The same thing happened that morning as happens every day. Nothing. Nothing worth noticing, anyway. Nopony paid attention to me, which was how it should be.
I'm nothing special, and who pays attention to nothing?
Apparently somepony didn't get the memo. She was all sweetness and light, going on about bonds and harmony and friendship.
She said I should do things, so I did them. Things like "follow me, dear". I did. She had somewhere underground that she took me. I was out of the way, which was nice.
She tried to help me. I don't know why. I don't think about that kind of thing much, really.
Every time she came into the same room as me, she looked terribly sad. She lifted things for me with her magic. I was so weak that I could lift nothing. I could lift myself, because I was nothing.
I liked her. Things made less sense around her they stayed the same for longer but it wasn't bad, somehow.
Every time Cadence looked at the skin-and-bones unicorn on the floor of the dilapidated mine they were hiding in, her heart ached.
She remembered, now. The War in Heaven, her own bare survival
and seeing a mortal pony broken like this cut at her soul. It was her place to protect them, like it was for her sisters and brothers.
And every pony in Equestria was like this. She herself had only escaped by luck. Luck, that she was out of the country when Discord attacked. Luck that she'd been able to disguise herself as a normal unicorn, and further from there to appear as chaotic as the background by exploiting her powers relating to music.
And, of course, luck that Discord had no idea she was alive.
Something about the faded blue unicorn she'd seen just
lying, listlessly, on the streets of Trottingham, had tugged at her soul. Even before she'd seen the tiny fragment of Magic buried beneath countless layers of loneliness and indifference and pain.
She longed to fix it. To heal the broken harmony of the world, to exercise her portfolio as the 14th. But she couldn't. Discord had outmatched two Alicorns before, and she was hardly the warrior that the Sun or the Moon were.
Ah, her dear sisters. Or 'aunts'. She understood the deception, of course. And she felt especially sorry for Luna. One thousand years and more of pain, and then under a year of freedom before Discord ended it.
It was for them. All of them. Her lost siblings, and for the ponies she was bound to serve.
"Could you come over here, please?" she called. "I've got something to show you."
She'd contemplated how to do the next steps for a while. The memory spell was too risky at the moment she couldn't merely restore one pony, no matter how skilled or potentially powerful. Discord was too powerful for that.
No, she had a far more audacious plan.
Turning to face the unicorn, she lit her horn for a slight variant of the want-it-need-it spell she'd used before. This spell was designed for non-physical objects.
"Look at what is on the paper. It is the truth, and you know this in the core of your being."
The unicorn's eyes flickered for a moment the spell had taken hold. Good.
Cadence slid a piece of paper towards the other pony with her hoof.
I read what was on the paper. The writing was neat, like a textbook, and the paper had torn edges.
Magic is the energy of the universe, and it shapes reality.
That was true.
The nice pony's horn flared-
I read what was on the paper. The writing was neat, like a textbook, and the paper had one torn edge.
Magic is another name for the non-physical side of reality.
That was true.
The nice pony's horn flared-
I read what was on the paper. The writing had a slightly strange character to it, as if it hadn't been written by horn or mouth.
Two ponies who have nothing in common can still be good friends.
I felt that was true, though some of the words made little sense.
The nice pony's eyes looked sad as her horn flared-
I read what was on the paper. The writing had a slightly strange character to it, as if it hadn't been written by horn or mouth. There was the occasional wobble.
Taking pride in your abilities isn't the same as showing off.
Something sparked in my mind, as the truth sunk in. That seemed familiar, somehow
The nice pony was nearly crying as her horn flared-
- the nice pony's horn died down.
A question came to my mind, and I said it unbidden. "Where's the paper?"
"You've already read it. You jus don't remember."
That made sense. Didn't it? It must do.
"Now, my dear little pony
I'm sorry. Because this is going to hurt."
I wasn't afraid. I wasn't anything.
The nice pony's horn gently touched my own, and-
Pain. Pain, agony beyond description. My soul felt like it was tearing in half, in quarters
into a thousand pieces.
Something surged out of the depths of my mind. It encouraged me to reject all the contradictory truths I'd been shown, to just accept one. That I was, and would always be, alone.
But there was more than the truths that I'd remembered.
I was Trixie Mid-summernight. And I wasn't going to give up that easily.
Cadence watched as the unicorn collapsed onto the floor, writhing in pain. Wild magic, magic with no conscious mind behind it, crackled from her horn and earthed around her.
Her coat went from faded to sky blue, then back to faded, then took on a black tint and then began to mottle, different areas with different saturations. The alicorn winced at the thought of what she was going through.
Her ears pricked.
She couldn't ignore that pained plea. In a heartbeat, she placed her horn against the unicorn's and ignited her memory spell, connecting their minds.
Was it a sign of weakness, that cry I'd felt myself give?
No. you shouldn't be afraid to ask for help.
That was the truth. Something I believed deep in my being.
You only believe that because the nasty mare told you to.
Maybe so. But you shouldn't just disbelieve something unless there's evidence against it. You can trust others' opinions.
And again. You're defending something she told you with something else she told you. Dear, just forget all that, it's making you upset.
"I've never felt stronger."
But you've never hurt so much before. It's just safer to-
"Hold on. Who are you?"
Why, don't you recognize me? Recognize my voice? I'm your mother.
"Oh, no. You're not going to trick me that easily. Your voice is the same as my mother, but I'm old. Very old, I remember that. Decades, centuries, in that strange world
there's no way my mother could still be alive."
The ghost of a grin comes across my face. "Don't try to trick a trickster. I don't know what you are, but you're something wrong."
Don't listen to the nasty grown-up.
That wasn't me she was speaking to there. And somepony else replied to her. What's going on?
There's a little filly, in the distance. I can barely see her. There's
something. A shape of coiled smoke, curled around her.
"What's going on?"
Sssh, you'll disturb her. She doesn't like nasty strangers like you. So go away!
I don't remember anything like this happening. And I certainly don't remember being scared of strangers. Quite the opposite, really.
But I don't remember much of my foalhood. In fact
I can't remember anything.
Should that worry me?
As I wonder, thrown by the realization, the shadow snarls in frustration and a hole opens in the air.
The pony who'd helped me falls through it, wings I hadn't noticed before snapping out to slow her fall.
"Hello. Good, you're alright that's strange." She glances from me to
"What's going on?" I ask.
"Do you mean generally, or with the two of you?"
"Whichever one you can answer for me." Yes, I'm not using the third person any more. It artificially creates distance, which hampers communication. And yes, that's something else I know to be true.
"I found you in the street, and I needed your help with something. I used my magic, which is based on memory and bonds, to introduce you to as much information as I could about both magic and friendship, one at a time. Then I restored them all. I'm sorry about the pain, but it's for something urgent. I'm Princess Cadence, by the way. That's how I broke the illusion I got trapped in when I entered I never told you my name, so it didn't have the details."
I file that away for later. "Okay. Now, what about the other me?"
"I suspect you've aspected. It's something related to how personalities react under stress that's the younger version of you."
A ripple passes through the world. I gulp. "What does that mean?"
"Probably that we're on a time limit. I don't know what that black smoke thing is, but I think we might need to get rid of it." The mare Cadence turns to look me in the eye. "Oh, I forgot. What's your name?"
Trixie. Trixie Mid-summernight." Strange. Normally I wouldn't call myself that
but I feel it wouldn't be polite to just give my first name.
"Thank you, Trixie." She nods, and leans in. "The most important thing is to reach your younger self. She's a part of you, and you need to be whole. The consequences of doing anything else could be
less than good."
I nod in return. "Got it."
Cadence and Trixie charged their foe in tandem. Cadence used all the power of a mature alicorn to blast at the nameless entity taking the voice of Morgana, Trixie's mother. The fake dodged it easily, but only found itself in the centre of Trixie's precise magic bursts.
"Good shot." Cadence complimented.
"I'm used to reading ponies." Trixie replied, feeling confidence surging through her. "It's part of being a magician. Magic's about misdirection."
"But that's not all it is, though, is it?"
"No. Magic's also about power, and about dependency, and about skill. It's
"Good." The alicorn said, satisfaction in her voice.
Trixie didn't understand why, but it didn't matter at the moment. They were busy.
As Cadence reached their foe, she released a Fail-Safe spell she'd spent a year perfecting and blasted the entity away. Trixie picked up her filly-self in a hoof and kept galloping, moving awkwardly on only three legs but determined to keep up speed.
"Who are you?" Filly-Trixie asked. "You look like me, but bigger. Are you one of my sisters?"
"No, not quite." Trixie replied, wincing as an explosion went off behind her. "But I'm related to you."
"Is mommy okay?"
"I'm afraid that that wasn't your mommy." Trixie felt awful explaining this, especially to
herself? "It was a bad pony pretending to be her."
"Oh." The filly accepted this without comment. "I don't feel safe. It's alright with you, but anypony else even that pretty one with the nice mane
Mommy told me not to talk to strangers. And she's a stranger."
"She's a princess." Trixie said, her voice taking on a little of her old flair, as she slowed to a walk and then stopped. The darting light of the princess was far enough off by now that she felt they were out of danger.
"Oh, wow!" The filly was excited by that. "I didn't know there was more than one princess! Apart from princess Loving-Bright-Shinny-Star Sparkling-Dawn-Flower, and me of course!"
That was a surprise. I'd forgotten all about that.
But then, if this was the childhood version of me, then she'd be the one to remember. And we were in my mind
They say your mind makes it real. I wondered if that included childhood friends who happened to be super powerful princesses.
"Do you know where princess Loving-Bright-Shinny-Star Sparkling-Dawn-Flower is? I think she's nearby." I asked, leading the question to see if it would work.
yeah! Look, just over there!"
I turned around, and there was a palace just behind me. Looked like it had.
"Let's go and ask her for help, shall we? I'm sure she'll be glad to."
Goodness, was I really that naïve?
Yes. And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, either. Naïveté was one of the best shields against letting the world get to you.
But even so, the story behind Loving-Bright-Shinny-Star Sparkling-Dawn-Flower was one I wasn't exactly proud of. To my more mature eyes, it smacked of wish fulfilment.
Yeah, yeah, Ursa Major. Point taken, me.
so glad you're here again! Now, I can give you back what you forgot here!"
"What's that?" I asked, focusing. Forgot?
"Here!" She removed her cone hat, revealing a circlet with a star, and passed it over. It seemed
Young-me and I reached for it at the same time, and touched it at the same moment.
I remembered. Being a foal, trying to stand out, discovering myself to be average at everything. Failing to see how a lack of weakness was a strength in itself.
I remembered my father, stoic and hard working. My mother my real mother who kept her fire and fury in check to raise us.
My sisters and brothers, now likely dead themselves.
Sorrow rushed through me, a sorrow neither my younger self nor my wiser persona alone could know.
And when the current of sadness faded, there was only one of me.
"Thank you." I said, gravely. "I'm sorry I forgot you."
"I forgive you." My childhood friend said, smiling. "My job is to go away, once you have grown-up friends."
"I'll try to remember you anyway." I sniffed. "One last hug?"
Princess Loving-Bright-Shinny-Star Sparkling-Dawn-Flower embraced me, and melted away. And I felt stronger. Lighter.
I knew what the circlet was, now. How strange, that I'd wanted to be special, to be unique
and it had been driving me away from a true distinction all along.
Enough. I had to help my new friend.
Cadence rolled away from a lunge by spilling air from under one wing, and traced magic through the centre of her opponent's form. It didn't have much effect- the strange entity seemed to be almost incorporeal.
She turned, keeping one eye on the entity opposite her. Trixie was galloping back at high speed, alone.
"Is your younger self safe?"
"Yes, I am." Trixie replied.
Cadance blinked. "That fast? Well done."
"I had help." Trixie swirled the cape that appeared to have come from nowhere. "Now, I think I know why you're having so much trouble here."
This would all have gone so much better if you'd just listened to me!
"Yes." Trixie replied, to the surprise of Cadence. "But not you alone. Yes, sometimes those who claim to be friends aren't. But not always. It's a question of moderation. You're just being stroppy, and taking a helpful lesson too far."
The entity dissolved into light, and flowed into Trixie. The sky-blue magician grimaced for a moment, then shot Cadence a grin. "Ta-da."
"I never suspected
how did you know?"
"It was a complete guess." Trixie admitted.
Cadence stared at her for a moment, then snickered. "You're serious?"
"Yes." Trixie said, giggling.
"That's the silliest thing I've ever heard!"
"You should try being on this side!"
Both ponies laughed their heads off for a good two minutes, before the hysteria died down.
Cadence shook herself, then smiled at Trixie. "Shall we?"
The mindscape shattered.
I stood up from the ground unsteadily, feeling my body coursing with newfound strength and the faint pulse of my Element in the background of my thoughts.
"That went well."
"Better than you've realized." Cadence said, standing next to me. "Look."
She pointed to a nearby gemstone, its' facet mirror-bright. And I saw myself.
Including a pair of large blue wings, sitting innocently on my back.
"What?" I asked intelligently.
"This was what I was hoping for." Cadence explained. "You just had about fifty different versions of what magic was stuffed into your mind at once, and in order to reconcile the contradictions you had to ascend. It was very risky your mind could have broken under the strain and turned you into a Nightmare but it was the only way I could see to get somepony capable of fighting Discord."
thank you." I stammered, and flexed my wings experimentally. Now that I thought about it, my magical strength and physical strength were both clearly far greater than they had been before.
"No, Trixie. Thank you. Now, we have work to do. It won't be easy."
"I'm almost looking forward to it." I said. And as we began to plan our next move, I realized
I really was.