Tags: Alternate Universe, Dark, Romance, Tragedy
At a fair held in the town of Dappleshore, Twilight stumbles upon something from her family's past and is drawn to investigate. But will she succumb to its sinister influence, and can Trixie and Luna set their differences aside to help her?
The title and certain themes were inspired by the song Filistata by Stolen Babies. The plot is loosely based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H. P. Lovecraft.
Also available on FiMFiction. Featured on Equestria Daily
The elderly mare in the portrait glanced back at Twilight with a dignified, dispassionate look. The unicorn was undeniably older than Twilight, and her deep eyes were suggestive of an even greater age than was apparent from her face.
The resemblance was truly uncanny despite the age. A black spider in its web graced her flank, but beyond this mark and their different mane styles, the similarity was complete. Twilight stared with wide open eyes at what could have almost seemed like a mirror into her own future.
A cry broke Twilight out of her reverie. “Damn you, Twilight Sparkle!”
Too late did Twilight see the blue unicorn charging at her. In a shower of splintered wood, Trixie threw herself through the window, and with all her weight she crashed into Twilight.
Twilight stumbled back with a pained cry and fell on her back with Trixie above her.
“Won't you just leave me alone!” Trixie cried, but Twilight didn't hear her any more.
* * *
The soothing warmth of the fire and the soft, if somewhat crude covering of leaves and papers greeted Twilight’s aching body as she woke again. As her senses returned to her, Twilight soon realized that her legs were tied up with rope.
“Trixie?” she called but received no reply.
Her head was aching, and Twilight reflected that she must have hit it pretty hard in the fall. She glanced around the room in the dim light of the fire. There was no sign of Trixie, but her eyes soon fell upon a piece of paper stuck under a rock just within reach of her head. Stretching her neck, she pulled the paper free and held it up in the light of the fire.
“Dear Twilight Sparkle.
“I'm sorry I hurt you. I should be thankful that you saved my life yesterday, but I keep thinking it had been better if you hadn't. I know you just want to help me, but I don't want your help. I don't want your pity. Look at what the Great and Powerful Trixie has been reduced to! I spent everything on that last show. I've got nothing left, and now everypony knows what a failure I am!
“I'm going to the woods to find my peace.
“I'm sorry for the rope. By the time you get free, I hope to be gone from this world. If your concern is at all genuine, I ask only this: Bury me in an unmarked grave, and tell everypony that I died a true hero, defending Equestria from a great monster.
Twilight felt the tears well up in her eyes. “No … she can't!” she whispered as she dropped the letter. She closed her eyes and focused, ignoring her pounding head as she disappeared in a flash, reappearing a second later, still tied.
“Curses!” she hissed. She had to get free, and quickly. Glancing around for anything to help her, her eyes fell on the flames of the fire. Biting her lip, she focused once more. A piece of burning wood rose from the fire and levitated towards her.
Twilight took a deep breath and brought the fire closer. The flame licked against her hooves as she held the burning wood under the rope. Twilight cried and gritted her teeth. The searing pain was almost unbearable, but she had to get free.
The smell of burning hair and flesh mixed with that of the rope until finally the rope burst and she was free. Twilight threw the piece of wood back into the fireplace and got up. The pain in her legs was terrible, but she could worry about that later.
Forcing herself onwards, Twilight ran out of the house and glanced around in a panic. Woods. She had to find the woods. Running around the house, she spotted a line of trees to the west and set off at a gallop. “I'm coming Trixie, please don't let it be too late!”
* * *
Twilight stormed through the dark woods, her horn lighting the way while her eyes darted from side to side in the vain hope of spotting Trixie. She knew it was no use; Trixie could be anywhere.
Twilight stopped under a large tree, trying to concentrate, trying to think of something. Rarity's gem finding spell, could it find ponies too? She knew she was grasping at straws, but she had to think of all options.
A distant sound barely registered in her desperate mind. “Hoo.”
Twilight looked around, ran a bit, and stopped again.
She began to cry. She would be too late. It was hopeless.
Twilight looked up as the insistent call finally reached through to her conscious mind.
Feeling a spark of hope ignite within her, Twilight turned and rushed towards the sound as fast as her wounded legs would carry her. It was her only chance.
Twilight stormed into a small clearing of trees and tripped over her own hooves as she tried to stop and call out at the same time. “No! Please don't—“ She fell face first on the ground, rolling several feet before coming to a halt.
Trixie turned and stared at the other unicorn. She was sitting on a branch, a long piece of rope around her neck was tied at the other end to the thick branch. “Twilight?”
Twilight jumped back on her hooves, covered in mud and bruises. “Don't jump, Trixie! I beg you, let me help you instead!”
Trixie looked away, hiding her face and tears. “Don't stop me, Twilight Sparkle. I don't want to live with this shame. I could never be as great as you, and now everypony knows what a big fake I am. I can never show my face again. I can never—” Her voice broke.
Twilight tried to walk in a circle around the tree to look the other unicorn in the eyes. “You are not a failure, Trixie! I’ve seen you, and you have great talent. I don't possess a fraction of the showmareship you do. You just made a few mistakes, that's all. Everypony makes mistakes.”
Trixie didn't reply. She looked up at the night sky through the leaves, her voice faltering as she sang quietly. Twilight didn't recognize the song, but the sadness pulled at her heart like strings.
“Please come down, Trixie. I can help you. I'll get you back your show. I'll—“
Trixie looked down at her, tears trickling down her cheeks like tiny pearls in the light of the moon. “The show is over, Twilight Sparkle. I'm sorry.”
Twilight cried out in horror as Trixie bowed one final time and let herself fall off the branch.
* * *
The rope around Trixie's neck tightened with a snap, and her body came to a sudden stop in mid-air. She hung there for a few seconds before opening her eyes.
Twilight dug her hooves into the ground and gritted her teeth, the glow from her horn shining like a little star to engulf the blue unicorn dangling from the tree.
“Let go of me!” Trixie demanded and fought hopelessly against the unrelenting grip of Twilight’s magic.
Twilight stomped the ground, beads of sweat on her brow. “No! I will not let you kill yourself! Take off the rope, now! Or Celestia so help me, I'll tear up this tree, roots and all! You know I will!”
Trixie looked away with a pained sigh as she took off the rope around her neck. Twilight let out a deep breath of relief as she brought the unicorn back down to the ground. Twilight’s entire body was shaking from pain and exertion, but she paid it no heed anymore.
Trixie lay on the ground, hiding her face under her hooves.
Twilight walked up to her and lay down next to her. “Trixie …”
Trixie sobbed quietly.
“Trixie …” Twilight continued and placed a hoof on the other unicorn's shoulder. Trixie lifted a hoof from her face and looked at Twilight. “Trixie, I don't think I'll be able to walk back on my own. Will you help me?”
Trixie looked at Twilight's burned hooves and slowly nodded.
Twilight sighed. “It'll be alright, Trixie. We'll help each other.”
Trixie helped Twilight back up, and together they made their way back towards the old mansion.
Twilight hobbled along, leaning on Trixie for support. Her hooves were pained, and her legs shook under her weight. Trixie walked with bowed head. Once in awhile she glanced at Twilight as if to say something, but paused and turned back to staring at the ground. Twilight didn't want to push her, even if she hadn't been too tired to speak anyway.
They walked in silence, and when they were back inside, Twilight collapsed on the rough bed in front of the dying flames of the fireplace. Trixie sat down on the cold floor, watching the portrait hanging above Twilight in silence.
* * *
“Family of yours?”
Twilight woke as Trixie broke the long silence. She wasn't sure how long she had been lying there. Had she fallen asleep? She must have. Blinking at the darkness, Twilight glanced up at Trixie, then at the portrait. She nodded.
Trixie sat there like a gargoyle, looking at the old mare in the picture. “Your family must be proud of you, Twilight.”
Twilight wasn't sure what to respond. She sat up and turned to face Trixie.
“My parents never wanted me,” Trixie continued. “I promised them I would become something great one day, that everypony would know my name, that I would make them proud. They never believed in me, or anything I did. When I left, they disowned me, but I didn't care. I knew deep in my heart that I could make it on my own, that I didn't need their support. I would become something great, on my own.” Trixie lowered her head.
Twilight dragged herself up and walked the few steps over to sit next to her.
“I wish I was like you, Twilight. I wish ponies would look at me like they look at you.” Trixie lay down on the floor with her hooves under her head. Twilight sat and watched her sadly as Trixie sang quietly to herself.
Trixie wiped a tear from her eye as she finished.
“What is that song?” Twilight asked quietly.
Trixie sighed and looked away. “When I was a filly, I would spend a lot of time in my room. There was a single window, and from it I could look into the room of another filly who lived next to us. Her mother would sing this song to make her sleep. I would lie under my window and pretend the song was meant for me … that I had a mother who cared too, that there was somepony who loved me like that.”
Twilight lay down next to her and nuzzled her silvery mane a little. “You don't have to be alone, Trixie. And you don’t have to make it on your own. You can have friends too.”
Trixie looked unsure, turning her head away again.
“I'm investigating my old family legacy,” Twilight said with a nod towards the painting. “I think I'll be staying here in Dappleshore for a while. Maybe I'll buy this old place and spruce it back up. Would you like to stay and maybe help me with that?”
Trixie turned back to look at Twilight. “I … I would like that.”
Twilight gave Trixie a tired smile. “Then it's a deal,” she said and rested her head on her hooves with a tired sigh.
Trixie watched her for a time before nodding at her hooves. “I'm really sorry about those burns. I thought you could get free of the ropes easily.”
Twilight looked at her burnt hooves, then up at Trixie and blushed. “I've never actually been good with ropes. For some reason I just can’t get my magic around them. But you couldn’t have known that.”
Trixie smiled for the first time that night and lay down with her head propped against Twilight.
* * *
There was a soft “Hoo” from the broken window.
Trixie looked up at the owl as it flew in through the hole and landed next to the two unicorns, holding a small package of leaves. Twilight was breathing calmly in her sleep and didn't stir. Trixie took the little bundle the owl had dropped, careful not to wake Twilight.
“Hello there, little one. Are you one of Twilight's friends?”
The owl gave a happy “Hoo” in response and fluttered off back through the window.
Trixie watched the bird until it was out of sight, then she turned her attention to the leaves. They smelled strongly, and the scent made Trixie feel relaxed and warm. Unfolding the bundle, Trixie found a small dollop of light green salve.
“Do your friends stalk you or something, Twilight?” she muttered, wondering who the package was from as she gently treated Twilight's hooves with the salve and bound them in the long, soft leaves.
“I hope this helps. It's the best I can do, I guess,” she whispered and lay back down next to Twilight. With a long sigh, Trixie closed her eyes and fell asleep.
The following day was the last day of the fair. Twilight did her best to deflect all questions about her burnt hooves, or where she had been all night. Everypony was so terribly concerned for her, but she assured them that she was fine.
Twilight spent most of the day at the market, resting her legs and drinking apple cider with extra ice cubes. Holding the icy cold drinks in her hooves dulled the pain a little, at least for a time.
Trixie insisted on staying back in Twilight's hotel room. She refused to show herself at the market or even step a hoof outside the door until nightfall, despite Twilight's offer of introducing her to the rest of her friends.
A troupe of dancers was performing nearby when another pony settled down next to Twilight. She was so engrossed in watching the dance that she didn't notice the dark blue unicorn until she spoke. “Oh my, Twilight Sparkle. What happened to your hooves?”
Twilight jumped a little and turned around. “Oh, hi. I didn't see you there.” Twilight followed Luna’s gaze as the disguised princess looked down meaningfully at Twilight’s hooves. “Oh right … It's nothing serious, just a little burn. I'll be fine. Trust me, princess.”
Luna didn't look convinced but decided to leave it be for the moment. She looked around with some concern at the ponies sitting or walking around nearby. “I would like you to call me Bluebird while I’m looking like this,” she said and looked back at Twilight. “I don’t want anypony to notice.”
Twilight nodded in understanding. “I understand. Sorry.”
Luna looked down a little before placing a small present on the table in front of Twilight. “I got you a small gift, if it is not too much.”
Twilight looked at Luna with surprise. “What for?”
Luna looked a little uncomfortable. “I just wanted to say thank you. I'm sorry if this is inappropriate or gives the wrong impression; I am not very good at social customs anymore. I just want you to know that your friendship means a lot to me.”
Twilight smiled and picked up the present, carefully unwrapping a small, beautifully carved wooden box. She looked at Luna, who smiled and gestured for her to open it.
Twilight lifted the lid of the box gingerly and peered inside. The inside of the box was lined with a coating of soft, protective fabric, and carefully placed in the middle of this was a small, gray rock. Twilight looked back up at Luna.
“It's a moon rock, a little piece of the moon,” the princess explained.
Twilight stared back at the treasure in her hooves, left speechless for a moment.
“Do you like it?” Luna asked.
Twilight got up and wrapped her hooves around the disguised princess. “That's an amazing gift, Lu—Bluebird! I love it!”
Luna beamed at the response and returned the hug. “You’re very welcome, Twilight Sparkle.”
* * *
“Do you want something to drink, or eat perhaps? I know the fare isn’t exactly royal here, but what kind of friend would I be if I didn't offer?”
Luna chuckled and nodded at Twilight's drink. “Whatever you're having will be just fine, Twilight Sparkle. Unlike my sister, I do value the formality and social gatherings of Canterlot, but my sister insists that I also experience life among common ponies.”
Luna watched as Twilight ordered her a glass of apple cider. “And to speak the truth, I do enjoy this simple and carefree fun. That is why I come to these fairs and markets, even if I have to hide under a disguise to avoid attention.”
“I think I can understand that,” Twilight said as she watched Luna.
A young filly brought over the frosty drink, and Luna took it with a thankful nod. She took a dainty sip before looking up at Twilight again. “Have you been enjoying the fair so far?”
Twilight shrugged a bit. “I haven't quite been able to enjoy it as much as I thought I would.”
Luna swirled the cubes of ice around in her glass. “Why not?”
Twilight fiddled with the little wooden box, recalling how hectic this weekend had proven to be. “So much has happened,” she said. “I found out that I have ancestors who lived here in Dappleshore. Between that and … everything else, I've just not been able to think about much else. I think—” She paused as a thought occurred to her. “You have access to the Canterlot archives don't you?”
Luna nodded between sips of cider. “Of course. I’m a big and important pony.”
Twilight chuckled, she couldn't help herself, then paused anew before continuing. “I feel I need to get to know this ancestor of mine, and I think some of it may have been covered up by later relatives. I won't be returning to Ponyville tonight; I need to stay here to investigate. If you could find what you can in the archives, I would be grateful for it.”
Luna smiled. “Anything for you, Twilight Sparkle. I shall send what I find with Owlowiscious.”
* * *
As Twilight had predicted, her friends were not eager to let her stay behind in Dappleshore. She had to assure them that she would be fine, and that she would write as often as she could. She was a little sad to see them go, but she knew she had to stay. At least she had Owlowiscious, and her two new friends, Trixie and Luna, to keep her company and help in her studies.
Twilight soon learned that Zecora was still in the area as well, gathering rare herbs from the fertile marshes around Dappleshore. The zebra seemed concerned for her, and frequently sent her herbal salves for her wounded hooves along with cryptic letters of everything from random rhymes to strange warnings. Twilight was thankful for the salves. Zecora's herbs were a great relief, and their fresh scent always cheered her up a little, but Twilight suspected the zebra of being a bit superstitious at times.
With the fair over and her friends back in Ponyville, Twilight intensified her studies of Fillystata. She and Trixie scoured the village and its archives, and Luna sent frequent letters with information she had dug up in the archives of Canterlot.
Twilight soon realized that the inhabitants of Dappleshore were of little help in her investigation. The few who seemed to know anything refused to speak to Twilight, and the local archives were not much more helpful to her. The bits and pieces scraped together, especially from Luna's tireless work, formed only a crude picture of events.
The rumors surrounding Mrs. Spindle had continued to spread and grow, and her appearances became ever more rare. There were some reports of unseemly sounds from the mansion, but none of the papers or records mentioned anything specific. Everything seemed very hushed up.
As for Mrs. Spindle's tragic death, most papers simply agreed that she had died in a fire and was buried with no great ceremony. Only some vague remarks suggested that a group of locals had broken into the mansion on the eve of her death and may have been behind the fire, if indeed there had been a fire at all.
To Trixie, Twilight seemed frustrated by the lack of progress and apparent dead end in her research. She was desperately looking for a breakthrough of any kind, but none was presenting itself. Trixie was sure they had looked everywhere, but Twilight kept up hope.
* * *
A week after the fair, Twilight acquired the old house at 110 Pedigree Lane. Nopony had lived there for generations, and the ponies of Dappleshore now whispered of it as haunted. Twilight had never been one to believe in ghosts and curses, and she got it for a trifle. With Trixie's help she began restoring the old mansion to something at least close to its former self.
The days that followed were some of Trixie’s best. With no leads to go on, Twilight relaxed her studies and seemed to resign herself instead to work on the mansion along with Trixie. They spent the days together, talking about anything and everything while working on the house and its extensive garden.
In the evening they cooked and dined together. They spent the rest of the night relaxing. Sometimes Twilight went over her studies—and Trixie tried to help—without making much progress in any direction. Other times they worked instead on Trixie’s performance and magic, or simply watched the sky together when they were both too tired.
Trixie had never been close to another pony like this, and as the days went by she found herself wishing to be even closer. Whenever they were studying or working close together, or just sitting together, Trixie found her attention and senses drawn to the mare next to her.
She had admired Twilight’s skill and magic since their first fateful meeting in Ponyville, and now Trixie found herself noticing all the other things she admired and liked about Twilight. Sometimes Trixie found herself simply watching Twilight as she worked or studied, lost in the little smiles or furrows of her brow she made while reading.
Trixie also began to notice the letters from Luna. Some of them had contained information the princess dug up in the royal archives, but as the stream of information dwindled, the letters only became more frequent. Trixie found herself watching and wondering as Twilight read them.
And then one day Twilight went out and was gone all day. When she got back, she holed herself up in the attic to study and told Trixie that she didn’t want to be disturbed. Trixie hadn’t thought much of it, but in the days that followed Twilight seemed less and less as her former self and refused to talk of what had happened or what she was working on.
Trixie watched with a growing knot in her stomach as the Twilight she knew retreated into herself and increasingly spent time away from Trixie.
Trixie opened the window to let Owlowiscious in. The owl dropped a letter on the desk and sat down on its peg to preen its feathers. Trixie closed the window and looked at the letter. Another message from Luna.
Trixie frowned and looked around the room. She was alone. She took the letter and held it for a time, dreaming as she gazed into the flames of the fireplace. She had frequently been tempted to throw Luna's many letters into the fire, but Twilight would just become concerned if Luna stopped writing. Trixie sighed and put the letter back down.
What did Twilight see in her? Was it the wings, or the royalty? Perhaps the power? Trixie lay down, looking sadly at the moon through the window. How could she, a simple poor unicorn, compete with that?
What was Twilight doing up there anyway? Trixie saw her less and less as the days went by, and when she was around it was like she was a completely different mare, like she was obsessed. “But not with Trixie,” Trixie thought and closed her eyes.
She tried to imagine if only Twilight would be as obsessed with her, but the image of Luna always intruded, invading her beautiful dream and making it ugly.
Sometimes, when Twilight was in the attic where she always worked alone and didn't allow anypony else, Trixie would lurk outside the door. She would sometimes think she heard voices behind that door. Did Twilight meet with somepony else? Was it Luna? Of course it was, it had to be. The image of Twilight and Luna together …
Trixie cursed under her breath. It was all Luna's doing, it had to be. That wicked mare wanted Twilight for herself, and she was turning her against Trixie. All those letters, and the gifts. Trixie couldn't afford such gifts. All she had left was her old cape and hat.
Trixie stood up and grabbed the letter with an angry stomp. Curse Luna and her letters. She was about to throw the letter into the flames when she heard the attic door open and hoof steps coming down the stairs. She quickly dropped the letter back on the desk and pretended to be watering the flowers as Twilight walked into the room.
She didn't seem to even notice Trixie as she walked up to the desk and opened the letter. “Oh Luna …” she muttered while reading the letter, a little smile on her lips.
Trixie clenched her teeth and tensed, burying her anger and frustration deep inside. “That wicked … evil … mule!” Oh how she wished she could scream that out loud to the heavens above. She would make the celestial foundations themselves tremble at her voice.
“I'll be out tonight. Is there anything I can get you from the village?”
Trixie broke out of her dark thoughts at Twilight's voice. She seemed so dispassionate, so uncaring. Trixie felt it like a stab in her heart. “Where are you going? You're always gone. I could come with you. I could help you,” she blurted out.
Twilight folded the letter up and smiled at her, but to Trixie the smile looked unsatisfying, almost fake. “I'm sorry, Trixie. You know I'd love to spend more time with you, but I'm just so close to a breakthrough. I can't stop now, but I promise it won't be long.”
Trixie pouted. “What is it you're working on anyway? You've never said anything. Please Twilight, even I can see that this isn't healthy. You need to put this … work of yours aside and think of something else.”
Twilight wrapped an old traveling cloak around her neck and walked past Trixie to open the door. “I'm so close, Trixie. I promise, I'll let you know as soon as I know if I'm correct. I just need to be sure.” Twilight walked out the door. “I won't be gone long. I'll bring you something nice from town, okay?”
Trixie stomped the old wooden floor in frustration as Twilight disappeared into the night.
* * *
Trixie woke up feeling like a great big hole had swallowed her stomach. She had fallen asleep waiting for Twilight and hadn't eaten. She blinked at the light of the sun shining through the window. “Won't be gone for long my flank!” she grumbled and got up. There had to be some hay around. It would do in a pinch.
Days passed without word. On the evening of the third day, Owlowiscious brought a batch of letters from Ponyville. Always for Twilight, Trixie thought with a sigh as she flipped through the letters. Never anything for her.
And where was Twilight now? Trixie had slept on the floor outside the attic door, hoping Twilight would return, but she hadn't heard a sound for days. A terrible thought kept imposing on her mind and wouldn't let go. Had she abandoned Trixie? Had she gone to be with Luna instead and left Trixie on her own? Trixie frowned and wiped off the tears that welled up in her eyes at the thought.
She looked at the letters. Perhaps she could sneak a peek at them, pretend they were for her. She picked one up, hesitating, then carefully opened it. It was from Spike, asking why she hadn't sent him any letters lately and when she would come back to Ponyville.
Trixie read all the letters. It was all the same. They all wanted her to come back. Trixie sighed. “So do I.” She put the letters back down and looked out the window.
“Where are you, Twilight Sparkle? Won't you come back? I miss you so.”