step through. And, quite frankly, I don’t want to expose myself to such risk either. Thus,” Celestia tossed the scrying orb through the mirror. Twilight watched as it lit with the golden glow of Celestia’s magic, spinning about on the other side of the mirror to get a handle on its surroundings. Then, with blinding speed, the sphere shot off through the cavern, undoubtedly going to observe the world. “We’ll let that be our eyes, and you can see the benefit of your actions.”
“Benefit?” Twilight scrunched her nose. “I sincerely doubt there was any benefit to what I-“
Almost as if on cue, the orb shot back through the portal, coming to a rest on Celestia’s upturned hoof.
“I’ve done this before. Not with this world, mind you, but…” Celestia chuckled as the scrying orb’s iris leapt to life, painting a square of light in the air before them. “Ponies are so predictable sometimes.”
The image showed the world through the scrying orb’s point of view as it flew through the cavern, out of the Crystal Palace, across the Timberwolf Territories, over mountains and into Saddle Arabia. It arrived at the site of Twilight’s most fearsome display of power, the shadowfire-blackened crater in the middle of the Grottolands. There were ponies gathered all around the smooth black surface. None of them dared set foot inside. Indeed, there was nothing to behold. The entire crater was as smooth as glass. It was featureless, not a single bone or body remaining. Twilight could count maybe twenty ponies around the rim, with ever-more approaching from the next-nearest grotto.
Twilight saw familiar faces. Emerald and other members of her marem. As they approached, each of them bowed their heads before looking down into the crater. Among the last to arrive was Rarity. She looked into the crater, her eyes watering. She fought the tears for as long as possible before breaking down completely. Twilight watched her dearest friend and lead mare collapse into the sand, her tears falling down the smooth surface of the crater.
“Watch.” Celestia urged silence, giving Twilight a faint smile. The image sped up a bit, and Twilight watched as the ponies began to leave one by one, going back towards the last oasis they had come from. Rarity was the last to leave, waiting until the sun had sunk well beneath the horizon and the stars dotted the night sky. She went to join her marem, the scrying orb following after her. The image continued to speed up, almost like a cinema machine playing at four times the normal speed.
After four more days, Rarity returned to the crater, carrying what looked like a wooden plank. As Twilight watched, she planted it in the sand, using a brief spell to solidify its hold, rooting it to the side of the black glass surface. She left, but the orb didn’t follow. Instead, it hovered closer to the sign, revealing what had been written there.
’In loving memory of Dusk Hoof. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten.’
“Rarity went on to live a peaceful life after that.” The image flickered and died, and the scrying orb dissipated into golden pinpricks of light. “At least, I can assume. But the night doesn’t make any more trouble for this world for a long while, I assure you.” Celestia spoke, turning back to the mirror. “The aftermath of your actions had no effect on the immediate well-being of that world. See,” Celestia wiped the surface of the mirror again, and this time the cavern was empty. As they watched, though, cracks appeared in the cavern wall.
Twilight watched as the cavern was rent asunder. The image spun as the mirror was blasted through the air, tumbling end-over-end to reveal brief flashes of a scarred, broken landscape. The night appeared for a brief moment, snarling into the mirror as she righted it. Another blast of magic struck the mirror, the shockwave radiating outwards over the decimated land. Twilight watched as the familiar sight of the night raging at the mirror played out again.
“This is five thousand, nine hundred and eighty-seven years after your departure. That world enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity before the night was coerced to attack the mirror. Look at the world around her, Twilight. Do you see crystal kingdom anywhere? Any remnants of that empire? Any ponies who may have lived there are either dead or gone. The night’s wrath has done nothing to damage anypony. Not in this world. Not yet.” Celestia wiped the surface again, turning to Twilight.
“What you did had a terrible effect on your psyche, and I understand that you’re scarred. But I hope you’ll take some solace in the fact that your brief interactions with Rarity helped shape her into who she was. And I’m certain she went on to accomplish many great things, considering Scorch’s marem was no longer an issue to her.”
“You see,” Luna’s voice came to Twilight. She walked quietly across the hall towards them, a sad smile on her face. “The night in that world detests you for what you did. But she would never harm another pony, let alone one of her own, to exact vengeance. I meant to show you that before, Twilight… Six thousand years of unprecedented peace and prosperity in that world.”
“I’m sorry, Luna.” Twilight hung her head dejectedly, tears dripping down her muzzle. “I… I was so scared, I didn’t even want to look…”
“It’s fine, my love.” Luna wrapped her in a warm embrace, kissing her cheek tenderly. “I understand the need to mourn for the losses you’ve incurred. I cried in much the same way after the war in Horseshoe Bay… I killed many gryphons and rebel ponies, but in the end we’ve bartered a lasting peace with the Eyrie, and Saddle Arabia has little impact on us anymore. We are at peace for the actions I’ve taken.”
Twilight gave one last choked sob before pulling away and wiping her face free of tears. The past three weeks caught up with her in a rush, and she hung her head with a groan.
“I need to rest.”
One full-day nap later, Twilight awoke feeling a little more sore than she could recall, but rested nevertheless. After a bracing cold shower, she emerged into the castle, intent on finding her love and apologizing properly… With plenty of sweat and a few curious hoofservants wondering what the thumping in the walls was from. Much to her chagrin, she found Luna in the Crystal Mirror chamber, alongside Celestia.
“It lives.” Celestia teased, smiling as Twilight approached.
“Did you sleep well?” Luna asked, though she seemed to be engrossed with the book in her hooves.
“Foals don’t sleep that well.” Twilight stretched one last sore muscle before coming to a rest before the mirror. “What brings you two here?”
“Well, we were thinking…” Celestia and Luna shared a look, the lunar princess snapping her book shut as they both faced her. “We need to send you on a vacation.”
“What?” Twilight pulled up short, scrunching her nose. “Look, I know I’m out-of-sorts a bit, but I don’t need to go-“
“Through the mirror, Twilight.” Luna finished, smiling at her. “You’ve visited worlds with terrible atrocities, worlds full of blood and strife and destruction. I think it’s time you see the good that can come of these worlds, my love. There are wonders in other worlds that don’t exist here. Furthermore, there are worlds that haven’t been wracked by war or violence or bloodshed. Worlds where our love is stronger than it is, even now. Happy places.” Luna turned towards the mirror, her horn glowing as she wiped the surface once, revealing a mirror to the hall they stood in now.
“We want you to experience the nicer worlds, Twilight.” Luna said with a hint of melancholy in her voice. “You’ve been exploring the negative and the hurtful. We want you to see the positive, and the happy. No more prophecy-destroyed landscapes. No more vengeful marems. No more shattered princesses. Go to a world where you and I never fought, where we were more forthcoming with information about your parents. Go see the worlds I know to exist where even Celestia has found love, where the great serpents never ravaged the Bloodlands; indeed, where the Bloodlands were never called that. I want you to see the magical wonders of Equestria, and to see the places that never were in this world.”
Celestia echoed Luna, smiling as she gestured towards the mirror. “I would like to see who it was I fell in love with in these other worlds as well. Be sure to take notes… If not a few pictures.”
Twilight looked between the two of them before her eyes settled on the mirror once more.
Twilight emerged from the mirror into a familiar landscape. A soft breath escaped her before she took stock of where she was and what she saw. Then panic set in when she realized she was still in Canterlot, still inside the royal palace.
"I- What?" Wheeling around, Twilight saw a bored-looking unicorn stallion holding a clipboard. "Who are you?" She asked, almost instinctively.
"My name is Writer. That's writer, as in author, not 'Rider' like a train or other vehicle." He sighed, speaking with what was unmistakably a Canterlite accent. "And you are... Well, Princess Twilight Sparkle, if the wings are to be believed."
"E-excuse me?" She blinked, staring incredulously at the stallion. "How do you know who I am?"
"You're the fifth through that portal," the stallion gestured empathetically towards the Crystal Mirror and their joined reflections. "It's been two weeks since our last visitor, and I welcome you to our world. Hmm, you don't look like any of the others that visited, though... Your world can't possibly be that bad..."
"I... What?" Twilight blinked at the stallion. "'That bad?' What do you mean by that?"
"I mean of the four that visited before you, they were all scarred, battered, broken, and destitute. You seem to be much more well-put-together. Dare I say, you even seem sane." He sniffed and levitated his quill up to the clipboard. "Very well. I'll put you down for at least one week. Would that suffice?"
"I... 'Put me down?' 'Suffice?' What are you talking about?"
"Your vacation." Writer smiled at her warmly. "How long would you like to stay at Destination: Equestria?"
"So you've found a way to make a profit out of inter-dimensional travel." Twilight surmised, sitting in her 'orientation meeting' with Princess Celestia and the current Archmage of this world, a mare by the name of Nocturna.
"We have indeed. It's come to our attention through our previous visitors that their worlds are less-than-ideal. And, it would seem, this world is the opposite. Allegedly, things are going so well here that we've become somewhat of a... Heh, forgive the expression, a tourist destination. Is that not the reason you came here?"
"No, it is," Twilight sighed. "I've... Seen some of the other worlds through the mirror. They are not ideal at all. Luna suggested I visit one that was nice, and, well, here I am." She looked up at Celestia and the dark-coated Archmage. "But to charge for my visitation?"
"A paltry sum, I'm sure." Celestia waved a hoof. "Just two thousand bits. We'll give you access to any number of ideal destinations in and around Canterlot, and luxury accomodations. And, should you so desire, we can help you with a disguise, or even a cloaking spell. Complete with a tracking arc so we can keep tabs on you, ensure you don't cause too much havoc. For an extra fee, we can even arrange an interview with your counterparts! Temporal anomalies and timeline fractures guaranteed not to rip your homeworld apart!" Celestia seemed awfully chipper, playing the salespony more than the dignified Princess. Twilight glowered at her.
"How much would this interview cost..."
"Well if you'd like, we can include it piecemeal, or if you spring for the deluxe package, we'll give you one of the royal suites, a ticket to Diamond Bay, deluxe room service, and two interviews included!" Twilight half expected Celestia to pull a pamphlet out with various pricing options on it.
"Ah huh. I suppose it's too much to ask to just... wander around for a bit?"
"Oh come now." Celestia chuckled. "Where's the fun in that? Besides, allowing you and your counterparts through the mirror into this world is an incredibly risky maneuver. We have to compensate somehow."
"Risky?" Twilight scrunched her nose. "How so? You act like I'm going to blow this place to pieces."
"You've tried before." Nocturna chipped in at last, speaking with a low, gravelly alto voice. "The second one, she went crazy. Took Princess Twilight and Luna together to subdue her and throw her back through the mirror. 'Twas the third one that helped us figure this deal out, and you're the first we're charging." She cast a glance Celestia's way. "I suppose we could give you a discount for helping us break ground."
"I..." Twilight faltered. Despite their strange demeanor, Twilight couldn't help but see their point. Any one of the worlds she'd visited could likely come here and wreak havoc. Some of them might even succeed in destroying or irreparably damaging this alternate world, which she had to believe was more ideal than even her own. To protect not only its integrity but its pristine quality, they had to make compromises.
"I don't suppose there are any contracts I'm going to have to sign or anything?" She muttered.
"Nothing major, I assure you." Nocturna's horn lit up as she lifted a heavy-looking leaf of paper onto the table; easily two hundred and fifty sheets. "Just a few signatures and waivers."
"Ugh. This had better be worth it." Twilight grabbed a nearby quill and inkwell before setting in on the paper.
As it turned out, the contracts were actually rather concise, despite there being many of them. A lot of them had to deal with a secrecy pact, one placed the moment the third of her counterparts had departed the mirror. Not everypony in Equestria knew about the mirror, and not a lot of them would be told. The contract went into depth about how Twilight was only allowed in specific areas, and could only converse with specific ponies. Others were to be avoided at all costs, even if she had to resort to an invisibility spell or a disguise. For those of her counterparts less skilled than herself, they offered enchantments that could be flicked on with a mere thought, giving a suitable disguise and a high-level invisibility spell to escape any unwanted situations.
Furthermore, the clauses about world-shaping or catastrophic magic were very concise. Twilight knew the risks behind casting those spells in her own world, so insuring they weren't used in this one seemed almost commonplace. Twilight signed the rest of the contracts, chiefly loans since she didn't bring the bits they required with her. It'd take a little bit of shuffling, but she had it on good authority she'd be able to retrieve the bits she needed and come back to pay them what she owed after the week was over.
Following the mind-numbing ordeal, Nocturna escorted Twilight through the castle, pointing out minute differences here and there. "See, the North Wing's art gallery is on the fourth floor instead of the third."
"But won't that conflict with the courts...?"
"Second floor." Nocturna shrugged. Twilight grimaced at the revelation, and how startlingly accurate the Archmage was in pointing out the discrepancies between this world and her own. She called attention to it outside of the quarters she had been given for the week.
"How is it you know the differences between my world and this one?"
"I was just spitballing." Nocturna shrugged. "The first of your counterparts spent almost six months here, telling us about all the things that were different between this world and hers. After being told how wrong it was that the Mezzanine fountain was on the sixth floor instead of the seventh, I tended to pick these things up."
"Yes, but to be so specific?" Twilight grimaced. "You've yet to call attention to anything that's the same."
"Just call it luck, then." Nocturna shrugged once more, opening the door and leading Twilight inside. She noticed that these quarters were the same ones she had been afforded when she was named Archmage in her own world, so many years ago. Before she opened her mouth, Nocturna answered. "Yes, these are the same quarters you had before you ascended in this world. It's comfortable, is it not?"
"Kind of..." Twilight sighed, looking at a section of wall that, in her world, had been demolished to give her and Luna more room. "In my world, I still live in these quarters, alongside Luna."
"Aah, so you're like the third, then." Nocturna surmised with a soft smile. "The first one through was married to a stallion. Had a foal of her own, in fact."
"I've come across one like that." Twilight smiled in rememberance of how cute her counterpart's daughter had been. "In this world, I'm...?"
"With Luna." Nocturna nodded. "Though it sounds like Luna moved in with you in your world. Here, our Twilight took up residence with Luna instead. Thus, we offer these quarters to any counterparts who come through the mirror. What would you like to eat for dinner?" The sudden shift in conversation caused Twilight to blink.
"I, uuh... Crumb Bake, if I could."
"And would you like to have one of your two interviews now or later?"
"I... Later, if I could. Give me some time to unwind, as it were."
"I understand. If you'll excuse me, Princess Twilight." Nocturna bowed low, smiling as she left the quarters. Twilight suddenly felt remarkably alone and out-of-place. The room was just like it had been when she was Archmage, before her ascendance. Down to the last bit of furniture, and even the covers she had slept under. It was a ghost of her home in her own world, where the bed was large enough for both her and Luna, and the living room was more open to accomodate the alchemy laboratory, and the balconies were-
"Ugh." Twilight shook her head with a groan. This world was so strange already, she failed to see how it could possibly be more ideal than her own home. "All things in time." She sighed, peering out of the balcony and down at Canterlot. Nothing much was different there, at least. Save one more statue in the gardens, and a newer park about three blocks away from the gates, where in her world, a department store had stood unless he was mistaken.
"Ideal, huh?" She muttered. "We'll see about that."
"You mean to tell me you're Archer and Rainbow Dash's child?" Twilight sat at a dinner table with Nocturna, her own counterpart, Princess Luna, Princess Celestia, and even Princess Cadance. It was a strange experience, being seated with three other princesses and a different Archmage. The food was delicious, but paled in comparison with the conversation taking place.
"I'm guessing in your world my parents split up, huh?" Nocturna chuckled. "Yeah, I was shocked to learn that myself. I mean, come on. She's the element of Loyalty. Do you really think she'd have left Archer?"
"If I hadn't been there to see it myself, I'd not believe it. Wow." Twilight blinked, feeling rather taken aback. It had been almost two centuries ago that she had last seen Rainbow Dash in her own world. She and Archer had married shortly after her Archer took the commander position, and had had only a brief relationship before divorcing. Rainbow went on to be an admirable instructor at the flight academy, and Archer had been one of the best commanders in her memory. The two had never been together long enough to have a child, at least, not in her world.
"So, your parents, are they-"
"Afraid not." Nocturna sighed. "I might not look it, but I'm actually one hundred and seventy years old. Mom died forty-four years ago, and my Dad over a hundred."
"Wow." Twilight blinked. "You really don't look that old."
"You still haven't told me how you keep your coat so dark." Cadance pouted. Nocturna just gave the princess of love a teasing raspberry.
"That's a secret."
"Amazing. But, I'm guessing, not the most shocking difference between this world and mine."
"That's what we're here to answer." Twilight's own counterpart nodded, smiling at her. In this world, it would seem, her counterpart had ascended to a Princess, joining Celestia and Luna not unlike she did in her own world. But from what she could gather, this world's Twilight had lived over three centuries before passing away. For as old as Nocturna was, and her immediate relationship to Rainbow Dash and Archer, her counterpart must have been a relatively new Princess, meaning she'd only recently discovered the crystal mirror herself. It seemed to add up in her mind. Twilight mulled her thoughts over, trying hard to reconcile her questions for the mirror copy sitting opposite herself.
"Well, let's start as far back as I can remember where there are important questions. How old were you when you first were offered the position of Archmage?"
"I was only twenty-five."
"Two years younger than I." Twilight did the math quickly, smiling warmly. "So you got a head start on me. Alright, then, how long did it take you before you took over your constituency?"
"I picked it up in about three months, I think?" Twilight asked, glancing to Luna, who nodded with a mouthful of ice cream. She was still working her way through their dessert.
"Th... Wow, really?"
"Why, how long did it take you?"
"Oh, gosh, I forget... Somewhere around six? Maybe eight?"
"Let me guess, the library?"
"Yeah." Twilight grimaced. "It took me almost an entire month to travel out there and return."
"You... didn't think to have Rainbow Dash fly you and your friends out there in the hot air balloon?" Cadance asked. At the question, Twilight froze.
"... Oh my stars, I'm an idiot."
They all shared a laugh at that.
The conversation went on well into the evening. Her counterpart, Celestia, and Luna excused themselves to the balcony to cycle the sun and moon, taking only five minutes out of the conversation that Twilight go to spend chatting with Cadance. Apparently Shining Armor was still alive in this world, and she was promised that should her contract allow her a journey to the Crystal Kingdom, she'd be able to speak with him as well. He was very old, though, and sickly. Cadance still loved him fiercely, but Twilight could sense the tension hanging over her, like the blade of a guillotine.
Banner, she came to learn, had a very short-lived life as an Archmage, but was still alive. His immediate student had been Nocturna, true to his friendship with Archer and Rainbow Dash. He retired at a moderately old age to spend time with his wife and child in the Crystal Kingdom, leaving Nocturna to learn under Twilight's tutelage. Not unlike in her own world, the position of Archmage was more of a formality than anything else. Twilight herself handled many of the duties the Archmage typically did, leaving the actual one to learn and live freely. Nocturna herself had a foal that had already grown up to have her own children, meaning there were four generations of Rainbow Dash's blood in this world that there wasn't in her own.
To her further surprise, the whole confrontation with Regal and his assassination attempt had been handled much more amiably. Twilight had confronted him before the Greater Canterlot Council, and with Luna's help, had reverse-engineered a spell that freed him from the insanity of Blaze's journal. He had confessed to his crimes and escorted Twilight, along with an enamored Rarity and her other friends to the desert library. There, they had dispelled the magic in much the same way Twilight had in her own world, but Regal remained behind with Bolt's ghost to help watch over and protect the library, as recompense for causing so much trouble in Canterlot.
Rarity had left him and gone back to Cross Stitch, whom she had the same children in Twilight's own world. That much, it seemed, had remained the same. In fact, save for Rainbow Dash, all of her other friends didn't seem to have changed at all. That, combined with Twilight having spent a month of her development as Archmage reconnecting with her sickly parents seemed to wrap up this world's differences. There were still times of strife and anger, like with Silver Crest's murder of his father and Harbinger, but it seemed her counterpart in this world was better equipped to handle those times. Her love for Luna was just as strong; if not stronger, and she had many more friends in the form of students, Archmages, and Nocturna's children, all of whom worked in and around the palace.
All-in-all, this world was actually quite amazing. Twilight thoroughly enjoyed her week-long stay, even taking the optional trip down to Diamond Bay for three days of surf, sand, and sun. Even in her extensive life, Twilight had never been able to visit the beach for recreational purposes. Her brief foray into the alternate's world Saddle Arabia excluded, of course. That world had left a bad taste in her mouth. This one, it would seem, was destined to leave her with a smile on her face indefinitely. Upon return to Canterlot, Twilight visited the improved Royal Canterlot Library, where her counterpart was busy putting the finishing touches on a copy spell that would take books from the library in the Valley of Knowledge and make them immediately available for reading in Canterlot. It was a joined effort between her and Regal's grandson, a gifted unicorn who had been born and raised in the library after Regal found love anew in a Saddle Arabian visitor.
This world was so diverse and amazing, Twilight wanted nothing more than to spend another week there. Alas, the week came to an end, and she had to return to her own world. It was at the portal she met up with her counterpart, Nocturna, and Luna once more.
"It was lovely seeing you, and learning of the differences between our worlds." Her counterpart smiled, embracing Twilight warmly. "I know it's a hassle to ask for compensation, but should you ever return, I'm sure I can coerce Celestia into giving you a discount."
"I appreciate that." Twilight smiled, wrapping her wings around her twin warmly. "I hope this world prospers with its visitors, and that they enjoy their time here as I have." Truthfully enough, the whole week had been spent enjoying some of the best and most restful slumber of Twilight's life, and really opening her eyes to how ideal these parallel worlds could be. "Destination: Equestria indeed." She smiled and embraced Luna and Cadance in turn before turning to the portal. It was then that Celestia entered the room, looking serious but not worryingly so.
"I do hope you haven't forgotten about your payment, Princess Twilight?"
"Oh! Of course not. Remind me; how much was it?" She asked, pausing with one hoof inside the mirror's surface.
"Thirteen hundred and twenty-seven bits." Celestia produced a manilla folder with a small ledger inside, detailing the expenses. Twilight glanced it over before nodding faintly. "A fair price. I will return momentarily."
"Hello, Twilight!" Luna stood on the other side of the mirror, looking pleasantly shocked. "Just one week this time, it looks like?"
"Yeah." Twilight sighed, feeling happy to be back after a week-long absence. At least, a week to her. Luna looked to have just settled down with a book, even though Twilight had told her it was okay; that she didn't have to watch the mirror all the time.
"How was it?"
"Good, uuh, listen." Twilight blushed, glancing over her side once more. "I need thirteen hundred bits."