Where There’s a Quill...
“Spike!” Twilight Sparkle yelled from the lower level of her library, an open letter in front of her titled ‘Equestrian Novel Writing Month’. She hopped from one hoof to another, excitement filling her as she imagined what she could write. There had been so many adventures in the last year that she could fit into a book, but one particular idea had taken hold of her. “Spike!”
“I’m here, Twilight, I’m here,” her draconian assistant said, yawning and rubbing his eyes as he closed the door behind him. The pony glanced at the dragon fondly and rushed over to give him a hug. His eyes opened wide as she did so. “Whoa, I don’t know what I did, but I’m not sure I deserve this.”
“Oh, Spike, it’s not something you did! It’s something I’m going to do,” the lavender unicorn replied, dropping her friend to the floor. “I’m going to write a book this month! I’ve never had time before with my studies and all that’s happened, but with no more friendship report deadlines looming over my head and no more villains popping out of the woodwork, I’ve got the chance to! Oh, it’s going to be so wonderful. I have the perfect idea and I wanted to see what you thought of it.”
Spike looked at her with an appraising eye, his claw under his chin. “Well, I’ll do what I can to help, Twilight, but I’m not sure if I can add anything.”
“Alright, alright, this is what I’m planning to write!” the pony cleared her throat. “It’s about a dashing stallion named Starch Westwind, a pegasus pirate who travels across the world stealing cargo and generally being a degenerate. But then, after picking up a tip for a score in a secluded part of the mountains, Starch bites off more than he can chew after finding a runaway pegasus bringing a bunch of unicorns into hiding from the evil government!”
“Wow, Twilight, that sounds so cool,” the dragon replied, his eyes wide with wonder. “It seems like you’ve really thought this through. How much have you written already?”
“Weeeeellll, that’s not important,” Twilight said evasively, prancing around in a circle at the praise. “But I’m going to continue writing it tonight and the rest of this month, so I’ll need you to take care of the chores while I’m down here doing that. I’ll help, of course, when I have time, but I really want to have the freedom to do this.”
Spike nodded and gave her a crisp salute. “No need to worry about a thing, Twilight. Me and Owlicious will keep this place all tidied up while you write this novel.”
“Owlicious and I,” she corrected, already getting into the spirit of things.
“Whatever, we’ll do it.”
“Oh, thank you, Spike,” Twilight said, hugging her friend again, her cheek rubbing against his scaly face. “You’re such a great assistant! Oh, and if anypony stops by, tell them I’m busy unless it’s urgent. Though I’m not sure it’ll be too bad this month.”
“Alright, first things first, I need to get a quill and some paper,” Twilight muttered to herself, her horn glowing as she spirited the requisite items to her writing table. “Oh, and then I need some back ups, just in case they break. Oh, and more ink. And then I need to do some research on pegasi. Ah ha! That’s the book I need. But what if I need more than this? I don’t want to break my concentration by getting up and grabbing another book. Hmm, what’s a good one? Professor Search’s thesis on pegasi mentality or the Mechanics of Equine Flight? I’ll take both of them!”
“Well, I’ll be going back to sleep, Twilight,” Spike said, opening the door and yawning again now that the excitement had passed. “I’ll tell Owlicious about what’s going on, too. Good night!”
Twilight didn’t respond; busy rummaging around through all the items in the air and then gently depositing them in an orderly fashion. She stacked the books and research material next to her desk within easy magical reach and stood next to the table, humming to herself happily with her eyes closed. A thought occurred to her that she hadn’t dismissed her friend yet.
“Perfect! Alright, Spike, you can g- oh, you already left.” Twilight spoke, glancing around the room in momentary confusion. Shrugging, she levitated the quill and dipped it into the ink beside her, careful to make sure it didn’t drip anywhere. “Okay, anyway, back to writing. Let’s see. How do I start?”
A second ticked by as she stared at the blank piece of paper in front of her, followed by another and another. Her ears twitched as the clock in her room ticked softly, the leathery smell of books surrounding her with its wonderful fragrance. Funny, I’ve never really noticed how it smells in here, she thought, glancing around at the room. Titles from the hundreds of books around her stood out to her, shining in gold or silver lettering. A hundred different details called to her as she looked, shuffling her hooves against the hard, wooden floor.
Twilight glanced down, picking her hooves up and listening to the sound they made when they descended. The feeling of resistance as the hoof met the floor felt slightly springy. That makes sense, of course, since wood is pliable. Her thoughts wondered down that line of thought for a few seconds before she shook her mane and remembered the reason she was standing there.
“Okay, back to writing, enough staring around, Twilight,” the pony prodded herself verbally, concentrating back on the paper in front of her. She was just about to write the first word when she noticed the page wasn’t in line with the many below it. Frowning, she straightened it with magic, the surge of power lighting the parchment a subtle purple as her horn glowed. “There, perfect!”
Satisfied with the arrangement, she lowered the quill to the paper and wrote the first word, concentrating hard to make it legible and feeling the weight of her thoughts rushing forth. ‘Starch Westwind stared at the stars above…’. Her quill flew across the page as the words in her mind realized themselves on the parchment, quickly filling the first quarter of the page before she had to dip it in ink again. Managing the action without unduly interrupting her thought process, Twilight continued down the page, humming to herself as she wrote.
The days passed quickly to the purple unicorn, pages of her story stacking up beside her as night turned into light and vise versa. Spike brought her meals on a regular schedule, which Twilight devoured quickly, eager to get back to her writing. Every now and then, she stopped to research the way a pegasus would react in a certain situation, making sure to get it completely right and logical even though her story was considered fiction.
After the first week, her friends showed up separately to the library, each asking after the pony with concern and worry. Twilight managed to step away from her novel long enough to explain what she was doing and that she would definitely make up the time at a later date. It was one such day that the pony decided to take the afternoon off, satisfied with her progression. She had already written half of the first draft ahead of schedule so she figured she could spend some time with her friends.
“Spike!” Twilight yelled, emerging from her writing room with a yawn and a smile. “I’m going to go ahead and go out today. Do you want to come with me?”
The dragon poked his head out from the loft where they both slept, his nose runny and bags under his eyes. “Uh, no thank you- achoo! Twilight. I feel kind of-sniff- sick.”
“Oh, Spike, why didn’t you let me know you were feeling ill?”
“There’s no helping it. I’ll just have to take care of you today,” Twilight cut him off, trotting up the stairs to the baby dragon’s bed. She levitated him to his bed and covered him with the blanket, opening a cupboard nearby and whisking another blanket out of it, too. With her assistant cloaked in quilts, Twilight trotted back down the stairs to whip up a broth.
The day passed quickly as she took care of both Spike and his chores for the day, humming happily to herself. The baby dragon halfheartedly objected to the attention, but Twilight could tell he was secretly pleased by all the attention she was lavishing on him. The sun was just beginning to set into dusk when Owlicious appeared next to her as she washed the day’s dishes.
“Oh, hello, Owlicious,” Twilight greeted her nightly assistant, watching as she preened her feathers. She made a note to ask if Rainbow Dash did the same thing, because she never saw any mention of it in any of the books she had read on pegasi.
“Who. Who, who. Who?”
“Oh, Spike was sick today, so I spent the day taking care of him,” she replied with a smile.
“My book? I’m almost halfway done and it’s only been a week and a half. I have plenty of time to finish it before the month is over.”
“I won’t forget to get back to it, of course.”
Owlicious stared at her with her large eyes, shrugging and then flapping away to do her nightly chores. Twilight yawned as the owl flew away, finishing the last dish. She glanced at the clock and noticed there was still a little time before bed, so she smiled and went into her writing room, mindful of the owl’s suggestion.
The pages and ink were where she had left it, books haphazardly strewn around her study area. Placing a page marker in each book, Twilight magically stacked them up near her desk and marveled at the work it must have taken to write them. Just getting to where she was at had taken a tremendous amount of time and effort and her half finished novel was barely a quarter of the length of the textbooks.
“I really should send a letter to the authors to thank them for their hard work,” Twilight muttered, moving aside her novel to a fresh set of papers. She dipped the quill in the ink and stared at the page for a few moments, wondering what to put. The sound of crickets outside beginning their nightly song threaded its way through the window, peaceful and soothing. The lavender pony listened, her ears pricking up in appreciation of the melody. Her eyes drooped as she stared at the blank page, the warmth of the room and the sounds of the night combining into an urge to fall to sleep. A few moments later, that’s exactly what she did.
“Rainbow, do you preen your feathers?”
The cyan pegasus stared at the unicorn like she was crazy, stopping her loop de loop. “Well, uh, that’s kind of private to pegasus kind, uhm, Twilight. I don’t know if I should say…”
“Oh, I didn’t realize,” the purple pony replied, noticing a blush appear on the pegasus’ face.
“It’s no problem, Twi. I guess it’s not something you’d be able to know. We don’t like talking about it with others. But if you, uh, really want to know, I could tell you. But only because you’re my friend and you have to Pinkie Pie Swear not to tell another pony.”
Twilight nodded eagerly, performing the necessary action as she sang and remembering to close her eye before poking it. “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”
“Okay,” Rainbow replied landing and leaning in to whisper in her ear. “Most pegasuses do preen, but we do it in private. It’s not like brushing your tail or washing your mane, though I guess it’s kind of similar. A lot of pegasus think it’s embarrassing for some reason and it’s just taught that you shouldn’t do it in front of other ponies. Makes them uncomfortable or something. Anyway, why did you need to know?”
“Well, I was going to put it in my novel, because it wasn’t in any of the books I was researching pegasi with, but since it seems to be such a taboo, I’ll just have to avoid it.”
“You’re writing a book now? Haha, is it about how a pegasus flies from one mountain to another or something boring like that?”
Twilight glared at her friend. “For your information, it’s about a pegasus pirate and his adventures across a pseudo-Equestria.”
“Pegasus pirate, huh? Sounds interesting, I guess, though I don’t know what soo doe means,” Rainbow replied, flapping her wings in anticipation. “Well, I gotta practice some more. Good luck on your book, Twilight! Maybe you can give me the short version some time.”
Despite the new knowledge of pegasi, Twilight couldn’t bring herself to get back to the novel that day. She just sat there, glaring at the page as her mind struggled to come up with the next scene. She read books on how to combat the writer’s block she knew she was having, following each book’s instructions in order to break through the wall.
She tried taking a day off and not even thinking of writing, words spinning through her mind regardless of her attempts not to think of it. But when she returned the next day to throw the thoughts on parchment, they wouldn’t come. Frustrated, she picked up another book on writer’s block and tried writing random things she thought of for no reason other than to write.
“There has got to be a better way to break writer’s block,” Twilight growled, pacing back and forth in her writing room. “Why was I able to write perfectly and quickly before? There’s got to be a step I’m skipping here. Think, Twilight, think!”
She scrunched up her face, trying to think back to the first time she had written anything. The memory was fuzzy, but she watched herself from a third person perspective, the lavender pony organizing her study area with magic. She opened her eyes with a start, looking over to her writing desk, which was messy from her repeated attempts at writing the last couple of days.
“Okay, maybe I just can’t work in chaos! Yes, that’s it.”
She gathered her half finished novel and put it to the side, leaving the last page on the table over a bunch of brand new ones. The dry ink wells and broken quills she had dropped to the floor were gathered up into a ball and carefully set them in a trash pail. A tune appeared in her mind as she organized, happily humming under her breath as she cleaned and tidied the room.
“There, no more clutter!” the unicorn said proudly, walking over to her writing desk and magically lifting her quill, eagerly awaiting the flood of words. A frown appeared on her face as she stared at the paper, her mind blank. Minutes ticked by, her head cocked at the paper with nothing to show for it. After another minute of glaring at the paper, Twilight’s eye twitched as she snapped the quill in two.
“Uuuuuuuughaaaaaaaaarrrrgh,” the pony groaned inarticulately, frustration lacing her tone. She slammed her head against the table in annoyance and sighed, wondering what she was doing wrong. “The plot’s all there, in my head. It’s just not coming out!”
“You know, when I have a problem with my creative thought processes, I just take a long, luxurious bath,” Rarity supplied helpfully as she walked beside the dejected unicorn a few days later. “A lady has to be her best both outside and in to create, as ‘twere.”
Twilight sighed and nodded. “Thanks for walking with me, Rarity. I know you’re busy with work today.”
“Think nothing of it, my dear. While I could never aspire to write a novel like yourself, I admire the effort in creation. However, you are quite correct about my work load,” the alabaster unicorn chuckled kindly, opening the door to the Carousel Boutique with a flourish of her horn. “If you ever need any advice, you know where to find me.”
“I suppose I could visit the spa today,” Twilight said to herself as she looked into the sky, noticing the roiling clouds. “Though the weather is perfect for writing.”
Twilight flinched as she ran into something, bouncing backward onto her flank.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Twilight. I wasn’t looking where I was going and I ran into you,” a soft voice started in apology.
Shaking her tail to get the dust out of it, the lavender pony shook her head. “No, no, it was my fault, Fluttershy. I was looking at the clouds, thinking about how great the weather is for writing.” She sighed again in frustration. “That is, if I could start writing in the first place.”
“Spike told me you were writing a novel,” the butter yellow pegasus replied with a smile. “I think that is so very wonderful. You know, I wrote a book once. It was on how to take care of all the animals and what they like to eat and how to tuck them into bed. Oh, my.”
“Animals, huh?” Twilight asked dryly. “I don’t suppose you ever suffered writer’s block when you wrote it?”
“Oh, yes, of course. But then I just looked at the cute faces of Angel and my little chickens and it went away.”
The unicorn rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “So, in order to write, you experienced something you like, just like Rarity. But I’ve tried that already. I like organizing, but that didn’t help me at all.”
“Oh, and I took a nice long bath with Angel, too. He was such a dirty bunny, hopping through all those puddles and mud, I just had to clean him up.”
“You know, maybe a bath wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Would you like to come with me to the spa, Fluttershy?”
The pegasus looked away bashfully. “I’m sorry, Twilight, but I really have to get back to Angel bunny. I promised to get some carrots for him from the market. You know, the little ones that are so soft and cute.”
“Well, I shouldn’t stand in the way of a bunny’s lunch. See you later.”
“Oh, most definitely,” the shy pegasus replied, walking toward the market.
“Alright, spa time. I sure hope this works!”
“Arrgh, that didn’t work at all,” Twilight groaned, putting both hooves against the side of her head in annoyance. She glared at the infernal paper in front of her, staring back at her with a pure innocence, not a drop of ink on it. The parchment was mocking her, she knew it was. “Stupid paper. Stupid book. Stupid writing month.”
“Heya Twilight!” a high pitched voice said from behind her. The unicorn jumped up in surprise, whirling around to see a bubble gum pink pony bouncing up and down in her writing room.
“Pinkie?” she cried incredulously. “How did you get in here? I thought I locked the door behind me.”
The other pony lifted a hoof to her face and giggled. “Oh, that’s not important, silly. I heard you needed help writing so I came as fast as I could!”
“Well, duh. Is there anypony else here? You’re kind of strange, Twilight.”
“But-, I-, what?” Twilight sputtered, just as the earth pony grinned and opened her mouth, guitar music sounding out of nowhere.
“Well, my name is Pinkie Pie,
And I am here to saaaaay,
When you’re looking for inspiration,
I’ve got the perfect waaaaay!”
The party pony bounced up and down around Twilight, pointing at the shelves all around them with glee on her face.
“You’ve read a million books,
Definitions and synonyms, too,
Analogies and similes,
Of them there’s quite a few!”
A particularly heavily bounded tome sprang to life opening in closing in an approximation of a mouth, Pinkie manipulating it with strings from the ceiling where she suddenly appeared.
“So look right over there,
That book is talkin’ out loud,
It’s saying ‘Twi, that’s quite a sigh,
But you’ll surely make me proud!’”
“You’ve written half a novel,
More than most, you see,
So finishing is simple,
Just start describing me.”
The book spun in a flourish, seemingly of its own devices as Pinkie appeared behind the unicorn and slung an arm around her shoulder.
“Leather bound I am,
With titles silver and gold,
An aroma of paper and ink,
Of that, I’ll never get old.”
Now look beneath your hooves,
The wood is hard and springy,
You’ve noticed it once before,
Now step down again with Pinkie!”
The muted stomp of their hooves together rang in Twilight’s ears, her mind buzzing as she heard it. Almost like magic, sensations of touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste blossomed into words. With a slowly spreading smile, the unicorn grabbed her quill with magic and started unleashing the torrent of prose onto the paper, the guitar strumming in a frantic beat.
A few seconds later, it stopped, the sudden soundlessness jerking Twilight momentarily out of her writing trance. Furrowing her brows, the unicorn looked around confusedly, no sign of Pinkie or the dancing tome in sight. Shrugging, Twilight went back to her novel, happily entranced in the written word.
“Twiiiiiliiiiiiiight, y’all in there?” Applejack yelled, banging on the door to what Spike had called the unicorn’s ‘writing room’. “Yoohoo, Twi?”
“Just a minute!”
“It’s time to get out and be done with all this Eck-no-wree-mo business. Ya’ll been locked in this here dungeon fer a whole two weeks, no sunshine or fresh air t’be had. Just ain’t healthy, surgarcube.”
“I’m almost done! Five more minutes!”
“Y’all just said one minute!” the earth pony yelled back. “I’ma comin’ in there an’ draggin’ you out by the tail if y’all don’t get out this instant.”
When no response came back, Applejack spit on her front hooves, pivoted, and slammed her hind legs into the door. The solid oak swung open with a heavy thud, a dusty burst of hot air escaping and sending the pony’s hair swinging back.
“Alright, Twilight, you’re comin’ with me right now an- oh haystacks.”
Applejack’s jaw dropped as she watched the flurry of motion in the room. A dozen quills and parchments were floating around her purple friend, all suspended by magic and each writing a page. Twilight sat in the middle of it, her eyes white with magical power and her horn glowing bright enough to rival the sun. A sudden burst of energy and light caused the orange pony to lift up a hoof against the glare. A second later, the glare subsided, Applejack peeking out from beneath her hooves and whistling, impressed at the display.
“Boy howdy, I’ve seen ponies multitask, Twi, but I ain’t ever seen nothin’ like what you just pulled off. How in the hay didya keep track of all them words at once? Twilight?”
The unicorn was laying on the ground, curled up on the floor with something in her hooves. Applejack strolled over to check and see if her friend was okay, pausing as she saw the smile on her face and a completed novel, bound and everything, in her clutches.
“Well, how ‘bout that. Ya did it, Twi,” the country pony marveled, looking behind her as Spike and Owlicious walked and flew in, a blanket held in between them. Applejack helped the two maneuver the quilt over the unicorn’s sleeping form, all three of them standing back and smiling at their book loving friend. “I reckon she’s earned a rest.”
Twilight’s smile grew as she cuddled her prize, a wisp of a thought floating in her slumbering mind; the last two words of any novel.