by totallynotabrony

Chapter 1: Story

The archives had probably not been properly dusted since they were built. A purple unicorn mare wrinkled her nose at the mess, but there were more important things on her mind.

Her name was Twilight Sparkle. She was a student, and was currently wading through the dank archives for a research project. An ancient pony called Starswirl the Bearded had piqued her interest, and Twilight thought perhaps she could learn more personal details about him by digging into millennia-old public records.

There were books and binders on the shelf. Many were not labeled. Pulling at a random folder, Twilight opened it. Inside were a few scraps of paper that had become barely readable through the ages. The dim lights of the archive did not help.

Sifting through the contents, Twilight noticed a larger, folded piece of paper. She carefully pulled it out and examined it. It had the format of a newspaper. There was a large picture of somepony and a block of associated text.

Squinting to read it, Twilight glanced at the picture. It was not Starswirl the Bearded, and she almost discarded the old newspaper, but something made her take a second look.

The faded, discolored picture was of a mare. Her horn was quite long, as was her mane. She wore some kind of colored uniform, like a sports jersey. There was something strangely familiar about the impish smile she was giving the camera.

Intrigued, Twilight tried to decide how to improve the quality of the picture. She knew a few restoration spells, but something else tugged at the back of her mind. She’d been working on a dramatizer spell, an enchantment that could bring printed material to life. It seemed like a good time to try it out.

Concentrating carefully, Twilight cast the spell. She looked around as the picture in the newspaper seemed to be growing larger and larger, fresh color slowly washing through it.

There was a snap and Twilight found herself in some kind of hallway. A mural with the words Canterlot High School was painted on one wall.

“Next hoofball player!” called a pony with a camera. A young stallion wearing a jersey stepped up in front of the mural and grinned, having his picture taken.

It was common for teams to get every player photographed, for stock photos to have around. Twilight’s brother had gone through something similar when he played hoofball. She looked around, letting out a startled gasp as somepony walked right through her. It seemed that she didn’t really exist here, and was just watching.

Twilight tried to find the mare whose picture had been in the newspaper. She must have already gone through the line. While searching, Twilight happened across an older stallion who wore a jacket that featured the same colors as the players’ jerseys. He was talking to a journalist.

“So what made you decide to enlist Ms. Sunshine to play hoofball?” the reporter was asking.

The coach grinned. “I’d be silly not to recruit anypony that big. She’s a head taller than the Hoofington quarterback.”

“Speaking of Hoofington, how do you think the championship game will go?”

“I’ll promise you one thing,” said the coach. “Ponies will be talking about it for a long time."

Reality began to blur around Twilight as time sped up, moving her forward in the dramatization. She guessed that several hours had passed by the time the floor beneath her hooves stopped moving.

“Come on!” shouted somepony.

“I am!” answered another. “I can’t wait for the game!”

Twilight followed their voices towards a door that led outside. Dusk had fallen, and the sun’s faint glow on the horizon was fading away. Brilliant spotlights shone upon the lush green hoofball field, and the crowd was already in the stands. Most spectators wore either Canterlot or Hoofington colors.

Being effectively a ghost, Twilight felt free to wander on the field, mingling with the marching band and getting close enough to the huddled teams to hear their conversations.

Each pony was kitted out with uniforms and protective gear. The unicorns had horn guards, and everypony had their manes and tails tucked safely out of the way. With so much coverage, it was hard to tell them apart at a glance. That is, except for the one wearing a jersey that read Sunshine. She was markedly taller than the rest.

“Well Clop, I think we’ve got a great game in the making,” said one of the announcer’s amplified voices.

“I think you’re right, Clip. The players are taking the field now.”

The two teams met and the starting coin was flipped. Hoofington won and elected to receive. Twilight watched the kickoff. The ball was downed at the Hoofington forty yard line.

“Not bad, good hustle,” called the Canterlot coach.

The two teams formed up and the ball was placed. Twilight stood at one end of the line, casting her eyes between the two teams. She’d never been much of a fan of hoofball, but the thrill of not knowing what would happen next was beginning to catch her.

The ball was tossed back to the Hoofington quarterback. He paused for a moment and hooked a quick pass twenty yards down the field. A receiver grabbed it and turned to run towards the endzone. Instead, he ran into Sunshine and bounced off, sliding to a halt on his back and blinking in surprise.

The tall mare grinned at him and offered a hoof. The receiver took it, still somewhat shaken. The two of them returned to their respective teams.

The first quarter passed surprisingly quickly. Both teams managed one field goal each, but mostly the ball just went back and forth with some spectacular plays from both sides. Being literally in the middle of the action made the game even more exciting to watch, and Twilight was enjoying herself very much.

In the second quarter, Canterlot scored another field goal. A happy chorus of shouts rose up from the home team. Twilight found herself cheering along. She was from Canterlot, after all.

The halftime show saw both school bands musically dueling with each other, although Twilight felt a little underwhelmed compared to the hoofball action.

“Ladies and gentlecolts, halftime is over, and after what we’ve seen in the first half, I can’t wait for the second!”

“You’ve got that right, Clip.”

Twilight felt giddy with excitement as the period ended and both teams returned to the field. Both coaches had clearly given rousing motivational speeches during halftime. Each team played harder than before, neither giving anything away easily. Despite that, Hoofington scored a touchdown on a long pass, putting them ahead by four points.

By the beginning of the fourth quarter, Twilight was consciously stopping herself from biting her hooves nervously. It probably wasn’t a problem since her body wasn't actually there, but it distracted her from the game.

It was another hard-fought quarter. The ball traveled back and forth down the field but never close enough to either end to score. With forty-five seconds left, Hoofington was in possession of the ball. It had been downed sixty yards from their end zone, forty from Canterlot’s. Even if Canterlot somehow got possession of the ball, a very good kick that netted a field goal wouldn’t win the game. It was touchdown or nothing.

Trying to burn time, Hoofington gave the ball off to a runner. No progress down the field was made, but eight seconds slipped from the clock. Canterlot called their last time out.

The team huddled briefly. Mostly it was just a pep talk. Twilight heard the mounting urgency in their voices. Lining up again, Hoofington began the next play.

This time, the ball carrier managed to take a few yards. Quickly, Canterlot was back on the line. Twilight lined up with them, looking at the concentration on their faces.

Sunshine stared at the pony in front of her. Her lavender eyes looked calm, even under pressure. The Hoofington center began to call the play. Sunshine suddenly grinned and winked at her opponent, her cheerful smile catching him off guard when the play began an instant later.

Eighteen seconds were left when the ball started to move. Sunshine passed through the offensive line so quickly Twilight thought that she might have gone through somepony. She barreled over the center from the side and snatched the ball away from the runner who was trying to take it.

The only pony in front of her was the Hoofington quarterback. A quick, dancing sidestep put Sunshine out of his reach and she sprinted for the endzone, small pieces of turf flying from her hooves as the entire Hoofington team chased her.

If the stadium had had a roof to reverberate the roar of the crowd, Twilight thought she might have gone deaf. The clock expired with Canterlot victorious.

The amplified voices of the announcers managed to make themselves heard regardless. “Well Clip, I think we all know who the Most Valuable Player of this game has been.”

“Sure do, Clop. I think the vote would be unanimous.”

Twilight trotted down to one end of the field where the Canterlot team had gathered around the pony with the ball. She pulled off her helmet, glancing at the scoreboard and turning a dazzling smile to the crowd.

Her mane was tied back and out of the way. She’d worked up a sweat during the game. Still, Twilight stared in astonishment. The mare had a younger, more carefree face than she was expecting. Combined with the lack of royal jewelry and the hoofball uniform, it was no wonder that Twilight hadn’t recognized her in the old photo.


Twilight gasped with surprise, finding herself outside the dramatization and back in the dusty archive. She blinked for a few moments at the newspaper and quietly returned it to the folder.

A while later, Twilight emerged from the archive covered in dust and blinking in the brighter light. She had with her a few notes from Starswirl the Bearded’s personal journal. It had been a miracle to find it, really.

She headed towards her study, pleased to have found what she was searching for. Rounding a corner, Twilight nearly ran into Princess Celestia.

“There you are, Twilight. I hope your search went well?”

“That’s right Princess!” the purple mare replied brightly. “I can keep working on my project now.”

Celestia smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. Good hustle.”

Author's Notes:

I went to a sports bar. I got an idea. 73 minutes later, this story appeared.

Thanks for reading.

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