The light of morning bathed the lush hills and valleys of Equestria in rich golden hues. Though it was not quite yet time for the Running of the Leaves, the orange and red of autumn was beginning to take hold of the trees as they glistened in dawn's slowly evaporating dew.
Inside of a modestly built house, a cheerful yellow patch of sun crawled in a second story window to dance on the muzzle of a tan earth pony, gently rousing the mare from her sleep. With a yawn, she dropped her hooves off the edge of her bed, blinking the last of her drowsiness away before fully committing to stand up. The tan pony nipped her glasses off of her nightstand and, in a maneuver that came only with the practice of having lived with them most of her life, flipped them onto her nose.
A turn of a faucet in the bathroom gave the mare cold water to splash her face with. Looking in the mirror, she noted with some dismay that some strands of pink were showing in her otherwise grey mane. She took out a brush and a bottle of touch-up dye. With a few brush strokes, she worked the dye in until she was satisfied with her respectable monochrome.
The contents of the mare's dresser were neat and organized, and consisted mostly of clean, well-pressed collars. There were a few other outfits for special occasions in some of the other drawers, and that one lacy number... well, she kept that one hidden in a box in the closet. Today was just a day like any other, however, so the tan pony took out a ruffled blue collar that matched the ribbon-bound scroll on her cutie mark. With only a passing glance at the clock on her bedroom wall, the Mayor of Ponyville trotted downstairs.
The smell of coffee mixed with that of boiled oats and lightly buttered toast as the Mayor looked through the day's headlines. Another drought in Appleloosa, she thought, balancing the newspaper in her hooves as she took a sip from her coffee. Those frontier ponies just can't seem to get a break.
With another glance at the time, the tan mare folded the paper and stepped briskly toward the door. She did not like leaving her breakfast only half-eaten, but it simply would not do to show up late to Town Hall. Perhaps one of the interns will have brought donuts to work again. With a cheerful smile on her face, the Mayor left her house to greet the day.
“Good morning, Mayor,” called a familiar voice.
“Good morning, Cheerilee,” the Mayor responded, giving the schoolteacher a polite nod.
“Lovely weather today, isn't it?” The purple earth pony matched her step with the Mayor's.
“Mm, yes it is, although I hope we're not pushing our luck too much. If the weather ponies go too much longer without a rainstorm, I know a few farmers that will be upset,” the Mayor said. Just yesterday she'd received a complaint from Golden Harvest that her carrots were wilting.
Cheerilee just smiled. “I wouldn't worry too much about it. Apple Bloom told me the other day that with harvest season so close, there's really not much time left for growing out at Sweet Apple Acres.” The schoolyard opened up to the left. “This is my stop.”
The Mayor waved a hoof as Cheerilee turned and disappeared into the old schoolhouse. That pony is a credit to this town, she thought, continuing her walk to the Ponyville Town Hall.
The wooden steps outside the city center gave a hollow clunk as the tan mare's hooves struck them. A bulletin board stood just outside the entrance, bearing fliers and public notices for everypony to see. A big, brightly-colored piece of paper dominated the other notices, and the Mayor slowed down to see what it was about as she passed by.
With a chuckle, she realized it was an ad for her own re-election campaign; she had nearly forgotten that there would be another election soon. “Re-elect our Mayor: Dedicated service through experience and trust,” she read aloud, grinning. The interns just re-used last year’s posters! Not that she could really blame them. Having run completely uncontested last year, there was probably boxes and boxes of these fliers in the office. As she headed inside, the Mayor made a mental note to find out who on her staff had taken the initiative to put the poster up.
The Mayor stopped, a tingle running up the edge of her flank. Backing out onto the landing, she took another look at the bulletin board. Below her poster was a smaller, purple piece of paper. The Mayor adjusted her glasses as she read:
A NEW ERA FOR PONYVILLE!
ELECT TWILIGHT SPARKLE
for TOWN MAYOR
A faint magenta light reflected off rows of oak-bound tomes, not quite drowned out by the natural mid-morning sunlight that filtered in through the library's skylights. Twilight Sparkle pursed her lips in concentration as she locked her eyes on her project. “Carefully now,” she said to herself, “easy does it.”
A feather quill hovered over an open container of ink on her desk, bathed in Twilight's magical aura. Slowly, ink began to arc off the tip of the pen and into the container. “That's it,” she said evenly. “It's working...”
A furious pounding rang from the library's front door. Twilight's eyes flicked over to the door for a fraction of a second before returning to the pen, which began wobbling. “No, wait--!” But it was too late, her concentration had been broken. A stream of black ink spurted into the unicorn's face.
Twilight's ears flattened as another round of hoofbeats rattled the door's hinges. “I'll be there in a minute,” she called, looking around for a towel. A few more rounds of increasingly impatient door-knockings occurred before Twilight pulled the door open. “Can I help you—Miss Mayor?”
The Mayor stormed into the library. “Twilight, what is the meaning of this?”
Twilight tried wiping the inkstains off her face with her hoof, but only succeeded in spreading it to the tip of her muzzle. “Well, I was working on developing a way to get the ink from an old quill back into the bottle to be reused. I figured out that I could get almost two whole extra pages of writing out of a single bottle if I simply--”
“Not that,” the tan earth pony interrupted, unfolding a purple piece of paper, “this!”
Twilight held the flier in front of herself with magic. “A new era for Ponyville. Elect...” The unicorn's eyes widened. “Mayor, this is—I mean, I had no idea!”
The grey-maned politician peered at Twilight over her eyeglasses. “You're saying you didn't post this in front of Town Hall?”
Twilight Sparkle shook her head. “I would never! I've always thought you've done a wonderful job as mayor, and I certainly don't think I could do any better! This has to be some kind of misunderstanding.”
The Mayor's eyes regarded the light purple unicorn with suspicion for a moment longer before her expression finally softened. “I believe you,” she said, breathing a sigh of relief. She bowed her head and turned back toward the exit. “I hope to see you at the polls.”
Twilight nodded. “Definitely. And I'll try to find out who made this. Have a good day!” She waved a hoof as the Mayor trotted out. Twilight closed the door behind her. The unicorn’s eyes fell on the scrap of paper, then drifted up to the bed of her assistant. Her tail swished in irritation.
“Aw, come on,” Spike whined, scrambling to keep up with Twilight on his short legs. “You'd make a great mayor!”
“Spike, being mayor of a town is a lot of hard work. Weather planning, construction permits, irrigation projects, all that has to go through the Mayor's office. On top of running the library and my friendship studies, I just wouldn't have the time to take office.”
Spike waved the crumpled flier in his hand. “But Pinkie and I were up all night working on this poster!”
“And maybe I feel silly for saying this,” Twilight replied, “but I thought Pinkie would know better. Honestly, Spike, why do you even want me running for mayor? You think being a librarian's assistant is hard, you just try being a political intern.” The two of them arrived at Sugarcube Corner. The sugary scent of sweets wafted out of the bakery as the lunch rush brought customers through the doors.
Inside, patrons sat at tables chatting amiably among themselves over their pastries, or staring through the glass counters at the cakes. Pinkie Pie was making rounds about the room, handing out green-frosted cupcakes to everypony. Tucked beneath each cupcake was a folded piece of purple paper. “Free cupcake on the house,” she said as she passed the treats out, “courtesy of Twilight Sparkle for a Better Ponyville!”
Twilight's ears flicked in annoyance. “Pinkie Pie,” she growled.
“Oh, hi Twilight!” The pink pony continued distributing the cupcakes. “Be sure to vote for Twilight Sparkle,” she called after a pair of customers that had just walked out the door. “What's up?”
“Well, apparently I'm running for mayor,” Twilight said.
“That's great! Have you picked a party?” Pinkie gave out the last cupcake in her tray and set the tray down. “I'm partial to the balloon-animal party, but if you think you lean more towards the apple-bobbing party, I can respect that choice.”
“Pinkie, I--,” Twilight's mouth stopped as her brain tried to make sense of anything her friend had just said. Coming up with nothing, she just shook her head. “I don't want to be mayor!”
“That's just silly. Who doesn't want to be mayor? I would run, but then I'd be up against you, and then I wouldn't know who to vote for!” Pinkie turned her head toward a customer as he walked in through the door. “Vote Twilight Sparkle for mayor of Ponyville,” she proclaimed.
“Pinkie, I need you to stop handing out these fliers,” Twilight said.
Pinkie shook her head. “Sorry, Twilight, I can't do that.”
The unicorn grit her teeth together. “Why not?”
Pinkie Pie pulled out a long scroll of paper with a lot of writing on it. She cleared her throat. “Twilight Sparkle for a Better Ponyville is a nonprofit political organization whose viability as a legal source for political donations is contingent upon the condition that it will not coordinate in any way with any campaigning candidates, as is provided in Section 54-382B of the Ponyville town charter.”
Twilight stared blankly.
Pinkie Pie rolled the scroll up and put it away. “It means as long as I'm in charge of Twilight Sparkle for a Better Ponyville, I'm not allowed to do what you tell me to do! You told me to stop handing out fliers, so,” Pinkie reached around the counter and grabbed a fresh tray full of cupcakes and fliers, “now I gotta go hand out these fliers!” The pink pony bounded off to distribute her cupcakes and fliers.
Twilight hung her head, defeated.
Spike took a breath.
“Not a word, Spike,” she grumbled.
“Not a single word.”
The Mayor found Twilight sitting on the steps of Town Hall, reading a thick book on Equestrian law. With a glance to the bulletin board she found three new purple posters pinned up. “Twilight dear, I thought you were going to put a stop to this nonsense.”
Twilight sighed dejectedly. “I thought I was, too. But apparently, it's out of my hooves.” She nosed a page over on the heavy law book. “According to this, I legally can't tell Pinkie to stop campaigning for me.”
The Mayor peered over Twilight's shoulders at the section she was reading. She recognized it. 54-382B had led her to more than one heated argument with her best campaign donor, Filthy Rich. “But, you're too young, aren't you?”
Twilight shook her head. “I've been old enough to hold office for three years now. Former mayor Golden Bit had barely graduated from school when he became mayor of Ponyville forty years ago.”
The tan pony was surprised to learn this. When Golden Bit had retired, he had fully endorsed her campaign. She had never known how young the old pony had been when he had started. “Isn't there anything you can do?” she said, flaring her nostrils as she watched a purple piece of paper blow across the street in the wind. “These fliers are making an awful mess.”
Twilight was silent for a time, before her eyes widened. “You're right, they are making a mess, aren't they?” she said excitedly. The unicorn flipped her lawbook shut and tucked it into her saddlebag. “I've got to go!”
The Mayor opened her mouth, her eyes glazed with confusion as she watched her unwilling rival trot off toward Sugarcube Corner.
Outside the bakery, Pinkie Pie had set up a platform with multicolored streamers and ribbons. A big banner hung in front that read in big letters:
TWILIGHT SPARKLE for a BETTER PONYVILLE
There was a knot of ponies gathering before the platform, cheering Pinkie on as she shouted to them. “It's time, Ponyvillians!” she said. Pinkie put a hoof against her ear. “What time, I hear you ask? Well,” she pulled a string, releasing a cloud of confetti into the air, “it's time for a new mayor in Ponyville, of course!” The crowd stomped their hooves in applause.
“And who better to be that new mayor than my super-duper awesomecakes friend Twilight Sparkle?” she said. Spike walked across the platform throwing muffins out to the crowd, drawing a particularly enthusiastic cheer from a cross-eyed grey pegasus who hovered above the others. “She's real smart, and super nice, and she's already saved the town more times than I can count! And that's just as a regular ol' librarian. Just think of what she could do as mayor!” Pinkie Pie waved her hooves around, grinning widely as cheers and applause washed over the stage.
Twilight made her way around the edge of the crowd to put her front two hooves on the platform. “Pinkie,” she said. The pink pony didn't seem to hear her. “Pinkie Pie!” Twilight shouted.
Pinkie looked down. “Oh, there you are!” Ignoring her friend's stammering objections, she dragged Twilight onto the stage. “Your future mayor, everypony!” she cried as the crowd grew in volume.
Twilight blushed nervously at being the center of attention, but she shook her head, determined not to be deterred. “Pinkie, you need to take all this down,” she said.
Pinkie laughed. “Silly-willy, do I need to get out the scroll again? I can't coordinate with you, remember?”
Twilight Sparkle straightened her back. “Aha, but this time I'm not asking as a candidate. I'm asking as a concerned citizen who doesn't want to see Ponyville all covered in litter.” She pointed her hoof at the piles of confetti drifting in the streets to illustrate her point. “According to the rules, that's not coordinating.”
Pinkie Pie gasped. “Oh my gosh, Twilight, you're right!”
“Good. Now, I--”
Pinkie scrambled to the edge of the platform. “Listen, everypony! Twilight Sparkle just had an amazing idea! We need to clean up all this trash to keep Ponyville clean. We could form a volunteer litter patrol to go around town picking up garbage!” The crowd cheered. “And while we're going around town, we can tell everypony about what a great civil servant Twilight is!”
The lavender unicorn stood dumbfounded as the excited crowd set to work sweeping confetti off the cobbles.
Pinkie Pie squealed with delight. “Oh, this gives me a great idea for a new campaign slogan! Spike, take a note.”
Spike took out a parchment and a quill.
The pink pony waved her hoof dramatically toward the horizon. “Twilight Sparkle—cleaning up Ponyville!”