Things are less than optimal and tensions are running high in my Equestria dreamscape after the failed attempt discover information about Applebloom's condition via a truth potion [link]
. After finally stabilizing the little filly her doctor had to not only reset her dislocated hind leg, but also determine what, if any, other damage had occurred during her most recent, and most violent, bout of seizures. After several tests and spells he was confident that she was no longer in any immediate danger, but he expressed concern about potential long term damage to her heart if it was stressed repeatedly in such a quick and violent fashion. New batteries of tests and spells were scheduled and experts from even the Royal Court were brought in by order of the Two Sisters to evaluate Applebloom's case file. To everyone's annoyance their were results were equally negative. Everyone agreed that something that was influencing the little filly, and Applebloom had suffered some kind severe trauma or contact while she was in the Kingdom of Shadows, but the exact nature of the event still remained a mystery to them. Even a unicorn stallion who was considered the leading expert in possession by magical beings could not conclusively determine that the little filly was under the physical direct control of a hostile entity.
The biggest hurdle was that no pony has really yet built a clear image of how magic had worked in the Kingdom of Shadows, and the one expert on the topic Paynes Grey had passed away with the destruction of the Lord of Shadows [link]
; along with the only copy of the book he wrote that had brought the Lord of Shadows and his realm into physical existence in Equestria . When I had been a unicorn and had acted as a medium for Paynes, I occasionally had moments when I could almost read his memories including what he remembered of the book he wrote. Unfortunately with his death and my rebirth as a pegasi most of those memories have slowly vanished like sand slipping through your fingers, and since my subconscious can very stingy when it comes to handing out clues so I was just as much in the dark as every other pony. We couldn't even directly involve the Princesses since they were still out of town dealing with serious matters of state.
On top of Twilight's very full plate was also the matter of dealing with her good friend Applejack and the falling out between them since Applebloom's latest bout of seizures. She had seen her friend several times since, but had been unable to get a moment to talk to with her. All she had gotten quick, silent glimpses as she hurried by in the hospital. Either the farm pony acted like Twilight was not there or would hastily depart the area when the purple unicorn entered it. Therefore she had mixed feeling when one afternoon a member of the hospital staff stopped her in the hall and said that Applejack had asked them to find her. Apparently she was waiting down in the main garden on the hospital grounds and wanted to speak with Twilight.
Applejack was sitting on one of the low benches that were scattered amongst the garden. She had removed her signature stetson style hat and was nervously rubbing its brim between her hooves. Twilight stopped in front of the mare. "You wanted to talk to me?" Asked Twilight. Applejack looked up from her worrying of her hat. "Yeah, um have seat if would please." AJ was obviously distressed and kept looking down at the ground and her hat, for several seconds neither pony said a word. Finally the orange mare took a deep a breath and began to speak. "Look Twilight, I just want to say I am sorry for blowing up at you the other day. I know neither you the doctor or the Princesses would intentionally do anything that would endanger my little sis, but recently I have been feeling pretty on edge and I just dumped on you when you least needed it." AJ stared at her hat again for a moment then looked at her friends. "Can you forgive me?" Twilight cracked a smile, then winced a bit as the swollen side of her face from the hoof Applebloom had planted on her rebelled against any form of muscle movement. "Yes. Of course I forgive you." "However I am not only worried about Applebloom now but you. Talk to me AJ. What is really going on with you? I sense that there is something else that has you on edge. Would you please tell me what it is?"
AJ sat there silently and slowly rocked back and forth on about thirty seconds. Then from the corners of her beautiful emerald green eyes a tiny tear trickled silently down her golden cheeks. Then another, and another. AJ breath became more ragged and quick but still she remained silent but her eyes were now pouring forth a steady streams of tears. Without a word Twilight reached over and wrapped her hooves around her and held her close and silently rocked back and forth with her friend, for next ten minutes neither pony said a word as the farm pony unleashed all the feelings she had kept pent up for the last few months.
When she finally calmed down, Twilight was able to get something coherent from AJ about what was really bothering her. Yes she was worried about Applebloom, but that was not the real thing that was eating her up. Ponies don't use this term but AJ was suffering from a version of Survivor's Guilt [link]
. The feeling that she had not done enough to save Applebloom initially. That she had abandoned her when she fled from the orchard on that summer day [link]
. That she should've been taken not little Applebloom. That she really hadn't done anything to rescue her, and it was only because of the actions of others [link]
that Applebloom was back, and even then she was incapable of reaching out and helping her little sister through her current ordeal. Over the next hour the fears, bitterness, helplessness and frustration she had been holding inside finally came out.
Twilight sat quietly most of that hour. Only occasionally making a comment or asking a question. Beyond that she just let AJ talk. Now Applejack's accusations against herself were unfounded but Survivor's Guilt can haunt an individual for the rest of their days. Twilight did the only thing she could do. Be supportive and a voice of reason against the doubts, and fears that had been slowly eating her friend from the inside. Once she opened up, Applejack felt much better.
Then later that same day the one pony other than the princesses that Twilight had really wanted to talk to finally returned from a recent a trip. Zecora having received Twilight's letter and had arrived at the hospital. Twilight had another strategy she wanted to try and now she'd have that chance. To be continued.