Rainbow Dash watched the white pegasus, Phoe, very closely. Three times on this trip, short as it was, she had to pull some quick tricks to save the silly pony’s life. It didn’t make any sense to her; how could a fully grown pegasus be so careless? She made rookie mistakes left and right but all she did was laugh and keep flying. Rainbow shook her head, the emblem of Loyalty glinting on her neck.
“WAAH!” Phoe shot upwards and banked hard to avoid colliding with Rainbow Dash. Rainbow easily avoided the thermal column, looking askance at the danger-prone pegasus.
“What’d I tell you ‘bout those?” she scolded.
Phoe corrected her wild turn, flapping hard to get back into formation. “S-sorry,” she managed between excited breaths, “I coulda sworn I knew where that one was.” She puffed a strand of wayward hot pink hair out of her face. “I’ll be more careful next time.”
Rainbow facehoofed. “Next time? That’s what you said last time this happened.” She did a quick loop around the rookie flyer. “Look, see how simple that is? It’s all about angle; get the right angle and turn just a bit.” She demonstrated again, shifting the angle of her wings away from Phoe and gently turning off to one side. She reversed the maneuver in the same fashion, gliding back to Phoe. “If ya get caught in a thermal you can ride it out too, y’know.”
Phoe flashed her a quick smile. “Okay!”
“So.” Rainbow Dash flipped upside down, flying above the the other pegasus. “How long have you been flying?”
Phoe gawked at her. “How do you do that?”
“Do what?” She rolled effortlessly right side up falling into position on Phoe’s other side. “Fly upside down? That’s easy, I’ll show you how later. Maybe when I know how much experience you’ve had.” Rainbow gave her a pointed look.
“Oh, uh, I’ve been a pegasus for a little over a year now. We weren’t able to fly like you guys do here--like I am now. It’s a lot easier here than it ever was on Earth. The highest I could ever get was about fifty feet from the ground, by then I was so tired I had to glide back down. Even that was hard.”
“When you say fifty feet, how high is that?”
“Um, I guess, well a foot is about this long.” She held her hooves up. “So--huh, I don’t know. It’s not nearly as high as we are now, that’s for sure.”
That was a strange concept to wrap her head around. Flying, hard? What was this Earth place like anyway? “Only a year, huh? What do humans look like? Do they have wings?”
Phoe giggled. “No. We don’t have wings. I don’t know how I could describe us without having a picture for you to look at. Well, I guess I’m not human anymore, not technically. We--they, don’t have wings or hooves or coats or even tails. They walk on two legs, all the time.”
Rainbow cocked an eyebrow at her. “So, there are no humans that can fly? You were all like earth ponies?”
“Yep, no wings,” Phoe said, “we made lots of machines to help us move around. We even made flying machines called planes.”
Rainbow snorted, the image of Pinkie Pie’s flying contraption popping into her head. “Sounds like a lot of work.” She scrutinized the other pegasus from back to front, an amused expression spread over ther face. “I guess you do okay for a rookie.”
Phoe’s face lit up. “Really? That means a lot to me, coming from you.”
Rainbow gave her a smile but Phoe’s remark made her think. What would it be like, to know you could fly, but the ground held you back? She shivered at the thought.
Cereal fought down shudder after shudder. It wasn’t all that cold up here but he was shaking like it was twenty below.
“So, if there is no magic on your world, how did you open a portal?” Twilight sat next to him on the chariot behind the princesses. Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie and Seth were bunched up around them.
Cereal clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering as another shiver ran through him. “W-we found a way to bridge the gap between o-our worlds. We d-don’t have magic but we do h-have science. We n-needed to match the g-gravitaional r-reso-resonance between the t-two places.” He had to stop; the convulsions were getting worse, stronger, and more frequent. Cereal waited for them to fade before continuing. “Gravity is special, aside from being a cosmic force, it is the both the weakest and strongest force in the universe. That’s because it is a trans-dimensional force, so it sacrifices influence for mobility. When we understood that, we were able to hypothesise that if one were to match the frequency at which gravity phases between two places, he would be able to bypass space and time.”
He looked around at his companions, Twilight’s face was scrunched up in thought, Applejack stared at him blankly, Rarity had one eyebrow nearly in her mane as she looked at him in bewilderment. Pinkie Pie smiled at him and Seth just shook his head.
“Dude, science talk doesn’t work here,” he said with a wry smile. Seth addressed Twilight. “It’s like teleporting only the energy to do it doesn’t come from magic, we used electricity and a lot of math instead.”
Twilight tapped her chin with a hoof. “Hmm, I don’t think I understand... I know what you’re saying, I just can’t grasp how you were able to do it. Did you try to come here before this? How did you know where to go? How did you become ponies?”
Cereal sighed, rubbing one foreleg with the other. “We’ve been here, in Equestria before. We made a small portal, big enough to send one through at a time. As humans, we could stay here for only thirty minutes before we were forced back through. In that state, our resonance clashed with that of Equestria’s. So we made another machine that would change our physical resonance to match here. That is what made us p-p-ponies.” A new wave of convulsions struck, he fell to the floor of the chariot legs stiff and eyes wide gasping for breath.
“Princess Celestia!” Twilight called out.
Celestia turned quickly to them, the moment she saw Cereal on his side shaking uncontrollably she hissed, her face contorting in alarm. “Stand back Twilight. Seth.” She looked to the yellow unicorn, he too was shaking, though he had more control of his convulsions. “Come closer, Pinkie, can you help him?”
“S-s-sorry, I-I d-don’t know w-w-wa-what’s going on!” Pinkie gently pushed him forward closer to Celestia.
Twilight scooted back with Pinkie. “What’s wrong? Is it a disease? Was this what you were talking about earlier?” Her hooves flew to her mouth, her ears flat against her head.
“Please, Twilight, calm yourself. This is not something dangerous to us, but it is to them.” Not once did the initial alarm enter her voice. “Seth, what are you feeling?”
“C-c-cold... and hot, at th-the same t-time,” his teeth chattered, he hugged himself and tucked his tail in around his legs.
“Does it hurt?” Celestia asked in the same even, collected tone.
Seht jerked his head side to side in a quick shake. “N-no, it-it f-f-feels amazing!”
Celestia nodded. “Luna, I will need your help with this.”
Luna turned to her sister. “Very well.” Both of their horns came alight with magic. Seth gasped and fell to the floor, joining Cereal.
Cereal tried to regain control of himself but the convulsions consumed every attempt. He had the sensation of falling, like the world was dropping away from him rather than he from it. It was terrifying, it was wonderful. The alicorns continued to concentrate on the stricken ponies, the glow from their horns becoming brighter and brighter. Ever so slowly, the world stopped falling. Cereal’s shuddering began to slow, he started to blink. Sweat appeared on the brows of the alicorn sisters but they did not blink, they did not stop. Their horns, too brilliant to look upon, started dripping liquid light.
Soon the shivers disappeared completely, leaving Cereal and Seth breathless on the floor of the chariot. Cereal weakly pushed himself up on his front hooves. Pinkie helped Seth sit up.
“Uh, thank you.” Cereal was still swaying woozily side to side, Twilight put a hoof on his shoulder to steady him.
Luna addressed him. “How long have you had this form, Cereal Velocity?”
“Two days, I think.”
She frowned. “This is troubling, sister. Do you think the Onus has already started to take hold?”
Celestia shook her head. “It is more likely that they are reacting to us, Luna. Their bodies have been deprived of the experience of magic, one that normal ponies are exposed to even before birth.”
Cereal furrowed his brow and looked at his hooves. “What did you do to us?”
“We have given you a buffer, a sort of shield to our power. Magic surrounds us always, you are not used to it, so your bodies became overwhelmed. That you are unicorns makes the situation worse; you should have gained a magical affinity long ago but as you said, there is no magic in your world.” Celestia turned to survey their surroundings. “Your camp is not far now. Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, very much, thank you,” Cereal replied. Seth nodded in agreement though he still looked unsteady.
“Charioteers,” Celestia called to the four pegasi pulling the chariot, “land on the rise to the right.”
“Right away, Princess.”
She turned back to Cereal. “Gather the, bronies, together. There is much to discuss.”
“Should I take them anywhere or do you want to talk to them here, Princess?”
“Here should be fine, Luna and I must keep our distance, however. We will wait for you on this rise and address them in the meadow below.” The chariot touched down on the grass covered hill. They disembarked the grand vehicle just as Phoe, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy alighted next to them.
“Did you see me?” Phoe squeaked, giddy with excitement. “I flew like, ten miles! Barely even broke a sweat and I rode a thermal column! It’s so ama--you two aren’t lookin’ too good.” She finally noticed them, coats ruffled and manes disorderly. At least Cereal’s disheveled mane, Seth’s was looking only a little more crazy than usual.
“We need to gather everypony here in the meadow.” Cereal waved away an attempt by Phoe to ask a question. “I’ll explain later, can you fly ahead and get started? Seth and I are right behind you.”
“Alright,” she sighed.
Seth started plodding towards the camp, but Cereal hung back for a bit. “Um, Princess Luna?”
“If I may ask.” He stopped and waited politely.
She gave him a small smile. “You may.”
“What were you talking about earlier, you said something about an, onus?”
She considered his question then looked to Celestia. Cereal had the impression of another silent conversation. “The Onus is an ancient part of the magic that governs this world. To explain would take much time. Time I hope we have. First, we must see in what state your followers are.”
He grimaced. “Thank you, Princess.” He bowed to them, then started on his way to the camp.
The sun climbed close to its zenith by the time Cereal, Phoe and Seth started up the rise to join the Princesses and the main six again. The excited whispers of thousands of ponies filled the air with a rustling of a restless wind. Celestia motioned them to join the mane six with a sweep of her hoof. Luna stepped forward to the crest of the rise, spreading her wings wide. The gathered bronies hushed instantly.
“So, what happens now?” Seth whispered to nopony in particular.
“Princess Luna is going to speak to the crowd,” Twilight answered.
“Wait, does that mean she’s going to--”
“BRONIES OF EARTH!”
The crowd exploded in a clamor of voices, Luna stepped back, startled by the thunderous applause of the bronies’ hooves stomping at the ground. A rhythmic march began to form, THRUM-thrum-thrum-thrum THRUM-thrum-thrum-thrum, as it coalesced into a steady beat, a great midnight blue banner appeared in the crowd hoisted on a long pole.
Cereal groaned. “How did they smuggle that over here? Great, just great.” He sat down and covered his eyes with his hooves.
Supporters of the New Lunar Republic started to chant with their march, “Vi-vat Noc-te, Vi-vat Noc-te!”
Luna stepped back from the rise and addressed Cereal with a bemused expression. “What is this they do, Cereal Velocity?” Her sharp question felt more annoyed than angry. She skewered him with an expectant gaze, however.
“Uh, it’s, um, a game they play, Highness.” He tried to smile, but it probably only made him look sick.
“A game, you say? What do these words mean, the ones they chant.”
His head sagged on his neck, “It, means ‘Long Live the Night’ in an old language of Earth. The game is about two sides, the day and the night, they are always trying to one-up the other team.”
Luna narrowed her eyes at him. “One-up the other team?”
Cereal let out a nervous laugh. “Yes, they try to outdo each other.”
“Don’t look now,” Seth warned under his breath, “the Imperials are gettin’ into it.”
Sure enough, the gold and white standard of the Solar Empire rose over the other side of the crowd. The Lunars finished their chant with a triumphant “Omnus laudem Luna!”
The march for the Imperials began, a quick, sharp rhythm, THRUM-tchk-tchk-thrum THRUM-tchk-tchk-thrum. Their chant started on the off beat, “Diiiii-U! Sol-aaar-is!” Celestia lifted a hoof to her mouth to hide a smile.
Luna gave a small chuckle. “And what does this one mean?”
“Long live the Sun.”
“Gloria ad Celestia!” The Imperials stomped on the ground with a final a resounding thud.
Cereal cringed again. “I hope you are not offended, Princess. It really is just for fun.”
Luna stooped to look him in the eye. “I am not offended, Cereal Velocity. Their enthusiasm, this happiness, is a good sign.” She raised his head with a hoof under his chin, giving him a reassuring smile. Luna turned back to the meadow, spreading her wings once again.
“BRONIES OF EARTH! YOUR SENTIMENTS PLEASE US. HOWEVER, IT IS TOO EARLY TO CELEBRATE.”
“There are demons that haunt us all, Cereal Velocity.” Celestia’s voice suddenly whispered in his ear. “Some are far more real than others.” He looked to the Princess, she sat several feet away, gazing out over the crowd.
“TRYING TIMES ARE AHEAD FOR ALL OF YOU. THE COMING DAYS WILL TEST YOU, THE COMING NIGHTS WILL CHALLENGE YOU.”
“Be prepared to face your demons. Harmony will demand it of you soon, of all of you.”
“FEAR NOT, FOR WE WILL NOT ABANDON YOU. WE HAVE ACCEPTED YOUR PETITION, AND NOW GRANT YOU THE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES DUE TO FAITHFUL SUBJECTS.”
“That is what the Onus is. Your responsibility to Harmony cannot be ignored, the balance has been shifted and you are surviving by the skin of your teeth.”
“DO YOU ACCEPT OUR RULE?”
The huge body of bronies cheered, sounds of joy crashing against the hills and trees startling a few birds from the forest nearby. Another shout emerged from the din, gaining voices as it swelled, “Sorores Regalis! Sorores Regalis!”
“We will teach you and protect you to the best of our abilities. Ultimately, it is up to you to fight for yourselves.”
“They are quite fond of this ancient language of theirs,” Luna remarked, startling Cereal. He was absorbed in Celestia’s whispers, they seemed to reverberate in his mind.
“Uh, yes, Princess. It holds a lot of meaning to us, I-I don’t know why. Nopony speaks it fluently, at least, that I know of.”
Celestia’s laugh chimed like long bells. “I think it is quite lovely. We shall have to find the pony who knows that language and add it to our records in Canterlot.” She regarded the ponies in front of her, much like a general would her best soldiers. “There is much work to be done. I will be counting on all of you to do your best. Cereal Velocity,” she stood in front of him, “I am hereby appointing you as Steward of the Bronies and Emissary of the Court. Phoe and Seth, you are also appointed Emissaries of the Court.” She walked down the line of ponies with regal steps, pausing in front of each. “Twilight Sparkle, as bearer of the Element of Magic, you will teach the unicorn bronies how to use magic properly.” Twilight bowed her head in acceptance.
“Applejack, as bearer of the Element of Honesty, you will aid our new brothers and sisters in discovering what it means to be a part of Harmony.” Applejack removed her hat and bowed. “Rarity, as bearer of the Element of Generosity, you will teach them how to conduct themselves with decorum in our society.” She swept a low curtsy to the princess.
“Fluttershy, as bearer of the Element of Kindness, you will be the shoulder on which they can cry when needed and the ears that will hear their joy when possible. Rainbow Dash, as bearer of the Element of Loyalty, you will be the foundation for the ideals of their new life here in Equestria, teach them how to be steadfast in the face of doubt.” Rainbow Dash sat up straighter and saluted. As Celestia reached Pinkie, a broad smile graced her lips. “Pinkie Pie, as bearer of the Element of Laughter, you will remind them in their times of sorrow or despair that there is always reason for happiness.” Pinkie beamed ear to ear.
The pink party pony pranced around the perimeter of the provisional pony camp. The moon shone brilliant and pale, nearly full, in the multihued night sky. So many new ponies, she could scarcely believe her incredible luck. It had taken so long for them to get here, she was starting to lose hope. But the moment she heard Twilight was looking for her earlier today, her Pinkie senses went wild. Then again, they had been going off quite a bit for the past couple of days.
She bounced around the curious tents and odd contraptions the bronies had brought from their world. None of them noticed her. It was a strange thing she could do, among others, that when she did not wish to be seen, she simply wasn’t. It could have been that she had gotten so good at throwing surprise parties that she just knew how to avoid detection. Or it could have been the result of that day, nearly eleven years ago, when she first started at Sugarcube Corner.
Up in the attic of the confection shop, she was looking for the perfect bauble to put on top her latest cake masterpiece. That whole day, her senses told her that she would find something wonderful and she was certain that wonderful thing was hidden in the dusty corners of that attic. She never did find that perfect bauble.
Her senses never lied for she did find something wonderful. Dust motes floated lazily in the sunlight streaming through the small window in the front wall. She was covered head to hoof with dust bunnies and cobwebs. The entirety of the attic was full of boxes and crates. Even some furniture with protective sheets thrown over them. Hoofprints crisscrossed the floor, marring the thick coating of grey and brown grime on the floorboards. There was lots of cool stuff in the Cake’s attic, but none of it was the right kind of cool she needed for her centerpiece cake. She took a deep breath, a mistake.
Dust flew into her throat and nose. The one deep breath became two, then three. “AAACHOOOOO!” The force of her super Pinkie sneeze threw her into the far side of the small attic. Boxes toppled to the floor and on top of her in a rumble of cardboard and papers.
“Pinkie? Are you alright up there?” Mrs. Cake’s voice pushed itself up the little ladder opening and through the dust.
“I’m...fine!” Pinkie coughed back. She waved a hoof in front of her to clear away the grey blizzard. What’s this? A glimmer of gold sparkled in the thin shaft of light from the window. She waded her way through the sea of boxes to the golden object. Getting low to the floor, she inspected it; it was round and fluted, like a fancy foot to an antique chair. She picked it up, or at least she tried. There was more to it. She threw aside the grimy white sheet covering the strange object prompting another furious storm of dust. The sight before her took her breath away, or the dust did.
She tried to look at the wondrous thing before her through watery eyes and coarse coughs. She stumbled forward. A click sounded at her hoofstep, she looked down in confusion. A silver button almost the perfect size of her hoof was mounted to a gold plate that extended from the base of the thing. The golden ball she saw earlier was attached to the outside corner of it, an identical one on the other side. She got her first good look at the thing. It was a large, golden door frame. The outside of the frame was covered in a script she did not recognize. A spitting hiss issued from the doorway, she stepped back.
Blue lights whirled around it, stirring up the dust in a sideways tornado. The inside of the door frame filled with the whitest light she had ever seen, so pure it hurt to look. The wind picked up speed, pulling her towards the door, her hooves scrapped against the floorboards in a vain attempt to escape.
With a yelp, she fell into the blinding light.
That day eleven years ago, Pinkie saw a sad world full of sad creatures. One of those creatures saw her. Pinkie did what she does best, she smiled. The smile that grew on the creature’s face made her so happy she knew she needed to find some way to help them. She couldn’t have been there for more than a few minutes before she fell back through the golden door.
Pinkie found herself staring at one particular brony, sitting next to his tent. He was was a light green pegasus who didn’t look like he had someone to talk to. In his hooves he held a picture frame, from the angle, she couldn’t tell what picture was in it but whatever it was, he frowned at it.
She made several trips through the doorway. She met many of the people of that world, but the most memorable one had called herself Lauren. She skipped over to the lonely brony.
“Hiya!” He jumped at her sudden salutation, prompting a giggle from her. “I’m Pinkie Pie! What’s your name?” He smiled back at her, placing the picture frame on the ground next to him. The warm familiar feeling she got when she knew she had brightened somepony’s day filled her pink heart right up to the brim.