It was probably about two in the morning. The streets of Canterlot were empty. Lyra knew she wouldn’t be catching a train back to Ponyville tonight like she’d planned, but even if she could, she still had to go back to her parents’ house. She had some things to talk to them about.
It was still hard not to think of them as her parents.
They’d sent that letter asking her to visit. It hadn’t seemed strange at the time. But they’d known. All this time…
“It’s been too long now. No magic, no cutie mark. What if it’s all because she’s – “
Honestly, Lyra hadn’t been surprised to hear that humans were extinct. It was just how it had happened that she hadn’t expected. But the whole idea that there was another world out there, and that she was actually…
“’A normal unicorn,’” Lyra muttered to herself. “All this time, they kept telling me to act like ‘a normal unicorn.’”
She’d arrived at her house. She stepped up to the door, raised a hoof hesitantly, and knocked. Waiting there nervously, Lyra glanced around at the other houses with their darkened windows. She heard hoofsteps coming up and finally the door opened.
“Heartstrings?” Cirrus said. “I wondered if you’d come by after that Gala. How was your night?”
The Gala? Lyra had practically forgotten any of that had happened. “Uh… Mom, if you don’t mind… I’d just like to go by Lyra now. I mean… Heartstrings is a pony name…”
The look of realization in Cirrus’ eyes said that she knew exactly what Lyra meant. “You spoke to the Princess.”
Cirrus sighed. “Come inside, then.”
Lyra followed her into the living room and set down her instrument case and books. It had been some time since she last visited, but not much had changed. Cirrus headed upstairs to find Dewey. Lyra glanced around her childhood home as she waited. A few photos of her parents, taken shortly after they’d met, were hung on the walls. And there were some pictures of Lyra as well, when she’d been a filly. She now realized that she’d never seen a picture of herself as a baby.
Her parents came back and sat down. They stared at her across the coffee table, not sure where to start. The only sound was the ticking of the clock in the hallway.
Cirrus finally broke the uncomfortable silence with a sigh. “The Princess told us she’d be speaking to you. She could explain what she did better than anypony.”
“It was starting to seem like it was inevitable. We knew we couldn’t hide it from you forever,” Dewey added.
“No matter what you are, we still consider you our daughter.”
“The only reason we tried to keep you away from all those stories about humans was to protect you. If you ever found out the truth – “
Lyra interrupted them. “Listen… I’m not mad at you,” she said. “I completely understand why ponies would be afraid of us. Humans, I mean. And I really appreciate that you took care of me. I know how much of a risk it that must have been.”
“We’re not afraid of you, Heartstrings,” Cirrus said, frowning.
“I’m just Lyra now,” she said. “Princess Celestia told me just about everything, but... where did I really come from?”
Her father – she still couldn’t help calling him that – exchanged a glance with his wife. “We were just taking a stroll through the castle gardens together. The first thing we noticed was... well, furniture, scattered all over the garden. Naturally we didn't know what was going on. We found you in a crib, but... you weren’t a pony. We weren’t sure what you were.”
“The only thing we knew was that you were alone. Taking you to the Princess seemed like the best idea. The whole situation was strange, to say the least,” Cirrus said. “The royal guards looked over everything in the gardens and couldn’t figure it out either. So they let us in to see the Princess, and, well... She told us the same things she explained to you.”
“About... what humans are,” Lyra said. “And what we did.”
“But the Princess says you aren’t from Equestria. She wasn’t sure exactly where, though,” Dewey said. “Based on how scattered everything they found was, it seemed like an accident, whatever happened. And besides, you were only a baby. It would have been wrong to abandon you just because of what your kind did thousands of years before you were born. Still, other ponies might not understand, so...”
“Turning you into a pony was the best option for any of us. Especially you,” Cirrus said. “Princess Celestia said that humans were supposed to be extinct. She didn’t know where you’d come from, so she couldn’t send you back. Besides... we’d never been able to have a daughter of our own, and as long as you needed somepony to take care of you...”
Lyra stared at the floor. “Who else knows about this?”
“Just us. And the Princesses. Nopony else,” Dewey said.
Lyra nodded. “So Twilight never was part of this.” Her own parents had been the last ones she would have expected to be part of any conspiracy.
“Princess Celestia told us she had no intention of telling Twilight about humans. We’d been worried ever since she showed up at your house, but there was nothing to it,” Cirrus said.
“So you’ve been talking to the Princess all this time?” Lyra said.
“We had to. No human has ever been turned into a pony before. We had to let her know how you were doing – that you had finally learned to use magic, that you seemed to be growing up like any other pony, when you… found those books about your species…” Dewey’s voice trailed off.
“I still think it would be better if we hadn’t told her,” Cirrus said. “It’s only going to make things difficult.”
“This doesn’t have to change anything,” Dewey replied. He turned to Lyra. “But now that you know, you’ll just have to keep this quiet when you go back to Ponyville. If anypony found out you were human, we’re not sure what would happen,” Dewey said. “Surely you must understand.”
Princess Celestia had told her the same thing as she’d left. If she went back home, she wouldn’t be allowed to tell anyone about this. Humans were better off forgotten. And now… it was hard enough before, but to hear Bon-Bon or Twilight say that humans were nonsense and know that she was one… Lyra wouldn’t be able to bear that. But there had been a second option.
“That’s the thing…” Lyra said. “I’m not going back to Ponyville.”
Dewey blinked. “What do you mean? What about your roommate?”
She hesitated, knowing that they wouldn’t be happy about this next part. “The Princess has been trying to find out where I came from, and she said that, if I wanted… She could send me back to my own world.” She forced a smile, though she was already anticipating the reaction.
Once again there was a long and painful silence.
“Princess Celestia told us she had perfected the spell,” Dewey said. “She’s been studying the artifacts from your world. Those things from the gardens when you appeared.”
Lyra had been told about those. The explanation of the magic Celestia had been using to trace the human world was far too complicated to understand, and combined with Lyra’s current mental state, she couldn’t remember any of it. All that mattered to her was that there was a chance that she could go back and live as a human.
“Heartstr - or, Lyra, I suppose…” Cirrus said. The pronunciation was strange to her. “You don’t have to do this. Humans are dangerous. Didn’t the Princess tell you about the war?”
“Not all humans are like that!” Lyra insisted. “I mean, I’m not like that… And there’s so much more to us than that. All of the things we’ve invented to make life better. Ponies still use them. We’re not just destructive, no matter what Celestia says. I know we’re not.” Her voice faltered.
“You’ve never even met another human,” Cirrus said. “We raised you as if you were a pony. I don’t even know what would have happened to you if you had stayed there.”
“That’s part of why I want to go. I’m supposed to be there.” Lyra stared down at the floor – at her hooves. She hadn’t been born with those. “Besides, the war was caused by Discord, and it was in Equestria. The humans where I come from might be… different.” She lifted her eyes just slightly.
Cirrus was about to raise another protest, but Dewey lifted a hoof and cut her off. “This is Lyra’s decision.” It was as if he was trying to convince himself as well.
“Princess Celestia told me all about the risks, but I need to know the truth about humans,” Lyra said. “I know we can’t be as bad as ponies think.”
“You’re not thinking straight,” Cirrus said. “You’re tired. You’ll feel differently in the morning.”
Dewey nodded. “Perhaps you should sleep on it.”
Lyra shook her head. “Ever since I found out about humans, I’ve wanted to know more about them… Or, really, I guess I’ve wanted to be one. This is what I want.”
“You never should have let her keep those books,” Cirrus muttered.
“By the time I found her with them, it was too late,” Dewey replied. “I didn’t think she’d take any of it so seriously.”
Lyra looked at her father, then back at her mother. “I need to at least try.” She paused. “I’m sorry.”
“Maybe we all need to talk about this in the morning,” Dewey said. “Whatever you decide, Lyra… Just make sure it’s what you really want.”
Lyra was on her bed in her childhood room. She’d taken off her dress and was trying to relax, but there was no chance she would get to sleep tonight. It was practically morning now anyway.
She should have felt happier about this. She’d always loved humans.
So her parents still thought humans were dangerous. Not only them, but Princess Celestia, too. Normally Lyra would have no trouble saying they were wrong, but she was still thinking about the war. What if it hadn’t been Discord’s fault?
No… That was ridiculous. Celestia had admitted she and Luna weren’t able to defeat him right away. He just had more time to gain power, and he’d started with humans. He could have twisted ponies that much, if he’d wanted to. That’s what he’d started to do last year.
The human world would be perfectly safe.
She picked up her journal off the nightstand and looked through it again. Her dreams had most likely been things from her own world, not from Equestria. It would explain why everything looked so different from the books.
Just how much would be the same? The dreams had been similar enough that she’d honestly thought they were the same place… That was the only thing that made sense. She was still having trouble with the concept of a separate “human world.”
There was a knock at her door, and she glanced up. Dewey was peeking in from the hallway.
“Is it… alright if I come in?” he asked.
“Yeah. Of course,” Lyra said. She set her journal down.
There was something floating in the air next to him, glowing blue. Lyra couldn’t tell what it was. Some flat rectangular object.
“You still want to go back and live with other humans,” he said.
“Perhaps that’s what you should do. I really don’t know anymore…” He glanced over to what he was carrying. It floated over to Lyra, and she took it with her magic. “Celestia told you about what they found. Things that fell through the rift along with you. She wanted to study them. But I kept this one.”
Lyra couldn’t believe her eyes. It was just an old photo frame, but…
“These are… real humans?” she said. Two of them – a man and a woman – standing in front of a large house, and one of those self-moving carriages from her dreams. The man had dark hair and a beard, and had his arm around the shoulder of the woman. She stared up at him. “How do you have this?”
“I’ve never known for sure, but they just might be your parents.”
She was speechless. She set down the photo on her nightstand, but could barely manage to tear her eyes away from it. Any photographic evidence of humans would have been exciting, but that… Well, of course her birth parents would be humans, but actually seeing them suddenly made it all so much more real.
“You’ve had this all these years?” Lyra asked.
Dewey nodded. “Your mother doesn’t know that I kept this, but it’s our only clue to who you used to be. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about your species. I’ve wondered about those humans ever since we found you.”
Lyra glanced back at the photo, then looked up at him. “I can’t believe you have this...”
“I’m not trying to tell you what choices to make. But before you make any decisions about what you’re going to do… just make sure you’re absolutely certain. If you leave Equestria, you might never come back.”
“I know that…” Lyra said.
“I understand why you’d want to go,” he said. “It’s still your choice, in the end.” Turning and heading to the door, Dewey was about to leave the room.
He turned his head to look at her. He looked very tired.
“Dad, you don’t think that… all humans are evil, right?” Lyra said.
He smiled. “I’ve only ever known one.”
She looked back at the photo on her nightstand, the picture that still seemed so impossible, and then back to him. “Good night.”
“Good night, Lyra.” He left, and the door swung shut behind him.
Lyra laid in bed all night, but never got to sleep. She was staring at the faces of those humans. Every picture she’d seen of humans before had been a drawing. Or in her dreams. But these humans... her parents, maybe... They were real. They were still out there somewhere.
The next morning, Lyra went out for a walk.
Canterlot was familiar to her. She’d lived most of her life here, and even after moving in with Bon-Bon in Ponyville she’d come to visit a few times. So why was she suddenly feeling like she didn’t belong here?
Princess Celestia had explained to her, while she’d been stunned into total silence, that she was still a citizen of Equestria regardless of her heritage. She could stay here. That’s what Celestia recommended, even. And of course her parents didn’t want her to leave.
Passing by the train station, she watched as an engine pulled in. Lyra could easily go back to Ponyville later tonight if she wanted. Go back and pack up all of her books, tell Bon-Bon that she was finished with humans forever. Forget that she’d seen who her real parents were and that she had never been a pony to begin with…
No, that wasn’t possible at all.
She passed by the stadium where the Wonderbolts derbies took place. There were posters up with a date, saying that there would be a race there in a few days. Lyra liked seeing those…
Her pegasus heritage was all a lie. She’d thought that explained why magic had been so difficult. And now she realized that, the first time she’d ever used magic to play the lyre, she’d been imagining fingers moving through the strings. And when she actually did use hands to play, it seemed so much easier.
Ponies, dressed in their fancy hats and high-class Canterlot fashions, passed by her, without a second thought. They had no idea she was something that was only supposed to exist in myths.
Nothing was different. She hadn’t actually changed. She’d always been human. The only difference was that she knew about it now. All those times that Bon-Bon had looked her in the eye and told her to stop obsessing over those “crazy dreams...”
When she was a filly, she’d always believed that humans might still be around somewhere in Equestria. It wasn’t until she was older that she’d resigned herself to the fact that they were probably extinct. The Princess’s offer was almost too good to be true.
And it was a good thing. Because all of those fears about humans were completely unfounded. Weren’t they?
Humans weren’t truly extinct. What had happened to them in Equestria was unfortunate, but that didn’t mean that Lyra had to be nervous about going back home.
Lyra stopped and stood there for a moment. She let out a sigh. This wasn’t going to get any easier. She just had to make her final decision.
Turning around, she headed back home to make some final arrangements.
Canterlot Castle felt different in the daytime than it had at the Gala two days earlier. It was brighter, but so quiet. They’d passed a few guards on the way to the Princess’s chamber, posted at the gate. Dewey was recognized as the head librarian, so he had no trouble getting in.
There hadn’t been much discussion when they’d arrived. Princess Celestia had instantly known what they had come for. Cirrus seemed restless, Dewey kept on starting to say something, then his voice would trail off.
An entire world outside of Equestria, Lyra thought. With living humans.
Lyra hadn’t brought much with her. She had her lyre, of course, in a large saddlebag at her side. Also, her journal – she’d recorded the dreams in there, and those were her only record of her own world rather than Equestria’s past. And the photograph of her human parents. She was going to find them… somehow.
Now Lyra and Celestia stood alone together in one of the guest chambers.
“You’re absolutely sure about this,” the Princess said. It wasn’t so much of a question as it was repeating a statement.
“I’m sure,” Lyra said. “I need to know who I really am.”
“My offer still stands. You would be more than welcome to stay in Equestria,” Celestia said. “I’ve only been able to see limited glances of the world you came from. It’s very different from the human society we knew of. Your species survived much longer… Their technology is far more advanced.”
“I’ve seen it in my dreams. That’s what it was, wasn’t it?”
"Perhaps..." Celestia said. "I thought you would be too young to remember anything."
Lyra could feel her heart pounding. Soon enough she would no longer be a pony. She’d never have hooves again. Princess Celestia was the only one powerful enough to do this kind of transformation spell… No, it was the opposite. She was removing the spell, that was all.
“Let’s not delay any longer, then.” Celestia lowered her head, pointing the tip of her horn towards Lyra. “Relax. This will only take a moment.”
Her horn glowed softly, pure white. Lyra had gritted her teeth, expecting the process to be painful, like the times she gave herself hands, only multiplied by a thousand, but… now she was transforming and she barely felt anything.
Lyra hadn’t come home from the Gala yet. She had said she would be back two days ago.
Bon-Bon had started to feel concerned. Yet, honestly, what could have happened to her? Despite all of Lyra’s ravings about government conspiracies and humans, and how Princess Celestia was “out to get her” or whatever, there was nothing to be afraid of in Canterlot. Bon-Bon was a little ashamed of herself to be so worried.
There was a knock at the door. Bon-Bon's head jerked up, and she went to answer it. She pushed the door open. A grey pegasus stood there, eyes skewed in two different directions.
“I’ve got a letter for you, Ms. Bon-Bon!” she said cheerfully.
Bon-Bon took the envelope, and saw the name “Rainbow Dash” on the front. She frowned.
“Uh, thank you…” she said. There would probably be time to take this over before clocking in at work.
That ended up not being necessary, since Rainbow Dash showed up right behind the mail mare carrying another letter in her teeth.
“Hey there, Bon-Bon,” she said in a flat voice. “I got your mail.”
“Thanks, Rainbow Dash. I have yours.” They swapped envelopes. Her letter had “Bon-Bon” scrawled in Lyra’s familiar writing. It felt heavy for some reason. There was something extra in there.
Rainbow Dash turned to the other pegasus, standing there looking downcast. “Uh... you’re getting closer, at least. I only had to go to one house this time.” The mailmare gave a goofy smile and flapped her wings.
Bon-Bon took the letter back into the house, wondering what it could be. Some kind of an explanation for why she was running late, maybe. At least Lyra had the consideration to write back if she was held up for some reason.
As she opened the envelope, a few gold coins fell out and clinked on the table. Actually, after shaking it out, there was a substantial amount of money enclosed. Frowning, Bon-Bon took out the letter and began to read.
Sorry for the short notice. Something came up in Canterlot and I’m moving out. This should cover my rent for the next few months. Maybe you can find somebody else to room with. It was great knowing you. Thanks for being so patient with me.
She stared at the hastily-written note in disbelief. Lyra was really moving out, just like that? Bon-Bon couldn’t help but feel like maybe she was responsible for this. Had she been too hard on her about that cart incident?
Bon-Bon scowled. It was just like that pony to do something so impulsive. She really shouldn’t have been surprised. Still, this was drastic. What exactly did she mean by something “coming up?” And all that money… Bon-Bon's eyes widened.
The Gala… of course!
Lyra must have been spotted at the Gala and hired for a symphony. Celebrities from all over Equestria would have been in attendance, so there was really no telling where she could have ended up. She would have moved to a big city, probably, wherever the symphony was located. The extra money was probably just a fraction of whatever they’d offered her.
But she had just gotten up and left. Not even so much as a goodbye, other than this letter. She’d left behind everything she owned – her clothes, furniture, books…
All of her crazy theories about humans…
Despite everything else, a smile crept onto Bon-Bon's face.
Was it possible? Lyra had finally figured out who she was. She was destined to be a successful, daresay even famous, musician. Her days of hunting for humans were finally over.
Lyra stood in the private bedchamber, examining herself in the mirror. She’d just finished getting dressed in the clothes the Princess had provided her with. Reaching up to her forehead with one hand, she felt the smooth skin behind her bangs. No horn. If she tried reaching out with magic to move something, nothing happened.
But that was fine with her.
Lifting up her hands, she inspected the fingers. They still fascinated her, even though she’d been able to make them herself as a pony. Compared to these, though, her past attempts had been crude – the fingers had been too thick, not as flexible. These were real human hands. Slender, graceful, and completely amazing. It seemed like a fair trade for her magic.
Her eyes were still gold, and her mane – no, her hair – was mint green with a white stripe, just like when she’d been a pony. Those weren’t normal human colors as far as she knew. But she did have the same light-colored skin like most of the humans in her dreams had. It was strange being almost entirely hairless, but Lyra wasn’t completely opposed to it. In fact, she kind of liked it.
She was dressed in a simple green shirt and tan pants, and shoes – those had been somewhat new to her. The only shoes she’d worn had been the fancy ones that Rarity had made with her Gala dress, but these new ones were plain and meant to be practical. Now that the skin of her feet was so soft, instead of hooves, shoes were going to be necessary.
Along with the clothes she’d found a gold necklace with a small golden charm shaped like her cutie mark. Which was gone, just like her horn. She'd checked over her entire body. The necklace served as a reminder of Equestria, she supposed.
Being a human was a surreal experience, yet still somehow familiar. Maybe it was her instinct, or maybe just all those dreams where she’d looked exactly as she did now. Lyra ran her hands along the smooth, hairless skin of her arms. This was all real, not a dream this time. She was a human.
She turned and walked over to the door. Everything in the room was made for ponies, and it all seemed miniaturized now. She’d been about four feet tall as a pony, and now she was between five or six. There was a new bag sitting there that she had transferred her few things into. The long strap went over her shoulder. Kind of like a saddlebag, but for walking on two legs. She took the doorknob in her hand – it didn’t turn, most in Equestria didn’t – and pushed the door open.
Lyra walked through the empty halls of Canterlot Castle. The floor seemed to be so far away when she looked down at her feet. Her arms were crossed in front of her. It was kind of strange, having those two extra limbs that she didn’t need to use while walking around. Not that she couldn’t get used to this.
She eventually reached the throne room where her adoptive parents were waiting with Princess Celestia. They turned to stare at her.
Hesitating for a moment, Lyra finally spoke. “I’m ready.”
Cirrus stepped back, shocked by Lyra’s appearance. “I-It’s really not too late to change your mind,” Cirrus said. “You’re… absolutely certain?”
Lyra’s fingers tapped restlessly against her arms. “I’m sure. I’ve been studying humans long enough. I think I’ll be able to get by.”
“Once you arrive in your world, you’ll most likely be unable to return here,” Celestia said. Lyra was now almost at eye level with the Princess, though her size was still impressive. “You’ll be on your own.”
Lyra’s mind went to the photo in the bag hanging by her waist. Not exactly alone… She just had to find them.
“I suppose this is your decision…” Dewey said. He looked up at her, and gave a weak smile. “I didn’t realize how tall you’d be.”
“This is about normal for humans, I think,” Lyra said. She couldn’t help but grin. “I mean, wow. I can’t believe I’m really…” She put a hand to her forehead.
“The spell is similar to teleportation, though a far more complex variation,” Celestia said. Lyra turned to look at her. “As soon as you’re ready. I’ll give you time.”
Lyra turned back around, and knelt down in front of her parents. “I really am going to miss you guys. I just think… this is what’s best for me.”
“We can’t talk you out of this, can we?” Cirrus said.
Shaking her head, Lyra replied, “I’ll be fine.”
“Just be careful,” Dewey said. “All we want is for you to be safe.”
“I will. I... I know exactly what I’m doing...”
She put her arms around him in a tight hug, then turned to Cirrus. She was slightly uneasy about Lyra’s true form, but returned the embrace. Lyra felt a tear going down her cheek.
Finally, Lyra stood up. She turned to look at Princess Celestia. “I think I’m ready now.”
Celestia looked at the human standing in front of her, wishing she could see something other than the corrupt beings from all those hundreds of years ago. Lyra still had some of her pony qualities about her – the hair color, her eyes. But even so, Lyra was as human as the day she’d been born.
“For your own sake… I hope you’re right about humans being different in your world,” Celestia said.
She lowered her horn again, and it started to glow.
Lyra stood there as Canterlot Castle, Princess Celestia, her parents, all of Equestria faded away.