The Ballad of Twilight Sparkle
Chapter 1: The Summons
"...And that's how I learned to stop worrying, and love the Bomb. Always your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle." finished narrating the lavender pony with a content flourish, satisfied in her report.
"Twi..." began her purple dragon scribe, "Do you really think Princess Celestia needs to hear about you guys getting tanked on Pink Jägerbombs?" asked Spike, holding the latest scroll in his hands, prepping it to be sent.
Twilight walked over to her young charge and gave him a noogie, or as much of a noogie a pony can give a dragon. "Come now, Spike! That was a very important lesson in Friendship that Pinkie taught all of us! Granted, I was skeptical at first when she called alcohol a 'Friendship Lubricant', but you can't argue with results!" she said, before giggling at the look Spike was giving her.
Horn glowing with magic, Twilight levitated the dragon over to her desk, placing him near the open window. "You weren't there like I was, Spike. You should've seen Applejack and Rainbow Dash, they were acting like they were super best friends all night." beamed the pony, nudging Spike. "Looking at them at the party, you wouldn't have known they spend all day bickering and one-upping each other—in fact, Pinkie told me that after I passed out, AJ and Dash left to hang out with each other for the rest of the night!"
Spike sighed. "I guess..." he said, reluctantly giving up on his misgivings. As he prepared to fire up the scroll and send it to Canterlot, Spike couldn't help but muse over the fact that Twilight had chosen not to mention in her report that she spent all morning twisting and moaning in absolute despair over her first hangover, asking repeatedly to be taken out of her misery. 'Please Spike, if you truly love me you will light the sacrificial rite and end my suffering!' he recalled her saying not six hours ago.
Twilight looked on as her latest missive went up in smoke, as it were, being magically delivered to her mentor. "Thanks Spike. Now, could you fetch me the mop? I've got some... mopping to do." she asked her friend, dreading the clean-up she had to do in the bathroom after her stomach kindly jettisoned last night's food and Friendship Lubricant.
The dragon winced a bit. Jumping down from the desk and making his way to the broom closet, images of last night started popping back into his head. In retrospect, he had to begrudgingly admit at being quite impressed with the forcefulness and distance Twilight could put into the art of upchucking. He was less impressed with the location she chose to regale him with the display. 'If she thinks I'm cleaning that up, she must still be drunk off her hooves!' he thought, retrieving the mop and bucket and walking back to Twilight, on the way passing by the front door that was now adorned with three unicorn horn-shaped holes where a certain someone tried to ram the door open in her drunken stupor.
"Here ya go, Twi-" began Spike, before dropping the items and choking out a flame, and with it, a scroll. "What the..."
"Oh my!" Twilight interjected, eyes wide, "That was a quick turnaround!" she exclaimed, removing the ribbon on the scroll with her magic, then levitating it to her line of sight. "Oh, this isn't from Celestia..." she added, quickly noticing that the letter was not hand-written.
Spike looked up at the lavender pony, an eyebrow hitched high. "But who else would send a letter through dragonfire? And who else would know my own fireline?"
Twilight's eyes darted from left to right as she quickly scanned through the letter, her mouth moving soundlessly as she read. "It says it's from Metro Goldmane Brayer, Legal Affairs..."
Spike was now intrigued. "Is that the movie studio?"
Twilight nodded, still reading. "Says I'm to meet with them and a... 'Great and Powerful Trixie, The'?" The unicorn's face went quickly from a look of relief, to a look of happiness, to a contorted look of disbelief. "Is 'The' supposed to be her title? What in Equestria is a 'The' supposed to even mean?" she asked no pony in particular as she stomped a hoof in annoyance.
"Focus Twi, why do you have to meet with them?" Spike asked, knowing how Twilight got when she started thinking about the blue unicorn.
Twilight shook her head, shaking off her disgruntlement. "Right, right... Well," she said, finishing the letter, "they want to talk to me about Author's Rights and royalty payments..." she answered, trailing off and dropping the scroll.
Spike brought a thumb to his mouth unconsciously, as he pondered on that for a few seconds. "But Twilight... What for? Are you writing a book?" he asked, though he already knew that wasn't the case, seeing as he spent most of his waking time at her side. 'Unless she's been writing one at night with that owl guy!' he thought, suddenly feeling jealous. He picked up the scroll and started reading it.
The young mare shook her head. "I've no idea, Spike, the only things I've written since college are my research reports, and I send all of those to Celestia... The letter said that they would send a carriage soon to pick me up to take me to Manehattan." she explained, making her way to the stairs that led to her loft. "I... I'm going to pack." she announced unsteadily, looking back to where Spike still stood.
Spike blinked. "W-wait, you're actually going?" he sputtered, dropping the scroll. "Is this because of Trixie? I don-"
Both Spike and Twilight were startled by a knock at the front door. Twilight blinked, and trotted past Spike and towards the Library's lobby. "Uh, coming!" she called as she reached the door. Twilight opened the door, and came face to face with a dark gray pegasus mare, her short black mane gelled back. She wore a black coat and a tie, as well as a chauffeur's cap.
"Miss Sparkle?" asked the professional-looking pegasus with an even tone.
Twilight blinked a few seconds before finding her voice. "Uh.. yeah—I mean, yes, that's me!" she chuckled nervously.
The pegasus bowed her head lightly, then regarded Twilight with serious, but kind eyes. "My name is Holly Diver, I've come to pick you up on behalf of Metro Goldmane Brayer Studios." she said, extending her right front hoof.
Twilight met the pegasus's hoof with her own. "Twilight Sparkle. Pleased to meet you." she said, bowing lightly as well. "You're ah, you're here a lot sooner than I expected." she admitted.
Holly shook her head. "My apologies, I know this is very sudden but as I understand it, this matter requires your presence as soon as possible." she explained as she looked around. After making the sure the coast was clear, Holly's face took on a mirthful, somewhat malicious grin as she regarded Twilight with conspiratorial eyes.
Twilight was taken aback and resisted the urge to shy away as Holly stepped closer to her and started whispering in her ear. "Your bratty little friend is in a heap of trouble thanks to you!" she finished, almost giggling. Holly stepped back and steeled her face, once again donning her professional decorum. "Ahem, as I said," she began, looking around again, "it is imperative we depart for Manehattan with haste."
The lavender unicorn was more confused than ever before, but she quickly found her wits and nodded nervously. "Yes, yes, uh, let me just grab a few things and I'll be right out!" she said, hurriedly retreating back into the library, almost tripping over Spike as she did so. "S-sorry Spike!" she called, already halfway up the stairs.
A few minutes later, Spike was waiting for Twilight near the front door, stern look and crossed arms at the ready. "And just where do you think you're going, young filly?" he asked, clearly quite unhappy.
Twilight, saddlebag in place, stopped in her tracks at the sight of him, but her eyes grew defiant. "Look, Spike, I have to go, you know I have to—Trixie's in trouble." she declared and, softening her gaze, continued. "Can I count on my Number One assistant take care of the Library for one day?" she asked, pleading with her eyes.
Spike's gaze hardened.
"Maybe you could invite the Cutie Mark Crusaders to keep you company?" she offered, her eyes glittering. 'Almost there...' she thought. "Hmm, you know? The Cutie Mark Crusaders will need a babysitter... Perhaps you could invite Rarity over as well?" she added innocently.
The purple dragon gulped as his eyes wavered. "I... uh..."
'Gotcha!' Twilight celebrated internally. "Thanks Spike, you really are the best!" she said, nuzzling him before dashing out the door.
Much to Twilight's embarrassment, her 'carriage' had been parked in the middle of town, where the ostentatious and unnecessarily-large 5-pegasus limousine was drawing quite a crowd.
"Twilight, Darling! I simply must know what marvelous, marvelously-rich stallion has sent for you with such a fabulous stagecoach!" Rarity exclaimed, making her way through the crowd and next to Twilight, who she spotted with the chauffeur and quickly and wrongly put two and two together.
Twilight chuckled sheepishly. "No, Rarity, it's not—"
"Gasp!" gasped Rarity, "why are you carrying that saddlebag? Shouldn't the hired help be, well, helping you with that?" she asked, glaring at Holly Diver, who glared right back. Rarity turned to Twilight once more. "And Twilight, Honey, why didn't you tell me you would be holding audience with an esteemed member of high society? We could have done something, anything with your mane and coat!"
The streak-maned unicorn blinked. "I uh... What's wrong with my mane?" Twilight asked, somewhat worried.
"I feel I must remind Miss Sparkle that we are needed in Manehattan within the hour." Holly interjected, still glaring at Rarity, who huffed and turned her muzzle upwards, closing her eyes indignantly.
"Sorry Rarity, I have to go now—this was very short-notice; if I had known, I would most certainly have sought your help getting ready." Twilight reassured, putting a hoof on Rarity's shoulder.
Rarity tsk'd. "Oh, I know you would have, Darling." she smiled at her friend.
Twilight smiled back. "I'll see everypony later, ok? Oh and Rarity, I know this is quite sudden, but I was wondering if you and your sister could perhaps keep Spike company while I'm away?" she asked as she reached the door of the carriage, Holly Diver holding it open for her.
"I would love to, Twilight." Rarity replied, hoof on her chest, chin held high. "But you simply must tell me everything about Manehattan and the beautiful stallion you're meeting there when you come back! Do we have a deal, Sweetie?" she asked, her eyes glittering with gossip-lust.
Twilight chuckled. "It's a deal, Rarity." she agreed, stepping into the carriage.
Holly Diver made her way to the front of the luxurious vehicle, taking her position forward of the five other pegasus ponies that were already rigged to the spacious chariot. After donning her own rig, she turned to the pegasus mare to her right. "Preflight checklist?"
"Complete," replied the white, red-maned pegasus, sporting similar attire and manestyle as Holly.
"Winds aloft?" Holly continued, watching as the crowd parted to give them room for take-off.
"25-knot tailwind at 10,000." continued the white pegasus, all business.
"Perfect. Flight plan?"
"Filed. Ponyville Flight Service will provide vectoring." So dry.
Holly turned her head and faced her first officer with a grin. "Care to take the command for this flight, Rafale?"
"WOULD I?" beamed Rafale, before blushing brightly and trying to get back her serious face. "Er... Yes Captain."
Inside the carriage, Twilight heard as each of the six pegasi started flapping their wings, one after the other, until a steady, reverberating hum permeated the cabin. Resting her chin on her hoof, elbow on the windowsill, she watched as the scenery started accelerating past, before retreating downwards and giving way to the blue skies, pockmarked with small clouds, a rare sight this time of day.
"I guess Rainbow Dash must still be hanging with Applejack." Twilight concluded. She wondered what became of her other friends as the carriage climbed even higher. "Maybe they're still hung over?" she asked herself, watching as the miles and miles of Sweet Apple Acres became less distinguishable with the ascending height. She felt slightly bad for her friends; if her first hangover had been so terrible and she had been the first to pass out, Twilight couldn't even imagine how the rest were faring if they actually kept on drinking through the night. She was slightly amazed that Rarity looked as beautiful as ever, not trace of a bad morning on her.
'Speaking of beautiful unicorns...' Twilight mused as Manehattan's skyline became visible towards the horizon. Twilight blinked. "Whoa, where did that come from?" she chuckled nervously, eyes darting left and right, even though she knew no one else was in the carriage. Twilight sighed heavily. She had spent a few months looking for Trixie, but her duties at the Library meant that she couldn't wander away too far or for too long. She felt compelled to find the magician, and was worried about the fact that Trixie had left all of her mostly-destroyed belongings back in Ponyville. 'How did you make do without your stage? Your bits? Your stagecoach?' wondered Twilight, a pained worry clear on her face. 'You didn't have to run away, Trixie, we could have helped you.'
During her search, Twilight had come across evidence that Trixie had managed to get back on her feet again—nearby towns spoke of the dazzling showmare and her amazing stories about the great unicorn, but Twilight always managed to miss Trixie by a day or two. Just as she did in Ponyville, The Great and Powerful Trixie seemed to just roll into town without previous announcements, put on a show, and then continue on to the next one.
Twilight's eye twitched. 'How can anypony live without a schedule? She could be maximizing her exposure and audience if they actually knew when her shows were gonna happen!' she thought, bringing a hoof to her face as she rubbed the bridge of her muzzle. Thinking about Trixie and what she could do to be all the greater and powerful...er always put Twilight in a mood. The lavender mare could understand why Spike was worried—she had no reason to care that much about a pony that acted like a jackass to her and her friends. "But I do..." Twilight admitted in resignation. "Trixie, what in the world did you get yourself wrapped up in now? Haven't you learned your lesson?" Twilight asked the empty cabin, which refused to reply.
Twilight retreated from the window and rested back on the plush seat of the carriage, her eyes closing as she let her thoughts lull her to sleep.
End Chapter 1