By Charcoal Quill
Gilda glared at the pony-turned-draconequus that had entered her home uninvited. “Yeah, so you know who I am. So did the last guy, big whoop. Doesn’t change anything; get out of my house! Now!”
Pinkie stared at Gilda, brow furrowed. Something seemed... off about her. “But–” Pinkie began.
“No! No buts!” Gilda interrupted, holding up a claw palm-outwards. “I don’t care if you’re a friggin’ reality-warping avatar of Chaos, if you don’t leave, you’re in for a world of hurt, so help me – Hold on.” She squinted at Pinkie. “Wait… Pinkie Pie, is that you?”
Pinkie stared, goggle-eyed, back at Gilda – jarred not only by the sudden recognition, but also by a further feeling of oddness. Some small part of Pinkie’s brain was quietly but insistently trying to get her attention. “Y-yes,” she stammered. “You can recognize me?”
“Physically? Only barely,” Gilda said. “But I’d recognize that voice anywhere.”
Pinkie’s eyes widened. “Wait, you can understand me? I’m speaking Equuish?”
Gilda rolled her eyes. “No, you’re not. You’re speaking Antiquated Gryphon.”
“Antiquated Gryphon?” Pinkie repeated, tilting her head slightly.
“Technically, Antiquated Gryphon is linguistically similar to Ancient Gryphon, but is only a century or two older than Modern Gryphon.” Gilda paused for a moment, eyes wide, but then glared at Pinkie. “…Hey! You made me geek out. Not cool.”
“Geek out?” Pinkie echoed, frowning.
Gilda grimaced and looked away. “Did I say that? Must’ve been a slip of the tongue or som–”
At that moment, Pinkie’s brain finally got her attention. It immediately drew her focus to–
“Hold on!” Pinkie interrupted, bending in for a closer look. “Are you wearing reading glasses?”
Gilda quickly swiped them off her face. “No,” she said hastily. “I don’t know what you’re talking about! Twenty-twenty vision, eagle-eyed, that’s me, and what in the world would I be doing with books it the first place? I wasn’t wearing reading glasses, honest.”
“You were!” Pinkie said. “And you’ve been using big words, and sounding really smart, and I know I saw few books here, and... and...” Her eyes widened. “Gilda... are you an...?”
“Finish that sentence with ‘egghead’ and I will slap you silly,” Gilda snapped. After a moment, she sighed. “Well, no use denying it, is there? Fine, you caught me. I’ve been reading a lot lately, and the knowledge just sort of… escapes from time to time.” She paused before continuing, more pointedly, “I’m not usually such a bookworm, but one kinda gets a lot of free time once they’ve lost their only friend. Which brings us back to the first part.” Her eyes flashed dangerously. “Go. Away.”
“No, listen,” Pinkie said hurriedly. “I-I’m sorry about before. With Rainbow Dash, I mean. If I hadn’t –”
“No,” Gilda snarled. “Don’t you dare apologize to me!” As the gryphon looked away, her tone softened slightly. “…It’s just like Dash said. I didn’t need any help making a fool of myself. I realize that now. Even if you hadn’t made me so angry, I was still being a jerk.”
“No, I really really mean it, and… uh…” Pinkie blinked a couple of times. “Wait. Are you apologizing to me?”
Gilda laughed bitterly. “Yeah, I suppose I am. Still doesn’t mean I like you, though. So thrice I say it, and done: Go. AWAY!”
There was a short pause.
Pinkie looked around. “Um. I’m still here,” she said. “Was that supposed to do anything?”
“Well, I didn’t really think it would banish you or anything, but one can hope, right?” Gilda replied, rolling her eyes. “So in that case, this can go one of two ways. Either you can leave right now, via your own feet…” She cracked her knuckles. “Or we can resort to physical violence. Even though I try to avoid it nowadays, I feel I can make an exception just this once. For you.”
Pinkie took a step back, arms held out in front of her. “No, wait!” she said. “Gilda, I need your help! You’re the only one who can understand me, and you’re my only hope!”
“Only hope?” Gilda echoed sarcastically. “For what, pray tell?”
Pinkie took a deep breath before saying, “Well, this morning I woke up and I had suddenly become a draconequus and then Mrs. Cake saw me and she couldn’t understand me and started throwing things at me so I left and then I tried to see Twilight but everything was going wrong and I can’t control my powers so then I ran away so that I’d be alone FOREVER and then I ended up here.” Finished, Pinkie gasped for air.
There was a slight pause.
Eventually, Gilda’s brain caught up with the monologue. “So that’s not some freaky, out-of-season Nightmare Night costume? Great, now the nutcase can alter the very fabric of reality,” she muttered to herself. She sighed. “Dang, does weird stuff always happen around you, Pinkie? No, don’t answer that. But anyway, I still don’t see why I should care.”
“Well…” Pinkie shuffled her feet. “You probably don’t have a reason to care, especially after what happened before, but you’re really smart now and you seem to be a little bit nicer, and… uh…” Her voice trailed off.
“Aaaaaand?” Gilda prompted.
Pinkie stared at the ground. Eventually, she replied, although it was barely audible. “…And I wanna be able to see my friends again without freaking them out or hurting them.”
Gilda stared at Pinkie a long while, her expression inscrutable. Eventually, she let out a sigh of disgust. “Ugh. Fine, I’ll help, if only to get you out of my feathers.”
Pinkie bounced over to Gilda. “Really?! Gee, thanks, G!” She reached out to hug the gryphon.
Gilda backed away and turned a glare towards Pinkie. “Hold on, let’s establish some rules before we get too far. First Rule: Don’t call me G. Ever. Second: No hugs. Don’t touch me at all. Third: I’m not doing this because we’re buddies now. It’s gonna cost you.”
“Oh,” Pinkie said, less enthusiastically than before. “Well, I don’t have much money, but when this is all sorted out I’d be happy to let you have my bits!”
“Uh…” Gilda stared at Pinkie for a moment, beak opening and closing wordlessly. Finally, she found her voice. “Oh, right. Pony money is called ‘bits’. That always throws me off…” She shook her head. “But no, Pinkie, I don’t want your money.”
Pinkie tilted her head quizzically. “So, cupcakes, then? Sure thing!”
Gilda groaned, putting a hand to her forehead. “You’re missing the point, Pinks,” she said wearily. “I don’t want anything from you. Heck, if I never again saw anything that even reminded me of you, it would be too soon. What I do want…” She rose up on her hind legs, so her eyes were level with Pinkie’s. “All I want is for you to put in a good word for me with Dash.”
Pinkie grinned. “Is that all? Okie Dokie Lokie!”
Gilda blinked. “What, you acquiesced–” She cleared her throat. “...I mean, you agreed that quickly?”
“Sure!” Pinkie giggled. “I’m happy to help you out with Dashie! It shouldn’t be too hard.” She winked. “You’ll be friends again before you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!”
“Whatever,” Gilda growled. “Let’s just get this over with.”
One could consider the forces of Order akin to Earth: they appear to be sturdy, stable, and slow-changing… except in the rare, sometimes terrible cases where everything shifts all at once. Similarly, one could liken Chaos to Fire: No matter how small the spark that starts it, give it enough fuel and it will spread to consume all that it can touch. This was easily apparent during the times that Discord held Equestria under his sway. Even though Discord personally oversaw much of the chaos, it often spread on its own, changing in unexpected ways. One particularly notorious case of this was the “chocolate milk of glass” effect – that is, chocolate milk poured into a glass would render the glass drinkable, but the milk explosive.
It is because of this inherent nature of Chaos that the relatively minor display of entropy that Pinkie had accidentally summoned was spreading like… well, like wildfire. Already, the chaotic effects were creeping across Equestria, subverting the natural Order of the land. Only the Everfree Forest seemed to be unaffected by the random entropy, but nowhere else was as fortunate. And thus the chaos expanded...
Princess Celestia had actually been looking forward to a quiet day. When she’d awoken that morning to raise the Sun, it was with a smile – she was content in the knowledge that it was Thursday, and her workload was relatively light on most Thursdays. As she coaxed the Sun out to herald the day, she was already predicting the events of the day: a light breakfast accompanied by a small stack of pleasantly mind-numbing paperwork; a routine (if mostly symbolic) inspection of the new recruits for the Guard; several hours spent in the throne room, where in theory she would listen to petitioners, but due to a general lack of complaints (particularly on Thursdays), in practice she would usually spend the time with just a few visitors and an improving book. Maybe she’d wrap it up early and make a surprise visit to Ponyville.
As she stepped out of her chambers, the Princess did her best to suppress an mischievous grin. She could already picture how flustered her faithful student would be when she suddenly showed up out of the blue.
That’s when the first trout fell from the ceiling.
For a long moment, Celestia stared blankly at the flopping, wriggling thing on the floor in front of her. Then her gaze turned ponderously upwards.
Ever so slowly, another fish oozed out of the stone ceiling. Writhing, it fell, smacking Celestia squarely between the eyes.
Celestia let out a deep sigh. So it was going to be one of those Thursdays, then.
The next several hours were spent in a sort of low-intensity spiritual agony that few can accurately describe. The stack of paperwork that would have normally taken twenty minutes dragged out to over five times longer than expected, mostly due to the fact that the words on the papers kept trying to rearrange themselves. The guard inspection became a disaster when spare suits of armor began chasing the recruits. The “improving book” scenario was scrapped when a long, long, long line of concerned petitioners showed up in the throne room, each bearing a tale of even more entropy and unrest. And throughout all this, no matter where she went, trout kept dropping lethargically out of the ceiling, surrounding Celestia in a slowly-growing pile of flopping, smelly fish.
It was a long ways into the afternoon when Princess Celestia had her hooves full with one particularly infuriating case. Luckily, she’d had over a thousand years to teach her to mask her emotions. “So,” she said, smiling sweetly to the brown stallion in front of her, “It’s just another case of some foreign entity thrown out of their own time and place and ending up in ours? Really, Doctor, this sort of thing is routine for you. Just send him back where he belongs.”
The pony glared back at Celestia. “You know, Princess, I’d really love to. I would. But somepony’s freaking box-on-legs ate my TARDIS!”
Next to the earth pony stood a guilty-looking, reddish-colored unicorn, who wore a tattered, pointy hat labeled “WIZZARD”. He shuffled his feet. “You know, I’m really sorry for that,” he said, “but I really can’t control my Luggage and ohgodspleasedon’tkillme.”
“Princess Celestia?” called out a familiar voice from the end of the hall.
Celestia turned towards the source of the noise with evident relief. “Twilight Sparkle? Finally! Please, come in at once!” Addressing the pair of stallions in front of her, she continued, “I’m sorry, gentlecolts, but this will have to wait for another time. When I am ready, I shall send for you, and please… try to stay out of trouble?”
Grudgingly, the Doctor nodded, then left the room, dragging the nervous unicorn behind him. Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, and the rest of the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony entered, along with Spike.
“Twilight and friends, thank you all for coming at such short notice,” Celestia said. “I trust you all kn–”
“Oh my goodness!” Fluttershy bounded forward, eyes locked on the heaping piles of fish. “They can’t breathe! Why hasn’t anypony tried to help them?!”
Celestia sighed. “There hasn’t been much need. Some of them have been out of water for hours, and yet they keep... flopping.” She grimaced. “I’m not sure they’re even genuine fish. Resources have been stretched thin as it is, so I’d decided not to bother with them for now...”
“Not to bother?” Fluttershy looked up at Celestia, eyes watery. “They’ve been suffocating for hours! Real or not, they still might be in pain! You have to do something...”
“Beyond flooding the throne room? I’m not sure there’s much I can do,” Celestia said apologetically.
Fluttershy’s lip quivered.
Five minutes later, the assembled ponies stood knee-deep in water, trout swimming serenely around them. “As I was saying,” Celestia continued somewhat wearily, “thank you all for coming at such short notice. I trust you all know why I have called you here.”
“Well, Twilight here’d been pretty tight-lipped about the whole thing,” Applejack said, carefully nudging away a particularly amiable fish. “But Ah reckon this has something to do with all the chaos that’s been going ‘round, right?”
“Discord’s free, isn’t he?” Rainbow continued. “And you want us to buck him back to where he belongs?”
Celestia shook her head. “No, Discord is…” She paused, brow furrowed. “...still encased in stone. This chaos is being caused by something else. Twilight assured me that she knew what. She hasn’t told you already?” She frowned, noting the absence of a certain pony. “And… where is Pinkie Pie?”
Twilight sighed. “I didn’t want to have to explain everything more than once. I’m not sure I could, even if I wanted to.” She paused for a moment and closed her eyes before continuing. “Apparently there’s another draconequus on the loose, even more destructive than Discord had been. And it’s done something to Pinkie.”
The others gasped.
“Oh, the poor thing!” exclaimed Rarity. “Do you mean she’s…?”
“…Dead?” Twilight finished glumly. “I don’t know. She might be.”
Celestia solemnly considered the news. She’d known many ponies, the vast majority of which had, of course, eventually died. But familiarity with death never made dealing with it easier, particularly when the a pony died through violent ends.
I saw Pinkie only yesterday, Celestia thought. She’d seemed so vibrant… so alive… But it’s best not to dwell on that now. There is still so much more at stake.
The Princess regarded the remaining Element Bearers stoically. “These are grave tidings indeed,” she said, “but we do not have the time to grieve at this moment. If Pinkie Pie is truly dead, then that means a great deal of trouble for us all – especially with this new threat.”
“What do you mean?” asked Dash. “We’ll just grab the Elements of Harmony and then the six of us can…” Her voice trailed off. “Oh.”
“Indeed,” said Celestia. “The five of you cannot hope to wield the Elements alone. This new draconequus has taken from us our Laughter, and without it the rest of the Elements are useless to us.”
“So why can’t we just find some new pony to use the Element of Laughter?” Spike asked. “I’m sure there are plenty of funny guys who could… uh…” He sighed. “Great. Now I’m the new Pinkie Pie, aren’t I?”
Twilight shook her head. “No, Spike, I think we proved the last time that it doesn’t work like that. We can’t just throw in a new member like… like…” She glanced downwards. “...a replacement goldfish.”
“True,” Celestia said. “Even if we found the ideal candidate for Laughter, it would mean nothing without the ties that bind. I fear that we do not have the time for that, even if you would all be comfortable with the idea of…” For the slightest instant, her poker face cracked. She stifled a sob before continuing. “…a r-replacement Pinkie.”
Fluttershy looked up at the Princess. “You’re really fond of her too, aren’t you?” she murmured.
For a moment, Celestia let her carefully serene demeanor drop. “Fond of all of you,” she admitted, smiling sadly. “If I’m completely honest, then you six, Spike, and Luna are the closest thing I have to… well...”
Celestia stopped herself. Now was not the time to bring up the matter of friends. She cleared her throat. “...But that’s not important right now. We need to focus on stopping this new draconequus.”
“Y’know, it’s gonna get old having to say ‘new draconequus’ every single time we refer to it,” Dash said. “What should we call him?”
“Her,” corrected Twilight. “At least, that’s what I gathered from the descriptions given to me.”
Rarity sighed. “Why, this is quite the predicament. The problem with Discord is that his name is already so perfect in describing him. Whatever are we supposed to call others of his kind, like Ms. Draconequus here, whenever they show up?” She furrowed her brow. “Strife? Shenanigans?”
“Why not Eris?” suggested Applejack.
Rarity blinked. “Huh?”
“Oh, y’ know,” Applejack said. “After the mythical Unicorn o’ Strife who started the Trotjan war, using the Apple o’ Discord?”
As one, the others stared at her.
“…What?” Applejack asked, glancing around at her friends. “Why are y’all looking at me like that?”
Twilight stared for the slightest bit longer before speaking up. “Well, the name is…” She paused. “...fitting, I guess, but how exactly did you even know about that myth? It’s over two thousand years old! Even I only know about it because of my access to some of the older books in the royal library.”
Applejack stared at her hooves. “…My family takes everything apple-related awfully seriously.”
“Ah.” Satisfied, Twilight nodded. “Eris it is, then. Now that we’ve named our problem, let’s focus on solving it.” She turned to address Celestia. “I trust you have a plan ready, Princess?”
Celestia shook her head. “I do not.”
“What?” Twilight exclaimed. “Are you saying that you have no idea how to deal with Eris?”
Despite herself, Celestia almost smirked. “That’s not what I said,” she clarified. “I don’t have a plan ready. But although Equestria may not have known war in centuries upon centuries, I know somepony who has spent a fair portion of a thousand years mentally reviewing battle strategies.”
And ever since she returned, she’s been undefeatable at Risk, the Princess added silently. She turned her head skyward, and appeared to address the ceiling. “Luna, if you will?”
All at once, the shadows in the room seemed to deepen and expand, the water darkening until the room was nearly filled with inky black. Then the darkness snaked across the floor towards a spot next to Celestia’s throne, finally coalescing into the shape of the Princess of the Moon herself.
Luna blinked blearily a couple of times, and then glared out the window. “FEEBLEMINDED BALL OF HOT GAS,” she grumbled, addressing the cheerily shining sun. “WHY MUST THOU SHINE SO BRIGHTLY THIS AFTERNOON?” She glanced at her sister. “...OH! GOOD …Uh, I mean good day, Celestia.”
“Good afternoon,” Celestia replied, only the slightest glimmer in her eyes betraying her amusement. “Would you like some coffee?” She used her magic to conjure up a steaming mug, which she proffered to her younger sister.
“MANY THANKS,” Luna said, hastily grabbing the mug. She took a swig, and then made a face. “…Ugh. Truly, it is much too early for me to wake… But we must all make sacrifices in such times of need.” After a moment, she looked down. “Celestia, why hast thou converted the throne room into an aquarium?”
“I thought you liked fish,” Celestia replied, eyes twinkling. She leaned over to Twilight. “Isn’t Luna adorable when she first wakes up?” she whispered conspiratorially. “Even nowadays, she still tends to slip back into the Royal Canterlot voice when she’s tired or stressed.”
“I shall pretend that I did not hear that,” Luna said dryly. “I trust that the entropy that now ravages this land is the work of a certain draconequus?”
Twilight stepped forward. “Yes, Luna, but not the one that you’re thinking of. A new, more violent draconequus has emerged, named Eris.”
Luna blinked. “What? Another?” She sighed. “Well, at least we still have –”
“Ix-nay on the Elements-ay,” Rainbow Dash interrupted. “Sorry, Princess, but we need a Plan B.”
After a moment of stunned silence, Luna grinned with false cheer. “Thou art… kidding, art thou not?” she asked hopefully. “‘Tis this all some elaborate jest of Tia’s at my expense?” She glanced around the room. “Pinkamena Diane Pie appears to be absent. Surely she is going to leap out at any moment, shouting ‘surprise’?”
Luna glanced around at everypony. They were all staring at her, eyes filled with grief. “…Oh. Alas, ‘tis a tragedy,” Luna murmured. After a moment of silence, she straightened up. “This changes things considerably. I shall have to formulate a new strategy, post-haste.”
The Moon Princess walked over to the center of the hall, and stamped her hoof, making a splash. A few feet away, circular ripples formed on the water’s surface, then a great, rectangular slab rose from the center. Luna spread a hastily-conjured sheet of parchment across it.
Ah, so she’s going for one of her more dramatic presentations, Celestia thought. I think I’d best sit back and listen quietly until she’s finished…
The five present Element Bearers walked over to the makeshift table and looked down at the parchment, which proved to be a map of Equestria. Luna regarded the ponies purposefully. “Without the Elements of Harmony at our disposal, we have little chance against even one draconequus. And this one has already proved to be more cunning and resourceful than Discord was. By permanently disposing of...” Luna hesitated for a fraction of a second. “...Laughter, Eris has removed the one thing we can use to quickly and easily defeat her without casualties. If we stand any chance of vanquishing Eris, we must raise an army.”
“A-an army?” repeated Fluttershy. “Isn’t that a little too much? Won’t somepony get hurt?”
Luna looked down at Fluttershy sadly. “I suppose it does seem a little drastic,” she admitted. “And, Dear Fluttershy, I am afraid that it is nearly a certainty that ponies will die. But if Eris is allowed to live and run rampant, then many, MANY MORE PONIES SHALL DIE... OR WISH THAT THEY WERE DEAD.”
Fluttershy shrank back. Luna hastily covered her mouth with a hoof. “Oh, not again… Sorry, Dear Fluttershy, I did not mean to shout,” she said, lowering her volume more than strictly necessary.
“N-no, it’s okay,” Fluttershy assured her. “I u-understand.”
Luna nodded. “We thank thee for thine understanding. Shall we move on, then? Excellent.” She turned her gaze towards the map. “As I was saying, my little ponies, if we are to defeat Eris, then we must assemble the largest army we can muster. To this end, I have special assignments in mind for you. It shall take you all far and wide, but you must act quickly.”
“Well, I believe I can handle that,” Dash said. “Speed is my middle name, after all.”
“Figuratively speaking, that is,” Twilight added hurriedly. “Just tell us what we need to do, Luna, and we’ll get going.”
“I am glad for thy help,” Luna said. “To maximize the use of your time, you should split up to contact the various parties we need for assistance. I believe I know how to best divide thee for maximum results.”
The Moon Princess turned to Applejack. “Firstly, Fair Applejack, there are the Ponies of Equestria.” She slowly traced her hoof across the map, pausing in Ponyville, Appleoosa, Fillydelphia, Trottingham, and further… “There are those that have already sworn to protect this land, its Princesses, and its Ponies, but I fear that the Royal Guard shall not be nearly enough.”
Applejack stoically regarded the Princess. “So y’ want me to gather a militia? Is that what you’re trying to say?”
“Precisely,” Luna said. “I feel that we can trust thee to not bend or embellish the truth in an effort to recruit or protect more ponies. Our subjects deserve to know exactly what may await them, and to know that I shall not think any less of them if they decline to fight alongside us.”
“Well,” Applejack said, “While of course Ah can’t speak for everypony, Ah have a feeling that Ah’ll be able to find plenty of ponies willing to help.”
“Splendid,” Luna replied, then turned to Fluttershy. “Dear Fluttershy. Although it pains me to ask, I would request thine assistance in recruitment as well.”
Fluttershy paled. “…I’m sorry, P-Princess, but if you’re asking what I think you are…” She hung her head. “Then I have to say no.”
“What? Nay, do not fear for your woodland friends,” Luna said hurriedly. “I would not dream of asking thee for their aid. Rather, I desire that you travel with Spike to seek out and enlist the aid of the dragons.” Here her hoof was drawn to the mountains at the northern edge of the map.
“D-dragons?” repeated Fluttershy.
“Indeed. You have earned a... formidable reputation amongst them.” Luna smiled mischievously. “Between the influence of the two of you, you should find it quite simple to recruit even a few adult dragons.”
After a long moment, Fluttershy nodded. “…Fine. I’ll do my best.”
Spike walked over to Fluttershy. “So I guess I’m with you, then. But in that case, what’s Twilight gonna do?”
“Twilight Sparkle shall search for a certain unicorn that I believe thou art all familiar with,” Luna answered. “Dost thou all remember a pony known as the Great and Powerful Trixie?”
“What? Why do you want Trixie?” Rainbow interrupted. “What makes you think she’ll even decide to help?”
Luna eyed Dash coolly. “If I remember the full report on the Ursa Minor incident correctly, then the Great and Powerful Trixie tried all that she could to stop the Ursa before finally admitting that she couldn’t,” she said. “This shows that she is no coward, and would rather try to save face and boost her own ego than reveal her shortcomings. Dost thou really believe that if the Princesses themselves requested, nay, pleaded for Trixie’s aid, that she would not leap at the chance, no matter how dangerous?”
“Well, when you put it like that…” Dash grumbled.
“Still,” Twilight said, “Rainbow brings up a valid point. Trixie is apparently unable to do much more than –”
“Illusions and parlor tricks, I know,” Luna interrupted. “And minor weather manipulation, good for small, painful electrical shocks at the very most. Even so, we can work our way around such limitations.”
Luna concentrated, and in a flash of energy, a small, teal gem appeared. It in fact looked almost exactly like the clasp that Trixie used for her cape. However, it was etched with shallow, intricate designs, and quietly hummed with power.
“If she agrees to help, then give her this,” Luna said. “It shall increase her power tenfold – if her will is strong, then even more. With this, the Great and Powerful Trixie can easily bolster our ranks with illusory soldiers, so that Eris shall waste time and effort trying to defeat the fakes.” She tapped a spot on the map. “The Great and Powerful Trixie was last seen heading for this city: Manehattan. I urge thee, Twilight Sparkle, to make thy way there quickly.”
“I still have a bad feeling about this,” muttered Rainbow.
Luna sighed. “The Great and Powerful Trixie may be an egotistical charlatan, but I believe she does not bear malice. Likely it would do no harm to have her help. Should I prove to be wrong, however…” Her eyes flashed. “Then I shall see that she is properly reprimanded.”
Dash moved back a step. “Okay. Just sayin’, is all.”
Luna nodded. “Then it is settled. Now as for you…” As the dark alicorn looked to Rarity, she faltered somewhat. “Actually, I do not know who to have thee seek out, for I doubt that dressmaking has given thee much contact with those who can readily do battle. No offense meant,” she added hurriedly.
Rarity laughed. “Oh, Princess. I assure you that the fashion industry isn’t as harmless as you think. I shall bring in some help, just you count on it.”
“And just who or what are y’ planning to bring into this?” Applejack asked.
“Oh, a girl has her contacts,” Rarity answered. “Any successful fashionista knows a pony who knows a pony… At least, she does if she plans to be in the business for any length of time.”
“What’s that s’possed to… Oh, forget it,” Applejack grumbled. “Ah don’t even want to know.”
Luna arched a brow at Rarity, but raised no objection. “As thou sayest. Last, but not least, is Rainbow Dash…” At this, she seemed a tad reluctant.
“Well?” Dash said. “What do you have for me, Princess?”
Apparently, Luna reached a decision. She dragged her hoof over to the northwestern spot on the map. “Over here is the town of Farrington. It lies on the border of the Gryphon territories.” Luna’s eyes glazed over slightly, her mental gaze turning inward. “As a race, the Gryphons are many things. Proud. Possessive. Quick to anger, and slow to trust. But also unfailingly loyal, and unmatched combatants in flight.” She returned to the present, focusing on Dash. “To end this quickly and decisively, we need their aid. However, as I have just said, they are slow to trust – especially since they are a dying race. If you are to attain their help in time, then you must reacquaint yourself with a certain member of their species that you once knew well.”
Rainbow blinked. “Gilda?” she sputtered. “You want me to find her?!”
“As a rule, Gryphons do not take to outsiders as well as they do members of their own species,” Luna said. “The fact that you had, at one time, earned her friendship speaks volumes for how much she cared for you.”
Rainbow blinked, looking suddenly troubled. Celestia mentally filed the image away for later.
Luna contiuned, oblivious to Dash’s discomfort. “Even though Gilda is something of… a maverick amongst them,” she said, “the Gryphons shall have an easier time accepting thy word with her to vouch for it.”
“But Gilda’s –” Dash began.
Luna interrupted her. “I realize that this shall be difficult,” she said, “but I do not ask this of thee lightly, Rainbow Dash. The more help we can find, the more lives we shall save.”
Dash seemed to struggle inwardly for a while. “…Fine,” she finally said. “I’ll do it. Y’know, I probably would’ve said yes anyhow, without you dangling that over my head.”
“And for that, I thank thee,” Luna said. “Gilda was last reported to be in Farrington, but during Discord’s brief return, she disappeared. Find her, and convince her to help you secure the aid of the rest of the Gryphons.” She smiled wearily before continuing. “Whether or not you succeed at your task, I swear that, if we make it through this alive, I shall grant you a boon for your troubles.” She turned to regard everypony in the room (and Spike). “You all will also receive one, of course.”
Luna drew her hoof to the southern edge of the map, almost as an afterthought. “Finally, there are the lands of the Zebras. While under happier circumstances I would have sent…” She paused, lip quivering slightly. “WE SHALL – Um, I shall go personally, in h-her stead.” She frowned thoughtfully. “I should probably track down Cadence and Shining Armor, too... I hate to interrupt the honeymoon, but we may need them.” At that, she fell silent.
“Is that all, Sister?” Celestia asked.
“Good. Then you all know what you must do,” Celestia continued. “I would like to add one more thing, however: keep an eye out for Pinkie Pie. We don’t know for sure what has happened to her, so there is still hope.” She smiled. “Are you ready?”
“Ready as Ah’ll ever be, Ah reckon,” answered Applejack.
“Same here,” said Rainbow Dash.
“Well, I for one am prepared,” Rarity replied.
“We won’t let you down,” Spike said. Fluttershy nodded mutely in agreement.
“In that case, I guess we’re all set,” finished Twilight.
Celestia nodded. “Good. Then may you move swiftly, and the b–”
With a dull thwack, another trout dropped from the ceiling and bounced off Celestia’s snout.
“...best of luck to you all,” Celestia finished tiredly.
Gilda paced in front of Pinkie Pie. “Alright, let’s take it from the top,” she said. “First, you go to Canterlot and throw a party for the statue of Discord, no matter how mentally deficient that sounds.”
“Yep,” said Pinkie, nodding. She wasn’t sure what to say about the ‘mentally deficient’ comment, so she declined to bring it up.
“Then, you go home and go to sleep, during which you have a dream where Discord arrives,” Gilda continued. “He says that because of the party, you ‘let him into your heart’, and then he allegedly gives you a ‘gift’.”
Pinkie nodded again. “Yep.”
“After which, you wake up and discover that not only are you now a draconequus, but are also unable to speak anything other than Antiquated Gryphon.”
“And you were going to go to Twilight for help, but you couldn’t control your powers, and so decided to come here. Where you found me,” Gilda finished dryly.
Pinkie nodded one final time. “Yep-er-oonie.”
“Okay. Just making sure that our studio audience is up to date,” Gilda said sarcastically.
Pinkie nodded sagely. “Well, now that that’s over with–” she began.
“Shut up,” Gilda interrupted.
Pinkie suspected that Gilda was already starting to get annoyed.
“Anyway, where were we?” continued the gryphon. “…Ah. Right… fixing your problem. Shall we, then?”
Pinkie opened her mouth to respond.
“That was rhetorical,” Gilda stressed. “So, I’m gonna make a pretty big deductive leap here and say that Discord is behind all of this.”
It made sense, and Pinkie didn’t want to irritate Gilda any further. She nodded silently.
“Therefore, we can safely assume – actually, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Gilda decided. “First, we can’t do anything before teaching you how to stop your powers from doing anything more.”
Pinkie’s brow furrowed. “But you can’t use magic, silly!” She giggled. “How are you gonna teach me how to use it?”
“Not like we have much choice, do we?” Gilda said. “I’m no unicorn, but I’m sure that a little discipline should do the trick. It’s not like the power goes on and off at random, rather… random thoughts cause things to happen.” She stroked her chin. “Okay, so basically, I need to either teach you how to separate random thoughts from the actions they cause, or how to avoid thinking those thoughts in the first place… how to focus your mind.” She sighed. “Great... Focusing the mind of the lunatic. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
Pinkie started bouncing. “So now what? Ooh, ooh! Are we gonna do some cool Zen monk pony thing? Are there gonna be burning coals?”
The second Pinkie mentioned ‘burning coals’, Gilda leaped into the air, using her wings to keep herself aloft. The ground beneath the both of them suddenly turned into red-hot charcoal.
Pinkie wasn’t as fast as Gilda. “Gah! Ow!” she yelled. She jumped, instinctively wishing the coals away, and sure enough, they disappeared.
Elsewhere, a dark grey unicorn set down his quill and sighed. It looked like his writer’s block wasn’t going anywhere, so it was time for a break.
Feeling oddly restless, the unicorn glanced out the window at the streets of Canterlot. Briefly, he considered going out, but remembered the rampant chaos that was supposed to be going on. He hadn’t actually seen any of it for himself yet, but better safe than sorry…
“Right,” the unicorn told himself, adjusting his glasses. “Better to stay inside and avoid the–”
And that’s when a hundred and fifty pounds of burning coals appeared eighteen inches over his head.
Pinkie looked down at the gaping hole in the earth that had previously been filled with burning coals. “Well, it’s a good thing that’s gone. Somepony could’ve gotten hurt!”
“Yeah. Glad that crisis was averted,” deadpanned Gilda, rolling her eyes as she floated back onto the ground. “But that sort of thing is exactly what I’m talking about. We can’t go searching for a way to turn you back if you’re going to turn everything into pies and pipe bombs wherever we go.” She paused, stiffening, then glanced around anxiously.
After a moment, Gilda sighed in relief. “Okay. That was a lucky break, but I should still be more careful about what I say around you while you’re having these issues.”
“Okie Dokie Lokie!” Pinkie said. “So are we gonna start now?”
“I… I think I’ve got a few ideas we could try out,” Gilda said unenthusiastically. “I believe that I can successfully retool some of my… uh… anger management techniques into something that’ll work. It’s all a matter of mental discipline, after all, I suppose…” Her voice trailed off.
A suspicion started to form in Pinkie’s mind. “…You do know what you’re doing, right Gilda?” she asked, albeit as cheerily as ever.
“Do I know what I’m – Of course I know!” Gilda snapped. “We’ll get this over with in no time, you’ll see!”
Pinkie giggled. “Okay! Training montage time!”
Gilda’s eyes widened. “Can… can you do that?” she asked.
“I dunno. Maybe.” Pinkie shrugged. “Hey! I know!” She grinned. “Let’s try it out! It might even speed things up–”
“No!” Gilda snarled. “We’re supposed to be learning how to stop using your powers, not how to use them more! You’re going to have to go through all of the work just like anyone else would.”
“Aww.” Pinkie sighed. Hard work is so boring, she thought. Well, unless it’s the sort of hard work that one already enjoys doing, like party-planning, but –
“HEY! PINKS!” Gilda yelled, waving a claw back and forth in front of Pinkie’s face. “Stop staring off into space. Let’s get on with it.”
“Okie Dokie Lokie!” Pinkie said. She paused, and then added hopefully, “What about a training song?”
Gilda’s reply was prompt. “Fourth Rule: No singing. EVER.”
Pinkie slumped dejectedly. A grumpy gryphon, no montages and no singing? This might not be so fun after all…