Edited and Preread by
Batty Gloom, Illustrious Q, Alexstrazsa, Rainbowdash64, El Oso, Lightsideluc
Cover Art By
Sequel to A Drop of Moonshine
Rainbow Dash fluttered her wings as she landed, her hooves sinking into the deep snow just outside Sugarcube Corner. She whipped her mane and lifted up her flight goggles before trotting into the warm, cozy interior of the bakery.
“Hey, Pinkie Pie, you got a seat for one more?”
Pinkie Pie poked her head up from behind a counter while balancing a tray of mugs on one hoof. “You bet I do! Sit wherever you like.”
Rainbow nodded and moved further into the shop. With Hearth’s Warming Eve just around the corner, Ponyville was becoming its own little winter wonderland. Every street, lamppost, and store window was decorated for the holiday. There was a snowpony on every corner, and numerous wreaths put a fresh pine scent in the air. Bells were ringing, carols were being sung, and holiday tidings were on everypony’s lips.
And the thing in everypony’s stomach was Pinkie Pie’s town famous Winter Warmth Hot Chocolate. During that time of year, or whenever the weather got cold and the icicles stretched long, Sugarcube Corner became more of a lodge than a bakery. It became a place for weary ponies to escape the chill in the air. They could melt the snow from their hooves by a fireplace, and warm their bellies with the sweetest, richest hot chocolate anypony had ever tasted.
Rainbow Dash crossed the room and plopped herself down in a chair at a table. Pinkie Pie soon delivered a cup of Winter Warmth Hot Chocolate just how Rainbow liked it: with extra whipped cream. “Thanks, Pinkie Pie. This is just what I need.”
“No problem,” Pinkie Pie said with a grin. “So, how was weather patrol today? Did you move clouds? Oh, did you see any clouds with fun shapes like balloons or candy or flowers or‒”
“Whoa, slow down Pinkie,” Rainbow said. She placed her hooves on her cup, letting its heat seep into her chilled limbs. “No, we didn’t see any fun clouds. We were too busy bringing in a snowstorm from Cloudsdale.” Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but shiver. “The coldest storm of the year.”
Pinkie Pie playfully stuck out her tongue. “I thought you told me pegasi don’t get cold.”
“I told you we don’t get cold as easily,” Rainbow corrected. “It’s thanks to all the high-altitude flying we do.”
“Hey, I was just teasing, Rainbow,” Pinkie Pie giggled as she turned to leave. “You just sit there, drink your hot chocolate, and I’ll go get you a cookie, fresh from the oven.”
Rainbow Dash chuckled, and lifted her her mug. “Thanks, but this is all I need.”
Pinkie Pie giggled, nodded, and quickly bounced off to go help other customers. This left Rainbow Dash with the drink she had been craving since she and the rest of the weather team had finished bringing in the snow storm.
Smiling, Rainbow licked her lips, and took the first delicate sip from her cup. As always, Pinkie Pie had gotten it just right, and Rainbow took a longer swig of the hot chocolate before she breathed a content sigh. Next to Sweet Apple Acres’ Cider, Pinkie Pie’s Winter Warmth Hot Chocolate was her favorite sweet drink.
Already feeling the hot chocolate’s heat in her stomach, Rainbow Dash leaned back in her seat. She lazily licked at the whip cream that clung to her upper lip, and she propped her hooves onto one of the empty chairs..
“Well, don’t you look as snug as a bug in a rug.”
Rainbow smirked and sat up in her seat as Applejack walked up to the table. The farm mare looked like she had been out in the weather all day. Little pieces of ice and snow were frozen to her coat as well as her boots and scarf. The rim of her hat even had icicles hanging from its edge.
“Yeah, and you look half frozen,” Rainbow said with a snort.
“Well, that’s what happens when you’re out all day in the snow chasin’ after critters,” Applejack said. She gave a shake, trying to cast off some of the ice and snow that was beginning to melt. She then approached one of the empty chairs at the table, removed her scarf, hung it on the back of the chair, and began the process of removing her boots.
“Let me guess, you were helping Fluttershy,” Rainbow Dash said before taking a sip of her hot chocolate.
Applejack nodded as she removed her first boot and began working on the second. “You know her, thinks those little critters of hers can’t go no-place without their lil’ booties. And today that rabbit of hers, Angel, wouldn’t have none of it. She and I chased that little fuzzball half way across Ponyville, and I dove into the snow more times than I can count tryin’ to grab that varmint.”
“Did you ever catch him?”
“Fluttershy did, eventually,” Applejack answered. She finished removing her boots, and took off her hat just long enough to brush the icicles off the rim. She then replaced it on her head and took her seat at the table. “But only because the little creature got his fill of the outdoors and went home to take a nap. Even then, she put them lil’ boots on that rabbit.”
It was then Pinkie Pie slipped up to the table and set a bit mug of hot chocolate with a tall dollop of whip cream right in front of Applejack. The sight of the beverage brought a smile to Applejack’s lips, and she turned that smile in Pinkie Pie’s direction. “Thanks a bunch, Sugarcube; I was just about to order one of these.”
“Oh, I know,” she replied.
“What, do you have a Pinkie Sense for when somepony wants to order hot chocolate?” Rainbow Dash asked.
Pinkie Pie giggled. “No, silly, I just know because when anypony comes in with that much snow on them, they’re here to get warm, and nothing warms a pony up like my Winter Warmth Hot Chocolate!”
Applejack nodded, hooked her hoof into the ring of the mug, and lifted it up above her head. “Cheers to that,” she said before taking a long swig of the hot chocolate. Like Pinkie Pie always guaranteed, it was the perfect temperature. Not hot enough to burn your tongue, but it still made you cozy on the inside.
“Ah, now that hit the spot,” Applejack said with a content sigh when she finished her first swig.
“Yeah, but it isn’t as good as your apple cider,” Rainbow Dash said.
“You still goin’ on about that?” Applejack asked. “Cider season ended back before Nightmare Night.”
“Hey, it isn’t my fault the cider you make is delicious!” Rainbow Dash complained. “I mean, why can’t you sell your cider year round, like you sell your apple jam?”
Applejack finished taking a drink of her hot chocolate and set down her nearly empty mug on the table. “Cause cider don’t keep like apple jam. It spoils right quick if it's left to set. I can only imagine those barrels I put down in the cellar are rancid by now.”
“Wait, what barrels?” Rainbow Dash asked, leaning in and lowering her voice to a whisper. “Are you saying you have some apple cider left?”
“Now don’t go gettin’ your hopes up, Rainbow. Even if that cider was fit to drink, it was a special order by Princess Celestia. Ever since the apple family started makin’ cider, the princess has always ordered some be delivered to Canterlot.”
Rainbow Dash cocked her head to one side. “Wait, then why is it in your cellar?”
“Cause, like I said, it was a special order,” Applejack explained. “Don’t know why, but this year Princess Celestia had me and mah family do somethin’ special to her barrels and then keep them in our cellar. She’s actually supposed to come by in a few days to taste the cider.”
Rainbow Dash downed the rest of her hot chocolate and wiped the small lingering whip cream from her lip. “Why would the princess need to taste it? Is she expecting it to taste bad or something?”
“I don’t rightly know,” Applejack said with a shrug. “Mah family and I just followed the instructions she gave us, but I guess I’ll see why she wants to taste it in a few days, cause I’ll be tastin’ it too.”
Rainbow Dash sat up in her chair, her eyes wide with disbelief. “Wait, she’s going to let you have some?!”
“Yep. She said there was somethin’ special about this cider, that this would be ‘real’ cider.” Applejack huffed and crossed her forelegs across her chest. “No offense to the princess, but I don’t think she knows what she’s talkin’ about. Our cider is just as real as anypony’s, but I—”
Before Applejack could say another word, Rainbow Dash leapt onto the table and brought her forehooves together pleadingly. “Oh, please Applejack, can you ask the princess if I can have some too? I only got two mugs last cider season, and Pinkie Pie got, like, fifty! It isn’t fair!”
“And you think it’s fair that I should ask Princess Celestia to share the cider she special ordered from us, even if it has been sittin’ in barrels for three months?”
“Yes!” Rainbow Dash replied in desperation. “I mean, we saved Equestria… twice. The least she could do is share some of her cider. Please, Applejack, I’m just asking for a little bit.”
“Rainbow, I think you and I need to have a discussion about just how much you like mah family’s cider,” Applejack commented before sighing and scratching the back of her neck. “But I suppose there’s no harm in askin’, ‘cept if the princess says no then I don’t want you makin’ a scene. Got it?”
Applejack looked up to make sure Rainbow Dash was listening, but her pegasus friend hadn’t heard a word beyond “Fine.” She was now rocking back and forth in her seat, a huge grin on her face as she chanted, “I’m gonna get some cider. I’m gonna get some cider.”
A few days later, with Luna’s moon rising into the sky, Applejack lead Rainbow Dash across the snow covered ground of Sweet Apple Acres. The pair rounded to the far side of the barn and, after digging in the snow a little, was able to find the entry door to Applejack’s apple cellar. It was the place usually used to store the jars of apple jam the family made, which helped keep the Apple family economically afloat and fed during the winter months.
After descending into the cellar, Applejack lit the oil lanterns. The gentle glow of the flame reflected off the many stacked shelves of jars. Yet, at the very back of the cellar, stacked in a corner and pushed out of the way, were a half dozen large barrels: barrels Rainbow Dash recognized.
“Oh, there they are!” Rainbow Dash said. She rushed ahead and pounced on the nearest barrel. She hugged it to her chest and licked her lips to hold back her quickly forming drool. “Oh, you sweet, sweet cider. You’re all mine.”
Applejack grabbed Rainbow Dash by the tail and hauled her off the barrel. “Now don’t go marryin’ it, Rainbow! These are Princess Celestia’s barrels. You can only have some if she says it’s okay, and only if you help me get these out of here.”
“Out of here? Wait, where are we taking them?”
“We’re taking them to the Cozy Stable, that inn in town. Princess Celestia reserved a room there and that’s where she wants to taste the cider,” Applejack answered. She pulled one of the barrels off the stack, laid it on its side, and began to roll it towards the cellar door. “Or did you honestly expect the princess to taste the cider down here in my cellar?”
“Well, maybe… it’s a nice cellar,” Rainbow Dash answered as she grabbed a barrel as well and began to roll it to the door.
“That it is,” Applejack said with a laugh, “but I don’t think any cellar in the world, no matter how nice, can really be special enough for the princess.”
Rainbow Dash nodded her head as she and Applejack left the first pair of barrels by the door and went back to fetch two more. “I guess that makes sense. Speaking of special, you said that there was something special about this cider.”
“There sure is. Princess Celestia had us follow a very specific recipe.”
“Which was?” Rainbow Dash asked as the pair of mares got another set of barrels and began rolling them towards the door.
“Well, if I remember it correctly, first we took some of our plain cider. Then we had to simmer it for almost an hour. Just simmer it; we weren’t supposed to let it boil at all, otherwise Princess Celestia said the end result would be ‘hazy’. Then we had to stir in a few big spoonfuls of honey.”
“Honey?” Rainbow Dash echoed. “I never thought about adding honey to cider before. I wonder if that makes it taste better.”
“It would make it sweeter, at least, ” Applejack said as the pair of mares delivered their latest barrels near the door and went back to fetch the last few.
“Was that all the princess wanted you to do?” Rainbow Dash asked.
“No,” Applejack said with a shake of her head. “After that we had to pour the cider into nice, clean barrels and add yeast to them. Then the princess had us seal them up tight with these here special corks.” Applejack paused and pointed to one of the last barrels. The corks in question were still primarily made of cork wood, but in the center there was a metal device.
“What’s that?” Rainbow Dash asked as she looked at the cork more closely.
“Well, when I had Twilight take a look at it, she says that it’s some kind of fancy one way valve. It lets air out of the barrel, but don’t let any in,” Applejack answered as she took a barrel and tipped it on its side.
“It only lets air out? But then how did the air get inside the barrel in the first place?” Rainbow Dash asked. She took the last barrel from the stack, and then saw a large red crystal on the floor. The barrels had been sitting on it. “And what’s that?”
“A warming crystal I got from Twilight. Princess Celestia said these barrels need to be kept at a certain temperature but there was no room for them in the house. So that crystal kept them warm.”
Rainbow Dash scratched her head in confusion. “Honey, yeast, special corks, warmth? Why would the princess want you to do all this to the cider?”
Applejack shrugged again and began rolling her last barrel towards the door. “I don’t really know. Like I said, I’m gonna to be surprised if this here cider hasn’t spoiled. Now, come on, let’s get this stuff to the princess.”
Princess Celestia smiled as she lay on the bed provided by the Cozy Stable. It was obvious the owners of the little inn weren’t used to playing host to royalty, but they had done their best to accommodate Celestia in every way they could. They had turned the downstairs dining room of the inn, usually reserved for private parties, into a suite for the princess. Two beds had been pushed together to create something large enough for her to sleep on, and all the finest furniture from around the inn had been collected and placed in the room.
In truth, Celestia would have been happy with far less fuss, but as usual trying to tell that to her little ponies had proven fruitless. Still, she’d ensure they were properly compensated. She’ll leave a large tip and perhaps make a royal recommendation, which almost guaranteed a business would do well for years to come.
At the moment, that concern was not what pressed at the front of Celestia’s mind. It was a thirst, one that had been haunting her since late summer. One glass, it was only supposed to be that one glass of Luna’s Moonshine. It was only supposed to be that single night of overindulgence and the occasional evening sip after that.
Yet, old vices had proven… stronger than she had anticipated. The relief that came with a single glass of moonshine after a long day was almost as sweet as the drink itself, but Luna did not make the beverage frequently enough to sate her thirst. She needed more, something to supplement what Luna was providing.
Luna was being understanding, thankfully. Celestia’s dear sister had done what she herself could not. Luna had repealed the Dry Equestria Act, which banned the production and sale of alcohol in Equestria. Yet, this had come with conditions. If Celestia re-introduced Equestria to alcohol too quickly, or if it became too big of problem for her or the populace, Luna would sign the law back into effect and stop making her moonshine as well.
The thought of having to quit cold turkey again made Celestia shiver. She had been forced to do that nearly a thousand years ago, and that was not an experience she wanted to repeat. So she had to act slowly, carefully, and maintain control.
Thus, to ensure her control of the situation, Celestia turned to the most honest pony in Equestria. An honest mare who possessed the integrity and patience to make a quality product and to not sell it irresponsibly when she became informed of its dangers.
A knock came at the door, drawing Princess Celestia from her thoughts. She smiled, rose from her bed and set down the book she had been reading between the idle wanderings of her mind. With a flick of her horn the door opened, and, a few moments later, the honest pony she had entrusted rolled a barrel through the door.
Applejack brought the barrel a few feet into the room. She then turned, removed her hat, and bowed to Celestia. “Good evenin’, princess.”
“Good evening to you too, Applejack,” Princess Celestia said with a gentle smile on her lips. She strode towards Applejack, but couldn’t keep herself from glancing over at the barrel. She uttered a silent prayer that it contained the liquid she sought and then looked back to Applejack. “I trust you are well.”
“I sure am, your highness,” Applejack replied as she rose from her bow and placed her hat back on her head.
“And I trust this is part of my order.”
Applejack nodded and tapped her hoof on the barrel. “Yes, princess, and the rest of the barrels are outside in a cart. They’re ready to be shipped out to Canterlot as soon as ya give this here cider a taste.”
“As soon as we give this a taste,” Celestia corrected. She picked the barrel up in her magic and began levitating it across the room. “While I made this order for myself, Applejack, I want to share it with you as well. I believe this particular recipe could be very beneficial to your family.”
“Oh, well… uh, speaking of tastin’, your highness, I was wonderin’…” Applejack trailed off and shifted anxiously in her hooves.
Celestia set the barrel down on a nearby table and gently popped the cork from the side. She allowed herself a moment to sniff the freed aromas and her smile only widened. It smelled perfect. “Yes, Applejack, what is it?”
“Well, ya see, I didn’t mean ta, but I kind of mentioned your order when I was sittin’ with Rainbow Dash at Sugarcube Corner. So we got to talkin’, and one thing led to another and… well, would you mind if she tasted it with us? It’s just she’s a real big fan of mah family’s cider, and, I don’t know why, but she always ends up gettin’ the least of anypony in Ponyville.”
Celestia set the cork of the barrel off to one side and lit her horn as she began to feed her magic into the barrel. “I don’t see any reason why not. Good cider like this should be shared, after all.”
“Yes!” Rainbow Dash shouted loudly. She had been hiding just outside the door, and, upon hearing the princess, she flew into the room and began to dance energetically in the air. “I’m gonna get some cider. I’m gonna get some cider. I’m gonna get some ci—”
Applejack yanked Rainbow Dash out of the air by her tail and quickly put her hoof over her mouth. Applejack then laughed weakly and forced a smile as she looked over at the princess. “I’m sorry about that, your highness, she just… really likes my family’s cider.”
“It’s quite all right; your family’s cider is renowned for its flavor. Just give me a moment more. I need to remove the sediments,” Celestia said. Her magic sank down into the barrel, probing its depths for miniscule granules of sediment. Bit by bit, she began filtering the liquid inside, gathering and removing the particulates, and levitating them into the trash bin by the door.
“What are you talkin’ about, sediments?” Applejack asked. She moved over beside the princess and put her fore hooves on the table so she could look at the barrel. “There weren’t anything wrong with that cider when it was put in that barrel.”
“Oh, no, I’m sure there wasn’t. These sediments were created by the yeast I had you add,” Princess Celestia explained as she continued to work with her magic. “You see, Applejack, the yeast has done something rather special to your cider. It’s turned this barrel of soft cider into something a little stronger.”
“How is cider supposed to be ‘stronger?’” Rainbow Dash asked. She hovered over beside the princess and sniffed at the air. “And why does it smell different?”
“As I said, this cider has changed, but hopefully you’ll find the flavor just as enjoyable,” Princess Celestia said as her magic withdrew the last of the yeast sediments. She then turned her attention to the far side of the room, where her luggage sat tucked away in a corner. With practiced efficiency, Celestia opened up a pouch on the luggage and withdrew from it a special cork with a spout built in.
The princess inspected the spout, making sure it was in the same condition it had been in when she packed it, before she fit it snugly into the mouth of the barrel. She then levitated the barrel off the table and into a special wooden rack that had been set up against a wall of the room. The rack allowed the barrel to lie on its side without rolling, and it put the newly inserted spout at an easily accessible position.
“Now, let’s take a look.” With that, Princess Celestia used her magic to pick up a tray on her bedside table. The tray had a stack of sandwiches on it along with several clean, crystal clear glass mugs. She set the tray down on the table beside her, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash, took up one of the glass mugs, and filled it from spout in the barrel.
Mug filled to the brim, Celestia held the cider up to the light and inspected it with a discerning eye. “The color is good and the clarity is wonderful, though that’s mostly because I removed the sediments,” she mused before glancing at Applejack. “In the future, I would suggest not shaking the barrels so much. This sediment naturally settles. You can siphon off the clear liquid into a clean barrel easily enough if you don’t roll it around.”
“Oh, uh... okay, I guess that’s good to know,” Applejack said, still unsure what was so special about this cider.
“Yes, but let’s see if it tastes as good as it looks, shall we?”
Celestia tipped the mug to her lips and drew a small sip onto her tongue. Though it could not compare to Luna’s Moonshine, the princess was more than pleased with the hard cider. It had a rich, earthy taste, while still remaining sweet. It was warm on the tongue, as cider should be, and, most importantly, it had just the right strength. The alcoholic content was not overpowering, but neither was it weak. It was almost perfect, which was more than Celestia could have hoped for from Applejack’s very first batch.
“So, how is it? It isn’t rancid, is it?” Applejack asked nervously.
“Oh, no, of course not, Applejack. It tastes just wonderful,” Celestia assured her. “I can tell you followed my instructions to the letter, though in the next batch perhaps consider adding another spoonful of honey.”
Applejack smiled and watched as the princess took another drink from her mug. “Well, shoot, of course. I just wish I knew honey would help apple cider keep earlier. Mah family would have started storin’ this stuff over the winter years ago.”
“Oh no, Applejack, it wasn’t the honey that allowed the cider to keep. It was the yeast,” Celestia explained. “I’ll elaborate on what happened to this cider in the morning. Right now, I believe it’s time we enjoyed this wonderful hard cider with this tray of sandwiches. And I do suggest you eat something as we drink… It will lessen the effects.”
Applejack cocked her head to one side. Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, had hardly heard a word. She was licking her lips and drooling as Celestia filled two more mugs from the barrel. The princess then set the mugs down on the table and motioned for Applejack and Rainbow Dash to sit.
“Cheers!” Celestia said before tipping back her own glass mug.
Applejack and Rainbow Dash smiled from their seats at the table, slipped their hooves through the handles of the mugs and lifted their mugs to the air as well. “Cheers,” they said back to Celestia. The pair followed suit and tipped back their mugs and began to drink. Applejack, however, choked on her first gulp, and she was forced to set her mug down on the table and cough while Rainbow Dash downed her whole mug in a few swift gulps.
“What… what happened to it?” Applejack asked between her coughs. “I know our cider supposed to have a bite to it, but nothin’ that strong.”
“That’s another effect of the yeast you added, Applejack,” Celestia answered after finishing off her own mug. “Like I told you, it made the cider a bit stronger.”
“Well, I like it!” Rainbow Dash proclaimed happily as she set her now empty mug on the table. She looked over at the barrel, unable to resist licking her lips as she asked, “Do you think I could have some more?”
Celestia nodded while levitating a sandwich in front of Rainbow Dash. “Yes, of course, but why don’t you try eating something first and giving Applejack time to finish her mug? We wouldn’t want to drink more than our fair share, now would we?”
Rainbow Dash shook her head and took the sandwich from Celestia’s magic. “No way! That’s what Pinkie Pie does every year. She’s always first in line and she gets like thirty big mugs and it isn’t fair! If she got even half that then they wouldn’t run out of cider by the time I got to the front of the line.”
“Oh, quit your bellyachin’ and eat your food,” Applejack snipped before taking another gulp. Now that she knew what to expect from the cider, she was able to swallow it down with a lot less fuss. It still tasted like her families cider: a rich apple flavor with a warm, sweet aftertaste. The cider’s bite, however, had a bit of warmth to it. it also fizzled on her tongue and in her throat, almost like soda.
Celestia watched Applejack finish her first mug, and she kept a careful eye on both her and Rainbow Dash as they enjoyed the sandwiches as well. The trio then enjoyed a second round of what Celestia kept calling “hard cider.” It wasn’t long after the second mug that Applejack shook her head and glanced over at Rainbow Dash.
“Hey, Rainbow, are you feelin’… different?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, sending soggy, half-chewed chunks of bread into the air as she talked through the half-chew sandwich in her mouth.
“I don’t know. I’m just startin’ to feel kind of… well, I guess I’d call it relaxed. Like I got to sit down after a long day of workin’ the fields. Are you feelin’ anything, princess?”
Celestia smiled and began to refill the three mugs. “No, not just yet, but then again I’m twice your size, my little ponies. It takes a bit more of this hard cider to help me unwind.”
“And why do you keep callin’ it that?” Applejack asked as she grabbed one of the sandwiches for herself and took a big bite.
“Oh, I’ll explain that in the morning, after you’ve had a chance to experience the effects of this drink on a first-hoof basis. Now, who’s ready for some more?”
More mugs of cider and sandwiches later, Celestia once more had a pleasant rosiness to her cheeks and a slight slur in her speech. The cider had proven itself a little stronger than Celestia initially believed. She had not expected herself to get this drunk on the amount she had consumed. Rainbow Dash and Applejack were thankfully a few mugs behind her, but at the same time their smaller sizes meant they were already waist deep in the inebriating effect of the alcohol.
“Ha! I told you ya cooouldn’t beat me!” Applejack shouted as she slapped her hoof down on the table. Over the course of the last two minutes, the alcohol in the cider had brought out both Rainbow Dash’s and Applejack’s more competitive natures. In short order they’d had three hoof wrestling contests, two staring contests, a drinking contest to see who could empty a full mug first, and then another staring contest, which Applejack had just won.
“Staring contests are sssstupid anyway,” Rainbow Dash sputtered before taking another bite of what would be her fourth sandwich of the evening and proceeding to talk with her mouth full. “There’s no skill to it. I bet Twilight could win a staring contest.”
Applejack snorted, and lifted her half-empty mug to her lips. “Against a sorry ssstarer like you, sure she would.”
“Twilight can’t beat me.”
“She beat yyy’all in a race didn’t she?”
Rainbow Dash pointed her hoof accusingly at Applejack. “Hey, she… she… she beat the both of us.”
“Cause y’all were slowin’ me down,” Applejack retorted. “I could’a won if y’all hadn’t kept dis… distruct… makin’ me run slower.”
“No, no, no, it’s because of you I didn’t win,” Rainbow Dash argued.
“Y’all got yerself all…” Applejack paused, waving her hoof in a circular pattern before she dropped it down on the table. “Turned around. It was yer fault.”
“No, it was your fault.”
“It was yer fault.”
“It was your fault.”
“Mares, please,” Celestia said, drawing Rainbow and Applejack’s attention away from their argument. The princess then took a moment to drink down one more gulp of the hard cider before she wiped her mouth with a hoof and stood up from the table. “We aren’t here to fight, we’re here… we’re here to enjoy good cider with… with… good cider. No, wait… that’s not right.”
Celestia shifted on her hooves, bringing her hind legs together. “We’re here to enjoy good cider with… with… We’re here to… to…” Celestia shut her eyes, trying to concentrate on what she wanted to say. Still, the act of standing up to end the argument between Applejack and Rainbow Dash had shifted Celestia’s attention to the lower regions of her digestive track. She began to shift on her hooves anxiously and she crossed her back legs.
“We’re here to… to… We are here to… pee,” Celestia said, unable to deny nature’s call anymore. She spun on her hooves, and with her magic threw open the bathroom door. “I need to pee” was the last thing to escape Celestia’s lips before she galloped into the bathroom. The door then slammed shut behind her.
And in the wake of Celestia’s abrupt bathroom run, Applejack and Rainbow Dash simply stared at the empty space the princess had once occupied. They did nothing, said nothing, and just sat there with half-open eyes as their inebriated minds tried to process what had happened. Applejack took another drink from her mug, Rainbow Dash swallowed the last bite of her sandwich, and only then did the pair turn to look at one another.
“You know, it was yer fault,” Applejack finally said before finishing off the last of the cider in her mug.
“No, it was your fault,” Rainbow Dash snapped.
“No it wasn’t.”
“I’m only goin ta tell ya this once more,” Applejack said. She held up a hoof, trying to sound serious despite the fact she was swaying a little. “Just once, and the thing I’m… I’m only going to tell you once, this one time, is that… it was yer fault… and I can beat you anytime, anywhere.”
“Oh yeah, prove it!”
With a relieved smile, Celestia opened the door to the bathroom and stepped out. That was one problem with drinks that had a lower alcohol content compared to her sister’s Moonshine; she had to drink more to get as drunk and all that liquid tended to go straight through her. Still, she had done her business. She approached the table, and with a flurry of her magic took up her mug and held it in a toast.
“As I was saying. Good cider is meant to be enjoyed with good friends. Cheers!” Celestia swung back her mug, downing the rest before slamming it down onto the table with a triumphant smile. She then looked to where Rainbow Dash and Applejack should have been sitting, only to find a pair of empty chairs and empty mugs.
“Wait… you, you two were here when I left,” Celestia said. “But, now you're not here, and if you're not here that means you're gone, and if you're gone that means you're gone and drunk, and if you're gone and drunk…”
Celestia’s alcohol addled mind turned over the chain of thought slowly. They were gone and they were drunk. They were drunk and gone, and that was… that was a bad thing, she was sure of it. She couldn't think of why, but… she knew it was a bad thing.
“I… need to find them,” Celestia told herself. She stepped away from the table and to the door. She turned the handle and tried to push her way through. The door, however, wouldn’t budge. Celestia furrowed her eyebrows in frustration and began pushing against the door with more effort. She pressed her shoulder against it, trying to force it open.
“I am Princess Celestia of Equestria!” she announced to the door, as if it was a rebellious beast that would heed her words. “I… I make the moon go up and the sun go down… no, wait… I make the sun come up and the moon… no. I do things, and I demand that you. Open. This. Moment.”
Despite Celestia’s demand, the door refused to budge. Taking the door’s rebellion as if it was a usurper to her throne, Celestia wrapped it in magic. She pulled on it, with the intention of forcing it forward with all her might. Yet, when her magic pulled on the door, it applied force in the correct direction. The door willing swung open towards Celestia and smacked her in the nose.
The sudden blow sent the princess reeling back. She stumbled past the table, knocking it over and sending everything on it to the floor. She then tripped over her own hooves, fell into the barrel of cider that was in the wooden rack near the wall, and dropped to the floor with a small thud.
Celestia might have remained there for a time, just recovering from her fall, but she felt something cold splashing down on her head. The cold liquid sent her bolting up, and with panicked eyes she looked to its source. As she had fallen to the floor, she had knocked the spout-cork out of the barrel, and the precious amber cider was now spilling out across the floor. It was a tragic sight, which made Celestia forget about Rainbow Dash and Applejack’s absence.
She instead focused her full attention on saving her precious cider from the cruel fate of being spilled on the floor.
Desperate to save the cider, Celestia laid on her back and put her head beneath the barrel. She drank as quickly as the cider came out, trying to keep the liquid from being wasted. At the same time, she felt around the floor with her magic in search of the spout.
It was only after Celestia had gulped down a few dozen swallows of cider, and was about to cough and choke on it, when she found the cork-spout beneath the table. She slammed it into the hole, stopping the flow of cider before she herself let her limbs fall limp in the sizable puddle of cider that now occupied the floor.
“Oh… oh boy,” Celestia said to herself as she rolled onto her stomach and worked to sit up. She stumbled and leaned against the wall as she started to feel the effects of the extra alcohol she had just guzzled. “I’m… I’m about to get really drunk, and… and there was something else. There was… Applejack, and… and… and that mare with the rainbow mane. The one that likes… likes to dash around. What was her name? Rarity? Fluttershy? Soarin’?”
Celestia shook her head and began making her way to the door of the room. “Well, whatever her name is, I need to find her. I need to find her and Applejack, because… because… Why do I need to find them again?”
Celestia stopped and scratched her head with a hoof as she tried to recollect why she needed to find those two mares. Her mind, however, was growing fuzzier by the moment and in the end she was only able to grasp on a single thought.
“I’m sure Twilight knows.”
With a small thud, a fresh log found itself in the fireplace, feeding the flames that were flickering within the hearth. At the same time, Twilight snuggled up in her blanket, sipped from a warm cup of tea, and started reading the next chapter from her new book: Wonderful Winter Traditions in Trottingham.
The cooler months of Equestria’s winter were an ample excuse to curl up with a good story at night, and she taking advantage of it. She was pleasantly warm all over. Spike had gone to bed so he could wake up early to help Rarity with something. All was quiet, all was peaceful, and it was just a perfect evening at—
Twilight jumped, and the sudden motion sent her book and her tea flying downwards. A surge of magic let Twilight grab the tea before it spilt, but the book slammed against the floor. Twilight picked up the book as quickly as it had hit the floor and an annoyed groan escaped her lips. Several pages on the interior were bent, and one of the hardcover’s corners was smashed in. “Horseapples,” Twilight groused. “This book’s a day old and now it looks like I lent it to Rainbow for a week.”
Knock– Knock– Knock–
Twilight cursed and bemoaned the interruption of her quiet evening before she pulled herself out from her warm spot on the couch. She began walking to the front door, and, as she did, she mulled over who would be knocking so late at night. The quick rhythm of the knocks made Twilight believe it was one of two things. It could be one of her friends with an emergency, and, if that was the case, she’d need her boots, her scarf, and possibly a book pertinent to situation. The pony at the door, however, could just as easily be Pinkie Pie wanting to throw an ill-timed party.
“Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said as she wrapped her magic around the door handle. “It’s too late and cold for a party, and—”
The rest of Twilight’s words died in her throat. The pony she found when she opened the door was none of her friends, and in fact wasn’t a pony from Ponyville. It was Celestia, and, the moment the door was open all the way, she stepped forward and leaned against the frame with a drunken smile on her lips and a blush on her cheeks. “Hey, hey… hey Twilight. You’re looking especially purple today.”
Celestia couldn’t help but giggle at her own joke. Twilight, on the other hoof, furrowed her eyebrows and looked at Celestia with disappointment and a twinge of anger.
“Princess Celestia! I thought Princess Luna promised not to let you get this drunk again.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Lu-Lu was being a… a proper stick in the mud,” Celestia complained before raising her voice. "Stop drinking all that moonshine. You can’t have any more of my moonshine. I’m not making you any more moonshine.” She brought her voice back down, and refocused on Twilight. “So you know what I told her? I told her I don’t need your stinkin’ moonshine.
“Well…” Celestia shifted, taking her weight off the door frame just to lean over and scratch her other shoulder on the other side of the frame. “I didn’t say that… but, but I thought it, and then I thought I’d make my own.”
“What do you mean, ‘make your own?’”
“I had somepony make some,” Celestia said with a firm nod before she smiled. “Sure, it was illegal, but Luna repealed the law. S-s-she kind of had to, since she’s been making moonshine. I mean… what would ponies say if they knew Lu-Lu was breaking the law? Do you know?” Celestia then leaned in close to Twilight, her face shifting to one of extreme curiosity. “No, seriously, do you know? I can’t remember right now.”
Twilight stepped back, waving her hoof at the pungent smell of alcohol that was flowing from Celestia’s mouth. “Your breath smells like bad cider.”
“Hey!” Celestia barked, “it was good cider. Your friend Applejack was… true to her name.” Celestia snorted, and began to giggle to herself. “I… I never noticed that before. Your friend’s named after alcohol, really good alcohol. Hey, you think Applejack would make me some applejack?”
Twilight rubbed her temple. Seeing Celestia like this was bringing back bad memories and a headache. Despite Twilight’s prayer that somepony else might arrive to deal with the inebriated Celestia, she knew that, for the moment, the princess was her problem.
“Princess Celestia, how did you get drunk if it wasn’t from Princess Luna’s Moonshine?”
“I told you, it was good cider. It was real cider! It wasn’t that silly stuff Applejack sells during… during cider season.”
“You got like this from Applejack’s cider?”
Celestia nodded her head, and kept nodding as if she was bobbing her head to a song with a deep, thumping bass. It took Twilight waving her hoof in front of Celestia’s eyes that finally got the princess to stop and look up her. “Oh, hey Twilight… w-when did you get here? Do you want some hard cider? Applejack, Rainbow, and I are tasting it, and it tastes goooooood.”
“No princess, I don’t want—” Twilight began, only to freeze up and look at Celestia with narrow, panicked eyes. “Wait, Applejack and Rainbow were drinking with you!?”
“Oh yeahhhhh,” Celestia slurred. “They were drinking with me. They got drunk too, and it was funny. They were arguing, and having staring contests. They never asked me to play. W-why didn’t they ask me to play, Twilight? I bet I be really good at a staring contest. See, I’ll… I’ll prove it.”
At that Princess Celestia lowered her head down. She put herself right at eye level with Twilight, and then she just began to stare. She stared unerringly, unblinking, and unmoving, as if she had been petrified. Even her mane, which usually flowed continuously, slowed to a stop as the princess concentrated on staring into Twilight's eyes.
“Princess Celestia, I don’t think now’s a good time to—” Twilight began, only to blink part way through her sentence and make Celestia giggle.
“Hah, I won! I am the staring champion Of. The. World!” Celestia cheered. She threw her hooves into the air and continued to celebrate, even as she toppled over onto her back. She hit the floor hard, causing some of the furniture around the room to bounce a little. Still, the hard hit couldn’t stop Celestia’s joy. She kicked her legs in the air in jubilation, and continued to laugh her head off while Twilight rush up to her side.
“Princess!? Are you all right?"
“Pshhhhh, of course I am. Why, cause I jush beat you—” She punctuated her words by extending a hoof and pressing it against Twilight’s nose. “—at a staring contest!” Celestia then tried to muster her most serious expression, though she only succeeded in making it look like she had to sneeze. “I have taught you many val... vaual... good things, my faithful student, but you still have much to learn, youthful cricket.”
Celestia began to haul herself off the ground, her face once more falling into a giddy grin. “But your staring is improving, my juvenile junebug. I’m sure you’ll beat me if we... play again.” Celestia snorted at her own cleverness, and she lowered herself down in preparation for round two.
“Princess, we can’t be playing games right now,” Twilight lectured as she turned away from Celestia and crossed the room to where her winter boots were resting on the wall. “We need to find where Applejack and Rainbow Dash ran off to. If they’re as drunk as you are, they could get themselves hurt!”
Twilight jumped into her boots, grabbed her scarf of the wall, and turned back to look at Celestia. “Now, where is the last place you—”
“Ssssshhhh, I’m winning.”
Twilight struggled against a sudden and overwhelming urge to face-hoof. Celestia had discovered the small mirror she had recently hung by the door and was now having a staring contest with her reflection. Celestia’s stare was unwavering, and it looked like her eyes were beginning to water from the strain, yet she did not stop.
“Princess Celestia,” Twilight said again.
Celestia didn’t take her eyes off the mirror, but waved a hoof in Twilight’s general direction. “Sshsshsshsshsshssh!”
It was then Celestia blinked, and the air in the library took on a sudden stillness. She shut her eyes, and began to suck in a deep breath. Twilight couldn’t help but take an anxious step back. Celestia just kept drawing more and more air in, and her expression was as cold and unforgiving as stone. Twilight braced herself, fearing the verbal lashing that she had just earn. Yet, before it could begin, Celestia’s face cracked into a smile. She swung her hoof forward, and, with every ounce of volume her voice could produce, she shouted, “Hah, you blinked first!”
Celestia then leaned into the mirror, resting her horn against the wall as she continued to relish her victory. “I… I saw your eyes closing before mine closed. You can’t deny it. You lose, I win. You have ugly fish skin.”
Twilight released the tense, worried breath she had been holding, and then shook her head. She grabbed Celestia by her mane and began moving towards the door. “Come on, Princess.”
“Ww-where are weee going?” Celestia asked as she was guided outside.
“To find Rainbow Dash and Applejack,” Twilight replied.
“Applejack? We’re going to find Applejack?” Celestia asked before she smiled and bounded ahead of Twilight. She pranced through the door and leapt onto the thin layer of snow outside while singing, “We’re going to find Applejack, we’re going to find Applejack!”
Twilight could only sigh and pull the library door shut behind her before following Celestia into the street. “This is going to be a long night.”
Twilight scanned the deserted intersection, trying to spot any sign of Rainbow Dash or Applejack. She and Celestia had started their search at the inn, hoping to pick up the duo's trail. Unfortunately, the well traveled snow that covered Ponyville’s streets was making that difficult. There was also another, white-coated distraction that was making it difficult for Twilight to focus on the task at hoof.
A cold, wet mass struck the back of Twilight’s head and sent a shiver crawling down her spine. She lifted a hoof and brushed away the snow that now clung to her mane before looking back at Celestia. The princess was making a lackluster attempt to whistle and look innocent, even though she was already holding another snowball in her magic.
“Princess, I told you, we can’t have a snowball fight right now! We need to find Applejack and Rainbow Dash! Now put the snowball down.”
Celestia giggled drunkenly. “Oookay, Twilight, I’ll put it down.”
This time, the snowball hit Twilight in her side, and once more she quickly brushed away the wet, clumpy snow before she turned to face the princess. “Princess Celestia, please, no more snowballs.”
Celestia only continued to giggle as she took up more snow in her magic. Instead of patting it into a ball, she instead shaped it into a cube. Twilight tried to raise her voice and hoof in protest, but the snow cube was already in flight. It arched in the air and found its target.
Celestia’s giggles evolved into full on laughter in celebration of her greatest snowball triumph. She had just hit Twilight square in the nose, splattering the wet snow all across her student’s face.
The sudden flash of coldness against her cheeks, eyelids, and forehead made Twilight yelp. She stumbled back and feverishly used her hooves to try and wipe off the snow. ”Ah, Princess Celestia, that’s cold!”
“Rr-really, are you sure?” Celestia slurred as a mischievous grin formed on her face. “Maybe we need to make sure. How… how about I throw one more?”
“Princess, no!” Twilight said as she took an anxious step back.
“D-don’t you remember what I told you last time, Twilight? You… You can’t tell me what to do. Only I can tell me. So, it’s… it’s not Princess, no. No, it’s Princess, yes!” Celestia countered before she took up another clump of snow in her magic. She formed it into a square shape and then, after taking a moment to aim, Celestia unleashed her frozen fury.
The snowball sailed through the air with a near perfect arc. Twilight, however, saw the frigid attack was coming and had prepared her own magic. She caught the cube of packed snow, and, before she could think about what she was doing, she hurled it back. The snow cube splattered across Celestia’s face, and for a moment Twilight’s lips curled in a smile.
“Ha! How do you—” It was then Twilight’s smile fell into a frown as she realized what she had done. “Oh, Princess Celestia, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean… Well, I did kind of mean to, but I’m sorry! You aren’t hurt, are you?”
Celestia slowly, methodically wiped snow from her face. Only when every flake had been removed did she look to Twilight. Her face was cold, stern, and unforgiving. She looked as if she was about to punish, or at least lecture, her student for striking her teacher with snow. Twilight couldn’t help but shrink back, fearing the worst from the princess. Yet, instead of saying something, Princess Celestia began to smile. It started out small, but it grew until it was as large as her face would allow. At the same time, Celestia began to pick up and shape a few dozen clumps of snow in her magic.
“N-now Princess,” Twilight said, trying to keep herself from being pelted by the volley of snow Celestia was preparing. “D-don’t you think we should find Applejack and Rainbow Dash? I mean… I mean…” Twilight searched for her words, trying to remember how she had persuaded Celestia to do something the last time she was drunk. “I mean, wouldn’t a snowball fight be more fun if there were more ponies?”
Twilight’s face strained under the unnatural grin she forced upon it. Even in the cold of night, she was sweating bullets. She glanced to the looming snowball onslaught and then looked back to Celestia. This seemed to be the key to dealing with the princess, at least when she was drunk. Make her think she was getting what she wanted until she decided she wanted something else.
Princess Celestia mulled over this suggestion for a time. Her face took on an expression of contemplation. She acted like deciding to find Applejack and Rainbow Dash was tantamount to starting a war, and she had to carefully consider her options. She tilted her head at odd angles, and looked over Twilight as she thought. In the end, after a minute of contemplation, she dropped her snowballs and began to trot down the street away from Twilight.
“Princess Celestia, where are you going?” Twilight asked as she trotted to catch up to her mentor.
“To get Applejack and Rainbow Dash,” the princess answered.
“But we don’t know where they are.”
Celestia giggled again, and shook her head. “Nope, I know where they are. I saw… I saw them back here. They were… were bucking at trees.”
“You saw them and you didn’t say anything?” Twilight asked, a bit dumbfounded. “Why wouldn’t you say something? That’s the whole reason we’re out here!”
“H-hey, I was making a snowball and it was taking all my… concretation.”
“Concentration,” Twilight corrected.
“It’s concentration. You said concretation.”
Celestia giggled again, and stumbled a little from her own laughter. “That’s not a word, Twilight! Why… why are you ma-making up silly words like that?”
“I didn’t make it up! I was… ugh, nevermind!”
“C… c’mon you gosh darn tree! Give me… give me yer apples before I buck ya ta… ta… ta… shoot, before I buck ya some more.”
“What’s the matter, Applejack? I thought you were going to… going to buck circles around me.”
“I am! You ain’t got a single apple yet.”
Twilight rounded a corner to the sound of hooves striking bark and slurred insults, and finally allowed herself to breathe a sigh of relief. Halfway down the block, in one of Ponyville’s many parks, she saw the two wayward mares.
Applejack and Rainbow Dash were stumbling and swaying, but they weren’t letting that slow them down. Each was bucking at her own tree, and it looked as if the pair had been at it for a long time. They were both sweating bullets, and the bark on the trees themselves was starting to crack and fall off from the constant abuse.
“There you two are,” Twilight said, the relief clear in her voice. She and Celestia galloped up, though Celestia was more interested in the nearby frozen pond. With a gleeful squeal she stepped onto the pond and began to slide around, using her wings for propulsion. Twilight would have likely tried to warn Celestia about hurting herself but, at the moment, her greater concern was Applejack and Rainbow Dash.
“I’m so glad we found you two,” Twilight said as she stepped up to Applejack, who was still trying to buck the tree. “I’ve been so worried. Celestia came by the library drunk, and she told me you two had been drinking with her. I was afraid that you’d two get into Poison Joke or hurt yourselves or… or…” Twilight could not concentrate on her concerns anymore, the constant thud of Applejack bucking drawing her attention.
“What are you two doing?”
“An… apple bucking… contest,” Applejack said between bucks.
“You’re having an apple bucking contest? Here? Now?”
Applejack swayed a little on her hooves, but regained her balance and resumed bucking. “Y-yep. First to… to… Rainbow? How we decidin’ who wins again?”
Rainbow Dash swung her back legs, missed the tree, and was hauled into the air by the momentum of her hooves. She should have fallen flat on her back, but drunken instincts kicked in. She flapped her wings and managed to keep herself suspended upside-down in the air. “It’s the first to buck all the apples is the steel p… no, wait… copper… silver… copper… iron. That’s it, iron pony!”
“But… but it’s winter. There aren’t any apples on those trees, or leaves. Those trees are bare.” Twilight pointed at the trees. “Those aren’t even apple trees! They’re oaks!”
“Don’t matter,” Applejack said before she bucked at the tree once more, causing a few chunks of bark to splinter off. “An Apple can… can get an apple from any tree. I’m goin’ ta be the iron pony.”
“Iron pony!” Celestia cheered as she continued to gleefully slip and slide across the small, frozen pond. She then beat her wings, slowing herself to a stop before she looked over in Twilight and Applejack’s direction with hopefully. “H-hey, can I be the Iron Pony?”
“Hah! You couldn’t beat us,” Rainbow Dash said as she continued to hover upside down in the air. “You’re… you’re just a princess. A frilly filly princess. You don’t have what it takes. Y-you… you couldn’t even beat the changeling queen. That pretty pink princess and Twilight’s brother had to do it… do it for you.”
“Rainbow Dash!” Twilight scolded.
“What?” Rainbow Dash slurred. She tried to spin herself around to talk to Twilight, but ended spinning too much and facing Celestia. “It’s true. She got squashed by a… a bug.”
Twilight looked over in Celestia’s direction, her mouth already open and ready to utter a dozen words of apology to the princess. It was, however, too late. The drunken merriment that Celestia had been lost in was abruptly ended by Rainbow’s words. With a flap of her wings she jumped off the pond, causing the thick ice to crack and splinter like thin glass. Celestia then land landed next to Rainbow Dash, her eyes blurry but still holding a frightening fire.
“Frilly?” Celestia questioned coldly. “Frilly? Frilly? I am not frilly! I am not a filly!” She began to pace in front of Rainbow, Twilight, and Applejack. Her steps were shaky, but she was still managing a half-way respectable parade march. “I am not a frilly filly! I am Princess Celestia. I am… I am the Solaria Invicta. I am Princess Celestia Solaria Invicta, Princess Celestia the Unconquerable Sun. It was my sister and I who conquered Discord for the first time. It was my sister and I who… did a bunch of other stuff!”
Celestia turned, used her magic to push Rainbow out of the way, and strode towards the tree Rainbow Dash had been bucking at. She inspected it for just a moment, then turned her back to it. “And if I want to be the Iron Pony—” Celestia leaned forward onto her forelegs, drew back her rear hooves, and tensed her muscles. “—then I am the Iron Pony!”
Celestia bucked, throwing her hooves out with all the strength she could muster. Her hooves connected with the tree and sunk deep into its side. The tree groaned, cracked, and began to bend under the princess’s strength, like a small twig that was ready to snap.
Before the tree itself could buckle, however, the roots gave way. From the frozen ground, the tree broke free and, under the power of Celestia’s hooves, it arced into the air. Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash all watched as the tree soared higher than the nearby trees and buildings. It then began to tumble back to earth, and with a resounding crash it fell into the street: a broken and splintered pile of its former self.
“Whoa! Whoa…. Whoa. D-did you see that, Applejack?” Rainbow Dash asked. “She… she just bucked that entire tree. That… that was… that was…”
“Bad!” Twilight finished. She galloped to the tree and looked up and down the streets. Lights were clicking on; ponies had been woken up by the sound of the tree’s destruction. “M-maybe we can put it back! Yeah, yeah, no pony has to know Princess Celestia uprooted a tree in a drunken stupor!” Twilight began grabbing pieces of the tree with her magic. “We can just put it back together and put it back in the ground. Yeah, just put it back and no pony will know.”
Twilight levitated every piece of the tree off the ground and quickly began putting branches back into place. Like a child that was about to be caught with the shattered fragments of a family vase, she was trying everything she could think of to fix it. She settled the trunk back into the ground, and used every spell in her arsenal to try and mend it.
“There!” Twilight proclaimed proudly a few seconds later, panting from the strain of her magic and the panic of the moment. “Good as new!”
The tree stood tall and proud for all of two seconds before it fell apart into a splintered heap of branches at Twilight's hooves. It was a sight that made Twilight’s face fall just as fast, and her frown only deepened when her ears swiveled to pick up the sound of opening doors. Ponies were coming; they were about to be discovered.
Twilight hopped anxiously on her hooves, trying to think of something while Celestia, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash just sat back and watched. She circled the tree, then galloped back to where her friends and the princess were sitting. “Okay, new plan,” she told them with a firm stomp of her hoof. She then grabbed all three of them in her magic and shouted, “Run!”
Last night, ponies of Ponyville were awoken and drawn from their beds by a cacophony outside their homes. They lit lanterns and braved the chill of the evening only to find tragedy. In the cold of the snow, one of the oldest trees in Settler’s Square had been left a splintered pile of its former self.
Investigators on the scene have yet to determine the cause of the aged tree’s untimely demise, but local residents all seem to have an idea of what uprooted the oak.
One Granny Smith told reporters that, “It was the timber wolves. Don’t you know? That’s how they multiply. They tear down a tree that’s ripe for the pickin, and then carve it up into a punch of little timber wolf pups. Then them little pups grow up by eating wood chips and acorns and bark. Oh yes, them timber wolves sure do love bark.”
The first police pony on the scene, Blue Five, believes the old oak was taken down by less legendary creatures. “I’d bet my badge it was some local punks looking to cause trouble. Ponyville may look like a picturesque little town, but it has its dark side.” Blue Five paused at this before commenting, “That, or Pinkie Pie did it.”
The only official information investigators have released thus far is that it looks like the tree was uprooted and then somehow moved to the neighboring street. It was after that—
The sound of the kitchen door opening made Applejack look up from the paper. Beside her, on the table, sat a half-emptied cup of coffee next to a freshly brewed pot: the second pot of the morning. She had bags under her eyes from a less-than-restful night and her mane was a mess. Still, she looked no worse than the mare that had just stumbled in the door.
Princess Celestia removed one of the chairs from Twilight’s kitchen table, transfigured it into a cushion, and then used it to sit down at the table. She rubbed her eyes with her fetlocks and looked through the window that the morning sun was shining through.
“Who raised the sun?”
“Twilight said it was probably Princess Luna,” Applejack answered before stifling a yawn.
“And where is Twilight?”
“She ran out when the paper got in,” Applejack said. She pushed the paper across the table, so Celestia could read the headline and see the accompanying picture. “Said somethin’ about ‘gonna’ make sure no pony suspects us’.”
Celestia groaned and rubbed her forehead to try to relieve her hangover induced headache. “I guess that proves it. Last night got out of hoof.”
“Pardon mah language, princess, but what the hay happened last night?! I’ve never acted like that. It’s like all mah gosh darn common sense just up and left mah head.”
Celestia flicked her horn weakly, using some magic to make one of the kitchen cupboards open. Contained within the cupboard were the coffee cups she sought, and, with a small grunt, she attempted to take one from the shelves. Her headache, however, was making her magic sputter and pop. The cup wobbled, swayed, and almost dropped to the floor. In the end, Celestia had to set the coffee mug on the counter and then pick it up with her teeth. It was the only way to be sure the cup would arrive at the table in once piece.
“That, Applejack, was the effects of the hard cider I had you brew,” Celestia said as she took her seat at the table and filled her cup with coffee. “When you added yeast to your family’s cider, that yeast ate the sugar in your cider and made it into something called alcohol.”
From there Celestia explained to Applejack the history of alcohol in Equestria. She told how alcohol had been a beverage brought over from the old country. She told of her own fall into seeking comfort in inebriation after she had banished Luna. She told Applejack about how her name, Applejack, was also the name for a kind of distilled hard cider: an apple whiskey.
“Named after whiskey ya say,” Applejack commented when Celestia finally finished, to which the princess nodded.
“Yes, a whiskey that tended to have quite the kick, if I remember correctly.”
Applejack took a sip from her coffee mug, then laughed as she set it down. “Well, mah pa always did say I had a lot of buck in me. He joked that I probably bruised mah ma with all the kicking I did when I was still in her belly. Still, did y’all intend for the three of us to get that… what did you call it?”
“Drunk,” Celestia answered.
“That’s the word. Did y’all intend for us to get that drunk?”
Celestia shook her head. “No, I didn’t intend for things to get that far, but… perhaps that is for the best. Applejack, what would you say if I asked you to make hard cider again? What if I were to ask you to produce it so that anypony could have some: to help me reintroduce alcohol to Equestria.”
“Honestly, princess, I don’t think I’d be comfortable doin’ that,” Applejack admitted. “Twilight was fumin’ about what happened when she left, and I have ta agree with her. Don’t get me wrong, I see where yer coming from. It’s been a long time since I had a night like that where I just let go and did whatever I wanted.
“But,” Applejack continued, “we uprooted a tree, Princess, and things could have gotten a lot worse for the town or us. I mean, what if Rainbow had done a sonic rainboom in the middle of town? What if I had tried to buck down somepony’s house? What if you had raised the sun in the middle of the night?
“I’m sorry, but I just don’t think my conscience would let me sleep if I knew somethin’ I was making was makin’ ponies act that stupid and puttin’ them in danger.”
Celestia sighed and looked into her cup of coffee. “Don’t apologize, Applejack. I appreciate your honesty, and I am sorry that I put you through everything that happened last night.”
Applejack waved a hoof and stood up from the table. “It’s alright. Doin’ it once was kind of fun. I just wouldn’t want ta do it again. Now, I best be gettin’ back to the farm. Big Mac and Granny Smith must be worried sick about me.”
Applejack opened the kitchen door, only to come face to face with Rainbow Dash, who was looking just as ragged as the rest of them. There were bags under her eyes, and her mane seemed to lack some of its usual luster. She stepped through the door, yawned, and plopped down at the table without even glancing at Applejack.
“Mornin to you too,” Applejack teased Rainbow Dash before she looked back to Celestia. “By the way, Princess, are you still goin’ ta be taking them barrels of cider or should I pour them down the drain?”
“No, Applejack, I’ll take care of them,” Celestia answered before taking another drink of her coffee.
Applejack nodded before slipping out of the kitchen to go and explain to her family where she had been all night. That left Celestia and Rainbow sitting at the table, Celestia sipping her coffee while Rainbow Dash continued to wake up.
“What did Applejack ask you? Something about the cider?” Rainbow asked before yawning again.
“Applejack was asking if I wanted her to pour it down the drain.”
“Why would she do that?” Rainbow asked, a bit shocked.
Celestia finished her cup and refilled it from the coffee pot. “She didn’t enjoy our escapades last night, and I don’t believe she’ll be making any more of that particular cider either.”
“What? Why?! Last night was fun!”
Celestia glanced at Rainbow out of the corner of her eye, and arched her eyebrow. “You enjoyed last night?”
“Are you kidding!? You bucked a tree straight out of the ground!” Rainbow Dash cheered with as much vigor as she could muster. “I never knew you were so awesome, and that hard cider was great! I mean, it tasted like cider, and it got you to loosen up. What’s so bad about that?”
Celestia smiled around the edge of her coffee cup. She took a long drink from the fresh cup, and then she set it down before refocusing her gaze on Rainbow Dash. “Rainbow Dash, perhaps you and I need a chance to get to know one another better.”
Princess Luna strode through the castle halls, the quick tempo of her hoofsteps echoing against the walls. The sun was late to rise, just as it had been a week earlier when Celestia had gotten drunk in Ponyville. Luna still hadn’t pried the truth out from her sister as to where she had secured the alcohol. Celestia could be tight lipped when it suited her. Still, none of the guard had reported seeing Celestia leave the castle, so Luna strode with purpose in the direction of Celestia’s bedroom.
“Sister?” Luna called when she reached the bedroom door. “Sister, are you in there?”
There was no response, and Luna furrowed her brow. She pounded on the door with her hoof and, when no answer came, threw the doors open with a burst of magic and strode inside. She expected to find her sister gone, but instead she found the room occupied by not only one, but two mares. There was also a wooden barrel with a cork-spout resting in a nearby stand and the floor was littered with a half dozen empty mugs.
Celestia was sitting on the floor while Rainbow was on the bed. The two ponies were facing each other, staring at each other with flat faces and water streaming from their eyes. There was also a noticeable scent of hard apple cider in the room.
“Sister, what are you—” Luna tried to ask, only to be cut off. Rainbow Dash blinked, and that simple action caused Celestia to squeal with glee and throw her hooves into the air.
“I am the staring contest iron pony!” Celestia slurred, while Rainbow Dash groaned and flopped down onto the royal bed in defeat. It was all a sight that made Luna sigh and shake her head.
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My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic© Hasbro
I do not own the intellectual properties this fan-fiction is based on.