The 63rd Rune
Chapter 1: How Could You Be So Wrong, Twilight?
Books and scrolls littered the floor of Ponyville’s library, leaving only a small path for Twilight to walk through. At the epicenter of the organized chaos was the unicorn herself, glancing between a large, old book and a partially finished chalk drawing on the ground. Occasionally she moved to a large stack of books detailing old languages and flipped through them, mumbling to herself as she cross-referenced symbols and details to a piece of parchment. After several more walks between her references and the near crumbling book she was so focused on, she grinned and took a piece of chalk with her magic.
“Now... I need to draw these runes just right...” Twilight said to herself, tracing an intricate pattern into the floor of the library. Beads of sweat were starting to form on her brow, from the concentration she was putting into the small piece of chalk scraping along the floor. Just a little more... she thought, finishing a sixth circle with a complex rune in the center. She brought the chalk back to the beginning of the main circle, and as it connected, she took a deep breath and stopped focusing. “Finally, it’s done.”
The purple mare stepped out of her home and took a breath. It had been a while since she got some fresh air, and it was a nice change from the musky basement. As she closed the door behind her, the town’s grey-coated and blonde-maned mailpony paid her a visit.
“Greetings, Twilight!” Derpy chirped. She opened her satchel and brought out the usual mail. Bills, advertisements, and the monthly check from Princess Celestia arrived.
“On time as usual,” Twilight replied with a smile. She took the letters in her mouth and set them next to her door.
“I haven’t missed a day yet!”
Twilight thought for a moment, then asked “Derpy, could you do me a favor?”
“Sure thing, Twilight!”
“While you’re making your rounds today, could you tell Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy to meet at the library around three?”
“Not a problem,” Derpy said, turning to leave.
“Thank you!” Twilight yelled out as the mail pony flew off to her next destination. She then picked up her mail and went back inside. It was time to give the library a good cleaning.
Three o’clock arrived faster than Twilight had anticipated - she was still picking up books when she heard the first knock at her door. She opened the door to find Fluttershy - a light yellow pegasus with a long, pink mane - standing there.
“Hello Twilight,” Fluttershy said, in a soft voice. “Is there something you needed?”
“It’s more of an announcement,” Twilight replied, letting Fluttershy in. “You’ll know when everypony gets here.”
The pegasus gave a warm smile as she walked in. “Oh, how exciting.”
One by one, the other ponies arrived. Applejack tipped her hat as she walked in, followed several minutes later by Rarity. Pinkie Pie bounced through the door, licking the remains of some dessert off her face. Lastly, when everypony was settled, Rainbow Dash arrived.
“Sorry about that, everypony!” Dash said as she rushed into the library. “My uh... alarm didn’t go off.”
Applejack looked to Dash with a less than convinced expression. “So what ya meant ta say is that ya overslept.”
“Eh... I guess you could say that,” The rainbow-maned pegasus replied, her cheeks growing red.
“Well, that’s okay,” Twilight said, stepping before the rest of her friends. “Now that you’re all here, I have a very important announcement to make!” She motioned behind herself. “If you’ll notice, there are six circles written on the floor behind me. They are all contained in a larger circle. This is called a ‘rune circle’, and I’ve been working very hard on it.”
“Well what’s it do, Twi?” Applejack asked.
“You see, it’s all part of a complicated spell which I put together. It uses ancient, shape shifting magic and runes to alter a ponies physical composition and body structure. Every single rune serves a purpose and acts as a different component in the-”
“Equestrian, please,” Rainbow Dash interrupted, with visible irritation on her face.
“It changes the type of pony you are,” Twilight replied, deadpan.
At this, Pinkie Pie’s face lit up. “Ooh, so you mean that Fluttershy could be an earth pony, or Applejack could be a unicorn, or I could be pegasus pony?!”
Rainbow Dash’s face turned to dread at the thought of Pinkie Pie with wings. She had to say something. “Are you sure that’s safe, Twilight?”
“I’m absolutely sure it’s safe. I’ve double and triple checked everything about this spell. Besides, it should only be temporary. At most it’ll last one or two hours.”
Dash sighed with relief. She didn’t have to worry about a certain pink pony with wings for too long.
“Well, I suppose we could all use a change, could we not?” Rarity asked the group. “I mean, I’ve always fancied being able to fly, especially since the competition in Cloudsdale.”
“And all that fancy unicorn magic would really help out with my apple buckin’. I s’pose I could try it for an hour or two,” Applejack added.
“So, what would everypony like to be? You can choose whatever you like!” Twilight asked, grinning to each of her friends. This would be a great chance to test her strength, and how much she’d learned.
“Um, if it’s okay Twilight, I’d like to be an earth pony. Maybe I can be closer to my animals friends that way,” Fluttershy explained.
“Ah’d like to be a unicorn then, Twilight. We’ll see if Ah can wrangle that magic,” Applejack said.
“I want to be a pegasus pony! Then I can hang decorations and streamers really easily, and deliver treats and sweets really fast!” Pinkie Pie added, bouncing up and down.
“If you could be so kind as to make me a pegasus as well, I would be appreciative? It’s been so long since I’ve flapped a pair of gorgeous wings!” Rarity sighed, her eyes looking to the distance.
“I’m just gonna stick with being a pegasus,” Dash said, flapping her wings a few times. “I like flying way too much to give up these bad boys.”
“Okay, that settles it then! Everypony, except Dash, stand in one of the outside circles. I’ll go into the middle and begin the spell,” Twilight announced.
The others complied, and stood in one of the outer rings. Twilight stepped into the middle. Her horn began to glow, soft at first, but then increasing in brightness. The spirals shone as bright pink magic coursed the horn. She gritted her teeth and shut her eyes, recalling how to proceed with the spell. Below her, the rune began to glow a bright purple. Its energy flowed into the outer rim, then began to seep into the rest of the complicated inscription. Luminescent purple light filled every bit of chalk on the ground, drenching the room in a lavender glow. Rainbow Dash did nothing but watch as Twilight strained with the spell.
The magical energy built up in Twilight’s horn made it glow bright white, and it began to hum with energy. The runes and circles on the ground sparked and hissed, overflowing with power. Just then, Twilight’s knees began to shake, threatening to buckle under exertion. No, I can’t give up! I need to finish this! Her thoughts began to get panicked, as she felt the magic slipping with every passing second. It’s too strong! I can’t control it! The magic began to surge out of control, violent bolts shooting out and hitting bookcases and walls alike. Just a little longer...
It was over. She couldn’t maintain it any longer. With nothing restraining it anymore, the raw magic exploded with power, sending a rippling shock wave throughout the library. With her magic drained and on the brink of exhaustion, Twilight slipped into unconsciousness.
Twilight felt different... somehow. She opened her eyes partway and found her vision to be blurry. She looked around for her friends, and found them lying in their respective circles, with Rainbow Dash behind a couch. At least, she could see the colors of their coats and manes. Twilight made an attempt to stand up, but found her legs feeling like jelly. After a brief fight with gravity, she managed to steady herself, then cautiously went up the stairs and into her room. She needed to find her book, and find out why she couldn’t pull that spell off. By all means, it shouldn’t have taken that much energy and magic to successfully cast, so what had gone wrong? “Ugh, where is it?” she groaned. It was at this point that she noticed something was very out of the ordinary. “Hello.” she said, listening. It was deeper, and had a more masculine tone. Oh no... oh no... she panicked, her mind already going through the possibilities. She had to see herself. Twilight rushed over to her dresser and looked into the mirror.
“What have I done?”
Her once long mane was now shortened on the top of her head and the back of her neck, and it was styled in different length locks. Her pink and light purple highlights stuck out slightly farther than the rest, making them more noticeable. She looked towards her flank and noticed her legs had grown longer and bulkier; her tail shorter. She took notice of her larger snout as well.
He was now a stallion, and all of his friends were as well.
Moments after this realization hit him, he heard loud hoofsteps and muffled shouting from below. The others had awoken by now, and they didn’t sound happy. He rushed downstairs to find the rest of the group looking over themselves, some angry and some confused.
“What in the hay is this, Twilight?!” Applejack shouted, walking to Twilight. The accent was there, but it was more gruff now. His hair was still long and in a ponytail, but that was the only thing the same about Applejack.
“I don’t know what went wrong, Applejack, and I’m really sorry about this!” Twilight said, trying to calm the farmpony down. He looked to the others. Rainbow Dash was missing, Fluttershy was sitting in a corner, Pinkie Pie was unsurprisingly as happy as ever, and Rarity was coming close to a panic attack. “Is anyone hurt?”
“I’m just fine Twilight, except my voice, which sounds really funny now! I’m like a stallion!” Pinkie Pie said, jumping around the library.
Fluttershy only looked at Twilight and shook his head.
“Fluttershy? How’s your voice?” Twilight asked. What came from Fluttershy wasn’t deep like she expected, but very gentle and sweet.
“I feel okay, Twilight... nothing hurts. I’m just... like this,” he answered.
“That’s a relief. Rarity, how about you?” Twilight asked, looking at Rarity.
“How about me? How about me?!” Rarity said, storming over to Twilight. “Just look at this mess! My fabulous mane, although still stunningly beautiful, is far too short now! And just listen to me! I sound like... like... him.”
“Who?” Twilight inquired, trying to recognize the voice.
“...Blueblood,” Rarity hissed. “This simply will not do at all! Not only do I need to completely change how to get ready for outings, but now I need to design an entirely new wardrobe! I can’t be walking around in dresses like this!”
“So... you aren’t hurt?” Twilight asked.
“My pride maybe, but I’m not. I am quite alright. Oh, it’s going to take forever to sew suits...”
With everypony in the library accounted for, only one needed to be checked on - Rainbow Dash. “Did anyone see Dash?” Twilight asked, looking at his friends.
“I think she mentioned something about flying,” Pinkie said, pointing a hoof at the door. With this, Twilight poked his head outside to see Rainbow Dash high in the sky. He was flying down with incredible speed. Twilight could make out a thin barrier of resistance pushing against Dash, and as expected, he couldn’t push through it and it snapped back, hurtling Dash through the sky.
“Dash! Come back down! We need to talk!” Twilight yelled. Rainbow Dash heard this and soared to the entrance of the library, landing on his hooves with a resounding thud. His brows were creased with anger and his teeth were clenched. “Rainbow, what’s wrong?”
“I can’t fly fast enough!” Rainbow Dash yelled. Twilight could make out small tears forming in his eyes. “I’m too big now! I can’t go fast enough to do a Sonic Rainboom.”
“I’m sorry Rainbow Dash, but-”
“That was all I had, Twilight! Speed! I was the greatest flier in Equestria! Now... now I can’t even pull off my best stunt!” Rainbow yelled. He pushed past Twilight and into the library.
It makes sense... Twilight thought, recalling what he knew of physics.
He went back intro the library. Now that everypony was healthy and here, he could figure out what went wrong. He levitated the ancient book over and looked through it, desperately trying to pinpoint the issue. Looking over the chalk, he scrutinized the the details of the circle for a moment before exclaiming “Ah ha! Here’s our problem.”
“What’s up, Twi?” Applejack asked.
“Come look at this.” The unicorn motioned for everypony to join him, then turned the book so they had a better view of it. “If you’ll notice, there are one hundred runes that need to be written precisely in order for the spell to work.” He waved a hoof in a circular pattern around the diagram, then continued. “However, this particular rune was damaged at some point before I started the spell.” Twilight pointed at a rune in the book, then lowered it and pointed at the corresponding one on the floor. Where it should have been inscribed and untouched, it remained smudged and nearly indistinguishable.
“I went and counted. That one is the sixty third rune, and I highly suspect it’s the reason we’ve changed.” Twilight then closed the book, levitating it to the stand it had been on earlier. “I’m not sure how it happened, as it could have been error on my part or an accident from one of you. Either way, what’s done is done. Fortunately, we should just be able to wait it out. Then, we can all get on with our lives, okay?”
Numerous murmurs of agreement came from the rest of them. All they could do now was wait.
One hour passed. Pinkie tried to get them all to play a game, but only Rarity would bite. A second hour came. Dash was flipping through some Daring Do books that he had already read, deciding to get to the exciting parts. Rarity and Pinkie Pie’s game of checkers had long since ended, with Pinkie coming out with 33 wins to two losses, and the party pony opted to go into the kitchen for a snack. Then, the third hour came around. Twilight looked at the time and began to worry. The spell should have worn off an hour ago, so why were they still stallions?
“What’s the deal, Twilight? I thought we’d be back to normal by now,” Dash said, also looking at the time. The others were frequently shifting in place and tapping their hooves against the floor, along with the occasional groan.
“I don’t know Dash, this should have worn off. Maybe I should recheck the rune circle to see if something else-”
“Um, I don’t mean to interrupt Twilight, but, uh... Pinkie Pie isn’t here anymore,” Fluttershy said.
“What!?” Twilight exclaimed, eyes growing wide. Somehow, nopony noticed when the party pony left the building, and he could have been anywhere by now. Twilight knew that none of them would want to leave the library though, for fear of what the town would think of them. It was then that Dash answered Twilight’s silent prayer.
“I’ll look for her. Him. Whatever.” With that, Dash opened the door and cautiously walked outside. He looked around, making sure that nopony was in the near vicinity. Taking a few steps and checking again for good measure, the pegasus fully left the library.
“Now, if I were Pinkie Pie, where would I go? Oh, duh. Sugarcube Corner!” he said to himself. He began trotting towards the sweet shop in search of Pinkie. The town square was approaching, and Dash gulped. It was now or never. As he walked into the town, ponies began to happily look at him. One called out from the crowd.
“Good afternoon, Rainbow Blitz!” she greeted. Rainbow recognized this as Bon-Bon, but they had never really talked before.
“Uh... Hi, Bon-Bon,” Rainbow said, with a forced smile.
“Oh gosh, he talked to me!” Bon-Bon exclaimed to Lyra, who was standing next to her.
“You are so lucky, Bon-Bon,” Lyra replied, waving to Dash.
As Dash walked through town, he continued being greeted and talked to by other ponies, some of which she had never met before. “What in Equestria is going on here?” he mumbled. Finally, he had made it to Sugarcube Corner. When he opened the door, he was warmly greeted by Mrs. Cake.
“Oh, hello dear! Are you here for Bubble Berry? He’s upstairs right now,” she said, while ringing up a customer.
“Uh, yeah. I’m here to pick up... Bubble Berry,” Dash replied.
“Go right ahead and get him,” Mrs. Cake said.
Dash walked up the stairs and opened the door to Pinkie’s room, and found him looking in a mirror. “Pinkie, why did you leave?” he asked.
“Oh, I was getting bored of that stuffy old library, so I decided to go outside and try out this funny voice! In fact it’s so different that everypony is calling me Bubble Berry! Don’t those silly fillies know that it’s me?” Pinkie said, smiling the whole time.
“That was happening to me too. Random girls kept talking to me and calling me ‘Rainbow Blitz’.”
“Ooh, Blitz. That sounds neat! It kinda suits you when you look like that, doesn’t it? I mean stallions aren’t really types to ‘dash’, they’d do something cooler like ‘blitz’, and lucky for you you’re a stallion now, so everything works out right?”
“Not really Pinkie... it doesn’t work out. I don’t exactly want to be a stallion. Now come on, we need to go back to Twilight’s and see what we can do about this.”
“Aww, if you say so Dashie. I really like how I look like now. I’m all bigger and taller and my mane isn’t as long, but that’s okay because it fits me this way!”
It was going to be a long walk to the library for Dash, filled with Pinkie ranting about his new look.
The two of them finally arrived, which took longer than Dash had hoped, due to more of his ‘fans’ popping up.
“Thank goodness you got back okay. What happened out there?” Twilight said, closing the door as they walked in.
“Just the usual. A lot of ponies coming up to me and calling me awesome, asking for autographs, needing pictures with the incredible Rainbow Dash... normal stuff. Well... except for the part where they called me Rainbow Blitz... and a lot of them were... uh... I think they were hitting on me,” Dash explained, his cheeks growing slightly red.
“And they called me Bubble Berry!” Pinkie chimed in, with a little hop. “It was really weird at first, but I got used to it.”
“Wait, what? Everypony acted completely normal?” He then looked to Dash. “Mostly normal, at least. No one wondered why you two were stallions?” Twilight asked, puzzled.
“Exactly. It was like we’ve always been this way,” Dash said.
Always been this way... Twilight thought. A situation suddenly occurred to her.
“What if this isn’t all the spell did?” he said, motioning to their bodies. “What if it changed memories too?”
“Can a spell be that powerful?” Applejack questioned.
“I don’t see why not,” Twilight replied. “That would explain why I couldn’t control it - it took too much magic to use.”
“So, this spell backfired so badly that it turned us into stallions, changed the memories of Ponyville and who knows how much farther, and it doesn’t reverse either?” Dash said, eyeing Twilight with disappointment.
“You could say that...” Twilight sheepishly said.
“How could you be so wrong, Twilight?” a voice came from upstairs. A very feminine voice.
“Who is that?” Twilight called out. It was then that Spike appeared, wrapped up from head to toe in his blanket.
“It’s me,” Spike answered, his voice higher pitched. Through the blanket, one would notice eyelashes and down facing green tufts on her cheeks.
“Spike... are you...?” Twilight started.
“Yes, I am. And yes, it’s your fault. You better fix this, Twilight,” Spike threatened, pointing a claw at Twilight. The six ponies downstairs weren’t the only ones affected by the gender change, apparently.
“Okay, I can figure this out. Spike, take a message for the Princess.”
Dear Princess Celestia
I’m in need of your help. Over the past few days I’ve been experimenting with an ancient magic that I found in the library. I needed to learn old Equestrian to understand it, and I overestimated my magical abilities when attempting to cast it. The spell was merely supposed to change what type of pony somepony was, but something went terribly wrong.
After failing to cast the spell, I awoke to find myself... as a stallion. My friends have all become stallions as well, and poor Spike has become female. It also seems that the ponies of Ponyville have had their memories changed, and they all recognize us this way. I don’t know how to reverse this, and I’m requesting your assistance. Please reply as soon as you can!
Your faithful student,
“That should do for now. Thank you, Spike.” Twilight said.
In what seemed like an impossibly short amount of time, Spike produced a scroll from Princess Celestia in a puff of green fire. Sparing his companion the embarrassment of speaking any more, Twilight levitated the scroll to himself and read it.
To My Faithful Student,
The spell you had casted was indeed of ancient origins, and I’m afraid the only way to help you is to meet you in person and assess your situation. Please travel to Canterlot as soon as you can. You and your friends will be admitted entrance into the castle with no problem. I will do everything I can to assist you. Don’t forget to bring the book that you took the spell from as well. I hope to see you soon.
“Well, everypony, it seems we have no choice. We need to travel to Canterlot.” Twilight said, levitating his satchel over.
“You mean, we need to go out like this? Out in public?” Rarity asked.
“Nuts, Twilight. There ain’t anything else we can do?” Applejack chimed in.
“I’m afraid not. We have to go to Canterlot and get help from the Princess herself,” Twilight responded.
“If we need to... then I’ll go,” Fluttershy said, standing up.
“Whee, an adventure! And since Canterlot is far I can use my funny voice as much as I want!” Pinkie Pie said, hopping around.
“I suppose... showing off my ‘new’ look couldn’t hurt. I mean, I am still Rarity after all,” the white unicorn said, rubbing a hoof through his curled purple hair.
“Ah s’pose I can work with this for the time bein’,” Applejack added, tipping his hat up.
“As long as we can fix this, I’m ready,” Dash said, with a slight smile.
“Then it’s settled. Let’s pack our things and head to Canterlot!” Twilight exclaimed.
Chapter 2: Why Are You Calling Me Dusk?
The sky blue stallion touched down on a cloud ledge floating above Ponyville. In front of him was a large fluffy mansion. To some, it was a large structure in the sky, far more architecturally detailed than most buildings. To Rainbow Blitz, it was just a place to crash - sometimes literally. On this day, however, he wasn’t there to lounge around or sleep - he needed to pack his things and leave. The trip to Canterlot would be long, difficult, and not have nearly enough nap time. It would all be worth it in the end, since as much as he was enjoying the attention because of his new masculine body, Blitz wanted to be Dash again.
He entered the sky manor, surveying his surroundings. Even now, he noticed changes with his house. The living room was slightly messier than he was comfortable with. Empty food packaging littered the coffee table, while magazines laid casually on the floor. Blitz picked one up, looked at the page it was on, then promptly put it down and felt his cheeks grow hot.
The house wasn’t a proud sight, and Blitz was a little ashamed that this is how he lived. There wasn’t enough time to dwell on his altered home life, however, so he disregarded the mess and walked up the stairs to the second floor.
As luck would have it, Blitz’s room was right where he left it. He gently pushed open the cloud door and walked in, noticing that it was just as unkempt as the living room. The bed sheets were tossed every which way, assorted books and clothes were on the floor, and somehow, parts of the cloud floor had gotten stained. With a disappointed sigh, he walked to the closet and pulled out two saddle bags. Now, what do I need? Something in case it’s cold out, something to sleep in, and food. That should be good! he thought.
Blitz walked to his dresser and started to open the drawer when he noticed several pictures in frames resting on top. In each one, he was standing next to several ponies, smiling brightly. Were they fans of his? He had gotten a lot of those in the past several hours. Blitz decided to keep it a mystery as he bagged a sweater. He then found a sleeping bag in the closet to use, and after storing it, he walked back downstairs. From the kitchen he took some food - a bag of chips, a likely flat bottle of soda, and as a last resort, some oats - snacking on a hooffull before leaving the residence. After a final glance at the household, Rainbow Blitz dived off the edge of the cloud. He unfolded his wings and flew gracefully through the air, heading to Twilight’s library.
Elsewhere, a certain white unicorn was arriving home.
The purple maned fashion pony stepped into the Carousel Boutique, with the intent of simply gathering a few things and leaving. What he found, though, caused him to lose his train of thought and stand dumbfounded at the entrance. Beautiful dresses had been replaced by gorgeous suits in all shapes and styles. Rarity walked to the closest one and scrutinized the design. It was a dark, pinstriped suit with glossy buttons on the front. There was a matching, patterned tie to go along with it. Hmm... the stitching could do with some improvement, and the buttons seem a tad too high... He circled around with a critical eye, looking for any imperfection or tailoring error. “I’m fairly impressed with myself,” he finally said, with a smile. A small voice suddenly called from upstairs.
“Elusive? Is that you?” Sweetie Belle poked her head out of the upstairs railing and looked down at Rarity. “Oh, it is you! I’ve been waiting for you to come ba-” she started, but was interrupted by a very agitated sounding Opalescence diving at her hair. “Ow, get off!” The frustrated feline caused Sweetie Belle to lose her balance and tumble down the stairway.
“Oh my goodness, Sweetie Belle!” Rarity said,watching in fear as his sister roll down the stairs. As Sweetie Belle came to a stop at the foot of the steps, Opal walked over to Elusive and rubbed his front leg, purring.
“Dear, are you alright?” Rarity asked.
“Yeah, Elusive, I’m fine...” Sweetie Bell wearily got up, and shook herself off.
Elusive? Is that what I’m called now? Rarity thought. Sweetie Belle’s next sentence solidified this fact.
“Elusive, is it okay if Scootaloo and Apple Bloom stay over tonight? We have crusading to do!” she asked, trying to look as adorable as she could.
“Well, I certainly can’t decline a request to a face like that,” Elusive replied, lightly rubbing his hoof through Sweetie Belle’s mane.
“Oh yes! Thank you, thank you!” Sweetie Belle cheered, hopping in place.
“I just need you to do one thing for me, okay?”
“Anything for you, big brother.”
“I have very important business in Canterlot that I need to attend to, and while I’m gone, I need somepony to take care of the Boutique while I’m away. Do you feel responsible enough for that?” Elusive asked, walking around Sweetie Belle.
“I think I can. Do I have to... sell anything?”
“No!” Elusive said, slightly louder than he had intended. It was just that he had remembered the last time Sweetie Belle tried to ‘help’ with anything in the shop, leading to one of the largest messes he had the displeasure of dealing with. “No, no. You just need to stay here and watch over everything. I’ll leave a sign saying that the shop is currently closed. How does that sound?”
“I can do that!” Sweetie Belle replied, happily. She then trotted back up the stairway, disappearing into the second floor of the boutique.
Now that the shop is taken care of, I can properly pack. Elusive thought, retrieving saddlebags from the store room. How would he ever choose the proper suit for this occasion?
Meanwhile, at the local apple orchard, another pony was facing a much more important issue.
Applejack trotted down the path that led into Sweet Apple Acres, passing the small vine-laden archway and the water well. As he walked, it occurred to him just how long he had been gone. Ah should probably check on Apple Bloom and Big Mac. he thought, passing the old barn. All he needed to do was tell Macintosh that he needed to go to Canterlot with Twilight and settle an... issue with the princess. It wouldn’t take long.
“Howdy Applejack!” Apple Bloom called, exiting the house. She was wearing her cutie mark crusader cape and had a saddlebag on.
“Well hey there, Apple Bloom. Watcha up to?” Applejack replied, silently thanking Celestia that his name was unchanged.
“I was gonna go to Sweetie Belle’s and do some crusadin’!” the filly replied, showing off her cape. “Is it okay If I go, bro?”
“O’ course it’s okay. Just don’t go gettin’ into trouble, ya hear?”
“I promise! Thanks Applejack!” Apple Bloom trotted off down the dirt road, leaving her brother behind.
“Rainbow was right, they do think we’re normal.” Applejack said to himself, watching his sister disappear at the outskirts of the farm.
“What ain’t normal ‘bout ya?” a deep voice came. Applejack looked back to the house and saw Big Macintosh standing in the entrance. His signature sprig of wheat hung from his mouth.
“Ah’m jus’ fine. It was nothin’,” Applejack said, nervously.
“You sure?” the crimson stallion replied, his eyebrow rising slightly in question. “You were gone awfully long.”
“Well, Mac, somethin’ came up with princess Celestia.” This piqued Big Mac’s interest. “Ya see, I have t’go to Cantelot an’ talk to her. Ah’m goin’ with Twilight.”
“Twilight? Twilight who?”
“Y’know, Twilight Sparkle. Does all that fancy magic an’ likes books?”
Big Mac cocked his head to the side, clearly confused. “Ya mean Dusk Shine? He’s th’ only pony I know ‘round these parts like that.”
Aw shoot, they all got new names? This’ll be tricky. Applejack was trying to think of an explanation for this. “Well uh, yes, ah’m goin’ with him too. Twilight is jus’ a new pony in town is all.” He faked a smile.
“Eeyup. Makes sense.” His face was unreadable, so Applejack could only assume that Mac believed him. “If ya’ll need t’go, you best get your stuff packed.”
“Yep, ah better,” Applejack said, entering the house.
For the animal friendly pegasus, things weren’t going quite as easily.
On the outskirts of Ponyville, just past a short patch of woods, sat an earthly cottage. The roof was covered with grass, and if not for the windows and door it would’ve resembled a large boulder. Many birdhouse hung in the nearby trees, and burrows yawned in the ground. It was a natural paradise for wildlife. A small stone bridge allowed passage over the local stream, and this is where Fluttershy stood, quizzically observing a small signpost planted at the bridge. In light pink cursive text, it read 'Welcome to Butterscotch’s Cottage.' He didn’t know who Butterscotch was, but he knew this was where his home had to be. Walking past the sign and over the bridge, he called out to the animals. “Hello friends, I’m back.” Silence. Well that’s strange. Normally they all come out to greet me. Fluttershy pondered the absence of her companions as he approached the door of her cottage.
He pushed the door and found that it wouldn’t budge. It appeared to be locked from the inside. Oh no, did I forget to leave the door open? Fluttershy pushed again, but to no avail. Suddenly, he heard a knock on the nearby window. Looking over, he spied Angel, his most trustful animal friend. The white rabbit had a stern expression, and shook his head as to say “No.” Fluttershy let out a gasp. “Oh, Angel Bunny, would you please open the door for me?” he asked. Angel declined. The rabbit left the window perch for a moment, and hastily returned with a picture frame. He pressed it to the window, revealing a photo of Fluttershy as a mare, surrounded by a group of animals, with Angel sitting on her head.
Shock hit Fluttershy as she realized Angel didn’t recognize her. “Angel, it’s me, Fluttershy. Don’t you see?” Angel kept his stern expression. “Please, let me in. Don’t you remember me?” The rabbit’s attitude was nearly set in stone. Desperately needing a way in, Fluttershy began to recall events that she shared with the bunny. “Do you remember winter wrap up, when we helped the animals come out of hibernation? What about when I was helping Philomena, and Twilight came and tried to help too?” Angel’s expression lightened as the pony went through their recent history together. “Angel, do you remember when I found you? When you were hurt on the side of the road and I took care of you?”
This had a deep effect on the snowy rabbit. Almost immediately after hearing this, he rushed over to the door and unlocked it. Fluttershy happily entered the house and pet Angel’s head. “I knew you would remember.” he said, gently. Angel then took the photo again and held it up, motioning at Fluttershy, then the picture, and finally shrugging as to say “What happened?” Fluttershy had a bit of explaining to do.
As Fluttershy was telling the story, her animals slowly began to come out and recognize him. “...and that’s when I came here,” he finished, surrounded by all different types of creatures. “So Angel, when I’m gone, could you please take care of the house?” Angel nodded. “That’s a good bunny,” Fluttershy said with a smile. He stood up, and prepared to get ready for the impending journey. While gathering the few supplies he needed and heading to leave, he thought to himself Butterscotch... is a nice name.
Bubble Berry hopped down the street, humming to himself. He was on the way to Sugarcube Corner, to both get ready for the big upcoming adventure and to tell the Cakes that he would be gone for a few days. Bubble bounced to the sweet shop’s door and opened it, sending a bell chime throughout the store. Mrs. Cake peered from the kitchen door and spotted Bubble Berry.
“Oh, hello dear!” she greeted.
“Hiya Mrs. Cake!” Bubble Berry replied.
“So, what did you have to do with Rainbow?”
“We found out that we’re going on a super duper important but fun trip to Canterlot to talk to the princess!” he chimed.
“Is it anything serious?” Mrs. Cake replied, a hint of worry on her face.
“Oh no, we just need to talk about magic!”
“Well, have fun, and be careful!”
“I will! Now where’s Gummy...” Bubble said, going up the stairs. It was time for adventure!
Ponyville’s clock tower chimed seven times as the six stallions entered the town’s library. Dusk Shine was eagerly awaiting them, his own saddlebags neatly packed and equipped.
“Welcome back, everypony,” Dusk said. “We have a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll be leaving as soon as I map out our route.” His horn lit up and a map levitated from the bookshelf and neatly unfurled itself in front of him. He brought it to a desk and laid the map flat, inspecting Equestria’s geography. It was a fairly straight path, passing a lake, several large hills, and eventually ending off at the mountain range Canterlot was located in. Overall, they would be in Canterlot by noon the next day.
“That ain’t too bad,” Applejack said, looking over the map. “The trip t’Manehatten was a lot longer than that, an’ I was jus’ a lil’ filly when ah took that journey.”
“It’ll be over before we know it,” Dusk replied, tracing over the path in dark ink. He marked a rest area along the route, then rolled the map up and tucked it into his saddlebag. “Is everyone ready?”
“Sure are,” Applejack said, tipping his hat.
“As am I,” Elusive replied, lightly shaking his purple mane.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Blitz said, flicking his tail.
“Let’s go!” Bubble Berry excitedly said, Gummy clinging to his mane.
“Eeep...” Butterscotch squeaked.
“Alright then!” Dusk Shine picked up his bags and threw them on his back, then opened the door for his friends. As they filed out, he called to the top floor. “Spike! We’ll be back in a few days! Just watch the house, okay!”
“...Okay,” a high pitched voice came from the balcony.
Poor Spike... we’ll get you, and the rest of us, back to normal. Dusk Shine exited the library, and closing the door behind him, trotted off to catch up to his friends.
It wasn’t long before they had passed the ‘Welcome to Ponyville!’ sign and were on the long road to Canterlot. The grand city of royals was visible on the distant mountain range, its expansive waterfalls cascading down the cliffs and into nothingness. It was a beautiful view, witnessed by mostly everyone in Equestria. The group watched the city in awe as they walked, making small conversation as they traveled. It was then that Elusive brought up their new bodies and names. They shared their stories of how they figured out their names, then discussed the bodies.
“I’m beginning to grow quite fond of it, to be honest,” Elusive said, looking over himself. “I never dreamed that a stallion could be so fashionable.”
“Well, I didn’t want to admit this in town, but I’m kind of liking the attention I’m getting,” Blitz stated, looking down in partial embarrassment. “I guess I’m just really awesome. Well, more awesome then usual.” He then extended his wings and gave them a flap. “But I still can’t do a Sonic Rainboom like this, so I’m going to need to go back to normal.”
“Suit yourself,” Applejack responded. “I’m mighty strong as a stallion. Earlier I tried buckin’ and apple tree, and I jus’ about broke the poor things trunk.”
“Oh you guys, I just like the way I sound!” Bubble Berry cheerily exclaimed. “I mean my mare voice was all high pitched and squeaky, but now I sound like this and it’s deeper you know?” He brought a hoof to his mane and bounced it up and down. “And my mane is just as poofy as ever, even though it’s shorter! It’s so fun.”
“Yes, well, that’s nice for you guys... but, I think I’d like to go back to being a mare...” Butterscotch quietly said. “I mean, this is different and all, but none of my animal friends know who I am anymore, and I just can’t let them go without care...”
“I agree,” Dusk said. Suddenly, his eyes widened as a realization kicked in. “Wait, did you say your animals didn’t recognize you?”
“Um, yes. That’s right...”
“But the sign in front of your cottage was changed?”
“Yes, it was.”
“Then that must mean... the spell only affected up to Butterscotch’s cottage. Wait, why am I calling you Butterscotch?”
“Um... because that’s my stallion name... and we should call each other by the right names... if you want to.”
Dusk rolled his eyes as he levitated the map out of his bag, along with a quill. “So, if the spell started here...” he placed a dot on the library. “And ended here...” another dot was jotted down right before the cottage. “Then this must be the range.” He drew all the way around, creating a circle that covered all of Ponyville and some of the outer boundaries as well.
“Wow, that’s huge!” Blitz said, eyeing the circle.
“Indeed, it is. I had no idea it would be this powerful...” Dusk’s tone was downcast. He was responsible for all of this, and he felt terribly guilty about it. “But it’s okay, this will all be fixed soon.”
The sky began to turn dark as Celestia’s day came to an end. Looking toward the horizon, Dusk Shine suggested that they set up camp for the night. They had only been travelling for several hours, but it was dangerous at night and the group was growing weary. Five of the ponies began to unpack their sleeping bags and arrange them in a circle while Applejack gathered firewood from some nearby trees. Within a couple minutes, and some magical assistance, a cozy fire was crackling in the center of the six stallions. While attempting to sleep, Blitz raised a question that Dusk really didn’t want to think about.
“Guys, what do we do if this... doesn’t go away?”
“You mean ‘sides never lettin’ Dusk use magic on us again?” Applejack retorted.
“Why are you calling me Dusk?”
“Dunno. Jus’ seems natural. I’m kinda used to it already.”
“Well that’s not my name, and these other names aren’t ours either!” Dusk was beginning to get bothered by the others acceptance of their ‘names.’
“But I’m liking Rainbow Blitz. It sounds even faster than Dash.”
“And Elusive just sounds so classy. It fits me perfectly, if I do say so myself.”
“Butterscotch sounds nice, and it fits my color.”
“Me too!” Bubble said. “And it’s like my mood. I’m always so happy and bubbly, and I’m berry colored. Bubble Berry!”
“Yes, those things all may be true, but we’re still us, aren’t we?” Dusk asked.
“Dusk- I mean, Twi, have you looked at us recently? We ain’t the same.”
“Maybe not on the outside, but on the inside we are.”
“I don’t know Dusk, it just seems so natural to me,” Blitz said, looking into the night sky. “For some reason it feels weird to call you Twilight.”
Hearing this, a thought began to brew in Dusk’s mind. Surely the spell couldn’t have done THAT, right? He pondered, slowly starting to think that this was much more serious than he had originally thought. It can’t be... it’s not changing... OUR thoughts, is it? Dusk could feel his heart rate speeding up as he thought more and more. Just calm down, Dusk. No! Twilight! I am Twilight Sparkle. Not... Dusk Shine.
“Look, everypony, I know we’ve changed, but we’re going to be back to normal. If anypony in Equestria knows what to do, it’s the Princess. As soon as we get to Canterlot, we’ll have our answers. I promise. For now, get some rest. We need to start moving early tomorrow.” His friends muttered to themselves as they curled in their sleeping bags. With a bit of magic, Dusk extinguished the fire, and was left with nothing but darkness and his frantic thoughts to aid his slumber.
Chapter 3: Thank You For The Gift, Princess
Dusk Shine was backed into a corner, surrounded by five ponies who used to be his friends. Their faces were contorted in anger as they shouted at him.
“I’ll never forgive you for this!” One yelled, nearly striking Dusk with his hoof. He tried to apologize, but they just wouldn’t listen! They were closing in on him now, preparing to wreak vengeance on the frightened unicorn. Before they struck, the pink one spoke.
“Dusk! Breakfast is ready!”
Dusk Shine awoke with a jolt. He opened his eyes, wincing as they adjusted to the sunlight, and let out a breath of relief - only a nightmare.
“I’ll get it in a moment...” he groggily said, standing up. Dusk shook his mane out and walked to where Bubble Berry was serving breakfast. He had prepared a decent spread of berries, hay, and oats for the group to enjoy, and was happily handing it out to them.
“Thanks a bunch, sugarcube,” Applejack said, grabbing a bowl full of food.
“Don’t mention it!” Bubble replied.
“What made you want to make breakfast?” Dusk asked, also grabbing a bowl.
“Well, since I was up already, I said to myself ‘Hey! Everypony will be hungry when they get up!’, and since I make food all the time, it just made sense to make food for you guys too. Now, we won’t all be starvy warvy when we get to Canterlot.”
Dusk chuckled at the pink ponies explanation. “Thank you, Bubble.” It didn’t cross Dusk’s mind that Bubble’s real name was Pinkie.
After they all had finished their breakfast, the group packed up and left. All that was left behind was some charred ashes where their fire had once been.
Coming ever closer to them was the grand mountain that Canterlot perched on, and it loomed over the small group as they approached the path that led to the regal city. Even though it was just a walkway, it was still inviting and elegant. Flattened light grey dirt led the way; a nice contrast to the jutting and rocky mountain. Not taking a moment to wait, the group began to climb.
Within the hour, the group was standing in front of the drawbridge into the city. As usual, it was opening and inviting, and two guards stood at either side of it. Their golden armor shone in the sunlight, and they stood still like statues, not wavering in the slightest. It was almost surreal.
“Welp, ain’t no sense standin’ here lookin’ at it.” The orange stallion proceeded to walk over the drawbridge, the rest of the ponies following him.
The city was bustling with aristocrats, upper class, and merchants alike. Hundreds of conversations went on at once, whether they be about taxes, who bought what recently, or whether the monarchy had made an acceptable choice. The scents of various high end perfumes and colognes wafted through the air, accented by the ornate and luxurious suits and dresses that their owners proudly displayed. All of the occupants strode with a deliberate and florid gait, as if they would be judged and criticized for not walking correctly.
It was not what Dusk Shine was used to.
After a short while of walking, the group was at Canterlot castle. It was much larger up close, and it’s large towers seemed to reach the heavens. The echos of higher gusts twirling through the tall peaks reverberated and reached the gate. In front of them was a large, ornate door, with another set of guards in front of it. As the six approached them, the guards spoke up.
“Are you Twilight Sparkle?” the dark one asked.
“Twilight... yes, I’m Twilight Sparkle,” Dusk replied.
“The princess will see you and your companions immediately.” He stomped his hoof on the ground, and with a deep creaking, the door began to open. Dusk and the rest filed through into the entry hall. The ceiling was high and vaulted, with decorative chandeliers lighting the way. A crimson, lavish carpet was spread throughout. Even though they had been here for the Grand Galloping Gala, it remained an astonishing sight, but not to Dusk Shine. He was used to travelling these hallways frequently, and practically knew how to get to the royal chamber by heart. He led the way, passing the occasional guard, all of which stood silently.
Soon, they had reached the entrance to the royal chamber. Large tapestries hung from the walls, with one side depicting symbols of the moon while the other showed the sun. Old sets of display armor stood valiantly at either end of the door, armed with decorative spears. On the large door was a picture of a sun, but half of it was a blue moon. The symbol was common, and everyone knew it represented the two royal sisters. The guards positioned at the door nodded, then pushed the doors open for the group. Inside, Celestia waited on her throne.
Excitedly, Dusk quickly entered the room. He walked towards the princess, who quizzically looked at him and his friends.
“My, what a change!” she said, her face turning to a smile. She light nuzzled Dusk as he approached her. “It’s nice to see you, Twilight, although I wish the circumstances had been better.”
“Me too, Princess,” Dusk replied. Without another word, he pulled the spell book out of his bag. “I’ve brought the book, like you asked.”
“Thank you. Now, let’s see what you’ve gotten yourself into.” The princess levitated the book in front of her and turned through the pages, quickly finding the right spell. Her eyes narrowed as she began to read. “My, this is a very ancient book. In fact, the spell you attempted wasn’t even complete.”
Dusk’s heart sank. “What do you mean?”
“Well, it happens to be an experimental magic, that many powerful unicorns had been constructing together. Unfortunately, it proved to be too difficult to successfully cast, and so it was lost in time. Until, that is, you discovered it under your library!” The princess closed the book and stood up. “I’m afraid we’ll need something a bit more than just a reversal spell to undo your problem. Please, follow me.”
“Where are we going, princess?” Dusk asked, standing at Celestia’s side.
“I’m going to show you something most ponies don’t know about. Something that I’ve kept to myself, Luna, and a hoofful of select scholars. You’ll see in a moment.”
Celestia led them through a nearby door and down a long spiral staircase. The air began to grow cold and damp as they descended, despite the many torches leading down. Eventually, they reached a single bookcase at the bottom.
“We walked all that way for this?” Blitz blurted. Applejack quickly smacked him in the back of the head, causing Blitz to groan in pain and rub where he was struck. Celestia simply smiled as her horn lit up.
“Is this what we came here... for...” Dusk began, but trailed off as the books were levitated out and rearranged in such a way that the spines created a large ‘L’. Shortly after, the bookcase shifted to the left, revealing a door in the wall. The word ‘Library’ was engraved on it, in simple writing.
“So that’s what the ‘L’ stands for! I’m so good at guessing games,” Bubble said, beaming.
“Precisely. As of late, however, it could stand for ‘Luna.’” The princess gave a short sigh. “She spends all of her time cooped up in here reading. In fact, she reminds me of you, Twilight.”
Dusk blushed with embarrassment for a moment, before following the princess into the library. The room was very vast, with tall bookcases reaching to the ceiling. They were arranged like the spokes on a wagon wheel, meeting at the middle and expanding outwards. On the ceiling was a very expansive mural, depicting the creation of Equestria, the raising and lowering of the sun and moon, and Luna’s banishment. It was extremely intricate and detailed, and Dusk couldn’t help but admire it. They walked to the center of the room, where Dusk noticed several tables and chairs were positioned. He also saw a large stack of books on one of the tables, and could hear a pony busily flipping through pages. Straining his ears, he heard the clacking of... something together. It sounded like wood against wood. Celestia cleared her throat.
“Ahem. Luna?” She asked. The clacking and flipping of pages stopped, and a cobalt pony poked her snout over a stack of books.
Dusk had a nervous twitch at the sight of the princess and immediately turned his head and mouthed to his friends ‘Don’t act up.’
“Yes, Celestia?” the moon princess asked. Then she noticed the others. “Oh! Ah... who came with you?”
“You might not recognize them, but these are the Elements of Harmony.”
Luna cringed slightly at the words.
Celestia continued. “They’re here because of an unfortunate incident involving a spell. You’ll notice that they’re stallions now.”
Luna narrowed her eyes and confirmed the fact. “Oh my. That looks serious.”
“Indeed it is. I’ve come here to find a particularly ancient spell. Would you care to help?”
The moon princess stepped out from behind her stack of books, revealing her full wings and jeweled necklace. “I... suppose I could help. What are you looking for?”
“Well...” Celestia started, circling around the center area. “Something along the lines of gender reversal.”
Luna closed her eyes for a moment, in deep concentration. She tried to recall any book that might have a spell that strong. She opened her eyes as one came to mind. “You could try the... Forbidden Scroll.”
Dusk became uneasy at the word ‘forbidden.’ He looked from princess to princess, waiting for Celestia’s response. The room was terribly silent for an agonizing amount of time. Finally, Celestia spoke up.
“We could attempt to. However, it is called forbidden for a reason, sister.”
“Yes, I know, I read all about it. It started as a collection of the most powerful spells created, but through corruption and dark intentions it became full of sinister and dangerous magic, which caused it to be seized and forbidden to be recreated by our glorious and benevolent ruler, Princess Celestia.” Upon finishing, a smile crept upon Luna’s face.
Celestia seemed pleased at her sister’s knowledge, and returned the kind look. “That’s exactly correct. However, not all of the spells within the scroll were dangerous. We shall take a look at it.”
“Thank you, Princess,” Dusk said, looking up to her.
“Yes, thank you very much,” Butterscotch added. The rest of them took turns thanking the princess, who rolled her eyes.
“Please, there’s no need to be so formal with me. Now, let’s find that scroll. Luna, if you will.” She nodded to Luna, who was leaning over to read a book. She perked up at the mention of her name.
“Oh, yes, of course,” she said, turning. “I believe that scroll is this way...” She led Celestia and the six ponies down one of the many hallways. They continued until they had reached the very end of the room, where an old, dusty display case stood. It had an old wooden frame, and the foggy glass was just translucent enough to reveal an aged scroll, lightly hovering on a small pedestal. Celestia’s horn lit up as she began to mouth several words. The case was surrounded in blue light for a moment, which then seemed to shatter and dissipate.
“Ah, even after all these years, I still remember that anti-shield spell,” Celestia said, in a whimsical tone. She levitated the scroll in front of herself and unfurled it. Dusk looked at the spell as Celestia did, and noticed it was in a language he didn’t recognize, even after all of his research. He also noticed that the text had a faint glow to it. Clearly, this was some powerful magic. For the next few moments, Celestia pored over the scroll, scrutinizing it’s every detail. The rest sat in silence, waiting for her to announce what to do. After many minutes, and with a look of concern on her face, the Princess of the Sun finally spoke.
“This spell is indeed very old. So old, in fact, that it was made during the times when physical objects were still used for incantations.”
Being versed in magic, Dusk spoke up. “What do you mean, princess? Do we need to include artifacts of some sort?”
“Precisely, Twilight. They appear to be very rare ingredients, however. I can only hope they still exist.”
“Well, what do we need?” Blitz asked anxiously.
“Patience, Rainbow Dash,” Celestia replied, looking over the scroll once more. “The answer is written in a riddle.”
“Ooh! Riddles! I love riddles!” Bubble Berry suddenly chimed. He had been uncharacteristically quiet the whole time. “What is it, what is it?”
Celestia couldn’t help but grin at the young stallion’s enthusiasm. “You’re quite eager! Let us begin.” She began to read from the text:
Up in the heavens
The master contains the key
Down is the answer
Bubble sat down and rubbed his chin with a hoof. “Boy oh boy, this is a real stumper! What could be in the heavens?”
“Perhaps it doesn’t literally mean the heavens?” Elusive said, looking at Bubble and giving a shrug.
“It must mean something in the sky then,” Dusk announced. Suddenly, Blitz spoke.
“Cloudsdale! It’s up in the sky, and somepony probably thought it was like a heaven.”
“Very good reasoning, Rainbow Dash.” Celestia spoke.
Dusk recalled the second line. “So, the master is in Cloudsdale, and it has the key. But... Cloudsdale doesn’t have a master, does it?”
“Well, it used to.” Rainbow Blitz said, turning his head to Dusk. “It’s taught in all Pegasus schools. Long ago, there was a Pegasus king, who sorta ruled Cloudsdale like Celestia did. Eventually he got old, and after he was gone, they wanted to honor him by making him the last King of the Pegasi.”
“Ah yes, I remember him quite fondly,” The sun princess spoke. “He went by ‘King Archimedes Darkbillow III’, and was a very prestigious leader. He cared much for the Pegasus race, and his passing was mourned by many. Even today, I miss the stories he used to tell when we met. However, what’s past is past. I can’t be reminiscing when my dear pupil is in need, can I?” She looked down to Dusk and smiled.
“Ah don’t get tha’ last line. ‘Down is tha answer’? Tha last two lines said it was in Cloudsdale!” Applejack said, starting to pace around. “What other kinda ‘down’ is there, anyhoo?”
“One could feel ‘down’, as in sad,” Elusive said.
“You can be down for the count!” Blitz excitedly added.
“Um, it could be a feather...” Butterscotch quietly said.
“What was that?” Dusk asked, approaching Butterscotch.
“Well, when I take care of birds, sometimes they leave feathers. It’s really called feather down... oh, but that’s silly...”
“No, no, no, it makes sense, Butter... Fluttershy!” Dusk looked towards the princess. “I think I know what the first ingredient is.”
“And that would be?” Celestia asked, waiting for her disciples answer.
“It’s a feather from the Pegasus king!” the purple stallion triumphantly said.
“Very good, all of you.” Celestia said, with satisfaction. “Even I wasn’t entirely sure what the answer was. Now, for the next ingredient.”
“There’s another?” Blitz dejectedly said.
“This spell requires three material ingredients in total. One representing time, one representing memory, and one representing gender. Due to to it’s owner and age, the feather would appear to be time.” The princess looked over the scroll and read the second riddle:
Golden and sacred
The binds of the two beings
It hides in the throne
Upon hearing this, Luna spoke for the first time in a while. “I... I think I know the answer to this one, sister.”
“As do I. What were you thinking?” Celestia asked.
“Well, the ‘throne’ mentioned in the riddle refers to our old throne, when we still inhabited the temple in the Everfree Forest. ‘Golden and sacred’ is an artifact that was placed there long ago - a gift from the Gryphon kingdom. Finally, the ‘two beings’ represent...”
“...us.” Celestia finished. “Or, in this particular case, two opposing forces - sun and moon.”
“Exactly.” Luna said, confidently.
Blitz looked between Celestia and Luna quizzically. “Wait, what does that have to do with this spell?”
“Think of it as a parallel, Rainbow Dash.” Luna answered, looking to the pegasus. “It is not obvious at first, but consider your problem. You are attempting to go from male to female, correct? Opposites. Sun and moon? Also opposites.”
“Oh. I guess that kinda makes sense when you put it like that...”
“Then we have to tread into that dreadful forest, don’t we?” Elusive said, with visible disgust on his face.
“Yes, it seems we’ll be taking another trip to the castle of the solar sisters,” Dusk announced, looking towards his friends. They all nervously shifted at this, knowing full well the dangers that lurked in that forest.
“Excellent work, young ponies.” Celestia pleasingly said. “You’ve now figured out what two of the items are. It is now time to figure out the final piece of the puzzle.” The princess cleared her throat and announced the final riddle:
Darkness and despair
All that remain in this place
Hide the mystic flow
The ponies pondered this riddle again and again in their heads, but couldn’t seem to find an answer.
“Only place ah can think of fer ‘darkness an’ despair’ is th’ Everfree Fores’. One a’ the parts is already in there, though.” Applejack didn’t have any idea where it could be, let alone what the ‘mystic flow’ could be.
“Applejack is right,” Dusk said. “Princess, do you know what this could mean?”
Celestia thought for a moment. She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Bubble Berry.
“Ooh! I think I know the answer to this one! Maybe the dark and spooky place is Old Canterlot! Am I right? Am I, am I?”
Hearing the words ‘Old Canterlot’ caused Celestia’s eyes to widen. “How do you know of that place, Pinkie Pie?”
“Well, I used to hear stories from Grandpa Pie, who’s great, great, great, great, great, great grandpa was in the royal guard. He told me all about Canterlot, but not our Canterlot! This Canterlot was inside the mountain back when it was dangerous and scary outside. Eventually they built New Canterlot on the side of a mountain, then they sealed up Old Canterlot so people wouldn’t get confused! So our Canterlot is Canterlot, but Old Canterlot was their Canterlot, and it’s old to us because we’re here now when New Canterlot is Canterlot. See?” Bubble Berry grinned after his long winded explanation, leaving the other five terribly confused. Celestia and Luna, however, exchanged concerned looks.
“It’s quite a benefit to your group then, if you know of Old Canterlot. It may indeed have the final ingredient,” Luna spoke.
“What exactly is the last ingredient then?” Dusk asked. “What could ‘mystic flow’ refer to?”
“I believe the answer you’re looking for is liquid magic.”
“Liquid... magic?” A quizzical expression crossed Dusk’s face.
“Precisely. Before magic was properly harnessed by Unicorns, it was kept in a liquid state for ingestion and simple use.”
The influx of new information about the past was beginning to overwhelm Dusk Shine. He attempted to stay focused on the issue at hand, rather than the mysteries of the past. “So, the last part of the spell is liquid magic?”
“That is what it appears to be,” Celestia confirmed. “So, you’ll need to travel to Old Canterlot, Cloudsdale, and the Everfree Forest to gather the reagents for this spell.”
“I have but one question about all of this,” Elusive gathered the attention of the group. “Just where might we find all of these ingredients? Surely, Old Canterlot, Cloudsdale, and the old castle are rather large places. We can’t hope to spend all of our time searching.”
Luna answered one of the questions. “If I remember correctly, the throne room in the old castle will be past the third tower, in the middle of a large complex of buildings.” At this point, Dusk had taken out a pencil and piece of paper and began writing down information. “The room is large and circular, with two thrones in the center. The artifact will be in the center of the thrones, and there should be a method of retrieving it.”
“Thank you, your majesty,” Elusive bowed while speaking, but quickly stood back up. “This still leaves the other two pieces.”
“I kinda know where king’s grave site is,” Rainbow Blitz said, looking to Elusive. “That’s where they put the king’s stuff when he kicked the bucket.”
“Simply wonderful. This is proving to be much easier than we thought, is it not?”
“We still don’ know jus’ where this magic water is s’posed to be,” Applejack said, slightly darkening the mood.
“I can assist you with that problem.” The sun princess closed the scroll and placed it back into the display case. The glass door shut, and a blue light encased the container, but it’s glow disappeared as quickly as it was formed. A light hum filled the air, then trailed off. “If there is any liquid magic left in Old Canterlot, you will find it in the Enchantment Wing of the old royal library. There was a small pool for research purposes left there, which may still exist today.”
“I can’t thank you enough for all of your help, princess,” Dusk Shine said, approaching her.
“It is my pleasure, Twilight. I pray that this information is correct, and helps to reverse
the spell.” Celestia leaned down and nuzzled Dusk’s neck. He quickly returned the gesture and they parted. Dusk then looked towards Luna, who was standing a bit behind her sister.
“I must thank you as well, Princess Luna.”
“Oh. Well, you are very welcome,” Luna replied, sheepishly.
“One day, we should meet for a better reason.”
“Yes. I agree.” The moon princess cracked a smile before looking back down to the floor. One day... she thought.
The remaining six thanked the princesses, and the group, save for Luna, traveled back to the throne room of Canterlot. Celestia personally escorted them to the entrance of the castle, and before they left, spoke to Dusk.
“Twilight, I want you to take this.” The princess produced a small, transparent orb which had a faint yellow glow to it. “If you touch it with your horn, you’ll be able to speak with me no matter where you are. Should you need help, simply ask, and I will do what I can.”
Dusk Shine humbly knelt down. “Thank you for the gift, princess. I will be sure to use it wisely.” The princess smiled before telling Dusk to catch up with his friends, who were over the drawbridge already. Dusk gave one last goodbye before turning his back on the castle and meeting with his friends.
“My, it’s getting rather late, don’t you think?” Elusive said, looking at the sky. Time had passed by very quickly in the castle, and they didn’t realize just how long they had been there until now. “Perhaps we should find a place to stay? We don’t want to go out at night.”
“I’m gonna hafta agree with Elusive here,” Applejack said. “It’s mighty dark out, and there ain’t gonna be anythin’ done at night.”
“If you insist, we’ll find an inn,” Dusk said, leading the group. Being a large city, Canterlot had several places to stay, and the group decided to stay in the first one they saw. It happened to be a tavern by the name of ‘The Prime Pegasus.” Inside, there were few patrons. Several sat at tables, and nopony was sitting at the bar. The bartender looked up as they entered, and gave them a warm welcome.
“Greetings, lads. Are ya here ta’ stay the night?”
“Yes, sir,” Dusk answered.
“Always good ta see new faces. It’ll be fifty bits per night, but that includes dinner and breakfast! Hows ‘at sound?”
“That there’s a deal if I ever did see one.” Applejack said, taking a seat. The bartender gave a hearty laugh.
“I’m likin’ you fellas already! It’ll be three hundred bits total, and I’ll put yer names down.” The six stallions each brought out their money and passed it to the bartender, who quickly scribbled their names in the large registry. When he was done, he looked back to the group. “Now, what’ll it be fer dinner? Menu’s right behind me, so take yer time.” He walked to the side of the bar and started to clean a collection of mugs.
“So, how long do you think this’ll take?” Blitz asked Dusk.
“Well, several days at the very minimum. We have a lot of travelling to do, and Everfree Forest will take the longest.” Blitz frowned slightly.
“Do you really think this will work?”
“I trust the princess completely, Dash.”
“Wait, your name is Dash.”
“Yeah, I know that, but Blitz sounds cooler. You know how cool I need to be, Dusk.”
“Fine, I’ll play along and call you ‘Blitz’, but you have to call me Twilight.”
“Deal,” Blitz replied, with a grin.
“I certainly hope I’ve packed warm enough.” Elusive said, looking over his bags. “A place like Old Canterlot seems terribly cold and damp.
“Oh no, I hope it’s not too dark,” Butterscotch added, his face changing to worry.
“It’ll be fine, Butterscotch,” Dusk said. “Elusive and I can use magic to light the way.”
“I suppose that’s okay...”
“Alls ah’m worried ‘bout is gettin’ back on the farm,” Applejack gruffly said.
“Applejack, do you worry about anything other than your apple trees?” Elusive asked, looking over to Applejack.
“O’ course. There’s mah family, and mah finances, and mah friends.”
“Oh good, we’re on that list,” Elusive flatly replied.
“Hey, don’t start anything funny,” Blitz said, looking between the two. “That’s my job, remember?”
“Fair enough,” Applejack said, still looking at Elusive. Just then, the bartender came back and asked about their orders. They ordered something filling off the menu, and continued to lightly chat about their upcoming journey. As they ate, a light grey mare with a pink treble clef cutie mark entered the tavern. She had dark hair, amethyst eyes, and had a large instrument case with her. The pony practically dragged it to the bar, and sat down next to Blitz, looking a bit downcast.
“Bartender,” she said, half-heartedly lifting a hoof. “Get me the usual.”
“In here again, Octavia?” The bartender asked, preparing a drink for her.
“Same stuff, different night,” She dully replied. “We get a performance, no one appreciates the music, and we end up leaving with empty hooves.”
“I’m sorry ta hear that.” He pushed the drink to her, which she immediately started to drink. Blitz was listening to the conversation and looked over to her, then at the large case at bottom of the bar stool. He didn’t realize how long he was observing her, as she put her drink down and looked over to him.
“Can I help you?” she asked, clearly irritated.
“Oh, uh, sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.”
“I just uh... overheard you.”
“Great.” She took another sip of her drink.
“What do you play?”
“Double bass. Why?”
“I was just curious.” Blitz wasn’t sure where to take the conversation. Octavia looked at him from head to toe, then finished the rest of her beverage. “Is anyone else in your ba-”
“Are you trying to hit on me?” she interrupted.
“What? No,” Blitz said, starting to get red in the face.
“Are you sure about that?” Octavia pressed the issue, her face inching closer in his direction.
“I’m, uh, positive.”
She gave him another once over. At this point, the conversation between the other five had ceased, and they were listening in on Blitz, eagerly waiting to see what would happen between him and this aggravated musician.
“That’s good. Most stallions don’t care about what I do. They just care about what I might do. You seem a bit more honest, though.” She looked at Blitz, and her expression lightened up. The bartender delivered another drink, which she took some of. “I might want to get to know you more.” Rainbow Blitz wasn’t sure what to say, but he could feel his cheeks burning up. Was this going to happen everywhere he went? From behind him, he could hear his friends suppressing their giggling.
“That sounds... great. Yeah, I’d like that.” Blitz replied, trying to keep his cool. Octavia turned away and looked straight ahead of her.
“How long are you going to be here?” she asked.
“Just for tonight, then I have to leave... for a long time.”
“That’s a shame.”
“Yeah, I wish I could stay longer, y’know?”
Octavia finished the remainder of her second drink, then looked back to Blitz. “I might think about paying you a visit tonight. We can talk more then.”
“Sure, sure.” He gulped. “That sounds cool.”
Octavia went back to her third drink, and Blitz turned back to his friends, all of which were quietly giggling to themselves.
“Very funny, guys...” Blitz said, sarcastically.
“You bet it is,” Applejack said, a huge grin on his face.
“It is always amusing to see you like this, darling,” Elusive added.
With the occasional chuckle, the group finished their dinner and headed to their rooms upstairs. They all said their ‘good nights’, and the humorous ‘good luck!’ to Blitz, and retired for the night.
Chapter 4: Oh Heavens, Did You Say Dirt?
Groomed and all packed up, Dusk Shine made his way down to the bar just as the clock behind it struck eight. Looking around, he noticed he was the first to awaken out of the group.
The barkeeper flashed Dusk a smile as he sat down at the bar. “Mornin’, son. Sleep well?”
“As well as I usually do.”
“Good ta’ hear!” he cheerily replied, while pushing a menu in front of Dusk. The violet stallion opened his mouth to speak, but the barkeeper interrupted. “If you’ll recall, ya got yerself a free breakfast here. So, lad, what’s it gonna be?”
A free breakfast! Dusk had forgotten about that detail in his slumber, and he had been prepared to leave without a meal. The rumbling in his stomach declared just how dreadful of an idea that would have been. With little hesitation, he scanned over the menu, looking for something light. Oatmeal, hay pancakes, fruit salad and... apple jacks?
“Yep! Somethin’ new from one o’ the Apple families. Some sorta cereal and little bits a’ apple.”
Dusk hadn’t realized he said the last part out loud. The food’s uncanny resemblance to his farmer friend had caught him off guard, especially this early in the morning. After looking at the choices one more time, he decided to order the cereal. The bartender grabbed a jar of what appeared to be apple and hay, opened it, and dumped a bit of the mixture into a bowl. He then poured milk over it, and set the dish in front of Dusk.
“Enjoy!” he said, turning to take another patrons order. Dusk looked into the pool of milk, hay and apples sitting in front of him, pondering for a moment if it was the right way to use his free breakfast. Levitating a spoon, he brought part of the mixture to his mouth, and with a nervous gulp, ingested it.
Applejack made his way down the stairs, shortly after Dusk had finished breakfast. After greeting the bartender, he took a seat next to Dusk.
“Good morning, Applejack. Did you know one of your family members has a line of cereal?”
“Shoot, do they? What’s it called?”
A friendly smile crept across Dusk’s face as he said “Apple Jacks.”
The orange earth pony’s brows furrowed into a look of concern. “...any good?”
“Oh, absolutely. You should try some!”
Applejack’s expression quickly turned from concern to pleasure with the news. It wasn’t long at all before he had a bowl for himself, and was digging in. While he was focused on his food, he didn’t notice Butterscotch take a seat next to him.
“Good morning, everypony.”
The unexpected voice next to him caused Applejack to jump and drop and his spoon on the counter. After recovering from the slight shock, he looked over to Butterscotch, who was huddled over in his seat, looking a bit fearful.
“I-I’m... I’m sorry, was I too l-loud?”
Applejack sighed, looking over the yellow pegasus. “Nah, you weren’t. You jus’ startled me is all. It’s alright.”
“Sorry about that...” Butterscotch replied, beginning to sit up.
By nine o’clock, Bubble Berry and Elusive had come downstairs and gotten their meals. Elusive explained that he had come down so late because he’d ‘simply needed to style his mane just so’, and Bubble had been very busy testing the bounciness of his bed. The group had a chuckle at the pink ponies silly explanation before returning to their meals and having idle chit chat.
Finally, Rainbow Blitz walked down the stairs. He knew exactly what was coming, and braced himself for the surge of questions about his late night ‘guest’. The mare in question followed him down the stairs, and more than one high pitched whistle was heard as they entered the room. Ignoring the jeers, he and Octavia sat down next to the rest of Blitz’s friends.
“Well, good mornin’ there, loverboy!” Applejack hollered over, a grin on his face. “Have a good rest?” Blitz could almost feel the implications in his words, and he knew that a good explanation would be required.
“Yeah, I did have a good night,” Blitz replied.
“And how was it for yer friend?”
“He was very charming.” Octavia’s smooth voice came, looking past Blitz and over to Applejack.
“My, is that how they put it these days?” Elusive retorted, lightheartedly. Everypony but Blitz and Octavia gave a light chuckle.
“Well, actually...” Blitz started, but was cut off by Octavia.
“For your information, gentlecolts, we didn’t do anything... vulgar. We simply talked.”
Dusk leaned over and looked to Blitz. Out of all of his friends, he assumed Blitz to be the first pony to leap at an opportunity like this one. Dusk needed to hear that again, because Octavia couldn’t possibly have said what he thought she said. “I’m sorry, but... you two... talked?”
Blitz was the one to speak this time. “Well, yeah. She was practically crying when she came to my door. I decided to do the cool thing and listen to her.”
“So, lemme get this straight, sugarcube. A pretty mare like her comes to your bedroom, cryin’ her eyes out, drunk outta’ her mind and lookin’ fer attention... and ya talk to her?”
The cyan pegasus nodded. “Yep. Pretty much.”
“I’m surprised, Rainbow,” Elusive spoke, continuing in a dramatic tone. “That was a very sweet thing for you to do! Taking to a distressed mare like her and calming her in a time of need! Oh, such a romantic gesture.” Blitz’s cheeks began to brighten at the words. Elusive was right, it was a pretty sweet thing for him to do.
“See? All Blitzy had to do was be nice!” Bubble chimed in.
“And nice he was,” Octavia said, getting up from the bar stool. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an ensemble to meet. Oh, and Blitz... thanks again.” She turned to the blue stallion and unexpectedly gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, before turning and leaving the tavern. Dusk and the others watched her leave before looking to Blitz, who was blushing a bright crimson.
“Hoo boy, she sure had a thing for you!” Applejack said, relishing every moment of Rainbow’s embarrassment. He was never going to let the pegasus live this one down. After a brief chuckle from everypony, Dusk spoke up.
“Now that we’ve had our breakfast, and some laughs,” he looked at Blitz with a grin. “We should be heading out to the castle now. The princess will be waiting for us.” The group moved out of their seats and double checked their belongings. The barkeeper gave them a smile as they began to leave.
“Thanks fer stayin’, and ‘ave a good day!” With that, he watched the six colorful stallions leave, and went to clean a collection of mugs. It wasn’t every day that such a peculiar group walked out of the bar.
The morning sun hung brightly in the eastern sky as the group approached Canterlot Castle. As they reached the drawbridge, Dusk stopped for a moment and levitated the mystic orb out of his saddlebags. Recalling it’s instructions, he moved it to the tip of his horn and lightly tapped it, causing a magic spark to jump between the two. The orb took on a life of it’s own as it hummed and floated a few feet in front of Dusk. It then appeared to shatter, but upon further inspection had divided into numerous smaller orbs, which now floated about in a spherical shape, just big enough to encompass an alicorn. Seconds later, the faded shape of Celestia appeared in the middle, smiling and looking to Dusk. The holographic magic brought several ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s from everypony, who quickly silenced as the sun princess spoke.
“Ah, it’s good to see you, Twilight. It looks as though you’ve activated the mystic orb with little trouble.”
“Yes, Princess, and it’s very helpful. This magic is quite advanced!”
Celestia gave a brief chuckle before continuing. “I’ll be sure to teach you about it when you’re done with your quest. So tell me, what is it you would like?”
“Well, we needed instructions on how to enter Old Canterlot.”
“Of course, of course. Twilight, I trust you know the layout of most of the castle, correct?”
“I studied the floor plans quite a bit, so yes.”
“Excellent. Then, if you go to the lower levels of the castle, from the basement, you’ll find a large, sealed door at the end. This is the original entrance to Canterlot. I will send Princess Luna to assist you in opening it.”
From elsewhere in Celestia’s area, Luna’s voice rang out. “Celly, I’m busy studying!”
“She’ll be there, don’t worry,” Celestia added, with a wink and smile.
“Thank you so much, princess. We’ll be sure to go there as fast as possible.”
“Good luck with your search!” After this, the image of Celestia disappeared, and the orb returned to it’s small, glass-like state. Dusk returned it to his bag and marched forward, leading the way.
“Dusk, do you think we’ll be okay?” Butterscotch asked, saying the first words in a long while.
“We’ll be fine!” Blitz barged in, interrupting whatever Dusk was about to say. “Old Canterlot is just going to be filled with old books and dirt, anyway.”
“Oh heavens, did you say dirt?” Elusive nearly stopped in his tracks at the mention of that icky, grimy, filthy substance that was so bothersome to fully wash out of a coat!
“It’ll be fine, ya’ll. Ain’t nothin’ we have to do but go in, get some fancy, magicky water and leave. Easy as bakin’ an apple pie.”
“I could really go for some pie!” Bubble Berry excitedly said, hopping around the group.
“Tell ya what, if we can fix this spell and get ta’ how we used ta’ be, Ah’ll make pie for all o’ ya!” Applejack brightfully announced. Bubble and the others gave a light cheer and laugh as they entered the doors of the castle, looking forward to finishing their journey.
Princess Luna paced back and forth in front of the large stone door to Old Canterlot. It had been over a millennium ago that she had last been to this entryway, and memories of much less peaceful days resurfaced. Fortunately, her pained reminiscence was halted by the soft clopping of hooves in the distance. The alicorn looked at the far end of the room to see Dusk Shine and the rest of his friends entering.
“Greetings, Princess,” Dusk said, bowing when he approached her. The others followed his respectful lead.
“Hello, Twilight, and friends. I trust you are all prepared?”
“Good. I’ll open the door for you six, but be cautious to tell either myself or Celestia when you return, so it may be closed again.
“Of course, your majesty, and thank you.”
Luna’s horn began to glow a bright white, and rumbling could be felt throughout the room. With the loud grinding of stone, the large door moved sideways, revealing a foreboding passageway that descended into darkness. Bits of dust and loose stone fell to the ground as the door stopped and Luna’s horn lost it’s magic glow. With an affirmative nod, the princess teleported out the room, leaving the group to themselves.
The passage leading deeper into the mountain was little taller than an alicorn, which left Dusk and his friends feeling a bit claustrophobic as they descended into the darkness. Not only was it small, but the blackness was so suffocating that the light from Dusk’s horn could barely penetrate it. Had it not been for the dropping temperature, they wouldn’t have known how close they were.
The first clue that they had arrived, other than the cold, was that Dusk noticed the light wasn’t reflecting off the walls anymore, and that the tunnel had actually opened into a large cavern.
“Guys... I think we might have made it,” Dusk said. His horn flashed brighter, and a large flare shot out and arced in front of them. Six jaws collectively dropped at what they saw in the new found light.
The cavern they were in was gargantuan in scale, and far ahead in front of them, an old stone castle lay, surrounded by small residential buildings. It was nearly as big as present day Canterlot, but tucked away in this mountain. Massive columns stretched between the floor and ceiling, some so wide that if Dusk and the others were to stand around it, they wouldn’t be within a hoof’s length of one another. The simple reality of what was lying in the mountain caused Dusk to lose all train of thought for a moment.
“It’s... it’s real big,” Applejack said, eyes darting from one thing to another. Even Bubble Berry was at a loss of words, but not for long.
“Grandpa never told me how BIG this place was!”
“Yes... it is quite extravagant, isn’t it...?” was all Elusive could say. Rainbow Blitz was knocked out of his amazement a bit quicker, thinking of all the flying he could do. He spread his wings and took off, cheering.
“Blitz! Get back here!’ Dusk called, starting to run after him. This was everypony else’s cue to start moving, and they trailed shortly behind the purple unicorn.
“Just look at all this room!” Blitz shouted, circling one of the large columns and diving down into a spin. “I never thought I’d be able to say I flew in a mountain!” He did several corkscrews and flips midair, but failed to notice his proximity to the column. “Oh, shoot,” He managed to say, before colliding with the stone. Moments after hitting it, he slid down to the bottom and groaned, rubbing his head. Standing up, he shook himself off and waited for the others to catch up, all while being thankful none of them had witnessed his blunder.
“Finally!” Dusk said between breaths, catching up to where Blitz was. “You should really warn us before you do that.”
“Yeah, maybe I should, but hey, we’re in front of the castle now.”
Dusk blinked, then looked up. There were indeed in front of the castle. It’s large structures reflected off of the flare.
“It’s so much bigger up close,” Butterscotch said, looking over the building.
“You should have seen it from the sky! Also, Dusk, we might want to hurry up with this.”
“Well, it might just be me, but I don’t think all those important looking columns should have big cracks in them.”
“Wait, what?” Dusk looked to the nearest column, and upon examining it, immediately noticed what Blitz was talking about. Large, jutting cracks were shooting through it, splitting off into hundreds of smaller ones. It was clearly from the many years of endurance this column had to put up with, and Dusk wasn’t sure how long it was going to last. “Blitz, you’re right. We should get this over with. Follow me, everypony.”
Dusk proudly lead the group, walking right to the massive stone gates of the castle... before realizing they were closed, and he couldn’t open them.
“Well that’s a might inconvenient.” Applejack looked over the closed gate, which hadn’t been opened in hundreds of years. He then thought of his apple bucking experience. A grin crept across his face as he walked forward. “Step aside, ya’ll. Ah’ll get this here gate open.” They all nodded silently and backed up, giving Applejack some room. He galloped towards the gate, then quickly turned and slammed his hind hooves into it as hard as he could, sending a thundering crack throughout the entire cavern.
“See, nothin’ to i-”
“AJ, look out!” Blitz cried, spreading his wings and lunging forward. The blue pegasus tackled Applejack to the side, moments before the stone gate crumbled and fell, right where the orange pony had been. The destruction of the stone kicked up quite a bit of dust, obscuring the vision between Blitz, Applejack, and the others. To their relief, Blitz spoke up.
The other four sighed and ran over to them.
“Oh my, are you okay?” Butterscotch said, worriedly looking over Applejack.
With a brief cough, Applejack stood up and shook himself off. “Ah’m better than I woulda been if Blitz hadn’t been quick on his hooves.”
“Yep, that’s me. Always saving everypony’s flank.” Blitz grinned.
“Don’t go gettin’ used to it. I’m sure ya’ll are gonna get in trouble with somethin’.”
“Usually do!” the pegasus flared his wings out and gave a light flap.
Dusk coughed, getting the attention of the others. “Now that the gate is... open, we should probably get to that liquid magic.”
“Dusk is quite right. I’d rather not stay in this... dusty place for longer than we need to.” Elusive walked forward to start and lead the group inside, but allowed Dusk to pass him so they knew where to go.
They made their way through the dark and foreboding halls, watching their every step. The crumbling building’s structure threatened to cave in at a moments notice, causing each of them to be on guard - ready to avoid falling stone or a collapsing floor.. Any windows the castle once had were now shattered and broken, and old tapestries had long been consumed by insects, leaving only the faded gold bars used to support them. The light seeping in from the outside flare made Dusk’s magic lighting slightly more effective, but the room was still fairly dark. He almost didn’t see the sign above them that said “Library”.
“We’re here!” Bubble Berry exclaimed, taking notice.
“So we are...” Dusk slowly opened the large wooden door in front of them into an expansive, circular room lined by bookcases. The room had two floors, with a banister traveling around all the top level. The roof of the building had a mostly broken stain glass picture, and from what Dusk could make out, at one point it was a picture of Celestia. Immediately garnering his attention, however, was the soft blue glow coming from the middle of the room. There sat a a small fountain, with glowing blue liquid sitting in it. There wasn’t a single ripple going through the solution, and as the ponies approached, they could perfectly see their reflections in it.
“My goodness, the magic here is so strong I can feel it. Tell me you feel the same, Dusk?” Elusive spoke, admiring his reflection in the water. Dusk, however, was gritting his teeth and seemed to be in pain.
“Duskie, are you okay? You don’t look so good!” the pink pony inspected him with a worrisome look.
“It’s... I’ll be fine. It’s just a lot of magic... I think... this is a defense mechanism...” Dusk said through his teeth. He backed away from the fountain, feeling the pain lessen. “It seems that the more powerful a unicorn is, the worse the pain will become.”
“Shoot, Ah’ll get it then, Dusk.” Applejack went to Dusk’s bag and opened it, retrieving a small vial from inside. He held in it in his mouth and dipped it into the pool, filling the vial to the mouth. Using a hoof, he popped the cap on the end and slipped the now glowing container back into Dusk’s bag. “Well, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“Thank you, Applejack. Now we can get out of here!” Dusk said, securing his bags.
“Finally! Now we can go on to the cool part.”
“Whatever do you mean by that, Blitz?” Elusive gave him a questioning glance.
“I mean going to Cloudsdale of course! That place is so much more awesome than this stuffy place.”
“Not to mention it’s brighter,” Butterscotch added.
“Oh boy, should I throw a party to celebrate our magic water?!”
“Sugarcube, just hold off on the parties ‘til we’re mares again, will ya?”
“If you say so, but means I’ll have to throw an extra big, super duper funtacular one!”
“Hehe, we’ll be looking forward to it, Bubble,” Dusk added with a smile.
The group retraced their steps, following Dusk’s lead. In a short time, they had navigated to the entrance of the castle, which was clearly noticeable by the destroyed gate. As they were talking, Butterscotch heard a faint crack in the distance.
The others continued, going back to the subject of Blitz and Octavia. Crack.
“Now, Ah’m just sayin’, Rainbow, if it was me, Ah woulda-”
The group turned to look at the flustered yellow pony, who was staring at them with a furrowed brow. Crack.
“What’s up, ‘scotch?” Blitz asked. C-c-c-crack.
“Don’t you hear that cracking noise?!” The five of them perked their ears up and look around, searching for a sound. Crack.
“There it is!” Dusk said, looking in the direction of...
“THE COLUMN!” they cried, bursting into a full gallop. With a thunderous shattering, large stone shards shot out of the stone, finally giving way to the ages of weight it had to support. The destruction of the first column began a deadly chain reaction, with each successive column falling to the overabundance of weight. Chunks of the ceiling plowed into the floor, destroying buildings and laying waste to the castle. The six ponies pumped their legs furiously, avoiding the falling rocks and debris that was rapidly spreading. Dusk looked back for a moment, but instantly regretted doing so, as all he saw was a hailstorm of dust and stone flying at them.
“We’re almos’ there!” Applejack cried out above the sound of crashing rock. On the spot, Dusk shot out another flare above the entrance, leading them to their salvation. Just then, a large chunk of earth fell right in front of them, shattering the ground and spraying debris around, which they narrowly avoided. However, the sudden obstacle threw Elusive off, and he was now falling behind the rest of the group.
“Somepony, help!” he cried, taking notice of the rapidly approaching wave of mountain careening towards him. With lightning speed, Blitz pulled a backflip and barrel rolled to Elusive. He quickly went next to him, flying low to the ground.
“Jump on!” he yelled, nudging Elusive with a hoof.
“Just do it!”
With no more hesitation, Elusive jumped on Blitz’s back and the two took off. The others had reached the entrance of the cavern already and were frantically calling for them to hurry. With a grunt and final flurry of wingbeats, Blitz flew into the small passageway and crashed into the ground, throwing Elusive off and rolling several feet before dully hitting the bottom of the stairway. Behind him, the mountain finished caving in, and left a mass of rubble and dust where the chamber once lay.
“Is... everypony alright?” the rainbow maned pegasus slowly got up, coughing a few times. He gave his mane a quick shake and surveyed the area. In front of him were Applejack, Bubble Berry and Dusk Shine, whose hoof was being nursed by Butterscotch. He looked behind him and saw Elusive wearily getting up. His white coat was tarnished and covered in dirt, and his normally shiny and prim mane was dull and unkempt. Despite this, though, he still managed to give Blitz a smile.
“Thank you, Blitz. I suppose that this is... the second time you’ve saved my life.”
Blitz recalled back to the Best Young Fliers competition. “I guess you’re right, Rarity. Err... Elusive.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. Blitz... Dash... you saved me either way.”
“Heh... don’t worry about it. As long as you’re safe.” With a dignified grin, he turned back to the others. “How is everypony holding up?”
Applejack stretched his neck a bit. “Ah’m good here.”
“I’m doing great!”
“Oh, I’m fine, but Dusk sprained a hoof...” the yellow pegasus finished wrapping Dusk’s hoof in bandaging. “He’ll need some help getting back.”
“I’m sorry everypony,” Dusk said, with a sad sigh. “I went and hurt myself on the last stretch.”
“Oh, it’s fine, dear.” Elusive walked over, helping to pick Dusk up. The lavendar unicorn’s eyes widened as he noticed the state Elusive was in.
“Gosh, Elusive... your...” he trailed off, not knowing what to say.
“Yes, yes, I know... Sometimes you just can’t avoid a mess. Enough about me! Let’s help you up these stairs.”
After a particularly long climb up the dark stairway, they finally saw the familiar light of Canterlot’s basement. The group was lively when they reached the top, glad to finally be in fresher air. The liveliness quickly changed to surprise however, as they noticed both Luna and Celestia waiting for them.
“Oh my goodness, I’m so thankful you’re okay!” The sun princess said, kneeling down and nuzzling Dusk. “I had no idea how damaged the city had become. I’m very sorry for putting you in such a life threatening situation, Twilight.”
“It’s okay, princess,” Dusk said, merrily. “Oh, and look what we found!” His horn adopted a faint purple glow as his saddlebags opened and the vial of blue liquid was brought out, glowing brightly. The princess had to stifle a gasp as she saw the container.
“Liquid magic...” Celestia said, eying the glowing flask. “Excellent job, all of you. You’ve probably found the most difficult ingredient.” She looked down the hallway to Old Canterlot. “And now, the most rare.”
“Oh yeah... we have the last bit of liquid magic EVER!” Bubble said, looking at vial.
“Indeed you do,” Luna spoke up. “So we should keep it safe until the time is right.”
“Luna is correct. I’ll take this off your hooves, Twilight,” the princess said, taking the vial in her own magic grip.
“Thank you, princess.”
“Now, I believe the next thing on your list is from... Cloudsdale, right?”
Dusk thought for a moment, then agreed.
“I shall lend you a royal balloon for you and your friends to use.”
“Yay, I love balloons!”
“That’s very generous of you, princess.”
“I only want the best for my faithful student.” Celestia gave Dusk a warm smile. “Now, if you’ll all come with me...”
On a high landing in Canterlot, a large balloon sat, tied down and holding several occupants. Applejack sat fidgeting in the balloon, next to Bubble Berry and Butterscotch. Blitz hovered in the air next to it, forelegs hanging limp at his sides. Celestia and Luna were speaking to Dusk Shine in front, discussing their plans.
“I’ll contact you when we arrive, princess.”
“Then I shall be waiting to hear from you. How is your memory holding up?”
“My memory...” Dusk thought back to the past, and faint visions of his friends and their adventures remained. “I’ll be honest, princess. My memories are very distant, as if they’re fading.”
A look of concern swept across Celestia’s face, and she closed her eyes in thought. “You will have to hurry then, Twilight. I fear that in few days time, your memories may completely change.”
The reality of the situation was starting to hit Dusk, who began to hyperventilate. Suddenly, he was overcome by a soothing warmth, and snapped back to reality to find the princess embracing him.
“Be safe, my student. Please stay in contact.”
“Before you go, Twilight, take this.” Luna brought for a pendent from her bags. “It has a simple enchantment which should be able to jog your memories by looking at it.”
“I’m honored, princess Luna,” Dusk said, placing the necklace over his head. He took a glance at the midnight blue orb in the center, and several memories flooded back into his mind. Running through a forest... giant ring of color... anvil to the head... “Whoa.” He blinked several times. “That’s a bit strong.”
Luna giggled a bit. “Yes, it’ll do that the first time. Be careful, though, because the effect will get weaker with every additional use.”
Dusk nodded. “I’ll make a note of that.” He looked back to the balloon. “I think we’re just about ready.”
“Take care, Twilight,” Celestia said, with a soft smile.
“Yes, do be safe,” Luna added, waving a hoof.
Dusk hopped in the balloon and untied the rope with his teeth. Slowly but surely, the balloon started to lift off. Using some magic, Dusk sparked a flame and created some wind to push them towards Cloudsdale.
Chapter 5: Are You Sure We’re Going the Right Way?
The rush of wind blew through Dusk Shine’s ears as the large purple balloon sailed through the sky. His horn held a steady glow as he pushed the vehicle with a magical gust of air in the general direction of Cloudsdale. Behind him, Canterlot was fading to nothing but a black speck on the horizon. He stood firm in the basket of the balloon, looking forward and not saying much, focused only on channeling his magic. Suddenly, he cringed, accidentally stepping on his injured hoof. Picking it up, he leaned against the basket of the balloon and regained his concentration.
“Ugh, this is so slow!” Blitz complained, flying next to the balloon, forelegs crossed and mouth in a pout.
Dusk shifted his eyes to the sky blue pegasus and shook his head. “Not all of us have wings, Blitz.”
“Yeah, I know that. If you guys could fly, this would be so much quicker.” As if to prove his point, he made several fast laps around the basket of the balloon. “I mean, come on!”
“Blitz, darling, do be patient. Besides, this gives me enough time to fix my mane,” Elusive said, stroking his mane with a hoof while levitating a mirror in front of him. The unicorn didn’t have much time to clean himself off after his tumble in Old Canterlot, and even after hours of adjusting and preening, he still pouted at his reflection. The whole ride had been spent brushing and styling his tail and mane.
“Yeah, but you have something to do,” Blitz snapped back.
“Jus’ calm yourself, Blitz. We’ll be in Cloudsdale ‘fore you know it.” Applejack reassured, leaning on the edge of the of the basket. Every so often, he brought a hoof to his hat to keep it from flying away in the breeze.
“Ooh, Blitzy! Wanna play a game?” Bubble asked, bouncing in place and beaming towards Blitz.
The pegasus rolled his eyes before hovering closer to the balloon. “Why not?”
Bubble was near ecstatic as he got closer to Blitz, fidgeting with anticipation. “Okay, okay, okay! Are you ready?”
“Sure,” Blitz flatly replied.
“I spy something... blue!”
Blitz’s eyelids were half shut, partially in boredom, partially because he knew exactly what Bubble was thinking of, and he couldn’t believe he would pick this game, of all things. With a sigh and a roll of the eyes, he replied, “...the sky.”
“That’s right!” Bubble exclaimed, throwing his hooves in the air. “Alright, your turn!”
Blitz sighed. He brought a hoof to his forehead and shut his eyes, giving a soft frown. “You know, I just...” It was at this moment that Blitz gave up on trying to find something to do, and went with Bubble’s craziness. Removing his hoof and letting his forelegs hang limp at his sides, he looked around, then noticed Butterscotch in the corner, quiet as a mouse. “I spy something yellow.”
The pink pony shifted his eyes, scanning everything around him. He then spun, getting an idea, and his vision darted towards Butterscotch. “Ooh, ooh! I know. It’s Butterscotch!”
“You got it,” Blitz replied, sarcasm lacing his voice.
Just then, as Bubble was about to call out his next object, he noticed how glum Butterscotch looked. He hopped to where the butter colored pegasus was sitting and took a seat next to him. “Hey, Scotchy. What’s wrong?”
Butterscotch blinked a few times, then turned to Bubble Berry. He seemed to be disconnected from everyone else, and had to shake his head to focus. “Oh, um, I was just thinking.”
Bubble cocked his head to the side and frowned. “Thinking about what? Whatever is was, it was making you all saddy waddy.”
The pegasus turned his head to the side, a section of hair covering his eye. “I wasn’t sad, Bubble. I was just... concerned.” He said that last word at little more than a whisper.
“Concerned about what? Is it about the balloon?” he looked up, as if in inspecting the dirigible for any problems. “The balloon is fine, because Dusk has it all under control!” Bubble said, returning to his cheery self.
“No, it’s nothing like that.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
Butterscotch nervously shuffled his hooves in place, avoiding eye contact with Bubble Berry. “Well, um... I was... thinking about the past...”
Bubble cocked his head to the side, an expression of bewilderment mixed with puzzlement crossing his face. “What about it?”
The yellow pegasus looked to Berry, his light teal eyes beginning to water up.
“...’Scotch?” Berry said in a soft voice, his usual smile drooping into a frown.
“I... I can’t remember things...” Butterscotch admitted, closing his eyes and looking downwards.
The soft hum of magic floating in the air stopped as Dusk Shine’s concentration broke, causing the balloon to hang in the empty sky. The purple unicorn looked down at Butterscotch with wide eyes. “Butterscotch...” he slowly started, trying to remain calm. “What do you mean, ‘you can’t remember things’?”
“How I got my cutie mark... I... I can’t remember it... no matter how hard I try.”
“Everypony,” Dusk announced. “Try to remember important parts of your past.” The unicorn scanned over the faces of his friends, only to find their thoughtful expressions turning to those of sadness and fear. His heart sank in his chest as he too wasn’t able to remember key moments of his life as a mare.
“Jus’... what does this mean, Dusk?” Applejack asked, his eyes begging for an answer. Dusk could only close his eyes and shake his head.
“AJ... it means we need to hurry up,” Dusk replied, his horn beginning to glow again. Once more, the balloon was sailing through the sky, although a bit quicker this time.
The mood of the balloon’s passengers had dropped, with neither of the friends talking to one another. They each stayed in their places, motionless and silent, too busy thinking about their dire situation to do anything else. Even Bubble Berry, who was normally happy and bright in even the most frightening of situations, remained mute - he couldn’t laugh at something like this.
Rainbow Blitz was the first to speak, and that was because he had spotted Clousdale in the distance. “Keep going, Dusk!’ he said, from his flying area around the balloon. “Cloudsdale is real close now!”
Dusk’s horn grew just a bit brighter as the balloon proceeded to the city in the sky, it’s large rainbows and Roman styled columns visible even from a distance. Dusk could even see the top edges of the coliseum. Now that the city of clouds was within reach, he thought this would be a prime opportunity to tell his friends about the necklace.
“Everypony, listen up,” he said, in a commanding tone. The rest of the group turned and looked at him, their eyes filled with concern. “You might have noticed the necklace I’m wearing.” Dusk said, touching the amulet with his bandaged hoof.
The others let out murmurs of agreement and nodded their heads.
“Princess Luna gave this to me,” Dusk continued. “It has a special enchantment on it, which will replenish your memories by looking into it.”
Applejack let out a sigh of relief. “Well, shoot, Dusk. You shoulda’ just said somethin’ before. That’ll save us a heap of trouble, won’t it?”
“I wish it was that easy, Applejack,” Dusk said, looking downwards. “But the effect becomes weaker with each use.” his vision shifted back up, his eyes moving between each of his friends, their attention locked onto him. “We need to use them very carefully, is that clear?”
The group shook their heads in affirmation.
Dusk nodded as well, his mouth curling into a smile for the first time in a while. “I’ve already used it once, so you’ll each get a look when we arrive in Cloudsdale.”
“That sounds fair to me,” Elusive chimed in, flipping a lock of his purple mane. “And it’s such a lovely hue...” he added, admiring the blue gem around Dusk Shine’s neck.
“Yes, it is quite nice, but don’t look to deep into it. The spell might accidentally trigger,” Dusk warned, covering part of the gem.
“Then I’ll be sure to be careful around it.” Elusive then brought a hoof to his chin and looked around in thought. “Do you think the Princess would part with it?”
Dusk chuckled and shook his head. “Most likely not, but you can always ask.” Moments later, the balloon shook as it bumped into something soft. Dusk blinked, then realized what had happened. “Oh, we’re here!” he announced, the wind pushing against the balloon settling as his magic faded into the air.
“Finally!” Blitz cheered, doing several stunts around the balloon.
“Now, let me just cast the cloud-walking spell,” Dusk said, casting it on those who needed it.
Bubble leaped out of the balloon, landing face first into the clouds they had docked at. “Boy, I am so glad to be out of that balloon! I was going loco in there!” The pink pony rolled around in the fluff, tiny bits of cloud pulling off the main bits and clinging to his puffy hair. Dusk rolled his eyes and smiled as he hopped out of balloon as well, the clouds catching him.
“So, Blitz,” Dusk started, following the flying blue pegasus with his eyes. “How do we get to the tomb of King Aurelius?”
Blitz hovered in the air for a moment. “Oh, that’s easy! It’s this way!” He said, before bolting off in the direction of Cloudsdale’s main district.
Dusk sighed, tapping his hoof against the ground.
“How long you think it’ll take for him ta realize?” Applejack asked, adjusting his hat as he stood next to Dusk.
“I’ll give him another ten seconds,” Elusive replied, looking in the direction he had flown off.
Sure enough, after several moments, Blitz flew back, with his characteristic rainbow trail behind him. His cheeks were red as he touched down. “Yeah... right... no wings,” he said, averting his gaze and giving a sheepish laugh. “Just uh... follow me.” He turned, and started to walk in the direction he came from.
After the lengthy trip through Cloudsdale’s residential district, the group found themselves in front of the tomb of King Archimedes Darkbillow III. The building was of decent size, and despite being made of cloud, seemed aged and faded. It was almost as if the building were made of storm clouds, rather than regular ones. Large, intricate columns stood, holding the front of the roof, in classic Cloudsdale fashion. Various text from an older language was engraved throughout the architecture, representing Darkbillow in some way. There was even a statue of the pony himself, standing tall and upright in front of the entryway.
Dusk admired the statue, taking notice that it was made out of the same thick construction cloud that much of the other core structures of Cloudsdale were made of. It reminded him of the arena that the Best Young Fliers competition had taken place in.
“From what our books said, he was a cool pony,” Blitz said, flying near the statue. It was very modest in size, only slightly bigger than Blitz was.
“Oh, yes, he was one of the first pegasi to push for trade routes and traffic between Cloudsdale and other towns,” Butterscotch spoke up. Everypony looked to him in curiosity, and he sank a bit in his spot. “I... um... read a lot about him...”
“Celestia made him seem like a very kind pony,” Dusk added, looking up to the statue. Although he had an intimidating name, the statue told a very different tale. It wore a soft smile, and old, bagged eyes. The mane was slicked back, and a crown - very similar to the one from the Best Young Flier competition - adorned it’s head. It’s face had a mid-length beard, which was styled into that of a lightning bolt, and similar could be said of the eyebrows.
“This guy sure had some style, huh?” Blitz said, motioning to the eyebrows and flashing a cheesy grin.
Elusive rolled his eyes. “If ‘style’ is the word you would like to use...”
“Enough admiring this old stallion, we have some feathers to get!” Bubble Berry said, with a wide grin on his face. He bounced happily past the statue, humming to himself. That was when he noticed his tail twitch. “This should be a piece of ca-” he started, before being cut off by the feeling of his body slip through the clouds and plummet downwards.
Everypony gasped as they watched their pink friend disappear through the white fluff, his screams of fear fading by the second. After realizing what had happened, Blitz kicked a hole in the clouds and flared his wings.
“I’m coming for ya, Bubble!” he yelled, darting through the layer of cloud. He sped through the air, leaving his rainbow trail floating behind him. Similar to when Rarity had fallen, he had no goggles on, so the wind stung at his eyes as he pushed himself downwards.
Berry looked around in a frenzy, waving his hooves in every which way. His mind was spinning as he plummeted, still unsure of how he ended up like this. Looking upwards, he saw Blitz flying towards him and yelled “Blitz, help me!”
“I’m almost there!” Blitz screamed over the sound of the air rushing past him. It was then that he felt the all too familiar sensation of the air resistance building as he approached sonic speed. Panic began to overcome him, as he recalled his failed attempts at a Sonic Rainboom when he had first become a stallion. He gritted his teeth, pumping his wings faster, as Bubble was only feet away from him.
The air resistance was building up.
The distance between the two was closing.
The soft crackling of electricity could be heard, building up.
“And... got you!”
Blitz held out his forelegs and pulled upward, catching Bubble Berry and stopping their descent. The pegasus looked up, noticing how far he had traveled. “No Rainboom today... but I guess I didn’t need one,” he said to himself.
“Whew... thanks Blitz!” Bubble said, shaking a little. Although he was smiling, there was still a great deal of fear in his eyes. “You’re really saving everypony, aren’t you?”
Blitz grinned, flying upwards and back to Cloudsdale. “Looks like it. I’ve gotten AJ, Elusive, and now you. I’m on a roll with this adventure!”
Bubble let out a nervous laugh, looking at Blitz and clutching him a little tighter. “Let’s just get to Cloudsdale... then we can celebrate.”
“Oh... right. Yeah,” Blitz said, his cheeks reddening a bit.
“This is really bad. This is really, really bad!” Dusk said, pacing around. “They aren’t here yet. Why aren’t they here yet?!” The unicorn looked around to everypony around him, as if they would give him an answer.
“Jus’ calm down, Dusk. I’m sure Blitz an’ Berry are jus’ fine,” Applejack replied, trying to calm his unicorn friend down. However, Applejack could feel the nervous sweat forming on his brow.
“Calm down? How can we be calm!? Bubble just fell off of Cloudsdale!”
Dusk spun around at the voice, finding Blitz carrying Bubble. Blitz hovered closer to the cloud, allowing the pink earth pony to jump off and land on the solid cloud. He fell to his knees, kissing the whiteness.
“I never thought I’d ever want to be on a cloud this much!” he said, hugging the soft material.
“Thank goodness you’re alright!” Elusive said, trotting over to Bubble Berry and Rainbow Blitz. “We were all terribly worried when you fell!”
Bubblle gingerly rubbed his face into the clouds. “I was worried when I fell, too!”
“I’m glad you’re alright...” Butterscotch said in a soft voice, joining Elusive.
“We’re all glad you two are okay.” Dusk said, joining everypony else. He breathed easy now, knowing his friends were fine. However, he was still frowning. “But I don’t know why you fell. That spell should have worked...” he pondered for a moment before his eyes widened. “Oh no, I forgot to contact Celestia!”
“What’s the big deal?” Blitz said, dropping out of the air and landing next to Dusk.
“She told me to contact her when we got here!” he said, using his magic to dig the orb out of his saddlebag. “And we’ve been here a while!” He tapped the orb to his horn and it began the same separation process it went through the previous time. Before long, many orbs were hovering in a spherical pattern, and the transparent image of the sun goddess appeared.
“Greetings, Twilight. I see that you are in Cloudsdale.” she said, smiling.
Dusk bowed down, looking to ground with hot cheeks. “Yes. I’m sorry for not contacting you sooner, princess.”
Celestia only chuckled. “It is no concern, Twilight. Now, have you located King Darkbillow’s tomb?”
The unicorn stood up, looking into the eyes of his mentor. “We have, princess. In fact, we’re right in front of it.” He used his hoof to motion to the thick cloud building.
“That is excellent to hear.”
Dusk shifted his weight and bit his lip. “There’s just... one problem, princess.”
Celestia raised her eyebrow, her lips moving into a soft frown. “Oh? What might that be?”
“Well... I gave all of my non-pegasi friends the cloud walking spell, but when Bubble Berry stepped near the entrance, he fell through. I’m... not sure what went wrong.”
The princess closed her eyes in thought. “It would appear that there is a protective spell all around the building.” She opened her eyes again, looking straight at Dusk. “I’m afraid only your pegasus friends will be able to enter.”
“What?!” Butterscotch and Rainbow Blitz said, in tandem. They stopped what they were doing, shocked by this new information, and all they could do was stare at the princess in disbelief.
“Normally, this spell cancels out all magic except natural cloud walking; this way, nopony would be able to damage or steal anything in the building. That includes your imitation cloud walking spell, Twilight.” She frowned, looking to Dusk with sadness in her eyes.
“So... that means... only Butterscotch and Blitz can go in,” Dusk said, slowly turning his head to look back at the two pegasi.
“This is correct, Twilight,” Celestia confirmed. “Please, have them go as quickly as possible. I do not know how much time you’ll have left before the gender altering spell finalizes.”
Dusk turned back to Celestia, nodding. “Of course, Princess. I’ll contact you when we have the feather.”
“I will be looking forward to news of your progress, my faithful student. Farewell, and good luck.” With that, the smiling image of Celestia disappeared, the small orb reforming and falling in front of Dusk. He levitated it back into his saddlebag before turning to his pegasus friends.
“Well, you heard the Princess,” Dusk said, sighing. “You two will have to go in by yourselves.” he moved his gaze to Rainbow Blitz, who was being rather quiet. “Blitz, you know about this place, so you’d know where the feather is, right?”
A wide smile spread across the cyan pegasus’s face as he averted his gaze and shifted his weight. “Yeah... uh... about that...”
“Oh, please, tell me you don’t know,” Elusive said, rolling his eyes and flipping his mane.
“Um... Well...” Blitz stammered, looking at everything and everypony except Dusk Shine.
The unicorn snorted, his eyes half lidded and mouth tucked in a frown. “You don’t know, do you?”
“...Not exactly.” Blitz replied, his facing getting red tiny as he looked to Dusk and cracked a weak smile. The group sighed, with looks ranging from rolling eyes to disappointed frowns being cast in the rainbow maned pegasi’s direction. “Hey, I never told you I knew where it was!” he said, in an attempt to defend himself.
Dusk shook his head, sighing. “Either way, you and Butterscotch have to go in and find it, because you two are the only pegasi here.”
“Yeah, I know...” Blitz said. He turned to look at Butterscotch, who was looking at the ground and remaining very silent. “Yo, ‘Scotch, are you ready?”
Butterscotch looked up to Blitz. “I suppose so.” he said, shifting his forelegs in place.
“Alright, let’s get it over with, then.” The cyan pegasus walked past the statue and into the building, Butterscotch following close behind.
“Good luck!” Dusk called, as the two disappeared into the building. A small frown moved across his face as he lost sight of his friends. I hope they find it...
“Does it have to be so dark in here?” Blitz asked, straining his eyes against the darkness. For a building that was supposed to be a monument to the greatest leader Cloudsdale ever had, the architects certainly slacked with the lighting. He look around, noticing the mass of hallways and turns available, then sighed. “Oh, come on. A maze? They really added a maze?”
“I guess it makes sense.” Butterscotch said, also looking around. “This place has many artifacts from King Darkbillow’s personal collections, and it would be terrible if-” he caught sight of Blitz’s curious staring. “...if they got stolen.”
Blitz turned a corner, only to find three more paths available to him. “Seriously? Ugh, I don’t care about any of that junk, we just need this dumb feather.” He looked to the three different routes and motioned his hoof between the three, mouthing the words to ‘eeni meeni mini mo’. He finally landed on the middle route and smiled, beginning to walk in that direction.
“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” Butterscotch asked, looking around to get a sense of direction.
“Nope!” the blue pegasus replied, continuing his determined strut.
“Oh...” Butterscotch trailed off, lowering his head and looking down. He sighed and continued walking straight ahead. Several moments passed in silence, before he asked “What do you think the feather looks like?”
“Um, Blitz?” he asked, looking upwards only to find a cloud wall, shaded in the darkness of the building. The yellow pegasus looked to his sides, then turned to check behind him, finding only an empty hallway. “Blitz?” he said, in a louder voice. Butterscotch shifted his eyes from side to side, his mouth turning into a more and more worried frown. “Blitz!” he yelled out, running back the way he came and looking down the corridors. Not finding his friend, he let out a frightened squeak, then began to run down the hallways wildly, trying desperately to find his friend.
Meanwhile, Blitz was casually walking down a hallway, eyes half lidded out of boredom. He stretched his wings out, flapping them a few times before ruffling them up. “We’ve passed like three rooms so far with nothing but crud in them!” He heard no response, but figured it normal - Butterscotch was always quiet. Blitz made several more turns, and not finding anything useful, turned to talk to his friend. “Hey, Butterscotch, do you think...” he paused, noticing the empty space behind. He stared at the place where his fellow pegasus should have been, blinking several times to make sure he wasn’t imagining things. “You have got to be kidding me.”
Blitz backtracked, looking down the halls he had passed in vain. His buttery friend was nowhere to be found. He walked down several more corridors, only to find himself now getting more and more lost with every turn. With a frustrated groan, Blitz spread his wings and took to the air. “Now there’s two things I have to find!” he said, beginning to fly through the narrow halls.
Elsewhere, deep in the cloud maze, Butterscotch was running down whichever hallway was closest. He pumped his legs, catching fleeting glances down other corridors as he passed them, looking for any hint of a blue pony. He was so caught up in his desperate searching that he nearly ran past a small pedestal, illuminated by a single beam of light coming through the ceiling.
Noticing the peculiar object, he stopped his running and moved closer to examine it. It was a rather small pedestal, made out of cloud and crafted into an old styled column. On top of it rested a glass case, circular and rounded at the top. Butterscotch could barely see the light glare off of it because of how polished and clean the glass was. What caught his attention, however, was the object resting within the glass, hovering just inches above the pedestal.
A tuft of charcoal grey feathers floated within, fluttering from the magic keeping them aloft. They were faded and dull, clear victims of time’s grasp. Butterscotch stifled a gasp as he looked upon the feathers, fearing they would crumble if gazed upon the wrong way. “These must be... Darkbillow’s...” he said, looking through the glass. His thoughts were confirmed as his vision shifted downwards and he saw a dusty plaque below. It read:
Here lie the last living remnants of our King.
King Archimedes Darkbillow III
May he live eternal in the Summerlands.
After several moments of stillness, Butterscotch removed the glass case with care. Pausing for just a moment, he plucked one of the feathers from it’s resting spot and cringed on instinct, expecting a trap or some other terrible device to spring. When nothing happened, he opened his eyes and sighed with relief. He then placed the feather into his saddlebags, making sure to do it with the utmost delicacy. When he had secured his bags, he put the glass back on the pedestal and smiled, for it looked like nothing had been changed.
This was when Rainbow Blitz careened into the room, slamming into Butterscotch and knocking both of them to the ground.
“Oh, Ouch!” Butterscotch whimpered, hitting the floor with the thud and sliding a few inches.
Blitz jumped up, wide eyed and filled with confusion. “Oh my gosh, sorry ‘Scotch!” he exclaimed. He reached out a hoof. “Are you okay?!”
“I’m... fine...” the yellow pegasus replied, his voice wavering.
Blitz stuck a hoof out and became red in the face from embarrassment. “Let me help you out.”
Butterscotch, with his head spinning, took the hoof and was pulled to his hooves, wobbling as he stood fully up. “Hey... Blitz...” he said, shaking his head to get rid of the dizziness.
The cyan pegasus was about to say something, but then he noticed the room they were in. Upon seeing the glass case, he asked “Are those Darkbillow’s feathers?”
“Yes, they are,” Butterscotch replied, able to hold his train of thought now. “I already took one.” motioning to his saddlebag.
“Oh, awesome,” Blitz replied, with a cheeky smile. He then looked as his surroundings again, with a puzzling look on his face. “We should, uh... try to get out of here.”
Butterscotch nodded. “They’re probably worried about us. We shouldn’t keep them waiting.”
“Alright, let’s... try to find our way out,” Blitz said, making his way to the nearest corridor. He then paused, looking back to Butterscotch. “And this time, stay close to me.”
He smiled as he brushed away part of his pink mane from his eyes and looked to Blitz. “Of course.”
- - -
Dusk Shine paced around in front of the building, occasionally looking in the direction of the entrance. Upon seeing nothing changed, he went right back to his idle trotting, an imprinted circle starting to form in the area he was walking.
“What do you think is taking so long?” he asked, looking to his friends who were still outside.
Applejack tipped his hat up, looking under the brim to Dusk. He was sitting against a piece of architecture and crossing his forelegs. “Ah’d say they’re probably jus’ lost or somethin’. Ah wouldn’t worry too much ‘bout it, Dusk.”
“But what if something bad happened? What if they need our help?!” The unicorn began to pace faster.
“Dusk, darling, do be calm. What’s the worst that could happen in some musty old crypt?” Elusive asked, running a filer across one of his hooves. He inspected it carefully and smiled, moving to the next hoof.
“A lot can happen! Who knows what kind of ancient traps could be in there? I bet I have a book about this at the library...” Dusk thought, tapping a hoof to his chin.
Bubble Berry bounced over to Dusk, smiling and cheery as ever. “Applejack and Elusive are right, Dusky. It’s just a boring old building!” He hummed a tune and skipped around Dusk, who didn’t look amused in the slightest. “And besides, Blitz is the toughest pony around. If anything bad came along, he’d kick it right in the flank!”
“Ah can vouch for that.” Applejack chuckled, tipping his hat back down and closing his eyes.
“But what if something really bad happens to them?!” Dusk almost frantically asked, his mane beginning to become distraught.
“It wasn’t so bad,” the pegasi’s voice said from nowhere. Dusk almost jumped out of his skin, reeling around to find Blitz and Butterscotch approaching them. His imaginative fears dissipated, and out of habit, he ran and hugged Blitz.
Blitz’s eyes went wide with surprise for a moment, caught off guard by the hug. “Whoa, Dusk, buddy, I’m fine.”
The unicorn broke away, blushing. “Sorry, I just got worried about you two.”
“It was only a maze,” Butterscotch said, with a light smile.
“But how did you get out?!” the unicorn asked, looking between the two of them.
Blitz laughed. “It turns out all we had to do was keep going left.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” Dusk said, his bewildered expression turning to a smile. His gaze then shifted to the pegasus’s saddlebags. “Did you get the feather?”
Butterscotch nodded, opening his saddlebag and shifting through it. Very carefully, he pulled it out of the bag, clutching it between his teeth. Dusk stared at the ancient down, inspecting it curiously. He reached out a hoof to touch it, but decided against it, drawing back afterwards.
“It’s incredible,” he replied, in a hushed tone.
“Yay, another ingredient!” Bubble Berry exclaimed, bouncing over to Dusk and Butterscotch. Butterscotch managed to tuck the feather away right before Berry hugged him. “I think we all need a group hug!” he said, motioning for the others to come over.
“Shoot, why not,” Applejack said, getting up and walking to Berry. He wrapped a foreleg around Butterscotch and grinned. The earth pony then felt a leg touch his neck, and looking over, he was surprised to find Elusive next to him.
“We’re all together in this, Applejack.” he smiled. “And I won’t let our personal differences change that.”
“Shucks, Elusive. Ah guess Ah can respect that.”
“I would certainly hope so,” Elusive replied, in a singsong voice.
The six of them gathered in for a large hug, laughing together. After the fun had died down, they stood in a circle, talking amongst themselves. “Okay, okay everypony,” Dusk started, smiling. “We’re almost done, but there’s one more leg of our trip. I’ll contact Solaris and tell him the-” he stopped himself. “Who the heck is Solaris?” he thought, questioning the name his mind had brought up.
“Who?” Butterscotch asked, cocking his head to the side.
Dusk Shine shook his head. “Um... nothing. I meant to say, I’m going to speak with Celestia and tell her we have it.” In a moment’s notice, Dusk had brought the orb out, and it was dividing and spreading into a sphere in front of him. The others spread out, giving the magical object room to expand. Celestia’s image flickered, sitting at a table and chewing some food with her expected grace.
“Oh! Sorry to interrupt you, princess,” Dusk said, shying away from the image.
She swallowed, then smiled. “It is quite alright, Twilight.” The princess levitated a fork full of salad to her mouth, and right before biting it, asked “Have you found the feather?”
Dusk nodded. “We have. The last thing we need is the artifact, right?”
Celestia finished another bite of her food. “That is correct. Do you recall where you defeated Nightmare Moon?”
“Yes, princess. Your old castle in the Everfree Forest.”
“You will find it there, my student.” She set her fork down, finished with her meal. “Now, answer me something, Twilight.”
“What would you like to know?”
“Tell me the story of your cutie mark.”
Dusk Shine blinked, taken aback by the question. “Oh, um...” he pondered for a moment, trying to look back into his memories for when he received. However, all that came to mind was darkness and mystery. “I...” he stuttered, trying to remember anything about that fateful day.
Celestia frowned. “You do not know, do you?” she asked, her mood sinking by the second.
“No... I don’t,” Dusk said, looking into the eyes of his mentor.
“Sometimes... I think you’re too talented for your own good, Twilight,” Celestia said, pushing her plate away from her. “The spell is quickly catching up to you, and I am beginning to fear for the worst.”
“What do we need to do, princess?” Dusk asked, looking around and fidgeting.
“First, calm yourself, Twilight,” Celestia said, becoming serious. “Second, you must leave Cloudsdale and head to the Everfree Forest immediately. Not even I know how much more time you have before the spell becomes irreversible.”
“Of course, princess. We’ll leave as soon as possible,” Dusk replied, still looking distraught.
“I will leave you now, my faithful student. Please, hurry.” Without another word, the image of Celestia disappeared, with a fizzle. The orb reformed itself and fell to the ground with a tink. Dusk levitated it into his saddlebag and looked up to his friends, which were staring at him with varying expressions of fear and worry.
“You heard the princess. We can’t just stand here. Let’s move!” Dusk said, looking over their faces.
“He’s right, ya’ll. We best get a move on!” Applejack added, moving in the direction of the balloon. The rest expressed their agreement and followed, transitioning into a full gallop as they raced against time itself.
- - -
“Quickly, get on!” Dusk yelled, jumping into the basket. In his haste, he tripped over his injured hoof, but the edge of the basket saved him from an embarrassing fall. Applejack followed, leaping next to Dusk - Butterscotch and Elusive close behind. Blitz wrestled with the rope to tie it down, and after snapping it with his teeth, also got into the balloon.
“Punch it, Dusk,” Blitz said, leaning over the edge.
The purple unicorn looked at him with confusion, which turned to a sigh. Concentrating, his horn lit up an the balloon began to it’s journey to the Everfree Forest. Glancing down at the pendent around his neck, a thought occurred. Should I use it now? He pondered the question, thinking hard about the choice he was about to make.
No... I can’t waste it.
Chapter 6: Dusk Shine, Get Ready!
With a loud thud, and the sound of wicker forcing dirt and rock out of the way, Dusk Shine’s balloon landed at the outskirts of the Everfree Forest. The balloon was close to the gnarled, sharp and unkempt treetops, but none of the six ponies were concerned with its safety. In a hurry, Rainbow Blitz flew out of the basket and landed on the ground, beginning to tap his hoof as soon as he touched the soil.
“Come on, hurry it up. We don’t have all day!” he snapped, looking to his friends.
“We’re goin’ as fast as we can, Blitz,” Applejack replied, hopping over the edge and landing near Blitz. He took a brief moment to shift his hat out of his vision. He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the sound of grunting and hushed curses coming from the balloon. Both he and Blitz looked over to find Dusk angrily kicking the door to the balloon out, and in his short outburst, he tripped over the edge of the basket and fell forward. Dusk let out a yelp as his front hoof came in contact with the ground, and he groaned while attempted to stand.
“Shoot, Dusk! Lemme help ya out!” the orange stallion cried, rushing to help the unicorn off the ground. “Ya gotta be careful when your hoof ain’t in shape, sugarcube.”
“Ugh, I’m sick of this!” Dusk exclaimed, regaining his footing. “I’m not going to screw up the rest of this journey because I was careless and hurt myself.” Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder and looked over to see Butterscotch standing next to him, looking at him with concern.
“How are you going to fix it?” the pegasus asked, inspecting the bandaging with curiosity.
Dusk leaned down and bit the edge of the gauze with his teeth, pulling on it and tightening the knot. “We’re going to Zecora,” he said, after snapping off the excess bandage.
“Are you certain she’ll still recognize us?” Elusive’s regal voice sounded. The light colored unicorn was just getting out of the basket, and in a smooth motion, closed the door behind him.
“I can only hope so, Elusive,” Dusk said, looking to his fellow unicorn. “If not…”
“Oh, come on, she has to remember me,” Blitz said, arrogance lacing his tone. “What other rainbow-maned ponies do you know around here?”
“Blitz’ got a point there, Dusk,” Applejack added, looking over the light blue pegasus. “I haven’t seen anypony else quite like him in all my years livin’ in Equestria.”
“And even if she doesn’t remember us, I can just sing my evil enchantress song!” Bubble Berry suddenly chimed in, hopping in the middle of the group. “She’s sure to remember that!”
“Ah…” Dusk started, with a nervous chuckle. “We’ll see what happens, Berry… hopefully you won’t have to sing.”
“Aww…” The pink pony pouted, his hopes of being able to burst into song stamped out. In no time at all, however, the thought drifted from his mind.
Dusk turned to the entrance of the forest, peering down the dirt path that he was so familiar with. The dim rays of the setting sun crept over the tree tops, scattering faded orange light throughout the entryway. “Come on, everypony… let’s find this last piece.” He announced, not averting his gaze from the road.
The others said nothing and nodded, following their unicorn friend into the depths of the forest. Behind them, the upper half of Luna’s moon began to creep over the horizon, replacing the darkening orange with luminous white.
Dusk Shine threaded through the forest, avoiding the rocks and gnarled branches in his way. Finding the encroaching darkness to be troublesome, he closed his eyes and, with a flash of his horn, created light for everypony to follow.
“Thank ya kindly, Dusk,” Applejack said in a quiet voice, trailing several feet behind the unicorn.
“No problem…” Dusk replied, looking farther down the path for any sign of Zecora’s hut. After a few minutes, he spotted a light in the distance. “I think we’re almost there!” he exclaimed, quickening his pace.
“Take it easy there, champ.” Blitz said with a light chuckle, while hovering alongside Dusk. He was ready to catch Dusk at a moment’s notice, should the unicorn lose his footing again. Dusk glared at Blitz, but took his advice and relented.
After several minutes of walking at Dusk’s limping speed, the light in the distance had become the soft glow permeating through the windows of Zecora’s hut. The small building looked as it always did, with jars hanging from tree branches and staves, carved heads, and masks gracing the outside. The pungent smell of some mixture or another wafted through the air around the cottage. Dusk Shine’s nose scrunched up slightly at the scent as he approached the door, and taking a breath, he leaned against the frame and knocked with his working hoof.
“I shall be right there - do not fret. My brew is done, and just needs to set,” Zecora’s voice came through the windows on either side of the door. The noise of tools being shuffled around a pot followed, then the soft sound of hoofsteps on the dirt floor. The door of the hut opened, revealing the zebra. She was smiling at first, but the expression changed to that of confusion as she looked over the six ponies in front of her. “I know of a pony with similar hair, but you are a stallion and she is a mare.”
“That’s because I’m Twilight, Zecora,” Dusk said, with a soft frown.
Zecora stepped back in shock, her eyes moving from stallion to stallion, observing each one in full. “That is impossible, how can this be? Is this magic or some other trickery?”
“Here we go!” Blitz said, crossing his forelegs and rolling his eyes.
“It’s a bit of a story…” Dusk Shine added, scuffing his hoof against the dirt.
Zecora raised an eyebrow in a mix of curiosity and skepticism, which was unusual for the zebra. “Come inside and tell your tale. How did you change on such a scale?” she said, stepping aside for Dusk Shine and the others.
The violet stallion nodded and thanked her, walking into the building with care. The others repeated the motion, and before long the six of them were in the main room and circled around the simmering cauldron.
Zecora stepped up to the pot and looked upon the stallions. She paused for a moment before asking “Twilight my dear, you are in quite a mess. I have not seen this before, I must confess.”
Dusk Shine sighed, shaking his head and staring into the bubbling green liquid of the cauldron, struggling to make out his reflection. What he did see, however, was much different than what he was used to. “It’s all because of an old spell I found in my library and tried to cast. Needless to say, it... didn’t turn out how I wanted it to.” He looked to each of his friends, all of them silent and looking into the cauldron as he was.
“You know of my skills, voodoo and remedies. I can cure sickness, and most terrible disease. A problem like yours, though, I am quite unsure. With magic this strong, I have not a cure,” Zecora replied, looking at Dusk over the cauldron and frowning.
“That’s what I thought...” he replied. “Which is why I’m here about this.” He lifted his hoof, revealing the bandaging to the zebra. “Do you have anything to cure a sprain?”
Zecora nodded her head and smiled, turning around and ruffling through various ingredients on a nearby table. “For a problem so small, a potion can be mixed. Within mere moments, your injury will be fixed.”
Dusk, along with the other five, let out a sigh of relief and looked to the busy zebra, who had plucked several berries and cut a few sprigs of herbs, and was now crushing them in a bowl. She took a sample of the liquid in the cauldron and mixed it with the other ingredients, and before long, brought a small cup of liquid over to Dusk.
“A drink from this cup is all that you need, and your injury will be healed at alarming speed,” Zecora said, with a caring smile.
Levitating the cup to his mouth, Dusk tipped it back and drank the now faded green liquid. He closed his eyes as his face contorted in disgust, the bitter drink passing into his body. Once he was finished, he set the cup down and stuck his tongue out. “Ugh...” he groaned, smacking his lips together. It was then that a peculiar sensation of warmth encompassed his hoof. Looking down, he felt the heat rise in intensity, and the pain began to dull. After several moments of this, the warmth faded, leaving Dusk’s hoof feeling normal. Gritting his teeth and shifting his eyes away, he pushed it down on the floor, but felt nothing. He applied a bit more pressure, and upon feeling no pain, started to grin. “I can’t thank you enough, Zecora!” he said, looking to the zebra.
Zecora only nodded and smiled, taking the cup from Dusk and setting it aside. “I knew that potion would do the trick, as long as it stays in your stomach. And although it’s not the best of taste, it performs its task with great haste.”
“Is your hoof... really fixed, Dusk?” Butterscotch asked, inspecting the lavender stallion’s previously injured hoof. He went so far as to lift it up and shake it around, as if testing its stability.
Dusk chuckled, letting the pegasus look at his hoof in awe. “Yes, it’s really fixed. I have to say I’m impressed, Zecora.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty awesome, but shouldn’t we, uh, get moving?” Blitz said, raising an eyebrow. He flicked his tail to get his point across.
“Dash is right, you should not linger. In fixing your problem, she is quite eager,” Zecora chimed in, organizing several jars of herbs.
“Hey, who you callin’ a girl?” Blitz said, shooting a glare to Zecora. His outburst was met with stares from the six others in the room. “What? She called me a ‘she’! Do I look like a mare to you?” He met their concerned gazes with a heated one of his own. “What are you all staring at me like that for?”
Dusk gulped, then circled around the cauldron to be in front of Blitz. “I didn’t think I’d have to do this so soon, but...”
“What? Do what? What do you think you’re- Ah!” The pegasus was cut off as he closed his eyes and reeled back slightly. He stumbled and fell to the ground, the gasps of the others the only thing he heard as he hit the floor. When he came to and opened his eyes, he noticed Dusk lowering the sapphire amulet.
“Blitz, you okay?” Applejack said, hurrying to the cerulean stallion and offering a hoof. Blitz shook his head and brought a hoof to his temple, rubbing it. He reached out, and after missing a few times, got a hold of Applejack, who pulled him up.
“Yeah... I’m good,” he replied, still rubbing his head. “You gotta warn me before doing that, dude.” He added, looking to Dusk Shine. “Those memories really bucked me in the head...”
Applejack let out a light laugh. “Bet it ain’t nothin’ next ta me. Now, can you stay on yer hooves or do Ah gotta carry ya?”
Rainbow Blitz shook his head. “Nah, I’ll be okay. I just need to stay grounded for a bit...”
A cough from Dusk regained their attention as the unicorn’s brows knit together. “I think that’s our cue to leave, everypony. I... really don’t want to have to do that again.” He looked to the ground, scuffing his hoof against the floor.
“Yer right, Dusk. Let’s get on outta here and find that fancy artifact,” Applejack said, walking to the door and opening it. He motioned outside, and the other five stallions nodded and started to file out of the hut, save for Dusk. The purple unicorn looked to Zecora, who was watching them leave.
“Again, thank you for the help, Zecora. I don’t know where I’d be without you.”
The zebra simply gave a knowing smile and replied "Do not worry about being a nuisance. You can always come to me if you need assistance."
Dusk Shine opened his mouth as if to say something, but no words came out. He then closed it and approached Zecora, and taking a breath, put his right foreleg around her in a hug. “Thanks.” Before she could say anything, Dusk Shine backed away and smiled. “I’ll be sure to visit when I’m back to normal.”
It wasn’t long before the group had managed to find the castle of the royal pony sisters, still standing and full of overgrowth from its years of solitude. It looked just as it did when they first discovered it - and the bridge was still intact.
“That’s quite the relief,” Elusive said, looking over the rope bridge as they begin to file across it. “...are you certain this is still safe?”
“It’s holdin’ up, ain’t it?” Applejack replied, moving across without a second thought.
The unicorn studied the old bridge again and shrugged. “Yes, I suppose it is. Just be quick about crossing... I don’t trust this shoddy wood.” He stepped across with caution, but picked up his pace after confirming the bridge wouldn’t snap like a twig at the slightest touch.
After all six had crossed the bridge, Dusk led them into the main chamber of the castle. It was just the same, though this time it was lacking the Elements of Harmony on their large pedestal. With a flash of his horn, he brought out a piece of paper from his saddlebag, which had the Princess’s directions to the throne room on it. He skimmed over the text, taking everything to memory, then just as quick, stuffed it back. “Stay close to me, okay? We don’t want to get lost in here.”
They nodded to Dusk, following him through the halls and old chambers of the castle without a word. It was much bigger than they had thought, with multiple rooms descending into the ground at points, or even climbing into towers they hadn’t seen from ground level. More than once had the five trailing behind glanced at one another, unsure if they had taken a wrong turn at some point, or if they had been given wrong instructions. Just as Rainbow Blitz was about to speak up and question their path, they turned into a large room that was at the end of an ascending staircase with two distinct looking chairs at the far end.
“We’re here!” Dusk exclaimed, trotting into the chamber. “Oh wow... It’s everything I thought it would be. Can you believe the princesses used to rule from here?” He turned to his friends with a wide grin, his eyes almost glistening in joy from all of the historical presence he was taking in.
“I can believe it!” Bubble Berry said, hopping farther into the room. “Look at how big it is. Ooh, and look at those big windows behind the throne!”
Dusk hadn’t noticed the windows when he first entered, opting to focus on the old architecture and design instead. A circular section of the right window was just the right size to perfectly encompass the moon, flooding the room with brilliant white light. The glow lit up the surrounding artwork, projecting a full scene onto the floor in front of them. Dusk simply stood in awe of the precision that was necessary for such a design to work. It wasn’t until Blitz tapped him on the shoulder that he snapped out of his trance.
“Yeah, it’s cool and all, but we have some super old doohickey to find,” The pegasus said, glancing around the room.
Dusk could feel his cheeks go hot in embarrassment. “Oh, yeah... right. Artifact.” He looked around the room, remembering that the object was supposed to be gold - but nothing like that caught his eye. “Everypony, start looking in an area of the throne room. Try to find anything that might help us get the relic.”
The six of them split into different sections of the chamber, searching for anything at all that might help them. Dusk inspected near the windows, checking for any loose bricks in the floor or wall. Elusive sifted through a bookshelf with care, shoving a foreleg into his snout to sneeze every so often from the dust build up. Blitz and Butterscotch took to the air, looking through the remains of old tapestries and around the large columns that supported the room. Berry slid across the floor with one ear glued to the stone, as if he was listening for something in the ground. Applejack rolled his eyes and sighed at Berry’s antics, looking over the entryway for anything out of the ordinary.
Their searching, however, ended up being fruitless. “Ain’t nothin’ around around here... sorry Dusk.” Applejack said, sighing and walking to the middle of the room.
“Nothing’s up here either!” Blitz called, scanning around the top of the chamber once again. Still not finding anything, he glided down next to Applejack, his hooves making a light screech as his slid to a halt.
“I’m sorry, Dusk.” Butterscotch added, landing with a soft thud next to Blitz. “I tried really hard, too.”
With a cough, and another sneeze, Elusive joined the rest of them. “Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything of the sort. My apologies, Dusk.”
In front of the growing group, Bubble Berry slid across the ground and stopped. He looked to the floor in concentration as he listened to the stone, even sticking his tongue out in focus. After a few moments, however, he sighed and stood up. He snorted and walked next to Blitz, then said “Nothing. And I was so sure the rocks would tell me their secrets.”
“Well, guess we’re outta options, then ain’t we? Unless Dusk found somethin’ over there...” Applejack said, looking to Dusk Shine. The unicorn was standing still, looking to the ground. His mane, even with its short length, still managed to obscure his eyes. “Dusk? You okay?” Applejack took several steps forward, approaching his friend. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it when his ears perked up and he noticed the faint sound of liquid hitting stone. It didn’t take him long to find the origin of the noise: a patch of dark spots on the floor below Dusk.
“It’s all my fault...” the lavender stallion said, at an almost inaudible whisper.
“Dusk, you don’t have ta-”
Applejack was interrupted by Dusk slamming his hoof on the ground, sending a hollow echo throughout the room. “It’s all because of me!” he yelled, looking up to farm pony. His violet eyes were reddened, and glistened with tears that slowly slid down his face, while his brows were creased in anger. “I’m the reason we’re all stuck like this!”
The four ponies grouped up said nothing, not even sure what they could say. Bubble glanced to Elusive, and vice versa, both questioning the other with what to do. Butterscotch did the same to Blitz, but the sky blue pony only looked to Dusk, his mouth in a frown and his eyes in a determined gaze.
“It’s... It’s okay, Dusk. We’ll figure somethin’ out,” Applejack said, in an attempt to calm Dusk down. Unfortunately, this only brought a choked sob from the unicorn.
“That’s just the thing... we won’t. You heard Celestia, there’s only one spell to fix this... and we can’t finish it!”
The outburst caused Applejack to take a step back. Now, even he wasn’t sure how to get Dusk to relax.
“I never should have tried that spell!” Dusk said, rubbing his eyes with a foreleg and looking down. “I was so... so... so stupid!” He slammed his other hoof down, sending another loud echo through the chamber. “And I got all of you involved... my closest friends... the only ones who cared about me... And I completely abused your trust!”
Elusive opened his mouth to say something, but to his surprise, Blitz put a hoof on the unicorn’s shoulder and shook his head. Elusive raised his eyebrow in question, but Blitz returned to looking at Dusk.
“Our lives... our lives will never be the same...” Dusk said, his voice wavering. The unicorn’s body shook, part out of fear, and part because of the multitude of emotions going through his head. I’m a failure... They’ll never trust me again... Celestia will get a new student...
“I really... failed all of you...” he conceded, looking to the ground. The room went quiet, save for Dusk’s occasional sniffle or cough as he continued to weep.
“Dusk...” Elusive began, searching for the words to continue his sentence. “You mustn't be so hard on yo-”
“No, Elusive. I should. This is entirely because of me...” He wiped his eyes again, which didn’t do much to stop the tears. “I’ve ruined all of our lives, all because I couldn’t cast a spell right... I don’t deserve to be the Element of Magic!” he yelled, breaking down into more audible sobs.
“Dusk, don’t go sayin’ that... you can do magic better than anypony I know,” Applejack replied.
“It doesn’t matter how good I am! I... I screwed up when it mattered most, and you were all caught in the aftermath. I don’t even... I don’t even deserve you as friends!” Dusk cried, looking back to the ground and shaking.
“Dusk Shine, get ready!” Blitz’s voice rang out, startling everypony in the room. Dusk looked up, just in time to see Blitz flying at him, a hoof extended outward. With a sickening thud, the pegasi’s hoof impacted with Dusk’s jaw, with enough force to send the unicorn flying backwards and his saddlebags hurtling to the far wall. Blitz skidded to a halt on the floor just as Dusk collided with the left throne and fell to the ground, coughing. “Pull yourself together!”
The other four ponies stood with their mouths hanging open in shock. They were too stunned to say anything, giving Blitz the time to continue.
“You’ve done nothing but bring us together as friends, and without you, we probably wouldn’t even know each other. You definitely deserve us, and you definitely deserve to be the element of magic. Being stallions for the rest of our lives isn’t gonna change that.”
It took a moment before Dusk Shine stirred, adjusting his legs to push himself up. With some struggle, he rose, revealing a reddened and swollen area on his muzzle, along with a small trail of blood running from his mouth. Butterscotch turned his head away, while Elusive could only put a hoof to his mouth and gasp. Looking to Blitz, Dusk raised a hoof and wiped the blood away, glancing at the red smear on his foreleg as he did.
Then he smiled. “I appreciate it, Blitz.”
“Whu... What?” Applejack suddenly said, looking between Blitz and Dusk. “He jus’ punched you dead in the face, and you’re thankin’ him for it?”
Dusk Shine’s gaze switched to Applejack. “Sometimes, AJ... I guess words can’t solve a problem.” He looked back to Blitz gave a toothy smile. “It takes action.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about,” Blitz replied, returning the grin.
It was then that Elusive spoke up. “Ahem, if I may interject on this little moment of bonding, I think you’ll find that Blitz’s little action was just what we needed.” He motioned to the throne, which had slid back at a slight angle from Dusk’s impact.
“Huh. Look at that!” Blitz said, flapping his wings just enough to push him next to the throne. Looking down, he noticed a small gap in the floor, indicating a compartment in the stone. “AJ, wanna help me push this?”
“Sure thing!” the earth pony said, hurrying over to Blitz. The two of them leaned against the seat and pushed. With some strained effort, it slid across the ground, revealing the whole of the chamber. Butterscotch and Bubble Berry hurried over to the hole, and the six stallions peered inside.
“Is... is that it?” Butterscotch asked, noticing the faintest glint of metal at the bottom.
Dusk’s horn then lit up, and the faint glow surrounded the object. “Only one way to find out.” He lifted the object from the hole, revealing a gleaming, golden statue. Images of the two alicorn sisters were engraved on it, rearing on their hind legs and their backs facing one another. The relic gave off a faint, curious glow itself. “This has to be it. It’s just as Celestia described...”
“So we’re almost done!” Bubble Berry exclaimed, hopping in place and beaming widely. “We’ll finally be back to normal and I can throw a super humongous party for us all and...” he trailed off, bouncing about the group.
“We are almost done... in fact, we just need to get back to Celestia,” Dusk said, a smile crawling onto his face. “Come on, everypony, let’s get to Canterlot as fast as we can!”
“Finally! Ah was wonderin’ when we’d get ta this point.” Applejack replied, turning around and making his way to the door.
Turning around, Dusk levitated his bags over to himself and put them back on, then secured the artifact to his back with some spare rope.
“...and we can invite everypony, and I mean everypony in Ponyville to come, and they’ll be so super excited and...”
Dusk chuckled, then said “Come on Berry, let’s go.” The pink pony nodded and hopped to the rest of the group, who were waiting at the door patiently.
“Now, before we go, all of you, take a look.” Dusk said, holding the necklace up. “Oh, and like you saw before with Blitz... brace yourself.”
The five ponies nodded and stared into the necklace. One by the one, they stumbled a few steps back and shook their heads. Dusk himself was the last to look, but by this point, it barely had any effect on him. Guess I’m out... he thought, frowning as he let the necklace drop.
“Goodness... does it have to be so strong?” Elusive asked, rubbing his temple.
“Eh, it’s not so bad the second time around.” Blitz said, giving a cheeky grin.
Applejack then kicked at the door, opening it. The sound was enough to get the others to look in his direction. “Enough talkin’,” he began, with a smile. “We got a spell to cast.”
Outside the Everfree Forest, the six stallions galloped towards the balloon, which was still sitting where they left it. The balloon had deflated a bit, but Dusk began taking care of it with his magic as he hopped into the balloon. Elusive, Bubble Berry and Applejack followed, closing the door behind them.
“Blitz, Butterscotch, you two help get this thing back in the air,” Dusk said, concentrating on the heating element for the balloon.
“Got it, boss,” Blitz said, sticking his front two hooves under the basket and flapping his wings. Butterscotch did the same to the opposite side and the balloon began to rise.
“Just a bit longer, guys,” Dusk said, his horn ceasing it’s glow. He looked over the edge of the basket and watched the ground start to leave them, followed by the treeline. “Thanks!” he called out of basket. Butterscotch flew in with the others, immediately closing his wings and staying near the middle of the group.
“It’s the final stretch, everypony,” Dusk said, with a smile. “It’ll all be over soon...” Looking to the distance, he saw the edges of Canterlot on the mountainside.
“It’ll all be over soon.”
Chapter 7: You Know What This Calls For!?
Before the basket had even touched the landing platform, the six stallions were leaping from the gondola and galloping into the castle. Their thunderous travel reverberated throughout the halls as they made their way to Celestia’s chambers. Without a second thought, they careened through the door, sending it bursting open and hitting the walls with a resounding crash.
“We have the artifact!” Dusk Shine called, panting heavily. He undid the ropes tying the object down and levitated it up to Celestia’s field of view, flashing Celestia a weak smile. Seeing Celestia’s shocked expression, he cast a look behind him, taking in the dented door and terrified courtiers. Realizing what they had done, he immediately said “Oh, goodness! I’m so sorry, we should have knocked first!”
The Princess shook herself and gave a light chuckle as she stood up from her desk. “It’s quite alright, Twi-” Her tone changed from bemusement to worry as she noticed the large bruise upon Dusk’s face, and Celestia started forward with a concerned expression.“By the stars, how did you get so hurt?”
Dusk looked back to Blitz, who was doing his best to avoid eye contact with Celestia. “It’s... uh... a long story,” The lavender stallion replied, with a mischievous grin.
The princess raised an eyebrow and started to say something before thinking better of it. “Perhaps you can share it later. For now though, I’m sure that there’s a counter spell to be made that all of you have been waiting for.” Taking control of the artifact with her magic, she floated it to her desk, not bothering to even move the papers resting upon it.
“Whew... I’ll be glad ta be mah old self again...” Applejack said, letting out a sigh of relief.
“However...” Celestia continued, opening one of the drawers. She sifted through it and brought out several pages of parchment full of writing and diagrams. “It will take quite some time before the spell is ready to be cast.”
The group of stallions sighed collectively.
“How long, princess?” Dusk asked, frowning softly.
“I’m not entirely certain, Twilight. My apologies,” Celestia replied, putting the papers down and turning back to the group. “I will, however, contact you as soon as it’s done.” She then closed her eyes, and her horn began to glow.
Can you hear me, Twilight? went through Dusk Shine’s head, startling the unicorn. It didn’t take him long to realize what happened, though, and he answered.
“Yes, I can hear you.”
Celestia opened one of her eyes and looked to Dusk, saying “Don’t speak... think.”
Dusk nodded, then thought I can hear you... can you hear me?
The Princess smiled, replying with Indeed, I can. Before you leave, I would advise you to not stray far from Canterlot. Even with my magical ability, the spell will only go so far.
“I understand,” Dusk Shine said, looking up to Celestia and smiling.
“Hey, hey. What’s that all about?” Blitz asked, his eyes shifting between Celestia and Dusk Shine.
“Oh, the princess can speak to me magically,” the unicorn answered, with a smile. “And we can’t leave the city, or the magic link will break. Is that okay with everypony?” Various murmurs and nods of agreement sounded from the other stallions.
“Excellent. Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I must start working,” she replied, giving a polite nod. The six of them bowed, then turned around and left the room, leaving Celestia to prepare. The princess approached the artifact and began to look through her notes.
“What should we do now?” Butterscotch asked, walking alongside the rest of the group. They were just now passing through the large entrance gate to the castle. Their hooves lightly clopped against the wooden bridge underneath them, leaving behind the faintest of echos.
“I’m not sure.” Dusk hesitated, his mind going through a list of potential problems. “But I’d rather we don’t go too far from the castle.” Just then, they reached the residential district of Canterlot.
“Well, Celestia did say she she needed rather a lot of time, did she not?” Elusive asked, looking to the other unicorn.
Dusk nodded, at the same time giving Elusive an inquisitive look. “Yes, she did... why?”
“I was just thinking that we could do a bit of light window shopping is all,” he replied, giving Dusk an innocent smile.
All the unicorn could do was sigh. “I would really prefer if you didn’t - you can go shopping at any other time.”
“But we’re in Canterlot! It’s not every day that I have the luxury of being around the glamor and fashion in royalty!” Elusive protested, pouting.
“Celestia probably won’t be-”
“Please?” Elusive interrupted, inching closer to Dusk Shine. “I won’t be long, I promise! It’ll just be a quick browse!”
“We should stay to-”
“Please?!” The white unicorn interrupted again, getting even closer. His pout had turned into a full frown and his eyes were glistening, as if he were on the verge of tears.
Dusk let out a sigh and rolled his eyes, and looking away from Elusive, said “Fine... but don’t be gone too long...”
“Yes!” he cheered, his purple mane bouncing just as he did. “Oh, I can’t wait to see all of the new fashions! Perhaps I can even get some ideas for a new line, and maybe-”
“Nah ah. Not so fast.” Dusk was the one to interrupt this time. He turned his head to look at Blitz, who was absently looking to the sky. “Blitz is going with you.”
“I’m doing what?”
“He’s doing what?”
Bubble Berry put a hoof to his mouth and giggled. “You guys sound funny when you talk at the same time!”
Ignoring the pink pony, Blitz and Elusive shared a smiliar look of bewilderment.
“You’ve seen what’s been happening with our memories. I don’t want one of you to wander off and forget who you are in the middle of Canterlot, okay?” Dusk said, his expression softening. “It’s only to keep you safe.”
“I guess I’ll stay with Elusive,” Blitz groaned, glancing over to the fashion pony. “But I can’t promise I won’t fall asleep out of boredom.”
Dusk laughed and gave a warm smile to both of them. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. Now, don’t take too long. Meet us at The Prime Pegasus when you’re finished, okay?”
“Certainly. We won’t take long, I swear it,” Elusive replied, returning the grin. He then looked to Blitz. “Come along then, Blitz. We have new fashions to peruse!”
“You have no idea how excited I am,” Blitz said, sarcasm lacing his voice. Elusive didn’t seem to notice, so Blitz kept his thoughts to himself. The two then proceeded into the business district of Canterlot.
The two stallions made their way through the bustling streets of the city, taking in the sights and sounds. Elusive was particularly enjoying the trip, looking into each clothing outlet and high end shop as a young foal would look into a toy store. After browsing the main displays of several places, they came upon a store by the name of The Distinguished Gentlcolt. In the window was a single suit, adorned with numerous small gems and intricate layers of fabric that formed complex patterns on the piece. Several lights focused on the design, and Elusive found his vision only focused on the expertly crafted article of clothing, as if he were entranced.
“Oh, we must go inside!” The unicorn exclaimed, admiring the finer details of the suit. He brought a hoof to the glass in a vain attempt to touch the delicate fabric.
“But you aren’t even buying anything.” Blitz sighed, looking to the clothing like it was any other piece of fabric. “Besides, it doesn’t even look that great, and it’s not like you can wear it when this is over.”
Elusive turned his head, staring at Blitz in open shock. “Excusez-moi?! I’ll have you know that this... masterpiece...” he briefly looked back at the suit, then returned his gaze to Blitz. “Is some of the finest tailoring I have ever seen! Clearly, you have no sense of style, or else you would see the genius put into this design.”
Blitz snorted, then said “Ya think? When have I ever been into fashion?”
The unicorn brought a hoof up as if to start making a point, but then lowered it and creased his brows. “Never, I suppose. A shame, too. You’d look wonderful in a custom tailored ensemble.”
“Pft, good luck getting me into one of those,” The pegasus snapped, rolling his eyes. “You’d sooner find me in one of your lame coffee shops.”
“They are not ‘lame’!” Elusive huffed, frowning. “They are refined. Though I wouldn’t expect you to know anything about that.”
“Whatever...” Blitz retorted, looking away and giving his wings an agitated flap. “I’ll wait out here. You can go look at your fancy clothes.”
Elusive’s only reply was a quick “Hmph,” and he disappeared into the store. Blitz stood outside of the door for a moment, contemplating what he would do next, but his thought process was interrupted by a familiar sounding voice.
“Rainbow Blitz? Is that you?”
Blitz turned around to come face to face with the same mare from the bar - Octavia. She was without her instrument or bow tie, and this time had a soft smile on her face. Her purple eyes and dark mane shone in the daylight, and her presence caught Blitz off guard. He remained awestruck for several moments before she waved a hoof in front of his eyes and asked “Anypony there?”
He blinked several times and shook his head, then said “Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. I didn’t think I’d see you again.”
“I wasn’t sure I’d see you again either, so it’s nice to find you in the city. Speaking of... what are you doing here?” She asked, looking around like the city was foreign.
“I’m here with a friend.” Blitz turned his head to look back into the shop. He could barely make out Elusive’s purple mane through the display window. “I’m waiting for him to finish looking around this place.”
Octavia nodded, looking in the same general direction as Blitz. After a moment, the two looked back to each other, and the grey mare asked “So, I was off to get lunch before I found you. Would your friend mind if you joined me?”
“Uh... I don’t think so. Just gimme a sec,” Blitz replied, walking into the store. Within the minute, he was back out, smiling to Octavia as he approached her.
She returned the smile and asked “Well?”
“It’s cool. I just need to be back here in an hour or so. We’ve got time.”
“Wonderful. I know a lovely place that isn’t too far from here,” The mare said, leading Blitz further into the district. A wide grin plastered across his face, the pegasus followed alongside her, confident that his unicorn friend heard him through the changing room door.
Dusk Shine rested his head on his hoof as he watched the seconds tick by at an agonizing pace. He continuously glanced to the door of the inn, then back to the clock, anticipating Blitz and Elusive to return at any moment, for it had been far longer than the ‘quick browse’ that had been promised.
“Yer bein’ awfully quiet, Dusk,” Applejack said, taking another gulp of cider. “It ain’t like you to stay so hush. What’s on yer mind?”
“They still aren’t back yet,” the unicorn replied, looking back to the door. He tapped his hoof against the tabletop rapidly.
“If you’re worried, we can look for them, can’t we?” Butterscotch asked, turning his head to Dusk.
Brows furrowed in thought, the unicorn brought a hoof up to his chin. “That would be a good idea,” Dusk mumbled. After several more moments of thinking, he stood up, and after brushing a stray lock of hair out of his eyes, said “Okay, here’s the plan. Butterscotch and Bubble Berry, you two go to the castle and tell the princess the situation. I would tell her myself, but it would be better to have you two already at the castle. We don’t want four lost stallions, do we?”
“Oh, that would be bad...” the pegasus said, with a soft frown.
Dusk Shine turned his head to Applejack and continued, “AJ, you and I will search the town. Hopefully, they haven’t gone too far, so we should still be able to find them in the business district.”
All three nodded in agreement. Applejack stood up, followed soon after by Bubble Berry and Butterscotch. The unicorn then looked to Butterscotch and Bubble Berry and said “When you reach the princess, ask her to contact me, okay?”
The pink pony brought a hoof to his brow in a salute. “Yes, sir! Operation ‘Get Celestia’ is a go!” He stood on all fours, beaming towards Dusk Shine. “We’ll find that princess is no time!”
Dusk nodded. “Great! Do whatever it takes to find her. Now, let’s go!”
The four hastily left the inn and split ways, briefly nodding to each other as they separated. Bubble Berry and Butterscotch disappeared into the gates leading to the castle while Applejack and Dusk Shine went into the crowded streets of the business district. Before they got much further, Dusk stopped Applejack with a hoof on his shoulder.
“Applejack... take the necklace. I can’t use it anymore, so it’s better off with you.” The amulet was encased in his distinct magic aura and levitated off his shoulders, quickly changing ownership to the orange earth pony.
“So... I jus’ show it to ‘em, right? And it’ll work?” Applejack asked, glancing down at the new accessory.
Dusk Shine nodded and began walking again. “It’s as simple as that. Just be careful that you don’t accidentally look in it, alright?”
“Sure thing, Dusk,” Applejack replied. The two made their way through the district, keeping an eye out for any signs of Elusive or Rainbow Blitz. After the fifth store, Applejack came out looking less than satisfied. “This ain’t goin’ anywhere,” he said, looking to the unicorn with agitation.
“He could be in any one of these stores... and there are quite a lot!” he replied, craning his neck to look down the long road. The stores and ponies surrounding them stretched on for as far as he could see.
“Should we start askin’ ponies if they’ve seen ‘em?” Applejack asked, raising an eyebrow and briefly scanning over the crowd.
“It’s either that or we keep checking every store,” Dusk replied, gulping.
“Yeah... Nah.” The orange stallion walked off and approached the first pony he found - an average dressed mare with several accessories and wearing a generous amount of makeup. “‘Let’s see if Ah still got it...” he mumbled to himself. Then, he cleared his throat and spoke, in a upper class Manehatten accent, “Pardon me, ma’am, but could you answer a question of mine?”
The pony in question raised an eyebrow, looking at Applejack like he had sprouted an extra head. It took a moment for her to regain her composure and respond, and she was still apprehensive about it. “And... what might that be?”
“I’m looking for two young stallions. One is an off white unicorn with a styled purple mane and the other is a brilliant light blue with a bright, spiky rainbow mane. They stand out quite a bit.” Applejack replied, with a light chuckle.
“Oh. I believe I saw those two earlier,” the mare replied, causing a smile to grow on Applejack’s face. “Thought it was only in passing. If I’m not mistaken, they went... that way.” She waved a hoof and motioned farther down the road - the only way they could have gone. The stallion’s grin lessened slightly.
He tipped his hat forward and replied with “Thank you very much for your time.” The mare nodded and continued on her way and Applejack walked back to Dusk, who had his mouth hung open in shock. “Ah thought you knew Ah could speak jus’ like these fancy folks,” he said, with a wink. “Too bad we didn’t learn anythin’ useful...”
Dusk Shine shook his head, then said “Let’s just keep going. Maybe somepony farther down will know something.”
“Maybe...” Applejack replied, starting to move down the street. The two stallions continued the pattern of looking through several shops, then asking a passerby if they had seen the ponies in question. Eventually, their search led them to an extravagant looking clothing store. The words “The Distinguished Gentlecolt” were emblazoned above the shop in gold, cursive lettering.
“If he ain’t in here, I don’t think we’re gonna find him anywhere else,” Applejack said, cocking his head to the side and looking over the lavish storefront. “It’s certainly... shiny enough.”
“Well, there’s only one way to find out...” Dusk replied, walking towards the door. He opened it and stepped in, hearing a small bell ring from the top of the door as he did so. The unicorn was greeted by an array of mannequins, all displaying some new type of clothing style. They were each embellished with complex patterns, small gems, and various accessories such as bow ties and decorative flowers. Dusk did his best to ignore the florid designs and moved farther into the shop, and sure enough, he found who he was looking for.
The white unicorn was chatting with the owner, motioning to one of the suits every so often. The shop owner looked very pleased, and nodded his head in agreement occasionally.
“Elusive, thank goodness you’re in here,” Dusk said, letting out a relieved sigh and beginning to walk towards the purple maned pony. Applejack silently followed him, glancing around with a constant look of discomfort.
Elusive glanced to Dusk Shine, then back to the owner. It took a moment, but his head snapped back to the lavender unicorn, and he looked at Dusk with great curiosity. “Dusk Shine? Applejack? Whatever are you doing here in Canterlot?”
Dusk felt his heart sink in his chest upon hearing the words. He gulped, then said “Elusive... we’ve been here the whole time, remember?”
Elusive rose one of his eyebrows. “Whatever are you talking about, Dusk? I’ve been in Canterlot since... since...” he trailed off, looking past Dusk. He then blinked a few times, then said “You know... for the life of me, I can’t remember why I’m here. Isn’t that curious?”
“Do you remember anything, Elusive? Anything at all?” Dusk said, inching closer to the unicorn. He wore a frown, and could feel beads of sweat starting to form on his brow. “Please tell me you remember something.”
The white unicorn looked down in thought, then responded with “I’m terribly sorry, Dusk, but I’ve really no idea why I’m here... or even how I got here.”
“So you don’t remember being with Blitz? Or traveling with us the past few days?”
Elusive shook his head, with a look of concern on his face. “Nothing of the sort.” He then looked to Dusk, studying the unicorn for a moment. “Are you feeling okay, Dusk? You seem a tad pale... and as though you could use a bit of sleep. Perhaps you should see the prince and get some rest.”
A single word stood out. Prince. “What do you mean... ‘prince’?” Dusk Shine asked, warily.
“Prince Solaris, of course. Who else would I be talking about? Then again, it could refer to Prince Artemis as well...”
Dusk turned to Applejack and said “This is bad, AJ... this is really bad.”
“Well, Ah’m hopin’ this works like you said it does.” Applejack replied, not moving his gaze off of Elusive. “Hey, ‘lusive. Check out this here gem.” He took the amulet in his hoof and lifted it up for the unicorn to see.
“My, Applejack, that looks lovely. Wherever did you-” He was cut off by a rush of memory, which stunned him briefly. After closing his eyes tightly and wobbling in place, he slowly opened them and looked to Dusk and Applejack. Elusive blinked several times, then his eyes grew wide in terror. “Oh my goodness, Dusk Shine, I’m terribly sorry about all of this! One moment I was browsing the store, the next I had no idea why I was even here... I cannot apologize enough for taking so long!”
“It’s fine, Elusive. Really,” Dusk Shine said, a smile appearing on his face. It didn’t last long, though, and his expression quickly turned to a more serious one. “What we need to know is where Blitz went.”
“Rainbow Blitz? He came in earlier and said that he was... going to lunch. He mentioned some mare as well. The same one from the inn, I believe. Octavia, was it?”
Dusk brought a hoof to his face, letting it slide down slowly. As it did, he let out a groan of frustration. “We need to find him, now,” Dusk said, motioning to the door. “We don’t have much time.”
Elusive nodded and replied with “I understand.” He then turned to the owner, who was looking to the group in a mix of confusion and awe. “I’m terribly sorry, sir, but our business venture will have to continue at a later date. Farewell!”
The three stallions then galloped out of the boutique, leaving a speechless tailor in their wake.
“Okay, they went to eat, so that rules out everywhere but restaurants!” Dusk exclaimed, galloping through the streets. Elusive and Applejack followed right beside him, keeping up the brisk pace. “We need to look in every place we can get food, and quickly. Let’s move!”
“Got it, Dusk!” Applejack called, glancing around for the nearest eatery. A building adorned with a large, crossed fork and knife caught his attention. “Over there!” he said, motioning in to it. Dusk and Elusive nodded, following him to the building. The orange stallion wasted no time poking his head into the building and looking around, only to find no sign of his rainbow maned friend. As quickly as he entered, he left, shaking his head as he made eye contact with Dusk and Elusive. “Nothin’, but there can’t be that many food places around here. And if he’s with that Octavia girl, I’m bettin’ they went to someplace fancy.”
Dusk nodded, starting to head down the street. “Good thinking, Applejack. Let’s keep going.” As he began thinking about what sort of place Blitz would be in, Princess Celestia’s voice flowed through his mind. Your friends have arrived at the castle, Twilight, and are safe with me. I am nearly done preparing, so attempt to find the Element of Loyalty as quickly as you can.
I’ll do my best, princess. Dusk thought back, closing his eyes briefly in concentration.
Their search landed them in front of a small cafe, on a small side street in the district. Above the door was the depiction of a coffee cup, with a small tendril of steam wafting from it. The three of them looked over the building, then shared a glance.
“Ya... really think he’s in here, Dusk?” Applejack asked, cocking his head slightly. “It’s a bit... uh... cushy.”
“It’s as much of a guess as anywhere else, but we have to try,” Dusk replied, opening the door. “Please be in here, please be in here...” he whispered to himself, closing his eyes and taking a breath as he entered the building. He exhaled as his eyelids fluttered opened and he looked around the interior of the cafe. His vision darted from patron to patron, and he was almost about to turn around and leave before noticing the top of a red and orange mane poking out from one of the booths. In the opposing seat was Octavia, holding a cup and having a conversation. Dusk sighed with relief, then walked out and told his other two friends to come inside.
Octavia noticed the three approaching and gave a warm smile, then waved them over. “Fancy meeting you three here.”
The pegasus turned his head, giving a surprised look when he saw the three stallions. “What are you guys doing here?” he asked.
“The better question is, what are you doin’ here?” Applejack asked, giving Blitz a look of confusion.
“I do recall you saying something about coffee shops being ‘lame’ earlier, Rainbow,” Elusive chimed in, with a sly grin.
Blitz scratched the back of his head, then looked around the cafe. “Octavia caught up with me earlier and we went to this place... but now that you mention it, I don’t really remember why I’m in Canterlot.”
“Well, we’re here to take you back to the castle, Blitz,” Dusk added, moving between Elusive and Applejack, “The princess is waiting for us.”
Octavia gasped, putting a hoof to her mouth and glancing between Blitz and the other three. “My goodness. I didn’t know you had an audience with Celestia herself, Blitz. You should’ve told me you had important plans, or else I wouldn’t have kept you so long!”
“Celestia...?” Blitz mouthed out, as if it were a foreign word that he had never heard before.
“Ya know what? We don’t have time for this,” Applejack groaned. He pulled up the amulet and put it in front of Blitz’s face. “Lookie here, Rainbow. It’s nice an’ shiny.” The pegasus went wide eyed and fell back in his seat, provoking a concerned look from Octavia.
“What in Equestria was that?” she asked, leaning over the table. She glanced nervously between Applejack and Blitz, who was just getting up.
Applejack let the amulet go, allowing it to fall and hit his chest. He then looked to Octavia and gave a smug grin. “That, missy, is a bit of alicorn magic for ya.”
“Ugh, again? I told you to warn me before doing that...” Blitz moaned, rubbing the side of his head. He then blinked and looked around the cafe, finally looking to Octavia. He frowned, then said “This looks kinda bad, doesn’t it?”
The dark mare nodded slowly, keeping her mouth closed.
“Uh... hmm...” The rainbow maned pegasus tapped forehooves against the table top. Glancing to his friends, he said “I’m sorry about this... but I kinda need to leave.” He gave Octavia a sympathetic look, then slowly started to inch out from the table.
“Can I at least get an explanation of what you’re doing?” she asked, with a light frown. Blitz halted his movement, then glanced to his friends with a look that said ‘help’.
Elusive brought a hoof to his neck and cleared his throat, then said “Allow me to tell her, Rainbow.” He looked around, then walked next to Octavia and began to whisper in her ear. She at first had a look of curiosity, which shifted to one of mild disgust. Finally, her eyes widened to give her a look of shock. As Elusive finished and stepped back, she opened her mouth a few times, and only on the third attempt did any words come out.
“I see.” She flatly replied.
“So... yeah...” Blitz mumbled, looking to the ground as his cheeks began to grow crimson. “That’s how it is.”
The five of them remained silent, with the four stallions glancing to each other, waiting for one of the others to say or do something. Octavia stared at the table, blinking occasionally, but otherwise not moving a muscle. After the long and uncomfortable silence, she finally spoke. “Blitz... you should go and have that spell cast.” She then looked up to him with a stern gaze. “And you shouldn’t try and be somepony you aren’t.”
Rainbow Blitz gulped, watching her violet gaze pierce through him. “Octavia, I... I didn’t mean to-”
“Hush. You don’t have much time left, do you?”
“No... I don’t.” He answered, with a sigh. Moving from the table, he stood up and briefly shook out his mane and tail. He then looked to his friends and nodded. “I’m ready.” The other three returned the nod and began to walk towards the door. As Blitz turned to follow them, he felt a hoof touch his shoulder. He looked over to find the grey mare standing next to him, with the faintest smile on her face.
“When you change back, Rainbow... come and find me in Canterlot.”
Blitz blinked a few times, surprised at her request, but after the gears in his head had sufficient time to turn, he smiled as well. “I will.” He said, giving her a cheeky grin. “You can count on that. ‘Til then...” he continued, turning back to the front of the cafe. “...gotta dash.”
The four stallions galloped into Celestia’s chambers with more care than before, but with the same haste and determination. Bubble Berry was sitting next to Butterscotch in front of the princess’s bed, and the two waved as the others made their way inside.
“And that’s... 36 minutes and ten seconds on the dot! Looks like you won the bet, ‘Scotchy! I thought they would be way slower than that.” Bubble chirped, looking to his bare hoof.
“I’m just confident is all,” the yellow pegasus replied, with a soft smile.
Dusk Shine broke away from the group and walked towards Celestia. “I’m sorry for the delay, princess. It took us a lot longer than I hoped to find Blitz, and we tried to get-” He was interrupted by Celestia’s armor clad hoof touching his chin. As he stopped talking, he noticed a large vial hanging by a strap around Celestia’s neck. It was capped with a foam cork, and contained a gold, dust like substance that seemed to give off a faint glow. A light prod of the princess’s hoof brought his attention upwards to her face.
She smiled and said “You don’t have to apologize so much, my student.” She then let go and looked over Dusk to the rest of the group. “Is everypony ready?” She was met by nods and murmurs of agreement. Nodding herself, she said “Excellent. I’m going to bring us all to Ponyville, so please stand around me.
The other five stallions quickly made their way to Celestia and circled around her. She closed her eyes and her horn began to glow a brilliant white. Shortly after, a bright flash emanated from the alicorn’s horn, bathing the room in light. When it faded, the seven ponies were nowhere to be found.
In Ponyville, however, they had reappeared with a similar bright flash. It garnered the attention of several passerby, who stood and stared at the new arrivals.
Celestia looked over the stallions, who were shaking their heads and doing their best to stay upright. “Goodness... I suppose I should have warned you that it might be a bit severe,” she said, frowning slightly.
“It mighta been nice,” Applejack shakily replied, falling back onto his haunches.
Celestia watched the farmpony for a few moments before turning her head to Dusk Shine, who had recovered already. “Now, before I begin, is this everypony?”
“Not quite,” Dusk replied, looking to his library in the distance. “I still have to get Spike.”
“Very well,” The princess replied. “I’ll begin preparing the spell circle while you fetch your dragon companion.”
Dusk Shine nodded, then galloped off in the direction of his home.
The unicorn reached the library door at a speed even Rainbow Blitz would be proud of, and opened the door with the same urgency. “Spike! I’m back! Where are you?!” He yelled into the library, looking around. The library looked clean and well kept - evidence that Spike had been doing his job even when Dusk wasn’t around - yet there was no answer. “Come on, Spike! Are you sleeping this late in the day?” He then heard a crash from upstairs, followed by a rustling of something. “That might be a yes...” Dusk mumbled to himself, walking up the stairs.
He reached the door and turned the handle, but as he pushed the door forward he heard a yelp, followed by “Wait, Twilight, don’t come in!”
“What could be so wro-” Dusk started, opening the door all the way. He then trailed off as he noticed what Spike was doing. The feminine dragon was surrounded by an assortment of clothes, and upon further inspection, they turned out to be dresses. Spike herself was halfway through removing one, still gripping the edge of the skirt. The two stared at each other, unsure of where to even begin. Spike broke the silence first.
“Twilight, I can explain! I just don’t know what came over me! There were a bunch of dresses, and some makeup, and-”
“We don’t have time for this, Spike. Just...” he paused, looking over the dragon in a mix of confusion and disgust. “Just get ready and come downstairs. We’re going to fix this.” With that, he turned around and groaned, then left the room.
Spike shrugged, then pulled the remains of the dress off. She took one last look in the mirror before wiping the poorly applied makeup of her face, then broke into a jog downstairs to meet with Dusk. The pile of dresses would wait until later.
Celestia was handling the golden powder with the utmost care as she sprinkled it across the ground in an intricate pattern of circles and lines. As the flakes touch the ground, they seemed to absorb into the ground like ink to parchment, and stay there even if touched. She was just connecting the circle together as Bubble Berry spotted Dusk and Spike running towards them.
“They’re here, they’re here!” he excitedly said, bouncing in place. Celestia looked up as she finished and smiled in the direction of Dusk.
“Take a circle, everypony,” she calmly said, turning to her student, who was still galloping towards them. The five stallions stepped in a circle and waited for their next instruction. Dusk got closer to them, but began to slow down to a canter. Spike passed him, looking back with a bit of surprise. “Hm?” Celestia quietly hummed, raising an eyebrow curiously at Dusk’s change in pace. He then slowed to a walk, and the princess noticed a growing look of confusion on his face. Mere feet away from the group, he stopped entirely.
“What are you all doing?” He said, looking to each of them. “And... who is that?” He motioned to Celestia.
Applejack gulped as he felt his heart sink. He looked down at the amulet, knowing that Dusk had already used his three chances to get his memory. “Tell me this ain’t happenin’ now...” The farmpony whispered, looking back up to Dusk.
“Why, we’re here to change back. It’s what we’ve been striving for this entire time.” Elusive said, looking to the lavender unicorn with concern.
“Change back? Change back to what?” Dusk quickly asked, his eyes darting from pony to pony. His gaze ended on Celestia, and he furrowed his brow. “What’s wrong with them? What have you done?”
“She hasn’t done anythin’ to us, Dusk! This here’s Celestia. Your teacher? The one ya’ll look up to every day?” Applejack added, cracking a faint smile as he waved a hoof at the princess.
Dusk Shine took a step back, looking at Applejack as if he’d just been insulted. “Her? That isn’t Prince Solaris!” He looked back to Celestia with fire in his eyes and grit his teeth. “What did you do to them?”
Celestia frowned, looking to her student with a forlorn gaze. “Twilight, I’ve done nothing to your friends. I know you don’t remember, but please trust me when I say I am only trying to help you.”
“She’s right, Dusk. You need to change back to normal too.” Butterscotch added, moving more into view so he could give Dusk Shine a compassionate look.
“You gotta step in the circle, Dusk!” Blitz snapped, tapping his hoof impatiently. Elusive threw him a stern look, which he simply snorted at and continued looking at Dusk. “I need to get back to weather patrol.”
Dusk Shine took another step back, and he began to frown. His face turned to a look of fear as he looked at his friends in disbelief. “I... I don’t believe you! She’s changed you somehow!” he yelled, taking a third step back.
Celestia shifted her eyes to look at Applejack, who was standing next to her. “Applejack... I don’t know how much more time you all have. It’s imperative that you get Twilight into her rune circle,” she whispered.
“Ah’ll get him...” the orange stallion whispered back, opening his saddlebag slowly. “Ah never go on a trip without mah rope.” He then looked to Blitz, who was looking back at him. The two briefly nodded at each other, then turned their gaze back to Dusk. “Dusk, ya gotta come here. As the Element of Honesty, Ah’m tellin’ ya the truth. There ain’t nothin to be afraid of!” he called, as genuinely as he could.
Dusk Shine shook his head, then shakily yelled “N-no! I don’t believe you! Somethings wrong with all of you!” As he finished, he turned to run away.
“Blitz, now!” Applejack yelled, pulling the rope out of his saddlebag. Blitz flared his wings and gave them a powerful flap, shooting forward towards Dusk Shine. The unicorn looked behind him, his horn lighting up as he did so. A magic barrier shot up in front of Blitz, which the pegasus narrowly avoid by diving to the side.
“Get back here, Dusk!” Blitz yelled, flapping his wings to avoid another glowing wall which had shot up in front of him. He briefly looked behind him to find Applejack hot on their trail, swinging the rope above his head. The pegasus continued forward, his tail starting to leave a rainbow streak behind him. He was rapidly gaining on the unicorn, even with all of the obstacles being put in his place, and after several more wing beats, he could almost touch the unicorn’s tail.
“Stay away!” Dusk yelled, looking behind him and shooting a purple bolt of magic at Blitz, who spun to the side to avoid the blast.
“Whoa!” he cried, feeling the heat of the blast pass by his body. Dusk had gotten ahead with the distraction, but Blitz was quicker than that, catching up to him almost instantly. He anticipated the next magic blast, and as it passed him, he used the opportunity to make one more strong push forward, tackling Dusk Shine to the ground. The two twisted and spun around each other, kicking up dirt as they flailed.
“Watch yerself, Blitz!” Applejack yelled, throwing the lasso ahead of him. The cyan pegasus rolled out of the way in time to watch the loop catch around Dusk’s legs, and with a strong pull, it tightened up and restricted him. “Now let’s bring him back before he can use any magic!” Applejack then tugged on the rope, running back to the group.
Dusk struggled against the binds, desperately trying to free his legs and escape. His horn lit up as he attempted to cast a spell. “Oh no you don’t!” Blitz intervened, pushing the unicorn around and breaking his concentration. He then pushed against Dusk’s back and flapped his wings, trying to move the unicorn across the ground faster.
Celestia only watched with a pained grimace as her pupil was pushed around and dragged across the dirt like a wild animal, but it had to be done. She turned away, only hearing his struggling and angered swears as Applejack and Blitz brought him closer to the group. As the neared, her horn began to glow, and Dusk was encased in a soft yellow glow. “I can handle things from here. I’ll bind her and dampen her magic enough so that I can perform the ritual.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Applejack said, galloping into his circle. He then looked to Dusk, who was covered in dirt and being held down on the circle, and frowned. “I’m really sorry, partner...”
“We did what we had to do, AJ,” Blitz said, flying to his rune circle as well. “He’ll forgive us after this is all over.”
“Are you all ready?” Celestia asked, one last time. They each responded affirmatively, except for Dusk, who was struggling even against the princess’s magic binds. “My apologies, Twilight.” Her horn then began to glow, and the markings below them started to light up and shine. Magic energy arced between the different symbols and letters, causing a soft hum to fill the air surrounding them. Celestia closed her eyes, brightening her horns glow, and the runes began to shine with power. Several of them put a foreleg to their eyes to shield them from the intense light.
Then, an extraordinary flash originated from Celestia’s horn, and a massive wave of yellow, crackling white energy erupted through the entire town.
Pain. Pain seared through her mind and her eyes flashed open, yet promptly closed when the equally painful light of the sun filled her vision. It took her a moment to finally open her eyes, and when the harsh brightness became more bearable, she saw the clear blue sky above her. Several more throbs of pain washed over her head before she realized she was on her back, and lying in some grass.
She put a hoof on the ground to steady herself, and with a weak push, Twilight Sparkle sat up.
The unicorn’s vision was blurry at first, but the first thing she noticed was that her mane was in her eyes. Brushing it away, her sight began to clear up, and she saw the quickly sharpening images of her friends around her. Then, she heard their pained groans as they started to get up - most likely with the same symptoms she was experiencing. In the middle of it all was Celestia, resting on the ground and seeming very tired, but with a clear smile on her face.
“Princess...?” Twilight groaned, rubbing her head as she looked to her mentor.
“Yes, it is I, Twilight,” the princess warmly responded. She had a very faint yet noticeable increase in her breath rate.
“Did it work?” the purple maned unicorn asked, beginning to stand up and survey the area.
“Indeed, it has. You, your friends and Spike are all back to your original forms,” Celestia replied, getting on all fours as well.
A particularly loud groan took their attention, which belonged to Rainbow Dash. One of her wings twitched as she rolled upright and rubbed her forehead. “Jeeze... not even crashing into mountain has given me a headache like this.”
“Ah can’t say I’ve had worse than this either...” Applejack grumbled, getting to her hooves. She picked up her nearby hat and placed it on her head, not bothering to fix it’s positioning.
“Anypony else feel like they ate too much candy?” a high pitched voice said, belonging to Pinkie Pie. She stood up and shook out her bouncy mane, wobbling in place slightly.
The final groan came from the white coated Rarity, who stood up on her third attempt. She kept her eyes closed as she massaged her temple and said “Goodness, I hope we never have to go through something like that again...”
“Me neither,” Spike added, pushing himself so he was sitting upright. He kept his balanced with one arm before fully standing and shaking off. “Feels like I fell down the library stairs... again.” Everypony, even the princess, gave a light chuckle at the dragon’s comment.
“So... we made it,” Fluttershy said, smiling to the rest of the group.
“Yes... yes we did,” Twilight declared, giving the rest of the group a grin. A loud gasp from Pinkie caught her attention.
“You know what this calls for!?” She excitedly asked, beaming. Before anypony could answer, she grabbed all of them in a large embrace and pulled them together. “A big hug!”
The eight of them laughed as they shared the victory together, holding each other closely and warmly. They continued for as long as they thought necessary, and when the laughter died down and they separated, Pinkie piped up again. “Oh, hey! You know what this really calls for?!”
Applejack chuckled and said “Ah bet I can guess.”
The whole of Ponyville had gathered in Sugarcube Corner, all packed together and surrounded by snacks and party goods. Applejack had spent all day baking with Pinkie, while Twilight and Dash had been inviting ponies to come. Rarity and Fluttershy worked together on decorations and custom party hats for the six of them. When everything had been finished and the moon began to rise over the horizon, everypony prepared for what would be one of Ponyville’s biggest celebrations. Celestia herself attended the party, and after much convincing, finally got Twilight to settle down and enjoy herself.