A True, True Ex-Friend

by jkbrony

Chapter 1: The End of Friendship

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Dawn had swept over all of Equestria, the morning sun sat high up in the sky, and Princess Celestia was pacing in her throne room as she commonly did whenever faced with a crisis not easily solved. She had screwed up. Big time. And now her dearest former student was going to suffer heavily for it.

Her head turned towards the great hall's massive doors, palpably awaiting Twilight's arrival. Less than fifteen minutes ago, she had sent her a letter through Spike's specialized delivery channel that read:


You must come to Canterlot at once, and you must come alone. There is an urgent matter we need to discuss.

Princess Celestia

It had been scrawled quickly, and lacked any of the elegance that Celestia's letters normally contained. But now was not the time for elegance. She was still struggling to decide how she was going to deliver the dreadful news. To be vague and reveal only a little, allowing Twilight to figure out the rest for herself, or to just come right out and explain it with the painfully vivid detail that it deserved? And if she chose the latter, would she look Twilight directly in the eye and see her gut-wrenching facial reaction, or look away, awaiting her reaction to come in the form of a shout, yell, or cry?

A dark blue flash of light accompanied with a bursting sound signaled Princess Luna teleporting into the room beside her.

"I trust you would like me to stand by your side, sister?" she asked.

"Thank you," Celestia replied, feeling only slightly better.

"Do you really think she'll be able to do this?" asked Luna.

Celestia stopped in her tracks and stared her younger sister directly in the eye.

"She has to. It's not a choice. There is no other way."

Luna shook her head. "You do realize that she's going to hate you for this, right? You put that journal in her hooves. You encouraged her to finish his spell."

Celestia closed her eyes, knowing that Luna's words were true.

"I know it is my fault. I'm not ignorant to that, nor will I deny it."

"Do you expect her to forgive you?" asked Luna.

Celestia shook her head, feeling her heart sink deep within her.

"No, I do not. And I wouldn't blame her for it either, especially since—"

Celestia stopped suddenly at the sight of an increasingly nervous Twilight stepping inside the throne room. Given the unkempt nature of Celestia's hastily-scrawled letter, she knew that she had not summoned to receive any positive news. She trembled as she approached the two sisters, staring warily into their grim expressions.

"You wanted to see me, Princess Celestia?" Twilight said as she stopped just before the steps up to the throne.

Celestia fidgeted with discomfort . "I...do not even know how to say this."

An icy shiver traveled through Twilight's body, and she felt as though she were a leaf being carried by a winter wind until it eventually landed in a heap of snow. This had to be something incredibly serious, perhaps even a matter of life and death...

"S-say what?" she questioned in a shaky voice.

Celestia closed her eyes, realizing that this could not be avoided.

"I recently found something out about Starswirl the Bearded's formerly unfinished spell—something quite unpleasant."

"Which is...?" Twilight asked, wishing that Celestia would stop being vague and just come right out and say it.

"When I told you that he abandoned the spell, it was not because he gave up on it. It was because he died before he found the solution to complete it. Starswirl was...a very proud pony. He took a lot of pride in his accomplishments. That very spell was intended to be his greatest work, or at least that was what he had hoped. Being unable to find the solution drove him to madness. He likely knew that other unicorns would attempt to finish his masterpiece, and he detested that notion. I never knew until now just how deeply his madness ran. I never knew that he...cursed the spell."

Twilight's eyes widened. "What...?"

Luna took a step forward as though suddenly on cue to speak.

"'By wrath of all Tartarus, by rain of blazing fire, may whomever succeed where I failed be subject to the loss of his dearest companions at the eve of the tenth moon since completion.' That's the curse."

"What does that mean...?" Twilight asked fearfully.

Luna looked towards her sister, urging her to explain, and Twilight did the same. Celestia lowered her head so as not to see Twilight's reaction to her next words.

"As of right now, your closest friends are going die on the evening of the tenth moon since you completed the spell. That would be this evening, when the clock strikes six."

Twilight stood utterly motionless for several seconds; the icy shiver that traveled through her body before now seemed to entirely freeze over her blood, bones, and organs. She felt as though her insides would shatter to pieces if she moved even an inch.

"How can we save them?!" she cried frantically.

"There is only one way..." Celestia said, raising her head again.

"Tell me!" Twilight shouted. "I'll do anything!"

Celestia inhaled deeply, expecting an even worse reaction from her next words.

"You must break your relationships with your friends. So long as you have no 'dearest companions', the curse will not take effect upon them and they will remain safe. I'm afraid that is the only way you can save their lives until I manage to write a spell that can circumvent the curse."

Twilight's frozen insides shattered at once, falling into millions of sharp, icy pieces. She nearly collapsed to the floor.

"Break...my relationships...?"

"I'm afraid it's the only way," said Celestia. "It should only take me a few days to write the spell. Once it is finished and they are out of harm's way, you may go to your friends, explain the situation, and rekindle your relationships with them. But whatever you do, you absolutely cannot tell them before I'm finished. They will only be saved if they truly believe that they are not your friends anymore."

Twilight went silent for several seconds, attempting to process all of this information.

"How long have you known about this?!" she cried, now angry.

"Since earlier this morning," Celestia answered. "I received a tremor in my sleep, the same as I did when Tirek began gaining power. I was unsure what it meant, but I received images of Starswirl and I knew that it had something to do with his spell. I searched for an answer all throughout the night, and I finally learned about the curse by reading through Clover the Clever's notes. It appears that she was the only one who knew that Starswirl had cursed the spell."

She paused and humbly dropped her head in sorrow.

"I realize that the blame falls solely on me. It is my fault that you are in this mess, and it is my fault you must do this now. But there is simply no other choice. Even working at my hardest, even if you stood by my side assisting me, I do not believe I would be able to complete a counterspell before six o'clock this evening. A curse that may potentially cause the death of several ponies is exceptionally powerful, and to even begin, I would need to have a grasp on the nature of the dark magic used to create it, and that alone takes a great deal of time."

Twilight shook her head, unable to accept what Princess Celestia was telling her. All of this would have been enough to make for a considerably terrifying nightmare for her, let alone a reality.

"This isn't happening. This cannot possibly be happening," she said in a frantic voice. "There is no way I can believe that Starswirl the Bearded, the wise pony whose knowledge and magic kept Equestria safe for many years, would ever do something like this."

"It is difficult for me to believe as well, but at the same time, it does not particularly shock me," said Celestia. "Starswirl had believed that he was going to ascend to an alicorn someday, and thought that his spell would be the key. He'd be turning over in his grave if he knew that the pony who did finally complete the spell became an alicorn herself."

Twilight shook her head again.

"You actually expect me, the Princess of Friendship, to just go up to my closest friends of the last few years who now mean more to me than anything, and who just received their own thrones in my new castle, and tell them that we can't be friends anymore without telling them why?"

Celestia bit her lip uncomfortably, unable to think up a response.

"You can give a reason, it just cannot be the reason," said Luna, answering for her. "No matter what, Twilight, you cannot tell your friends about the curse under any circumstances. As my sister said, the only way they shall remain unharmed is if they truly believe that they are no longer friends with you. If you tell them, you will most certainly doom them to death."

"No!" Twilight cried. "I can't do this! Even if it's temporary, I just can't bear the thought of doing that to them."

"I understand that," Celestia replied with a nod. "But you will have to do it, because they will die if you do not. You must not let that happen."

"There must be something else we can do!" Twilight said desperately, on the brink of tears. "Isn't there a memory spell or something that you could use to erase their memories of ever becoming friends with me?"

"I've considered that, but it would simply be erasing far too much—so much that I would not be able to guarantee that all of it could be restored. And before you ask, using Discord to erase their memories again would only present the same problem," said Celestia.

"How are they going to die, anyway? In 'a rain of blazing fire?' Isn't there something we could do to prevent that? Maybe we could put a magical barrier around all of Ponyville?" Twilight suggested with even more desperation in her voice.

"I'm afraid that won't help," said Luna, shaking her head. "A curse has the potential to cancel out any magic. That is why we must gain a deeper understand of the nature of its dark magic before we can even begin to start writing a counterspell. We must develop a spell that it cannot cancel out."

"I assure you, we have thought of everything possible to prevent you from having to do what you have to do now," said Celestia. "There is no other way. But just keep in mind that it will not be forever. As soon as the counterspell is finished, you may tell them about the curse and they will understand that your only intention was to save their lives. But until then, they must believe that they are not your friends."

Twilight was overcome with an inescapable sense of helplessness such as she had felt when Tirek had sucked every last drop of magic from her body. Her legs felt weakened and she dropped to the floor, wishing in her mind that this was simply some horrific nightmare that she could just wake up from, but there was no indication that she was sleeping, no indication that this was anything but a reality from which there was no escape.

"How could you do this to me...?" she whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Celestia walked forward until she was standing above her former student. She affectionately touched the top of her head.

"I am so sorry," she said with sincerity. "Believe me when I say that I did not intend this. But what's done is done. This is a problem, and it needs to be dealt with. If you cannot save them, their blood is on my hooves. I do not expect you to forgive me, but I give you my word that I will make this right. I shall work night and day on this counterspell until it's finished."

Twilight slowly picked herself back up onto her hooves and wiped her eyes, finally coming to grips with what she needed to do.

"What about Cadence?" she asked, looking fiercely into Celestia's eyes.

"I believe Cadence will be fine," she said. "Fortunately, there is no indication that the curse applies to actual family, and she is now under that protection."

"What about Spike?"

Celestia paused briefly, knowing that Twilight's reaction to her next words would be worse than it had been for anything else she had told her. This was the moment Celestia had feared since the very minute she learned about the curse...

"I'm afraid...Spike is included."

"No!" Twilight cried, shaking her head and taking a few steps back. "No, no, no, no, no, no! There is absolutely no way I can do that to him!"

"You will find a way," Celestia said, nodding sorrowfully. "You'll have to..."

Twilight opened her mouth to say something, but then closed it almost instantly. She turned around as though to leave, took a few steps towards the doors, and then stopped.

"Maybe I could have gotten past it if it were just my pony friends. After some time, maybe. But when I'm staring Spike in the face and telling him whatever I'm going to have to tell him to convince him that we're not friends anymore, and when he's crying his heart out and begging for me not to send him away—something that I once promised him that I would never do—I believe that will be the moment when I'll know that I will never be able to forgive you for this."

Celestia froze in place, and a tear fell from a sullen eye. Without another look at her former mentor, and without another word spoken from any of them, Twilight walked out of the throne room doors.


Clad in his apron and chef's hat, Spike meticulously flipped over eggs from his frying pan to a plate, being especially careful not to break the yolk. Cooking in the castle's massive kitchen was still an unfamiliar experience, but at least he would no longer have to worry about burning the place down, as the marble walls and floors of the castle were not quite as flammable as the dry wood of a hollowed-out tree. He was in the middle of buttering toast when Twilight came walking into the kitchen, looking more nervous than she had when she walked into Celestia's throne room.

"Hey, Twilight!" Spike greeted, quickly placing the toast on the plate and hurrying over to set it down on the kitchen table. "I made you breakfast. I figured you would need a pick-me-up after you got back. I left the yolk whole, just how you like it."

"Thanks...," Twilight said as she looked down at the plate, wishing that she had any semblance of an appetite.

"What's wrong?" asked Spike, noticing how concerned she appeared to be. "What did Princess Celestia say? It's not another Tartarus escapee or anything like that, is it?"

"No," Twilight answered, shaking her head.

"Well, what is it, then?"

She shook her head again. "I....I can't say."

"Oh. I take it you're not going to eat, then?" Spike asked, disappointed.

Twilight turned her head away from him, saying nothing.


"I have to tell you something...." she said in a nervous voice.

"Yes?" Spike said, trembling with sudden worry.

Twilight inhaled deeply, and her eyes moistened with tears. The atmosphere between them grew silent and unspeakably chilling as a sharp fear swept over her entire body. In that moment, the reality of her task suddenly presented itself with horrifying vividness. She had to do this, and if she failed, he would die...

Twilight finally opened her mouth to speak. "We can't..."

She slipped into a long pause, struggling to find adequate words for what she needed to tell him. She heard nothing but the sound of her own breathing, and if it were any more silent, she may have been able to hear her own heartbeat.

"What? Can't what?" Spike asked after several seconds had gone by. His words traveled to Twilight's ears in a distorted slow motion.

She quickly turned back around to face him, instantly breaking away from the silent and chilling atmosphere.

"Nevermind, it's nothing," she said with a vague sense of relief. "I just need to be alone right now."

Twilight hurried out of Spike's sight before he had the chance to see any tears. She climbed several stairs up to her new bedroom and closed the massive double doors behind her. She threw herself facefirst onto the bed as the tears progressed from her eyes and off of her face. Her pillow soaked them up as they fell.

I can't do this! I can't do this! I can't do this! I can't do this!

It only took two words for her to realize the sheer impossibility of her task. She had spent the entire flight back home thinking about what she would say to Spike, yet she could not even begin come up with anything sufficient enough to explain why she would be breaking away from him, especially since she had hatched him and he was family to her in all but blood.

Of course, it was not as though thinking of a way to end her relationships with her pony friends would be any easier. At this point, they were just as much family, and seeing them hurt and upset would be just as painful to her.

Realizing that lying there was not going to solve anything, Twilight suddenly threw herself off her bed and began to pace frantically all about her room.

Okay, okay, okay, okay. Gotta think of something. How can I get them to stop liking me?

She began to think up methods based on her experiences in Ponyville:

She thought back to the day she first arrived in Ponyville—a day that now seemed like a lifetime ago. She hated the way she had treated her future friends. They had been nothing to her but a waste of her time—an obstacle keeping her away from her objective. Yet they had remained largely oblivious to her feelings and still attended a welcome party in her honor, under the belief that they were now her friends. If acting standoffish did not help her lose friends then, it certainly would not work now...

She thought back to the day Trixie showed up in Ponyville—how much her friends hated her boasting and how much she had feared that they would see her as a show-off if she faced off against her. Unlike Trixie, Twilight had more than enough magical skill to back up a fair amount of boasting. However, her friends had long since come to rely on her magical prowess, and suddenly boasting about it would simply come off as unusual to them, rather than annoy them enough to want to end their relationship with her. And besides, Rainbow Dash had been struck with a boastful ego on several occasions, yet they had never once even considered dropping her as a friend. Unfortunately, this was not a viable option...

She thought back to Trixie's return to Ponyville—how she had magically manipulated her friends to do her bidding under the influence of the Alicorn Amulet. Twilight knew that if she ever tried anything similar, her friends would certainly think that she was also possessed or influenced by something or someone. Moreover, she did not think that she could bring herself to use her magic to actually do them harm, and so she quickly discarded the idea.

She thought back to the day she had encountered Discord for the first time—how he had twisted her friend's personalities to the opposite of who they truly were. Twilight had known that something was off about their condescending behavior, though nevertheless, they angered her enough to the point that she wanted to leave Ponyville and never speak to them again. Acting like an incorrigible jerk seemed like most ideal way of losing her friends, but she was not sure if she had it in her to do so towards them. And even if she did, they would likely be able to tell that she was only forcing it and not being sincere, particularly since there would be no apparent catalyst behind it...

"Ohh, this is impossible!" Twilight yelled frantically, dropping to the floor. No matter what method she came up with, the thought of ending her friendships with the ponies she loved so much remained utterly inconceivable. She still wished that this entire thing was a dream that had continued to go on far past the point where it became a nightmare, or perhaps even an elaborate prank...

Her thoughts were instantly broken by a sudden knock on her bedroom door.

"Twilight?" Spike called from outside.

She sighed. "Come in..."

The left door opened and the young dragon entered the room. A perplexed expression spread across his face at the sight of Twilight lying on the floor.

"Umm, are you okay?"

She wordlessly picked herself back up.

"Could I ask you something?"

"Uhhh...sure," said Spike, looking a bit more perplexed.

Twilight paused a moment, gathering her thoughts.

"What are your plans for the future? What do you want to do with your life?" she asked him.

Spike blinked. "Huh?"

"You're really good at baking," said Twilight. "In fact, you're really good at a lot of things. I'm sure you wouldn't have any problem getting a job elsewhere if you wanted to. You don't need to live your life tied to me. In fact...I'd rather you didn't."

Spike's perplexed expression instantly shifted to one of worry. "What...what are you saying?"

Twilight bit her lip and stared down at the floor.

"Uhhh....maybe you could...leave for a while, find a job somewhere else and start living on your own?"

Spike's eyes filled with tears at once.

"Are you...sending me away?"

Twilight took a few heavy breaths. "I....I think..."

Before she said any more, Spike immediately fell to his knees and began to weep.

"You said you would never send me away! You said—"

"I'm not! I'm not!" Twilight said instantly, wrapping him in a hug. "I'm sorry, Spike. I was just—"

"I don't want to leave," Spike interrupted, his voice broken by sobs. "I don't ever want to leave you."

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry," Twilight said with a sigh. "I didn't mean to upset you."

"What did Princess Celestia tell you?" Spike asked, wiping his eyes. "Does she want you to send me away?"

"No, it's nothing like that," said Twilight, shaking her head. "I just can't tell you right now. Not because I don't want to, but because it's for your own good."

Spike went silent for a while as the notion that his worst fear was coming true gradually died down. He wiped away his remaining tears.

"I just really need to figure things out on my own right now," said Twilight, releasing him from her embrace. "I need you to not worry about me."

"Okay...," said Spike, looking disappointed. "But you're not sending me away, right? You promise?"

"I promise," Twilight answered with a warm, yet somewhat insincere smile.

Spike smiled back and left the room, closing the door behind him. Twilight hung her head.

No question about it, this was indeed going to be impossible...

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