They stood there amidst the dust and rubble for what seemed like hours. No-one spoke. No-one could. They stood amongst the ruins of a legend.
Twilight was head of the group, alone, hoof-deep in the debris of her home. Yes, peace had been restored. They had won the day. But at what cost?
What cost indeed.
The library was destroyed. Its tattered remains still littered Ponyville. Shattered picture frames and burnt spines of books lined the streets. The heart of the library tree was splintered like some terrible force had crushed the very soul from it. Sometimes, there really was no victory.
“It’s ah…” Rarity was first to speak, but she stumbled over her words as Twilight turned, tears bubbling in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Twilight,” she whispered. “We all are. We know how much this meant to you.”
“I…” Twilight began, but she stopped as a choking sob wracked up in her throat. “I had everything here,” she croaked. “All my books, everything I ever owned from when I was a little filly, all gone. And my memories, too!”
She walked forwards, picking up the blackened cover of a book. “My photo album.” She turned the ruined pages, which crumbled to dust in her hooves. “All gone,” she sighed, sitting in the dust. “This is where my life began, really. Everything before I came here was just… the warm-up act. Now I have nothing.”
“Oh, Twilight!” Spike leapt forwards, wrapping his claws around his friend’s waist. “You’ve still got us, Twilight! That’s what matters!”
Her friends all moved in for a group hug. “Yes, friends are what’s important!” Rainbow Dash smiled. “If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that!”
“Books are just… stuff, Twilight!” Rarity picked up the tearful Twilight’s face in her hooves and stared into her eyes. “Things come and go. They can be replaced. Lives are what is important, and you saved so many lives here today!”
“I know,” Twilight mumbled, pressing herself against her friends for warmth. She sighed again. “I just… don’t think I can ever truly be happy again. I’ve got a castle now, but that’s just a house, this was… a home.”
“Look, I found this!” Fluttershy proudly picked up a framed picture of Twilight and all her friends that lay amidst the destruction. It instantly turned to dust in her hooves. “Oh. Sorry,” she squeaked, aghast.
“Thanks everyone, you’re right.” Twilight smiled weakly at her friends, slumping her shoulders and giving a large sigh. “Life is what’s important. I just… want to be alone right now. I might sleep in the ashes of my library. For old times’ sake.”
She gave a heavy groan and settled down in the remains of her once beloved house. “One final time,” she whispered, a single tear glistening in her eye.
“Okay,” Rarity patted Twilight on the back. “You’re a brave pony, Twilight. A brave and wonderful pony. It’ll get better, I promise.”
“I don’t think it will.” Twilight hugged a nearby broken shard of wood. “This library was my heart. And now it is broken forever.”
Her five friends left without another word, nodding respectfully to the Princess of Friendship and thinking about what the next day would hold.
Only Spike stayed, standing vigil beside Twilight in the ruins of their home. “They’re gone,” he breathed. “Everything’s gone, Twi. A castle’s nice, but how will we cope?” He shook his head sadly. “I can’t believe that Tirek destroyed the entire library with just one blast.”
Twilight nuzzled her face into the ground. “That was because of all the dynamite I stockpiled there,” she mumbled, lifting her head to look about, a sparkle in her eye as she winked. “A ‘controlled demolition’ as it were.”
Spike furrowed his brow in confusion. “W-what? What are you talking about?”
Twilight leapt to her hooves, a huge grin cracking about her face as she danced a little jig. “Oh, this is wonderful, Spike, just wonderful! I was going to blow the library up myself, but now that Tirek did it, I have a far better cover story! Oh happy day!” She started to whoop and leap and pirouette about.
Spike just stood stock still. “W-what?” he repeated in horror.
“Don’t you see?” Twilight leaned in to Spike. “I couldn’t keep up on the mortgage payments, Spike, it was crippling me! But now that the library’s been destroyed by an outside force, the insurance will pay up! And I get a magic castle free of charge!”
“But… but…!” Spike gulped. “What about our memories, Twilight? All those books that were burnt?”
“Oh, I’ve been swapping my books out for months. All my stuff is hidden in a cave in the Everfree Forest, the books in the library are blank!” Twilight did a cartwheel of joy, spraying ash everywhere. “All the ponies in this town are illiterates, they wouldn’t pick up a book if their lives depended on it! I’m free, Spike! Debt free!”
“Oh wow!” Spike’s mouth gaped open. “S-so all my diaries are safe and sound?”
“Well.” Twilight paused to pat Spike’s back. “I was transferring stuff in the order of importance. Sorry, Spike. But still! Happy days are here again! Just…” She looked about conspiratorially. “Don’t tell anyone, okay? They’ve all got to think we’re really sad about the blowing up of my home or the insurance company might get suspicious!”
“But we are really sad about the destruction of Golden Oak Library!” Spike wailed. “It was our home, Twilight!”
“Golden whatnow?” Twilight shrugged. “I always called it ‘library tree’. Anyway, we’ve got a castle, Spike! A big freaking castle, with thrones and ramparts and everything! That’ll rub it in everyone’s snouts! Especially Mayor Mare, she doesn’t have a castle!” She started to punch the air, chanting “Twilight! Twilight! Twilight!”
Spike sat down in a pile of ash, lifting some of it in his claws, letting it run between them. He sighed. “Sure, Twilight. Whatever you say.”
“What do you mean, they won’t pay up!” Twilight gripped the armrests of her throne, leaning forwards, the vein in her temple throbbing. “That library was destroyed by Tirek! It wasn’t me! Did they find out about the explosives?”
“No…” Spike scanned the letter he had received. “Furthermore, they say that the mortgage on the library needs to be paid in full immediately due to its destruction, and you might consider putting out a loan against your new magical tree castle.”
“Let me see that!” Twilight snatched the letter, read the offending line, and then buried her head in her hooves. “Ah heck. It says I’m not covered for ‘Acts of (a) god’. “ She threw the letter down, and leaped up, a new look of determination on her face. “Okay Spike, this is what we do. Take out an extremely large insurance policy on my magic tree castle…” Her face darkened. “And then fetch me fifteen cans of gasoline.”
Spike shook his head. “Twilight, this is tragic.”
It was going to be one of those days.