Do Not Serve These Ponies
Chapter One:The Truth
Bon Bon had not heard of many museums that had a ‘Banned Ponies’ list. Lists like that were usually the province of convenience stores or salt bars, not high class repositories of the arts. A pony had to go pretty far, she imagined, before a museum was prepared to adopt a method normally used for dealing with drunks and petty thieves just to keep you out.
The photos were pinned to the corkboard next to the register alongside the bored looking cashier. Angry red letters above it said, “DO NOT SERVE THESE PONIES”. It was initially of some comfort to Bon Bon that Lyra’s grinning face was not the only one up there. That comfort diminished upon noticing that the other patrons who had been banned were Nightmare Moon and Ahuitzotl. Lyra wasn’t exactly in good company, she saw.
Not for the first time she wondered exactly what Lyra had done here.
“That’ll be eight bits,” said the museum pony in a dull voice, making her jump with fright. Bon Bon smiled nervously and grabbed for her purse. Every moment, visions of iron bars descending from the ceiling and guard ponies leaping out from behind potted plants flashed behind her eyes. She wished she didn’t know that conspiracy was a crime. She hadn’t been here before, but everypony knew that she spent all her time with Lyra, and this place was run by unicorns, so who knew what kind of security measures they had –
“You all right, ma’am?” asked the cashier, noticing her hyperventilation.
“I’m fine!” said Bon Bon. “I just forgot that I left my house on fire.”
The cashier stared at her. She felt the need to elaborate.
“Don’t worry. I have plenty of houses!” She grinned in what she theorised was a trustworthy manner.
Smooth, she thought, wincing, as the cashier slowly pressed the ticket button.
“Uh, welcome to the Royal Ponyville Museum of Art and History, I hope your stay is... worth it?”
“It already is!” she said with more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary to maintain her cover as she snatched the ticket. “Which way to the bathroom?” she said, mouth full.
“End of the second corridor, ma’am,” said the museum pony. A blur of yellow and the scent of candy on the air were the only things that marked Bon Bon’s passage as she galloped down the hall.
“She must really like ancient pottery,” he murmured, picking up his newspaper.
Bon Bon edged into the bathroom sideways, letting the door fall shut on her tail to muffle the sound of her entrance. She immediately dropped to her stomach and scanned the stalls, looking for signs of hooves. Empty. She breathed a huge sigh of relief and made her nervous way over to the window. It was small and glazed, with some kind of switch-lever thing. She tried to press it as gently as she could, but the devilish artifice of its design caused it to slam instantly open with a loud BANG that made Bon Bon shriek involuntarily and spin to face the door, mind scrambling for an excuse. Her treacherous imagination was otherwise occupied, though, with wondering what featherbrain made a racing game out of window openers.
As her heart’s pounding slowed and she gradually caught her breath, Bon Bon finally came to terms with the fact that there were no armed guards closing in on her position. There was also a lack of Lyra. The lack of guards was fine, but it was on Lyra’s behalf that she was going through this ordeal in the first place. She stuck her head out the window and looked around. Sure enough, Lyra was standing outside, looking up at the morning sun and frowning in contemplation of some great thought. Or possibly daydreaming.
“Lyra!” Bon Bon hissed. “Lyra!” The green unicorn showed no sign of awareness. “Lyra! Over here!” The panic was starting again – why was she taking so long about this?
Lyra blinked. Relief flooded Bon Bon’s heart, but the unicorn didn’t look at her. Lyra began speaking vaguely to herself, “- it’s a pentiform, not a curassier. The entanglement of magical energies can be bypassed with appropriate...”
“LYRA!” Bon Bon half whispered half screamed.
Lyra looked around. “Oh hey Bon Bon! I didn’t hear you there.”
“You didn’t – you didn’t – “ Bon Bon frothed briefly. “I’m breaking you into a restricted building! Do you know what they’ll do to me if they catch me? Did you know that conspiracy is a crime?”
Lyra raised her hoof knowingly. “Is conspiracy to tell the truth a crime?”
Lyra looked concerned at this. Bon Bon nearly had a panic attack when she sat down to think about it.
“Just get in here!” she pleaded.
“Okay!” Lyra said. She stretched, got up and walked over to the window. She pushed her head through the narrow gap and started to squeeze in. Bon Bon hurried over to the door and checked around outside to make sure nopony was coming. She was relieved to see that the coast was still clear.
And it was still clear a minute later. And another minute later. And then Bon Bon started to panic.
She turned around back into the bathroom where Lyra was still lodged in the window. “I think I’m stuck!” said Lyra with far less panic than the situation merited.
“You’re stuck!?” said Bon Bon. Her mind started reeling with the horror of it. “Security could be here any minute. You told me you’d done this before!”
“I told you I’d been here before,” Lyra corrected her.
“I thought you meant in a criminal capacity!”
“Do I look like a career criminal to you?” said Lyra, hanging from the bathroom window.
“This is because you can’t lay off the shakes!” Bon Bon said, “You’re getting fat in the flank!”
“Hey! My flank is lean and shapely!” Lyra complained. “And I earned those shakes. I went on the running of the leaves the other day!”
“It’s summer,” hissed Bon Bon.
“What, already?” Lyra said. “Then what have I been doing for the past eight months?”
“I would say that you had been planning crimes but this CLEARLY hasn’t been planned at all!” Bon Bon said. She grabbed Lyra by the hooves and started trying to pull her through the window. Lyra’s flank was wearing the window snugly and despite how she pulled it refused to leave. Lyra seemed rather nonplussed by the situation.
“It’s hopeless. We’re doomed,” Bon Bon said, collapsing in defeat.
“Maybe you should go around and push. You can get better leverage from that direction,” Lyra said without the faintest hint of worry.
“You really think that’ll work?” Bon Bon said, face lighting up.
“Can’t hurt.” Lyra shrugged from her windowy prison.
Bon Bon was already galloping.
“Uh, ma’am?” said the cashier as he saw Bon Bon racing past him in the other direction.
“I forgot that it was my good house that was on fire!” said Bon Bon as her hooves skidded across the marble.
Bon Bon galloped down the lane towards the flank and legs that were dangling from the bathroom window. She immediately began trying to headbutt Lyra’s behind through the window.
“Ow! Gently!” Lyra complained.
Bon Bon snarled in response.
“You know,” Lyra mused in between headbutts to the plot, “I was thinking of magic to assist with this kind of thing the other day. It’s all theory right now but this might be a good chance for a field test –“
“DO IT!” shrieked Bon Bon.
There was a flash of green light from the inside of the bathroom. Then there was a bang and some crackling.
“Well, I’m glad I didn’t try that on myself first,” Lyra said.
“What did you do,” Bon Bon said.
“Well, the spell was a combination of earth and water elements, designed to create a kind of extremely slippery grease that might expedite my entrance –“
“WHAT. DID. YOU. DO.”
“I started a fire.”
“Just a little one!”
“Arson is a crime, Lyra! And so is conspiracy!”
“You didn’t know I was going to commit arson. That’s hardly a conspiracy.”
“That doesn’t mean they won’t banish me!”
“And what’s more, we’re doing this to bring down a conspiracy. That makes us reverse criminals!”
“That is NOT how it works!”
“Really? That’s a dumb rule,” Lyra said. “Anyway, I can put this out once I get free. Think of it like a time challenge!”
“Today is challenging enough!” Bon Bon cried, redoubling her efforts to shove Lyra’s behind through the window.
“Hold on, I think I’m getting something,” Lyra said. Her flank remained stubbornly stuck. “I was thinking about it before you distracted me. I’ve seen other ponies do it but I haven’t been able to figure out how to do it just by looking at it...”
“Lyra!” Bon Bon whimpered, “Somepony will see us!”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. Two ponies have gone in and out of here already.”
Bon Bon made a sound reminiscent of an asthmatic weasel being strangled by a rat with claws too slippery to make a clean job of it.
“But they’re either very polite or my TransVisibility Screen spell works,” Lyra said. Bon Bon let out a sigh of relief, and gathered her strength for one final shove.
“Miss Cheerilee, what’s that pony doing to that other pony’s flank?” came a small voice from behind Bon Bon. The precise shade of grey that soaked into Bon Bon’s face had never before been seen in the colourful world of Equestria.
“She’s uh –“ Cheerilee’s voice came to a faltering stop.
“Helping me because I’m stuck!” Lyra shouted from the window. Bon Bon noted that there were giggles, plural. Plural as in entire classroom. She did not even dare to look around.
“She’s helping her,” Cheerilee said slowly.
“Can we help too?”
“NO!” shouted Cheerilee and Bon Bon at the same time.
“Oh hey, I think I figured this out!” Lyra said. There was another flash of green light, but while the earlier one had been a kind of sedate, easy-going flash of light this one was a screaming exploding pyromaniac. Birds fled nearby nests and the backwash ruffled everypony’s hair. Applebloom had to stomp on Sweetie Belle's tail to put out a small fire.
Lyra’s slightly scorched face emerged from the inside of the bathroom. “Teleportation! Not quite sure what to do with all the excess fire mana but that’s what practise is for!” She waved enthusiastically to what Bon Bon was pointlessly hoping was not a crowd of school children. She then said something quite unforgivable. “Hi! I’m Lyra and this is Bon Bon!”
“Nice to... meet you?” Cheerilee said in a tone of voice that made Bon Bon suspect she was trying to get the children to quietly edge away. “That was some... spell you cast there.”
“Oh you ain’t seen nothing yet!” Lyra said. “Come on! There’s truth afoot!” Mercifully, she vanished inside the window.
Bon Bon and Cheerilee managed to leave the scene in the same direction without making eye contact.
“How’s your house?” asked the cashier as Bon Bon hurried past him yet again.
“Not dead yet, but it will be,” said Bon Bon.
On the plus side, the fire in the bathroom was rather small. On the minus side, it looked like a flaming buffalo had struck the window. The scorch mark covered half the wall. Even if the teleportation hadn’t worked, enough damage had been inflicted to the window frame and surrounding wall to allow even Lyra’s behind safe passage. The accursed window-opener was springing open and shut in an endless, tortured cycle on the ground. Bon Bon was feeling just spiteful enough to put her hoof through it, ending its misery.
And of Lyra, there was no sign. Of course.
She ran back into the corridor and looked around. She thought she caught a glimpse of a green and white tail vanishing around the corner. She took a deep breath and ran after it.
“And these pots are direct relics from the Paleopony Period, and represent some of the very first known pony crafts. They were found around the Ponymids, which archaeologists think were built to house the remains of powerful rulers from even before the Royal Sisters!”
The Paleopony Exhibition was filled with exotic old stonework and ancient tools. There were crude bronze spears, rock paintings, skulls and a large rune-carved monolith that dominated the western wall. The eldritch carvings in the monolith spoke of things which one would not wish to see translated even if such a herculean endeavour were possible in the first place. A darkness misunderstood, forgotten, and archived where it could wait for the universe to die a natural death without needing to force the issue in accordance with it's malevolent design.
Everypony in the room was doing their best to pretend that the creepy monolith did not exist. The students were even feigning an interest in ancient architecture purely so they didn’t have to pay close attention to the creepy monolith. Cheerilee considered this a fortunate turn of events; hopefully they’d be intimidated enough by the ancient, sorcerous stonework to forget about what they’d seen on the way in and neglect to tell their parents about it once they got home. She didn’t want to have to deal with that particular PTA meeting.
“What’s this thing?” Scootaloo said, pointing at one of the pots with a particularly elaborate carving.
“That is Yggdrassil, the World Tree!” Cheerilee said brightly. “The ancient ponies believed that Equestria stood on the five branches of an ancient and massive tree. The five branches represent the five Elements of Harmony, while Equestria itself is the sixth that brings them all together!”
“And those things?” Applebloom said, pointing out an ancient mural.
“Those are the Minotaurs of the Early Days. Legend has it that in the days before the sun shined the minotaurs would light massive fires and use ancient sorcery to make teams of buffalo to pull them through the sky so that the world would be warmed and darkness defeated!”
“Wow,” Scootaloo said, “that’d be a lot of work.”
“Wait, buffalo can’t fly,” Applebloom said. “My sister went to Appaloosa an’ she’d for sure tell me if she saw buffalo flying around.”
“Well, today’s buffalo can’t fly, but the evidence suggests –“ Cheerilee started, but was cut off.
“The child makes a good point!” boomed a dramatic voice from the balcony above. “Respond to it truthfully if you would.”
“Who are you?” Cheerilee asked bluntly, images of being torn to pieces by ravenous PTA members flashing on the inside of her eyelids.
“I am but a humble servant of the truth!” cried Lyra, revealing herself dramatically. She was wearing a cape that looked suspiciously like it had been stolen from the Vamponies exhibit. “And if you children will listen to me I shall tell you the true history of Equestria. The history they don’t want you to hear! The history which they construct temples of lies, like this museum, to conceal from you!”
Cheerilee’s mind flicked back to the entrance of the museum, putting the voice to the picture on the ‘banned entrants’ photograph. Ah, she thought, so this is what is as bad as Nightmare Moon.
“All right class,” Cheerilee said in resignation, “let’s consider this a lesson in psychology.”
“I am not mad! I simply see with untroubled eyes!” announced Lyra, leaning over the railing. “Two thousand years ago there was not even an Equestria! There was simply an empty void through which they came. In their fleet of glowing starships they travelled through space and between the stars! They found this spot and decided it was right for their purposes, and they set to work building the world!”
“How’d they build the entire world?” asked one of the students.
“Oh, that’s easy,” Lyra said, voice slipping from her dramatic announcer tone to a much more casual, slightly dreamy one. “It’s all basic elemental magic underpinned by harmonics. First they created undirected change, or potentia terribilis, and unleashed it on the region of space. I think I know how they did it; I could probably reproduce it in laboratory conditions if I had enough mana to work with. The potentia is without limit, so it made a world – a rather terrible world ruled by chaos, but it counted as a world. And then the ancients created Celestia and Luna and armed them with the Elements of Harmony.”
At this point Lyra’s dramatic speech voice reasserted itself.
“The pony princesses made a deal with these ancients. They would wield the Elements and defeat the potentia – or Discord as they want you to believe his name is. And then they would spend the next several thousand years terraforming the blasted chaos-scape into something the ancients would find habitable. And then, when the world was finally refined into a sufficiently orderly state, the ancients would invade and claim it as their own! Ponies would be mere slaves and house pets to them! That is the true agenda of the pony princesses – to remove magic from this world on behalf of their terrible alien masters!”
There were shocked gasps from a lot of the schoolchildren and a solitary facehoof from Cheerilee.
“So what are these aliens?” Applebloom asked, wide eyed.
Lyra smirked. She had been waiting for that question.
“They are called humans.”