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    This was supposed to be a 500 word warm-up ficlet but then I don’t know what happened.


    Though the path to the underworld was arduous and long, Twilight Sparkle traveled it regardless. 

    It wound through endless gray, under a black cavern roof beyond the reach of any light, like a night sky shorn of stars. Bare rock walls pressed in, gray with age and with the specters that lined the passageways. She saw ponies of all tribes, all ages, all classes, colorless as the world they now dwelled in, all equal and the same in death. They spared her dull glances, little else.

    Here and there, as she traveled onwards, landmarks in the forms of the ruins of greater things, like whalefall at the bottom of a dead sea. A collection of pillars, choked in ivy. An ancient fortress, its walls rent. A crumbling throne, standing alone.

    Some of them she recognised. She’d done her research.

    And yet.

    Yet, seeing them in person for the first time, she was not wholly impressed. She craved knowledge, learning, and new experiences, but she could not help the impression that… she’d seen all this before. 

    Perhaps she had, in a dream, she told herself. 

    She dreamt of Luna’s realm so often, after all, considering the goddess had stolen away Twilight’s greatest treasure. 

    After what felt like eternities and a very interesting conversation with the boatmare (who’d kindly offered Twilight apples for the road), Twilight finally reached the pit of the Underworld. 

    The fires at the world’s heart gleamed here, blazing up through thin cracks, as if raging at the black stone that engulfed them. Before her, past a field streaked with flame, the manor of the Goddess rose. 

    And rose.

    A shadow against the shadow, marked out only by the dim orange lights smoldering in its windows. She half-glimpsed ornate statuary, decorated pillars, all the glories of a great house rendered all but unseeable.

    To one side, a smaller manor in its likeness. And this one … Twilight’s eyes widened … this one was cut from lighter stone, in soft grays and gentle blues and the hint of marble, here and there.

    I don’t remember that in my studies, Twilight thought to herself. No text mentioned a second manor that she could think of, and the multiple answers she’d received from praying to Celestia made no note of it either. 

    How strange. How curious. 

    And how odder still that, out of all the things she’d seen in her journey, this manor was the first to truly surprise her. It was the only thing that felt completely brand new to her, not a ghost lost in her memory. 

    Her curiosity clawed at her, compelling her to visit the lesser manor first and unravel its secrets, but her heart’s desire won out in the end, and she continued on toward Luna’s mansion. 

    She pushed open the grand, heavy doors, stepping into an even grander foyer filled to the brim with activity. Specters going about their various duties, quietly avoiding the gaze of their superiors. Some conversing with each other in pairs and groups, perhaps still imbued with the spirit of life they’d once had. 

    But, and this is important to note, they were all dead, so when Twilight Sparkle, alive and breathing and clearly not belonging, stepped in, she had expected… surprise. She had expected shock, to be honest, having built up the moment in her head for so long. 

    But, to her surprise, her arrival elicited nothing of the sort. 

    At most, a few specters glanced over with mild curiosity, only to dismissively go back to their affairs upon seeing her. She swore one even seemed to roll its eyes at her! 

    Disconcerted, she made her way through the lobby until finally she reached the throne room. A long line of spectres poured out of it, each no doubt attempting to reason or converse with or request something from the Goddess of Death. Twilight, ever one to follow rules, intended on going to the end of the line, and yet. 

    And yet, again! Again, something strange happened. One or two specters in line glanced at her, and immediately, they all leaned in to whisper to each other, until, finally, she was shocked to see most of them stepping away and staring at her expectantly. A few stragglers remained, clearly confused by the situation, but they quickly fell to peer pressure and rushed to stand with the other deceased ponies. 

    Allllright, Twilight thought. 

    Swallowing hard, she pressed on into the throne room, her heart skipping a beat at the sight of Luna sitting on her throne at the far end of the room. 

    Despite all the research she’d done, Twilight found that Luna did not look like what she’d expected—if she’d expected anything at all. She’d imagined the Goddess of the Underworld to be frightening, fierce, turned harsh by the constant mistreatment she endured at the hooves of her deity siblings…

    But the pony that stared back at Twilight was nothing of the sort. 

    Luna’s wings were tucked by her side, her long mane kept neat under a golden-leaf crown, and her eyes… Her expression… It looked compassionate. 

    No, not compassionate. Tired. Expectant. Both, perhaps.

    “Twilight Sparkle,” she said in a whisper that echoed through the room, somehow clear enough that the young unicorn could hear it. “You have arrived.”

    Twilight didn’t initially know how to react, shocked that Luna knew her name. She supposed it made sense—the Gods knew everything—but to be acknowledged like that was definitely surreal. 

    And scary, when Luna’s gentle tone became decidedly cold. 

    “Finally, after drugging poor Cerberus with your magic, distracting my boatmare from her duties, and violating the land of the dead and its laws, you are here.” She smiled thinly. “Congratulations.”

    “Wait, wait, wait, please!” poor Twilight stammered, afraid of becoming a permanent resident of the lower realm. 

    As she rushed to the goddess, she extracted several parchments of paper on which she’d written various appealing poems. She finally selected one and cleared her throat, reciting it under Luna’s watchful stare. 

    “Oh!” began Twilight. “I have traveled far! Through rivers of death and realms ajar!”

    “Realms ajar?” Luna interrupted. “That does not even make sense.”

    Twilight blushed. “Oh. Er. Well, I needed a rhyme, and—”

    Luna stamped her hoof, and the ground shook. “Enough! I lack the patience to endure another of your so-called poems.”

    Twilight gasped, indignant. “What?! But it’s good!” 

    “I said no! Now, speak! Why are you here?!”

    Twilight cleared her throat, standing tall and proud. “I beg you, Lady Luna, that you return my beloved Rarity to me!”

    Luna laughed. “Your beloved?! The one you so carelessly killed with your sacrilegious magical experimentations and devices?! That ‘beloved’?!”

    “That was an accident!” Twilight protested, burning with shame and guilt. How was she to know her device would explode! “A mistake I paid the ultimate price for! Please, Lady Luna! Is it fair that Rarity should pay with her life for my actions?!”

    “Life is not fair, Twilight Sparkle!” Luna boomed, standing up from her throne. “Do you think it fair that I am beholden to attend and care for the dead, who hate and fear me, while my siblings live in luxury in Horse-lympus?! Dancing and laughing and probably praising Celestia and how wonderful she is and how—” She interrupted herself, slamming her hoof once more. “No! It is not fair! And yet it is so!

    “So, tell me!” she finished, staring down the young unicorn. “If the fates are not fair to me, a Goddess, why should they be fair to you, a simple mortal?!”

    Twilight was silent, carefully constructing an answer in her head. Luna was right, of course. The fates were never fair, but wasn’t that in itself an error of perceptions? After all, a single choice from the fates could be both unfair to someone and fair to someone else.

    “It doesn’t matter if the fates are not fair to me,” Twilight said, her eyes meeting the goddess’, burning with determination, “because I will create my own fate if it means saving Rarity.”

    Luna contemplated her a moment. 

    Then, said, “Very well.”

    “Wait, what?” Twilight blurted out, her eyes widening when Luna simply gestured to one of her spectres. “Really?!”

    “Fetch her.”

    Only a few moments later, and Twilight’s soul burned with joy at the sight of her beloved stepping into the room, looking just as radiant as she had the day Twilight accidentally killed her. 

    As soon as Rarity’s eyes landed on Twilight, she rushed to her side. 

    “Oh, Twilight, dearest!”

    “Rarity!”

    The two lovers came together in a great, weepy hug. It felt like a dream to Twilight, deliriously embracing her second heart. She was alive! Well, no, she wasn’t, but still! Rarity was there, and her voice was as entrancing as always, and her eyes as intoxicating as before, and her coat as soft to the touch as ever. 

    “Oh, Rarity! You’re getting out of here!” Twilight told her, overjoyed. 

    “I am!” Rarity replied, and though there was excitement in her voice, there was also the ghost of something else. 

    Hesitation. 

    Emboldened, Twilight kissed the tip of Rarity’s nose. 

    “Don’t worry, Rarity,” she said confidently. “You won’t be back here for a long, long time; you’ll see.”

    Rarity’s eyes softened, her hoof brushing against Twilight’s cheek. “Oh, darling…”

    Twilight turned to Luna. “Great! We’ll be off now, your Ladysh—”

    “Off?” Luna asked, surprised. “You think it will be that easy to leave? That one can just stroll into my realm and take back whomever they want so easily? No. There are rules to be followed. Terms.

    Twilight swallowed. “Terms?”

    “It is because of your careless conquest for knowledge that Rarity’s life was forfeit,” Luna said, “so it is that very thing you must now forfeit if you want her back.” Luna stamped her hoof on the floor. “First! The moment you put hoof outside my realm, you will forget all about it.”

    What?!” gasped Twilight, horrified. 

    Everything. You will not bring any of your precious learnings back with you, only your beloved. And—” She stamped her hoof again. “Second!” She stepped forward, towering and imposing. “You cannot ask Rarity about my realm, in any way, shape, or form, or there will be dire consequences.”

    “What consequences?” Twilight asked. 

    “Firstly, Rarity will immediately be returned to me,” Luna said.

    Twilight grabbed her beloved’s hoof. “What?!”

    “Yes. Immediately. In front of you, she will vanish if you so much as try and inquire about her time here. And such will be your heartache, so immense, so overpowering, it will be as if you’ve lost her for the first time once again. And you will think it so, convinced you’ve physically killed her, forgetting how she came back to you!”

    Twilight frowned. “So, wait, I’ll forget I came here or—?”

    “Yes.”

    Twilight’s frown deepened. “What? But that’s—? That’s stupid. This entire punishment is stupid and contrived and—!”

    “Silence!” Luna boomed, her wings flaring to her side. “Fool! Do not question the gods and our mysterious ways! Or do you want to be turned into a question mark for your insolence, doomed to a questionable existence?!”

    Twilight somehow frowned even deeper. “A question mark? How would that even—”

    “Darling,” Rarity whispered in a strained voice, putting a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “Darling, you’re making it worse.”

    Twilight pursed her lips, annoyed, but ultimately listened to her beloved. “All right,” she said, turning to Luna. “Can I think about it, at least? Not ask her, just think. Is that allowed?”

    “Yes,” Luna replied. “Thoughts are just thoughts, but it is by voicing them that we give them life and speak them into truth.”

    After a moment’s pause, Twilight relented. “All right. I accept your terms.”

    “Wait!” Rarity suddenly chimed in, harrowed. She looked to Twilight, concerned. “Twilight, dearest… You…” She licked her lips, then spoke with care, “Twilight, are you sure about this?”

    “What? Yes! Of course,” Twilight replied, surprised. And a little hurt. “I want you back with me, Rarity. More than anything in the world. Don’t you want that, too?”

    Rarity softened, her eyes flowing with affection. “Twilight! Darling, dearest, of course. To be away from you is to be deprived of half my soul. But…” She gestured all around her. “You’re a scholar! To be robbed of all you’ve learned here? Why, it sounds to me like a tragedy. I will always be here waiting for you, Twilight, but perhaps with me gone, you can finally put all your focus on your goals.”

    “Rarity,” Twilight replied, “I can do both. I can have you and my knowledge.”

    Rarity said nothing for what felt like eternities. “I… I’m afraid you can’t, Twilight,” she whispered. It was not a threat, a condemnation, or any sort of ill statement. It was just a confession, a fear. 

    “Enough!” Luna interrupted, tired of their conversation. “Twilight Sparkle has traveled to the depths of my realm to find you. Because she loves you!” She turned to Twilight. “Do you not?!”

    Twilight nodded. “Yes! More than anything,” she said, sincere. 

    “Then I have faith she will be triumphant against my terms!” Again, she looked at Twilight. Hard. “You will be triumphant,” she threatened, almost. 

    “I will!” Twilight declared. 

    With Luna’s blessings, the couple took off, starting the long journey back home. 

    The journey home was much different than Twilight’s initial quest. Everything felt easier with Rarity at her side, time passing by quicker with every conversation they had. The challenges they faced seemed less daunting, too, and more and more Twilight shared Rarity’s sentiment.

    Truly, they were one soul split into two bodies. 

    Eventually, with the end of the realm looming on the horizon, Twilight Sparkle realized she was starting to forget. With every step she took closer to life, the less she remembered of the underworld, every memory fading bit by bit until, bathed in the sun’s warm embrace, she forgot everything about it. 

    At most, all she had were…. Impressions. Vague hazy memories of Luna’s terms and Luna’s rude rejection of Twilight’s poem. She’d worked hard on it! Just because she couldn’t rhyme well didn’t mean her poem didn’t deserve to be read. 

    Alas. 

    Days turned into joyous months for Twilight Sparkle, whose modest home was no longer quiet and lonely but brimming with her beloved’s energy and charm. There were, admittedly, a few dangerous magic incidents, for Twilight Sparkle was Twilight Sparkle, but none, thankfully, anywhere near Rarity. 

    There were times, however, when Twilight would catch Rarity thoughtfully looking off into the distance. Asking her what she was thinking would almost always result in evasive answers, promises of “nothing” or “just thoughts”. 

    Twilight wondered if Rarity was thinking of the underworld. 

    Twilight, admittedly, shamefully, terribly, thought of the underworld often. She couldn’t help it! She was fascinated and drawn to this gap in her memory, this fabled place she’d visited but could no longer remember or speak of. 

    What was it like? Was it beautiful? Was it haunting? Was it just like the texts all said, or was it completely different? Ugh! She wanted to know. She wanted it desperately, but she resisted at every turn. She had to. 

    But it nagged. 

    And especially the little poem nagged, too. 

    It was the one thing she had held on to—perhaps her pride was somehow stronger than the goddess’ influence. 

    It was a GOOD poem! Twilight still had it, and she recurringly reread it to Rarity, who also said it was good! And Luna hadn’t even wanted to hear it! What an insult! Scholars could be poets, too! 

    What did Lady Luna even know about poems, anyway? 

    And…

    And a thought occurred to Twilight. No, not a thought, a memory, pushing through the haze of the goddess’ spell. 

    A sentence, a remark, spoken with an annoyed, dismissive tone. 

    “Enough! I lack the patience to endure another of your so-called poems.”

    It was then that a question consumed her so thoroughly that she might have wondered if Lady Luna had, in fact, turned her into a question mark. 

    What did she mean by endure ‘another’ one of Twilight’s poems?

    How could there have been ‘another’ poem when Twilight had never met the goddess of death before? 

    Hadn’t she? 

    But the terms! The terms, they—! They dictated that she would forget if she’d ever been to the underworld before! So—! So, then—!

    Her materials fell on the floor as she frantically rushed out of her workshop, her heart thundering. She rushed through the hallway, past the lobby, and out into the garden where Rarity was, combing her mane by the fountain. 

    Rarity!” Twilight gasped, out of breath. “I’ve rescued you from the underworld before, haven’t I?!”

    Rarity looked at her with eyes that seemed resigned and tired and amused all at once.

    “Oh, Twilight, darling,” she said, and nothing else. As soon as she finished her sentence, her entire body crackled with magic, and just as she disappeared, Twilight’s pain began, memories of killing her beloved taking hold of her. 


    Lady Luna sat on her throne, quietly brooding over important things that required ample brooding. 

    Her partner, a pink specter aptly named Pinkie, merrily trotted into the room. 

    “Hiiiii,” said Pinkie, going up to the goddess. “Whatcha doing? Are you brooding again?”

    “No,” Luna lied. 

    “Mmmmhm. Is it about how Celestia gets everything, and all your siblings go to her birthday party, but they don’t even send you a birthday card?”

    “Not even a birthday card!” boomed the goddess. She could feel herself on the precipice of a centuries-long rant, so instead, she looked to her partner. “Why am I being bothered?”

    “Oh!” Pinkie exclaimed. “Rarity’s back.”

    “What?!” Luna thundered, beside herself. “Already?!”

    “Mmmhm!” 

    Luna didn’t bother speaking further. Instead, her horn crackled with magic, and moments later, she found herself inside the little manor beside her. 

    “Rarity!” she boomed. “Show yourself!”

    “No!” came Rarity’s voice from within the mansion’s many halls. “I’ve had enough of this! Just leave the bitbag and go! Or don’t! I don’t care!”

    “Did you cheat?!” Luna demanded. “Rarity!”

    The reaction was immediate. 

    “Cheat?!” came the scandalized retort, followed shortly after by Rarity’s entire self, stomping into the foyer. “First of all, you know very well I can’t cheat! And second of all, why would I cheat?! Do you think I want to end up back here every time, away from Twilight?! You don’t think this hurts me?” She harrumphed and looked away. “Maybe you ought to do me a kindness and wipe my memory, too!”

    The goddess stared at her, utterly baffled. “But—! I—! I don’t understand!” she exclaimed, stamping her hooves on the floor. “How could she—?! It was simple! It was an easy term! How is she so—so—incapable of being content with not asking! I don’t understand!” She looked at Rarity accusingly. “You mortals! You make no sense!”

    Rarity rolled her eyes, irritated. “Why do you care? Why are you so underworld-bent on seeing Twilight not fail?”

    “I don’t know!” Luna replied, at a loss. “I don’t understand why! I cannot comprehend it! All of it! I cannot believe that she would love you so much as to come all the way here and yet fail every time not to lose you! I need to see her succeed!”

    Rarity huffed. “You’re the one who makes no sense! At least the other gods find joy in torturing mortals! You’re just torturing yourself with them!”

    Luna stood up, beseeching. “Please. Please. We must attempt once more.”

    “No.”

    Rarity.”

    Rarity pursed her mouth a moment before finally relenting with a groan. “Fine! Fine, gods damn you.” She turned on Luna, pointing an accusing hoof at her. “But I want a pool next! And more statues! And you better have your minions make sure Twilight has a wonderfully easy time of it whenever she comes back here! I want her pampered!”

    “But then she will know something isn’t right,” Luna whined. 

    “You have my terms!” Rarity reiterated, unmoving. 

    “Very well!” she said, eventually. “I don’t understand. Does it not bother you? That she does not love you enough to keep you?”

    “You see, that’s your problem, my Lady. You don’t know Twilight as I do, and to know Twilight as I do, to love her as she is, is to accept one simple immutable fact.”

    Luna frowned. “What fact?”

    “That no matter how much Twilight loves me, which is as fervently as the rose loves the sun, she will never love me as much as she loves knowing the answer to everything. And I would gladly die again in the name of her research if it meant getting her closer to her true love.”

    Luna contemplated her a minute before somberly declaring, “My Gods, all three of us are mad.”

    “Yes,” Rarity replied, trotting away into her mansion, “now chop-chop! I want to go swimming, my Lady!”


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    13 Comments

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    1. Lili
      May 6, '24 at 7:13 pm

      > Horse-lympus
      10/10 perfect story nothing to improve no notes

      (love the twist on the orpheus/eurydice story w twi just. sending her back over and over again sdklffjfkdks it is so very in character but also a much more comedic love story thank goodness, the blurb had me worried u were gonna stomp on some hearts again)

    2. BluePaladin42
      May 5, '24 at 11:27 pm

      Pft, it took me a second readthrough before I realized what the bitbag at the end was for. Oh Twilight, you utter silly. In anycase I adored reading this, but now I kinda wanna see what else happens.

    3. A Deer
      May 4, '24 at 10:05 pm

      I really enjoyed this story! The prose was very delightful to read. And the interaction between Luna, Rarity and Twilight was very well done. The humor made me laugh – especially the end with Luna and Rarity and the reveal of how many times Twilight has made this journey. I also liked how Rarity explained Twilight’s actions to Luna about Twilight’s need for answers.

      Also Horselympus!

    4. Anonymous Guest
      May 4, '24 at 5:33 pm

      That was quite the twist at the end! No wonder Luna is so annoyed with Twilight in the beginning…she’s just as frustrated as Twilight!

      Great story!

    5. TheDark_Phoenix
      May 4, '24 at 2:27 pm

      As soon as I read Rarity’s hesitation and Luna’s terms I figured this had to be a repeating scenario but Twilight’s realisation being the thing that causes Rarity to keep going back to the Underworld is so upsetting!! Another beautiful work Monochromatic<3

    6. Gavier
      May 4, '24 at 1:30 pm

      Delightful!

      There’s some rough edges (I felt stuff was going way too fast at the start, but that’s because the story wasn’t about what I was expecting) but the core of the story is lovely, and the comedy is great

      … also I kinda wanna see Twilight’s terrible poetry

    7. Kapuchu
      May 4, '24 at 1:23 pm

      Not in a thousand years did I see this twist coming.
      And honestly, I absolutely love it. It is hilariously silly.

    8. Dimbulb
      May 3, '24 at 10:57 pm

      “Silence!” Luna boomed, her wings flaring to her side. “Fool! Do not question the gods and our mysterious ways! Or do you want to be turned into a question mark for your insolence, doomed to a questionable existence?!”

      This one’s my favorite part.

    9. The Lost Messenger
      May 3, '24 at 8:52 pm

      An enjoyable adaptation of Orpehus and Eurydice for sure. What stood out most to me with regards to the changes made to the original myth, especially concerning the terms of the deal to bring Rarity back, perfectly match the kind of character Twilight is. The ending scene also got a chuckle out of me.

      Glad I took the time to read this story, and thank you for sharing it with us, Mono!

    10. Gearcrow
      May 3, '24 at 4:14 pm

      I definitely laughed a couple of times reading this, but it’s also one of those deceptively painful stories. Luna opining that all three of them are mad feels exactly right. The challenge she has set is cruel, but the young romantic I’ve buried in my heart can’t help but want to agree with her. The fact that Twilight is the only one out of the loop, that she is cursed to never really understand or know what’s happening, the fact that Rarity’s love for Twilight seems two drops deeper than Twilight’s is for her, and that she’s cursed to share Twilight’s affection forever with a nebulous concept like research and knowledge, all of it comes together like a puzzle made of pieces that will never quite fit, but that you feel desperately should, if only you could try to build it one more time.

      Love this story Mono. It definitely made me feel things.

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