The heavy oaken door slowly creaked open as Twilight Sparkle quietly crept into the mansion's ornate entrance hall, the light from her horn illuminating the otherwise dark room. Rarity gently tiptoed in right behind her, glancing around at her surroundings and wrinkling her nose in disgust at the layers of dust and cobwebs that had built up over the building's years of disuse.
Behind her, Pinkie Pie happily bounced into the room while Rainbow Dash glided in overhead through the open doorway.
Finally, Applejack slowly entered the room backwards, dragging along with her a stubborn yellow pink-maned pegasus that was digging into the stone floor with all four of her hooves.
As Fluttershy's nose crossed the threshold, Twilight reached out with her magic and gently shut the door.
“For the last time Shy,” Applejack said as she spit out the other pony's pink tail. “This place ain't haunted.”
“Y-Y-You don't know that,” Fluttershy defiantly mumbled at the floor.
“Yes I do, cause there ain't no such things as ghosts.”
“E-Empirical data inconclusive, future study is n-needed.”
“Oh for... Twi!?”
The purple unicorn stepped forward.
“Come on Fluttershy," she implored. "The existence of ghosts aside, I'd rather make it back to Manehattan before sundown. I don't like the idea of going back through those woods in the dark.”
A terrified squeak was the pegasus' only response.
Twilight rolled her eyes and bent down next to the yellow pegasus. “Hey, Fluttershy, look at me.” she said gently.
Fluttershy hesitated for a moment, but in the end she lifted her head and looked Twilight straight in the eyes.
“Listen, I promise you that as long as we're in this mansion, no ghosts, no ghouls, nor anything scary or surprising is going to jump out and scare y-”
“TWITCHA TWITCH!” Pinkie screamed out as she rushed forward and tackled Rarity, who shrieked in surprise as the two of them crashed into a pile of dusty furniture that was stacked up on the side of the hall. Moments after, right where Rarity had been standing a second before, a chandelier fell from above and crashed into the stone floor with a deafening bang, scattering bits of crystal all across the entrance hall.
Twilight and Applejack could only gape before turning their gaze upwards from where the chandelier had fallen. There, a rainbow maned pegasus was smiling awkwardly as she rubbed the back of her neck with a hoof.
“Consarn it Rainbow!” Applejack snapped before turning back towards Fluttershy, who was now lying sprawled out on her back with a goofy grin on her face.
“Shy? You okay? Shy?” Applejack asked as she waved a hoof back and forth in front of the yellow pegasus's vacant face, to no avail.
“We lost her,” Applejack concluded with a sigh. “Oh well, she'll be easier to carry this way.”
“WHOO! Let's do that again!” The pink pony exclaimed, pumping a hoof in the air even as she and Rarity disentangled themselves from the pile of furniture.
“Pffft,” Rarity spat. “Oh for Celestia's sake! I'm filthy!” She spent a few moments attempting to brush off the thin layer of dirt now stuck to her pure white coat before narrowing her eyes and glaring blades of death at the pegasus sheepishly grinning above her.
“Oh there will be a reckoning, Rainbow Dash”
“Rarity I... Sorry... Really,” Rainbow apologized, genuinely repentant.
“Calm down girls, it was just an accident,” Twilight said, walking forward. “Though I'd advise not playing around with anything else that might crush us to death.”
“I just thought it'd make a good place for a nap,” Rainbow explained.
Twilight narrowed her eyes at Rainbow.
“Yes ma'am. Sorry ma'am, please don't do the chicken thing again ma'am!”
“More importantly,” Twilight continued, shifting her gaze back to those with their hooves on the ground. “We need to get moving; we only have a few more hours before nightfall.”
“Right,” Applejack agreed. “So uh, what was it, exactly, that the princess wanted us to look for again?”
“Let's see...” Twilight said, using her magic to open one of her saddlebags and pull out the letter she had received that morning.
"To my faithful student, Twilight Sparkle,
I trust you and your friends are enjoying Manehattan? I certainly did when I visited last month. I highly recommend you try to get your hooves on a tofu dog while you're there – It's truly a delicacy.
In any case, I didn't want to disturb your vacation, but I was hoping you'd be able to run a small errand for me while you're there. A squad of Wonderbolts passed over the woods to the southeast of the city, and one of them spotted an unusual structure sticking out from between the treetops. He took a closer look and discovered that it was an elaborately constructed mansion overgrown with trees. Based on his description of the structure, I think it may just be a mostly intact building from pre-Equestrian medieval history. I wanted to hire an expedition team to examine the site, but I hesitated to do so until I got a better sense of what this mansion might be.
Then, I remembered you and your friends were accompanying Applejack on her trip to Manehattan. As such, I was wondering if you wouldn't terribly mind taking a closer look at the structure itself in an attempt to ascertain who it might have belonged to and its historical relevance. If you could do so I would be most grateful.
The geographic coordinates of the mansion are enclosed, please send a return letter with your intentions.
Your friend and mentor always,
Naturally, Twilight had relished the opportunity to uncover the history behind a hereto unexplored ruin, and had little trouble convincing her friends to come along with her. Applejack, who had made the trip in the first place in an attempt to convince her Aunt and Uncle Orange to attend the next reunion, found herself quickly growing tired of the city, and thought a nice hike through the woods would be a nice change of pace. Rarity disagreed, but the prospect of undiscovered treasures lying in wait was enough to get her to brave the wilds. Rainbow and Pinkie viewed the trip as an adventure, while Fluttershy found herself dragged along, unable to express her apprehension until it was too late to turn back. In the end, only Spike, who was up a little too late the night before, decided to stay in the city and catch up on his sleep.
Twilight finished skimming the letter and placed it back in her bag.
“Right, basically our mission is to determine the identity of the ponies who lived in this mansion. In other words, we're looking for books, documents, portraits, anything that could shed some light on that.”
“Got it?” Twilight asked as she looked around at her conscious friends.
They all nodded their understanding.
“Right, Rarity, how about you stay with Fluttershy until she wakes up?”
“Hmm,” The white unicorn pondered, raising a hoof to her chin in mock thought “Search through layers of dust, or stay clean with Fluttershy?”
“Pinkie, you take the first floor hallway to the East.”
“Okie dokie artichokie”, the pink pony answered with a smile.
“Applejack, you do the same for the West.”
“Roger that,” the cowpony answered, tipping her hat.
“Rainbow, you take the East side of the second floor.”
“Yes! This is gonna be just like Daring Do and the Mummy's Mausoleum!” The rainbow-maned Pegasus exclaimed, pumping a hoof in excitement.
“Er, I hope you're not expecting to run into any traps, Rainbow,” Twilight said, raising an eyebrow.
“Spoilsport,” Rainbow said as she stuck out her tongue and began to fly away.
“Rainbow, wait!” Twilight said as she began to gather magic in her horn. “There's a spell I need to cast first.”
Twilight's horn glowed brighter and brighter until, with a flash of light, four white orbs appeared out of thin air. One each floated over to Pinkie, Rainbow, Applejack and Rarity, hovering over their heads.
“From how the mansion looked from the outside, it's safe to say most of the windows are overgrown by trees. There's not likely to be much light, so be careful. “
The ponies nodded. Four of them headed to their assigned areas while Rarity magically dusted off a couch and levitated Fluttershy's unconscious body onto it.
“Honestly Fluttershy, I have more to fear from this dusty old place than you.”
“Any luck?” Twilight asked.
The ponies had searched the mansion for the better part of an hour and had reassembled in the entrance hall.
“Nothing,” Applejack answered. “I found plenty of bookshelves and desks, but no books”
The cowpony sighed. “I dunno Twi, I think someone got here long before we did.
“They took the paintings too,” Rainbow Dash added. “There's a whole bunch of hooks in the walls where they would have hung, but nothing's there."
Rainbow paused for a moment.
“N-not that I'm interested in paintings or anything,” She added.
“So... the mansion's empty?” Fluttershy asked.
The yellow pegasus had regained consciousness about twenty minutes prior.
Twilight sighed in resignation.
“It looks like it is, Fluttershy.” she answered.
“Oh, that's a relief,” Fluttershy said, visibly relaxing.
Twilight just rolled her eyes before glancing over at the pink earth pony that had thus far remained uncharacteristically quiet.
“What about you, Pinkie?” she asked. “I don't suppose you found any books?”
“Nope!” she answered with a grin. “Just a big creepy door.”
Twilight sighed dejectedly and began to slowly walk towards the exit. “Alright then, we'd better head back before it gets too dark, I'll write a letter telling the princess it was a bust when we... wait what!?”
She snapped her head back towards Pinkie, only just processing what the pink mare had said.
“Down that hallway there's a big spooooky door with some monster or something carved onto it,” Pinkie said plainly
“Show me!” Twilight happily exclaimed, all disappointment vanishing as her face lit up with excitement.
“Sure, its just down this hallway. Follow me!” Pinkie said as she began hopping down the same hallway she had explored before.
All but one of the ponies immediately trotted after her.
“U...um... I don't want to see the creepy door,” Fluttershy quietly called after them.
“FLUTTERSHY!” five voices yelled back at her, causing her to instinctively flinch and squeal.
“Okay,” she whispered.
Sure enough, at the end of the hallway was a thick stone door. Just like Pinkie said, the door was engraved with a depiction of a monstrous creature. Its head was a twisted version of a pony's, but with four eyes instead of two. Its long narrow body stretched across the entire door from top to bottom, with not four, but rather eight multi-jointed legs that sickly twisted and turned every which way. Its mane and tail waved in a manner reminiscent of fire. Fire which formed a complete circle around the beast.
“By Celestia...” Twilight gasped. “It's Sleipnir.”
“Slept where now Twi?” Applejack asked, cocking an eyebrow
“SLEIP-NIR,” Twilight enunciated, slightly annoyed.
Five blank stares gazed back at her.
“The father of all monsters?”
“The eight-legged terror?”
“OHHHH!” five voices simultaneously exclaimed in understanding.
Twilight could only scowl at her friends' lack of historical knowledge.
“Whatever, let's just get this open,” she said, stepping forward to examine the door.
“I don't see a handle or nothing Twi,” Applejack observed.
“Of course not,” Rainbow added. “Fancy doors like this always have a hidden switch. Try pushing one of the eyes in!”
“Ooh! Ooh!” Pinkie called out as she jumped up and down. “Maybe it opens if you say the password!”
Pinkie cleared her throat and stepped forward.
“Open sesame seed bagel!” she shouted at the door.
For a moment, there was silence, and then, with the sound of stone scraping against stone, the door slowly slid sideways into the wall, coming to rest with a thud.
The ponies' jaws dropped, including Pinkie's.
Rarity was the first to regain the ability to speak. “Did... did Pinkie really just...?”
“No,” Twilight said as she looked back and smiled. “It was me.”
“Although this door does apparently open with an audible trigger,” Twilight explained, “the chances of correctly guessing the correct passphrase are astronomical. Luckily the lock is based on an old double redundancy algorithm that was determined to be flawed centuries ago. By exploiting this flaw I was able to bypass the primary magical circuitry and...”
She rolled her eyes and sighed yet again. “Nevermind. In any case, I think it's unlikely that any looters could have made it through that door without force, and since there's no sign of damage I think we may be in luck! Let's go girls!”
“Right!” came a chorus of voices behind her, along with one terrified squeak.
The passageway was dark, darker than the mansion itself had been, likely due to the complete lack of windows. There were unlit torches hanging on the wall but with the lights still floating above the ponies' heads they were unnecessary. The passageway gently sloped downward into the earth until it emptied out into a circular room. A tiny beam of light slipped into the room from the ceiling.
Rainbow Dash flew up to the beam to take a closer look. After examining the ceiling for a moment she said “There's a glass skylight here but it's almost completely covered by leaves and junk. It looks like this room is under some patch of ground outside the mansion.”
“Fascinating,” Twilight said as she and the others walked forward to the center of the room. “The setup certainly suggests that it was a room of some importance, a shrine perhaps.”
“Well first things first, I think we need a bit more light before we can make any sense of this” Applejack observed.
At the moment, the lights only illuminated a few feet around them, just enough to make the ponies themselves visible to one another, but not enough to light up the room itself.
“Right,” Twilight said, gathering her magic. “I'll make the lights brighter.”
The glowing orbs swelled with energy, and in just a few moments, the room was awash in their bright glow.
At that time, several events happened in quick succession.
First, the six ponies immediately became aware of the fact that the floor they were standing on was actually a large circular mirror situated in the center of the room, beneath the skylight.
Second, while the mirror was reflecting the magical lights twilight had conjured, as one would expect any mirror to do, it had also began to rapidly give off light of its own at an alarmingly quick rate.
And finally, the light itself engulfed the six ponies, flowing through their bodies in a manner not unlike when they used the elements of harmony. For a moment it seemed as though their bodies had become disconnected from the world, and instead touched the entirety of the universe in all its glory.
And then the light went out, and the six ponies fell to the ground, unconscious.
Pinkie Pie loved to dream. As wacky as reality was, there was no limit to what you could do in a dream. Pinkie had all kinds of dreams - silly dreams, action packed adventure dreams, even the occasional naughty dream...
You know, the kind where she would eat forty cakes and not share them with anypony.
She loved dreaming so much she even once tried to have a dream within a dream within a dream, but decided that was a bit too silly.
However, as much as she loved dreaming, there was one thing that could always snap her out of any random, fun, or gluttonous dream.
Not too long ago, Pinkie had discovered that even though she was friends with everypony in Ponyville, a lot of them thought she wasn't very responsible. In fact, the first time Mr. and Mrs. Cake needed a foal-sitter, Pinkie was the very last pony they asked.
And even after she had convinced the two to leave little Pumpkin and Pound Cake under her care, Twilight had come by and said she thought Pinkie just wasn't cut out for the responsibility.
That hurt too.
Pinkie was determined to show them all that she deserved the name Pinkie Responsibility Pie, even if she had made the middle part up, and in the end, the Cakes made her their go to foalsitter.
As a result, Pinkie found herself looking after the twins more and more, even on a number of occasions where the Cakes were out of town for several days at a time. Those nights, Pinkie was the only adult pony in the house with two baby ponies. So it didn't matter how many tens of cakes Baron Pinkie Von Pie had stolen from Princess Celestia's personal vault, if Pound and Pumpkin Cake were crying, it was her responsibility, no, her duty to...
“Wake up...” the pink pony mumbled into the floor as her eyelids fluttered open to the sound of the foals' crying.
“ 'Mcoming” she mumbled again as she got to her hooves and let out a huge yawn.
Not many ponies knew this, but Pinkie Pie was actually quite slow in the mornings, before she got a chance to drink her first dozen cups of coffee. It was a secret she guarded well. Whenever she went to a slumber party or had to camp out for cider season, she always made sure to bring a big thermos full of triple shot espresso with her for her to drink down the moment she woke up. Of course, if she filled up on caffeine every time she was awoken in the middle of the night due to the foals' crying, she'd never get back to sleep.
So despite her lack of energy, Pinkie brushed her long, naturally straight hair out of her face and slowly walked over to where the cries were coming from, squinting her eyes to see in the dark
“Where did the Cakes go again?” she thought, her mind still foggy. “Oh, it must have been that trip to Las Pegasus they were planning. Yeah, that must have been it.”
Pinkie reached into her bag and pulled out two bottles of baby formula that she had started keeping in her saddlebags at all times, you know, for bottle emergencies, and gave them to the hungry little ponies in front of her. They immediately began gulping it down, but Pinkie was surprised to find that the crying hadn't ceased.
Pinkie began to feel around in the dark. “One, two... three babies?”
For a moment Pinkie just stood there, attempting to make sense of this inconsistency.
“The cakes must have been busy,” she concluded, still drowsy, and reached into her bag for another bottle and passed it to the third foal, who also began suckling on it happily.
And with that, the cacophony of noise had ceased, and Pinkie took a moment to appreciate the new found silence, save for the suckling noises of the three foals next to her. However, after a moment, Pinkie began to take a closer look around the room.
“Are we... in the basement?” she asked aloud. “Why are we in the basement?”
Her eyes widened. “Uh-oh, I didn't accidentally drink Mr. Cake's special adult cola again did I!?”
Somewhat panicked, Pinkie turned back to the foals.
“Anyway, I've got to get them back in their crib,” she said as she scooped them up, balancing two on her back with practiced ease and placing the third atop her head. She then began to carefully walk to the doorway with the three foals in tow, who were still happily drinking down the formula even as they were given a horsie ride
“This was not responsible Pinkie!” she scolded herself in a whisper. “Your job was to take care of these little ponies, not let them sleep on the cold floor!”
She climbed up the ramp (“Did Sugarcube Corner's basement have a ramp?” she thought) and once she got to the top, began feeling around for the light switch.
She couldn't find it.
“What the hay is going on?” she asked aloud. Looking around, she saw a large patch of moonlight filtering in through one of the windows.
She walked over to it, and carefully deposited the foals onto the carpeted floor. “Ok, you three stay here for two seconds while I find the light sw...”
At that moment, Pinkie Pie looked down and clearly saw for the first time three baby ponies she had never seen before in her life, all of them chugging away at their bottles. It was then that Pinkie discovered she didn't need a canteen of espresso to wake herself up in the morning. It turned out pure terror was a perfectly acceptable substitute.
As her hair sprung back up into it's wildly curly form, Pinkie began sputtering in confusion. “Babies!? What!? Whose!?”
She then gasped as the memories of that afternoon came flooding back to her.
“Girls!” she cried out, turning back towards the basement, realizing her five friends were still down there.
She pointed a hoof at the three foals, “You three stay there!” And charged back down the ramp to the basement, where she felt around for the bodies of her friends and began shaking and yelling at them one by one.
“Pinkie... whah?” Twilight muttered.
“Babies! Mirror! Light! Overslept! Hurry!”
“Up! Move it!”
After a few minutes of cajoling, Pinkie was able to awaken the rest of her friends and direct them upstairs, where under the light from Twilight's horn, the six ponies came face to face with the trio of foals. They had been moved to a couch conveniently located in the the hallway they were in, after Rarity had insisted on dusting it off of course, and were proceeding to finish up what was left of their bottles.
Aside from the fact that all three were fillies, the three babies were all very different. The first foal was a white-coated unicorn with a blonde tail and mane. What little mane there was, anyway. The second was a pure pink pegasus whose little wings constantly flapped involuntarily even as she ate. The third was a purple unicorn with both a rainbow colored mane and, interestingly, wings.
“Oh, aren't they just precious?” Fluttershy gushed.
“They are but... Pinkie where did they come from!?” Twilight demanded.
“I don't know!” the pink pony exclaimed. “After that whole light show downstairs, I woke up and there they were!”
“We better find their parents soon,” Applejack cut in. “They must be awfully worried.”
“Speaking of worried... It seems like we were incapacitated for quite some time.” Rarity added. “I'm sure Spike is terribly concerned.”
“I could fly to Manehattan and let him know what happened, maybe tell the guards we found some lost foals.” Rainbow suggested.
“Nice thinkin' Rainbow” Applejack nodded. “Whatdya think Twi? ...Twi?”
Twilight had frozen since Pinkie had spoken, thinking intently. She now was staring straight forward at the three foals with a look of horror on her face.
“No... It can't be,” she mumbled.
“What was that sugarcube?” Applejack asked.
“What?” Rainbow Dash asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“A life mirror! Sleipnir!” Twilight exclaimed.
“I'm sorry dear, but I don't understand," Rarity said with an uncomfortable look on her face.
Twilight let out an extremely exasperated sigh. “Sleipnir, the 'Spider-Horse' was also known as the 'father of all monsters' because according to legend he created all monsters! He used a series of magical devices he created called life mirrors to fuse different creatures together to make entirely new species! Manticores, Griffons, Cockatrices and a whole bunch more are all said to be creations of Sleipnir!”
“Wait, so you're saying that mirror downstairs was one of those monster-creating mirrors?” Rainbow Dash asked.
“Yes!” Twilight yelled out.
“Well, that's fine Twi, but what does any of that have to do with these fo... oh no.” Applejack's eyes widened as she took a step back. “No...”
“Exactly~” said Twilight in a slightly crazy voice. “There's no need to find their parents. No, no need for that! We already found them, that's not the problem!”
She raised a hoof and pointed at the three foals still sitting on the couch, drinking down the last drops of their bottles. “The problem is, we're their parents.”
For a moment, the eyes of the other adult ponies in the room went from Twilight to the foals and then back to Twilight.
And then the six ponies screamed.