Spike finds a spell that can age him one hundred and fifty years, but when he tries it, he finds himself in a future where the ponies are at war with the dragons.
Since he was a hatchling, Spike has always ridden on Twilight’s back. Now he wants to return the favor, but he is too small. He finds the answer in an old spell that can age him one hundred and fifty years. But when he tries to cast it on himself, he inadvertently finds himself in a future where ponies are at war with the dragons.
Fighting King Sombra had been difficult, stressful and tiring, but Twilight and her friends were victorious in the end. Spike was even considered the hero of the Crystal Empire. It was a title he did deserve, but Twilight did start to worry the title might go to his head as they traveled home.
The cure to that was found in a simple game of catch with three fillies. Spike was a clever dragon for his age. Ever since he was a hatchling, Twilight had personally seen to his education. Checking in regularly with the local school teacher, Cheerilee, Twilight was informed that he was a grade and a half ahead for his relative dragon age. Twilight didn’t take any credit for that. Instead, she attributed it to his diligence and love of learning.
But here, at an afternoon picnic with their friends, Spike wasn’t thinking about that, or what happened at the Crystal Empire. Playing catch with Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie Bell, he was just another youngster growing up in Ponyville. It was often easy to forget that her number one assistant was still just a baby dragon. The sight of him just being a kid was a pleasant reminder.
Now it was time for bed, and Twilight looked forward to getting back to a normal routine in the morning. Spike came out of the bathroom. “Ready for bed?” she asked.
Spike walked over to her, bumped the top of his head on her shoulder and pretended to snore.
Twilight laughed. “I’m not surprised. You really wore yourself out today with the girls.”
“Yeah, but it was fun,” he replied.
She nudged him in the direction of his bed. “Well, go on. You got some lessons to catch up on and I’ve got some research to do tomorrow.”
He trudged off to bed and tucked himself in. Twilight got into bed herself. She was about to blow out the candle when she felt a gentle claw on her hoof.
The sleepy little dragon looked up at her. “Hey, Twilight, thanks.”
“For everything. For today, the picnic, but especially for carrying me home.”
Twilight smiled. “You’re very welcome, Spike. Don’t worry about it.”
“It’s just that I was thinking, I’m getting bigger and you don’t have to let me ride on your back. You could have just woken me and I’d of walk home.”
She leaned over and put an arm around him. “It’s our thing, Spike.”
“I know it is, and I don’t want you to think I take it for granted. It means a lot to me!”
“It means a lot to me, too, Spike. Now go to bed.”
Spike hugged her tightly. “Someday, when I’m a big dragon, I’m going to repay you and your going to ride on my back. And when I get my wings, I’m going to fly you high into the sky and we’ll fly circles around Rainbow Dash!”
“It’s a deal!” Twilight smiled.
With a big smile of his own, Spike headed back for his bed.
Twilight blew out the candle and was about to draw the curtains when she noticed Spike getting out of bed again. “Where are you going?”
“To get some water,” he replied as he went down the stairs. “I’ll be right back.”
“You know you’ll just have to get up in the middle of the night.”
“I know,” he yelled back from the lower level. “But I can’t sleep when I’m thirsty.”
Twilight thought about what Spike had said as she waited for him to return. It would be nice to ride on his back some day. But it was not to be. Dragons lived much longer than ponies. She would not see him grow into a fully mature dragon. It was natural for ponies to outlive those who raised them, but in their case, the difference would be in the hundreds of years. The thought made her melancholy.
Spike came back up the stairs, glass in hand. He turned for his bed, sat down and drank his water. But as he lifted his glass to finish, he saw her sad expression through the bottom. “Twilight?”
She was jerked back to reality, “Huh?”
“Is something wrong?”
“What?” Twilight didn’t want to trouble Spike with her reverie. “No, nothing. Just tired. “ She yawned to make her point and lay back in bed.
But Spike wasn’t convinced, “Are you sure?”
“Of course, what could be wrong?” But the tone of her voice betrayed her. She turned on her side and hid her face from Spike. “Let me know when you’re settled in.”
She closed her eyes and quietly sighed to herself. She waited for Spike’s signal so she could close the curtains. But no such word came from Spike. Instead, her bed shook as Spike jumped on and he came up next to her. She tried to ignore him, but he just tapped his foot and waited. Finally, she had no choice but to turn around and look at him standing over her. “What?”
With his arms crossed and brow furrowed, “You wouldn’t let me get away with that kind of answer. What make you think I’m going to let you?”
Twilight sighed again, out loud this time. “It’s nothing, really. I’m just being silly. Now go to bed so I can shut the curtain.” She turned around again and closed her eyes.
But Spike didn’t leave. Instead, he sat down, crossed his legs and put a gentle claw on her shoulder. “You told me once that if something is really bothering somepony, it’s never silly. Come on, Twilight, what is it?”
The dragon she raised from a hatchling had caught her with her own wisdom. As much as she wished he’d just go to bed, she knew he cared too much for her to let it go. Finally she had to give in. “Okay…” She turned around and sat up. “Look, Spike. It’s really nothing and I don’t want to upset you over it. Let’s just go to bed and by morning it’ll be all forgotten.”
He looked up at him with those baby dragon eyes and she realized there was no going back. She pulled him in close and he rested his head against her cheek. “It’s just what you said earlier. About giving me a ride through the sky.”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“We don’t know a whole lot about dragons. They pretty much keep to themselves. But we do know they live a long time. A very long time, and they grow accordingly.”
Twilight hesitated. “So it means that by the time you’re big enough to give me that ride, I probably won’t be around.”
Spike was confused. “Why? Where will you go?”
“Spike, you could live to be a thousand years old, maybe older. But ‘m just a pony. I’ll be lucky to live one tenth that long.”
Spike sat up in alarm as she knew he would. “What? No! I mean, you can’t…”
Twilight finished his thought. “Eveypony dies, Spike. It’s part of life. You’ve seen funerals go through town.”
He turned and hugged her tightly. “But I can’t imagine a day without you, Twilight!”
“I can’t imagine a day without you, either.” Twilight felt a pang of guilt. She would never have to know a day without him, but he would spend most of his life without her. She held him tightly. “This is why I didn’t want to say anything. I didn’t want to upset you.”
She pulled him away to look into his eyes and wipe away a tear. “Don’t worry, Spike. That’s a long way off. We’re going to have decades and decades together. And long before you’re that big, you’ll probably be off on your own. You could be a librarian at Canterlot, or maybe you’ll have your own restaurant. You love to cook and you’re really great at it!”
“Yeah, but, I don’t want to do any of that stuff without you!” he protested.
Twilight took his claws in her hooves. “Tell you what, I promise you that I will live long enough to have that ride though the sky and fly circles around Rainbow Dash, even if I have to live as long as Granny Smith to do it!”
Spike managed a smile. “You Pinkie promise?”
“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!” She smiled and hugged him tightly. “Now go to bed, and don’t think about it anymore.”
Spike agreed and went off to his bed. As soon as he had tucked himself in, Twilight closed the curtain. But he did continue to think about it. He didn’t want to live all that time without Twilight. And he didn’t want her to die before he could repay her for all those rides on her back.
It was nearly time for Princess Celestia to raise the sun before he fell asleep. And it was nearly three weeks later before a solution to his problem presented itself.
* * *
Spike and Twilight had gone to the Canterlot Royal Library to research ancient spells. The head Librarian of the historical wing led them to a restricted section of ancient books where one needed special permission from one of the two Royal Sisters to enter. Twilight, being Princess Celestia’s student, had that permission, and that allowed Spike, her assistant, to enter as well.
While Twilight searched down one aisle of historical magic, Spike searched down another. It was there he found a copy of Time Watcher’s studies on Temporal Manipulation. Spike flipped through it, finding nothing on the kind of magic Twilight was researching. But he did find a spell that caught his attention, one that could age a subject. But the spell was easily disrupted, causing the subject to revert back to their original age. Still, if he could age himself, say, a hundred and fifty years, he would be large enough to have Twilight ride on his back. Just one day would be enough. And her birthday was coming up. What a great present that would be, he thought to himself.
Still, that left the problem of powering the spell. As a baby dragon, he had very limited magical power. And from the notes, he surmised a unicorn like Rarity would not be able to do it either. It would have to be somepony more powerful, like Princess Cadance. But would she help him, or would she say a theoretical spell was too dangerous to try. And as powerful as Cadance was, she was not a student of magic like Twilight. Truth be told, he probably knew more about the workings of high level magic than she did.
But there had to be a solution. Spike snuck the book onto the cart of books Twilight was taking back to Ponyville. And it was there he found a book on magical magnification. Another theoretical spell. But this one could take a small bit of magic, like his fire breath, and build it into something more powerful.
For weeks he practiced every time Twilight left Golden Oaks Library. He would go down to the basement and grow his fire breath into an every larger ball of magical power. But the larger it got, the more unstable it was. At one point, it blew up into a huge ball of smoke. Spike had to burn a batch of cupcakes on purpose to camouflage his failure. But finally he thought he was ready. And Twilight’s birthday was upon them.
* * *
Twilight woke up that day to breakfast in bed, served by her Number One assistant. That, alone, was enough to make Twilight feel loved, but the baby dragon had much bigger plans in mind.
Rainbow Dash arrived just as Twilight was getting ready for the day. “Ready to go?” she yelled to the upper level.
“Just a minute!” came the reply.
Rainbow came close to Spike. “Hey, sorry I couldn’t get you a ticket to the Wonderbolts Air Show. But they were kinda sold out.”
“That’s okay,” Spike replied. “It’s Twi’s birthday, not mine. Besides, I got a lot of errands to take care of.”
“I’ll get you next time, promise!” Rainbow held out her hoof and Spike bumped it with his fist. Rainbow glanced up to make sure Twilight was out of sight, then turned back and winked at Spike. The whole exchange was for Twilight’s benefit. Rainbow Dash would take Twilight to Cloudsdale for the air show while Spike and the rest of her friends prepared for a big party at Sugar Cube Corner.
Twilight came down the stairs ready to go.
“Are you ready for the best air show ever?” Rainbow asked excitedly.
”I can’t wait,” answered Twilight. “I’ve been looking forward to this all week!”
“Then let’s go. I got the balloon inflated and ready for you.”
The two mares turned for the door. Twilight hesitated and turned back to Spike. “I’m sorry you can’t come. Are you going to be all right?”
Spike shrugged it off. “Don’t worry about me. I got enough to do here and in town.”
Twilight hugged the little dragon. “Thanks again for breakfast. I love you, Spike.”
The two mares left. “And I’m going to love you in a big way!” he said to himself.
Spike ran down to the basement and pulled out the two books he had been hiding. He didn’t even open the magic magnification one. He had that part down. He soon had a sphere of magical energy large enough to encircle himself. Now was the true test. A hundred and fifty years, he thought. Just how big would he be? At least big enough to carry Twilight, and then some. He couldn’t wait to see everypony’s reaction at Sugar Cube Corner. How much more could he help decorate if he could easily touch the ceiling? But it was Twilight’s reaction he really wanted to see. She was the whole reason he was doing this.
Reading Time Watcher’s notes, he carefully lowered the sphere of energy on himself. It felt weird. His skin began to crawl. But nothing more than that. A little more, he thought. He increased the magical energy. Then a little more. A little more. But as he increased it, it became harder to control. He felt like he was in a hurricane. He lost his footing and backed into the sphere. He felt a rip in his back. The pain distracted him. And that’s when he lost all control. The sphere grew bigger and wilder. It started tearing apart the room. He watched helplessly as it reached an uncontrollable apex. And in an explosive flash, everything he saw was gone.
* * *
Rainbow Dash hovered by Twilight as she spoke excitedly of the stunts she had seen the Wonderbolts perform.
“Don’t tell me everything,” said Twilight. “Leave something for the show.”
“Don’t worry,” countered Rainbow. “They always do new stuff!”
Without warning, an explosion from behind startled both of them, making Twilight stumble and Rainbow Dash fall out of the air. It was a large one. Instinctively, Rainbow jumped to Twilight’s side and covered her with her wings before the concussion wave hit. Twilight put up a protective shield around them just as they were pelted by rocks and branches.
When it was over, Twilight lowered the shield.
“What the heck was that?” yelled Rainbow.
Twilight looked at the debris. What she saw made her gasp. Oak branches surrounded them. They both turned in the direction they had just come from. A huge, black cloud bellowed out from where the library should have been. Without a word, Rainbow Dash jumped into the air and flew back to Ponyville. With her heart in her throat, Twilight followed as fast as she could run. When Twilight caught up, she was met by a sight she couldn’t fathom. Nothing about it would fit in her reality. The Golden Oaks Library was gone. In its place was a blackened crater. Panic struck her. Where was Spike? No, no, no, was the only thing she could think.
“Twilight?” Rainbow ventured.
Twilight turned to the crowd that had started to gather. “Have any of you seen Spike?” No one answered. She turned back to Rainbow Dash. “He said he had some errands to run!”
“Got it!” Rainbow Dash flew off to the East.
Twilight would search West, but she could not take her eyes off the crater. “Please, Spike. No,” she whispered. He had been working on something in the kitchen. But a gas explosion could not have done this. Besides, he had just made breakfast this morning. The more she thought about it, the more it didn’t make sense. There was something terrible about the crater she couldn’t explain. As she stood there, she began to sense something else. A black cloud formed above her. Not the one from the explosion, but one in her psyche. Now she had to run. Not only to find Spike, but to keep the cloud from catching her.
She ran into the heart of the village, desperately screaming out Spike’s name. She questioned every pony she came across. Soon, between her and Rainbow Dash, every pony in Ponyville was looking for Spike. Sweat drenched her mane as she ran faster, criss-crossing every street and alley. Her heart beat harder and harder, threatening to burst out of her chest. She shouted louder as she came to the end of town. There was nowhere else to look. The black cloud moved in closer. Did Spike leave town? She thought. Did he cause the explosion and was now afraid to face her?
She ran back to the crater. There she was met by her five best friends. They had faced so many dangers together, but she had never been as terrified as she was now. Rainbow Dash had formed an ariel search squadron. Rarity had gathered every unicorn in town to scan for him. Fluttershy and Zecora organized a search party into the Everfree Forest, and Apple Jack and Pinkie Pie had been searching all outlaying areas around town. Twilight asked a barrage of questions and gave a flurry of orders. She was too busy to notice that no pony spoke a word on their own. But they dutifully went out and searched again at Twilight’s request.
Her legs were shaking. She could feel the end of her strength approaching, but she could not give up. The cloud was encroaching again, so she ran once again into the village. The sun was now in the West. It must have been hours now, but it did not matter. Once again she found herself at the end of town with nowhere else to look. She turned back to the town, gasping for air. With what voice she had left, she yelled out as loud as she could. “Please, Spike! I don’t care what happened! I promise I won’t be mad! I just want to know you’re all right!”
Every pony in sight froze in place, straining to hear an answer. But none came.
Twilight fell to her knees, exhausted, tears streaming down her face. Some ponies turned away, not being able to bear the sight of their beloved librarian in such desperation. “Please, Spike!” she pleaded again. “Please answer me!”
A few approached, offering Twilight their hoof. But in their eyes, she could see the reflection of the nearing cloud. Twilight bolted up and ran back to the crater.
What she saw filled her with anger. A small group had formed and some were laying flowers by the crater. She burst in, kicking the flowers away and startling everypony in sight. “What are you doing? We need to look for him! He may be hurt. Maybe he can’t reach us. We have to keep looking!”
A weary voice spoke up, “Ahm… Twilight?” It was Rainbow Dash. Her eyes we red and puffy. She had a hoof around Fluttershy as the yellow Pegasus cried against her neck.
Twilight turned her anger on the two of them. “What are you doing here? You’re the fastest pony in town. You should be out looking for him!”
Rainbow Dash left Fluttershy’s side and approached Twilight. “We have, three times.” She reached a hoof up to Twilight’s shoulder. “Twilight…”
Twilight batted her hoof away. “I don’t want to hear your excuses!”
Twilight turned to the crowd and was disgusted by the ponies just laying about in the middle of a crisis. One of them was Rarity, mascara was running down her cheeks. Some of it had gotten on to Sweetie Bell, whom she was hugging. Next to Sweetie Bell sat Scootaloo and Apple Bloom. Apple Bloom held on tightly to her brother’s arm as she cried into his shoulder.
Twilight walked up and kicked Rarity in the side. “You know how Spike feels about you. Don’t you feel anything for him? Anything at all?”
Rarity struggled to speak between tearful gasps. “Of course I do.”
“Well, it sure doesn’t look like it!”
She then turned her attention to the three fillies huddled together. “And you three. You call yourselves his friends? He needs you, now! Why aren’t you out there looking for him?”
The three of them pulled away in fear of Twilight’s wrath. Only Apple Bloom could raise enough courage to say anything. “But Twilight…”
“Shut up!” Twilight boomed back. “I don’t want to hear it. The three of you are pathetic!”
Rarity rose to her feet. “Twilight, Please! They’re children!”
Twilight yelled at her, making Rarity turn her head away. But she stood her ground between Twilight and the three young girls.
Apple Jack watched the scene, trying to reckon what she should do. Twilight’s reaction was understandable, but she could not be allowed to continue to hurt everypony in her way. AJ locked eyes with Rainbow Dash. Rainbow straightened herself and nodded back at AJ. That gave her the confidence to try to reason with Twilight. “Twilight? Twilight?”
“What?” blurted Twilight angrily, turning to AJ.
Apple Jack slowly approached Twilight. “Listen, sugar cube. We all love Spike and we have spent the whole day looking for him. I’m sorry Twilight, but he’s…”
Twilight did not let her finish. “Shut up!” She shouted and struck AJ across the mussel. Twilight no longer had the strength to hurt Apple Jack. But it was the shock of her outburst that made AJ stagger. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” Twilight struck her again and again. Rainbow Dash galloped in.
Apple Jack was willing to take the abuse if it would get it out of Twilight’s system. But her brother was not. Big MacIntosh stood up and wedged himself between his sister and Twilight. He stared down at the much shorter unicorn.
The set of his jaw made her want to fight. But the compassion in his eyes made her stagger back. “I don’t need you. I don’t need any of you. I’ll look for him myself!” She turned away in a defiant gesture and instantly regretted it. She had been fighting overwhelming terror all day. But what she saw now in front of her shook her to the core, threatening to release that terror.
Pinkie Pie was crying.
Not the exaggerated burst of tears she had seen her hyper friend cry over ridiculous things, but a true, from-the-gut mourning. She stood between the Cakes as Mrs. Cake held her gently. Mr. Cake held her by the hoof as well. Then Pinkie opened her eyes and looked straight at Twilight.
Twilight wanted to run. Get away as fast as she could. But her body wouldn’t move. She fell on her haunches, frozen, as Pinkie Pie left the Cakes and slowly moved towards her. Every fiber in her screamed to run away, but she could do nothing but stare and feel the oncoming horror.
Why was Pinkie Pie, her exuberant friend, doing this to her? She couldn’t understand. As Pinkie neared, she wrapped her hooves around Twilight. Twilight could only stare as Pinkie embraced her. She wanted to scream, but could only manage a whisper as Pinkie’s cheek brushed hers. “Pinkie, no. I’m begging you!”
Pinkie held her, then uttered the most devastating words Twilight has ever heard. “I’m sorry.”
The black cloud descended upon Twilight and devoured her soul.
“No.” It started as a whisper. Then Twilight spoke louder and louder until once again she was screaming, “No! No! No! No! No!” She pounded her hooves against Pinkie’s back. But the more she did, the tighter Pinkie held her, and the harder Twilight struck.
All reason left her. She could not understand why her friends were moving in. Why they wouldn’t let her run away. If she could only deny everything strongly enough, it would all go away. But it wasn’t working. What magic lesson had she missed?
Then, along with reason, control left her. Her eyes rolled back into her head and grew a glaring white. A massive lightning bolt shot from her horn. It was seen from Appleoosa to Canterlot and was accompanied by a thunder clap that felled everypony nearby and blew out windows as far as a mile away. No pony was left standing, except for Pinkie Pie who held her through a second lightning bolt, and then as Twilight collapsed in a quivering, incoherent, mass.
* * *
The lightening caught the attention of the two Royal Sisters. It was the Mayor who first found her voice and told the Princesses what had happened. Princess Celestia cradled Twilight like a helpless child. Then the ruler of Equestria carried her faithful student to Fluttershy’s home, which Fluttershy had offered. Pinkie Pie was rushed to the hospital. With both eardrums ruptured, she was left deaf. She was later fitted with magical cochlea shells. Pinkie would swear she could hear better than before, but Twilight would always suspect that Pinkie Pie was lying to make her feel better.
As the crowed dissipated, Princess Luna stayed to investigate the crater. It took all her strength to remain detached and clinical. She had promised her older sister she would do her best to unravel what had happened. Luna sensed a lingering magical energy, but she could not define what it was. The ashes were also strange, being all a fine, black powder. But it was a small discovery she found that finally broke Luna’s resolve.
The appointed time had passed for the sun to set and the moon to rise. The Mayor went back out to the crater to see if there was a problem. There she found Princess Luna lying in the ashes, crying. In her hoof she held her sad discovery. Three purple dragon scales.
The flash of the explosion dissipated, but Spike still found himself in the sphere of energy. Then suddenly, it began to shrink around him. He felt a new energy coarsing in his body. It felt like a million centipedes crawling in his flesh. He realized that the sphere wasn’t shrinking, he was growing! His claws became longer. His arms and legs grew longer and thicker and wings sprouted from his back. The spell was working. As he grew, his body mass shifted and he fell on all fours. He held himself tight, so as not to touch the energy sphere again. Just as he thought he could no longer stand the horrible, crawling feeling in his flesh, the sphere flashed, then dissipated away.
He fell on the ground, exhausted. He breathed in heavily, blinking his eyes and adjusting to the darkness. He looked at his claws and arms. He was bigger. He stood up on his hind legs. Judging from his distance from the ground, he guessed he was at least five times taller than he had been. It was just what he wanted.
But then, something else occurred to him. How long had all that taken? To him, it had felt like a minute, but it was now dark. Panic struck him. Had he missed Twilight’s birthday party? She would be miffed if he had but if it wasn’t yet midnight, he could still surprise her.
There was something else. Where was he? He looked around and didn’t recognize anything. He seemed to be in a park. And nearby was a town. One at least twice as large as Ponyville. Nopony was around, which made him worry that it was very late. He shouted out, “Hello?”
Flames shot from his mouth, surprising him. He covered his mouth and made sure he hadn’t set anything on fire. This was a new ability he would have to learn to control. He tried again, “Hello?” He spoke quietly at first, then louder and louder until he could feel a fire reflex in the back of his throat. He shouted out as loud as he dared, but no pony answered. He walked around, trying to find any clue of where he was.
A figure flew high above him. Taking a second glance, he recognized the silhouette of a Pegasus against the night sky. Whoever it was, they were too far to hear him. So he got away from the trees and let out a burst of flames. That should get their attention, he thought.
It did. The Pegasus circled around and headed toward him. But as it drew near, he realized that it wasn’t a Pegasus, but an alicorn. There were only three alicorns in Equestria and he knew them all. He waved and shouted out again, letting the flames fly. The alicorn picked up speed and darted straight for him, but his relief turned to puzzlement. The alicorn was wearing armor, and whoever this was, they were too dark to be Princess Celestia or Cadence and not dark enough to be Princess Luna.
The alicorn’s horn glowed and fired an energy bolt at him. Spike ducked instinctively. He was too far to make it to any cover before the second bolt hit. “Hey!” he shouted, unintentionally letting out another flame blast.
“Stand down, dragon!” shouted the alicorn. “What are your intentions and how did you make it this far into Equestria without being detected?”
Spike froze. The Alicorn was now much closer. He recognized that voice and the purple coat of hair under the armor. And there was no mistaking the bangs sprouting out from under the helmet. “Twilight?”
Twilight continued to hover in the air. “Yes, I am Princess Twilight Sparkle, General of the Royal Army.”
“Twilight, it’s me. I know I look different, but…”
“Have we met before, dragon? What is your name?”
Twilight hovered silently for a moment. She descended and landed about thirty feet in front of him. Finally, he thought. But to his surprise, she was not surprised.
“Very well, Spike. I can see that you are a young dragon.” She remained distant and on her guard. “Drop whatever your mission was here and I will allow you to return home in peace, but I give you this message to take back with you. Your generation and the generations before you have been lied to. Your leader, Vilmax, started this war and has been perpetuating it for his own gain. I will admit I was not at my best at the summit so long ago. I let my anger get the best of me and I played into his claws. But ask yourself this: have we ponies ever tried to claim any of your land? Have we even taken a battle into your land? You will find the answer is no. If you don’t believe me, then try to find one dragon among you that remembers the ponies attacking first. For thousands of years dragonkind and ponykind lived in peace. That is all we wish to return to. Now go. I shall arrange an escort of safe passage for you.” Twilight lifted her head and shot out a purple lightning bolt.
“What are you talking about?” Spike stood up on his hind legs and walked toward her. “And what’s with the armor and when did you get wings? What’s going on, Twilight?”
Twilight stepped back cautiously. “Do not play games with me, dragon! Now, accept my offer before I change my mind.”
“But, Twilight, it’s me, Spike! Your Spike. You know, you’re Number One Assistant.”
Twilight’s eyes narrowed and her teeth clenched. She jumped into the air and shouted in a voice Spike had only heard Princess Luna use. “HOW DARE YOU TRY TO USE THAT NAME AGAINST ME!”
“Huh?” Spike stuttered. Before he could put together a coherent thought, Twilight shot down bolts at him again.
“DO NOT PLAY GAMES WITH ME. I WILL NOT BE SO EASILY FOOLED!“
“Twilight, it’s really me! Please stop!”
Twilight circled him and continued to shout, “DO YOU THINK YOU CAN TRICK ME? MY SPIKE WAS A BABY WHEN I LOST HIM. YOU ARE NOT. EXPLAIN THAT IF YOU ARE SO CLEVER.”
Spike shouted out, “Time Watcher’s studies on Temporal Manipulation!”
Twilight paused in mid flight. How would a dragon know about that book, she thought. There were very few copies left in Equestria and she knew where each one of them was. But there was another big flaw in the dragon’s answer. “EVEN WITH THAT BOOK, NO DRAGON HAS THE MAGICAL ABILITY TO USE THOSE SPELLS. THIS GAME OF YOURS IS POINTLESS!”
“Magical Manipulation!” Spike shouted back.
Twilight scanned the sky for more dragons. This still had to be a trap. “WHAT?”
“An ancient book on Magical Manipulation. I built up my dragon breath into a big ball of magic and powered Time Watcher’s spell!”
Twilight paused in the air. This could only be a trap, yet, it was too well thought out. The dragons were powerful and strong, but they had never been this clever. The purple lightning bolt she shot out would call in all the Royal Guards in the area. She wished they would arrive soon. She could not afford to let her guard down. Yet, she felt her resolve weakening.
She landed twenty feet from the cowering dragon. Her horn glowed white as she illuminated the clearing. Purple scales and green spikes. The dragons had done that part of their research correctly. She spoke again in a normal voice. “My Spike would not have known enough of magical theory to make such a complex spell work.”
“Why not?” he protested.
She had him, she thought to herself. “Spike was not a student of magic.”
“Twilight! I studied almost everything you did. I even took down half of your notes!”
Twilight gasped. She hadn’t thought of that. She had never thought of that. Her heart began to race. Could she allow herself to consider… She brought to mind the patrol schedule. Hurry, Sure Hoof, she though, I need you!
Cautiously, she drew closer. She walked around him, but he turned with her. “If you are indeed my friend, Spike, then do what no enemy of mine would do. Turn your back to me and sit down.”
Silently, he obeyed. Twilight was weakening, but she was no fool. She cast a spell, trapping his tail to the ground before she approached his back. He began to turn his head.
“Eyes forward, Dragon!” She commanded. He obeyed.
She came close and levitated a small heart-shaped locket out from under her breast plate. She opened it. On one side was a picture of the baby dragon she had raised. On the other, a single, purple dragon scale. She carefully searched his back. What she found made her tremble. On a spot just above his tail, three scales were missing. She held up the single scale from the locket. It was smaller, but the shape and coloring were right. Her breath became short and shallow. Her face paled and her eyes widened. She placed the scale back into the locket and backed away.
She examined the dragon before her, five times her size. If this was a trap, Sure Hoof would be there soon to rescue her. But her mind was far from that. She could feel the sweat run down the back of her mane. On unsteady hooves, she circled around to face him and released his tail.
All she could do was stare up at him. The pieces were almost together. But after so much time, how could she be sure? Then she thought of something. Something personal her Spike would know. In fact, only one other Princess and a Prince would have known.
Her voice was shaky. If this was a trap, this dragon would know she had fallen for it. But if it wasn’t…
“Dragon,” she started. “If you are truly my Spike, then answer me this: Sunshine, sunshine, lady bugs awake…”
With the appropriate claw and tail jesters, he responded. “Clap your hooves and give a little shake.”
She gasped and staggered back. She couldn’t move. For the second time in her life her reality had been completely changed. “Spike? Spike! SPIKE!” She threw off her helmet, galloped into his arms, throwing her hooves around his muscular neck. “It’s you! It’s really you! My Celestia, it’s really you!”
Confused, Spike held her as she cried. “Yeah, it’s me. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. But Twilight, what’s going on? Where are we?” She pulled away enough to look him in the eyes. “You don’t know, do you?”
She climbed down from his embrace and stood in front of him. She tried to remember as much of Time Watcher’s spell as she could. “Spike, how many years did you try to age yourself?”
“A hundred and fifty.”
Twilight put a hoof across her eyes and fought to keep from crying again. “No, Spike, no!” As she remembered more of the spell, she became more agitated. She paced in front of Spike. Her wings shivered as the horror of that day so long ago came back to her. In a strained voice, she managed to ask, “That spell, it must have seemed like a couple of seconds to you?”
He could sense building anger in her voice, “More like a minute or so.”
Her whole body was shaking, now. She fought to control herself, “Time Watcher’s calculations were flawed. It may have seemed like a minute to you, but it took you out of linear time.”
Spike looked at her in confusion. “Twilight, I don’t understand.”
“It’s been a hundred and fifty years, Spike!” She yelled out. “One-Hunderd-And-Fifty-Years!”
Spike froze, his mind refusing to comprehend what she was telling him.
She pointed a hoof to the nearby town, “That’s Ponyville, Spike! A hundred and fifty years after you left. It’s been burned down and rebuild twice! But it always survives and always flourishes.”
Spike began to tremble. “Ponyville? That’s Ponyville?” Despite his new size, he felt like a small dragon in big trouble.
Twilight turned back to face him. “What I don’t understand is why? Why were you in such a hurry to grow up? You never said you were!”
“No,” Spike said trying to explain himself. “That wasn’t it. Well, not exactly.”
Twilight began to cry again. “Then what? What was so important that you would leave me?”
“I didn’t mean to…”
“I thought you died!” She yelled out. “You blew up the library and I thought you died in it!” Twilight collapsed to the ground, crying uncontrollable.
Slowly, Spike approached her. He reached out a claw to her, but she slapped it away.
“After all we’ve been through, after all we shared, how could you leave me like that? I was never suppose to know a day without you! It broke my heart, Spike. How could you do that to me?”
“I didn’t mean to do any of that. I swear!” Spike backed away, not knowing what else to do.
Twilight tried to control her breathing. She looked up to Spike and spoke through gritted teeth, “I just want to know why Spike. What was so important that you’d try such a dangerous spell on yourself? You never even asked me about it!”
Spike stuttered. In all his life he had never seen Twilight so angry at him. “To… To give you that ride.”
“On my back. You know, to pay you back for all the times I rode on your back.”
Twilight stared up at him, not remembering what he was talking about.
“Remember when we came back from the Crystal Empire? And we had that picnic with everyone? That night I said when I was bigger you’d ride on my back. But, you said you wouldn’t live long enough.”
“No.” It all came back to her, that night and that conversation. “No. Are you telling me that’s what this is all about? You did this because of that stupid promise?”
“It wasn’t stupid to me,” he tried to explain. “And with your birthday coming up…”
Twilight interrupted him and she shouted out, “You ruined my life. I don’t even celebrate my birthday anymore! It was the day… It was the day you died!” She turned away, not being able to face him anymore. All the pain of that day flooded over her again. Were it not for a hundred and fifty years of studies, it would have overtaken her as it had before.
Spike’s heart sank as tears welled up in his eyes. He had wanted to give her the biggest surprise he could. Instead, he had hurt her more than he could ever imagine. And there was no going back. No undoing the pain he had caused the one he loved the most.
He slowly approached her again.
“Don’t.” She whispered without turning around. “Just leave me alone.”
“JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!”
Spike backed off. He watched her cry, not knowing what to do. There was nothing he could to do comfort her, he was the cause of her pain. Finally, he whispered, “I’m sorry,” and turned away. He sulked off, having nowhere to go and no one to turn to. The darkness of the night could not compare to the darkness he felt in his heart.
Twilight lifted her head and watched him leave. This encounter had answered many old questions, but none in the way she would have expected. The Royal Sisters had gone over the crater again and again, but could not determine what that lingering magical aura was. They considered an enemy attack, something unstable beneath the library, but noting fit the circumstances. They even asked Discord if it was chaos magic, but even he had had no clue.
No one considered that Spike could have caused it himself. In the end, the only thing that mattered was that he was gone. Now, despite her rage and her pain, the only thing that really mattered was that he was back. She got up and turned to face him, “Spike, wait.”
He froze, not daring to turn around.
“I’m sorry, too. I didn’t mean it. Please don’t go!” She threw off her armor, ran to him and threw her hooves around his neck again. “I know it was an accident, you didn’t mean to leave me! I really am glad to see you again. You have no idea, Spike. No idea!”
He held her as they cried together at their reunion. From the blasts she had fired at him, Spike could tell she had become much more powerful. But as he held her in his arms, she seemed so small and delicate. He caressed her cheek with an oversized claw and wiped away a tear.
He sat up on his hind legs and was suddenly hit on the back. He staggered, almost losing his balance. He was hit from the opposite side, causing him to fall over. He rolled over, protecting Twilight from harm. He looked up. Before him was a unicorn in full armor.
The unicorn’s horn glowed as he shot at Spike. He instinctively covered Twilight with his wings.
Spike took a deep breath, readying to fire blast the unicorn, but Twilight put a hoof to his lower jaw, stopping him. “Spike, don’t!”
“Release the Princess!” shouted the unicorn.
“We’re at war with the dragons,” explained Twilight.
“What dragons?” asked Spike.
“All of them. They think you’re attacking me!” She jumped out of his arms and stood between him and the two unicorns that were now in front of them.
“Stand down, Sure Hoof,” she ordered. “I’m fine.”
The second unicorn, Morning Star, positioned himself to fire at Spike.
“Step aside, Princess! We’ll handle this dragon.”
She opened her wings, blocking Spike from them. “I COMMAND YOU TO STAND DOWN!” she turned her attention to the sky. “FLYERS, ON THE GROUND, NOW!”
The two Pegasus that had struck Spike landed, along with a third one that had just arrived. The five Royal Guards surrounded Twilight and Spike.
Sure Hoof and the others were confused. He turned his head slightly as he stared at his General. “Princess,” he said as he held out a hoof to her.
Twilight lifted a hoof, but held it out to Spike instead. She lowered a wing to let him approach and he took her hoof in his claw.
The Guards stiffened, ready to attack.
“Captain Sure Hoof, everypony, this dragon is a friend. He is also a citizen of Equestria and you will afford him all rights and protections thereof. I command it.”
The Captain looked at Twilight suspiciously, “Princess, you were found without your armor in the clutches of this Dragon. How is he a friend and a citizen of Equestria?”
“This is Spike. My Spike. The one I’ve told you about.”
The Guards did not move. Sure Hoof took a step closer. “Your Spike is dead. You said so yourself.”
“I know, but I was wrong,” Twilight explained. “He used one of Time Watcher’s spells to bring him here and now.”
Sure Hoof was not only a Captain in the Royal Guard, but also a brilliant student of Twilight’s. What Twilight was telling him now did not fit in with what she had taught him. “Those spells are based on misunderstandings of temporal magic. Is that not what you said?”
“Yes, I did say that, but…”
“And a baby dragon was able to manipulate this spell?”
Twilight hung her head. She knew where this was going. “Yes, Captain. That is what I’m saying.”
Sure Hoof looked around at the other Guards who now looked to him for guidance. He took a few steps back and they did the same. “Princess, we have stood down as you commanded. Now I must ask you to approach me.”
Spike looked around at the Guards still ready to attack. If Twilight was their General, why did it look like they were not standing down. “Twilight, what’s going on?”
“Give me a moment,” she said to the Captain. Then she turned to Spike. “Spike, after you left, I went back to Canterlot. I was going to return when the new library was built, but I never did. It was just too painful to return. Instead, I buried myself in my studies and forgot most of what I learned about friendship. Then there was unrest among the dragons. Their self-proclaimed leader, Vilmax, challenged our right to the lands of Equestria. Princess Celestia sent me to meet with their envoy. But instead of being patient, I forgot about extending the hand of friendship and let him make me angry. That gave him the fuel he needed to start a war.”
“I guess that was my fault,” said Spike.
“No, Spike, it was mine,” countered Twilight. “I should have never left Ponyville. Instead of letting our friends heal me, I left and let my grief destroy me. Afterwards, I did go back and reconnect with everyone. Their children started calling me Aunt Twilight, and in time, their children. But it was too late. The on-and-off war had started. The last attack was ten years ago. We’re still not sure what they wanted to accomplish, it seemed too half hearted on their part. Now there are rumors of an even bigger attack.”
“But, Twilight, you told me that if somepony is set on causing trouble they’ll find an excuse to do it.”
“That’s true, Spike. But Vilmax had witnesses to my anger. And that’s what he points to whenever he needs to rally his army. That’s why these Guards won’t trust you. Nopony would.”
“So what are we going to do?”
Twilight sighed. “There’s only one thing I can do. Isn’t that right, Captain?”
Sure Hoof brought himself to attention. “By your own orders, Princess, I must ask you to submit to Security Protocol Four. If you refuse, I must relieve you of your command.”
Spike sat up. “What does he mean by that?”
“It means he needs to make sure I haven’t been hypnotized or otherwise compromised."
“Can the dragons do that?”
“They’ve done a lot if things we wouldn’t have thought they could. They have taken on allies like the Griffins and Changelings only to turn and destroy them later,” she explained. “Listen, Spike. This is going to be very unpleasant for me. But no matter what happens, you need to stay here and do nothing. Do you understand?“
Spike rose above Twilight and glared at Sure Hoof, but he finally acquiesced, “Okay, Twilight. If you say so.”
Twilight hugged Spike, then walked over to Sure Hoof. She sat down in front of him, “I’m ready, Captain.”
The Captain nodded to Morning Star who projected a containment field over Spike. Sure Hoof then shot a beam from his horn into her forehead. Twilight screamed from the pain and nearly fell over.
Spike stood up, “Hey!”
Twilight held out a hoof. “No, Spike, don’t!”
She took labored breaths as Sure Hoof scanned her mind. She shut her eyes tight and withstood the pain.
Sure Hoof moved in closer and probed deeper.
Twilight wanted to blast him away. But knew if she did, she would never be trusted again. She gasped, “Captain, you’re hurting me!”
Sure Hoof said not a word, but continued his scan.
The pain brought Twilight to her knees. But even with her brain being peeled open, she could hear Spike growl. “Captain! Is that not enough?”
“Not if I am to continue to obey your orders,” he replied.
She let out a scream that Spike could no longer tolerate. He bashed himself against the energy field, trying to get out.
Then suddenly, Sure Hoof’s eyes opened in astonishment. He stopped his scan.
Twilight fell, exhausted. She struggled for breath as she held her head with booth hooves.
Sure Hoof took several steps back and bowed before Twilight. “My General, forgive me! Release the drag…” He stopped himself. “Release Spike!”
Morning Star lowered the field. Spike bumped him forcefully as he ran to Twilight’s side.
The Guards gathered around, not believing what they witnessed. They had all grown up in fear of the dragons. They had been trained to fight to the death. Never had they expected to see a dragon cradle a pony so lovingly in his arms. Nor a pony, especially their General, allow herself to be held by a dragon without any fear or hesitation.
“Water, please,” Twilight requested.
Morning Star opened his saddle bag and levitated a canteen to Spike. He grabbed it out of the air and brought it to her.
Helplessly she pawed for it as he growled at Morning Star. “Spike, help me. I’m blind.”
“What?” he yelled as he shifted his anger towards Sure Hoof.
“It’s all right. Hypnosis can be done through the visual cortex,” She explained. “My sight will come back.” She desperately drained the canteen of its contents, then rested her head against Spike’s neck. Her sight slowly returned.
She saw Sure Hoof still prostrate in front of them. She lowered herself out of Spike’s lap and tried to stand. The best she could do was sit as Spike steadied her. “Captain, there is no need for that. Arise, please.”
Sure Hoof obeyed, keeping his head down. “I accept any punishment you deem appropriate.”
Twilight smiled. Her strength was returning. She took cautious steps toward him. “There is no need for that, either. You faithfully followed my orders under stressful circumstances. I could feel through our connection that it was very difficult for you.”
Twilight had had enough of these formalities. The crises was over. She put a gentle hoof under his chin and raised his head. She winced slightly as her horn glowed and she removed his helmet. “Sure Hoof, don’t hide your face from me. You’re not just the Captain of my personal Guard, you’re my dear friend and faithful student. I’m very proud of you.” She put a hoof around his neck and hugged him.
“Thank you, Twilight. I’m sorry for the pain I caused you.” As they broke the embrace, he looked up to Spike. “And I apologize to you as well, Mr. Spike.”
He was amazed to see the young dragon smiling at him and offering a closed claw to bump. Any remaining anger had drained away from Spike as he had watched their exchange. He remembered the wise words Twilight had taught him, the friend of my friend is also my friend. “It’s just Spike,” he responded.
“But I do have something I wish you to do for me,” continued Twilight. “Go directly to Palace Canterlot and give Princess Luna an eye witness report on all that has happened here.“ She looked up at Spike as she put a hoof on his shoulder. “And tell her I’m bringing Spike home.”
Princess Luna and Princess Twilight returned to Luna’s royal chambers after raising the sun and lowering the moon. It had been two days since Twilight brought Spike through the castle gates. All of Canterlot was still a buzz about Spike’s return and word was now spreading throughout Equestria. The sight of their ruler, Princess Luna, tearfully hugging a dragon in the royal hall was unbelievable to both guards and civilians.
The three of them had spent the best part of the day in joyous celebration. Princess Luna had ordered that the best gems be set out in the royal dining hall for Spike. “Especially the emeralds,” Luna ordered. “He really likes the emeralds.”
They feasted and caught Spike up on events, especially those involving the war with the dragons. But as the day passed, Luna noticed that there were questions Spike seemed hesitant to ask. He veered away from historical events that would have been more personal to him. As she and Twilight sat down to breakfast, Luna broached the subject with Twilight.
“I am not surprised Spike had a lot of questions,” Luna started. “but I am rather surprised at the things he didn’t ask about. After I reconciled with my sister I had many questions about the ponies we had known together.”
Twilight set her tea down and stared into the empty cup. “I’m not. He has a lot to absorb. A hundred and fifty years of history, an ongoing war and the fact that you and I are the only ones left he knows. He knows how much her hurt me by casting that spell. I’m sure guilt is preventing him from asking what he really wants to know.”
“I scarcely believe he has returned myself!” Added Luna. “I was the one who officially pronounced him dead. I have never been so glad to be so wrong.”
Twilight stood and looked out the window to her apartment. As she had returned from raising the sun, she had flown by and seen that he was still asleep on the lower level. “I can’t believe it either. I woke up several times during the night. I thought I was having one of those nightmares I use to have when it first happened. Remember?”
“Yes, I remember all too well.” Luna sat back and pushed her plate away.
Twilight tried to find a comparison for what she was feeling. “It’s like… It’s like…”
Luna found it for her. “It would be like me having my sister back.” She closed her eyes and let out a sigh.
Twilight came to her side and embraced the Princess. “Yes, that’s exactly what it would be like.”
For over half a century, Luna and Twilight had ruled over Equestria in much the same way Luna and Celestia had. They both missed the Princess of the Sun dearly. Luna was thankful for Twilight’s friendship and support, but no pony could every replace her sister. Just like no pony could every replace Twilight’s Number One assistant.
They broke their embrace and stood up from the table. “As for our friends,” Twilight continued. “He’ll ask me when he’s ready and I think I have a way to help him.”
* * *
It was early afternoon before Twilight flew back to her apartment to check on Spike. The palace staff had brought him a lunch, but it remained untouched. He lay on the lower level, awake, but unmoving.
“Spike?” Twilight ventured.
He sat up and turned to her. “Hi, Twilight, was I out long?”
“About a day and a half,” she answered.
Despite all that time, his voice still seemed tired. But Twilight suspected it was more than that. “Well, I’m not surprised. When you cast that spell, it was morning, but you arrived here late at night. To your metabolism, it was like you teleported to the other side of the world. Plus, you have a new body to get use to and, well, the stress of everything.”
“Yeah, about that,” Spike started, but didn’t know how to continue.
Twilight sat down by his legs and looked up at him. Despite being so close, she felt far away from him. She got up and climbed the stairs to the main level. There, she could sit down and be eye level to him. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I’m not sure where to start.” He struggled with a myriad of emotions as he tried to form his questions. Sadness, loss, guilt, curiosity, and Twilight understood them all.
She stood up and rested her cheek on his. “Come with me, Spike. There’s something I want you to see.”
* * *
Twilight led Spike to the back of the castle to what was now called the Garden of Heroes. From his new, higher vantage point, Spike first noticed that the garden labyrinth was gone. In its place were walls of hedges that stood as backdrops for various statues. The first statue they came across caught his attention.
“So Discord went back to his old ways?” asked Spike. “What trouble did he cause?”
“That’s not Discord trapped in stone,” Twilight corrected. “That’s a statue of Discord. Early on, the dragons attacked Phillydelphia. They must have known that no guards were there. But Discord was. He fought them off alone before help could get there – but it cost him his life.” She stepped up to the statue and rubbed off a bit of dirt that was on the plaque that proclaimed Discord the savior of Phillydelphia. She lifted her head straight up and looked at the mischievous grin on his stone face. “The sculptors wanted to give him some heroic stance, but Fluttershy insisted that this is how he would have preferred to be remembered. I think she was right.”
They continued on down the winding path, passing several statues. Some Spike didn’t recognize. Others, like Starswirl the Bearded, he did. They finally arrived at the center piece of the garden. A half circle, larger-than-life monument to the Elements of Harmony. Below each of the six podiums were the symbols he knew well; butterflies, balloons, a lightning bolt striking down from a cloud, diamonds, apples and a star. On five of the podiums were five statues of the friends he loved well.
He sat down in front of the monument and just looked from one to the other. He spoke not a word for a long time. Twilight put her hoof in his claw and let him have his silence. She could think of nothing to say to comfort him.
After many silent tears, he finally found his voice again, “So… they’re all gone, I guess.”
Twilight leaned in against him and answered gently, “It’s been a hundred and fifty years, Spike. Yes, they’re all gone.”
“But you’re not.”
“As I reached new levels in my studies, Princess Celestia transformed me into an alicorn Princess. That was her plan for me all along. That’s what she meant when she spoke to me about fulfilling my destiny.”
Spike became agitated and rose up, “So if I just had waited…”
Twilight stood, putting both front hooves on his shoulder. “No, Spike! Don’t! You didn’t know. Neither of us did.”
“She never told you?”
“Why not? You were her faithful student!”
Twilight sat down again, facing Spike. “Partly to keep me from getting a swelled head. But mostly out of caution. Princess Clelestia had had a student before me, a very promising one. But she grew hungry for power. When the Princess wouldn’t transform her into an alicorn, she turned her back on her studies, the Princess and Equestria.”
Spike sat back down again and hung his head. “Still, if I had waited…”
“Spike, no. There is no point going down that road.”
Spike took her pleas to heart and dropped the subject. He then looked back up to the statues before him. “So what happened to all of them?”
Twilight got up and led him to the first of the statues on the left. “Fluttershy was not the first one we lost,” she explained. “But we placed her here, in the first position so she could lay in rest next to her husband, Big Macintosh.”
Spike’s eyes widened in surprised as he noticed Big Mac’s statue for the first time. So mesmerized was he with the Monument to the Elements of Harmony that he didn’t recognize it standing nearby and just as large. “Fluttershy and Big Mac got married?”
Twilight smiled. “Their courtship drove everypony in town crazy!” The smile turned into a laugh, confusing poor Spike.
“For months everypony knew those two were sweet on each other,” she continued to explain. “But both of them were so shy that neither one of them would make the first move. Fluttershy confided all her feelings to Rarity, so Rarity tried to help. So found reasons to get them in the same room together, she coached Fluttershy into having more self- confidence, she dropped hints to Big Mac that Fluttershy was interested. But nothing worked!”
“Finally, Rarity had enough. One day she grabbed Fluttershy and sat her down in Sugar Cube Corner and told her not to leave. Then she went out, found Big Mac, dragged him back and sat him down beside Fluttershy. Then, in a loud voice, right in front of Fluttershy she asked him, ‘Well, Big Macintosh, are you going to ask my friend out or what?” When Big Mac just stared at her in shock, Rarity screamed out in frustration. She then went to the counter, grabbed a milkshake, put two straws in it, and ordered everyone else out of the store. She then turned back to the two and yelled, “There you have it, your first date. You have your drink, you have each other, you have this whole place to yourselves. Now, be romantic and get on with it!” She then stomped out of the store and slammed the door behind her.
Spike smiled for the first time. “Wow. That does sound like Rarity.”
“We all thought those two would die of embarrassment right then and there,” Twilight continued. “But six months later, they were married. “
Spike laughed. And Twilight laughed with him. Twilight has so missed their times together. And for those few moments, it felt like he had never left. As the laughter died, Spike continued to hold on to her. It was so familiar, yet strange. She now only came up to his neck. Finally, Spike spoke. “So what about the others?”
Twilight sighed and broke the embrace. She moved over to the next statue. The one of her pink, bubbly friend. “Pinkie Pie wasn’t so lucky. She was the first one we lost. When the Dragon Wars started, we found that she was surprisingly good at diversions.”
“Diversions?” asked Spike.
“Yes,” Twilight continued. “She would walk right into the path of the dragons and just be Pinkie Pie. The dragons wouldn’t know what to make of her and would get distracted. Then one of us would just swoop in and pull her out before things got ugly. She confused our guards as much as she confused the dragons. They could never figure out if she was fearless or just crazy!”
“So which one was it?” asked Spike.
“The truth is, Spike, I never really knew. What I did know is that she was always there when we needed her.” She fell silent for a moment, then continued in a more serious tone. “But diversion was a tactic the dragons learned from us, then used against us. There was a surprise attack on Manehattan. Pinkie, Rarity, Apple Jack and I were there and fought them off. But their real target was Cloudsdale.“
“They figured that if they could control the weather over Equestria, they could drought us out. I have to admit, it was one of their best plans. Rainbow Dash was the Commander of the Wonderbolts by then. She had turned them into an elite aerial fighting squad. Nopony would have thought that the dragons would attack with the Wonderbolts at their home base. But they did. Vilmax himself lead the charge. Nopony had ever seen so many dragons in the sky. Not even during the great dragon migrations that use to fly over Equestria.”
“Rainbow Dash and her squadron fought them off for more than an hour before we were able to get there. Fluttershy was there too, visiting. We had each learned to use the power of our Elements individually. But it was nowhere near as powerful as when we used them together. Finally, we had to call up every bit of power in the Elements to defeat the dragons. We lost the Five Elements that day, in more ways than one.”
“Pinky was seriously injured from the battle in Manehattan, but she hadn’t said anything. When the Elements exploded, she wasn’t strong enough to survive.”
Twilight walked over to the third statue of Rainbow Dash. As Spike looked at it, he could tell she was wearing her Wonderbolts Command uniform, even though it was a design he had never seen before. In her hoof she held a flag pole flying the banner of her squadron. He was glad to see that Rainbow was able to fulfill her dream.
Spike drew close to Twilight as she continued. “Rainbow had been severely injured as well. The surviving members of her squadron rushed her here to the Royal Hospital. But there was nothing the doctors could do except make her comfortable.”
“She died a hero,” Spike added. “I’m sure she would be proud of that.”
“Rainbow became more mature after she joined the Wonderbolts. She was still the fun-loving prankster we all knew, but when she put on her uniform she was all business. She died protecting Equestria. That was what was important to her. But she did live long enough to nominate her successor - Captain Scootaloo.”
Spike looked down at Twilight, raised an eyebrow. “Scootaloo? Do you mean our Scootaloo?”
Twilight smiled and nodded.
“I never said anything, but I was beginning to wonder…”
Twilight finished his thought, “She had a very rare condition that can affect Pegasus born to two Earth ponies. Basically, her wings were stunted. Once that was diagnosed, Celestia and I were able to help her.”
Twilight turned her attention back to the statue. “Princess Celestia was well aware of Scootaloo’s record and didn’t hesitate to swear her in right there at Rainbow’s bed side. In her last moments, she was the proudest she had ever been in her life. Not of herself, but of Scootaloo. It was a good way for her to pass.”
Twilight cleared the lump in her throat and continued down the line. “As for the others, Fluttershy, Rarity and Apple Jack, they lived their lives, raised their families and were at my side whenever there was a battle to fight or a crises to manage. There have never been any truer friends in all Equestria. In the end, they were fortunate enough to grow old in relatively peaceful times surrounded by their families.”
Twilight looked up, expecting to see her tall friend right behind her. Instead, he had stopped in front of the statue of Rarity. She should have expected he would. She turned back and placed a comforting hoof around his arm. “Are you all right, Spike?”
It took him a while to find his voice again. “I just spoke to her a couple of days ago. Well, to me, anyway.”
“I know it’s difficult. I lived through it and it’s still hard for me to come here. I’ve been to too many funerals, Spike. Having the lifespan of an alicorn when others around you don’t is not a blessing.”
Spike continued to look at the statue of Rarity in full armor. “I get the sewing machine, but what’s with the anvil?”
A sewing machine in front of Rarity was no surprise. But it sat atop an anvil and Rarity’s hoof stood on it. Twilight explained. “There were times when we went into battle in full armor. Aside from finding it highly unfashionable, Rarity found it cumbersome and restricting. She left a successful career as a fashion designer to move here and become the Royal uniform designer. She then spent years studying metalwork and came up with armor that was lighter, stronger and allowed for more movement. All of our armor today is still based on her designs.”
Twilight pointed to the neckline of the statue. “Look at the collar of any of the guards and you’ll see that little “R” in a circle. Most Ponies today think it stands for “Royal Guard”, but it doesn’t. It’s Rarity’s stamp. Even though she’s gone, she still protects us. She tugged gently on his arm. “Come on. I think that’s enough history for one day. Let’s get something to eat before I lower the sun.”
They started walking again and she tried to lighten the mood. “There’s a Hay Burgers up here. It’s probably not a good idea to walk you through town yet, but they deliver!”
Spike had stopped again. This time in front of the empty podium. The one with the symbol of a large star surrounded by five small ones. He looked down at her, questioningly.
“That’s where I’ll be buried some day as the sixth Element of Harmony,” she explained. “But don’t worry. That’s not going to be for a long, long, time. I intend to win this war, then grow old in permanent peace.”
Spike could feel a pregnant silence between them. A thought left unfinished. Twilight had taught him long ago that what a pony doesn’t say can be just as telling as what they do say. He ventured into the silence. “Surrounded by your family?” and instantly regretted his words.
Twilight’s expression froze. She did not answer. Instead, she turned away. Her oldest friend had inadvertently touched on her second true regret. At first it was because of her self-imposed isolation. Then, it was because of her single-minded dedication to protecting Equestria. For these two reasons she had never allowed herself the time to find a special somepony of her own. Somepony to share a life with, to build a home with and to have a family with. Some Canterlot scholars called her the second Starswirl the Bearded, many in Ponyville called her aunt. But not one of them called her mother.
New tears came to her eyes. Tears she now tried to hide from Spike. She tried to be casual and wipe them away, even though she knew Spike was watching. He had placed a gentle claw on her shoulder.
Finally, she leaned against his arm and looked up to him, “Now that you’re back, yes.”
* * *
Twilight and Luna had finished dinner and were going over the reports of the day. Over the years it had become their custom to spend the evenings together when their duties allowed. They would sit and spend a quiet evening reading, or walk the grounds, or take a flight. They often walked through Canterlot and talked to other ponies. They wanted to be accessible to their subjects and it reminded them of what they were fighting to protect.
In the past three weeks Spike had begun to join them and Luna was glad for it. He would often leave early, needing more sleep than alicorns, then Luna and Twilight would finish off the evening together.
There had been times that Twilight would get involved with a project or a study and spend most of her free time in her apartment. Now had become one of those times.
Spike was now too big to live comfortably in their old apartment with Twilight, so a small warehouse near the guards’ barracks had been converted into an apartment of his own. Twilight now had all the room she needed to spread out her charts and chalkboards.
Twilight excused herself to go back to her research.
“How are you doing in your studies?” asked Luna. “Are you close to divining how Spike was able to cast the spell that brought him here?”
Twilight came back around and took a cushion next to Luna. “That part I’ve already figured out. Spike really did his research before he cast that spell, and what he told me was very useful.”
“Then what is it you continue to research?”
“There’s a bigger magical principle at work in that spell,” explained Twilight. “One I don’t think even Time Watcher was aware of. If I’m right, it could change our perception of relative time.”
“You are spending a great deal of time on this endeavor. I have noticed that you have even been spending less time with Spike. What is the end of your research?”
“I know I get carried away sometimes, but I’m not abandoning Spike,” assured Twilight. “We still spend a lot of time together. And now that he’s learned to fly he usually accompanies me on my rounds. As for my goals, I’m not completely sure. Or rather, I don’t want to say right now. There are still too many variables I haven’t locked down yet. When I’ve completed my research, I’ll give you a full report.”
“I look forward to it,” said Luna.
“As for Spike, he’s building a new life here. He’s even making new friends among the Guards, which I’m grateful for, but I don’t want him to lose touch with his past. My past is very important to me. The roots of all my friendships lie there, and I think the same is true for Spike. I want to take him for a visit.”
“Of course,” answered Luna. “I think it would be very good for him.”
* * *
The next morning after breakfast Twilight flew down to Spike’s quarters. He was trying out his new equipment with Sure Hoof. Spike had decided that he wanted to help defend Equestria, so the Royal Blacksmiths had made him armor and a sword. The sword was six feet long, but felt perfectly balanced in his now larger and stronger claw. He practiced his swings as Sure Hoof levitated his sword and countered his moves.
Twilight landed and kept her distance as the two practiced. But when Sure Hoof noticed her, he stopped and bowed to her. “Good morning, Princess.” To Twilight’s surprise, Spike bowed as well.
“Good morning,” answered Twilight. “You seem to be getting the hang of that, Spike.”
Spike planted his sword in the ground. “I’m starting to get the feel of it. But I have a long way to go before I can join the Guard.”
“Spike is in a unique position,” added Sure Hoof. “He can fill in as a real dragon during cadet practices. I look forward to his assistance.”
“I’m sure his help will be valuable,” said Twilight. “But I would like to borrow him if you don’t mind.”
“Of course, Twilight,” answered Sure Hoof. “Then, with your permission, I shall be tending to my duties.” Twilight nodded. Sure Hoof sheathed his sword and teleported away.
Twilight turned her attention to Spike. “You don’t have to bow to me. We’ve known each other too long for that.”
“Well, if I’m going to be in the Royal Guard, I need to act like one.” Then he whispered conspiratorially. “At least when I’m around other Guards!”
Twilight laughed and gave him a bump with her hoof.
“So what’s up, Twilight?”
“You’ve been here a while now, and there is someplace I want you to see. It’s someplace I often go to when I need a break from my duties.” She levitated her crown off her head and placed it in her saddle bag.
Spike watched in confusion, “You’re not wearing you crown?”
“Where we’re going I don’t need it,” she said. “I may not have a family of my own, but I’m part of a family. And so are you.”
* * *
Twilight fought back a tear as she thought about the irony of what she was doing. Holding onto Spike’s back, Spike was fulfilling his promise to repay her for all the rides on her back. And she had fulfilled her promise to live long enough to have that ride. She knew Spike was feeling the same. But being flanked by two escorts, they remained quiet and enjoyed the flight to Ponyville.
It was more than just a ride, it was a silent act of love.
They set down about a quarter mile away from Sweet Apple Acres. The last time dragons flew over this land was ten years ago. The whole farm had been destroyed and many lives were lost. Twilight had told everyone they were coming, but she knew many would find this meeting difficult.
The barn was much larger than the one Spike remembered. Above it was a small living quarters. Twilight’s sanctuary, her home away from home.
The Apple family was gathered in front of the main gate. About twenty five in all. None of them looked too comfortable having a dragon in front of them. Twilight led Spike to the center of the group and made introductions.
“Spike, this is the Apple family. They’re all descendants of the Apples you knew.” She pointed to two ponies in the middle of the group. “This is Apple Tree and his wife Sugar Blossom. They are in charge of the farm and Apple Tree is the Commanding Officer of the Civilian Militia. She held out a hoof and encouraged them to come up to meet Spike.
None of them moved, except for a young filly who pulled away from Apple Tree as he desperately reached to pull her back.
Spike sat as he watched this little girl approach him without hesitation. She was wearing a red cape, the kind that he had seen before. This one was professionally made, the others he had seen were not. It had the blue coat-of-arms of the CMC on each side.
She stepped up to Spike and introduced herself, “Howdy, Mr. Spike. My name is Apple Seed, resident of Sweet Apple Acers and member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Herd Number One!” She was proud of her heritage, and she had every right to be. She was a direct descendant of the CMC founders. The twang in her voice reminded Spike of Apple Bloom. Her confidence reminded him of Scootaloo. Spike had never met an Apple that was a unicorn, but the fact that she was came from Sweetie Belle.
“This here’s my Papa, Apple Seed.” Apple Seed extended out her right hoof and found nothing but air. She looked over, her father wasn’t there. Neither was her mother. She turned and looked at the crowd in surprise. No pony had moved. They all stared at her in wide-eyed alarm.
A low growl escaped the back of her throat as she gritted her teeth. “What’s the matter with y’all?” She shouted to the crowd. “This here’s Spike. Y’all have heard the stories of Spike. He’s Aunt Twilight’s Number One assistant! The hero of the Crystal Empire! A friend of the Royal Sisters! What are you afraid of?”
Apple Seed was too young to remember the horror of the dragon attack. To her, it was a vague memory of hiding in the cellar with her young siblings and cousins. But Twilight did remember.
She stepped up next to Apple Seed. “I know what you’re all thinking, and I know what you’re all feeling. I was there, too. I remember the destruction and the deaths. But Spike had nothing to do with that. He comes from a time when ponies and dragons lived in peace. I had hoped that you would welcome him. Won’t you at least say, ‘Hi’?”
Apple Tree and Sugar Blossom looked at each other, their fear turned to regret. They had always trusted their Aunt Twilight even through the most trying times. But now, they had doubted her. It was their youngest filly who shamed them by being the only one to take Twilight at her word.
They approached Spike and found nothing to fear. He bent down to greet them eye to eye and extended a gentle claw. One by one, the other Apples started to relax, and by lunch time, a picnic was on the way.
Everypony was amazed at Spike’s cooking skills. The barbeque utensils now seemed tiny in his claw, but he still managed to flip burgers and toss veggies on the grill.
Spike was enjoying another barrel of cider when Apple Seed approached him again. She smiled widely, she was enjoying having a huge dragon as a friend. She had taken off her cape and was carrying saddle bags instead. “Aunt Twilight says you knew Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie Bell.”
“Yeah,” answered Spike. “We use to hang out and play together. They’d come over to see Twilight and I’d make us all snacks.”
“Would you like to see some pictures?” She levitated a scrapbook out of the saddle bag and carefully took it out of its cloth cover. “My Mama’s our herd leader. She said I could borrow these from our clubhouse. This here is Apple Bloom’s.” She started turning the pages. Spike remembered several of the faded pictures. Twilight moved closer to look on as well.
They came to some pictures of an Apple family reunion. “Hey,” Spike said. “I remember her. That’s Babs Seed.”
“That’s right,” confirmed Apple Seed. “She started herd number two in Manehatten.”
Twilight and Spike laughed as they reminisced over the old pictures. But Twilight’s demeanor suddenly changed as Apple Seed was about to turn to a page of newspaper clippings. “No!” she said abruptly and put her hoof on the page. She closed her eyes as all the joy drained out of her.
Spike was confused, but Apple Seed knew why Twilight had stopped them. She apologized, “I’m sorry, Aunt Twilight. I didn’t mean to…”
Twilight took a deep breath. “It’s all right.” She got up and turned away. “I’m sorry, Apple Seed, continue. He has the right to see.”
She walked a few steps away. Apple Tree and Sugar Blossom came up to Twilight and hugged her. It was an interesting relationship Twilight had with them. She was by far their elder, yet they treated her more like a niece. Spike could see why this farm was her sanctuary. Here she didn’t have to be a general. Here she was just family.
With Twilight being taken care of, Spikes attention went back to the scrapbook. Apple Seed slowly turned the page. It was filled with newspaper clippings, all from an article about Spike’s funeral. Spike was stunned. This was something he never would imagine reading about. He was amazed by what the lengthy article said about him, “The town’s beloved baby dragon”, and all the quotes from the townsponies. There were many pictures of the service and the procession. It seemed like everypony in town was there, and may from the Crystal Empire and Canterlot.
What shook him the most was a picture of Twilight carrying a child size coffin on her back. “Twilight?”
Without looking back, she knew what picture he was looking at. She continued to hold onto Apple Tree. The pain of that day came back, but it now seemed to be getting lighter. “As we were leaving town hall, the ushers were going to put you on a cart. But I said, ‘No’. I wanted to give you one last ride. It was the least I owed you!”
Spike got up and took Twilight in his arms. “I’m sorry, Twilight! I’m so sorry!”
Twilight hugged him back. “You don’t have to keep apologizing, I told you I’ve forgiven you.”
“But I have to,” Spike insisted. “Every time I think I understand how I hurt you, I tell you how sorry I am. But then, something comes up and I realize how I hurt you goes even deeper. And it just doesn’t stop! I hurt everypony! And I can’t even apologize to them.”
She pulled herself away from Spike enough to look into his eyes. “We may not have known what had happened, but we knew it was an accident. No pony would have blamed you.” She pulled away, held a hoof to her chest and drew a deep breath, then extended her arm as she let it out. “Come on, there are a lot more pictures to see. Now that you’re back, I need to start getting over it.”
They turned back to Apple Seed, who laid with her head turned away from the scrapbook.
Twilight stroked her mane, “It’s okay, Apple Seed. I should have dealt with my feelings a long time ago. It’s my fault, not yours. Why don’t you show Spike some later pictures? I’m sure he’d like to see what happened to our friends after he left.”
But Spike interrupted her before she could turn the page. He fumbled with phrasing what he wanted to ask, “Wait… Twilight… It’s just that… Well, I’m here. What was there to bury?”
Twilight explained. “When Princess Luna examined the crater left by the explosion, all she found were three scales. The ones ripped from your back.” She held up the heart-shaped locket and opened it. Two, we buried. This one I kept.”
Spike stared at it, not knowing what to say. Finally, his voice came back to him. “You kept it all this time?”
Twilight closed it and held it to her heart, “It’s where I go when I need to find strength.”
The two of them stared at each other, Spike hesitantly, Twilight patiently. Finally, Spike let his shoulders sag, “Okay, I won’t say it.”
“Good,” said Twilight. “You’re learning.” She turned her attention back to the young filly. “So what else do you have there?”
Apple Seed turned to Spike and smiled. “Spike, would you like to see some pictures of Rarity?”
Spike was caught off guard by the question. “Ahh, yeah, that would be nice.”
Now it was Twilight’s turn to be apologetic. “Over the years I’ve told them everything about you. I’m sorry, Spike. I just never thought you’d return to be embarrassed.”
“It’s okay, Twilight. It wasn’t exactly a secret back then, either.”
Twilight laughed, “No, it wasn’t.”
Apple Seed pulled out another, well preserved, scrapbook. “This one belonged to Sweetie Belle.” She flipped through the pages to about half way through the book. She showed Spike many pictures of Rarity in her shop, with her friend, and even on stage with pop singer Sapphire Shores. But in all those pictures, there was something missing.
“Twilight told me how Rarity became the Royal uniform designer and how she redesigned the armor, but was she happy? I mean…”
Twilight flipped towards the end of the book. “After a while, Rarity stopped looking for her prince charming and dedicated herself to her work. A lot of us started to think she would never get married. But when she moved to Canterlot, she met a tailor, Dapper Cumber Bum. They fell in love, got married and opened a shop together. That’s where she spent years designing the Royal uniforms and learning metal work.”
Spike smiled as he looked at the pictures of Rarity and her husband in their shop, on vacation and even receiving the Canterlot Medal of Service from Princess Celestia. He was glad that she had found somepony to love her.
He continued flipping through the pages, but stopped at a particular picture. Rarity was sitting up in a hospital bed, holding a new born baby. She was surrounded by her husband and friends. “They had one baby together, a colt.” Apple Seed explained. “His name was Spike, too.”
Spike froze. A sea of emotions overcame him. Some happy, some sad, some he didn’t know how to categorize. But none of them he knew how to express. He just sat and stared at the picture.
Twilight put a gentle hoof on his claw, “Mine wasn’t the only heart broken that day. None of us ever forgot you.”
* * *
The rest of the day was filled with more laughter and games. But the flight home was silent. The pain he had caused truly had no end.
Twilight tried to comfort him, but Spike just wanted to be alone for a while. Twilight let him return to his quarters, and said she would check on him later. She then returned to her own apartment and to the research she was about to complete.
* * *
It was nearly midnight and Luna was deep into one of her favorite books when there was a knock on the door, “Enter.”
A Royal Guard entered and bowed, “My Princess, Princess Twilight asks if you would come to her apartment. She says she is ready to report on her research.”
Luna landed at Twilight’s front door and entered. She was amazed at all the charts and chalk boards that lined the upper level. Luna’s method of magic was mostly organic. She would feel her way around a spell until she got it to work. Twilight’s method was more logistical. Because of that, she could notate variant degrees and classifications of magical energy. As she rose to the upper level, Luna tried to take in the various calculations written down. Half the symbols she didn’t even recognize. They were specifically used in temporal magic. She also noticed that there was a distinct division in the notes. Some were on the side of the room near Twilight’s desk, but most of them were on the opposite side.
“Your research appears to be exceedingly complicated,” commented Luna as she approached Twilight.
Twilight turned in her chair. “Temporal magic always is. To travel in time, one has to transverse five dimensions, not four as traditionally thought. It is absolutely astonishing that Spike was able to accomplish what he did with just Time Watcher’s rudimentary calculations.” She pointed to a chair beside her. “Here, let me explain in brief. “
It took Twilight two hours to explain all the symbols and formulas Luna needed to follow the flow of logic. It took all of Luna’s concentration not to get lost in Twilight’s explanation. She finally came to her conclusion. “This outdates all our traditional concepts of time. Time is not just a singular, linear flow. It is a multitude of event threads generally flowing in the same direction. That is why time travel to the past is so limited. The way we’ve accomplished it is by creating an artificial thread in the wrong direction. The flow of time rejects it and sends it back.”
“I understand, now,” said Luna. “Traveling to the past is so limited, it is thought to be of little value.”
“Yes,” concurred Twilight. “And traveling to an uncreated future was thought impossible, but Spike proved that wrong. It was also thought that if one could travel forward, it would take exponentially more power than traveling back. But if done correctly, in a way that would actually be useful, the exact opposite is the case.” She turned Luna around to the chalkboards on the opposite side of the room.
Luna stood and drew closer to the boards. She now had the understanding to read the formulas. What she saw in those formulas made her tremble. A cold shiver ran down her spine. She staggered back. “I cannot be reading these correctly.”
Twilight left her desk and joined Luna. “You are reading them correctly. You understand the formulations well enough.”
“Twilight, no,” Luna protested. She shifted on her hooves nervously. “The magnitude of this much power is unimaginable! And these formulas would change our very reality!”
“Yes,” replied Twilight in an unsettlingly calm voice. “Which means we could potentially use it to end the war.”
“But this much magical power! Controlling it would be nearly impossible! If anything were to go wrong…” Luna couldn’t even finish the thought.
“It could blow up all of Canterlot and the mountain it stands on,” finished Twilight.
Luna was horrified. Not only at what Twilight was proposing, but at her calmness.
“But with further research, I believe I can…”
“WE FORBID IT!” The words came suddenly and without warning. Luna quickly put a hoof to her mouth and shut her eyes tightly. Never in all the time she had known Twilight had she spoken to her so harshly. Only as Nightmare Moon had she had used such a harsh tone. Never as a friend, and certainly never as co-rulers of Equestria.
Luna came up to Twilight and put an arm around her neck. “Twilight, forgive me. I did not mean to speak thusly with you!”
Twilight did not return the embrace. She stood there with her head down and ears sagging in resignation. “It’s all right. I expected this reaction. Luna, believe me, I do not make this proposal lightly.”
Luna broke the embrace. “You expected my reaction and yet you continued this research.” It was more of an accusation than a statement. She left Twilight’s side and walked over to the large window. She looked out over the Royal grounds and down to Spike’s quarters. “Have you spoken to Spike about this?”
“No,” answered Twilight, still resigned. “I didn’t want to say anything to him until I was sure I could make this work, and… until I had your permission to conduct the experiment.”
There it was, the unasked question. Luna tuned to Twilight in astonishment. She wanted to scream at her, ART THOU MAD? But for the sake of their friendship, she remained silent. She turned back to the window and fought to control herself. It was a long time before she spoke again.
Finally, when she was able to speak in a calm voice, she addressed Twilight. “The current situation with the dragons is a precarious one. Something is building, but we know not what. We cannot afford the resources to delve into the theoretical. When the current crisis has passed and we are in relative calm, I will grant you an audience to formally set forth your proposal. Until then…” Luna lowered her head and finally looked at Twilight, “Leave it, Twilight. Please.”
She turned and headed for the door.
As she passed by, Twilight spoke up. “I know how this all looks to you! But I just want to end this war!”
Luna held a hoof up to stop her. “Let us not speak of this any further tonight!”
She continued for the door. She opened it, but paused. She shifted nervously on her hooves. Inside her mind, she fought with herself. The side of her that was Twilight’s friend wanted to say she understood her desire to end the war. But the side of her that was the ruler of Equestria wanted to make clear her position. But surly Twilight already understood her position. Yet, as ruler, she had to be decisive.
Finally, the ruler side of her won out. It always had to.
She closed the door and turned back to Twilight.
Twilight knew what was coming. She descended to the lower level and sat on the floor with her head hanging down.
Luna remained as detached as she could as she pronounced her edict. “PRINCESS TWILIGHT SPARKLE, WE ARE GREATLY DISTURBED BY THE RESEARCH THOU HAS DONE. WE UNDERSTAND YOUR AFFECTION TOWARDS SPIKE AND YOUR DESIRE TO END THIS WAR, BUT THIS IS NOT THE WAY. YOUR METHOD HAS THE POTENTIAL OF DOING FAR GREATER DAMAGE TO EQUESTRIA THAN ANY DRAGON ATTACK THUSFAR. AND SHOULD IT WORK, ART THOU TRULY WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE? THOU WILL NOT CONDUCT ANY EXPERIMENTS WITHOUT MY EXPRESS PERMISSION, DOEST THOU UNDERSTAND?”
Twilight could barely speak through her tears, “Yes, my Princess.”
“WE WILL KEEP OUR WORD AND ALLOW YOU AN AUDIENCE IN MORE PEACEFUL TIMES. BUT WE WARN THEE, DO NOT EXPECT A MORE FAVORIBLE RESPONSE.”
“Yes, my Princess,” responded Twilight. Then she added, “Luna, I’m sorry.”
Luna’s demeanor softened. “As are we.” She did not bother with the door, but teleported away.
Twilight spent the next hour in tears. Not for the reprimand, but for the damage she had done to their friendship. The next few weeks proved her correct. She remained Luna’s trusted general, and they still spend many evenings together, but there was now an invisible wall that prevented complete ease between them. As hard as she tried, Luna could not completely get over the horror of the plan Twilight had set forth. Nor the fact that Twilight was willing to carry it out. Luna could still trust Twilight only because of her undying loyalty to her. She thanked Celestia for that, the first ruler of Equestria who had had Twilight’s undying loyalty.
When all her tears were spent, Twilight dragged herself off the floor and wandered through her apartment. Through the window, she noticed that a light was still on in Spike’s quarters.
* * *
Twilight gently tapped at Spike’s door. “Spike, are you still up?”
“Yeah, I’m still up.”
She entered to find Spike sitting up in his bed, staring out at the nearby city. He spoke as she approached, “I really messed up, Twilight. I hurt everypony I ever knew. Everypony I loved and that loved me.”
She sat down on a cushion near Spike’s bed. “I messed up, too, Spike. This war is my fault. All I want to do is end it. But, I can’t!”
“So what do we do now?”
“What we should always do,” she answered. “We learn from our mistakes and do the best we can with what we have.”
“You make it sound easy.”
“I know it isn’t, believe me. But what else is there?”
Neither one had an answer. They sat there, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Twilight got up. “It’s late, Spike. We should both try to get some sleep before I have to raise the sun. Good night, Spike.”
“Good night,” he replied as he lay down and wrestled with his pillow.
Twilight headed for the large door. But as she opened it, she hesitated. “Spike, I really don’t feel like being alone tonight. Can I stay here with you?”
He turned to her and lifted a wing.
She closed the door and snuggled in beside him.
* * *
Over the next few weeks, they did do their best with they had. Spike started training with the recruits, and Twilight increased patrols over Equestria. There was tension throughout the land, but otherwise, all seemed normal.
That is, until the day Sure Hoof burst into the grand hall with his report.
Captain Sure Hoof’s report was devastating. If the scouts’ reports were accurate, there were more dragons than they had ever imagined. Manehatten had already been overrun. They were attacking on both the North and South borders of Equestria. Even with the civilian militia, they could not protect both borders.
Princess Luna shifted on her hooves nervously, very aware of all the troops awaiting her command. She turned to view the horizon. The thundering sound of giant lizards moving towards them could already be heard. She called out to Twilight, “Princess Twilight Sparkle, We request your counsel.”
Twilight stepped up close to Luna. She took in the once peaceful land that was now to be overrun. Their homes would be destroyed and many lives would be lost. And she could think of nothing that would stop it.
Luna whispered so that the others wouldn’t hear. “Twilight, please, I need your help!”
Twilight took a step back. Head up and standing at attention, she faced her friend and only superior in full, formal stance. “My Princess, I regret to say that I believe we have underestimated our enemy. It is now my belief that the dragon attack ten years ago was not meant to defeat us. Their intention was to dwindle our fighting numbers and destroy our farm lands. And while we were rebuilding, something they don’t have to do, they built their numbers up for a final attack.”
Captain Sure Hoof looked to Morning Star. Now it all made sense. While too small in numbers, the dragons didn’t plan to defeat Equestria a decade ago. They had only planned to weaken them, and they did that successfully. A glance to Luna told him that the Princess now understood the same.
But what Twilight did next shocked the Captain. She bowed her head and knelt down. Not on one knee, but both. The Captain had seen his leader confer many times on the battlefield. But this was not a soldier conferring, this was a Princess begging.
“My Princess,” Twilight continued. “Our situation is dire. We do not have the military force to stave off this attack. If Equestria is to survive, then it is my belief that you must consider the course of action I laid out to you in private. The one concerning Spike.”
Princess Luna staggered back in shock and bellowed out in her royal voice, “DOST THOU KNOWEST WHAT THOU ASKS?”
Twilight lowered her head further, “My Princess, if you have another strategy then command me and I will obey your orders to my death. But I see no other recourse. That is my counsel.”
Luna stared at Twilight in disbelief. Did she really believe that was the only way? She saw her troops were confused. They had no idea what Twilight was proposing. And confusion among the troops was very bad at this stage of battle. She turned away to look at the horizon again. Clouds of dust were already billowing towards them. If there was only more time to think, but there wasn’t. Twilight’s plan was desperate at best and most assuredly dangerous. Nothing of that magnitude had ever been attempted in the history of magic. But the decision of whether or not to attempt it was not what really bothered Luna. What Princess Twilight was really asking Princess Luna to do was to admit defeat. What was worse, her General already had.
Captain Sure Hoof stood nervously by his troops. He, too, could hear the thundering of the dragons approaching. Soon, they would be flying into sight. He urged his commander, “Princess Luna…”
“Silence!” she yelled back in anger, not bothering to turn around. How she wished there was someone else to make this decision. But there had been no one else in a very long and painful time. She snorted her displeasure and turned to make what she was sure would be her last command decision. She took a deep breath to calm herself, then stood straight in her most regal stance. She glanced over her shoulder. Twilight was still on her knees. “Princess Twilight Sparkle,” there was still anger in her royal voice. “Arise! We will not speak to thee as anything but the Princess you are!”
Twilight rose and stood at attention, wings tucked, head up and looking forward. Luna approached her and circled her once before speaking. Twilight felt like a cadet on review.
Princess Luna stood in front of Twilight and lowered her head to Twilight’s level. “After the battle of Appleoosa, as our sister lay dying in the desert, we vowed to her that we would do everything in our power to preserve Equestria. Later that evening, thou vowed the same to us and we made thee our general.”
Twilight’s heart sank. As desperate as her plan was, she saw no other way to save her beloved land. But the ruler of Equestria wasn’t finished. “Our sister trusted thee implicitly, and we do no less. Go. Make thy preparations. Take all those thou needs with thee. And may Celestia be merciful on us for what we are about to do.”
Twilight turned to her Princess. Had she just heard what she thought she heard? Luna nodded. “Thank you,” she whispered, and ran up to Sure Hoof. She rattled off the names of the unicorn captains she would need and commanded Sure Hoof to bring them to the palace.
Sure Hoof protested, “My Princesses, those Captains are on the front lines! If we remove them, those lines will be virtually defenseless!”
“The fate of Equestria is now on her shoulders. You will obey her as you would obey us,” commanded Luna.
Sure Hoof bowed. “Yes, my Princess.”
“I’m sorry, there’s no time,” said Twilight. “I will explain as much as I can at the palace. Now, go!”
With a nod, Captain Sure Hoof and Morning Star teleported away.
Twilight turned back to Luna, “I will need you as well.”
“I understand,” Luna spoke in her normal voice. “I will say a few final words to the remaining soldiers and join you.” She quickly hugged Twilight and teleported away as well.
* * *
Twilight appeared in front of the main entrance to the palace. The few royal guards that were there accompanied the palace militia and Spike in his full armor.
With a few long steps he reached her side. “Twilight, what’s going on out there?”
She motioned for him to bend down to her level, “It’s bad out there, Spike. Really bad. But I’ve got a plan, one I haven’t told you about. It’s dangerous, Spike. A lot could go wrong. But I need you to make it work, if you’re willing.”
Spike planted his sword in the ground and bowed his head. “My sword is yours, my Princess.”
He had learned well from the captains who had trained him. He was a sparkling example of the Royal Guard he now served. But Twilight was more proud of the young adult dragon he had grown to be – even if that growth had taken an instant. She encircled his neck with both arms. “I hope we aren’t both making a big mistake.” He looked at her questioningly, but she just turned and led him up to awaiting crowd.
The amassed ponies bowed to her as she walked by them. But she began to notice something that bothered her. These were not just the militia members she had seen training, but ponies of all ages, many obliviously too young to fight. She said nothing, but waited until she got up to the militia captain. What she saw when she got up to Apple Tree angered her. Apple Seed was standing by her father, hooves shivering, but planted firmly in the ground. Twilight looked to her royal captains, surly they had seen these children in the crowd, but said nothing. In fact, Twilight recognized some of the guards’ own offspring among them.
She came nose to nose with Apple Tree. “Why are these children here? Why is your own daughter here?” She did nothing to hide her displeasure.
Apple Tree bowed, “My princess, word of the fronts have reached us. If we are to defend Equestria then we need every able-bodied…”
Twilight interrupted. “They are not soldiers, they are children! And that is not an acceptable answer!”
Apple Tree paused. His stance softened. Then he raised his head and looked Twilight in the eye, “Aunt Twilight, if this is to be our last battle, then we all have right to fight for our home. As for Apple Seed and the others, it’s their choice to be here. They would rather die fighting than live as homeless orphans under the reign of the dragons.”
Twilight stared at Apple Tree. She had no answer. Was this what Equestria had fallen to? If so, then she and Luna had failed their subjects. Her plan suddenly seemed so futile, but it was still the only chance they had. She looked up at Spike. There was compassion in his eyes, she could tell he agreed with Apple Tree. She took a few steps back and addressed the crowd. “Citizens of Equestria, I regret to say that what you have heard is correct. Our situation is dire and we cannot defeat the dragons with military force. But we have a plan. I have summoned the most powerful unicorns in the land back here to the palace. We will attempt a magic spell that will stop the dragons for all time. We cannot be interrupted! I must ask all of you to defend the palace at all costs!
At all costs. Those words stung her as she looked back down at Apple Seed. They were already willing to fight at all costs. She took a few steps closer to Apple Seed. Standing firm, her jaw set, Apple Seed looked ready to defy her Princess should Twilight try to send her away. How many other young fillies like her had she seen orphaned in the past hundred and fifty years? Whatever the count was, it was too many. And now, this one, not even having her cutie mark yet, was willing to fight and die. It was a sobering thought. No more, Twilight thought. Her plan would have to work – at all costs. She would not allow this little one to suffer like so many before her. She came close and put her right hoof on Apple Seed’s shoulder. “This ends today.” She looked at Apple Tree and repeated her words. It was her vow.
She called for the two unicorn captains to meet her inside the palace, then she teleported Spike and herself to the grand hall.
* * *
As Twilight and Spike appeared in the grand hall, Captain Sure Hoof approached. “Everypony present and accounted for, General.”
Twilight quickly moved to the stairs leading to the center throne. She stopped at the first level. Magically, she summoned sixteen podiums and her book of theoretical spells.
The twelve captains and two lieutenants gathered round as Princess Luna appeared. Sure Hoof voiced their concern. “My Princesses, what are we here to do?”
Twilight turned to Spike. “Take off your armor and put away your sword.”
“What?” ask Spike. “Are you sure?”
“You came here without them and that’s how I have to send you back.”
Spike removed his helmet. “Back to where?”
“The Library. Our library, a hundred and fifty years ago.”
“But you said…”
“I know what I said. But it’s not the way you’re thinking.” Twilight opened her book and magically made copies of the pages everypony would need. She turned her attention to the crowd before her. “Listen, everypony, what we are about to attempt is highly dangerous, but the danger out there is far worse. The truth none of us want to face is that we cannot win this war. The only way left to us is to prevent it. We’re going to send Spike back in time.”
Sure Hoof was one of the most educated unicorns in Equestria. He knew the problems with attempting time travel. “But my Princess, the slingshot effect…”
“I know,” Twilight replied, cutting him off. “The farther one goes back in time, the shorter the time one has there before being slung back. But that’s not what we are going to attempt.” She passed out the pages to all the unicorns present. Each one was shocked when they read what was on them. “I have been studying the works of temporal magician, Time Watcher. Listen carefully, you must understand this.” She moved to the podium at the center of the landing. “The fabric of time is like an intricate tapestry. Each event is like a thread woven in. When Spike initiated the spell that accelerated his growth and brought him here, he wove a new thread into that tapestry. He created an artificial event woven into the back of the tapestry. We have to remove that event from time. To do so we must unravel time itself.”
Sure Hoof protested. “But my Princess, won’t this undo everything we know? Won’t this undo even ourselves?”
Twilight jumped down to the center of the circle she had formed with the podiums and faced Sure Hoof. “Yes, it will. But you must have faith time will progress again. But this time without Spike casting that spell, without me losing my faith in friendship and without the dragons going to war.” She stepped back from Sure Hoof and used her horn to burn a circle in the floor.
She turned to her oldest and dearest friend. “Spike, I need you to sit in this circle. Whatever you see, do not leave this circle. Whatever you hear, do not leave this circle.” She came close and leaned her head against his arm. “And when you’re home again, just don’t cast that spell.”
Spike put his arm around her. “Should I tell you what happened to me? Everything you’ve told me since I got here? I mean, would you believe me?”
“I don’t know, Spike,” she replied. “It’s an incredible story. I will leave that up to you. Just continue to be my friend and my Number One assistant. That’s all I’ll need.”
He reached over with his other hand and gently caressed her check. “Always, my Princess.”
“No, you don’t have to call me…”
“I don’t mean it like that,” Spike interrupted her. “You were always my Princess.”
She stood up on her hind legs and nuzzled his cheek. “That you can tell me.”
Rumblings could be heard in the distance. The dragons were getting closer. Spike entered the circle and sat down as Twilight jumped back to her podium and spoke to the crowd, “You all have the spell in front of you. All of you have to work together to build up a sphere of magic strong enough to reverse time.” She pointed to a spot twenty feet above Spike. “Everypony, point your horns there!”
The fourteen royal guards, Princess Luna and Princess Twilight began. Spike flinched as a blinding white sphere of magical energy formed and grew above him. The building energy was as loud as it was bright. But even through the din, the approaching dragons could be heard. Twilight knew if she could hear it, so could the others. “Whatever happens, do not break the sphere! This is our only chance!” She closed her eyes and put everything she had into her effort.
Sure Hoof concentrated as well. He read and reread the spell making sure he got every nuance right, but then something occurred to him. Something was missing. “My Princess, this spell will reverse time, but…”
Princess Luna shouted back in her royal voice over the deafening uproar, “DO NOT WORRY! PRINCESS TWILIGHT WILL TAKE CARE OF IT!”
Sure Hoof gasped, almost breaking his concentration. No one spoke it, but everypony knew that Princess Twilight had become the most powerful alicorn in Equestria. But what Princess Luna was implying was unimaginable. The mere thought of it sent a chill down his spine. Morning Star looked over at him in surprise. Sure Hoof wished he could explain, but there was no time. No time.
Twilight spoke again. “Keep in mind we have to send Spike back beyond the beginning of his spell. If we don’t, the event thread will still be there and we will all be caught in a temporal loop repeating these events over and over again!”
Luna, too, had shut her eyes to concentrate, but something about Twilight’s words bothered her. Something else was wrong. Not what Sure Hoof was thinking, but something else Twilight hadn’t considered. If she was right, this could all be for nothing. She looked over the spell again. Nothing in it accounted for what she feared. She looked at the growing sphere of energy. It was still not enough. And the dragons were drawing closer. The silhouettes of flying dragons could now be seen approaching through the stained glass windows. She had no choice, she had to stop and leave the sphere.
Twilight sensed Luna leave the group through her own horn. She opened her eyes in time to see Luna galloping out of the grand hall. “Luna, where are you going?” she yelled after her.
“Do not send him back until I return!” shouted Luna.
Twilight feared that they wouldn’t be able to send him back until she returned. Without her, the sphere of magical energy wasn’t building fast enough. Twilight waited for Luna’s return, each second an eternity. The dragons were getting closer.
Luna burst back in to the room floating a book in front of her. She returned to her podium and flipped through the pages.
Twilight came close as Luna motioned for her. “Luna, what’s wrong? Why did you leave?”
“It’s what you said about being caught in a temporal loop! When we reverse Spike’s growth, we will be reversing his memories as well.”
“Wait!” said Spike. “You mean I won’t remember any of this?”
“That is correct,” said Luna. “You won’t remember, you will repeat your actions, and we will be caught in a temporal loop.”
Twilight gasped. How could she have missed it? If it wasn’t for Luna’s quick thinking, Twilight would have condemned them all to an eternity of repeated death and destruction.
Luna continued. “But I think I can preserve Spike’s memories.” Luna found the page she was looking for. The two princesses read and reread it. But what they read was equally distressing. They looked at the growing sphere of magical energy, realizing that they would have to counteract all that power over Spike’s mind. “This is impossible!” blurted Luna.
“Perhaps I can help,” said Twilight.
“No,” countered Luna. “your part is too important for you to be distracted.” Luna went over the spell again and again. Finally, she came up with a possible solution. “One thought. I can preserve one thought. That’s all I can promise!”
“Spike, did you hear that?” asked Twilight.
“Yea, but what should I remember? What you told me about the war? The lives lost? This moment?” Spike asked.
“Something meaningful,” answered Luna. “Something you can carry deep within your soul. The deeper, the better.”
Twilight closed her eyes. Time was running out and she had to come up with an answer, the answer that would save them all. She had trained herself as a Princess to put her subjects’ need above her own. She had trained herself as a General to be detached and logical. But here, in this moment of crises, her own emotions betrayed her. One thought kept coming to mind. One thought so personal it made her cry. As the tears ran down her cheeks she hated herself. With all of Equestria hanging in the balance, how could she be so selfish? How could she be so self-centered? She tried to push that thought out of her head and find another answer, but that one thought would not leave her.
Some part of her mind could hear Luna urging. “Twilight, please!” But she could not get rid of that one, selfish, thought. Yet, as selfish as it was, it met Luna’s criteria. Could it be the answer? It would have to be.
Finally, Twilight opened her eyes, and looked into Spike’s eyes. Not the eyes of the mature dragon before her, but the eyes of the baby dragon she has loved and cared for. “Spike, promise me you won’t break my heart.”
Spike stared back at her. It was not what he was expecting.
It was not what Luna was expecting either, but instantly she understood. “Promise her!” she commanded.
Spike shouted out as loud as he could. “I promise, Twilight! I promise I won’t break your heart!”
Luna shot a burst of magical energy right into Spike’s temple. The force nearly knocked him over. It also made him dizzy. It took all his concentration to keep from falling out of the circle Twilight had burned into the floor.
The dragons had landed in Canterlot. Fighting could be heard outside the castle. Luna burned that one thought into Spike’s subconscious, then continued building the sphere of magical energy. Twilight then lowered the sphere onto Spike, encircling him with its power.
Even over the roar of raw power, Twilight could hear the battle going on outside. True to their word, the guards and militia fought with every bit of strength they had. The horrific cacophony of battle had been the source of her nightmares for decades. The memory of fallen comrades haunted her. The thought of more falling just outside the palace walls sickened her. The high-pitched scream of terror from a young filly’s lips suddenly pierced the air and was just as suddenly silenced. Was that… No. She could not afford to be distracted. She concentrated on her oath. This ends today!
With the strike of one great claw, the stained glass mural of Celesta and Luna burst into fragment and crashed to the floor. Spike turned in time to see Vilmax step in and trounce on the shards of the royal symbols of peace and harmony. Every fiber of his being screamed to jump up and claw at the throat of the one who defiled Palace Canterlot. But he had a promise to keep, and a final duty to his Princess.
He could only stare in wonder. How could his own kind do this? How could dragons who had lived in peace with ponies for centuries suddenly allow themselves to be lead to violence by one who’s malice and vengeance knew no end? But as the swarm of monsters entered the great hall, he recognized the truth. Despite his scales, his claws and his fire breath, he was not dragonkind. He was ponykind. And for all of ponykind he would trust the one who raised him to put an end to this destruction.
The dragons were met with force by every guard that was not building the sphere of energy. But, one by one, they were swept away by the overwhelming strength of the dragons. Vilmax, however, had no interest in the guards, nor in the ruling Princess of Canterlot. With single minded focus he headed for the one who had thwarted him at every turn.
Spike could only watch in horror as Vilmax strode toward Twilight. Twilight must have been aware, but did not break her concentration. In one smooth motion, Vilmax’s massive claw swooped down and closed around Twilight. He lifted her up high in the air to claim his prize. Yet, she did not break her concentration. His fist closed around her. Her body flattened as ribs were crushed. Spike yelled out to her as her eyes widened with pain and she coughed out blood.
Princess Twilight Sparkle, General of the Canterlot Royal Guard, looked to the one she loved the most and mouthed a single word, “Promise”.
“I promise!” yelled out Spike at the top of his lungs. “I promise! I promise!”
Twilight smiled. Her eyes glared a blinding white as she sent the last of her strength through her horn to the sphere surrounding Spike. A final tear left her lifeless eye and ran down her left cheek.
It was the last thing Spike ever saw.
* * *
For a minute? For an hour? For a millennium? How could one tell when time itself no longer functioned? For the first time since time began, there was no time. Princess Twilight Sparkle had indeed become the most powerful Alicorn in Equestria. Fourteen Unicorns built up the power to turn time back. But that could not be accomplished until the forward momentum of time was halted. That is what Sure Hoof had realized. And the realization that his General could do this is what sent a chill down his spine.
Nothing in all the multiverse moved. Then, so imperceptibly, that final tear nudged itself back up Twilight’s cheek.
The universe screamed in agony as an explosion ripped an unimaginable, unhealable, wound in time and space. The threads of reality unwound themselves, knocking galaxies off their axis, throwing parallel realities out of sync, undoing history in order to remove a single thread of time. Wars were unfought, lives were unlost as every event was undone until that single thread was removed from the rest of creation.
The magical energy built up by the Unicorns waned as it was used up. The backward movement of time came to a halt. Then, for the second time since time began, time stopped. The natural temporal movement resumed. And as time reset itself, the event that caused the unimaginable, unhealable wound in time and space never happened. Neither did the event that caused the unimaginable, unhealable wound in a young pony’s heart.
* * *
Twilight blew out the candle and was about to draw the curtains when she noticed Spike getting of bed again. “Where are you going?”
“To get some water,” he replied as he went down the stairs. “I’ll be right back.”
“You know you’ll just have to get up in the middle of the night.”
“I know,” he yelled back from the lower level. “But I can’t sleep when I’m thirsty.” Twilight thought about what Spike had said as she waited for him to return. It would be nice to ride on his back some day. But it was not to be. Dragons could live much longer than ponies. She would not see him grow into a fully mature dragon. It was natural for ponies to outlive those who raised them, but in their case, the difference would be in the hundreds of years. The thought made her melancholy.
Spike came back up the stairs, glass in hand. He turned for his bed. Suddenly, he stumbled. Losing his balance, he dropped his glass, spilling water everywhere. Twilight instantly sat up in time to see him stagger, then fall on his face.
She leapt out of bed and bound to his side. “Spike! Spike!” She knelt down beside him and gently turned him over.
He blinked, surprised to find himself on the floor, “Huh? What happened?”
“You fell over. Are you all right?”
He sat up slowly, almost falling over again. “I guess. I just felt dizzy…” As he looked up at Twilight, tears welled up in his eyes. He suddenly got to his knees and hugged Twilight around her neck.
Now she was really concerned. “Spike, are you hurt?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Then why are you crying?”
Spike wiped the tears from his eyes with one claw and tightly held onto Twilight with the other. “I don’t know. I just suddenly felt… sad. Well, not sad, exactly. Kind of like I did something that hurt somepony – but not exactly.”
She sat down and gently pulled him away enough to face him. “Spike, you’re not making sense. What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know!” The look in his eyes told Twilight that he was just as confused as she was. He reached out for her again. This time she grazed his lips and cheek with her cheek as he embraced her. His lips were a little dry. But nothing that glass of water wouldn’t have taken care of. His cheek told her his temperature was normal. His heart raced a bit. But considering he was upset, that was to be expected. Her horn glowed as he continued to cry quietly against her neck. She could detect nothing wrong, nothing broken or out of place. She wrapped her hooves around him. After a while, he seemed to calm down.
“I love you, Twilight,” he whispered.
“I love you, too, Spike.” She held him tightly.
“And I promise I will never break your heart!”
She was startled. “What?” she asked gently.
“I said I promise I will never break your heart!”
She pulled him away just enough to look at him again. “I heard what you said. But why did you say that?”
Again, he was at a loss. “I don’t know. I just felt I had to tell you that. And I mean it.”
Now she was suspicious. She looked him straight in the eyes. “Spike, is something going on? Is there something you’re not telling me?”
She brought him close again, tucking his head under her chin. “Spike, listen. If there’s something going on, if there’s something that’s bothering you, please tell me. Whatever it is I promise I won’t be mad. I just want to know you’re all right.”
“There’s nothing, Twilight. I promise. I don’t know why I feel this way.”
Twilight sighed. He was telling the truth. Spike wasn’t one to lie to her. The few times he had tried to lie, he was terrible at it. It was an honorable testimony to the fact that he didn’t practice lying. Still, it didn’t explain her young friend’s state. Magically, she felt around the kitchen and poured another glass of water and brought it up. At least she could do something about his slight dehydration.
Spike drank it down and continued to hug her tightly. “Hey, Twilight, is it okay if I sleep with you tonight?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I’d feel better if you did.” She wrapped a hoof around him and hopped back over to her bed.
Princess Luna had raised a full moon that night. In the soft glow, Twilight watched Spike drift off to sleep. She had tucked him in and softly sang him a lullaby, his favorite from when he was just a hatchling. Shortly after she had arrived at Canterlot Magic School, Princess Celestia put him in her charge. A lesson in responsibility, the Princess had said. When he became old enough to take care of himself, he became her assistant. But they were so much more than that, now. Twilight loved that little dragon the same way Rarity loved Sweetie Belle, or Apple Jack loved Apple Bloom. She loved Spike the same way her own big brother loved her. He was the first real friend she had before she knew what friendship was. And now, they were family.
She still didn’t know what caused Spike’s strange emotional reaction. But whatever it was, it seemed to be over. Ponies sometimes had a mood swing for no apparent reason, why not dragons? Still, she would keep him close for the next few days, just to be sure.
He started to snore quietly. Twilight smiled. It was an assuring sound she had heard in the middle of many nights. She turned her head so the glow of her horn wouldn’t disturb him as she drew the curtains. She lay her head next to his. His cool scales on the top of his head felt comforting against her warn cheek. And in a short time, she drifted off to sleep as well.