Life quickly returned to normal in the small town of Ponyville... well, as normal as things could get. Over the course of the past four weeks, the town had experienced a fire and another baking mishap that somehow made the Baked Bads Incident seem like a mild case of the flu in comparison. In fact, the town still held the lingering smell from the... unpleasantness. It made the orange pony breathe a sigh of relief that she didn't live in the town proper, or that her stubborn pride hadn't caused the worst case of food poisoning in town history anymore.
Applejack trotted down the cobbled streets of town alone that day, still a little early to be selling apples to the townsfolk. It wouldn't be long until the first batch of ripe apples would be ready for delivery though. With that thought in mind, the orange earth pony picked up her pace, imagining all her precious apple trees dead. The sombre idea motivated the farmer to press forward and swallow her stubborn pride once more.
Nearing the library, she still wondered if going to her was the best option. Sure, ever since receiving that letter, Twilight had been her normal self again, but sometimes Applejack had flashbacks to her last little episode. She shuddered at the memory of the agitated unicorn, but steeled herself against it. The farmer needed the pony power, as well as knowledge about what, exactly, she was dealing with.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door to the library, stepping inside the old building. If she didn't know any better, she would have sworn no pony was around. There were no books piled upon the floor, no papers lying around like a tornado had blown through the place. The unicorn librarian had obviously gotten around to her own spring cleaning, and the difference was startling. "Twilight?" Applejack called into the hollowed-out tree.
"I'm in my room!" sounded a voice from upstairs. "I'll be right down!"
In the meantime, the farmer pony looked around at the wares, thinking she could find what she needed on her own. Several older books lined the shelves, obviously a part of the heap the librarian pulled out of the small crawlspace under her very hooves. Some of the books, quite frankly, scared the superstitious farmer, as some of them claimed to tell the future, or how to do things that were simply not natural, although they were the minority.
Before she knew it, the purple unicorn descended the stairs with a smile for her friend. "Hey, Applejack," she chirped happily, "What can I do for you today?"
"Oh, uh..." the farmer started, "Well, I woke up today, to inspect the crops, you see? An' as I was goin' about, I noticed this weird fungus on one of the trees, an' I was just wonderin' if you could tell me what it is, is all." Reaching into her saddlebag, the farmer produced a sample of tree bark, a purple splotch embedded into the wood.
"I know just the book," the scholar nodded as her copy of Super Naturals flew down before her. Ever since the whole fiasco with Zecora and the Poison Joke, the unicorn had opened herself up to looking in unconventional places for knowledge. Eventually, she found the entry, staring her in the face, a sudden grim look in her eyes.
"Well, good news, bad news, AJ," Twilight started. "It's a fungus called Bilious Bulges, and it has a cure... but that's where the good news ends."
"Then what, might I ask, is the bad news?" the farmer asked with great concern.
"Well, according to the book, it's fatal for the tree and highly contagious. It can wipe out a sizable chunk of forest in a matter of weeks. The only way to cure it is to chop down the infected tree before the bulbs burst and spread the pathogen. In the meantime, it cannot come into contact with another tree, or it will spread that way."
Applejack's eyes widened in terror; it was her worst-case scenario... but if it meant a tree or her livelihood, the poor thing would have to come down. She looked at the floor soberly, fighting back some tears at the idea of chopping down one of her beloved tress. "Will you..." she said quietly, "Will you help me... cure it? I don't think I could do it on my own."
"Of course, Applejack," her friend comforted.
Although the purple pony wanted to wait to do the deed until next morning, her orange friend insisted that they get it over and done with as soon as possible. After having a small lunch, the two walked out to the farm and collected a cart and a couple of axes before walking down the winding path to the tree. Applejack remained quiet through the whole ordeal: as though she were told she had to shoot her dog dead because it was rabid and dangerous.
Twilight kept the silence for her, knowing her friend could not be consoled right then. Instead, she distracted herself from her friend's melancholy by looking at the apple trees, some of them bearing big and slightly red fruit, ready for picking within the week. The birds chirped happily in the trees above as summer was but a few weeks away. The distinct smell of rain still hung in the air from the shower that took place just last night, every smell coming in clearer than ever through the moist air.
Eventually, the winding path went down a steep hill and through a small intersection in the grove of apple trees, a babbling brook echoing through the dense canopy. Twilight knew she and Applejack were now on the edge of Sweet Apple Acres, the side furthest from town and closest to the forest beyond. She tensed up a little bit as a result, since the Everfree Forest was not something to be messed with. Her last venture into the cursed wood had left her petrified by a Cockatrice. If it weren't for Fluttershy and her Stare, she would have been stuck like that for months while they waited on the cure.
Before she could elaborate on such thoughts, they came to the tree in question, a chunk of bark missing off of it. It was a sickly old thing, all the leaves brown and decaying with the trunk covered in the splotches of sick purple disease. The tree's roots went right over the edge of the small fifty foot high cliff and down to the ravine, the ground sloping at a shallow angle into the gap. "This is it," Applejack spoke, breaking the silence. "It was one o' the first trees I ever planted."
"It looks so sad, Applejack," Twilight tried to comfort. "Think of it as putting the poor thing out of its misery."
The farmer nodded sadly. "Let's get this over with." True to her word, the Element of Honesty walked back to the cart she hauled from the barn, pulling out the pair of axes with her teeth. A purple glow surrounded one of them as it flew out of her mouth and over to the unicorn. "You just follow my lead, Twi."
With the unicorn's magic, and the earth pony's knowledge of trees, the diseased plant was quickly felled by the two axes. They angled the cut so the tree fell towards the path, for the wood had to be burned in a stove to prevent the infection from spreading to the neighbouring trees, so they couldn't just dump it into the ravine. Together, they chopped the tree into smaller parts and loaded them into the cart.
"Aw, hayseed!" Applejack exclaimed as she saw the full cart and the pile of logs still on the ground. "Looks like we'll have ta make a second trip." A look of worry came over her face, looking at her friend before continuing. "My little sister an' her friends are over yonder in their base. I'd hate for them to find the logs and try an' burn 'em or sumthin' with the disease an' all. Do you mind staying behind an' watchin' them while I mosey on back to the barn?"
Twilight smiled and nodded at her good friend. "Sure, I'll keep watch."
Sitting on the side of the dirt road, the scholar watched the workhorse pull the cart full of wood up the steep slope. She could have pulled a cart as well, but Applejack refused to let her, since she worried that the weight would be too much, and she'd end up dead in the ravine. Using her magic, the unicorn neatly stacked the wood beside the path and away from the other trees. Turning around, she looked at the sad little stump in the forest floor, a grim reminder of the plant that once stood there.
Out of the corner of her eye, the unicorn though she saw a purple splotch that they had missed and levitated one of the axes over with her, just in case. Standing close to the edge of the ravine, Twilight inspected the stump intently for any signs of infection from the disease. Thankfully, there was none to be had; it must have been a figment of her overactive imagination.
Sadly, the sinking sensation she felt wasn't a part of the deal. Looking under hoof, she saw the soil begin to slip away from beneath her, over-saturated from last night's rain. Shock set in, not allowing the unicorn the obvious action of jumping away. Her heart raced as she felt gravity kick in, cruelly pulling her and the dirt down into the ravine. The only thing she could do was yelp in vain as she slipped on the wet earth.
"Applejack!" she screamed, losing all concentration on her magic.
Her body screamed down the rocky side of the ravine, smacking into every possible rock on the way down. Twilight couldn't think: the rush of adrenaline overpowered her judgement. She could only cry out as she bounced from side to side, her face occasionally puckering up to the side of the cliff. Finally, an eternity later, she landed on the soft bed of the stream, on her side and in a great deal of pain.
The unicorn moaned slightly, trying to push herself up, only to find two of her legs broken in the fall. Realizing how much trouble she was in, she called forward for aid, hoping her friend would return soon to help her out. However, before she could even get one word out, a glint of steel flashed before her eyes and a new wave of pain swept over her. Twilight screamed louder than she ever had before at the sight before her eyes.
No longer held by her magic, the axe she had carried with her fell on its own accord, landing blade first onto one of her broken limbs. She pulled the wrecked leg away to see the damage done to her by the fallen steel. The lower half of her leg dangled sickly in front of her face, eyes wide in horror and pain. Not more than two tendons kept it attached to the rest of her body, bone clearly visible through the blood leaking onto the muddy riverbed.
The last thing she could remember, her face rushed up towards the soft earth in a sick mixture of the sight of her injury, and the intense pain that came with it.
Pleasant warmth swept over the battered unicorn as she regained consciousness. A soft moan escaped her lips, wondering how she could still be alive after experiencing such pain. Suddenly, a loud voice boomed out from somewhere nearby, her eyes fluttering open. "Sis, come quick! She's wakin' up!" Loud hoofsteps on wood met the unicorn's ears as her eyes finally opened; everything was a mess of colour.
"Twilight!" sounded the familiar voice of her friend, Applejack.
Another soft moan escaped from the unicorn, more from the pain then the volume of her voice. "Where am I?" she asked. "Did you take me to the hospital?"
"No, Twi. You're in my house. We didn't want to move you far, if you had a broken back or somethin'. Thankfully, you don't, though."
"What do you mean?" Twilight voiced indignantly. "What about my leg! It was nearly chopped clean off!" Applejack and the smaller pony she identified as her little sister Applebloom looked at each other for a brief moment before the younger replied.
"Yer leg's just fine, Twilight. You're lucky ya didn't break anythin'. That axe missed you by a mile!"
Pushing down the warm blankets, the unicorn could see all sorts of bandages on her body, but looking at the leg in question; it was as if nothing had ever happened. "But I..." she stammered before shaking her head. She hadn't imagined it, she knew as much, but she didn't want to worry her friends about how this could have possibly happened. Frankly speaking, the whole thing spooked her.
"... But you what, Twi?" Applejack asked.
"No, it's nothing," the purple pony replied, shaking her head, "Can I get something to eat? How long have I been out?"
"'Course you can, sugar cube," the farmer chirped. "You've been out for about a day now. We were gettin' mighty worried 'bout you. We thought you mighta hit your head sumthin' fierce." After helping her out of bed, the orange earth pony walked her battered friend downstairs to get her some apple pie that had been cooling on the window.
"Did you tell the others yet?" Twilight asked as she blew on her slice of pie.
"I hadn't run into any o' them yet, but if you didn't wake up in another hour or so, I reckon I would have. I'm just happy you weren't hurt so bad! You mighta been killed if you didn't have such luck on your side!"
After some pressing, Twilight learned the details about her time unconscious. Apparently, Applebloom and her other friends heard her screams and came to investigate. After seeing her at the bottom of the ravine, they rushed off to find Applejack who fetched some rope from the barn. With great haste, they returned to where they found her and lowered a rope. Applejack then jumped down, tied her friend in a makeshift harness and pulled her up once she climbed back to the road.
Eventually, the sun began its long descent below the horizon of Equestria. Although her friend urged her to stay, Twilight used her dragon assistant's youth as an excuse to leave. The air of the twilight hour surrounded her, the coming chill of the night air washing over her, numbing the pain that still screamed in her body. After another night's rest, she should be back to one hundred percent... or close enough. The image of her dangling limb teased her waking mind, like a carrot in front of her muzzle, begging to be nibbled.
"Hey, Twilight, welcome ho... w-what happened to you!?" Spike asked as his boss came through the door, bandaged from head to hoof. He rushed over to make sure she was okay, worried about her.
"I had a little slip," the purple unicorn answered. "I fell down a hill and scuffed myself up a little. Applejack thought I hit my head, so she insisted I stay the night and well into today. I'm sorry if I worried you, Spike."
"I wasn't worried," the baby dragon lied, earning him a look from his dear friend. "Well... maybe a little."
Once the initial awkwardness passed, the mare had to show great restraint to not dive into her books immediately and try to explain the mystery right then and there. Upon the dragon's insistence, she made them a sizable dinner and calmed herself down a little with one of her favourite books, on loan from Derpy as the library didn't have it yet. After losing herself in a tale of deep-earth exploration for some hours, the unicorn placed the book beside her and fell into a peaceful sleep.
True to her word, the unicorn began digging though every book she could find in the library to try and explain just what happened to her that day on Applejack's farm. She didn't recall using any magic to try and reattach the limb, never mind mending all the broken bones she felt in her after the descent. It just wasn't natural to do uncommanded magic like that... if she even did it at all.
From sunrise to sunset, Twilight kept her vigil going as she scanned every text in her possession, skipping the works of fiction entirely. She only paused to eat and sleep a few hours every night, avoiding her friends by telling them she still felt sore from her little mishap the other day. The mare didn't like brushing her friends off like that again, considering the events a few weeks ago, but her mind kept buzzing at the memory: how was this possible!?
The cycle carried on for over four days: every morning, afternoon, and evening, a friend would come over to check on her and make sure the unicorn didn't dive off the deep end again. She appreciated the support, but the seemingly constant interruptions taxed her patience. Hundreds of books lay scattered around the library floor, none of the usual volumes continuing any information. Eventually, the mare worked her way into the vault of books stored just under the floor.
Spike cautiously approached the unicorn on the morning of the fifth day, knowing just how irritable she had become at not finding what she needed yet. "Twilight," he voiced cautiously. "It's time for breakfast."
"Argh!" the unicorn shouted in frustration, tossing the latest book into the air. "Spike! I'm a little busy right now! Can't breakfast wait until I finish skimming this book!?" Her coat and mane lay askew on her body, eyes bloodshot with bags under them from little sleep. Twilight was fully into 'Test Stress' territory again and the baby dragon knew it. He jumped at her outburst and backed into the wall, startled.
"Okay, but please have something to eat?" he begged, knowing the unicorn would sometimes neglect herself. She nodded her head at him, honestly planning to eat just as soon as she finished with the book in question. "Alright, I'm taking that as a promise," the dragon continued. "I'm going out to buy our groceries. I should be back in an hour or two. I'll see you later, Twi." With some bits and one of Twilight's bags slung over his shoulder, the baby dragon went out on his errands, finally leaving the scholar to work in peace.
After ditching the previous book, and hastily digesting her breakfast, the purple unicorn sat down on the floor of the library once more, and pulled up another tome to skim. It wasn't a particularly heavy book, but just looking at the title, Magical Automations, told the unicorn that this book wouldn't hold any answers. Still, she ploughed into the book all the same, just in case. Inside, she found the most weird creatures and ideas she had eve set eyes on. There were spells to make cleaning supplies move on their own, and various depictions of improbable machines.
Just as she was about to cast the book aside, a passage caught her eye. It said something about automatic healing of serious wounds. It could be the very passage she was looking for this whole time! Finally, days of searching could be coming to an end at long last! Twilight flipped back to the beginning of the article.
The Golem is, by far, the most complicated artificially created creature in all history. It can come in any shape, size, or appearance and is nigh indestructible with careful construction. At the same time, they can perfectly mimic equine emotions, language and expressions simply by exposure to them. If it weren't for their distinct appearance, a pony could easily mistake a Golem for a living, perfectly natural creature.
In order to engineer this marvel of pony magic, the creator must simply possess the spell in order to animate it, which is contained in this volume. However, in addition to this, a pony must possess the necessary crafting skills to create a realistic sculpture. If created haphazardly, the Golem will suffer in terms of mobility and dexterity which will greatly affect its usefulness in a variety of applications.
If all this effort is required, then why use Golems? Why not hire an extra hoof to help around the domain? To put it simply, Golems do not require food, water, sleep, payment, air, or any other factors that define life. Even if injured, the spell that animates a Golem allows it to heal automatically in order to carry on its duties. Major wounds and broken limbs will heal seamlessly, but nicks, scratches and other minor damages will need to be repaired manually.
As with everything, there is a downside to Golems. For one, they cannot function under great stress, often becoming emotionally unstable and experiencing auditory or visual hallucinations. This effect is magnified if the creator is the source of the stress, even if inadvertently. If stressed for too long, or become suddenly overwhelmed by stress, Golems can become violent and irrational, often turning on and killing their creators in the process.
First and foremost, advanced Golems are considered illegal in every state in this world. This book will not give you directions on how to manufacture them, as their creation has been deemed a crime punishable by death or exile, depending on the severity. So, what makes this sub-category of Golem so illegal and carry such harsh punishments? This is because a pony that makes an advanced Golem is, essentially, creating life.
"How does an advanced Golem differ from a normal one?" you may ask. Unlike a normal Golem, the advanced breed is not easily distinguishable from any other creature, as they are designed to be as life-like as possible. As such, they do not carry a hardened clay appearance typical of the normal variety. Furthermore, and arguably the determining factor, the advanced breed can feel pain. In addition, they can form and feel their own emotions, opinions, and execute them. Essentially, an advanced Golem is completely autonomous and does not mimic their creator.
Advanced Golems can be detected based on their emotional response to their creator. Often, they will have a familiar bond to them and feel dedication and even love for them. However, they carry the same drawbacks as a normal Golem, just manifested in different ways. As with Golems, if they experience too much stress, their cognitive functions shut down and they begin to hallucinate. In addition, they also possess the rapid healing abilities of the normal variety.
The tome fell unceremoniously to the floor as the magic keeping it aloft vanished from existence. She couldn't bear to read another word of the book... or any other book. Her mind reeled with the implications those simple paragraphs held. On one hoof, it explained a lot about what happened over her entire life, not just the fall at the farm. Yet, on the other hoof it was just too impossible to believe. How could she possibly think that she was a product of magic and not a natural pony?
"No... no, it just can't be true," she tried in vain to reason. The unicorn stood up and paced around the library, her mind buzzing too horribly to stop herself from walking on the books. It all had to be some drastic error on her part; a fluke that she would find something similar, but utterly impossible.
Or is it? A sudden creak filled her ears, as if the tree around her began to breathe. Twilight felt the hairs on her body stand on-edge. She was beginning to hear voices again; reminding herself that it was one of the symptoms listed in the book.
"No, no, no, no, no, no! It's impossible!" she shouted into the rafters of the building.
"How do you figure that?" breathed the tree. "If you think about it, everything makes sense. When you're stressed, you become irritable and irrational... and you start to hear voices... like you are now. How can you possibly refuse to accept that you, Twilight Sparkle, are a Golem?"
"I'm a pony!" Twilight called out to the disembodied voice. "I bleed, I cry, I feel pain and emotions! Golems don't; Golems-"
"Oh?" the tree interrupted. "Do you not recall the passage on the advanced type? If you think about it; really think, you'll see what I am about to say makes perfect sense. Who is the one pony on this earth you trust unconditionally? I'll answer for you: Princess Celestia. Who has the power and skill required to make a Golem like that? Princess Celestia. Don't forget her letter either. Dr. Whooves said that she wouldn't tell him your origin, yet in the letter she said she found you at the castle gates. Why not tell him... if that was the truth?"
"P-princess Celestia made me?" the unicorn replied, her eyes wide in a sick mixture of pain and horror. "B-but why?"
"Again, if you think about it, it makes sense. You bear the Element of Magic; you helped free Nightmare Moon from her prison and save Equestria from eternal night. She made you to save her sister... why else has she stopped really talking with you? Twilight, you already fulfilled your purpose in life."
"H-how do you know all of this?" she asked, backing into a corner as the words it spoke made sense to her.
"I only know what you know, Twilight. After all, I am but a figment of your imagination, and am limited by your knowledge and ability to process information."
The unicorn swallowed hard, knowing now the voice in her head was her own, rationally putting the pieces together and forming a picture. Only now did she realize how stuffy the air in the library was. She needed to get out, to feel the grass on her hooves, to talk to her friends. Once she calmed down, she would write to the Princess. But she would just lie again if this is the truth, the voice sounded.
The walk to Sweet Apple Acres seemed to take an eternity longer to the purple unicorn today. Her mind still reeled from what the tree had said to her... or rather what she thought. She had to admit, it was right; putting it all together like that seemed to explain everything nicely. Perhaps this also explained her adeptness to magic, as the book also said that a Golem shares some of its magical power with its creator.
Celestia, being a goddess in charge of the sun, could easily explain how she could banish an Ursa Minor with relative ease, or even give a unicorn wings. Sure, normal ponies could do them too, but usually only with years of hard practice or study where she could do them with little difficulty at all. Sure, banishing Nightmare Moon could serve as a reason... but why make a pony instead of finding another to bear the Element of Magic? Why her?
Everything she ever thought she knew spun in front of Twilight as she passed through the gate into the farm. Eventually, her mind came up with one single sentence that sent shivers down her spine again. My entire life is a lie.
Finally, the first apples of the season could be harvested and taken to market. An early start could mean the difference between a profitable year and a year in debt to the farmer. The bright red apple glistened on the trees as the late morning sun shined on them, shaking slightly from her bucking. The orange filly went from tree to tree, gathering the apples for market.
All of a sudden, the familiar sight of a purple unicorn came over the crest of the next hill. "Howdy, Twi!" she chirped, happy to see her friend out and about.
"Hi, Applejack," Twilight responded, coming closer to the tree. She didn't quite know how to voice her unease, or even where to start with her discovery. Instead, she opted to start off conversation, and let it flow there. "What are you doing?" she asked, looking at the apples on the tree.
"Buckin' apples, o' course," the farmed replied diligently. The unicorn looked in the baskets resting beside the tree and jumped with a start. Inside, the apples were green and polka-dotted with holes in them, occasionally a worm or two emerging from one and slinking into the other. She looked at the earth pony with mild confusion on her face. "First ripe crop of the season," she added. "I'm gonna take 'em over to market tomorrow!"
"These apples, AJ?" she gestured to the bushels in surprise. Her mouth fell open as the earth pony nodded vigorously. A look of disgust came over the purple pony's face; surely her friend was better than this? She clenched her eyes shut and shook her head. It had to be a hallucination... but she had never had a visual one before.
"You okay, Twi?" Applejack asked in concern.
"Yeah, I just need to clear my head a bit," Twilight responded, a hint of panic in her voice. "I'll see you later!" With that, she turned tail and trotted off, leaving her friend to consider the exchange for a brief moment before returning to her bucking.
"You're just imagining things, Twilight," the unicorn spoke to herself. "Those apples were ripe and red and you were just hallucinating because of the stress. Th-there's nothing wrong with being stressed when... when your entire life is a lie... right?"
The mare continued to mutter comforting thoughts to herself as her hooves mindlessly carried her on to her next destination. Surely, if any pony knew how to cheer her up, it would be her dear friend Fluttershy, right? She took a deep breath as she soon found herself on her doorstep, slowly raising a hoof to knock on it.
"Oh, Twilight!" sounded a voice from behind her, belonging to the yellow Pegasus. "What are you doing here? I thought you were studying and recovering from your fall?" She had an unreadable expression on her face, somewhere between concern and boredom. At least, that was how it appeared to the impaired unicorn.
"I... decided that I needed some fresh air, is all," the unicorn replied. Before she could react, the yellow mare grabbed her raised hoof and dragged her along into her garden where a waiting tea set lay.
"I was about to come over to your place and ask if you wanted some tea," she explained. "I'm so glad you came on your own." Twilight simply couldn't say no to her good friend and quietly took a seat opposite from her at the stump of a table. All around, the cute little animals frolicked and played in the meadow surrounding them. The sweet scent of the honey-laced tea wafted to her muzzle, relaxing her a little.
She took a deep breath to inhale it deeply, lifting the cup to her lips with her magic. Her friend smiled and followed in kind, using her teeth instead, gently sipping her own down. The two mares quickly began to talk, the unicorn trying to direct the conversation to discuss her discovery, but the Pegasus had no interest in it. Twilight tried to persevere, but sooner rather than later, the tea began to wear off, tension coming back ten-fold.
A squirrel mounted on the fence beside her quickly drew the purple mare's attention from her friend as they chatted. There was a rather large bird beside him, grooming himself before taking flight once more. However, before it could do anything, the squirrel suddenly leaped on the bird, swallowing it in a single, horrifying bite. Noticing the lack of privacy, the demonic critter looked Twilight in the eye, its own burning a bright, blood red.
Frightened, the unicorn snapped her head back to her friend, critters behind her all staring with those same blood red eyes. "What's the matter, Twilight?" Fluttershy spoke with a measure of malice in her voice. "It looks like you've seen a ghost." Twilight felt her body begin to quake in fear, stumbling off the stump, her eyes wide in terror. She needed to get out of here... to leave these demonic creatures and their mistress behind.
All she could do was squeak before letting out a full scream, turning her back on the little monsters and making flight to the nearest safe haven she knew. Meanwhile, she left her friend behind, dumbfounded at her sudden outburst, her teapot tipped over by the purple mare's explosive exit. Something was wrong with Twilight, and she needed to find out what. Spreading her wings, she went to find her nearest friend, Applejack.
The purple mare ran into town at a full gallop, panic having gripped her heart, only now beginning to release her from its bind. All her friends were acting weird today, for some reason... "No!" she shouted to nopony, "It was probably just another hallucination... it just had to be!" She took a deep breath to still her pounding heart as she approached a familiar building; Carousel Boutique.
Twilight entered the building boldly; she needed to get this off her back, and who better than her fellow unicorn? Inside, however, she found a sight that made the demon critters in the meadow seem tame in comparison. Hanging on all the walls and forms on the shop was material as black as the night itself. All the dresses in the shop looked like they belonged more at an undertaker's then a place as fashionable as the tailor's shop. "R-rarity?" she voiced quietly as she entered.
"Just a minute," sounded the familiar voice of the white unicorn from the depths of the shop. "Oh, hello, Twilight! What can I do for you today?" The purple pony simply stared at her, and then back to the sombre black dresses all around the shop.
"Rarity... what is all of this?" she asked, forgetting her desire to talk about her revelation.
"Oh, why it's wedding season, darling," Rarity replied. "Ever since our... er... splash at the gala, I've simply been swamped by requests! I may have to hire an extra hoof just to keep up!"
"Weddings?" the purple mare asked, aghast. "You made these... these things for weddings!? What is wrong with you, Rarity!? I though you, of all ponies had some sense around here! They'd look more at home in a graveyard then a chapel!"
The white mare hadn't been so dumbfounded since Fluttershy had described, in intricate detail, why she hadn't liked her Gala dress. Her alabaster wedding gowns positively glistened in the noon-time sun... how could she say they looked fit for funerals instead? Rarity shut her eyes behind her glasses and shook her head. "Oh, Twilight, darling," she started. "I know you don't know much about fashion, but I assure you, these are, indeed, for weddings."
Twilight found herself speechless at the unicorn's retort. How could rarity defend these onyx horrors? Who placed the orders, an entire village of Goth ponies? No, it had to be another hallucination... it just had to be. She walked over to one of the dresses and put her hoof to it, the fabric tickling her as it touched. It simply couldn't be an illusion; her mind racing about what was going on. Had the revelation that her life was a lie broken some sort of spell on her?
Rarity looked on in confusion as Twilight moved her hoof through the air, as if inspecting something of great interest. She blinked quickly as she figured all the studying had finally gotten to her head. "Twilight, do you need to lie down?" she asked in concern. Apparently, she asked the wrong thing as the unicorn jumped, looking at her as if she'd suggested something lewd.
"No... no... I'm not that kind of pony... g-get away from me!" the student replied, slowly backing out of the shop. It finally happened; the purple mare had finally studied herself into some sort of mental breakdown. The white unicorn approached her to try and get her to calm down, but the purple mare cried out and ran out of her shop in a panic. She could feel her jaw drop to the floor; she needed to get the others and help them with their friend.
Twilight ran from the store at a full gallop; how could her friend suggest something in such a way? When Rarity asked her to lie down, there was blatant lust in her eyes and a sultry tone to her voice. She could even see a shadow of a wink, as if beckoning her to follow. All thoughts of it being simply a hallucination had fled her mind, now no longer in any rational state and deteriorating quickly.
The panicked unicorn galloped at full tilt, making her way through the outskirts of town blindly. She didn't care where she went, so long as she put as much distance between herself and the other unicorn as possible. She really couldn't afford another encounter like that, especially after all that happened earlier and the revelation that her entire life was a lie.
"Wow, that was amazing," chirped an orange Pegasus filly. "Thank you so much for teaching me how to fly, Rainbow Dash!" Her eyes were positively sparkling as she walked beside her idol. Although she just started to train under her, Scootaloo could not contain her excitement.
"Don't worry about it," Rainbow replied, poking the small filly with a hoof lightly. "Besides, it's never too soon to start learning how to be as awesome as I am. Oh, hey there, Twilight. What's up?"
The purple unicorn had a look about her that the blue Pegasus had never seen before. It was like a mixture of betrayal, disgust, confusion and fear that she had never seen before. Her mane was unkempt and sticking out at weird angles, bags under her eyes robbing her of any attractiveness she had ...not that the blue mare liked fillies, of course. "Are... are you okay?" the rainbow Pegasus asked.
Twilights eyes widened in absolute horror at the pair, causing them to exchange a glance between the two of them before looking back at her quizzically. The unicorn's eyes narrowed dangerously as a look of indignation swept over her. It was almost as if that tale Pinkie told of her suddenly bursting into flame over the Hydra episode could actually be true!
Her mouth began to move, lips twitching in absolute rage. "Y-you... you... PERVERT!" the student shouted at the athletic Pegasus. Before she could react, a purple hoof came into contact with her jaw, punched with more force than she ever dared dream of from the filly. "STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM SCOOTALOO!!!"
"What the hay is your problem, Twilight!" Rainbow spoke defensively, holding her pounding jaw with a hoof. Before she even knew what happened, her world became a lavender blur as the unicorn tackled her, pinning her to the ground without using her magic. The Pegasus had no time to react to the flurry of hooves that came upon her face, taken aback by Twilight's sudden burst of violence.
"HOW COULD YOU, RAINBOW!?" the unicorn screamed in between punches. "SHE'S ONLY SEVEN YEARS OLD, YOU SICK, DISGUSTING BEAST!!!" Meanwhile, the orange filly sat, stunned by her idol's friend assaulting her like that.
"S-she was just teaching me how to fly, Twilight!" Scootaloo tried to explain. "There's nothing wrong with that!"
"Don't. Make. Excuses. For. Her!" the purple pony yelled, each word accented by another punch to the stunned Pegasus. Rainbow's face quickly became black and blue, missing a couple of teeth and adorned with two of the blackest eyes that Equestria ever saw. The rosy eyes narrowed before the Pegasus used all her strength, bucking the unicorn off of her and launching her some distance.
"WHAT THE SORREL HELL WAS THAT ALL ABOUT, TWILIGHT!?" Rainbow shouted in fury. "That wasn't cool in any way at all! What gives you the right to randomly attack a pony like that, huh!? You're lucky you're my friend or I would kick the s*** out of you instead of going to the police!"
Before she could get up for round two, the Pegasus took to the air, sweeping up the smaller orange one as she zoomed past, leaving the purple unicorn dazed on the ground. All of her friends... every one of them was insane. It was no wonder Celestia had to engineer friends for her. Just how bad could her last friend really be? She got to her hooves with sick anticipation as she moved into town, on her way to Sugarcube Corner to see how far off the deep end Pinkie could be.
Her answer came soon enough as she approached the building. The sweet shop always looked a little like a gingerbread house, but now she could almost smell the substance seeping off the walls. Ponies watched her walk through the square, possibly gossiping about how she heroically called out Rainbow on her sick game. But she couldn't help but notice their frowns turning into wicked smiles as she drew closer to the local landmark.
A tiny bell rung above the door as the unicorn entered the shop for the first time in a week. Thankfully, now that her eyes were open to the 'real' world, she became relieved to see that everything was more-or-less the same... save for the large grate over a pit of fire where the couch used to be. She paid it no mind as she walked up to the pink party pony who hopped over to meet her.
"Hi there, Twilight," the pink pony chirped before her attitude suddenly changed. "You don't look well. Is something the matter?" She tilted her head to the side, showing genuine concern for her purple friend. "Oh well," she continued before the unicorn could respond. "I know what will make everything better! Have a cupcake!"
A wide, disturbing grin spread across the pink mare's face, chilling her to the bone with no explanation why. She reached a hoof out to grab the tantalizing blue cupcake, not one to refuse a generous offer like that. Until, that is, realization hit. Gingerbread house... er... store, a grill over a working fire pit and cupcakes? CUPCAKES!? It was all out of the story she read as a filly; the one about the two young foals who happened upon a wicked witch's house in the woods and were eaten!
Twilight's hoof fell to the floor, horrified that her friend Pinkie, who used to be the most benign of the group, turned out to be the most insane and disturbing of the lot. She was actually planning to eat her, now of all times! Her jaw dropped, the pink pony looking at her with a hint of disappointment behind that wicked, murderous smile. "What's the matter?" she asked as she saw her expression. "Don't you like my cupcakes? Everypony likes my cupcakes."
"No," Twilight squeaked in horror. "No... I DON'T WANT ANY OF YOUR CUPCAKES!" With all the speed she could muster, the unicorn took flight in panic from the shop. Her hooves slipped a little on the freshly mopped floor, not allowing her the acceleration she wanted. The pink mare tried to reach out to stop her flight and ensure her doom, but she got just enough traction to slip away by an inch.
The door to the bakery flew open as a flurry of purple erupted forward, screaming the entire way. Everything around her twisted and warped, becoming more horrible to her then it actually was. She welded her eyes shut and ran blind, hot tears slipping out from her eyelids. All she wanted to do was to run, to hide, and to get as far away from this asylum of a town as possible.
Suddenly, the unicorn felt winded as she naturally ran into someone. Below her, flat on his back, was the familiar shape of her dragon assistant. "Ow," he moaned. "Anyone get the number of that cart?" The unicorn pushed herself back up, standing over him with a wild look in her eyes. "Oh, it's you, Twilight," he continued as he stood up as well. "I guess you finally decided to get out and get some fresh air, h-"
"I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE UP TO!" she yelled in his ear, spying the vegetables scattered around them. "You're going to join Pinkie and make some Twilight Stew, huh? Well, I got some news for you, Buster!" She suddenly lunged forward and grabbed the baby dragon's arm, staring daggers at the startled young creature. His arm was in an awkward position, being held by both hooves of his boss. "I'M NOT GOING WITHOUT A FIGHT!"
A sickening crack filled the air, followed by the sudden scream from the pained dragon. His arm was bent at a weird angle, broken by the sudden motion from his friend. He fell back onto the ground, crying his heart out and yelling with a pain he had never experienced before. Why had Twilight done this to him?
Before he could cry out for help, the addled unicorn continued her blind flight away from the crazy town known as Ponyville. She didn't noticed the cart pull out suddenly in front of her, leaving her no time to stop, slamming into the side, flipping end over end and into the cargo it carried. A shrill shriek filled the square as more eyes came to rest upon the scene. The purple unicorn screamed and babbled incoherently; she had rammed into a cart carrying live snakes, or so she thought.
"HELP! HELP!" she cried to no pony in particular. She squirmed on the cobblestone street, trying to get away from the legless horrors. "THEY'RE GOING TO KILL ME! HELP!!!" Sobs quickly replaced the screams as she realized her situation was hopeless; no pony here cared about her, and if they did, they would be killed too by her insane friends.
"Hold on, sugar cube," sounded a familiar voice. "I got you!" It was Applejack, flanked by Rarity and Fluttershy. The purple pony promptly returned to screaming at the sight of them, forgetting about the snakes that wiggled around her body. They looked at each other in an unreadable look before the farmer started again. "You do know you're in a pile o' hay, right?"
The unicorn sobbed and screamed, lost somewhere between terror and sorrow over her situation. When the trio approached, she lashed out violently, fighting for her very life. The white unicorn and the yellow Pegasus flanked her, trying to distract her. "No!" Twilight screamed. "They're going to eat me! Somepony, please... save me!"
"Nothing's going to eat you, Twilight," Fluttershy spoke with great care and nurturing. Sadly, her purple friend would have none of it, screaming even louder. The pair looked to Applejack and nodded, putting their backup plan into motion. Reaching into her saddle bag, she withdrew a lasso and tossed it at the purple mare.
Twilight suddenly felt her limbs pulled together snugly by something oddly smooth. When she looked, she saw that they had bound her legs using a long, vicious-looking snake, causing her to scream even louder. How could they do something like this to her? Weren't they her friends!? She wriggled and screamed in vain, the farmer pony approaching her menacingly before shoving one of those horrid, green, worm-ridden apples deep into her muzzle, stifling her.
Grabbing her tail in her teeth, the orange farmer soberly pulled her squirming purple friend through the streets of town, getting weird looks from the different ponies as the rumour mills worked overtime. In the course of an hour and a half, the unicorn had managed to hospitalize two of her friends and traumatize a filly into silence. It hurt her to bind her friend up like this, but right now she was a danger to herself and every pony around her. She just thanked her lucky stars that she hadn't used magic in any of the attacks yet.
The white unicorn and the yellow Pegasus followed behind the pair, making sure the addled unicorn didn't break free of her binds and go on a rampage. Fluttershy had to fight to suppress her tears at the sight of her friend acting like this, pleading fear etched on the unicorn's face. Rarity felt much the same way, worried more that her fellow unicorn would suddenly have the presence of mind to wield her powerful magic against them. If she could subdue an Ursa... she shuddered at the idea of an enraged and dangerous Twilight. They would need to write to the princess immediately.
First, however, they needed to get her out of the public eye. As they neared Sugarcube Corner, Applejack could feel the struggles of the unicorn increase exponentially the closer they got. If only Rainbow could help them out too... it was just lucky they found her before she ran off to the police and told her that Twilight wasn't herself today. Pinkie Pie opened the door for them, a rare frown flashing across her muzzle as she watched the sobbing unicorn being dragged inside.
A fresh wave of fear rolled over the unicorn as the farmer dragged her towards the grill. If they were going to eat her, at least they would have the decency to knock her out before putting her on that, right? She sobbed again as the orange earth pony and the white unicorn lifted her up and tossed her roughly onto the grill. A wave of pain rolled over her as she felt the flames lick at her back, the smell of singed hair reaching her nostrils.
Off in the distance, she could occasionally hear words waft over in between her stifled screams of pain. They were discussing something, but she couldn't tell what. She wanted to roll onto her side to hear them better, but it would offer more skin for the flame to cook. "...she has to know," Fluttershy started. "If any pony knows what is going on, or how to help, it will be the Princess. We can't leave her lying on the couch forever."
"I agree with her, Applejack," Rarity concurred. "Hopefully she'll also have some way for us to suppress her magic. I'd hate to see the damage caused by an enraged Twilight."
Her magic... how could she have forgotten something so obvious!? With her magic, she could easily save herself and punish those dastardly ponies for trying something this evil in the first place. She dove deep into herself, horn alight in a purple aura as the snake binding her, dead from the heat, vanished in a flash.
"Rairty!" Applejack shouted. "Why'd you have to open yer big mouth!?"
Twilight reached a hoof to her mouth and withdrew the apple that stifled her, firing it magically with great force at the orange pony, smacking her in the head. She fell to the ground and twitched slightly, the other three gasping in horror that their plan had been foiled. "YOU'RE ALL GOING TO REGRET THE DAY YOU MESSED WITH ME!!!" the enraged unicorn shouted, feeling her magic flood through her.
They all screamed, and rightly so as sparks of magical energy lept forward from her body. She stared at them in anger, causing them to panic; even the annoying pink one. Her body began to glow as she gathered as much magic as she could. The unicorn would leave this sinful little town behind, and destroy those who dared to end her in one fell swoop.
A massive explosion rocked the town to its core, half of Sugarcube Corner vaporizing in a blast of magical energy, the other half erupting in cleansing fire. A brilliant streak of purple shot across the sky from the heart of the blast and rocketed into the Everfree Forest beyond. Three scared ponies ran out of the wreckage while the fourth had to be dragged, cut up and bleeding from shrapnel of the many splinters of flaming wood.
What could have driven such a reserved and kind pony to do such a horrible thing?