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Innotransvet (Complete)

By Lurkernon
Created: 19th December 2020 11:44:33 PM

  1. Originally published in November 2014
  2.  
  3. > It's a little past sunset when you spot Princess Luna's form soaring over Ponyville.
  4. > Unusually early for her to be out and about, you think, and especially so far from Canterot already.
  5. > Especially alone, without her chariot or bat-like guards.
  6. > Nonetheless, you launch yourself from the cloud you had been resting on and begin a steady ascent towards her.
  7. > She's flying unusually high; you begin to struggle as you climb - breath coming cold to your lungs.
  8. > In comparison, the far-older princess propels herself along with single, strong beats of her wings despite the saddlebags hanging on either side of her withers.
  9. > By the time you pull alongside her, you're nearly panting with exertion.
  10. > Rainbow Dash had been getting on your back to warm up before trying any particularly difficult feats...
  11. "Princess Luna!"
  12. > "Princess Twilight."
  13. > The alicorn's head dips in greeting even as she continues to fly uninterrupted; her star-shot mane flies out behind her in a wild torrent, propelled by the wind passing through it.
  14. > "I am afraid I have little time to talk. My journey is long, and I wish to arrive early."
  15. "Late? Where are you going?"
  16. > "On business."
  17. "Business?"
  18. > "Yes, business."
  19. > Luna's mane flows straight out behind her as she flies, her face neutral and unyielding.
  20. "What... kind of business?"
  21. > She finally seems to truly acknowledge you, wings arcing out wide and tilting back to catch the wind.
  22. > Twisting about to face you, Luna offers an apologetic smile.
  23. > "Forgive me, Twilight, I have been rude."
  24. > The smile does not quite touch her eyes, though; other matters are clearly on her mind.
  25. "It's alright. Is something the matter?"
  26. > "Nothing of great import, Twilight. I travel to the south, to perform a ritual with my sister in three days' time."
  27. > Now she has your interest.
  28. "Oh! A ritual? What kind? Something to do with the moon? Or is it-"
  29.  
  30. > "No, no - nothing of the type, I am afraid. It is quite unlike any other duty..."
  31. > For a moment you see a certain worry, a certain apprehension in Luna's eyes - and then she catches herself.
  32. > "...because it is so boring! We have done it since we were children, my sister and I, but never seen a purpose."
  33. > Luna is not and never has been the greatest liar.
  34. "Oh, is that why you aren't taking your chariot?"
  35. > Instantly she latches on to your provided excuse, nodding with more certainty in the gesture.
  36. > "Yes - that, and my guards are not to be part of this ritual."
  37. > Your mind is racing.
  38. > This is something you've never heard of.
  39. > Something new to learn!
  40. "Um, Princess Luna? Would it be okay if I, um... came with you?"
  41. > You were not prepared for the effect it has on her.
  42. > "Under no circumstances, Twilight! The ritual is for my sister and I alone."
  43. > Something new had crept into Luna now - a subtle stiffening of the wings, widening of the eyes, her legs going to full extension.
  44. "Oh, I understand! But, could I even just watch it, maybe from a ways away? I promise not to interrupt or anything-"
  45. > "NO! Innostransvet is not a place for you, nor any of your friends."
  46. > You raise your forehooves, trying to calm her.
  47. "I understand, Princess, I understand!"
  48. > Luna takes a deep breath and nods.
  49. > "Forgive us, Twilight. As you may have guessed, I have much on my mind, and my temper is frayed."
  50. "It's quite alright, Princess."
  51. > "Nonetheless... you must not come with me. What will happen there is for my sister and I alone."
  52. "Okay. Well, um... safe flying then, Princess?"
  53. > Luna nods, giving you an apologetic smile.
  54. > "Perhaps when we return, we shall stay in Ponyville a bit - teach your more of our constellations?"
  55. > You perk up at that, nodding.
  56. "Yeah, sure! That sounds great! I'll be sure to have the telescope set up!"
  57. > "Then until we meet again!"
  58. "Bye, Princess!"
  59. > You spiral down and away from Luna, who has already resumed her steady flight south.
  60.  
  61. > Internally, though, your mind was churning wildly.
  62. > Luna was lying, obviously.
  63. > Something about the date, 'in three days' time', had clicked in your mind.
  64. > And what was that word she had said?
  65. > Innostransvet?
  66. > You'd heard it somewhere before, but where...?
  67. > The natural solution is, of course, research.
  68. > Fortunately your new castle had acquired its own selection of texts to replace those that had been lost with the Golden Oaks library.
  69. > Unfortunately, you utterly failed to find any reference to the word in any of the relevant tomes of the arcane arts.
  70. > If not there, then where?
  71. > Luna had said it was 'no place for you or your friends', hadn't she?
  72. > To the atlases, then!
  73. > Atlases which prove likewise entirely unhelpful.
  74. > Spike weathers your further requests - for every book you have on the royal sisters - admirably, despite the collection being sizable.
  75. > By the time you have paged through them, however, you find yourself wondering if you are approaching this in the wrong way.
  76. > Not even a single reference to the word has appeared.
  77. > The more you think about it, the more the word sticks out at you.
  78. > Innostransvet.
  79. > It doesn't sound like part of the Equestrian language.
  80. > A search in your copies of translated Gryphonic and Minotauric also leave you empty-hooved.
  81. > You take a deep breath.
  82. > Well, when your books failed you there was always one other source you could count on...
  83. "Spike! Take a letter."
  84.  
  85. -------------------------------------------------------------
  86.  
  87. > You stare uncomprehendingly at the reply.
  88. > 'Dear Princess Twilight Sparkle,
  89. > The word you have inquired about is quite complex, and requires a great deal of explanation. I would be glad to tell you more, but I am afraid recent events in Canterlot have left me quite busy. Perhaps we could meet in a few days' time? I would be happy to explain it to you then.
  90. > Sincerely, Princess Celestia'
  91. > Never!
  92. > Never once had Celestia refused you information!
  93.  
  94. > Oh, not able to talk to you right this moment?
  95. > You understood that.
  96. > But she understood your appetite for knowledge well, and had always provided at least a lead for you to follow in the meantime.
  97. > And 'in a few days' time'?
  98. > You'd miss it for sure!
  99. > This...
  100. > Your mind steadily grinds towards an impossible conclusion.
  101. > Something you had never even thought possible.
  102. > Princess Celestia is deliberately trying to hide something from you.
  103. > Not merely warning you that it was dangerous information.
  104. > But actually trying to prevent you from reaching-
  105. > "Ooooh, what's this? Another little love note from the dear Celestia? Is it for me?"
  106. > Oh, you did not need this right now.
  107. "Discord, if you ever want me to be your friend, not insisting every single letter I get is a love note might be a good start."
  108. > The spirit of chaos incarnate slithers his way around to face you, his trademark smirk stamped across his face.
  109. > "Oh but dear Twilight, your face goes so adorably red when I suggest that!"
  110. "If it is red, it's because I'm getting annoyed with you."
  111. > "Not like this red! Take a look!"
  112. > A mirror pops into existence in his hand, your peering back at you.
  113. > Sure enough, your cheeks had a decided blush to them.
  114. > Quite crimson, and unmistakably-
  115. > You wipe at a cheek with one forehoof.
  116. "Is this makeup, Discord?!"
  117. > The gales of laughter meeting your question provide their own answer.
  118. > A quick spell disposes of the remainder of the makeup, leaving you staring at the still-giggling Discord.
  119. > "Oh, you should see your face now, Twilight! Ha, hahahahaha! Now you really are red, hehehehe! You're glowing so red, I bet I could use you as a lantern! Get it - Twi-light? Hoohahah- ooof!"
  120. > Discord's cackles turn to a sudden grunt as you tackle him into a hug.
  121. "Lights! That's it, that's where I've heard it before! Thank you, Discord!"
  122. > "Well, I know I'm a bright fellow, but what are you talking about?"
  123.  
  124. "The word I've been trying to figure out! That's it - lights!"
  125. > He honestly sounds to surprised at your reaction to bother being upset at having his fun ruined.
  126. > "What? What word, what lights?"
  127. > You are already galloping away at full speed, knowing just what book you need to go to now.
  128. "Innostransvet!"
  129. > "Innostransvet..."
  130. > Discord mouths the word once, the color draining from his face.
  131. > Literally. It goes white as the marble that he was once imprisoned in.
  132. > "Now how did you hear that word, little princess...?"
  133.  
  134. -------------------------------------------------------------
  135.  
  136. "Innostransvet, also called 'ghost-lights' or 'shock-lights': A phenomenon observed off the coast of Equestria consisting of sharp and suddenly-appearing lights at or near the horizon accompanied by magical disturbances and noises of unclear origin. Although reliably centered around Outer Hock Island and always occurring in pairs, information on the phenomenon remains rare due to the total lack of successful studies, with entire expeditions sent to the island to observe it lost without a trace - two within my lifetime. I am told..."
  137. > You'd been looking for the entirely wrong word!
  138. > It wasn't a place at all!
  139. > But in some respects you had been right, too.
  140. > It was an old, old word - you'd had to go back to your most ancient volumes to find any references to it.
  141. > You quickly bring the tome to a desk and go back to reading.
  142.  
  143. "...I am told the Pegasi have encountered the same losses when trying to study it, although they remain loath to grant us access their expedition logs despite the unification. Hock Island remains otherwise magically neutral and undisturbed despite the phenomenon, although evidence of past expeditions is nowhere to be found. Their Highnesses Celestia and Luna have forbidden study of the phenomenon, which they term 'Innostransvet', due to this lethality and although Outer Hock Island is typically safe to visit the irregular pattern and suddenness of an Innostransvet occurrence make exploring it a risky endeavor. Observation from a great distance remains the only choice for study, and it yield precious little knowledge indeed."
  144. > It is the name signed below the entry that starts your heart pounding.
  145. "Clover the Clever."
  146. > You sit back on your haunches, brain digesting this new information.
  147. > Why hadn't you ever heard about this before?
  148. > Or, perhaps more accurately - why hadn't you heard about this more often?
  149. > A second later, another startling conclusion slipped into your mind.
  150. > Luna knew when it was going to happen.
  151. > Or, she was going to cause it.
  152. > Not even Clover had known about this.
  153. > Instead of quenching your curiosity, this has stoked it into a roaring fire.
  154. > How hard would it be to slip away for a few days to-
  155. > No.
  156. > Bad Twilight.
  157. > You can't just go running off, especially after Luna told you not to.
  158. > It's an intrusion of her privacy!
  159. > But she's hiding something.
  160. > And so is Celestia.
  161. > Not even Clover had known what it is.
  162. > But Luna does.
  163. > You squeeze your eyes shut.
  164. > This is a bad idea.
  165. > You friends need you.
  166. > But it will only be a couple of days.
  167. > You are a princess!
  168. > But you don't have any major duties for the next few days.
  169. > Celestia as much as said you shouldn't go too!
  170. > But the knowledge to be gained...
  171. > You just shouldn't!
  172.  
  173. > A muffled groan escapes your lips.
  174. "Oh, you are so going to regret this, Twilight..."
  175.  
  176. -------------------------------------------------------------
  177.  
  178. > It is fortunate you still have two days to travel.
  179. > Hock Island is not close to Ponyville.
  180. > It sits nearly a hundred miles off the coast, in fact, leaving you straining yourself to make the long flight.
  181. > An alicorn you may be, but long-duration flying was still not your forte!
  182. > This time there would be no risking it; you go through every warm-up exercise Rainbow had taught you after you'd gained your wings.
  183. > Nonetheless, by the time you arrive at the coastline it is mid-morning of the day following your departure.
  184. > Coasting into a landing in a secluded stretch of beach, you promptly collapse to the ground, panting heavily.
  185. > Sweat rolls down your flanks, but you know there is precious little time to rest.
  186. > Assuming you are interpreting what Luna said correctly, it should begin any time today...
  187. > A quiet pond some distance back from the beach serves to quickly cool you off.
  188. > Quickly ducking beneath the surface, you relish the feeling of water flowing through your mane, cleaning off the accumulated sweat and lather from your coat.
  189. > You surface and take a deep, refreshing, breath. Your eyes open-
  190. "DISCORD!"
  191. > "Twilight."
  192. > The spirit's face had been less than an inch from yours, the tip of your muzzle almost touching his gnarled visage.
  193. "Why do you always sneak up on ponies like that?!"
  194. > "Because it's what I do, of course!"
  195. "Well, stop it."
  196. > "Got it. Listening now?"
  197. > You open your mouth to retort, but stop yourself.
  198. > There had been something odd in Discord's tone, something that takes you a moment to spot.
  199. > A total lack of his typical levity.
  200. "I am now."
  201. > "Good."
  202. > Discord coils himself up, settling down to effortlessly float on the water's surface before you.
  203. > "You're going to try and see Innostransvet."
  204. > It isn't a question.
  205. "Yes. Are you supposed to talk me out of it?"
  206.  
  207. > "No; I'm a spirit of Chaos, Twilight. What's the fun in just leaving things the way they've always been."
  208. "So, what, then?"
  209. > Discord leans forward; you thought his neck might have been stretching out farther than it reasonably should have, but you weren't sure.
  210. > "I'm going to tell you to be very, very careful, because despite our differences on some level I like you. So listen carefully, Princess: Your magic won't protect you if you're caught. It won't save you if it finds you."
  211. > You blink in surprise.
  212. > This was so totally out of the normal for Discord, you weren't sure how to respond.
  213. > "Dear old Celly and Loony will be furious, of course, even if you do manage to escape - but you know what? I don't want to see you end up a drooling maniac for the rest of your days, or worse."
  214. "Discord... have you been there? To Innostransvet?"
  215. > He scowls, and for just the briefest second you glimpse something different in him - far old, far more powerful, and far more terrifying than even before his first defeat at your hooves.
  216. > "No, I haven't. I'm... not on good terms - and I don't even know how it will react if you are seen there."
  217. > And then the moment is gone; Discord stands up again, pulling on a sailor's cap that has appeared from nowhere.
  218. > "Well, that's my message! Since you don't seem to be deterred, I'm off to pay Fluttershy a visit - and if you do come back, Twilight, you really must tell me what you saw!"
  219. > There's no time to respond before Discord puffs himself up and vanishes with the noise of a bosun's whistle.
  220. > No time to ask the question that had sprung to your mind.
  221. "Wait... if Celestia and Luna will be furious if I'm seen... who's 'it'?"
  222.  
  223. -------------------------------------------------------------
  224.  
  225. > Flying over the ocean is impossibly boring.
  226. > The waves below blend into one continuous sheet, leaving you often drifting off.
  227.  
  228. > You find yourself rechecking your compass spell every five minutes to make sure you're still flying the right course.
  229. > And the fifty other spells you'd layered around yourself.
  230. > Especially after Discord's warning, you had reinforced yourself with dozens of defensive spells.
  231. > Protections against weapons and magic of all varieties, measures to protect your mind and detect intrusions meant to probe weaknesses.
  232. > You have a checklist for them, of course.
  233. > In between checks, you mind wanders.
  234. > Thinking about Innostransvet.
  235. > Planning for what might come.
  236. > You've decided to rest on a nearby cloud when you reach Outer Hock Island, letting you keep a safe distance but still see the goings-on below.
  237. > If it seems safe, you will get closer.
  238. > The island, when you reach it, is remarkable only in its unremarkableness.
  239. > Circling it twice, you can spot no obvious signs of damage or disturbance.
  240. > And as it was in Clover's time, there's no obvious magical residues or scars.
  241. > A passing cloud is selected and collapse into it, enjoying the cooling of the vapor against your aching muscles.
  242. > An excellent spot to observe the island from, you thought.
  243. > By late afternoon, though, the thrill has begun to fade.
  244. > You'd had to swap clouds several times now, to avoid keeping one obviously locked in place while the others drifted past.
  245. > Hopefully you were doing it often enough; you hadn't thought to bring your books on covert observation with you and had only the barest chance to glance through them before leaving Ponyville.
  246. > By evening, you are wondering if somehow you had misunderstood Luna, or made a mistake in your research.
  247. > Oh stars!
  248. > What if it had already happened, and Luna was already gone!
  249. > She'd be on her way back to Ponyville now, and she'd surely hear about you taking a mysterious trip alone when she got there!
  250. > You'd never get another chance to study this again if she thought you'd skipped out on her meeting to try and follow her!
  251.  
  252. > Just as you are descending into full-on panic, a tug at your consciousness drags your mind.
  253. > A flare of magic, from somewhere down on the island. Strong magic.
  254. > With your binoculars, it doesn't take long to find the source.
  255. > A lone figure, horn raised high and proud as the moon comes up.
  256. > Luna.
  257. > Suddenly you are filled with a great sense of disappointment at yourself, washing over you like a heavy tide.
  258. > What were you doing?
  259. > You had intruded on something private, out of sheer curiosity!
  260. > This was wrong.
  261. > You shouldn't have come.
  262. > Somehow, though, you can't bear to drag yourself away.
  263. > Not while the evening drags on into night.
  264. > Not even when Luna lights a campfire and lays herself down beside it.
  265. > Perhaps an hour later, you consider the possibility that you should just go down and admit to her that you had followed.
  266. > She'd understand, right?
  267. > The nocturnal diarch had a bit of a stubborn streak herself; surely she'd not be too angry.
  268. > You stand up, spreading your wings to begin gliding down.
  269. > And the sky explodes.
  270. > A single point of painfully bright light tears open into a searing, oval fissure with the noise like a giant burlap sack being shredded.
  271. > Beyond it, a black tunnel laced with whirling bolts of lightning.
  272. > The howling strikes you a moment later, a discordant choir of tones that only grows louder.
  273. > But what gets you the most, is the sheer wrongness of the thing before you.
  274. > It is not merely a portal, a magical gateway from one place to another.
  275. > This is a hole in the fabric of time and space itself, a gaping wound rent into the universe that tugs at your magic like a current flowing to a drain.
  276. > Not even the gates of Tartarus were like this.
  277. > This was an awful, awful mistake.
  278. > Your intellect falls to the wayside, base instincts bred into you by thousands of ancestors taking over.
  279. > Instincts that scream, "RUN. HIDE."
  280.  
  281. > You drop from the cloud, wings folded to let you plummet until you are scant feet off the island's beach.
  282. > Only then do they snap out; wind catches in them painfully, but pulls you into a steady glide with a smoothness that would make Rainbow Dash proud.
  283. > Your flight takes you straight over sand, grass, and into a treeline - quickly leaving you weaving among trunks and branches.
  284. > At some point your higher thoughts finally reassert themselves, pointing out there is no sign of you being followed.
  285. > A grunt escapes you as you come to a hard landing.
  286. > Eyes turn up to look at the hole in the sky.
  287. > And your stomach again fills with an icy ball.
  288. > The howling hadn't been the tear.
  289. > It was the thing that was coming through it.
  290. > Angular, sharp, with a multitude of limbs unidentifiable - the backlighting of the portal giving you an excellent view of its outline.
  291. > Luna!
  292. > You had to find Luna!
  293. > Maybe the two of you, working together, could defeat this thing!
  294. > You break into a furious gallop, not trusting yourself to teleport with your magic so disrupted by this... thing.
  295. > Fortunately you knew roughly where you landed, and where Luna's campfire had been relative to that.
  296. > Somewhere along the line, the tear manages to mend itself - slamming shut with an echoing crack.
  297. > But the howling thing that had come through is still there, somewhere above you.
  298. > You break from the trees, making your way over the flat scrub near the center of the island.
  299. "LUNA!"
  300. > You can see the light of the campfire now, guttering in a wind you hadn't felt spring up.
  301. "PRINCESS LUNA!"
  302. > You can see Luna too, now, head tilted far back to stare upwards.
  303. "PRINCESS LUNAAAAAAAAAUUUUGH!"
  304. > Your call for help turns to a scream as the thing enters your vision again.
  305. > It had come to hover almost directly atop her, sitting in place like some colossal crab.
  306. > You suddenly wish Rarity was here, though you aren't sure why.
  307.  
  308. > Without the backlighting of the tear, you can see its surface dotted by faintly illuminated points of all colors, some blinking in pattern and others steady.
  309. > Skidding to a stop not twenty feet away, you can only watch in horror as its bulk eclipses the lunar princess.
  310. > It has to be huge... five, six hundred feet long?
  311. > The guttering campfire barely illuminates it.
  312. "Luna..."
  313. > Fear has crept into your voice, rendering it high and trembling.
  314. > You can barely watch as it lowers one spindly limb to Luna, a reedlike finger extending to...
  315. > ...gently stroke her across the cheek?
  316. > Even from this distance, what is occurring is unmistakable.
  317. > Luna begins to speak, a strange language quite unlike anything you've ever heard before audible over the eerie howling this thing creates.
  318. > It is obviously foreign to her, some syllables stumbles over.
  319. > You can barely even describe it.
  320. > The thing answers in a much deeper response, its voice scraping and metallic.
  321. > Back and forth they go... and then suddenly, you hear your name spoken by the thing.
  322. > It stands out against the gibberish the rest of their conversation had been, but even if it had not that Luna spins to stare at you fractions of a second later would have been enough warning.
  323. > Her face is one of awestruck horror.
  324. > "Twilight, what have you done?!"
  325. > You bolt.
  326. > It is the only logical thing to do.
  327. > All attention is now focused on you; there's no way you can face this thing.
  328. > Your wings are out and pumping in an instant, a teleport spell already forming in your horn.
  329. > "TWILIGHT, NO!"
  330. > You hurl yourself into the air, ready to teleport as far out over the ocean as your horn will take you -
  331. > - a sort of soft pop sounds from behind you -
  332. > - and your spell dies.
  333. > Not fails, not doesn't work.
  334. > The very magic forming it is gone.
  335. > When you try and instead form another spell, you realize to your horror that the rest of your magic is gone as well.
  336.  
  337. > Reaching for the spells feels like pushing a hoof through the thickest taffy Pinkie ever made, and you can't push hard enough.
  338. > The sheer shock of it sends you tumbling to the ground, where you land in an undignified sprawl.
  339. > Somewhere behind you, Luna gives a surprised yelp - her magic must have been gone as well.
  340. > Discord's words come back to taunt you: 'Your magic won't protect you if you're caught.'
  341. > Your wings still work, though!
  342. > And a quick glance back tells you that the creature has already begun birthing hundreds of offspring:
  343. > Buzzing, jagged shapes that immediately take to the air in your direction.
  344. > Frantic wingbeats push you back into the air, but the hellish spawn are still catching up to you.
  345. "No!"
  346. > Luna is yelling in that strange, twisting language - trying to order something, you suspect.
  347. > The buzzing grows to full your ears as the thing's spawn surround you in the air.
  348. "Get away from me! Get! Away!"
  349. > The first one to reach out a spindly limb towards you collides with one of your shield spells; it falls away spitting and hissing.
  350. > A second reaches out -
  351. > And to your horror, does something that brushes aside your shields like cobwebs.
  352. > Seconds later you have been seized by dozens of claws - cold, relentless, and unyielding in their grips.
  353. > The off-tone howling again fills your ears as the thing approaches you.
  354. "Princess Luna! Help! Please, get them away!"
  355. > Despite not seeing any eyes - or perhaps far to many of them - you feel it is looking solely down at you.
  356. "No, no, no! I - I want to wake up, I want to wake up! Go away, go away, GO AWAY!"
  357. > Luna is circling about it, her shouts becoming increasingly frantic.
  358. > At this point you could not flee even if you wished to.
  359. > Panic has frozen your muscles; you can only stare as an orifice opens in the thing to extend yet another arm, reaching out to you.
  360. > The limb circles around behind your head; its buzzing offspring hold you steady and in place.
  361.  
  362. > You feel a slight sting at the back of your neck.
  363. > And then you
  364. > just
  365. > see
  366. > black.
  367.  
  368. -------------------------------------------------------------
  369.  
  370. > And
  371. > then
  372. > you see
  373. > everything.
  374. > The phrase 'seeing your life flash before your eyes' wasn't unfamiliar to you.
  375. > You supposed that it was happening meant you had been killed.
  376. > The experience was something else entirely than you had expected.
  377. > Somehow you thought it would be emotional.
  378. > Seeing yourself grow up.
  379. > Images flash past you.
  380. > Just like your vision with Celestia, when you had completed Starswirl's spell.
  381. > Except this time, it really was the end.
  382. > Your entrance test to the School for Gifted Unicorns.
  383. > Meeting the Princess for the first time.
  384. > Shiny's graduation from the guard academy.
  385. > Meeting your best friends.
  386. > Your adventures with them.
  387. > It was all somehow... detached.
  388. > Like you were observing it from the outside.
  389. > Observing...
  390. > Oh, stars.
  391. > There was something observing you!
  392. > You could feel it now, hovering just outside your consciousness.
  393. > It - it was going through your head!
  394. > Get it out, get it out, GET IT OUT!
  395. > Marshaling your mental defenses, you try to push it back even as more of your life flickers in your vision.
  396. > You can hear as well now, you realize - a jumble of voices and noises, ripped from your memories as well.
  397. "GET! OUT! OF! MY! HEAD!"
  398. > With one final push you manage to tear the presence from your mind and force it back.
  399. > A second later it returns with ten times the force.
  400. > Now it feels as though your mind is being flayed apart.
  401. > Your greatest hopes, deepest fears, most embarrassing secrets.
  402. > All are casually rifled through, examined, and tossed aside.
  403. > You're vaguely aware of a distant screaming.
  404. > Your own.
  405. > Whether it is real or just inside your head as well you can't tell.
  406. > How long it goes on, you can't tell.
  407. > Only that at some point the violation of your very essence has ceased.
  408.  
  409. > A glance around reveals a cloudy plane, stretching off into a star-flecked distance.
  410. > Something like the strange place you went with Celestia just before you gained your wings, but... different.
  411. > Colder.
  412. > Like someone had tried to reproduce that place, but hadn't included the warmth and safety your mentor's presence had provided.
  413. > You push yourself up, head twisting sharply back and forth to look about.
  414. > Is this even real?
  415. > Somewhere in the distance you could feel the thing's presence, like a pressure on your ears.
  416. "WHERE ARE YOU?!"
  417. > Your voice is hoarse from screaming.
  418. > To your shock, though,something responds.
  419. > Images flicker past in your vision, fading in and out of view around you while voices whisper in your ears.
  420. > Your memories.
  421. > Backpedaling instinctively, you spin in place as you try to spot the thing.
  422. "What was that? What are you?!"
  423. > This time, the images are more coherent.
  424. > You see your brother, clad in his full armor.
  425. > Canterlot, with the shield bubble in place around it.
  426. > A row of EUP force ponies, standing in ranks in full plate.
  427. "You're... a soldier?"
  428. > A sense of deep wrongness floods your mind, followed by more images.
  429. > Shields, dozens of them, laying next to each other.
  430. > Your first time learning to manifest your own magical protective bubble.
  431. "A... defence? No, a defender. You're a defender? A protector?"
  432. > This time it is a sense of affirmative joyfulness that settles over your mind - an oddly foreign rush, before it fades.
  433. "Wait... so if you're a defender, why did you kill me? What did I ever do to you?"
  434. > Again the wrongness flows over you, followed by dozens of memories of ponies you had seen sleeping.
  435. "Okay, I'm asleep... keep calm, Twilight, you're not dead now. That's good. You're just asleep, trapped in another world, with an insane creature from... from..."
  436. > You see the night-time sky.
  437. > Planets, viewed through your telescope.
  438. > The massive orrery in Canterlot palace.
  439. "...the stars? You're from the stars?"
  440.  
  441. > Once again you feel the affirmative joyfulness.
  442. > More images follow.
  443. > The time you had accidentally walked in on Cadence and your brother kissing.
  444. > Or found Spike's journal.
  445. > All along with a building sense of anger.
  446. > The shame that floods you isn't imposed on you, though - it's your own.
  447. "You wanted this to be a secret?"
  448. > Another thought comes to you a moment later.
  449. "Are you, like... in a relationship? With Princess Luna?"
  450. > This time the emotion that hits you is more easily identifiable.
  451. > Amusement.
  452. > It's laughing at you.
  453. "It's not funny! Why are you even doing this to me? If you could have just talked nicely-"
  454. > You get a replay of what you had thought to be your final moments.
  455. > Your desperate attempts to flee.
  456. > The thing's offspring surrounding you.
  457. "...oh. Yeah... so, you're just a friend of hers...?"
  458. > The silence that greets you makes you wonder if it was still listening.
  459. > When they come, the memory images pass more slowly while a feeling of apprehension and caution settles on you.
  460. > A clock, its hands spinning wildly.
  461. > The orrery again, its planets circling slowly.
  462. > All interspersed with images of Celestia and Luna.
  463. "You... haven't seen them in a long time?"
  464. > The wrongness is less intense now, as though you were more familiar.
  465. > But the images that follow are even more confusing.
  466. > Ancient rock formations that you had studied in school.
  467. > A planet, again seen through your telescope.
  468. > The princesses, again.
  469. > A clock.
  470. > The sun, confusingly.
  471. > You knit your brows.
  472. > What was the common thread...?
  473. > Time, and...
  474. > It clicks.
  475. "You're immortal."
  476. > Affirmation once again surges through you.
  477. "You're immortal, and you hadn't seen Luna in a long time..."
  478. > More of your memories are tossed back at you.
  479. > These, instantly recognizable.
  480. > Nightmare Moon, facing you down in the old palace.
  481. > The stained-glass window in Canterlot, depicting her original fall.
  482. "...a really long time."
  483.  
  484. > The sensation flowing through you is barely noticeable now, a more subdued sense of being upset.
  485. "And I just barged in on it... and then tried to run away."
  486. > The images are sharper now -
  487. > Ponyville panicking at the sight of Zecora arriving.
  488. > Canterlot in chaos as the changelings descended.
  489. "You thought I was going to panic... you thought we all would?"
  490. > ...well, you really had managed to screw things up today, Twilight.
  491. > Not listening to Luna, coming out here alone, trying to run away...
  492. > There was only one thing to do now.
  493. > You sink into a deep bow.
  494. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I won't tell anyone - this can be your secret."
  495. > Silence greets your plea.
  496. "I won't. Really. You've seen my memories... You know I can keep a secret. I was just... I just wanted to learn. To know."
  497. > Your words echo away into the star-lit emptiness.
  498. > And then
  499. > suddenly
  500. > you
  501. > see.
  502. > You see a spread of stars among the cosmos, points of light drifting between them.
  503. > You see one single star, the bright motes drifting between the planets that circle it.
  504. > You see one single planet, wreathed in spindly metal constructs circling it like a halo.
  505. > You see one single construct, its armored skin glittering in the sunlight.
  506. > You see one single thing clinging to it like a bird to a tree.
  507. > You see through the thing, past its skin and through its guts, through piping and mechanisms you cannot even begin to recognize.
  508. > You see into its heart, a beating seed of life nestled into center of it.
  509. > You see the thing as it kicks off, jetting into the darkness.
  510. > You see it soar between the stars, coasting down over to a new planet.
  511. > The planet turns, a familiar continent coming into view.
  512. > Equestria.
  513. > A voice whispers in your ear, dry and papery but with a note of hidden strength just out of view.
  514. > "Apology accepted."
  515. > Sleep comes over you before you can react.
  516.  
  517. -------------------------------------------------------------
  518.  
  519. > On waking, the first realization you can have is that your neck hurts.
  520. > Bad.
  521. > Groaning, you roll over onto your stomach to try and relieve it - only to get a mouthful of dirt for your efforts.
  522. "Eurgh! Bleh! Pthah!"
  523. > Clearing you mouth of the offensive grains, you wrench your eyes open and look around.
  524. > The sun has risen, and you are resting the grassy clearing back on Hock Island
  525. > The burned-out remnants of Luna's campfire a few feet ahead of you.
  526. > No creatures from holes in reality.
  527. > "Ah, Twilight. You are awake - I am pleased to see that you are recovering. How do you find yourself?"
  528. > And there's the lunar princess herself.
  529. > That she does not seem perturbed does a great deal to settle your mind.
  530. > You take a shaky breath.
  531. "Hey, Luna. I'm... I'm okay."
  532. > She struts into your vision, wide blue eyes peering down at you.
  533. > "You are quite sure? The events of last night will have left you quite drained."
  534. "Yeah, I feel... barely alright. Neck hurts, and I don't feel the best. But I'll be okay."
  535. > To your surprise, Luna leans in to nuzzle you lightly.
  536. > "Good. I was most worried about you while you slept."
  537. > A sandwich floats into view along with a bottle.
  538. > "Eat. You will feel refreshed afterward, I think."
  539. > You tear into the food with gusto; when the last crumbs have vanished you do indeed feel quite a bit better.
  540. > Luna has settled down onto her haunches to watch you, her mouth curling into a small frown.
  541. > As the last scraps are swallowed she lets out a heavy sigh - her head sinking as she does so.
  542. > "You did a very dangerous thing last night, Twilight Sparkle."
  543. > You sigh heavily.
  544. > If this was about to be a lecture, well - you'd certainly earned it this one.
  545. "Yeah, I really did, didn't I?"
  546. > "But... you have survived with mind and body intact. And so, we are inclined to forgive you."
  547. > A breath you had not realized you were holding escapes, your head bobbing in a small nod.
  548.  
  549. > Still too exhausted to be overjoyed that the diarch had forgiven you - and one question still burning in your mind.
  550. "Princess Luna... what was that?"
  551. > "We... do not exactly know."
  552. > That caught you by surprise.
  553. > "It has been visiting for as long as my sister and I have been alive. Our parents knew of it before us, but..."
  554. > Princess Luna's gaze falls to the ground.
  555. > "...they never told us much of it before they... left, and I am not sure they knew any more than it has told us."
  556. "But you did know it."
  557. > "Yes. It is an ancient thing, Twilight - ancient, and shy."
  558. "It's a... machine? I think? Or a machine with somep- something in it?"
  559. > Now you get an actual reaction out of Luna.
  560. > Her head jerks back up, gaze fixing on you in a wide-eyed stare.
  561. > "How did you know that?"
  562. "I know... it... showed me things. From my own memories."
  563. > Luna frowns deeply.
  564. > "That is how it communicates at first, yes. I had thought it only touched your mind to ensure you would not reveal it."
  565. > The implication - that it could have forced you to remain silent - sends a shiver from your spin to the tips of your wings.
  566. "How it communicates at first?"
  567. > "Indeed. I have only ever known it to talk directly with myself and my sister."
  568. "Is it that worried about us? Some of the things it showed me... I think it was afraid."
  569. > "The life it comes from is not so peaceful as that we enjoy."
  570. "But if it saw my memories, then it would know we never -"
  571. > "It does not fear us, Twilight, but what revealing itself to us might bring."
  572. "It told me... it's a protector. A defender. Is that what it's protecting us from? Itself?"
  573. > "And others of its kind, yes. It is a veteran of many wars, Twilight. Your duel with Tirek pales in comparison to the damage it and its kind could do in battle."
  574. > This time the shudder that runs through you is stronger.
  575. > Despite Luna's best efforts, you still sometimes had nightmares of facing the centaur.
  576.  
  577. > Of mistakenly catching your friends with an errant sweep of magic.
  578. > That this thing could do worse...!
  579. "Discord said he wasn't on good terms with it."
  580. > Luna's visage darkens.
  581. > "Yes; it knew my sister and I from before we took the thrones and sided with us against Discord. It wanted to fight him directly, but we made it clear the damage from such a fight would not make it welcome here again if it did."
  582. > You wonder how it would have, but then remember the ease with which it brushed aside your magic.
  583. > Could it do that to Discord too?
  584. "And it listened to you?"
  585. > She nods, slowly.
  586. > "I think, now, it comes here just to have a place to rest. To rest, and to speak with others like itself. It did not want to lose that."
  587. "Others like itself... you mean beings that are..."
  588. > "Immortal, yes."
  589. "How does it even-"
  590. > Luna laughs - a light, amused laughter.
  591. > "So full of questions, Twilight, as usual. I am afraid I cannot answer all of them, simply because I do not know."
  592. > She lays down facing you, her gaze distant.
  593. > "But my sister and I - and especially myself - know that loneliness. To see the years pass around us - to be thought of as distant; feared, even."
  594. > There's the slightest twitch in one of her eyelids; you suspect you know exactly what she is speaking of.
  595. > "Despite what it is, where it hails from - so long as it wishes to continue visiting, I will be its friend."
  596. > A friend.
  597. > It hadn't even occurred to you that such a creature could want one.
  598. > You feel rather foolish, not even thinking of that.
  599. > Aren't you supposed to be the princess of friendship?
  600. "So... where is it now?"
  601. > "Hiding. The thing and I had a long talk after it brought you back, but it is waiting for evening before departing again."
  602. "I can't talk to it, then...?"
  603. > "If it wishes to talk to you, it will come on its own."
  604. "Oh... Luna? One last question?"
  605. > "Yes, Twilight?"
  606. "Innostransvet... what does it mean?"
  607.  
  608. > "I do not know. My parents called it that, and I do not think they understood it either. Much like the thing itself, I suspect that shall have to remain a mystery."
  609.  
  610. -------------------------------------------------------------
  611.  
  612. > You leave later that day, after making sure you are strong enough to fly.
  613. > This time, you fly with Luna, practically wingtip-to-wingtip.
  614. > Circling upwards, you feel your feathers catch the currents of high, fast air you will ride back to the mainland.
  615. > It will be a hard thing to keep your knowledge of the visitor to yourself.
  616. > Especially when your friends ask where you've been.
  617. > But...
  618. > It deserves it.
  619. > And Luna does as well.
  620. > A soft, surprised hiss from beside you catches your ears.
  621. "Luna?"
  622. > She speaks softly, the sort of tone one might expect when trying not to surprise someone.
  623. > "Twilight... below us."
  624. > You peer down curiously, and your breath catches in your own throat as well.
  625. > The thing has appeared beneath you, coasting along bare feet from the ocean's surface.
  626. > In the daylight, it's not so terrifying as the night before.
  627. > Even so, your muscles stiffen as you watch it.
  628. > Still completely alien, yes - the arrowhead-like body, multi-joined limbs emerging from it at seeming random; you find yourself automatically wondering how such a thing can even fly - and still worryingly large.
  629. > But somehow, like a dragon pacified by Fluttershy's kindness, knowing that it only seeks safe company makes it less fearful.
  630. > It turns into a lazy roll, skin and limbs glinting as the light reflects off it.
  631. > You lift your head to ask Luna a question, but before you can there is a sharp crack beneath you - audible even at this range.
  632. > Another tear in reality is being forced open before the thing's pointed nose, widening to allow it to calmly slide through the crackling portal.
  633. > It vanishes within, the rent in the the air disappearing shortly thereafter.
  634.  
  635. > Without fear fogging your mind, you note that the entire portal couldn't have been there for more than ten seconds.
  636. > Created, used, and vanished.
  637. > Next to you, Luna smiles.
  638. > "It was showing off, Twilight. That is rare."
  639. "For us?"
  640. > She shakes her head.
  641. > "For you. I think... it might just like you."
  642. > You smile as well now.
  643. > Maybe, just maybe, you would get a chance to be friends with this strange thing too.
twilight sparkle luna princess luna

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