Lost and Never Found

by Oroboro

Chapter 1: Sparkle Lost

"Excuse me," Twilight said as she approached the green filly standing alone in Canterlot Park in front of a map on a large signboard, "but you look like you're lost. Can I help you?"

The list of possible responses she had assembled did not include getting kicked in the face.

"Help, I'm being foalnapped!" the filly shrieked, flailing wildly at her would-be attacker.

Twilight sputtered, glanced about, eyes darting back and forth, then pulled the child off her with telekinesis. Luckily, nopony else seemed to be around at the moment. "I'm not foal-napping anypony! I'm Princess Twilight Sparkle, see? Wings and a horn and everything!"

The child continued to shriek and thrash about. Her tiny horn sparked in futile self-defense, and the meeting of magics made Twilight’s own horn itch. "I've never heard of a Princess Twilight! You’re probably a horrible changeling come to gobble me up!”

Well, that was a new one. It wasn’t as if she ordinarily sought out recognition, but these days it was pretty much impossible to avoid, especially in Canterlot. Twilight let her fall to the ground and the filly rolled away, taking cover behind a nearby lamppost before peeking back out at her from around the corner.

Twilight held up a hoof, trying to appear as nonthreatening as possible. “I’m not a changeling, I promise! It’s not actually possible for changelings to use telekinesis. They can only use their horns to change shape.” It was a half-truth. Queens like Chrysalis could use magic, but the kid wasn’t likely to be familiar with the nuances of changeling biology.

The filly bit her lip, shifting her weight back and forth, clearly trying to think it through. Finally, she poked her head out a little more, asking, “Are you sure you’re not going to eat me?”

“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye,” Twilight said, going through the motions. “The only things I gobble up are books!”

“Books?” The filly tilted her head and blinked several times before she burst into a fit of giggles. “If you ate books, you’d get paper cuts in your mouth, and your tongue would be all black!”

Twilight let herself relax, and her expression shifted from a forced smile into something more genuine. Kids were kids, after all. “It really depends on how you prepare them. What’s your name?”

“I’m Melon Ball!” Melon trotted out from behind the lamp into the open, her head held high, but she faltered midway, looking at Twilight closely before she dropped her head. “Um, Your Highness?”

It was Twilight’s turn to laugh. “It’s okay. You can just call me Twilight, it’s what all my friends call me.”

Melon’s eyes went wide. “I can be friends with a princess?”

“I am the Princess of Friendship after all.” Twilight walked past the filly and stopped in front of the large map Melon had been studying when she had first seen her. “So, what’re you trying to find?”

Melon joined her at the map, frowning. “I’m trying to get to my mom’s house. I just got my cutie mark, and I wanted to show her! But I keep getting lost. I’ve got her address here on this paper, but…”

Twilight took the paper, rubbing at her chin. “You don’t know how to get to your mom’s house?”

“Nuh-uh. I live with Daddy. Mom comes by to visit once a month, but I’ve never been to her house on my own before…” She pawed at the ground, shivering slightly. “What if I never get to show her my cutie mark? I want her to be proud of me…”

Any filly in distress would have had her sympathies, but after a heart-melting admission like that, there was no way Twilight could stay uninvolved. She made a mental note to be thankful for her own loving and stable family. “Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I know where this neighborhood is. It’s not too far from where I grew up, and I know this town like the back of my hoof.”

Melon gasped, then leaped up and threw her forelegs around Twilight’s leg in a tight hug. “Oh, thank you thank you thank you! Yes! I can’t wait!”

“I bet your mom is looking forward to it,” Twilight said, making sure to memorize the map before she turned to go. “Stick close to me, okay?”

Melon nodded and saluted, her grin splitting her face as she fell into step beside Twilight.

The morning was brisk and a bit foggy as they made good time together through the streets of Canterlot. The area was unusually devoid of ponies for this time of day, but any number of local events could draw crowds away from the residential districts, so it wasn’t too strange. It gave the pair plenty of privacy to talk.

“So,” Twilight asked as they rounded a corner. “A slice of watermelon; how does a pony get that for a cutie mark?”

Melon Ball beamed. “My dad has a big garden he works on all the time. He’s really good! And this summer he let me have my own section of the garden, so I wanted to plant watermelons. I worked on them really, really hard and took good care of them, and they grew really big! Once school started back up I brought the biggest one in to show what I had been doing all summer. My teacher said I should share it with the rest of the class, so we cut it up into a bunch of pieces and everypony got one. They loved it! When I saw how happy it made everypony, enjoying something that I had worked so hard to make… It felt right. And then I got my cutie mark.”

“Wow, that’s quite the story! Congratulations.” While a watermelon slice might not have been the most grandiose cutie mark Twilight had ever found, the meaning of a cutie mark was always personal and meant so much more to the pony wearing it than a mere image on their butt.

“What’s your cutie mark anyway?” Melon asked. “A star?”

Twilight grinned, spreading her wings a little to better show it off. “It represents the Element of Magic. And friendship. It’s a bit complicated, and kind of a long story. That’s actually why I’m here in Canterlot today. There’s a big conference on zoning rights in Equestria going on. It’s mostly a bunch of boring political stuff. But my friend Fluttershy asked me to go and represent her plan to cordon off a wildlife sanctuary.”

Melon’s face scrunched up, the gears turning in her head. “So, um, how come you’re not at the conference right now?” she asked, looking up at her.

“That's, uh, well…” Twilight sighed, rubbing at the back of her head with a hoof. “I kind of snuck out during the lunch recess. I love bureaucracy just as much as the next pony, but if I had to spend another minute listening to those stuffy old coots argue the minutiae of Zoning Code Forty-Seven, article A, subsection C one more time I was going to break something.”

"Huh." Melon bit her lip for a few moments, then grinned. "So you're playing hooky?"

Twilight laughed. "I suppose I am. Though I'll have you know that I never once skipped out on any of my classes growing up. Education is important!" With a wink, she added, "There's a reason I'm a princess after all."

Melon gasped, her eyes sparkling. "Do you think I could be a princess someday?"

"Who knows? Stranger things have happened." Twilight rounded the corner then stopped, turning to face Melon. "And here we are!"

Melon's face fell, and she lowered her head. "This is..."

Twilight blinked. That wasn't the reaction she had been expecting. She turned to object, and...

They were back at the empty park where they had started.

"That's impossible," Twilight muttered. "I know I followed the right path. Even if I made a wrong turn or two we should be a block or two away at most, not back where we started."

Melon sniffed, rubbing at her eyes. "This is what always happens. I get lost, and now you're lost too. I'm never going to be able to show my mom my cutie mark..."

Twilight grimaced and reached down to ruffle Melon's red mane. "We're not lost. It's just a minor setback, I promise! Twilight Sparkle doesn't give up that easily. I must have gotten distracted talking to you, that's all."


"No buts. Trust me, I'll get you home."

Melon nodded, cracking a faint smile. "Okay. Thanks, Twilight."

Their second sojourn into the city was far more subdued, and Twilight forgoed conversation in favor of carefully mapping her steps. She stopped at every corner to double check her map, referencing street signs and common landmarks.

Which only made the second time they wound up back in the park all the more infuriating.

"Alright, enough of this," Twilight growled. She levitated Melon into her back, holding her securely with telekinesis. "I went through a lot to get these wings, might as well use them, right?"

Tall buildings, low clouds, strong wind, and fifteen minutes worth of confused flying, and they touched down in the park once more.

"Once is an accident," Twilight muttered, pacing back and forth. "Twice is a coincidence. But three times? That's a pattern."

"It's hopeless," Melon whimpered, sinking to the ground and folding her forelegs over each other. "You should just leave me here, and go do your conference thing."

Something was wrong. She could feel it in the air, a tingling in her spine like she was being watched. It certainly didn’t help that she hadn't seen a single pony out and about on any of their trips.

Twilight lit up her horn, reaching out with her magical senses. She walked past the quietly sobbing filly and felt something out there, an ominous pressure of unseen energy, like the beginning of a storm.

Who or what could do something like this? Discord immediately came to mind, but it didn't really seem like his style. Unless there was a feghoot or a shaggy dog waiting at the end, pranks by Discord tended to be far flashier.

Discord probably would have been easier to deal with. Twilight let out a sigh. She’d heard of stuff like this happening before, in old legends and fairy tales. A type of ‘endless maze of the mind.’ Escaping was always a double bind; one would have to come to some sort of personal revelation to leave, but it could never be reached while trapped inside. A classic sisyphean tragedy.

The way she figured these things were supposed to work, she could just turn around, walk away, and find her way back with no problem. All she would have to do was leave Melon behind.

Twilight took one look at the crying filly and shook her head. “Not today,” she growled. She levitated Melon back onto her back, and took off into the air.

“We already tried this,” Melon shrieked as they gained altitude. “It’s not going to work!”

Twilight said nothing, flying straight up. She climbed higher and higher, the world an endless grey fog around her, until she reached the apex of how far she could go.

She was Twilight Sparkle. The Princess of Friendship. If reality was going to mess with her, she would have to show it just how much she had learned.

Twilight closed her eyes and dove, putting on as much speed as she could. Wind roared through her ears, and she could faintly hear Melon screaming, but she held the filly close to her with magic. She felt the world, the maze, resist her and push back. She fired up her horn as brightly as it would go, throwing energy forward to cut through the resistance, and backwards to increase her speed.

Screaming, Twilight channeled every scrap of momentum and energy and carefully calculated precision into a teleportation spell right before she hit the ground, and the dimensional barrier tore around her. Everything lurched and spun.

Twilight skidded to a halt outside of a rundown suburban home, sweat pouring down her face and stars dancing before her eyes. She gently set Melon on the ground and weakly raised a hoof for a hoofbump. “See? Told you I’d get you home. Piece of cake.”

Melon wobbled as she stood up, then shook her head rapidly. “I… I can’t believe it. That was amazing.” Her sense of elation was brief, however, as she swallowed and looked over her mother’s home.

“Well?” Twilight asked. “We’re here. Go on, go see your mom.”

“I…” Melon began to tremble, shaking violently. Her tiny form suddenly seemed frail and nearly ephemeral. “I c-can’t. I’m scared.”

Twilight blinked, then extended a wing, draping it over the filly. “Of course you can. I don’t know the specifics of your relationship with your mother, but if you want, I’ll stay by your side the entire time. That’s a—”

They were interrupted as the front door suddenly opened, and a middle-aged cream-colored mare stepped out, idly humming as she levitated a bag of garbage along behind her. She made it all the way to the street, set her trash on the curb, and then turned to go before she noticed them standing there and jumped backwards.

“Oh goodness! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you standing there. I apologize for being so rude, I—”

The mare’s eyes grew even wider, and she clasped a hoof over her mouth. “Y-you’re Princess Twilight Sparkle! I saw you at the coronation and everything! I…” her eyes darted back and forth and she dipped into a low bow. “Y-your Highness, to what do I owe this pleasure?”

Twilight let out a light sigh. “Please, there’s no need for formalities. You’re uh,” Twilight glanced over at the name on the mailbox, “Honeydew, correct?”

Honeydew nodded. “That’s me! Oh, but I’ve never met a princess before. I just wish…” she faltered, her smile fading and a sad distant longing touching her eyes.

“Is something wrong?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Honeydew said, forcing a laugh. “It’s just that my daughter would have loved to meet you.”

“Would have?” Twilight felt a chill run down her spine. “Your daughter, she’s right…”

“I’m afraid she passed away two years ago. Carriage accident. During the changeling attack. She was such an energetic girl…”

Twilight slowly turned to look at Melon Ball. The filly stood behind her, eyes wide and glistening with tears.

Honeydew glanced up at Twilight, and must have read the look of shock on her face, because she quickly waved a hoof dismissively. “I’m so sorry, you didn’t need to hear that! And I definitely don’t blame you or anything. You and your friends did an excellent job of protecting the city.”

“No, that’s not…” Twilight glanced between the two. Honeydew couldn’t see her daughter standing right there. The pieces were all beginning to fall into place now.

“Um…” Honeydew sniffed, rubbing at her eyes. “I’m sorry, Princess, did you need anything from an old mare like me? If not, I have some chores to get back to.”

Twilight hung her head. “... No. I was just passing by.”

Honeydew nodded as she turned to head back inside. “It was nice meeting you, Princess.”

“I told you,” Melon Ball mumbled, after her mother was out of sight. “It’s hopeless. I can never show Mommy my cutie mark.”

Twilight gritted her teeth, trying to hold back tears. “I… this isn’t fair. You were too scared to face this, that’s why you were lost, right? It was something you didn’t want to accept. But we’re here now. You should at least be able to say goodbye.”

Melon reached up a hoof and rested it over Twilight’s heart. “It’s okay. You don’t have to cry, I understand now. Seeing mom was enough. I had a lot of fun with you, okay? Thanks for trying.”

Twilight glanced down, and Melon started to fade away.


She wouldn’t let it end like this.

Power flooded into Twilight, and she grabbed ahold of Melon, pulling her back into whatever sort of existence she currently held. She strode forward, dragging the shocked filly through the air as she walked up to the house and banged on the door.

Honeydew opened the door a few moments later, her eyes red and puffy. “Princess…? Um, can I help you?”

“I’m sorry,” Twilight growled, forcing even more magic into her already burning horn. “This is probably going to hurt you a lot, but I’ve got somepony here who really wants to show you something.”

With a roar and flash of power, Twilight tore reality asunder once more. She didn’t know exactly what universal laws or systems governed little ghost fillies and how they passed on from this world, but she made a promise, and she was going to keep it, whatever it took.

Honeydew went pale as a sheet as her eyes fixated on her daughter, her bottom lip trembling. “B-baby? That’s impossible, you’re—”

Melon stood up from where Twilight had dropped her, rubbing at her neck, not meeting her mother’s eyes. “I know. I’m sorry Mom.”

“No, no.” Honeydew stepped backwards. “This can’t be real, what have you—”

“Ma’am, please,” Twilight panted, her eyelids drooping. “You’ve only got a few moments to say goodbye. Make them count.”

Melon Ball bit her lip, and she shifted back and forth. “Um, hi, Mom. There’s something I wanted to show you.”

Honeydew trembled, her eyes glistening with tears, but she managed to force her expression into a smile. “What’s that, sweetheart?”

“My Cutie Mark, see!” Melon turned, showing it off. “It’s a melon! Sort of like yours, but different.”

“Congratulations, dear,” Honeydew said, kneeling down and throwing her forelegs around her daughter, pulling her tight. “I’m so proud of you.”

Twilight watched them hold the embrace as Melon faded away for good this time, until only her mother was left behind, sobbing on her front porch.

After a minute, Twilight moved to attempt to comfort the mare, but she brushed Twilight aside, rubbing at her eyes. “T-thank you, Princess, but I think I need to be alone right now.”

There was a heavy feeling in Twilight’s heart she wasn’t quite sure how to describe as she turned and made her way back into the city. Had she done the right thing? Probably, but for some reason, it didn’t feel very good.

“And then, she just vanished,” Twilight said with a sigh as she idly ran a hoof around the edge of her teacup. “I don’t know. I mean, I’m glad I was able to help her move on, I guess, but I wish I didn’t have to in the first place. Like, what about her dad? He’s still alive; should I tell him I met his ghost daughter? Do I trust the mom to do it? They’re not my family. What right do I have to be barging in and opening up old wounds?”

“Oh, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, smiling softly. She set her teacup on the table, then walked around to give Twilight a hug. “You have a big heart, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You were just trying to help a filly find her way home. That you encountered some extra difficulties along the way doesn’t change all that much, does it?”

Twilight squeezed back, but then pulled away from the embrace and began pacing. “That’s just it though. I’m still not entirely sure why or how this all happened. Most of the literature out there about spirits and the afterlife is superstitious hogwash. I need to do a lot more research. Maybe talk to Zecora a bit.”

Fluttershy giggled. "More research isn't always the answer, Twilight. Though in this case, I understand why you want to know."

"Yeah. Twilight stopped, frowning. “Sorry again that I didn’t get your proposal submitted. After everything that happened, I just couldn't focus."

"I'm okay, now that I know the reasoning behind it. There's no need to—”

They were interrupted by the sound of the large gong that served as Twilight’s doorbell in her castle.

Twilight stretched, rolling her shoulders. “Spike’s out, so I’ll get it. Sorry.”

“Oh no, don’t worry about me. Take your time.”

It took a minute to reach the door, and she didn’t see anypony out of the peephole, but she opened it anyways. “Hello?”

“Uh, hey, Twilight.”

Twilight looked down to see Melon Ball standing on her doorstep.


Melon Ball shrugged, rubbing at her mane with a hoof.

Twilight blinked, rubbing at her eyes with a hoof. “Uh, shouldn’t you have… moved on, already?”

“I think so? I’m not really sure, but I think you may have… broken something? When you used all your magic and stuff. I can kind of wander around wherever I want now, but you’re the only pony who can see me. Although there was a weird pink pony looking at me funny on the way over.”

“Oh. Whoops. Uh, sorry?”

Melon sighed. “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do now.”

What an interesting turn of events. She was pretty sure nothing like this had ever happened before. “You know, I was just starting to work my way through the whole emotional closure thing. You showing back up really kind of throws a wrench in all of that.”

“I see.” Melon bit her lip. “I can leave if you want.”

Twilight giggled. “I’m just kidding, it’s okay. I don’t know much about ghosts, but I’ll be happy to do as much research as I can on your condition.”

Melon rolled her eyes, then stuck her tongue out. “Being dead is a condition, huh? You studying me isn’t going to hurt, is it?”

“Probably not,” Twilight said with a shrug. “But this is uncharted territory for me. Come on, I’ll show you my castle. Then we can see if there’s a way for you to talk to ponies who aren’t me. I bet my friend Fluttershy would love you.”

Melon perked up immediately, and dashed to Twilight’s side. “Really? That would be awesome!”

“Great! I’ve got an amazing lab too, you wouldn’t believe what I’ve been able to collect from…”

Whatever she had broken, whatever this filly’s purpose, however much time she had left…

Twilight might as well let her have some fun while she was still here.

Author's Notes:

Thanks to Kalan, Magpie, and Dubs Rewatcher for editing.

A big thanks to MalWinters for doing the coverart.

This was originally an entry in the 2015 July Writeoff "Best Laid Plans"

Inspired by a particular story...

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