Obsession (Part I) [Complete]

SeaUrchin Dec 13th, 2016 (edited) 13,958 Never
Not a member of Pastebin yet? Sign Up, it unlocks many cool features!
  1. >"It's ok if you can't do magic, Anon," Twilight tells you.
  2. >She smiles, as do all the other rainbow colored ponies behind her.
  3. >"You are just a human after all. Nobody expects anything like that out of you."
  4. >Of course. It always comes down to this, doesn't it?
  5. >"Just leave the hero work to us. We'll bring you back a souvenir."
  7. >You hold your hand up, weakly waving goodbye to them as the six equine girls trot off, disappearing past the horizon.
  8. >Another adventure is what they would have.
  9. >Another day saved is the story they would tell upon returning home.
  10. >Another bottle of beer is what you would open up and not drink because pony beer is basically hay-flavored water.
  11. >You grab the green glass bottle and pop the top, letting the scent waft into your nose, as you sit back on the red chair and stare into the fire.
  12. >Here you are, Anon.
  13. >The only human in all of Equestria, the sole symbol of humanity, and you're reduced to waiting around for a few girls to save the world.
  14. >Boy, Dad would be so proud.
  15. >Hey, if there's one thing going for you, it's that you're the only being in the whole world to be 100%, truly and utterly magicless.
  16. >That's special, right?
  18. >The next day, the mares arrive in Ponyville.
  19. >They're met with a huge crowd that smiles, greets them, the whole nine yards.
  20. >You opt to stay in the back of it, quiet, until the extra ponies leave.
  21. >Once alone with the elements of harmony, you give them a small smile and ask how their trip was.
  22. >"It was simply wonderful, darling. You should have been there."
  23. >"Ah reckon ah ain't never seen a landscape quite as pertty as that one. Well, 'cept Sweet Apple Acres, o'course."
  24. "Of course."
  25. >Now, you wouldn't think it, but earth ponies actually have quite a bit of magic flowing through them.
  26. >Unlike a unicorn that is able to channel the power into spells, it resides in an earth pony's muscles, supercharging them.
  27. >That little tidbit was told to you by Twilight when you voiced your amazement at Applejack's feats of strength.
  28. "See any cool monsters?"
  29. >"Oh, a few."
  30. "Like dragons?"
  31. >"No, no dragons. I did meet a very nice manitcore though."
  32. >"'Nice' is such a strong word, don't you think, Fluttershy dear?"
  33. >"Least he didn't go tryin'a scoop us up fer a snack."
  34. >They begin walking, recounting their tales, leaving you behind.
  35. >Well, all save for Twilight, who grabbed your shirt and tugged on it to get your attention.
  36. >"Hey, want to go for a walk?" she asked.
  38. >One nod later, and you're both heading down the beaten dirt path on the edge of Ponyville.
  39. >The sun is high over head, making the entire emerald field leading down to Apple Pond visible.
  40. >"So, what'd you do while we were away?"
  41. "Oh, you know."
  42. >Twilight shakes her head.
  43. "Well, it was a lot of," your voice trails off.
  44. >Sitting.
  45. >Brooding.
  46. >Readi--oh, hey.
  47. "I read."
  48. >Her ears perk up at that, and you can already tell what her next question is.
  49. >Before she has a chance to open her mouth, you answer her.
  50. "Just some old books on unicorns."
  51. >"Odd subject matter."
  52. "Well, who doesn't like to learn?"
  53. >The walk continues on in silence for a bit.
  54. >The sound of your feet and her hooves tapping on the ground force you unconsciously to synchronize your walking.
  55. >You're sure it's all spoiled when she begins talking again.
  56. >"Look, Anon, I know you're upset."
  57. "Upset? No, I'm relaxed. This is nice."
  58. >"I know you want to go with us sometimes, but it's just that..."
  59. "It's that I have no magic."
  60. >"You're soft. And frail."
  61. "Yeah, I know. I'm reminded often."
  62. >"I just don't want to think about what could happen to you out there. I wish you would be happy here. You've done a lot for yourself, you know. All things considered. There's not a being alive that can say they built their own house and sustain a life all magic-free."
  63. >If only you had Pinkie's party cannon.
  64. >Twilight stops.
  65. >You halt as well and turn around to face her.
  66. >"Not everypony is meant to be an adventurer. Sometimes they're meant for smaller, nicer things. Have you ever considered teaching?"
  67. >Smaller?
  68. >"You're a smart guy. Oh, you could run a daycare too. I know you like foals."
  69. >Smaller?
  70. >A smile spreads across her face as she rattles off a list of tasks she "worthy professions" you'd be capable of.
  71. >One single word is all you hear though.
  72. >It drowns out her voice, echoing in your mind.
  73. >Smaller?
  75. >After a while, Twilight seems satisfied with her little speech and smiles at you.
  76. >She's clearly awaiting a response.
  77. >You want to tell her to take her advice and stuff it where the sun don't shine, but despite her phrasing, you're certain her heart was in the right place.
  78. >Destined for smaller things...
  79. >Maybe. What the hell? You've got nothing to lose, you guess.
  80. "I'll give it a shot."
  81. >"Great!"
  82. >Her horn begins to glow, and over floats a small yellow flower wrapped in a similar lavender aura.
  83. >You blink a few times at it, then her.
  84. >"Oh, oops!"
  85. >Twilight giggles, putting you somewhat at ease.
  86. >"Sorry. I forgot."
  87. "It's no problem."
  88. >Not a problem at all.
  89. >You're used to being reminded by now.
  90. "Look, if it's all the same to you, I think I'll head back home."
  91. >"Oh, ok," she says, deflated.
  92. "Hey, relax. It's nothing you did."
  93. >You lean down and pat her on the head.
  94. >It's warm, especially near her horn.
  95. >You can almost feel the magic buzzing inside her.
  96. >"I'll see you later?"
  97. "Of course. We live in a town of 30 ponies. How long do you expect to go without seeing me?"
  98. >Another giggle escapes her lips.
  99. >Bidding her a farewell, you head off back home.
  100. >You're destined for smaller things, apparently.
  103. >You're halfway home when you come across the schoolhouse.
  104. >Fillies and colts run around aimlessly, chattering about this and that.
  105. >Managing to overhear one conversation, you deduce that the parenting skills of some of these ponies are severely lacking.
  106. >Lord Almighty knows your children would never speak like that.
  107. "Just maybe," you whisper, letting the words play on your lips as the matching thought does in your mind.
  108. >What's the worst that can happen?
  109. >You approach the gates.
  110. >Your presence alerts the teacher, a magenta mare by the name of Cheerilee.
  111. >"Hi there, Anon."
  112. "How's the day treating you?"
  113. >"Well, thank you."
  114. >You pause for a second.
  115. >The scene in the background is amusing, almost enough to pull your attention from the teacher, but just almost.
  116. "So, I know this might sound a little strange coming from the closest thing Ponyville has to a hermit, but I'm looking for work."
  117. >"Oh, really?"
  118. >She looks at you blankly.
  119. "And I thought, since you always seem so busy with the kids," you trail off.
  120. >Light dawns on marblehead.
  121. >"Oh, you meant here!"
  122. "Yeah. So, what do you say? Need an extra set of hands?"
  123. >"I don't know," she replies, squinting.
  124. >Cheerilee examines you, head to toe.
  125. >"It's hard work. I don't know if you could handle it without any magic."
  126. >For the love of...
  127. >You force a smile and shrug.
  128. "Kids are kids no matter where you go. I'm sure it's nothing I couldn't handle."
  129. >The teacher rubs her chin in thought.
  130. "Come on. Haven't you always wanted a teacher's aide? Maybe you could take those coffee breaks you've always wanted."
  131. >"How did you know about those?"
  132. >You hear a lot of things lugging wheelbarrows of wood across town.
  133. >Hey, it's not easy keeping a house warm, especially when ambient magic in the air seeps into the ground and hardens the trees.
  134. >The walnut around here is as tough as rock maple.
  135. >"I guess it couldn't hurt to put you on a trial."
  136. "Yeah, see? It couldn't hurt."
  137. >"Alright, come on in."
  139. >Removing your hands from your pockets, you unlock the gate and enter.
  140. >A few of the foals stop their playing to greet you, then immediately go back to whatever they were previously doing.
  141. >Cheerilee leads you inside, where she shows you around the entire one room.
  142. >"That corner is the time out corner. That corner is where we keep the books. That corner is the arts and crafts corner. And this corner," she says, gesturing to a large desk, "Is my corner."
  143. "You've put a lot of thought into this."
  144. >"Funny. Anyway, as you can see, it's been awhile since we've cleaned in here."
  145. >She rubs her hoof against the floor, kicking up a cloud of dust.
  146. >"If you could get to tidying up, that'd be great."
  147. "Tidying up? I thought I'd be, you know, helping to teach."
  148. >"Teach?" she scoffs. "Anon, you don't have a degree. Goodness, you don't even have magic."
  149. "I don't need that to clean."
  150. >"Well, why don't you show me then?"
  151. >Cleaning a school house...
  152. >This isn't what you had in mind when you thought "smaller".
  153. >Fuck you, being a janitor is about as small as it gets.
  154. >You eye the juice spots on the floor, and trace the cobwebs lining the upper walls.
  155. >Anonymous, the only human in all of Equestria, reduced to a janitor...
  156. >You could walk out right now, leave the schoolhouse behind, and find a new job.
  157. >You gave your word though, didn't you?
  158. >And what kind of example of your race would you be if you walked out on a job you've had for ten goddamn seconds?
  159. "Where's the broom?" you mutter.
  160. >Look at the bright side. There's only one other employee here. The upward potential is amazing.
  162. >You snatch a broom out of the old supply shed behind the schoolhouse.
  163. >In there, you also find a stool, a bucket, and a scrub brush.
  164. >What do you know? It's everything you need.
  165. >One part of you wants to leave them in here so you'd have to take time out of work to go get them, but the winning side prefers efficiency and productivity, so you end up lugging everything inside.
  166. >By the time you've begun your task, the students have returned from recess.
  167. >Cheerilee greets them individually and prepares for class.
  168. >"Now children, take out your textbooks and open to page thirty four. We're going to learn about division today!"
  169. >Ha, have fun.
  170. >"Ms. Cheerilee, why is Anon sweeping the floor?" shouts an overzealous yellow child.
  171. >"Well, if you must know, Anon is my new assistant."
  172. >Wait, assistant? Isn't that a step up from janitor?
  173. >You smile and wave to her, proud of your accomplishment so early on.
  174. >"But, Ms. Cheerilee, he doesn't have magic."
  175. "But, Sweetie Belle, he is right behind you."
  176. >Sweetie, a puny white horse, unsimiliar to Rarity in every way save for the coat color, jumps at your voice and whips around to see you.
  177. >"Yeesh, don't sneak up on people like that."
  178. "You're where I need to clean."
  179. >You gesture to a spot of filth on the floor just underneath her chair.
  180. "And I don't need magic to work. I think I'm managing fine so far."
  181. >You don't need that crap to sweep. Ponies have it in their heads that anything without magic is helpless.
  182. >Yeah, well you're not helpless. You've done well enough for yourself so far.
  183. >You're just the only one who seems to be able to see that.
  185. >The good teacher stomps her hoof, reigning in the attention of her students again.
  186. >You still need to get that pile under her chair, so you tap Sweetie Belle with the broom and encourage her to move.
  187. >She scooches her chair forward, giving you access.
  188. >This is a process you continue for the rest of the division lesson and all the dust of the class has been collected in the time out corner.
  189. >At that point, you grab the stool and the feather duster to get working in the cobwebs.
  190. >This ends up taking longer than you thought it would.
  191. >The cobwebs in Equestria are significantly stronger than on Earth, so you really have to wrestle with them to make any progress.
  192. >After sufficient embarrassment on your part, the task and the school day have finished.
  193. >Now for those nasty stains.
  194. >You grab the scrub brush out of your little water bucket and sink down to your knees.
  195. >There's a certain orange stain you've been eyeing and it needs to go.
  196. >Vigorously, you assault it with the brush, leaning all your weight onto it.
  197. >It's not really disappearing. You'll need some powerful cleaning solution.
  198. >"Anon," you hear Cheerilee's voice call to you.
  199. >You prepare to stand, but when you look up from the floor and see her only inches away, you opt out.
  200. >Funny though, with you kneeling she's almost at eye level.
  201. >"You've done a wonderful job today, despite my expectations."
  202. >What's that supposed to mean?
  203. >"When you're finished scrubbing, you can go home. Come back here at six o'clock tomorrow and I'll show you what you'll be doing for the day."
  204. "Thank you, Cheerilee."
  205. >"And thank you. The school hasn't looked this neat in years."
  206. >Nice, Anon.
  207. >Real nice.
  208. >You collect some soap from the supply shed and with renewed willpower, completely destroy that stain.
  210. >You retreat home with the sun still high in the sky and with ten bits in your pocket.
  211. >The first bits you've ever had.
  212. >Gazing out the window of your abode, you reminisce on when you first planted your garden.
  213. >The ponies were shocked to see anything grow without a special earth pony touch, but you didn't have a job and you didn't want to starve, so the garden had to work.
  214. >Luckily, your father had a green thumb and taught you about all that junk before he passed away.
  215. >Well, you don't have a need for bits, so you just throw them in a drawer.
  216. >Maybe one day something will catch your fancy and you can buy it with whatever you've saved.
  217. >In the meantime, it's time to throw some wood into the fireplace, light that bad boy up, and do some reading.
  218. "What's on the shelf tonight?"
  219. >Having recently finished your book on unicorn physiology, you decide unicorn history would be nice and pull it down.
  220. >The first few chapters talk about boring shit nobody cares any like the first pony settlement and the materials used and all that jazz.
  221. >The next one, chapter four, discusses what you were really interested in.
  222. >How did unicorns react when they first learned they could channel magic through their horns?
  223. >Apparently not well.
  224. >Some of them went mad with power and tried to rule the world. All three tribes worth of it.
  225. >They were stopped by some good Samaritans who later on decided that their good deeds earned them the throne of the world.
  226. "Wow," you mutter. "Unicorns are dumb."
  227. >By chapter twenty, after three unicorn empires rose and fell in the span of fifteen years, it seems the ponies decided they needed a better leader, one more suited to ruling the three races.
  228. >The pooled their power and endowed the most worthy of them, an earth pony named Light Charger, with the greatest attributes of all three of the pony races.
  229. >He was reborn as the first alicorn.
  230. >It's at that point you notice that candlelight is the only thing helping you read and it's pitch dark out.
  231. >You turn an eye to your candlestick and examine the colored wax strips along its length.
  232. >The flame has eaten away to three strips from the bottom, so three hours to midnight.
  233. >Considering you need to be up early, you deem it best to head off to bed.
  235. >The next day, you arrive at the schoolhouse in time to meet Cheerilee at the gates.
  236. >”Morning.”
  237. “Morning.”
  238. >You push the picket gate open and stand aside to let her pass.
  239. >”Thanks.”
  240. “Yep.”
  241. >You follow her, closing the entrance behind you, and enter the schoolhouse.
  242. >”You did a wonderful job yesterday. I didn’t even remember what color the trim was until you cleared those webs.”
  243. >It was pretty cool of you to do all that.
  244. >Yeah, you did a nice job.
  245. >Take some pride in it, Anon.
  246. >The teacher takes you over to the cupboard lining the leftmost wall.
  247. >It reaches just barely to your hips and you have a bad feeling there’s going to be a lot of bending today.
  248. >She slides open one of the doors and reveals the inside.
  249. >It’s books. Lots of books.
  250. >They’re dirty, some tattered, and strewn about like nobody cared if when they threw them inside, they might land funny and bend a few pages.
  251. >Horrible. Terrible. You shudder to think about a library looking like this cupboard.
  252. >”As you can see, we could use some help in here. I’d like you to go through and neaten all this up.”
  253. “Is it just this one part?”
  254. >She shakes her head and trots along the length of the cupboard--that is, the whole wall--opening every door and showing more books in the same disarray as the first part.
  255. >”The one on the other side as well,” she says, pointing to the rightmost wall.
  256. “Alright. Yeah, no problem.”
  257. >”Don’t let me down, Anon. You’re on a roll so far,” she giggles.
  259. >You set yourself down, criss cross applesauce, and begin pulling books from the shelves.
  260. >Moving along the length of the cupboard, you empty out all the books and grab a washcloth to wipe the shelves down.
  261. >Then you do the same with the dirty books.
  262. >Those that are more physically beaten are easily repaired with tape and, in some rare cases, staples.
  263. >Everything else is as easy as putting them back.
  264. >Well, it was easy until you read their titles.
  265. >Easy Adding 1 2 3 and Advanced Writing Skills do not belong on the same shelf.
  266. >You picked up other books and began to examine them as well.
  267. >There was quite a jump in the subject matter here.
  268. >You should tell Cheerilee about it and see what she wants you to do.
  269. >Or…
  270. >You could take initiative and do what you want, then impress her later.
  271. >Maybe you’d get promoted from assistant to assistant teacher.
  272. >Yeah, let’s go with that.
  273. >You move to the other side of the room, now hugging the walls in your travels as the center is filled with young learning ponies, and do the same as you did on the left wall.
  274. >The cupboard is emptied, cleaned, and the books are repaired.
  275. >Then you begin working on organization.
  276. >It’s a simple but beautiful system you were excited to show your boss at the end of the day.
  277. >Huh. Boss. You didn’t think you’d be saying that anymore after Earth.
  278. “So I split the books up into their separate subject matters. Left wall is practical skills, right wall is creative skills. I also have them arranged by age, so the older fillies and colts don’t have to dig through the cupboards to find a relevant book.”
  280. >”Wow, and you did all this in a day too.”
  281. “Thank you.”
  282. >”Not bad for someone with no magic.”
  283. “Looks like you don’t need magic for everything,” you snap. “Besides, it’s not like earth pony strength would have helped with this. I think I did just fine, magic or no magic.”
  284. >After a second, you catch your tone and apologize.
  285. >”What was that about?”
  286. “It’s nothing. I’m sorry.”
  287. >Cheerilee eyed you curiously, but it didn’t go anywhere since she just shrugged and handed you another ten bits.
  288. >”Same time tomorrow, Anon.”
  289. “Actually, before I go, I was wondering if I could take a book.”
  290. >”Hm? Which one?”
  291. >You moved to the left side of the room and opened up the now dubbed History Section.
  292. >Removing the very last book, you held it up to her.
  293. >”A Study on the History of Magic and its Practical Uses as Identified by Scribble Scrabbler?”
  294. “Who’s going to read this old thing anyway?”
  295. >”Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to lend out. Just make sure to bring it back when you’re done.”
  296. “Will do. Thanks, Cheerilee.”
  297. >”No problem. See you tomorrow.”
  298. >You depart and race home to crack this bad boy open.
  300. >Once again, the sun is high when you make it back home.
  301. >It was three o’clock when you left the school, and it probably took about five minutes to get home, so when you take a new strip candle out to light it, you make sure to start at the nine mark.
  302. >Finally, after depositing your bits into the money drawer, you sit down on your comfy red chair and open up the new book.
  303. >Scribble Scrabbler introduces himself and gives a list of reasons, with each point lasting one or two pages, as to why he decided to write this book.
  304. >According to him, magic is the foundation of society. It is what allowed the ponies to rise up from the fields and build their pens.
  305. >It’s a boring read, but you trudge through until the good stuff.
  306. >Chapter One - An Insight into Primitive Magic Usage
  307. >This book seems to cover a much greater length of history than the unicorn book you began yesterday.
  308. >Whereas that covered the beginnings of traditional spells, this one encompasses magic uses by all the races.
  309. >Earth ponies are the first mentioned.
  310. >Scrabbler writes of their amazing strength, and how their ability to work day in and day out made them desirable mates.
  311. >Makes sense, you thought. Earth ponies outnumber the other races thirty to one. Not surprising if their genes were top shelf stuff back in the day.
  312. >Then it speaks of the pegasi, and how when they discovered they could manipulate the weather as well as fly, they began to take a much more integral role in the formation of society.
  313. >Farms began to expand and cover vast regions as the pegasi made sure earth ponies always had optimal conditions for their work.
  314. >All the while, unicorns sat around and watched, mostly feeding off the other two races like a parasite.
  316. >Chapter two talks about how one day, a certain unicorn by the name of Blackmane, later dubbed Blackmane the Great, was tired of being a useless, resource absorbing prick.
  317. >He offered his services to the earth ponies and found that he was totally inept at every task given to him.
  318. >Out of frustration, he imagined a plough flying through the air and shattering against a tree. To his surprise, it did.
  319. >You raise an eyebrow.
  320. “Awfully convenient.”
  321. >Well, he probably embellished the story after becoming “the Great”.
  322. >You doubt it was as easy as that.
  323. >Whatever, not your book.
  324. >You continue to read Scrabbler’s words.
  325. >The rest of the chapter is Blackmane trying to recreate the event and failing each time.
  326. >Chapter three tells of a horrifically cold winter.
  327. >The ponies risked freezing to death as none of them had the thought to install doors or heating in their little horse sheds.
  328. >You chuckle at the stupidity here. Yeah, that sounds like something they’d do.
  329. >Ponies aren’t real forward thinkers.
  330. >Anyway, Blackmane saw that his people were dropping by huge numbers, so he gave the ole’ telekinesis another go and fell a tree, which served to make a nice fire and warm them all up that night.
  331. >He thought he got the hang of things by then and began to use magic more and more.
  332. >When he was famous enough, he opened a school to teach others how to move objects with their minds.
  333. >Now it’s obvious, but back then, everyone was surprised when they found that only unicorns had this talent.
  334. >After years of teaching, one of Blackmane’s students decided to try some new magic instead of the same old moving thing.
  335. >The success with that new spell sparked centuries of unicorn experimentation as they tried to figure out all sorts of new ways to utilize magic.
  336. >Nice.
  337. >Thirteen chapters later and you find the candle is down to the three strip mark again.
  338. >You bookmark your spot and head off to sleep, eager to get to more reading after work tomorrow.
  340. >The next day, you meet Cheerilee at the school as per usual.
  341. >She tells you some playground equipment needs fixing, and since the class will be outside on the nice sunny day provided by Celestia, it’ll be the perfect time.
  342. >”Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two.”
  343. “Oh yeah, I bet.”
  344. >Ok, laying it on a little thick there, Cheerilee.
  345. >You’re magicless, not brainless.
  346. >First order of business is seeing what actually needs fixing.
  347. >The seesaw seems to be at an odd curve.
  348. >You examine it a little closer and see that the middle is sufficiently rotted is near the breaking point.
  349. “Right,” you say triumphantly. “Problem spotted.”
  350. >What’s in the supply shed for you?
  351. >A hammer, some nails, crazy glue, your buck--
  352. >Wait, what?
  353. >You examine the bottle of glue a little more closely.
  354. “Super Crazy Glue...made with real honey.”
  355. >Oh, ok. No horses died to make this gl--
  356. >Wait, what?
  357. >You can’t make glue with honey.
  358. >The label on the back proves you wrong.
  359. “100% Natural Greatbee Honey, fortified with Grade A magic.”
  360. >Should have guessed.
  361. >Yeah, what can’t magic do?
  362. >It does everything in this god forsaken world, so why not turn honey into glue?
  363. >Whatever. You don’t even care right now.
  364. >That’s a lie. You care a lot.
  365. >However, it’s not the task at hand.
  366. >Eventually, your eyes land on a nice, long plank about the size of that on the seesaw.
  368. >You grab a wrench and a screwdriver along with the aforementioned plank and head out to the playground.
  369. >The class is already there in a half circle before Cheerilee.
  370. >”Hi, Mr. Anon!” a few of them call out.
  371. >You smile and wave to them, then set up at the seesaw.
  372. >The repair isn’t so quick.
  373. >It must have taken you about forty-five minutes in all.
  374. >Still though, it gets done, and the old rotted plank is disposed of.
  375. >Next you move onto the swings.
  376. >It seems to just be a few loose bolts, so you climb up the pole and get to work on those.
  377. >In the process, you manage to overhear Cheerilee’s lesson.
  378. >It does interest you a bit, so may as well tune in.
  379. >”Now, many ponies credit Starswirl the Bearded for being the greatest unicorn, but that title actually belongs to Shire Sunbeam.”
  380. >Well, that’s debatable.
  381. >She takes an apple from out of nowhere and huffs on it, shining up the crimson skin.
  382. >”Nice apple, right, class?”
  383. >”Yes, Ms. Cheerilee!”
  384. >”Well, Shire is attributed with the creation of many spells, including the first, which he used to change an apple’s skin color from red to green! Can you imagine that?”
  385. >The children ooh and aah as children do, but you only furrow your brow.
  386. “That’s wrong.”
  387. >”I’m sorry?”
  388. “I said that’s wrong.”
  389. >”Anon, please. I’m the teacher here. I’m pretty sure it’s true.”
  390. >You tighten the last bolt on the swingset and hop down, landing on a packed down spot of dirt.
  391. “Half true, but half true is another way of saying wrong.”
  393. >The purple mare’s eyes dart across the class nervously.
  394. >She regains her composure and pushes her chest out, speaking with confidence.
  395. >”Alright, Mr. Human.”
  396. >You don’t like the emphasis she put on that word.
  397. >”Why don’t you tell the class your interpretation of pony history?”
  398. >Damn, you’re so going to lose your job.
  399. >Still though, you can’t let something like that slide.
  400. “You’re right that Shire Goldbeam is credited with many the creation of many spells, but you’re forgetting something important.”
  401. >”Oh?”
  402. “The definition of a spell is a deliberate use of magic, channeled through a unicorn’s horn, for a clear and defined purpose. Shire Sunbeam is responsible for the first named spell, Applus Changius, but he didn’t make the first spell. That honor belongs to Blackmane the Great.”
  403. >The teacher shakes her head.
  404. >”Blackmane used Shire’s spells to begin the first of the dark empires. How could you ever attribute something like the first spell to such a vile stallion?”
  405. “Vile or not, he created the first spell. It was telekinesis, and he used it often. Shire learned it from him, actually. After Shire made a name for himself making spells based on Blackmane’s teachings, Blackmane wanted similar fame and used them to gain power.”
  406. >”Your story sounds like a bad drama.”
  407. “It is, but it’s true.”
  408. >”The Blackmane Empire didn’t even rise until the twentieth year. How could he have made the first spell, huh?”
  409. “He made it before the empire. Obviously he had plenty of time to hone his skills before he took over the world. Or do you think hundreds of other unicorns armed with magic just sat back and let some random stallion subjugate them?”
  410. >”Class, it’s recess time. Anonymous, come see me in the schoolhouse.”
  411. >”Yaaaay!”
  412. >”Let’s go on the seesaw!”
  413. >Your face begins to heat up as you follow Cheerilee inside.
  414. >You’re so going to get fired.
  415. >You goofed, Anon.
  416. >You should have kept your mouth shut.
  417. >Still though, at least you set the record straight.
  418. >Well...tried. You doubt the kids understood anything and you know Cheerilee will never agree with you.
  419. >Well gee, when you put it like that, you lost your job over nothing.
  420. >Good one, Anon.
  422. >You enter the one-room school a few steps ahead of Cheerilee, who held the door open and closed it firmly behind you.
  423. >She trotted up and glared at you with eyes you hadn’t seen on her before.
  424. >If she were a few feet taller and not purple, it would be intimidating.
  425. >As it stands now, it’s just disappointing.
  426. >”What was that back there?”
  427. “I, well, you know,” you stumble over your words, looking for a way to explain yourself that would reduce the damage done.
  428. >”You, well, I know what? Spit it out.”
  429. “You were wrong. I don’t know what else to say.”
  430. >”Anon, where did you get your degree?”
  431. “I’m sorry?”
  432. >”Your degree, Anon. Where did you get it?”
  433. “I don’t have a degree?”
  434. >”Oh, really? That’s funny, because I have one.”
  435. >She moseys on over to her desk and opens up a drawer.
  436. >The mare produces a small framed piece of paper and hands it to you.
  437. >”You see this? This means I went to school and I passed. I’m certified to be a teacher.”
  438. “Wow. You must be so proud.”
  439. >”What I am is qualified. You’re not. How dare you try and humiliate me in front of my students like that.”
  440. >You give the frame back to her and watch as she carefully, ever so gently puts it away.
  441. >When done, you receive another dose of the stink eye.
  442. >”What do you have to say for yourself?”
  443. “I’m sorry.”
  444. >”Are you?”
  445. “Yes, I’m very sorry. It will never happen again.”
  447. >Cheerilee lifts her head and steps closer to you.
  448. >”Out of the kindness of my heart, I took you in and gave you a job. I want you to let me know it wasn’t a mistake.”
  449. “It wasn’t.”
  450. >”Then you admit you were wrong?”
  451. >Oh come on.
  452. >This is going overboard.
  453. >It was one little slip, yeah?
  454. “Yes,” you mutter.
  455. >”Then say it.”
  456. “Say what?”
  457. >”Say you were wrong.”
  458. “I,” your words get caught in your throat.
  459. >”I’m waiting.”
  460. >Come on, Anon.
  461. >Get it over with.
  462. >Even though you’re right, it’s not worth losing a job over.
  463. >You just began to dream smaller. Why ruin it all now over one little dispute?
  464. “I was…”
  465. >Right. You were so goddamn right.
  466. >That’s not what she wants to hear though. Go on, “admit” you were wrong.
  467. >”Honestly, I don’t know what you were thinking. You don’t even have any magic, but you saw fit to correct a teacher on its history.”
  468. “I was wrong.”
  469. >”That’s be--”
  470. “About this school. Keep the bits; I quit.”
  471. >You spin on your heels and throw the door open.
  472. >Minimal light breaks into the room as the sun is hidden behind a few clouds.
  473. >Without waiting to hear her response, you leave.
  474. >For where, you’re not sure, but it’s better than that room with that woman.
  476. >Your bad mood follows you, weighing on your shadow and making other ponies weary of you as you maneuver through town square.
  477. >You stare at them, each waist-high horse, with contempt.
  478. >They look down on you. You know it.
  479. >Poor little Anonymous, helpless in one big magical world.
  480. >You sneer and pick up the pace, now set on getting home so you can lock your door and keep away from these ponies.
  481. >God, you were so stupid.
  482. >How could you think you’d fit in with them?
  483. >Even when you do everything right, there’s still that barrier. That one obstacle you can never overcome.
  484. >Speaking of, the element of it bumps into you as you’re walking and knock it over.
  485. >”Oh, I’m sorry!”
  486. >The clouds overhead begin to part somewhat, better illuminating Twilight as she picks herself up out of the dirt.
  487. >”I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there,” she starts, eyes suddenly landing on you. “Anon! Hey, it’s been a while.”
  488. “It has.”
  489. >You shuffle past her and keep on your way.
  490. >”Hey, wait.”
  491. >No.
  492. >The loudening sound of hooves pounding on dirt tells you she didn’t take the hint.
  493. >”Anon, what’s wrong?”
  494. “Go away.”
  495. >”That’s not very nice.”
  496. “Isn’t it? Sorry, let me rephrase it then.”
  497. >You turn and lower your face to hers.
  498. “Go away. Now.”
  499. >That should do it.
  500. >”No.”
  501. >Or not.
  502. >”What kind of friend would I be if I let someone go on knowing they were in trouble?”
  503. “In trouble?” you laugh. “I’m not in trouble, I’m free! No more obligations here, Twilight. I just lost a job. Isn’t that great?”
  504. >”You had a job?”
  505. “Yes!”
  507. >The lavender mare shrinks back at your voice.
  508. “I took your advice. I dreamed smaller. I swallowed my pride and I put myself out there, and what did it get me? Another talking too about how I don’t have magic. I must look so goddamn stupid to you, huh? I don’t have magic so I don’t know shit! I can’t do shit!”
  509. >”Anon,” she stutters, “I didn’t know you felt that way.”
  510. “Whatever. I’m done.”
  511. >”No, wait, don’t go.”
  512. >Too late. You’re practically jogging down the road to get away from her.
  513. >Before long, you’re back home.
  514. >You slam the door shut and lock it, followed by closing all the blinds, just to be extra sure nobody thinks you’re available.
  515. >You don’t even bother getting a candle to light.
  516. >The darkness is just fine, you think.
  517. >Locating your red chair by instinct, you plot yourself down and grip the arms, digging your fingers into them.
  518. >No other input available, your breathing assaults your own senses.
  519. >You become acutely aware of how heavy it is, how it makes your chest shake, and how it warms your core.
  520. >You try to calm down and steady it, but the more difficulty you have doing that, the more it riles you up.
  521. >In a fit, you feel for the school book on your side table and grab it.
  522. >It flies across the room, smashing into a wall and knocking something unseen over, shattering it as well.
  523. “Fuck!”
  525. >Where is your goddamn door?
  526. >Right there, the only spot in the house with light spilling from beneath the crack.
  527. >Marching over, you throw it open and exit into the world.
  528. >A few yards away is a thick log secured in place by a circle of rocks.
  529. >In said log is lodged your axe.
  530. >You take it out, load up the wooden chopping block with some unsplit logs, and hack away.
  531. >The chunk, which usually takes a few swings to get through, splits down the middle.
  532. >After loading another one up, you picture the schoolhouse and let it rip.
  533. >The log flies apart under your force.
  534. >Then the next one, and the next one, and the next one.
  535. >From wholes to halves to quarters, you completely decimate the waiting log pile.
  536. >By the end, you’re completely out of breath.
  537. >Your hands are blistered and your fingers refuse to open any further than what was necessary to hold the axe.
  538. >They tremble with tiredness and pain, screaming at you to end the day.
  539. >You gaze at your work and decide to listen to them.
  540. >After retreating inside, you wash your hands and bandage the blisters.
  541. >Next order of business is sleep. And lots of it.
  542. >You disrobe and climb into bed, nestling yourself under the covers.
  543. >As you close your eyes, you realize you’re no longer mad.
  544. >Well, in comparison to earlier, at least.
  545. >Another pang of rage runs through you when you note that you don’t have to wake up for work tomorrow, but you can live with it enough to go to sleep.
  546. >Right now, the urge to sleep is more powerful than the urge to break your own property.
  547. >Your body knows what’s best for you, so you let it give it the wheel and let it take you off to sleep.
  549. >You awake the next morning, peeling your eyes open slowly.
  550. >Well, it’s probably morning.
  551. >There’s really no way of knowing unless you went into town and looked at a clock.
  552. >Maybe you should get to building a sundial.
  553. “No,” you groan.
  554. >The rocks in Equestria, like the trees, are also more troublesome than on Earth. They’re as strong as iron.
  555. >The time to take on such a project is certainly available, but not the patience. You’d be tearing your eyes out before it was halfway done.
  556. >Instead, you settle for pulling yourself out of bed and getting some tea started.
  557. >The palms of your hands do most of the work in this process, as your fingers are still throbbing from yesterday’s exploits.
  558. >Once you have a nice blaze going in the fireplace, you set the pot down near it and locate the mess you made yesterday.
  559. >The schoolbook is there, open, sitting face down on a couple now bent pages.
  560. >Beside it are the glass shards from a framed picture.
  561. >Your heart sinks as your mind works together what that means.
  562. >You kneel down and lift the picture and frame off the floor, brushing some dust off of it.
  563. >It’s of you and your father. You were just a boy in this picture.
  564. >The day it was taken flashes in your mind.
  565. >He had just taught you how to fish, saying it would be a useful skill.
  566. >When you caught your first fish, a sense of such pride overwhelmed you.
  567. >”That’s good,” he said. “Never let go of that feeling.”
  568. >Then you posed for the camera, got the picture, and kept it with you ever since.
  569. >It was one of the only things you had on your person when you were dropped into Equestria from the sky.
  571. >You remove the picture from the frame and pocket it.
  572. >It belongs close to you.
  573. >The book also finds its way into your hands.
  574. >Funny enough, it landed on just the page you left off on.
  575. >Chapter Fourteen - The First Charm
  576. >The first thing Scrabbler does is fill you in on the difference between a charm and an enchantment.
  577. >A charm is a weak alteration to an object that will only last for a finite amount of time. A teacup that is charmed to be hot will be hot for about ten minutes. Apparently, the longest charm ever cast lasted thirty minutes.
  578. >Enchantments are significantly stronger and can be used on both objects and living organisms. They will also last as long as they are fed magic, so in theory, it could last forever if new unicorns took on the duty of powering it when the last died.
  579. >It’s also noted that enchantments can be split up into five subcategories, but that those won’t come into play until the later chapters.
  580. >Not wanting to waste any time on it, you fetch that cup of tea, reload the fireplace, and get to reading.
  581. >It’s a quiet day and you spend all of it like that.
  582. >What? The garden was fine, you have your wood chopped for the next month, and you don’t have to go to work.
  583. >It’s a fine day to be lazy and read.
  584. >Where were you? Ah, yes.
  585. >Chapter Thirty-Three - The Next Level, an Enchantment Born
  586. >According to this, enchantments followed soon after charms, about 2500 years ago.
  588. >You've been making your way through Ponyville all day, questioning passerbys.
  589. >Wait, why are you in Ponyville?
  590. >Oh yeah, because you're Twilight Sparkle.
  591. “Hey, Colgate,” you call to the mint green mare.”
  592. >”I told you my name is Minuette.”
  593. “Say, have you heard anything about Anon getting a job recently?”
  594. >”Anon?”
  595. >She rubs her chin in thought.
  596. >Slowly, then more confidently, she begins to nod.
  597. >”Yeah, yeah I think I heard Roseluck mention it.”
  598. >Roseluck? Huh, you never figured Anon for a florist.
  599. >Off to see Roseluck then.
  600. “Thanks, Colgate.”
  601. >”Minuette.”
  602. >You arrive at the Ponyville Flower Shop after a bit and enter.
  603. >An array of scents assault your senses.
  604. >Roses, lilies, tulips, and even birds of paradise.
  605. >”Welcome to Ponyville Flower Shop.”
  606. >Roseluck waves to you from behind the counter.
  607. >”Oh, hey, Twilight. Here for some daffodils again?”
  608. “No, I stopped having those dreams months ago.”
  609. >”Just let me know when you want to end it.”
  610. >You eye some tasty looking dandelions as you near her.
  611. >Maybe later when you’re not busy.
  612. “Actually, I did want your help with something. Do you have a minute?”
  613. >”I could spare one for the princess.”
  614. >Your eyes roll at the mention of that.
  615. >Yes, yes, you’re a princess. Woo hoo.
  616. “I was wondering if you’d heard anything about Anon getting a job.”
  617. >”You bet I did. Grab a chair, marefriend. Have I got a story for you!”
  619. >The mare puts a bowl of hay between you and settles herself in.
  620. >There aren’t any chairs in the store, so you just continue to stand.
  621. >”So I was out with Cheerilee last night and she told me all about one of her employees.”
  622. >Cheerilee? But she runs the schoolhouse.
  623. >Oh...he didn’t just dream smaller. He really did take all of your advice.
  624. >”Apparently Anon went up to her a few days ago and asked for a job. Can you believe that? I mean, what’s he expect to do with no magic anyway?”
  625. “More than you’d think,” you interrupt her.
  626. >”Sure, ok. Anyway, she gives him some grunt work for a few days, gives him a nice salary and all, the works.”
  627. >She takes a break for some hay.
  628. >It does look tasty, and it’s not like you’re going anywhere.
  629. >Aw, what the Hell.
  630. >You dig in too, grabbing a mouthful as she begins to speak again.
  631. >”So then, I guess he decides he just hates her after everything she did for him, so he humiliates her in front of the whole class!”
  632. “He what?!”
  633. >”I know! Can you imagine that?”
  634. >You find that hard to believe.
  635. >Still, he was in a bad mood when you saw him.
  636. >Maybe something set him off that day and he just lashed out at her.
  637. >It doesn’t sound like something he’d do, but considering you also never knew how he felt about magic, you’re not really an authority on how he’d act.
  638. “What did he say?”
  639. >”I don’t remember all of it, but something about how great Blackmane was.”
  640. >You slam your hooves down on the counter and pull yourself toward her.
  641. “THE Blackmane?”
  642. >”Yep.”
  643. >Oh, Anon, what have you done?
  645. >You have to talk to him right away.
  646. >After thanking Roseluck for her time, you trot away.
  647. >Once you’re out of the store, you unfurl your wings and take to the air.
  648. >Anon’s house is only a few strong wing flaps away.
  649. >Before long, the tiny, crude cabin becomes visible past the tree layer he left between it and Ponyville.
  650. >You land directly in front of his door and begin pounding on it.
  651. >No response.
  652. >Frowning, you start again.
  653. >Still, he doesn’t come.
  654. >On the way here, you saw the smoke flowing out from his chimney, so you know right darn well he’s home.
  655. >The man is just playing hard to get.
  656. >Fine, he wants to play that game? You’ll play hard to ditch.
  657. >You channel your magic and cast a spell on the door, making it vibrate violently and produce a knock each time.
  658. >If that doesn’t get him out, you’re liable to just barge right in.
  659. >Come on, Anon.
  660. >Answer the door.
  661. >You tap your hoof in the dirt, anxiously awaiting his response.
  662. >Ah ha!
  663. >You see the knob begin to turn.
  664. >Anon opens the door slowly, just in time for the time on your spell to run out.
  665. >He turns his eyes from it to you, slowly, and asks “A charm?”
  666. >You raise an eyebrow.
  667. “How’d you know?”
  668. >And there he goes trying to close it on you.
  669. >Not so fast!
  670. >You jam your hoof in the door and force your way inside.
  671. “We need to talk.”
  672. >”This is home invasion. I’m legally obligated to call the police.”
  673. “Ponyville doesn’t have a police force.”
  674. >”Damn.”
  676. >You march past him and enter the dark house.
  677. >There’s one corner in the living room with a fireplace that illuminates the soft red chair and a large bookcase nearby.
  678. >Preferring the light yourself, enter the room and idly examine the bookcase he has.
  679. >A few of the titles catch your eye, and you look more closely.
  680. >Types of Magic, An Anthology of Magical Fables, Magical Items and Where to Find Them, Mother Unicorn’s Tall Tales, and a bunch of other books you distinctly remember leaving outside your castle on the free book cart.
  681. >This is where they went!
  682. >You were wondering why so many of them started disappearing months ago. Nobody ever takes interest in your free books.
  683. “I have to say, your taste is,” you pause, looking for the right word so as not to offend. “Surprising.”
  684. >”What can I say? I like to learn. Right now I’d like to learn why you’re here and what I can do to make you leave.”
  685. “I’m here to talk and I’m not leaving until we settle this.”
  686. >”Settle what?”
  687. >He finally enters the light with you and sits himself down in the red chair.
  688. “I know you’re feeling angry and upset over something, and I don’t want it to consume you.”
  689. >You approach him and lay a hoof on his knee.
  690. “So we’re going to talk it out and clear your mind.”
  691. >”What could you possibly know? Oh, wait, I’m sorry. Everything.”
  692. “See? You’re lashing out. Whatever’s going on in your head isn’t healthy.”
  693. >”Don’t you psychoanalyze me.”
  694. “I’m not. I’m being a friend.”
  695. >”I didn’t ask you to.”
  696. “You didn’t have to.”
  697. >Anon glares at you, eating through your eyes and grabbing your heart.
  698. “Come on. Talk to me.”
  700. >The anger in his eyes slowly melts away.
  701. >He must notice it too because he turns from you and looks off into the dark.
  702. >Figuring it best to let him think, you keep your mouth shut and sit down near the fire.
  703. >Your coat is instantly warmed by the flames reaching out, trying to stroke you.
  704. >It’s at least two minutes before he opens his mouth and utters a word.
  705. >”Everything in this world runs on magic. The animals, the plants, even the earth itself,” he mutters. “But here I am with nothing.”
  706. “That’s not true. Look at this house! You’ve done great for yourself.”
  707. >”Two hundred years ago, this would have been expected of a man. I haven’t done great for myself, I’ve done average by my standards and pitiful by your own.”
  708. “Who says you’re pitiful?”
  709. >His eyes dart back to you, locking onto yours in an instant.
  710. >”Oh, don’t worry, Anon. Nobody expects that out of you,” he says in a high mocking tone. “You’re just a human. You’re just frail boy. What do you expect to do out there? Leave the hero work to us!”
  711. “That’s not fair; I was looking out for you.”
  712. >”I didn’t ask you to. Oh, sorry, I forgot I didn’t need to ask.”
  713. >Why, you oughta…
  714. >You were only trying to do the right thing!
  715. >He is frail. He is little. How could you, in good conscience, let a magic-less ball of flesh run around on adventures that even you and your friends struggle with sometimes?
  716. >You hang your head and sigh as the next thought comes over you.
  717. >Despite his shortcomings, he is an adult. Moreover, he’s your friend.
  718. >Those decisions are his to make, not yours.
  719. “I’m sorry.”
  720. >”What?”
  721. “I said I’m sorry. You’re right, Anon. I was trying to protect you and I never stopped to think about how you might feel.”
  722. >”You say that, but you don’t mean it.”
  724. “What do you mean? Of course I meant it.”
  725. >”No, you probably feel some sense of guilt because you’re obligated to knowing you’ve hurt my feelings. What does that change? I still have no magic and that’s what really matters here. There’s a gap between us that can never be closed!”
  726. >Your eyes widen as he carries on about how nobody in Ponyville respects him, how all he sees is judgmental stares and all he hears are whispers behind his back.
  727. “I don’t believe that,” you spout without thinking. “I know the ponies here. They’re kind.”
  728. >”How long did it take Zeccora to get to know the ponies?”
  729. >Oh...yeah, that’s right.
  730. >”I might not be some zebra freak like her, but hell, I’m even worse off! I’m tired of it!”
  731. >Your eyes begin to widen.
  732. >”If I had magic, things would be different around here!”
  733. >You never knew he harbored such anger.
  734. >Twilight, you’re the princess of friendship.
  735. >How could you have let this build up inside of him for so long?
  736. >Is it even worth talking to him at this point?
  737. >Of course he is. What are you thinking?
  738. >A friend is never a lost cause.
  739. >Anon can still be saved!
  740. “You don’t need magic to show the ponies you’re worthwhile. Prove it to them.”
  741. >”That’s so easy for you to say, isn’t it? Can you believe it? The element of magic lecturing me on how to deal with this!”
  742. “Hey, I haven’t had an easy time either. I spent my life locked in a library, buried in my studies. Learning how to make and keep friends was really hard.”
  743. >”Oh, cry me a river!”
  744. “Why? So you have another barrier between you and town?”
  745. >”What’s that supposed to mean?”
  746. “Look at you, Anon! You built a cabin on the edge of Ponyville behind some trees, you hardly ever come out unless it’s for a chat or apparently some books, and you bombed your first job glorifying Blackmane! Magic isn’t the issue; you are!”
  748. >Just then, you hear panic coming from the direction of Ponyville.
  749. >You’re quite a ways off from town, so if you’re hearing something, it must be serious.
  750. >You gallop out of the house and take to the sky.
  751. >Your wings can’t go fast enough, but after what feels like far too much time, you made it out over the town.
  752. >Below you is a scene straight out of a horror moving tapestry.
  753. >The ponies are running all over the place, shouting for their lives as a manticore tears through the streets.
  754. >Luckily, your friends are already on the scene, trying to contain it.
  755. >You pull in your wings and drop to the ground, throwing up a cloud of dirt as you land.
  756. “What is going on here?” you shout.
  757. >”A lil’ bit late to the hoedown there Twahligh’!”
  758. >The dirt settles and leaves the manticore in your plain view.
  759. >It lifts its enormous paw over the cabbage cart as if to smash it.
  760. >Not on your watch!
  761. >You wrap the cart in a telekinetic field and pull it away before the delicious foodstuff can be ruined.
  762. >Instead, the monster’s paw slams into the cooled ground.
  763. >”Alright, I’ve had enough of this guy!”
  764. >Rainbow Dash rockets towards the manticore, leaving a rainbow trail behind her.
  765. >The speedster’s hooves meet with its chest, causing what you can only imagine to be an obscene amount of damage.
  766. >To your shock, it doesn’t make a sound.
  767. >The creature glares at Rainbow Dash not in anger, spite, or even pain.
  768. >Its eyes hold nothing.
  769. >”Uh, guys? I think we got a weird one.”
  770. >”Ah’ll reckon ya dun knocked its voice box out.”
  771. >Applejack lassos the thing and pulls it tight, digging the rope into its muscles.
  772. >With just a flex, the manticore rips through her trap and grabs onto Rainbow Dash.
  774. >You half expect it to crush her, but her following screams aren’t ones of pain.
  775. >”Hold on, darling,” cries Rarity as she jumps into action, only to be swatted away without a second thought.
  776. >”Twilight, do something!”
  777. >A paralysis spell would take too long. Who knows if it will snap and just squish your friend?
  778. >You don’t want to hurt it, but it’s not like there’s an option right now. It’s do or die.
  779. >You lower your head and charge, hoping your horn will damage the monster enough to take its attention off of Dash.
  780. >That does all of nothing though, since you go flying the same as Rarity.
  781. >Unlucky for you, you fall in just the wrong way and strain your horn.
  782. >An attempt to channel your magic proves useless.
  783. >A sense of dread washes over you as it hits you how helpless you are right now.
  784. >You’re struggling to find a solution when a familiar voice takes you out of your thought.
  785. >Looking up, you see a certain green man charging at the manticore with an axe raised over his head.
  786. “Anon, no!”
  787. >”Other way, lil’ feller!”
  788. >He ignores your pleas and swings at the manticore’s arm.
  789. >The blade of his axe disappears into its flesh sequentially frees Rainbow from its grip.
  790. >”Go now!” he yells at her, pulling his axe free.
  791. >The manticore takes a swing at him but misses.
  792. >Anon leaps back just out of reach. Mostly.
  793. >His shirt is caught on the beast’s claws and tears open, but the lack of blood tells you he’s otherwise fine.
  794. “Anon, go home! We’ve got this!”
  795. >”Like hell!”
  796. >He darts to the side and takes a swing at its legs.
  797. >Once more, he hits, and cuts a chunk out of the muscle down there.
  799. >The manticore is bleeding profusely, but still utters no sound or emotional response.
  800. >Instead it turns and, despite the loss of strength on its left side, rears up on its hind legs, completely shrouding Anon.
  801. >You want to close your eyes, but you’re glued to the scene.
  802. >”Darling, get out of there!”
  803. >Applejack comes to the rescue, charging in much like you did, but is shooed away.
  804. >Not by the monster, but by Anon.
  805. “Why isn’t it doing anything?” you mutter to yourself.
  806. >The beast waits there, only looking at them talk, as Anon tells Applejack to leave.
  807. >When he’s done and their eyes meet again, for just a second, it seemed as if they had an understanding between them.
  808. >Suddenly, the manticore swipes at Anon, getting him right in the shoulder.
  809. >Your friend topples to the ground.
  810. >The monster is upon him and opens its razor-tooth lined mouth.
  811. >It bites at him, but he manages to keep it at bay by jamming the handle of his axe in its mouth.
  812. >They struggle like that. Well, you assume struggle. The manticore isn’t showing any signs of it, but the grunts and bulging veins from Anon are indicators of the effort he’s putting into it.
  813. >You can’t bear to watch this.
  814. >Forget what he said. This isn’t some honor duel, it’s life or death!
  815. >You get to your hooves, ignoring the pounding in your skull, and look for anything to use against the manticore.
  816. >The aforementioned cart comes to mind. Cabbage Joe always keeps a knife on hand to cut his goods up.
  817. >You’re not exactly sure how much good it will do, but it’s better than nothing.
  818. >You trot over and find the knife hidden under some cabbages.
  819. >Taking it into your mouth, you run over and leap onto the manticore’s back.
  821. >You stab and cut and do everything you can to get its attention.
  822. >It seems to work, since you can feel its back shift as if getting up.
  823. >Oh, no. That was its tail. Silly you.
  824. >Its armored tail wraps around you hoists you off its back.
  825. >You’re flung into the air and crash into the cart, shattering it to pieces.
  826. >As if your head didn’t hurt enough, your entire body now throbs.
  827. >You can barely pick yourself up from that one.
  828. >Forced to watch, you gaze on as Anon manages to slide himself out from under the creature and roll away.
  829. >The manticore chases after him.
  830. >He begins swinging wildly with the axe, cutting at its chest and hands, sometimes smacking it with the back.
  831. “Anon, run…”
  832. >He’s nimble. The claws graze him a few times, tearing some nasty gashes across his body, but nothing life threatening.
  833. >Finally, the beast rears up on its hind legs again and raises its arms high, ready to totally crush him.
  834. >Anon takes the opening and with the axe, cuts a deep hole right in its throat.
  835. >The manticore stumbles back, landing on its paws.
  836. >You can see the life slowly drain from its hollow eyes.
  837. >Then, in one last act of defiance, it raises its tail.
  838. >”Yeah, welcome to Brookly--”
  839. >You can hear the crack on that hit.
  840. >Anon’s small frame is lifted off the ground from the whip of the manticore’s tail.
  841. >He flies nearly ten yards before crashing through the doors of Sugarcube corner, ripping them off their hinges.
  842. >Finally, the manticore closes its eyes and drops, defeated.
  844. -----
  846. >Your hooves tap on a flight of stairs as you descend from the top floor.
  847. >There’s a bundle of books floating just a few feet behind you, wrapped in your lavender aura.
  848. >Down on the first floor is Spike. He is whistling a chipper tune whilst organizing the piles of books onto a big old cart.
  849. >When you drop the next pile beside him, it breaks his concentration.
  850. >The baby dragon visibly deflates and gives you a sheepish look.
  851. >”More? Twilight, you’re just draining the whole library at this point.”
  852. “Not the whole thing. Just relevant subjects.”
  853. >He huffs and hops off the wooden platform.
  854. >Spike picks up a book off the floor and eyes it curiously.
  855. >”I wouldn’t exactly call this one a relevant subject.”
  856. “I figured if we’re going to stop in Canterlot, we might as well stock up on a few titles for my personal collection.”
  857. >Spike squints at you and slowly puts the book in question onto the cart, starting a new pile near the back for the less “relevant subjects” to go in.
  858. >”I just hope these don’t collect too much dust sitting in the castle.”
  859. “They won’t; he’ll be up soon. I can feel it.”
  860. >”Twilight, it’s been almost a week.”
  861. “Keep it up and I’ll bring down so many books it takes you a almost week to organize them.”
  862. >”And leave your old library empty?”
  863. “Just load,” you grunt and exit the library-observatory hybrid.
  865. >From the balcony just outside, you overlook the unicorn capital of Equestria.
  866. >It’s just as busy as it always was.
  867. >Tens of thousands of ponies run around, lost in the hype of each moment, not even realizing when the next one comes.
  868. >Even from all the way up here, you can hear the general hum of magic as leagues of ponies cast spell after spell so far away from you.
  869. >Anon would hate this place as much as he hates Ponyville.
  870. >Hated?
  871. >There hasn’t really been an opportunity to ask him about his feelings since that day, but you can only hope that his selflessness was a sign that he had opened his heart.
  872. >You’ll have to ask him about it when he wakes up.
  873. >As you contemplate that, Spike throws the door to your old library open and drags the cart outside.
  874. >”All strapped down and ready to go.”
  875. “Good.”
  876. >You maneuver yourself into the harness and unfurl your wings.
  877. >Typically, you wouldn’t be strong enough to move something this heavy but magic solves the problem for you.
  878. >A quick Weightus Decreaseus spell makes the cart significantly lighter.
  879. >Without any more thought, you take to the air, leaving Canterlot and the run down library behind.
  880. >”So do you think he’ll actually like this stuff?” Spike asks after a minute.
  881. “Of course.”
  882. >”I don’t know. Magical Theory and Thauman Dynamics don’t really seem like things a guy like him would enjoy.”
  883. >Yeah, that’s a thought you once shared.
  884. >Clearly your judgmental attitude has led you down the wrong path.
  885. >At least with him, anyway.
  887. >Enough of that, Twilight.
  888. >You can’t look to the future if you’re always dwelling on the past.
  889. >Speaking of the past, Ponyville peeks out of the horizon.
  890. >As you approach, you slow your flight and lower to the ground.
  891. >You’re engaged in a comfortable trot by the time you touch down.
  892. >You roll up to your castle, prompting Spike to get off.
  893. >He helps you undo the harness. It’s kind of a one-way thing, so the extra hands are needed to undo some of the attachments.
  894. “You know where to separate the piles.”
  895. >Your assistant nods confidently and salutes as you open the door for him.
  896. >You have...well, you don’t want to call them “better” things to do, since helping Spike sort the books would be just as--for lack of a better word--noble.
  897. >It’s just that what you’re about to do is somewhat more important to you.
  898. >Or rather, it’s something that you don’t want to wait for.
  899. >Look, what you’re trying to say is that you’re going to visit Anon.
  900. >He gets behind the cart and pushes it in. Once past the door, you close it and make way for Ponyville General Hospital.
  901. >As you enter through the large glass doors, you spot Nurse RedHeart sitting behind the check-in desk.
  902. “Hi, Nurse.”
  903. >RedHeart picks her head up from whatever paper she was working on.
  904. >When her eyes meet yours, they almost pop out of her head.
  905. >“Twilight,” she shouts, jumping out from behind the desk. “You have to come!”
  906. “What happened?” you prod, catching up to her as she starts to gallop up a flight of stairs.
  908. >You stop at the third floor and follow her down a long, tacky blue hallway.
  909. >“It happened!”
  910. >It? THE it?
  911. >Oh, gosh!
  912. >The two of you dig your hooves into the floor and grind to a halt right in front of Room 1213.
  913. >You can barely contain your excitement as RedHeart reaches her snow white hoof out and turns the knob.
  914. >She doesn’t even have a chance to open it before you’re pushing past her, forcing it yourself.
  915. >The room past the doorway is a slightly darker shade of blue than the hallway, save for the green wall molding and ceiling.
  916. >In the middle of it is a bed surrounded by a few chairs and many out of place tables that had to be placed in the room to accommodate all the flowers.
  917. >There, on the bed, is Anonymous.
  918. >He’s sitting up, staring out the window of the room.
  919. “Anon!”
  920. >He looks to you, his pensive stare unwavering, as you come up to his bed.
  921. “I’m so glad you’re awake! It’s been so long!”
  922. >”I heard.”
  923. >The tone of his voice is off putting.
  924. >It sounds much more dull than what you would expect out of someone that had just woken up after a week.
  925. >He shifts uncomfortably, resting his right arm on the provided pad.
  926. >It’s bandaged all the way up to his shoulder. There are more covering his chest, but those are hidden by his pale blue gown.
  927. “So, how do you feel?”
  928. >He stares at you, unanswering.
  929. “Anon?”
  930. >”Sorry, I’m just waiting.”
  931. “Waiting for what?”
  932. >”For you to dart out of here without a goodbye again.”
  933. “What do you mean?”
  934. >He scoffed and looked away, returning his gaze to the window.
  936. >RedHeart entered the room at that moment.
  937. >She had some papers in her mouth that she placed on his bedside table.
  938. >”Here you go. Show those to the clerk on your way out and you shouldn’t have any hassle.”
  939. >”Thanks, Nurse.”
  940. >”No, thank you. That was very brave what you did last week. I’m sorry it got you in here.”
  941. >He shrugged.
  942. >The movement made him wince and clutch his bandaged shoulder.
  943. >RedHeart leaves. When she’s out of the way, you steal a peek at what she left for him.
  944. “Release papers? Anon, that’s crazy. You need to rest.”
  945. >”I’ve done enough resting.”
  946. >He moves to get out of bed and looks around the room.
  947. >”Shit, I forgot to ask where my clothes are.”
  948. “In the closet. What do you mean you’ve done enough resting? You remember what you did, don’t you?”
  949. >He nods as he moves across the room, walking right by you, and opens up the closet in the far corner.
  950. >”I saved the town.”
  951. >He kneels down, rummaging through the lower shelves.
  952. >”I also got my ass kicked and thrown through the bakery.”
  953. “But you won!”
  954. >”Through the bakery, Twilight.”
  955. “Not all the way.”
  956. >”Far enough. I’m lucky I made it out alive. Where I’m from, this would be a medical miracle.”
  958. >He finds his clothes and stands up.
  959. >The man disrobes without any regard for your presence.
  960. >When the gown falls, it reveals the bandages running across his body.
  961. >Where there are gaps, you can see a deal of scarring.
  962. “I don’t think that’s what you should be taking away from this. You did a great thing, Anon. You took on a manticore all on your own and you won. Do you even see all these flowers? The ponies acknowledge you now.”
  963. >”It would have been better if I had magic.”
  964. “You’re wrong.”
  965. >He bends over and pulls on his pants, one leg at a time.
  966. >All buttoned up, Anon goes for his shirt.
  967. >He lifts his arm to slide it up and through the sleeve.
  968. >It’s a slow and pained movement accented by his grunts.
  969. “Do you want help with that?”
  970. >”No.”
  971. “Alright, what do you want me to say?” you snap. “I’m sorry, ok? I heard screaming from Ponyville and I wanted to get over there. You saw the trouble they were in! Are you seriously going to hold that against me?”
  972. >”It’s not that you left, it’s that you left without a word. You forced your way into my home to preach to me about friendship and opening up, and just when I really tried, you just storm out without so much as a goodbye.”
  973. >He turns around to face you, locking his own red, teary eyes with yours.
  974. >”I would have at least thought I was worth a goodbye.”
  975. “Oh, Anon,” your voice tapers off.
  977. >You trot across the room to Anon and rise up on your hind legs.
  978. >Your forehooves wrap around his waist and pull him close to you.
  979. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel like that.”
  980. >You stand like that for what feels like forever.
  981. >The gauze running across his body tickles your face as you press it against him.
  982. “You’ve been going through a tough time. Don’t shut me out because of a mistake. I want to help you, Anon.”
  983. >And thus comes the return of silence.
  984. >Its another long, uncomfortable rest that has you questioning if he’s planning your murder or not.
  985. >Eventually, you feel something on the back of your head.
  986. >You look up at him and see his shoulder begin to move in sync with the rubbing of your mane.
  987. >”Hey, cut it out. You’re going to ruin my reputation if anyone walks in.”
  988. >His voice has a lighter feeling to it. Not quite where you would want it to be, but certainly not as cold and distancing as earlier.
  989. “Sorry, Mr. Manticore Slayer,” you say and pull away.
  990. >He goes to his bedside table to grab his release papers.
  991. “Hey, I have something for you at my castle.”
  992. >”Thanks, Twi, but I really do want to get home.”
  993. “You’ll love it. Just come by with me.”
  994. >He runs it over in his mind, probably amazed at how thoughtful you are, and agrees.
  995. >”Let’s make this quick though. I don’t want to think about the state my garden is in right now.”
  997. >Twilight nods and leads you out of the room.
  998. >”You” being Anonymous, because that’s who you are.
  999. >It’s a painfully long trek from your cluttered hospital room to her castle and she does her best to fill it with conversation.
  1000. >It reminds you of your early days here.
  1001. >She spent a lot of time talking with you when nobody else would.
  1002. >She came to your house to see how you were doing.
  1003. >She was the first and only pony to come see you in the hospital.
  1004. >Despite her faults--of which there are many--even you can tell she’s put in some real effort.
  1005. >The least you can do is humor her for now.
  1006. >Who knows? Maybe she’ll straighten out and things will actually get better.
  1007. >Anyway, you arrive at her castle as she finishes one last joke.
  1008. >”So that’s when I said I’d buy that for a bit!”
  1009. >You burst out laughing.
  1010. >Ok, that was a good one.
  1011. >Her horn begins to glow and hum.
  1012. >You stare at it, watching as its own power bleeds through the air and forces the doorknob to turn and open up the crystal tree.
  1013. >Telekinesis.
  1014. >On paper, it would take two magical runes to form that spell, if you remember right.
  1015. >Seven if you were using ancient Equestrian.
  1016. >”Right inside,” she says, gesturing for you to pass her.
  1017. >You thank her and enter, looking around the main hall.
  1018. >There’s a lot of open space here.
  1019. >And a lot of blue.
  1020. >An unsettling amount of blue.
  1021. >You also catch an old looking wooden cart filled with books.
  1022. “Are those for the stand outside?” you ask, pointing to it.
  1023. >”Funny you should mention that.”
  1024. >The cart is wrapped in a purple haze and rolls over to you.
  1025. >As it nears, you begin to appreciate just how many books are on it.
  1026. >It’s a yard wide, four feet long, one foot high block of text.
  1027. >You begin to read some of the titles as she speaks again.
  1028. >”This is your surprise.”
  1029. “No way.”
  1030. >You pick up one of them and open it up to the first page.
  1031. >Thauman Dynamics by Atomic Adam.
  1032. “Are you serious? These are all for me?”
  1033. >”The cart too.”
  1034. >You look at her with incredulity.
  1035. “Twilight, I…”
  1036. >You look from the cart and back to her several times.
  1037. >It might be easier to forgive this mare than you thought it would be.
  1039. >”Don’t mention it. This is the least I could do.”
  1040. >Wow. Just wow.
  1041. >You hop in front of the cart and grab the harness.
  1042. >As you begin to push, your shoulder lights up with pain.
  1043. >A groan escapes your lips so you pull back and try to press your weight against it a different way.
  1044. >Twilight sees your trouble and casts a spell on the cart.
  1045. >It feels lighter. You reckon you wouldn’t need to put very much effort at all into moving it now.
  1046. “Thanks, Twi. Look, I don’t mean to ditch you but--”
  1047. >”I get it.”
  1048. “Thanks. We’ll talk later,” you shout as you pull the thing outside.
  1049. >Does she respond? You don’t know.
  1050. >It’s not important right now anyway.
  1051. >Neither are all the ponies smiling and waving to you.
  1052. >You need to get home and take care of a few things, such as this wonderful collection you’ve been given.
  1053. >Jeez, you’re going to have to build a new bookcase.
  1054. >That means breaking out the saw, finding your rails and--
  1055. >No, wait, you have bits now.
  1056. >You begin to make a mental note to visit Mr. Shelfer’s Wonderful Store of Bookcases to see if there’s anything that would match your house, but then you actually see your house and your mind begins to flood with other items.
  1057. >What happened to your garden?
  1058. >Did it rain while you were asleep?
  1059. >Did the birds break in again?
  1060. >Setting down the cart out front, you open the door and peek inside.
  1062. >Everything looks ok.
  1063. >Nothing seems really out of place.
  1064. >Good. Looks like the birds didn’t get in.
  1065. >You head around back, hopeful that your garden received the same treatment as your house. The “treatment” of course being left alone.
  1066. >Your eyes land on the garden. Well, what’s left of it.
  1067. >Oh lord. Oh lord, have mercy.
  1068. >You fall to your knees and gaze on at the horror.
  1069. >What hasn’t been eaten has been torn to shreds.
  1070. >The corpses of tomatoes past lie, defeated, staining the earth red.
  1071. >The dirt, once beautiful and well kept, has been ravaged.
  1072. >It looks like the aftermath of WWI.
  1073. >What heartless creature would do such a thing?
  1074. >Not even the worst human would have committed such an atrocity.
  1075. >Ok, well that might be a bit of a stretch, but the point remains.
  1076. “This means war,” you shout into the air. “I don’t know who did this, but I’ll find out, and when I do, I’ll make you wish I was kind enough to give you the same fate as these crops!”
  1077. >It was probably the fucking birds.
  1078. >Rats with wings!
  1079. >Fuck.
  1080. >You rise again and drag yourself inside to the cart of books.
  1081. >Transporting the books books inside is relatively easy.
  1082. >You’re able to carry them by the dozen since they’re so light.
  1083. >Lucky for you Twilight is still feeding the enchantment.
  1084. >This is an enchantment, right?
  1086. >You’re almost halfway done with the pile when suddenly the dozen books in your arms increase from one pound to thirty pounds and knock you over.
  1087. “A charm. Gee, thanks, Twilight.”
  1088. >Well shit. Now there are books everywhere.
  1089. >You clean that up before you take any more inside.
  1090. >Now with the books being significantly heavier, you have to take them in smaller loads as not to annoy your shoulder.
  1091. >It takes about another thirty minutes to do that, but you’re not complaining.
  1092. >What follows is moving the cart out back and repairing your garden.
  1093. >Luckily the waste of space that destroyed your once beautiful land left you with enough seeds to start over.
  1094. >After cleaning up the dirt, planting the seeds, and giving them a generous helping of water, you go inside to begin reading.
  1095. >You’re so excited to dig into the new collection that you don’t even bother scanning for one.
  1096. >You just pick whatever is on top, sit down on your red comfy chair, and begin to read.
  1097. >An Ordering of Beasts by Darles Charwin.
  1098. >Neat.
  1099. >The book is filled with all sorts of monsters. It goes into great detail describing each one including how it came to be, its mating habits, where it lives, and so on.
  1100. >You find “Manticore” and read up on the abomination.
  1101. >There’s some interesting stuff on it, but it seems to conflict what you’ve personally experienced.
  1102. >The accompanying picture shows the manticore to be an intense creature. Its eyes hold an ember of rage and pride--emotions which are reflected in the block of text on its behavior.
  1103. >Odd. The one you met was nothing like that.
  1104. >Maybe it was sick?
  1105. >You read on, hoping to find something else as intriguing.
  1107. >Hydras, Lammasu, Thunderbirds, Wyrms, and many more monsters later, you land on the page dedicated to golems.
  1108. >Your eyebrow raises at its description: Cold, emotionless, unfeeling.
  1109. “Golems are not a specific type of beast, but rather what is left of a beast when afflicted by a,” you squint, trying to make out the scratched word.
  1110. >Sewk sevlimg?
  1111. >S...soul. That one is soul.
  1112. >Damn. You just can’t make out the other word.
  1113. >You set it down and move over back to the pile, searching for something that might help.
  1114. >After digging around for a bit, you find a book on spells revolving around the soul.
  1115. >How convenient.
  1116. >You flip through, looking for anything that resembles “soul sevlimg”.
  1117. >There’s soul severing, soul silvering, and soul serving.
  1118. >None of these spells seem to shed any light on the mystery, so you go back to the beast book and check again.
  1119. “What are you?”
  1120. >Maybe you got the letters wrong. What if the S is actually a five?
  1121. >No, that’s retarded.
  1122. >The V could be something else though.
  1123. >What about an A?
  1124. >Returning to the spell book, you find the page on soul sealing.
  1125. >Now that’s the money.
  1126. >Soul sealing is the process of removing a creature’s soul and binding it to another object, thus turning the creature’s original body into an object in itself. The resulting object is commonly referred to as a golem.
  1127. >Nailed it.
  1128. >You dogear that page and return once again to the beast book to learn up on golems.
  1129. >Apparently, depending on how the soul sealing is done, control of the golem can remain with the original soul or be passed onto a new “puppet master”.
  1130. >It’s easy to tell which one is controlling the golem since a puppet master being behind the wheel results in the creature appearing as cold and unfeeling, no matter how it may have once behaved.
  1131. “Why the fuck would anyone do this?”
  1133. >Well, whatever. You finish the beast book and pick up on that there soul one.
  1134. >There’s some interesting information, but a lot of it is pretty boring.
  1135. >Not boring. But, you know, not as interesting as the other parts.
  1136. >You keep finding yourself going back to the soul sealing page. Something about it draws you in.
  1137. >Perhaps it’s the idea of separating a soul from its body. Maybe you’re just curious as to what can be done with a body that has been literally objectified.
  1138. >By the time you’ve finished that book, it’s long past time for bed.
  1139. >The sun has set, the moon is high in the sky, and God knows what Luna is doing to the dreams of those innocent ponies.
  1140. >You should really get going now. Wouldn’t want to be too tired tomorrow, right?
  1141. >Why are you lightning another candle then?
  1142. >Why are you lighting it?
  1143. >Hey, put that book down.
  1144. >Advanced Enchantments Explained for Dummies? Aw hell yeah.
  1145. >Well, maybe just a few pages wouldn’t hurt to give you something to think about for bed.
  1146. >Wouldn’t you know it? Suddenly you’re eight chapters in.
  1147. “I don’t have to do anything tomorrow anyway,” you mutter.
  1148. >Is it actually tomorrow already?
  1149. >Jeez, you should have been counting.
  1150. >Oh well. What’s the worst that could happen?
  1151. >That thought process ends as you get back into the book.
  1152. >So many enchantments.
  1153. >There’s a brief mention of something called spell binding, but other than the name and a sentence stating it is a type of enchantment, that’s all there is on the subject.
  1154. >You grumble, seeing a new mystery on the horizon, and set the book down to go find another matching one in the pile.
  1155. >As you stand, a wave of dizziness smashes into you.
  1156. >The corners of your vision turn into a rainbow and you realize just how tired you really are.
  1157. >Well, nothing you can’t work through.
  1158. >With a yawn, you shuffle over to the waiting book pile and bend down.
  1159. >You know, you never realized how comfy hard covers looked.
  1160. >Maybe you could lay your head down on it for just a second. Yeah, let’s do that.
  1162. >You wake up the next day and take care of essential duties such as tending to the garden, your personal hygiene, and getting a meal.
  1163. >What’s there in the fridge?
  1164. >Old milk, old bread, old fish, some beer, cheese, and tomatoes.
  1165. >You can pull something out of that.
  1166. >After removing the fuzzy parts from the bread, you craft a tomato and cheese sandwich.
  1167. >Yes, this is truly the breakfast of champions.
  1168. >Anon, you’re a master chef. Ha! And your teachers told you you’d never amount to anything.
  1169. >With food in hand, you return to the pile of books in your living room and search for something relating to the topic of last night.
  1170. >Before you can get too deep into it, there’s a knock knock knocking on your door.
  1171. >You grumble and head over to it.
  1172. >Make sure to swallow before you answer.
  1173. >When done, you unlock the door and open it.
  1174. >Your eyes land on a small pink pony with a smile reaching ear to ear.
  1175. >”Hi, Anon!”
  1176. “Hello, Pinkie Pie.”
  1177. >”So I was going to throw a party for you to celebrate you waking up and then I thought I might as well throw one for you beating the manticore so it became a double party but then we got a new pony in town and I just had to throw them a Welcome to Ponyville party too so now it’s a triple party and I was wondering if you wanted to come since two of them are for you but it’d also be super keen if you came to celebrate the new pony in town!”
  1178. “Was that all in one breath?”
  1179. >”I practice in the bath!”
  1180. “I don’t know. I was kind of busy today.”
  1181. >”Oh come on, Anon! It’ll be fun! I made cake!”
  1182. “You always make cake.”
  1183. >”But this is green cake!”
  1184. >You eye your sandwich, letting it engulf your thoughts.
  1185. >Cake does sound nice, and it’s likely there will be other food you can score from them on the way home.
  1186. >The party is also for you, so don’t you have an obligation to go?
  1187. >No, of course not. Besides, you don’t really want to go into town and see all those unicorns.
  1188. “Pinkie, I’m real tired.”
  1189. >”Please, Anon? Do it for a friend?”
  1191. “No.”
  1192. >”Pretty please?”
  1193. “Pinkie.”
  1194. >”But come on, Anon! It’s for you and everyone will be there! Twilight and Rarity and Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy and Applejack and Big Mac and Applebloom and her friends and Twinkle Binkle and Mr. Shelfer and the Cakes and Roseluck and RedHeart and Cheerilee and the Riches and Lickity Split and Banana Split and Splitter Bitter and Orange Glad and Bulk and--”
  1195. >You cover her mouth with your sandwich and sigh.
  1196. “Alright, alright. I’m going. Happy now?”
  1197. >Much to your shock, her smile grows even bigger.
  1198. >Pinkie frantically nods and pulls away, taking a bite of your food with her, and hops off into the distance with the speed of a dozen Rainbow Dashes.
  1199. >A low groan escapes your lips as you begin to grasp the gravity of the situation.
  1200. “Aw, shut up,” you say and stuff your face with what’s left of your meal.
  1201. >Better get changed for the party, you guess.
  1202. >There’s a clean shirt hanging on the door to your bedroom.
  1203. >You pull the shirt down from the door and begin the swap.
  1204. >Your shoulder aches as you try to slide your arm in through the sleeve.
  1205. >Shooting for another angle, you try again, but apparently you greatly miscalculated that move.
  1206. >A wave of pain washes over you, locking your arm into place.
  1207. >Jeez, you’d think with all the unicorns on staff, they could have cast some better healing spells on you.
  1208. >”Gee, Anon, we sure are sorry. There’s no spells designed to properly tackle human physiology!”
  1209. >Bull fucking shit.
  1210. >Why, you bet a standard weaving spell could be rewritten to function on any organism instead of cloth.
  1211. >Suck it up, Anon.
  1212. >When the pain goes, you try once more to put on the shirt and manage to find the right angle.
  1213. >After locking down the house, you’re off to Ponyville.
  1215. >If you had magic, you could just teleport there.
  1216. >Nobody ever offers to teleport you anywhere.
  1217. >No, Anon has to walk.
  1218. >Why are you being such a prick about this? Nobody did anything to you.
  1219. >Today.
  1220. >Lighten up, dude.
  1221. >You pick your head up, having arrived at Sugarcube Corner.
  1222. >A chill runs down your spine as the memory of your last visit replays in your head.
  1223. >Suddenly, the doors swing open.
  1224. >You jump back, fearing they’re back for revenge.
  1225. >”Hi, Anon!”
  1226. >Oh, it’s just Pinkie.
  1227. >”What are you doing? Is that a new dance?”
  1228. “Hi, Pinkie. Um, no. I was just here.”
  1229. >”For the party?”
  1230. “For the party.”
  1231. >”Well come on in!”
  1232. >Smooth.
  1233. >She steps back inside, pulling the door with her, and opening the shop for you.
  1234. >You enter and look around the place.
  1235. >It certainly is decorated for three parties.
  1236. >The room is divided into three distinct sections.
  1237. >The manticore part of the party is decorated by with red and orange balloons and tablecloths.
  1238. >The hospital is more of those blues and greens. They’re lighter shades though, so your eyes aren’t as offended as looking at the real deal.
  1239. >The third section is grey and blue.
  1240. >Well if that’s not a hint as to who you should be greeting, you don’t know what is.
  1241. >After some food, of course.
  1242. >You migrate to the snack table and fill a plate with chips and cupcakes.
  1243. >Why does diabetes have to taste so good?
  1244. >You know, a spell could probably sap all the unhealthy crap out and leave the taste.
  1245. >Has it ever been tried?
  1246. >Twilight must be told about this at once.
  1248. >You’re just starting to enjoy the plate when you feel thing tugging on the back of your pants.
  1249. >Fuck.
  1250. >You choke, trying to swallow the half chewed cupcake-chip mix.
  1251. >When your fit is done, you turn to see a small pony, about waist height like all the others, sporting a soft blue coat and a short grey mane.
  1252. >Now doesn’t that look familiar?
  1253. “You the new guy?”
  1254. >He nods and smiles.
  1255. >”What gave it away?”
  1256. >You point over to the section with those same color balloons.
  1257. >”Yeah, I guess that’ll do it.”
  1258. “I’m Anon. Nice to meet you,” you draw out.
  1259. >”Greymane.”
  1260. “Are you serious?”
  1261. >”Hey, I didn’t pick the name.”
  1262. “Man, and I thought Pinkie was a sad name.”
  1263. >”And Anon isn’t?”
  1264. “Short for Anonymous.”
  1265. >”I’d have figured the ye olde version, but whatever floats your boat, ‘Anonymous’.”
  1266. >Friggin smartass.
  1267. >You might not end up hating this pony, despite the shiny horn jutting out from his head.
  1268. “So, what brings you to town?”
  1269. >Greymane shrugs and hovers a cupcake off your plate.
  1270. >”I read about it in the papers so often I figured I’d come by and try to be the next headline.”
  1271. >You scoff and wave him off.
  1272. “Good luck. Only six ponies around here get any recognition.”
  1273. >”Not entirely true. I heard some monkey man took down a manticore with an axe.”
  1274. “Did you?”
  1275. >”Yep. And I only see one monkey man around here.”
  1276. “Human, actually.”
  1277. >Hold on, you’re in the papers?
  1278. >Well, well, well. Not too shabby, Anon.
  1279. >If you made it in the news with just your axe, imagine what you could do with magic.
  1280. >You might be known around the world.
  1281. >Who knows? Maybe Twilight would start coming to you for lessons.
  1282. >Now wouldn’t that be something?
  1283. >”What made you do it?”
  1284. “Huh?”
  1285. >Welp, that daydream is gone. You try to grasp the image again, but it’s lost in the fog of the party.
  1286. >”Why’d you go and fight the manticore? It wasn’t attacking you or anything.”
  1288. >Oh Celestia, you’re running late!
  1289. >Why did you ever think it would be a good idea to reorganize your library only an hour before the party?
  1290. >Wait, why are you late for a party and why were you reorganizing a library?
  1291. >It must be because you’re Twilight Sparkle now.
  1292. >Being Twilight Sparkle, you had been looking forward to giving Anon a visit to see how things were going.
  1293. >It then occurred to you that your last swing by didn’t end so well, so you put that on the back burner.
  1294. >Then Pinkie Pie comes and tells you she’s throwing a party--er, a series of them--and that Anon was coming.
  1295. >Imagine your excitement!
  1296. >You were so amped up to talk to him about what he was reading and how he was doing that you didn’t even check the time when you decided to formulate a new organizational system and rework the castle library.
  1297. >Of course one thing led to another and once you started the reorganizing process, you couldn’t really stop.
  1298. >Now it’s five whole minutes into the party and you’re going to look like such an idiot for showing up late.
  1299. >What will Anon think of you?
  1300. >Hopefully not that you’re a bad friend for showing up tardy to his party.
  1301. >You need to bring an offering!
  1302. >No, there’s no time!
  1303. >But there will be time after the party, right?
  1304. “Hey, Anon, want to come by my place after? I have tea.”
  1305. >Smooth. Yeah, that’ll work.
  1306. >You’re such a good friend.
  1307. “Spike,” you call out, approaching the main door.
  1308. >Your assistant comes running into the lobby holding a comic book.
  1309. >”What’s up, Twilight?”
  1310. “I need you to have some tea ready for when I get back.”
  1311. >”Sure thing.”
  1312. “The good stuff.”
  1313. >”Top shelf?”
  1314. “Top shelf.”
  1315. >His eyes widen, followed by a slow nod.
  1316. >Alright, enough dawdling. You need to go!
  1317. >You rush out of the castle and start on your way to Sugarcube Corner.
  1318. >Lucky for you, it’s only three blocks away.
  1320. >At a full gallop, it doesn’t take you more than a minute to get there.
  1321. >Pinkie Pie’s false gingerbread house stands before you, shaking with the sound of music.
  1322. >What should you do now? Prepare a speech apologizing for being tardy?
  1323. >No, that’s dumb.
  1324. >He’d understand being late.
  1325. >Heck, even Pinkie would. She probably won’t go all deflated-mane on you. Again.
  1326. >Ok, maybe you’ll have a speech on backup.
  1327. >You enter the shop and are instantly assaulted by sound, confetti, and hooves.
  1328. >”Hi, Twilight!”
  1329. “Hello, Pinkie. I see everything is going well.”
  1330. >”It’s better than that! This party is rocking!”
  1331. >She grabs your hoof and drags you around the store, showing you all the areas.
  1332. >”And this is for when Anon killed the manticore! Did you see that?”
  1333. “I was there, Pinkie,” you giggle.
  1334. >”Oh, duh!”
  1335. >What an excited pony.
  1336. >Next stop is the hospital section. There are balloons matching the colors of the hospital and even a bed.
  1337. >Wow, that’s some good paper mache skills.
  1338. >You trot over and touch it with a hoof.
  1339. >Funny. It’s cold and hard like a real bed.
  1340. >Wait a minute. It is a real bed.
  1341. “Pinkie, did you steal this from the hospital?”
  1342. >You crane your neck to search for her, but the pony is nowhere to be seen.
  1343. “Pinkie?”
  1344. >”Nope!”
  1345. >Oh fu--fun nuggets!
  1346. >Your heart almost jumps out of your chest as Pinkie Pie drops from the ceiling with an axe, chopping into the bed mere inches from your face.
  1347. “Pinkie Pie, what did I tell you about playing with sharp objects?” you shout at her.
  1348. >”But Twilight, it’s not a manticore slaying without axes!”
  1349. “Give me that.”
  1350. >Your horn glows as you prepare a teleportation spell.
  1351. >In another second, the axe is gone, locked away in your castle.
  1353. >”Darn. Now what will I cut the cakes with?”
  1354. “You’ll figure it out.”
  1355. >Somewhat slower than the last two times, she leads you over to the final section of the party.
  1356. >Good thing she showed you this; you’d have had no idea otherwise.
  1357. >Having finished showing you around, Pinkie hops away to do Celestia knows what else.
  1358. >You assume she’s going to find another way to cut a cake that doesn’t involve knives.
  1359. >Alright, you hope that’s what she’s doing.
  1360. >Let’s be real here. She’s probably going to use a knife.
  1361. >It wouldn’t be a problem if she weren’t so hyper.
  1362. >Get over it, Twilight. That’s not why you’re here.
  1363. >You scan the busy room, looking for Anon.
  1364. >Ah ha, there he is standing above all the other ponies like a big green thumb.
  1365. “Excuse me. Pardon me. Coming through,” you mutter, passing by hordes of equines.
  1366. >The closer you get, the more anxious you become.
  1367. >Your voice raises in tandem and Anon takes notice.
  1368. >He turns his head and meets your eyes.
  1369. >His smile wavers for a moment.
  1370. >Darn it! You knew he’d be mad at you for being tardy!
  1371. >Stupid, stupid, stupid!
  1372. “Hi, Anon,” you sputter.
  1373. >“Twilight.”
  1374. ”Look, I’m sorry for coming late. Important princess duties came up and I had to tend to those before I showed up. I know you must be torn up about it, but I really am sorry.”
  1375. >His eyebrow raises slowly.
  1376. >”Anon, you didn’t tell me you knew princess Twilight!”
  1377. >”Hm? Oh, yeah. Twilight, this is Greymane. Greymane, this is Twilight.”
  1378. “Who?”
  1379. >You examine the unicorn at Anon’s side.
  1380. >He extends a hoof to you.
  1381. >Out of instinct, you do the same and nod.
  1382. >”I’m new to town.”
  1383. “I gathered that much. Who are you? What brings you here?”
  1384. >Did that sound aggressive?
  1385. “I mean, wait, I’m sorry. That didn’t come out right.”
  1386. >”I got what you meant. I’m just a unicorn from a small village on the other side of the Mt. Dawn.”
  1387. “Really? I haven’t been around that side of the mountain too often. What’s it like?”
  1388. >”Quiet.”
  1390. >”Greymane here was just telling me about the magic school in his village.”
  1391. “A magic school on the other side of Mt. Dawn? I’ve never heard of any.”
  1392. >”That’s because it’s run out of the elder’s house. It’s nothing fancy, really. It’s just a bunch of foals going to hear tales about old sorcerers and learn basic magic skills.”
  1393. >”Isn’t that fucking dandy? Some hick town in East Bumfuk and they still manage to teach those little hellions a thing or two about magic. You just can’t get away from the stuff.”
  1394. >”You’re just upset you don’t have any.”
  1395. >The color drains from your face.
  1396. >Greymane, you fool.
  1397. >That unicorn just stepped on the ultimate mine.
  1398. >”Yeah? Well you’re lucky I don’t break that horn off and shove it up your ass.”
  1399. >”I bet you’d like that.”
  1400. >Hold on a second here.
  1401. >What is this wizardry?
  1402. >You know right darn well if you said that, Anon would throw a fit before storming out and locking himself in his house for a few days.
  1403. >Maybe he’s not upset about it anymore? He has had a lot of time to cope with that fact that he’s the only thing in the world to be completely and utterly magicless.
  1404. >Yeah, that’s it.
  1405. >He’s in such a good mood because he’s finally accepted he’s totally inept in the field of magic.
  1406. >This is your chance, Twilight.
  1407. ”So, Anon, I was thinking maybe after the party you might like to come back to the castle with me. I have tea.”
  1408. >”Aw man. You know, I sure would love to, Twilight, but Greymane said he needed help getting settled at his place.”
  1409. “Oh,” you stutter. “I see.”
  1410. >”Now hold on, I said I wanted some help. Who am I to come between the princess and her friend? Go with her.”
  1411. >Anon looks pleadingly at the stallion and receives no help.
  1412. >You know, you can be gullible at times, but you’re not an idiot. He could at least try to hide his distress a little better.
  1413. >You’re not so bad, are you?
  1414. >After far too long, Anon sighs and nods at you.
  1415. >”When do you want to go?”
  1416. “I don’t want to rush you. Let’s leave when you’re ready.”
  1417. >”Sure thing,” he says and takes a bite of the chips on his plate.
  1419. >The party carries on about as normally as any Pinkie party could.
  1420. >The snacks never run out, the drinks never run out, Berry stumbles out, and then comes the cake.
  1421. >Your eyes widen as the pink hostess carts out three enormous desserts, each one matching the designated themes.
  1422. >Baking those must have taken all morning. One can certainly appreciate her dedication to her craf--PINKIE NO!
  1423. >You dash over and take the axe--which you don’t know how she got out of your castle--from her before she can cause a disaster while trying to chop the cakes into slices.
  1424. “What did I tell you?”
  1425. >”But Twilight,” she moans. “It’s for the party!”
  1426. “No axes. Goodness, you could have mauled someone.”
  1427. >”I’d be real careful, honest!”
  1428. >How does Fluttershy do it?
  1429. >You pull her “stare” from your memories and try your darndest to mimic it, but you probably looks more like a deer in the headlights of the Friendship Express than anything else.
  1430. >Despite your shortcomings, she submits and goes to find another cutting instrument.
  1431. >This time, she arrives with knife.
  1432. >Not ideal given her colorful history, but it’s better than the scene that played out in your head last time.
  1433. >You poof the axe back into your castle, hoping it will stay out of her reach, and get yourself a piece of cake.
  1434. >Anon appears at your side and reaches for one.
  1435. >His hand stops short of it though and he pulls it away, leaving the confection on the tray.
  1436. “Something wrong?”
  1437. >”Not hungry, I guess,” he mutters and retreats.
  1438. >Anon exits, waving goodbye to that Greymane fellow.
  1439. >Fearing you’re fast losing him, you stuff the whole slice into your mouth and dash out after him.
  1440. >Your throat strains to accommodate the massive load.
  1441. >Luckily, the creamy white frosting helps to lubricate it as it slides down into your stomach, leaving your throat only slightly sore from the experience.
  1443. >You burst out the door and break into a gallop, hoping to reach him before he makes it too far.
  1444. >”Twilight? Where are you going?”
  1445. >Now hold on one gosh darn minute.
  1446. >You dig your hooves into the dirt and skid to a stop.
  1447. >Turning back, you find Anon leaning against the building just a few feet away from the door.
  1448. “I thought you left.”
  1449. >”Why?”
  1450. “Because you, you know, you left.”
  1451. >”I just needed some air. What, did you think I was going to ditch you?”
  1452. >Yes.
  1453. “No.”
  1454. >”Come on. I may not have magic, but that doesn’t mean I’m uncivilized.”
  1455. >Trotting up to him, you place a hoof on his leg and rub it.
  1456. “I never implied that you were.”
  1457. >”Whatever. Look, I’m done in there. Do you want to go?”
  1458. “I’m ready,” you beam.
  1459. >The two of you start on the way to your castle.
  1460. >He seems to not want to add anything to the conversation, but you do get him to go on for a bit on how he goes about sustaining himself on the edge of town the way he does.
  1461. >If he’d just open up a little more, being a good friend wouldn’t be so difficult.
  1462. >As it stands, he’s setting himself up to be quite a challenge.
  1463. “And I thought I was doing so good,” you mumble.
  1464. >”What’s that?”
  1465. “Nothing.”
  1466. >”Oh, look, we’re here.”
  1467. >You instinctively flare up your horn to open the door, but before you can move the knob, he grabs it and swings it open himself.
  1469. >Since he opened, you step aside and let Anon pass through first.
  1470. >He enters the castle without hesitation and looks around.
  1471. >”Wow, it sure has been a while since I’ve been in here.”
  1472. “Yeah, almost two days.”
  1473. >”That’s two weeks in dog time.”
  1474. “Spike,” you shout. “Where’s that tea?”
  1475. >”Coming,” he replies.
  1476. >In a minute, the little dragon appears with a tray topped with the essentials.
  1477. >”What’s up, little buddy?”
  1478. >”Anon, I didn’t know you were coming over!”
  1479. >He fumbles with the tea set.
  1480. >After finding balance on one hand, your assistant begins to shine his head scales.
  1481. >”Sorry, I’m a mess.”
  1482. >”Don’t sweat it, kid. I haven’t taken a bath in a week either.”
  1483. >”That’s gross.”
  1484. >”You’re short.”
  1485. >Anon swipes the tea set from Spike.
  1486. >”Now scram.”
  1487. “Anon, be nice. Spike, you’re free to go.”
  1488. >With a salute, your little dragon scampers off to, you assume, play that weird little card game with his friends.
  1489. >Anon scans the main hall and, after finding it empty save for one rug, squints down at the tray.
  1490. >”I didn’t think this through.”
  1491. “There’s a table in the other room.”
  1492. >”That’ll do.”
  1494. >You escort him into your study.
  1495. >It’s not “the other room” per say, but it is an other room.
  1496. >Look, the point is you have comfy chairs and a table in there.
  1497. >Anon sets the tray down and begins to pour himself a cup of still hot tea.
  1498. >”You still take three sugarcubes?”
  1499. >Oh, it’s for you.
  1500. “That’s right.”
  1501. >As he prepares your cup, you start on his.
  1502. >Afterwards, you two trade and lean back in the cushiony surfaces of your respective chairs.
  1503. “So, how are you?”
  1504. >He takes a sip of the still steaming tea.
  1505. >Ouch.
  1506. >The temperature doesn’t seem to bother him since he gives a nod of approval.
  1507. >”Top shelf?”
  1508. “Top shelf.”
  1509. >”I’m flattered.”
  1510. “So?”
  1511. >”So what?”
  1512. “How are you?”
  1513. >”Oh, you know. I’m alive.”
  1514. >A grunt escapes your lips as you take a sip from your own cup once it has cooled.
  1515. “You’re upset about something.”
  1516. >”Aren’t we all?”
  1517. “Alright, fine. Clearly you don’t want to open up to me.”
  1518. >”Oh, don’t get moody.”
  1519. “I’m not the moody one. Your attitude has been everywhere lately. Shouldn’t you be a little more excited that everyone finally accepts you?”
  1520. >”They accept me because I nearly got nixed by a lion-scorpion freak of nature while trying to save their squishy asses.”
  1521. “What’s wrong with that? Everyone needs to prove themselves at some point.”
  1522. >”You keep overlooking the very obvious fact here, Twilight. I’m lucky to be alive.”
  1523. >Your face scrunches in confusion.
  1524. >”You still don’t get it?”
  1525. “Did you want to die or something?”
  1526. >”I’m not strong enough, Twilight. I’m just not. If I had magic, there wouldn’t be any ‘lucky to be alive’ because there wouldn’t have been an issue.”
  1528. “But you don’t have magic. That’s not a bad thing.”
  1529. >You set your tea cup over and wrap Anon in a telekinetic field.
  1530. >Hovering the human over, you set him down next to you, squeezing together in the chair.
  1531. >Your hoof taps on his chest where you approximate a human heart to be.
  1532. “And since you’re such a great guy, that must mean not having magic doesn’t mean anything.”
  1533. >”What if I chopped off your horn?”
  1534. “Excuse me?”
  1535. >”What if you woke up one day and realized you didn’t have any magical power whatsoever?”
  1536. “Well, that’s very different from your situation. I would have actually lost something. You never had it to begin with.”
  1537. >Think about what you just said.
  1538. “I didn’t mean that how it sounded!”
  1539. >”I know what you meant. Think about it though. Wouldn’t you be at a disadvantage?”
  1540. “Well, yeah, I would be. Magic is my special talent. You don’t have any special talent, Anon; you’re good at everything. I’ve never seen someone with a skill set as varied as yours.”
  1541. >”And none of it could help me against that manticore. You were right, Twilight. You were right all along.”
  1542. “Now, while I love being told I’m right, I’d rather it actually be true.”
  1543. >”No, I--”
  1544. “If you’re trying to get on my good side, you can do it just by talking to me more.”
  1545. >”Twilight,” he starts, eyes peering into yours as if searching for the right words.
  1546. >After a while, he seems to give up on what he was about to say.
  1547. >”Look, let’s change the topic. Read anything fun lately?”
  1548. >You’d like to talk to him more about how he’s feeling, but you suppose it can wait.
  1549. “Why yes, I have. Have you ever read Grapes of Harmony?”
  1550. >”Is that anything like Grapes of Wrath?”
  1551. “What?”
  1552. >”Nothing.”
  1553. “Well, it’s actually a very interesting story. You see--”
  1554. >”I already know what it’s going to be about and I can tell you now that it’s not anything like a ‘fun’ read.”
  1555. >Killjoy.
  1556. >Let’s see. Would he like Catcher in the Wheat? Eh, probably not. That was pretty boring even by your standards.
  1557. >Oh! You know!
  1558. >You smile and hover over a certain book off of one of the shelves lining the walls of your study.
  1559. “I recently finished this.”
  1560. >”What is it?”
  1561. “A book on magical artifacts.”
  1562. >His face seems to lighten up as he takes it out of your telekinetic grip.
  1563. >”I always wondered about these things. How does the enchantment last without a power source? It can’t possibly be a charm.”
  1564. “There is no power source.”
  1565. >”So it’s a charm?”
  1566. “Nope.”
  1567. >”Twilight, you’re talking crazy.”
  1569. >You giggle and open the book up to Oziwalt’s Divine Wheel.
  1570. >There’s a picture of it--well, a painting since the actual wheel has been lost to time--taking up the first half of the page.
  1571. >”What am I looking at?”
  1572. >With your hoof, you point to the markings along the wheel.
  1573. >”Runes? So, what, it’s a wheel that comes with instructions?”
  1574. “No, silly. The runes aren’t there to describe a spell. They are the spell. Magical artifacts are made with an ancient form of enchantment called spell binding.”
  1575. >”Go on.”
  1576. “Well, basically you inscribe the runes of whatever spell you want into an object. There’s some sort of ritual involved, but afterwards, the runes will be fused to the object and draw in magic from the air to power themselves.”
  1577. >”So, wait, you’re telling me an ordinary stick off the ground can be inscribed with a telekinesis spell and move a mountain?”
  1578. “Of course not.”
  1579. >”Why not? You can.”
  1580. “Because I happen to have a very large magical well. Runes can only draw in so much power on their own.”
  1581. >He examines the wheel on the page.
  1582. >In frustration, he points at the runes you made obvious to him before.
  1583. >“Then what makes this so special? These are runes. Why is this spell so strong?”
  1584. ”What makes most magical artifacts stand out from other spell bound items is that they were made by powerful sorcerers. It’s not just how many runes go on an object, but the quality of them.”
  1585. >“What do you mean how many?”
  1586. “Well, if one rune can draw in a little bit of magic, then shouldn’t two be able to draw in twice as much?”
  1587. >He nods slowly.
  1588. >”So if you wrote enough, then they wouldn’t need to be high quality. You could match the power of one of these magical artifacts through quantity.”
  1589. “Theoretically. I’ve never heard of an object having more than three inscriptions, and that was by Starswirl himself.”
  1591. >”You keep saying object.”
  1592. “Well, yes, you can only spell bind objects. It won’t work with living creatures.”
  1593. >”Has it ever been tried?”
  1594. >You grimace as your mind goes back to your lessons with Celestia.
  1595. >She showed you much about magic and its history.
  1596. >The thing about history is that it’s not always good.
  1597. “Blackmane’s disciples dabbled in it. I’ll give you one guess as to how it ended.”
  1598. >”I see.”
  1599. >He closes the book quite loudly and sets it down next to the chair.
  1600. >”So, what have you been up to lately?”
  1601. >Oh dear. Is he trying to start a real conversation?
  1602. >It’s not even a ploy to change the topic.
  1603. >This is groundbreaking.
  1604. >A smile spreads across your face and you begin to tell him all about your recent endeavors to set up a small magic school in Ponyville.
  1605. >He nods and chirps in every once in awhile, giving suggestions as to how you might advertise or how to run a school in conjunction with your princess duties.
  1606. >You even offer him a job on the promise that if it opens, he’d be the first teacher there.
  1607. >”Thanks, but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.”
  1608. “You sure? I pay well.”
  1609. >”Well in what? Hugs?”
  1610. “I do have a treasury, you know.”
  1611. >”How much is in it? Five bits?”
  1612. >You scoff. How dare he assume you’re so poor.
  1613. >There’s at least three hundred in there.
  1614. >What? You were a librarian before this and it’s not like you get paid much right now.
  1615. >You’re the princess of a concept, not a kingdom. Who are you going to tax? The ideas?
  1617. >Before you know it, the moon is high overhead.
  1618. >”Dang. It looks like I better get going.”
  1619. “Are you sure? I mean, there’s plenty of spare rooms. You can sleep over!”
  1620. >”I’d like to, but last time I was out of the house for too long, my garden was ransacked. I should really be there to deter ne’er do wells.”
  1621. >Understandable, you guess.
  1622. >Relenting, you get up and see him out.
  1623. >You offer to walk him home, but he says something about not wanting to keep such an important pony up into the late hours.
  1624. >Anon leans over and pets you on the head before leaving.
  1625. >Once he’s out of sight, you figure it’s time to close the door and go off to bed.
  1626. >Oh wait, you have to clean up.
  1627. >Moving back to the study, you  move the chairs back into place and set the stray teacups onto the tray for Spike to handle in the morning.
  1628. >Then there’s the books to put away.
  1629. >You manage most of them, but one seems to be missing.
  1630. >Perhaps you just misplaced it when you put it back last time.
  1631. >Funny, you don’t remember putting it back at all.
  1632. >You’ll just have to tear the study apart to look for it tomorrow.
  1633. >No book of magical artifacts is going to disappear on your watch. No siree.
  1634. >Well, it’s time for bed for now.
  1635. >Good night, study.
  1637. >Something doesn’t feel right here.
  1638. >You’re large, white, and have a flowing ethereal mane.
  1639. >Wait a second, that means you’re Celestia.
  1640. >Never mind. Everything is all good here.
  1641. >Well, most everything.
  1642. >”And that’s why I think taxes on apples should be raised.”
  1643. >That message comes after a twenty three minute long speech by a small carrot colored mare standing before you.
  1644. “Firstly Carrot Marrot, I want to say how amazing it is that you came all the way to my castle in Canterlot from Ponyoppolis to speak to me about this matter. It shows a great deal of character on your part and I’m sure your family would be very proud of you.”
  1645. >The little carrot farmer smiles confidently and puffs her chest out.
  1646. >”Thank you, your highness. I suppose it was pretty impressive of me.”
  1647. >Here comes your least favorite part.
  1648. “However, I do not think it is just of me to raise taxes on apples for the reasons you listed.”
  1649. >Marrot’s smile vanishes.
  1650. >It is replaced by a look of despair.
  1651. >”But, Princess,” she stutters, “My reasons are great!”
  1652. “The reasons you gave me were just sixty eight different ways of saying the Apple family of Ponyville is beating you in sales and you want to crush their farm.”
  1653. >”Is that so wrong?”
  1654. “Not on its own, no. Competition between business is a wonderful thing and drives innovation that makes life easier for the masses. That said, it is not my place as a ruler to snuff out one side of that competition.”
  1655. >Marrot hangs her head and bows to you.
  1656. >”I understand, Princess. Thank you for your time.”
  1657. “And thank you for your visit. I wish your farm the best.”
  1658. >She leaves, dejected, and probably thinking some nasty things about you right now.
  1659. >Right as she leaves, the next pony enters your court.
  1661. >This one is a tall, slender stallion in a very...creative suit.
  1662. >You certainly would never think those colors could go together. Partially because they can’t, but that’s beside the point.
  1663. >”Hello, Princess Celestia! My name is Rob Yewcleen and I’m a travelling salespony. Boy, have I got a deal for you today. Let me tell you about towels.”
  1664. >Oh no.
  1665. >This again?
  1666. >You almost want to kick him out right there for being the six thousandth pony this year trying to sell you something, but you power on through and pleasantly nod.
  1667. >About halfway through his speech, when he’s getting to the part about how the Germanes always make good stuff, a certain scroll appears out of a burst of green fire just a foot away from you.
  1668. >Your smile turns genuine and you signal the guard to close off court for the next bit.
  1669. >”So, what do you say? I can put you down for four orders right now.”
  1670. “Thank you, but I have plenty of towels.”
  1671. >”Yes, but these are special ones. You don’t find towels like these just anywhere.”
  1672. “Thank you, Rob. I’ll remember your company if I ever need more. As it stands, I do not require your services.”
  1673. >”Are you sure? I’ve got some with me.”
  1674. “Goodbye, Rob.”
  1675. >”Give me a call, Princess. I’ll be here faster than you can say ‘where’d my wallet go’.”
  1676. >The stallion turns and trots out, his hooves sounding on the marble floor of the court.
  1677. >When another pony tries to enter through those large oak doors he left through, your armored guard thrusts their hoof out and stops them in their tracks.
  1678. >”The Princess is busy.”
  1679. >”It’ll only take five minutes.”
  1680. >”The Princess is busy.”
  1681. >”Pretty please? We came all the way from the Outer Lands just for this audience.”
  1682. >Goodness. That is quite the walk.
  1683. >”The Princess is busy. Leave now.”
  1684. >”My son just wants a word. He’s with the Form a Wish Association.”
  1685. >Well, a lot of ponies are.
  1686. >”He has cancer.”
  1687. >Have mercy.
  1688. >”In the heart.”
  1689. “Let them through,” you shout to the guard across the room.
  1691. >Ok, so that was the last pony. Now to read Twilight’s letter.
  1692. >”Hello, dear sister.”
  1693. “Hello, Luna.”
  1694. >Ah, good. She’s easy to tune out.
  1695. >You open the letter and begin reading as Luna starts on. It’s always the typical “oh woe as me, my hooves hurt, nobody loves me, I met this cute stallion” stuff.
  1696. >”Oh, dear sister, we do so miss thy company at night court. Tis utterly boring without thee. Our hooves also ache.”
  1697. >See?
  1698. >Now, let’s get on with the good stuff.
  1699. >”Dear Princess Celestia, I know it has been a while since I last wrote to you. I apologize for my silence and resolve to start communicating more often once again.”
  1700. >”But alas, we do understand that thou must be so tired after long days tending to the needs of the masses. Wherefore art thou the favorite, dear sister? Tis for thy mane? Ours is just as luxurious and thrice as starry.”
  1701. >”I’m also sorry to admit that this isn’t a letter written out of thought for you, but need of you. I’ve encountered a friendship problem in Ponyville and I seem to lack the skills to solve it on my own. I’ve tried everything I could think of drawn upon the lessons I’ve learned during my stay in Ponyville and even the few on my personal visits to you.”
  1702. >Oh, you see.
  1703. >Not thought of you, but need of you.
  1704. >”Tis not all bad, we must admit. Why, we hath had the acquaintance of a rather fetching stallion quite recently. What a striking fellow he is. Thou mightest like to see him, no?”
  1705. “Yes, that’s nice. I’ll see you at dinner, Luna. Goodbye.”
  1706. >”Fare thee well, sister of ours. We shall reunite with thee for a feast!”
  1707. >You can already predict where this letter is going to end, but there’s in harm in seeing it through.
  1708. >”So, it is with great humility that I request an audience with you in order to iron out the kinks of this friendship issue. Please respond at your earliest opportunity. Sincerely, your niece, Twilight Sparkle”
  1709. >”P.S. I love writing niece.”
  1711. >Now where did you put your quill?
  1712. >Is it still in your bedroom?
  1713. >After casting a homing spell and finding out that it was actually underneath your chair the whole time, you take your trusty rusty pen and begin to write a reply on a fresh sheet of parchment.
  1714. >”Dear Twilight Sparkle, It is with great pleasure that I receive your letter. I understand that it must be hard trying to face a new challenge without any idea of what to do, but I am sure that if you try your best, you will see this is a horrible letter and I need to write a new draft.”
  1715. >Next sheet.
  1716. >”Dear Twilight Sparkle, It is with grate pleasure that I misspell a word and have to start all over.”
  1717. >Third time’s the charm, right?
  1718. >”Dear Twilight Sparkle, It is with great pleasure that I receive your letter and write this response. My duties to the ponies of Equestria bind me to day court for the time being, but once I am through with with my royal responsibilities in this throne, I would be more than happy to discuss your issue in person over brunch. I will only be another two hours. Do reply if there are complications on your end. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing you in time for biscuits. Yours faithfully, Celestia”
  1719. >There, that should do it.
  1720. >Me oh my, this will be a wonderful day indeed.
  1721. >Some of the complaints you’ve heard today are new, the royal cushion has been cleaned, pressed, and fluffed, and now you’ll have Twilight over to visit.
  1722. >It’s only been, what, a month since you’ve heard from her?
  1723. >You wonder what she’s up to.
  1724. >That’s not to say you don’t know generally speaking.
  1725. >Of course you hear about her princess business and then the occasional letter about her dream magic school.
  1726. >This will be a nice cup of tea between friends though. You can certainly appreciate that.
  1728. >You send your letter and have the guards open up once more to let the next wave of ponies in.
  1729. >The creativity seems to be gone from this next bunch as it’s all things you’ve heard before--some even the same day.
  1730. >Most of them are solved with an explanation of it not being your place as a ruler to meddle in such affairs.
  1731. >One pony came in asking to conscript bakery shops to always bake cakes, even if it is not their specialty or brand.
  1732. >As much as you want everyone to get along, who are you to dictate that sort of thing?
  1733. >The answer to that question is simple. You’re someone who has tried it before.
  1734. >One can learn a lot by looking at history. They can learn even more by being apart of it.
  1735. >Anyway, day court runs out as the sun moves past its highest point.
  1736. >The court begins to get busy again, but a different kind.
  1737. >Now it’s filled with servants cleaning and guards locking it down as you depart, only to return tomorrow to a sparkling marble room glistening in the morning light that breaks through the stained glass wall behind the throne.
  1738. >Now, knowing Twilight, she should be here any minute.
  1739. >Not wanting to look like a bad host, you begin to prepare the food and drink right away.
  1740. >A few homing spells locate various ingredients for the biscuits all the way in the kitchen.
  1741. >As you make your way up through the castle and to your balcony overlooking Canterlot, you set everything up to cook, including a pot of water, over some mini suns.
  1742. >Only small ones. Nothing that would burn anything or cause cancer.
  1743. >Well, not too much cancer.
  1744. >You were sure to check that nobody was in the kitchen before you cast the spell.
  1745. >Your horn begins to heat up with all the spells being run through it.
  1746. >It didn’t even occur to you how many you were casting until your forehead began to sweat from the heat. Multitasking spells has become second nature to you.
  1748. >You arrive at your balcony to find a certain lavender pony waiting for you.
  1749. >At your sight, her face lights up.
  1750. >Twilight runs over to you and wraps you in a hug, but breaks it the next second with an “I’m sorry.”
  1751. “Don’t worry,” you tell her and extend a hoof, offering her back the spot.
  1752. >She happily accepts and embraces you once more.
  1753. >This is nice.
  1754. >Let’s not end it.
  1755. >”How are you, Celestia?” asks your old student as she pulls away once more, content with the hug.
  1756. >Well, it was good while it lasted.
  1757. “I’ve been well. And yourself?”
  1758. >”I’m mostly good. It’s just this friendship problem that’s been really bugging me lately.”
  1759. “Straight to business. I like that.”
  1760. >”Yeah. So, do you have a minute?”
  1761. “Oh, I’m sure I could fit one or two in.”
  1762. >It suddenly occurs to you that on your balcony, there are no chairs or tables.
  1763. >How is one supposed to bask in the warm afternoon sun without tables or chairs?
  1764. >Not easily. That’s how.
  1765. >This must be fixed at once.
  1766. >With another flash of magic, you bring a large glass table and two sturdy white chairs into existence.
  1767. >They slowly lower themselves onto the stone brick and settle.
  1768. >Figuring the food and such is ready, you teleport those up as well and set them on the table over a tray.
  1769. >The biscuits are look to be light and fluffy and the tea is steaming.
  1770. >Not bad, Celestia. Not bad.
  1772. >Lastly, you pull out the chairs and, once the both of you are seated, push them in.
  1773. >That’ll do it for magic. You shut off the flow to your horn and let the sizzling thing cool down.
  1774. >”So, I guess it all started a few months ago. I won’t bore you with the details, but basically--”
  1775. “By all means, bore me. I won’t be finished with this pot for a while yet,” you say, pouring yourself your first cup.
  1776. >”If you insist. So once upon a time, a green man suddenly appeared in Equestria.”
  1777. >Oh, she’s going that far back.
  1778. >You’re unsure why, since you were there for a lot of it, but whatever. No sense in turning down a story.
  1779. >She spends a lot of time catching you up to the present.
  1780. >”Present” being last week when she had him over after a party.
  1781. >”And I thought it was going really well. We talked all night about so many things but then he left suddenly. He said we’d talk again, but I haven’t seen him since. I’ve tried to get in touch, but he just ignores me.”
  1782. “Have you tried visiting his house?”
  1783. >”Several times.”
  1784. “Darn. That one usually works.”
  1785. >”He’s stubborn.”
  1786. “Sounds like a little filly I used to know.”
  1787. >”Who?”
  1788. >Twilight, you’re silly.
  1789. “Elaborate for me. How exactly are you trying to contact him?”
  1790. >”Well,” she starts, setting her cup down to think. “I’ve sent him letters.”
  1791. “Plural?”
  1792. >”Only about seventeen.”
  1793. “About?”
  1794. >”Okay, seventeen. I’ve also sent message ponies directly to his door.”
  1795. “Again, plural?”
  1796. >”Hey, it’s three messages for one bit. I don’t have the economic freedom to turn down a bargain like that.”
  1797. “Alright, what else?”
  1798. >”I’ve been to his house a few times.”
  1799. >You squint at her.
  1800. >”Three times.”
  1801. “Twilight.”
  1802. >”Four.”
  1803. “Oh, Twilight, you poor thing.”
  1805. >You reach over the table and pet her mane.
  1806. >She nuzzles your hoof as you stroke her.
  1807. “You’re trying so hard to be the best friend you can be that I think you may end up worse off for it.”
  1808. >”What do you mean?”
  1809. “Friendship is, in a lot of ways, like a flame. It can guide the lost, give warmth to those who need it, and fuel civilizations. You’re a smart girl, Twilight. Tell me what happens when you smother a flame.”
  1810. >”It goes out.”
  1811. “That’s right. No matter how backward this may sound, sometimes friends need space from each other. You’re really putting yourself out there for Anon, but there’s a chance you may be pushing him away just as hard.”
  1812. >”Do you really think so?”
  1813. >A simple nod serves as your reply.
  1814. >She drops her head onto the table. Luckily a biscuit takes the impact and nothing breaks.
  1815. >Light and fluffy. Good job, Celestia.
  1816. >”I’m such an idiot.”
  1817. “No, but you are determined. I think you may do yourself a favor to learn to control that.”
  1818. >She giggles and picks her face up.
  1819. >The edges of her eyes are turning red.
  1820. >You pick up a napkin and put it under them before any tears can form.
  1821. >It breaks your heart to see her so torn up over this fellow.
  1822. >You’d give Anon a talking to yourself, but that might only hurt Twilight’s friendship with him.
  1823. >”Funny. I’ve never heard a teacher encourage their students to be less determined before.”
  1824. “Well, that’s not exactly what I said.”
  1825. >”I’ll give it a try. I’ll give him space.”
  1828. >You are in Ponyville.
  1829. >More specifically, you’re on the outer edge of the town, held up in the cabin built by and belonging to the resident human.
  1830. >This all points to you being Anon.
  1831. >You, being Anonymous, set down another pencil nub beside the dozens of others fully worn down writing utensils.
  1832. >Just a foot away, there are several notebooks all filled with what amounts to gibberish.
  1833. >Absolutely nothing you’ve written down in the last week would make sense to any human or most ponies.
  1834. >Even that’s being generous.
  1835. >The candlelight gives illuminates just enough that you can scan the most recent page of your notebook and check for errors.
  1836. >There’s none that you can see, but then again, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
  1837. >This is all theoretical, after all.
  1838. >Well, it’s not. It’s been done before. It’s just that the instructions have been lost to time.
  1839. >The last sighting of any book explaining how to write runes and use them to form spells was over three hundred years ago in a ruin outside of Griffonstone.
  1840. >Luckily, using this neat book you borrowed from Twilight, you’ve been able to pull a great many runes and--hopefully successfully--break them down into their individual meanings and piece those meanings into more complicated spells.
  1841. >Like, take telekinesis for example.
  1842. >It’s about exerting your will on an object and forcing it to move.
  1843. >One would expect those runes then to be will, force, and motion.
  1844. >Of course, it could also be force, motion, and will. Maybe it’s actually none of them and the proper runes are desire, push, and swift. Maybe ancient Equestrians even worked heat in somehow.
  1845. >Look, the bottom line is, recreating ancient magic isn’t fucking easy.
  1847. >The next step is somewhat easier.
  1848. >You just have to find a unicorn to cast some of these spells.
  1849. >Lucky for you, you know just the right ponies.
  1850. >Of the table of notebooks, you pick up a sturdy leather bound one and skim through the first few pages.
  1851. >They’re all simple spells made of three or four runes at most.
  1852. >Don’t want it to seem like you’re too invested in this, do you?
  1853. >It’s getting dark now, so you also throw on a jacket before heading out.
  1854. >Your fingertips begin to feel icy as you maneuver through the biting night time air.
  1855. >Running snot drips down and cakes up your mustache, alerting you to how badly you need a shave.
  1856. >Well, actually you may let that go for a while longer. The extra hair is doing a good job of keeping your jaw from locking up in this weather.
  1857. >As you debate to shave or not to shave, you come to Greymane’s house.
  1858. >All the lights are off, save for one small lamp near the front walk for anyone trying to leave.
  1859. >You walk up and bang on the door with your knuckles, hoping to wake him up if he is indeed asleep.
  1860. >After a minute and still no response, you start again.
  1861. >”I’m coming! Jeez, hold on!”
  1862. >Suddenly, the door flies open.
  1863. >”Do know how fucking late it is?”
  1864. “Does princess have a bedtime?”
  1865. >”Anon? Hell, man, I thought you died or something. It’s been a week.”
  1866. “Can I come in?”
  1867. >”Of course not. What are you doing here at two in the morning?”
  1869. >You kneel down, getting to eye level with him, and pull out your notebook.
  1870. “I need your help,” you whisper.
  1871. >”With what?”
  1872. >He raises an eyebrow as you press the book into his chest.
  1873. >The book is enveloped in a baby blue aura and lifted up.
  1874. >Its pages whir, slapping against each other with each spell he reads.
  1875. >”Are these--”
  1876. “Spells. I want to see if they work.”
  1877. >”Don’t tell me you wrote these.”
  1878. “I’m dabbling.”
  1879. >”Fuck, Anon,” he sighs and steps aside, ushering you in.
  1880. >Not wasting any time, you enter and quickly begin to locate the fireplace.
  1881. >Maybe it’s in the living room.
  1882. >Nope. There’s no fireplace.
  1883. >You didn’t need hands anyway.
  1884. >Greymane enters the pitch dark room soon after you and sits down on a couch in the center of it.
  1885. >The light from his horn is the only source of illumination.
  1886. >Briefly, you consider wrapping your hands around it and absorbing the warmth.
  1887. >”Do you have any idea what you’re doing?”
  1888. “Yes. I already said what I’m doing.”
  1889. >”Dabbling.”
  1890. “Dabbling.”
  1891. >”You’re committing treason.”
  1892. “What’s life without a little adventure?”
  1893. >”Why are you even showing me this?”
  1894. >You sit down next to him and point to the first set of runes on the page.
  1895. “I want you to cast this.”
  1897. >”Hell no.”
  1898. “Come on, don’t be a pussy.”
  1899. >”Anon, you can’t just walk into my house after a week of silence and ask me to do something I might get hanged for.”
  1900. >He grunts and throws the book down.
  1901. >Lunging for it, you scrape it off his worn down, splintered floor and hold it back up.
  1902. >”I want you out of my house.”
  1903. “You moved to Ponyville to become someone, right? Well this is the first step. Show me this spell works, and then we can move somewhere greater.”
  1904. >Come on, take the bait.
  1905. >”I said no.”
  1906. “So that’s it then? You’re going to get a law on a piece of parchment stop you from being something? You just want to sit in your house all your life and hope that one day, something will fall into your lap?”
  1907. >”Of course not.”
  1908. “Then help me.”
  1909. >”But what if someone finds out?”
  1910. “Who do you think I’m going to tell about this? I wrote the damn things. I’d be executed too.”
  1911. >His eyes scan the cover, then trail to you.
  1912. >”What do you even get out of this?”
  1913. “Are you going to help me or not? Because I can leave right now.”
  1914. >”I--”
  1915. >You open the book back up and point to the telekinesis spell.
  1916. “Will help me, yes?”
  1917. >”I,” he pauses and looks to the book.
  1918. >Don’t disappoint, Greymane.
  1919. >”I need time to think about it.”
  1920. “No time like the present.”
  1921. >”Anon, please.”
  1923. >You set the book down on his coffee table.
  1924. >Fishing a pencil out of your pocket, hold it up in front of him.
  1925. “The runes are right there. Just follow their instructions.”
  1926. >A minute passes.
  1927. >He’s thinking. That’s fine.
  1928. >You’re a patient man.
  1929. >Then another minute passes and still nothing has happened.
  1930. >Alright, this is getting annoying.
  1931. >By the third minute, you’ve had enough.
  1932. ”Are you going to do it or not?”
  1933. >“No. Whatever you’re doing, I don’t want to be a part of it. I won’t tell anyone, but I’m not going to help.”
  1934. “You’re fucking with me.”
  1935. >”Anon, it’s late. I need my sleep.”
  1936. >Unbelievable.
  1937. >Unfuckingbelievable.
  1938. >You snatch the book off the table and storm out of the room.
  1939. “You’re a fucking coward,” you shout before exiting and slamming the door of the little house.
  1940. >You march off at such a pase that the air you displace snuffs out the small light at the end of the walkway.
  1941. >Fucking fantastic.
  1942. >You came all the way out here in this cold and he wouldn’t lift a god damned hoof for you.
  1943. >You even promised him greatness.
  1944. >A fake promise, sure, but he wouldn’t have known that.
  1945. >He’s just a chicken. He can’t handle your ideas.
  1946. >Alright, Anon. So you were wrong about Greymane.
  1947. >Maybe, just maybe, the next pony will be a little more willing.
  1949. >Even with the protection of your short facial hair, your teeth begin to clatter.
  1950. >The next pony will help you.
  1951. >They have to.
  1952. >Looking back, it was kind of a long shot with Greymane.
  1953. >This one is perfectly gullible though.
  1954. >Yes, this one won’t ask any questions. Not with the right wording, anyway.
  1955. >You smile as Twilight’s glowing castle comes into view.
  1956. >She’s a desperate, friendship-starved pony who would probably cut off her own leg at this point just to talk to you.
  1957. >One promise here, another ear rub there, and she’ll be putty in your hands.
  1958. >You approach the castle doors and extend your hand to knock.
  1959. >Suddenly, a chill runs down your spine.
  1960. >Not the cold kind of chill, but the kind that makes you feel like you’re being watched.
  1961. >You crane your neck to survey the area, but in the darkness, find nothing.
  1962. “Must have just been my imagination,” you mutter and proceed to knock.
  1963. >Unlike at Greymane’s, the doors open right away.
  1964. >Before you stands an armored guard with stern, yet tired eyes.
  1965. >”Anonymous.”
  1966. “Random guard pony number seventy three.”
  1967. >”What business do you have here?”
  1968. “Friendship business. Let me in.”
  1969. >”I’m afraid the princess is sleeping.”
  1970. >Yeah, nah.
  1971. >You step in, pushing the guard aside.
  1972. “Not anymore.”
  1974. >”Hey, you can’t do that!”
  1975. “Sue me.”
  1976. >You cup your hands around your mouth and bellow out, sending your voice through the whole castle.
  1977. “Twilight, it’s your bestest buddy Anon! Let’s chat!”
  1978. >”Get him out of here!” shouts the burdened stallion now behind you.
  1979. >”Wait!”
  1980. >Ha ha, time for magic.
  1981. >Twilight comes bursting out from the hallway, dressed in a thin yellow nightgown that hugs her body.
  1982. >”Anon, you’re here,” exclaims the excited mare.
  1983. “This is true.”
  1984. >She gallops up to you at full speed and leaps for a hug.
  1985. >Right before impact, she stops and pulls back.
  1986. >You think you hear her mumbling something about space, but before you can ask her about it, she prods you with her own question.
  1987. >”What brings you to the castle at this hour?”
  1988. “I wanted to talk to my friend. We are friends, right?”
  1989. >Eugh. Laying it on a little thick there, huh?
  1990. >Let’s bring it back a little.
  1991. >”We are.”
  1992. “So, uh, I know I’ve been absent for a week, but I want to make up for it.”
  1993. >A small smile creeps across her lips.
  1994. >Looks like she’s taking the bait.
  1996. >”Guards, you’re dismissed.”
  1997. >”But, Princess, it’s so dark out.”
  1998. >”Yes, and?”
  1999. >”Well, it’s dark out.”
  2000. >”Goodnight, guards.”
  2001. >The armored ponies give each other some weary looks before poking their heads outside.
  2002. >”I’m not going first.”
  2003. >”Don’t be a scaredy cat.”
  2004. >”Okay, you go.”
  2005. >”Let’s all go on three.”
  2006. >”One, two, three!”
  2007. >”You didn’t go!”
  2008. >”Neither did you!”
  2009. >Oh sweet lord above.
  2010. “Twilight, got anywhere private we can talk?”
  2011. >She nods and ushers for you to follow her.
  2012. >You follow her out of the lobby, leaving the arguing guards behind.
  2013. “Hey, Twi, why do they have to leave if we’re not even in the room with them anymore?”
  2014. >”That’s a good point.”
  2015. >Yes, and?
  2016. “So shouldn’t we tell them they can stay?”
  2017. >”Nope. They won’t leave anyway.”
  2018. “Because of their duty to you?”
  2019. >”Perceived duty. I don’t hire any guards. Those are just a bunch of ponies that dress up because they think I need protection. I’ve been trying to get them to leave for ages.”
  2020. >Wow, that actually sounds really unsafe.
  2021. >Twilight ends up leading you to her bedroom, and you can’t help but wonder how many times those guards have wandered by with lewd thoughts in their minds.
  2022. >Then it occurs to you that there is absolutely nothing to worry about.
  2023. >Twilight is the most powerful unicorn in Equestria. If anyone tried to hurt her, she could stop them without so much as a thought.
  2025. >She trots into her room and climbs up onto her big purple bed covered in silky purple sheets and purple comforter with purple pillows.
  2026. >Holy moly that’s a lot of purple.
  2027. >You’ve never been in her room before, so you didn’t really know what to expect when you walked in.
  2028. >Certainly you never would have thought that anyone could stomach being surrounded by so much purple and blue.
  2029. >From the blue floor to the purple carpet to the blue ceiling to the purple cabinet to the blue walls to the purple bed to the blue hearth to the purple fan, it’s just too much.
  2030. >Don’t say anything, Anon.
  2031. >Yes, your widening eyes will do nicely.
  2032. >Luckily, Twilight takes your shock as amazement and giggles.
  2033. >Already doing great.
  2034. >”So, how have you been?”
  2035. “Oh, same old same old.”
  2036. >”That bad, huh?”
  2037. >What’s that supposed to mean?
  2038. >”Well you’re here now,” she says softly, tapping a spot on the bed next to her.
  2039. >You could go sit down next to her, but that would satisfy her a little too much.
  2040. >It should seem like you’re trying to reconnect, but you’re still just distant enough to increase her desperation.
  2041. >Is there anywhere else to sit in this room?
  2042. >The hearth looks rather nice, actually.
  2043. >It looks like there hasn’t been a blaze in the fireplace for ages though, so the crystal would probably chill you through to the bones.
  2044. >Fuck it. Bite the bullet, Anon.
  2045. >You mosey on over to the crystal structure and take a seat.
  2046. >Instantly, the smooth fabric of your pants freezes your hamstrings.
  2048. >Twilight is somewhat saddened by your choice in seating area.
  2049. >Perfect.
  2050. “Yep. How about you? Up to anything special?”
  2051. >”Oh, nothing much. I had brunch with Celestia yesterday so that was nice.”
  2052. >Uh oh.
  2053. “Celestia? I thought you two weren’t really talking much anymore.”
  2054. >”Well, there hasn’t been much call to lately. I do enjoy being with her though. She is my aunt, after all.”
  2055. “In law.”
  2056. >”Even so.”
  2057. “Anyway, how do you feel about her? Do you feel your bond has strengthened since your visit?”
  2058. >”What do you mean?”
  2059. >You mean that if Celestia’s hold on Twilight grows any more powerful, you might have an awful hard time convincing her to commit treason.
  2060. >As it stands, you have a chance if you play your cards right.
  2061. “I just mean that if,” you pause for a second, quickly stringing together a sentence in the least offensive manner you can. “If a visit with her makes your friendship stronger, maybe I should visit more often.”
  2062. >Fuck yeah. Nailed it.
  2063. >”I’d like that. We could get back to how things used to be.”
  2064. “Ah, yes. How things used to be. I remember it like it was yesterday. Having no friends could be pretty hard at times.”
  2065. >”No friends?” she asks, dejected. “I thought we were pretty close.”
  2066. “We were. We weren’t friends. We were besties.”
  2067. >She smiles at that and picks her head up in pride.
  2068. >Give it a minute.
  2069. >After the words have had time to sink in, her grin fades.
  2070. >That’s right, Princess of Friendship.
  2071. >Were.
  2072. >”You know, I’d really like for things to go back to how they used to be.”
  2073. “Yeah, I completely agree. You were such a good friend.”
  2074. >”I’m still a good friend,” she yelps.
  2076. “Oh sure. Yeah, you totally are. You try really hard to be a good friend, don’t you?”
  2077. >She nods fervently.
  2078. “Well then, do you think that as a good friend, you could listen? I have something I want to get off my chest.”
  2079. >”Of course. I’m all ears.”
  2080. “You know I don’t have any magic, right?”
  2081. >”Are you still upset about that?”
  2082. “It’s just such a big topic that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around, but I think I’m still not getting it.”
  2083. >”Well that’s understandable. You lack any and all magical talent. There’s no reason to expect you to grasp it like a normal pony. That doesn’t devalue you at all.”
  2084. >Thanks?
  2085. >”You’re still Anonymous to me.”
  2086. “Well it’s just really been getting to me lately. I want to understand it like you do since you’re so amazing with magic.”
  2087. >”Aw, thank y--”
  2088. “But,” you butt in, “I know that you’re busy as a princess and wouldn’t have any time for me.”
  2089. >”That’s not true.”
  2090. “Jeez, why’d I even come by? Look at me keeping you up. You probably have a big meeting in the morning.”
  2091. >”It’s not an issue, really. I always have time for my friends.”
  2092. “No, no, don’t bother. It’s my fault. I should go. I know you don’t have any time to be a friend right now.”
  2093. >You get up and begin to walk to the door.
  2094. >”Anon, wait!”
  2095. >The door is wrapped in a lavender haze and slams shut before you can reach it.
  2096. >You turn around glance at Twilight.
  2097. >Her glowing horn brightens up her teary orbs.
  2098. >”Please don’t leave again. I’m a good friend. Let me be one to you.”
  2099. “You couldn’t possibly take the time to be a friend to me. You’re so busy now, aren’t you? I don’t mean to be a burden.”
  2100. >”You’re not! Friends aren’t burdens!”
  2101. “Do you mean that?”
  2102. >Your hands warm as they’re wrapped in her magical grip.
  2103. >By her powers, you’re dragged across the room and sat down on the bed beside her.
  2104. >”Of course I do.”
  2106. “Then would you help me to understand magic like a real friend would?”
  2107. >”I would!”
  2108. “Cross your heart and hope to die?”
  2109. >”Stick a cupcake in my--wait, die?”
  2110. “Sorry, fly. Force of habit.”
  2111. >”Stick a cupcake in my eye.”
  2112. >She motions to stab her hoof into her eye, but you grab it before she can give herself pinkeye.
  2113. “Then maybe we could start with this.”
  2114. >You reach into your jacket and pull out the notebook, placing it into her hoof.
  2115. >”What’s this?”
  2116. “A small book I found while exploring the Everfree.”
  2117. >”It says Made in Pona.”
  2118. “It’s probably really old.”
  2119. >”It doesn’t look old.”
  2120. “Anyway, look inside.”
  2121. >She raises an eyebrow at you and peels it open to the first page.
  2122. >”Oh my goodness,” she whispers, scanning the various spells you’ve written down.
  2123. “Those are runes, right? Like from the magical artifact book.”
  2124. >”Yes, they are. I’ve never seen such a complete manual before.”
  2125. “What do you mean?”
  2126. >”I mean these are immaculate. The instructions are perfectly preserved. It looks like they were written just yesterday.”
  2127. >You laugh nervously and give her a firm pat on the back.
  2128. “Oh, silly you. There’s no way that could be true. Made yesterday. What a silly notion.”
  2129. >”Most manuals I’ve seen have been torn apart or smudged to incoherency.”
  2130. “So the quality of the book is great, but what about the quality of the spells? Do they look right?”
  2131. >She shrugs.
  2132. >”I wouldn’t know. Except for that magical artifact book and a few other instances, I unfortunately haven’t seen enough to know much beyond how to perform them.”
  2133. “You never looked for more? It just took me a little walking through the Everfree to find this.”
  2134. >”Well, when you live most of your life under the tutelage of the most powerful being in the world who also happened to write the laws banning the study and writing of runes, you don’t really have much opportunity to go out and look into them.”
  2136. “But you’ve wanted to.”
  2137. >”Well, I wouldn’t say it’s been a strong want, but I can’t say I ever would have immediately turned down the opportunity to have a look at some.”
  2138. >Doh ho ho.
  2139. >Looks like this just got a whole lot easier.
  2140. >You grin as Twilight leans closer to the book to examine a specific set of runes.
  2141. “Do you think you’d ever object to trying one?”
  2142. >Twilight’s eyes slowly turn to you.
  2143. >”You mean like actually cast one of these?”
  2144. >They widen as you nod.
  2145. >”Of course I would. I’d love to learn about more types of magic, but the law is the law, Anon. Celestia banned these for a good reason.”
  2146. “But what if they’re wrong?”
  2147. >”The runes?”
  2148. “Yeah. What if they’re wrong? You’d be studying the wrong thing and learning the wrong information.”
  2149. >”Why would they be wrong?”
  2150. “Why wouldn’t they be?”
  2151. >”I suppose that’s a good point. Still though, I couldn’t cast one. It’d just be wrong. It’s immoral. It’s against the law.”
  2152. “But, Twilight, what about me? I’m already having a hard time trying to understand magic. If you’re learning the wrong stuff, that would just hurt me even more.”
  2153. >Her brow furrows as your words begin to sink in.
  2154. >Twilight’s eyes drift back to the book and find a new spell to focus on.
  2155. >”It’s still not right. I mean, these are runes, Anon. It’s bad enough I’m even holding this.”
  2156. “So that’s it? You’re just going to let me go here?”
  2157. >”No, that’s not it.”
  2158. “I just wanted to learn about magic and you’re spitting in my face.”
  2159. >”Hey, don’t be like that. My hooves are tied here.”
  2160. “No, they’re not. You’re just being a bad friend. I came to you looking to reconnect and you offered your help. Now you’re telling me I’m on my own.”
  2161. >”Anon, please,” she pleads, putting the book down to climb onto your shoulders. “That’s not what I meant.”
  2162. >She stares into your eyes pleadingly, but you push her off and turn away.
  2163. “You won’t even cast one spell to help me. Obviously I don’t matter to you.”
  2164. >”Anon!”
  2165. “I would have thought your duties as not only the princess of friendship, but being my own friend, would have outweighed something you couldn’t even be caught for doing.”
  2167. >”Alright!”
  2168. “Alright?”
  2169. >”Alright!”
  2170. “You’ll do it?”
  2171. >”I’ll do it!”
  2172. “You mean it?”
  2173. >”I mean it!
  2174. >Your smugness could blind a lesser being.
  2175. >Control that grin, Anon.
  2176. >You let your mind wander to dead puppies and you getting your testicles kicked into the back of your asshole by the manticore.
  2177. >That depresses you enough to turn your almighty smirk into a straight face which you feel confident to meet Twilight with.
  2178. >Slowly, you turn to her.
  2179. “Alright. If you’re really my friend, then cast one.”
  2180. >She feverishly searches for an appropriate spell.
  2181. >She eventually lands on one of your favorites: a simple telekinesis spell.
  2182. >You get all tingly, and it’s not just the feeling returning to your skin after being out in the cold for so long.
  2183. >One week of sleepless researching and endless writing has led up to this.
  2184. >For all you know, this could be a total dud and you’re as close to understanding runes as Twilight is to being a good friend.
  2185. >But then, on the off chance you were right with everything you wrote, it would open up a whole new world of possibilities.
  2186. >Twilight sighs and channels a small bit of magic into her horn.
  2187. >The markings on the page of your notebook begin to glow a similar color to her own aura.
  2188. >At first it’s dim, but very quickly the three scribbles shine like the heart of a roaring fire.
  2189. >She picks her target. It’s the small crown on her nightstand.
  2190. >It’s enveloped in a lavender light and starts to shake.
  2191. >Yes. Yes!
  2192. >This is it. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.
  2193. >In just a second, all your work is about to pay off.
  2194. >Any second now.
  2195. >Just one more second.
  2196. >Soon.
  2197. >Your fists ball up as your excitement rises.
  2198. >The thumping of your heart syncs up with Twilight’s grunts of effort.
  2199. >Gosh, it sure is taking a while.
  2201. >It must have been at least a minute so far and all you’ve seen is some gentle jittering.
  2202. >Twilight gives up and huffs, ending the flow of magic and leaving the crown to rest.
  2203. >”I’m sorry, Anon,” she says, eying the book with a look of despair. “Whoever wrote this must have done it as a joke. The spell is a dud.”
  2204. “Oh,” you mutter.
  2205. >”It looks like they’ll remain a mystery a while more. Hey, at least we tried though.”
  2206. >A joke.
  2207. >A dud.
  2208. >”Anon?”
  2209. >All that work.
  2210. >You feel something on your hand.
  2211. >Looking down, you notice it’s Twilight’s hoof.
  2212. >”You’re not upset, are you? I tried.”
  2213. >She tried.
  2214. >That’s right. She did her best.
  2215. >Sure nothing happened, but it’s not her fault.
  2216. >You’re just inept.
  2217. >You’re the failure here.
  2218. >You’re the screwup.
  2219. >So why can’t you stomach looking at her?
  2220. >You rip your hand away and walk over to the door.
  2221. >”Wait, please! I’m sorry it didn’t work. I tried, really!”
  2222. “I know.”
  2223. >”Please don’t go.”
  2224. “It’s not you. It’s me.”
  2225. >You reach for the doorknob and try to turn it, but she’s holding it in place with her magic.
  2226. >With the application of a fair bit of force, you manage to overpower her and force the door open.
  2227. “I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”
  2228. >”Anon, wait!”
  2229. >No.
  2231. >The guards await you at the door of the castle.
  2232. >They’ve made it to standing in the doorway, but still not quite outside.
  2233. >They don’t even say goodbye as you leave since the argument they’re having on rock, paper, scissors is clearly more important.
  2234. >”I won. That means you go out first.”
  2235. >”That’s insane. You picked rock.”
  2236. >”No, I picked paper.”
  2237. >”That was clearly rock.”
  2238. >”Let’s try again.”
  2239. >”Rock, paper, scissors, magic missile!”
  2240. >”Ha! You picked rock!”
  2241. >”This is paper! You picked rock!”
  2242. >Should you tell them?
  2243. >No, they’ll figure it out eventually.
  2244. >You just want to go home and forget about today.
  2245. >The cold, hard dirt feels like concrete as you mosey through the town, eventually coming to your little cabin on the edge.
  2246. >In the pale moonlight, you’re able to just make out how ragged the path leading through the trees has gotten.
  2247. >You’ll have to cut those tomorrow.
  2248. >After making it inside, you motion to take off your jacket but stop short of unbuttoning.
  2249. >The fire has been dead for hours. It’s just as cold if not more so than outside.
  2250. >God damn it. You need to get one going before you catch a death of cold.
  2251. >With your jacket still on, you make way to the fireplace to fill it up.
  2252. >As you approach it, you pass by your small workstation in the livingroom.
  2253. >Your small candle has gone out, leaving some hardened wax on the candlestick that extends down like icicles onto one of your open notebooks.
  2254. >You grimace and go to remove it.
  2255. >Once there, you find yourself sitting down and reading through the rough draft of spells you had.
  2256. >Wow, what an idiot you were.
  2257. >How could you have ever thought that you would be able to understand this stuff?
  2259. >You should just get rid of it.
  2260. >Destroy it all.
  2261. >Erase this part of your life.
  2262. >You grab a fresh pencil hold it to the page, ready to scrub out the runes.
  2263. >Your hand freezes.
  2264. >No, not cold freezes.
  2265. >Well yes, it’s also freezing from the cold, but mean frozen as in it won’t move.
  2266. >Alright, so maybe you’re not ready to erase it. You can still scribble it out though.
  2267. >You flip the pencil around and put it to the page.
  2268. >A few strokes later and you’ve made another rune.
  2269. >No, bad Anon. Scribble. Destroy the book.
  2270. >Before you know it, you’ve put down a dozen more runes and made a dozen more spells, each probably as incomplete and unfunctional as the one you had Twilight try.
  2271. >What are you doi--
  2272. >Suddenly it occurs to you what the problem is.
  2273. “Of course,” you exclaim.
  2274. >That’s where you went wrong.
  2275. >You’ve been writing runes from your own perspective!
  2276. >All these spells are what Anon would think were the basic components of a spell.
  2277. >You stupid fucking asshole. You don’t have magic. You don’t know jack shit about magic.
  2278. >Instead of writing them how you would, you should be thinking about it from another pony’s perspective!
  2279. >Your chair topples over as you burst out of it and practically fly across the living room, aiming for the pile of donated books still held against the wall.
  2280. >The most powerful artifacts in the book you borrowed from Twilight were made by a few very specific ponies.
  2281. >If you could find some books on them, learn enough about them, then just maybe you could put yourself in their mindset and make something worthwhile.
  2282. >Let’s see. Not this one. Not this one either.
  2283. >Nope.
  2284. >You doubt Magic Missile for Dummies would be of any help here.
  2285. >Ah ha!
  2286. >My Mistakes, an autobiography by J.R.R. Ponykin, creator of the Self Propelled Wagon.
  2287. >City on a Hill, an autobiography by Quickwind Winthrop,  creator of several small artifacts and the Never Ending Inkwell.
  2288. >Into the Fray, a biography on Blackmane XIV, creator of thirty seven different artifacts and writer of a whole class of runes.
  2290. >One month later.
  2292. >Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.
  2293. >There’s no vomit on your sweater yet.
  2294. >There better fucking not be either. This is expensive fabric you had to gather specially for Rarity to make it with.
  2295. >Why on God’s green Earth you thought it would be a good idea to wear your good sweater out to the Everfree is beyond you.
  2296. >”Jump, you pussy!”
  2297. “Why did we come out here?!”
  2298. >”I wanted to play some hoofball, but you insisted on coming out here to find a book!”
  2299. “You should have talked me out of it!”
  2300. >”You threatened to kill me!”
  2301. “I say a lot of stupid shit!”
  2302. >Fucking hell.
  2303. >Staring at Greymane on the other side of what’s probably a thirty foot drop in the middle of a broken down piece of shit castle is not how you planned on spending your Sunday.
  2304. >”Jump! You’ve got nothing to lose!”
  2305. “Oh, that’s bullshit!”
  2306. >You clutch the wrapped up object in your arms closer to your chest.
  2307. >Within the tight gauze wrap is a small book that you deemed important enough to come all the way out here to get.
  2308. >Of course you weren’t stupid enough to come into the Everfree alone, so you talked Greymane into it as well.
  2309. >While he’s not the most skilled unicorn, he is probably the only one who would have come along with you.
  2310. >Alright, Anon. Let’s analyze the situation.
  2311. >You’re in the deep innards of what would have been Twilight’s castle had a crystal one made of hardened magic hadn’t popped out of the ground.
  2312. >The floor you’re standing on is about as stable as your relationship with your mother.
  2313. >There’s a good thirteen foot hole in the floor keeping you from reaching your partner in crime.
  2314. >How did you even get across this the first time?
  2315. >Oh, right. The floor was still there the first time.
  2316. “You just had to throw that rock, didn’t you?”
  2317. >”It needed to be done.”
  2318. “You’ve destroyed a piece of history.”
  2319. >”And you’re stealing one. Who’s going to tattle first?”
  2320. >Fucking smartass.
  2322. >Alright, alright, fine. Let’s do.
  2323. >Fucking jump.
  2324. >What other way is there?
  2325. >You back away from the hole about twenty feet, reentering the room in which you found this treasure.
  2326. >Breathe, Anon. You can do this.
  2327. >In three, two, one.
  2328. >Ok, that was a just a test.
  2329. >This is the the real one.
  2330. >In three, two, one and a half, one and a fourth, one.
  2331. >Any second now.
  2332. >Fuck, you waited too long and psyched yourself out.
  2333. >”Any day now!”
  2334. “I’m working on it!”
  2335. >You really don’t want to die today.
  2336. >Ok, fuck it. Run!
  2337. >You kick off the floor and break into a dead run.
  2338. >The distance between you and the gap closes in a second and you kick off the edge, soaring into the air.
  2339. >Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, you’ve made a terrible mistake.
  2340. >You’re going to fucking die.
  2341. >The hole, right underneath you, threatens to swallow you whole.
  2342. >Time slows down to a crawl.
  2343. >It’s as if it takes an eternity to move even one inch forward.
  2344. >Wind rushes through your beard, pulls on your clothes, and freezes the sweat on your face.
  2345. >No, it hasn’t frozen your sweat. The sweat has just gone cold.
  2346. >As you near the other side of the pit, you extend your legs to meet the solid floor.
  2347. >Come on, don’t miss.
  2348. >If you land this, you’ll totally go religious.
  2350. >Whamo!
  2351. >Your feet slam into the floor.
  2352. >In one motion, you throw all your weight forward and clear the pit totally.
  2353. >You crash into Greymane and topple him over.
  2354. >Ha! You did it!
  2355. >And all on your own too.
  2356. >The stallion squirms underneath you, griping about something or other.
  2357. >Fuck him.
  2358. >You roll off the pony and begin to kiss the floor despite the dirt and dust covering it.
  2359. >”Dude, that’s fucked.”
  2360. >Heavens above, you’ve never been so happy to be not dead before.
  2361. >”Alright, let’s get out of here now. You got your stupid book.”
  2362. “It’s not stupid.”
  2363. >”What is it anyway?”
  2364. >You get your feet under you and dust yourself off.
  2365. “I’m bored. Let’s blow this popsicle stand.”
  2366. >”Yeah, let’s.”
  2367. >You two move through the maze like castle and finally find your exit.
  2368. >He shivers as the frosty air meets his thin coat.
  2369. “Should have brought a jacket.”
  2370. >”I should have brought boots is what I should have done.”
  2371. >There’s snow covering the forest floor.
  2372. >It crunches underneath your feet and his hooves as you walk.
  2373. “Too little, too late.”
  2374. >”I didn’t have to come out here, you know.”
  2375. “I know, but you chose to.”
  2376. >”I’ll never know why.”
  2377. “Piss off. You had fun and you know it.”
  2378. >The path back to Ponyville is illuminated by what sun breaks through the dead trees above.
  2379. >Lucky for you, there are no monsters along the way either.
  2380. >Unlike on Earth where only some animals hibernated, in Equestria, every animal hibernates for the winter.
  2381. >Every animal except the obvious, of course.
  2383. >If there were any big bads to worry about, you’d have had to postpone this trip to a later date.
  2384. >You’re man enough to admit you got totally lucky with that manticore. Going up against another monster would be the end of you.
  2385. “Hey,” you spout, breaking the quiet between you two after a few minutes. “Have you been working on your telekinesis?”
  2386. >”Of course I have.”
  2387. “What can you move?”
  2388. >”I’ve leveled up to a pencil.”
  2389. “You’re the worst unicorn ever.”
  2390. >”Eat a dick.”
  2391. >Also the end of Greymane.
  2392. >”While we’re on the topic, the girls wanted me to ask you if you were free later.”
  2393. “What does that have to do with you being the most incompetent unicorn I’ve ever met?”
  2394. >”Are you free or not?”
  2395. “For what?”
  2396. >”I’m not supposed to tell you Applejack is hosting a little get-together for Hearthswarming.”
  2397. “You mean pony Christmas.”
  2398. >”No, I mean Hearthswarming.”
  2399. “Christmas.”
  2400. >”That’s not even a thing.”
  2401. >Your interest in this conversation is going down by the second.
  2402. >”So are you coming or do I tell them you have a cold again?”
  2403. >Well, it is Christmas. You shouldn’t be so distant.
  2404. >But then again, you haven’t talked to the girls in a while anyway. Does one more day really make a difference?
  2405. >”Hey, anyone home?”
  2406. “Whatever, I’ll come. What time?”
  2407. >”Seven sharp.”
  2408. >Seven thirty it is.
  2410. >It’s a half an hour walk back to Ponyville that’s filled with idle chat.
  2411. >When you reach the town border, you two begin to head your separate ways.
  2412. >Before he can make it too far, you call out to Greymane.
  2413. “So I’ll see you there?”
  2414. >”Unless you plan on visiting me earlier.”
  2415. “Why would I do that?”
  2416. >”To ask me on another stupid fucking adventure and try to get us killed again.”
  2417. “You make it sound like you don’t enjoy it when I do that.”
  2418. >”I could do without the weekly suicide missions.”
  2419. “We haven’t died yet.”
  2420. >”Yeah, ok. Bye.”
  2421. “Bye.”
  2422. >You head off to your own home just as it begins to snow.
  2423. >The flakes are light and fluffy and get stuck in your beard.
  2424. >Several ponies stop to wave hi to you, which you return out of politeness.
  2425. >The tone around here really has changed since that day.
  2426. >There was once a time where you would have considered that a good thing.
  2427. >Now, though, not at all.
  2428. >You’ll earn this though.
  2429. >One day, some time far down the road, you’ll earn their praise.
  2430. >Your cabin sits where it always does, right behind a row of trees on the edge of town.
  2431. >A shiver runs up your arm as you grab the icy doorknob and turn it, forcing the kinky thing open.
  2432. >Snow falls into your house, landing mostly on the welcome mat.
  2433. >You step inside and remove your boots, then head over to the fireplace, careful not to knock over any of the small piles of books along the way.
  2434. >There’s a very specific path you have to take.
  2435. >After loading up the fireplace with some seasoned logs, you light her up and sink back into your comfy red chair.
  2436. >There’s a cold cup of coffee sitting on a rather tall stack of books beside you.
  2437. >Should you leave that next to the fire to warm up?
  2439. >You lift the cup up to your mouth and take a hesitant sip.
  2440. >Eh, it’s alright.
  2441. >Tilting your head back, you take a generous gulp of the stuff and set it back down.
  2442. >Now to get to the good shit.
  2443. >You begin to undo the gauze covering your most recent asset.
  2444. >What’s revealed is a hefty, brown leather book with a beautiful painting on the front.
  2445. >You’re not an expert in ancient Equestrian, but from what you can manage to make out, it’s about exactly what you’re hoping for.
  2446. >You open it up to the first page and give it a blow, sending a wave of dust off into the air.
  2447. >It gets up in your nose and encourages a sneeze.
  2448. >No, they always come in threes.
  2449. >Three sneezes later, you’re wiping your nose on your sleeve and begin to read.
  2450. >Ah, wonderful.
  2451. >A memoir by Starswirl the Bearded on how he crafted his magical artifacts.
  2452. >This is just the kind of inspiration you needed.
  2453. >A look into the mind of one of the greatest sorcerers in Equestrian history should certainly help you to understand these damned things.
  2455. >Apparently you need some kind of magic circle to place the objects in, but he doesn’t explicitly explain how to make the circle.
  2456. >Of course.
  2457. >You swear to God, being a cryptic shitlord was the standard hobby for ancient ponies.
  2458. >”You darn foals better get off my lawn before some mysterious fate that you may or may not enjoy befalls you at some undisclosed point in your lives!”
  2459. >Grumbling, you push through the page, looking for anything that might help you.
  2460. >It’s really just a lot of stuff you’ve pulled from some other sources already.
  2461. >The object has to be inscribed with the runes, a physical form of magic must be applied to it, there’s some chanting, bla bla bla.
  2462. >Where’s the fucking circle?
  2463. >Angrily, you flip the pages and graze each one.
  2464. >Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.
  2465. >Why the fuck did you even go out to get this damned thing?
  2466. >You should have known it’d be nothing. Starswirl is famous for being cun--oh wait, there it is.
  2467. >He was kind enough to draw you a picture that’s only half smudged out.
  2468. >Well, you know, that’s not too bad. You can work with that.
  2469. >Maybe Starswirl wasn’t so bad afterall.
  2471. >So it looks to be a fairly thin circle. Actually, two circles--a big one and a little one containing some symbols within them.
  2472. >You can make out half of them, but the others are lost with the smudging.
  2473. >Where did you leave your pencil?
  2474. >Is it all the way over on your work table?
  2475. >Hell no, you’re not going all the way over there.
  2476. >There’s got to be a writing utensil nearby.
  2477. >You feel around you, digging your hand underneath the cushion, but find nothing.
  2478. >The immediate area around you also proves barren.
  2479. >Well shit.
  2480. >The next minute, you’re fumbling around your table, moving papers and scrolls to find a proper pencil or pen.
  2481. >Luckily, you happen across a sharpie.
  2482. >It’s not exactly the penman’s choice, but it will work.
  2483. >By the way, what an amazing coincidence that Equestria has sharpies too.
  2484. >Where were you?
  2485. >Ah, yes.
  2486. >You produce a blank sheet of paper and begin to copy the image as best you can, careful not to screw up the symbols.
  2487. >It looks alright.
  2488. >By that, you of course mean it’s utter trash.
  2489. >”Alright” is synonymous with gutter filth if you’re messing with something as crucial as magic symbols.
  2490. >Time to try it again.
  2491. >After scribbling out the bad version, you start on a new copy of the original picture.
  2492. >And then another, followed by another, then another, until you finally have something that looks exactly like the original picture because that’s exactly what it is.
  2493. >Nobody said you couldn’t trace.
  2494. >Now back to the book.
  2495. >Content with your current scribbles, you’re able to relax and read regularly.
  2497. >Without the pressing matter of the circle on your mind, there’s actually some good information in here.
  2498. >Starswirl explains how he learned to cope with his own magical power and how he came to find his purpose past his cutie mark.
  2499. >Funny, you think. The way Starswirl explains it all reminds you of your father.
  2500. >He would sit you down and tell you all about when “I was a boy, I had to walk three miles to school and they didn’t care if it was snowing or not.”
  2501. >Starswirl is very as-a-matter-of-fact when he isn’t talking about magic.
  2502. >The best way to explain it would be if Hemingway and Fitzgerald got together and wrote a book by each authoring one chapter at a time.
  2503. >It makes trying to pull the useful information out somewhat difficult but at least entertaining if that makes any sense.
  2504. >In one of the Fitzgerald sections, he goes into the making of the circle.
  2505. >It’s about what you would expect.
  2506. >Draw some circles in the dirt, put the symbols in, make sure they match this exact order.
  2507. >Wait just a second.
  2508. >You lean close to the page to make sure you’re not missing some word.
  2509. >”And so of all variations I have attempted, it is these last few that I do invest my dreams and form the complete the spell.”
  2510. >Jackpot.
  2511. >Mary mother of Christ, this is wonderful.
  2512. >Giggling like a schoolgirl, you slide back into your chair and stare at the ceiling.
  2513. >At last, you’ve finally done it. The secrets of spell binding are right within your hands, just ripe for the picking.
  2514. >No more struggling to find dead ends in stolen scrolls and pilfered tomes.
  2515. >No more adventuring out into the world on a thin lead hoping to tie the loose end.
  2516. >No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.
  2517. >Or something.
  2518. >No more sunlight either.
  2519. >It must be nighttime.
  2520. >Probably past seven.
  2521. >On Christmas.
  2522. >Oh fuck.
  2524. >You leap out of your chair and make a mad dash out the door.
  2525. >Jesus, Anon, open the damn thing first.
  2526. >You fumble with the knob, open up the front door, promptly lock it, and run off.
  2527. >Shit, forgot your jacket.
  2528. >You turn back and try to open up, only to find you’ve locked the door.
  2529. >Where are your keys?
  2530. >Oh, right, on your worktable.
  2531. >Well that’s just grand.
  2532. >An inner debate on whether you should break a window with a rock sparks up inside you, but you determine it’s better to do that after the party rather than to leave an open window while you’re gone.
  2533. >Sure it’s Ponyville but, fuck, you never know.
  2534. >It’s like your father always said.
  2535. >”Trust only in the fact that you can’t trust and you’ll be safe from everyone.”
  2536. >Words to selectively live by.
  2537. >A brisk wind sends a shiver down your spine, prompting you to get some blood pumping and head out.
  2538. >Over the hills and through the snow, to Applejack’s barn you go.
  2539. >You sure know the way, you went there one day.
  2540. >Was that the right left to take?
  2541. >Over the hills and through the snow, to the wrong side of town you go.
  2542. >Your shoes are now wet, some cider you’ll get, if to Applejack’s barn you head.
  2543. >Over the hills and through the snow, this is probably the right way to go.
  2544. >You’ve taken the turn, your lungs do now burn.
  2545. >Where are the damned street lights?
  2546. >Over the hills and through the snow, to Applejack’s barn you go.
  2547. >It’s there  just in sight on this winter night.
  2548. >About fucking time, amirite?
  2550. >There’s only some light breaking through the windows, so at least you know there’s something going on in there.
  2551. >You trudge through the tundra, curing yourself for not grabbing your boots.
  2552. >There better be a fire in there you can dry off next to.
  2553. >Yeah, a fire in a barn full of hay.
  2554. >You’re just full of good ideas tonight, aren’t you?
  2555. >You raise your fist and bang on the door, overpowering what jolly tunes Pinkie has going on inside.
  2556. >It’s not too long before the massive door flies open, revealing Applejack herself.
  2557. >”Howdy there, Anon! C’mon in!”
  2558. “Nice to see you, AJ,” you oblige her.
  2559. >After closing the door behind you, she trots up and waves her hoof about, displaying the entirety of the barn to you.
  2560. >It actually looks a lot nicer than you remember it.
  2561. >The room is brightly lit, playing off the yellow hues of the hay pushed to the walls.
  2562. >From the ceiling hang little Christmas ornaments and streamers that totally aren’t Christmas but fucking are.
  2563. >In the center of the barn is a very long table that most of the guests surround if they’re not out dancing somewhere else.
  2564. >At least there’s not poop anywhere. You’ll give her that.
  2565. >”Here at Sweet Apple Acres, we go’in put all our eggs in a basket. Any job worth startin’s worth finishin’. Ain’t that raht, Big Mac?”
  2566. >”Eey--”
  2567. “Don’t even say it.”
  2568. >She leads you to the snack table decked out with apple treats from apple fritters to apple pies.
  2569. >You don’t think you’ve ever seen as many apple-themed foods in your life.
  2570. >”Now, ah don’ want you’ta get the wrong ahdeer here, but Anon, I’ll be right honest with ya. Ya look lahk a stiff wind’a knock you plum on your rear. Help yerself to the snacks, little feller. Ah’ll go whip up some more ifin you’re burnin’ through ‘em.”
  2571. >Did you just get the talk?
  2572. “Gee, thanks, Applejack.”
  2574. >”Ah’m just lookin’ out fer ya. Now c’mon, Anon! Let’s enjoy the party!”
  2575. >Woo hoo.
  2576. >You walk around the place and say your hello’s.
  2577. >Rarity is quite appalled at the shape your sweater is in.
  2578. >”Oh, darling, what have you been doing with yourself?”
  2579. “Man stuff. You wouldn’t get it.”
  2580. >”I should hope not! Such behavior only leads to the tarnish and ruination of good clothing. Oh, you simply must let me patch that up for you, deary.”
  2581. “It’s fine. Thank you, though.”
  2582. >”Oh no no no. I insist.”
  2583. >The warm item is pulled off your body by a blue magic haze.
  2584. >The barn is warmer than outside for sure, but you’re still not super keen to have lost a layer so crucial to your comfort.
  2585. >”I am the element of generosity, after all.”
  2586. “Oh, really? I would have thought that was all behind you once the elements were pulled into the earth to make Twilight’s castle.”
  2587. >”The thought is still there.”
  2588. “Well I appreciate the thought, but I’m fine.”
  2589. >Quickly, you snatch the sweater from her and put it back on.
  2590. >Good thing you did that when you did. Your nipples were already forming a revolt.
  2591. >Alright, who’s next?
  2592. >You eye the room and spot Rainbow Dash and Pinkie doing something in the corner.
  2593. >It looks like a dance, but whatever it is, you’re not the least bit interested in engaging in conversation with them.
  2594. >Who else?
  2595. >You could talk to Fluttershy.
  2596. >Or not.
  2597. >There’s also Big Mac.
  2598. >He seems like a pretty cool guy that you could talk to and get away from pretty quickly.
  2599. >Ha ha, good joke, Anon.
  2600. >Well what about Twilight?
  2601. >Hell fucking no.
  2602. >Greymane?
  2603. >You crane your neck and search around for him but fail to spot the stallion anywhere.
  2604. “You son of a bitch,” you mumble.
  2605. >Well, at least the snack table is inviting.
  2607. >You find shelter there and pick up one of the apple fritters.
  2608. >Your mouth waters as you bring it closer to your face.
  2609. >Oh, how the aroma wafts from it and flows into your nose, wrapping around your brain and filling your thoughts with apples.
  2610. >Apples.
  2611. >Applejack.
  2612. >”Help yerself, little feller,” she echos in your mind.
  2613. >A stiff wind. Yeah right.
  2614. >You set the treat down and cross your arms defiantly, refusing to eat if only to spite her.
  2615. >Why the hell did you come here? You barely like anyone and the only person you can tolerate is probably going to be a stumbling drunk whining about the holiday blues or something.
  2616. >Oh wait, you remember. You were lied to.
  2617. >”Hey, Anon.”
  2618. “Oh God dammit.”
  2619. >”Wassup?”
  2620. >You sigh and try to ignore the purple pony princess mere inches from you.
  2621. >She leans close, her breath overpowering the delectable apple treats as it assaults your senses.
  2622. >Well, assault is a strong word. It doesn’t actually smell that bad itself, it’s just the context of the smell throws you off.
  2623. >”Hey, hey, Anon.”
  2624. “Hi, Twilight.”
  2625. >”So what’s up? It’s been a week, you know.”
  2626. “Yeah.”
  2627. >”You know, a girl might get the wrong idea if you ignore her. You know.”
  2628. “I’m not ignoring you per say. I’ve just been preoccupied.”
  2629. >”Too preoccu--” her voice trails off.
  2630. >She stares into the distance, like something far more important is happening a thousand yards away.
  2631. >Before her eyes develop a film, she seems to snap back to reality.
  2632. >”To preoccupied for friends?”
  2633. “Are you ok?”
  2634. >”I’m fine,” she says. “I’m so amazing that I don’t even remember being locked in my room on Hearthswarming as a filly.”
  2635. “Ok, bye.”
  2636. >”No, wait, I think I messed up. That’s the wrong line.”
  2638. >You’ll have to strangle Applejack for letting Twilight near the special cider.
  2639. >She gets tipsy on the fucking dandelion water these ponies call beer, let alone the real deal hard shit like from back home.
  2640. >Someone has to help you.
  2641. >You look around the room for assistance.
  2642. >Rarity and Applejack are arguing about something.
  2643. >Big Mac is still over there being Big Mac. You don’t know what horrifying images are running through his mind but you shudder to imagine holding a conversation with anyone whose face looks like that.
  2644. >That leaves you with three options and you’re almost fifty percent sure two of them are actually having sex.
  2645. “Fluttershy!”
  2646. >The pegasus looks over, wide eyed from your shout.
  2647. “Come here!”
  2648. >”No, Anon, we’re going to settle this right now. Friend to friend. Man to mare. Mono e mona. Mana. Something with an M.”
  2649. >Fluttershy skimpers over and mumbles something that you assume was some form of “hello”.
  2650. “Fluttershy, Twilight here was just telling me about animal experimentation and how it’s a viable field of science.”
  2651. >”Twilight!”
  2652. >”That’s not what I was talking about!”
  2653. “But it’s true, right?”
  2654. >”I mean, well, of course. Something has to be tested before ponies, right?”
  2655. >”Twilight, that’s awful!”
  2656. “Yeah, you tell her.”
  2657. >And time to escape.
  2658. >Flawless, Anon.
  2659. >Well this was a bust.
  2660. >You’re tempted to just go home right now.
  2661. >At least there you can be cold in private.
  2663. >”Fluttershy, let’s be real.”
  2664. >”How could you ever condone the testing of innocent little animals?”
  2665. >”Well would you prefer some random drug be given to a pony without knowing what it does?”
  2666. >”Of course we’ll know what it does. We made it, didn’t we?”
  2667. >”That’s not how that works. Anon, come back. Anon, please. Help.”
  2668. >Alright, maybe you were a little hard on her.
  2669. >You turn back and eye the ponies carefully.
  2670. >Should you?
  2671. >Just then, Twilight’s rosy cheeks turn a sickly green and she runs to the far wall to empty her stomach.
  2672. >Yeah, nah. You made the right choice.
  2673. >Hey, wouldn’t it be neat if there were a spell that could make people sober?
  2674. >What would a spell like that even look like?
  2675. >Alcohol would in there. Maybe it’s just alcohol disappear?
  2676. >Or perhaps disappear alcohol.
  2677. >No, no, cleanse blood. That would get rid of the alcohol and probably cure AIDS.
  2678. >”Anon, I’m sorry about that.”
  2679. >Where can you write this stuff down?
  2680. >There has to be a pencil around here.
  2681. >”Hey, I’m better now.”
  2682. >Something starts tugging on your sweater.
  2683. >You whip around to see Twilight Drunkle feebly trying to steady herself on her hooves.
  2684. “What do you want?”
  2685. >”I want to talk with you. You know, like friends do. We’re such good friends, aren’t we?”
  2686. “I’m busy.”
  2687. >You pull away from her long enough to remember that you’re not busy quite yet and need to remedy that.
  2688. “Hey, do you have a pencil?”
  2689. >”I have a quill.”
  2690. “Give it to me.”
  2691. >”What’s that magic word?”
  2692. “Flectere mentis.”
  2693. >”When did you learn ancient Equestrian?”
  2694. “Give me the fucking quill.”
  2695. >Her face scrunches up in sync with the glowing of her horn.
  2696. >You can see a matching light across the barn drift towards you.
  2697. >A small brown leather bag with Twilight’s cutie mark plastered on the front drops into your arms.
  2698. >Opening it, you fervently search for a quill, inkwell, and even a piece of paper while you’re at it.
  2700. “Eureka!”
  2701. >”What?”
  2702. “That’s human for fuck off.”
  2703. >You pull the needed items out of the bag and toss it back at her.
  2704. >It smacks her in the face and falls flatly on the floor.
  2705. >After about a second, she responds to the stimulus and wraps it in a lavender aura.
  2706. >”Oh.”
  2707. “Think fast,” you scoff and find an empty corner of the barn to sit down in.
  2708. >You begin to jot down a few ideas, but promptly scribble them out as they’re things that you came up with on your own.
  2709. >Remember, Anon. You can’t do any of this from your perspective. You already failed at that.
  2710. >Someone experienced has to write these spells.
  2711. >Someone with real power.
  2712. >Yes, like him.
  2713. >You’ve read enough about him to put yourself into his mindset.
  2714. >The guy even left behind a whole alphabet of runes you can use too.
  2715. >The next you don’t know how many minutes are spent in great annoyance.
  2716. >Extraneous noise from the party keeps breaking your concentration.
  2717. >At one point, an apple cupcake gets thrown at you.
  2718. >A really tasty looking one too, but you’re still mad at Applejack so you throw it away.
  2719. >”Now that ain’t mighty neighborly of ya.”
  2720. >Oh fuck.
  2721. >You look up from your paper to see Applejack standing right before you.
  2722. >”An’ here ah was thinkin’ yew could use some company.”
  2723. “Can you get out of my light?”
  2724. >”Anon, ah don’t know what in Sam Hill has gotten into yew, but ah sure ain’t to keen on it. Now ahm gonna give yew some options here ‘cause ah think a friend should at least have that much.”
  2725. >Option one. Villam incenderant.
  2726. >”Yew can come an’ join the party ‘a yer own accord, an ifin you don’t, ah’ll just haft’a drag yew over.”
  2727. “Don’t touch me, you filthy casual.”
  2728. >”Alraht, yew asked fer it.”
  2729. >She steps forward and wraps a leg around you.
  2730. >Is this the real life? Or is this fantasy?
  2731. >Caught in a leg lock. No escape from Applejack.
  2732. >Open your eyes, look up at the ceiling and see.
  2733. >You’re just a human being dragged away.
  2734. >But you’re not easy come, easy go.
  2735. >You struggle against her strength.
  2737. >Is this what she thinks friendship is? Forceful cooperation?
  2738. >This kind of shit would wind someone up in jail on Earth.
  2739. >”Now ah know yer afraid, but if yew just siddown and try ‘ta enjoy yerself, you’ll have a swell time!”
  2740. “I don’t want to have a swell time! I want you to leave me alone!”
  2741. >Fucking Earth pony strength.
  2742. >Even with all your muscles pushing at full force, you can’t so much as budge her.
  2743. >This is wrong on so many levels. This isn’t what friends do. This isn’t friendship.
  2744. >Most of all, it’s a waste of your goddamn time.
  2745. >You never should have come here.
  2746. >”Applejack, darling, why do you have your leg wrapped around Anon’s neck?”
  2747. >”It’s what we here on Sweet Apple Acres call ‘encouraged cooperation’.”
  2748. “It’s what I call physical assault!”
  2749. >She lets go of you finally.
  2750. >Of course you’re right in the middle of the barn at this point.
  2751. >Everyone is staring at you, even Big Mac.
  2752. >”Now that everyone’s accounted fer, let’s hoe down!”
  2753. >Rainbow Dash saunters over and punches your hip.
  2754. >She gives you a wry smile and laughs.
  2755. >”Hey, you looked like you were having trouble back there. Maybe you should come work out with me sometime.”
  2756. >Her wings begin to beat, lifting her up off the ground to about your chest height.
  2757. >”You’ve been looking a little deflated lately.”
  2758. >She prods your bicep with her hoof to emphasize the point.
  2759. >Alright, you’ve had just about enough of this.
  2760. >No Greymane, an annoying Twilight, clingy “friends”, you can’t even enjoy the food, and most of all, there’s a nice little fire back home you could be reading next to instead of freezing your apparently deflated tits off surrounded by hillbillies and the pastel saviours.
  2761. >You march over to Twilight and slam your paper down over her horn, sticking it there.
  2762. >She jerks up from the seated position she was falling asleep in and looks around with wide eyes.
  2763. >”I’m a good filly! Huh? Oh, hi, Anon.”
  2764. “Third spell from the bottom. Cast it on yourself.”
  2765. >With that, you storm out, ignoring the calls of the mares behind you.
  2766. >The brisk air tightens your lips and burns your ears as you push on through the snow.
  2768. >Only dim moonlight helps you make it through the darkness surrounding you.
  2769. >No matter. You know the way home after having to reroute yourself on the way here.
  2770. >You take a left at the big oak tree, then a right at the pond.
  2771. >After that, it’s just following this trail you’ve never seen before.
  2772. >No, wait, it was a right at the big oak tree.
  2773. >Oh shit, where are you now?
  2774. >Alright, let’s backtrack this.
  2775. >Arriving at the pond in question, you scan the area for where you came out.
  2776. >Shit. All the snow and trees make everything look the same.
  2777. >You can’t even follow your own tracks back since they’ve all been refilled with the snow that started to come down when you left.
  2778. “Alright, let’s think this through. When you got to the pond, there was a big snow drift leaning out over the ice. Where is it now?”
  2779. >A quick search reveals the location of the spot.
  2780. >Oh, wait, there’s another one.
  2781. >And another one.
  2782. >Oh boy.
  2783. >Great. Real nice, Anon. You went and got yourself lost.
  2784. >Rainbow Dash wouldn’t get herself lost. She’d just fly above the trees.
  2785. >Twilight could cast some spell that would show the path she took.
  2786. >Even Fluttershy could wake some animals up and talk to them.
  2787. >You could use an animal friend about now.
  2788. >A big one that could take a punch so you could fucking maul it and it’d be fine.
  2789. >Or hell, maybe it wouldn’t be fine. You could go for anything right now.
  2790. >Pick one, dumbass. Any path is better than standing around and freezing your nuts off.
  2791. >You decide to go for the one closest to you and head towards it.
  2792. >Now, when you came down, it was dead into the snowdrift before you took the right.
  2793. >So that means you should head directly backwards.
  2794. >If you don’t hit a familiar looking oak tree eventually, that’s your hint it was the wrong path.
  2796. >Starting on your way, you wrap your arms tightly around yourself as a powerful shiver runs through you.
  2797. >Damn, you really should have brought a jacket.
  2798. >Boots would have been nice too, but on the bright side, so much snow has melted into your shoes that you don’t even mind the sloshy wet feeling every time you take a step anymore.
  2799. >There’s probably a spell out there that specifically functions to keep snow out of someone’s shoes.
  2800. >Yeah, that would be cool.
  2801. >Imagine how warm you would be casting that spell.
  2802. >How would it work?
  2803. >It could be a forcefield that protects your shoes from the snow.
  2804. >Wouldn’t that just be a miniature, centralized version of Twilight’s aurum barrier?
  2805. >Maybe her spell could be converted like that.
  2806. >That could actually have some other practical uses.
  2807. >Equestria hasn’t invented laminated paper yet. Maybe you could give it the next best thing.
  2808. >Wouldn’t that be a legacy?
  2809. >Anonymous, creator of a spell that sort of laminates paper for a while.
  2810. >Dad would be so proud.
  2811. >Well, you’ve been walking now for about five minutes and none of this area is looking familiar.
  2812. “Fuck me,” you mutter and turn back, careful to do a true 180 instead of accidentally aiming yourself a few degrees off and missing the pond as a result.
  2813. >Once you’re sure it’s the right direction, you walk back to the starting point and come back to not only the pond, but exact snowdrift you left from.
  2814. >Stellar.
  2815. >Alright, time for the next one, you guess.
  2816. >There’s another icy pillow just thirty feet to your left.
  2817. >Setting that as your next starting point, you head off into the forest once more.
  2818. >Jesus, even if you can’t find the big oak tree, something has to look familiar soon.
  2819. >How many walks have you taken around Ponyville and the Everfree? How have you stumbled upon the one goddamn area you’ve never seen before?
  2820. >The odds of that are astronomically low.
  2821. >Maybe you just have bad luck.
  2822. >Maybe luck is tied to magic.
  2823. >Maybe your luck is bad because you have no magic.
  2824. >Once again, we come back to the root of your problems.
  2826. >Worse still, there’s some horrific scent plaguing your nose like bad compost.
  2827. >You have to force yourself to focus on the task at hand.
  2828. >Keeping an eye on the landscape is more important than picturing yourself with magic.
  2829. >Once you find that oak tree, you can make your way back home and then spend all the time you want pissing around.
  2830. >Although the thought of you with magic is pretty cool.
  2831. >You would make a great wizard, wouldn’t you?
  2832. >Rarity could make you robes and everything.
  2833. >No, no, you could make robes.
  2834. >There’s a whole set of spells you read about once that ancient seamstresses used to use to craft enormous amounts of clothes before clothing went back out of fashion.
  2835. >Actually, robes are kind of gay.
  2836. >A cloak is definitely cooler. Yeah, a cloaked wizard. That would be amazing.
  2837. >Well, too bad it’s all in your imagination.
  2838. >Being human, there’s absolutely no way that someone as utterly talentless at magic as you could ever oh holy trinity you forgot to look for the tree.
  2839. >No no no no no no.
  2840. >You whip around, looking at the surrounding area, hoping to spot anything that rings a bell.
  2841. >No, nothing!
  2842. “Fuck,” you shout into the darkness.
  2843. >How long were you walking?
  2844. >Was it two minutes? Five? Ten?
  2845. >Oh man, you really screwed the pooch this time.
  2846. >You have to go all the way back to the pond now.
  2847. >All the way back to the pond.
  2848. >You know, in the other direction.
  2849. >So, that way.
  2850. >Um, no, wait, it’s that way.
  2851. >Exactly which “other direction” are you talking about?
  2852. >You spin in place taking in the whole scene as the weight of the situation settles on your shoulders.
  2853. >You begin to warm up as your heart thumps in your chest.
  2854. >Soon, all you can hear is your breath quickening.
  2855. >That is, until one singular sound silences the whole world and echoes in your mind, pushing everything else but it into a dark little corner.
  2856. >The sound of a twig cracking.
  2857. >Slowly, carefully, your eyes lower to the ground to examine your positioning.
  2858. >You’re in the middle of some thrown up snow from your movement, but that’s it.
  2859. >No branches.
  2861. >You swallow hard and raise your eyes back up to search the trees.
  2862. >Your head cranes on your neck as you do your best with what little light you have.
  2863. >There, you see something!
  2864. >Oh, it’s just a tree.
  2865. >That’s what made the sound, right?
  2866. >Yeah, a tree branch in the same wind carrying this atrocious smell.
  2867. >No, it was a delicate branch that couldn’t handle the weight of the snow on it.
  2868. >That’s what made the sound.
  2869. >Right?
  2870. >You’ve made a huge mistake.
  2871. >You never should have gone to that party when there were things at home to do.
  2872. >Never again. Never ever ever eve--
  2873. >Your train of thought comes to a dead stop as another noise rings out through the air.
  2874. >You know what direction that came from.
  2875. >Jerking to your right, you lay eyes right on a spot of black between two trees.
  2876. >No, not black.
  2877. >There’s two green dots, almost like lights but instead of being warm, they chill you to the bone.
  2878. >The black thing begins to move.
  2879. >It lurches forward, the sound of snow crunching accompanying it.
  2880. >The smell is overpowering now, but you’re frozen, unable to even plug your nose.
  2881. >Once in some brighter light, you’re able to better make out its features.
  2882. >It’s a huge thing that stands three or four feet taller than you.
  2883. >The piercing green dots that you had seen earlier are nestled firmly in a log and surrounded by leaves.
  2884. >That log seems to split near the front. Inside of that split are dozens of jagged chunks of wood that almost resemble teeth.
  2885. “Fuck me,” you mumble.
  2886. >The creature opens its wooden mouth and lets loose a truly revolting stench that clings to the inside of your nose and turns your stomach.
  2887. “Fuck me.”
  2888. >It comes closer to you, its wooden paws leaving deep tracks in the pristine snow.
  2889. “Fuck me!”
  2890. >The creature’s eyes are bright but even so, they feel almost dead as if it was just a machine animated by a desire to see you in its jaws.
  2891. “Fuck me,” your voice fills the air.
  2892. >You turn on a heel and break into a sprint.
  2894. >Oh Jesus.
  2895. >Oh sweet Jesus.
  2896. >Oh fucking porch monkeys on a Saturday morning.
  2897. >You’re fucking done, man. You’re cooked.
  2898. >Game over!
  2899. >Your feet smash into the snow and propel you forward, away from the Timberwolf, as fast as you can manage.
  2900. >The forest around you, everything save for what’s directly ahead, becomes a blur.
  2901. >You dart from side to side, dodging trees as you come to them.
  2902. >Oh man, when did running get so hard?
  2903. >Your lungs begin to burn as air recycles through them faster than you can register.
  2904. >Even your limbs begin to ache. They never did that before.
  2905. >Is the wolf still chasing you?
  2906. >Maybe you should look back.
  2907. >No, no you don’t need to do that. You really don’t.
  2908. >Don’t look back.
  2909. >Don’t look back.
  2910. >Fuck, you looked back.
  2911. >The splintered monster is hot on your heels.
  2912. >It doesn’t even seem to be trying to catch you right now.
  2913. “You’re supposed to be hibernating, you fuck!”
  2914. >Its mouth opens slightly, releasing another cloud of sickly green haze that trails behind it as it picks up speed.
  2915. >Book it, Anon!
  2916. >Your legs find power you didn’t even know they had.
  2917. >Suddenly you’re whizzing through the forest.
  2918. >That is, up until your foot gets caught on a branch because you weren’t looking where you were going like any decent human being would.
  2919. >You topple over, rolling in the snow for a few feet until your back slams into a tree.
  2920. >A groan escapes your lips followed by a shriek as the Timberwolf skids to a stop before you.
  2921. >Its hollow, soulless eyes bore into you.
  2922. >Little squeaks and creaks emanate from its wooden jaw as it gets ready to swallow you.
  2924. “Wait, what’s that?” you shout and point off behind the abomination.
  2925. >The leafy eyebrow raises and it turns away, following your finger.
  2926. >By the time it realizes its mistake and turns back, you’re long gone.
  2927. >Oldest trick in the book. Man, that was just swell.
  2928. >You’re unsure of how far away you are from the Timberwolf now, but whatever it is, it’s better than where you were.
  2929. >In fact, you can even see the ice-covered pond coming into view.
  2930. >Wonderful!
  2931. >Without hesitation, you leap onto it and slide several feet onto the ice.
  2932. >After steadying yourself, you turn around to watch the Timberwolf come out of the trees.
  2933. >Its piercing green eyes lock onto you instantly, and it runs out to the edge of the pond.
  2934. “Hold on! This is a thin sheet of ice over a deep lake! If you walk out here, you’ll drown us both!”
  2935. >Its paw pauses just short of the ice.
  2936. >Yes, it’s taking the bait.
  2937. “That’s right! Unless you want to freeze at the bottom of a lake, you’ll stay right where you are!”
  2938. >The Timberwolf pulls back and sits its hard ass down in the snow.
  2939. >Finally, you have a minute to catch your breath.
  2940. >Your body is sore all over from the recent trials.
  2941. >Hunching over, you place your hands on your knees and peer down through the ice of the pond.
  2942. >Alright, so you’re safe for the moment. Now you just need to figure out a way out of this situation in general.
  2943. >It would be much easier if you had magic.
  2944. >You could just set the monster on fire and be done with it.
  2945. >Maybe you could manipulate the trees to restrain it.
  2946. >Hell, you could even bury it in snow and pack the stuff so dense it becomes a block of ice.
  2947. >There are spells for all of that. Advanced spells, but spells nonetheless.
  2948. >Twilight could probably do them.
  2949. >Jeez, you never thought you’d say this, but you could really use Twilight right about now.
  2950. >Not use as in the typical manipulation shit you’ve been pulling for the last month, but actually have her near you.
  2951. >Her magical skill would be such a help.
  2953. >Let’s think, Anon.
  2954. >You’re stuck in the middle of a pond.
  2955. >At any second, the wolf could wise up enough to know it’s not going to break the “thin sheet of ice” and come get you.
  2956. >You’re tired, soft, squishy, and magicless.
  2957. >Most of all, you’re magicless.
  2958. >Wait, you already said that.
  2959. >Good. You have all your bases covered.
  2960. >Now, from what you’ve read, Timberwolves are incredibly stupid compared to other creatures like them.
  2961. >If you tried hard enough, you could probably convince it you were poisonous and not to eat you.
  2962. >Although they’re all supposed to be hibernating right now too so who knows. Maybe you got the one genius-level Timberwolf insomniac.
  2963. “Hey,” you shout across the pond. “Did you know humans are very bad to eat? Yeah, I’m chock full of,” you pause, thinking of what might be poisonous to a tree.
  2964. >Well shit.
  2965. “I’m full of termites.”
  2966. >It’s the best you got.
  2967. >The monster doesn’t even dignify your statements with a response.
  2968. >It merely stares at you, waiting, its dead eyes glued to you.
  2969. “You’re gay!”
  2970. >Fuck.
  2971. >Your eyes move back down to the ice.
  2972. >You don’t even want to look at the Timberwolf anymore.
  2973. >Instead, you’ll focus on those two orange dots below the ice.
  2974. >They sort of remind you of fire gems like the ones Twilight showed you after her adventure to Saddle Arabia.
  2975. >That was, by the way, another trip you were excluded from.
  2976. >You sure hope those aren’t actually fire gems though. That would be really bad.
  2977. >They seem to be floating to the surface, so you’ll find out in a second, you guess.
  2978. >The orange dots press against the ice.
  2979. >They’re clearly stones of some kind, but your platform isn’t melting so they’re obviously not fire gems.
  2980. “What the devil are you guys?”
  2981. >You kneel down and tap the ice with your knuckles.
  2983. >The next thing you hear stops your heart and freezes your blood solid.
  2984. >Was that a growl?
  2985. >Oh fuck.
  2986. >The dots blinked.
  2987. >You fall onto your ass and scramble away as fast as you can, slipping and flailing like a jackass.
  2988. >The ice begins to crack where you were once standing.
  2989. >Suddenly, it explodes and out from underneath the sheet comes a mass of stone.
  2990. >It falls forward, landing on the ice with two stubby rock legs.
  2991. >The ice crunches underneath its feet, sending cracks along the surface all the way to you.
  2992. >The horrible, jagged mouth of the creature opens wide, revealing a set of quartz teeth.
  2993. “A cragadile too? You’ve got to be kidding me!”
  2994. >The Timberwolf, emboldened by the display, steps out onto the pond.
  2995. >Side by side, the two predators glare at you.
  2996. >You struggle to reach the shore.
  2997. >Desperately, your fingers dig into the snow and pull you off the ice.
  2998. >In less than a second, you’re back on your feet and running for dear life.
  2999. “Help,” you shout into the dark, hoping for anyone to hear you.
  3000. >You can’t look back. You can’t bare to see them inching closer to you with every passing moment.
  3001. >If only you had magic.
  3002. >A speed spell would be real handy right now.
  3003. >You need to write a speed spell just for shits and giggles.
  3004. >No, what you need to do is live long enough to write that spell.
  3005. >What you really very truly need is some assistance!
  3006. “Help! Help, please! Anyone!”
  3007. >Your words are broken by heavy breaths that hurt your throat with every bit of chilly air that flows through it.
  3008. “Twilight! Help!”
  3010. >Christ, you can’t keep this up.
  3011. >Your body is slowly failing.
  3012. >Every step is harder to take.
  3013. >Each breath burns more and more and your mouth fills with a gross, filmy saliva.
  3014. >You can’t stop though.
  3015. >No, can’t stop.
  3016. >Can’t stop.
  3017. >Can’t catch a breath.
  3018. >Oh man, you need to stop.
  3019. >You slow down.
  3020. >Instantly realizing your mistake, your legs pick up speed again.
  3021. >That second wind doesn’t last long.
  3022. >It can’t even be ten seconds before you’re drained again.
  3023. >Finding a sturdy tree to lean on, you practically throw yourself against it and struggle for breaths.
  3024. >Behind you, the sounds of your pursuers are painfully loud.
  3025. >Alright, nap time is over.
  3026. >Get moving!
  3027. >You push yourself off the tree and start again.
  3028. >Sadly, all you can muster is a half hearted jog until the next tree comes to you and you collapse against that.
  3029. >Once more, you can hear the monsters closing in.
  3030. >You turn, placing your back against the tree.
  3031. >Is it time for a snarky joke?
  3032. >The cragadile doesn’t think so.
  3033. >It spins around and smashes both the tree and you with its stone tail.
  3034. >The tree is ripped out of the ground and thrown with you several feet.
  3035. >You slide in the snow and shout as a vomit-inducing pain radiates through your chest.
  3036. >You grab your side and push yourself up out of the snow.
  3037. >Fuck, you can’t die here. You can’t.
  3038. >You haven’t figured out magic yet. Not fully, at least.
  3040. >The snow gives you something to hold onto as you kick back from them.
  3041. >It’s not fast. Not as fast as a run, not as fast as a walk, not even as fast as a crawl, but at least it’s faster than laying there.
  3042. >You just need to get away from them.
  3043. >Those monsters will be the end of you.
  3044. >Without magic, you couldn’t possibly stand a chance against such things.
  3045. >You are only Anonymous, and Anonymous is weak.
  3046. >The Timberwolf, more agile than the cragadile, swiftly maneuvers through the trees and lowers its disgusting head to you.
  3047. >It takes your sweater into its mouth and hoists you up off the ground.
  3048. >You’re shaken, not stirred, as it jerks you to and fro.
  3049. >Eventually, it lets go and sends you soaring through the air.
  3050. >You slam into a high up branch and snap it right off the main body of the tree.
  3051. >Both of you fall to the ground.
  3052. >You’re unlucky enough to land on top of it instead of in the fluffy snow.
  3053. >Your eyes are squeezed shut from the pain, but even in the blackness of your self-induced blindness, you swear you can see the beady eyes of the monster as it approaches you.
  3054. >So this is how it ends, huh?
  3055. >Played with like some common toy, left to die in a dark, snowy forest.
  3056. >A magicless garbage heap that never did anything with his life.
  3057. >A waste of space. A black spot on the good name of humanity.
  3058. >Dad would be so proud.
  3059. >Well, at least it’s not all bad.
  3060. >You, uh, well you know.
  3061. >There was that time when you did the thing.
  3062. >And, uh.
  3063. >Ok, well it kind of is all bad.
  3064. >That sucks.
  3066. >The snow in front of your face shifts.
  3067. >It rolls forward and brushes against your cheek, cooling your burning flesh.
  3068. >An earthy scent, like that of an uprooted tree, fills your nose.
  3069. >Whatever was in front of you leaves. Clumps of snow begin to fall on your head and travel over your back.
  3070. >Suddenly, a massive force presses down on your back.
  3071. >You’re smushed into the snow underneath you. Not only that, but the branch you unfortunately landed on also digs into your gut.
  3072. >A long, pained shout escapes you.
  3073. >Forcing your eyes open, you see the Timberwolf standing only inches from you, leaning over onto your small frame.
  3074. >From the small of your back to the top, its sharp twiggy claws rake across your sweater, tearing it, the shirt, and your skin underneath it to shreds.
  3075. “Wait! Wait, stop,” you manage between your screaming.
  3076. >Think of something.
  3077. >Anything.
  3078. >It doesn’t want you, it wants food.
  3079. >You just happen to also be edible.
  3080. “You’re hungry, right?! I can show you more food! I can show you more food than you could ever eat!”
  3081. >The claws stop their shearing, giving you a chance to register how hot the rivulets of blood running down your sides are.
  3082. “Get off me and I’ll take you there! I’ll take you to Ponyville!”
  3083. >It waits.
  3084. >It thinks--hopefully about your offer and not about how tasty you look with all this juice running down your hide.
  3085. >So long passes that you begin to think it has frozen over, but thankfully the pressure comes off from your back.
  3086. >You’re given a chance to breathe again and quickly regret taking a big breath.
  3087. >Once more, your chest is filled with pain and you have to limit yourself to shallow inhalation.
  3088. >The wolf steps back into the dark, only its eyes truly visible.
  3089. >Shakily, you stand and prop yourself up on the leg that hurts the least.
  3090. >Alright, that was step one. What’s step two?
  3091. >Lie down again.
  3092. >No, wait, that’s not step two.
  3093. >Step two is something else. Something else.
  3095. >You wipe your face with a handful of snow.
  3096. >Get it together, Anon.
  3097. >Alright, step two would be to get their attention off you.
  3098. >And then what’s step three?
  3099. >Cross that bridge when we get to it.
  3100. >You raise an arm and point in some direction. It’s probably in front of you, but you don’t really have a good handle on where anything is in relation to you right now.
  3101. “There. That’s Ponyville. See it?”
  3102. >The green dots shift.
  3103. >That’s the go, Anon! Book it!
  3104. >You turn your back to the monster and begin to hobble away.
  3105. >Is this step three?
  3106. >This is the best you came up with?
  3107. >You’ve made a huge mistake.
  3108. >Oh well. You’re committed now.
  3109. >Who knows? Maybe it’s so dark the cragadile will never be able to sneak in front of you and catch you in its sickly orange gaze.
  3110. “Oh fuck.”
  3111. >You stop dead in your tracks when faced with the stony beast.
  3112. >It opens its huge mouth, the quartz teeth glistening in the sliver of light left in this pitch world.
  3113. >Your heart sinks so deep down it squirms out your ass and plops down into the snow.
  3114. >In one swift motion, it spins around and smacks you with its tail again.
  3115. >You’re thrown several yards before slamming into a thick tree trunk.
  3116. >Your body is a symphony of cracks when it collides with the solid wood.
  3117. >In and out of consciousness you slip.
  3118. >One moment, the creatures are far separated.
  3119. >The next, they’re right in front of you, staring down with their soulless eyes.
  3120. >You black out.
  3121. >When your next moment of alertness hits, the world is bright like someone turned a flashlight on right in front of your eyes.
  3122. >The shock keeps you awake for another split second, just long enough to see something in the middle of the glow.
  3124. >Then it hits you again. You’re asleep for some unspecified amount of time until once more, your eyes pull open and reveal an array of energy beams and glowing trees being thrown around.
  3125. >”Anon!”
  3126. >Hey, you know that voice.
  3127. >That’s the voice of going to sleep.
  3128. >Time to shut your eyes again.
  3129. >”Anon, are you alright?”
  3130. >Silly sleep. Are you alright? What kind of question is that?
  3132. >Three days later.
  3134. >The soft shuffling of sheets and moans sound in the background.
  3135. >He’s been doing that for a while now. It’s been off and on for the last two days.
  3136. >”No,” he’ll mumble and turn over in bed.
  3137. >You, Twilight Sparkle, can’t help but wonder what Anon is dreaming about.
  3138. >Given how violent some of his shaking can get, you don’t think it’s anything pleasant.
  3139. >With a sigh, you hover over a small wash cloth and dab it on his forehead.
  3140. >It soaks up a generous amount of sweat.
  3141. >If he keeps this up, he’s going to need new sheets again.
  3142. >Well, he’ll need some anyway, but before the nurse brings in a new set.
  3143. >Actually, you may as well do it yourself.
  3144. >You’re already here anyway, right?
  3145. >What’s forty minutes versus right now? The nurse can just change them again later.
  3146. >Heading over to the same closet that held Anon’s clothes last time as well as now, you pull a set of bed stuffs off of the top shelf.
  3147. >First things first, get him out of bed.
  3148. >You wrap Anon in a magic field and hoist him up off of the bedding.
  3149. >He huffs and resists, but soon gives up and drifts back into a more peaceful slumber.
  3150. >After peeling the soaked fabric off of the bed, you flip the mattress and lay down a new beige sheet.
  3151. >Anon is carefully set on top of it and covered with a plum quilt.
  3152. >All these clashing colors are kind of gross, but the hospital staff claims they carefully picked out each shade to create a calming environment for every patient.
  3153. >You like to imagine they meant “carefully” as in “relatively carefully” as in relative to picking colors out of a hat, they were somewhat careful.
  3155. >In forty minutes on the dot, Nurse Redheart enters with a fresh set of sheets.
  3156. >She helps you to fix everything up and settle your sleeping friend back into bed.
  3157. >Balling the leftovers into a ball, she throws them into a hamper near the door and trots over to you.
  3158. >”How has he been doing?”
  3159. “Better than yesterday. He still has episodes, but they’re not as dramatic as before.”
  3160. >She furrows her brow and glances at him.
  3161. >”I’d rather he have no episodes at all. He needs to rest, not roll around in bed and risk tearing a stitch.”
  3162. “I advocated for stronger medicine, but you said no.”
  3163. >”We’re giving him the best we can. It’s impossible to tell how much Timberwolf sap is left in his system. If we push it, they could react poorly with each other.”
  3164. “I suppose so.”
  3165. >The nurse lays a hoof on your shoulder and uses the other to gesture to the exit.
  3166. >”You should come with me. You’ve been here for three days now. You need some rest too.”
  3167. “I’m fine. Thank you, though.”
  3168. >”Are you sure? Even a cup of coffee would help.”
  3169. “You can have the coffee brought here.”
  3170. >”I guess.”
  3171. >Redheart leaves, closing the door behind her.
  3172. >Once more, you and Anon are alone.
  3173. >You take your seat back next to his bed and open up your book to the marked page, although you don’t manage to read any of it.
  3174. >Your mind is too busy wandering.
  3176. >Less than a week ago, Applejack was having a small get together for Hearthswarming.
  3177. >You made some poor decisions and ended up reliving your fillyhood.
  3178. >That wouldn’t have been so bad if Anon wasn’t there as well.
  3179. >The worst part is that you can’t even remember much of what happened.
  3180. >What you do remember is him storming out after giving you a paper and some instructions.
  3181. >Too confused to think it through yourself, you followed them as best you could and ended up using a spell that looked like something out of a Blackmane biography.
  3182. >Despite the sickening, angry nature of the runes he provided, somehow it managed to sober you up without any ill effects.
  3183. >That was when you decided to go after him.
  3184. >”No, get away,” he whispers.
  3185. >Anon’s hand jerks to the side and grabs the edge of the bed.
  3186. >”Stop it. Stop,” his voice trails off.
  3187. >You reach out and rest your hoof on his hand.
  3188. >Frantically, you searched for him.
  3189. >It was hard to see once the blizzard started to pick up, but at some point, you heard him shouting for you.
  3190. >It was only a few times, but it was enough for you to home in on him.
  3191. >When he started screaming, you knew something was terribly wrong.
  3192. >What you didn’t expect was to see him face to face with two of the fiercest monsters the Everfree has to offer.
  3193. >Lucky for you, they didn’t put up much of a fight as you cleaned them up.
  3194. >Anon’s hand flips around and grabs your hoof.
  3195. >He squeezes with all his might. It’s actually rather uncomfortable.
  3196. >You pull your leg away, leaving him to squirm in bed.
  3197. >He groans and turns on his side, showing his bandaged back to you.
  3198. >Large scratches extend out of the bandages.
  3199. >There’s even scarring still left over from his bout with the manticore.
  3201. >When you landed next to Anon, he was in nasty shape.
  3202. >He and the area around him were covered in blood.
  3203. >He was bleeding from several spots, but the most obvious wound was on his back.
  3204. >There were huge gashes. Deep, angry canyons carved through his skin.
  3205. >A slimy green muck also spilled from them which somewhat eased your worries.
  3206. >Timerwolf sap, you read, had natural healing properties. It was what allowed them to piece themselves back together all the time.
  3207. >On the flip side, it’s also one of the most powerful drugs known to ponykind.
  3208. >When you brought him into the hospital, they opted to let the sap do its work in repairing his body.
  3209. >All they could do, according to them, was give him something to ease the pain and slow his heart down so it wouldn’t beat out of his chest from the sap’s effects.
  3210. >”Get away from me. Get away. Get away.”
  3211. “Oh, Anon. What did you get yourself into?”
  3212. >You can hear his teeth grinding into dust as he kicks and throws his blanket off, revealing his shining, sweat covered body.
  3213. >His veins have turned to a greenish hue, a sign of the sap coursing through him.
  3214. >His ribcage is puffy and swollen, but even that’s better than how you found him with several bones poking out.
  3215. >He opens his mouth as if to say something, but all that comes out is a dry wheeze. After that, it’s back to the moaning and the shaking.
  3216. >Maybe when he wakes up, he’ll tell you where he found such a pristine set of runes.
  3217. >In the meantime, all you can do is keep him company and try to block out his sounds with books.
  3218. >Once more, you pull up your current story and hope that this young colt’s journey from poverty to wealth via a generous benefactor can soothe your mind.
  3220. >It's a few hours before you see anyone else.
  3221. >By then, the room light had to be turned on to keep some visibility in the night.
  3222. >There was a knock knock knocking at the door.
  3223. >Before you could answer, it opened up for Nurse Redheart and a few companions.
  3224. >”Time for the check-in,” she chirped. “A few others wanted to come along.”
  3225. >Redheart approached the bed, Applejack and Pinkie Pie following close behind.
  3226. >”How's the feller holdin’ up theahre, Twahlaght?”
  3227. “He's alive.”
  3228. >”He doesn't look too happy about it though.”
  3229. >”Well ah can't imagine what he'd have to be happy about rahgt now iffin he was even wake enough to holler a hello, Pinkie.”
  3230. “He has his friend here.”
  3231. >”That's right!”
  3232. >Pinkie’s arms extend out and wrap around both you and Applejack.
  3233. >”He's got his best friend's right here!”
  3234. >”Actually,” interjects the Nurse as she pulls a sheet of paper out of the computer near Anon's bed, “According to these readings, he's doing a lot better. The sap has been in his body so long that he seems to be adapting to it. We might only need need the pain meds in a day or two.”
  3235. >”Well fancy that. Who’da figured that little ticker’a his 'ood have the fire to beat out Timberwolf sap 'a all things.”
  3236. >”This calls for a party! What do you think, Twilight? I'm thinking trees and streamers. Oh, and axes!”
  3237. “I think it's a good thing, but I don't know if a party is really what we need right now.’
  3238. >”No party? But you love parties.”
  3239. “I do, but I'd rather stay here for now. You can throw a party if you want; don't send me an invitation.”
  3240. >”Well we can have it in the room then!”
  3242. >”Gracious, no. No, no, no, no, no. Don't you go disturbing the other patients here with music and banging.”
  3243. >”Aw come on, Nurse. Have a red heart!”
  3244. >”I have one right on my flank. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go check in with some other patients.”
  3245. >She begins to walk towards the door and shoots Pinkie a glare.
  3246. >”And no axes.”
  3247. >”Kill joy!”
  3248. >”Ah reckon she's got an ideer theahre Pinkie. You’n an ax just don't sit well with me.”
  3249. “And I've already told you too.”
  3250. >A rather loud groan from Anon captures all your attentions.
  3251. >He’s thrown his blankets completely off the bed now.
  3252. >The sickly green lines tracing across his body pulsate as sap and blood courses through them.
  3253. >He rolls around, grabbing the sheet and pulling it off of the bed.
  3254. >”Has he,” begins Applejack slowly, “been lahk this long?”
  3255. “He’s mostly quiet. There are some bad moments.”
  3256. >”Can I hug him?”
  3257. >You shake your head.
  3258. “It’s best to leave him alone. I’ll change the sheets later.”
  3259. >Anon’s hand flies to his chest.
  3260. >His nails dig into his flesh and scrape across it, tearing long gashes across the muscle.
  3261. >The wounds leak a mixture of crimson and emerald until closing up again just a few seconds later.
  3262. >Hovering over a fresh face cloth, you wipe the fluids off of him.
  3263. >It ends up taking quite a few as they pick up great amounts of sweat along with the intended substances.
  3264. >”Here, ah’ll help y’all out.”
  3265. >Applejack sets down her saddlebags and opens up the left sac.
  3266. >Apparently she had been toting around a jug of apple juice.
  3267. >”And ‘afore yew say it, it ain’t apple juice.”
  3268. >Oh, just kidding. It’s totally not apple juice even though it probably is.
  3269. >”This is special apple juice.”
  3270. >See?
  3272. “Define ‘special’.”
  3273. >”Now Twahlaght, yew know ah can’t do that.”
  3274. “I mean what makes it special.”
  3275. >”Oh. Well, since yew asked, it’s dun been mixed with some special zap apple extracts and Granny’s Special Kicker.”
  3276. “And what makes that special?”
  3277. >”Stahp askin’ so many ‘a yer questions. The point is, it gives y’all a boost where it counts.”
  3278. >”Like sugar?”
  3279. >”Exactly!”
  3280. >You raise an eyebrow at her.
  3281. “What are you planning to do with that?”
  3282. >”Ah’m gonna make ‘em drink it.”
  3283. “That’s not a good idea.”
  3284. >”It’s lahk mah granny always said: ‘ah don’t care if yew broke yer hoof, iffin yew don’t git yer sorry orange flank out them doors raght now and feed them chickens, ah’ll break yer other one’.”
  3285. “I don’t see where you’re going with that.”
  3286. >”Sometimes people need to do something even if it seems like a bad idea at the time. Jeez, get with the program, Twilight.”
  3287. “You’re going to break his leg if he doesn’t cooperate?”
  3288. >”What in tarnation are yew thinkin’? O’course ah’m not gonna break his leg. Ah’m just gonna encourage him.”
  3289. “No.”
  3290. >She frowns and steps past you.
  3291. >Grabbing her tail in your mouth, you plant your hooves in the floor and stop her.
  3292. >”Twah, yew ain’t his only friend here. Let us help.”
  3293. >”She’s right, you know. Ooh, and I can help too! I’ll go get some cupcakes and we can mix it in with the juice! Be right back!”
  3294. >When you open your mouth to protest Pinkie’s idea, Applejack slips too far ahead for you to recapture her.
  3296. >Pinkie has now left the room, destined to return with a cart of treats and haycakes that will only make your mouth water as you try to fight her off of Anon.
  3297. >In the meantime, Applejack makes it over to Anon and lifts the jug to his mouth.
  3298. “Applejack, wait.”
  3299. >She obliges, keeping just at the tipping point.
  3300. “Are you sure this will help?”
  3301. >”As sure as ah am that darn carrot farm down the roads tryin’a push us outta business again.”
  3302. >You sigh and bow your head, deciding it’s better to let her do it gently than trying to fight her and risk hurting him more.
  3303. >She leans close and leans the jug a little more, pouring some juice into Anon’s mouth.
  3304. >”Nnah!”
  3305. >He jerks his head away and slaps the thing out of her hooves.
  3306. >You catch the bottle before it can crash on the floor.
  3307. “I don’t think he liked it.”
  3308. >”Aaah! Nnnaah!”
  3309. >She furrows her brow and snatches the jug out of your magical grip.
  3310. >Applejack grabs Anon’s head and holds it firmly between her thighs.
  3311. >”Yer gonna lahk mah apple juice whether yew want to ‘er not.”
  3312. “Alright, this is going overboard.”
  3313. >”Twahlaght, ah know what ah’m doin’. Ah’ve helped a few sick folk in mah day.”
  3314. >Anon’s body writhes past her legs.
  3315. >He opens his mouth to moan. In that moment, she puts the neck of the jug in and tips it back.
  3316. >The contents drain from the bottle and into him.
  3317. >Only about half makes it through when she pulls away and hops off the bed.
  3318. >He flops around helplessly, wailing like a dying animal.
  3319. >Then, as quickly as it began, he quiets down.
  3320. >His contorted face relaxes and the horrible screams are replaced with a light exhale as he settles into bed.
  3321. >Instead of the usual pained grunting he makes, the only sound you hear from him is some light breathing.
  3322. >”Now see? Ah told yew ah knew what ah was doin’.”
  3323. “Appljeack, what in the name of Celestia is in that stuff?”
  3324. >”Family secret.”
  3326. >Wide eyed, you observe how calm the hospitalized human has become.
  3327. >”Just keep some ‘a this in ‘em an’ he’ll be chipper as a hog in a pahl ‘a doodoo.”
  3328. >Gross, but cool.
  3329. >A smile spreads across your face as Applejack gets her saddlebag and heads to the door.
  3330. >”Ah still gotta git Applebloom ready fer bed. Catch ya t’morrow, Twah?”
  3331. “Sure. Thank you, Applejack.”
  3332. >”Don’t mention it.”
  3333. >She exits, closing the door firmly behind her.
  3334. >”Now Pinkie, he’s plum tuckered. Yew can give ‘em some sweets later.”
  3335. >”But Applejack, cupcakes!”
  3336. >”Ah said beat it.”
  3337. >”You don’t understand!”
  3338. >”What in the sam hill do yew think ah meant when ah said git? Pinkie, ah will hogtie yew to a mad goat iffin yew don’t hoof it outta here.”
  3339. >”Alright.”
  3340. >”Yew can feed ‘em t’morrow.”
  3341. >”Promise?”
  3342. >”No.”
  3343. >Their squabbles drone on, getting quieter as they move away from the room.
  3344. >While he’s quiet, you figure it’s a good time to get him all cleaned and change his sheets.
  3345. >With the help of some magic, you lift him off the mattress and strip both it and he.
  3346. >His naked body glistens in the light of your aura.
  3347. >Hovering over a wet washcloth, you get rid of the muck and sweat coating him.
  3348. >When he’s sparkly clean, you change his bandages.
  3349. >The wounds on his back are mostly gone. It looks more like someone gave him a nasty scratch than mauled him.
  3350. >If it weren’t for all the scarring, you wouldn’t think he was badly hurt at all.
  3351. >That said, the permanent marks on his body are a painful reminder of how you weren’t there for him when you should have been.
  3352. >He’s bound to remember that too.
  3353. >Will he hold that against you?
  3354. >Maybe, but you still have time. When he wakes up, you can prove how good of a friend you are.
  3355. >You set down the stained, gunked up bandages and fetch some new ones to dress him with.
  3356. >After those are on, as well as some of those silly underpants he insists on wearing, you go about the normal bed routine and gently lower him onto some fresh sheets.
  3357. >He settles in quite nicely.
  3358. >You can even pull the blankets up to his chin without any protest.
  3359. >Whatever was in that special apple juice sure did the trick.
  3360. >With a grin stretching ear to ear, you get back in your chair and dive back into your book, enjoying the blissful silence, save for the little buzzing as a light flickers on and off in the back corner of the room.
  3362. >Where are you?
  3363. >It’s dark. And cold.
  3364. >What was that sound?
  3365. >You turn around, scanning the blackness.
  3366. >Nothing.
  3367. >Another sound.
  3368. >This was right behind you.
  3369. >You jerk to see nothing once more.
  3370. >You’re all alone.
  3371. >You’re here, in this place, by yourself.
  3372. >Who is this?
  3373. >You are someone.
  3374. >You are--
  3375. >There it was again!
  3376. >Oh God, it’s in your head.
  3377. >Make that awful noise stop.
  3378. >Stop!
  3379. >Stop!
  3380. >Hold on, you see something.
  3381. >Is that the source of the noise?
  3382. >No, the noise is inside you, so what is that?
  3383. >You walk closer.
  3384. >It’s a light. Should you go to it?
  3385. >No. It’s strange and scary. You’re better off here.
  3386. >You’re safe here.
  3387. >You’re safe alone.
  3388. >Jesus, it’s getting louder.
  3389. >That horrible, terrible sound just keeps getting louder and louder.
  3390. >It’s like nails on a chalkboard right inside your brain.
  3391. >Make it stop!
  3393. >You grab your head and squeeze.
  3394. >Maybe you can crush whatever is inside.
  3395. >Die, die whatever is in your head!
  3396. >Oh, it’s quiet now.
  3397. >It’s very quiet.
  3398. >The light is gone too.
  3399. >You open your eyes.
  3400. >Where are you?
  3401. >It’s a room. But where?
  3402. >You’re on a bed. A soft bed, but there are no blankets.
  3403. >Do you get up?
  3404. >You should find out where you are.
  3405. >Alright, get up then.
  3406. >Sliding off the bed, you walk through the warm, brightly lit room.
  3407. >There’s a window.
  3408. >Maybe that will help.
  3409. >Going to the window, you peer outside.
  3410. >It’s beautiful out.
  3411. >There are so many colors.
  3412. >There are lights dancing around in the open air. Purple, orange, blue, green, yellow, white, pink, and every other color you can name.
  3413. >They connect everything.
  3414. >You can see the trees pulsating with the beautiful energy.
  3416. >Oh, the window is a door.
  3417. >You open it up and step outside.
  3418. >The lights are so beautiful.
  3419. >Can you touch one?
  3420. >Let’s find out.
  3421. >You reach for a stream of purple light.
  3422. >It bends around your hand.
  3423. >Let’s try again.
  3424. >Quicker.
  3425. >You grab at it.
  3426. >It escaped again.
  3427. >What?
  3428. >Why can’t you touch it?
  3429. >Everything else gets to.
  3430. >The birds.
  3431. >The flowers.
  3432. >The trees.
  3433. >The grass.
  3434. >Even the clouds.
  3435. >Everything gets to touch the light.
  3436. >Why not you?
  3437. >It’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.
  3438. >You have to touch it.
  3439. >You have to.
  3440. >Try again.
  3441. >No, it’s getting away.
  3442. >Chase it.
  3443. >You run after the light.
  3444. >It disappears behind some trees.
  3445. >You follow it.
  3447. >You push on a tree to help yourself get by.
  3448. >The light on the tree moves away as you touch it.
  3449. >Suddenly the tree is cold.
  3450. >It turns grey and shrivels up.
  3451. >Oh no.
  3452. >What did you do?
  3453. >You step back and bump into another tree.
  3454. >It dies too.
  3455. >You’re a killer.
  3456. >You leave the woods.
  3457. >Go back inside. It’s nice inside.
  3458. >Where is the inside? Where is the house?
  3459. >There’s nothing.
  3460. >You’re in a big open field.
  3461. >There’s no light either. Not like before.
  3462. >No beautiful colors.
  3463. >It’s just ugly.
  3464. >You’re ugly.
  3465. >Every step you take kills the grass.
  3466. >No, stop.
  3467. >Why are you doing this?
  3468. >Stop it.
  3469. >You’re horrible.
  3470. >You’re a monster.
  3471. >Oh man, the noise is back.
  3472. >It rings inside your head.
  3473. >Help.
  3474. >Help!
  3475. >You look around for someone that can make it stop.
  3476. >There are a bunch of things.
  3477. >Ponies.
  3478. >Help, please.
  3480. >They step away as you move closer.
  3481. >Wait, don’t go.
  3482. >Come back.
  3483. >No, stop running.
  3484. >Don’t leave.
  3485. >Please.
  3486. >You have to chase them.
  3487. >The can make the noise stop.
  3488. >When the noise stops you can touch the light.
  3489. >They’ll help you.
  3490. >You run after them.
  3491. >Where’d they go?
  3492. >There they are.
  3493. >You caught up.
  3494. >Good job.
  3495. >You shout at them.
  3496. >The ponies turn around.
  3497. >Those aren’t ponies.
  3498. >Those aren’t ponies at all.
  3499. >They yell at you.
  3500. >They’re monsters.
  3501. >They’re ugly creatures.
  3502. >What’s on them?
  3503. >The lights!
  3504. >They have your light!
  3505. >Give that back!
  3506. >You run at them and try to grab it, but it avoids your hand again.
  3507. >The monster you touched is very angry.
  3508. >It hits you.
  3509. >You reel back.
  3510. >Why did it do that?
  3511. >You just wanted your light back.
  3512. >It’s keeping it all to itself.
  3513. >It should share!
  3515. >The monster hits you again.
  3516. >Then so does the other one.
  3517. >That hurts.
  3518. >They’re all doing it now.
  3519. >You have to run away.
  3520. >They’re going to hurt you.
  3521. >You turn around and run but there’s more right behind you.
  3522. >They all have your beautiful light.
  3523. >They laugh and hit you over and over.
  3524. >Stop it.
  3525. >Stop!
  3526. >Get away!
  3527. >The sun is going down but the monsters won’t leave.
  3528. >All you can see is them and their stupid light!
  3529. >Get away!
  3530. >Stop it!
  3531. >You hit back.
  3532. >The monsters get angry and step on you.
  3533. >That hurts a lot more.
  3534. >You yell and try to push it off.
  3535. >It’s too strong.
  3536. >Their claws dig into you.
  3537. >One bends down and bites your face.
  3538. >You don’t like this.
  3539. >They’re laughing is getting louder than the noise.
  3540. >No, their laughing is the noise.
  3541. >Stop that!
  3542. >Stop!
  3543. >What did you do?
  3544. >You just wanted the light!
  3545. >Stop!
  3546. >Ow!
  3547. >They’re biting you!
  3548. >They’re eating you!
  3549. >You look as they grab your guts and start pulling them out.
  3550. >Get away!
  3551. >Get away!
  3552. >GET AWAY!
  3554. “AHHH!”
  3555. >You jump up out of bed and hold your hands up in defense.
  3556. >Wait, bed?
  3557. >Where in the fuck are you?
  3558. >It’s so dark in here.
  3559. >Oh Jesus fucking Christ, it feels like you’ve been hit by a mac truck.
  3560. >You grab your side and register just how sweaty you are.
  3561. >”Anon!”
  3562. >Right, you’re Anonymous.
  3563. >There’s a click across the room.
  3564. >Wherever you are is suddenly lit up.
  3565. >Your eyes hurt as they adjust to the new stimulus.
  3566. >A quick look around tells you you’re back in the hospital.
  3567. >Oh god damn it.
  3568. >”Anon, you’re awake!”
  3569. >You glance at Twilight.
  3570. >She’s ecstatic.
  3571. >No, don’t leap to hug.
  3572. >Oh fuck!
  3573. >As she closes the gap between you and tightly squeezes you in her legs, a wave of pain washes over you.
  3574. “Back off,” you shout and shove her away, practically throwing her into the chair she leap out of.
  3575. >”Sorry. I’m just--”
  3576. >You hold up a hand and cut her off.
  3577. >Why are you here?
  3578. >Think, Anon.
  3579. >You had just gotten that book. You read.
  3580. >Then there was Applejack’s failure of a party.
  3581. >You left.
  3582. >Then you met some animals. Oh, right, yeah. You remember what happened now.
  3583. >You lean over and bury your head in your hands.
  3584. >Jesus, man. You fucked up again.
  3585. >”Anon, you’re alright.”
  3586. >Alright? Yeah, for a man who got beaten within an inch of his life twice.
  3587. >Wait a second, what’s that?
  3588. >You lean back and look at your chest.
  3589. >Holy shit, what is that?
  3590. >You begin to hyperventilate and grab your chest, trying to pull the green lines off of yourself.
  3591. “Ow!”
  3592. >”Anon, stop!”
  3593. “What are these?!”
  3594. >”They’re you!”
  3595. “They’re...what?”
  3596. >”It’s the sap.”
  3597. “What the fuck are you on about?”
  3598. >”Here, let me explain.”
  3600. >You shut your mouth despite all the questions rushing through your head.
  3601. >”Do you remember being atta--”
  3602. “Yes,” you cut her off.
  3603. >”And do you remember what did it?”
  3604. “A Timberwolf and a Cragadile.”
  3605. >”Good. I see your memory isn’t shot.”
  3606. “Get on with it,” you spit, anxious to hear the real explanation.
  3607. >”Did you ever read much on Timberwolves?”
  3608. “Enough to know they suck.”
  3609. >”And their sap.”
  3610. “It helps to repair them.”
  3611. >”Right. And when the Timberwolf attacked you, it left some of its sap in your system on accident. While you were asleep, it healed you.
  3612. >What? That’s retarded.
  3613. >Timberwolves have full control over their sap. The only reason it would leave any in you is if it wanted you alive.
  3614. >Besides, that still doesn’t explain the failed art project on your chest.
  3615. >You point at it angrily. The sharp motion pains your side, forcing you to rest your arm.
  3616. >”Well, there was apparently so much sap in your body and it stayed for so long that it sort of,” she trails off.
  3617. “Sort of what?”
  3618. >”It stained you.”
  3619. “As in?”
  3620. >”As in what you see on your chest and other parts.”
  3621. >Your brow furrows as you look over yourself.
  3622. >The emerald lines trace across your chest, down your biceps, and into your forearms.
  3623. >Oh no.
  3624. >Quickly, you pull up the sheets and check your underneath your tighty whities.
  3625. >Oh god no!
  3626. “I’m seeing things,” you whisper over and over, growing louder.
  3627. >”While that is a side effect of the sap, I’m afraid you’re not hallucinating. You’ve built up quite a tolerance to it by now, so even the small amount left in your system shouldn’t be affecting you.”
  3628. “Fuck me!”
  3630. >You hop out of bed, ignoring the ache in your joints, and rip your underwear off.
  3631. >There’s a mirror not too far away.
  3632. >Marching over to it, you make sure your soldier is in plain view and take in your full form.
  3633. >How much of your own skin is even left?
  3634. >Scars run across your body, this way and that, separating you into sections while your green veins act like rope, tying the pieces together.
  3635. >Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
  3636. >”It’s not all bad. You’re still alive.”
  3637. “You call this alive?” you snap.
  3638. >Twilight reels back from the sudden shift in your tone.
  3639. “Look at me! I’m not alive--I’m not a person! I’m one big, walking, talking example of how fucked you are in this shithole of a world without magic!”
  3640. >”Hey, come on. You’ve done pretty well for yourself.”
  3641. “And stop saying that! What have I done, Twilight? What have I done?”
  3642. >”You built that whole cabin on your own,” she presses, taking a few nervous steps toward you.
  3643. “Woopty fucking doo! I built a cabin! Wow, great job, Anon! You sure are not a waste of space! Now pull your pants down and go get fucked up the ass by a few magical beasts like the good little cabin builder you are!”
  3644. >”You’re over reacting a bit, don’t you think?”
  3645. >Over reacting?!
  3646. >Look at you!
  3647. >These marks aren’t just going to go away! They don’t heal!
  3648. >You’re stuck like this forever!
  3649. >Every time you look at yourself, you’ll be forced to see these hideous reminders of how weak and pathetic you are.
  3650. >Your own body is now a cruel joke mocking Anonymous, the only human, the sole entity in all of Equestria that is completely and utterly magicless.
  3651. >Hopeless in every respect.
  3653. >”I know things might seem bad right now, but you have to remember your friends are here for you.”
  3654. >You scoff and turn away from the mirror, disgusted by your own sight.
  3655. “Friends. Yeah.”
  3656. >”If there’s anything I can do for you, just let me know. I’ve always been there for you, Anon. I’m your friend.”
  3657. >You go over to the closet where your things once sat, hoping they’d be there again.
  3658. >”Anon?”
  3659. “What?”
  3660. >”What do you want?”
  3661. >What do you want? You know exactly what you want.
  3662. >You rip open the door and feverishly search for your items.
  3663. >Your clothes are sitting right on the top shelf where you would have expected.
  3664. >They’re stained with blood, but that’s not important right now.
  3665. >What’s in your pants pocket?
  3666. >Taking them down, you quickly pull on your pants and fish through the pockets for--ah ha, there it is.
  3667. >Still right where you left it.
  3668. >Twilight appears at your side and begins to rub your leg with a hoof.
  3669. >”Anon, answer me.”
  3670. “What I want is for you to leave me the fuck alone. I have shit to do.”
  3671. >God, she’s so fucking annoying.
  3672. >Ignoring her, you pull on your shirt and sweater despite the dull throbbing in your side and arm. What, the Timberwolf sap couldn’t finish off your injury from the manticore? Of course not. That’s going to stay with you too, isn’t it?
  3673. >You huff and head for the door to your room.
  3674. >As you prepare to exit, you’re stopped dead in your tracks.
  3675. >A powerful force grabs your entire body and halts you.
  3676. >”You can’t run away from a friend.”
  3677. “I said leave me alone!”
  3678. >It takes all your might, but you force enough movement to shatter her spell and free yourself.
  3679. >”Anon!”
  3680. “Fuck off,” you yell, slamming the door behind you.
  3681. >Entitled cunt.
  3683. >The hallway is busy with ponies. Some are nurses, some are patients, all are in your way.
  3684. >You maneuver through the river of tiny horses as you go for the exit.
  3685. >The door to your room swings open behind you.
  3686. >She comes running out and catches up, sticking right to your side.
  3687. >”Why are you acting like this?”
  3688. >Maybe if you ignore her, she’ll go away.
  3689. >”Come on, open up to me.”
  3690. >Maybe if you ignore her, she’ll go away.
  3691. >”You can’t keep shutting yourself away from anyone who tries to help you. I’m your friend, aren’t I? Let me help you.”
  3692. >Maybe if you ignore her, she’ll go away.
  3693. >Or she’ll grab your leg and almost trip you.
  3694. >Luckily your balance isn’t completely gone and you manage to catch yourself before eating shit on the floor. Although quite frankly, it wouldn’t really surprise you if a magical being’s assault led to a chipped tooth.
  3695. >Actually, it would. That’d be getting off way too easy.
  3696. >”Anon!”
  3697. “Can’t you take a hint?!”
  3698. >You twist your body and slam the back of your hand into her face.
  3699. >She lets go and sprawls out across the floor.
  3700. >The hallway is silent.
  3701. >Not a single pony moves.
  3702. >What?
  3703. >Oh, so you’re the bad guy now?
  3704. >Are Twilight’s wide, watering eyes supposed to make you feel bad about what you did?
  3705. “Get moving, you short fucks. Nothing to see here.”
  3706. >Yeah, you’re going to stand around and apologize for tapping on the gracious and humble princess of friendship.
  3707. >There are much more important things to do.
  3709. >You make your way outside.
  3710. >The brisk air stings your nose as it passes by and fills your lungs.
  3711. >Be it your anger or the “sap” left in your body, you’re still plenty warm and don’t bother hugging yourself for heat.
  3712. >Besides, you’re not going very far.
  3713. >Only halfway across town.
  3714. >As you march through the snow, your mind races.
  3715. >Endless possibilities flash before you.
  3716. >What’s the first one you’ll try?
  3717. >Maybe something flashy.
  3718. >No, something practical.
  3719. >Definitely small. Then you’ll work your way up.
  3720. >It at least has to be something.
  3721. >You’re tired of living without it.
  3722. >Your most recent experience has proved you CAN’T live without it.
  3723. >It has brushed against your skin.
  3724. >It has coursed through your veins.
  3725. >It has invaded your mind.
  3726. >It is in every aspect of your life except the one where you want it: in your control.
  3727. >But that’s ok. You’re going to fix that today. You just need his help.
  3728. >It’s ten minutes before you reach Greymane’s house.
  3729. >It sits peacefully nestled in the snow with only an active smokestack to show anybody is home.
  3730. >You reach his door and begin banging on it.
  3731. >He doesn’t show up in the next two and a half seconds so you bang again.
  3732. >”I’m coming, I’m coming! Jeez, hold on!”
  3733. “Hurry up!”
  3734. >”Anon?”
  3735. >Having caught his attention, you’re content to stand in the cold and wait for him.
  3736. >After hearing it’s you, he pretty quickly opens the door, letting a wave of warmth hit you from his dark interior.
  3737. >”What the fuck, dude? I thought you were in another coma.”
  3738. “Exactly. That’s why I need you.”
  3739. >This is it. You can practically taste it.
  3740. >”Need me for what?”
  3741. “There’s a spell I need you to cast. Don’t worry, I have the instructions.”
  3742. >”Is this about runes again? I told you, I’m not doing that.”
  3743. “No,” you shout, jamming your foot in the door as he motions to close it. “It’s not about runes this time! This one is completely legal. More or less.”
  3744. >”Define.”
  3745. “As long as no one finds out, we’re green.”
  3747. >”Anon, go home and get some rest. I’ll come over tonight and we can talk about how crazy you are.”
  3748. “That’s not going to cut it.”
  3749. >You push against the snow and force your way into the house.
  3750. >He huffs and kicks the door closed behind you.
  3751. “We’re doing this right now. Right fucking now, you hear me?”
  3752. >”What even is it?”
  3753. >You look around his shadowy home and locate a quill and parchment.
  3754. >Rushing over, you begin to sketch out your plan.
  3755. >He leans over your shoulder and stares at the paper as you draw.
  3756. >”This looks dangerous.”
  3757. “Not if you follow these instructions exactly.”
  3758. >Pulling them from memory, you begin to write down step after step about how to properly and not murderously perform the spell you have in mind.
  3759. >”This totally isn’t legal.”
  3760. “You’ve done worse.”
  3761. >”Not really. This is some black magic shit.”
  3762. “Don’t be such a fucking pussy.”
  3763. >When you’re done, you look over your work once, then two more times to make sure you’ve made no mistakes.
  3764. >The circles are exact. The symbols are all in the right place. The instructions are as clear as you can make them.
  3765. >He takes the parchment from you and looks at it curiously.
  3766. >”How the hell do you know any of this?”
  3767. “I read a lot.”
  3768. >You reach into your pocket and pull out the old picture of you and your father.
  3769. >Slamming it down on the table where the parchment once was, you notice that it too, like your clothes, is stained red.
  3770. >Greymane’s ears droop as it dawns on him just how serious you are.
  3771. >”Anon, please don’t. I’m not a skilled unicorn. I could really fuck this up.”
  3772. “Not with my guidance. You’ll do fine. Now,” you say as a smirk begins to spread across your face, “Let’s bind my soul.”
  3774. >”This is a bad idea,” mutters the stallion as you clear his livingroom of furniture.
  3775. “It’s fine. Get the salt.”
  3776. >”No.”
  3777. “Get the salt!”
  3778. >He almost jumps out of his hair and retreats to his kitchen to get a bottle of the stuff.
  3779. >After a minute, he returns with much more than you actually need.
  3780. >Alright, next you have to make the spell zones.
  3781. >Cracking open the bottle, you carefully pour it out and form two circles--one large enough for you, and one for your picture.
  3782. >”You’re not going to cut yourself, are you?”
  3783. “This is black magic, not blood magic. Calm down.”
  3784. >”Wait, that’s a real thing?”
  3785. “Forget you heard that.”
  3786. >Unicorns are fucked up.
  3787. >Right, so all you have to do next is connect the circles with a thin line of salt and get to work on the symbols.
  3788. >In the meantime, you have Greymane recite the spell to himself to charge it up.
  3789. >”I don’t see why I can’t just ease into it.”
  3790. “Because it has to be done all at once. If we ‘ease into it’ there’s the chance my soul just slips into the air and then I’m fucked.”
  3791. >”You’re kidding.”
  3792. “What did I say about following my instructions exactly?”
  3793. >”Ok, ok. Fine.”
  3794. >Thank goodness this is salt and not chalk.
  3795. >Having to berate Greymane led to a small screw up on one of the symbols that you’d have a mighty hard time fixing if it was anything more permanent than this dust-like substance.
  3796. >When all’s said and done, you place your picture in the small circle and lay down in the larger one.
  3797. >Craning your neck, you double check that the lines are at least a quarter-inch high all around and that no symbols have spilled over.
  3798. >All good on the left.
  3799. >All good on the right.
  3800. “Let’s go.”
  3801. >”Are you sure about this?”
  3802. “More sure than I’ve been about anything my entire life.”
  3804. >It’s so close now.
  3805. >You can almost taste it.
  3806. >When this ritual is done, you’ve only one more hurdle to leap before it can all be yours.
  3807. >The stallion approaches your circle, his horn humming with power.
  3808. >It’s not as spectacular as Twilight’s, but it’s still respectable for your average unicorn.
  3809. >In grade school, that is.
  3810. >What’s important is that it’ll get the job done.
  3811. >”Alright, here I go. Any second now.”
  3812. >Your body tenses up.
  3813. >You can feel the hair on your face stand on end.
  3814. >A warm feeling spreads throughout as your heart begins to pump faster.
  3815. >Just like he said. Any second now.
  3816. >”In three, two, one.”
  3817. >Is it done?
  3818. >Was that all?
  3819. >Oh, neat. You don’t feel much different at all.
  3820. “Thanks, Greyma--”
  3821. >Wow nelly!
  3822. >Oh shit, it’s like pulling from those trick electric gum packs except all over your body!
  3823. >Cock sucking Christ!
  3824. >What’s that feeling?
  3825. >There’s something welling up in your chest.
  3826. >It’s like something is trying to get out of you.
  3827. >You swear there’s a hand pushing against the inside of your chest.
  3828. >It goes through without too much struggle.
  3829. >Then it just keeps flowing out like a river of warm energy.
  3830. >You can feel it slide against your skin, leaving you feeling cold as if it were taking all your heat with it.
  3831. >Then, in another second, it’s gone.
  3832. >You jump up off the floor and look over to your picture.
  3833. >The salt circle around it has changed color from white to a dull green.
  3834. >The picture itself is jittering around, surrounded by what looks like electricity.
  3835. >Obviously the ritual isn’t done yet.
  3836. >You wait patiently as the energy is seemingly sucked into the picture and everything dies down.
  3837. >Ok, now is it done?
  3838. >Should you grab it?
  3839. >Hesitantly, you reach out of the circle.
  3840. >No death yet.
  3841. >With a little more confidence, you lurch over and take the picture into your hand.
  3842. >It feels hot. That is, as hot as a person.
  3843. >You, on the other hand, are quite cold, accentuating the heat of the picture.
  3844. >”Did it work?”
  3845. “I think so. Do I look different?”
  3846. >”That depends on what you mean by look different.”
  3847. “Are there any physical changes?”
  3848. >”None that I can see.”
  3849. “And let me guess. The other difference is how you see me as a person?”
  3850. >He nods.
  3851. “Save it then.”
  3852. >You stand, your knees creaking as you do so.
  3853. >You got what you wanted. No need to stand around here to hear some pedantic rant about how “oh, Anon, bla bla bla feelings you’re a different person now waaah”.
  3855. >”So that’s it? You’re just going to leave?”
  3856. “Of course. I have things to do and it’s not like I can do them here.”
  3857. >”I help you, and you just walk away?”
  3858. “What do you want me to do? Sit down and hold your hoof while we watch a some chick flick on the TV?”
  3859. >”I don’t even know what that is.”
  3860. “Bye, Greymane.”
  3861. >Next stop: Twilight’s castle.
  3862. >The funny thing about her huge home is that it sprang up out of the ground, yet sits firmly on a solid stone foundation.
  3863. >This means nothing was taken from the earth when it was created. By extension, that means it’s magic.
  3864. >No, not in the sense that it was created with magic, but that it IS magic.
  3865. >By your best guess, anyway.
  3866. >You depart and sprint off to her place, making sure the picture is safely in your pocket.
  3867. >Should you start referring to it as your soul?
  3868. >No, that sounds stupid.
  3869. >“My soul is in my pocket” is definitely the cover to some death metal album.
  3870. >Arriving at Twilight’s castle, you sneak around, careful not to make a sound until your foot lands on what might be the driest, loudest branch you’ve ever had the misfortune of stepping on.
  3871. >Luckily, it doesn’t seem like anybody heard.
  3872. >Now where is the back of this place?
  3873. >Opposite of the front, of course.
  3874. >As you wrap around the other end of the castle, you see that it is very jagged.
  3875. >Another lucky break. This must be a sign that you’re on the right path.
  3876. >Now, you probably don’t have the muscle power to just snap a piece of crystal off of such a huge structure, but what you do have is a rock and that’s good enough for you.
  3877. >You pick up the hefty stone out of the snow and hoist it over your head.
  3878. >Having located a rather long chunk of crystal that looks nice and snappy.
  3879. >Heave, ho!
  3880. >Wham!
  3881. >The stone collides with the crystal with the force of a stone hitting a crystal.
  3882. >It cracks under the impact and falls down into the snow.
  3883. >Wonderful.
  3884. >You pocket that thing and make off like a bandit.
  3886. >She doesn’t need all those crystals to yourself.
  3887. >You need this one more than her.
  3888. >This is essential to your plans.
  3889. >You run across town, all the way back to your cabin, and burst through the door.
  3890. >Piles of books topple over as you rush through the place, ignoring the carved paths, and make way to the kitchen.
  3891. >You knew it was a bad idea putting the file in the same drawer as the cheese grater.
  3892. >Searching the cupboard, you quickly realize that while they may be in the same drawer, you have no idea where that drawer is.
  3893. >Let’s try the next one over.
  3894. >Nope, that’s all spoons.
  3895. >Why do you have so many spoons?
  3896. >Ok, next one.
  3897. >Will measuring cups help you? Yes, actually.
  3898. >You leave those out on the counter and move over to the next drawer.
  3899. >There you find the file.
  3900. >Leaning over the counter, you carefully begin to shave off the end of the crystal you’ve borrowed from Twilight’s castle.
  3901. >Hell, you’re not giving it back. This is stolen.
  3902. >Whatever. You shave off the end of the crystal you’ve stolen from Twilight’s castle.
  3903. >The dust falls neatly into the measuring cup which, when you’re done, is filled with water and then transferred into a pot to boil.
  3904. >While that comes to temperature, you begin to clean off your chair and get some other items, such as a piece of charcoal from the fireplace as well as a mirror, and disrobe.
  3905. >Your shirt is thrown into a corner, as well as your expensive sweater.
  3906. >They’re both torn by now so it doesn’t matter.
  3907. >Using the mirror, you draw the symbols markings pulled from Starswirl’s journal onto your left pectoral.
  3908. >The charcoal scrapes against your skin but leaves behind the desired symbols.
  3909. >Oh fuck, did you do this backwards?
  3910. >No, wait, you’re good.
  3911. >Almost gave yourself a heart attack. Can you even get those anymore?
  3912. >If you did, what would happen? Your body would die, of course, but what would happen to you?
  3913. >Your soul is trapped inside a picture now. Would it go on, or would it kick the bucket with your body?
  3914. >Maybe you didn’t think this through as much as you should have, but you’re too deep in now to look back.
  3915. >The time to ponder your life decisions comes later.
  3917. >The pot should be ready now.
  3918. >Maneuvering through the landmines of book stacks littered throughout your dark living room, you make it to the stove and check inside the pot.
  3919. >The contents are boiling.
  3920. >Bubbling?
  3921. >It doesn’t look too hot.
  3922. >A quick test with your finger proves it doesn’t feel hot either.
  3923. >Weird. Anyway, you pick it up off the stove and bring it over to your chair, setting it down on a tower of books nearby.
  3924. >Now is for the hard part. The decision.
  3925. >What do you want first?
  3926. >Maybe something that’d be easy to grasp. How quickly could you wrap your mind around magic missile?
  3927. >Not very fast, you imagine. It in itself is a complicated spell. You’re also not too sure on the arrangement of the runes.
  3928. >For that matter, you’re not sure about the arrangement of any runes.
  3929. >You still don’t know if your spell worked on Twilight, but she’s still alive so chances are that--if she cast it--you haven’t made any “kill me now” spells.
  3930. >Oh, you know.
  3931. >Yes, that’s a perfect choice.
  3932. >You easy yourself back into the chair so you’re more horizontal and dip your finger into the pot.
  3933. >It soaks up the magical liquid and becomes the tool which you begin to mark yourself with.
  3934. >This particular ritual calls for solid magic to be applied directly to the object.
  3935. >Since you don’t have the means to write with solid magic, you figure some liquid magic courtesy of Twilight’s special castle will do nicely.
  3936. >And since with your soul gone this body is technically just an object, everything should be fine.
  3937. >No need for panic.
  3938. >Probably.
  3939. >You begin to write on yourself inside the large black circle on your chest.
  3940. >The runes are made very carefully.
  3941. >Every few strokes, you have to get some more magic marker onto your finger.
  3942. >Because it’s so light, you try to really layer it on each rune.
  3943. >The process is painstakingly slow, but you don’t want to mess up.
  3944. >Thankfully, you can still at least see what you’re doing as your eyes have adjusted to the dark.
  3945. >Alright, that’s one down.
  3946. >Onto the next rune: power.
  3948. >After a minute, you’re two thirds done with the whole thing. Just one more rune and you’ll have written what you hope will be your first successful spell.
  3949. >Two more strokes, and “Done.”
  3950. >You’re done.
  3951. >That’s it. That’s the end of it.
  3952. >At least, that’s the end of your part. Now the spell has to work.
  3953. >When will it start?
  3954. >You sit there in silence, patiently awaiting something to happen.
  3955. >So far all you notice is yourself getting goosebumps because it’s only forty degrees in your house.
  3956. >Wait, what’s this?
  3957. >The marks on your chest come to life, dimly glowing in a shade similar to Twilight’s aura.
  3958. >Does that mean it’s working?
  3959. >It must have
  3960. >It must have just been a delayed reaction since you used liquid magic instead of solid.
  3961. >Soon they grow warm, then warmer.
  3962. >It feels like leaving yourself pressed against an electric stovetop as it powers on.
  3963. >You begin to shuffle in your chair as the temperature rises.
  3964. >The runes are hot now. No, very hot.
  3965. >You grit your teeth as the sensation radiates out from your pec, taking over your whole chest.
  3966. “Fuck!”
  3967. >There’s a fire right against your skin! There has to be!
  3968. >The runes glow brighter and brighter, keeping pace with the burning that creeps through your body.
  3969. >You fall out of the chair and onto the floor, writhing.
  3970. >A series of small shouts and grunts escape your lips.
  3971. >Jesus fucking Christ, this is going to be the end of you.
  3972. >You’ve made a horrible mistake.
  3973. >You open your mouth to ask for help, but all that comes is a long, drawn out scream.
  3974. >It feels like there’s lava pumping through your veins.
  3975. >Somehow, you still have enough control over your body to claw your way across the floor and to the front door.
  3976. >Please be open.
  3977. >Please be open.
  3978. >Please be open.
  3979. >Oh thank fuck.
  3980. >You’ve managed to push the oak door aside, letting a wall of icy air hit your scalding flesh.
  3981. >Not that it does anything.
  3983. >Outside. Get outside.
  3984. “Ahhh! Aw fuck! Ahhhhh!”
  3985. >Your chest illuminates the way to a snowbank that you pull yourself into.
  3986. >Desperately, you try to bury yourself in the snow.
  3987. >Nothing seems to be able to combat the horrible burning that has become your being.
  3988. >You fucked up.
  3989. >You did something wrong. That has to be it.
  3990. >Oh god, you’re going to die here.
  3991. >No, you won’t. Your soul is outside of the body. Your body is going to die and you’re going to be trapped inside a picture.
  3992. >That’s just your luck, isn’t it?
  3993. >You don’t know how much time passes as you lay in the snow wishing to be dead.
  3994. >It could have been minutes, but it felt like hours.
  3995. >Much to your surprise, the sensation comes to an end.
  3996. >Slowly but surely, the heat retreats.
  3997. >It crawls through your body, making way back to your chest.
  3998. >Every part of you that the fire leaves is suddenly attacked by the ice you’ve settled into.
  3999. >The sudden change in feeling is jarring.
  4000. >Finding the strength within you, you push yourself out of the snow and fall back onto your ass just inside your house.
  4001. >The molten magma hidden within your chest cools down, leaving just a smudged charcoal circle and some purple looking runes.
  4002. >Ok, let’s get one thing settled here.
  4003. >Are you alive?
  4004. >Well you’re still breathing and your heart is still beating. From a medical standpoint, yes, you’re alive.
  4005. >Close enough.
  4006. >Now, what about the spell?
  4007. >You wipe your hand across the your chest, clearing it of the now wet charcoal markings.
  4008. >What’s left are the runes.
  4009. >Wiping with more gusto, you soon discover that they are not just sitting on your skin, they are your skin.
  4010. >You seem to have branded yourself with Twilight’s colors.
  4011. >That’s promising. All the pictures you’ve seen of spell bound items had their runes plainly showing.
  4012. >Perhaps this was supposed to happen.
  4013. >Does that mean you didn’t fuck up?
  4015. >Ok, let’s try this out.
  4016. >You should test the spell.
  4017. >By, you know, doing it.
  4018. >Ah, you’ve encountered your first problem.
  4019. >You have no fucking idea how to cast a spell.
  4020. >How do unicorns do it?
  4021. >They think about what they want to do and it just happens.
  4022. >Is it that simple?
  4023. >Well, it can’t hurt to try, you guess.
  4024. >Alright, snow. Let’s go.
  4025. >You hold your hand out ahead of you, aiming an open palm at the glistening snowbank you had positioned yourself in earlier.
  4026. >Think about the spell, do the spell.
  4027. >Think, do.
  4028. >You want the snow to move.
  4029. >So it will move.
  4030. >Maybe you’re not thinking hard enough.
  4031. >Well shit, how hard are you supposed to think?
  4032. >No, please don’t say that you STILL can’t use magic after all of this.
  4033. “Oh come on!”
  4034. >You smash your fists onto the ground.
  4035. “This is bullshit! After all of this, I still can’t do a goddamn thing!”
  4036. >You jump to your feet and give the snow a good kick, sending a small pile flying into the air.
  4037. “Stupid fucking magic! Fuck this gay earth and everyone on it!”
  4038. >The snow just sits there, mocking you with its nonreaction.
  4039. “You think this is funny? Huh?”
  4040. >Just think, Anon! Just move your hand!
  4041. >Wave it around like you don’t fucking care!
  4042. >You twist your body, swiping your hand through the air.
  4043. >From the ground  erupts a huge amount of snow that follows your direction and soars into the starry night sky.
  4044. >Oh.
  4046. >Was that you?
  4047. >No, it was the wind. Your luck isn’t that good.
  4048. >It definitely won’t work if you hold your hand out ahead of you and focus on moving a small branch sticking out of the snow exactly like this.
  4049. >If you wave your hand, the stick won’t lift out of the icy fluff and wiggle around.
  4050. “Holy shit.”
  4051. >No, no this is a fluke.
  4052. >It has to be.
  4053. >You waggle your finger, prompting the floating branch to come towards you.
  4054. >It refuses to move from its place in space.
  4055. “Come to me,” you say, closing your fist and bringing it towards your chest. “Come to me now.”
  4056. >Amazingly, the stick obeys.
  4057. >It, wrapped in a lavender aura, slowly drifts in your direction as if it were on a gentle ocean current.
  4058. >Lurching out, you snatch the small piece of wood out of the air.
  4059. >It’s a normal branch from what your naked eyes can tell.
  4060. >You don’t see any signs that it might be enchanted, there’s no charms, and you can’t see any runes.
  4061. >It’s just a regular, stupid old stick.
  4062. >Well if it moved for you and the snow moved for you, then could these two coincidences be related?
  4063. >Does this actually mean you’ve done it?
  4064. >No fucking way.
  4065. >You’ve done it.
  4066. >You’ve done it!
  4067. >Your face hurts as the biggest smile you’ve ever shown appears on your face.
  4068. >You leap into the air, pumping your fists.
  4069. “Haaaaaaa! Haaaaaa ha ha ha! Yes! I did it I did it I did it I did it I did it I did it!”
  4071. >You land, feeling light as a feather, and run around without any real direction.
  4072. >Your whole body is filled with energy.
  4073. “Yes! Anonymous! Big, bad Anonymous! Take that, Equestria! I’ve joined the ranks of legends!”
  4074. >Your name will be written in the history books.
  4075. >Anon, the greatest wizard who ever lived.
  4076. >The first man to ever spell bind a living thing.
  4077. >No more weakness. No more helplessness.
  4078. >You’re not some pathetic little wimp anymore.
  4079. >Nobody saves you! Now you do the saving!
  4080. >Greatness awaits!
  4081. >Another laugh comes on.
  4082. >Your joy echoes out into the frosty night air.
  4083. >You can’t even feel the cold anymore.
  4084. >Your blood courses through your veins with fervor, raising your body temperature as high as your spirits.
  4085. “Oh man, what should I do next?”
  4086. >What should you do? Well, that’s obvious.
  4087. >Anything you want!
  4088. >The world is your oyster!
  4089. >You, with your bare hands and only a few felonies, have pried open the shell of the universe and revealed its treasure.
  4090. >It’s all yours now.
  4091. >Everything you need to make it in this world is now quite literally at your fingertips.
  4092. >Strength.
  4093. >Magic.
  4094. >Yes, magic. That’s what you need.
  4095. >More magic.
  4096. >You have to study!
  4097. >You toss the stick into the air and grasp it in your telekinetic force.
  4098. >Mocking a pitch, you send the thing flying through sky, watching it disappear past the horizon.
  4099. >With that done, you run back inside and get to the important stuff.
  4101. >The next day.
  4102. >Your slow trot has turned into a gallop.
  4103. >You were on your way to Anon’s house when you heard another scream similar to when you found him in the Everfree last week.
  4104. >Wait, if you found Anon in the Everfree, that must mean you’re Twilight Sparkle now.
  4105. >Anyway, you race across town, eager to save him from whatever monsters are at his doorstep.
  4106. >His small cabin comes into view past the jungle that his walkway has become.
  4107. >Branches jut out into the path and dead leaves litter the snowy covering.
  4108. >You have to maneuver through them, careful not to scratch yourself, before his cabin comes into view.
  4109. >Quickly closing the gap between the walkway and his door, you start banging on it.
  4110. “Anon, I’m here! Do you need help? Open up!”
  4111. >Oh no, he’s not answering.
  4112. >You might have to break the door down.
  4113. >Well, Applejack always said that sometimes a door needs a good kicking.
  4114. >Oh no, you were supposed to go to Applejack’s today to discuss advanced farm theory.
  4115. >Well, you can still make it if you kill whatever is maiming Anon quickly.
  4116. >You turn around and prepare to kick, but just as your muscles are cocked, the door clicks and slides open.
  4117. >That was easy.
  4118. >Well, best not to waste time!
  4119. >You burst in, horn charged and ready.
  4120. “I’m here, Anon! Where are they? I’ll save you!”
  4121. >You scan the room for threats.
  4122. >All there is is Anon on the other side of the room, covered up from head to toe.
  4123. >”Hello, Twilight,” he mumbles.
  4124. “Anon? Where are the monsters?”
  4125. >”Excuse me?”
  4126. “You were screaming. I figured you needed saving again.”
  4127. >”Never again,” he snaps, pulling his attention from the book he was previously engrossed in.
  4128. >The desk he’s at is piled high with spell books and history books.
  4129. >There’s even a few scrolls which you could have sworn you once saw in the Castle of the Two Sisters.
  4130. >His frayed beard does little to hide his grimace.
  4131. >Thankfully, his sour expression returns to something more bored, and he goes back to reading.
  4132. >”No monsters. I was practicing some primal scream therapy.”
  4133. “What’s that?”
  4134. >”It’s a human thing.”
  4135. >Oh, human things? That’s great.
  4136. >You can learn about it and strengthen the friendship between you two.
  4137. >Although you’ll have to get whoever else is here to go.
  4139. “So, who is with you today?”
  4140. >”Nobody.”
  4141. >Nobody? Then how did the door open?
  4142. >He sighs and rises, grabbing the sides of the blanket draped over his shoulders and pulling them in to keep it from falling.
  4143. >”Twilight, why are you here?”
  4144. “What do you mean?”
  4145. >”The last time I saw you, I slapped you across the face, humiliated you in front of your subjects, and told you to leave me alone. Why are you here?”
  4146. “You opened the door.”
  4147. >He squints at your response.
  4148. >Is he going to say something?
  4149. >Maybe you should break the ice.
  4150. >No, let him feel like he has the power here. It’s what Celestia would do in one of her meetings.
  4151. >Whenever a frail, weak little excuse of a diplomat would come to Canterlot, she would make them feel more at home by offering them the first of everything.
  4152. >It makes sense then that a weak little human like Anon should have the first word here.
  4153. >For friendship.
  4154. >”Do you want to leave? I’m kind of busy.”
  4155. >Gosh darn it, there he goes again.
  4156. >Why can’t he just let you be a friend?
  4157. “I’d rather have a cup and a chat, if it’s all the same to you.”
  4158. >”It’s not. Leave.”
  4159. “I won’t go that easily, Anon. You can’t exactly run away from me in your own home, so I suggest you talk to me now or we can wrestle as you try to drag me outside.”
  4160. >”You’re a cunt.”
  4161. “What’s that mean?”
  4162. >”It’s human for turn around.”
  4163. >Awesome! You’re making progress.
  4164. >You smile and obey, giving him the privacy he desires.
  4165. >In the background, you can hear fabric shuffling as he likely gets changed.
  4166. “You humans are so silly with your clothes. You know those are only for formal events, right?”
  4167. >”Maybe in Equestria. On Earth, any decent person covers themselves.”
  4168. “Did you like that I left your underwear on while you were in the hospital?”
  4169. >”Stop fishing for compliments. Alright, turn around now.”
  4170. >Once more, you follow his orders.
  4171. >He’s changed from the blanket to pajamas covered by a bathrobe covered by a coat.
  4172. >Jeez, you didn’t think it was that cold in here.
  4173. >Is it because he’s hairless?
  4174. >You should charm his cabin so that it’s warmer!
  4176. >”If I get you to drink some vodka, do you think you’d get drunk enough to stumble out my door faster?”
  4177. “Nope. Not since I learned that sobering spell.”
  4178. >”Explain.”
  4179. “Don’t you remember you gave me that sobering spell you found?”
  4180. >”At the Christmas party?”
  4181. “The what?”
  4182. >”The Christmas party. At Applejacks.”
  4183. “Oh, you mean Hearthswarming.”
  4184. >”No, but continue.”
  4185. ”Well, now that I know it, I don’t have to worry about cider or this ‘vodka’ stuff anymore.”
  4186. >”So you’re telling me it worked?”
  4187. “Why wouldn’t it?”
  4188. >”Ha! I’m on a roll!”
  4189. >He practically skips into the kitchen and preps a small pot of tea.
  4190. >Anon happy. That’s something you haven’t seen in a while.
  4191. >This is real progress, Twilight.
  4193. >”So tell me,” he chirps while setting the stove on. “How fast did it work? Was it instant or was there a delay? Was it flashy or did you just suddenly become sober? How sober, even? Like sober enough you think you’re ok to drive but not really sober, or like haven’t had a drink all day sober?”
  4194. “Instant, sort of flashy, and no alcohol all day.”
  4195. >”Do you still have the spell?”
  4196. “Yes. I have it locked in a chest back at my castle where nobody can find it.”
  4197. >His beard shifts as a grin stretches underneath it.
  4198. >The man hops over the piles of books and fetches two crude mugs from the countertop beside his stove.
  4199. >Quickly, he reenters the room and takes point next to a small coffee table beside the large red chair.
  4200. >”Shit, you need a seat too. Um, hold on. Turn around.”
  4201. “Why?”
  4202. >”Because I said so. It’s my house.”
  4203. >That makes sense.
  4204. >You should go watch the tea anyway.
  4205. >This human stove of his works fast. You’ve always wanted to deconstruct it, but he’s made a point of never letting you near his stuff with a wrench.
  4206. >Something about destroying the remnants of his civilization.
  4207. >You’d put it back together for sure, so there’s nothing to worry about.
  4208. >As you near it, you can see that the water has already begun to boil.
  4209. >”Alright, turn around now.”
  4210. “Should I get the tea?”
  4211. >”It’s not ready yet.”
  4212. “It’s boiling.”
  4213. >”The kettle will let us know when it’s ready.”
  4215. >Wait wait wait. It’s always wait.
  4216. >You can take your time as much as the next mare, but you want to get to the friendship.
  4217. >Turning around, you spot Anon in the living room flanked by two identical comfy red chairs.
  4218. “Wait, how did that get there?”
  4219. >”Advanced human cloning technology.”
  4220. “Your people never cease to amaze me. Even without magic, you can accomplish so much.”
  4221. >”Funny you should mention that,” he says and begins making odd movements with his hands.
  4222. >Oh, is this more of his “sign language”?
  4223. >Let’s see if you can decipher it.
  4224. >So the pouring gesture likely translates to the amount of happiness that pours from him when you’re around.
  4225. >This up and down motion also indicates that clear turmoil your relationship has seen recently.
  4226. >If you’re right, he’s trying to tell you that despite all his shortcomings, he’s glad to have you as a friend.
  4227. “Me too, Anon.”
  4228. >”What?”
  4229. “I’m glad you’re my friend.”
  4230. >”Whatever. Get the tea.”
  4231. >The tea? But it’s not ready.
  4232. >Has the kettle given the signal already? You don’t remember hearing any whistling.
  4233. >Well, he wants tea. Best not to be a difficult guest, you suppose.
  4234. >You turn around, registering just how much of that you’ve been doing today, and wrap the kettle in your magical grip.
  4235. >Wait, what happened?
  4236. >Your eyes widen.
  4237. >The tea has already been poured.
  4238. >Two cups full of steaming, steeped tea cups sit on the cluttered counter beside an empty kettle.
  4239. >First the door opens when he’s across the room, then a chair appears out of nowhere, and now the tea is poured.
  4240. >You knew it!
  4241. “Alright, where are they?”
  4242. >”Excuse me?”
  4243. “The other pony. I know I’m being punked.”
  4244. >”What the hell are you talking about?”
  4245. “All of this stuff happening mysteriously. It has to be another pony, right? Unless it’s--Discord, show yourself.”
  4247. >”There’s nobody here, Twilight.”
  4248. “Well I don’t sense any enchantments or charms on these items, so what other explanation is there, Anon?”
  4249. >”One I can’t give you for another few days.”
  4250. >You raise an eyebrow, setting the kettle down and replacing it with the tea cups.
  4251. >”I have to be sure of something before I let anyone know about this, but it’s big, Twilight.”
  4252. “Do you want to elaborate on that?”
  4253. >”More than you could imagine, but I can’t just yet.”
  4254. >Trotting over to him, you set the teacups down on the coffee table and sit in unison with him.
  4255. “So what do you want to talk about?”
  4256. >”The spell. It worked.”
  4257. “The sobering spell?”
  4258. >”Yes. I need you to describe to me exactly what you felt.”
  4259. “Well, sure, no problem. How about you tell me where you found it first though?”
  4260. >”Found it?”
  4261. “Yes. What temple did you rob?”
  4262. >”It wasn’t The House of the Five, I’ll tell you that much.”
  4263. “That’s one out of thousands of possibilities.”
  4264. >”I’ll tell you in a few days, alright? Now back to my spell. How did it work?”
  4265. >This is getting tedious, even by your standards.
  4266. >Oh, goodness, you still have to meet up with Applejack too.
  4267. >You don’t want to leave Anon though. He’s just started to open up to you.
  4268. >”Now, bitch.”
  4269. >Well, maybe leaving wouldn’t be so bad.
  4270. >At least finish the tea first.
  4271. >And hey, this will be a nice challenge.
  4272. >Can you get him to spill the beans in the time it takes you to finish this cup?
  4273. >Time to see what all your psychology lessons have led to.
  4275. “I have a better idea. I’ll tell you all you want to know about that spell if you reply with hints as to where you found it.”
  4276. >He scratches his chin in thought.
  4277. >As he contemplates that, you take a sip of your tea.
  4278. >Oh, that’s good. This is top shelf stuff.
  4279. >”Alright. Game start. Now answer my question.”
  4280. “Well, it kind of felt like when you leak in your sleep. It was very relaxing and warm.”
  4281. >”Warm ho--”
  4282. >You cut him off, setting your cup down.
  4283. “That’s not how this works.”
  4284. >”Right. Well, I had to venture out of my house for it.”
  4285. “Are you kidding? That’s nothing.”
  4286. >”You didn’t say they had to be good hints.”
  4287. “Alright, well casting the spell took magic.”
  4288. >”It was on paper.”
  4289. “I had to think to cast it.”
  4290. >”It was written with ink.”
  4291. >This is getting you nowhere but closer to being kicked out.
  4292. >He’s too focused on keeping whatever this is close to his chest.
  4293. >He’s probably afraid that you’re going to report him for a crime or something.
  4294. “Anon, I’m not here to accuse you of anything.”
  4295. >”Of course not. You’re here to annoy me.”
  4296. “I’m here to learn, and I want to learn about where you found the spell. I don’t care where it was.”
  4297. >Anon scoffs and sinks into his chair.
  4298. >His hand sneaks underneath his coat and he begins to rub his chest.
  4299. >”You say that now.”
  4300. >Ah ha! So he did break the law!
  4302. >Just keep him thinking in the short term. He’ll spill.
  4303. “I’m right here, Anon. Right now we’re alone.”
  4304. >No response save for a shuffle.
  4305. “Sometimes good people do stupid things.”
  4306. >Suddenly he erupts into laughter.
  4307. >He leans over, holding his gut as if it were ready to pop out.
  4308. >”Stupid things, she says!”
  4309. >You furrow your brow.
  4310. >This isn’t the result you wanted.
  4311. >”Oh, Twilight, if only you knew how not stupid this was. Don’t worry though, everyone will know in a few days.”
  4312. “Anon, come on. There’s no need to be so secretive.”
  4313. >He gets out of his chair and comes over to you.
  4314. >Gently, he nudges you out of yours.
  4315. >”Time for you to go now. I have work to do,” he says, coming off the fit.
  4316. “But I didn’t finish my tea! And you still don’t know about the spell!”
  4317. >”You’re right, but I’m done entertaining you and taking time out of work. I can just test it myself.”
  4318. >With a little more force, you’re pushed out of the chair and ushered out.
  4319. “Well can I come back later so we can talk?”
  4320. >”I’ll call you when I have an opening.”
  4321. “Hey, don’t be like this.”
  4322. >”Bye, Twilight.”
  4323. >And then the door closes.
  4324. >You huff and kick some snow at it.
  4325. >Fine, if he wants to be a Sour Drop, that’s alright.
  4326. >He can’t ignore friendship forever.
  4327. >As you walk away, some clouds collect in the sky and give you some shade as if you weren’t already sick of the dark from Anon’s house.
  4328. >Speaking of Anon, what did he mean by test it?
  4330. >You spend the rest of the day with Applejack.
  4331. >Her theories on hyperadvanced farming methods are quite interesting.
  4332. >You believe that with a little application and magical know-how, she could take farming into the next century.
  4333. >That is, if she ever wanted to move on from bucking.
  4334. >To each their own, you suppose.
  4335. >When you get back to your castle, Spike greets you with open arms.
  4336. >”Hey, Twilight! How’d it go with AJ?”
  4337. “Well enough,” you reply, returning his embrace.
  4338. >”Then why do you sound so down?”
  4339. >You sigh as your mind tracks back to earlier in the day.
  4340. >Your repeated failures with Anon must really be taking a toll on your friendship with him.
  4341. >Something has to change.
  4342. >”Is it Anon again?”
  4343. “Yeah. I just don’t know what to do, Spike. I’ve tried everything I can think of but I can’t figure out how to get him to open up to friendship.”
  4344. >He grabs your hoof and ushers you into the kitchen.
  4345. >At the table, there’s a nice hayburger waiting for you.
  4346. >Your stomach growls as you approach it.
  4347. >Mouth watering, you take a seat and chow down as he starts.
  4348. >”Maybe you should talk to Celestia again. She helped you last time, didn’t she?”
  4349. “That’s true. I hadn’t thought of that.”
  4350. >”And maybe while you’re in Canterlot, you could pick up the next issue of Power Ponies.”
  4351. “Maybe.”
  4352. >”Aw come on, Twilight! This is the Civil Dispute issue! The ponies are divided and only Captain Equestria can save the world from Metal Mare’s evil army of time traveling superdroids!”
  4353. >Eugh, time travel.
  4354. >You’re going to steer away from that topic.
  4355. “I’ll see about it, alright? Now, did you brush your fangs?”
  4356. >”Not yet.”
  4357. “Go on then. It’s time for bed.”
  4358. >”Yeah, yeah, alright.”
  4360. >So the next day comes and you decide to take Spike’s advice.
  4361. >You hail a carriage for the journey, making sure that it’s prepped with the essentials.
  4362. >Your “guards” pull it up to the front door and help you inside.
  4363. >”Where to, Princess?”
  4364. “Canterlot Castle, please.”
  4365. >”Right away.”
  4366. >They move, slowly getting your large purple vehicle into motion.
  4367. >The wheels move along the dirt until the pegasi up front unfurl their wings and take it all into the air.
  4368. >Soon, you’re soaring through the sky with a nice book to read.
  4369. >Time passes outside of yourself until you can feel the carriage jostle.
  4370. >Tearing yourself from the read, you look out the window and see you’ve landed just outside the castle gates.
  4371. >A guard appears outside your door and opens it up for you.
  4372. >You step out and thank him.
  4373. >The stallion bows, tipping his helmet.
  4374. >”Anything for you, m’lady.”
  4375. >Twenty yards away stands the castle, tall, piercing the sky like a giant marble sword.
  4376. >The huge doors peel open as you approach.
  4377. >There’s a guard standing there, blocking the path.
  4378. >The sun dances off his golden armor and spear as if he were blessed by Celestia herself.
  4379. >”Hello, Princess Twilight. What can we do for you?”
  4380. “I’m here to see the Princess.”
  4381. >”Do you have an appointment?”
  4382. “Of course not.”
  4383. >”Very well. Right this way, Princess.”
  4384. >The guard retreats within the safety of the castle and you follow him closely.
  4385. >The walk to the throne room is very long as usual.
  4386. >Your guide makes no effort to fill the time with conversation.
  4387. >It’s uncomfortable, sure, but not a problem.
  4388. >He takes you right to door, knocks for you, and then leaves to go about his business.
  4390. “Thank you,” you shout as he disappears down another hallway.
  4391. >You stand there in front of the throne room doors, waiting for someone to open it.
  4392. >Nobody does though.
  4393. >You’re left standing there in the huge hallway as voices within the room begin to rise.
  4394. >Curious, you press your ear against the door for a better listen.
  4395. >”Praytell, sister, wherefore art thou so disdainful of my love?”
  4396. >”I do accept him. I don’t accept the two of you.”
  4397. >”Dost thou holdith a grudge ‘gainst the poor? We took the not for such a highnose.”
  4398. >”I hold no grudge against any pony. My issue isn’t with his birth, it’s that you’re going to dump him in a month and break his heart.”
  4399. >”Tis a lie! We love him dearly!”
  4400. >”That’s what you said last time, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that.”
  4401. >”A jaundiced account of our past.”
  4402. >”No, it’s fairly accurate. You’re always doing this, Luna. You can’t keep leading stallions on like that. It isn’t right. If you don’t cut it out now, I’ll do it for you.”
  4403. >”Thou art being a large excrement.”
  4404. >”We’re done here.”
  4405. >”We are done when we say we are done! We are done!”
  4406. >The sound of hooves stomping on marble grows louder.
  4407. >You squeal and jump away from the door as it’s wrapped in a navy light.
  4408. >Think fast, Twilight!
  4409. >In an instant, you’re shrouded in your own magical field.
  4410. >This invisibility spell better work. You’ve been studying it for long enough.
  4411. >Luna forces her way through the doors, nostrils flaring.
  4412. >She doesn’t seem to notice you, so you assume your field is correctly bending light around you.
  4413. >”We shall show thee, Celestia. We shall show thee the depths of our love,” she mutters and leaves, thankfully never turning back to you.
  4414. >The doors begin to close, but not before you sneak your way in.
  4415. >They slam shut, barely missing your tail.
  4416. >”That mare ages me,” sighs Celestia.
  4417. >She runs a hoof through her mane, capturing the loose ends and taming them.
  4419. >Then, adjusting herself to properly sit in the warm sunlight spilling in through the windows, she hovers over a scroll.
  4420. >Atop her throne at the end of the room, she reads off it.
  4421. >”Let’s see what’s lined up for the day. Raise the sun? Check. Breakfast? Check. Morning talks with sister? Check. Open day court? Almost check.”
  4422. “Wait, don’t open court yet,” you call out and drop your spell.
  4423. >The lavender lens that colored your world fades, leaving everything the stark white is should be.
  4424. >”Who goes there,” snaps Celestia.
  4425. >When her eyes land on you, they soften as much as her smile.
  4426. >”Oh, hello, Twilight. What a pleasant surprise this is.”
  4427. >You gallop up to the throne.
  4428. >She sets her scroll down and taps the seat next to her which you eagerly take.
  4429. >”To what do I owe the pleasure, my little pony? It certainly has been a while since you’ve come around.”
  4430. “Well, I thought I’d come by to see my old mentor and favorite aunt.”
  4431. >”I’m glad to hea--”
  4432. “And get your advice on a friendship issue.”
  4433. >”Oh. Yes, of course. I suppose that makes the most sense.”
  4434. “Thank you, Celestia.”
  4435. >”Anything for you, Twilight,” she says following a deep breath.
  4436. >You empty your heart to her about Anon and all the trouble he’s been giving you.
  4437. >Of course you made extra sure to leave out the part where he hit you. There’s no telling what dungeon he would be thrown in for that.
  4438. >Well, and the part about the runes.
  4439. >That one might even land you in a dungeon too.
  4441. >To her credit, she patiently waits through your whole speech, reserving her judgement on everything until the end.
  4442. >The sunlight bounces off her pristine coat, her sparkling mane, as she shifts in her seat halfway through your spiel.
  4443. >How many breaths did you take during this? Probably not enough, but you still finished.
  4444. >She’s not saying anything.
  4445. >Why isn’t she saying anything?
  4446. >Oh no, has she mastered open-eyed sleeping?
  4447. >You’ve bored her to death, haven’t you?
  4448. >”I think you’re very dedicated to your friends.”
  4449. >Oh thank goodness.
  4450. >”Of course, that’s simply your attitude toward everything. You’re a stubborn girl, Twilight, and while I do applaud that, there are some instances where I believe it hurts you more than it helps.”
  4451. “Such as?”
  4452. >”Come, Twilight. You’re a smart girl. Do you really need me to explain to you where I’m going with this?”
  4453. >She smiles and extends a wing.
  4454. >It reaches across the gap between your seats and wraps around you.
  4455. >”You have so much love to give. I understand that you want to share it with everyone, but you must consider that you’re being too giving with Anon. We’ve had this talk before, haven’t we? Sometimes friends need space to truly appreciate each other.”
  4456. “But I tried that before and it didn’t help.”
  4457. >”Didn’t it though? I hadn’t gotten any word from you thereafter, so I would assume everything worked out.”
  4458. >Well kind of, you guess.
  4459. >He did start talking to you more at one point.
  4460. >Still though, it led you here.
  4461. >For that matter, so did your friendship up until then too, and that seemed to be going very well for the seventeen months it lasted.
  4462. “I guess you’re right.”
  4463. >”Well at least you acknowledge that.”
  4464. >You got what you needed, you suppose.
  4465. >There’s no reason to stay and distract her.
  4466. “Thank you for your time, Princess. I’ll get out of your mane now.”
  4467. >”Wait,” she says quickly. “Don’t go. I mean, would you like to stay for day court? You’re a princess after all. You should learn about this stuff.”
  4468. >She’s not exactly wrong.
  4469. >You haven’t done much of anything in the way of princessly duties.
  4470. >And hey, you do love to learn.
  4471. >You’re also not supposed to go near Anon now, so there you go.
  4472. “I think I will. Thank you.”
  4473. >”Wonderful. Guards, open the doors.”
  4475. >You pull yourself up off the floor and wipe some sweat from your brow.
  4476. “Jesus Christ,” you mutter. “This doesn’t get any easier.”
  4477. >Slowly, you get your feet under you and rise to full height.
  4478. >There’s a mirror in the bathroom that you, Anonymous, because that is who you are now, examine yourself in.
  4479. >Your marred skin is covered with more than just scars now.
  4480. >Plastered across your chest, covering the emerald veins, is pitch black writing.
  4481. >There’s three spells on your chest, another two on your abdomen, and one on your left shoulder.
  4482. >All told, there’s quite a bit of magic running through you right now and boy, does it feel great.
  4483. >You can’t remember a time you’ve ever felt better than this.
  4484. >Your muscles are electrified. The whole world is visible to you in ways that it never was before.
  4485. >Before, you could see things. You saw the grass, the trees, the dirt, and all that which made the world.
  4486. >Now, as if it were real as your own hand, you can see the magical strings connecting it all.
  4487. >Most of all, you can see them finally running into you, your beautiful body, as it sucks in the power to fuel your runes.
  4488. >You haven’t seen any other pony than Twilight, so you’re unsure how you stack up to anyone else.
  4489. >Even so, you feel like you could do anything right now.
  4490. >Feelings can be deceiving though.
  4491. >There was a time before when you considered yourself an equal to the ponies, but of course you were wrong. You were nothing then.
  4492. >You need to test your new abilities.
  4493. >Yes, that’s right.
  4494. >You need to make sure that when you reveal yourself to the world, you have not only the power to oppose opposition, but the skill as well.
  4495. >After all, what use is a gun if it doesn’t work?
  4497. >You’ve already got telekinesis down pat.
  4498. >It’s pretty weak considering you’ve only got six spells sapping energy from the air.
  4499. >Generally speaking, that would be more than enough to create an item of absurd magical power, but of course those are objects native to Equestria and are already infused with magic.
  4500. >You’re starting clean, so you’ve got a lot farther to go.
  4501. >But hey, you’re on the way.
  4502. >You can already move a whole couch a few inches and, considering Greymane struggles with a fucking pencil, that puts you above a unicorn.
  4503. >A pitiful unicorn, sure, but your pride doesn’t know that.
  4504. >The plainly visible magic streams around the room are enough proof for you to say that your detection spell is functioning fine.
  4505. >Next is the sobering spell.
  4506. >Now, with the modifications you made, it should act passively.
  4507. >All you need to test it is to get shitfaced.
  4508. “Aw fuck,” you shout and open the fridge. “All dandelion beer!”
  4509. >You can’t get drunk off this!
  4510. >Or can you?
  4511. >The taste is so vile you’ve never tried any more than a bottle.
  4512. >Maybe if you balled up and threw back a few, you could get drunk.
  4513. >Kind of drunk?
  4514. >A light buzz.
  4515. >Whatever, it’s worth a shot, you guess.
  4516. >You reach into the fridge and pull out two bottles.
  4517. “Two bottles of pony brew?”
  4518. >Yeah, better make it five.
  4519. >Six to be sure.
  4520. >You know, seven is a lucky number.
  4521. >With seven bottles of beer wrapped in your magical grip, you pop the tops and hover one over to your waiting lips.
  4522. >The golden liquid spills forth into your mouth.
  4523. >Something inside you dies as it the beer washes over your taste buds.
  4524. >You cringe into yourself, trying to escape from the liquor.
  4525. >It’s like if you were a ball sack and the beer was the cold, except that’s also actually happening and now you’re just cold and trying to get drunk.
  4526. >God damn it this is going to be a while.
  4527. >You pull the bottle away in disgust.
  4528. >Despair, but also despair as you realize you’ve only made it halfway through.
  4530. >Man up, Anon. Nobody ever got anywhere by stopping halfway.
  4531. >Steeling yourself, you wave your finger and bring the bottle to your lips again.
  4532. >You quickly plug your nose to try and stop the taste from registering.
  4533. >It mostly helps, but even with the plug, you can still taste it if only from the memory.
  4534. >Then there’s the texture issue.
  4535. >It doesn’t feel like real beer. You don’t know how to explain it really, but it’s just wrong.
  4536. >If you had lunch in the last few days, you’d have risked losing it.
  4537. >Thankfully all your food went bad a while ago so you haven’t actually eaten anything.
  4538. >Hey, empty stomachs mean better alcohol absorption too.
  4539. >Things are looking up for you.
  4540. >Before you can even think about it, the current bottle is done and you’ve already started on another.
  4541. >Like that, you just down beer after beer until you’re on the last bottle.
  4542. >Your stomach hurts and your throat burns.
  4543. >Should you do it?
  4544. >Your body is saying no.
  4545. >Your mind is also saying no.
  4546. >Everything about you is saying no.
  4547. >Ok, that’s cool. Experiment over, you gues--
  4548. >Tricked you!
  4549. >Suddenly you’re guzzling down the dandelion mixture like there’s no tomorrow.
  4550. >Your foolish body never saw it coming.
  4551. >It had been building up for a while, but now with the addition of the last bottle, a sickness rises from your stomach.
  4552. >You throw the emptied beer away and lean over the sink.
  4553. >From your gaping mouth, strands of flower flavored saliva spill out and collect in the drain.
  4554. >Oh man, it’s coming up.
  4555. >No, wait. You can hold it down.
  4556. >Count to ten.
  4557. >The tightness in the the back of your throat settles down as time ticks on.
  4559. >When the danger is gone, you groan and pull away, somewhat amazed that you’re still not drunk.
  4560. >Did the beer just not hit you?
  4561. >Disgruntled, you crane your neck to peek at your shoulder where the runes for the soberness spell lie.
  4562. >They’re glowing in the same way that all your markings do when the spell is in use.
  4563. >So, like, is it working?
  4564. >You don’t feel too drunk.
  4565. >You’ve also never been drunk either so that doesn’t help.
  4566. >No, wait, there was that one time at the Christmas party with Aunt Lucinda.
  4567. >What was that like?
  4568. >You remember feeling very out of control of yourself. Also warm, happy, and unsure. Most of all, confident.
  4569. >Currently you are in control of yourself, cold, and unhappy.
  4570. >That said, you are very sure of yourself and are confident in your abilities.
  4571. >That’s enough evidence for you to say you’re not drunk and that the spell is working.
  4572. >Nice. Three down, three to go.
  4573. >What’s the heaviest thing in your room right now?
  4574. >You scan your surroundings for anything suitable.
  4575. >Eventually they land on a small box of pretty rocks you had been collecting to one day sell in town.
  4576. >In the limited light of your cabin, the colorful stones are still plainly visible if only by their intense hues.
  4577. >It’s a fairly big box, maybe big enough to fit a cradle into.
  4578. >Filled with rocks, you would put its weight at about sixty pounds.
  4579. >Yes, that will do.
  4580. >You hold your hand out to it as if to manipulate it with your telekinesis.
  4581. >In your mind, you picture all the light things you can.
  4582. >Feathers, pencils, papers, even the air.
  4583. >Replace the rocks with those thoughts.
  4584. >Let the contents of that box become feathers.
  4586. >It’s wrapped in a lavender aura.
  4587. >The rocks inside shake, clattering against each other.
  4588. >Lightness. Weightlessness.
  4589. >The rocks are nothing. The rocks are nothing.
  4590. >The sound coming from the box becomes higher pitched.
  4591. >Yes, it’s working.
  4592. >That will do for now, you decide.
  4593. >Lowering your hand, you end the spell and cut the magic from your branding.
  4594. >You walk over to the box of rocks and kneel down.
  4595. >Gently, you brush your finger against the edge.
  4596. >Your nail scrapes along the cardboard.
  4597. >Without even enough force to squash a bug, you’ve pushed the once hefty item nearly a foot away.
  4598. “Yes!”
  4599. >You leap up and grab the edge of the box in your hand, hoist it over your head, and throw it across the room.
  4600. >Before its contents can escape, you take the near weightless object into your magical grip and stop it dead.
  4601. >One hand is tied to the box, which you move away from the rocks.
  4602. >The other hand, bound to the stones, begins to work a different kind of magic.
  4603. >This is the fifth spell you bound yourself with.
  4604. >If all goes well, you should be able to turn all these tiny silicates into one huge mass.
  4605. >Your power over stone, the earth itself, radiates from your hand.
  4606. >Your detection spell allows you to see magic reach out from your fingertips and wrap around each individual rock.
  4607. >The wrap around each other, tying the particles of every rock into the next.
  4608. >Two out of the collection fuse together.
  4609. >The blue and red stones become one purple chunk of earth and are quickly followed by many others.
  4610. >Soon, those bigger chunks are also combining to form newer, even larger and increasingly fewer rocks until you’re left with what amounts to a boulder.
  4611. >It’s still the same size as the initial collection. The volume is there, as well as the mass.
  4612. >But hey, this is magic. Let’s break a few laws of physics.
  4614. >You set the box down and grab the rock with your telekinesis so as to focus the earth spell totally on what you’re about to try.
  4615. >You pick one portion of the boulder, a small dip on the side facing you, and connect your fingertip to it metaphorically speaking.
  4616. >Alright, rock. Grow.
  4617. >Slowly, you pull your finger away.
  4618. >There’s some resistance.
  4619. “Come on, don’t be difficult,” you grunt and return to the starting position.
  4620. >With some effort, you force a little more magic through your finger to power the spell.
  4621. >With improved grip and a little more fuel, the stone should obey you.
  4622. >You try once more to pull your finger away.
  4623. >Yes!
  4624. >It’s small, but you can see it.
  4625. >The small dip in the face is gradually flattening out.
  4626. >Come on, let’s make it a bulge.
  4627. >You can do it, Anon.
  4628. >The next few minutes are spent with you trying to create matter and, despite what some physicists would have you believe, succeeding.
  4629. >You’ve managed to turn this low point into a tiny bulge, giving the rock a very odd shape indeed, but a satisfying one as it’s a testament to your power.
  4630. >By the time you’re happy enough with the spell to call it quits, you’re barely able to even hold the rock up.
  4631. >Suddenly all its weight returns at once.
  4632. >In order to keep it from crashing through your floor, you’re forced to use both hands to grab it.
  4633. >The sheer force of it brings you to your knees.
  4634. >Sweat pours down your forehead as your telekinetic might is put to the test.
  4635. >Gently, you set the boulder down, bending your floorboards as it comes to rest.
  4636. >Once safe, you drop the spell and fall forward, propping yourself up on your elbows.
  4637. >Your body feels like lead.
  4638. >Holding your head up right now is a trial.
  4640. >Jeez, you really drained yourself doing that.
  4641. >Your increased efforts with the boulder sapped all the juice you had stored within you.
  4642. >Every active spell you were managing suddenly shut down, and even the passive ones are only working at half strength.
  4643. >Your cheeks turn rosy and an all too familiar sense of peacefulness comes with it.
  4644. >Yes, this is the drunkenness you were staving off.
  4645. >Undeniably, the sobering spell had been working. Now drained of your magic, it can only manage so much.
  4646. >That’s fine though. In time, your body will absorb enough magic again and you’ll feel fine.
  4647. >This was a test is all, and now that you know where your limits are with most of the spells, you feel content in taking a nap.
  4648. >Why, you bet that when you wake up, you’ll be at 110%.
  4649. >You might even indulge yourself and go get a bite to eat with the money you still have saved from working for Cherilee all those moons ago.
  4650. >Hey, speaking of, you almost feel obligated to fuck with her.
  4651. >Yeah, play ghost while she’s running class.
  4652. >You could knock over a few books and--
  4653. >Wait, you can’t. Your magic has a distinct color aura. Anyone would know it was you.
  4654. >Or rather, they would know it was someone in general.
  4655. >Damn, pony thieves have it rough apparently.
  4656. >You’ll have to figure out a way around that before you try to mess with anybody.
  4657. >For now though, it’s time for sleep.
  4658. >With a heave, you try to lift yourself off the ground.
  4659. >The strength just isn’t there though.
  4660. >You fall flat on the cold, hard, splintered floor.
  4661. “Yeah, I guess this is good enough,” you mumble.
  4662. >A foot away lays a rug.
  4663. >Somehow you manage to pull it on top of yourself as an impromptu blanket.
  4664. >All that’s left to do is pray you don’t get a splinter in your nipple while you sleep.
  4666. >Eugh, what time is it?
  4667. >Your eyes peel open, stinging from the morning.
  4668. >It’s morning, right?
  4669. >You shift and, with hands placed firmly on the floor, dedicate yourself to standing.
  4670. >Apparently your sleep reenergized you more than you thought it did.
  4671. >Getting up is a lot easier than you thought it’d be.
  4672. >The rug that was draped across your back falls onto the floor.
  4673. >Half assedly, you kick it back into place so the fluffy red top is near--but not too near--the fireplace.
  4674. >Now, what should you wear out?
  4675. >The fact that your magic itself isn’t very strong right now coupled with the fact that you’re fairly easily drained by excessive spell usage makes you still wary of revealing your runes to the public.
  4676. >You need something heavy duty to hide yourself from anyone.
  4677. >You find a tank top and tuck that into your underwear.
  4678. >Next on is a tee shirt that goes into your leggings.
  4679. >On top of that is a button up which you secure tightly into your pants with the tightest notch on your belt.
  4680. >Finally, a nice, big jacket goes over it all.
  4681. >There. It should take Heaven and Hell combined to show your skin off.
  4682. >You head over to your drawer and remove all the bits saved up from Cheerilee.
  4683. >This should be enough to buy something.
  4684. >You’re not too sure on the prices in Ponyville, but you do know that two days of work back on Earth would be enough for a dinner.
  4685. >You’re inclined to believe that carries over into Equestria.
  4686. >After pocketing those, you head out and forge through the snow.
  4688. >When you arrive in Ponyville, the ponies all greet you like you’re their best friend or something.
  4689. >”Top of the morning, Anon!”
  4690. >”Hey, it’s been a while! We should totally catch up!”
  4691. >For the most part, you ignore their words and focus on your sight.
  4692. >With your detection spell, you’re able to see the magic strings that connect the world flowing into every one of them.
  4693. >It’s interesting, you think, where the magic seems to flow.
  4694. >The pegasi have a focus on their wings. Unicorns, obviously, have it tied to their horns.
  4695. >Earth ponies are a tad different.
  4696. >The magic seems to be attached to their largest muscle groups.
  4697. >The word “fraud” comes to mind.
  4698. >As you’re totally not stalking anybody, a small mint colored pony approaches you.
  4699. >She raises her hoof up, expecting a fistbump you’re sure.
  4700. >”What’s up, Manticore Man?”
  4701. “Excuse you,” you say. “I’m far above a manticore.”
  4702. >Oh shit, shut the fuck up.
  4703. >”What do you mean? Of course you are. Anon, I saw you take its throat out. You saved us! You’re the Manticore Man!”
  4704. >No, you were nothing then.
  4705. >Your victory over the manticore was a stroke of luck at best.
  4706. >Now you’re strong.
  4707. >Now you’re worth the praise, but you can’t reveal it all yet.
  4708. >You just have to keep it a secret for another few days and then you can revel in the riches your newfound strength will surely bring.
  4710. >”What do you mean?”
  4711. “I’m sorry?”
  4712. >”Why do you have to wait a few days?”
  4713. “Did I say all that out loud?”
  4714. >”Yes,” confirms Lyra.
  4715. >Anon!
  4716. >Come on!
  4717. >Fuck!
  4718. >Quick, shift the topic.
  4719. “Know any good restaurants around here?”
  4720. >She rubs her chin with her hoof, lost deep in thought.
  4721. >”Yeah, I guess. Hay Heffer’s Hay and Barley Grill is pretty alright. A little pricey, but it’ll fill you up for sure.”
  4722. >She gasps and smiles, then jumps towards you.
  4723. >”Are you asking me out?”
  4724. “What? No, don’t be crazy. I’m hungry.”
  4725. >”Oh. I mean, I know that. I was just wondering if maybe you wanted to hang out. I like being with my friends, you know?”
  4726. “Yeah, have fun with that.”
  4727. >You maneuver past her and start on your way again, looking for Hay Heffer’s.
  4728. >Jeez, how many times have you walked through this town and you’ve never actually paid attention to the buildings?
  4729. >Well, a myriad of things got in your way before.
  4730. >Now though, nothing can get in your way.
  4731. >You’ve got the world in the palm of your hand.
  4732. >You’ve also got twenty bits in the palm of your hand.
  4733. >Now you have a doorknob in the palm of your hand, but not the hand the bits are in.
  4734. >Hay Heffer’s restaurant stands just before you, and when you open the door, you’re slammed with the scent of a farm.
  4736. >”Welcome to Hay Heffer’s Hay and Barley Grill! I’m Hay Heffy, how can I help you?”
  4737. >You reel back as the tiny yellow earth pony jumps out of nowhere and gets right up in your face.
  4738. >Maybe this was a mistake.
  4739. >You could be home putting some more runes on yourself.
  4740. >Of course, that would take quite the toll on your body and given how much you’ve already starved yourself, that’s not something you’d like to risk.
  4741. >You’re still unsure just how this whole soulless husk thing works, so you’d prefer to play it safe if you can.
  4742. >Sadly, that means giving into typical living people shit, like eating.
  4743. >Hell, you should probably put these bits toward a grocery store for that matter.
  4744. >You track down a menu over the counter across the room and read the prices.
  4745. “Hey, not bad,” you say.
  4746. >The Heffy grabs your hand and pulls you in.
  4747. >She takes you through a maze of seats and sits you down flat in a booth.
  4748. >”Would you like to try our special Hefty Hay Fries? They come with your choice of hay batter dipping sauce or applesauce.”
  4749. “That sounds absolutely disgusting, and no. Just bring me a salad.”
  4750. >”And what would you like on it?”
  4751. >Chicken.
  4752. “What kind of dressing do you have?”
  4753. >”We have hay dressing.”
  4754. “And?”
  4755. >”And what?”
  4756. “Alright, just plain then.”
  4757. >She retreats to the kitchen to prepare your one bit bowl of greens and veggies.
  4758. >Obviously you have no idea how bits work because this seems like one hell of a bargain for a restaurant that Lyra described as “pricey”.
  4760. >You’re left there in your booth to stew while the kitchen ponies do their thing behind closed doors.
  4761. >While you wait, you track the trails of magic around the room, noting where they connect to everything.
  4762. >There’s a few strands that travel into the horns of a few unicorns three booths down from you.
  4763. >Wait, you know those ponies.
  4764. >That’s Colgate and Moondancer, Twilight’s friends from Canterlot.
  4765. >She had tried to introduce you to them once, but Colgate’s outward personality without the charm of Pinkie Pie turned you off from her.
  4766. >Moondancer refused to interact with someone who had no magic.
  4767. >Pompous cunt.
  4768. >Now, if you’re not mangling Twilight’s words in your memories, Moondancer should be the more talented unicorn out of the pair.
  4769. >You notice that her horn is connected to a few more strings of magic than Colgate’s.
  4770. >Alright, so the stronger one’s magic is, the more strands enter them.
  4771. >Right?
  4772. >Curious, you examine yourself.
  4773. >How many do you have?
  4774. >The number that you come to is quite the disappointing one.
  4775. >You twist, trying to see if any are going into your back.
  4776. >No? Well, shit.
  4777. >By your calculations, you’re currently weaker than even Colgate.
  4778. >Fucking Colgate.
  4779. >Are you kidding?
  4780. >”Salad’s here!”
  4781. >Christ in a candy shop!
  4782. >You nearly jump out of your skin when the yellow mare makes herself known to you.
  4783. >She slams a wooden bowl overflowing with lettuce down in front of you.
  4784. >The table shakes from the force, and a few tomato slices fall onto it.
  4785. >”Is there anything else I can get you?”
  4786. “Uh, yeah, sure,” you stammer and search for a fork. “Get me some water.”
  4787. >”Sure thing! That will be ten bits.”
  4788. “Cool, thanks.”
  4789. >You snatch the fork off the table and stab it into the hard vegetables.
  4790. >At first, you weren’t too eager to eat.
  4791. >Now, actually faced with food, your attitude has begun to change.
  4792. >Something primal, deep inside you, wells up from your stomach and--
  4793. >Wait, did she say ten?
  4795. “Hold on a second, I’ve reconsidered.”
  4796. >”Oh? What will you have then?”
  4797. >There’s a small plastic sheet on your table with another menu on it.
  4798. >Using that, you deduce that a salad is all you’ll be having.
  4799. >Suddenly, Lyra’s comment on “pricey” makes sense.
  4800. >Salad is the only thing here with a cost in the single digits.
  4801. “Alright,” you let out slowly, trying to come to a decision.
  4802. >Your gaze drifts from the menu and over to Heffy.
  4803. >Her yellow coat glistens in the sunshine pouring in the through the window.
  4804. >Most importantly, the magic flowing around her follows the same pattern as the other earth ponies you saw in town.
  4805. >Unlike unicorns, it would seem that they all receive the same amount of magic.
  4806. >Now, they sure as hell aren’t equally strong. You know damn well Applejack could topple most mares in this town.
  4807. >Perhaps it comes down to how their bodies utilize what’s going into them.
  4808. >But then, why would that even be a thing? What makes earth ponies and unicorns so different?
  4809. >”Well, sir? What will it be?”
  4810. “Huh? Never mind, I’m fine.”
  4811. >”Are you sure.”
  4812. “I’m sure. Thank you.”
  4813. >”Well, if you need anything else, just shout for me!”
  4814. >She trots off to help someone else as you dig into your bowl.
  4815. >Where were you?
  4816. >Right, why are unicorns and earth ponies different.
  4818. >”But Princess, think of all the bunnies that will starve if my farm goes out of business!”
  4819. “It won’t,” you assure the sad little orange pony standing a few yards away from you, Princess Celestia.
  4820. >”But it will! Carrot sales are down two percent this quarter!”
  4821. >With a smile, you rise from your throne and descend the marble steps.
  4822. “My little pony,” you say softly and extend a hoof.
  4823. >Gently, you stroke the mare’s mane.
  4824. >She relaxes at your touch and leans into your hoof.
  4825. “Your mother came to me with the same problem, as did her mother, and her mother before her. Your farm has seen generations of toil and has survived the weathering of the ages. There have been times when it performed poorly and times when it made the apple farm look to be in disarray.”
  4826. >”But we could speed that process up now if you’d help us to put the apples out of business.”
  4827. “I will not raise taxes on the apples because there is no need to. You will all work this out for yourselves. Give it time, my loyal subject, and you will see.”
  4828. >The small mare sighs and nods her head.
  4829. >”As you say it, it is so. Thank you for your time, Princess Celestia.”
  4830. “And thank you for visiting me. I look forward to your next visit.”
  4831. >The next visit where she will tell you the exact same thing as today.
  4832. >There’s even a good chance it will be tomorrow.
  4833. >You’d like to be able to say you were kidding, but it’s a pattern that you have noticed.
  4834. >Every single time there’s a large gathering of farmers selling their goods, the ones doing worse will come to you the day before, of, and after.
  4835. >”Oh, Celestia,” they’ll say. “Nobody bought my crops this year. Please punish the winners.”
  4836. >Every time, every market, as it has been for the last 762 years.
  4838. >But of course, you’re not going to tell them that.
  4839. >It would break their little hearts.
  4840. >There’s nothing to be upset about, but nonetheless it would make someone very sad to hear.
  4841. >Yes, ponies are quite predictable.
  4842. >So predictable in fact, that you’re going to put something at stake.
  4843. “Guard,” you call out, ushering over the stallion after he sees the carrot farmer out of the throne room.
  4844. >He closes the door and travels across the long carpet with haste.
  4845. >Stopping as he reaches you, he lowers himself to his knees and touches his head to the floor.
  4846. >”Yes, my Princess?”
  4847. “Would you like to make a bet?”
  4848. >”I’m sorry, I do not understand.”
  4849. “Oh, yes you do. You stallions make bets all the time about which of the help staff will forget their undergarments on some particular day.”
  4850. >The white of his face turns rosy pink.
  4851. >The sound of his armor clattering fills the usual silence of the room.
  4852. >”I--Princess, we don’t--” he stutters.
  4853. “Ease yourself, youngling; I’m not damning you. I simply wish to know if you’d like to make a bet with me.”
  4854. >”If it would please you.”
  4855. “That’s not what I’m asking.”
  4856. >He swallows hard and begins looking around the room, likely for a place to escape to.
  4857. “Would you like to?”
  4858. >”What are the stakes?”
  4859. “If Luna should enter this room by the day’s end and regale us with tales of her relationship woes, I win. If she doesn’t, you win.”
  4860. >”What do we win?”
  4861. “A month’s supply of carrots.”
  4862. >”I do like carrots,” he mutters.
  4863. >”Dear sister!”
  4864. >The booming royal Canterlot voice echoes through your room.
  4865. >Across the way, the sturdy doors keeping you closed off from the rest of the castle are thrown open.
  4866. >Your loyal guard jumps and twists, aiming his horn at the intruder before he realizes it is Luna.
  4867. >Immediately, he resumes bowing and steps away, dragging his horn across the floor.
  4868. >”We hope that thou art pleased with thy actions!”
  4869. >You can only guess what this is about.
  4871. >”Locked between thee and our own heart, we pained and cried and hath put a stop to our love affair with that fetching stallion thou detest so!”
  4872. “Too late, Bottleneck. Looks like the bet is off.”
  4873. >”O’ villain! Thou sittest in thy throne, preaching to us of our office, yet ye hath not tasted the love that we have! Love! Tis a mystery to thee!”
  4874. “Luna, I’m not having this discussion with you at three in the afternoon. If you want to yell at me again about how I don’t have a coltfriend, you can do it at dinner.”
  4875. >”Nay, we shall speaketh now!”
  4876. “I have ponies to speak with.”
  4877. >”Then thou shalt send them off!”
  4878. >Mother, have mercy.
  4879. >You move your head and peek past Luna.
  4880. >She left the doors open, so the long line of ponies waiting patiently for their audience is clearly visible to you.
  4881. >Now, let’s weigh your options here.
  4882. >Get yelled at by Luna again for telling her to not break another stallion’s heart or continue with your duties and tend to the needs of the masses.
  4883. >The choice is obvious, but you can’t really tell her to leave you alone. She is your sister after all.
  4884. >That’s why you’re going to make her do it herself.
  4885. “Luna, would you like to make a bet?”
  4886. >”Nay!”
  4887. “Was that ‘nay’ as in no or ‘neigh’ as in the sound you make when you’re angry?”
  4888. >”Both!”
  4889. “Come on, it will be fun. You can bet whatever you want.”
  4890. >Her ears perk up at the sound of that.
  4891. >”Anything?”
  4892. “Anything at all. Anything your heart desires. If I can finish day court within the hour, I win. If I can’t you win.”
  4893. >She ponders your words, her brow furrowing in in thought.
  4894. >Come on. The clock is ticking, Luna.
  4895. >She turns to take a look at the line.
  4896. >Normally, it would take another five or six for you to settle all the disputes.
  4897. >The sparkling stars in her mane intensify when something strikes her.
  4898. >A long grin spreads across her face and she finally speaks up.
  4900. >”We shall engage in this bet with thee on our terms.”
  4901. “Of course.”
  4902. >”If we should emerge the victor, then thou shalt find us a new lover and cater to us on our first outing. Ah, the great Princess of the sun serving us small cabbages on a moonlit beach. Tis a thought indeed.”
  4903. “And if I should win?”
  4904. >”Then we shall wait until dinner, as thou hast requested, to yell at thee.”
  4905. “Sounds fair. Are we in agreement then?”
  4906. >”Verily.”
  4907. “Then let the games begin.”
  4908. >Her smugness is staggering.
  4909. >She really thinks she has you, doesn’t she?
  4910. >And she does. At this rate, you’re totally going to lose the bet.
  4911. >There’s no way you could close day court within the hour. With that line, it would take far too long.
  4912. >Welp, it looks like you’re going to be waiting on her hoof for orders as she canoodles with her new coltfriend.
  4913. >Nah, just kidding.
  4914. >You match her smile and charge up your horn.
  4915. >Your magic soars through the air, invisible to all but yourself, and locks onto the sun.
  4916. >Bending it to your will, you force the celestial body to lower itself.
  4917. >In its absence, the moon and stars above become visible.
  4918. “Oh, would you look at that. No day, no day court. That was, what, thirty seconds?”
  4919. >Luna’s mouth drops so hard it practically hits the floor.
  4920. “I suppose it’s time for night court now, isn’t it? Well, it seems you have your hooves full with this line. Let me get out of your hair.”
  4921. >”Cheater! Cheater! Thou art a cheater!”
  4922. “Cheat? Why, I don’t remember us ever agreeing I couldn’t lower the sun. As far as the rules of the bet go, everything I did was A-OK.”
  4923. >You stand up and shake the sleep off of your hindquarters.
  4924. “Come, Bottleneck. Help me prepare some dinner for Luna. She’s going to be hungry when night court is over.”
  4925. >The stallion’s eyes, wide, dart from you to Luna.
  4926. >He seems to know who his chances of survival are better with, so without hesitation, he runs to your side.
  4927. >You can feel his armor pressing against you as he gets as close as he can, staying right in line with you as you leave the throne room.
  4929. >To leave the throne room, you of course have to walk by all the ponies waiting in line.
  4930. >They’re mostly in awe of the sun’s movement.
  4931. >Some bow to you without saying anything, but one little pony stood out to you.
  4932. >”Nice,” he said, snickering.
  4933. “Oh? You liked the sunset?”
  4934. >”No, I liked the play. That was smart.”
  4935. “I’m glad you enjoyed it. And don’t worry, you’ll still have your audience with a Princess.”
  4936. >”I know.”
  4937. >He raises a hoof to brush the grey hairs away from his eyes.
  4938. >”I’ll get exactly what I want today. Or should I say tonight?”
  4939. “Whichever you desire, little one. Either way, I must depart. Thank you for visiting the castle.”
  4940. >”My pleasure, Princess Celestia.”
  4941. >With that, you urge Bottleneck to go and make your way to the kitchen to make Luna’s favorite dish.
  4943. >Bottleneck moves swiftly throughout brightly lit kitchen.
  4944. >He's set on being the chef, a drive which you attribute to his soup spoon cutie mark.
  4945. >Still, you supply him with the tools and ingredients he needs.
  4946. >”I need the cabbage paste,” he says, covering the soon to be boiling pot of water.
  4947. “Whatever for?”
  4948. >”For the veggie balls.”
  4949. “My my, she's getting the royal treatment tonight.”
  4950. >You open up the fridge and pull out a small tube of green gunk.
  4951. >He takes it out of your grip and pours some into a large bowl.
  4952. >When that's done, shreds of other vegetables are thrown in ranging from cabbage to carrot and even some tulips.
  4953. >”Only the best for a Princess,” he says confidently and begins to knead the mixture with his slender hooves.
  4954. >While he's doing that, you tend to the boiling pot and add some heyghetti to it.
  4955. >The water calms down for a few seconds. Very soon after, it's life returns and the dream starts rolling again.
  4956. >Slapping the lid on, you turn your attention to the sauce.
  4957. >Your only instruction, which he very hesitantly gave to you, was to make sure it wasn't boiling.
  4958. >Its contents had to be “warm and full, but not too hot as to make it unpalatable,” as he put it.
  4959. >”You know,” he speaks up, “I never would have imagined myself doing this.”
  4960. “Cooking? It is your cutie mark, after all.”
  4961. >”Cooking with the Princess of Equestria.”
  4962. “Well look at you now.”
  4963. >”It's odd seeing you like this. For so long, I'd always imagined the Princess as being this almighty creature too busy with ruling to lower herself down to our level. Yet here you are, watching a pot of heyghetti with a lowly guard.”
  4964. “‘Lowly’ isn't the word I would use. ‘Loyal’ rolls off the tongue a little better, don't you think?”
  4965. >He grins, that light blush returning, and puts the newly formed veggie balls into the oven to bake.
  4967. >By the time all that cooking is done, it's been about an hour.
  4968. >Luna should be quite a bit longer.
  4969. >Personally, you're content to pass the time with a book in your study.
  4970. >Bottleneck, the worker he is, refuses to relax in such a way.
  4971. >Once he's done covering the food to keep it warm, he rearms himself and takes post next to your door.
  4972. >A little while passes.
  4973. >The promising smell of food wafting through the hall almost brings you to drool. Almost.
  4974. >Still though, you getting peckish from it.
  4975. >You have Bottleneck fetch you some crackers.
  4976. >When he brings you the plate, his eyes land on the cover of your tale.
  4977. >”I wouldn't have pegged you for a comedy kind of girl.”
  4978. “I don't know if I would exactly consider this a comedy. The story of a colt struggling with the visions of ghosts that eventually lead to his demise sounds more like a Shakemanian tragedy than a comedy.”
  4979. >”But it is pretty funny too.”
  4980. “That’s true.”
  4981. >So the the two of you get into a discussion of your favorite books which lasts a few hours until the clock strikes six and you figure it’s been long enough for Luna to take care of at least the day court line.
  4982. >She has a nasty habit of ending court early when she gets bored, so there’s a very strong possibility that she’s cut night court all together and is waiting in the dining hall for you.
  4983. >Making your way to the dining hall is quick. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump off from your study.
  4984. >The doors--huge, oak structures with white trim and golden knobs--part as you near them, their enchantment registering your presence.
  4985. >Sure it takes a constant supply of magic to keep the enchantment going, but it’s such a nice effect you deal with the drain.
  4986. >As you enter the grandous room, expecting to find Luna sitting impatiently tapping her hoof, you’re met with a different scene.
  4987. >The table which was so beautifully laid out with the silver platters covered and surrounded by candles has been disturbed.
  4988. >Food has been passed around.
  4989. >Across the way, sitting in her navy chair is Luna herself, slurping on a heyghetti noodle.
  4991. >She stares dreamily at another stallion sitting in a tall marble chair beside her.
  4992. “Luna!”
  4993. >”Ah, welcome to dinner, dear sister. Thou art tardy.”
  4994. >”Um, should I go?” asks your companion nervously.
  4995. “You stand right there, Bottleneck.”
  4996. >You march across the room, your mane waving wildly behind you.
  4997. “Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. You never cease to amaze me, Luna.”
  4998. >Your sister lifts herself from her leaning position and wipes her mouth with a red stained napkin.
  4999. >Those aren’t for wiping.
  5000. >Those aren’t for wiping!
  5001. >Luna!
  5002. >Those aren’t for wiping!
  5003. >”We appreciate the feast thou hast laid for us. T’were it not for thy attitude in the noon, we would be in a lighter mood with thee.”
  5004. “You would be in a lighter mood with me?”
  5005. >”Thou art on the path to forgiveness. Now, shall ye sit and sup with our new acquaintance?”
  5006. >She gestures to the stallion in question.
  5007. >Your eyes slowly drift to him.
  5008. >Wait, you know that face.
  5009. >That’s the stallion from line.
  5010. “We meet again.”
  5011. >”We do. I’m sorry it couldn’t be under better circumstances, your highness.”
  5012. >He leaps out of his chair and lowers his head to the floor.
  5013. >”Even so, I’m honored to be in your presence again.”
  5014. “Rise, little one. The current mood here isn’t your fault.”
  5015. >While he’s not looking, you give Luna a hint of what exactly you’re thinking right now with a glare.
  5016. >Her face pales, and she coughs.
  5017. >”Right, well, we hath enjoyed thy company. Please, our guards will see you out now.”
  5018. “Bottleneck.”
  5019. >”This way, sir,” your armored companion says, waving for Luna’s better-not-be-her-coltfriend to follow him out.
  5020. >He skirts past you, muttering sorries and the like, and disappears with Bottleneck.
  5021. >The doors shut, leaving you and your sister alone in the spacious ivory room.
  5022. >The echo of the slamming doors bounces around as she gets out of her chair and traverses the purple carpet to meet you.
  5023. >”Now, we knowst what thou art thinking.”
  5024. “You’re a real piece of work.”
  5025. >”Tia, please, be reasonable.”
  5026. “Do you even know his name?”
  5027. >”Of course we do!”
  5028. “Then what is it?”
  5030. >Oh Lord, what have you done?
  5031. >There’s a very strong chance you’ve made a huge mistake.
  5032. >You, Anonymous, because that’s who you are, stand tall above two unconscious ponies.
  5033. >Shit, someone is coming!
  5034. >You grab their tails and drag them through the snow, making sure to fill the trails back in with your telekinesis.
  5035. >Once safe within the alleyway you were hiding in, you curse yourself for not stopping yourself earlier.
  5036. >”Just a test,” you said.
  5037. >”Just to see,” you said.
  5038. >Yeah, it was totally a good idea to leave the warm restaurant once the sun abruptly set to go knock out two innocent ponies a block away.
  5039. >Jesus, you were sitting in the snow for at least an hour waiting for the right moment to throw those rocks.
  5040. >You could have stopped at any point, but you just kept going.
  5041. >Now you’ve got the limp bodies of an earth pony and a unicorn who will surely be one pissed off pair when they wake up.
  5042. >”Oh, my head,” the earth pony groans.
  5043. >You yelp and smash your tiny stone down on his head again.
  5044. “Wait, shit, I didn’t mean that!”
  5045. >Oh, you’ve done it now.
  5046. >Alright, let’s review your options here.
  5047. >You could turn and leave now and nobody would ever know the pony experimentation you were about to try.
  5048. >Or you could turn yourself in.
  5049. >No, neither of those are good options.
  5050. >One lands you revealing your runes to the public and neither lead to any further knowledge of magic.
  5051. >Ok, just take a breath here.
  5052. >You clench your fists and inhale deeply.
  5053. >Frigid air runs through your nose and chills your hot head.
  5054. >Look, nobody knows what you’ve done.
  5055. >It’s night time--real night by now--and most ponies are asleep.
  5056. >As long as you’re careful, there’s nothing really stopping you from following through.
  5057. >Besides, isn’t expanding your knowledge on magic a little more important than ethics?
  5059. >That’s not even an argument.
  5060. >What it is is irrelevant.
  5061. >You’ve already dedicated yourself this much.
  5062. >May as well finish what you started and figure out how to explain yourself to St. Peter later.
  5063. >You nod and pick yourself up out of the snow that had begun melting through your pants.
  5064. >Getting back on track, you grab hold of the ponies and take them away, careful to look for any passerbys that might spoil everything.
  5065. >You’re all the way out to the Everfree when you decide you’re too far away for anyone to happen upon you.
  5066. >The dead trees let plenty of moonlight spill through and illuminate the sleeping ponies covered in snow.
  5067. >Good, now to switch the horn from the unicorn over to the earth po--
  5068. “Oh shit on a stick.”
  5069. >You didn’t think this through.
  5070. >There’s not one spell on your body that could actually accomplish this.
  5071. >Maybe you could draw a transfusion circle in the snow.
  5072. >No, you haven’t studied that branch of magic enough.
  5073. >If you screw up, you could seriously hurt these two ponies.
  5074. >Messing with your immortal soul and risking damnation is one thing.
  5075. >Messing with another living thing is totally different.
  5076. >Until you know what you’re doing, there shouldn’t be any mutilation.
  5077. >Maybe just a little?
  5078. >No, bad Anon.
  5079. >Learn magic, then test magic.
  5080. >Well, at least you know what spell is going on your body next: something that will make this little experiment a little easier.
  5081. >But what will it be?
  5082. >Oh, you know just what to do!
  5083. >It would have to be a combination of other spells though.
  5084. >Man, this going to take some planning.
  5085. >You need to go home and get down to it.
  5086. >But first you need groceries so your body doesn’t starve to death.
  5087. >Also you need to take these ponies back to Ponyville.
  5089. >You make your way through the icy landscape, eventually arriving at the outer edge of town where you drop your two would-be experiments.
  5090. >They’ll probably wake up within a few minutes so the chance they’ll freeze out here is pretty small.
  5091. >Small enough for you to justify not taking them further and risk blowing your secret, at least.
  5092. >As you start away, you find yourself stuck in your tracks.
  5093. >It’s a small chance, so you can leave them there.
  5094. >But, you know, a chance is a chance.
  5095. >Leave them, Anon. You have to get groceries and go home so you can work on your spells.
  5096. >No, don’t bend over and pick them back up.
  5097. >Stop this madness.
  5098. >Fuck it, if you’re going to the store anyway, you might as well take them with you and leave them in a warm place.
  5099. >With a huff, you hoist the unicorn over your shoulder, grabbing its flank so that it doesn’t slide off.
  5100. >The earth pony’s tail makes its way into your hand.
  5101. >Next stop: grocery store.
  5102. >After a minute or two of walking, the sky breaks and begins to cover the ground with a fresh layer of snow.
  5103. >You could totally use your telekinesis to put up a shield and block the snow from falling on you.
  5104. >No, wait, you could make a spell to repel snow from you passively.
  5105. >For that matter, you could make spells to repel a lot of things.
  5106. >Hey, Celestia is bound to get mad at all your black magic shit when you’re revealed. You should go to her with an offering.
  5107. >What if you made a prison inside a volcano? A big box that repels heat would be inescapable unless whoever was inside it wanted to be roasted alive when they opened the door.
  5108. >No, no that’s retarded. She’d brand you as inponane and have you thrown in a Tartarus because nobody ever escapes from Tartarus except for all the people that do.
  5110. >You arrive at the market shortly and enter.
  5111. >Finally at shelter, you’re content to drop the ponies and get to shopping.
  5112. >As you move through the isle, you notice a lot of items that look delicious.
  5113. >That is, to ponies.
  5114. >You’re pretty sure you wouldn’t like hay sticks, haybites, special rose-flavored low-grain hay cookies, or canned tulip sandwiches.
  5115. >Now, what you are into is that box of wheat thins that’s staring at you.
  5116. >How much?
  5117. >Wow, thirty bits.
  5118. >Ok, you don’t need to snack.
  5119. >Next isle over, you find other food items that you might enjoy eating if they weren’t so much.
  5120. >Garlic sticks, wheat cereal, some assorted fruits and veggies, and all the other shit you’re drooling over costs well over forty bits.
  5121. >You pull a handful of money out of your pocket and glare at them.
  5122. >What the fuck even is this currency?
  5123. “‘Lowest prices in town’ my ass,” you snarl and head to the next row of shelves.
  5124. >There, you find several loaves of bread that are thankfully only three bits per piece because that makes total sense in this twisted horse economy.
  5125. >You grab six of them and go to the front counter to check out.
  5126. >Just like when you arrived, there is nobody around.
  5128. >Attributing the absence of ponies to the night and snow, you slap eighteen bits on the counter and turn to leave.
  5129. >Actually, you know what, fuck that.
  5130. >These sons of bitches are trying to rob you blind. Might as well rob them blind.
  5131. >You backtrack and grab another loaf of bread, then toss your last bit on the counter.
  5132. >”Discount” bread is the best kind of bread.
  5133. >Stepping over the two ponies you brought in, you make a hasty exit and jog home.
  5134. >When the overgrown bushes come into view, their skeleton-like hands reaching out into the packed down path, you know you’ve made it home.
  5135. >The broken windows shake as you throw open the door.
  5136. >Once having made it safely inside, you slam the door shut and fall back onto the floor.
  5137. >Your back slaps against the door and you ruffle through your back of buys for a nice slice of bread.
  5138. >The fluffiness of it, the lightness, fills your mouth as you cram it in there.
  5139. >You chew quickly, getting the bread stuck to the roof of your mouth.
  5140. >Your tongue wrestles to scrape it off, but it won’t budge.
  5141. >That’s fine, you just put another piece in there and chew some more.
  5142. >They new bread rubs against and pulls the gooey crud down, letting you chew it into mush.
  5143. >While you’re at it, may as well have another piece.
  5144. >And another.
  5145. >And another.
  5146. >You’re a quarter of the way done with this loaf before pause and take a second to consider what you’re doing.
  5147. >Your stomach roars, begging for more, cursing you for not satisfying it earlier.
  5148. >That’s fine though, isn’t it?
  5149. >You ate. There’s food in there now.
  5150. >What you need to do is ration this out.
  5151. >You didn’t bother to collect anything from your ex-garden before winter hit and you have no money left, so you’re kind of stuck with what you have right now.
  5153. >You’ll probably eat again tomorrow if you’re not too busy.
  5154. >In the meantime, you have to get back to your spells.
  5155. >You rise off the floor, leaving the bread there so that the cold air coming from under the door keeps it fresh, and make your way to your worktable.
  5156. >It’s covered with papers containing rough drafts and final drafts of spells--countless spells--that you’d be interested in branding yourself with.
  5157. >Also there are the tools you need to make it all happen.
  5158. >After your first batch of liquid magic ran you, you made another trip to Twilight’s castle to get some more, so now you should have more than enough to put everything you need on your body.
  5159. >Looking over the papers, you’re torn between what you want on you next.
  5160. >They’re all good candidates, but none of them would help you with your failed experiment with those ponies.
  5161. >Actually, maybe they could.
  5162. >Yeah, you think you see some overlaps here.
  5163. >If you mix a few of these together, you might get something akin to what you were looking for.
  5164. >With a smile, you disrobe and prep yourself.
  5165. >There’s plenty of room on your abs to write a few spells.
  5166. >For a long time, you stare at one particular spell, getting the shape of its runes stuck in your head.
  5167. >When you feel like it’s well enough in your head, you mosey on over to your comfy red chair and sit down.
  5168. >The faint glowing of your runes gives enough light for you to see what you’re doing as you apply the items to your tight flesh.
  5169. >Right over those hideous green veins that mar you, you layer on the magic marker, careful for incorrect strokes over the curves of your gut.
  5170. >One layer, followed by the next, and the next.
  5171. >The liquid magic dries, hardens on your skin, and starts the grueling process.
  5172. >Your body tenses in preparation.
  5173. >Despite all the times you’ve spellbound yourself, it doesn’t ever get easier.
  5174. >Your teeth grit as the temperature of your body rises, focusing on your gut.
  5175. >You break into a sweat, your breaths becoming quicker and shallower.
  5177. “Oh fuck,” you groan.
  5178. >You feel like you could fry an egg over your belly.
  5179. >If the heat inside you could radiate out, you’d set the chair on fire.
  5180. >Your hands begin to shake. It takes all of your will not to spill the bowl containing your magical paint.
  5181. >”Just a little longer” rings in your mind.
  5182. >The burning never lasts long.
  5183. >The pain--this feeling of lava running through your veins--it goes away quickly, but it fucking feels like an eternity.
  5184. >Keep it together, Anon.
  5185. >Keep it together.
  5186. >It’ll go away.
  5187. >Your eyes are clenched shut, just like your fists, as the feeling of the hot knife twisting through your insides finally begins to fade away.
  5188. >The next thing you’re able to register when the sensation of heat abates is a wetness in your hand.
  5189. >You lift your left fist up to your chest where the runes for your detection spell can better illuminate it.
  5190. >Wincing, you uncurl your fingers and reveal small cuts in your palm that line up about where your fingernails would have been digging in.
  5191. “Eugh.”
  5192. >With a cloth off the floor, you wipe the sanguine fluid off your hand, as well as the charcoal from your abs.
  5193. >You’re left with a new, pitch black set of runes across your gut.
  5194. >Welp, time for the next.
  5196. >You continue on like this for another hour or two, bringing the number of spells you’re bound with up to sixteen.
  5197. “Fucking hell,” you say with a sigh, slumping into your chair.
  5198. >The progress you’ve made in this field is staggering. So much so that you can hardly believe it.
  5199. >Still, there’s a lot more room on your body and even more spells you’d like to try out.
  5200. >That said, you’ve just about had it for tonight.
  5201. >Your limbs feel like lead.
  5202. >Even if you were so inclined, you don’t think you could muster the strength to eat another slice of bread.
  5203. >Instead, you’re happier to find a nice spot to sleep and drape your weary self over it.
  5204. >With a long groan, you lift yourself up from the chair and shuffle into your bedroom.
  5205. >With the new passive spells you’ve tacked on, the light emanating from your body is enough to help you maneuver through the cluttered mess that is your private chamber.
  5206. >Your bed sits in the middle of it, beckoning you over.
  5207. >You answer the call and practically throw yourself into it.
  5208. >Whatever horrible cretin was in here last didn’t make the bed, but that’s fine for you since you don’t have to enact the effort of pulling the blankets back.
  5209. >Nope, all you have to do is slide in and pull the covers up to your chin, which you slowly do.
  5210. >Another sigh later and you can feel the ache drain from you, replaced by a heavy feeling of tiredness.
  5211. >The last thing you see as your eyes close is the moon high in the sky, Nightmare Moon’s horrible figure still carved into its surface.
  5212. >How funny, you think, how just as Luna was delivered from the darkness, you too will receive your own rebirth as a better man with all this new magic flowing into you.
  5214. >Three Days Later
  5216. >You huff and you puff and you wish somebody would blow Anon’s house down so you could go in and talk to him.
  5217. >It’s been far too long since you’ve seen him or talked to him.
  5218. >Why is he avoiding you?
  5219. >Is it because you’re purple? Is he colorist?
  5220. >What’s so wrong with you, Twilight Sparkle?
  5221. >By the way, you’re Twilight Sparkle.
  5222. >You kick some snow off of the path you’re walking on into the untouched area just to your right.
  5223. >Having just spent the night at Fluttershy’s, you’re very eager to get back to your castle and take a shower.
  5224. >She was nice letting you sleep over to console you, but her house does reek of animals.
  5225. >Honestly, who were you to say no?
  5226. >Thankfully, the path back to Ponyville from her cottage has been shoveled and packed down, meaning you don’t have to unfurl your wings and reveal them to the freezing air around you.
  5227. >Maybe you should visit Celestia when you’re all clean. That will take your mind off Anon.
  5228. >No, bad idea. You wouldn’t want to touch that castle with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.
  5229. >After the fight the two princesses had, even some of their subjects deemed it best to stay away and let them cool down.
  5230. >Great, so now what are your options?
  5231. >You haven’t studied friendship in a while, you guess. Are there even any books left in your library on the subject?
  5232. >They’ve each been read so many times, you doubt you can pull anything new out of them.
  5233. >Is that a challenge? Challenge accepted, Twilight.
  5234. >You’re going down, Twilight.
  5235. >No you are, Twilight.
  5236. >You chuckle a bit, but the mirth dies down quickly.
  5237. >Yeah, it wasn’t that funny.
  5239. >Your breaths form clouds in the air ahead of you, making you even more aware of the wetness that forms on the hair of your face.
  5240. >Eugh.
  5241. >You can’t really walk around to avoid those clouds. The path you’re on is only wide enough for one pony, and even that’s a stretch at some points.
  5242. >Oh, speak of the Discord.
  5243. >Finally, the endless snowy fields break and you’re met with some bare trees and small houses.
  5244. >Now at Ponyville, the path that had plagued you is all but gone.
  5245. >The space between every building is thoroughly packed down, so you’ve got everywhere to go.
  5246. >You smack your hooves down a few times to get the extra snow off yourself, then get back to trotting.
  5247. >Funny, there’s nobody here. There’s usually somebody nearby.
  5248. >You’re right near Crankydoodle’s house, after all. There should at least be a few colts bugging him.
  5249. >Maybe they’re busy?
  5250. >Suddenly, something catches your eye.
  5251. >You pick your head up and squint, peering over the tops of buildings toward the center of Ponyville.
  5252. >It’s shiny, isn’t it?
  5253. >There’s a good chance that’s where everybody is.
  5254. >Good, you guess.
  5255. >Welp, better just continue on then.
  5256. >Whistling a jolly tune, you continue on trying to separate your mind from Anon.
  5257. >Ah, you could have some tea as you rip through your old books.
  5258. >Top shelf stuff.
  5259. >The density of the buildings around you grows as you near the center of town.
  5260. >Now there’s houses consistently on either side of you.
  5261. >Strangely, the farther you go, the less in shape they look.
  5262. >One of them even has a wall blown out.
  5263. >Weird, you don’t remember Vinyl’s house missing that section.
  5265. >Hold on.
  5266. >Your ears perk up, filled with more sound than what your whistling could offer.
  5267. >As a brisk breeze blows by, so does the unsavory sound of screaming.
  5268. >You begin to pick up pace, speeding by the cobble and hay structures surrounding you.
  5269. >The scene becomes more clear.
  5270. >Houses and shops torn down, unconscious ponies littering the ground, and screams radiating from town square fill your senses.
  5271. >What in the name of Celestia is going on?
  5272. >Your breath quickens as your hooves slap loudly against the snow beneath you, pushing you onward.
  5273. >One block to go.
  5274. >Holy moly. You don’t even need a block.
  5275. >Your eyes widen.
  5276. >What fills your vision is something you never thought you’d see again.
  5277. >Standing tall, towering above the surrounding houses, is a red-scaled giant.
  5278. >Its four snake-like necks bob up and down, twisting through each other.
  5279. >That’s it. It’s go time.
  5280. >Your wings sprout from your sides and lift you into the air.
  5281. >As you rise, the full scene becomes apparent.
  5282. >The hydra--its two tree-trunk-like legs crushing a pair of houses--swings its mighty tail around and topples a fleeing group of earth ponies.
  5283. >Rainbow Dash rockets forth and assaults the leftmost head, kicking it right in the nose.
  5284. >The terrible beast doesn’t react, merely glaring at her with its lifeless eyes.
  5285. >”Oh, come on!”
  5286. “Rainbow Dash, watch out!”
  5287. >She turns her head to meet you and smiles.
  5288. >”Finally! I was wondering when you would show u--”
  5289. >Before she can finish her sentence, she is gobbled whole, trapped inside the mouth of the head she just attacked.
  5290. >Its razor sharp teeth serve as bars of bones lining her fleshy prison.
  5291. >Oh no, not on your watch!
  5292. >You point your horn towards the monster and charge up a magic missile.
  5293. >Hot magic flies from you, soaring through the air.
  5294. >The softball sized chunk of power slams into the hydra’s canine and knocks it clean off, giving Rainbow the opening she needs.
  5295. >Without hesitation, she bursts out.
  5297. >You make a sharp turn and make way for her.
  5298. “What is going on here?”
  5299. >”Your guess is as good as mine, Twi! We were just having breakfast when this thing showed up out of nowhere!”
  5300. ”That’s crazy!”
  5301. >”I know!”
  5302. >Jeez, what is with all these monsters not hibernating?
  5303. >Equestria should be clear of threats until spring, but now Ponyville is under attack just like Anon was earlier.
  5304. >Wait, Anon!
  5305. >Oh no, is he ok? Was he crushed?
  5306. >You need to check!
  5307. >No, finish this thing here first. Then check.
  5308. >If you take time off from this now, he might end up dying later, the poor little guy.
  5309. >Before you could even think of a spell, a cabbage cart wrapped in your lavender aura speeds through the air and smashes into the rightmost head of the hydra.
  5310. >Huh. Looks like you’re thinking ahead.
  5311. >You guess?
  5312. >Confused but not deterred, this time you make a conscious effort and use your telekinesis to grab hold of the hydra’s tail before it can make another sweep and slam into somebody else.
  5313. >It takes all of your focus just to slow it down.
  5314. >That thing is pure muscle and it fights you tooth and nail.
  5315. >Thankfully, you’re able to keep it still while the running ponies make their escape.
  5317. >Those unicorns down there do their part as well and help other stranded earth ponies out from under the rubble.
  5318. >When they’re safe, you let go of the tail and let it do its damage.
  5319. >A whole row of houses is wiped out just like that.
  5320. >In the blink of an eye, hundreds of years of history are completely totaled.
  5321. >It’s so much to take in.
  5322. >You hold yourself back, trying to figure out how you can handle this situation.
  5323. >You’re down a magic missile and you can only do so much with your telekinesis.
  5324. >Rainbow Dash, for better or worse, is a bit more proactive than you.
  5325. >She’s back to doing what she does best: kicking.
  5326. >The difference now is that she focuses on the neck instead of the head.
  5327. >The center head, the one she’s assaulting, coughs as her hooves sink into its throat.
  5328. >Without arms, there’s not much it can do to counter her other than try to swat her back with another free head.
  5329. >It tries that, but Applejack is on the case.
  5330. >From way down below, she manages to lasso one head before it meets with Rainbow.
  5331. “Good job, AJ!”
  5332. >”Woo there, doggie! Not so fast no! Hey!”
  5333. >Her contributions mean nothing.
  5334. >Without one ounce of effort, the hydra lifts its head up, taking her with it, and throws her off into the distance.
  5335. >Before you can even react, something else wrapped in your aura catches her before she can smash into anything hard and go splat.
  5336. >You raise an eyebrow and look up at your horn.
  5337. >Funny, you don’t see it glowing.
  5338. >Whatever is going on, it gently lowers AJ to the snow and lets her run off to go find some more rope.
  5340. >Alright, Twilight. Think.
  5341. >You can’t use the elements.
  5342. >Your friends can’t do much.
  5343. >Your magic is practically useless here.
  5344. >Aha!
  5345. >It’s too big for you to lift like the Ursa, but you’re more than able to lead it away!
  5346. >Hydras love carrots, so you just have to tempt it away!
  5347. >You turn and dart off, narrowly missing a huge rock as it, like the cabbage cart, rockets toward the beast.
  5348. >What the hay is going on here?
  5349. >Darn it! You’ll figure it out later!
  5350. >The carrot farm is just a block away, and with how fast your blood is pumping, you’re more than warm enough to make up for the cold air rushing by you as you blast through the sky.
  5351. >Carrot Top runs outside her house, shouting for you to help.
  5352. “I’m working on it,” you reply and swing around back, looking for her main supply.
  5353. >There’s two big barrels, about the size of a carriage each, filled with carrots and covered with blankets.
  5354. >You grab both of them and make off.
  5355. “I’ll pay for them later! Promise!”
  5356. >The smile on her face and accompanied nodding eases your conscience a little.
  5357. >Armed with the biggest carrot sale of the year--maybe even the decade--you make your way back to the battle where you see only a three headed hydra and your cheering friends.
  5358. >Apparently while you were gone, some tree had been shaved down to a small disc and thrown, severing the center right head clean off.
  5359. >Rarity, of course, wants nothing to do with that and distances herself as much as she can.
  5360. >Right when you’d think the battle was over, the headless neck shivers and shakes.
  5361. >The wound smokes like a barbecue and, suddenly, two whole new heads sprout from it.
  5362. >The neck splits down the middle between the heads, giving each one its own fully functioning muscular rod to dance on.
  5363. >Gross.
  5365. >Now, you know that you would be quite mad if your head got chopped off.
  5366. >The monster however seems to display no strong emotions one way or the other and is content to merely continue its rampage.
  5367. >”Darling, do try something now,” shouts your seamstress friend as she dodges a fountain of blood from the severed head staining the snow below.
  5368. “Oh my Celestia. I’m working on it!”
  5369. >No time to waste, you guess!
  5370. >You bring forth the barrels of carrots and wave them in front of the hydra’s faces.
  5371. >Their eyes slowly pan from it and then to you.
  5372. >That’s right, take the bai--
  5373. “Oof!”
  5374. >A head!
  5375. >It slams right into you, knocking you from the sky and slamming you unceremoniously into the snow.
  5376. >Too bad it was that packed snow you were so happy about just a few minutes ago.
  5377. >Sad for you.
  5378. >The barrels drop and land heavily a few feet away, spilling carrots onto the ground.
  5379. >You’re woozy and strain to pick yourself back up.
  5380. >That last blow really got you.
  5381. >Your chest feels tight. Worse still, you can’t feel your left wing.
  5382. >You look over to examine it. It doesn’t bend in a funny way, but it’s certainly not all well.
  5383. >You grunt and force yourself up onto your hooves.
  5384. “What are we going to do about you?”
  5385. >You still have one option, you guess.
  5386. >If the need came, you could teleport the two of you out deep into the Everfree.
  5387. >The downside to that plan is that it would take all the magic you have left to move something this huge that far.
  5388. >In your current state, being left out in the Everfree with a hydra and no magic isn’t what your doctor would call a good life decision.
  5389. >You bite your lip in anticipation.
  5390. >Maybe the pain will help you think of something.
  5391. >Something. Anything.
  5392. >Any miracles today, Celestia?
  5394. >What’s this? Are your prayers answered?
  5395. >You turn from the soulless monster and put your attention on a certain glowing just a few yards away, mostly obscured by a building.
  5396. >That’s the same glowing as your aura. Hey, wait a minute.
  5397. >You take a step forward, then fall in the same direction as your leg gives out.
  5398. >Ok, not your best idea.
  5399. >You prop yourself up again and limp toward the ruined timber house, hoping to get a better view.
  5400. >As you make it by the aged wood and burning thatch, you get a better idea of what’s been copying your magic all during this battle.
  5401. >”That’s right, stand right where you are, you ugly motherfucker,” sounds a familiar voice.
  5402. >Turning the corner, you’re met with none other than--
  5403. “Anon!”
  5404. >Wow, it’s been so long!
  5405. >And now here he is, surrounded by magic!
  5406. >Who is casting that? Why are they casting a spell on him instead of the hydra?
  5407. >What’s that on his body, actually?
  5408. >The human stands with his feet spread wide apart and a palm pointed accusingly at the monster.
  5409. >Running all over his arm, up his shoulder, and plastering his front are black letters. Some of them are glowing, actually.
  5410. >No, wait, those aren’t letters.
  5411. >Your heart sinks deep into your chest and you step away.
  5412. “Anon, what have you done?”
  5413. >The swirling vortex of lavender energy around him grows stronger, bigger, and forces you back even further than you had already gone.
  5414. >Your hooves scrape against the snow as tendrils of power whip around, slapping the destroyed house beside him and breaking it even more.
  5415. >The snow around him melts and turns to steam in a matter of seconds.
  5416. >The air distorts, turning his figure into a wavy mess that you can only barely make out through the intense magic obscuring your vision.
  5418. >The hydra sees this all now.
  5419. >It takes special interest in Anon and takes a step forward.
  5420. >Slowly, its massive foot lifts off of the house it was perched on and inches forward.
  5421. >When it lands on the ground, it’s with such force that it shakes the earth and bounces you into the air about a foot.
  5422. >”You want me, big guy? Come on! Come on, damn you! I’m not running! Not this time!”
  5423. “Anon, what are you doing?” you shout.
  5424. >He either doesn’t hear you or doesn’t care too.
  5425. >It’d be reasonable to say all of his focus is being put into the spell, whatever unholy abomination of one it is he’s casting.
  5426. >”Darling, get out of there!”
  5427. >You feel a tug on your tail and pry your eyes away from Anon.
  5428. >Rarity, with the help of some telekinesis, pulls you away from the direct action and back to relative safety.
  5429. >”What is going on over there? My, is that Anonymous?”
  5430. >”What in tarnation is’at feller doin’ over thar? Twah, wha’re yew magic’in him up lahk that?”
  5431. “It’s not me!”
  5432. >”Shoot, that sure does look lahk yer magic, dunnit?”
  5433. “It’s not. It’s,” you pause, trying to think of another explanation.
  5434. >There’s no way he could have done what you think he’s done.
  5435. >He’s not that insane. Nobody is.
  5436. >That’s defying the laws of nature, not to mention the laws of Celestia.
  5437. >Speaking of, a gust of wind almost knocks you back on your rear.
  5438. >The sheer power radiating from Anon right now is enough for you to taste.
  5439. >The hydra is getting closer though.
  5440. >Whatever he’s doing…
  5441. “Anon, now!”
  5442. >”Magic,” he begins, his voice loud and proud, clear for Ponyville--no, ALL the land to hear ”Missile!”
  5444. >From the palm of his hand comes a blindingly bright ball of pure magic hot enough to make you sweat from all these twenty yards away.
  5445. >It shoots out faster than an arrow and closes in on the hydra.
  5446. >In its path of destruction, all snow completely vanishes. The ground beneath it dries and cracks, becoming a desert-like patch of searing dirt.
  5447. >This ball, the size of a pony, utterly rips through the monster.
  5448. >The smell of burning flesh turns your stomach, but you don’t vomit. No, you’re intent on seeing this.
  5449. >As the missile eats through the front of the beast, its back begins to glow.
  5450. >There, right in the middle, the ball emerges.
  5451. >It explodes out of the hydra like a wild animal breaking free of a cage.
  5452. >The power from the ball crackles, electrifying the air and everything around it, sending purple sparks down the spine of the beast.
  5453. >It speeds away, disappearing into the open blue sky.
  5454. >The hydra weighs significantly less now.
  5455. >Right through the middle of it is a massive, smoking hole.
  5456. >Guts and other unsavories drop from the top and spill out onto the ground.
  5457. >The creature stumbles back, trying to use its tail for support.
  5458. >Sadly for it, it doesn’t work.
  5459. >Its eyes close and it falls to the ground, kicking up snow and giving the earth another good shake.
  5460. >Your eyes are wide at the scene.
  5461. >The hydra, a monster larger than life, toppled by the strongest magic missile you’ve ever seen, cast by a man with no skill and no magic to speak of.
  5462. >”Yeah, welcome to Brooklyn.”
  5464. >There was the time when Anon killed the manticore.
  5465. >All of Ponyville cheered.
  5466. >Every foal from every home, every stallion and mare, on every street, all throughout the town, there was screaming and laughter and shouts of joy.
  5467. >This time, not a soul stirs.
  5468. >A deathly quiet hangs over Ponyville as Anon catches his breath.
  5469. >The man has fallen onto his hands and knees, panting like he’d just finished a double marathon.
  5470. >Around him, sparks of magic still ripple through the ground.
  5471. >Unbelievable, you think, that a spell cast by only one person could be so strong that it couldn’t even contain all the magic used to charge it.
  5472. >Oh no, he looked at you.
  5473. >What should you do? What can you do?
  5474. “Anon, you ok?” you shout.
  5475. >No answer.
  5476. >Alright, Twilight. The answer is clear here.
  5477. >Go talk to him and ask him if he’s gone insane.
  5478. >You swallow and take a few nervous steps forward.
  5479. >He hasn’t vaporized you yet, so that’s a good sign.
  5480. “Anon?”
  5481. >You’re a few yards away now.
  5482. >The air near him is hot and heavy, as if you two were in a rainforest.
  5483. >”Oh, hey, Twilight,” he says tiredly.
  5484. >You look over his sweaty form.
  5485. >His muscles bulge with energy, some spasming like in the case of his bicep.
  5486. >This seems to cause him a small amount of pain.
  5487. >The markings on his body are mostly readable.
  5488. >In a few spots, they’re obscured by the light reflecting off his wet flesh, but for the most part it’s pretty obvious that they’re what you thought earlier.
  5489. “Runes,” escapes your mouth, fainter than a whisper.
  5490. >”That’s right,” he says. “Isn’t it amazing?”
  5491. “What have you done, Anon?”
  5492. >A smile spreads across his face.
  5493. >Taking a break from breathing, he gives a light chuckle and lowers himself down, laying his exhausted form over the heated dirt.
  5494. >”Something godly.”
  5496. “Godly? Look at you, man. You’ve got these horrible things all over your body. This is evil, Anon.”
  5497. >”Evil?”
  5498. >You shake your head and gesture at those runes on his forearm.
  5499. “Yes, evil. What are they even doing on you? How did any of this happen?”
  5500. >Oh Celestia, it’s because you weren’t a good friend to him.
  5501. >He needed you and you weren’t there.
  5502. >It’s all your fault, isn’t it?
  5503. >”Evil?”
  5504. >His brow furrows.
  5505. >Anon winces as he maneuvers his arms out in front of him and places his palms firmly on the ground.
  5506. >”Evil,” he mutters, followed by a series of grunts as he pushes himself back up.
  5507. >Anon rises to his knees and then shifts his legs so as to fall on his butt.
  5508. >The movement almost tips him over, but he uses his arms as support to stay upright.
  5509. >”Sorry, I guess I wasn’t here for the part where I was a 200-foot tall monster destroying Ponyville. Oh wait, that’s because it didn’t happen. You’re welcome, by the way.”
  5510. ”This isn’t a time for joking, Anon! Look what you’ve done!”
  5511. >“I saved the town!”
  5512. “With evil!”
  5513. >His eyes widen. Not in shock, no.
  5514. >You have a feeling if he weren’t so beat, he would be smashing your head against a rock.
  5515. >”You don’t even know what I’ve done! Who are you to talk?”
  5516. “I know exactly what you’ve done!”
  5517. >”Oh? Then tell me, oh wise one, what is it exactly? What devil have I made a deal with? What ancient alicorn artifact have I stumbled upon?”
  5518. “Well obviously you--”
  5519. >You stop yourself.
  5520. >He...ok, he raises a good point.
  5521. >But that doesn’t mean anything.
  5522. >Just because you don’t know exactly what he did doesn’t mean that it’s not bad.
  5524. >Celestia has banned runes for a reason.
  5525. >They’re bad. No good can come from them. That’s just a fact.
  5526. >Once more, you come to the conclusion that you need to do something about this.
  5527. >But really, what can you do?
  5528. >Report him to the authorities?
  5529. >Of course that’s an option, but it would certainly ruin his life.
  5530. >It’s not like he’s evil himself. He’s just dabbling in black magic.
  5531. >Perhaps a mental facility would be more his speed.
  5532. >Some friendship rehabilitation never hurt all that many people.
  5533. >”Hey,” his voice breaks your concentration.
  5534. >He tries to stand himself up, but his body won’t allow for that.
  5535. >Tiny sparks of magic jump out of his legs, eliciting a pained yelp and knocking him over again.
  5536. >”Jesus… Twilight, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Before you go making any rushed decisions, how about you let me explain myself.”
  5537. “What’s there to explain?”
  5538. >”Gee, I don’t know. Maybe my entire motive? That’s a stupid fucking question.”
  5539. >Of course he would think everything is ok. He did it.
  5540. >Hearing his side of the story won’t change anything.
  5541. >Still, you can’t help but think that it was your lack of friendship that turned him down this dark path.
  5542. >He clearly needs you, so maybe you could wait just a little while and hear him out.
  5543. >You know, gain his trust and give him someone to talk to.
  5544. >Then you report him.
  5545. >That makes sense, yeah.
  5546. >You have to make this look good though.
  5547. >Feigning a sigh, you lower your head and “relent”.
  5548. “Alright, fine. Tell me your story, Anon.”
  5550. >His lips curl back, revealing the teeth of a predator.
  5551. >”That right there. That tone.”
  5552. “Excuse me?”
  5553. >”That’s why I did it. That pedantic, all-knowing attitude you walk around with.”
  5554. >What did he just call you?
  5555. >”Do you have any idea what it’s like being so totally inept at the one single thing that everyone and everything in the world considers second nature? To be so utterly useless that others consider your greatest accomplishment to be getting your ass beaten so hard you end up in a coma for a week?”
  5556. >Concerned, you step closer.
  5557. >As you near, one jolt of magic leaps from his skin and actually shocks you, prompting your retreat.
  5558. >”And then to be reminded of it every single day, in every conversation--to have your ‘best friend,’” he says with a little too much venom in those words, “Treat you like an impudent child who couldn’t even help themselves to a cookie out of a jar without assistance.”
  5559. “What are you even saying right now?”
  5560. >”And that fucking fake ignorance! You know right damn well what I’m talking about!”
  5561. “You think we treat you like a child?”
  5562. >”A magicless child!”
  5563. >Magicless? Well, of course.
  5564. >He has no--er, had no magic.
  5565. >Why would you act like he did?
  5566. >It’s not like you’d treat a pony with no legs like they had a working set.
  5568. >”So I decided that enough was enough. I would become strong, and I would earn my praise. Now look at me, Twilight. Isn’t it amazing? This power I wield?”
  5569. >He raises his arm, fighting the obvious pain it puts him in.
  5570. >”With these runes, I’m finally even. I’m not the glass-bones bitch I was before. I can fight too. I can save the day.”
  5571. >Those markings on his arm glow brighter as time goes on.
  5572. >Your brain works hard trying to figure out how to respond to that.
  5573. >So he felt bad about not having any magic.
  5574. >That justifies breaking the law?
  5575. >But you can’t tell him he’s being absurd. That’s not friendship-like of you.
  5576. >He’s clearly been hurt by your, as he calls it, “pedantic” tone.
  5577. >Maybe you need to edge it back a bit.
  5578. “Anon, I see where you’re coming from.”
  5579. >His growing smile softens his face, contrasting his hard and scarred body.
  5580. “You wanted to be apart of the group. Well, don’t worry. You always were. There was never a need to do all this. We value your friendship.”
  5581. >”Oh, Twilight, I’m so glad to hear you say that.”
  5582. “Really?”
  5583. >”Yes. It completely proves everything I just said.”
  5584. >Wait, what?
  5585. >”Don’t think you can fool me so easily. I know you’re lying through your buck horse teeth. You never valued my friendship. You never valued me.”
  5586. “That’s not true!”
  5587. >”Now, don’t get me wrong. I was weak before. I know that, and I don’t blame you for seeing it. What I don’t like is that now that I’m strong, you’re talking to me like you’re trying to walk me back from a ledge. What cliff do you think I’m going to jump off, Twilight? I’ve already taken the leap! Look at me!”
  5589. >Well sugarcookies. It looks like sweet talking him didn’t work.
  5590. >Just another in the line of your failures, you guess.
  5591. >How else can you help him? There’s really only so much you can think of.
  5592. >”I bet even now, you’re trying to figure out a way to make me admit my mistakes and go back to being the spineless sack of sadness I was.”
  5593. “Now you’re really wrong on that one.”
  5594. >”Am I?”
  5595. >More or less.
  5596. >By now, some modicum of strength has returned to him.
  5597. >He’s able to get his feet under him.
  5598. >Shakily, he extends his legs and rises to an uneasy stand.
  5599. >”Good luck. I’m never going back. Besides, I couldn’t even if I wanted.”
  5600. “And why not?”
  5601. >”What’s the pony equivalent of selling your soul?”
  5602. “Pretty much what it sounds like.”
  5603. >”Well I did that.”
  5604. >He what?
  5605. >But that’s impossible.
  5606. >Tirek is in Tartarus and the only other being with that kind of power died centuries ago.
  5607. >”Well, metaphorically speaking. I didn’t really sell it.”
  5608. “Then what do you mean?”
  5609. >”Do you remember that book of magical artifacts we read together?”
  5610. “Of course I do.”
  5611. >”Well, I can’t really think of a better way of putting it, so let me just say that the next page in that book will be about me.”
  5612. >You raise an eyebrow, confused by his statement.
  5613. “But you’re not a tool, Anon. You’re a living, breathing person with a soul.”
  5614. >”Two out of three aint bad. I don’t have a soul anymore, Twilight. Didn’t you ever read a book? Runes and souls don’t mix well.”
  5616. >Your mouth drops to the ground.
  5617. >Anon laughs and pats his chest gently where the largest of his runes lies.
  5618. “You mean you--”
  5619. >”That’s right. For all intents and purposes, I’m a golem--an object severed from its soul, and thanks to these runes, fueled by magic sapped out of the air around it.”
  5620. >No.
  5621. >No way.
  5622. >There’s just…
  5623. >Not one, but two counts of black magic practiced by the least magically gifted person you’ve ever met.
  5624. >How could this have happened under your watch?
  5625. >Well, that’s just it, isn’t it?
  5626. >You weren’t watching.
  5627. >You weren’t being the friend he needed and now he’s gone and spit all over Celestia’s perfect law.
  5628. >How can you fix this?
  5629. >He’s done so much damage already.
  5630. >You struggle to believe any amount of friendship rehabilitation can save him at this point.
  5631. >No, Twilight!
  5632. >That kind of attitude is what got him here in the first place!
  5633. >He needs you and your friendship.
  5634. >You can still report him to Celestia. With your word in his favor, you can show him you still care.
  5635. >That should be enough to get him to open up to friendship again.
  5636. >Mistakes have been.
  5637. >You’ve made some bad ones.
  5638. >He’s made some incredibly bad ones.
  5639. >The point is, with the help of Celestia and a little loving, everything can go back to the way it was.
  5640. >So what if he dabbled in dark, evil forces beyond his understanding?
  5641. >He’s just a human. He’s expected to make a few oopsies.
  5642. >It’s your job as a friend to help him through these troubled times.
  5644. >At that moment, your friends decide they want their voices heard as well.
  5645. >The scene becomes a little more busy as Rarity and Applejack approach, followed by Rainbow Dash dropping in from the sky.
  5646. >”Darling, are you...quite alright?”
  5647. >”I dun didn’t e’re thaink thayt yew’d be a feller fer tahtoos.”
  5648. “They aren’t tattoos, Applejack.”
  5649. >”They kind of are,” he admits. “Aren’t they cool?”
  5650. >”I must say it’s a rather jarring change to your usual look. But it doesn’t look bad,” Rarity squeaks out, forcing an uneasy smile.
  5651. >”They’re awesome! What even are they?”
  5652. >Rainbow Dash grabs one of his arms and lifts it up to her eyes for closer examination.
  5653. “Rainbow, don’t touch those!”
  5654. >”Jeez, what’s the deal, Twi?”
  5655. >”Ah’m gon’ admiddit, ah’m maghty curious hwut’s that jazz on yer ahrm too.”
  5656. >“Runes,” he replies proudly.
  5657. >Rainbow’s poking ceases immediately.
  5658. >She lets go of his arm and hovers back.
  5659. >Rarity too, retreats at that word.
  5660. >Applejack only scratches her head and kicks some dirt.
  5661. >”Ah shoot, ah dun fergot hwut a rune was. Twahlaght, isn’at summin’ that’chu yew-nee-corns use to make spells ‘er summin’?”
  5662. >”Well, actually, they’re instructions for how to cast spells. You see, runes don’t actually hold any magical power in themselves. It’s when magic has been applied to them and bind them to an object that they begin to absorb power and thus stop being merely instructions, but also the spell itself.”
  5663. >”Hwut in tarnation ahr yew goin’ on about?”
  5664. >”Hey, so, you know, I have to go do some practicing for the Wonderbolts so like, bye.”
  5665. >With that, Dash speeds off, leaving a rainbow trail behind her.
  5667. >”Darling, do tell me those are merely the result of a drunken night out and a marker. You didn’t really go and bind yourself, did you?”
  5668. >”Let me ask you a better question, Rarity. If I didn’t, where did that magic missile come from?”
  5669. >”That is quite a good point. Oh, would you look at the time? I have to go help Sweetie Bell with her next play. She’s the lead, you know. What a star. Anyway, ta ta!”
  5670. >The white mare gallops away, caring not for the dirt covering her once pristine hooves, nor the snow that turns it to mud when she leaves this warm, tropical hotspot.
  5671. >”Wayll ah say, that’s maghty fahn fer yew, Anon. Ah’m happy that’chu fahnally got yer magic. Shoot, mahybe we kin go hog rastlin’ some tahm.”
  5672. “Applejack, do you even know what spell binding is?”
  5673. >”O’course ah do. It dun gives yew magic, oubviously.”
  5674. “Blackmane.”
  5675. >”Oh uh, ah fergot thahre’s summin’ at the farm ah gotta do today. Ah’ll uh, ah’ll see yew folks later. Bah now.”
  5676. >”Oh come on! What’s wrong with you people? This is great news! Be happier!”
  5677. “Anon, I think you should go home and rest for a bit.”
  5678. >So that you can write your letter to Celestia and have her come sort this out.
  5679. >”Rest? Why should I rest? I need to get ready for the parade. Your friends might not see my greatness, but Ponyville does. Right?”
  5680. >He looks around, hoping to see smiling pastel faces peeking out from behind the rubble.
  5681. >Instead, there’s nothing.
  5682. >The warmth begins to fade, letting the cold seep back into the melted area.
  5683. >”Come on, guys. I saved the day. For real this time.”
  5684. >All's quiet on the western front.
  5685. >”Guys?”
  5686. >Not one pony pops out of the woodwork to support him.
  5687. “I think you need a rest.”
  5689. >You--she--how can they--
  5690. >Your face begins to heat up in tandem with the light shaking of your body.
  5691. >You, Anonymous, because that’s who you are, have done something unheard of.
  5692. >It’s amazing!
  5693. >It’s stupendous!
  5694. >How can she not understand that?
  5695. >How can they all be so fucking ignorant?
  5696. >You don’t need her to tell you to go home again. You’re out!
  5697. >Turning on a heel, you storm off and make way for home.
  5698. >Enough with Ponyville.
  5699. >These simpletons will never understand the new territory you’ve begun to map out.
  5700. >What you need to do is throw all your shit in a box, steal some bread, and make way for the Everfree where you can live out your life as a dirty forest curmudgeon.
  5701. >Dad would be so proud, wouldn’t he?
  5702. >Ah, fuck him.
  5703. >Time has managed to fly by in your rage and you’ve made it home faster than you would have thought.
  5704. >It’s still morning so the sun is shining, but some heavy grey clouds are collecting in front of it, shrouding your little cabin.
  5705. >Apparently your magic missile evaporated enough snow to prompt a new rainstorm.
  5706. >That’s kind of cool, you guess.
  5707. >As you near the door, you begin to pick up speed.
  5708. >Without much care for your lock, you raise your leg and kick the door in.
  5709. >It flies open and smashes against the wall adjacent, then swings back and tries to attack you.
  5710. >You hold your hand up protectively and, when it slams against you, shove it back.
  5712. >Now inside your house, you channel some magic through your hands and get to work on packing all your papers and notes up into little boxes.
  5713. >In the time that you’ve had to march home, enough magic has been absorbed by your runes that you can handle some light spell usage.
  5714. >While your telekinesis works on filing away your precious items, you make fine use of your time and snack on a loaf of bread to nourish your drained body.
  5715. >Angrily, you chew on the stale pastry and pace around your cramped, cluttered kitchen.
  5716. >Your shoes stick in a few spots where spilled coffee had never been wiped up.
  5717. >Moving out.
  5718. >This act seems to make you aware of the detritus you’ve been living in and makes you even more disgusted with the place.
  5719. >When you go to the Everfree, you’ll build a new house.
  5720. >It will be big and beautiful and not shitty like this pile of sticks.
  5721. >When anyone stumbles upon your abode, they’ll be awestruck!
  5722. >They’ll know to be amazed!
  5723. >They won’t make the same mistakes these ponies did!
  5724. >And the ponies have made so many mistakes. They have, really.
  5725. >Enough to ruin every relationship you had with them, at least.
  5726. >Yeah, every one.
  5728. >Your mad walk slows to a slow saunter, and eventually a stop as you lean against the counter.
  5729. >Every relationship you’ve had has been trashed.
  5730. >It’s all their fault, right?
  5731. >They just didn’t know how to appreciate you or your discoveries.
  5732. “Or maybe,” you mutter, setting the bread down on a comparatively clean spot of the stone.
  5733. >Your father used to say something about people with no social skills.
  5734. >”How many times do things have to turn sour for them before they start to ask themselves if it’s really everyone else?”
  5735. >Perhaps you’ve been a little harsh.
  5736. >Maybe striking Twilight back in the hospital wasn’t your best idea.
  5737. >But she had it coming!
  5738. >She’s always getting in your way--always holding you back!
  5739. >Always trying to be a good friend.
  5740. >Well when did you ever say you wanted friends? Her forcing herself on you is just plain annoying.
  5741. >Especially when she does it in all the wrong ways.
  5742. >God, she’s so protective. You don’t need all of that business.
  5743. >But if it’s the only way she knows to show she cares, can you really blame her?
  5744. >Yes.
  5745. >Well, yes you can, but should you?
  5746. >Oh jeez, you’ve made a mess of things, Anon.
  5747. >You pull back from the counter and look out through the kitchen door into the living room.
  5748. >Boxes, books, papers, pencils, magical crystals, and other assorted goods still flutter about, wrapped in your own copycat aura.
  5749. >Your life’s work amounts to less than a few months of magical studies that can all fit neatly into a handful of boxes.
  5750. >Is this what you shunned the outside world for?
  5752. >You could try to say you’re sorry.
  5753. >But are you?
  5754. >You’re certainly feeling something resembling regret right now.
  5755. >For what, you’re not entirely sure, but given the current circumstances, you feel there’s enough evidence to point towards your current state of relationships with the ponies.
  5756. >No, Anon, it’s far too late for that.
  5757. >You’ve already burned those bridges.
  5758. >Twilight probably hates you, everyone else thinks you’re evil, and your garden would never forgive you for what you’ve let happen to it.
  5759. >All that’s left is the Everfree.
  5760. >There, you can have a fresh start.
  5761. >You bring the butt of the loaf to your lips and devour it whole.
  5762. >Still chewing it to mush, you step out of the kitchen and eye the cleaned up room.
  5763. >Everything has found its place in a box, and each box onto the cart that Twilight gave you for all those books.
  5764. >Now you just have to go.
  5765. >Pack up, move out, and leave everything behind.
  5766. >Yep. Without saying anything to anyone.
  5767. >You’ve said all you had to say, and they’ve certainly shared their parts.
  5768. >”Anon, you’re so evil.”
  5769. >”Anon, how could you study that black magic?”
  5770. >”Anon-kun, you’re such a fucking faggot holy shit.”
  5771. >Ok they didn’t say that part, but if they had the capacity for such vulgarity, they sure as hell would have.
  5772. >Look, Anon, don’t be like that.
  5773. >Maybe...maybe part of your problem was that, near the end, you always thought the worst of them.
  5775. >You sigh and approach the cart in the corner of your room.
  5776. >Welp, looks like it’s time to go.
  5777. >You’ve got another three loaves of bread left.
  5778. >By the time you make it out to the Everfree, you should have enough magic absorbed to get to work on a house. Once you’re sure you won’t freeze over the night, you can work on food.
  5779. >Speaking of freezing, you grab your last coat off of the rack.
  5780. >It’s a nice, heavy, black wool coat that hugs your sides and drapes down to your knees.
  5781. >After buttoning up the front and cinching the belt, you’re all set to go.
  5782. >Grabbing the handles of the cart, you hoist it up and make way for the door.
  5783. >It swings open with a gentle tug of your magic.
  5784. >You head out, closing your eyes from the sudden shift in light.
  5785. >By the time a big breath of fresh, cool air fills your lungs, you’re more or less adjusted and open them back u--
  5786. >Um.
  5787. >”A-anon!”
  5788. “What the fuck is going on here?”
  5789. >What you have been met with is not the calm, snowy yard leading to the decrepit trees and bushes you let grow out.
  5790. >Instead, it’s a very not calm, snowy yard leading to the decrepit trees and bushes you let grow out.
  5791. >There are ponies all over the place.
  5792. >Several of them are dressed in baby blue spandex and hover closeby in the air.
  5793. >”You weren’t supposed to be here.”
  5794. “I live here.”
  5795. >”Um, so, you know, we thought that you might, you know,” Rainbow Dash sputters, seemingly unable to figure out what she wants to say.
  5796. “Why are you in your Wonderbolt uniform?” you ask, gesturing to her suit matching those of the other airheads around.
  5798. >”Rainbow Dash, we’re coming!”
  5799. “Excuse me?”
  5800. >You squint, trying to get a better view of the path through the trees.
  5801. >Who is…
  5802. “Oh my fucking god.”
  5803. >Yeah, that’s a good thirty two armored ponies in shining golden armor, all being led by a certain purple pony.
  5804. >Each royal guard has a spear locked into a small hook on the right side of their armor.
  5805. >Those that can fly go ahead and just hold theirs in their hooves rather than keep it at their side.
  5806. >”We’re here, Rainbow. Are we la--oh, hi, Anon!”
  5807. “Twilight.”
  5808. >”What are you doing here?”
  5809. “Deja vu.”
  5810. >”Oh, he surrenders. Good, that makes this easier.”
  5811. “I do not surrender! I don’t even know what’s going on here!”
  5812. >You throw your cart down and put your hands over your hips.
  5813. “Explain yourselves.”
  5814. >”Well, Anon,” Twilight starts, approaching you cautiously, “In light of recent events, we, being the closest thing to an authority on friendship available, figured that you could use some, for lack of a better word, help.”
  5815. “Define.”
  5816. >She’s a few feet away now.
  5817. >Her eyes scan you, eventually locking onto the left side of your neck.
  5818. >You do remember putting a rune on there. That one is supposed to keep your feet smelling fresh.
  5819. >Don’t ask.
  5821. >”Well, you’re what we would usually call ‘friendship challenged’. These gentlemen here are supposed escort you to a facility where we can help you learn to love and be loved by those around you.”
  5822. “Let me get this straight. You brought the Wonderbolts and the Royal Guard to escort me to a facility so I can be taught friendship the proper way?”
  5823. >”Technically Rainbow Dash brought the Wonderbolts.”
  5824. “That didn’t answer my question.”
  5825. >”It’s only for a little while, Anon. You’re a real fast learner.”
  5826. “Holy fucking shit you have got to be kidding me.”
  5828. >In the distance, you can see a massive explosion of confetti.
  5829. >Dear lord.
  5830. >Just above the cloud of falling colorful paper is a small bicycle-copter resembling the one Pinkie uses to make it around to Cloudsdale.
  5831. >Trailing behind said vehicle is a large banner reading, in bright pink letters, “Happy Going Away Party Anon”.
  5832. >Right under those, taking up about half of the banner, reads “We’ll Miss You In Friendship Rehabilitation” followed by a colon and three capital D’s.
  5833. >”She wasn’t supposed to do that yet.”
  5834. >Nope.
  5835. >You were right all along.
  5836. >You were TOTALLY right.
  5837. >Fuck these ponies.
  5838. >It’s not you, it’s them.
  5839. >100% them.
  5840. >You pick up your cart and begin to walk, ready to leave it all behind and this time with no regrets.
  5841. >You don’t get very far before Twilight and seven guards get in your way.
  5842. “Move.”
  5843. >”Anon, come on. It’ll be fun! I’ll come visit you and we can make macaroni crafts.”
  5844. “As tempting as that sounds, I think I’d find more joy in tying a rock to my ankle and diving into the Great Sea.”
  5845. >”That doesn’t sound very fun at all.”
  5846. “Move, you pedantic, purple piece of shit.”
  5847. >”You can’t talk to the princess like that,” shouts one of the armored assholes angrily airing his aggravations.
  5848. “Ok, let me rephrase. Move, you short, egotistical cunt.”
  5849. >There are several gasps from the crowd.
  5850. >”I’m not short or egotistical!”
  5851. “But you’re a cunt?”
  5852. >”You know I don’t speak human.”
  5854. >You pull your cart back, make a turn for the right, and try to move by her.
  5855. >Her team of guards block you again.
  5856. >Alright, one more time.
  5857. >Pulling back again, you make for the left and head for the exit.
  5858. >”Not so fast, buster boy,” says the surfer Wonderbolt as he descends from the sky and lands firmly on the ground, blocking your way.
  5859. >Don’t make a scene.
  5860. >You inhale deeply, letting the chilling air calm your nerves.
  5861. >Without much thought or effort on your part, you ditch the cart and take the boxes from it into your magical grip.
  5862. >”Stand back, he’s using the magic!”
  5863. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
  5864. >You walk forward, this time your path unobstructed.
  5865. >It’s enough to put a smile on your face.
  5866. >They can’t understand what you’ve done for the world, but that’s fine.
  5867. >Their fear and ignorance will at least help you make a quick exit.
  5868. >”Take the boxes.”
  5869. “Take the what now?”
  5870. >Something begins tugging at your magic.
  5871. >You look up at the lavender aura holding your items being invaded.
  5872. >Pegasi guards reach their hooves into it, grabbing at your shit.
  5873. “Don’t touch those!”
  5874. >You swipe your hand, moving the collection away.
  5875. >They hold on tight and really start to yank.
  5876. >”Anon, you won’t need boxes in friendship rehabilitation.”
  5877. “Let go!”
  5878. >You hold up your other hand and with another burst of magic, shove the guards away.
  5879. >”He’s attacking!”
  5880. >”Quick, defend yourselves!”
  5881. “I didn’t do shit!”
  5882. >”Hey, calm down, guys. Anon’s not attacking,” reasons Twilight. “He’s just scared. Be a little nicer, will you?”
  5884. >After trying to talk down her guards, she casts her gaze upon you and softens her eyes.
  5885. >With a light, soft voice, she says, “Nobody is going to hurt you, Anon. Just come with us and we can sort all this black magic nonsense out. Celestia will see reason.”
  5886. “No, fuck you. I’m going into the woods and I’m not coming back. Is that so wrong?”
  5887. >”What kind of friend would I be if I let you run away from something like this?”
  5888. “I don’t want to be your friend. Haven’t you picked up on that yet?”
  5889. >”Come on, don’t be like that. Don’t you remember all our long walks together? Did our late night tea mean nothing?”
  5890. >Memories of your past interaction are brought to the forefront of your mind.
  5891. >Before she was so needy, Twilight’s company was rather enjoyable.
  5892. >Whenever you were feeling down, she was around.
  5893. >If you didn’t have the last few months built up over all of that, you might feel bad about what you’re doing now.
  5894. >As it stands though, you’re totally in the right here.
  5895. >A sudden jerk alerts you again to something messing with your stuff.
  5896. >Mother fuckers!
  5897. >Growling, you make a fist and condense your aura, further tightening your grip on the boxes and such.
  5898. “I said get away,” you shout and, with the other hand, pick up some pebbles from under the snow.
  5899. >You send them flying through the air and pelt the Wonderbolt freaks trying to steal your stuff.
  5900. >”Hey dude, like, back off! Totally not radical! Chaa.”
  5901. “Don’t you get that attitude with me, boy,” you hiss.
  5902. >”Anon, stop being so difficult.”
  5903. “I’m not going to some happy factory where you can friendship lobotomize me! I’ve seen way too many movies!”
  5904. >”Anon, be cool,” says Rainbow Dash, gathering her Wonderbolts.
  5905. >Once more, your items are under attack.
  5906. >Oh god damn it!
  5907. “I said stay away from those!”
  5908. >You whip around and hold your hand up, grabbing the pegasus by his wings.
  5909. >He yelps as you throw him away, smashing him against a tree and denting his golden armor.
  5911. >Suddenly, one of the royal guards rams into you, knocking you onto the ground.
  5912. >Your concentration is broken and the spell fails.
  5913. >In slow motion, your boxes begin to fall.
  5914. >You lunge and throw your hand forward, trying to grab them, but it’s kicked away before you can cast the spell.
  5915. >They hit land in the snow, spilling their contents.
  5916. >”Hold him down! He’s dangerous!”
  5917. “No! My studies!”
  5918. >The other guards run over as well.
  5919. >One locks onto your legs.
  5920. >They press their weight against you, pushing you deeper into the cold snow.
  5921. >As the oversized crowd moves about, their hooves make a mess of things.
  5922. >Some kick the muddy snow onto your notes.
  5923. >Others just trample right over them.
  5924. >The papers are torn, the boxes are crushed.
  5925. >No, no, no, no, no.
  5926. >No! No!
  5927. >NO!
  5928. >All that work.
  5929. >All those nights.
  5930. >All the hours you spent cold and hungry, bargaining for one more page before you made it to your empty fridge to be disappointed by its contents.
  5931. >The hours you spent combing through endless books for the smallest hints at how to work these ancient spells.
  5932. >The history of magic you carefully pieced together with books spanning generations of authors.
  5933. >ALL GONE!
  5934. >Your teeth grind into dust.
  5935. >Trenches are dug in the snow under your hand as your fingers scratch against it, curling into tight fists.
  5936. >Hot blood rushes through you, making the veins in your head bulge.
  5937. >Electricity shoots out from your muscles.
  5938. >At first they’re small little sparks, but soon they’re large streams that dance along the ground and sputter into the air.
  5939. >”He’s a feisty one!”
  5940. >”Careful now! No idea what he’s doing!”
  5941. >”Uh, guys, I don’t like the look of this!”
  5942. “You’re fucking dead,” you scream.
  5943. >Dedicating half of the energy you have left, you form a telekinetic field around yourself and force it outward, throwing the twenty stallions off of you and sending them soaring through the air.
  5944. >Several crash into nearby trees, instantly falling unconscious.
  5945. >One smashes right through the wall of your cabin.
  5946. >Those luckier ponies skid along the ground until the snow robs them of their momentum and brings them to a halt.
  5947. >”Anon, don’t,” cries Twilight.
  5948. >You jump up to your feet and point a finger at her.
  5949. “I sure hope you’ve got somebody you can pray to to save your sorry ass from me,” you seethe.
  5951. >An armored pegasi darts out from behind her, speeding for you.
  5952. >His glare is almost as threatening as the spear he has aimed at your chest.
  5953. >You thrust your hands forward and focus on his armor and call upon another spell.
  5954. >Its density increases exponentially, completely overpowering the guard’s wings and sending him on a collision course with the ground.
  5955. >He grunts as he smashes into the snow, not even budging an inch forward as the massive weight pressing down on him locks him against the ground.
  5956. >In the next instant, you alter his and the armor’s weight to be less than that of a feather.
  5957. >With that out of the way, it takes next to no magic for you to grab him in your telekinetic hold and lift him up overhead, then throw him.
  5958. >The guard soars away, unable to control his flight or speed, and disappears into the distance.
  5959. >Your next assailant, a Wonderbolt, tries the exact same tactic as the last one.
  5960. >That is, they charge at you with reckless abandon because that’s the only way these ponies apparently know how to fight.
  5961. >This mare is very fast compared to the last pony. You barely have time to force the nearby bush to suddenly grow and wrap its elongated limbs around her.
  5962. >With a few motions of your finger, the super long branches swing her around, smashing her through piles of snow and eventually letting go, sending her into a tree.
  5963. >A gust of wind alerts you to an attacker, but you’re simply too slow to react in time.
  5964. >A hard metal-encased head slams into your spine and knocks you forward several feet.
  5965. >It takes a few seconds for you to gather your bearings.
  5966. >By the time you do, you realize you’re completely surrounded.
  5967. >There’s not even a foot between you and any other pony.
  5968. >One, a white stallion whose hair is covered in muddy snow, raises a spear above you, poised to strike.
  5970. >You can’t fling them all back again--not with the magic you have left.
  5971. >It looks like it’s escape time.
  5972. >Damn it. God damn it.
  5973. >You’ve put so much into this.
  5974. >All the time and effort you’ve spent becoming a powerful wizard so that you could never be beaten so easily and now you have to run away.
  5975. >You’re the worst, Anon.
  5976. >You’re subhuman.
  5977. >Pushing that anger onto the back burners to stew and grow for later, you muster your strength and put most of what you’ve got left in the tanks towards one spell.
  5978. >Focus, Anon.
  5979. >Before that stallion can impale you, you clench your fists.
  5980. >As your hands close, they suck the light right out of the area and into themselves.
  5981. >Darkness engulfs you and everyone around you.
  5982. >”Help!”
  5983. >”I can’t see!”
  5984. >”He’s a demon!”
  5985. >Now, would a demon be so kind as to give everyone back their light?
  5986. >With your palms aimed towards the ground, you open them back up and release all the light at once.
  5987. >You’re temporarily blinded from the sudden shift, but you don’t need sight for what comes next.
  5988. >The intense brightness was enough to melt the snow underneath you, turning it to water and giving you perfect access to the dirt.
  5990. >Dipping into the fumes you’re running on, you warp the dirt’s density and allow yourself to sink right into it, delving into the soil like a root looking for nutrients.
  5991. >Following that, you freeze the water atop so as to make it look like nothing happened.
  5992. >That’s it.
  5993. >You’re spent, Anon.
  5994. >There’s not one ounce of magic left in your whole body, and man does it feel like it.
  5995. >Your lungs burn like you’ve just run a marathon.
  5996. >Every muscle aches, tired and hungry for power.
  5997. >You need to breathe, but at the same time, you can’t.
  5998. >There’s no breathing room in this dirt.
  5999. >Even if there was, you need to be quiet. They can’t know what happened.
  6000. >You’re still able to hear the faint going-ons of up above.
  6001. >Something about you disappearing.
  6002. >Then someone suggests they all run away.
  6003. >There’s a shuffling of hooves, which makes your heart race in anticipation for when you can emerge from the ground and breathe again.
  6004. >God damn, this is starting to hurt.
  6005. >You sputter as gas builds in your lungs, stirring to get out.
  6006. >Exhaling slightly only serves to prolong your suffering a little longer, but is it long enough?
  6007. >”Quick, split up. We’ll find him faster in smaller groups.”
  6008. >”I don’t know, Sarge. I don’t want to meet up with him without you guys.”
  6009. >”It’ll be fine, Apple Brapple.”
  6010. >”Hey, does this ice look funny to you?”
  6011. >No, no it doesn’t.
  6012. >”It looks raised, like there’s something under it.”
  6013. >Stop, you fool!
  6014. >”Don’t be absurd, Twinkling Mail. There’s nothing under that ice.”
  6015. >Love you too, Sarge.
  6016. >”Nah, I’m gonna stab it.”
  6017. >NO WAI--
  6020. PART TWO
RAW Paste Data