Author: Peroth PM
It seemed like a simple problem, at first, but as dangerous foreigners begin to hunt for Twilight, and ancient godlike entities begin to stir as she and her friends search for a solution, a tiny growth-spurt in her horn suddenly doesn't seem so simple.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Friendship - Twilight Sparkle & Rainbow Dash - Chapters: 26 - Words: 320,280 - Reviews: 313 - Favs: 236 - Follows: 227 - Updated: 04-25-12 - Published: 08-04-11 - id: 7252679
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Spike stared once more at the closed door to the room his boss was staying in. It was the beginning of a beautiful Saturday, which was an especially special day in Spike's book since it was the one day of the week Twilight granted him the entire day off to do what he wanted, whether it was sleeping all day, eating all day, bathing all day, or any mix of the three and then some. Twilight normally took the day off too, but there was something, well, off today.
Namely, Twilight wasn't up yet. It was closing in on noon and Twilight, the one person he knew who took her studies so seriously she put them before things as welcome and wonderful as sleep and food. At least Spike didn't understand it. Twilight was usually up before the young dragon, usually the one to wake Spike up in fact. So, either Twilight had another long night putting up with Pinkie Pie again and chose to just sleep the day away - again - or she was trying to astral-project herself through her dreams. Again. No matter how you cut it, it was unusual.
Maybe he'd surprise her. "Bet she'd love a breakfast in bed." He smiled at the thought of Twilight's wide eyes and gushing voice as he commandeered the kitchen, and proudly went to work. Nothing said good morning to a sleepy pony like pancakes and grilled asparagus stalks. With any luck, he might not have even drained the syrup from his last sweets binge.
He pushed open a window above the stove as the pans beneath him sizzled, and he took in the smell of fresh morning air and cooking food. Birds in the tree branches chirped merrily, and even the sound of bees seemed bright and optimistic as they gathered food from the flowers. It also let in the voices of an active town, all of Ponyville seeming to be fully alive. It was going to be a gorgeous day, and all signs were pointing towards a relaxing lay by the pond, or perhaps he could tag along with the girls on the day they'd no doubt spend on either another crazy scheme or maybe they'd actually relax for once.
Speak of the devil, there was a knock on the door. He made sure the food would be fine by itself for a moment and hopped off his stool. He opened the door, and found a pair of orange legs in the way. "Oh hiya Spike, was hopin' somepony'd be here." Applejack sounded a bit giddy, which was unusual since she was usually so wooden and laid back.
"What's up Applejack?" Spike invited her in, shutting the door behind her when she finished politely wiping her hooves and entered the library. "You're going to have to wait a while, Twilight's still asleep for some reason and I thought I'd surprise her with breakfast." The dragon came back to the kitchen to tend the meal, smiling at the sheer livelihood of the day. He was all for a couple of good omens.
"I dun' mind, I just need her help balancing' a checkbook. Big Mac's got it all figured out 'til Apple Bloom tried to turn housekeeper with a hose and washed all the ink off a page, an' Twilight's better with numbers than me or him so we figured we'd send them her way an' see what she turns out." She trotted around the house, abnormally restless.
"She shouldn't have a problem with that. Sweet day, huh? I could tell the moment I got up it'd be great."
Applejack knocked her back hooves together to make a clapping noise. "Like ya wouldn't believe! Even Fluttershy's hoppin' about like Pinkie Pie. Can't wait t'see Twilight's reaction to all this. If any pony would be a laugh to see this excited it'd be her. Huh, I hope paperwork don't soak her spirits none."
Spike gave a humored snort as he mounted the pancake stack, the accompanying asparagus, and the syrup all on one plate and proudly marched towards the door with it held above his head. "If anything it'll just make Twilight happier. Hey, can you get the door?"
"Not a prob' Spike." Applejack followed him to the closed door and opened it up, and squinted her eyes to peer into the dark room, all while smiling as she made her call: "Wakey wakey Twilight Sparkle! It's a smilin' sorta day!"
Applejack, for her part, did not even squeak at a voice that sounded so pained it could have gone through a cheese grater and sounded more pleasant, and was quick to reenter the room with Spike.
"Twilight, are you alright?" The dragon asked with clear concern in his voice as he set the plate down on a nightstand to be forgotten before climbing onto the bed with the still figure. It must have startled Twilight, since a quiver went through the lump on the bed.
"Hey, c'mon sugarcube, don't be like that. Are ya sick?" Applejack walked around to the other side of the bed and pressed her nose against what she thought was Twilight's face under the blanket. Part of the covered mass lifted, and a bleary, blood-shot, tear-slicked eye stared at the farm pony whose nose was practically pushing into Twilight's backside. The orange-maned girl shot back and grinned sheepishly before Twilight laid her head down on the pillow, uncovering most of her face with the blanket. "Not feelin' too ripe?"
"Uuuhnngh…" Applejack had dreams of a zombie apocalypse once. It was more of a recurring nightmare from when she'd overheard a ghost story from her brother when she was tiny, and hearing those imagined groans, even during the day could make her spine ice-cold. Yet none of them sounded as remotely terrifying as Twilight did. "Spiiingnghhh… Spiiike…" She groaned ghoulishly.
Spike had left the room though, and was only just returning with a bag of medical supplies. From what Applejack could see, Twilight had not gotten a lot of sleep. Her pupils were puny, and the red veins around the edges were thick and numerous. Dark bags hung under her eyes, and whatever was ailing her was paining her enough to cause wetness to pool at the bottom of each lid. Applejack's fantastic morning started to feel more and more like a nightmare as Spike stuck a thermometer under Twilight's tongue and watched the monitor with impatience. His frown only deepened. "Your temp's fine, Twi. Need some pain medication?"
"Hay I think we could knock her up with morphine at this point. She looks like heck came and took a bite of her…" Applejack ran her hoof along Twilight's side as the unicorn murmured incoherently. "Speak up hon, you're whisperin'."
"Spike…" Her voice was small, and full of hurt and exhaustion. The dragon set the pain pills down. "Spike… Are you there?" She blinked one eye at a time, which was eerie to watch.
"You know I'm here Twilight, do you need water? Food? More blankets? Less blankets? I can read you Canterlot's Hygiene Standards if you need me to." The dragon joined Applejack in rubbing the calmly fidgeting body.
"Spike… You… You love me right?" The Unicorn asked, making the dragon squirm uncomfortably. She was getting mushy in front of company, but considering the circumstances…
"I love you a lot Twilight, why? Don't tell me you're dying!" Applejack's stomach pitted. She hadn't even considered that, and seeing Twilight the way she was now, every shadow started to look like skull or a scythe, waiting for a corpse. She sucked in a hissing breath to stop herself from screaming for help. It might not be as bad as it looked, but she really really wanted to go see a doctor.
"No… Spike, you'll do anything for me, right?" Spike nodded, rubbing Twilight's side vigorously to let her know he would. "Then, Spike, please, okay? Please please go to my cabinet and get me a quill. Please? Please get the sturdy enchanted one please? Please…?" She begged weakly as Spike ran to her cabinet and grabbed the requested quill, and on a second thought grabbed a few sheets of scroll paper.
"Do you want me to get Celestia?" Spike asked, the idea causing Applejack to calm down. Celestia loved Twilight dearly as her star student, surely if she heard her student was curled up on the precipice of death the Princess would be there in an instant with all manner of cures. But no, Twilight was shaking her head, and shifted it to get a better look at Spike. Applejack grimaced at the sight of such a tight, contorted face, caused by immense pain.
"No, Spike, take that pen, okay? I need you to follow my instructions very carefully…" The Unicorn somehow mustered the strength to raise her head level with Spike's. "Come here, okay? Hold the pen up horizontally…" Her voice was so soft as she gave the instructions while Spike, looking confused, did as he was asked. "Now I want you to point it at my eye…" Spike came a bit closer, and Applejack still wasn't sure what was happening. She knew Spike didn't have any greater understanding, as he was still looking to Twilight for instruction. Twilight stared straight at the pen as best as she could, while something dawned on Spike.
"Twilight, your horn…" Applejack lifted her sight from the pen to Twilight's horn and gasped softly as she saw was Spike was staring at.
"Spike please!" Twilight grimaced and a tear slipped down her cheek as she stared at the quill, and the two immediately looked down at the tool as the Unicorn squirmed and stabilized herself, staring harder at the pen. "Spike, listen carefully… I know you love me and I love you too, so please, just do as I say…"
"Anything Twilight." Spike frowned deeply, his eyes not flickering to the horn again.
"Okay, please, when I count to three I need you to do this. Alright? On three I just need you to take that pen, and don't hold back, drive it through my eye." The dragon fumbled with the quill in shock as Applejack's jaw dropped. "Make sure it goes deep, it has to get to the brain to KILL ME otherwise it'll just-"
"Twilight this is no time to be joking around! We need to get your horn looked at!" Spike threw the quill in frustration, and he had to push her down as she scrambled towards the item, looking desperately sad.
"But Spike, I need you to-"
"Twilight he's right." Applejack lifted herself onto the bed and tugged Twilight back down into a lying position with her teeth and the sorceress' mane, "Ain't nothin' so bad in the universe t'go makin' your friends kill you. You need t'get your horn looked at."
"Ugghnng…" Twilight's moan made the two wince. "What's so bad about my horn you guys won't let me just end the pain? What if I swear to put you two in my will? Spike, you can have my gems, all of them, Applejack, you can take my place as Celestia's student, you'll be such a good unicorn!" Twilight whimpered and squirmed, trying to roll over and cover her face, but Applejack kept her still.
"Quit talkin' yer nonsense, Twi! Yer horn is bleedin'!" Applejack sighed as she watched her friend with concern. The pain must have been bad. What makes a horn bleed? Whatever it was, it was enough to send a sturdy girl like Twilight into wanting death.
"Bleeding!" Twilight choked out, trying to sit up, but was forced to lay down with a press of Applejack's hooves. On closer inspection, it wasn't the horn, just the skull around it. There was a tiny red ring around the base of the horny, and thin red lines were creeping down her forehead. "But I was done with that last week!" Applejack rolled her eyes while Spike gave out a noise between a gasp of disgust and a retch.
"Don't be so dirty sugarcube." She looked Twilight right in her strained eyes, and sighed. "Sorry fer bein' so rough but you ain't exactly in the right states of mind." She leaned down and gently touched her nose to Twilight's, an act so intimate looking it made Spike feel uncomfortable for just standing there. Twilight didn't seem to really notice. Well, at least until Applejack began to lick up the blood.
"Oh Celestia…" Spike and Twilight groaned for completely separate reasons. After that little tidbit of unwanted information earlier, Spike had to fight to keep his lunch down as he raced out of the library to go find a doctor. Getting a tongue bath from Applejack seemed to calm down Twilight, who was no longer trying to fight being bedridden, nor was she whimpering. Applejack reasoned it was either the mind tricking itself or somehow, she was taking some of the pressure off. Either way, she was damn glad Spike had left and no other pony was here. It was one thing to be caught standing on a pony in her bed, it was another to get caught licking her face.
It started like a tiny pebble dropping into a pond. Spike had barged into the doctor's office during their lunch break, shouting about bleeding horns and suicide, and clearing the air only after a nurse forced him to drink a glass of water to calm down. Spike lead the doctor and his nurse off towards a cottage near the edge of the woods, and they found to their annoyance he'd only stopped by to grab more medical help. Spike had been much more articulate when speaking to Fluttershy, but all he managed to get out was "Twilight's really hurt" before Fluttershy almost knocked him off balance to charge towards town. The group of four were shouting over each other to explain or get an explanation, not doing a thing to hide the situation from outside ears. Within twenty minutes news of Twilight Sparkle being so horrendously sick she was crying blood and trying to jam sharp things into her head to make the pain stop due to a period had reached Sweet Apple Acres.
Big Mac silently thanked the Princesses he was born a male and took Apple Bloom and her friends aside to give them the big 'period talk' Applejack had been saving. If only to prevent the three from screaming about not wanting to lose all their blood.
"How would you describe the pain?" The doctor asked while keeping a clipboard and a quill handy. His nurse was carefully scooping soup into the suffering young girl's mouth, nodding her thanks to Applejack who had been quick to give the professionals space by replacing Twilight's pillow with her own body. Twilight hadn't recovered much from when Spike had left her, but she was no longer eyeing quills like they were salvation.
"… Bad." Twilight's answer was slow, methodical, and well thought out in its own way. The doctor shifted and cleared his throat. Applejack would have kicked the doctor for his rudeness if she hadn't been under Twilight, but a glare served to remind him his place instead.
"Twilight, I think he might mean 'how' does it hurt?" Fluttershy offered so gently and sweetly it made Spike's panicking fidgets quit. The Pegasus was careful as she wrapped a thin hand cloth dipped in herbs and solutions around the poor mare's horn. It took a few moments for the pain in Twilight's face to subside, and a few minutes more for her eyes to stop looking so ragged from the continued burn. Twilight blinked slowly, as if truly, clearly taking in everything around her for the first time.
"I think," Twilight began, her voice a little stronger. "I think whatever's in that rag is the best thing ever." Fluttershy's smile lit the room up a few notches brighter as Twilight more easily sipped at the soup. Now she just looked tired, but still, any movement caused her to wince and tear up again. "It feels like my forehead is getting stabbed right where my horn is. Like somebody took a big, hot knife and just-"
"That'll be fine Twilight." Applejack shifted, making Twilight sigh.
"What would do that though? I've never heard of a unicorn getting horn-pains before." Spike sat at the end of the bed and looked deep in thought. "I've never even read anything like it. I've heard of magical short-outs but nothing like, well, what you look like."
Twilight's smile was weak, and the change of muscles made her wince. "Is it that bad?"
"To be frank, miss Sparkle, in my long line of work, I've never met anypony look so absolutely agonized. I've seen dead ponies with eyes more alive than yours had been, if I may be so blunt." The doctor chewed the tip of his quill, making Twilight wince, which caused her to wince even more. "To be honest, when I walked in here, I was fairly sure you wouldn't survive for very long. Though seeing as you are now, I can honestly say it's probably not fatal, but as your companion has said, it's undocumented. Unicorns aren't my area of expertise anyways, a doctor from, say, Canterlot would be in a better position to make any sort of judgment."
The room was quiet as everypony considered his words. Twilight was the first to break the silence with tears in her eyes. "Did I really look dead?" She asked Applejack. The brave, honest, hard-working, athletic pony couldn't keep her body from shaking from the memory.
"Twilight, when ya first looked at me, th'only thing that kept me from screamin' my bloody head off was me bein' too frozen up with fright." The unicorn nodded solemnly. Spike had painted the picture for her, and she guessed she wouldn't have reacted any better if she walked in on anyone else with eyes like that. Heck, as sheltered as she was, she probably would have caused the place to explode from fear.
She felt something hot press against her forehead, and then saw Fluttershy roll the heat-soaked towel over her eyes. Soothing relief washed over her face, and Applejack let out a little breath as she felt her friend relax, even a little.
"Well that settles it then, doesn't it?" Spike asked, getting the attention of the others. "We have to go get somebody from Canterlot. I could send a letter to Celestia asking for a doctor, she'll understand. It's the fastest way after all, and you're in a lot of pain." Most of the room nodded in agreement, except Twilight Sparkle. "… Twilight?" Spike crawled up the bed and rubbed her side.
The unicorn was quiet, but breathing. Then Fluttershy, the doctor, and the nurse gave a tiny sigh of relief. "What? What's so nice?" Applejack asked, looking to their calm faces.
"Poor thing is finally asleep. Perhaps it's for the best. You do what you need to do, I'll go make a formal report. If you can't get a doctor out your way, stop by my clinic and I'll have a carriage sent for. For now, under no circumstances is Twilight Sparkle to be let out of bed. There is far too much pressure in her head for her to be coherent on her feet. And especially, this is vital, and you should already know this, but do not disturb her horn too much." The doctor packed his things while the nurse kept his notes and set the soup bowl beside what looked like a very good, if cooled down breakfast plate.
The two left as quietly as possible, much to Applejack's relief. Twilight finally looked calmed down after the whole incident. She wanted it to just be a bad dream but she felt, well, kind of motherly, sisterly, or just plain friendly to be here taking care of her. "I'll be honest with ya Twilight, even if it's a bit unfair that ye're asleep and all, but ya'll nearly scared my hooves off. Don'tcha worry, the Princess is gonna hear about this." She smiled, and Fluttershy carefully removed the hot cloths from Twilight's face.
"I can understand your distress at the situation sir, I really do." Celestia tried to act sincere, not wanting her subjects to let her know she was bored out of her mind from listening to this debate. "But I simply can't bring myself to allow you to take over a farm field for land alone." Equestria was not limited in land or resources in any way, yet day in, day out, Celestia often heard about land debates.
"But Princess if you'll take a moment to look at my charts-"
"We've been over the blas'ed things a hun'red times alrea'y! Her memory ain' tarnished none since five minu'es ago!" The business pony narrowed his eyes at what he assumed was a simple farm pony - rather than the organizer and defacto leader of the Agricultural Guild - and the farm pony repaid the stare in kind. Celestia sighed breathlessly. Every debate was the same. Somebody wanted somebody else's land, mostly out of jealousy from how well it was performing, often presenting proof some valuable thing was in or under the dirt. She tried to remain democratic about it, but she was always a few steps from signing a form that would prevent the taking over of land.
"You'll find that the land is rich in Lunanium, if we took the land for drilling we could have a seventy-five percent increase in strength and durability of your average kitchen sink!" Oh, right, and usually it was for mundane things. Celestia hid a roll of her eyes with a flick of her magnificent hair. "An' I keep saying if you're so interested in wha's un'er my land I'll go dig it up myself!"
"That's not how it works at all!"
The squabbling stopped for a moment when there was a flash of green fire in front of the Princess. Celestia stared at the scroll rather melodramatically, inwardly feeling like bouncing in joy from the reprieve, but hiding it behind years of practice. "If you two will grant me just a moment of silence, my student has probably sent me her learnings for the week." If she could count on one thing, it would be Twilight's verboseness giving her a reason to read the scroll extra carefully, perhaps two more times to increase her break by a few needed minutes. It was nice to see what she was up to after all.
This letter was neither verbose, nor from Twilight. It was almost beautiful in its simplicity.
Thanks to how she held the page, the two uncomfortably shuffling ponies before her never got to see what true fear looked like.
"Ye're positive the Princess will take priority of this?" Applejack watched the young dragon as he used a wet rag to so carefully clean the blood off of Twilight's face. The flow from the base of her horn was mercifully slow. Rather than pour out as Applejack had initially feared, small drops would form at the very bottom and then pick a path down the mare's face to go sliding.
Watching Twilight sleep had been peaceful, but Applejack had been getting awfully sore and allowed Spike to hold Twilight's head up so the farm pony could slip out and push in a pillow. The three of them still gathered around her bed, with Fluttershy leaving intermittently to turn away nosy neighbors and tell them no, Twilight Sparkle wasn't dying, she'd probably be okay, yes there was some blood, no it wasn't because she was menstruating. Luckily, as easily as a rumor could be started, the honest folk of Ponyville could quell it, which would have been nice to know earlier because Big Mac now suddenly had a load of incredibly uncomfortable questions he needed to look up.
Speaking of looking up…
"Is that an air raid?" Rainbow Dash stared up at the sky as, among the clouds, she could spot the shapes of hundreds of Pegasi slipping in and out of the puffy white sea. Several of the ponies she'd been standing near watched the confusion on her face and took a look themselves, and slowly, carefully backed their way into their houses. The Royal Guard often sent overhead fliers to scout the land and map its shape, but always at highspeed. These Pegasi took slow, silent action as they perched in the clouds and watched below. There was something afoot, and only a few ponies correctly guessed what they'd come for.
Rainbow Dash wasn't one of them, having slept in late, not hearing an inkling of the rumor that Twilight was shooting blood out of her eyes like some sort of freak desert lizard. So, as far as she knew, there was nothing wrong in the town. Even then, the Royal Guard weren't the sort to just hang out above a town without explanation. She took to the skies and followed one particular shape upwards, righting herself horizontally next to the figure, who had a steeled face, golden armor, and tensed muscles like Dash had never seen. It took her a moment to realize he was staring at her. "… What's up?"
The Pegasus snorted and flew up higher. "Hey!" Dash gave chase, breaking through the cloudline only to find herself in the middle of a group of guards staring towards the center of a large circle of guards. It wasn't easy to tell because of the sun, but she realized that Celestia was standing uncomfortable and restless in the middle of her private army, pacing wordlessly back and forth. Now Dash's confusion was reaching critical mass, her head cocking ever so slowly to the side as she tried to puzzle exactly why the Princess would be standing above Ponyville acting so worried. It must've made the guards restless watching their leader act so nervous, because they weren't doing their "silent and still" thing.
"Hey Dervish, you knew this Sparkle girl, right?" She heard somewhere behind her. Rainbow Dash turned immediately. There was a young guard standing should to shoulder with a much older colt, who was looking particularly sour.
"Heck I was there from day one, I was assigned to keep an eye on her 'til she got older." The Sparkle girl? It only just dawned on Rainbow Dash that they must've meant Twilight. Slipping between the ranks to get to the two, she poked her head up to put her nose to nose with Dervish.
"Hey, what do you guys think you're doing storming our airspace like this? What's this got to do with Twilight? Why is the Princess here, why does she look like something bad happened?" Dash demanded of the two, not controlling the volume of her voice, currently pitching high above their whisper. The two guards glanced to each other, and rather than answer, stood rigid and forward, facing the middle of the circle. "I'm talking to you two and I want answers! I live down there!"
"Then maybe you can explain what's happening?" She heard a voice so beautiful, she knew it could only have been one pony. She turned to stare at the Princess, whose eyes were placed down on her. Dash froze a little, stuck between wanting to bow and wanting to keep staring. The Princess shuffled nervously as the sky-blue pony gave her in barest terms a bow, then stood straight and worked her mouth uncomfortably. "You're Rainbow Dash, correct?" The Princess finally pushed, her patience over the edge already. The Pegasus nodded. "What happened to Twilight Sparkle?" She took two steps forward, bringing her nearly face to face with Dash, who lowered herself in fright.
"Wh-what do you mean what happened to Twilight? I have no idea, I just woke up!" Dash tried to explain, looking around nervously. Every guard on the cloud was staring at her, and the Princess, whose presence normally soothed, caused every nerve of hers to be on edge. "Why? What's going on? What's this about?"
The Princess stared down at her own hooves in a rare display of weakness as she explained. "I got a letter less than an hour ago telling me that Twilight, my student, was dying."
The little rainbow filly sat stock still in the middle of all the attention, suddenly not caring for it at all. She then said, in the most high-pitched squeak she had in her: "What!"
The Princess didn't have time to react as the Pegasus dove through the clouds, spiraling down towards the town below. The Princess finally gave the word, and the guards followed.
"Sounds like a bit o' ruckus happenin' outside." Applejack stood alongside Fluttershy as the two watching the outside with concern. Ponies were rushing indoors and staring upwards, making the eerie feeling Applejack had feel even more ominous.
"It just started a few seconds ago. I can't imagine what's-" the two mares gasped. They saw Rainbow Dash, breaking the airspeed limit like no other, charging straight for the library, as well as over five dozen Royal Guards flying after her, straight towards the tree house. The two had to blink rapidly as they saw what they thought was the Princess was in fact the Princess streaking towards the house and gaining on Dash almost effortlessly.
The two mares briefly had the idea of what a castle siege would feel like against overwhelming numbers. And a door made of wood.
The front door exploded inwards from a kick and Dash zoomed inside, landing on her hooves and looking firm, but teary. "I heard Twilight's dying where is Twilight why is she dying what did you do to her the Princess is here and guys what's going on!" The Pegasus demanded, bouncing on her hooves with a pained frown as, glory of glories, in walked Princess Celestia. Fluttershy and Applejack both gasped, and bowed low.
"Girls, do not bow before me today. Where is Twilight Sparkle?" The Princess asked, her tone so overly polite that Applejack could easily pick up on the pain and discomfort in her voice. Guard ponies immediately began to file into the room, taking a post in each corner, watching the room in dead silence as one opened a door.
"Wait! Don't go openin' doors, Twilight's sick in there!" Applejack called after the ponies entering the room. She was blocked by two more standing by the door, and Celestia entered the room herself. "Hold on, she ain't dyin'!" Applejack called into the room. Celestia paused before the bed, and turned to look to Applejack with an incredibly relieved expression.
"She isn't?" Her voice sounded so unsure and weak. This wasn't like the Princess at all.
Applejack shook her head, slipped past the Guard's wings, and entered the room. Fluttershy followed her, quickly followed by Dash. "But I heard she was dying just now! Why didn't anybody tell me-"
"For the love of all of Equestria and Celestia's sun!" Nopony said anything as they turned to the figure in the bed. "Would everybody please shut up!" Twilight raised her head, bleary eyed, blood-shot, and teary again as pain reentered her forehead.
"Oh! Twilight I'm so sorry I forgot to change the rags I-"
"What is going on?" Celestia demanded firmly. Twilight turned her head towards the voice, and blinked slowly. She'd just woken up, again, and pain was slashing through her skull. Everything looked murky through the pain, but the voices she could clearly hear. Each twitch caused her horn to flare up painfully, and she had to grit her teeth to blink through it.
"Princess Celestia…?" The lavender unicorn reached a hoof out, but Celestia ignored it in favor of gently nuzzling her student along her neck. She spied blood on the girl's forehead and she froze for a heartbeat. She began to gently inspect it and the wound, which seemed to be coming from, of all things, her horn.
"I'm here my student. What happened? I just got a letter from Spike saying you were dying." Her voice took on a motherly tone as she calmly walked around the bed, using her nose and teeth to make sure Twilight had every bit of comfort possible from her current set-up, and Twilight's dreadful eyes tracked her progress.
"Spike!" Fluttershy looked to the dragon with an almost pained look, and the dragon, who had been pinned by a guard, just smiled apologetically.
"Well, we needed somebody out here fast, and it worked."
"And you scared me half to death!" The Princess grunted, looking annoyed for the first time in a very long while. "Twilight Sparkle, how do you feel?" She gently rubbed her nose against the mare's ear. The longer she looked into her student's eyes, the more damage she imagined. She looked like she'd been through some horrendous pain, but she was coherent at least. Twilight nestled into bed as Celestia tucked her, and it took Applejack a moment to spring to the unicorn's side and, to Celestia's confusion, covered her mouth with a hoof.
"Uh, well, y'see, s'far as Ah can tell she'd probably been up most o' the night. Something' 'bout her horn's actin' up and causin' her a heck of a head pain. She ain't in no mood to be makin' choices of her own right now, isn' that right Twilight?" The unicorn turned to look to Applejack, who felt very small all of a sudden under her withered stare. She took her hoof from Twilight's mouth as Celestia began to dismiss the guards, apologizing for getting them up in arms for a false alarm. None of them looked particularly sorry about it though, and the one Dash recognized as Dervish took a long look in the room before heading off.
"Wait, so Twilight's not dying, right?" She asked, approaching the bed, cringing at the sight of her friend's face. She'd seen pain before, even on her own face. Especially when a nasty fall had snapped one of her back legs in two. She'd been put in the emergency ward and saw all sorts of pain, but there was something haunting about Twilight's look. It almost looked like she'd given up the fight against it.
"No, thankfully. I can only imagine poor Twilight's pain, so I've been doing everything I can to reduce it. Would you like another rag?" Fluttershy leaned down and held up another cloth that smelled heavily of nature and wrapped it around Twilight's horn again, as gentle as could be.
Dash looked indignant, and stomped a hoof as she spoke, "Well then what's with all the talk about her dying then, and the gloom and doom of the room?"
"Spike was jus' bein' overdramatic in his letter and turned it into a big boom."
"Sorry, guess I kind of was acting like a buffoon…"
"Stop that!" Everyone stared at Twilight, who was grimacing. "It's one thing to rhyme on purpose but that was just annoying!" Celestia let herself smile as she stared at her student's face. She finally seemed to be calming down, and her eyes were returning to normal, somewhat. "It's like you all caught Pinkie Pie or something and the last thing I need is wackiness! I really need to-"
"Come with me to Canterlot." Celestia concluded firmly. She was staring at Twilight's horn, using her magic to gently lift the rag and reveal the base so she could stare at it. "Something is clearly wrong with your horn and it needs to be looked at by some specialists."
Fluttershy looked up to the Princess with a small frown. "You can't do it Princess?"
Celestia shook her head while stroking Twilight's side. Twilight's face was calming, the soaked rag doing its job. "I could look and guess but that's the best I can do. I need an expert's opinion. We have all the necessary equipment and staff back in Canterlot."
"Well that's it then, right? We just take her to Canterlot and get her fixed. Then she won't be bleeding or dying or in pain, right?" Dash watched the egghead, partly annoyed at what happened but now concerned. At the very least Twilight was okay. If she had been dying, she wouldn't know what to do with herself.
"Ah s'pose it wouldnt hurt, but at least one of us should go with 'er. Ah'd do it but Ah can't abandon my farm if another pony can go instead." Applejack turned her eyes between her gathered friends.
"I can go." Fluttershy offered timidly, watching Twilight with worry. Twilight had fallen asleep again, she must have been up all night with this pain.
"Ya sure sugarcube? Don'tcha got some animals to keep an eye on?" Fluttershy lowered her eyes in thought.
"Guys, why don't I just go? I am her number one assistant." Spike finally interrupted the silence, and was met with more than one glare. "Or I can stay in the library, keep it all fresh and clean, and not cause any more trouble." He chuckled nervously and back away.
"No, I can do it. I'll just ask Rarity to keep an eye on things for me, I've shown her how to take care of animals. Besides, I know how to make the solution." She nodded to the bowl of herbs on a desk. Nobody refuted that.
"That's that then." Princess Celestia telekinetically lifted Twilight, keeping her wrapped in the blanket, and laid her student on her back. "Fluttershy, take as much time as you need. Bring more of this solution, it seems to be working wonders for Twilight. I'm going straight to Canterlot with Twilight, you'll find her in the hospital. I'll send word that you have royal access to the building." The group followed the Princess outside, and using magic to keep Twilight secure and comfortable, the alicorn began to lift off the ground, and started to fly away. Since a good number of citizens had returned outside, the sight was met with more than a few ooh's and aah's.
Fluttershy didn't even say goodbye as she ran to her cottage to gather some things, leaving Applejack and Rainbow Dash standing on the doorstep of the library. "Ah s'pose the right thing to do would be makin' sure nobody thinks Twilight's dyin' or some such." Applejack considered their options, and turned to Dash.
"And going and getting Rarity. Leave that to me, you make sure everyone knows Twilight's gonna be okay!" She lifted up, and was about to fly away, but she stopped herself and looked back to Applejack. "She'll be okay, right? Just a little horn pain is all. Like getting a crick in your leg or something', you can't walk but it won't kill you, right?"
Applejack stood in silence, thinking about the days events. It all seemed so incredible yet terrifying. Celestia hadn't even recognize what was causing the pains or the blood, but Twilight was incredibly tough for being so small. She couldn't think of any other pony, much less a frail little unicorn taking an anvil to the head and shrugging it off. She wondered how Rarity would have reacted in the same situation. Twilight felt like dying after all. "You don't worry none Dash, Fluttershy 'n the Princess'll be there, along with a buncha fancy-pants doctor types. Shoot with that much care, the reaper himself couldn't so much as take a peak at our girl."
Dash nodded, smiling at the thought, and shot off for the boutique. Applejack stayed in place for several moments though, considering her own words. Then, she stepped into town for a talk.