Drifting through Draconia.
Wind howled and thunder cracked throughout the valley as rain fell heavily from the clouds above. For the past two hours, the pony trudged through the sudden storm, only then beginning to realize the full implications of the destroyed weather factory. Ducking for cover was not an option on the slopes of the mountain and setting up her tent would only attract lightning. Why had she forgotten to pack that magical lightning rod?
The white mare sighed, her voice drowned out by the ferocity of the wind against her face. Twilight Sparkle (now known as Blueprint to everypony else) thanked her lucky stars that nopony was with her so she could cast a bubble shield charm, which stopped the driving rain from soaking her to the core. It did nothing to stem the tide of the wind, however: her mane and tail being whipped about by the turbulent currents.
Walking up the narrow mountain path, the white earth pony shivered the higher she climbed. Although she knew from a previous mountain climbing adventure that the temperature decreased as altitude increased, she had not accounted for the gale-force winds. With every breath, she felt as if the warmth of her body had been stolen from her by some demon most foul.
Her saddlebags began to indent her back, the weights balanced but still quite heavy. She wished she had been more curious about the pocket dimension spell Princess Luna cast on that bottle, rather than the stupid Pool of Midnight. You just had to go for the more glorious mystical object rather than the practical spell, she scolded herself internally. She had given up talking to herself out loud, since she would not be able to hear her voice over the howling wind.
Yet, despite the wind, thunder, lighting and rain, only one thing scared the disguised unicorn as she walked along the mountain path: the path itself. It was narrow, with only enough room for a single pony, maybe two walking side-by-side at the most. As well, there was a very steep, one hundred hoof vertical drop right off the side and onto the jagged rocks below. Thankfully, as a golem, a fall like that would only inconvenience her (albeit with a great deal of pain), but she would rather avoid the trek back up.
As much as she hated the mountain path, it was the only safe way to leave the nation of Equestria while heading north. The armies fought over the traditional trade routes like Shimmering and Dranous Pass and the mountains provided a natural barrier since they were too steep for all but flying patrols to bother fighting over. However, during her reading in the Coltsberg Crusader base, she found out about a tunnel that had been dug out high in one of the mountains.
That tunnel was the only safe passage for refugees and non-military ponies wishing to enter, or flee from Equestria. Twil- Blueprint knew that bounty hunters would stalk the road to capture fleeing pray, but so long as she kept her mouth shut around a certain white unicorn, there would be no altercations. Of course, the chances were that none of them would be out in the storm unless they stayed near the tunnel's mouth.
Carefully, the white mare navigated around a narrow and sharp turn in the path up ahead, breathing a sigh of relief that was stolen by the wind at the sight. A small, dimly-lit tunnel appeared ahead, burrowed into the mountain after a short rise. A jagged wall to the left and a sheer drop to her right prompted the wanted pony to keep herself on a straight and narrow path. She shied away from the edge while giving the wall a respectful distance, or become lacerated from the sharp rocks.
Approaching the mouth of the tunnel, shapes began to stir the closer she got. The disguised unicorn deactivated her bubble shield charm, lest rouse any suspicion. Blueprint took a deep breath as she came upon the threshold. On cue, five ponies jumped out from behind rocks littering the entrance of the cavern, Vinyl Scratch thankfully absent. Still, she took a couple of steps back in trepidation, a forward hoof raised and ready to go at a moment's notice.
"Well boys?" asked the first, a brown earth pony stallion with a brown mane. "This one on anypony's list?" The four other stallions, an equal mix of Pegasi and unicorns, surveyed the mare. She was too startled (or pretending to be so) to really pay attention to them.
"You're not... highwaycolts, are you?" she asked with some measure of fear on her voice, the concern genuine despite her acting. The five stallions looked at each other and laughed, some tearing up. She put a confused look across her face.
"Nah," replied the first. "We're much worse! Well, if you pissed anypony off that is. We're bounty hunters, Missy. Care to tell us your name?"
"B-blueprint, sir," she stammered, cold and wet from the still driving rain. Each of the stallions rounded her, looking her over from head to hoof. She felt a little bit uncomfortable being stared at like that: she hoped the illusions would fool them. Eventually, they all looked to the draft brown pony and shook their heads. Suddenly, the stallion's tone became much more chipper, a smiling cracking his face.
"Well then, good day to you, madam," he trotted over, taking her raised hoof and kissed it gently. "Although, I wonder... why is your name Blueprint when you're green?" The mare's eyes went a little wide, having not accounted for that when she made up the persona. Swinging wildly, she frowned and sighed.
"My parents were colour blind, okay?" she answered, pulling her hoof away from him.
"Oh, sorry to hear that, Miss. I know where you're coming from: I was raised by my nana and she was completely blind. Made things a bit difficult, but I'm not here to tell my life story. Come on inside, you must be freezing!" With that, the white mare followed the stallions into the tunnel, shaking the water out of her coat once inside. "So, what do you do for a living, not that I can't guess...?"
"I'm an architect," she replied with a smile, her disguise still working like a charm.
"Cool. Where did you study?" he asked, throwing more questions at her than she thought to come up with beforehoof. They were testing her: she could tell.
"I went to Canterlot University and majored in architecture. I did okay; not the top of my class, but well enough."
"Huh, I was in old CU myself, back in the day. Did Dean Buckingham still have that annoying-ass cat of his?"
Thankfully for the fictional Blueprint, she had met him once before when he asked the princess to ban her from using his laboratories for her 'unorthodox' experiments. It would be the edge she needed to convince him she was legitimate and get him off of her case. "Boots? Unfortunately. I've never seen a tabby with such an evil look on her face." The stallion laughed happily, no doubt remembering any trouble he might have been in with the dean.
"That's right!" he exclaimed. "Boots. Mangy little bugger, right? Well, we'd best let you on your way. Have a safe trip, Miss Blueprint!" He smiled, waving her off as she continued down the tunnel, smiling and waving back at him. A fair distance later, she let out a silent sigh of relief over a combination of dumb luck, and quality of her magical disguise. That had been a close call: too close for her comfort.
Halfway down the tunnel, the white mare arrived at a small cove carved into the side of the tunnel to serve as a rest stop for weary travelers. Blueprint yawned and walked into it, lying down after placing a soft blanket on the carved stone floor. She started up the mountain after lunch, and judging by the pangs of her stomach, it was just after sunset.
Digging into her bags with her muzzle (just in case any pony wandered past to see an earth pony using magic), she extracted a bunch of berries she picked from a bush during her travels. It had taken her three days to reach the tunnel from the hamlet of Coltsberg by walking. Although she still had some dried food from the market in her bag, she wanted to save them for after she crossed into Draconian territory, since pony food might not be readily available there.
After consuming the berries and taking a swig of water from her canteen, the white pony stretched her limbs before lying down on the blanket. Her bags had an enchantment on them that would alert her in case somepony tried to look in them. Thankfully, it was a common enchantment found on most saddlebags, so it would not necessarily blow her cover. With a sigh, the disguised unicorn shut her eyes to get some much-needed sleep.
Twilight stood alone in the familiar expanse of the Canterlot throne room, the glass skylight above shimmering in a strange light. For beyond the stained glass was a world of utter blackness: not even the lights from the other wings of the castle visible. She walked up to the empty throne with some hesitation, though she could not say why she felt that way.
After a quick look around, the unicorn found that she was truly alone in the room, stealing a sit upon the throne of Equestria. The solidified cloud cushions felt good against her lavender rump, as if passively massaging away all the aches and pain she felt. The mare let a contented sigh pass her lips; she often wondered what it would be like to watch the world from the lofty perch as she had never been allowed up the steps before, except to speak to her mentor.
"I daresay you look rather fitting up there," spoke a voice from beyond. The librarian panicked and got off the symbol of power, her eyes looking around wildly. The doors to the room burst open, more blackness sitting beyond the threshold. However, that was not what caused her to gasp: a black figure slowly emerged from beyond, powerful and imposing despite the purple mare's elevated position. "Then again, it is not surprising," Princess Luna added with a smile.
"P-princess!" Twilight shouted, running up to the midnight alicorn. "I've been looking all over for you! I'm sorry I sat on the throne, but it looked so comfortable..." Luna chuckled as the unicorn descended from the platform, looking at her with such a gentle expression upon her face. "But... um... aren't you supposed to be dead?"
"Twilight, I should tell you," she started, "This is all a dream. Ponies that have passed can still appear in the dreams of their living loved ones. How else could my sister's vestments suddenly appear on you?" Looking down, the lavender mare screamed in surprise. Indeed, Celestia's necklace, shoes and crown had suddenly materialized on her body, shrunk down to fit her proportions. She struggled in vain to take the gilded clothes off, yet they remained affixed to her body. "Interesting reaction," the midnight princess added. "I want you to see something... Princess Twilight."
With a soft giggle, everything began to spin and turn: the throne room warping and becoming a blur of colour and sound as the giggles turned into a din. Dapper ponies surrounded the pair, going about their business as if they could not see or hear them. The room was grey and expansive, yawning out into the sky, banners of purple and yellow hanging from the ceiling. They had obviously appeared in the middle of a high-class party easily the likes of the Grand Galloping Gala. Luna wound through the well-dressed crowd, the lavender mare following behind her, still trying to force the golden jewelery off her body.
The midnight alicorn stopped dead, pointing with a hoof to the high table. Twilight let out a soft gasp as they trotted over. A large alicorn stallion, coat and mane as dark as night, both speckled in stars, sat at the centre of the table. Beside him sat a regal alicorn mare, her coat a soft yellow, her mane a brighter yellow at the roots before fading to black at the tips. Flanking them sat two alicorn fillies, one with a white coat and pink mane, the other with a midnight coat and teal mane.
Naturally, her eyes settled upon the only pony of the quartet she recognized: the pony that gave her life. The younger Celestia looked like, in succinct terms, a geek. Thick, round glasses covered her rosy eyes as they bore into an old and ratty book. Large braces kept her teeth in line, since they obviously lacked the dental technology for any sort of subtlety. It looked like she had a lampshade on her head, to say it politely. Twilight could not help but remember how SHE looked and draw parallels, since her mentor was obviously an adolescent at the time Luna was showing her.
"Are they...?" the lavender mare breathed.
"My family? Why, yes they are, Twilight. You know Sol, of course, and those are my parents: King Altros and Queen Notia. If Celestia is technically your mother, that makes them your grandparents, you know. Of course, we also have Iah at the end."
"As Celestia is to Sol and Eos is to you, I am to Iah. That was my name before I officially took my station as regent of the moon. Anyway, what I have to show you is inside her head."
Suddenly, the world turned black, only the filly princess and the grown version remaining with the exception of Twilight herself. Iah looked upon the princess with fear in her turquoise eyes, babbling as she sat on the invisible chair. "Why do you fear me so?" Luna asked, approaching the filly. She shied away, hiding her face from the imposing alicorn, whimpering. "Have I done anything to warrant such fear and distrust from you, Iah?"
The young alicorn huddled on the invisible table, whimpering in fear. "Leave me alone," she croaked. "Just... just leave me alone. Please." The darkness faded, showing the filly with her mane in her mashed potatoes, her father trying to coax her into voicing her distress.
"You are not the first pony to shun their inner deity, Twilight. I know from personal experience," the regent of the moon replied, her eyes fixed upon the filly. "I was afraid of Luna because I suddenly had this voice in the back of my head, whispering to me and trying to offer advice when I did not think I needed it. In hindsight, I was unprepared for the burden, and I was about five hundred years old at the time. I can understand why you think Eos is an evil mare, considering what happened that day."
Scuffing her hoof against the grey stone, the lavender unicorn suddenly felt very small in her presence again. "Why did you show me this?" she asked, straightening her posture as indignation quickly washed over her. "How... how can you tell me that Eos isn't actually evil? Look at what she's done to Equestria... to my friends! If anything, I'm MORE convinced she's evil!"
Luna sighed, looking to the ground dejectedly. "I can tell that I cannot convince you since I've heard you share Celly's iron will. Have a good day, Twilight," she spoke with finality.
The mare fluttered her eyes open, her internal clock rousing her awake. Looking at her hoof, the mare became certain the dream... or nightmare, ended as it was a snowy white with no royal vestments upon it. The earth pony stretched her legs with a yawn. Nopony had come during the night, her bags untouched and the ground undisturbed. Rolling up the blanket, Blueprint gathered up her supplies before continuing down the tunnel.
Even though the sun shone brightly that morning a feeling of gloom hung over the area: much like in Ponyville, but less subtle and more hopeless. Cresting over a small hill, a town lay ahead flanked by two mountains riddled with large cave openings. The buildings looked small enough to house ponies, but what were they doing in the dragon lands? Blueprint mulled the problem over as she descended, finally finding the road halfway down the steep hill.
Still, it was a mystery that did not really matter to her. She was far more concerned with finding her dear and valuable friend, even if he would not recognize her disguised the way she was. Although she had left Equestrian soil, she had doubts that bounty hunters, Vinyl included, did not really care about them. In fact, she could have sworn that she had seen an electric blue hair or two in the couple of days since she had left the tunnel.
So far, the architect impersonator was surprised by the overall nature of Draconia: mostly forested with the odd mountain or two dotted in between. Of course, one could never extrapolate what a nation's climate was like based off off a small portion. If she was not so afraid of fully-grown dragons, the disguised unicorn figured it would be a nice place to build a cottage or a house to live in.
Walking down the wooded road, the usual ambient noises filled the air, birds softly singing to one another. Overall, the white mare loved traveling in the forest: there was no hint of war or death, just peace and tranquility. She could see the appeal to Fluttershy's eco-friendly lifestyle. At least, that of the Fluttershy she used to know.
Not even that annoying voice in the back of her mind made itself present since that night in the forest. Obviously, the queen took the hint that no matter what, Twilight would not trust her. The emerald-maned pony smiled and happily trotted down the road as she hummed a familiar tune. Hopefully things would become even brighter once she found her oldest and most dear friend.
About a mile away from the city she spotted earlier, the white mare emerged from the forest, the settlement sprawling out before her. Dozens of ponies walked in fields flanking the roads, tilling the land for the next crop while harvesting the fruits of the last season. Many of the ponies working closer to the road looked at her with quirked eyebrows, confused by her chipper trot.
Blueprint looked around in confusion; each of the ponies appeared to be hopeless and lost, wading in a sea of depression. For the first time in days, the mare felt out of place as her happy gait slowed into a walk, a frown coming upon her face once she passed the farmers. However, another smile flashed upon her face when she imagined Pinkie Pie (the non-crazy version) having a field day in the town.
Almost a dozen similar fields passed by as the wanted mare wandered past the limits of the town. She did not expect to have any success in the very first town she happened across, but it made sense Spike would continue in a straight line from the pass. At the very least, she could ask around and see if anypony had spotted a baby dragon fitting his description and possibly know where he went.
However, the town itself had the same gloomy and depressing atmosphere that the outer fields seemed to covet. The white pony slowly made her way through the town, looking for someone who would stop and talk. Every time she tried, they all brushed past her hurriedly, as if some invisible threat hung over their heads. Judging from the state of the buildings, it would not be too hard to imagine why everypony seemed miserable.
She recalled that Princess Celestia once told her that the dragons would protect the ponies from monsters like manticores and hydras for a rather steep price. In exchange for their protection, the ponies would serve the dragons, mining gems and acting as slaves, more or less. That dispelled the mystery of why there were ponies in the country quite nicely, once she thought about it. Sometimes, she forgot things all too easily.
The doom and gloom of the town became all too clear to her as she pushed on into the town square. Still, Blueprint was still there on a mission and no amount of depressed ponies would stop her from finding her dear friend and number one assistant. "Excuse me, Sir," she asked a pony loitering near a fountain. "Have you ever seen a baby dragon around here? Came from Equestria, purple scales, green spines, no wings and possibly a chip on his shoulder?"
"Missy," grunted the aging brown stallion. "I can think of at least fifty dragons fitting that description. I've never heard of one comin' from Equestria though."
"That's fair enough. Thank you for your time," she replied before returning to the hunt. It was especially unlikely that she would ever find information from the first pony. Huffington was just dumb luck. Still, she would not be deterred and started asking everypony she could about her missing friend and his whereabouts.
After nearly five hours of searching, the white mare began to feel just as depressed as the rest of the town. Although it was sunny outside, the gray and dark brown woods of the buildings felt like they were in a perpetual rainstorm. Only a couple of buildings rose over two stories, each house packed tight on the little land there was between the two mountains flanking the town. It looked like a medieval Manehatten slum.
Blueprint sighed with her ears pinned to her skull: utterly dejected after asking what felt like the entire town for his whereabouts. Not a single pony had seen a dragon of that description, or too many of them to really even care: especially the young mares who were asked to care for the hatchlings. Could she ever relate to those ponies! When Spike was a hatchling, he somehow broke into the treasury room and nibbled on half of the crown jewels. She was STILL having her stipend garnished to pay back the damages!
Just as she was about to give up and get directions to the next town, the white mare walked into the town square once more only to happen across a crowd of ponies, looking at a disturbingly familiar caravan. Intrigued, the disguised unicorn walked up, joining the crowd who murmured in confusion and curiosity. The caravan was tall and dotted with the stars of the night sky, soft wisps of gentle blue painted on the wooden sides.
"Come one, come all!" boomed a powerful voice all of a sudden. "Come witness the magical might of the one, the only, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.... T-R-R-R-RIXIE!" As she spoke, the side of the caravan collapsed into a stage, the familiar azure mare appearing in a puff of smoke. The ponies looked confused, no one applauding her entrance or appearance. Yet, she seemed to shrug it off, going into her show nonetheless.
"Watch in AWE as The Great and Powerful Trixie performs feats of magic not yet seen by pony eyes!" Blueprint rolled her eyes. If her suspicions were correct, then that altercation with the Manticore never happened, meaning nothing good would come of the performance. "Find yourself carried off by the entrancing stories that Trixie will weave for you, much like the first storytellers: the stars themselves!"
Magical fireworks and fanfare filled the air, several of the ponies taken aback by the sudden displays of magic. Some began to walk away, having better things to do, but the white earth pony lowered her haunches and sat, genuinely interested. So far, the performance resembled the quality of her first Ponyville show. All that had to be seen was if her attitude had followed suit.
So the show began in earnest: for her first feat of magic, she turned a plush doll she had (which Twilight immediately recognized as her stuffy doppelganger, named Bella) into a real pony that assisted her with the next trick. From there, the mare sawed her in half in a box and set the entire thing on fire, only to open both halves and reveal a dozen beautiful doves. Twilight immediately began to draw more parallels to the 'thank-you' performance she did after the Manticore incident then the other show.
Ponies applauded and cheered: those who had not left as soon as the show began stuck around to see it through to the end. After turning the doves back into her assistant, the azure mare began to retell the story of 'The Ghost of Greystone Tower' to the audience. Vivid images of the tale of unrequited love danced across the white pony's eyes, almost able to see the tears in the illusionary mare's eyes.
Once the compelling story finished, she seamlessly dove back into the show. Blueprint smiled as she continued; the references to and influences of Hoofdini far more clear to her than ever before. After suspending her manufactured assistant above a pit of magical fire, the mare went for the big finish. Her body bubbled and twisted as hooves became claws and bat-like wings sprouted from her back as her tail grew a stinger. The Manticore snarled, sending several ponies running before she turned back, giggling and bowing to her audience.
"Thank you, everypony! The Great and Powerful Trixie will be in town all week! Be sure to tell your friends," she spoke before vanishing in another puff of smoke. Her stage folded up on its own accord, a last blast of magical fireworks and fanfare blared through the square, announcing that the show had ended. The white mare smirked as she decided to pay her dear younger sister a surprise visit... at least to see how the years had treated her.
After having a light (and late) lunch, the white mare waited patiently for the crowds to thin out around the caravan. Apparently, Trixie's show had done a wonderful job boosting the atmosphere of the town. She could already feel the intangible gloom begin to lift, as if somepony had cast the light upon a room that had been in the dark for far too long. Only when she felt the crowd had mostly dispersed did she approach the caravan.
Taking a deep breath, Blueprint knocked her hoof against the wooden door, her back aching a little from the heavy bags on her shoulders. "The Great and Powerful Trixie grants you entry," the unicorn beyond spoke with an air of dignity and pride. The white earth pony pushed the door open, walking inside to find an interesting sight, The caravan was dark and lacked windows, but a dozen books sat on a shelf beside a desk, complete with writing tools to plan performances out on.
A ratty red rug lay upon the floor, giving some homely overtones to the dark space. A bed sat in the opposite corner, with room for only one pony, unsurprisingly. Trixie sat before a large vanity, combing her mane in a mirror, giving her guest no real attention. A coat rack sat beside her, holding her hat and cape on a lofty perch. She must have found them in the library closet before she left Ponyville for the last time.
The azure mare cast a glance at her guest, a smirk appearing on her face, mistaking her surveying gaze for one of awe. "Welcome to Trixie's humble abode. Have you come to shower the Goddess of Showmareship with the praise she so rightly deserves? Well, Trixie supposes she has a few minutes to spare, so you may commence with the compliments, my enthusiastic little admirer."
The white mare cleared her throat, trying to tune her vocal cords in such a way that the younger unicorn would not immediately identify. Sure, she could have used her magic to do so, but she might as well drop the disguise if she were to do that, since unicorns could sense another's magic. "Oh great and powerful Trixie," she greeted, her tone a little lower and carried more authority. "My name is Blueprint. I am but a humble architect."
Trixie quirked an eye at the white and green mare: her voice sounded disturbingly familiar, but she could not pin down where. Of course, the obvious question pushed the thought out of her mind. "If your name is BLUEprint, Trixie wonders why you are GREEN."
The mare sighed in simulated frustration. "Look, my parents were colour blind, okay? Every single time I introduce myself, everypony asks that same stupid question and it is getting on my nerves." Much to her chagrin, Trixie began to laugh out loud, most likely at her plight. It looked like she was still the obnoxious egotistical mare she was before coming back to Ponyville... in her world, or time, or wherever the Sorrel Hells the Pool of Midnight had plopped her down.
"Well, the GREAT and POWERFUL Trixie has never had that problem, nor does she care to hear about the puny little grievances of a commoner such as yourself. Quit wasting Trixie's time and tell her what you've come to see her for!" Trixie puffed out her chest and shut her eyes, the grating aspects of her personality shining all the more clearly with every second the white mare spent in her presence.
"I'm here for two things," she spoke plainly. "First, I need to know what you want to do about the queen. I know you're a former member of the Crusaders, so don't play dumb with me. I... I want to join you and help crush her evil reign once and for all!" She knew it would be a gamble, but hopefully by taking this route, she could find out if she could trust her sister or not. If Fluttershy could be so drastically changed... she did not really want to think about what Trixie would be like.
"Sorry to shatter your hopes, you foolish mare, but I honestly don't care if that horse lives or dies anymore. If you really want to be a gung-ho moron, join the Apple Clan in Appleoosa or the Party Poppers in Fillydelphia. You came here for nothing. Now, what is this second thing you want to waste my glorious and oh-so-precious time with?"
Taking a deep breath, the white mare turned around, shutting the door after she looked around in case anypony came walking up. "I need to know where Spike is," she spoke in her usual tone of voice. At first, the azure mare looked at her in confusion until, that is, the wave of realization washed over her. Trixie's eyes went wide as she surveyed the white mare in front of her.
"T-twilight?" she asked her eyes wide. The white mare nodded and closed her eyes, a bright flash over took the room, nearly blinding the azure mare. Once it subsided, the lavender unicorn stood before her, looking far wearier than she remembered. "Holy pony plop! It... how... where did you learn to do those spells!?"
"It's a long story, Trixie. I'm glad to see you, actually. I... had a run-in with Fluttershy and she... she..." Twilight began to tear up at the sheer thought of it. "Is it true? Is it true what the girls plan to do... once the queen is gone?"
"Sadly," the azure mare replied after a few seconds silence. "Now, tell me why I'm supposed to CARE that you want to find Spike? How am I supposed to know you're not some sort of spy, or golem made by the queen to gather information on me, hmm? Why should I let you walk away from this alive?"
"Well..." Twilight started. "I'm actually from another world, or timeline or something where you came back to Ponyville and fought a Manticore by turning yourself into an Ursa Minor with your illusion magic after you lost all of it for a little while. I can tell you stuff that you told me there that you've never told anypony ever."
"Oh yeah?" the showmare smirked. "Just try it."
"Well..." the lavender pony trailed, a hoof raised to her mouth as if contemplating. "For one, you're the Heir of Hoofdini. He gave you the hat and cloak on that rack along with a letter after he died doing the Rainbow Faint. In the letter, he even said he thought of you as a daughter. In addition, you told me that you felt, or feel bad that you've let him down by having everypony hate you instead of putting them in awe of your magical abilities."
Trixie opened her mouth in awe, a gurgling sound coming out of her throat as she tried to process just what was spoken to her. There was the possibility she could have read her mind, but mind-reading spells always made the target feel a strange crawling sensation, and she had felt nothing before or during the exchange.
"How did... I... You.... What!?" she stammered, unable to form a coherent sentence. The azure mare fell to her haunches, shaking her head in disbelief. How could it be possible? Unless she was a very, VERY good spy, she would never be able to guess. The lavender unicorn frowned at her, contemplating something herself judging by the look upon her face.
"If you still don't believe me, you know your little doll? The one you used in the show? Her name is Bella and I have a doll myself that looks like you since our mom gave them to use before we had to be spl---"
"I BELIEVE YOU, OKAY!?" she shouted, a hoof massaging her head. "Just SHUT UP and let me think for a minute here." The magician rubbed her temple and moaned as she tried to digest the information. On the one hoof, it meant she could finally ask her the questions she needed answered. On the other, she probably was not going to stay for a while. A magical bell rang above her doorway, distracting her from her musings. "Somepony's coming."
Without another word, Twilight Sparkle flashed, becoming the white earth pony once more. A knock suddenly sounded on the door just two seconds after her warning. "The Great and Powerful Trixie grants you entry," the showmare spoke. The door opened, a familiar face popping in. "Vinyl! What are you doing out here, you old pirate?" Trixie walked over and gave the bounty hunter a hug before allowing her to cross over the threshold.
The white unicorn glanced at the white mare with the green mane, as if x-raying her with her eyes. "Oh, I didn't know you had company, Tricky Trixie," she smiled. "I'm sorry if I harshed your groove."
"Oh, not at all. She's just an enthusiastic fan of mine who wanted nothing more than my autograph and to gaze upon my godly visage!" The white unicorn rolled her eyes and chuckled. "What can Trixie do for you? How's your friend Octavia doing?"
"'Tavia's doing fine. Dancing along to her own beat, but that's what I dig about her," she replied happily, breaking off the hug. "I'm afraid I'm here on business and all that jazz. I doubt you can, or want to answer, but I need to know if you've see that vexing older sister of yours."
"Twilight's giving you the run-around, eh? I didn't expect any less from that insufferable mare."
"Worse than you ever did, Tricky," Vinyl laughed. "Now, what do you know about Twilight?"
"The Great and Powerful Trixie has heard rumours that she's finally decided to show her stupid face, but thankfully she has neither seen nor heard from her. Sorry, Scratch."
"No biggie," she smiled, taking the lie as truth. "Later." With that, she trotted down the stairs, the azure mare waving her off until she turned the corner and disappeared from sight.
"I was one of her targets," Trixie started to explain. "Yet, as we tried to outfox each other, she got into a spot of trouble and I felt compelled to save her life. Eventually, we both decided that we just could not spend so much time hunting each other. So, we came to an agreement. I cut off part of my tail, and Vinyl would tell the queen that I had died. All I had to do was stay out of Equestria. I miss performing for the ponies there, but I have so many more interesting stories to tell."
"Why?" Blueprint asked as she walked closer, her eyes as wide as saucers as her heart beat fast. "Why didn't you tell her about me, Trixie?"
"I lived in Ponyville for six years. I made friends with the ponies who knew you best. You just did what you had to do during the Ursa Incident and... I grew up, big sister." Trixie looked to the floor, shutting the door with her magic. "Have a seat. I'll get some tea going while I tell you about Spike."
Many miles away, above the town of Wyvernis, a large and imposing stone castle sat upon the top of a steep and jagged mountain. The castle shared the same name as the town, for the settlement of servile ponies was owned by it. Smooth, straight lines of dark grey stone contrasted the enemy castle of Canterlot to a tee as the towers scraped the sky, as if to steal the clouds themselves.
As the sun began to rise over the opposite horizon, the green and purple dragon sat beside his window, watching as the twilight gave way to the day. He loved this time of morning, if only because it reminded him of a creature he loved and respected more than any other. Yet, she had hurt him so many years ago, without a single explanation as to why. Sure, the ill-set bone still ached to this day, but the emotional trauma far outweighed the physical pain.
How could she have hurt him, her friends and nearly destroyed their home before vanishing without a trace? He had already solved the dilemma some time ago, but he still found himself asking the question far more than was healthy. Spike sighed as he pushed himself away, getting slightly worried about his only friend left: Owlowiscious.
Sure, he liked to go out for nightly flights, but he was usually home in time for breakfast. When he left Ponyville, the horned owl had been the only creature to come along. He could not understand why, but as time went on, he figured it was because he felt a duty to keep an eye on him for... that pony. His clawed feet ticked upon the cold stone floor as he walked over to the soft and still warm bed.
Like most rooms in the castle, his bedroom was plain and humble. Grey walls were sparsely decorated with small gems and paintings. Unlike pony paintings, dragon paintings were made of coloured sedimentary stone, since the pony versions were incredibly flammable, as the dragon learned at a young age. However, since he was used to sleeping on flammable objects, the dragons allowed him a nice mattress made of hay and blankets, although many called him crazy for sleeping that way.
Spike yawned and stretched his limbs, used to being up early ever since he left the ponies. Thankfully, his experience with them proved invaluable to the king, so when the war started, he was immediately put on the council as an advisor on pony language, culture and history. Although he was not quite an expert on the latter, he happily contributed, if only to spite the queen for killing one of the few ponies he respected.
Just as he was about to give up on waiting for the owl, a rush of air grabbed his attention, light green ears shaking as the sound registered in his brain. Turning around, the brown owl sat on the windowsill, a letter clutched in his beak. "Oh so that's what took you so long: Trixie's in the area," he spoke, taking the letter from his friend who gave a happy and energetic hoot before fluttering over to his perch.
"What's gotten into YOU?" he asked acidly. "It's just Trixie, Owlowiscious. It's nothing to get too excited about." Turning the envelope over in his hands, he saw the typical scrawling of his name in light blue ink upon the white envelope. As much as she got on his nerves at times, it was refreshing to hear from a pony for once, as opposed to other dragons. Of course, he was leery of her letters at first, especially since the brown owl would hoot and pester her until she wrote: at first, anyway.
The Great and Powerful Trixie is doing just fine, before you even ask. There have been some developments in Equestria, as far as my contacts have been able to source. For one, apparently Zecora's body washed up in Ponyville last week: no surprise there. However, I just received an interesting visit from my friend, Vinyl Scratch. You know: the bounty hunter who drove me out of the country?
Apparently, she is on a very interesting assignment, worth some five hundred thousand bits! Considering the subject, I'm not surprised by this development. You see, a few days previous, I received a call from Dinky for a conference with the other Crusader generals, both present and former. Sitting with them, I kid you not, was one Twilight Sparkle! In fact, she visited me in my caravan just moments before my former nemesis showed up.
I am sighing right now as she is bugging me to no end to write to you. For being my elder sister, I have swiftly learned just how foalish she can be at times. Yes, Twilight, I'm getting to it! Celestia damn it! I still have the dictation spell going! Look at what you made me write, you little---
The baby dragon could not help but laugh at the letter and how quickly the azure mare had lost her cool. Yet, he was a little annoyed at how dumb she must have thought he was. Until, however, he made out the very clear writing he knew only Twilight could make. It was neat and proper, but small out of habit so that she could fit as much on a single page as possible.
There are no words to express how deeply I regret what happened that day ten years ago. I can understand if you can never forgive me, since everypony told me how you left town just a couple of months later. I am so sorry! Written words can never express how deeply I regret hurting you and your feelings. If you can, please allow me the opportunity to apologize face-to-face. I need to see you, to hear your voice: I need to know that you're safe. Please, list a time and place and I will be there in a heartbeat.
Lots of love,
PS: Trixie wishes to put her salutations here too! Honestly, you're not that important, Twilight!
A tidal wave of emotions, old and new swept over the young dragon as he read and re-read the letter, especially the section claiming to be from his oldest and most dear friend. He felt conflicted at best over the new information, especially the idea of her being back in Equestria. Spike had no idea what, exactly, was going on, but it probably did not bode well for him, or for the efforts to remove the queen.
Three days later, the false earth pony climbed up the steep mountain path, just south of the castle of the dragons. The massive building loomed over the valley, like the creature the ponies worked diligently to serve. She smiled as the thought of embracing her old friend came upon her mind. Although it had only been little over a week for her since she last saw the young dragon, it felt more akin to the ten years the other said she had been gone for.
Disguised as Blueprint, she had little trouble getting past the young dragon sentries at the entrance of the village, hanging a left to climb up a lesser-known access road to the castle on another mountain. Trixie would come along in another few days when she would perform for the king himself! The baby dragon apparently pulled some strings and assured the elder dragon that she could be trusted.
A smile crept upon her muzzle as she looked down on the pony settlement. Out there, she felt confident that Vinyl had not followed her and that not a pony in the country cared about her. After taking a deep breath, the white mare glowed and flashed before turning back into the purple unicorn he would recognize. Taking a look up towards the sun, she knew the hour had come, picking up the pace to reach the ledge above.
At the top of the winding path, standing impatiently was the green dragon. Her eyes glistened with tears as they made contact for the first time in what felt like ages: pure joy sweeping across her features. "Spike!" she cried out in a whisper, galloping the rest of the distance between them. He stood taller then she remembered: equal to her in height and able to wrap his scaled arms around her neck in a gentle hug.
Tears openly flowed from her eyes as she sobbed on his shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Spike!" she cried. "I'm sorry! I... I wasn't in my right mind when I broke your arm... when I hurt our friends. I... I was overwhelmed by Test Stress, only it was so much worse! I know that is no excuse, but please know how sorry I really am!"
The baby dragon softly patted her back, hugging her tightly as a part of his mind cried out that she was being sincere. Yet, the dominant part refused to believe her. "Why did you leave us, Twilight?" he asked quietly. "Why did you leave me, Owlowiscious, your other friends and Ponyville? If you were really sorry, you would have come back in a heartbeat. So why... why did you leave us for TEN years!? Why did you ignore us?"
"I... I..." she trailed. He just had to ask the most difficult question. How could she tell him that she was from another world? The hurt and pain in his eyes told her that he would never buy it, not at first anyway. She had to lie quickly if she was to save any face. "I wanted to come home... but I was afraid everypony would hate me after what I did. I sort of... stumbled upon Ponyville by accident. If I had known what it would have done, of course I would have come home that very day!"
Spike looked at her in hurt and contempt, his green eyes becoming cold. "Liar," he whispered. Twilight shivered under his gaze. He had obviously developed more then she anticipated, already able to cultivate the famed Dragon Lie Sense. "You horrible, horrible LIAR! What's your game, EOS? Are you here trying to taunt me, or did you send some stupid golem to spy on us!?"
"Spike," the lavender mare breathed, tears welling up in her eyes again. "It's me! Remember the time you ate the jewel on Celestia's crown and I took the blame? R-remember when I would take you with me to Pony Joe's and you would fall asleep on the table? Remember when I would read you those foal's stories to help you sleep? It's really me, Spike! How... how could you call me by that horrible name?"
"She... she put her memories into you, didn't she!?" Spike breathed in disgust. "I never knew she... she would go so far. Oh Twilight, why have you fallen so? Why... why did you become the queen? Unless... unless she only gave you the memories up until she SNAPPED!" Twilight backed away from the baby dragon, becoming increasingly afraid that he had become like the others.
"Oh no, you don't," the young dragon raised his voice. "Seize her!" Suddenly, over two dozen griffons, each plated in blue armour descended from their unseen perches. The lavender pony looked around, unable to move from shock. They surrounded her on all sides, spears and swords in their claws, all pointed at her. Even if she wanted to use her magic against them, there were too many of them, as a dozen more griffons and three fully-grown dragons came upon her.
"It's really me, Spike!" Twilight cried desperately. "Please, listen to me! I want to STOP the queen! I came from another version of the world where... where I didn't kill Celestia or Luna. I want her dead just as much as you do! I want to see her punished and destroyed like the evil horse she is! Please, you've got to believe me! Please..." Tears streamed down her eyes as they became puffy and red from the crying.
"At last, confirmation," he spoke coldly. "I think we can learn a lot from you... 'Twilight'" he made the air quotes gesture with his fingers. "Take her away!" Suddenly, three guards jumped on her and clamped three Mythril rings to her horn. Two more were swiftly applied to her hind legs before she managed to shake free, only to run into another guard who held her roughly.
The dragon turned his back on the proceedings in contempt, secretly unable to bear the sight. A lavender hoof extended from beyond the wall of guards, her head sticking over the griffon's shoulder. "SPIKE!" she called out in a desperate mixture of pain and fear. "SPIKE! HELP ME!! PLEASE!!!" Two more bracelets were clamped tightly to her front legs, digging into her coat and flesh. Tears continued to stream from her eyes, as the scaly claw of an adult dragon scooped her up into its palm and covered her, muffling her cries.
Later on, she would think back on that moment and swear that she felt her heart break the instant the red scales obscured her vision. She could feel the dragon lift off from the ground, carrying her to parts unknown as she bawled over his betrayal. If Spike, of all the living things on the planet, did not care for her anymore, then there really was no one... no living creature that she could trust. That last thought hurt Twilight more then anything else ever could.